Rhubarb Sour Cream Pie or Tarts

Rhubarb was originally cultivated for its medicinal properties and was not used in European cooking until the late 18th century. The history of rhubarb is very complicated but simply put there are only two broad categories, medicinal and culinary.

Thought of by many as an old fashioned ‘vegetable’, it never has really fallen out of favor. In Germany, rhubarb season is from April until June. There are countless recipes using rhubarb as the German people are very passionate about eating produce they have grown themselves.

I have an inherited love of rhubarb — the way it tastes, its huge beautiful foliage, its hardiness, productiveness …….

RHUBARB SOUR CREAM PIE  (German Rhabarber Sauerrahn Kuchen) has been in my pie ‘go to’ file forever. The combination of these two ingredients works magic. Just for something different, I decided to use the same recipe but make it into tarts today.

Rhubarb Sour Cream Pie / Tarts
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Rhubarb Sour Cream Pie / Tarts
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Topping
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine oatmeal, brown sugar, margarine, flour & citrus zest. Cut in margarine until mixture is crumbly. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon & nutmeg; beat in sour cream & egg. Gently fold in rhubarb. Pour into pastry shell. Sprinkle topping mixture over the filling.
  3. Bake at 400 F. for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F. & bake for 35-40 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.
Recipe Notes
  • In order to obtain nice slices, refrigerate pie until cold then slice & heat a bit in the microwave if preferred.
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Cheese Crusted Apple Pie

CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY!

Father’s Day, that special day set aside to honor our fathers and the father figures who have influenced our lives. A father’s love is such a special gift beyond compare. You only know the meaning when he is no longer there.

My father passed away in 2005 and Brion’s in 2011. The passage of time will never dim those precious memories we have of them. They followed very different paths in their life’s journey; my father was a farmer and Brion’s an army soldier. Both of them gave so much of themselves to their life’s work as well as to their families.

There are not enough words to describe how important my father was to me and the powerful influence he continues to be in my life even though he’s gone.

As a tribute to our dad’s on Father’s day, I am featuring a CHEESE CRUSTED APPLE PIE.  Both of them loved apple pie so it seems like a good choice for the blog recipe.

Cheese Crusted Apple Pie
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Servings
10
Servings
10
Cheese Crusted Apple Pie
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Servings
10
Servings
10
Ingredients
Cheese Pastry
Filling
Topping
Servings:
Instructions
Cheese Pastry
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt & cheese. Cut in half the shortening to resemble coarse meal; then remaining shortening until it resembles small peas. Add water, a little at a time, mixing lightly with a fork. Shape dough into a firm ball; chill for 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F. On a lightly floured surface, roll pastry out to fit a 9-inch flan pan; trim edges. Cover pastry with a piece of parchment paper; cover with dried beans & bake for 7 minutes. Carefully remove beans & bake another 7 minutes. Remove from oven & cool.
Filling
  1. Chop apples coarsely, place in a saucepan with lemon juice; cover & cook about 10 minutes or until just tender. Stir in flour, sugar & cinnamon; cool to room temperature.
Topping
  1. In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour & pecans. Rub in butter until mixture is coarse & crumbly.
  2. Place filling into pastry shell, sprinkle with topping. Bake at 400 F. for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 375 F. & bake further for 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Decorate with whipped cream, extra chopped pecans & powdered sugar, if desired.
Recipe Notes
  • Due to the fact that ovens sometimes vary in temperature, you may need to adjust the baking temperature a little higher or lower than recipe states.
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Flammkuchen – German Pizza

I guess because of my German heritage I forever gravitate to German cuisine and food history. Although my mother’s cooking was a mix of German and Canadian, I can definitely see how she correlated the two quite well.

When most people think of pizza, Italy comes to mind. That’s why I’d like to talk about Flammkuchen, a crisp, smoky bacon German pizza. The name translates to ‘flame cake’ and comes from south Germany and the Alsace region of France. Originally it was used by bakers to test the temperature of their ovens. A bit of dough was rolled flat, topped with ‘sour cream’ and baked in their wood fired bread ovens for a few minutes. The oven’s temperature was told in the nearly blistered crispiness of the flammkuchen. When it came out just right the oven was ready to bake bread.

The classic version of German pizza is characterized by its thin, crisp, blistered crust. The dough is spread with soured cream (creme fraiche) then topped with partially cooked bacon, caramelized onions and spices. 

Other savory variations include Gruyere or Munster cheese and mushrooms while sweet versions may include apples, cinnamon and a sweet liqueur.

For those of you who enjoy a thin, crispy crust pizza, this one’s for you!

Flammkuchen-German Pizza
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Flammkuchen-German Pizza
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Pizza Dough
Caramelized Onions
Servings:
Instructions
Pizza Dough
  1. In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, water & oil. Mix until dough begins to form; turn dough out onto lightly floured surface & knead until soft & smooth about 3-5 minutes. Place dough back in bowl; cover & set aside. In a small bowl, mix together yogurt & nutmeg; set aside.
Caramelized Onions
  1. In a large skillet, heat oil. Add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Stir in brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown in color. Remove from skillet & set aside.
  2. In skillet, saute bacon until it is half way to crisp, 2-4 minutes. Remove bacon to drain on paper towel. Break or cut bacon into small pieces.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 F. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough to about a 11 x 16-inch rectangle. Generously sprinkle a large baking sheet with cornmeal & place dough on it. Spread yogurt mixture over crust, leaving a small border. Distribute onions & bacon evenly over yogurt. Top all with a dusting of black pepper.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven & slice.
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Brownie Fudge Pudding

If you grew up in the 60’s, you probably remember ‘brownie fudge pudding’. Those wonderful pudding cakes every homemaker was making. The ultimate time saver because it could be mixed and baked all in the same dish.

Pudding cakes offer two treats in one. While baking, the cake portion rises to the top and a creamy pudding-like sauce forms on the bottom. They can also come in a variety of flavors and can even be made with fresh fruit. Adding fruit, such as blueberries or cherries, makes a pudding cake even better than a regular fruit cobbler in that it develops a thicker, richer sauce around the fruit than most cobblers would.

This dessert is relatively low in fat and it really isn’t necessary to add an extra topping, although ice cream or whipped cream are good. At the time my mother was making this dessert, it was only the chocolate version. It’s definitely one of those classic recipes that has never been forgotten.

Brownie Fudge Pudding
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Serving it parfait style adds a bit of elegance to this ordinary little pudding.
Servings
8
Servings
8
Brownie Fudge Pudding
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Serving it parfait style adds a bit of elegance to this ordinary little pudding.
Servings
8
Servings
8
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In an 8 x 8 inch baking dish, combine first 5 ingredients. Add milk, margarine & walnuts; combine. Spread batter evenly in dish (batter will be stiff). Sprinkle brown sugar & 1/2 cup cocoa over batter.
  2. Pour boiling water over all & bake for about 40 minutes or until batter rises to the top & is baked through.
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Dinner ‘En Croute’

Today, November 24, our neighbors to the south are celebrating Thanksgiving. Over the years, Brion and I have been in the USA numerous times on this occasion and enjoyed the food and holiday atmosphere very much. Today’s blog post acknowledges the American holiday with some special meal choices.

At the heart of a memorable dinner is the main entree, so why not make it just a bit more special by serving it  ‘En Croute’.  In the culinary arts, the term en croute (pronounced ‘on Kroot’) indicates a food that has been wrapped in a pastry dough and then baked in the oven. Traditionally the type of pastry used was a simple dough called pate pastry. Today, puff pastry  is frequently used for most en croute recipes.

The key to preparing items en croute is that however long it takes to cook the pastry until it is golden brown is how long the item will spend in the oven. Some of the best choices are beef tenderloin, salmon or a brie cheese, due to the fact they require less time to cook.

In the 1950’s and 60’s, Beef Wellington or as the French called it, ‘Boeuf en Croute’, became very popular. It was an elegant meal, using a beef tenderloin covered with liver pate and wrapped in pastry. My first introduction to this meal was a much more low key  version. It was simply achieved by making a nicely seasoned meatloaf, wrapping it a basic pastry and baking it. My mother would serve it with a tomato soup sauce. Definitely good but not quite the elegance of the true en croute entrees.

Two favorites of mine are variations of the classic ‘boeuf en croute’. One uses boneless turkey breast topped with a cranberry, hazelnut stuffing and baked in a tender puff pastry then served with a citrus-fig cranberry sauce. The other one is a seafood en croute using fresh salmon. The salmon is topped with shrimp or scallops in a seasoned egg/cream mixture and baked in puff pastry. A dill cream sauce is served to compliment this entree. Having a few alternatives to change out your traditional holiday meals always keeps it interesting.

 

Turkey / Seafood 'en Croute'
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Alternative ideas for those special occasions.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Turkey / Seafood 'en Croute'
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Alternative ideas for those special occasions.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Instructions
Turkey en Croute
  1. Saute garlic & onions in olive oil & butter 1-2 minutes. Add bread crumbs; toss until they begin to brown slightly. Add hazelnuts, thyme, cranberries, salt & pepper. Add only enough turkey stock to make stuffing hold together.
  2. Place the first pastry sheet on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place turkey breast along the center line of the pastry sheet. Brush the edges of the pastry with egg wash. Place stuffing on top of the turkey. Place the second pastry sheet over the turkey & stuffing. Trim the edges to form an oval shape. Save the trimmings in the fridge.
  3. Bring the edges of the dough together & seal by pinching them. Roll the dough from the bottom layer over the top layer & press down all the way around the perimeter of the pastry. This creates a tighter seal. Brush egg wash over the entire surface of the pastry. Decorate, cutting leaf shapes from trimmed pastry & score leaf veining into them with the tip of a sharp knife. Cut four 1/2" slots in the top of the pastry to let steam escape. Chill for 20 minutes or longer in the fridge before baking. This helps the pastry to puff.
  4. Bake at 400 F. for about 15-20 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 F. Use a meat thermometer to make sure that the center has reached at least 170 F. to be sure the turkey is completely cooked, about 35-45 minutes longer. Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting into servings.
Citrus - Fig Cranberry Sauce
  1. Simmer all ingredients together slowly for 30-40 minutes or until the cranberries are fully cooked & the mixture reduces & thickens to a jam-like consistency. Stir the sauce often as it simmers. Remove the star anise (if using). Store in a plastic container in refrigerator until serving time.
Seafood en Croute
  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll each pastry sheet into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle. Cut each sheet into four 6 x 5-inch rectangles. Place a salmon fillet in center of four rectangles.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the shrimp (or scallops), cream, onions, parsley, dill, garlic, pesto, salt & pepper. In another small bowl, beat egg white on medium speed until soft peaks form; fold into shrimp mixture. Spoon about 1/4 cup over each fillet.
  3. Top each with a pastry rectangle & crimp to seal. With a sharp knife, cut several slits in the top to let steam escape. Place on a 15 x 10 x 1-inch parchment lined baking sheet; brush with egg wash. Bake at 400 F. for 20-25 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160 F.
Dill Cream Sauce
  1. Mix all ingredients & refrigerate until serving time.
Recipe Notes
  • The original recipe source for the Cranberry Hazelnut Turkey & Citrus Fig Cranberry Sauce can be found at rockrecipes.com
  • The cranberry sauce uses star anise or extract but feel free to omit it if you do not care for that flavor.
  • The Seafood en Croute recipe is one that is featured on tasteofhome.com  which has always been my favorite 'go-to' recipe company forever. 
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Halloween Brownies

Halloween means many things to different people. When I think back to Halloween when I was growing up on the farm, it was fairly ‘low key’. My mother did all that she could to make it fun for us — carving jack-o-lanterns, bobbing for apples and making a special treat of popcorn balls. My dad had his own point of view of such a holiday that being, ‘if he wanted his kids to have candy he would buy it for them’, as opposed to us asking the neighbors for it. Nevertheless, the world didn’t end because of it. There was always the school parties in grade school to ‘dress up’ for that were fun. Looking back at some photos of my sister Loretta and I in our costumes brings back some treasured memories.

Something Loretta and I always had in common was being adventurous. An almost forgotten memory came back to me as I was thinking about my Halloween blog. Whenever we got the chance to explore something mysterious that was right up our alley. One such occasion  arose one day when we decided to investigate an old empty farm house. This house was 2 or 3 miles from our farm. The land itself was being farmed by a neighboring farmer and  was posted ‘No Trespassing’. Nevertheless, this intriguing old  ‘haunted house’  was like a magnet for us. If I remember correctly, it took a little bit of doing to get in but we managed it. For being such an old house, I recall the inside being quite unique in its design. It had one of those staircases that you see in the movies. We went upstairs and snooped around. Of course, to add to the intrigue, one room was locked. When we listened we could hear a distinct buzzing or humming sound. After figuring out how to get in, to our surprise wasps had made it their home. The floor was covered with a huge pile of dead wasps but there was still lots of live ones buzzing around. At this point we decided we best call it a day and leave. Just when we were about to go the farmer had come and was working in the fields close to the buildings. Not to be caught ‘trespassing’ we hid by a granary, then high-tailed it out of there as soon as the coast was clear. Although our haunted house adventure didn’t happen on Halloween it left lasting memories.

It seems every year we have less and less kids ‘halloweening’ in our neighborhood. Either the weather is too cold or it’s just a safer idea to go to the many malls in the city. We have been very lucky to have great neighbors on either side of us. One couple has two little boys and the other, two little girls. I thought I’d like to do something special for the four of them this Halloween. I seem to always have many recipe ideas stored in my head. They are constantly under mental construction and revision every time my feet touch the kitchen floor. Putting a new spin on an old idea never stops with me. In 1969 / 1975, the Better Homes and Gardens company published a couple of cookbooks that had an oatmeal brownie in them called Tri-Level Brownies. So here we are, a vintage brownie with some spookiness for Halloween! Hope they will like them.

Halloween Brownies
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Three layers of decadence, including crunchy oatmeal, nutty chocolate and smooth fudge frosting.
Servings
16 squares
Servings
16 squares
Halloween Brownies
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Three layers of decadence, including crunchy oatmeal, nutty chocolate and smooth fudge frosting.
Servings
16 squares
Servings
16 squares
Ingredients
BOTTOM Layer of Brownies
MIDDLE Layer of Brownies
Fudge Frosting
White Chocolate Designs
Servings: squares
Instructions
Bottom Layer
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Combine all bottom layer ingredients until crumbly. Pat into prepared pan; bake for 10 minutes.
Middle Layer
  1. In a double boiler, melt chocolate, remove from heat & add margarine. Stir until combined & slightly cool; add beaten egg & sugar. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder & salt. Add to chocolate mixture alternately with combined milk & vanilla. Fold in walnuts. Carefully spread batter over baked bottom layer. Bake for 20- 25 minutes; cool & slice into 16 squares.
Fudge Frosting
  1. In a double boiler, melt chocolate & margarine; stirring constantly. Remove from heat, cool slightly; stir in powdered sugar & vanilla. Blend in hot water & beat until smooth consistency. Spoon icing into a piping bag that has been fitted with a star tip. Top each square with a rosette of icing & decorate with white chocolate Halloween designs.
White Chocolate Designs
  1. In a small double boiler, melt chocolate wafers. Pour melted chocolate into a piping bag fitted with a fine tip. Place a large piece of waxed paper on a flat surface with a printout of Halloween shapes underneath. Free Halloween templates can be found at blog.candiquik.com Trace shapes & fill in after. Allow to set completely, then peel shapes from waxed paper & press lightly on top of icing rosette.
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Thanksgiving Day in Canada

The second Monday of October has been the day Canada has celebrated Thanksgiving since 1957. We have now entered into our Autumn season with all it’s breathtaking fabulous fall foliage. Part of Canada’s appeal is it’s four seasons that offer changing landscapes and temperatures. 

I, for one, have always loved the changing seasons. That’s not to say that I like freezing cold and slippery roads but that I have come to understand the important role each one plays in the ‘big picture’. When Brion and I initially landscaped our property, careful consideration was given to what plants were planted. Over the years it has developed into a beautiful tapestry of color through our growing season.

Growing up on the farm, Fall was an especially busy time with the grain crops being harvested, garden vegetables being canned, frozen or just stored for use over the coming months. So much needed to be done before winter would set in. As a teenager it all just seemed like a lot of work. Even as hard as my parents worked at making a living from farming, I think they felt a real sense of satisfaction in what they were able to achieve. I realize now that even without being aware of it the visual beauty of the farmland at harvest was imprinted on me forever.

Thanksgiving Day in Canada is linked to the European tradition of harvest festivals. A common image seen at this time of year is a cornucopia, or horn, filled with seasonal fruit and vegetables. The cornucopia, which means ‘Horn of Plenty’ in Latin, was a symbol of bounty and plenty in ancient Greece. Turkeys, pumpkins, ears of corn and large displays of food are also used to symbolize Thanksgiving Day.

Over the years, Brion and I have chose to have a variety of different meats for our Thanksgiving meal. Turkey is always the tradition for our Christmas dinner and since the two holidays come fairly close together, why not! All that being said though, we decided this year to roast just the turkey breast with stuffing. I also incorporated some of that wonderful Butternut squash with cranberries into the meal as well. For dessert we are having some pumpkin chiffon tarts. As a ‘kid’, I remember having a great dislike for the regular pumpkin pie — you know the kind –‘solid’. Then one year my mother made pumpkin  ‘CHIFFON‘  pie. Well, now that was glorious and I have loved it ever since.

Today in my recipes I have only included the Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Pumpkin Chiffon Tarts. I thought I’d get into the turkey and stuffing recipes later in the season.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Butternut Squash with Cranberries / Pumpkin Chiffon Tarts
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Butternut Squash with Cranberries / Pumpkin Chiffon Tarts
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Butternut Squash with Cranberries
Pumpkin Chiffon Tart Filling
Pastry
Servings:
Instructions
Butternut Squash with Cranberries
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Split squash in half; place hollow side down on a lightly buttered baking sheet. Bake for about 45 minutes or until completely soft to the touch.
  2. In a small skillet, saute celery & onion in margarine until tender. Add the apple, salt, lemon juice & pepper. Cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat until apple is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in cranberries, sugar & water. Cook & stir until berries pop & liquid is syrupy. If you prefer, you could process this mixture for a couple of seconds in a food processor.
  3. Remove seeds & membrane from cooked squash; mash well. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, balsamic vinegar & maple syrup. Place some squash in individual custard dishes. Make a hollow in the center for the cranberry 'filling'. Add cranberries & serve.
Pumpkin Chiffon Tart Filling
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine first 7 ingredients; mix well. Add pumpkin, evaporated milk, regular milk & egg yolks; combine well. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens to a heavy custard. Boil 2 minutes, add 1 Tbsp margarine. Place wax paper over custard to prevent a 'skin' from forming. Let custard become cold (it can be refrigerated overnite at this point, finishing it the following day) then stir in 1/4 cup orange juice.
  2. Whip envelope of dessert topping with 1/2 cup milk & 1/2 tsp vanilla until stiff peaks form. It should yield about 2 cups. Put aside the amount you need to garnish tarts with. Fold remaining whipped dessert topping into custard. Spoon custard into a large pastry bag with a large 'star' tip. Fill baked mini tart shells. Decorate with a small dollop of dessert topping.
Pastry
  1. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt. Cut in white & yellow Crisco shortening. In a 1 cup measuring cup place egg & vinegar; beat well. Add enough COLD water to fill cup. Pour all at once over flour mixture, mixing until pastry pulls away from sides of bowl. This should only take a couple of minutes, making sure not to over mix pastry. Roll out on floured surface. Using the bottom side of tart pans, cut pastry circles & place over each 'cup'. Bake at 350 F. until golden. Cool on wire rack before filling with pumpkin custard. If your using purchased shells follow baking instructions & cool before filling as well.
Recipe Notes
  • This pastry & pumpkin chiffon custard recipe was one I started using many years ago while working in the food industry. They were some of my favorites because they were pretty much 'fail proof'. If you want to make a double batch of each it will give you 4 - 9-inch pies. You can make them up to the point of decorating. Freeze until needed then just bring them out & thaw, decorate and you got a nice little homemade dessert just like that!
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Ham & Butternut Squash Pizza

A few years back, Brion and I discovered how good Butternut squash was. I’m not sure why it took so long but since then I’ve tried to make up for lost time. Being a winter squash I had served it with a cranberry stuffing as a side dish that Christmas. This sweet, nutty tasting squash has since then worked it’s way into numerous meals at our house.

The ebook I have on AMAZON right now, includes about 50 recipes in it. One of the recipes that we have enjoyed a lot is this Ham & Butternut Squash Pizza. For anyone who has a problem with yeast, the crust uses baking powder instead. This recipe puts a whole new spin on a traditional ham & pineapple pizza.

Ham & Butternut Squash Pizza
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Caramelized onions & butternut squash on an 'old favorite', ham & pineapple pizza.
Servings
8-10
Servings
8-10
Ham & Butternut Squash Pizza
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Caramelized onions & butternut squash on an 'old favorite', ham & pineapple pizza.
Servings
8-10
Servings
8-10
Ingredients
Caramelized Onions
Pizza Crust
Servings:
Instructions
Butternut Squash Sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Split butternut squash down the middle & scoop out seeds & fibrous strings. Place the cut side down on baking sheet; roast until it becomes very soft & mushy. Remove from oven; allow to cool then scoop out flesh & place in a food processor. Blend until smooth with milk (or broth), salt & pepper. Adjust if necessary so you end up with a nice 'sauce' for the pizza. Set aside.
Caramelized Onions
  1. Heat oil in skillet until hot. Add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Stir in brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown in color.
Pizza Crust
  1. In a medium bowl, measure dry ingredients for pizza crust. Make a well in center & add milk. Stir until dough leaves the sides of the bowl. With buttered hands, gently knead 5-6 times then press into one 14-inch pizza pan.
Pizza Assembly
  1. Spread with 'sauce'; sprinkle with mozzarella ( or nacho) cheese, onion, ham & pineapple. Top with remaining Gorgonzola (or Gouda) cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crust is browned.
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Summer Picnics Menus

When I think back over the years, I have many fond memories of picnics. For the most part, picnics differ from barbecues in that the food is usually served cold. They can be large or small events with the food varying from a simple sandwich or pot luck to an elegant gourmet feast. In any case, it’s a fact that dining ‘al fresco’ makes food taste so much better.

Having been raised in rural Alberta, Canada a community summer picnic was always a special event. It would be held at a one of the ‘country schools’ in our farming community. The men would play a game called ‘horseshoe’ while they visited. This game involved throwing metal horseshoes a set distance to land over a metal peg that had been pounded in the ground. Each family would bring a contribution to the picnic food. The women would set up this wonderful feast on picnic tables at lunch time. The kids ‘mingled’, chased around, drank  kool-aid  and loved every minute of it. The variety of pot luck meals the women would bring made it so special.

Later on in my life, I recall a few other picnic memories that are precious to me. One occasion when Brion and I were staying in Carmel, California, USA. Just outside Carmel is the Point Lobos State Reserve. It runs adjacent to the beautiful Pacific ocean. Numerous times we would pick up a sandwich with a juice/pop and spend the afternoon walking the beach and enjoy our ‘picnic’ lunch there. Another time we were staying further down the California coast and decided to take a wine country tour. The tour was with a company called Wine Affair. You were picked up at your hotel and it lasted about 5 1/2 hours. It was very personal with only one other couple, ourselves, and the driver/guide. He took us on a scenic drive through the Paso Robles  wine country. We enjoyed breathtaking views of the countryside with it’s beautiful vineyards as well as wine tasting at six different wineries. At lunch time we arrived at a estate winery called Summerwood (which I have show cased in my blog photos). Here our guide took us to a lovely patio setting overlooking the estate vineyards. He then laid out an amazing gourmet ‘picnic’ lunch  for the four of us to enjoy. What’s not to love about picnics! 

Over the next few blogs, I thought it would be fun to create four picnic menus that maybe would inspire some summer picnic ideas. Some of the recipes I have featured in earlier blogs and a few new ones I’ve added.

The first one includes Easy Pork Short Ribs, Picnic Oven Fried Chicken (from the April 11/16 blog), Potato Salad (from June 9/16 blog) Oriental Rice Salad, and Easy Individual Fruit Pizzas.

 

Summer Picnics - Part One
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Summer Picnics - Part One
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Instructions
Easy Pork Short Ribs
  1. Remove any fat & cut ribs into serving size pieces; place in a large resealable plastic bag. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients; pour over ribs. Seal bag & turn to coat; Refrigerate for several hours, turning bag occasionally.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place a large piece of foil paper on a baking tray. Make 'temporary' sides on sheet of foil paper. Lay ribs in the center & pour marinade over them. Bring up two edges over center & fold down twice. Fold in side edges, allowing a each to have a small 'air vent'. Bake for 1 1/4 hours or until meat is tender. Remove ribs to a platter to cool. Ribs will be a great served cold with the rest of your picnic menu.
Oriental Rice Salad
  1. To cold, cooked rice add peas, celery, onion & water chestnuts. Combine with salad dressing & refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Toss with chow mein noodles shortly before serving time.
Easy Individual Fruit Pizzas
  1. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar & orange zest until smooth. Beat in 1/2 cup strawberries until well blended. Spread 2 Tbsp on one side of each rice cake. Arrange prepared fresh fruit on top of strawberry cream cheese in patterns of your choice.
Recipe Notes
  • This recipe for Oriental Rice Salad I had been given by a friend in 1988. She had made it with a dressing which contained curry. I  have never enjoyed the flavor of curry so I have been using other dressing ideas. Being such a simple salad it will lend itself easily to other choices.
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Taco Salad in Edible Tortilla Bowls

Summer time is salad time! Taco Salad  is the full meal deal, infinitely customizable, inviting experimentation and creativity. Being so versatile, it can be enjoyed in almost any setting.

This Texas-Mexican inspired salad was very popular in the late 1960’s. It’s name comes from the Texas-Mexican Railway. Pioneers brought Anglo influences to Texas, where the Texas-born Mexicans lived. As a result, the ingredients from their different cultures blended together.           Tex-Mex combines elements of Anglo, Spanish and Mexican.

The taco salad is unique in that it can be served in an edible tortilla bowl. I recall in the food industry, this meal had huge visual appeal for the customer. How could you resist ordering one after seeing it’s impressive presentation? The ingredients in a taco salad can vary according to preference and can be made to fit into any type of cuisine with different seasonings and modifications.

Typically the taco salad includes lettuce, beans, tomatoes, green onion, meat, cheese and sour cream. Other condiments might include guacamole, salsa, garlic and cumin.

The salad featured in today’s blog picture is the beef version but I have included similar recipes for chicken and vegetarian ideas as well. Tortilla bowls are easily made by baking them in the oven. No need to add those calories by deep frying them. I love the full meal salad idea — be it a Chef’s salad, Cobb, Taco you name it! I hope you will enjoy one to this summer.

 

Taco Salad
Yum
Print Recipe
Taco Salad doesn't have to be 'old school' and boring --- customizing it to your personal tastes makes a huge difference.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Taco Salad
Yum
Print Recipe
Taco Salad doesn't have to be 'old school' and boring --- customizing it to your personal tastes makes a huge difference.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Instructions
Tortilla Bowls
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Warm tortillas slightly until pliable. Spray or butter both sides of tortilla lightly, then drape over oven proof bowls, pinching sides to form bowl shape. Bake 5-7 minutes, watching carefully as not to burn. Remove from oven & cool on wire rack.
Beef Taco Meat
  1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion & cook until softened, about 5 minutes.Stir in chili powder & garlic & cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ground beef & cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until almost cooked through but still slightly pink, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, broth, vinegar & sugar; simmer until slightly thickened but still saucy, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat & season with salt & pepper.
Chicken Taco Meat
  1. Place chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap & pound to flatten to uniform thickness, about 1/2-inch. In a small dish, combine spices. Sprinkle over chicken breasts. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts to pan & cook until juices run clear & the center is no longer pink. Remove from pan & allow to rest 5 minutes. Slice into bite size strips.
Salad Dressing
  1. In a small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients.
  2. To assemble salads: In a large bowl, combine romaine, beans, green onions, cilantro, olives, jalapeno peppers. Toss with salad dressing. Place tortilla bowls on serving plates. Divide salad among bowls. Top with taco meat choice; sprinkle with tomatoes & cheese. Top with avocado slices if desired.
Recipe Notes
  • Sour cream & salsa are also nice as extra condiments or in place of the salad dressing.
  • If you prefer a Vegetarian Taco Salad, just eliminate the meat part, equally as good.
  • Be adventurous, customize to your preference so you get the most enjoyment out of 'your' salad.
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