CELEBRATING VICTORIA DAY!
Victoria Day is the distinctly Canadian holiday that serves as the official marker to end winter. For Canadians, this is the first long week-end since Easter and a good excuse to celebrate the beginning of the summer season. Camping and barbecuing are the name of the game but this year in view of the pandemic crisis, things are quite a bit more subdued.
In keeping with the spirit of a ‘seasonal barbecue’ on this holiday, Brion & I are having some char siu pork tenderloin.
Char siu is a dish made from seasoned boneless pork. The pork is covered in a sweet, savory glaze and placed on wooden skewers or forks over low heat. Its cooked until tender but not falling apart. The use of the skewers changes how the meat cooks. It should heat slowly and evenly from all sides. The char siu marinade is very distinctive in its flavor.
Many cuts of pork can be used in char siu such as neck meat, pork belly and pork butt. Just about any lean boneless cut will work but I like pork tenderloin the best.
Char siu has been around for many years and was generally roasted over a fire. Nowadays, its either cooked in an oven or on an outdoor grill. No matter which way you choose to cook char siu, the shiny red glaze gives it a very unique look and flavor. Char siu doesn’t have a lot of fancy ingredients or a complicated procedure. Instead, it pairs a tasty marinade with a lean cut of quality meat for a super good meal.
Char Siu - Chinese Roast/Barbecued Pork
Whisk marinade ingredients together in a bowl. Cut pork in half horizontally to make two long, flat, thin pieces about 2 X 1-inches in thickness. Place the pork & marinade in a zip-lock bag. Marinate 24 - 48 hours in refrigerator (3 hours is the bare minimum). Soak wooden skewers in water while meat marinades.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a deep baking tray with foil.
Remove pork from marinade, save marinade. Thread meat onto soaked skewers. The skewers will naturally suspend the meat above the baking tray with plenty of room to ensure that the meat is cooked evenly from all sides. A small amount of water in the bottom of the baking tray will help to keep the meat moist while its roasting.
Pour reserved marinade in a saucepan & combine with the 2 Tbsp of extra honey. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat & cook for 2 minutes until syrupy. Remove from heat.
Around halfway through roasting, baste generously with the reserved marinade. Try to get as much marinade on the meat as possible as it is the key for getting the thick glossy glaze. When finished roasting, the meat should be tender but not falling apart. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
- One of the key ingredients that gives char siu its wonderful taste is hoisin sauce.
- Chinese five spice refers to a mixture of spices used commonly in Chinese cooking. Each brand varies in terms of content.
Homemade ice cream …the ultimate old fashioned treat has a very worldly history that stretches around the globe.
When I was growing up on the farm, we had one of those ice cream makers with a hand crank that featured an inner canister and churn. The canister and churn held the ice cream custard, which was placed in a bucket that salt and ice or snow could be added to. My siblings and I would take turns churning until the custard magically transformed into the heavenly frozen dessert.
Ice cream is the perfect treat for any season. In the summer you can cool off by enjoying a scoop of ice cream and in the winter you can pair it with a warm dessert. Let’s face it, if you are an ice cream lover, the possibilities are endless.
The first ice cream sandwich was basic: cold, creamy with a little crunch on either side. The purpose was to make the ice cream better than if it stood alone. My original idea for today’s blog dessert was to replicate the flavors of the classic ‘Bananas Foster’ dessert of the 50’s. The ingredients in it were very simple, such as butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, vanilla & rum. The end result today became a combo of caramelized bananas & banana cake turned ice cream sandwich!
My inherited love for ice cream has never left me to this day and I might add, Brion has the same ‘affliction’ (which doesn’t help).
Banana Ice Cream Sandwich Cake
In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter then stir in brown sugar. Divide evenly between 6 custard cups; slice the 3 ripe bananas & place over sugar/butter mixture. Set on a baking sheet.
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon & salt. In a separate large bowl, cream together butter & sugar; add eggs, Greek yogurt, mashed bananas & extracts & combine. Slowly add dry ingredient mixture to wet batter & mix only until combined.
Pour the batter over the caramelized bananas in the custard cups. Bake for 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Let cakelets cool in custard cups slightly, then invert on a plate. You may have to gently coax the caramelized bananas to loosen with a spatula. Slice each cake half so you can add a layer of vanilla ice cream to the bottom halves. Top each with the other half of the banana cake.
Today, February 25th is Shrove Tuesday. The date can be anytime between February 3rd & March 9th. It is exactly 47 days before Easter Sunday, based on the cycles of the moon.
For centuries, the consumption of pancakes has widely been regarded as a popular way to celebrate Shrove Tuesday, which takes place the day before Ash Wednesday in preparation for Lent. However, the day is celebrated in a variety of ways around the world with many different foods.
Today’s recipe idea comes from the bettycrocker.com website. I printed this pancake recipe out a very long time ago but never got around to trying it. So today’s the day … You notice it uses General Foods Bisquick mix. I don’t use a huge amount of this baking mix but its handy once in a while.
I was curious (as usual) about the history of the product. It seems a salesperson for General Foods, was on a train to San Francisco late one evening in the 1930‘s. Since the dining car was already closed and he was quite hungry, he asked the chef if he could make him something quickly, nothing fancy and not too much fuss. He was served a plate full of piping hot biscuits. When asked how this was possible so fast, the chef said he had a pre-mixed blend of lard, baking powder, flour and salt that he stored in an ice chest. This became the inspiration for a product that is still convenient more than 80+ years later. Today, Bisquick’s product line has grown to include flavored biscuit mixes, easy shake ‘n pour pancake mix and even gluten-free Bisquick. Interesting!
This turned out to be real good, but of course you have to like pumpkin to enjoy it and we do.
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pancake Bake
In a large bowl, combine Bisquick mix, & 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2/3 cup milk, 2 eggs, pumpkin & 1 tsp vanilla. Add dry ingredients to wet, mixing ONLY until just combined.
Heat griddle to about 325 F. Pour batter by 1/3 cupfuls onto griddle. Cook until edges appear dry, about 2 minutes, then turn & cook 1 minute. Repeat with remaining batter; let pancakes cool completely.
Lightly butter a 13 X 9-inch baking dish. Spread each cooled pancake with cream cheese, then cut in half & place cut side down into baking dish.
In a large bowl, beat 6 eggs, 1 1/2 cups milk, cream, sugar & 1 Tbsp vanilla. Pour over pancakes. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 2 hours but no longer than 8 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 F. Remove baking dish from refrigerator. In a small bowl, mix flour, brown sugar & 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or finger tips until the size of small peas. Sprinkle on top of pancakes in baking dish.
Bake about 1 hour or until topping is golden & filling is set. If topping browns to quickly, cover with foil. Allow to stand 15 minutes before serving.
A little touch of exotic seems like a good idea in late February. When you think of bananas and papaya, doesn’t tropical come to mind? I never seem to have much luck when I bake with bananas. I would rather eat them raw, in fact you might say they are a staple at our house. But, I have hung on to this muffin recipe for a long time and never tried it. Papayas are not something I usually buy, but that soft buttery texture and slight musky undertone paired with banana should work magic in this recipe.
You will notice the name of the recipe says ‘spiced’ and when you read it there is only one teaspoon of cardamom spice in it. A little bit of this pungent spice packs a big punch so it is good to use it sparingly. The flavor of cardamom is wonderfully complex … herbal, spicy, floral and slightly sweet.
Cardamom is a spice that’s used in both sweet and savory cooking in many cuisines all over the world. No other spice more completely captures the essence of the exotic and that exactly what I was aiming for.
Spiced Papaya-Banana Muffins
In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cardamom & baking powder. In another bowl, combine mashed banana, papaya, oil & beaten egg.
Add wet ingredients to flour mixture, stirring gently, then fold in pistachios. Stir ONLY until batter is combined.
Put batter in muffin tray cups lined with paper cups, filling each to about 3/4 full. Top with remaining chopped pistachios.
Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until baked through. Remove from oven & let them cool in the tray for 10 minutes, then put the muffins on a wire rack to finish cooling.
- This recipe makes either 7 large muffins or 14 medium size.
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!
One thing for sure, Valentine desserts most often center around chocolate and strawberries. To celebrate the occasion, Brion came home with a bottle of Bailey’s Strawberries & Cream liqueur. This is the companies second seasonal flavor following their Pumpkin Spice liqueur. To put it in their words, ‘ the drink combines Bailey’s Original Irish Cream with delightful ripe strawberry flavor and delicious vanilla’.
After we had enjoyed it as a drink it got me thinking about how I could incorporate it into a ‘special’ dessert as well. Do you recall those classic Hot Fudge Pudding Cakes from the 60’s? They were the ultimate comfort food, fancy enough for a parfait and homey enough to be a spur of the moment indulgence. I could see nothing wrong in swapping out the milk in the original recipe for some strawberries & cream liqueur!
Speaking of pudding cake, its really kind of a culinary miracle, how pouring hot water over a thick batter can create this warm, fudgy concoction that lies precisely at the intersection of cake and pudding.
OK, on with my dessert … I had some strawberries in the freezer so they became a nice strawberry sauce to compliment the liqueur in the pudding. Serving this dessert parfait style with some ice cream or whipped topping adds a bit of elegance and I’m sure you will love the taste.
Bailey's Strawberries & Cream Fudge Pudding Parfaits
Preheat oven to 350 F. In an 8 X 8-inch baking dish, combine first 5 ingredients. Add liqueur, margarine & walnuts, combine well. Batter will be very stiff (if you find it easier to mix the cake in a small bowl instead, do so). Spread batter evenly in the baking dish.
In a small dish, combine brown sugar & 1/4 cup cocoa powder & sprinkle over batter. Pour boiling water over all & bake for about 40 minutes or until batter rises to the top & is baked through.
In a small saucepan, combine cornstarch, sugar & salt. Mix well. Add water & sliced strawberries. Cook until sauce is clear & bubbly. Remove from heat & cool.
Place some strawberry sauce in the bottom of each parfait glass. Spoon fudge pudding over sauce & top with ice cream or whipped topping. Serve with a glass of liqueur!
Not only does kiwi look and taste like no other fruit, its also available when some of the other fresh fruits aren’t. The month of February is a good time for this favorite duo. Ever since the 80’s, when the world first fell in love with the kiwi/strawberry flavor, the combo is in everything. I guess its because they are the perfect complement to each other’s flavor profile.
Since there are just the two of us at our house, I always like the idea of making individual desserts. Upside down cakes are so versatile, quick and uncomplicated. You can make them plain , fancy, sweet, savory, large, small …. your choice!
Today, my plan is to make some kiwi/walnut cakes with a strawberry coulis. A fruit coulis (pronounced koo-Lee) is a thick sauce made from pureed and strained fruit. They may also be made from fruit jams or preserves that are strained and diluted with water, liquor or simple syrup. Additional seasonings such as spices may be used as well as acids like lemon juice, but they are typically kept simple to avoid ‘muddying’ the flavor with too many ingredients. Coulis originally referred to the juices from cooked meats and may also be made with cooked vegetables.
Coulis can be used in many different ways such as plate decoration or just for a burst of complimentary flavor. My strawberry coulis certainly worked its magic on these little kiwi cakes.
Kiwi Walnut Mini Cakes w/ Strawberry Coulis
Preheat oven to 350 F. lightly butter 6 custard baking cups. From parchment paper, cut circles to lay on the bottom of each. Divide melted butter between the 6 cups. Sprinkle with the brown sugar & walnuts. top with kiwi fruit slices.
In a small bowl, beat together eggs & sugar until thick; gradually beat in oil. In a small dish, combine flour, baking powder, spices & salt. Stir flour mixture into egg/sugar mixture, then add orange juice & vanilla. Stir ONLY until combined.
Pour the batter over fruit in custard cups, dividing it evenly between them. Bake 15-20 minutes or until they test done with a toothpick. Allow cakes to cool for about 5 minutes, then invert onto a rack to finish cooling.
In a medium saucepan, combine strawberries, sugar & lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat & cool for a few minutes. Transfer to blender; puree until smooth, strain & set aside until ready to serve.
Place some coulis on individual dessert plates & top with a kiwi cake. Store any leftover coulis in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Well here we are, the end of October already, and Halloween has arrived. A number of years ago, Brion and I decided to take a different approach to this occasion. Rather than spending the evening running to the door to hand out treats, I would make some special goodies for our immediate neighbor’s ‘kids’. We have been lucky to have had the same neighbors for many years. Since food is my passion, its always fun to ‘create’ something that I think our four ‘young’ people will enjoy.
My choice of treats this year are brownie ghosts, krispie candy corn and some bite size pizzas. Most kids love chocolate so I think brownies will cover that and I swapped out the ‘waxy’ candy for rice krispies in the candy corn treats. Pizza bites aren’t exactly following the Halloween theme but the kids are getting older and I’m sure they will love them anyway.
Just an interesting little side note on the actual candy corn ‘candy’ since they seem to be synonymous with Halloween. Originally they were never tied to any time of year. Many candies of the day were molded into what was recognizable to regular folks. At the time, that was vegetables, fruits and other simple, earthy things.
When the Goelitz Confectionery Company first produced candy corn, it was called ‘chicken feed’. The boxes were illustrated with a colorful rooster logo and a tag line that read: ‘Something Worth Crowing For’. The multi-colored design was ground-breaking in the candy industry at the time it was invented. One of candy corn’s least favored qualities is that waxy texture. Strangely enough, even after more than 120 years, it still has a huge following as well as many other candy corn related and/or flavored recipes on the market.
ENJOY YOUR HALLOWEEN IN WHATEVER WAY WORKS FOR YOU!
Brownie Ghosts - 'Krispie' Candy Corn - Pizza Pinwheels
Chocolate Dipped Candy Corn Treats
Bottom Layer of Brownies
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 pan & bake for 10 minutes.
Middle Layer of Brownies
In the microwave, very carefully melt chocolate (do NOT overheat) & add butter. 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 bottom layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes; do not OVER BAKE. Remove from oven & cool. Slice into 20 squares.
If you prefer to make your chocolate ghosts BEFORE the frosting, it will give them ample time to set before needed. TO MAKE FROSTING: Carefully melt chocolate & butter in microwave. Cool slightly; stir in powdered sugar & vanilla. Blend in hot water & beat until a smooth consistency. Spread icing evenly over brownies & decorate with a white chocolate ghosts.
White Chocolate Ghosts
Carefully melt white chocolate wafers in microwave. Pour melted chocolate into a piping bag fitted with a small hole tip. Place a large piece of waxed paper on a flat surface with a printout of ghost shapes underneath. Trace outline, then fill in the center. Allow to set completely, then peel ghosts from waxed paper & press lightly on top of brownies.
Chocolate Dipped Candy Corn Treats
Butter 2 round 5-inch baking pans. In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add marshmallows & stir constantly until they are melted. Stir in a few drops of orange coloring & remove the pot from heat. Add rice krispies, being sure to stir until well coated. Press into prepared pans to set. Once treats have set, cut them into triangles & use your hand to gently round the corners for a more realistic look.
Melt candy coatings in separate dishes. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper. Dip the base of each triangle into the yellow chocolate, shaking off excess, then dip the tips into the white chocolate. Place them onto the parchment paper. Once the chocolate has set, you can store the treats at room temperature in an airtight container for up to three days. Yield 30 treats.
Mini Pizza Pinwheels
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. set aside.
Grate cheeses & combine in a small dish. Remove dough from packaging but DO NOT unroll. Slice each roll into 12 disks & space out on parchment paper. Using a 1/4 cup dry measure, (make sure you lightly butter & flour the bottom of your measure or it will stick to the dough). Press down the little disks to form a cavity. Divide the pizza sauce & grated cheese between the 24 disks.
Bake 10-12 minutes; remove from oven & cool on a wire rack.
The end of September, when we are still trying to hang on to summer and its already Autumn. Seriously! On the other hand, this time of year brings Oktoberfest for 16 days from late September to early October.
Beer enthusiasts from all over the world flock to Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest, where they feast on everything from steins of beer to plates of sauerkraut, bratwurst, cabbage rolls, sausage and wiener schnitzel. Bavarian music fills the air to promote the fun atmosphere of Oktoberfest.
While the true celebration has to be experienced in Munich, there are actually some great Canadian events that try to duplicate the festivities without having to travel abroad. In different parts of the country, this is a fun and social sampling event featuring many local craft and authentic Bavarian breweries as well as authentic food, Oktoberfest music, dancers, games, etc.
Oktoberfest began as a wedding celebration more than 200 years ago (in Munich, Germany), when Bavaria’s, Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The wedding was celebrated with multiple days of drinking, feasting and horse races. Everybody had so much fun that it was resolved to repeat the celebration, which has been done every year since.
This year, to acknowledge Oktoberfest, we are having a sheet pan meal with ‘brats’. Bratwurst is one of the most famous German sausages. Typically this sausage is made from veal, pork or beef and is usually grilled, pan fried or cooked in broth or beer. They are served in a variety of ways depending on the region in Germany, but sauerkraut and spicy mustard are often preferred as a compliment to their rich, meaty flavor. The recipe for the actual sausage varies from region to region with 40 plus varieties.
Sheet Pan Bratwurst with Roasted Vegetables
Pierce the sausages with a sharp knife. Add the beer OR apple juice to a saucepan over medium-high heat & add the sausages & garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce heat & simmer for about 5 minutes. Drain & set aside.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, mustard & brown sugar until sugar dissolves. Prepare vegetables & apples & place in a large bowl; pour mustard mixture over them & toss to coat. Transfer veg mixture to the baking sheet. Top with brats. Season with caraway seeds, salt & pepper.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, tossing once halfway through the cooking time (flipping the brats), or until veggies are browned. Remove from oven & serve.
HAPPY LABOR DAY!
This is crazy! Where did those summer months go?? I remember as a kid, once we arrived at the Labor Day week-end all those ‘lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer were gone’. Back to school for another year.
One of my fondest memories from childhood summers was my mom’s ‘lunchtime’ family picnics. In the early 1950’s my father was able to purchase another piece of land about four miles (about 6.5 km) from our home place. Between the two farms it became the equivalent of a ‘section’. Before this time, the cattle had to be moved to a community pasture in the foothills where they would have enough grass to graze on over the summer. At that time to transport them, you had no choice but to herd them down the road allowance, to get to their ‘summer’ home, for approximately 20-30 miles (roughly 30-50 km) on foot. To say the least, it was a long grueling event for both the cattle and family members.
The ‘other farm’ as we referred to it, had originally been a slaughter house for the town meat market. It consisted of one large building, corals and a few other buildings. There was a slough on the land which dad had converted to a ‘dug out’ where the cattle could go and drink freely. The land was used for grain crops where in turn the cattle could be pastured on in the summer.
In the summer when dad would be working on the land, instead of my mom just packing a lunch for him that he could take in the morning, she would fix a wonderful ‘picnic lunch’. At about 11:30, mom (with our help) would pack up lunch, complete with plates, silverware, a tablecloth etc., and we would head for the ‘other farm’. There was just the right amount of space between two grain buildings to set up a make-shift table and stools. We would put the table cloth down and spread out our little picnic ‘feast’. Dad would be so surprised and we would all enjoy our lunch immensely. Mom always knew how to make the most simple things fun for us.
Okay, so now that I’ve taken you on a little side trip down memory lane, here are some nice ribs for your Labor Day picnic.
Slow Roasted Baby Back Ribs
In a bowl, combine soy sauce, brown sugar, water, garlic, green onions, sesame oil & seasonings, stirring until sugar dissolves.
Place ribs in a large resealable plastic freezer bag. Pour marinade over the ribs, squeeze out all the air & refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
When ready to cook the ribs, preheat oven to 250-275 F. On the bottom of a large roasting tray place a wire rack. Over the rack, place a large sheet of foil paper. Lay marinated ribs ON foil, do not cover with foil. Instead 'crinkle' the foil close to the ribs leaving them open to SLOW roast. Pour any marinade left in the bag over them. Roast in this very slow oven for about 3 hours. You will find at this temperature your kitchen does not get hot, the ribs look after themselves & they are incredibly tender.