When I’m working in the yard, summer always tempts me to spend less time in the kitchen. As much as I love to cook, I find the ‘gardener’ in me takes over. I can’t simply just go out and do a bit of looking. The first thing I know, there’s a little weed that needs to be picked or a plant to prune and that does it — I’m hooked for hours. Nevertheless, one thing for sure and that is the fresh air and exercise builds an appetite which brings me to a fast-to-fix meal.
Today, I’m thinking some chicken fajitas for our evening meal. Before I even go outside, I’ll do a bit of quick prep work, that way it will be a ‘no brainer’ later when I’m tired.
Technically, only beef was used in fajitas, but the term has become ‘blurred’ and describes just about anything that is cooked and served rolled up in a soft flour tortilla. The origin of the fajita goes back to Mexican ranch workers living in West Texas (along the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexican border) in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s. When a steer was butchered, the workers were given the least desirable parts to eat for partial payment of their wages. Because of this, the workers learned to make good use of a tough cut of beef known as shirt steak. The first print mention of the word fajitas anywhere in the world didn’t occur until the 1970’s.
The chicken breast I’m using in this recipe is marinated for a number of hours making it nice and spicy as well as tender. This is a great little, quick and easy hand held meal.
In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 2 Tbsp oil, lemon juice & seasonings. Add chicken. Seal & turn to coat; refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
In a large skillet, saute peppers & onions in remaining oil until crisp-tender. Remove & keep warm. In the same skillet, cook chicken over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes or until no longer pink. Return pepper mixture to pan; heat through. Spoon filling down the center of the tortillas; fold in half. Serve with cheese & choice of other toppings.
Victoria Day is the distinctly Canadian holiday that officially wraps up winter. Even if the date marks the informal start of summer, you could be planning for a backyard barbecue or an impromptu indoor shut-in due to an array of snow, sleet, rain or hail.
Although we are well into the 21st century, in Canada we still celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday over 100 years after her passing. The only other country in the Commonwealth to observe this celebration is Scotland. This is our oldest statuary holiday in Canada and is celebrated annually on the Monday preceding May 25th. In the maritime provinces it is a non-statuary ‘general’ holiday and in Quebec, ‘National Patriots Day’ is observed instead.
While we might hang onto the British queen’s name for old times sake, the tradition of Victoria Day is truly Canadian and has everything to do with the end of the cold weather and short days, and a lot to do with some great food.
My choice of food for today’s blog should work well with your own ‘barbecue’ meal. It is APPLE-TURKEY SAUSAGE ROLLS and STUFFED POTATO SKINS.
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, saute apple, onion, sage, thyme & allspice in olive oil for 5 minutes. Apples & onions should be soft but not browned. Remove from heat & set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine cooled apple mixture with ground turkey, salt & pepper. Using your hands, gently mix until everything is evenly combined, making sure not to overwork the mixture.
Unroll the puff pastry sheet onto a lightly floured work surface, cut crosswise to make three long, strips ((about 10 x 3.5" each) Brush a line of mustard down the middle of each strip. Divide filling into 3 equal portions. Roll into sausage shapes & place down the middle of each pastry rectangle. Brush edges firmly to seal.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Arrange the rolls, seam side down, on prepared baking sheet. Brush with remaining beaten egg, & sprinkle with poppy seeds. Cover with plastic wrap & place in the freezer to firm up, about 15 minutes.
Using a very sharp knife, cut each roll into 8 bite-sized pieces & arrange 1" apart on baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown & sausage is cooked through.
Stuffed Potato Skins
Microwave potatoes, uncovered, on high for 14-17 minutes or until tender but firm, turning once. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut each potato in half lengthwise. Scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/4" shell ( pulp can be used elsewhere).
Combine oil & hot pepper sauce; brush over potato shells. Cut each potato shell in half lengthwise again. Place on baking sheets coated with baking spray. Sprinkle with the tomato, bacon, onion & cheese. Bake at 450 F. for 12-14 minutes or until heated through & cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream.
No matter how many times my mother served our family chicken it was always incredibly good. My parents were ‘dry land’ farmers so mixedfarming was truly a necessity. Success was totally dependent on ‘Mother Nature’ when it comes to grain crops. Although my folks raised chickens, pigs and cattle, the kind of meat we ate the most was chicken. The reason being, whatever brought the best price when taken to market was raised for the family income.
Today we have so many spices, fruits and vegetables to enhance the meals we make. Its hard to imagine being able to cook so well without them as my mother did. SAVORY PESTO CHICKEN BREAST requires minimal ingredients and preparation but the flavor is great.
Today, March 28th was the birth date of my mother. She was taken from us far to early, as she passed away in 1978 at the age of 60. Our mother had the patience of a saint, always making sacrifices, putting my siblings and I up front and center while living her life with courage and compassion. She was strong willed and had a sense of self confidence in all that she did. She was very loyal to my Dad and a very devoted mother.
AS WE HONOR MY MOTHER TODAY, WE HOLD ON TO THOSE PRECIOUS MEMORIES THAT WILL NEVER FADE FROM OUR MINDS.
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a small bowl, combine stuffing ingredients. Place chicken in a heavy freezer wrap bag. Pound breasts until about 1/4" thickness.
Mound stuffing on flattened breasts & fold over, tucking in ends. Place a small amount of stuffing on bottom of baking dish & lay breasts on top. Any extra stuffing can be placed around & on top of chicken as well.
Cover with foil & bake 15 minutes. Remove foil & continue to bake another 15 minutes or until chicken tests done.
What could be more convenient on Christmas morning than a savory breakfast casserole that is just waiting to be baked!
‘Strata’ is a culinary term coined in the 1950’s for an old fashioned baked egg casserole. Ingredients are layered, using the same technique as when preparing a lasagna or quiche, only bread is used as the main starch and eggs are the binder. Strata’s are always savory as opposed to bread pudding, which can be sweet or savory.
In the late seventies, here in Alberta, Canada, eight ‘bridge club’ friends had an idea about writing a cookbook. They called it ‘The Best of Bridge’, which went on to become one of the most successful brands in Canadian publishing. One of their first recipes published in 1979, was called ‘Christmas Morning Wife Saver’, which became a signature recipe that put the group on the road to success. It was a breakfast casserole that could be prepared on Christmas eve, refrigerated overnight, ready to bake Christmas morning.
Time has passed and this has given way to unlimited ideas for such casseroles which are served at any time of the day now. On either side of us, our neighbors have small children. For a special Christmas treat some years, Brion and I have given them breakfast strata’s that they can bake while their children open gifts. They seem to enjoy them.
One of my favorite strata recipes, I happened to find in a California ‘Savemart’ magazine, when on holiday one year. I like to use apple/chicken sausage in ours but you can change it up to your personal preference.
In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat for 15 minutes or until crisp; drain. Cut bacon into 1-inch pieces. Into same skillet, add sausage & cook over medium heat until browned, breaking up sausage with the side of spoon; drain. Prepare bread cubes & vegetables.
In a medium bowl whisk eggs, milk, mustard, salt & pepper. Generously spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Using half of each, layer bread cubes, bacon, sausage, cheese, peppers & green onions into baking dish; repeat layers with remaining ingredients. Carefully pour egg mixture evenly over the casserole mixture.
Cover with plastic wrap, gently pressing down so wrap is right on the surface of the mixture. Cover with foil & refrigerate overnight. Remove strata from fridge in the morning. Remove foil & plastic wrap. Preheat oven to 325F. & bake for 1 hour or until center is set, (if strata is browning to fast, loosely cover with foil). Allow to stand 10 minutes before cutting into squares.
If you chose to bake it immediately after it is prepared, just wait long enough for the egg mixture to soak into the bread cubes.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Slice green onion & mushrooms. Saute in margarine; add garlic, stirring often. Allow to cook for 5 minutes uncovered so moisture will evaporate. Cut broccoli into florets; add to pan along with red pepper & bacon bits. Cook another 6 minutes; remove from heat. Whisk together eggs, milk & seasonings.
Sprinkle 1/2 of the Gouda cheese in quiche shell. Top with vegetable mixture; then remaining Gouda. Gently pour seasoned egg/milk mixture over all. Bake about 40 minutes or until quiche tests done. Since quiche is made with milk instead of cream (to lighten up on the calories) it tales a bit longer to bake.
Shrimp & Vegetable Quiche
Preheat oven to 350 F. Microwave vegetables ONLY, for a few minutes to soften SLIGHTLY; lay on paper towel along with thawed shrimp to take up some of the moisture. Whisk together eggs, milk & seasonings.
Sprinkle Italian cheese blend over bottom of quiche shell. Top with shrimp, vegetables & cheddar cheese. Gently pour seasoned egg/milk mixture over all. Bake on middle rack for 50-60 minutes or until just 'set'. Cover crust with foil, if necessary, to prevent over browning.
Fresh Spinach Salad
In a large salad bowl, combine salad ingredients. Toss with salad dressing just before serving time or let each person put their own on at the picnic.
Fresh Fruit Kabobs with Honey Yogurt
In a small bowl, combine yogurt & honey (cinnamon if using). Prepare fresh fruit of choice, cutting into bite size cubes. Thread onto 8" wooden skewers. Place in serving container along with sealed container of honey-yogurt dip.
If you prefer, quiche can be made individually for easy serving.
Father’s Day, a time to honor our fathers and father figures who have influenced our lives. Honoring your father on Father’s Day doesn’t require his physical presence. I feel what is more important is the just act of doing it
….. ‘Remembering you is easy, we do it every day. Missing you is the heartache that never goes away’.
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.
Since both of our Dad’s were ‘meat & potatoes’ kind of men, it seems fitting that my Father’s Day blog recipes would center around just that. When I made the Caramelized Onion-Apple Burger combination for us, I made it with ground pork but I’m sure it would taste great with either ground beef or chicken. The Gourmet Stuffed Potatoes are definitely a tried & true recipe that has been around forever but are always enjoyed.
Caramelized Onion-Apple Burgers with Stuffed Potatoes
To Caramelize Onions/Apples: Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onions & apples; sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until both are tender. Reduce heat; sprinkle with vinegar. Cook, stirring until golden. Stir in brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown in color.
To Make Stuffed Burgers: Place ground meat in a large bowl & combine with spices. Mix well. Shape into 8 thin patties. Divide onion/apple mixture into 8 portions. Place one portion on each of 4 patties ( reserve other 4 portions for later use). Top with remaining 4 patties & press gently to seal enclosing filling completely. Place burgers on preheated, greased barbecue grill over medium heat, close lid & grill, turning once. Cook approximately 14 minutes total. Top with remaining onion/apple mixture. Serve on buttered, lightly grilled Ciabatta buns.
Gourmet Stuffed Potatoes
Pierce potatoes with a fork; rub with oil if desired. Bake at 400 F. for 1 hour or until tender. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Cut a slice off the top of each potato lengthwise. Scoop out pulp, leaving a thin shell. Place pulp in a large bowl & mash.
In a small skillet, saute onions in 1/4 cup butter until tender. Stir Ranch salad dressing mix into sour cream & add to potato pulp along with cream, salt & pepper. Fold in cheese & bacon bits. Spoon into potato shells. Place on a wire rack in a foil baking pan. Melt remaining butter; drizzle over the potatoes. Sprinkle with paprika. Place pan on barbecue to heat through while meat is cooking. If you prefer, you can always put them in the oven at 350 F. for about 20 minutes instead.