Saskatoon Berry Tarts

Saskatoon berries are very high on my list of nostalgic memories from my childhood. How these little berries can evoke such a flood of treasured thoughts is amazing. Our family farm was located in Southern Alberta, (Canada). If you were to stand on our farmhouse, west veranda, the sight of the ‘foothills’ came into view (foothills are an upland area that flank the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains).

How wonderful it was to be able to pack a picnic lunch on a Sunday afternoon and be able to drive there. It was like a whole different world. A landscape of long ridges and rolling hills covered in native lodgepole pine, aspens and spruce trees. The small streams wound their way through meadows of dwarf birch, willow and prairie grasses. You could easily come across some of the beautiful wildlife such as elk, moose or deer that lived there.

This is where our family would go to pick saskatoon berries. Very often we were accompanied by family friends or relatives. It was such a great time, everyone picking berries together, eating Mom’s fabulous fried chicken and potato salad (etc. etc.) for our picnic lunch. I was looking at some pictures from those times. We must have had some hot dogs on one occasion and I burnt my mouth it seems. What priceless memories!

With ‘saskatoon season’ in full swing, Brion and I thought it would be great to pick our own this year. It certainly can’t get any fresher than that. We chose the U-Pick farm called GROVE BERRY PATCH. This is a family owned and operated farm with 20 acres of saskatoon berries and 1 acre of raspberries, black currants, highbush cranberries and vegetables. They are located 1.5 km south off Highway 16A on Spruce Valley Road, Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada.

It was such a nice little adventure. The morning was beautiful and the atmosphere of the berry farm and its family owners was very enjoyable. We picked a pail full of gorgeous saskatoons in a short space of time. I had originally started out with thinking I would post one recipe but of course, its turns out to be three. They consist of some Saskatoon Rhubarb Tarts, Saskatoon Butter Tarts and some Saskatoon Cream Cheese Tarts. Yum!

We are adding a few pics, not only of the tarts but some from the berry farm as well as a couple from my childhood days. Hope you enjoy the blog.

Print Recipe
Saskatoon Berry Tarts
Course dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Pastry
Filling for SASKATOON RHUBARB TARTS
Filling for SASKATOON BUTTER TARTS
Filling for CREAM CHEESE SASKATOON TARTS
Course dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Pastry
Filling for SASKATOON RHUBARB TARTS
Filling for SASKATOON BUTTER TARTS
Filling for CREAM CHEESE SASKATOON TARTS
Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder & salt until completely combined. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or fork.
  2. Measure the vinegar into a liquid measuring cup, then add enough ice cold water to make 1/2 cup. Pour over flour mixture, gently stir with a fork ONLY until combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap & place in refrigerator for a minimum of an hour so it can chill well. When ready to use, Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface. Using a 3 1/2" cookie cutter, cut out tart shells & place them in tart pans.
Saskatoon Rhubarb Filling & Streusel
  1. In a small saucepan, combine saskatoons, diced rhubarb, sugar & cardamom. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine water, lemon juice & cornstarch. Whisk together to make a slurry. Add to to saucepan & cook on medium heat, stirring until mixture becomes thickened. Remove from heat; add vanilla & allow to cool before using.
  2. FOR STREUSAL: Place all streusal ingredients in a small dish & combine with finger tips until crumbly. Spoon berry filling into tart shells & top with streusal. Bake at 375 F. until pastry is golden.
Saskatoon Butter Tart Filling
  1. FOR BERRY TOPPING: In a small saucepan, mix together berries & water; simmer for 10 minutes over low-medium heat. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar & cornstarch then add to the berries & combine. Stir in lemon juice; simmer until mixture slightly thickens. Set aside to cool.
  2. FOR BUTTER TART LAYER: First beat together eggs. In a saucepan, melt the butter then add sugar, vanilla, cream, raisins & beaten eggs. Bring to a boil over medium heat & boil for 3 minutes. Set aside to cool. TO ASSEMBLE: Place a heaping Tbsp of butter tart mixture into each shell, then fill remainder of the tart shell with the berry topping mixture. DO NOT MIX. Bake at 375 F. for 15-18 minutes or until pastry is golden. Cool before removing from tart pans.
Cream Cheese Saskatoon Tart Filling
  1. FOR BERRY TOPPING: Crush 1 cup of saskatoon berries & place in a small saucepan with 1 cup of water. Simmer about 2 minutes. Strain & return berry juice only to saucepan. Combine sugar & cornstarch; add to sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thick & clear. Remove from heat & stir in remaining 2 cups of saskatoons to glaze & stir gently. Pre-bake tart shells.
  2. FOR CREAM CHEESE LAYER: In a small bowl, blend together cream cheese, lemon zest, sugar & heavy cream. Divide cream cheese mixture between baked tart shells. Top with generous portions of berry topping & serve.
Recipe Notes
  • The pastry recipe will yield about 48 mini tarts. I had doubled the pastry recipe because I wanted to make all 3 kinds. It's so nice to have some in the freezer for future use.
  • If you make the pastry in 2 separate batches it seems to be nicer for some reason.
  • If you happen to have any filling left over, it freezes well for another time.

 

Angel Cake Roll w/ Lemon Cream & Balsamic Strawberries

Angel Food cake is definitely a nostalgic dessert for many of us. I have always been intrigued by the experience of nostalgia, an emotion defined as, ‘a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time’.

Growing up on a farm where chickens and eggs were part of the equation, angel food cake with fresh fruit was a special summertime treat.

The crown jewel of cakes when it comes to a light, and fluffy texture. Butter-less, oil-less and yolk-less, this cake is a fat-free marvel ( of course, don’t mention the sugar calories, if that matters ).

I recall my mother’s angel food cake, amazingly tall and light as a feather. It had its own special pan and was always cooled, precariously balanced upside down on the kitchen counter.

It seems that the earliest print evidence for commercial angel food cake MIX was around 1942. The brand was called EZY Angel Cake Mix produced by a company called Blair Inc. from Atchison, Kansas in the USA. In 1949 a full page ad promoting this product stated:

‘all you have to do is add water … For ease in preparation, the ingredients have been divided into two separate plastic bags. One contains the mix of egg whites, flavoring slice, salt and sugar; the other contains the special flour mixture. Contents of the first bag, with the addition of water, are beaten to the proper stiffness and the contents of the second bag are then folded into the mixture. The batter is poured into a tube pan and baked in a hot oven. It’s just that simple! Results have proven to be uniform in all cases, enabling anyone to make an angel food cake of such airy, snowy goodness that it delights the most particular tastes. The mix comes in two sizes — a large 14-egg package and a medium sized 8-egg package. Once you have tried it, you won’t want to be without it. Your family will love it…”.

Brion has always loved angel food. I was thinking since his birthday is getting close, it was a good time to make some in a cake roll style with lemon filling and balsamic strawberries. If you feel like trying this recipe, its your choice to either use a mix or do it from scratch. I’m sure it will be great either way.

Print Recipe
Angel Cake Roll w/ Lemon Cream & Balsamic Strawberries
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Angel Food Cake Roll
Lemon Cream Filling
Balsamic Strawberries
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Angel Food Cake Roll
Lemon Cream Filling
Balsamic Strawberries
Instructions
Angel Cake Roll
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 15 X 10-inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper, set aside. Crack the eggs & separate the whites into a mixing bowl. Set whites aside to warm to room temperature.
  2. Measure flour, cornstarch & 1 cup powdered sugar carefully into a large bowl. Whisk together; SIFT the flour mixture into another large bowl then SIFT mixture back into first bowl and then again into the second bowl ( you are sifting the mixture 3 times ). Set aside.
  3. Whip the egg whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar & salt; continue whipping on high speed until soft peaks form. While continuing to whip on medium-high speed, add the 1/2 cup powdered sugar slowly - about 2 Tbsp at a time - until fully incorporated. Increase the speed to high & whip until hard peaks form, adding the extracts as it whips.
  4. Using a wire whisk, fold the flour mixture into the whipped egg whites about 1/4 cup at a time, making sure to fold very gently & slowly, so as not to deflate the egg whites. This is a critical step, so take your time.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan & smooth out top carefully. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool cake for 5 minutes in pan; turn out onto a dish towel dusted with powdered sugar. Carefully peel off parchment paper, cool for 1 minute & cut off crisp edges of cake. Starting at narrow end, roll up cake & towel together. Place seam side down, on a wire rack & cool for 5 minutes.
Lemon Cream Filling
  1. WHILE CAKE IS BAKING, combine the pudding mix & milk together in a bowl. Chill to set up for 20 minutes. In another bowl, beat together cream cheese & lemon zest until smooth. Stir in the 'set' pudding & chill again until cake is ready to fill.
Balsamic Strawberries
  1. Slice the strawberries & place in a bowl. Add balsamic vinegar, extract (or Chambord liqueur), honey & salt. Combine & set aside.
Assembly & Serving
  1. Carefully unroll cake & spread the filling over entire cake. Again roll up as tight as you can; place on a piece of plastic wrap & roll up tightly. At this point you can either place your cake roll in the freezer overnight or chill it in the refrigerator for a few hours before cutting & serving. Top with some balsamic strawberries.
Recipe Notes
  • If time is short, prepare a one-step angel food cake mix instead of the 'scratch' cake.

Seafood Stuffed Pork Medallions with Peppercorn Sauce

CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY!

Honoring your father on Father’s Day doesn’t require his physical presence. I feel what is more important, is just the act of doing it. I am very grateful to have had a father who was such a strong role model in my life. Everything he did was driven by his commitment to provide and care for the family he loved.

My father passed away in 2005 and Brion’s in 2011. Both our Dad’s loved to talk and tell stories from their lives. We often wish we could retrace that time and hear their voices again. It seems you never fully appreciate your parents until they are no longer on this earth. It is so important to appreciate every hour they are in your life.

My special meal to honor them on this Father’s Day, is a nice medley of pork, shrimp and mushrooms.

Print Recipe
Seafood Stuffed Pork Medallions with Peppercorn Sauce
Instructions
Stuffed Mushrooms
  1. Shred zucchini, sprinkle with a little salt & set aside. In a bowl, combine the cheeses, crumbled bacon, egg & seasonings. Squeeze as much liquid from zucchini as possible. Add it to the filling & mix well. Divide the filling between mushrooms. Place a small amount of Zesty Italian dressing in a cup. Dip bottom of each mushroom in dressing & allow to dip off for a few seconds. Place stuffed mushroom caps on a small baking dish making sure they will stay upright. Place in fridge until ready to bake.
Parmesan Shrimp
  1. In a bowl, combine oil, garlic, oregano, basil, Parmesan, salt & pepper. Add shrimp & toss gently; thread onto skewers. Place on a plate & refrigerate until ready to cook.
Stuffing / Tenderloin
  1. In a saucepan, saute garlic & shallots in 1 Tbsp olive oil for a few minutes. Add a few pinches of salt & pepper; stir in breadcrumbs. Add water; stir till all is combined & transfer to a bowl.
  2. In a bowl, cream together butter & cream cheese. Add 1/2 of the capers, the parsley & stir thoroughly. Add the Gruyere & scallops, stirring gently. Set aside.
  3. 'Butterfly' tenderloin & pound making it all the same thickness. Spread stuffing evenly on flattened cut side. Starting with the long side, carefully ROLL the tenderloin as opposed to just FOLDING it over. On work surface, lay out bacon strips side by side. Lay stuffed tenderloin at one end & roll up in bacon strips, placing a toothpick at end of each strip.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 F. In a skillet, heat remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil, add the roast carefully & saute for about 3-4 minutes on each side to cook the bacon a bit. Place a rack in a shallow roasting pan & lay stuffed tenderloin on it; bake at 400 F. for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F. & bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven, set the roast on a cutting board, cover loosely with foil, & let rest while the shrimp & stuffed mushrooms are cooking. When ready to serve, slice into 1 - 1 1/2" thick 'medallions'.
  5. Increase oven temperature to 400 F. Remove stuffed mushrooms from refrigerator, bake for 20-30 minutes or until filling is golden & mushrooms have softened. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with foil, place skewered shrimp in oven for the last 6-8 minutes of cooking the mushrooms.
Peppercorn Sauce
  1. This can be made earlier or while the last items are cooking in the oven. In a hot skillet, add butter, shallots & peppercorns; stir until shallots are golden, about 1 minute. Add broth & thyme sprigs; reduce heat & allow sauce to simmer for a few minutes. Remove thyme sprigs. Add cream & salt & pepper to taste. If you wish to thicken sauce, combine cornstarch & water in a small dish, stirring until smooth. Add a bit at a time to your hot mixture, stirring until desired thickness is achieved.

Bumble Berry Pie

This is a Canadian berry pie, originating from the Maritime provinces that is made up of at least three kinds of berries. Since there is no such thing as a ‘bumble berry’, as the name suggests, its a mixture of berries that are in season (ones that you might bumble upon).

Berries commonly used in this pie may include blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries. Other choices often used are apples, rhubarb, cherries, plums or fresh cranberries.

Most often the pie is made with a top crust of pastry or designs cut out and laid over the fruit. Other ideas would be to use a nice streusal topping or as I have done on mine, grated pastry sprinkled with coarse sugar.

This is such a great summer dessert served, of course, with ice cream!

Print Recipe
Bumble Berry Pie
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
serves 8 people
Ingredients
Filling
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
serves 8 people
Ingredients
Filling
Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt. With a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in white & yellow Crisco shortening. In a measuring cup, place the egg & vinegar then add enough COLD water to make 1 cup; whisk together. Make a well in center of flour & pour ALL liquid in. With hands combine quickly but do NOT over mix. This recipe will should give you enough for about 3 - double crust 10-inch pies. Whatever you don't use, freeze for later use. This is so handy when time is short & dessert is needed. At this time, roll out a 10-inch bottom pie shell, place in pie pan & refrigerate until ready to fill. Take the same amount of pastry, form it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap & place it in the freezer. When you are ready for the top pastry on your bumble berry pie, remove the ball from the freezer & GRATE it over the top of the fruit.
Filling
  1. In a large bowl, combine fruit. In another dish, whisk together sugar, flour, cornstarch & cinnamon. Gently toss into fruit mixture along with lemon juice.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Place filling into chilled pie shell, using the large holes on a box grater, grate the ball of pastry (from freezer) directly over the fruit, as you would a block of cheese. Using a fork, gently move the gratings here & there for an even covering. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
  2. Bake pie on center rack for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 F. rotating pie for even baking. Bake about 25-30 minutes more or until to is golden brown & juices are bubbly & thick around the edge. Remove from oven. Serve warm with ice cream.
Recipe Notes
  • Never hesitate to vary the fruit you choose for this pie. Remember, its whatever you 'bumble' upon!

Peach Melba Ginger Cakes

For those unfamiliar with Peach Melba, it is a classic dessert that was invented around the late 1800’s in honor of an Australian soprano opera singer named Nellie Melba. The flavors are always raspberry and peach and was traditionally served with vanilla ice cream. Melba is actually the nickname for Melbourne, her Australian hometown. Her real name was Helene ‘Nellie” Porter Mitchell but everyone called her Melba. She was internationally famous for her remarkable ‘crystal’ voice.

French chef, Georges Auguste Escoffier, not only created this special dessert but also developed what is known as the ‘kitchen brigade’ system or ‘Brigade de Cuisine’.

The next time you enjoy an elaborate meal in a hotel dining room (on a special occasion) that is perfectly executed, don’t presume this was just by accident. The brigade system revolutionized the way diners eat, allowing people to have meals, whatever their order, arrive at the table at the same time. This system was instituted to streamline and simplify work in hotel kitchens. It served to eliminate the chaos and duplication of effort that could result when kitchen staff did not have clear-cut responsibilities.

Today, most restaurants use some simplified variation of Escoffier’s original system. It is this foundation of kitchen organization that made way for the ‘a la carte menu’ we know so well today.

I have added a chart at the end of the blog showing the basic hierarchy of authority in this kind of system. I realize I got a bit removed from my peach melba dessert but — . Having spent so many years in the commercial world of cooking, I have a great appreciation for this gifted chef’s contribution to the food industry.

I decided to use the classic peach and raspberry ingredients in some mini upside down bundt cakes. The ginger spice adds a bit of unexpected ‘zing’ to its flavor.

Print Recipe
Peach Melba Ginger Cakes
Course dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Ginger Cakes
Course dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Ginger Cakes
Instructions
Raspberry Coulis
  1. In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar & cornstarch. Add raspberries & water; cook over medium-high heat until thickened & clear. Remove from stove & press through a wire mesh to make a puree. Discard seeds. Add extract if using. Set aside.
Peach Sauce
  1. Drain peach juice into a measuring cup. Set peaches aside. In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp peach juice, sugar & cornstarch. Cook, stirring, until thick & bubbly. Add the peaches & vanilla. Stir to blend, set aside until ready to use.
Ginger Cakes
  1. Preheat over to 375 F. Butter 4-5 mini bundt pans. In a bowl, combine all cake ingredients & beat only until smooth. Divide between bundt pans. Place pans on a baking sheet & bake for 15 minutes or until cakes have risen & test done with a toothpick is inserted. Remove from oven, cool for a few minutes then turn over on serving plates. Top with warm peach sauce & raspberry coulis. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you wish.

Lemon Pepper Shortbread Cookies

Grinding pepper over our savory meals is very much the ‘norm’, but when you add it to sweet desserts it preforms a strange chemistry, especially against a mellow backdrop of vanilla.

Adding flavor to cuisines of all nations, black pepper is the most widely produced and popular spice in the world. Pound for pound, it is also the least expensive spice.

Contrary to popular belief, pepper is not intended to be used like salt. Although, it holds a special spot right beside the salt on our dinner tables, it is not a flavor enhancer but rather a spice.

There is a distinct and undeniable earthiness to the flavor of black pepper, one that is biting, hot, piney, pungent, woody and sharp all at the same time.

Using pepper in baked goods or sprinkling it on fresh fruit is not exactly a new idea. Gingerbread and pfeffernuse have long been spiced with pepper. No matter how you use black pepper, its a spice of grand proportions.

These ‘pepper’ cookies are real handy since you can freeze them and ‘slice & bake’ when needed. The flavor combo is exceptional.

Print Recipe
Lemon Pepper Shortbread Cookies
Course dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Course dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a bowl, cream butter, sugar & vanilla until light & creamy.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, lemon zest & spices.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with the milk. Combine only until incorporated. Turn dough out onto a work surface & divide in half. Roll each portion into a log about 1 1/2-inch in diameter. Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap & refrigerate until firm ... at least 2 hours or freeze until needed.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the plastic wrap & slice into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Place on baking sheet & bake for 6 minutes, rotate pan & continue baking for an additional 6 minutes. The edges of the cookies will be firm, but the tops will be soft. Cool on a wire rack.

Coconut Rice Crepes with Seafood Filling

CELEBRATING MOTHER’S DAY!

Here in Canada, we set aside the second Sunday in May to honor our Mother’s with expressions of love and gratitude.

As I grow older, I realize how many ways I unconsciously emulate my mother. I loved everything about her and as a kid I could never imagine life without her. But in the natural sequence of events, that’s not how it works. I guess along with many other things, I’m grateful for the fact that she was there through my childhood. She passed away at the age of sixty and although she is no longer on this earth, her wonderful memory will live on in our hearts forever.

It is also with love, Brion and I celebrate his mother Dolores, for all of her kind and loving ways.

In honor of these two precious women who prepared so many wonderful meals for us years ago, I like to post something special on this day. My choice this year are these unique looking crepes.

The crepe has its roots in Malaysia and is called ‘Roti Jala’ which literally translates to ‘Net Bread or Crepe’. The intricate lacy pattern is created with a special mold or ladle that has five nozzles.

Roti Jala is eaten with a chicken curry, generally a spicy one, which is the perfect accompaniment to these coconuty pancakes. Usually homemade, this crepe is served at events such as weddings or festivals in Malaysia, Sinapore and Indonesia. It has also become a popular tea time snack and street food.

There are a few methods for preparing the batter, some use coconut milk, others with regular milk. The use of rice flour in the batter produces a very light and tender crepe.

Since neither Brion or I enjoy the taste of curry, I gave these crepes a seafood/veggie filling and served them over a Gouda sauce. I think they make such a special, lacy little crepe for brunch.

Print Recipe
Coconut Rice Crepes with Seafood Filling
Cuisine American, Asia, Korean
Servings
Ingredients
Coconut-Rice Crepes
Gouda Sauce
Seafood Filling
Cuisine American, Asia, Korean
Servings
Ingredients
Coconut-Rice Crepes
Gouda Sauce
Seafood Filling
Instructions
Coconut-Rice Crepes
  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch & salt. In another bowl or pitcher, lightly beat eggs, add coconut milk & oil; stir to combine. Pour this over flour mixture & stir until a smooth batter is achieved. Allow to stand for at least 20 minutes or as long as two hours. ( If leaving more than 30 minutes, cover & refrigerate until 10 before using.)
  2. Place an 8-inch non-stick skillet over high heat. When it is hot, lower heat to medium & rub a paper towel oiled with coconut oil over the cooking surface. Transfer the batter to a large squeeze bottle or a traditional Roti Jala maker. Squeeze the batter onto the hot pan, starting from the side of the pan, in sort of an up & down motion, then move to the top of the pan making a left to right motion to create that net look.
  3. Cook for about 45 seconds or until lightly browned on the first side, then turn the crepe over & cook for another 30 seconds. Turn out onto a rack & repeat with the remaining batter, wiping the skillet with an oiled paper towel between each one.
Gouda Sauce
  1. In a small dish, combine spices. Grate cheese & set aside. In a skillet, melt butter, stir in flour & cook until bubbly but not browned. Whisk in milk, chicken broth & spices, stirring until smooth & bubbly. Stir in grated Gouda. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap & set aside.
Seafood Filling
  1. In a skillet, heat oil & saute shrimp & scallops for a few minutes. Add zucchini, green onions, garlic, mushrooms & peppers & saute for another minute or two. Add ginger, soy sauce & water; cover & cook over low heat for several minutes until cooked. Do not overcook. Divide mixture between warm crepes, carefully roll. Ladle some Gouda sauce onto each serving plate & top with filled, rolled crepes.

Mushroom Wellington

Mushroom Wellington is a vegetarian spin on the French classic ‘beef wellington’. The original is an elegant meal, using a beef tenderloin covered with liver pate’, wrapped in pastry and baked. The key to preparing items in this fashion, is that however long it takes to bake the pastry to a golden brown is how long it will be in the oven. In other words, the filling needs to require less time to cook.

A plant based filling makes that even easier to achieve than its meat filled cousin. The use of different types of mushrooms cut into varying sizes gives the dish texture and heartiness along with an earthy flavor. The secret to a deliciously juicy yet flaky mushroom wellington is to drain everything dry and make sure it is completely cold before wrapping it in the puff pastry. Skip this step and your pastry is not only going to be soggy, it will tear when you try to wrap up your wellington. Believe me — ‘bin there, done that’!

Although this would probably be the center piece of a vegan meal, it works beautifully as an accompaniment to meat and roast veggies as well.


Print Recipe


Mushroom Wellington


Instructions
Mushroom Wellington
  1. In a skillet, fry diced bacon until crispy. Remove bacon to paper towels & blot dry, leaving drippings in skillet. Chop mushrooms, onion & garlic. Saute veggies with spices in bacon drippings until moisture has evaporated. Remove from heat, add bacon & drain or blot off any excess moisture. Cool mixture completely then add cold, cooked Basmati rice, stirring to blend. While the mixture cools prepare vegetable gravy if you are using it.

  2. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line your choice of preferred baking pan mold with thawed puff pastry. You should have excess enough to fold over the 'top' of filling. This will form the bottom of your wellington when baked. In each wellington, place 1/4 of the filling, topping each with 50 gms of the cheese. Divide remaining filling between the two wellingtons & fold the excess pastry over it.

  3. If you choose to make a decoration for your baked wellingtons, cut it from some of the excess before closing them. Bake the decorations on a separate pan. Place molds on a baking sheet & bake for about 35 minutes or until pastry is cooked. Remove from oven. I like to flip them onto paper towel at this point just to blot off any excess butter from pastry. Do what you prefer in this case.

Vegetable Gravy
  1. In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add bouillon powder, garlic, carrot, celery & onion. Cover & simmer until veggies are very soft. Remove from heat & cool slightly. Puree in food processor or blender. Combine cornstarch & water in a small dish. Stir into puree; return to heat & stir until boiling & slightly thickened. Stir in sour cream IF USING. Serve over mushroom wellingtons.


Recipe Notes
  • If you prefer, omit bacon & use butter to saute your veggies in making it a more vegetarian friendly entree.

Cardamom Fruit Cakes with Rum Sauce

No other spice more completely captures the essence of the exotic. Cardamom’s complex flavor is difficult to describe. There’s nothing subtle about cardamom, so when used in all but sparing amounts it will dominate whatever its paired with. Used properly, it elevates sweet and savory dishes, adding layers of flavor. 

A versatile spice, in that it can be used in everything from desserts to main courses. Relatively expensive, coming in after saffron and pure vanilla, but well worth the expense.

Today, I’m back to ‘recipe development’. My plan is to create some tender, little orange cakes and topping them with a fruit and spice mixture reminiscent of flavors from Morocco.

Print Recipe
Cardamom Fruit Cakes with Rum Sauce
Instructions
Fruit Topping Mixture
  1. In a small bowl, combine dates, apricots, raisins, apple & remaining orange juice & zest from cake ingredients. Season with cardamom & mace; mix well. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter 6 custard baking cups. Divide fruit between them; covering bottom & pressing a bit up the sides. Set aside.
Cake
  1. In a small bowl, beat together eggs & sugar until thick; gradually beat in oil. In a small dish, combine flour, baking powder & salt. Stir flour into egg/sugar mixture, then add orange juice. Combine well then add zest & vanilla.
  2. 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 the cakes to cool for about 5 minutes, then invert onto a rack to finish cooling. When ready to serve, place on individual dessert plates & drizzle with warm rum sauce.
Rum Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter. Combine sugar & cornstarch; stir into melted butter. Slowly pour in milk, stirring frequently until mixture begins to lightly boil. Continue cooking until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & stir in rum extract. Serve warm.

Apple Taquitos with Salted Caramel Sauce

The last of the four blogs on our Merida holiday is a place Brion has had on his ‘bucket list’ for quite a while. Located midway between Merida and Cancun, Chichen Itza is the northern most of the major archaeological sites in the Yucatan. Consistent with the Maya culture at large, written information about the site is rather scarce. The Maya used their exemplary knowledge of mathematics along with celestial observations to construct monuments to observe and commemorate movements of the Moon, Sun and Venus.

The instantly recognizable structure of Chichen Itza is the Temple of Kukulkan or El Castillo. This imposing step pyramid has 365 steps – one representing each day of the year. Each of the temple’s four sides has 91 steps, with the top platform being the 365th. An amazing natural phenomenon takes place on the spring and autumn equinoxes each year. The sun’s rays falling on the pyramid create a shadow in the shape of a serpent. As the sun begins to set, this shadowy snake descends the steps to eventually join a stone serpent head at the base of the great staircase up the pyramid’s side.

The observatory, called El Caracol (or snail in Spanish) is another sophisticated structure of Chichen Itza. It has an interior staircase that spirals upward like a snail’s shell. The Maya’s were known to be advanced enough to predict solar eclipses.

Chichen Itza’s massive ball court measured 168 meters long and 70 meters wide. During games played here, players tried to hit a rather heavy rubber ball through stone scoring hoops set high on the court walls. Visiting these sites definitely gives you a lot to think about.

At the end of this part of the tour we were taken to a place called a ‘cenote’.  The northern part of the Yucatan is arid and the interior has no above ground rivers. The only sources of water are the natural sinkholes called cenotes. Some of these are small, while others are quite large. The one we stopped at was called X-CAJUM. You could swim in it if you wished. Due to it’s height, people needed to go down several meters underground to do that. It’s blue water is 35 m (115 ft) deep and full of fauna. Interesting!

For my recipe today, I’ve made a Mexican dessert. The word taquito is essentially a diminutive of the word taco, with the suffix ‘ito’ meaning small. Translated means ‘small taco’. The difference between a taco and a taquito is basically in the size. A taquito can also be a small tortilla and filling that’s rolled with the ends left open and fried. This version has an alternate name, ‘flauta’, meaning small flute.

The taco is such a beloved culinary treasure because it is so portable. It can be stuffed with just about anything and can be eaten at any time in the day. There are breakfast tacos and savory tacos but Mexican cuisine is not all about being spicy. There is an amazing dessert side that is simple and delicious.

 No doubt this is a very American/ Canadian recipe, but still a tasty version.

Print Recipe
Apple Taquitos with Salted Caramel Sauce
Servings
Ingredients
Salted Caramel Sauce
Servings
Ingredients
Salted Caramel Sauce
Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, bring sugar, cornstarch, salt butter & milk to a gentle boil & cook until thickened about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat & add extract.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 13 X 9-inch baking dish; set aside.
  3. In a small dish, combine sugar, cinnamon & nutmeg; set aside. Chop apple pie filling into small pieces. Spread tortillas with a thin layer of caramel sauce. Cover caramel with diced apple filling.
  4. Roll tortillas & place in prepared dish. Brush with butter & sprinkle with sugar mixture. Bake for 15 minutes until golden & bubbling at ends. Serve with ice cream or whipped topping if desired.