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.

Chicken, Squash & Pasta Soup

The season of squash and soup have arrived. As the days and nights get cooler, few dishes satisfy like a bowl of soup.

Roasting the chicken and squash before turning them into soup gives a deeper flavor that wouldn’t normally be there if you just simply simmered the ingredients together. You can go a number of ways with the preparation. If you have the time, roast a chicken (for a previous meal). That will give you both some chicken meat and broth needed for your soup. Second, you can roast some chicken thighs with the celery, onion, garlic and squash. Third, purchase a deli roasted chicken, roast the veggies and squash in the oven to caramelize them for flavor needed. In the case of the second and third options you will need to make some good, rich vegetable or chicken stock (from scratch or bouillon cubes). The pasta cooks in the soup to help bulk things out.

Whatever route you chose to go in making this soup, the results will be incredibly flavorful I’m sure. Imagine the aroma coming from your kitchen  — pure comfort food!

Print Recipe
Chicken, Squash & Pasta Soup
Instructions
Roast Chicken & Veggies
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. On a foil lined sheet pan, arrange vegetable pieces & chicken thighs. Drizzle with olive oil & sprinkle with salt & pepper. Bake until chicken is cooked & veggies are tender-crisp. Remove from oven. Chop or shred chicken into soup size pieces.
Soup
  1. In a Dutch oven, Place chicken broth, seasonings & pasta. Heat to boiling, add pasta & cook until pasta is almost done. Add roasted chicken & veggies & continue cooking to finish cooking pasta. Serve.
Recipe Notes
  • If you care to make some chicken stock from 'scratch', this ingredient list might be helpful-- 
  • 1 chicken carcass with any bits of meat & skin left on it
  • 2 whole stalks of celery
  • 2 whole carrots
  • 1 onion, halved (skin on or off)
  • 1 head of garlic (left intact, skins on)
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 8-10 peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a dash of dried thyme, rosemary or any sprigs of herbs you care for

The Magic of Christmas

The Christmas season makes us reflect on many different things; to live life a little more grateful, more hopeful and a little more peaceful. It is a time to connect with friends and loved ones to enjoy the traditions we grew up with. 

Today, December 25th, our family celebrates my sister Rita’s birthday as well as Christmas. I have fond memories of her Christmas Eve family birthday ‘parties’. On the eve of Christmas, our family would go to church. After returning home, we were joined by some family friends to have  birthday cake and homemade rootbeer. My parents wanted my sister to always have this special time to honor her birthday apart from the Christmas festivities.

As I write about this memory, something else comes to mind. Our church at that time, was a small, old building. For the choir it had a small loft. As long as I can remember, the same lady played the organ as well as directing the choir members in song. She in turn, had a teenage daughter gifted with an unbelievable voice. One of the highlights of the Christmas service was to hear her sing a solo version of ‘Oh Holy Night’. You could hear a pin drop, it was breathtaking how angelic and beautiful her voice was. I get emotional even now remembering it.

Brion and I have spent many Christmas seasons in other parts of the world. One of the many ‘scenes’ that has left a lasting memory was in Italy, in the town of Assisi. We arrived in late afternoon with the  Trafalgar  group. The town sits atop one of the rolling hills in the region. The Basilica is a massive structure that dates back to the 13th century. By the time we finished visiting the Basilica the sun was setting. Brion and I stepped outside and in the meadow of the church stood a huge nativity scene with human size, terracotta figures. It was just an amazing sight to see and especially right at that time of day.

As much as I love to look at and appreciate the beauty of seasonal decorations, I’ve never been one who gets to involved with that aspect of the season. Food preparation has always been my calling and probably always will be. I hope you have enjoyed my pre-Christmas blogs as well as found them useful. I’m keeping it simple today with just two recipes. One is  SAVORY STUFFING  for your bird. This recipe is my best effort at a ‘taste of a memory’ from my mother’s stuffing. The second recipe is for MINI CHEESECAKES.  These are my virtual ‘birthday cakes’ for you Rita.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY –we love you — enjoy your day!

                     SEASON’S GREETINGS to anyone reading my blog.

                  THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS IS FOUND ANYTIME SOMEONE’S

               DREAM  BECOMES REAL BY THE KINDNESS ANOTHER EXTENDS!

 

 

Print Recipe
Savory Stuffing / Mini Cheesecakes
Course dessert, Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Savory Stuffing
Base for 3 dozen Mini Cheesecake Cups
Lemon Cheesecake (1 Dozen Minis)
Chocolate Cheesecake (1 Dozen Minis)
Orange Cheesecake (1 Dozen Minis)
Course dessert, Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Savory Stuffing
Base for 3 dozen Mini Cheesecake Cups
Lemon Cheesecake (1 Dozen Minis)
Chocolate Cheesecake (1 Dozen Minis)
Orange Cheesecake (1 Dozen Minis)
Instructions
Savory Stuffing
  1. In a saucepan, boil potatoes; drain & mash. Set aside. Saute onion, celery, garlic, mushrooms & seasonings in margarine. Remove from heat. Combine with bread cubes, mashed potatoes & broth. ADD ONLY ENOUGH BROTH TO MAKE A PROPER STUFFING CONSISTENCY. You may not need the full amount of broth. This will make sufficient stuffing for a 4 - 4.5 kg (9 - 10 lb) turkey.
Base for Mini Cheesecakes
  1. Combine crumbs, sugar & margarine. In each of 36 paper-lined, mini tart pans (2 1/4" dia.), press 1 Tbsp of crumb mixture. Bake at 325 F. for 5 minutes.
  2. With an electric mixer on medium speed, combine cream cheese, sugar, zest, juice & vanilla until well blended. Beat in egg; fill cups. Bake for about 25 minutes. Cool before removing from pan. Chill. Garnish as desired before serving. For the chocolate cheesecakes, blend beaten egg & vanilla with cooled chocolate before beating in cream cheese & sugar so the chocolate does not harden into lumps.

Gourmet Stuffed Potatoes with Caramelized Onion-Apple Burgers

CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY!

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. 

Print Recipe
Caramelized Onion-Apple Burgers with Stuffed Potatoes
Servings
Ingredients
Caramelized Onion-Apple Burgers
Onion-Apple Burger Filling
Gourmet Stuffed Potatoes
Servings
Ingredients
Caramelized Onion-Apple Burgers
Onion-Apple Burger Filling
Gourmet Stuffed Potatoes
Instructions
Caramelized Onion-Apple Burgers
  1. 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.
  2. 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.