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.

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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.

Turkey & Hickory Bacon Stuffed Pasta Shells

Pasta shells, filled with a range of flavors and baked in a creamy sauce — what’s not to like? I think my love affair with stuffed pasta shells started somewhere in the 90’s. The versatility of this meal makes it king of the comfort food dinners served family style. Easy to prepare, makes everyone happy and are perfectly portioned for individuals and groups alike.

Another bonus, is that this meal can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. The concern with reheating pasta is always that the pasta will absorb any additional sauce or liquids as it is sitting in the fridge. In order to make this meal ahead of time, cook pasta and stuff shells but keep the sauce in a separate container. When ready to serve, microwave sauce just until its liquified, pour over pasta shells and bake until hot and bubbly.

Unbaked shells can be frozen for up to one month. To bake from the freezer, first thaw in the refrigerator, then let them stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, uncover; bake 10-15 minutes longer until bubbly.

The hickory smoked bacon in these pasta shells adds such a unique flavor to the turkey filling.

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Turkey & Hickory Bacon Stuffed Pasta Shells
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter; stir in flour & cook until lightly browned. Slowly whisk in chicken broth. Add mustard & cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Set aside.
Pasta & Filling
  1. Cook pasta shells in boiling, salted water with a few drops of oil added for 10-12 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water, drain again. Grate Gouda cheese. In a saucepan, fry bacon to a soft crisp stage, blot on paper towel & chop.
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, onion, garlic, Parmesan, soy sauce, basil, thyme, 1/2 of chopped bacon, salt & pepper. Add a small amount of prepared sauce (to help to hold filling together).
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Using a 9-inch baking dish, spread some sauce over the bottom. Divide turkey filling between shells. Place filled shells, single file in pan. Pour remaining sauce over all & top with remaining bacon. Sprinkle smoked Gouda cheese evenly over top. Cover & bake for 30-40 minutes or until filling is cooked.

Panko-Crusted Green Bean & Mushroom Casserole

Having always had a passion for collecting recipes, I recall one of my mothers cupboard drawers being full of recipe pamphlets. I loved sifting through them to find a recipe I could make. Anyone who’s ever checked out the kitchen section of an antique store can attest, recipe pamphlets were once big business. Long before we had access to the internet, home brands like General Mills & Cuisinart regularly released pocket-sized magazines full of tips, recipes and instructions on their products. Glossy covers depicted the recipes inside, the price was right and they were easy to use. There was no reason to buy an expensive big cookbook when it was all here in a pamphlet form.

The Campbell Soup Company had its own kitchen dedicated to pumping out such pamphlets. In 1955, Dorcas Reilly, the recipe supervisor at the time, devised and tested the infamous ‘green bean casserole’ recipe. Her inspiration for the dish was to create a quick and easy recipe around two things most folks always had on hand in the 1950’s. They were green beans and Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. Reilly’s recipe became immediately popular. This simple combination consisted of green beans, cream of mushroom soup, soy sauce, milk and french fried onions. The idea that it could be made ahead and reheated, made it perfect for holiday dinners. Even in the face of North America’s obsession with fresh, locally grown and artisan foods, its popularity continues.

Like with most iconic dishes, time brings changes and healthier upgrades or just different personal tastes. I’ve never been a fan of those french fried onions, so I opted for a crispy panko topping. Along with fresh green beans and mushrooms I’m using a bechamel sauce. It worked out quite nice.

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Panko-Crusted Green Bean & Mushroom Casserole
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large skillet, fry bacon until almost crisp. Add onions, cook until soft & translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add mushrooms & garlic; cook another 4-5 minutes until mushrooms are soft. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.
  2. Using the same skillet, melt butter & whisk in flour. Once combined, continue whisking for another 2 minutes until mixture has slightly deepened in color. Add half & half, Worcestershire sauce & chicken broth while constantly whisking to prevent lumps. Once slightly thickened, add grated cheese & whisk until melted & smooth.
  3. Add the mushroom/bacon mixture along with thyme, salt & pepper. Let the sauce simmer for a couple of minutes, then add the blanched green beans. Stir to combine.
  4. Pour the bean mixture into a 13 X 9-inch casserole dish. Combine panko crumbs with melted butter & sprinkle over casserole. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
Recipe Notes
  • Everything can be done in advance except for adding the panko crumbs. Add those just before baking. Let casserole sit for at least 30 minutes after removing it from the fridge before baking.

Parmesan-Shrimp Bread Sticks with Broccoli Cheddar Soup

It seems we never get enough of taking just about anything we do to the next level. Case in point would be pizza dough. It started as a very thin, crispy crust and evolved into whatever thickness you wanted to make it. Enter the ‘stuffed’ crust with a ring of cheese encased in the outer edges of your pizza! Then, of course, the actual pizza fillings can be virtually anything that you choose or have available.

Bread sticks, on the other hand, aren’t something that have remained unscathed either. Probably the original simple design was ‘grissini’ (as they are known in Italy). Today’s bread sticks come in many forms from super crispy, thin ones to the larger ones often served with spaghetti and used to mop up excess sauce. Now, here’s where it gets one step better. Enter ‘homemade stuffed’ bread sticks. For inspiration all you have to do is think about all of your pizza toppings. Use them as options for either mixing into your dough or actually stuffing into a bread stick.

Being shrimp and Parmesan lovers, the natural thing for me to do was  incorporate both into some bread sticks. The next step was to pair them with a nice light broccoli-cheddar soup. A match made in heaven even if I do say so myself.

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Parmesan-Shrimp Bread Sticks with Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
Parmesan Shrimp Bread Sticks
  1. Combine all ingredients, in the order listed, in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on medium-low until the dough comes together. Continue to mix on medium-low for 5 minutes to knead. Dough is ready when it is stretchy & smooth. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise for about an hour or until doubled in bulk.
Bread Stick Filling
  1. Peel, devein & slightly chop raw shrimp; place in a bowl. Grate & slightly chop fresh Parmesan cheese. Combine oil, minced garlic, spices & Parmesan cheese with chopped shrimp.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch dough down; on a lightly floured work surface, press dough into roughly an 8 X 12-inch rectangle. Top with shrimp filling & sprinkle with dill weed. Slice lengthwise into 8 strips; fold each strip in half enclosing filling. Twist each strip slightly & lay on baking sheet. Top each bread stick with some grated mozzarella cheese (or you could put it on as soon as they come out of the oven). Bake for 7-10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with soup.
Broccoli-Cheddar Soup
  1. In a large saucepan, saute onion & garlic in olive oil until tender. Stir in flour; cook for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in broth. Bring to a boil; cook & stir for 1-2 minutes or until slightly thickened.
  2. Add the broccoli, tarragon, thyme & pepper; return to a boil. Reduce heat; cover & simmer for 10 minutes or until broccoli is tender. Add milk; cook, uncovered 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature.
  3. In a blender, process about half of the soup until smooth. Return to saucepan; heat through. Reduce heat. Add 100 grams of cheese; stir just until melted. Serve immediately, garnishing with remaining cheese.
Recipe Notes
  • When time is of the essence and you need to speed up the process, use a tube of purchased refrigerated pizza or bread stick dough instead of making your own. 

Pork & Pepper Quiche Cups w/ Onion Mushroom Twists

When I think of stuffed peppers, quiche never ever came to mind. I have always enjoyed quiche anytime of day, with or without crust. The idea of using a pepper as your ‘crust’ certainly puts a new twist on the traditional quiche.

I wanted to make these pepper cups for a supper meal and since there was no pastry involved here, bread sticks seemed like a good accompaniment.

Quiche is like making pizza– there are no limits to what the filling can consist of. For our meal today, I just put together a variety of items I had on hand for both the quiche and bread stick twists. It turned out to be real enjoyable and so easy.

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Pork & Pepper Quiche Cups w/ Onion Mushroom Twists
Instructions
Onion-Mushroom Twists
  1. In a skillet, saute mushrooms & onion in butter until tender. Add thyme & salt; cook 1 minute longer or until blended. Remove from heat & cool slightly. Roll pizza dough into a 16 X 8-inch rectangle. Sprinkle cheese on half of the dough, then top cheese with HALF of the mushroom/onion mixture. Fold un-topped half of dough over topped side; slice into 8 strips to form twists.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Carefully lift & twist each strip before placing on baking sheet. Sprinkle with garlic powder & salt to taste. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Pepper Quiche Cups
  1. In a skillet, place ground pork, water, salt, rubbed sage, black pepper, red pepper flakes & ground ginger. Stir-fry until no longer pink. Remove from heat & drain on paper towel. Chop sun-dried tomato pieces & shred cheese.
  2. In a large measuring cup with a spout, place 1/2 & 1/2 milk, salt & pepper. Add eggs & beat well. Remove stems, seeds & membrane from peppers & stand in a roasting dish that will hold them upright & level. Divide cooked pork, remaining mushroom/onion mixture & sun-dried tomatoes.
  3. Top each pepper with some grated cheddar, then carefully pour in the milk/egg mixture. Bake until eggs are set. If you prefer, 'float' a piece of foil over peppers for the first part of the baking time. It will help the cheese not to over bake.

Vegetable Spaghetti (Squash) with Beef & Tomatoes

At the heart of our Autumn cuisine is the squash. The signs of fall are all around us — cool, crisp mornings, the leaves have started to wear their autumn colors and winter squash is appearing in the farmer’s markets.

Winter squash are harvested late summer through fall, then ‘hardened off’ or ‘cured’ in the open air to toughen their exterior. Spaghetti squash is known for its unique flesh that separates into pasta-like strands after it is cooked. These squash are not particularly sweet but have a mild flavor that takes to a wide variety of preparations.

Native people considered corn, beans and squash three inseparable ‘sisters’. They planted the three crops together to create a more nutritious, sustainable soil with the exchange of nutrients between them.

Spaghetti squash has also been called ‘vegetable spaghetti’. In this recipe I’m serving it with tomato-beef meat sauce. Some fresh, homemade, Parmesan bread sticks should make a nice compliment to this meal.

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Vegetable Spaghetti (Squash) with Beef & Tomatoes
Instructions
Squash
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Microwave squash for a few minutes to soften shell. Cut lengthwise & remove membrane & seeds. In a baking dish, place cut side down & bake for 45 minutes until tender. Remove from oven & cool until it can be handled. Using a fork, run it inside the squash to create spaghetti 'noodles'.
Meat Sauce
  1. In a large saucepan, brown ground beef, onions, garlic & mushrooms. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Stir in tomatoes, green pepper & spices. Reduce heat & simmer for 10 minutes.
Serving
  1. Divide spaghetti noodles between 4 serving plates & top each with a quarter of the meat sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan & serve with fresh bread sticks.

Roast Pork with Apples & Prunes

Although prunes sometimes get a bad rap, the salty nature of pork and the sweetness of apples and prunes combined is excellent.

The Italian Prune Plum also known as European Plums are free stone and most readily grown for prune production. Their ability to create a high concentration of fermentable sugars not only makes them the ideal candidate for drying but also for making preserves, wine and brandy.

Native to the Mediterranean coastal regions of Italy, Italian prune plums thrive in arid climates. Even though plums adapt to a wide variety of growing regions, they require minimal humidity and rainfall to prevent disease and encourage fruit development during their growing season.

Oddly enough, all prunes are plums but not all plums are prunes. Prune plum varieties have a very high sugar content which enables them to be dried without fermenting while still containing their pits.

This is a nice meal to serve over quinoa along with roasted acorn squash and brussel sprouts.

Print Recipe
Roast Pork with Apples & Prunes
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a saucepan, brown onions & tenderloin in hot oil for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Combine BBQ sauce, apple juice & thyme; pour over meat & onions. Simmer gently for 10 minutes.
  2. Bake for about 30 minutes. Add apples & prunes & bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. or until pork & apples are tender.

Stuffed Pork Rolls with Cornbread & Caramelized Onions

Pork tenderloin can be stuffed with anything, imagination is the limit. What’s not to like — easy to prepare, boneless and fork tender. The pairing of pork with cornbread seems perfect, add caramelized onions and you got it!

Cornbread is one of those nostalgic foods for me. It always brings me back to my mother’s kitchen. I remember very clearly that wonderful smell of fresh cornbread coming out of the oven and that small Pyrex, rectangle baking pan she always baked it in. Those special memories came to mind today as I was trying to come up with a supper ‘idea’.

I love stuffing or dressing, whatever you prefer to call it. Of course, my ultimate favorite is the one I grew up with. On the other hand when you just need a very small amount, I see nothing wrong with using a box of ‘Stovetop Stuffing’. Of course I can’t resist telling you just a bit of the history about the product itself —

 In 1972, General Foods  which is now known as Kraft Foods  introduced ‘Stovetop Stuffing’. It was quick, convenient, tasty and therefore was an instant hit. 

The secret lies in the crumb size. If the dried crumb is too small, adding water to it makes a soggy mass; too large, and the result is gravel. The nature of the cell structure and overall texture of the dried bread crumb used in this invention is of great importance if a stuffing which will hydrate in a matter of minutes to the proper texture and mouthfeel is to be prepared.

Ruth Siems, a home economist that spent more than three decades on the staff of General Foods was instrumental in arriving at the precise crumb dimensions — about the size of a pencil eraser.

That being said, here is my idea for this great little combination. We really enjoyed it!

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Stuffed Pork Rolls with Cornbread & Caramelized Onions
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, German
Servings
Ingredients
Caramelized Onions
Cornbread Stuffing
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, German
Servings
Ingredients
Caramelized Onions
Cornbread Stuffing
Instructions
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 cider vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Sprinkle with brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown color.
Cornbread Stuffing
  1. Prepare as directed on package.
Pork
  1. Slice tenderloin into 4 pieces. Using a meat mallet, pound into thin slices. Divide caramelized onions between them and spread over meat. Top with a layer of prepared cornmeal stuffing. Roll tightly encasing the filling inside & tie with kitchen twine. Roll pork rolls in the 1/4 cup flour that has been seasoned with salt & pepper to coat lightly.
  2. In a large skillet, heat butter & oil; brown pork rolls well on each side. Remove rolls to a platter,
Red Wine Gravy
  1. Stir 'brown bits' remaining from frying rolls, with garlic, thyme & red wine. Simmer about 5 minutes. In a small dish, combine cornstarch with chicken broth; add to wine mixture, season to taste. Return pork rolls to the pan. Cover, simmer gently for another 8-10 minutes.
  2. Place pork rolls on serving platter & stir fresh parsley into gravy. Spoon gravy over pork rolls & serve immediately.

Beef Barley Stew with Roasted Vegetables

Stews have been an important food for most of the world’s people for thousands of years. They are wonderful concoctions, savored for their flavorful combinations as well as their reminders of home and family.

Geographical location plays a big role in how beef stews are made from different regions. In areas where the cold season is longer, the stew will usually be thicker in sauce, cooked longer and have heavier or more flavorful ingredients. In areas that have a warm climate, stews will be a lot spicier in flavor for inducing perspiration to cool the body.

In the Western world, meat stews are categorized as ‘brown’ or ‘white’. This means that the meat is browned in fat before liquid is added for brown stew; meat for the white stew is not cooked in fat before liquid is added.

The culinary history of both Canada and the United States includes numerous examples of stews brought by European settlers. Beef stews have been the most popular recipes among this legacy. In addition to being versatile in their ingredients, stews can also be used as filling for pastry shells, over mashed potatoes, rice or biscuits.

Brion and I have always enjoyed the combination of beef and barley. To my knowledge, the idea originated from the ‘Scotch Broth’ soup. In today’s particular stew the vegetables are roasted, using their natural sugars to caramelize, helping to create additional flavor in the stew.

 

Print Recipe
Beef Barley Stew with Roasted Vegetables
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, 1/4 tsp salt & 1/4 tsp pepper. Add meat; toss to coat. In a Dutch oven heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add half of the meat; cook until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove meat from Dutch oven; set aside. Repeat with another 1 Tbsp oil & remaining meat.
  2. Add onion, garlic & thyme to Dutch oven. Cook & stir for 3 minutes. Add 1 3/4 cups broth, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from bottom of the Dutch oven. Add remaining beef broth & water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a shallow roasting pan combine potatoes & carrots and/or parsnips. Drizzle with the remaining 2 Tbsp oil; sprinkle with 1/4 tsp each salt & pepper. Toss to coat. Roast, uncovered, for 35 - 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender & lightly browned, stirring once or twice.
  4. Stir barley into beef mixture. Cook about 35 minutes more or until barley is tender.Stir in roasted vegetables. If desired, sprinkle with fresh parsley.
Recipe Notes
  • Stew can be placed in an airtight container, covered & refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

Ham & Spinach Rolls

While I was giving some thought to something different and interesting for supper today, a unique memory came back to me. I don’t know if you are familiar with Black Iberian Ham. Brion and I certainly were not aware of the Iberian pigs until we had traveled in Spain and Portugal one year. 

Iberian pigs have black skins and hooves and very little hair. Their history is steeped in mystery. Beginning with the acorns from oak tree pastures in Spain to their long curing process. Magically each ham is transformed into one of the world’s most exquisite foods.

Immediately after weaning, the piglets are fattened on barley and corn for several weeks. During the spring and summer, cattle and sheep graze on the oak forest pastures. In fall and winter, when the acorns are falling from the trees, the Iberian pigs are then allowed to roam in the pastures and oak groves to feed naturally on grass, herbs, acorns and roots until slaughtering time approaches. At that time, the diet may be strictly limited to olives and acorns for best quality Iberian ham. It is possible for a pig to eat 10 kilos of acorns in a day.

The hams from the slaughtered pigs are salted and left to begin drying for two weeks, after which they are rinsed and left to dry for another four to six weeks. The curing process then takes at least 12 months although some producers cure their hams for up to forty-eight months. The extraordinarily long curing process is possible because of the huge amount of fat on each ham. Over that time period, they loose nearly half their weight as the fat drips away.

The curing hams hang where open windows allow mountain air to ‘caress’ them as they transform from a piece of pork into the ultimate flavored  BLACK IBERIAN HAM.

Brion and I have always found that travel is unmistakably the most interesting form of learning one can experience.

This recipe for  HAM & SPINACH ROLLS,  although quite simple, makes a nice little elegant meal in a short space of time. 

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Ham & Spinach Rolls
A nice way to transform basic into special.
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a food processor, place egg, 1/3 of soup, onion, garlic powder & salt & pulse for 30 seconds. Add half of the milk, spinach, mustard, bread, thyme & Parmesan. Blend another 30 seconds.
  2. Lay ham slices on work space and divide filling evenly among them. Arrange filled ham rolls in a shallow baking dish. Combine remaining soup & milk; spoon evenly over rolls. Bake, covered for 15 minutes, remove foil & bake 10 more minutes or until bubbly & filling is cooked through. If preferred, garnish with dried parsley.