Vegetable-Bacon Squares w/ Baked Bagels

I guess if I were trying to classify this meal, I would put it somewhere between a crustless quiche and a frittata. Sometimes you just put together ingredients you like and it tastes amazing. There’s no incredible back story or cooking revelation, its just turns out to be a great meal.

Quiche and frittata are both egg dishes but they’re not just for breakfast anymore. The difference is the quiche, crustless or not, is made by adding ingredients to a custard base of eggs and heavy cream, milk or half & half that is poured into a baking dish and baked. With frittatas, eggs dominate and little or no cream or milk is used.

Usually they are first cooked in a pan on the top of the stove and then finished in the oven. These vegetable-bacon squares need only to be baked in the oven. For a nice compliment to this meal, I made some quick 5-ingredient bagels … no yeast or boiling required.

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Vegetable-Bacon Squares w/ Baked Bagels
Instructions
Veg-Bacon Squares
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Butter a 9 X 9-inch baking dish; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs until a little bit frothy. Sift in the flour & beat until well combined then whisk in oil. Add zucchini, carrot, onion, bacon & cheese; gently mix to combine.
  3. Pour into prepared baking dish, smooth the top & bake for about 30-35 minutes or until 'set'. Allow to cool slightly before cutting into serving pieces.
Baked Bagels
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place parchment over a wire rack on a baking sheet.
  2. In a bowl, whisk flour, baking powder & salt. Add yogurt & mix with a fork until combined. It should resemble small crumbles. Lightly flour work surface & knead dough a few times until tacky but not sticky. Dough should not stick to your hands at this point.
  3. Divide into 4 equal balls. Roll each ball into 3/4-inch thick ropes & join the ends to form bagels. Top with egg wash & sprinkle with a topping of your choice or just leave plain. Bake on the top rack of the oven for 25 minutes. Let cool at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Savory Layered Puff Pie

That expression, ‘what’s old is new again’, definitely can be applied to so many things in today’s world. Very often, when you think you have come up with a new idea its really just a modernized version of an old one.

As I’ve probably mentioned before, Brion & I really enjoy casseroles. I happened to recall a casserole that was published in Good Housekeeping in 1958. My mother made a version of it at that time. Being mostly vegetables, it had such a nice flavor. It was called Seven Layer Casserole consisting of vegetables, rice, tomato soup and sausage or ground meat.

With that ‘taste of a memory’ in mind, my recipe development turned into a savory layered casserole. I used vegetables, rice, cheese and ground pork with a layer of puff pastry. When you prepare it, the sheet of puff pastry is on top so it gets crispy, but when it is baked, you flip it over and it becomes a bottom crust.

Of course, we are talking about frozen puff pastry here. It seems it has become a supermarket staple, delivering all the glories of puff pastry without all the hard hours of work. This is a convenience food that’s perfectly useful for cooks of all skill and commitment levels.

All this talk of frozen puff pastry probably seems odd coming from someone who has made a living in the food industry. But lets face, to make it from scratch is either a labor of love or a sign of madness depending on who you are. So here’s my remake of that vintage 7-layer casserole.

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Savory Layered Puff Pie
Instructions
  1. Cook rice. In a skillet, saute onion in 1 Tbsp butter for a few minutes. Add ground pork, water & seasonings; scramble-fry until cooked. Drain well & remove from skillet. Add another Tbsp of butter to skillet & saute drained mushrooms then blot on paper towel.
  2. Grate cheese combo of choice. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line casserole baking dish with foil & butter.
  3. Start layering with mushrooms, cheeses, rice, meat/onion combo & frozen green beans. Top with puff pastry. Cut a few slits in the pastry for vents. Brush with egg wash.
  4. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until pastry is golden. Remove from oven & allow to stand for about 15-20 minutes then invert on a serving plate. Remove foil paper & cut into serving pieces. If you wish, serve the casserole with a brown gravy.

Pumpkin Dinner Buns

Autumn is in full swing with all its fabulous foliage and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. The second Monday of October has been the day Canada has celebrated Thanksgiving since 1957. For Canadians, this holiday is linked to the tradition of harvest festivals. A common image seen at this time of year is a cornucopia or horn filled with seasonal fruit and vegetables. The cornucopia, which means ‘horn of plenty’ in Latin, was a symbol of bounty and plenty in ancient Greece. Pumpkins, turkeys, ears of corn and large displays of food are used to symbolize Thanksgiving Day.

The ‘flavor of fall’ always brings pumpkin to mind (or butternut squash) for me. Since there are only two days left before our Thanksgiving day, when we will stir, boil, grate & grease our way to a table filled with wonderful food. While everyone has their own traditions and ‘must eat’ dishes, these pumpkin yeast buns are a perfect compliment to this autumn feast.

Lightly sweet and beautifully light and fluffy, this recipe can be made in two ways. One as a dinner bun to have with the main course and two as a cream cheese filled sweet roll for breakfast.

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Pumpkin Dinner Buns
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Course Main Dish
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Course Main Dish
Servings
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Instructions
Pumpkin Dough
  1. In a small bowl, place yeast, lukewarm milk & 1 tsp sugar. Allow to rise for about 10 minutes until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture, brown sugar, butter, salt, spices, eggs & pumpkin puree. Mix well. Add flour, one cup at a time, until well combined. Knead dough for about 8-10 minutes or until smooth & soft. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover it with a tea towel & allow to rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  3. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, knead for about 2-3 minutes. Divide into 16 equal pieces, shaping into balls. For 16 buns you will need about 16-90 cm pieces of kitchen thread. Tie thread around the dough ball in a way that the ball is divided into 8 parts. Do not tie the ball too tightly as it will continue to rise a lot more during the second proofing & baking. Cover the pumpkin shaped dough balls with a tea towel & set aside to proof until buns have doubled in size.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush each roll with egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Brush rolls with melted butter. Allow buns to cool completely before cutting thread to remove it. Insert pecan pieces to mimic a pumpkin stem.
For FILLED Buns
  1. In a small bowl, beat together filling ingredients. Follow directions above. At the point where you have divided the dough into 16 pieces, fill each one with some cream cheese filling ( I had divided my filling into 16 portions to make it easy). Gather the corners together to form a ball. Follow tying directions in above instructions to form the pumpkin effect. Cover & allow to rise until doubled in size.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush each roll with egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Brush rolls with melted butter. Allow buns to cool completely before cutting thread to remove it. Insert pecan pieces to mimic a pumpkin stem.
Recipe Notes
  • If you don't have the time to do all this tying, place the dough balls onto the lined baking tray about 3-4 cm apart. Gently flatten the balls a little. Dip the tip of a scissors into oil. Cut the dough into 'petals' to form the pumpkin look. After they are baked, insert a piece of pecan or even use pumpkin seeds to make the stems.

Savory Artichoke, Chicken & Mushroom Galette

Over the last few years, marinated artichokes have become one of the ‘go-to’ ingredients on my pantry shelf. Jarred marinated artichoke hearts add an instant burst of flavor and unlike fresh artichokes, they are available all year around. Might I add, they require zero preparation! Keep in mind, these are the ones in glass jars, not the canned ones that can be flavorless and soggy.

Some of the ways I have made use of them were: as a pizza topping, veggie dip, on crostini, with roasted potatoes, omelettes or in au gratin dishes.

As you have probably noticed if you follow my blog, I love savory pastries all year long. Spring through winter they showcase their ingredients so beautifully. If you’re someone who feels intimidated by pastry, galettes give you opportunity to make a free-form masterpiece. This recipe simplifies it even more by using frozen puff pastry. Yet another reason to keep a package on hand in your freezer.

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Savory Artichoke, Chicken & Mushroom Galette
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Instructions
Filling
  1. Slice breast & marinate in artichoke MARINADE (liquid only) for about 30 minutes. In a skillet, cook chopped bacon, onion, garlic & chopped mushrooms over medium heat until bacon is cooked & the mushrooms have released most of their liquids.
  2. Add the chicken & marinade & continue to cook until the liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat. In a bowl, beat together cream cheese, milk, egg & grated Parmesan cheese & fold into chicken mixture as well as the reserved artichoke pieces.
Pastry
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. On a large piece of parchment paper, roll out thawed, puff pastry 'SHEET' into a rough 12-inch 'CIRCLE'. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese over pastry, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Spoon cooked mixture over cheese then fold edges of pastry in about an inch, 'pleating' to keep filling in. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese on top of filling.
  2. Brush pastry edge with egg wash & bake for 25 minutes or until puff pastry is golden & filling is slightly browning. Remove from oven; slice & serve.

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

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Course Lunch, Main Dish

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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.

Guava Cream Rolls

Today, March 28th, is my mother’s birth date. As we honor her beautiful memory, I’m sure each of my siblings will reflect on special times we shared with her. Forty-one years after her passing, I’m still doing many things in her likeness. Baking was a shared passion for my mother and I. We liked nothing better than to bake something together. After I moved from ‘home’ and would return for a visit, instead of having a coffee and visit we would get busy and bake something while we talked. Such great memories!

In honor of her fabulous kitchen skills, I decided to make some Guava Cream Rolls. If I have a little extra time when I grocery shop, I like to scan the import isles to see if there is something unique I can use in my baking. One of the items that caught my attention was guava paste. Also known as ‘guayabate’ or ‘goiabada’, guava paste is a very thick puree of the guava fruit cooked with sugar and often with added pectin.

Guava is very popular in Cuba, the Caribbean and Spain. This thick paste has a sweet, floral taste like a combination of pear and strawberry. It is often paired with cheese as an appetizer or in the filling of baked goods as well as in savory dishes.

For these rolls, I used a combination of sweet guava paste with savory cream cheese which gave this dessert a very distinct and tropical flavor.

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Guava Cream Rolls
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Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast & 1 tsp sugar in lukewarm milk. Let stand for 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate. In a large bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar, melted butter, sour cream & egg. Add yeast mixture, stirring to combine.
  2. In another bowl, combine flour & salt. Add flour mixture, 1 cup at a time, combining with wet mixture. Once all flour has been added, knead dough for about 2 minutes until smooth & elastic consistency, Place dough in a greased bowl & cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about an hour. While the dough is rising, beat together guava paste & softened cream cheese to make filling. Line a 10-inch spring form pan with parchment paper; set aside.
  3. Punch the risen dough down & transfer to a floured surface then divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Divide each of them again into 4 parts, so to have 8 pieces of dough altogether.
  4. Roll each piece of dough out into a roughly rectangular shape with a thickness of 1/4-inch. Spread guava/cream cheese over each piece. Place one piece of rectangular dough over another one & start to roll a cylinder. Do the same with the rest of the dough; you will end up with 4 cylinder rolls altogether.
  5. Cut each roll into three pieces. Slice both ends of the roll ( about 1 1/2-inch long piece from each end) & put these 2 pieces aside. Cut the middle part of each roll into 4 triangles. In the middle of spring form pan, arrange the cut ends of the rolls around each other to form a circle, placing the cut sides down. Arrange the cut triangles to completely surround the middle circle.
  6. Cover pan with a tea towel & allow to rise in a warm place for about 30-40 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat egg with water to make egg wash & carefully brush the top of rolls when they have risen enough. Bake rolls for 30-40 minutes or until baked & golden in color. Remove from oven & brush immediately with melted butter. Remove spring form pan & cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Roasted Veggie Bread Bowls with Smoked Oyster Stew

Edible bread bowls were a huge hit in the 80’s and 90’s, but the idea fizzled at the start of the 21st century. Bread has always been a main stay of any meal, from toast at breakfast to sandwiches at lunch and rolls for supper. Many restaurants used the bread bowl idea as a way to justify charging more for soup. They are an extremely versatile way to hold thick, creamy soups, spicy chili or stews as well as dips and warm melted cheese.

While its not that difficult to make a bread bowl, the kind of bread you make determines your success. Some examples would be a hearty bread like pumpernickel or a chewy, crusty sourdough. Rye, crusty white or wholewheat will work fine as well.

It’s always a good idea to match the flavor of your bread bowl to the filling used if possible. These roasted vegetable bread bowls were just perfect with the oyster stew.

Bread bowls will always hold a special memory for Brion and I. Over the course of probably the last sixteen years we have made many trips to the California coast. We always stayed in the Carmel/Monterey area and walked the coastline with our destination being Fisherman’s Wharf. It was a special treat having clam chowder in a sourdough bowl at a wharf restaurant.

I used roasted potatoes and parsnips in my dough today, which added an amazing flavor to these bread bowls. The stew is made with smoked oysters which adds a unique smoky flavor. The whole meal came together beautifully and was super good!

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Roasted Veggie Bread Bowls with Oyster Stew
Instructions
Roasted Veggies
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a small baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Peel potato & parsnip & cut in uniform pieces. Place veggies in a bowl; add olive oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper & toss to combine. Spread veggies evenly on baking sheet; bake for 45 minutes, until roasted & soft enough to mash. Remove from oven, mash & cool.
Bread Bowl Dough
  1. In a small bowl, combine yeast with warm water; whisk until yeast is dissolved. Let stand about 3 minutes until foamy. Add butter, salt, sour cream & cooled, mashed veggies; mix well. Add bacon & chives; mix until just combined.
  2. Stir in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is completely blended, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough about 10 minutes, until smooth & elastic. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch down dough & divide into 2-3 pieces. Form each piece into a ball as if you were making a large bun. Place 'buns' on baking sheet allowing enough space in between each for rising. Cover with plastic; allow to rise for about 15 minutes while preheating oven to 350 F. Brush bread bowls with egg wash; bake 25-30 minutes until golden. Remove from oven to a wire rack.
Smoked Oyster Stew
  1. In a saucepan, fry bacon until crisp; remove to paper towel, blot off grease & crumble. Set aside. To bacon drippings, add carrot, onion, celery & potatoes. Saute, seasoning lightly with salt & pepper; add garlic, seafood seasoning & flour. Saute 1 minute more, making sure to coat everything with flour.
  2. Add clam nectar & chicken stock, stir well to dissolve the flour & bring to a boil. Cook until veggies are cooked through. Turn heat to low & add the chopped smoked oysters, bacon & 1/2 & 1/2 cream. Stir until heated through; remove from heat.
Assembly
  1. Using a serrated knife, carve a deep wedge out of the top of bread bowls. After the initial cut, use your fingers to pull the soft bread out to make a big enough soup bowl. Fill with oyster stew, serving the top piece on the side.

Harvest Pie / Tarts

The name of this pie definitely conjures up a cornucopia  of fall flavors. The idea of combining fruit and vegetables has forever appealed to me.

I have always had a love for zucchini as far back as I can remember. Even though it is served as a vegetable, its technically a fruit because it comes from a flower. It has a golden blossom that grows under the leaves.

A member of the gourd family, zucchini is an easy to grow, summer squash, native to Central America and Mexico. Zucchini became quite popular after the 1940’s with the interest in Italian cookery.

In 1992, I came across a recipe in a little ‘Pillsbury Classic Cookbook’ for HARVEST PIE.  It had a great combination of apples, zucchini, carrots and spices. If you like these ingredients, this ‘classic’ will become a favorite fall ‘go to’ dessert recipe for you.

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Harvest Pie
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Course Brunch, dessert
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a 9-inch DEEP pie with pastry.
  2. In a large bowl, combine apples, zucchini, carrots, nuts & flour; toss to coat.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat brown sugar & margarine until well blended. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, lemon juice, vanilla, orange zest & 2 eggs; blend well. Add to apple mixture; mix well.
  4. Spoon filling into pie crust-lined pan. Top with second crust & flute; slit crust in several places. In a small bowl, blend egg & water; brush over top crust. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cover pie loosely with foil during the last 15 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning.
  5. Serve with whipped cream if desired.
Recipe Notes
  • Oven temperatures often vary, so if you prefer, bake pie at a bit lower temperature.