In Canada, July 1st marks the day for Canadians to show pride in their nations history, culture and achievements. From coast to coast, the country’s birthday is marked with colorful parades, firework displays and singing of the national anthem, O Canada!
This is the date of the historical event in which Canada gained its independence from Great Britain in 1867.
Canada Day has been called a few names in the past. It used to be known as Dominion Day, the First of July, Confederation Day and July the First.
Food and drink are almost as synonymous with Canada Day as the colors of red and white. Barbecues are definitely the preferred choice of food event for the day. For us it will be chicken wings with some tasty little roasted okra fries.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & spray with cooking spray.
In a large, resealable plastic bag, combine oil & spices. Add chicken wings; toss to coat evenly. Place wings on prepared pan & bake for 30-35 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink inside. Remove from oven, wrap in foil to keep warm until served.
Adjust heat to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place okra on baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil & massage into each piece. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning once or twice, until lightly browned & softened.
If you prefer, okra fries can be breaded with cornmeal as well before roasting.
Both chicken wings & okra fries can easily be done on the BBQ if you prefer, rather than turning on the oven.
Years ago, shrimp was low on my personal priority list among seafood. Breaded oysters would never fail to get my attention but somehow tastes change. Brion, on the other hand, loves shrimp and it seems to have rubbed off on me. Strangely enough, deep fried food doesn’t appeal to me and never has. I put it down to the fact that I spent many years in the commercial food atmosphere so that deep frying smell just doesn’t work for me. Now when it comes to oven baked ‘frying’ that’s another story.
Cooking shrimp in the oven preserves the natural flavors. Frying and grilling will cause flavor and moisture loss, which can make the shrimp turn out rubbery after it cooks. In this recipe the shrimp is prepared with a parmesan/garlic coating which bakes up nice and crispy. As a side, I’m making some jicama fries. If you have never tasted this vegetable, it is very unique. A perfect description would be like a ‘savory apple’. A root vegetable, native to Mexico, sometimes referred to as a Mexican turnip or potato. Then to add a little pizzaz to the meal, I’ve made a garlic avocado ranch dip for both the shrimp and fries.
The classic Ranch dressing has been around since the 1950’s. While very popular in Canada and the United States, it is virtually unknown in other parts of the world. Typically made with buttermilk, onion, garlic, herbs and spices all combined into a mayo based sauce. This low-fat version of garlic avocado ranch is perfect for this oven fried meal.
Peel, core & mash avocado. In a food processor, add avocado, yogurt, garlic, herbs, onion powder & lime juice. Pulse a few seconds until well blended. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve.
Peel jicama & cut into french fry pieces. In a saucepot of boiling water, sprinkle 1/2 tsp salt; add jicama fries & boil for 10 minutes. Drain well. In a large bowl, combine fries with oil, 1/4 tsp salt, garlic powder, cumin & smoked paprika. Coat well, blending spices. Preheat oven to 400 F. Spread fries onto a lightly oiled baking pan & bake for about 30 minutes, turning halfway through baking time, until fries are crisp.
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a bowl, combine oil, garlic, oregano, basil, parmesan, salt & pepper. Add shrimp & toss gently & thread on wooden skewers. Line a baking pan with foil & lightly oil. Place shrimp in oven & roast JUST until pink, firm & cooked through, about 6-8 minutes. Serve immediately with lemon wedges. jicama fries & dip.
Victoria Day is the distinctly Canadian holiday that serves as the official maker to end winter. It is during this long week-end that many summer businesses, such as parks, outdoor restaurants, bike rentals etc., will re-open despite the fact that summer does not officially begin until a month later. Gardeners in Canada regard Victoria Day as the beginning of spring as it falls at a time when one can be fairly certain that frost will not return until autumn.
Although we are well into the 21st century, in Canada we still celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday 117 years after her passing. She was born on May 24th which is why Canadians celebrate her birthday in late May.
Canadians jokingly refer to Victoria Day as May ‘two-four’ day. This is an inside joke which refers to a case of beer, containing 24 cans. For most Canadians, this is the first warm-ish long week-end since Easter, so they head to campsites armed with a 24 case of beer. Although we hang on to the Victoria Day name for old times sake, somehow it seems we are really celebrating the beginning of the summer season. May ‘two-four’ is probably the more accurate moniker.
In keeping with the spirit of a ‘seasonal barbecue’ on this holiday, Brion & I are doing some Teriyaki Pineapple Chicken Thighs. Have a great day!
Preheat barbecue grill to 350 F. In a bowl, combine first 5 ingredients; add bacon slices & chicken thighs. Allow to marinate for about 15 minutes; drain. Reserve marinade.
On a large sheet of foil, place the bacon to form 4 crosses, top each with a pineapple slice in the center. Next, lay a chicken thigh on pineapple slice, fold bacon ends over thighs. Carefully flip over so that the bacon ends are on the bottom.
Lay foil on barbecue (with the wrapped chicken thighs on it). Close lid on cook until internal temperature reaches 165 F. and the juices run clear. If you prefer, use some of the excess marinade to baste meat as it cooks.
I had no idea when I completed my studies in the commercial food industry that there would be some food items I would make so many times. One such item was an omelette.
In the early years of my career, my first position was a short order chef. It all sounded pretty easy until it came to the weekends. On Sunday morning alone, you could use anywhere from 90-120 DOZEN eggs. A large percentage of them were made into omelettes with various fillings. All this would be made and served in the course of 4-5 hours as individual breakfasts in the hotel restaurant. That job definitely taught you the perseverance you would need to survive in the industry.
Omelettes have a long history dating back to 16th century France. Most are made with just simple egg and dairy ingredients. The fluffiest omelettes use whole eggs or all egg whites, which are beaten with a small measure of cream, milk or water. I even recall adding just a tiny bit of pancake batter to give them more body.
Legend has it that when Napoleon and his army were travelling through the south of France, they spent one night near Bessieres. Napoleon ate an omelette prepared by a local cook and enjoyed it so much that he ordered the townspeople to gather all the eggs in the village and prepare a gigantic omelette for his army the next day. Since 1973, every year on the Monday following Easter, people in Bessieres, France make a giant omelette, using 15,000 fresh eggs.
I have added some pictures of this huge omelette as well as one of a cook dumping egg shells in a pile.
The recipe I am including is an adaptation of an omelette I enjoyed at a restaurant called Mariah’s sometime in the eighties. At the time it was located in the seaside town of Carlsbad, California, USA.
In a small dish, combine all guacamole ingredients; set aside.
Preheat an electric flat griddle to 325 F. Saute mushrooms, green onions & shrimp in margarine keeping each separate from each other. Remove from griddle. Carefully pour beaten eggs onto griddle forming two large circles. Divide guacamole, mushrooms, cheese, crab meat & shrimp between the two omelettes.
Cover with a large sheet pan for a few minutes until all is cooked, being careful not to over or under cook. Fold each omelette over & place on serving plates. Top with sauteed green onions. Add some fruit for a garnish if you prefer.
Food historians have all agreed on the fact that this retro classic dish is not Italian. Truth is it was named after the Italian opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini. Chef’s often named dishes after prestigious clients at their restaurants.
Tetrazzini is a rich dish combining cooked spaghetti tossed with either cooked poultry or seafood (never red meat) and a tangy sherry -cream parmesan cheese sauce. Sauteed mushrooms (a must), along with steamed peas, asparagus tips or broccoli florets are common additions.
Whether it is made individually or as a casserole, it is sprinkled with sliced almonds and additional parmesan, then broiled or baked until crunchy and bubbly with a golden top.
Time and home cooking have stripped away many of the dish’s continental flourishes, with modern versions of tetrazzini being more sturdier and less grand. The recipe means different things to different people with shortcut recipes sometimes using canned cream soups. Although tasty, they never quite measure up to the original iconic dish.
Brion and I absolutely love this meal. It might be a bit more expensive but using the Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano as opposed to generic parmesan cheese is well worth it in this recipe.
In a large stockpot, bring 2 1/2 liters of water to a boil & add 1 1/2 tsp salt. Break pasta in half & add to boiling water. Cook pasta until slightly less than al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain well & return to stockpot. Add the butter, Parmesan & pepper. Toss until butter is melted & pasta is evenly coated. Transfer to a large bowl & set aside.
In the same stockpot, bring water, wine, lemon juice, lemon rinds & bay leaves to a boil. Add the shrimp. Start timing immediately & cook for 3 minutes. By the time 3 minutes are up, the water should be boiling. Drain immediately & rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. Squeeze any remaining juice from the lemon over all. Toss into spaghetti & set aside.
Slice the mushroom caps. In a saucepan, melt butter over low heat; add mushrooms, garlic powder & salt. Increase heat & cook until mushrooms are losing moisture & mixture is juicy, about 6 minutes. Add unthawed peas; cook until almost no moisture remains, 5-6 minutes. Stir into pasta mixture & set aside.
Sherry-Cream Parmesan Sauce
In the saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Increase heat to medium & add flour, salt & cayenne pepper. Using a whisk, stir constantly, cooking until mixture is thick, smooth & bubbly, about 30 seconds. Add cream, in a slow stream, stirring constantly, cooking until smooth, thickened & drizzly, about 2 minutes. Turn off heat. Sprinkle in the Parmesan, stirring until mixture is smooth, adding milk/broth if necessary. Add the sherry, to taste. Add & toss into pasta mixture.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Transfer mixture to individual dishes or one casserole dish that have been sprayed or lightly buttered. Without pressing down on top of the mixture, use a fork to evenly distribute tetrazzini.
Sprinkle the almonds evenly over the top, followed by the Parmesan cheese.
Bake, uncovered, on center rack for 25-30 minutes. Top should be golden brown & casserole will be bubbling around the sides. Do NOT overbake. Remove from oven & allow to sit 10-15 minutes before serving.
In 2015, Brion & I spent sometime living in Cuenca, Ecuador. We had rented an apartment in the central part of the city. Over the three months we were there, I compiled a little diary of ‘recipes’ I developed, that would work for me. The criteria had to be: foods that were available, seasoning that tasted familiar and meals that could be cooked with the limited kitchen equipment and pots/pans.
Something we realized early on when shopping for various spices, was how important it was to know what the spice was called in Spanish. Such as Cumin- ‘Comino’, Marjoram- ‘Mejorana’, Ginger- ‘Jengibre’. It seems that they had most of the spices if you knew what to look for. Probably the only one that couldn’t be found was Chili Powder. When it came to Soy Sauce, even the familiar brands had a different taste. In the process of trying to replicate flavors we were used to, I decided to make my own versions.
Here’s where a little ‘recipe development’ came into play. Normally teriyaki sauce would have a little ‘mirin’ (sweet cooking rice wine) or sake in it. I was able to come up with a fairly good ‘stand in’ with a few simple ingredients. Fresh shrimp were always available at the seafood markets. You could buy half a kilo for $4.00 Canadian. Rice, as long as you were not looking for the ‘minute’ variety, was in huge supply. Anyway, to make a long story short, today’s recipe was one that became a favorite of ours during that time.
If you care to read a few more articles I have posted in my blogs about our time in Ecuador check out ‘Dutch Apple Pie’ in April 2016 & ‘Fresh Cherry Scones’ in July 2016.
Today, November 23rd, our American neighbors are celebrating their Thanksgiving Day. A public holiday, originating as the ‘harvest festival’, is now celebrated along with Christmas and New Year as part of the broader ‘holiday season’.
Here in Canada, our Thanksgiving was celebrated on October 9th. Generally at the heart of this feast is a roast turkey with all the trimmings. I thought I would get a little more creative today and break with tradition as well as giving an acknowledgement to the US holiday.
BACON WRAPPED, GUACAMOLE STUFFED CHICKEN BREAST seems like an interesting idea. Guacamole, an unlikely stuffing for chicken breast as it usually served as a cold tortilla chip dip. It’s one of those taste ‘sensations’ you have to taste to believe. Of course, you have to start with liking avocados —
As history tells us, the Aztec empire created guacamole spread with some of the same ingredients that we use today as far back as the 1500’s. Published recipes first started appearing in the 1940’s.
Along with the guacamole, I used some smoked Gouda cheese in these little delicacies. I was careful not to add any salt in the guacamole. Between the bacon and the Gouda, I felt it had enough for our liking. The meal makes a nice presentation as well as having a great taste.
Mash avocado with a fork, leaving some chunks. Mince onion & coarsely chop sun-dried tomato pieces. Combine all guacamole ingredients to blend.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut a slit into the center of each chicken breast to make a pocket. Lay breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap & pound flat to about a 1/4-inch thickness. On cut side of breasts, lay sliced Gouda cheese. Divide guacamole between breasts; roll up chicken breasts & wrap each one in two strips of bacon. Make sure bacon ends are all on one side. Use toothpicks to ensure all stays in one piece.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, until chicken is cooked & bacon gets nice & crispy.
From what archaeologists can determine, pita bread originated with peoples west of the Mediterranean. Pitas have been both a bread and a utensil throughout the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean.It is a rather simple bread that could be made with limited technology. Pitas are cooked quickly at a relatively high temperature. The flat dough expands dramatically to form an interior pocket from steam.
Pitas’ popularity is partially attributed to using the pocket like a sandwich bread. Many traditional cultures use the pita more like a soft taco or the pita is pulled apart into pieces and dipped in a variety of sauces.
The possibilities of being able to pack, dip or wrap whatever you choose in the pita bread is limitless. Their taste can only be appreciated when eating your pita with different foods that will compliment them.
Although pitas are enjoyed all through the year, they seem like an easy summer meal to enjoy.
In a large skillet, cook beef, onion & green pepper over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, garlic powder, cumin & Italian seasoning; mix well. Simmer, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes.
In a small saucepan, bring all the sauce ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes. Spoon meat mixture into pita halves; top with sauce, tomatoes & lettuce.
When I’m working in the yard, summer always tempts me to spend less time in the kitchen. As much as I love to cook, I find the ‘gardener’ in me takes over. I can’t simply just go out and do a bit of looking. The first thing I know, there’s a little weed that needs to be picked or a plant to prune and that does it — I’m hooked for hours. Nevertheless, one thing for sure and that is the fresh air and exercise builds an appetite which brings me to a fast-to-fix meal.
Today, I’m thinking some chicken fajitas for our evening meal. Before I even go outside, I’ll do a bit of quick prep work, that way it will be a ‘no brainer’ later when I’m tired.
Technically, only beef was used in fajitas, but the term has become ‘blurred’ and describes just about anything that is cooked and served rolled up in a soft flour tortilla. The origin of the fajita goes back to Mexican ranch workers living in West Texas (along the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexican border) in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s. When a steer was butchered, the workers were given the least desirable parts to eat for partial payment of their wages. Because of this, the workers learned to make good use of a tough cut of beef known as shirt steak. The first print mention of the word fajitas anywhere in the world didn’t occur until the 1970’s.
The chicken breast I’m using in this recipe is marinated for a number of hours making it nice and spicy as well as tender. This is a great little, quick and easy hand held meal.
In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 2 Tbsp oil, lemon juice & seasonings. Add chicken. Seal & turn to coat; refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
In a large skillet, saute peppers & onions in remaining oil until crisp-tender. Remove & keep warm. In the same skillet, cook chicken over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes or until no longer pink. Return pepper mixture to pan; heat through. Spoon filling down the center of the tortillas; fold in half. Serve with cheese & choice of other toppings.
How is it spelled? Portobello or Portabella – from what I understand there is no ‘right’ spelling. Both versions are accepted, but the Mushroom Council decided to go with Portabella to provide some consistency across the market.
The scientific name ‘agaricus bisporus’, for these giant mushrooms comes from the Greek word ‘agrarius’ meaning ‘growing in fields’. A portabella mushroom can measure up to six inches across the top. On the underside of the cap are black ‘gills’. The stems and gills are both edible, though some people remove the gills to make more room for stuffing or simply to avoid blackening a dish. Did you know that most of the table mushrooms we eat are all the same variety? The difference is just age– white are the youngest, cremini the middle and portabella the most mature. I really wasn’t aware of that for many years myself.
In May and June of 2016, I posted some recipes on my blog for a variety of stuffed burgers including a mushroom burger. They became very popular on the Pinterest site so I thought you might like to try some of them.
This recipe is for a roasted stuffed portabella mushroom. If you don’t care for salmon you can always change it up for ground beef or turkey using your favorite herbs and spices.