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.
With the passage of time, Kebabs have managed to find a very significant place in modern day cuisines. Although kebabs have their roots in the Mediterranean and Middle East, they have been able to make their way around the world.
There is something special about warm weather and the smell of grill aromas saturating the air; it just seems to take food to a whole new level.
Tradition has it that kebabs were invented by medieval soldiers who used their swords to grill chunks of freshly hunted animals over open field fires. The word kebab means ‘fry’ but is also synonymous to ‘burning’. The first kebab dates back to 17th century BC, Greece. Akrotiri, a settlement on the Island of Santorini was buried in volcanic ash which preserved the remains of many objects, etc. In 1967, the site was excavated and unearthed stone sets for barbecuing. The stones were carved to resemble long dog-like animals that would have slots for skewers to lay in. These were called ‘firedogs’.
The nice thing about this meal is that its simple and easy. I guess you could say ‘the pizza of the grill’. The picture at the end of the blog is a very common sight we saw in the streets of Ecuador. Brion and I were never brave enough to try them but it sure smelled good in the open air.
I am using chicken breast for my kebabs today. Nothing fancy, just good eating. Enjoy!
Cut chicken breasts into 18 lengthwise strips; place in a large resealable plastic bag. In another resealable plastic bag place green peppers, onions & mushrooms.
In a large bowl, combine salad dressing, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce & lemon juice. Remove 1/3 cup; cover & refrigerate. Divide the remaining salad dressing mixture between chicken & the vegetables; seal both bags & turn to coat. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.
Drain & discard marinade from chicken & vegetables. Alternately thread chicken & vegetables on 18 metal or soaked wooden skewers. Grill over medium heat for 12-15 minutes or until chicken juices run clear, turning & basting with reserved marinade occasionally.
Today, July 25th, is my sister Loretta’s birthday. As I think of her with fondness on her day, I wanted to feature a special meal that I’m sure she would enjoy. I would much rather be making it for her but distance makes that impossible.
The entree I am preparing is WILD SALMON ROULADE stuffed with SHRIMP & SCALLOPS and served with DILL SAUCE.
Roulades have been around since the 18th century. The things that have made them so popular are that they are simple — once prepared they need little attention while cooking. They are versatile — any meat or fish that can be thinly sliced lengthwise will work. There are many options when it comes to the filling — anything that cooks faster than the outside is suitable. Elegant for entertaining — on the outside a delicate fillet of fish or meat; on the inside a hidden second flavor.
In this recipe, the salmon roulade is stuffed with shrimp and scallops and served with a delicate sauce.
Loretta is a few years older than I am so she has always been in my life. I have lots of wonderful memories from our ‘adventures’ while growing up on the farm together. Thank you, Loretta, for those beautiful moments in life that can never be brought back but I will treasure them in memories forever.
OUR FAMILY CELEBRATES YOU WITH LOVE ON YOUR SPECIAL DAY!
In a bowl, whisk egg white until frothy; set aside. Finely chop shrimp; cut scallops into 1/2-inch cubes. Add seafood to egg white. Add bread crumbs, chives, parsley, lemon rind, tarragon, salt & pepper; toss to combine. Refrigerate.
Butterfly (skinned) salmon fillet; sprinkle with salt & pepper. Spread stuffing over salmon leaving a border at edges. Starting at long side , roll salmon, tying with kitchen string at 1-inch intervals. Place on a parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Roast about 50 minutes or when thermometer inserted into the thickest part reaches 160 F. Transfer to cutting board; tent with foil & let rest for 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix dill sauce ingredients together. Adjust consistency with milk & tartness with lemon juice. Set aside for 10-20 minutes You could use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. It is slightly more tangy & low fat tends to be less creamy but does reduce the calories.
You can prepare the salmon roulade up to 2 hours ahead, just cover & refrigerate.
Father’s Day, that special day set aside to honor our fathers and the father figures who have influenced our lives. A father’s love is such a special gift beyond compare. You only know the meaning when he is no longer there.
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.
There are not enough words to describe how important my father was to me and the powerful influence he continues to be in my life even though he’s gone.
As a tribute to our dad’s on Father’s day, I am featuring a CHEESE CRUSTED APPLE PIE. Both of them loved apple pie so it seems like a good choice for the blog recipe.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt & cheese. Cut in half the shortening to resemble coarse meal; then remaining shortening until it resembles small peas. Add water, a little at a time, mixing lightly with a fork. Shape dough into a firm ball; chill for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 F. On a lightly floured surface, roll pastry out to fit a 9-inch flan pan; trim edges. Cover pastry with a piece of parchment paper; cover with dried beans & bake for 7 minutes. Carefully remove beans & bake another 7 minutes. Remove from oven & cool.
Chop apples coarsely, place in a saucepan with lemon juice; cover & cook about 10 minutes or until just tender. Stir in flour, sugar & cinnamon; cool to room temperature.
In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour & pecans. Rub in butter until mixture is coarse & crumbly.
Place filling into pastry shell, sprinkle with topping. Bake at 400 F. for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 375 F. & bake further for 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Decorate with whipped cream, extra chopped pecans & powdered sugar, if desired.
Due to the fact that ovens sometimes vary in temperature, you may need to adjust the baking temperature a little higher or lower than recipe states.
Eostre is an obscure Germanic and Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and dawn, and it is thought to be the namesake of the Christian holiday Easter. Because food has always had a close association with Easter, special dishes were cooked in her honor. Most important of these was a small spiced, sweet bun from which our ‘hot cross bun’ derives. These little spiced buns are a rather old English tradition, which are still traditionally eaten on Good Friday. They are marked on top with a cross which is of ancient origin connected with religious offerings of bread.
Hot Cross ‘Scones’ are an easy take on the seasonal classic bun. They are the best of both worlds; hot cross yeasted buns and a tender spicy scone. Scones work for me in the way that most of the time I have the ingredients on hand and they only take about twenty minutes or so to make.
As always, I enjoy the idea of variation in just about everything. I had three scone recipes in mind for today’s blog. One recipe is a hot cross scone made by changing out the regular flour for ‘Kamut’ flour. This flour is made from an ancient grain originally grown by the pharaohs of Egypt. It contains more protein, minerals and other nutrients than modern wheat.
The other two recipes are Spiced Orange & Fresh Apple Hot Cross Scones, bothmade with a sour cream batter. Hopefully they will become part of your Easter recipe collection.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt. Add butter; using a pastry blender, blend until mixture forms fine crumbs. Stir in spices, dried fruit & orange zest.
In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, & vanilla; whisk until well blended. Add to flour mixture; stir until a soft dough forms.
Scoop onto lined baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden. Remove from oven, combine water & honey glaze. Warm very slightly in microwave; brush over tops of scones. When scones have cooled, decorate with icing crosses.
To make Kamut Scones use 1 3/4 cup kamut flour & 3/4 cup white flour instead of all white flour.
To make Apple Scones add 1/4 of a large apple, peeled & cut in 1/4" dice. to basic recipe.
German-inspired yeasted coffee cake is a very popular type of cake all over Germany and Austria. It is very different from the typical butter cake associated with streusel coffee cake in North America. Whereas a butter cake is rich, sweet and fine grained, kuchen is light and slightly porous with a complexity of flavor that can only be found in yeast leavened baked goods. Of course, there are many different variations, but the important part is the streusel or crumbled topping, which consists of a combination of flour, sugar, butter and spices.
In the past, most German towns and cities had orchards planted all around them, on land that belonged to the community. Cows or sheep grazed underneath the trees and people were free to pick the fruits when they became ripe. Today most of those common lands have been turned into suburbs and the trees are gone. Destruction of the remnants of ancient orchards is ongoing, contributing to the loss of heirloom varieties. Even though the diversity of choice is decreasing, the apple is still by far the most popular fruit in Germany.
Here is my best adaptation of an APPLE STREUSEL COFFEE CAKE that I think you might enjoy to try.
In a large bowl, combine yeast, 1/8 cup sugar & lukewarm water; allow to dissolve. Stir in remaining 1/8 cup of sugar, salt, milk, sour cream, lemon juice & vanilla; mix well. Add egg & blend.
With fingertips, rapidly work the butter into 2 1/2 cups of the flour until coarse, meal-like consistency. Add to the yeast mixture & knead in bowl, adding more flour if necessary to make a smooth, elastic dough. Shape into a ball & place in a lightly buttered bowl. Cover tightly and let rise in a draft-free place until doubled in bulk.
Peel & slice apples. In a small saucepan, combine all filling ingredients except pecans. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until apples are tender, & juice has evaporated. Stir in pecans; set aside to cool.
In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon & lemon zest. With fingertips, rub in butter until mixture is coarse & crumbly. Set aside.
When dough has doubled in size, turn out on a lightly floured piece of wax paper. Press out gently into a rectangle about 10 x 14-inches in size. Spread apple filling to within 1/4-inch of edges & very gently press into dough. Roll up from the wide end, jelly-roll fashion.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter a 9-inch tube or bundt pan. Sprinkle half of the streusel in pan. Carefully, (dough will be very soft) with the help of the wax paper, fit the roll into the pan so that the ends of the dough join. Pinch ends of together. Sprinkle cake with remaining streusel. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven & allow cake to cool before slicing.
Its only March, so BBQ season is till a few months away. Some would claim that good ‘barbecued’ food can only come from the grill, not the oven. But what about during our winter months or times when you just don’t feel like firing up the grill or you’re out of propane? Let’s face it, nothing can replace a good outdoor barbecue, but..
The key to oven BBQ chicken is to start with bone-in pieces. Chicken leg quarters are fairly fatty in comparison to chicken breast so it takes a lot to dry a chicken leg out. Which brings me to a recipe I clipped from a newspaper back in 1970 for OVEN BARBECUED CHICKEN. The ingredient list is rather lengthy but all pretty common place items. Brion likes this meal served with roasted potatoes.
In the month of March our family celebrates three birthdays. Today, March 21st would have been my Dad’s. He passed away at the age of 92, 12 years ago. Our Dad was a man of discipline; love was closely associated with duty and commitment for him. He was confident in who he was and didn’t demonstrate any need to conform to what we might have wanted him to do. Everything he undertook was driven by his commitment to honor and provide for the family that he loved.
IT IS WITH MUCH LOVE OUR FAMILY IS HONORING THIS DAY IN THE MEMORY OF OUR WONDERFUL DAD
Preheat oven to 375 F. Have available a large baking dish that will hold chicken in a single layer. Combine flour, 1 tsp salt, paprika & 1/4 tsp pepper in a heavy plastic bag. Place chicken in bag & shake to coat evenly. In a heavy, large skillet, heat margarine & oil.
Add chicken & brown slowly on all sides; place in baking dish. Add onion & garlic to pan; cook gently for 3 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients, cover & simmer 10 minutes.
Pour this mixture over chicken, cover the pan & bake 15 minutes. Turn chicken legs, cover again & bake about 15 minutes more. Remove cover & continue baking until legs are tender, basting often with sauce, about 20 minutes.
When you think of sticky rolls, yeast dough comes to mind. Yeast with its long, slow rise, adds that wonderful flavor to breads of all kinds. But there are always those times when you need a quick ‘homespun’ dessert. This is where we can turn to baking powder and baking soda, those little white powders baker’s simply can’t live without.
I have always had a love for mangoes. In our part of the country they are quite expensive. Using the ‘individually quick frozen’ (IQF) mangoes seems to be the most economical way to buy them.
Adding a bit of cardamom spice to these Glazed Mango Pinwheels gives them such a flavor boost. My blog photo shows them when they first came out of the oven. After you invert them on a platter that nice sticky glaze runs down the sides ….. yum!
Thaw & coarsely chop mangoes; toss with lemon juice; set aside. In a saucepan, combine syrup ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then simmer 3 minutes; set aside.
In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder & salt; cut in 1/2 cup margarine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the dry ingredients, add milk & mix lightly with a fork to make a stiff dough. Knead 10 seconds on a floured surface then roll out to a 12 x 10 -inch rectangle. Preheat oven to 375 F. Spread dough with 2 tbsp margarine; sprinkle with sugar & cardamom spice.
Spread mango pieces over dough, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Roll up in a jelly roll fashion; cut into 8 slices. Place cut side down in a 9 x 9-inch baking dish, leaving space between rolls. Bake about 20-25 minutes. Reheat syrup glaze until hot then pour over & around pinwheels. Allow to sit for about 5-10 minutes then invert onto serving platter.
If you prefer more glaze, nothing says you can't double that part. No doubt, they will probably be even better!
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!
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
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.
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.
The second Monday of October has been the day Canada has celebrated Thanksgiving since 1957. We have now entered into our Autumn season with all it’s breathtaking fabulous fall foliage. Part of Canada’s appeal is it’s four seasons that offer changing landscapes and temperatures.
I, for one, have always loved the changing seasons. That’s not to say that I like freezing cold and slippery roads but that I have come to understand the important role each one plays in the ‘big picture’. When Brion and I initially landscaped our property, careful consideration was given to what plants were planted. Over the years it has developed into a beautiful tapestry of color through our growing season.
Growing up on the farm, Fall was an especially busy time with the grain crops being harvested, garden vegetables being canned, frozen or just stored for use over the coming months. So much needed to be done before winter would set in. As a teenager it all just seemed like a lot of work. Even as hard as my parents worked at making a living from farming, I think they felt a real sense of satisfaction in what they were able to achieve. I realize now that even without being aware of it the visual beauty of the farmland at harvest was imprinted on me forever.
Thanksgiving Day in Canada is linked to the European 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. Turkeys, pumpkins, ears of corn and large displays of food are also used to symbolize Thanksgiving Day.
Over the years, Brion and I have chose to have a variety of different meats for our Thanksgiving meal. Turkey is always the tradition for our Christmas dinner and since the two holidays come fairly close together, why not! All that being said though, we decided this year to roast just the turkey breast with stuffing. I also incorporated some of that wonderful Butternut squash with cranberries into the meal as well. For dessert we are having some pumpkin chiffon tarts. As a ‘kid’, I remember having a great dislike for the regular pumpkin pie — you know the kind –‘solid’. Then one year my mother made pumpkin ‘CHIFFON‘ pie. Well, now that was glorious and I have loved it ever since.
Today in my recipes I have only included the Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Pumpkin Chiffon Tarts.I thought I’d get into the turkey and stuffing recipes later in the season.
Happy Thanksgiving Day!
Butternut Squash with Cranberries / Pumpkin Chiffon Tarts
Preheat oven to 375 F. Split squash in half; place hollow side down on a lightly buttered baking sheet. Bake for about 45 minutes or until completely soft to the touch.
In a small skillet, saute celery & onion in margarine until tender. Add the apple, salt, lemon juice & pepper. Cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat until apple is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in cranberries, sugar & water. Cook & stir until berries pop & liquid is syrupy. If you prefer, you could process this mixture for a couple of seconds in a food processor.
Remove seeds & membrane from cooked squash; mash well. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, balsamic vinegar & maple syrup. Place some squash in individual custard dishes. Make a hollow in the center for the cranberry 'filling'. Add cranberries & serve.
Pumpkin Chiffon Tart Filling
In a medium saucepan, combine first 7 ingredients; mix well. Add pumpkin, evaporated milk, regular milk & egg yolks; combine well. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens to a heavy custard. Boil 2 minutes, add 1 Tbsp margarine. Place wax paper over custard to prevent a 'skin' from forming. Let custard become cold (it can be refrigerated overnite at this point, finishing it the following day) then stir in 1/4 cup orange juice.
Whip envelope of dessert topping with 1/2 cup milk & 1/2 tsp vanilla until stiff peaks form. It should yield about 2 cups. Put aside the amount you need to garnish tarts with. Fold remaining whipped dessert topping into custard. Spoon custard into a large pastry bag with a large 'star' tip. Fill baked mini tart shells. Decorate with a small dollop of dessert topping.
Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt. Cut in white & yellow Crisco shortening. In a 1 cup measuring cup place egg & vinegar; beat well. Add enough COLD water to fill cup. Pour all at once over flour mixture, mixing until pastry pulls away from sides of bowl. This should only take a couple of minutes, making sure not to over mix pastry. Roll out on floured surface. Using the bottom side of tart pans, cut pastry circles & place over each 'cup'. Bake at 350 F. until golden. Cool on wire rack before filling with pumpkin custard. If your using purchased shells follow baking instructions & cool before filling as well.
This pastry & pumpkin chiffon custard recipe was one I started using many years ago while working in the food industry. They were some of my favorites because they were pretty much 'fail proof'. If you want to make a double batch of each it will give you 4 - 9-inch pies. You can make them up to the point of decorating. Freeze until needed then just bring them out & thaw, decorate and you got a nice little homemade dessert just like that!