Shrimp Orzotto in Creamy Wine Sauce

Cooking with wine is a bit of a misunderstood area. It’s not quite as simple as many people believe it to be with such a wide range of wines available to cook with and a variety of ways in which to use them.

Wine is used in a similar fashion to seasoning. You’re not pouring it in to change the taste of the entire dish, but more to enhance and complement the flavors already there. The alcohol present in wine actually triggers the release of flavor molecules in the sauce, making every ingredient the wine contacts taste even better.

White wines can be wonderful in a whole host of dishes, which is why you’ll often find them in chicken, fish and seafood recipes, as well as vegetarian.  Seafood such as lobster and shellfish are considered full-bodied, so are better partnered with creamier, full-bodied whites like Chardonnay. White wine sauce has been described as ‘a classic sauce for fish’.

A common misconception when cooking with wine is that all alcohol content is burned off during the cooking process. This isn’t completely true. Typically, the majority of the alcohol will evaporate, but in order to eliminate all traces you would need to cook something for a good three hours or more.

It’s not just alcohol content that is evaporated either. All wines contain a small amount of sulphites, a natural result of the winemaking process. These evaporate along with the alcohol, while the flavors are concentrated. The undesirable stuff comes out, the good stuff is enhanced!

This shrimp orzo is nicely complimented with the creamy wine sauce.

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Shrimp Orzotto in Creamy Wine Sauce
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Instructions
  1. In a large bowl pat the shrimps dry with paper towel, & mix them with salt, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning & crushed red pepper flakes.
  2. Melt 1 tbsp. of butter in a large, non-stick skillet on medium heat. Add shrimp & fry for 1-2 minutes on each side, just until it cooks through.
  3. Meanwhile bring 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth to a boil & cook orzo pasta until all the broth is absorbed & orzo is tender. Set aside.
  4. Remove the shrimps from the skillet & set aside. In the same skillet, add the remaining 1 tbsp. of butter & melt until it just starts to brown. Add onion & garlic and cook until translucent & fragrant.
  5. Once the garlic is cooked, add wine & cook for a couple of minutes. Next add heavy cream & once the liquid is simmering, add salt & 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning. Add orzo & crumbled gorgonzola cheese.
  6. Add shrimp back into the skillet & reheat. Serve with chopped parsley.

Barley Chicken & Mushroom Casserole

A glass of beer, a loaf of bread, a bowl of cereal, a standard of measurement, a form of currency, a medication – they all began with barley – an ancient grain, possibly even older than rice. Barley’s once exalted status has been redefined. No longer does it serve as a unit of monetary exchange or a unit of measurement. No physician thinks of prescribing it for an ailing patient. Now, barley is largely relegated to being a food or a key ingredient in the making of beer.

We owe much to the desert nomads and the camel caravans who endured sandstorms and unrelenting heat to trade their sacks of barley with distant neighbors, who then traded with other distant neighbors. Our steaming bowl of mushroom barley soup is a hand-me-down recipe with roots that take us back to prehistoric man. In 2005 barley ranked fourth for cereal production. There are many types of barley, many different uses for it and a long history of its importance to mankind.

Barley has a unique family-friendly quality. You can make a batch ahead on a Sunday, and it keeps well for at least three days in the fridge, and up to three months in the freezer. Monday, you can use it as breakfast and Tuesday, put a cup or two in your salad, and on Wednesday, you can add a barley casserole to your meal.

Four ways to cook barley. For each cup of barley, add 2 1/4 cups of water.

-Stove top: bring barley to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 50 minutes.

-Rice cooker: barley will cook in the same amount of time as brown rice — approximately one cycle in a rice cooker.

-Oven: place barley and liquid in a covered casserole dish and cook it in the oven.

-Slow cooker: cook barley in a slow cooker for 3 to 4 hours on low heat.

Barley Chicken & Mushroom Casserole is such a wholesome and comforting meal.

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Barley Chicken & Mushroom Casserole
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Instructions
Chicken Thighs
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the seasonings until well combined. Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels and place them in the baking dish.
  3. Rub both sides of the chicken with olive oil. Sprinkle the seasoning mixture over the chicken, rubbing it on both sides of the chicken thighs.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven, without moving or turning, until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the chicken reaches at least 165° F. This will take about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken thighs. During the last 15 minutes, place the cherry tomatoes on baking tray & roast. Remove chicken thighs & tomatoes from oven. Slice thighs in 1/4-inch thick slices. Keep chicken & roasted tomatoes warm.
Barley
  1. In a saucepan, place the water & vegetable broth powder, stir to dissolve. Add barley & bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer & cook barley until tender. Cooking time for pearl barley is around 35 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir the barley, cover the saucepan and let it stand for another 5 to 10 minutes.
Vegetables
  1. In a saucepan, sauté vegetables in 1 Tbsp oil until tender then season to taste. Combine with cooked barley.
Serving
  1. In a casserole serving dish, place the veg/barley mixture. Top with sliced chicken thighs & roasted tomatoes. Garnish with sliced green onion & serve.
Recipe Notes
  • If you find the barley & vegetables seem a bit dry add a bit more vegetable broth.

Beef Stroganoff w/ Barley Risotto

Beef Stroganoff is a perfect dinner party dish – inexpensive and easy to prepare yet rich and luxurious. History reveals a simple but elegant dish of steak meat sautéed with onion and cooked in a sauce of sour cream, seasonings and usually, mushrooms.

This dish was invented sometime in the early 1800s and had its North American heyday in the 1950s and 1960s.

The best cuts of beef for stroganoff are tender, juicy cuts such as:

  • boneless rib eye
  • boneless sirloin.
  • sirloin steak tips.
  • beef tenderloin.

In researching beef stroganoff, I’ve seen recommendations for all sorts of things to serve it with, including kasha, egg noodles, French fried potatoes, rice, mashed potatoes with chives, wild rice, and the leftovers on buttered toast points.

Since Brion & I always enjoy risotto, it seems like a good choice to pair with our stroganoff. I’ve made risotto from rice, couscous, orzo and they were all good so today I’m using barley.

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Beef Stroganoff w/ Barley Risotto
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- 6 SERVINGS
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Instructions
Beef - Marinade
  1. In a large zip-lock bag or glass dish, whisk together oil, soy sauce & Montreal Steak Spice. Add cubed steak & marinate in refrigerator for 2 hours.
Mustard Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth; gradually whisk in chicken stock and mustard. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir until thickened, 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cut tomato into thick strips. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, cook tomato until softened, 3-5 minutes. Stir into mustard sauce; add salt, liquid smoke & sour cream.
  3. In same skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Drain beef using a strainer, discarding marinade. Add sliced onion & mushrooms to pan; cook and stir until onion is softened. Add beef & cook until meat is no longer pink, 6-8 minutes. Add mustard sauce; reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened. Keep warm until serving.
Barley Risotto
  1. Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to maintain simmer. In another large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add chopped onion & salt. Cook and stir until liquid evaporates. Add barley; toast in pan.
  2. Stir hot water into barley 1 cup at a time, waiting until liquid has almost absorbed before adding more. Cook until barley is softened but still slightly chewy, 15-20 minutes; stir in parsley. Serve immediately with beef.

Turkey Breast w/ Quinoa Mushroom Stuffing

SEASON’S GREETINGS!

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 root beer. 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.

The strange and fascinating story of ‘O Holy Night’ began in France, yet eventually made its way around the world. This seemingly simple song, inspired by a request from a clergyman, would not only become one of the most beloved anthems of all time, it would mark a technological revolution that would forever change the way people were introduced to music.

In 1847, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure was the commissionaire of wines in a small French town. Known more for his poetry than his church attendance, it probably shocked Placide when his parish priest asked the commissionaire to pen a poem for Christmas mass. Nevertheless, the poet was honored to share his talents with the church.

In a dusty coach traveling down a bumpy road to France’s capital city, Placide Cappeau considered the priest’s request. Using the gospel of Luke as his guide, Cappeau imagined witnessing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Thoughts of being present on the blessed night inspired him. By the time he arrived in Paris, ‘Cantique de Noel’ had been completed.

Moved by his own work, Cappeau decided that his ‘Cantique de Noel’ was not just a poem, but a song in need of a master musician’s hand. Not musically inclined himself, the poet turned to one of his friends, Adolphe Charles Adams, for help.


The son of a well-known classical musician, Adolphe had studied in the Paris conservatoire. His talent and fame brought requests to write works for orchestras and ballets all over the world. Yet the lyrics that his friend Cappeau gave him must have challenged the composer in a fashion unlike anything he received from London, Berlin, or St. Petersburg.

As a man of Jewish ancestry, for Adolphe the words of ‘Cantique de Noel’ represented a day he didn’t celebrate and a man he did not view as the son of God. Nevertheless, Adams quickly went to work, attempting to marry an original score to Cappeau’s beautiful words. Adams’ finished work pleased both poet and priest. The song was performed just three weeks later at a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

Since that first rendition at a small Christmas mass in 1847, ‘O Holy Night’ has been sung millions of times in churches in every corner of the world. And since the moment a handful of people first heard it played over the radio, the carol has gone on to become one of the entertainment industry’s most recorded and played spiritual songs. This incredible work has become one of the most beautiful, inspired pieces of music ever created.

For our turkey stuffing today, I decided to go with something a bit different. The quinoa-mushroom stuffing can be made to stuff the bird or served as a standalone side-dish.

BIRTHDAY WISHES WITH LOVE TO YOU RITA. HOPE YOU, RICK & AMBER HAVE A WONDERFUL DAY!

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Turkey Breast w/ Quinoa Mushroom Stuffing
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Quinoa Mushroom Stuffing
Turkey
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Quinoa Mushroom Stuffing
Turkey
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Instructions
Stuffing
  1. Cook & mash potatoes. Prepare gravy mix as directed on pkg. Set aside.
  2. Cook the quinoa in a small pot by bringing the quinoa & water to a boil. Cover & reduce heat to very low & cook for about 20 minutes. Remove lid & set aside.
  3. Heat a saucepan, add the onions & sauté for 2-3 minutes, adding just a Tbsp of water at a time if the onions stick, stirring frequently. Add celery, mushrooms, onion & garlic powder, poultry seasoning & dried basil. Sauté for 5 minutes.
  4. Add about 1/4 cup water, fresh herbs, chard & cranberries. Cook about 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
  5. In a large bowl, mix cooked quinoa with mashed potatoes, vegetable/spice mix & gravy to make a moist stuffing consistency. Set aside while you prepare turkey breast.
Turkey Breast
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Lay turkey breast on a clean work surface so that it lies open & flat. Cover with plastic wrap, then pound lightly with a meat mallet to flatten into an even thickness all over. Discard plastic wrap.
  3. On one half of the turkey breast spread a thick layer of stuffing. Fold the adjoining half of the turkey breast over all. Fasten with metal skewers if you wish to help keep the stuffing enclosed.
  4. Place a wire rack in a roasting pan & lay stuffed turkey roast on it. Combine herb butter ingredients & brush over turkey breast. Roast uncovered, until turkey reaches an internal temperature of 180 F. about 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Cover loosely with foil if top browns too quickly.
  5. Place any extra stuffing in a buttered casserole & bake for about 30 minutes.
  6. Remove turkey breast from oven, tent with foil & allow to rest for about 5-10 minutes. Remove skewers & slice. Serve with cranberry sauce.

Shrimp & Chicken Sausage Pasta Shells

With Christmas right around the corner, pasta meals are an easy quick fix on those busy days leading up to the big day. Stuffed Shells are truly the perfect meal to make ahead of time since you can prepare everything but hold off on baking them until you’re ready to eat.

Stuffed shells are a tasty dish that is usually made with ricotta cheese or other types of cheese inside the pasta shells. Tomato sauce is another common ingredient in the dish. However, there are so many ways to jazz it up and one might be surprised just how many unique ingredients one can put into a shell.

I have always loved stuffed pasta shells and over the years I have stuffed them in every way I could imagine. There are endless variations such as using different cheeses and herbs or making some homemade marinara or sun-dried tomato sauce.

There’s a reason surf and turf is often one of the most desired items on a restaurant menu — it’s because meat and fish are the perfect complement to each other! The light flavor of fish and shellfish is a great addition to the richer, heartier flavor of meat.

Today, I’m combining some shrimp and chicken sausage in my filling and topping it with a nice smoky sun-dried tomato parmesan sauce. Should be good!

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Shrimp & Chicken Sausage Pasta Shells
Instructions
Pasta / Filling
  1. Cook pasta shells in a pot of salted boiling water for about 10-12 minutes. Drain well & lay on a wire rack to keep them from sticking together until ready to fill.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium heat. Add onion & mushrooms; sauté until tender & moisture has evaporated from mushrooms. Add chicken sausage & minced garlic. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add wine & cook until sausage is no longer pink about 4-5 minutes more. Drain well & transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Peel & devein shrimp; chop into 1/2-inch pieces. In a small bowl, whisk together broth & flour. Set aside.
  4. In the same skillet, heat remaining 1 Tbsp oil over medium heat. Add shrimp; cook, stirring constantly, until shrimp begins to turn pink. Stir in flour mixture. Add cream, Old Bay seasoning, garlic powder & Italian seasoning; stir until thickened. Remove from heat & stir in sausage mixture. Set aside until ready to use.
Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
  1. In a skillet, heat oil. Add onion & cook for 2 minutes until it starts to soften. Add garlic, oregano, thyme, paprika & sun-dried tomatoes. Cook for 2 minutes while stirring. Add vegetable broth; bring to a boil & simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in cream & parmesan cheese into the sauce. Remove from heat & cool for a few minutes. Pour sauce into food processor & process to a fairly smooth consistency. It will not be completely smooth but that is fine.
Assembly / Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Spread half of the sauce over the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Divide filling between cooked shells. Lay in rows over sauce. Pour remaining sauce over top carefully covering all the shells.
  3. Loosely lay a piece of foil paper over baking dish and bake for 45 minutes or until bubbling nicely.

Chicken, Veal & Shrimp Pastetli (Vol-Au-Vent)

Pastetli were invented in the early 1800s in Antonin Carême’s pastry store in Paris, France where they’re called vol-au-vent, French for ‘windblown’ to describe its lightness. While they’re served as an appetizer in France, they’re eaten as a main meal not only in Switzerland but also in Belgium and the Netherlands. It is also from the Netherlands where the Swiss name Pastetli origins from. The Dutch call them pasteitje (little pastry). From there it came to the German Pastete. Just to add a little complication though, a Pastete in Switzerland is rectangle cake shaped puff pastry pie filled with sausage meat, mushrooms in a creamy sauce.

A vol-au-vent is a light puff pastry shell that resembles a bowl with a lid. The shell is generally filled with a creamy sauce (most often a velouté sauce) containing vegetables, chicken, meat or fish. The lid is placed on the filled shell and the pastry is then served as an appetizer, also known as bouchée à la Reine, or as the main course of a meal. When prepared, the pastry dough is flattened and cut into two circles. A smaller circle is cut out of the center of one of the circles, which then will be used as the lid. The circle without the center cut and the circle with the center cut are then joined together around the edges so as the pastry bakes, it rises into a shell with a hole in the top. The lid, which is baked separately, is added later. The pastry shell may be made the size of an individual serving, or it can be made in several different sizes to become a main serving for one or a larger size to be served for more than one.

Vol-au-vents rose to prominence in Paris in the 19th century. In post-war Britain, they were a mainstay of any self-respecting buffet, served to suitably impressed guests alongside welcome drinks at dinner parties. By the 1990s, they had become unfashionable and remained so for decades. Updated vol-au-vents started reappearing in chic restaurants a year or two before the covid pandemic (2020) erupted and have become the retro appetizer or main course to have.

You can even adapt them to make some elegant desserts. Fill with cream and fresh fruit or melt a chocolate orange with a dash of Grand Marnier and orange zest then spoon this quick-fix mousse into the cases and top with sweetened Chantilly cream and chocolate shavings.

For our main course vol-au-vents, I am making an interesting filling which includes, chicken, shrimp, mushrooms and tiny meatballs. Sounds a little odd but is packed with flavor.

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Chicken, Veal & Shrimp Pastetli (Vol-Au-Vent)
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Instructions
Chicken/Broth
  1. Add the rosemary, garlic, bay leaves, cloves, chopped celery, carrot and onion to a stock pot. Season generously with pepper and salt. Cut the chicken up: legs, wings and breasts. Also chop up the remaining carcass. Add it all to the pot. Then fill it with water (about 7 cups) until the chicken is fully submerged.
  2. Place the pot over high heat until boiling, then leave it there for 10 minutes. Turn the heat lower and gently cook the chicken for about 30 minutes. Remove the chicken from the heat and let it cool down for another 45 minutes.
Mushrooms/ Shrimp/ Cheese
  1. Chop the mushrooms into bite-size pieces. Peel & devein shrimp. Grate parmesan cheese.
Puff Pastry Shells
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Cut (4) 5-inch circles from puff pastry. Beat the egg & prick holes in the large circles with a fork & brush with egg. Cut 12 more RINGS from pastry about an inch wide. Lay a ring on each of the 4 circles & brush with egg wash. Repeat this until there are 3 rings on each large circle. Bake the puff pastry shells for 25 minutes.
Finish the Broth
  1. Remove the cooked chicken from the hot stock. Reserve stock for later. Remove any chicken skin, bones, veins, cartilage, or sinew (discard all this) & pick the cooked meat from the bones. Shred the larger bits up roughly. Then transfer the chicken meat to a large saucepan.
  2. Strain the chicken stock in a fine sieve or colander over a large pan. You should end up with about 6 cups (1,4 l) of chicken stock. Discard the cooked vegetables.
Meatballs
  1. In a bowl, combine ground veal (pork), salt & pepper, egg & breadcrumbs. Mix well and make tiny balls of ½ oz (15 g) each. You should end up with about 20 of them. Cover the meatballs with cling film and store them in the fridge until later.
  2. Bring the stock to a gentle boil again. Once warm, add the meatballs, shrimp & mushrooms. Poach them for about 5 minutes. Then remove the meatballs, shrimp & mushrooms using a slotted spoon. Add them to the shredded chicken in the large saucepan.
Béchamel Sauce
  1. Take the chicken stock off the heat now. In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk well until you get a wet crumble. Gently cook this over medium-low heat for about a minute. Then gradually add splashes of the warm chicken stock until you get a sticky flour paste. Keep stirring. Don't add too much at once or the sauce will become lumpy.
  2. Whisk well. Gradually add more chicken stock (about 3 to 4 cups) until you get a pretty runny sauce. Bring the sauce to a low simmer & cook for 3-4 minutes or until thickened. whisk in Montreal Steak Spice, onion salt, garlic powder, mustard & grated parmesan.
  3. Add the béchamel sauce to the chicken, meatballs, shrimp & mushrooms. Stir carefully. Cover the pan for another 5 minutes and let the vol au vent filling warm through or place it back over very low heat.
  4. Put the vol au vent puff pastry casings onto 4 serving plates. Top with the chicken, meatball, shrimp & mushroom filling. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley if desired. Serve the vol au vents hot.

1770 House Meatloaf w/ Garlic Sauce

The other day I came across a recipe for meatloaf that certainly seemed like something ‘special’. Years ago, every family had a meatloaf recipe that was so dearly loved, it achieved iconic status. Today, I’m not so sure that is the case anymore. Nevertheless, this recipe was called ‘1770 House Meatloaf’ which made me curious as to what the history was behind it. Most every review raved about it being pure comfort food and much more than just meatloaf.

From my research on this meatloaf I found that the 1770 House is an East Hampton Inn and Restaurant famous for this dish. East Hampton Village on Long Island, New York is a beautiful village. It’s been that way for years with a glorious pond right as you come into town where swans swim in summer and skaters take to the ice in winter.

The 1770 House has welcomed guests with hospitality and comfort, a tradition that continues to attract guests from around the world to the intimate Inn, steps from the heart of East Hampton Village. The venerable home, today a boutique hotel and restaurant, seamlessly integrates historic elegance with luxurious, modern amenities and first-class dining.

This glorious colonial house has two restaurants—a more formal fine dining room on the ground level and, down a flight of stairs, a cozy ‘tavern’ with its roaring fireplace and comfort food menu.  And always, on this seasonally changing menu, there is Chef Kevin Penner’s remarkable meatloaf with its even more remarkable garlic sauce.  

This familiar dish is simple enough that it can be prepared as a weekday meal, but that has been elevated by adding a few key ingredients. The celery and thyme infuse the mix with intense flavor, and the garlic sauce works perfectly. The outcome is a delicious dish with moist texture: not your average meatloaf.

So there you have it …. meatloaf with first-class dining status!

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1770 House Meatloaf w/ Garlic Sauce
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Instructions
Meatloaf
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large (12-inch) sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion & celery and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent but not browned. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Place the beef, veal, pork, parsley, thyme, chives, eggs, milk, salt & pepper in a large mixing bowl. Put the panko in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the panko is finely ground.
  4. Add the onion mixture & the panko to the meat mixture. With clean hands, gently toss the mixture together, making sure it's combined but not compacted.
  5. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Pat the meat into a flat rectangle and then press the sides in until it forms a cylinder down the middle of the pan (this will ensure no air pockets). Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a thermometer inserted in the middle reads 155 F. to 160 F. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Slice and serve hot with the Garlic Sauce.
Garlic Sauce
  1. Combine the oil & garlic in a small saucepan & bring to a boil. Lower the heat & simmer for 10 -15 minutes, until lightly browned. Be careful not to burn the garlic or it will be bitter. Remove the garlic from the oil and set aside.
  2. Combine the chicken stock, butter & cooked garlic in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat & cook at a full boil for 35 - 40 minutes, until slightly thickened. Mash the garlic with a fork, whisk in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper & taste for seasonings. Spoon the warm sauce over the meatloaf.
Recipe Notes
  • Since there are just two of us, I made the full recipe then divided the mixture into 3 portions. I baked all 3 & used one for our supper meal today,  froze the second one for a future meal & with the third, I sliced it for 'meatloaf' sandwiches. Doesn't get better than that!

Pork Vegetable Orzo

Oblong and common in Mediterranean cooking, orzo has a look of rice and the texture of pasta. Orzo, also named risoni, is an extremely versatile pasta shape used in a multitude of recipes and cuisines. Translating to mean ‘barley’ in Italian due to its resemblance to the grains of unprocessed barely, it is categorized as a ‘pastina’ meaning ‘little pasta’.

The most common variety of orzo is made from semolina flour, which in turn is made from durum wheat. Because the wheat base gives it a heartier texture, it is better able to absorb the flavors of the ingredients around it as well as providing the pasta with a firmness needed to ensure it maintains its shape while remaining soft and light in texture.

Like most pasta, orzo is boiled in a pot of water to prepare. From there, it can be used in multiple applications. Traditionally it is used in soups and sometimes as a side dish, both hot and chilled, with herbs, olive oil or butter, and parmesan cheese.

Today, I’m incorporating orzo in a ground pork & vegetable, one-pot meal …. pasta, meat & veggies, what more is needed!

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Pork Vegetable Orzo
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
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Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, crumble fry ground pork until cooked. Steam chard stalks in a microwave dish until almost tender-crisp. Add onions, zucchini & chard to saucepan with pork. Sauté until onion has softened & veggies are tender-crisp.
  2. Stir in garlic, Montreal steak spice & orzo, cook for about 30 seconds. Stir in chicken broth & milk. Once it starts to bubble, continue cooking for 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring often. Turn heat to a medium low temperature. It should gently bubble vs. boil as you don't want the liquid to reduce too much before the pasta has cooked.
  3. Remove from heat, stir in parmesan. Cover & gently cook 3-5 minutes until the mixture has slightly thickened. Remove from heat & serve.

Pulled Pork Naan Pizza w/ Peach Onion Chutney

CELEBRATING HERITAGE DAY!

In 1974, the first Monday of August was made an official provincial holiday to recognize and celebrate the varied cultural heritage of Albertans.

The Heritage Festival in our city of Edmonton, Alberta Canada is one of the world’s largest three-day multicultural events, taking place every August. The festival showcases a diversity of cuisine, entertainment, interpretive materials, and crafts worldwide. There is no admission to enter or to watch the many cultural dances and folk music shows throughout the day. Attendees will be able to purchase various food made by the pavilions. Due to the renovations currently happening at William Hawrelak Park, the festival has been relocated to the Edmonton Exhibition Lands and Borden Parks. 

Today, I’m doing a savory version with some pulled pork with a seasonal fresh peach and onion chutney. Chutney is a condiment that originated in India that can add an extra zing to your meal. A chutney may be sweet and spicy or sweet and savory, depending on the spices and other ingredients used. Often served with meats, such as chicken, pork, or ham, as well as fish.

You’ve likely eaten naan bread at some time. The tasty Indian flatbread is traditionally cooked in the tandoor, carries a slight smoky aroma, and has a soft texture with pillow-like pockets studded over the top. Puffed flatbread has the power to move beyond a dinner accompaniment. It’s worthy of a role far better — like actually being the main course.

It proves to be super versatile — naan is soft and sturdy enough to take the place of bread, thin enough to be used as a flatbread or pizza dough, and pliable enough to work as a tortilla. It can be soaked, baked, fried, and folded to take on some surprising and delicious forms such as French toast, savory bread pudding, paninis, nachos or even as a dessert naan bread with bananas, strawberries & chocolate.

Ever since Brion & I got ‘tuned in’ to savory naan bread pizzas, we love them no matter what the topping is. Should be a good meal for today!

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Pulled Pork Naan Pizza w/ Peach Onion Chutney
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Peach Onion Chutney
Caramelized Onions
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Peach Onion Chutney
Caramelized Onions
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Instructions
Peach Onion Chutney
  1. In a large heavy pot, combine sugar, vinegar, ginger, cumin, cinnamon & pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add peaches & onion; increase heat to medium high & cook until peaches are tender & mixture thickens. Cool. ( I prefer to make this a day ahead).
Caramelized Onions
  1. In a skillet, heat oil until hot. Add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture has evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat, sprinkle with vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Add brown sugar, stirring until caramel in color. Remove from heat & cool.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. On a large sheet of parchment paper, place 4 Naan breads & place on a baking sheet.
  3. Carefully spread peach onion chutney liberally over each Naan bread. Sprinkle each with a bit of grated cheese.
  4. Layer with pulled pork & caramelized onions. Top with remaining cheese & bake 15-20 minutes or until hot & bubbly. Remove from oven & serve.

Pork Skewers w/ Broccoli Orzotto

CELEBRATING CANADA DAY!

What is it about summer that makes us crave smoky, charred meat? Or has it got something to do with that wonderful barbecue aroma created by cooking outdoors that gets our attention? Whatever it is, its hard to resist.

This is another great barbecue option and can be prepared a few hours ahead or the night before and stored in the fridge. The best thing is it is super simple and quick to prepare.

You’ve heard of risotto, but what about ‘orzotto‘. It’s a spin on the classic dish with orzo pasta rather than rice and it takes very little time to make. I’m serving it here with broccoli and tender pieces of pork seasoned with a zesty Montreal steak spice blend.

Montreal steak spice, also known as Montreal steak seasoning, is a combination of various spices. It is based on the dry rub mix used to make Montreal smoked meat. Although the actual steak spice will vary depending upon the brand or restaurant making it, it is primarily made up of garlic, coriander, black pepper, cayenne pepper, dill seeds and salt.

Coat pieces of pork with oil then season with Montreal Steak Spice, cover it and refrigerate it well in advance before you plan to cook. This gives it time to rehydrate.

These pork fillet skewers not only look incredible but make a great meal for a warm summer evening!

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Pork Skewers w/ Broccoli Orzotto
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Rating: 5
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Servings
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Pork Tenderloin
  1. In a plastic bag, place Montreal steak spice & 1 Tbsp oil. Add cubed meat & shake well to combine. Place in refrigerator for a few hours or overnight to marinate.
Broccoli Orzotto
  1. In a pot over medium heat, sauté onion & garlic in oil. Add the orzo & 2 cups of the broth. Bring to a boil & let simmer for 6 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Add the broccoli & remaining broth. Continue cooking for 6 minutes or until the orzo is al dente & the broccoli is JUST tender. Remove from heat & add parmesan & lemon zest. Season with salt & pepper if you desire. Allow to rest for 2 minutes before serving.
Grilling
  1. Preheat the grill on high heat. Thread each skewer with 6 pieces marinated pork. Place the skewers on the grill for 8-10 minutes, turning every 2-3 minutes until all sides are lightly charred and pork is cooked through but not OVERCOOKED.
  2. Remove from grill & sprinkle with fresh dill. Serve with broccoli orzotto.
Recipe Notes
  • You can prepare the orzotto a day ahead & refrigerate. It is just as good reheated if your short of time on BBQ day.