Victoria Day is the distinctly Canadian holiday that officially wraps up winter. Even if the date marks the informal start of summer, you could be planning for a backyard barbecue or an impromptu indoor shut-in due to an array of snow, sleet, rain or hail.
Although we are well into the 21st century, in Canada we still celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday over 100 years after her passing. The only other country in the Commonwealth to observe this celebration is Scotland. This is our oldest statuary holiday in Canada and is celebrated annually on the Monday preceding May 25th. In the maritime provinces it is a non-statuary ‘general’ holiday and in Quebec, ‘National Patriots Day’ is observed instead.
While we might hang onto the British queen’s name for old times sake, the tradition of Victoria Day is truly Canadian and has everything to do with the end of the cold weather and short days, and a lot to do with some great food.
My choice of food for today’s blog should work well with your own ‘barbecue’ meal. It is APPLE-TURKEY SAUSAGE ROLLS and STUFFED POTATO SKINS.
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, saute apple, onion, sage, thyme & allspice in olive oil for 5 minutes. Apples & onions should be soft but not browned. Remove from heat & set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine cooled apple mixture with ground turkey, salt & pepper. Using your hands, gently mix until everything is evenly combined, making sure not to overwork the mixture.
Unroll the puff pastry sheet onto a lightly floured work surface, cut crosswise to make three long, strips ((about 10 x 3.5" each) Brush a line of mustard down the middle of each strip. Divide filling into 3 equal portions. Roll into sausage shapes & place down the middle of each pastry rectangle. Brush edges firmly to seal.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Arrange the rolls, seam side down, on prepared baking sheet. Brush with remaining beaten egg, & sprinkle with poppy seeds. Cover with plastic wrap & place in the freezer to firm up, about 15 minutes.
Using a very sharp knife, cut each roll into 8 bite-sized pieces & arrange 1" apart on baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown & sausage is cooked through.
Stuffed Potato Skins
Microwave potatoes, uncovered, on high for 14-17 minutes or until tender but firm, turning once. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut each potato in half lengthwise. Scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/4" shell ( pulp can be used elsewhere).
Combine oil & hot pepper sauce; brush over potato shells. Cut each potato shell in half lengthwise again. Place on baking sheets coated with baking spray. Sprinkle with the tomato, bacon, onion & cheese. Bake at 450 F. for 12-14 minutes or until heated through & cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream.
When it comes to stuffed pastas, the only limitation is your own imagination. Sometimes it could be inspired by the seasons, maybe what you grew in your garden. Other times, its what you have on hand. Some of the best baked pastas evolve from a little adventure and risk taking.
The filling you choose, gives body and character. The sauce should bring the plate alive and complement the filling, not overpower or mask what is held within the pasta ‘walls’. Generally, there are three types of sauce used when making this entree; either a light tomato sauce, Bechamel or cream sauce or a broth sauce.
I have always favored using ‘Conchiglioni‘ pasta, the name derives from the Italian word meaning ‘seashells’. Their shape, size and consistency are the perfect vessel for bold, rich fillings and flavorful sauces. Baked pastas, or ‘pastas al forno’ as they are called in Italy, date back to the Renaissance when they were being served at the banquets of nobles.
Anyone following my food blogs has long since figured out I have a huge love for ‘stuffing things’. Although this meal may seem a bit ordinary, the recipe is one I developed many years ago and still enjoy using it. You can also find it featured in my eBook on Amazon, ‘Living Large on a Lean Food Budget’.
Today, March 24th, is the birthday of my brother, Tony.
Cook pasta shells in boiling, salted water with a small amount of oil added, for 15 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water.
In a small saucepan, melt margarine & remove from heat. Stir in water & sauce mix. Bring to a boil over medium heat & simmer 3 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine salmon, mushrooms, broccoli, onions & half of dill sauce.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Fill pasta shells with salmon mixture. All the filling should fit into 18 shells as they are nicely 'overstuffed'. In a small bowl, mix together remaining dill sauce, reserved salmon juice & mushroom soup. Spread some sauce over bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Lay filled shells single file in pan. Pour remaining sauce over all & top with grated cheddar cheese.
Cover with foil & bake about 45-50 minutes.
This meal is easily portioned and frozen for an easy quick fix for supper later.
If you prefer, you could use fresh baked salmon instead of canned.
Most of our vacations over the years have been reasonably structured with a focus on a specific country, it’s people and the geographical treasures within. With the world in such disarray lately, we have been keeping a fairly low profile in our travels. Needing a little ‘sea, sun & sand’ it seemed logical that the Dominican Republic would fit the bill. Of course, you first have to go through all the flying trials and tribulations. To simplify things, Brion had us booked on a direct flight so that helped. Nevertheless, after 6 or 7 hours of flying your always happy to land. A couple of years ago we had spent 12 days in the DR so we new what to expect for most part.
For the next 10 days we settled into holiday mode — eat, sleep and walk on those beautiful pristine white sandy beaches. Being in a resort you have endless choices when it comes to food and drink. Brion and I have a shared love of seafood so we took full advantage of that.
For today’s blog it seems fitting to prepare a meal that would combine seafood and pork– both used extensively in the DR. Oysters accented with bacon, maple and apples give this recipe a very unique character.
In a large non-stick skillet saute bacon, onion, apple, garlic & thyme leaves. Cook, stirring often for 7 minutes or until bacon is crisp. Add chicken broth & oysters; cook for 1 minute or until moisture is evaporated. Add bread & toss to coat with cooked mixture; cool to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Slice along the length of each tenderloin almost through to the center, so it opens like a book. Sprinkle evenly with salt & pepper. Spread the stuffing mixture down the length of one tenderloin & top with the remaining tenderloin. Secure the layers with kitchen twine tied at equal intervals. Place the roast on a rack set over a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Stir the maple syrup with the mustard until well combined.
Roast for 30-35 minutes or until it registers 165 F. on meat thermometer when inserted into thickest part of meat & stuffing. Baste the meat with the maple mixture twice during roasting. Broil on the center rack for 5 minutes or until glossy. Let roast rest 5 minutes before slicing.
New Years Eve and Christmas are the traditional occasions to serve tourtiere. This classic French Canadian meat pie originated in the province of Quebec, Canada as early as 1600. While it may seem foreign to some, tourtiere is as Canadian as maple syrup or hockey. It is one of Canada’s better contributions to the culinary world being enjoyed throughout Canada as well as the upper mid west and eastern United States.
Fundamentally, tourtiere is a pie that contains meat and spices baked in a flaky crust. The meat is generally diced or ground, including any or all of pork, veal, beef or wild game. Other less common varieties include salmon or poultry. No matter what the meats used, or the presence or absence of potato, bold seasoning is the rule for all varieties. The four original spices used in the classic tourtiere are cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg. Like so many of these recipes that have been ‘handed down’ over generations, each family alters it to suit their taste.
Something sweet and sour or something with a ‘kick’ pairs well with the spiced meat and flaky crust of tourtiere. Some choices might be cranberry sauce, pickled beets, chili sauce, green tomato relish, olives, spicy fruit chutney or salsa.
Even in today’s increasingly fast-paced world, these time consuming dishes are still being prepared. Just to clarify – Brion and I are not French Canadian but like many Canadians , we enjoy our seasonal ‘fix’ of this classic.
Apart from making tourtiere in the traditional form, try it as tourtiere meatballs, phyllo rolls, burgers, turnovers or chicken tourtiere tartlets. The recipe I’m posting today comes from a tiny little pamphlet I probably have had for 30 years from a meat packing company. It has been one that I have worked with the spices to suit our taste. Spices listed as ‘optional’, lets you do the same.
Cut bacon into small pieces & fry over moderate heat until cooked but not crisp. Add pork, veal & onion; cook until meat is lightly browned. Add water & spices; reduce heat to simmer; cover pan & cook 45 minutes more. Combine meat with mashed potatoes; cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 450 F. Meanwhile, line a 9" pie pan with pastry; fill with meat mixture. Place top crust in position; seal & flute edges, slash several times for air vents. If preferred, cut 'leaves' from pastry & place on top of pie. An egg wash can be brushed over pastry before placing in oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes; reduce heat to 350 F. & continue to bake 30 minutes longer.
I have a great pastry recipe on my Thanksgiving blog in October 2016 if you choose to make your own.
This meal, better known in German ‘circles’ as Weisse Bohnensuppe & Plachinda. Kind of an unusual pairing of sorts — bean soup with a sweet pumpkin pastry?? It is one of those meals my mother used to make that got pushed into the back of my memory. With pumpkin season approaching and the weather feeling like fall, hearty soups start to come to mind.
Once again I set out to bring back the ‘taste of a memory’. Of course, this usually starts with some discussion about the meal with my sister Loretta. Between the two of us we can usually remember enough so I can attempt to recreate the taste.
It seems most recipes you find on the internet make plachinda as individual turnovers. I think I recall my mother making it in a rectangle casserole dish with the pastry on the bottom and up the sides and the filling showing. I decided to make it as a ‘jelly roll’.
Here’s my ‘spin’ on this much loved meal. Good but as usual never quite as wonderful as my mother’s.
Cover beans with water in a large stock pot & soak overnight.
Rinse & drain beans well; return to pot with ham bone & 12 cups water. Simmer uncovered for 2 hours.
Add parsley, onions, garlic, celery with tops, salt & pepper as well as the extra 6 cups of hot water. Simmer, uncovered for 1 hour or until vegetables are tender. Remove ham bone, dice the meat & add to soup. Serve with pumpkin plachinda.
In a small bowl, combine filling ingredients; set aside. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan (or line with parchment paper).
In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder & salt. Whisk together eggs, milk & oil; add dry ingredients, working into a soft, stiff dough. Turn onto a lightly floured piece of parchment paper. Roll dough into a 14 x 14-inch square; spread pumpkin filling down the center & half way out to the sides -- about 1/4 -inch thick.
Fold outside third of the dough over filling, repeating with the last third; pinch to seal. Leaving plachinda on paper, transfer to a baking sheet. If preferred, individual turnovers can be made instead. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Slice & serve warm.
There’s something special about pairing turkey or chicken with apples and herbs. It seems to me the whole idea probably stems from ingredients used in stuffing a turkey for Christmas dinner. I’ve tried a few different recipe combinations for these sausage. This one seems to be the one we always enjoy the most.
Speaking of turkey, I’d like to tell you about a very old memory since I brought the subject up. As you know, if you have been following my blog, I was raised on a farm in southern Alberta, Canada. It was dry land farming so it was imperative my folks not only grew grain but also raised animals. Along with cattle, pigs and chickens, my mother raised a few turkeys. On one occasion, my sister and I were making our way across the farm yard on our tricycle. Loretta was the driver with me standing on the back when all of a sudden I was accosted by a huge turkey. With his large wings, he knocked me to the ground and started pecking me for some reason. My mother saw the commotion from the kitchen window and came running to my rescue. Needless to say, from that time on, I have always been leary of animals bearing beeks and feathers. Nevertheless, I do like the taste of turkey.
Heat oil in skillet; add onion & saute until softened, about 3 minutes. Add apples & saute until until apples are very tender, 3-5 minutes longer. Transfer to a large bowl & cool completely. Add turkey, cracker crumbs, egg & spices; mix well. Divide the sausage into 6 equal portions & roll into approximately 8-inch lengths. When ready to cook, they can either be baked in the oven at 450 F. or lay on a sheet of greased foil & cook on the barbecue.
In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tsp oil; add next 4 ingredients. Cook & stir for about 3 minutes until onion is soft. Add honey; heat & stir for 30 seconds to coat onion. Add broth; bring to a boil. Add couscous & 1 tsp oil. Stir, cover & remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes without lifting lid. Fluff. Stir in remaining ingredients.
Dijon - Apricot Mustard
In a small bowl, whisk together Dijon mustard & apricot preserves. Serve with turkey-apple sausages.
I like to make extra sausage and freeze them for other meals. They come in so handy when your time is short.
If you prefer a plain couscous instead of spicy, omit cumin & ginger replacing it with dried basil or a spice of your choice.
This meal is nice to serve with a mixed green salad of your choosing.
Summer time is salad time! Taco Salad is the full meal deal, infinitely customizable, inviting experimentation and creativity. Being so versatile, it can be enjoyed in almost any setting.
This Texas-Mexican inspired salad was very popular in the late 1960’s. It’s name comes from the Texas-Mexican Railway. Pioneers brought Anglo influences to Texas, where the Texas-born Mexicans lived. As a result, the ingredients from their different cultures blended together. Tex-Mex combines elements of Anglo, Spanish and Mexican.
The taco salad is unique in that it can be served in an edible tortilla bowl. I recall in the food industry, this meal had huge visual appeal for the customer. How could you resist ordering one after seeing it’s impressive presentation? The ingredients in a taco salad can vary according to preference and can be made to fit into any type of cuisine with different seasonings and modifications.
Typically the taco salad includes lettuce, beans, tomatoes, green onion, meat, cheese and sour cream. Other condiments might include guacamole, salsa, garlic and cumin.
The salad featured in today’s blog picture is the beef version but I have included similar recipes for chicken and vegetarian ideas as well. Tortilla bowls are easily made by baking them in the oven. No need to add those calories by deep frying them. I love the full meal salad idea — be it a Chef’s salad, Cobb, Taco you name it! I hope you will enjoy one to this summer.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Warm tortillas slightly until pliable. Spray or butter both sides of tortilla lightly, then drape over oven proof bowls, pinching sides to form bowl shape. Bake 5-7 minutes, watching carefully as not to burn. Remove from oven & cool on wire rack.
Beef Taco Meat
In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion & cook until softened, about 5 minutes.Stir in chili powder & garlic & cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ground beef & cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until almost cooked through but still slightly pink, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, broth, vinegar & sugar; simmer until slightly thickened but still saucy, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat & season with salt & pepper.
Chicken Taco Meat
Place chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap & pound to flatten to uniform thickness, about 1/2-inch. In a small dish, combine spices. Sprinkle over chicken breasts. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts to pan & cook until juices run clear & the center is no longer pink. Remove from pan & allow to rest 5 minutes. Slice into bite size strips.
In a small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients.
To assemble salads: In a large bowl, combine romaine, beans, green onions, cilantro, olives, jalapeno peppers. Toss with salad dressing. Place tortilla bowls on serving plates. Divide salad among bowls. Top with taco meat choice; sprinkle with tomatoes & cheese. Top with avocado slices if desired.
Sour cream & salsa are also nice as extra condiments or in place of the salad dressing.
If you prefer a Vegetarian Taco Salad, just eliminate the meat part, equally as good.
Be adventurous, customize to your preference so you get the most enjoyment out of 'your' salad.
Some of my favorite foods have always been vegetables and grains. Being a farmer’s daughter I guess it all makes good sense. When ever I had the opportunity to try a ‘veggie’ burger in our travels I would do so only to be disappointed.
When my parents were still alive, they lived in Southern Alberta. Whenever Brion & I could take time from our jobs, we would make a weekend trip to see them. We would leave Edmonton right after work on a Friday night. We always made Red Deer our supper stop and then continue on. The trip usually took about five hours.
Our favorite restaurant at that time was a place called Glenn’s. I came across the perfect Garden Grain Burger on their menu, which tasted like non other I had tasted before. For a long time I tried to replicate it with no real success. Then one day I happened to see a recipe on the tasteofhome.com website that had all the same ingredients. I tried it, made a few very minor adjustments and loved it.
I’m passing it on to you today, adding it to the ‘burger series’. Even if you are not into vegetarian eating I’m sure you will enjoy the flavor. The ingredient list is long but it makes twelve patties so some can be frozen for another meal when time is of the essence.
In a large saucepan, combine the rice, bulgur, seasoning blend, poultry seasoning & water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover & simmer for 30 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat; cool completely. Cover & refrigerate overnight if possible.
In a large bowl, combine the mushrooms, oats, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese & onion. In a food processor, process cottage cheese & egg substitute until smooth; add to the mushroom mixture. Stir in parsley, salt, basil, celery seed & chilled rice mixture. Shape 1/2 cupfuls into patties.
On a large non-stick griddle, cook patties in oil for 5 minutes on each side or until lightly browned & crisp. Serve on lightly grilled buns with mustard, lettuce & tomato slices.
If you decide to freeze some of the patties, do so before grilling. 'Flash freeze' them on a tray individually, then wrap in foil tightly & place them in a plastic bag in a air tight plastic container. When you are ready to use them just thaw & grill.
Today I have tried to incorporate another favorite ‘recipe’, this one is derived from the taste of my mother’s turkey/chicken stuffing. Most homemakers of her time did not have the luxury of opening their kitchen ‘spice drawer’ with all its many little bottles. Something I remember well, was this brown bag my mother always kept in the bottom of one of her kitchen cupboards. When I looked inside, what I found was some dried, prickly plant that had a wonderful smell. To this day, I’m not sure what it was, but every time she made stuffing she would crumble some of it into her mixture. For years, I have tried to recreate that exact taste in my own bread stuffing. The Savory Herb & Apple-Zucchini Bacon Burger filling seems to have captured that ‘taste of a memory’ fairly close I think. The mixture seems to work well in anyone of the three meats used in the ‘Basic Meat Patty’recipe from the previous blog in my ‘Stuffed Burger Series’.
Boil potato in salted water. Drain & mash; set aside. Saute onion, celery, garlic, mushrooms & seasoning in margarine. Remove from heat. Combine with fine bread crumbs, mashed potato & chicken broth.
This stuffing will be enough for 8 burgers so you will need to double the 'Basic Meat Patty' recipe, using the meat of your choice. Divide stuffing mixture into 8 and place in the center of 8 meat patties. Flatten filling slightly, then place remaining 8 patties on top. Seal edges well.
Place burgers on a greased piece of foil & place on a preheated barbecue grill over medium heat. Close lid & grill. Halfway through cooking time, turn & place a slice of cheese on each burger. Finish cooking, remove from grill & serve on slightly grilled buns. Lettuce & tomato slices with a little mustard all add to the nice flavor of this combo.
Apple-Zucchini Bacon Stuffing
Using the SAVORY HERB STUFFING recipe, OMIT the MASHED POTATO. Instead, add the apple & zucchini; saute with the veg/seasoning mixture. Combine all with crisply fried bacon & chicken broth.