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.
From breakfast to dessert, healthy to decadent, traditional to innovative, the carrot cake is considered a timeless classic that never goes out of ‘style’. It was probably borne out of necessity, making use of the carrots’ natural sweetness, evolving from the carrot pudding of medieval times. Carrots contain more sugar than any other vegetable besides the sugar beet.
In the 1970’s, carrot cake was perceived as being ‘healthy’ due to the fact that carrots, raisins and nuts are all ‘good for us’. Then along came that glorious cream cheese frosting that forever bonded the pair. While raisins are undoubtedly the oldest compliment to carrots, pineapple, apples or applesauce as well as walnuts have all become modern day add-ins of choice.
I remember my mother making a jelly roll cake when I was growing up. It was a sponge cake baked in a sheet pan. She would spread a layer of jam over it when it was cool and roll it up. It looked unique and tasted great. Of course, today a cake roll is very common place with many variations. As far as carrots are concerned, you can transform this versatile veggie into everything from energy bars and smoothies to cinnamon rolls and cookies etc, etc, etc…. My choice today is to make a CARROT CAKE ROLL with CREAM CHEESE FILLING, yum!!
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a jelly roll pan ( 10 x 15") with parchment paper & spray with baking spray.
With a hand mixer, beat eggs on high for 5 minutes, until frothy & dark yellow. Beat in sugar, oil & vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt & spices. Stir into wet ingredients just until blended. Fold in dry carrots.
Spread batter in prepared pan. This makes a very thin layer; use a spatula to make sure it is spread evenly to the corners of pan. Bake 10-15 minutes. Test cake with a toothpick to be sure it is completely baked. While cake is baking, spread a clean kitchen towel on work surface. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. As soon as cake comes out of oven, turn it over on towel. Remove parchment paper carefully.
Working at the short end, fold the edge of the towel over cake. Using the help of the towel, roll cake tightly. Let cool completely while rolled, at least an hour.
While cake is cooling, make filling. Beat butter & cream cheese together until smooth. Stir in powdered sugar & vanilla; beat until smooth.
When cake is cool, carefully unroll the towel. Spread the filling evenly over cake & re-roll tightly. Chill about 30 minutes to an hour. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired, slice & serve.
In the food service industry, brunch on Mother’s Day is huge. What better way is there to celebrate your mom then by taking her out of the kitchen on her day. As is the case with many culinary traditions, the origin of brunch is a bit hazy.
There are numerous theories, such as the English tradition of feasting after a hunt, or from the Catholic tradition of fasting before church and having a large meal after services. By 1930, ‘brunch’, that blend of breakfast and lunch had caught on in the United States. From some of the classic dishes restaurants offered such as eggs benedict, brunch evolved into decadent spreads that even included morning cocktails.
Today as we celebrate Mother’s Day, many special memories come to mind. My mother passed away in 1978 but even after 39 years, time has changed nothing. I still miss the sound of her voice, the wisdom in her advice, the stories of her life and just being in her presence. I miss her today as much as the day she left us and I always will.
It is also with loving thoughts, I celebrate my mother-in-law, Dolores, for her loving and kind ways and for raising that ‘special’ man I love sharing my life with. To my sisters, who give so much of themselves to be the great mom’s they are.
In July 2016, I posted a blog entitled ‘Brunch in Thibery, France. It has some more brunch ideas for croissants, crepes and french toast you might like.
For today I have two brunch items in mind. One is BAKED EGGS IN PORTOBELLO MUSHROOM CAPS and the other a SAVORY SALMON & DILL MUFFIN. Enjoy your day!
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 8-cup large muffin pan with paper liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour & baking powder; add grated cheese, salmon & fresh dill. In a small bowl, beat together egg, milk & oil. Make a well in center of flour mixture; add wet ingredients, mix only until combined.
Fill muffin cups half full; divide cream cheese between the 8 cups. Top with remaining batter to evenly fill cups. Bake 15-20 minutes or until they test done.
Baked Eggs in Mushroom Caps
Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove stalk from mushroom caps. Make sure mushrooms do not get cracked so the eggs & sauce leak out. Place mushrooms in a baking dish that will keep them from tipping. Divide pasta sauce between mushrooms & spread. Break an egg into each mushroom. Pour cream over the eggs, drizzling to try to cover the whole surface.
Carefully place mushrooms in the oven for about 20 minutes. When eggs are almost set lay cheese slices on top & continue baking for another 5 minutes.
Cooking times can vary between ovens; watch eggs closely.
If you prefer, you can scrape out the mushroom 'gills' to make more room for the filling.
Lemon chicken is the name of several dishes found in cuisines around the world which include chicken and lemon.
In Canada, we usually either use breading or batter to coat the chicken before cooking it and serving it in a sweet lemon flavored sauce. A completely unrelated dish from Italy, also called lemon chicken is where a whole chicken is roasted with white wine, fresh lemon juice, fresh thyme and vegetables. In France, lemon chicken generally includes Dijon mustard in the sauce and is accompanied by roasted potatoes. I would presume the German version would be a chicken schnitzel with fresh lemon.
Having an inherited love of ‘sweet things’, lemon chicken has always appealed to me. I prefer to make a tempura batter to dip the chicken strips in and then fry them on a griddle. I’m not big on anything deep fried so this is as close as it gets for me. Some years ago I came across a recipe on a kraftfoods.com site for a very unique and easy ‘lemon sauce’ for chicken. It might not appeal to everyone but we enjoy it every so often.
Prepare vegetables & saute in 1/2 cup chicken broth until tender-crisp. Drain broth & reserve for later.
In a bowl, whisk together all batter ingredients. Slice chicken breast into thin strips & place in batter; mix well. Heat griddle to 325 F. Add a small amount of oil; remove chicken strips from batter & place on griddle. Fry on each side until cooked & golden. Lay on paper towel to blot off oil.
In a small saucepan, combine jelly powder & cornstarch. Add 1 cup chicken broth, dressing, garlic & ginger; stir until jelly powder is dissolved. Simmer over medium heat until sauce is thickened, stirring frequently. Add reserved broth from vegetables.
Combine vegetables chicken & lemon sauce. Serve over hot cooked rice, if desired.
The aroma of Easter bread baking certainly brings back precious childhood memories. What I recall about my mother’s Easter bread, was that it was a dense, mildly sweet & a very egg rich bread. It was always baked in round ‘cans’ and the taste was unforgettable.
Nearly every country around the world has a traditional Easter bread. Each one is different in some way, a mix of symbolism and satisfying taste. They represent a continuity of traditions from centuries past, including much earlier pre-Christian times. Often these rich, yeasted breads are made in symbolic shapes and are elaborately decorated.
Germany and Austria make several shapes such as : Osterzopf – Easter braid, Osterkranz – Easter wreath or crown, Osternester – Easter nests, Eierimnest – Easter egg nest, Striezel – stacked braided bread.
That being said, I couldn’t resist doing a little ‘version’ of my own. I started with my favorite sweet yeast bread, added some anise flavor and a cream cheese filling. So now you have German osterkranz, Italian panettone and Romanian pasca all in one beautiful EUROPEAN EASTER BREAD.
In a large bowl, whisk yeast & sugar into lukewarm water; let stand about 10 minutes. With an electric mixer, beat together 3/4 cup sugar, eggs, oil, anise extract, lemon zest, lemon extract, salt & anise seed. Combine egg mixture, melted butter & milk with yeast mixture.
Add 4 CUPS flour, 1 cup at a time to wet mixture. Stir well after each addition. Turn dough out onto a floured surface & knead until smooth & elastic, about 5-6 minutes, adding remaining 1/2 cup flour if necessary.
Coat a large bowl with oil. Place dough in bowl & turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap & set in a warm place to rise until it doubles in bulk. Meanwhile, cut a piece of parchment paper big enough to cover the bottom & go up the sides of a 10" spring form pan. When dough has risen enough, cut into four pieces.
On the parchment paper, press one piece of the dough into a circle measuring about 10" in diameter. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the mixed peel, leaving a gap at the edge. Press out second piece of the dough on a lightly floured piece of wax paper, place it on top of the first layer & sprinkle with another 1/3 of mixed peel. Repeat with the third & fourth pieces of dough but do not sprinkle mixed peel on the final layer.
Place a glass tumbler on top of the center of the dough circles. Cut dough into 16 segments, starting a the edge of the glass. Lift & twist them away from each other through 180 degrees. Lift & twist through 90 degrees so that the ends are vertical. Press the edges together firmly. Repeat this process with all pairs of segments. Leave glass sitting on top at the center of the circle to form an indentation for the cheese filling. Cover with plastic wrap & set in a warm place to rise for about 1/2 an hour.
Preheat oven to to 325 F. In a bowl, place cream cheese, eggs, sugar & vanilla; mix well. When bread has risen, remove glass & fill indentation with cheese mixture. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. Allow to cool. Brush with honey/water glaze. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Spread each tortilla with herb & garlic cream cheese as well as a thin layer of hot red pepper jelly.
For the 3 ROSEMARY PEPPER HAM pinwheels, place 1 of the Asiago cheese slices on left side. Next lay 1/3 of ham slices followed by a length of 6 spinach leaves. Repeat with 2 more tortillas. For the 3 CAJUN JAMBALAYA CHICKEN pinwheels, place 1 of the strong cheddar slices on left side. 1/3 of chicken slices followed by a length of 6 spinach leaves. Repeat with 2 more tortillas.
Starting on the left side, roll tortillas up tightly. Wrap in plastic wrap for several hours or overnight. At picnic time, trim a bit off each end; slice each roll into 8 pieces. Secure with a tooth pick if you think its necessary. Place in fridge until picnic time.
On lightly floured surface, roll puff pastry sheets slightly. Spread mustard over all pastry. Divide & arrange pepperoni slices on the 2 pastry sheets, sprinkle with cheese & oregano. Tightly roll up pastry; gently pinch edge into roll to seal. Wrap in saran wrap & refrigerate 2-3 hours. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut pastry into 30 - 3/4 slices. Place on baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes or until golden & slightly puffed.
Thai Turkey Pastry Pinwheels
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add turkey; cook 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cool before using.
On a lightly floured surface, roll puff pastry sheets slightly. Spread Thai turkey mixture over all pastry to within 1/2" of edges. Tightly roll up pastry; gently pinch edge into roll to seal. Wrap in saran wrap & refrigerate 2-3 hours. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut pastry into 30 - 3/4" slices. Place on baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes or until golden & slightly puffed.
Fresh Fruit with Cheese, Cake Cubes or in Cups
On 6 wooden 8" skewers, alternately thread the strawberries, cheese cubes & cantaloupe. On another 6 skewers, alternate strawberries with cake cubes. Layer 6 plastic cups with colorful fresh fruit combos. Serve all as is or with a flavored yogurt for an easy dip.
Herb & Garlic Cream Cheese Spread can be purchased or make your own. I found a great recipe for this spread on allrecipes.com which I used in my pinwheels.
If you choose, you could lay some pickle strips or red pepper strips at the edge of the left side of the tortillas creating a center in your pinwheels.
If you feel like your picnic needs one more item, add your favorite salad to the mix.
You might want to include some flavored yogurt for dip to go with the fruit items.
You should have roughly about 48 pinwheels, 60 pastry pinwheels & 18 desserts.
With Easter right around the corner I couldn’t pass up the chance to once again try to create ‘the taste of a memory’.
It seems that every country as well as anyone who enjoys to make bread has their own version of ‘Easter Bread’. My mother’s Easter bread was baked in coffee cans, a beautiful yellow color and slightly sweet. As the saying goes, it was ‘to die for’. Somehow my sister and I can’t remember it having fruit or special flavorings but it was almost ‘cake like’ in taste and texture.
With my Easter ‘braid’, I’ve tried to capture that same texture as well as making some additions of citrus peel and flavorings. Not quite as memorable as my mother’s but a good second. Hopefully you will enjoy trying it.
In a large bowl, warm water in microwave to lukewarm.
Whisk in yeast & sugar; let stand about 10 minutes.
With an electric mixer, beat together 3/4 cup sugar, eggs, oil, anise extract, lemon zest, lemon extract, salt & anise seed.
Combine egg mixture, melted butter & milk with yeast mixture.
In another bowl, combine 4 cups flour with mixed peel & add 1 cup at a time to wet mixture. Stir well after each addition.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface & knead until smooth & elastic, about 5-6 minutes, adding remaining 1/2 cup flour if necessary.
Coat a large bowl with oil. Place dough in bowl & turn to coat.
Cover with plastic wrap & set in a warm place to rise until it doubles in bulk.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently punch down dough & divide in half.
Divide each portion into 3 ropes. Braid ropes to form loaves & let rise until doubled in size.
If you prefer, you can brush with a little bit of beaten egg white.
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Bake until golden, about 40 minutes.
If you choose to ice braids, cool completely before doing so.