Blog – Recipes

Plum Torte

Plum Torte, a simple to make butter cake topped with Italian prune plums, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon baked in a spring-form pan.  New York Times food columnist Marian Burros was given a recipe for a plum torte soon after she married.  She published the recipe for the first time in 1983. The paper continued to run it for the remainder of the decade every single September, until one year they said enough is enough. But people noticed, and they were not happy. They sent angry letters demanding the recipe be reprinted. So, The Times printed it one more time, but with a note urging people to clip it out and laminate it inside their cupboard!

The beauty of this torte is that it doesn’t require plums to be delicious. You can substitute berries, peaches, pears, apples—most any fruit—fresh, canned, or frozen. The thing is, it’s so simple, that in spite of its hallowed status as an all-time favorite, I don’t see how you could forget this recipe!

The plum has enough tang to stay interesting in a sweet dessert, and it also tends to bake into a jammy, gooey texture.

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Plum Torte
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Course dessert
Keyword plum torte
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease an 8" or 9" springform pan.
  2. Cream the butter & sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl. Add the eggs; beat until smooth and light. Scrape the bowl again. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, & salt; add to creamed mixture & mix JUST until fully combined.
  3. Pour the batter into the cake pan. Arrange the plums, on top of the cake. Press plums down into batter. Drizzle with lemon juice & sprinkle with a Tbsp of sugar & 1 tsp cinnamon.
  4. Bake for 50 - 60 minutes, depending on the size of the cake, or until a cake tester comes out clean, and the plums are juicy and bubbling. Let cool before releasing the cake from the springform pan.

German Krautstrudel w/ Bacon

CELEBRATING OKTOBERFEST!

Sauerkraut strudel is a popular savory strudel version in beer gardens and during Oktoberfest which is the German fall folk fest celebrated during and after the harvest season.

A tradition dates back to 1810 in Munich, Germany. Originally a celebration of the marriage of the King of Bavaria and Princess Therese. Everybody had so much fun that it was resolved to repeat the celebration, which has been done, every year since. In 2022 it runs from September 17-October 3.

Oktoberfest is not only about the beer, singing, dancing and fair attractions. Many of the best known and most loved Bavarian specialties are enjoyed during the festival.

German strudels are not limited to the classic fruit fillings for the pastry. Savory examples are very common and this simplified sauerkraut strudel with soft sautéed strands of cabbage, the smoky flavor of bacon, and a savory crunch of caraway seeds; all wrapped in a delicate, flaky crust is a good representative. 

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German Krautstrudel w/ Bacon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Dice the bacon & cook in a pan over medium heat until it renders the fat but is not yet crispy. Drain on paper towel & sauté the diced onion in the rendered bacon fat. Cool down. In a bowl combine the drained sauerkraut, bacon, onion, egg, bread crumbs & seasonings. Mix well together.
  3. Roll out the puff pastry sheets, brush with half the melted butter. Reserve the rest. Spread half of the sauerkraut mixture over each sheet, roll & pinch to tuck in the ends. Place each strudel seam side down onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet & brush with melted butter.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes or until nicely golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before slicing with a serrated knife.
  5. Serve with sour cream, sliced green onions or mustard as a dip.
Recipe Notes
  • To make a STRUDEL DOUGH from scratch:
  • Sift 2 cups of all-purpose flour into a bowl. Mix with 1 tsp of salt. Add a beaten egg, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 2/3 cup lukewarm water. 
  • Mix well together and knead into a dough. Cover with plastic and let rest 30 minutes.
  • Flour work surface and knead dough for a few minutes. Roll it out very thin.
  • Flour one side of a large, kitchen towel, spread it out. Place the rolled out dough on top and using your hands stretch it out, aim for a rectangle shape, roughly 16 by 24 inches.
  • Proceed as above and use the towel to help you roll the dough over the sauerkraut filling. 

Chai-Spiced Peach Cobbler w/ Pepita Oat Crumble

Homespun desserts such as crisps, cobblers, betties, slumps & pandowdy’s are all variations on the same theme. As much as we like to be definitive, these old fashioned desserts are ‘folk-food’ passed down orally from mother to child and like all folk culture slight variations arise from kitchen to kitchen.

My spice drawer gets a good workout in the fall. I want to add fall spices to as many things as possible. Warm fruit desserts are a perfect candidate for doing just that.

The filling for this cobbler is a combination of peaches, brown sugar, butter and some added spices. All of that is cooked briefly to give it a caramel-like flavor. The topping is a simple one but the combination of spices adds such amazing flavor and is the perfect complement to the peaches. I’ve added cardamom to both the filling and topping. If you follow the blog, you are probably aware of my obsession with cardamom. Definitely feel free to use your favorite combination and ratio of spices.

I think this Chai-Spiced Peach Cobbler is everything you could ever want in a fall dessert.

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Chai-Spiced Peach Cobbler w/ Pepita Oat Crumble
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Ingredients
Pistachio-Oat Topping
Chai-Peach Filling
Servings
Ingredients
Pistachio-Oat Topping
Chai-Peach Filling
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Instructions
Topping
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, rolled oats, pistachios, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom & sugar.
  2. Using a pastry blender, combine flour mixture with butter until it resembles a coarse meal. Store the mixture in the fridge until ready to use.
Filling
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Place a large saucepan over medium heat & add in butter. Once the butter is melted, add in the (thawed) peaches, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom & black pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer & cook for an additional 10 minutes.
  3. Pour cooked peaches into a large casserole dish & evenly top with the pistachio-oat crumble.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown & the sauce bubbles around the edges.
  5. Once finished baking, serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream if you wish.

Shrimp Quesadillas w/ Guacamole

Quesadillas are basically toasted tortillas with cheese inside. The name in Spanish literally means ‘little cheesy thing’. What constitutes a quesadilla varies greatly between Mexico and its neighboring countries. They agree that the quesadilla and taco or burrito are different; the former being cooked after being filled or stuffed while the later two are filled with pre-cooked ingredients. Also they may be made with flour, corn or wheat tortillas as well as Mexican Masa (tamale version).

The quesadilla originated in central and southern colonial Mexico, beginning as a corn tortilla gently heated until soft enough to fold, then filled with cheese and toasted on both sides until golden and crispy on the outside and gooey with cheese on the inside. Over time, chopped, cooked vegetables and bits of roasted, shredded meat also found their way into these cheesy tortillas.

Influenced by the many micro-cultures of Mexico and Latin America, the quesadilla has been adopted and adapted by chefs and home cooks around the world, especially since the little cheesy things make it so easy to feed vegetarians and meat-eaters at the same table. A vegetarian quesadilla can be as simple as cheese folded into a tortilla. For the meat or seafood lovers, just add some shredded chicken, pulled pork or ‘roasted’ shrimp.

Speaking of shrimp …. to maximize the flavor, don’t sauté them – roast them! Much like roasting meat on the bone, roasting shrimp in their shells gives them a more intense flavor and keeps them from drying out as easily. The flavor from the shells penetrates the flesh, making them even tastier.

Something else I wanted to mention is a suggestion to help make your quesadillas nice and crunchy. Don’t use butter or oil to cook them in, use mayo instead. The fact that mayo contains a bit of sugar will promote browning and also give some extra crispiness.

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Shrimp Quesadillas w/ Guacamole
Instructions
  1. In a skillet, fry bacon to a cooked but not real crisp stage. Remove from pan to paper towel. Sauté mushrooms, zucchini & garlic until most of the moisture evaporates. Cut each shrimp in thirds & add to skillet with seasonings. Cook for another minute or until shrimp begins to turn pink. Remove from heat & add cooked bacon & combine.
  2. Grate cheese. Lightly butter one side each of 4 tortillas. Place on a griddle, & cook until warm & browned slightly. Remove 2 of them & keep warm. To each of the remaining 2, sprinkle with 1/4 of the cheese, top each one with 1/2 of the filling then sprinkle with remaining cheese over filling. Place the 2 warm tortillas on top of the filled ones.
  3. Place a lid (or a baking pan) over the griddle for a few minutes to give the cheese a chance to melt.
  4. Remove quesadillas to a cutting board & cut each one into 4 pieces. Serve hot with your choice of toppings.
Recipe Notes
  • As I mentioned in the blog article, roasting the shrimp really intensifies the flavor. If you have the time, try it instead of just sautéing them.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  • Place the shrimp (shells-on) on a lightly greased baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and minced garlic.
  • Sprinkle evenly with the seasoning (such as Old Bay) and arrange the shrimp in a single layer. 
  • Bake the shrimp for 8-10 minutes or until just pink and opaque throughout.
  • Remove from oven.

Carrot Cake Cookies

‘Tis the season for fall flavors! Nature is offering an abundance of root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes and fruits to make use of in our fall baking.

Thinking about autumn can bring about some pleasant thoughts. While it is common to think about cozy scarves and pumpkin lattes, the symbolic meanings of autumn are more profound than you think. Ancient cultures, science and astrology have associated many aspects of this beautiful season to human life. These symbolic associations are powerful reminders that Mother Nature has an incredible influence on our lives.

These fall cookies are full of green zucchinis, deep orange carrots and bright red apples, colorful representations of the changing season ahead.

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Carrot Cake Cookies
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together oats, flour, flaxseed, cinnamon, cardamom, baking soda & salt.
  3. In a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together applesauce, honey (or maple syrup), egg & vanilla. Mix in the melted butter.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined. Gently fold in the nuts/seeds, grated zucchini, carrot & apple.
  5. Use a large scoop or measuring cup to drop 1/4-cup portions of dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Use your fingers to gently shape the cookies and flatten slightly, as they won't flatten on their own during baking.
  6. Bake 14-15 minutes, until set and lightly golden. (If baking more than one pan at a time, be sure to rotate the pans halfway through the baking time.)
  7. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Pork Chops w/ Pear Chutney

The warm notes of ginger and cinnamon paired with the sweetness of the pears & shallots are exactly what makes these pork chops go from good to wow!

Brion & I have come to really enjoy chutneys over the years. I think I could make a chutney out of just about anything. You want the perfect balance of the trinity of chutney which is sweet, sour and spicy.

Chutney originated in India as a simple fruit paste preserved in honey, eventually evolving to incorporate a variety of fruits, spices and vegetables. During the 17th century when the British colonized India, they would bring chutney back to England as a novelty good. Because of its bright and exotic flavor, chutney became a popular condiment all over the world.

As chutney made its way to various parts of the world, people adopted new preparation techniques and experimented with various flavor profiles. This cranberry pear chutney really highlights the those wonderful fall pears.

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Pork Chops w/ Pear Chutney
Instructions
Pear Chutney
  1. In a medium pot, combine all chutney ingredients. Bring to a slight simmer for about 6-7 minutes until pears soften, but not mushy. Remove from heat. Set aside until pork chops have been cooked. Serve chutney at room temperature or slightly warmed.
Pork Chops
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pat pork chops dry and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan and heat until shimmering. Lay 4 chops in pan and sear until golden on one side, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook 1 more minute. Remove from pan; set aside and keep warm. Repeat with remaining oil and chops. Add chutney to pan and, scrape up any brown bits from bottom using a wooden spoon. Simmer until slightly thickened. Stir in cilantro. Serve chops with chutney.

Pumpkin Spice Custard w/ Caramelized Apples

Autumn is upon us and love it or hate it, pumpkin spice season is well underway. It all started with the introduction of the famous Starbucks ‘Pumpkin Spice Latte’ in 2003. Strangely enough, as a kid, I wasn’t crazy about pumpkin at all. But that was then, now I’m one of those who loves everything pumpkin.

The leaves are changing, the weather is cooling and the air is filled with the ‘flavors of fall’. With both apples & pumpkins in season right now its hard not to enjoy making use of them.

As usual, this recipe started out with a simple little no-cook pudding but got an upgrade with some spiced, caramelized apples. Yum!

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Pumpkin Spice Custard w/ Caramelized Apples
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Instructions
Caramelized Apples & Cranberries
  1. In a medium pot, melt butter then add water & sugar. When the caramel is golden brown, add the cranberries, swirling them into the caramel. When the cranberries begin to burst, add the apple & orange zest, then sprinkle with the spices. Lower the heat & simmer 5-10 minutes to thicken. Do not over cook the compote as it will thicken when cooled.
  2. Transfer to a heat resistant glass bowl & cool to room temperature, then cover & chill.
Pudding
  1. In a large bowl, beat pudding mix, pumpkin puree, milk, brown sugar & spices until smooth & creamy, about 1-2 minutes. Chill for an hour before assembling with fruit.
Assembly
  1. In serving glasses of choice, layer the pudding with caramelized fruit compote. Top with a dollop of whipped cream & a sprinkle of gingersnap crumbs if you wish.

Shrimp & Broccoli ‘Hobo’ Packs

HAPPY LABOR DAY!

Once again, the last long weekend of summer has arrived. Here in Canada, families with school age children, take it as the last chance to travel before the end of summer. Others enjoy the company of family and friends at barbecues, picnics, fairs, festivals and fireworks displays. Canadian football fans may spend a large portion of their weekend watching the Labor Day Classic matches live on television. Whatever your choice of relaxation is, you know good food will be a part of the holiday.

If you’re barbecuing, some hobo packs might just be perfect. Each packet can be prepared individually or collectively so even the pickiest eater can be accommodated. If the weather doesn’t cooperate with outdoor cooking, you can always cook indoors in your oven & there’s minimal clean-up afterward either way.

Essentially a ‘hobo’ pack is a bundle of cut-up ingredients wrapped up in foil and cooked over the coals of a campfire.

Although, foil pack meals seem like the new summer go-to dinner, creative cooks were making these long before they became trendy. Depending on your eating habits, taste preferences and ingredients on hand, you can make any combination of flavors.

During the depression, many people were homeless and lived in encampments. They were known as Hobos.  Whatever food they could find, whether it was wild caught, wild grown, in the trash, or given from a neighbor, they would cook all the food over the fire.  Because they were hungry, they would use even the peelings of vegetables that others would throw away.  Being resourceful was their survival.  I am sure that is where we get the term ‘Hobo Dinner’, because it is comprised of simple ingredients that are cooked together.

Whether you call them meals in foil, zip packs, hobo bundles, or some other name, meals in foil are easy and unmessy, camp-style cooking in your own backyard (or kitchen).

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Baked Shrimp & Broccoli 'Hobo' Packs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Cut 2 sheets of 14 by 12-inch (35 x 30 cm) heavy-duty aluminum foil then lay each piece separately on the countertop. In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the spice mix: Italian seasoning, onion powder, salt, pepper, & smoked paprika & powdered vegetable or chicken stock.
  3. In a shallow plate, add shrimp; sprinkle with the spice mix, coating on all sides. Divide shrimp onto the aluminum foil near the center then place broccoli florets to one side of the shrimp.
  4. Add garlic over broccoli & shrimp, then sprinkle with lemon juice, red crushed chili pepper flakes (if using) and finish with salt and pepper. Divide butter pieces evenly among the shrimp foil packets, layering them over the shrimp & broccoli.
  5. Add a tablespoon of vegetable stock in each foil packet & wrap packets in; crimp edges together then wrap ends up. Don’t wrap too tight – keep a little extra space inside for heat to circulate.
  6. Transfer to a baking sheet & bake shrimp foil packets in the oven, sealed side upward until shrimps have cooked through, about 15 minutes.
  7. Carefully unwrap the baked shrimp & broccoli foil packets then garnish with fresh parsley and a slice of lemon.
Recipe Notes
  • Brion & I found some roasted cherry tomatoes were especially good with this meal. After drizzling the tomatoes with Golden Italian Dressing, I roasted them on their own  in the same oven as the hobo packs were baking.

Raspberry Swirl Pound Cake

The name ‘pound cake‘ comes from the fact that the original pound cake contained one pound each butter, sugar, eggs and flour. Originally, no leaveners were used in the cake except for the air whipped into the batter. It was only in the 1900’s that artificial leaveners like baking soda and baking powder were added to reduce the density of the cake. Other variations include the addition of flavoring extracts like vanilla and almond or dried fruits such as cranberries or currants. At times, some or all of the butter was substituted by a cooking or vegetable oil to obtain a moist cake.

One of the most popular variations is the sour cream pound cake. The butter is substituted by sour cream to moisten the cake and also get a tinge of a tangy flavor. Despite all these variations which alter the characteristics and the flavor of the cake drastically, the name pound cake is still used today.

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Raspberry Swirl Pound Cake
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Servings
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Instructions
Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter or line pan of choice with parchment paper. (loaf pan or a Bundt pan)).
  2. In a bowl, cream butter & sugar with an electric mixer until pale & fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add salt, vanilla & sour cream.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour & baking powder. Combine wet & dry ingredients, then beat on low for about a minute.
  4. Transfer about 1/3 of batter to another bowl. Add raspberry preserves & beat until combined. Add 2-3 drops red gel food color if desired. To remaining batter, add lemon juice & beat until combined.
Assembly/Baking
  1. To preferred baking pan, add a layer of white batter then alternate between pink & white batter. Use a knife to swirl the batters together but don't overdo it or you will end up without a marble effect.
  2. Bake for 60-65 minutes or until a skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean. If top browns too quickly, lightly cover with a piece of foil paper.
  3. Allow cake to cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove pan & finishing cooling on a wire rack.
Frosting
  1. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese for about 20 seconds on medium speed. Add powdered sugar & mix to combine well. Drizzle frosting over cooled cake, slice & serve.
Recipe Notes
  • My choice of baking pans were some mini Bundt pans. I thought they made a nice individual presentation.

Stuffed Chicken Thigh Roulade

People who will happily eat chicken breast often turn their noses up at eating chicken thighs, possibly because they’re considered ‘dark meat’. Actually, chicken thighs tend to have a more intense flavor than breast and the meat stays juicy and tender during cooking.

It’s hard to overcook chicken thighs. If you use moist-heat cooking techniques like braising, chicken thighs will forgive you if you leave them in the oven too long. The worst that can happen is that if you go over your braising time, the meat will just fall off the bone.

Thighs have a good meat-to-bone ratio relative to other bone-in chicken parts, such as drumsticks and wings, which means they’re good value for money. Personally, give me a thigh any day, I love the dark meat. Strangely enough, for the many times I’ve made roulades, I’ve never thought to use chicken thighs.

Literally meaning ‘rolled’ in French, the word roulade signifies a lot of things. Traditionally, it’s a preparation reserved for boneless, skinless chicken breasts, stuffed with cheeses, vegetables, and other meats. This chicken thigh roulade for example is a great and easy way to jazz up some really simple ingredients. 

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Stuffed Chicken Thigh Roulade
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
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Instructions
  1. In a skillet, sauté onion & mushrooms until tender; remove from heat & cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Arrange chicken thighs on a large sheet of foil paper, to form a large rectangle.
  4. Mix shredded cheese & parsley into cooled mushroom/onion mixture. Sprinkle chicken with spices, salt & pepper.
  5. Arrange stuffing along middle of the chicken rectangular, evenly distributing. Roll up, enclosing filling, using the foil to help you tighten the roll.
  6. Carefully wrap roll with slices of bacon, securing with toothpicks if needed. Place foil with roulade centered on it on a deep baking sheet.
  7. Bake 45 minutes. Chicken is done when juices run clear or internal temperature is 180 F. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, slice & serve.