Apricot Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart

Strawberry-rhubarb … raspberry-peach … blackberry-plum … the possibilities for combining summer fruit in amazing ways are truly endless. I’ve recently became aware of the apricot, strawberry & rhubarb combination. This combo had never occurred to me, superseded as it is by the mighty strawberry/rhubarb duo.

Fruit tarts are stunning desserts that look like they should be in a French bakery window, but the truth is they can easily made at home. This super simple, mixed fruit tart with an oat pastry really celebrates the flavors of the season.

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Apricot Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart
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Oat Pastry
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Ingredients
Oat Pastry
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Instructions
Oat Pastry
  1. In a bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, spices & salt. Add melted butter & vanilla; stir to combine. Press 2/3 of mixture onto the bottom & up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan; set aside.
Filling
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Prepare fruit & place in a mixing bowl; add the orange juice, vanilla, sugar & spices. Stir to coat & set aside.
  3. Pour the fruit over crumble mixture; sprinkle the rest of the crumble around the outside of the fruit.
  4. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until crust turns golden brown. Serve warm or cold.

Apricot Oat Breakfast Cake

Who can turn down cake for breakfast? It says right there in the recipe that ‘Served warm, it makes a delicious breakfast bread’. Although, bread might be stretching the truth a bit too far. Its cake, let’s be honest.

Oats are like the chameleon of the breakfast table, occupying many forms and disguising themselves as a bevy of morning meal options. The baked oats trend has been converting skeptics in huge numbers these days.

This lightly sweetened, apricot oat cake is a breakfast cake that celebrates apricots. A combination of regular all-purpose flour with oat flour results in the perfect crumb and a lovely flavor.  Because oat flour is surprisingly light and retains moisture makes it perfect for pairing as well with the coarser, grittier texture of cornmeal. The slightly sweeter taste of oat flour not only complements the corn flavor, it also lets you use a little bit less sugar.

There’s just something comforting about breakfast cake in the morning!

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Apricot Oat Breakfast Cake
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Course Brunch
Cuisine American
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Course Brunch
Cuisine American
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Spray an 8-inch round baking pan with cooking spray. Combine apricot halves and boiling water and let stand 15 minutes to soften. Drain apricots and arrange in bottom of pan.
  3. In medium bowl, whisk together oat flour, white flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In separate bowl, stir together whole egg, egg whites, buttermilk, and olive oil. Make well in center of dry ingredients. Pour egg mixture into well, stirring just until moistened. Pour batter over apricots and smooth top.
  5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar if desired.
Recipe Notes
  • It’s super easy to make your own oat flour. You’ll need a food processor or a good blender, and oats, that’s it! You use raw oats, any type, and process for a few seconds until they turn into a fine powder.... oat flour!
  • TO MAKE OAT FLOUR USE:
  • 2 1/2 cups oats - use steel cut or rolled
  • Put the oats in a food processor or high speed blender. Blend until the oats become a fine powder. This will only take a few seconds in a high speed blender, and a little bit longer in a food processor. Store the oat flour in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • 1 1/4 cup oats will yield approximately 1 cup flour.

Plantain Ginger Cake Fingers

Plantains aren’t meant for eating right out of the peel, but they are transformed into a gently sweet dessert when caramelized.

It’s easy to confuse a plantain with a banana because they look so much alike. Both fruits come from the same family of plants. Though they look alike, the biggest differences between bananas and plantains is in their flavor profile, size, skin thickness and how they’re used in the kitchen.

Like bananas, they start green and progress to yellow and then a dark brown-black as they ripen. The darker they are, the sweeter they’ll be. Plantains can be eaten at any stage of ripening, but you’ll need a knife to peel them.

Plantains are starchier and usually larger and tougher than bananas, with a much thicker skin. Very versatile in that they can be boiled, baked or fried.

We grew to like plantains after our extended stay in Ecuador some years ago. Every so often they are a nice treat to have again.

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Plantain Ginger Cakes
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, Cuban
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Caramelized Plantains
Cake
Course dessert
Cuisine American, Cuban
Servings
Ingredients
Caramelized Plantains
Cake
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Instructions
Caramelized Plantains
  1. Slice plantains into slices of equal thickness. In a small saucepan, combine butter & sugar; cook until butter has melted & sugar has dissolved. Cook until syrup has thickened; add sliced plantains. Gently stir to coat plantain well. In the bottom of 8 ramekin baking dishes, arrange overlapping slices. Divide any remaining syrup between them. Set aside.
Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices & salt.
  3. In another bowl, beat the butter with sugar until light & fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time then the vanilla. Slowly add one third of the flour mixture & half a cup of the coconut milk. Mix until incorporated.
  4. Add the second third of the flour mixture & the other half of the coconut milk. Finish with the final third of the flour mixture. Mix until all the ingredients are well combined. The batter is smooth & fluffy. Pour the batter over the caramelized plantains, dividing it evenly between the ramekins.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown & a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Transfer ramekins to a cooling rack & allow to cool for 10 minutes. Loosen the edges of the cake with a spatula & carefully turn each ramekin upside down onto serving plates.
Recipe Notes
  • For something different, I decided to make my plantain cake in an oblong tart pan so I could cut it in 'fingers'. Use whatever baking dish you chose, the cake is very adaptable.

Sweet Potato Muffin Tops

Not whole muffins, just the tops. The idea was first conceptualized by Elaine Benes, a fictional character on the American television sitcom Seinfeld, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I was not a Seinfeld fan and rarely even watched the show but the series lasted for nine years so obviously many did. It centered around four single friends dealing with the absurdities of everyday life in New York City, USA. Something as simple as soup or muffins became the focal point of the show but with a unique twist that only the actors on the show could make funny and memorable.

In a 1997 episode, The Muffin Tops, Elaine helps her old boss open his own business where they only sell the tops of muffins. ‘It’s the best part (nobody likes the stumps), it’s crunchy, it’s where the muffin breaks free of the pan and sort of does its own thing’.

Nowadays we have specific baking pans made just for making muffin tops and I think most food stores sell them. Muffins are an item I’ve certainly made my fair share of over the years in the food industry. But I have to say, I love the whole thing, especially if its soft and cakey.

This time of year is usually filled with pumpkin and sweet potato dishes and treats. These muffin tops are quite special with a slight sweet potato flavor packed with plenty of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and an added bonus of some pepita seeds.

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Sweet Potato Muffin Tops
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Muffin Top Batter
Streusel Topping
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Muffin Top Batter
Streusel Topping
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Instructions
Streusel Topping
  1. In a small bowl, combine oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon & salt. With a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add pepita seeds, mix & set aside.
Muffin Tops
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a MUFFIN TOP PAN or line with paper cups. (This recipe makes 10 muffin tops the size shown in the blog picture). Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt & spices. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the brown sugar & eggs together; add sweet potatoes, oil, milk & orange zest (or vanilla) & whisk again. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients & stir until JUST combined. Do not overmix the batter. Scoop batter into muffin top pan; Sprinkle with streusel topping.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Crispy Apricot Date Balls

These fruit and cereal balls are an old fashioned, unique idea originally called ‘skillet cookies’. The initial mixture is made on the stovetop before its cooled slightly and rolled into mini-spheres. They’re especially appealing during the winter holidays because they don’t need to be baked. That valuable space in the oven can be used for other types of holiday baking.

The cookies get a crunch from the crispy rice cereal and pepita seeds, while the apricots and dates add an amazing sweet spicy flavor.

It seems the skillet cookie nowadays, refers to a a giant, soft and chewy cookie, baked in a cast iron pan, cut into wedges and served warm with ice cream on top. Now I have to admit, it does sound pretty good but if you are just wanting a great little addition to a casual dessert tray in the upcoming holiday season the ‘vintage’ version is quick and easy.

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Crispy Apricot Date Balls
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
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BALLS
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
BALLS
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk eggs & brown sugar together thoroughly.
  2. In a heavy skillet, over low heat, melt butter. Remove from heat & stir in egg mixture along with dates & apricots. Set back over low heat & cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes or until mixture pulls away from sides of skillet. Do NOT overcook. Remove from heat & stir in vanilla, spices & salt.
  3. Place rice cereal in a large bowl; pour fruit mixture over cereal & blend well. Cool to lukewarm.
  4. Chop pepita seeds finely & place in a shallow dish. Butter your hands lightly & shape mixture into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in pepita seeds to coat. Store in refrigerator.

Gorgonzola & Bacon Turkey Burgers

CELEBRATING CANADA DAY!

Every year Canada celebrates its birthday on July 1st with parades, fireworks and other fun events. This year, due to the pandemic and out of respect for Canada’s Indigenous people, celebrations here in our city of Edmonton, Alberta will be virtual or be on a smaller scale.

No matter which way you decide to celebrate the day, we know good food will be an important part of it. Gorgonzola has been a favorite of Brion & I for many years. It’s actually kind of surprising as neither of us care for ‘blue’ cheese or Roquefort.

Gorgonzola is one of those classic Italian ingredients that’s more famous than understood here in North America. The name itself, refers to the little town in Lombardy, near Milan, where the cheese was invented.

There are two kinds of gorgonzola, Dolce (sweet) and Piccante (spicy). In Italian these terms mean fresh verses aged cheeses. Because dolce is softer and creamier, its great for spreading on bread or used in salad dressing, pasta sauce, pizza or burgers. Piccante is harder and tends to crumble.

This turkey burger is made special with the combo of gorgonzola, bacon and guacamole. Just great for celebrating Canada Day!

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Gorgonzola & Bacon Turkey Burgers
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Turkey Burgers
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Turkey Burgers
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Instructions
  1. In a skillet, fry bacon until soft cooked. Remove from pan & blot on paper towel. Chop & set aside.
  2. Using bacon drippings, saute finely chopped leeks & garlic until tender. Remove from skillet & cool.
  3. In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, sauteed leeks & garlic, panko, salt, pepper, sugar, coriander, sage & ginger. Mix well.
  4. Shape into (8) 1/2-inch thick patties. Place 1/8 (10 gm) of the crumbled Gorgonzola & 1/4 of chopped bacon on each of 4; top with another patty, pressing edges to seal, making (4) 1-inch thick patties.
  5. Place on a preheated grill over medium heat. Close lid & grill, turning once, until meat is no longer pink inside, about 12-14 minutes.
  6. Alternately, you can place them in a 375 F oven on a foil-lined tray & bake for about 20-25 minutes.
  7. When burgers are almost done, top each with remaining Gorgonzola.
  8. Serve in toasted ciabatta buns with your choice of toppings.

Apricot Lemon Chicken Breast w/ Couscous

The flavors of the meal hint of Moroccan cuisine to me. It wasn’t until Brion & I visited Morocco on a holiday one year, that I realized how many of their spices appealed to me.

Moroccan cuisine is very refined because of its interactions and exchanges with other cultures and nations over the centuries. Its dishes are layered with sweet and spicy, earthy and bright flavors that reflect the vast array of spices available in their local markets.

Often referred to as the national dish of Morocco, couscous is made of tiny balls of wheat semolina, steamed so they’re are soft and fluffy. Subtle cumin and ginger spices add an exotic flavor to it.

Pairing apricot and lemon flavors with the chicken breast and serving it over couscous makes this simple meal quite special.

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Apricot Lemon Chicken Breast w/ Couscous
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Instructions
Chicken
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Beat egg & water slightly. Stir together baking mix, lemon pepper & garlic powder. Pound chicken breasts gently to achieve uniform thickness. Dip chicken into egg mixture, then coat with baking mix mixture. Place on baking sheet & drizzle with melted butter.
  3. Bake uncovered 20 minutes; turn chicken. Bake about 10 minutes longer until no longer pink inside. While chicken is baking prepare couscous & sauce.
Couscous
  1. In a saucepan, heat 1 tsp oil; add green onion, cumin, ginger & garlic. Cook & stir for about 3 minutes until green onion is softened.
  2. Add honey. Heat & stir for about 30 seconds until green onion is coated. Add broth. Bring to a boil. Add couscous & second amount of oil. Stir. Cover & remove from heat. Allow to stand for 5 minutes without lifting lid. Fluff with a fork & stir in remaining 3 ingredients.
Apricot Lemon Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine sauce ingredients, stirring occasionally, until warm.
To Serve
  1. Place couscous on a serving platter. Top with chicken breasts & drizzle with apricot lemon sauce. Serve.

Roasted Tropical Fruit Tarts

If you can’t have a tropical vacation at this time, why not enjoy some of the tropics in the form of dessert!

You may never have thought fruits were destined for you’re roasting pan. Although it does demand a bit of time and work, the return is worth it. Try it once and you will do it over and over again.

Fruit is a highly versatile item and its uses go far beyond a mere snack. During the summer months, grilled fruit is often a tasty end to a barbeque. Grilling caramelizes the fruits natural sugars and brings out the sweetness. During winter or colder months, continue the same process indoors by roasting and broiling fruit in the oven.

For the tarts on this blog, I roasted the fruit in the oven with a bit of extra butter and brown sugar as well as some spices to enhance the flavor. Another idea would be to arrange fruit slices on the filled tarts and sprinkle them with a bit of sugar. Then place tarts under the broiler until sugar bubbles and browns …. your choice!

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Roasted Tropical Fruit Tarts
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Shortbread Pastry
Vanilla Cream Custard
Roasted Tropical Fruit
Servings
Ingredients
Shortbread Pastry
Vanilla Cream Custard
Roasted Tropical Fruit
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Instructions
Shortbread Pastry
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a bowl combine butter & sugar, beat until light & fluffy. In another bowl whisk together flour & baking powder & add to butter/sugar mixture. Blend together.
  3. Divide pastry between 6 individual tart pans. Using your fingertips, evenly press the dough into pans. Place on a baking sheet & blind bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven & prepare custard & fruit.
Vanilla Cream Custard
  1. In a small saucepan, bring milk to a simmer. In a bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch & salt. Add egg; whisk until blended.
  2. Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg mixture. Return to same saucepan; whisk over medium heat until sauce thickens & boils, about 5 minutes. Whisk in vanilla & remove from heat to cool.
Roasted Tropical Fruit
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Peel & thinly slice fruit.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter & add brown sugar, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom & vanilla; mix well.
  3. Line a baking sheet with foil paper. Place sliced fruit on it & pour butter/sugar mixture over it. Gently turn fruit over to make sure all is evenly coated.
  4. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, flipping over about half way through. The fruit is done when it turns a rich golden & begins to brown BEFORE it starts to blacken.
Assembly
  1. Place pastry shells on a serving platter. Divide vanilla custard between tart shells. Top with roasted tropical fruit & serve. Any extra fruit can be enjoyed just as a dish of fruit or with yogurt.

Pumpkin Hazelnut Muffins with Teff Flour

Back in the later part of August (2019), I had made some buns using Teff flour that my neighbor had shared with me. We had really enjoyed them so this is my next adventure using this unique flour.

Just a bit of history — officially the world’s smallest grain, teff is only about the size of a poppy seed. It’s origin is thought to be Ethiopia and Eritrea, where it’s ability to grow in harsh conditions has made it a staple grain of these cultures.

Teff flour is high in protein, iron, calcium and it contains all 8 essential amino acids. This is due to the fact the tiny grains are so small, when they are milled, the hull is left intact rather than removed.

Teff is rich tasting and very versatile, lending a subtle nuttiness and mild molasses-like sweetness to any baked good. Teff grain and flour are good alternatives to wheat, barley and rye for those on a gluten-free diet.

These muffins are an interesting combination of flavors well worth a try.

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Pumpkin Hazelnut Muffins with Teff Flour
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, Ethiopia
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Ingredients
Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, Ethiopia
Servings
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the hot water & ground chia to form a slurry. Add the remaining wet ingredients & beat together using an electric mixer. Pour the wet into the dry & whisk together. Spoon into muffin cups.
  4. Bake about 30 minutes or until test done. Remove from oven & pan; cool on a wire rack.

Shrimp Kabobs with Orecchietti Pasta Salad

Its already late August so BBQ’s and salads are in full swing. There’s just something about cooking food outdoors on the grill that we Canadians absolutely love. If your a true BBQ lover, it doesn’t matter if its a block away, you will still catch that glorious smell.

BBQ season is not only for meat eaters. Just about any vegetable as well as numerous desserts can be cooked on the grill. For me, I love seafood, fish & chicken, for Brion, I guess I would have to add a bit of pork and beef.

This meal is a nice combination of shrimp, Parmesan zucchini and pasta salad. I kept the pasta salad real simple since we already had a vegetable. To give it some extra pizzaz, I made a roasted red pepper sauce which the little orecchietti pasta cups nicely. Nothing fancy, just plain good!


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Shrimp Kabobs with Orecchietti Pasta Salad

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Ingredients
Quick Roasted Red Pepper Sauce / Pasta

Marinade for Shrimp

Servings


Ingredients
Quick Roasted Red Pepper Sauce / Pasta

Marinade for Shrimp

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Instructions
Red Pepper Sauce
  1. In a food processor, blend red roasted peppers along with 2 Tbsp of liquid from the jar. Puree the peppers until smooth, adding a Tbsp or two of water if needed to help it blend ( avoid adding too much liquid from the jar as it can be very acidic). Mince the garlic & add it to a skillet with the butter. Saute for 1-2 minutes or just until garlic has softened but not brown. Pour in the pureed peppers; add basil & pepper & stir to combine.

  2. Allow sauce to come to a simmer; turn heat to low & simmer about 10 minutes, stirring often, until mixture thickens. Add cream, stirring until smooth. Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente about 12-13 minutes. Drain & add to sauce. Serve warm or cold.

Marinated Shrimp
  1. In a bowl, whisk together all shrimp marinade ingredients; add shrimp & marinate at least 30 minutes.

Parmesan Zucchini
  1. Prepare zucchini. In a bowl, combine Parmesan & garlic powder. Melt butter; toss zucchini slices in butter then coat with Parmesan mixture. On wooden skewers, alternate marinated shrimp with cubes of Parmesan zucchini. Roast in oven or on BBQ until shrimp is pink & cooked being careful not to overcook. Serve with orecchiette pasta salad.


Recipe Notes
  • This tomato-free sauce could also be used as an alternative to a traditional pizza sauce.