Bedfordshire Clangers w/ Variations

July is such a wonderful month. The weather’s warm, there’s still plenty of summer left, and the produce is literally amazing.

Midsummer means the farmer’s markets are brimming with great fruit & veggies. With such a colorful bounty of goods, we can settle into our summer cooking routines with tasty meals hot or cold.

But, even in summer, we sometimes crave ‘comfort food’ such as a ‘hand pie’. The humble hand pie goes by many different names: call it a pasty, a turnover, an empanada, or a ‘Bedfordshire clanger’….

A Bedfordshire Clanger dates back to at least the 19th century. It was typically made for agricultural workers to take with them to work as their lunch. The original pastry was made from suet and cooked by a boiling method. There is a theory that the pastry crust was not originally intended for consumption but as a vessel in which to protect the filling from the soiled hands of the workers.

The clanger originated from the county of Bedfordshire, a small, low-lying and predominantly agricultural county nestled in the east of England and adjacent counties, including Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. 

The name is as intriguing as the food itself. The word clanger, it had been suggested, referred to the mistake of mixing sweet and savory fillings. But a more likely explanation was that in nearby Northamptonshire dialect, ‘clang’ means to eat voraciously.

Knowing their husbands would need lots of protein and carbohydrate sustenance, homemakers came up with the brilliant idea of a doubled, loaf-shaped pie. One end contained a savory filling that used the famed pork of the area while the other end was filled with stewed apples (made from local apples) as dessert. So, the two fillings didn’t combine, there was a ‘pastry wall’ in between blocking any flavors from mixing. A ‘secret code’ denoted which end was meat, and which was dessert: two knife slits on one end of the pastry top means meat, three small holes on the other shows the sweet. This was brilliant, an entire meal for the field workers – handheld, portable and delicious.

The version we have today is not its beginnings but its evolution. Once you’ve nailed this basic Bedfordshire clanger recipe you can experiment with all sorts of flavor combos, there’s really no limit to what you can combine in this savory/sweet pastry.

Since Brion takes lunch to work, I became intrigued with the idea and decided to get creative with the fillings. That way I could make a variety and freeze them and use as needed. These tasty little ‘clangers’ can be served as the main course for a warm-weather picnic or for a hand-held, backyard meal with the addition of a nice fresh salad at home.

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Bedfordshire Clangers w/ Variations
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Chicken w/ Caramelized Onions
Raspberry / Nectarine Filling
Blueberry Filling
Apple / Apricot Filling
Plum / Rhubarb Filling
Rhubarb / Apple Filling
Servings
Ingredients
Chicken w/ Caramelized Onions
Raspberry / Nectarine Filling
Blueberry Filling
Apple / Apricot Filling
Plum / Rhubarb Filling
Rhubarb / Apple Filling
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Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sage & salt. Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour mixture & use your fingers to work them in. Alternately you could use a pastry cutter to do this.
  2. When the mixture resembles cornmeal with pea-sized bits of butter remaining, stir in cheese with a fork until evenly distributed. Sprinkle 6 Tbsp ice water over mixture & stir with a fork until dough begins to come together. If needed, add an additional Tbsp or two of ice water.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface & knead for about three times. Gather the dough into a disk & wrap in plastic wrap. refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Pork Filling
  1. Bake potato in microwave, peel & cut into small cubes. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet & sauté celery, onion, garlic & bacon together on medium heat until veggies are soft & bacon is cooked. Add ground pork, breaking it up well. Stir in dried herbs & spices. Cover & simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat & stir in cooked potato & cheese. Set aside to cool.
Spiced Meat Combo
  1. In a saucepan, sauté onion & garlic. Add ground meat, basil, thyme, cardamom & salt & pepper. Scramble fry until cooked, remove from heat & add parmesan & potato. Place in a dish.
  2. In the saucepan, melt butter; add flour to make a roux. Cook, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add beef broth, stirring until sauce thickens. Season to taste. Add to ground meat mixture & combine to form filling. Set aside until ready to use.
Turkey Filling
  1. In a skillet, cook bacon until just crisp, then remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain; chop when cooled. Remove all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon drippings from skillet.
  2. Add butter to the skillet, sauté onions, garlic & mushrooms with herbs & spices, scraping up any brown bits, until the onions have softened & mushrooms have lost most of their size & moisture. Stir in the bacon & shredded cooked turkey, taste for seasoning. Cook for another minute or two, then remove from heat & set aside.
  3. In a saucepan, combine Boursin, milk & spices (if using). Stir until Boursin has melted. Remove from heat. Add to turkey/veg mixture.
Chicken w/ Caramelized Onions
  1. Heat butter over medium low heat in a heavy ovenproof skillet. Add the onions cook for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. When the onions are a deep golden color, remove them from the pan and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Combine the flour, salt, chili powder, thyme, allspice, & black pepper. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess. In the same pan as the onions, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add each piece of chicken & fry for a few minutes until golden brown; flip & cook for a few more minutes. Transfer to a plate (it will not be fully cooked at this point, just browned – it will finish cooking in the oven).
  4. Turn the heat down & let the oil cool off a little bit. Make a roux with excess oil in skillet & dredging flour. Add chicken broth & cook until a sauce forms. Add the onions & chicken to the pan. Bake for about 20 minutes longer. When chicken/onion mixture is cooked, remove from oven. Allow to cool until ready to use.
Raspberry/Rhubarb Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cardamom & salt. Add water & stir then add chopped nectarines. Simmer until nectarine is slightly soft & liquid is thickened. Remove from heat & carefully fold in raspberries. Set aside to cool.
Blueberry Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients except blueberries. Cook until sauce starts to thicken then gently fold in blueberries & cook a couple of minutes more. Remove from heat & set aside to cool.
Apple/Apricot Filling
  1. Peel & dice apples. Drain canned apricot juice into a small saucepan. Add sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon & salt & combine. Add apples & cook until apples are tender. Cut canned apricot halves into quarters. When apples are cooked & sauce has thickened, remove from heat & add apricots. Gently combine & set aside to cool.
Plum/Rhubarb Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt & lemon zest. Add rhubarb & plums. Gently stir over a low heat. When enough juice has formed, allow to simmer until rhubarb is soft & juice has thickened. Remove from heat. Set aside to cool.
Sour Cherry Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, place sugar, cornstarch & salt. Add juice/water mixture & stir to thoroughly combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes. Immediately remove from heat. Gradually fold in cherries. Set aside to cool.
Rhubarb/Apple Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, add the rhubarb, apples, salt & sugar. Add a drizzle of water if necessary & heat on medium. The rhubarb will begin to release liquid & break down as the apples soften. Heat the mixture until the moisture has evaporated & begins to thicken. Once the mixture is thickened, add the lemon juice, lemon zest and cinnamon. Place it in a bowl & allow to cool.
Apple/Pear Filling
  1. Heat butter in a small skillet until melted, add apples & pears & cook until fruit begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle sugar over mixture & continue to cook stirring often until fruit begins to lose its juices. Mix together cornstarch & lemon juice & add to pan. Simmer until mixture has thickened, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat & allow to cool.
Assembly/Baking
  1. Divide pastry into 5 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface (or dry wax paper) roll out each piece of pastry into 14 x 7 1/2-inches. The excess trimmed from the sides will be used for little pastry ‘walls’ dividing the sweet & savory fillings. Roll excess pastry into a 3-inch length.
  2. Cut each piece of pastry in half horizontally so you have (2) 7-inch long pieces from each piece of pastry. From the top of each piece, LIGHTLY make a line across your pastry 4-inches from the outside edge. This will help to place your fillings properly.
  3. On the 3-inch wide section, place savory filling to cover 2/3 of the area. Place one of the rolled strips after that then place sweet filling on the remaining 1/3 to complete the 'clanger'. The little rolled piece of pastry divides the savory & sweet filling.
  4. On the sweet side make 3 holes for vents & on the savory side make 2 slashes. This is the 'code' to let the person eating the clanger which was savory or sweet.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  6. Brush the edges of each pastry with egg wash. Lift the pastry from the opposite side over the fillings & seal the edges with a fork.
  7. Brush clangers with remaining egg wash & bake for about 30-35 minutes or until golden.
Recipe Notes
  • Due to the length of this recipe, I found making the savory & fruit fillings on one day & the pastry, assembling & baking the next, worked out well for me. Although these pastries are VERY time consuming, believe me, the are well worth it in the end, especially if your freezing some to use later. I baked them all & then wrapped them well before freezing.
  • You will probably find there will be enough savory & sweet fillings left over to make about 10 more clangers.
  • All of them will freeze well which will be a time saver for your next batch. Just make a recipe of pastry & your ready to assemble & bake.
  • If your not interested in freezing the 'leftovers', the fruit combined will make a wonderful crisp & the savory fillings can be used in quiche or casseroles.

Breakfast Cereal Mini Cakes

Since they were introduced in 1941, Cheerios have been a staple in households across North America. They remain one of the most popular breakfast cereals on the market and are now available worldwide.

Cheerios are primarily made from whole grain oats and come in an assortment of flavors. In fact, there are at least 15 varieties — with seasonal ones appearing on occasion.

A bowl of cereal is perfect for a quick breakfast. Or lunch. Or, let’s be honest, dinner. And while these are perfectly acceptable uses of cereal, there is so much more you can do with them from snacks and desserts to buttery casserole coatings that take the morning mainstay to new heights.

To enhance these cupcakes, the regular milk is switched out for ‘cereal milk’ (milk that’s been soaked in sweet cereal).

Cereal milk tastes like that dense, slightly sweet, starchy, oaty milk from the bottom of the cereal bowl, that everybody loves to enjoy at the end.

The nostalgic and comforting combination of milk and cereal combined in this cupcake recipe is really quite special. These seem like kind of a ‘kid’ thing but I’m sure it won’t take long for them to disappear.

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Breakfast Cereal Cupcakes
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MINI CUPCAKES
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Mini Cakes
Servings
MINI CUPCAKES
Ingredients
Mini Cakes
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Instructions
Mini Cakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 24 cup mini muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the milk & 1/4 cup Very Berry Cheerios. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, & set aside while you prepare the batter.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter & sugar on medium speed until light & fluffy. Add in the eggs on at the time, scraping the bowl as necessary.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, & salt. Using a fork, remove the cereal from the milk. Discard the cereal. Make sure you still have 1/2 cup milk, add more if necessary. Add the honey & vanilla extract to the milk. Whisk together.
  5. Gradually add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, mix to combine. Add 1/2 of the wet ingredients, mix. Repeat, ending with dry ingredients.
  6. Divide the batter between 24 muffin cups. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Frosting
  1. In a bowl, whip cream cheese & butter. Beat on medium-low speed until smooth & combined, 1-2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
  2. Sift powdered sugar into the cream cheese mixture & add the vanilla, lemon juice & salt. Beat the frosting on a low speed to combine, then increase the speed to medium-high & beat until light & fluffy, 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice.
  3. Add slightly crushed cheerios & FOLD into mixture gently. Top each COOLED mini cake with a dollop of frosting then sprinkle with extra cheerios.
Recipe Notes
  • If you prefer, bake in 12 regular size muffin cups.

Manchester Tarts

The Manchester tart is an English baked treat with its roots tracing back to none other than the vibrant city of Manchester, England. This retro tart has a shortcrust pastry base that’s layered with raspberry preserves, custard, desiccated coconut and sometimes glace cherries. The combination of sweet preserves, creamy custard, and coconut creates a wonderful balance of flavors and textures.

The Manchester tart was a staple on school dinner menus until the mid-1980s and is now a staple in bakeries and home kitchens, cherished for its simplicity and delicious taste.

Over the years, the Manchester Tart has undergone numerous adaptations and variations, with some recipes incorporating different fruits, toppings, or pastry bases. However, its essence remains rooted in the tradition of British baking, symbolizing comfort and nostalgia for many who have enjoyed it throughout generations.

For my adaptation of these tarts I made a pastry cream to give a lightness and added some fresh raspberries to give some tang to balance the sweetness of the preserves. Instead of using the traditional glace cherry on top, I went with a few more fresh raspberries.


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Manchester Tarts
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Course dessert
Servings
TARTLETS
Ingredients
Tart Base
Pastry Cream
Raspberry Preserves/Fruit
Topping
Course dessert
Servings
TARTLETS
Ingredients
Tart Base
Pastry Cream
Raspberry Preserves/Fruit
Topping
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Tart Base
  1. Combine the flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, salt, & vanilla in a large bowl. Add the butter and mix with your hands until the butter is broken down into pieces the size of peas and the ingredients are well combined. Add the egg and mix with a spatula until the dough is smooth and the egg is fully incorporated. Don’t overmix.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and gently shape it into a ball. Wrap the dough in the plastic wrap and flatten it into a disc. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight, until cold but still pliable. It should have the texture of clay.
  3. When the dough has chilled, unwrap the dough and place it on a silicone baking mat on your work surface. Roll it out into a rectangle about 1⁄8 inch thick, using a second silicone sheet on top. The silicone mat makes it easier to lift the rolled-out dough onto the sheet pan later. Make sure to work quickly so the dough doesn’t get too warm.
  4. Place the silicone mat with the dough on a baking sheet.
  5. Using the tart rings, cut out 18 circles of dough. Remove the rest of the dough from around the rings.
  6. Reroll remaining dough between 2 sheets of parchment. Using a sharp knife, slice strips about 10 inches long & 1- inch thick. These strips will make the sides of each tartlet.
  7. Working with one at a time, transfer a strip of dough to one of the tart rings and press it to the sides. Use your fingers to slightly push the bottom of the sides to the dough circle (to seal it). Repeat with the remaining strips of dough. Use a small knife to cut the edge to the rim of the rings.
  8. Transfer the baking sheet containing the tartlet shells to the freezer & freeze for at least 20 minutes.
  9. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  10. Bake tart rings for about 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven & take off rings to allow them to cool.
Pastry Cream
  1. Heat the milk over medium high heat & bring it to a simmer, almost to a boil.
  2. While heating the milk, place the sugar, egg yolks, cornstarch, vanilla & salt in a bowl. Whisk until you have a thick, smooth mix then set aside until the milk comes almost to a boil.
  3. As soon as the milk starts to steam or simmer, remove it from the heat. Slowly pour about a half of the hot milk in a thin stream into the egg mix, WHILE WHISKING CONSTANTLY to temper the egg mix. When the eggs have been tempered, add the egg mix back into the hot milk in the saucepan.
  4. Heat the custard base, over medium heat, while whisking vigorously until it starts to thicken – this should take about 1 – 2 minutes. Make sure to reach the corners of the saucepan so that the custard does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  5. While whisking, let the custard come to a boil (the custard will release bubbles). You may need to stop whisking from time to time for a few seconds to see if the custard is ‘bubbling’. Look for big bubbles breaking the surface of the custard.
  6. Lower the heat and cook for a further 1 – 2 minutes after you see the first bubbles break the surface, and make sure to whisk constantly.
  7. Remove from the heat & add the butter. Whisk in the butter, until it’s completely mixed in.
  8. Pour the custard into a bowl & immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap is touching the whole surface. This is to prevent a custard ‘skin’ from forming on top. You can also choose to pass the custard through a sieve to remove any lumps.
  9. Let the custard cool down to room temperature & then let it chill in the fridge for a few hours, until it’s completely chilled.
  10. The custard will have ‘set’ after chilling. So, it is important to whisk the pastry cream to make it smooth before using.
Assembly
  1. Once the base & custard have cooled, spread raspberry preserve over the bottom of pastry cases. Spoon in the custard, then sprinkle with the coconut & chill. Decorate with raspberries and a final sprinkle of powdered sugar on the berries. Serve.
Recipe Notes
  • I used two sizes of tart rings - 2 1/4 + 2 1/2" for these.

French Toast Board

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Today as we celebrate Mother’s Day, many special memories come to mind. My mother passed away in 1978 but even after 44 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. At the time of her passing a friend said to me, ‘your mother is always with you’. At the time, I didn’t quite understand what she had meant but as the years have passed it has become clear to me.

We are fortunate to still have Brion’s mother, Dolores, in reasonable health. It is with loving thoughts we celebrate her today for her loving and kind ways.

On this Mother’s Day, I would also like to acknowledge my sisters Marilyn & Rita, who give so much of themselves to be the great mom’s they are.

French toast breakfast board for Mother’s Day is the perfect way to celebrate mom this year. Brunch boards make a beautiful display of food while inviting guests to casually graze at their leisure.

Breakfast boards are a lot like charcuterie boards: they include a variety of different tastes, textures, and flavors from a simple brunch menu. The variety and options are endless and there’s something for everyone to enjoy from it.

French toast is so simple to make and must be one of the most comforting breakfast carbs with its crispy, golden exterior and creamy, fluffy interior. Overnight French toast is a recipe that is simple and indulgent. When you make it the day before, the morning meal is tasty and effortless! Just bake it in the oven on Mother’s Day morning to complete your French toast board. Thanks to a long overnight soak in a heavy cream-infused custard, which transforms the sliced challah into a pudding-y delight. A French toast board usually consists of:

*French toast- thick slice bread such as challah, brioche or French

*French toast toppings – such as candied pecans, powdered sugar, maple syrup, chocolate chips and cinnamon/sugar mixture.
*Fruit – 
strawberries, blueberries, caramelized or natural bananas, kiwi, blood oranges for extra color or any personal choices you have.
*Butter –
always a staple.
*Something savory –
bacon, sausage, hashbrowns and/or scrambled eggs.

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Overnight French Toast
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Course Brunch
Cuisine American
Servings
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Instructions
Night Before
  1. Slice bread into 1" thick slices & let dry on the counter for a couple of hours (or place in a 300°F oven for 10 minutes using caution not to brown the bread).
  2. Place melted butter, brown sugar, & cinnamon on a large rimmed baking sheet about 17" x 12". Mix well and spread on the bottom of the pan.
  3. Arrange bread in the pan over the brown sugar mixture.
  4. Combine eggs, milk, vanilla & maple/rum extract.
  5. Gently pour half of the egg mixture over the bread ensuring all of the bread is soaked. Flip the bread & pour the remaining egg mixture over top.
  6. Sprinkle with chopped nuts (if using) & 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Cover the pan with plastic wrap & refrigerate overnight.
In the Morning
  1. Remove the pan from the refrigerator and let it sit on the counter for 20 minutes
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes until a GOLDEN brown.
  4. Serve with butter & other items on your French Toast Board.

Zucchini Lime Cupcakes

Ingredients like zucchini, lime and cream cheese may give off summer vibes, but the reality is that they are available all year round. Sometimes you just want a dessert that tastes like sunshine and warm weather.

Zucchini can blend into almost any dish. Its flavor is versatile and spans from sweet to savory and does so flawlessly.

The truth is zucchini adds no flavor to cakes – but what it does do is add an incredible texture and moisture as well as bulk.

I had never really thought about combining zucchini with lime. It is such a unique but delicious combination. The lime really brightens the flavor and the zucchini, although you really don’t taste it, keeps the cupcakes nice and moist.

When preparing your ingredients however, you do need to be careful not to get too much of the white pith into your cake or frosting. The green outermost layer of your lime is the zest, and this is what you want to grate. The white layer right underneath is the pith, and it can be quite bitter.

Here comes spring with its sunshine and warm weather!

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Zucchini Lime Cupcakes
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Cupcakes
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Cupcakes
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a muffin tin with 12 deep cupcake papers.
  2. In a bowl, beat together vegetable oil & sugar; add eggs & grated zucchini & beat again.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together flour, cardamom, baking soda, baking powder & salt.
  4. Add flour mixture alternately with milk then stir in lime zest. Divide batter between the 12 cupcake liners.
  5. Bake for 18-20 minutes (until a skewer comes out clean).
  6. Remove from oven, leave in tin for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Frosting
  1. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese & butter until light & fluffy. While mixing on low, slowly add powdered sugar & lime juice & beat again until fully combined.
  2. When cupcakes are cooled completely, pipe a rosette on each cupcake & sprinkle with lime zest.

Baked Cheesy Ground Beef Stuffed Potatoes

For the most part, a baked potato with a pat of butter and a little salt is just great on its own. But stuff them with an assortment of savory ingredients such as shrimp, oysters or ground meat and it easily constitutes a whole meal.

I think my first encounter with this idea came when the Wendy’s restaurant chain introduced the Stuffed Baked Potato to their menu in 1983. Their original goal was to give the customer another choice or alternative to the same old ‘fries’. I think it retailed for 99 cents at the time. The one I remember having a couple of times was with cheese sauce and fresh broccoli. It tasted great to me, not being a fried food lover.  Of course, since then the whole concept has been ratcheted up in both flavor and eye appeal.

This version is browned ground beef in a cheesy mustard béchamel sauce served over baked potatoes. Makes such a super good meal with a bit of steamed broccoli.

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Baked Cheesy Ground Beef Stuffed Potatoes
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Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Wash the potatoes & pat dry. Prick with a knife or the tines of a fork, place on the oven rack and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until tender.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, brown the ground beef in a large skillet. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of salt & set aside.
  4. In a separate pan, add 1 tablespoon of the butter & the diced onion. Cook on medium low heat, stirring often, until the onions begin to caramelize. Add the minced garlic, continue cooking for another minute and then remove from the heat. Add the cooked onion & garlic mixture to the cooked ground beef.
  5. In the pan, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter & whisk in the flour. Cook for a minute to make a roux. Slowly whisk in the beef stock, milk, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, ground black pepper & shredded cheddar cheese. Continue cooking & stirring, on low heat, until the mixture begins to thicken. Add the beef mixture into the sauce.
  6. When the potatoes are cooked, slice open and pour on the cheesy beef mixture. Garnish with parsley if you wish. Serve hot.

Chai Spiced Hot Cross Bread Pudding w/ Vanilla Sauce

CELEBRATING GOOD FRIDAY!

Bread pudding always gives me reason to remember good things. Truly a comfort food for those of us that recall it from childhood days. It’s not that the dish was invented here — that honor likely goes to clever medieval or even ancient cooks in Europe and the Middle East who had a surplus of stale bread on their hands. The perfect embodiment of the virtues of frugality and indulgence: day old bread, too precious to waste, is bathed in a mixture of milk and eggs and made into either a sweet or savory bread pudding (with a few other additions) and baked into something sublime. What makes it special is the blend of spices mixed into it and the sauce.

The chai spice baking blend, which is sometimes overlooked, adds a distinct warm flavor and depth. It can include a number of different spices. Cardamom is the most common ingredient, followed by some mixture of cinnamon, ginger, star anise and cloves. Pepper, coriander, nutmeg and fennel are also used but they are slightly less common.

This bread pudding combines hot cross buns with spices inspired by the world’s love affair with Indian chai. The origins of hot cross buns may go back as far as the 12th century. According to the story, an Anglican monk baked the buns and marked them with a cross in honor of Good Friday. Over time they gained popularity, and eventually became a symbol of Easter weekend.

Bread pudding, when done right, should have the perfect balance of gooey goodness and chewy texture. That’s why stale bread/buns are important. The bread needs a degree of crunch otherwise you will have ‘mush pudding’. For additional flavor, the pudding is served with a vanilla sauce. Who says bread pudding has to be boring!

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Chai Spiced Hot Cross Bread Pudding w/ Vanilla Sauce
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Bread Pudding
Vanilla Sauce
Servings
Ingredients
Bread Pudding
Vanilla Sauce
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Instructions
Bread Pudding
  1. Place cubed hot cross buns in a greased 9 x 9-inch baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the milk, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, spices & salt. Pour over buns, making sure that the bread is completely covered by the milk mixture.
  3. Cover & refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.
  4. Set out the chilled bread pudding while you preheat the oven to 350 F.
  5. Bake 40 - 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the pudding comes out clean. Remove from oven & serve with vanilla sauce.
Vanilla Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter & add flour. Stir until mixture has a nutty aroma.
  2. Add salt, cream & sugar; stir until mixture becomes thick. Remove from heat & stir in vanilla.
  3. Spoon over servings of warm bread pudding.
Recipe Notes
  • You will notice I have only used 2 Tbsp sugar in the vanilla sauce to offset the sweetness of the pudding.

Hoisin Beef & Rice Roulade

Hoisin is not a sauce I use regularly but in this case I found it puts a nice Asian twist on a traditional meatloaf. Impressive enough to serve to guests but easy enough to prepare on a weeknight.

The history of hoisin sauce is as rich and complex as its flavor. The name ‘hoisin’ comes from the Chinese phrase meaning ‘seafood sauce’ due to its seafood-like flavor but ironically, the sauce doesn’t contain any seafood. It’s believed to have originated in southern China, and its use has evolved over centuries. Once a luxury only the wealthy could afford, it has become a staple in Chinese households and restaurants worldwide. An intriguing tale associated with hoisin sauce is its role during the mid-Autumn festival in China, where it’s used in preparing traditional mooncakes, symbolizing unity and completeness.

Traditionally, hoisin sauce was made from fermented soybeans, rice wine, sugar, spices, and other ingredients. Today, hoisin sauce is widely used in many Chinese dishes including Peking duck, dim sum, barbecued pork, and spring rolls. It has also become a popular ingredient in other Asian cuisines such as Japanese and Vietnamese.

Hoisin sauce is a culinary chameleon, seamlessly blending into a wide array of dishes. Some of the many roles of hoisin sauce are as a

  • Dipping sauce for spring rolls, dumplings, and other appetizers. Its sweet and savory notes perfectly balance the flavors of these bite-sized delights.
  • As marinade and glaze hoisin sauce works wonders with meats like chicken, pork, and beef. The sugars in the sauce caramelize beautifully when grilled, creating a rich and flavorful exterior.
  • Adding hoisin sauce to stir-fried vegetables and proteins introduces a delectable dimension to your dishes. Its thick consistency helps create a glossy coating that clings to the ingredients, delivering an irresistible taste in every bite.
  • From noodle stir-fries to fried rice, hoisin sauce can elevate these dishes with its unique blend of flavors. Just a drizzle can transform a simple plate of noodles into a gourmet delight.
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Hoisin Beef & Rice Roulade
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine Asia
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
  1. Prepare rice according to package directions. Cool slightly. Stir cooked rice with carrot, red pepper, green onion & cilantro. Reserve.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium sized bowl, stir breadcrumbs with milk, eggs, ginger, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt & pepper. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  3. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Grease foil well; top with a second sheet of foil (to use as a guide when rolling the beef). Crumble beef into bread crumb mixture; mix gently until combined. Press the beef into a 1/3-inch thick, rectangular layer on the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Spread rice mixture evenly over the beef, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Roll beef, jellyroll-style, using the top layer of foil to guide & shape the beef into a compact log. Discard extra foil. Smooth the surface using fingers to fill in any gaps. Pinch ends closed. Bake for 45 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, stir hoisin sauce with lime juice, ketchup, honey & sesame oil; brush evenly over roulade. Bake roulade for an additional 15 minutes.

Boursin French Bread w/ Pork & Shrimp Stuffing

Today, March 21, our family celebrates the birth date of my father. Although he left this earth many years ago, I have so many memories of the wonderful childhood I enjoyed due to the parents I had. As my life unfolds, I realize more each day the impact having had a strong role model has made on my life. The word ‘thank you’ is so inadequate.

In the early 1950’s, my father was able to purchase another piece of land about 4 miles from our home place. Between the two farms it became the equivalent of a ‘section’. Before this time, the cattle had to be moved to a community pasture in the foothills where they would have enough grass to graze on over the summer. At that time to transport them, you had no choice but to herd them down the road allowance for approximately 20-30 miles on foot. To say the least it was a long grueling event for both the cattle and family members.

The ‘other farm’, as we referred to it, had originally been a slaughter house for the town meat market. It consisted of one large building, corals and a few other buildings. There was a slough on the land which dad had converted to a ‘dug out’ where the cattle could go and drink freely. The land was used for grain crops where in turn the cattle could be pastured on.

One of my fondest memories about the other farm was our picnic lunches. In the summer when dad would be working on the land, instead of my mother just packing a lunch for him that he could take in the morning, she would fix a wonderful ‘picnic lunch’. At about 11:30 in the morning, mom would pack up the lunch she had prepared, complete with plates, silverware, a tablecloth, etc., and we would drive to the ‘other farm’. There was just the right amount of space between two grain buildings to set up a make-shift table and stools. We would put the table cloth down and spread out our little picnic ‘feast’. Dad would be so surprised and we would all enjoy our lunch immensely. Mom always knew how to make the most simple things fun for us.

Lunch was always different from the usual lunch box meal and my mother never seemed to be short on tasty ideas. Today’s stuffed French bread meal is definitely a more elevated version of a picnic meal but it did bring me back to those wonderful cherished memories from childhood.

This meal seems so fitting to have today in honor of my father’s birthday. He loved bread, pork & seafood so I’ve got it covered.

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Boursin French Bread w/ Pork & Shrimp Stuffing
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Rating: 5
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Servings
Servings
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Rating: 5
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Instructions
Shrimp Stuffing
  1. In a saucepan, cook rice & barley in vegetable broth until tender. Drain (you can use this broth elsewhere) & transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Sauté celery, onion & mushrooms in 2 Tbsp butter until tender-crisp. Combine sautéed vegetables with rice/barley mixture. Stir in shrimp & seasonings & cook for a few more minutes until shrimp is just cooked. Remove from saucepan & set aside.
Boursin Cheese Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Stir in the spices. Add the milk & adjust heat to steaming -- do not simmer or boil. Add Boursin to the milk mixture, break it up into pieces with the side of a large spoon & stir until Boursin has melted into the mixture. Remove from heat & cool.
Tenderloin
  1. Remove silver skin & butterfly tenderloin. Using a meat mallet, pound out the tenderloin to about 3/4-inch thickness. Heat a griddle & sear meat on both sides. Set aside.
Assembly /Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Cut the French bread in half lengthwise & scoop out the soft insides. Remove only just enough to be able to fit the tenderloin in the cavity. Spread the hollowed out cavity with the Boursin cheese sauce (save some for inside the butterflied tenderloin). Cover bottom & sides completely.
  3. Spread remaining cheese sauce over inside of butterflied tenderloin. Close the tenderloin so you can fit it inside the bread cavity. Once you have it in there, open it as much as possible & fill it with the shrimp stuffing. It will be slightly mounded.
  4. Using a large piece of foil paper, place the bread 'boat' in the center & pull the foil up around it. Lightly cover the top just to keep the stuffing from drying out until the rest is cooked.
  5. Bake for 1 1/2 hours in a baking pan with a wire rack in the bottom to prevent the bottom of the bread from burning.
  6. Remove from oven & allow to sit for about 5 minutes then remove foil & place on cutting board & slice.

Reuben Naan Pizza w/ Corned Beef & Dijon Béchamel Sauce

The ‘Reuben’ is a deeply early 20th century American Midwestern creation. Not everyone agrees on the exact recipe for a Reuben, but there are a couple of key components that most seem to agree upon: sauerkraut and Swiss cheese. The meat can be either corned beef or pastrami, the bread can be rye or otherwise, and dill pickle slices can be either added or omitted. The spread is also a point of contention, with some choosing Russian dressing, another choosing Thousand Island dressing and yet another Dijon mustard. 

Enter Dijon béchamel sauce! This Reuben Naan bread pizza is similar to the sandwich except that the spread is Dijon béchamel sauce rather than a dressing. It’s topped with sauerkraut, provolone, Swiss cheese and corned beef. 

Béchamel is a standard white sauce and one of the five ‘mother’ sauces of classical cuisine. Dijon béchamel makes a great alternative to pizza sauce.

Dijon mustard is a traditional mustard of France, named after the town of Dijon in Burgundy, France. When you think of Burgundy you probably think of its world-famous wine, and the region’s wine is part of the reason Dijon mustard was born. Mustard-making became an industry in France’s wine regions because mustard seeds provide essential nutrients to grapevines, so they were planted as a complementary crop. The condiment was then produced in these areas by mixing mustard seeds with wine must, a wine byproduct.

Dijon mustard has always felt like the fanciest mustard for some reason. That’s not to say Dijon is better than other mustards; everyone has their tastes, but compared to yellow mustard or a spicy brown, Dijon has always carried an air of refinement and complexity. Honey mustard is the party crowd-pleaser, and whole grain mustard is the rustic workman, but Dijon is as cosmopolitan at home in a vinaigrette as it is atop a sausage.

By most culinary standards, mustard is an ancient condiment. Before it was made in France, it was grown and used as a spice in Egypt and the ancient Middle East, dating back to almost 3000 B.C.

Still, it took 500 more years for true Dijon mustard to be born. Mustard was made in a variety of ways around France, and over time, vinegar replaced grape must as the common additive. Then in 1856, a citizen of Dijon named Jean Naigeon started using yet another wine product, verjus, (translates to ‘green juice’ in French. It is a middle ground between vinegar and grape juice, made from the juice of unripened wine grapes) in place of vinegar, which gives Dijon mustard its unique heat.

Since July 15, 2009, eighty percent of the mustard seeds used in the manufacture of contemporary Dijon mustard come from Canada. Due to smaller than usual Canadian crop of mustard seeds in 2021, a shortage of Dijon mustard began in France in 2022. The shortfall in Canadian production was caused by a heatwave, attributable to climate change. The shortage has been exacerbated by customers stockpiling.

Nevertheless, I managed to secure some for this unique Rueben pizza!

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Reuben Naan Pizza w/ Corned Beef & Dijon Béchamel Sauce
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Rating: 5
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Servings
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Rating: 5
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Instructions
Dijon Béchamel Sauce
  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add the flour & whisk for 1 minute. Add 1/2 of the milk & whisk until smooth. Whisk in remaining milk. Bring to a boil. Add salt, pepper & nutmeg. Reduce heat & simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Whisk in Dijon mustard until combined. Remove from heat & set aside.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Lay out Naan breads on a baking sheet. Spread sauce over each one liberally.
  3. Arrange corned beef on top of sauce. Sprinkle pizzas evenly with Swiss & provolone.
  4. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the crust is crispy. Remove from oven & top with caraway seeds & red pepper flakes if you wish.