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.

Baked Chicken w/ Tomato Bacon Relish

CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY!

Honoring your father on Father’s Day doesn’t require his physical presence. I feel what is more important is just the act of doing it. I am very grateful to have had a father who was such a strong role model in my life. Everything he did was driven by his commitment to provide and care for the family he loved.

My father passed away in 2005 and Brion’s in 2011. Both our dads loved to talk and tell stories from their lives. We often wish we could retrace that time and hear their voices again. It seems you never fully appreciate your parents until they are no longer on this earth. It is so important to appreciate every hour they are in your life.

Brion & I eat a lot of chicken, so I’m always interested in another way of serving it. This recipe gives you not only crispy chicken but a flavorful tomato bacon relish to compliment it.

If you’re a bacon lover, it probably goes without saying, but bacon goes well with everything. Tomato bacon relish sounds like it would be savory, but it’s actually pretty sweet, just like other fruit jams! However, it does have a lot more complexity thanks to the bacon and spices.

The concept may sound strange, but it tastes like caramelized tomatoes–richer, sweeter, and more mellow than their fresh counterparts, balanced by the savory and smoky flavors of the bacon and smoked paprika. A little vinegar and mustard add a subtle tang, and you’ll get a hint of heat at the end from red pepper flakes.

It’s perfect spread on toast, in an omelet or a grilled cheese sandwich, on roasted veggies, next to cheese and crackers on a charcuterie board, or spread over cream cheese or brie for a party appetizer, etc. etc.

My special meal in honor of our dad’s on this Father’s Day is baked chicken tenders with bacon tomato relish.

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Baked Chicken w/ Tomato Bacon Relish
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Instructions
Chicken
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. In a shallow bowl, mix bread crumbs, 2 Tbsp thyme & 1/4 tsp each salt & pepper. Place flour & egg in separate shallow bowls. Dip chicken in flour; shake off excess. Dip in egg, then in crumb mixture, patting to help coating adhere. Place chicken on a greased rack in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake about 15 minutes or until no pink remains.
Bacon Tomato Relish
  1. In a skillet, over medium high heat, fry bacon until crispy. Remove bacon to plate. Drain all but 1 Tbsp bacon drippings.
  2. In the same skillet, sauté onions in reserved bacon drippings until onion starts to soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic during last minute of sautéing.
  3. Add bacon & all remaining ingredients; stir to combine. Increase heat & bring mixture to a boil.
  4. Decrease heat & simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are tender.
  5. Serve over baked chicken tenders.

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.

Onion Scones

You might imagine scones as a food that is only served with jam and cream, but there are many variations on this classic tea cake. This flaky treat can also come in a savory scone version with add-ins like cheese and chopped bacon or sun-dried tomato & basil etc.  A scone is closer to a pastry than it is to bread mainly because it doesn’t include any yeast and has almost identical ingredients to a short crust with different fat to flour ratios.

So why not onion scones?? Because onions really form the foundation of our cooking, they are often the first thing that goes in the pan, and they are the flavor base for everything from chicken soup to a quick skillet pasta. Cooked onions give dishes a rich savory flavor and a subtle sweetness — you don’t always know onions are there once the dish has been spiced and sauced, but you’d definitely miss them if they weren’t.

Scone ingredients prefer to be cold. All your starting components need to be kept as cool as possible – this will help to guarantee the soft, light and well-risen qualities of your next batch of scones.

North American or British scones – what’s the difference? British scones are served with butter/cream whereas North American scones or ‘biscuits’ are far butterier and are typically served alongside meat and veg style savory dishes.

These onion scones make such a nice addition to a beef stew meal.

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Onion Scones
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Course Main Dish
Keyword onion scones
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Course Main Dish
Keyword onion scones
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the yellow onion, green onions, garlic & butter. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, then stir. Microwave for another 1-2 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Remove bowl from microwave & let the vegetables cool for 10 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cheese, sugar, baking powder, pepper & salt.
  4. Add the sautéed onion mixture to the flour mixture along with the light cream & egg. Stir JUST until combined.
  5. Gently press the dough together with your hands to form a ball.
  6. On an ungreased baking sheet, press the dough into an 8-inch circle. Cut the circle into 8 wedges. Separate the wedges slightly.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until scones are lightly browned. Brush with more melted butter & serve immediately.

Salmon Wellington

HAPPY EASTER!

Easter is here and Salmon Wellington is the perfect holiday meal! The richness of the mushroom duxelles, pairs perfectly with the hearty salmon fish fillet and scallops and the buttery puff pastry just takes this dish to the next level.

Mushroom duxelles is an intensely flavored combination of finely chopped mushrooms, shallots, and fresh herbs such as thyme or parsley that are slowly cooked to a paste-like consistency. French in origin and named after the marquis d’Uxelles, this mushroom condiment is traditionally used in the preparation of beef Wellington, but it can also be used to flavor soups and sauces as well as to fill omelets and ravioli. 

Wellington fillet as we know it today was first made famous by the American chef and star Julia Child, who introduced the filet de bśuf en croûte, the French crust beef fillet, as ‘Filet of Wellington Beef’ during her TV show ‘The French Chef’, on the 1965 New Year’s Eve episode. From that day on, the recipe began to appear in various recreational circles in North America, as well as being taken up in the most important cookbooks.

A Salmon Wellington is a copycat version of the popular English ‘Beef Wellington’. Because puff pastry takes about 20 minutes to bake (salmon takes 12-15 minutes), keep the salmon refrigerated until you’re ready to assemble. Starting with cold salmon ensures it doesn’t overcook. To prevent the bottom from getting soggy, pat dry the salmon thoroughly before assembling. Also, make sure to cut slits on the puff pastry once assembled to allow the steam to escape. Don’t open the oven until ready since puff pastry needs full consistent heat to bake into flaky layers.

You’ll be so impressed when it’s time to take it out of the oven because it just looks amazing. However, you’ll be more impressed with how it tastes. Just like an elegant and flavorful fish pie!

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Salmon Wellington
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Cuisine French
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Instructions
Mushroom Duxelles
  1. In a food processor, pulse the mushrooms to a roughly diced consistency,15-20 seconds. In a saucepan, melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, a heavy pinch of salt & pepper, shallots, garlic, rosemary & thyme. Sauté until moisture from the mushrooms has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl & set aside.
Scallop Filling
  1. In a small bowl, combine the scallops (or shrimp), cream, onions, parsley, dill, garlic, pesto, salt & pepper. In another small bowl, beat egg white on medium speed until soft peaks form; fold into scallop mixture.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll each pastry sheet into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle. Cut each sheet into FOUR- 6 x 5-inch rectangles. Divide mushroom mixture evenly & spread over 4 pieces of pastry leaving a 1/2-inch border.
  3. Center the salmon pieces on top. Next, top each salmon piece with a quarter of the scallop filling.
  4. Top each with a pastry rectangle & crimp to seal. With a sharp knife, cut several slits in the top to let steam escape. Place on the baking sheet & brush with egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160 F.
Dill Cream Sauce
  1. While salmon is baking, mix all sauce ingredients & refrigerate until serving time.

Adzuki Bean Bolognese Lasagna

Ordering a lasagna Bolognese in Italy might leave some North Americans a bit surprised by the dish placed before them. The traditional recipe layers lasagna noodles with a meaty ragù and creamy, white béchamel sauce, a very different recipe than the lasagna Bolognese served in North America where the layers of noodles alternate with tomato sauce, meat, mozzarella, and ricotta cheese. 

A while back Brion and I were in an Asian Supermarket, and I became very interested in some of the desserts made with sweet red adzuki bean paste. In October (2023), I used it in some ‘Anpan Buns’ that I posted on the blog. We really enjoyed them so I wanted to explore the savory side of this bean.

Adzuki beans have a unique and distinct taste that can be described as mildly sweet and nutty with a slightly earthy undertone. The flavor is not overpowering and is often described as more delicate compared to other beans like black beans or kidney beans. The sweetness is subtle, making adzuki beans particularly suitable for both sweet and savory dishes.

In North America they often are put to savory use, mixed into salads, cooked with rice and dropped into soups. Like other beans, adzuki are a good source of protein. Unlike many other dried legumes, they don’t have to be soaked before cooking.

Getting back to today’s lasagna, I thought if I added some cooked adzuki beans to the Bolognese sauce might just make this classic dish even better.

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Beef & Adzuki Bean Lasagna
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Course Main Dish
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Bolognese Sauce
Béchamel Sauce
Other Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Asia
Servings
Ingredients
Bolognese Sauce
Béchamel Sauce
Other Ingredients
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Bolognese Sauce
  1. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add oil, garlic & onions. Sauté until fragrant, for a minute or two, avoid browning. Then add ground meat.
  2. Sauté the ground meat until it is no longer pink. Add carrot & celery & sauté for about one minute.
  3. Add the liquids – seasoned, diced tomatoes & tomato paste & cooked adzuki beans. Stir to combine. Heat it on medium high heat & let it come to a boil.
  4. Add the rest of the seasonings – basil, oregano, beef bouillon, salt & pepper. Stir to combine. Lower heat to medium heat & let it cook for another ~10 minutes, or until sauce thickens.
  5. Remove from heat & set aside.
Béchamel Sauce
  1. Add butter to a medium pot & heat over medium heat. Once butter is melted (avoid browning butter), add flour to pot. Using a whisk, whisk to combine. Mixture will be slightly clumpy.
  2. Immediately add milk into the pot and bring to medium high heat so that it comes to a boil. Whisk continuously until mixture is smooth & thickens.
  3. Once mixture reaches desired thick consistency, add salt & pepper. Stir to combine, then remove from heat.
Assembly/Bake
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Place a thin layer of Bolognese sauce on the bottom of a deep 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
  3. Start layering with 2 of the rectangular lasagna sheets, then add 1/4 of the Bolognese sauce, and then 1/4 of the béchamel sauce & cheese.
  4. Repeat 3 more times. There should be a total of four sets of lasagna sheets/Bolognese sauce/béchamel sauce & cheese layers. Sprinkle it with remaining cheese to top it off.
  5. Place casserole dish in the oven & place a cookie sheet under the casserole dish to catch any potential drippings. Bake for 45 minutes, then (optional) broil for 2 minutes to brown the top.
  6. Remove dish from oven and let it sit for 20 minutes before cutting into lasagna. Garnish with parsley & serve!
Recipe Notes
  • This recipe will easily serve 8-10 people. With just 2 of us, I still like to make the full recipe so I can freeze the rest for future meals.
  • On the other hand, the recipe can be easily halved if you wish.
  • To cook the adzuki beans:
  • Use a strainer to rinse the dried beans under cold water. Remove any debris, stones or deformed beans from the mix and thoroughly drain the beans afterward.
  • Fill a pot with water, add the beans and bring it to a boil. After the water has started to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and continue cooking the beans for about 45-60 minutes. The adzuki beans will be ready once the beans are fork tender. Drain.

Greek Spanakopita Pasta

January is kind of a different month — all the holiday hoopla is done for another year, in our part of the country its fairly cold, bringing on the winter ‘blaas’. I have numerous friends that say they find themselves feeling a bit ‘down’ at this time. That being said, It seemed the perfect time to be a ‘mental traveler’. I’d like to share an experience Brion & I had which was totally amazing in 2010.

Your day begins in central Greece. A misty fog blankets the Kalambaka Valley as the tour takes you to your morning destination.

Here, in the shadow of the Pindus Mountains and just beyond the town of Kalambaka, massive gray colored pinnacles rise out of the valley towards the sky. Over thousands of years, this landscape has been sculpted by wind and water into a strange and breathtaking sight. Perched miraculously on the tops of these pinnacles are monasteries. The area is called METEORA   and literally means ‘columns in the sky’.

The sandstone peaks were first inhabited by Byzantine hermits in the 11th century, who clamored up the rocks to be alone with God. Though it is unknown how the first hermits reached the tops of these vertical rock faces, it is likely that pegs were hammered into tiny gaps in the rocks. Around 1382 the first monastery was built. By the 1500’s, 24 monasteries were built on these sheer cliffs, but by the 19th century most had fallen to ruin.

Because there were no steps, the main access to the monasteries was by means of a net that was hitched over a hook and hoisted up by rope and a hand cranked windlass to winch towers over hanging the chasm. Monks descended in nets or on a retractable rope ladders up to 40 meters long to the fertile valley below to grow grapes, corn and potatoes.

The natural rock buildings blend so evenly with the scenery, they are hard to spot at first. Only the red tile roofs give them away. Centuries of weather have caused natural streaking of the rock which acts as a camouflage. In the 1920’s, roads, pathways and stairs were built to make today’s remaining six monasteries more accessible as they are now largely dependent on tourist donations.

Inside the walls of these monasteries, life goes on as it has for more than 900 years. Wine is still made in giant oak vats where the monks climb in with bare feet to crush grapes. Most of the carpentry and masonry tools are hand made in the same style as their ancestors. Terracotta pots/bowls are fired by hand pumped bellows on a furnace. Traditional icons are painted using hand ground pigments bonded with egg yolk to make tempera paint that was common in the Middle Ages.

Among the existing monasteries is a convent called Saint Stephen’s that was built in 1798. The occupying nuns are courteous and friendly, but no visitor gets past them with bare shoulders or knees. Novices holding piles of blue aprons and capes meet the visitors at the gate. Anyone not meeting the exacting dress code must don the local sackcloth or be turned away.

To experience this rare geographical phenomenon is something you will not forget easily. If you have the opportunity, be sure to take it. In the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed this mental journey I have taken you on. Check out a few more pictures I’ve added in the recipe section of the blog.

Now, in keeping with the food part of the blog, I made a savory  GREEK SPANAKOPITA PASTA  meal. Easy, quick and tasty.

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Greek Spanakopita Pasta
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine Greek
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine Greek
Servings
SERVINGS
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Rating: 5
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Instructions
Pasta
  1. Cook pasta in salted boiling water 8-10 minutes, until al dente. Drain & set aside.
Cheese Sauce
  1. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk until hot but not boiling. Combine flour & butter in another saucepan. Whisk until the mixture has gently bubbled for 2 minutes, being careful not to brown the flour.
  2. Begin to add the hot milk to the flour mixture a little at a time while whisking vigorously. Continue to add the milk until it is fully incorporated. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low; simmer, stirring constantly, until it thickens, 6-8 minutes ( it will resemble heavy cream). Crumble the feta cheese & add to hot sauce, whisking until smooth. Add dill & pepper; stir. Remove from heat & let cool.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F. Squeeze water from frozen, thawed spinach. Toss the pasta, cheese sauce, spinach, ricotta & garlic in a large bowl until well combined. Taste to see if any more salt & pepper is needed.
  4. Place in a casserole dish & top with Parmesan Cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until cheese browns a little.
Recipe Notes
  • If you prefer to make this a day ahead of baking, cover well & refrigerate.
  • If you do not care for feta cheese you can substitute 285 grams of either Gorgonzola or mozzarella in place of the 140 grams of feta.

Garlic Salmon w/ Roasted Veggies

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!

Food has always been a powerful symbol especially at the start of a new year. Fish on New Year’s Day is like turkey at Christmas.

People all around the world eat a variety of traditional foods from grapes to lentils, to smoked fish at the stroke of midnight. Fish have also been linked to prosperity or wealth with their scales round and abundant like money. Because fish swim forward, they’re considered a lucky food and represent progress. Not only that, but salmon travel in schools, which is supposed to symbolize prosperity. 

There is also a German tradition of eating fish for the New Year’s Eve dinner, and keeping a fish scale from a carp in your wallet all year to ensure wealth for the whole family.

New Year’s celebrations bring thoughts of new beginnings, letting go of the past and a future of wealth and good fortune.

Whatever food you chose to have today, enjoy it to the fullest with family & friends as we enter this new year.

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Garlic Salmon w/ Roasted Veggies
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Instructions
  1. In the microwave, bake potatoes with skin on until almost done. Remove & carefully cut into wedges. Set aside. Take beans out of freezer.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  3. Spread salmon with mustard; sprinkle with salt & pepper.
  4. In a skillet over medium-high, heat oil & add garlic. Cook, stirring often until garlic is fragrant & light golden brown, about 2 minutes. Pour hot oil over salmon on a large baking sheet. Place potato wedges at one end & spread out beans on the other. Sprinkle potatoes & beans with salt & pepper.
  5. Roast until salmon flakes easily with a fork & vegetables are tender & roasted. Remove from oven.
  6. Transfer salmon to a platter; sprinkle with tarragon & chives. Arrange vegetables on platter & serve.

Scallop Crepes w/ Cauliflower Sauce

Can you believe the New Year is almost here and as the clock approaches midnight, it is a time to reflect and assess the year that has gone by…to hopefully, realize how precious time is. The word ‘new’ brings about thoughts of hope, and an opportunity to focus on a list of fresh goals, challenges, and opportunities.

Many cultures around the world believe the key to a happy, healthy, financially secure, and even productive year begins with eating certain lucky foods. The theory is ‘do good, eat good’, to begin the New Year right.

New Year’s Eve calls for a celebration. Whether you’re spending the night in, or you’re hosting an intimate party with friends, a scallop dinner is the perfect treat to finish off the year because scallops symbolize new opportunities or the opening of new horizons.

Brion & I enjoy seafood a lot so its not hard to fit some elegant scallop crepes into the menu.

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Scallop Crepes w/ Cauliflower Sauce
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Crepes
  1. Place all crepe ingredients in a small blender & whirl for 1 minute at high speed. Scrape down sides, whirl for another 15 seconds. Pour into a small bowl & cover. Refrigerate 1 hour or more.
  2. Brush an 8-inch non-stick skillet lightly with melted butter; heat. Stir crepe batter; pour 2 Tbsp into center of skillet. Lift & tilt pan to coat bottom evenly. Cook until top appears dry; turn & cook 15-20 seconds longer. Remove to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing skillet with melted butter as needed.
Sauce
  1. Pour chicken broth into a medium saucepan, add cauliflower florets & bring to a boil. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the cauliflower is tender. Drain in a colander, reserving the liquid, then place the cauliflower in a food processor & allow it to cool for 5 minutes before blending. Process, slowly adding 1 cup of reserved chicken broth. Add seasonings & process until 'creamy'. Set aside.
Filling
  1. In a large skillet, bring scallops, wine & pepper to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until scallops are firm & opaque, 3-4 minutes. Drain & set aside.
  2. In the same skillet, fry chopped bacon until slightly browned. Add 2 Tbsp butter, mushrooms & green onions & sauté until moisture has evaporated from mushrooms. Return scallops back to skillet & add cheese & enough of the cauliflower sauce to bring mixture together into a filling consistency.
Assembly & Cooking
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Divide filling among the 12 crepes, spreading filling down the center of each one. Place remaining cauliflower sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Roll up crepes & place in a single layer on top of sauce. Cover & bake until heated through about 30 minutes.
  3. Garnish with sliced green onions if you prefer.
Recipe Notes
  • These crepes look & taste indulgent, but I've made the sauce with pureed cauliflower rather than lots of cream. It sounds a bit odd, but it works beautifully & compliments the flavor of the sweet scallops & salty bacon.

Turkey Breast w/ Quinoa Mushroom Stuffing

SEASON’S GREETINGS!

The Christmas season makes us reflect on many different things; to live life a little more grateful, more hopeful and a little more peaceful. It is a time to connect with friends and loved ones to enjoy the traditions we grew up with. 

Today, December 25th, our family celebrates my sister Rita’s birthday as well as Christmas. I have fond memories of her Christmas Eve family birthday ‘parties’. On the eve of Christmas, our family would go to church. After returning home, we were joined by some family friends to have birthday cake and homemade root beer. My parents wanted my sister to always have this special time to honor her birthday apart from the Christmas festivities.

As I write about this memory, something else comes to mind. Our church at that time, was a small, old building. For the choir it had a small loft. As long as I can remember, the same lady played the organ as well as directing the choir members in song. She in turn, had a teenage daughter gifted with an unbelievable voice. One of the highlights of the Christmas service was to hear her sing a solo version of ‘Oh Holy Night’. You could hear a pin drop; it was breathtaking how angelic and beautiful her voice was. I get emotional even now remembering it.

The strange and fascinating story of ‘O Holy Night’ began in France, yet eventually made its way around the world. This seemingly simple song, inspired by a request from a clergyman, would not only become one of the most beloved anthems of all time, it would mark a technological revolution that would forever change the way people were introduced to music.

In 1847, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure was the commissionaire of wines in a small French town. Known more for his poetry than his church attendance, it probably shocked Placide when his parish priest asked the commissionaire to pen a poem for Christmas mass. Nevertheless, the poet was honored to share his talents with the church.

In a dusty coach traveling down a bumpy road to France’s capital city, Placide Cappeau considered the priest’s request. Using the gospel of Luke as his guide, Cappeau imagined witnessing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Thoughts of being present on the blessed night inspired him. By the time he arrived in Paris, ‘Cantique de Noel’ had been completed.

Moved by his own work, Cappeau decided that his ‘Cantique de Noel’ was not just a poem, but a song in need of a master musician’s hand. Not musically inclined himself, the poet turned to one of his friends, Adolphe Charles Adams, for help.


The son of a well-known classical musician, Adolphe had studied in the Paris conservatoire. His talent and fame brought requests to write works for orchestras and ballets all over the world. Yet the lyrics that his friend Cappeau gave him must have challenged the composer in a fashion unlike anything he received from London, Berlin, or St. Petersburg.

As a man of Jewish ancestry, for Adolphe the words of ‘Cantique de Noel’ represented a day he didn’t celebrate and a man he did not view as the son of God. Nevertheless, Adams quickly went to work, attempting to marry an original score to Cappeau’s beautiful words. Adams’ finished work pleased both poet and priest. The song was performed just three weeks later at a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

Since that first rendition at a small Christmas mass in 1847, ‘O Holy Night’ has been sung millions of times in churches in every corner of the world. And since the moment a handful of people first heard it played over the radio, the carol has gone on to become one of the entertainment industry’s most recorded and played spiritual songs. This incredible work has become one of the most beautiful, inspired pieces of music ever created.

For our turkey stuffing today, I decided to go with something a bit different. The quinoa-mushroom stuffing can be made to stuff the bird or served as a standalone side-dish.

BIRTHDAY WISHES WITH LOVE TO YOU RITA. HOPE YOU, RICK & AMBER HAVE A WONDERFUL DAY!

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Turkey Breast w/ Quinoa Mushroom Stuffing
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Ingredients
Quinoa Mushroom Stuffing
Turkey
Servings
Ingredients
Quinoa Mushroom Stuffing
Turkey
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Stuffing
  1. Cook & mash potatoes. Prepare gravy mix as directed on pkg. Set aside.
  2. Cook the quinoa in a small pot by bringing the quinoa & water to a boil. Cover & reduce heat to very low & cook for about 20 minutes. Remove lid & set aside.
  3. Heat a saucepan, add the onions & sauté for 2-3 minutes, adding just a Tbsp of water at a time if the onions stick, stirring frequently. Add celery, mushrooms, onion & garlic powder, poultry seasoning & dried basil. Sauté for 5 minutes.
  4. Add about 1/4 cup water, fresh herbs, chard & cranberries. Cook about 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
  5. In a large bowl, mix cooked quinoa with mashed potatoes, vegetable/spice mix & gravy to make a moist stuffing consistency. Set aside while you prepare turkey breast.
Turkey Breast
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Lay turkey breast on a clean work surface so that it lies open & flat. Cover with plastic wrap, then pound lightly with a meat mallet to flatten into an even thickness all over. Discard plastic wrap.
  3. On one half of the turkey breast spread a thick layer of stuffing. Fold the adjoining half of the turkey breast over all. Fasten with metal skewers if you wish to help keep the stuffing enclosed.
  4. Place a wire rack in a roasting pan & lay stuffed turkey roast on it. Combine herb butter ingredients & brush over turkey breast. Roast uncovered, until turkey reaches an internal temperature of 180 F. about 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Cover loosely with foil if top browns too quickly.
  5. Place any extra stuffing in a buttered casserole & bake for about 30 minutes.
  6. Remove turkey breast from oven, tent with foil & allow to rest for about 5-10 minutes. Remove skewers & slice. Serve with cranberry sauce.