December 25th is not only Christmas Day, but it holds an extra special meaning for our family. It is my sister Rita’s birth date. When we were growing up, being able to enjoy all the great things that come with the Christmas meal as well as birthday cake …. could it get better than that!!
Although your family’s Christmas traditions may vary depending on the culture you were raised in, we like to think food is a language that needs no translation. I believe that many of our dishes are from an assortment of different cultures mixed into one recipe. Such is the case of our turkey dinner this year. I’ve incorporated a Moroccan inspired fruit stuffing along with our traditional savory one.
In view of the ongoing pandemic, hopefully caution will be taken in the holiday events your involved in. The best gift you can give this Christmas is not infecting others with Covid-19.
As much as I like certain aspects of the Christmas season, I find it becomes a little overwhelming. It seems a massive wave of Christmas capitalism takes over every aspect of one’s life from the end of October to January. I like to call it a form of OCD: Obsessive Christmas Disorder.
I was raised on a farm in southern Alberta at a time when Christmas celebrations were focused around our family blessings and not how many blow-up Santa Clauses or realistic sleighs we set up on our front lawns.
It would almost seem more importance is being given to getting more likes on Facebook & Instagram than it is carrying on a tradition based on family.
This year will not be perfect, it never is, and the holidays are a hard enough time for many, regardless of pandemics and catastrophic weather. I hope there will still be a little magic for everyone, however you spend the holidays.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY RITA!
WE LOVE YOU VERY MUCH & ARE SHARING YOUR DAY IN OUR THOUGHTS
Turkey Breast w/ Fruity Savory Stuffing
In a small bowl, combine dates, apricots, raisins, apple & orange juice & zest; season with spices & mix well. Set aside to marinate.
In a saucepan, sauté onion, celery, garlic, mushrooms & seasonings in margarine. Remove from heat.
Place vegetable/seasoning mixture in a large bowl & combine with dry bread cubes & broth, adding only enough broth to make proper stuffing consistency. Set aside.
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.
On one half of the turkey breast spread a thick layer of the savory stuffing then top it with the fruit stuffing. Fold the adjoining half of the turkey breast over all. Fasten with metal skewers if you wish to help to keep stuffing enclosed.
Place a wire rack in a roasting pan & lay stuffed turkey roast on it. Brush herb butter over turkey breast. Roast uncovered, until turkey reaches an internal temperature of 180 F. about 2 hours. Cover loosely with foil if top browns too quickly.
Place any extra savory stuffing in a buttered casserole & bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is lightly toasted.
Remove turkey breast from oven, tent with foil & allow to rest for about 5-10 minutes. Make sure to remove all toothpicks and/or skewers before slicing to serve.
- You will notice the recipe for the savory stuffing is well more than what is needed to stuff the turkey breast. For me personally, the stuffing is the most important part of the whole meal so I made sure there would be lots.
- Don't hesitate to half the recipe if you feel its more than what you need.
The ultimate Easter bun! Who doesn’t love hot cross buns?! Given the baked good’s long history, legends and superstitions have had ample time to develop and grow around them.
Hot cross buns are inseparably linked to Easter and to Christianity. But in reality, they probably have pre-Christian origins. Cross buns were baked to celebrate ‘Eostre’, the Germanic Goddess after which the season of Easter is said to be named.
Over the years, the bun has evolved and changed. Victorian recipes suggest various glazes to top the bun with after baking, including molasses or a honey/turmeric combo. The buns have become spicier too, with the addition of mace, caraway seeds and even coriander.
While some hot cross buns appear on grocery and bakery shelves as early as New Year’s Day, the sweet bun is usually associated with the end of Lent.
Every year I like to try and make a different version of these traditional, seasonal treats. This year I’m going with a ‘rum raisin‘ idea. Should be good!
Rum & Raisin Hot Cross Buns
Rum & Raisin Filling
In a bowl, combine raisins, warm rum & sugar. Cover with plastic wrap & allow to sit for at least 40 minutes. Strain, discarding liquid.
In a large bowl, combine lukewarm milk, yeast & 1/4 cup sugar. Let stand until mixture is frothy, about 10 minutes.
In a bowl, whisk together 5 1/3 cups flour, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg & allspice. When yeast mixture is ready, add half of the flour mixture to it, beating until just combined. Beat in melted butter, eggs & rum/raisin mixture. Gradually add remaining flour mixture, kneading until smooth dough forms. Add remaining 1/3 cup flour if needed as the dough should not be sticky.
Grease a large bowl, place the dough in it& turn to grease top. Loosely cover & allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Cream Cheese Filling (Balls)
In a shallow dish, combine sugar & cinnamon. Cut cream cheese into 12 cubes. Roll each into a ball shape then roll them in the cinnamon sugar, coating evenly. Divide dough into 12 pieces. Place a cream cheese ball in the center of each piece of dough, pinching to seal seam. Roll each piece of dough into a ball & place in PARCHMENT lined muffin cups. Cover & let stand in a warm, draft-free place for about 20 minutes.
In a small dish, whisk together egg & a Tbsp milk. When buns are ready to bake, brush with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. While the are baking prepare RUM GLAZE & CROSS PASTE.
Rum Glaze & Cross Paste
In a small saucepan, place water, spiced rum & sugar. Over medium heat, bring ingredients to a simmer & allow to bubble gently for 3-5 minutes. The volume of the mixture should drop by at least half. Remove from heat & set aside until ready to use.
In a small dish, whisk together cornstarch, flour, sugar & water until a thick paste forms. You want your paste to be stiff enough to be able to pipe in a clean line, but still manageable.
Brush warm rolls with rum glaze & allow to cool. Using a pastry bag fitted with a piping tip, pipe paste over top of buns to form a cross.
- If you prefer, don't hesitate to make these buns without the cream cheese inside. I'm sure they will be just as good --- they're hot cross buns!!
Although, avocados are most traditionally used as a main ingredient in guacamole or to top a salad or sandwich, used in baking they are amazing.
When adding them into yeast bread recipes, you can replace all the butter with equal amounts of room temperature, mashed, ripe avocado. The ripeness of the avocado is very important as it needs to be very soft for it to work perfectly.
In addition to their creamy texture and mild flavor, avocados have a high water content so they can help to make baking softer, chewier and less likely to crumble.
You can freeze mashed, fresh, ripe avocados if you want to have an ’emergency supply’ on hand. To freeze, mash the avocados with a fork or blender. Add some lime juice and mix well. For every avocado use about 1 tablespoon of lime juice to prevent them from browning. Fill a freezer weight zip-lock bag with this puree. Remove the air from the bag, then zip closed and freeze. Best to use frozen avocados within 4-5 months of freezing.
I thought some Major Grey’s mango chutney would be a perfect compliment to these avocado rolls. Major Grey’s chutney is a style of chutney not a brand. The ingredients in Major Grey’s chutney vary both across commercial brands and recipes, but a few elements seem to remain constant like mangoes, raisins, citrus, onions, a sugar of some sort, and warm spices. The chutney is sweet and tangy with a nice ‘kick’ of heat at the end that’s enough to compliment the different layers of flavor without consuming them. You will often see it served with curried dishes or as a compliment to meats and cheeses.
Major Grey’s chutney is considered by many the gold standard of all chutneys. Complete with its own legend of a 19th Century British Army officer who presumably lived in British India and created this unique condiment.
The great part about making your own chutney is that you can tailor the ‘sweet & heat’ balance to your own preferences. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with just picking up a jar at the supermarket!!
Avocado Dinner Buns w/ Major Grey's Mango Chutney
Major Grey's Mango Chutney
In a small bowl, place yeast, lukewarm milk & 1 tsp sugar. Stir; cover & set aside until frothy, about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1/4 cup sugar, mashed avocado, eggs. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine.
In another bowl, whisk flour & salt. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture gradually, combining after each addition. Once all flour has been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes.
Lightly grease the large bowl, place dough in it & cover with plastic wrap & a tea towel. Allow to rest for at least an hour in a draft-free place until dough has doubled in volume.
Punch dough down. Divide into 18 equal pieces in shape into balls. Place into a greased baking dish & cover with plastic wrap/towel. Allow to rise until doubled in volume, about an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake rolls about 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven; cool for just a few minutes then brush with the Tbsp of butter. Serve with Mango Chutney.
In a saucepan, combine all chutney ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring, until reduced & thick. Refrigerate any not used on rolls.
Today, March 28th is the birth date of my mother. Her imprint on my life was huge and I will forever miss her. I read an article recently which I would like to share with you today. It read:
‘I’ve met two kinds of strong women. The first kind is snippy, closed off and only too happy to point out when something isn’t up to their standards. The second kind is like a majestic tree with roots firmly planted and arms open wide. They plant and nurture the seeds of the future and parts of them are passed on through the generations’. My mother was definitely the second type of woman.
When I was thinking about what I wanted to post today, my mind drifted to the recipe archive that lives in my head, eventually making its way to the yeast breads. This is an area my mother had mastered down to a science.
Bread is such a staple food in the diet of most populations and will have featured heavily in most people’s childhoods. This explains why it is one of those smells that evokes such strong memories, particularly of family, childhood and comfort.
I love yeast breads that have spices and dried fruits in them. I recall a combination I had used in another way sometime back so I decided to see if I could make it work in my bread today.
WONDERFUL MEMORIES OF OUR BEAUTIFUL MOTHER!
Moroccan Spiced Fruit Bread
In a small bowl, combine fruit, juice & spices. Set aside to marinate.
In a small dish, heat milk to lukewarm. Add yeast & 1 tsp sugar; let sit for 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup melted butter, sour cream & egg. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine.
In another bowl, whisk together flour & salt. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture 1 cup at a time, combining after each addition. Once all flour has been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes.
Lightly grease the large bowl, place dough in it & cover with plastic wrap & a tea towel. Allow to rest for at least one hour, in a draft-free place until doubled in volume.
Punch dough down & place on a lightly floured surface. With your hand, pat & shape the dough into a rectangle 14 X 12-inches in size & about 1/2-inch thick. Using a ruler & a pastry wheel or sharp knife, cut the rectangle into 5 strips. Cut each strip into diamonds about 2-inches long. With a pastry brush, lightly butter tops of 'diamonds' as well as the bottom & sides of a bundt pan with the melted butter.
Arrange a layer of diamonds side by side in a ring on the bottom of the bundt pan. Divide fruit mixture in half & sprinkle half over diamonds in pan. Repeat with another layer of buttered diamonds & sprinkle with remaining fruit. Top with last buttered diamonds, arranging each successive layer so that it fits over the spaces left in the previous ring.
Don't concern that the diamonds do not fill all the available space; as they rise & bake they will expand. Cover bundt pan with plastic wrap & a tea towel & allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in volume.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake bread for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown. To test for doneness, turn bread out & rap the bottom sharply with your knuckles. The bread should sound hollow; if it doesn't, return it to the pan & bake for 5-10 minutes longer. When baked, turn out on a wire rack to cool slightly.
In a small bowl, beat together drizzle ingredients until smooth, adding only enough milk to make preferred drizzle consistency. Spread or drizzle over warm fruit bread & sprinkle with reserved orange zest.
It’s that time of year when apples (& pumpkins) seem to be everywhere. I think sometimes we get caught up in the abundance of fresh fruit choices over summer that we overlook these precious little gems. I have heard it said that apples are only second to bananas as one of the most eaten fruits.
The fact that they are so versatile, relatively inexpensive, easy to find, available all year round and keep for a long time, what more could we want!
If you plan to bake with them, keep in mind, not all apples are designed for baking. The texture is uppermost important. A good baking apple needs to have a balance of intense sweet-tart flavor as well as not fall apart when baked. Even though some apples are better suited for certain kinds of recipes than others, don’t limit yourself to using just one kind of apple. Using a mixture of apples will result in more complex flavors and textures.
I wanted to make some upside-down cakes with poaching the apple slices in a cinnamon candy syrup. Hopefully it works the way I think it should.
Apple Cinnamon Candy Cakes
In a saucepan, combine water, sugar, cinnamon candies & heat until sugar & candy dissolve. Add apple slices & raisins to the pan & bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes; drain & return the syrup to the pan. Bring syrup to a boil until it thickens slightly; remove from heat. Divide the apples & raisins between 4 mini bundt pans.
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a bowl, combine all cake ingredients & beat until smooth. Divide mixture over fruit in mini bundt pans. Place pans on a baking sheet & bake for 15-20 minutes or until cakes have risen & are firm to the touch in center.
Remove from oven & allow them to cool in pans for a few minutes. Carefully turn cakes out onto serving plates Top with a dollop of whipped topping & drizzle with cinnamon candy syrup.
With Easter coming up real soon, why not bake something different this year or should I say, different for me. Swiss Rice Tart has a custard type filling made with rice, eggs, milk, citrusy lemon zest, ground almonds all baked in a sweet, crunchy pastry. Traditionally only served during Easter time in Switzerland, it is a wonderful non-fussy and unusual brunch dish/dessert item.
It took a bit of time to try and learn some history of this Easter specialty. It seems that the first available recipes for a similar tart are from the end of the 16th century. In a cookbook by Anna Wecker, (the first German cookbook to be published by a woman) there was mention of a similar tart. In some of the early recipes, Parmesan cheese was included in the dough but this was abandoned for a sweeter crust. Another version used bread as a starchy filling instead of rice or semolina and the flavoring was rosewater and wine. By the 19th century, the tart, as it is known today, made its way into the rotation of most Swiss bakeries.
The key to getting the right consistency for the filling is to slightly overcook the rice from the beginning as it needs to to become smooth and creamy. The ground almonds, amaretto liqueur and raisins all add richness to the flavor of this ‘rice pudding baked in a crust’.
Swiss Easter Rice Tart
In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, salt & baking powder to blend. Add butter & pulse about 3-4 times, until butter is in pea- size pieces. Sprinkle in the ice water; pulse another 4 times. Turn dough out on a lightly floured work surface & knead gently a few times to form a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap & refrigerate at least an hour.
In a small bowl, combine amaretto liqueur & raisins & allow to marinate until ready to add to filling.
In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Stir in rice, lower heat to medium & cook until rice is soft & water is absorbed. Add evaporated milk, skim milk, butter, sugar & salt. Bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat to low & add amaretto liqueur ONLY, setting raisins aside.
Simmer until mixture has thickened almost to a 'risotto' consistency, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat & place the saucepan in a bowl of ice water for 10 minutes to cool mixture.
Preheat oven to 350 F. & place oven rack in the lowest position. When cooled, pour rice mixture into a bowl; add lemon zest & raisins. Mix ground almonds with the 1 Tbsp flour & fold into mixture along with eggs.
Press chilled pastry evenly into tart pan. Trim edges flush with pan. Pour filling into pastry dough & bake about 35 minutes, until filling is set & golden. Cool on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar & almond slices (create a design if you wish) before serving.
- This recipe was adapted from a site called cuisine Switzerland.
- I had used a 10-inch tart pan for mine but there was a small amount of filling left over which had to be baked in a casserole dish.
- I would suggest using a 10-inch spring form pan instead so the pastry sides could be higher to accommodate the extra filling.
No other spice more completely captures the essence of the exotic. Cardamom’s complex flavor is difficult to describe. There’s nothing subtle about cardamom, so when used in all but sparing amounts it will dominate whatever its paired with. Used properly, it elevates sweet and savory dishes, adding layers of flavor.
A versatile spice, in that it can be used in everything from desserts to main courses. Relatively expensive, coming in after saffron and pure vanilla, but well worth the expense.
Today, I’m back to ‘recipe development’. My plan is to create some tender, little orange cakes and topping them with a fruit and spice mixture reminiscent of flavors from Morocco.
Cardamom Fruit Cakes with Rum Sauce
Fruit Topping Mixture
In a small bowl, combine dates, apricots, raisins, apple & remaining orange juice & zest from cake ingredients. Season with cardamom & mace; mix well. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter 6 custard baking cups. Divide fruit between them; covering bottom & pressing a bit up the sides. Set aside.
In a small bowl, beat together eggs & sugar until thick; gradually beat in oil. In a small dish, combine flour, baking powder & salt. Stir flour into egg/sugar mixture, then add orange juice. Combine well then add zest & vanilla.
Pour the batter over fruit in custard cups, dividing it evenly between them. Bake 15-20 minutes or until they test done with a toothpick. Allow the cakes to cool for about 5 minutes, then invert onto a rack to finish cooling. When ready to serve, place on individual dessert plates & drizzle with warm rum sauce.
In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter. Combine sugar & cornstarch; stir into melted butter. Slowly pour in milk, stirring frequently until mixture begins to lightly boil. Continue cooking until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & stir in rum extract. Serve warm.
CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY!
It seems as we get older, reminiscing becomes a part of our lives. It is an that important psychological process called ‘life cycle review’.
Father’s Day, for Brion and I, is a day that brings back many fond memories. My father passed away in 2005 and Brion’s in 2011. There is never a week that goes by that we don’t reminisce about something we remember about one or the other. Both of our Dad’s loved to talk and tell you stories from their lives. I think back to when I was just a kid and my Dad would recount the same story more than once. At the time, it all seemed a bit boring but now I realize how the benefits of storytelling and review are greatly underestimated. I would give anything to retrace those years once again.
A father’s love and influence is never fully appreciated until he is no longer with you. It is so important to appreciate every hour they are in your life.
My father’s day blog recipe features some pork chops with a nice apple-apricot stuffing. Hope you get a chance to try it sometime.
Apple & Apricot Stuffed Pork Chops
Preheat oven to 325 F. Cut a deep, horizontal pocket in each chop.
In a skillet, saute onion & celery in oil until tender crisp. Add bread crumbs, oatmeal, diced apricots, apple, raisins, brown sugar, ginger & 2 Tbsp apricot preserve; mix well. Divide stuffing between pork chops. Place in an ungreased baking dish & cover.
Bake for about 45 minutes; uncover & spread remaining 2 Tbsp preserves on top of chops. Bake uncovered for about 15-20 minutes more or until chops are tender.