Turkey & Stuffing Stuffed Squash

Squash is one of those quintessential autumn foods that we have come to recognize. Even though it is considered a winter squash, acorn squash belongs to the same species as all summer squashes including zucchini and yellow crookneck squash. The main difference between the classifications is that summer squashes have soft skins and tender seeds and are fairly perishable, while the winter types have hard shells, fully formed seeds and are very suited to long storage.

For all their many splendored shapes and colors, squash is not something most of us crave, although they are an integral part of the cuisine in scattered points of the globe, such as South and Central America, the West Indies, India and Japan.

The acorn squash is similar in flavor to the butternut squash yet has a bit of a nutty taste to it as well. Resembling its name in shape, the acorn squash usually weigh between 1-2 pounds and generally grow between four and seven inches long.

Roasting them partially before stuffing makes the squash a lot more tender and easier to eat. I am always aware of the concept of ‘seasonal eating’. I was born in September, so I figure its totally natural to love fall food (& colors) such as squash, pumpkin, apples and cranberries.

The large cavity of acorn squash just begs to be filled. This recipe makes good use of all your thanksgiving ‘leftovers’, creating a whole new meal at the same time.

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Turkey & Stuffing Stuffed Squash
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cut the squash in half & remove the seeds. Brush the flesh with olive oil & sprinkle with a little salt. Put the squash, cut side down onto the prepared baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes.
  3. In a large skillet over medium heat add olive oil, onion; sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Allow the onion soften for about 3 minutes then add the minced garlic. Stir in the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, & broth; mix well to combine.
  4. Remove squash from oven & carefully fill each half with the filling. Lay a piece of foil over the squash and bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the squash is easily pierced with a fork.
  5. Serve with extra cranberry sauce if desired.
Recipe Notes
  • This is such a great way to use up that holiday turkey & stuffing in a whole new meal idea.

Roasted Vegetable Crumble

Crumble is not just a crispy dessert. Some variations on the original recipe have managed to transform the crumble into a mouth-watering savory dish. Almost Mediterranean at its heart, the roasted vegetable crumble introduces a whole new vegetarian culinary experience. A magnificent display of accessibility & balanced flavors, with rustic and crispy textures. While both sweet and savory versions have received international acclaim, at its root, crumble is a fruit-based dessert topped with a breadcrumb-like topping made with flour, butter, and sugar.

Crumbles became popular in Britain during World War II, when the topping was an economical alternative to pies due to shortages of pastry ingredients as the result of rationing.

This savory crumble with roasted vegetables is topped with buttery cracker crumbs, Parmesan, Panko crumbs, thyme and cracked black pepper to give it some added texture. It makes such a nice fall or winter casserole.

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Roasted Vegetable Crumble
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter a 9-inch deep pie dish; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl combine crackers, bread crumbs, cheese, pepper, thyme, and butter. Toss to coat everything in butter. Spoon just less than half of the mixture into the bottom of the pie dish and slightly up the sides. Place in the oven and bake for 12 minutes, until just golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool while you make the filling.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened and browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute more. Add the brussels sprouts, carrots, mushrooms and thyme. Increase heat to medium-high and let the vegetables sauté down until well softened, browned, and caramelized, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper as the vegetables cook down. The mushrooms will release a lot of their moisture and then the mixture will brown and cook down.
  4. When vegetables are cooked down and softened, reduce heat to medium, sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir until the flour disappears. Slowly add the chicken stock and stir, scraping any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer to thicken. Finally, stir in the cream and remove from the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper if needed.
  5. Spoon mixture onto the browned crust. Sprinkle with gruyere. Top with the remaining crumble crust. Place in the oven to bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until top crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving warm.

Shrimp & Broccoli ‘Hobo’ Packs

HAPPY LABOR DAY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salmon & Leek Naan Pizza

The Naan which is known for its soft and fluffiness and original flavour also led to other types of it being created.

Different types of Naan also became popular depending on them either being stuffed or coated with specific toppings. The many varieties include:

  • Plain Naan – simplest form which is brushed with ghee or butter
  • Garlic Naan – topped with crushed garlic and butter
  • Kulcha Naan – has a filling of cooked onions
  • Keema Naan – includes a filling of minced lamb, mutton or goat meat
  • Roghani Naan – sprinkled with sesame seeds
  • Peshawari Naan and Kashmiri Naan –  filled with a mixture of nuts and raisins including pistachios
  • Paneer Naan – stuffed with a filling of cheese flavored with ground coriander and paprika
  • Amritsari Naan – stuffed with mash potatoes and spices 
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Salmon & Leek Naan Pizza
Instructions
  1. In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until leeks are softened, about 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; let cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, in small bowl, combine sour cream, dill, mustard and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place naan on prepared baking sheets. Evenly spread sour cream mixture on naan, leaving 1/2-inch border. Top with leek mixture, salmon and Swiss cheese. Bake until edges of naan are lightly browned and salmon is cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle with dill fronds, if desired.

Smoked Gouda Pork Chops w/ Caramelized Onions

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.

This meal seems so fitting to have today in honor of my father’s birthday. I’m sure he would have loved it. Brion & I seem to have a natural affinity to smoked cheeses. I had first thought I would make some pork chops stuffed with smoked gouda & bacon but then the caramelized onions started were calling me ….

Smoked Gouda is a semi-hard to hard, cow’s milk cheese which is creamy and mild with a natural smoked flavor and rich musky aftertaste. The rind is typically brown rather than the yellow rind on the unsmoked version. Only cheese exposed to real smoke may be called ‘smoked’. Cheese that has only had liquid smoke added to it must be labeled with ‘smoke flavor’.

Smoking cheese imparts a unique flavor, everything from the intensity of the heat or kind of wood chips used, can effect the flavor outcome. Every part of the process, no matter how small it may seem, has some bearing on the final taste of the product.

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Smoked Gouda Pork Chops w/ Caramelized Onions
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Season pork with salt and pepper then dredge in 1 cup flour; shake off excess flour and place pork in skillet.
  3. Sauté pork for 3 minutes on each side then place pork in a baking dish. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon paprika over pork.
  4. Clean skillet and add 2 tablespoons oil; heat over medium-high heat. Add onions and brown sugar; sauté for 15 minutes or until brown and tender. Add garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the remainder 1 tablespoon of paprika. Place onions and broth over pork. Cover with foil and bake until pork is tender, about 35 to 45 minutes.
  5. Remove pork from oven and use tongs to transfer pork to plate; cover plate with foil. Reserve onion and liquid content from baking dish.
  6. In a large saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter. Add 4 tablespoons flour and cook for 4 minutes or until flour just starts to brown. Whisk in reserved contents from baking dish and half-and-half. Whisking constantly, bring to a boil, about 5 to 8 minutes, or until thick. Remove from heat and whisk in Gouda cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Transfer pork to plates and spoon sauce over pork.

Stuffed Pasta Shells w/ Wild Salmon, Leeks & Mushrooms

Some years ago I started using leeks and have never looked back since. Brion & I have never tired of that subtle flavor. When a recipe calls for leeks, it usually indicates to use the white and light green parts only and to either discard the ‘tough dark green tops’ or save them for another use.

So what are these ‘other uses’? Usually it refers to using the green tops as add-ins for soups or stock, only to be removed once they have imparted their wonderful layer of flavor and discarded.

When you think about it, we cook up all kinds of vegetables that are ‘tough’ to start out with yet end up nice and tender when cooked or braised. I find, using the dark green tops presents no issues, just cook them a bit longer than the tender leaves.

On the other hand, you can braise the dark green tops with some butter/olive oil, chicken or veg stock, minced garlic, dried chili flakes, salt & pepper & some lemon juice and make a great side dish to serve with fish or pasta etc.

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Stuffed Pasta Shells w/ Wild Salmon, Leeks & Mushrooms
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Instructions
Pasta & Filling
  1. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add pasta shells & cook 3 minutes less than the cooking time indicated on the package instructions. Drain pasta
  2. In a large saucepan, over medium-high heat, saute chopped bacon until cooked. Remove from saucepan with a slotted spoon to a paper towel. Add leeks, garlic & mushrooms to bacon drippings. Sauté until leeks are soft; season with salt & pepper. Add salmon, gently combine & set aside.
Garlic Sauce
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, add butter & olive oil. Once melted, add garlic then sauté until light golden brown, about 30 seconds, being careful not to burn. Sprinkle in flour; whisk & sauté for 1 minute. Slowly pour in chicken broth and milk while whisking until mixture is smooth. Season with salt & pepper then switch to a wooden spoon & stir constantly until mixture is thick & bubbly, 4-5 minutes.
  2. Remove saucepan from heat & stir in mozzarella cheese, garlic powder & parsley flakes until smooth. Taste then adjust salt & pepper if necessary.
Topping
  1. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, add olive oil. Add breadcrumbs & cook, stirring until toasted & golden in color. Remove from heat & place in a small bowl; combine with parmesan cheese.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a 13 X 9-inch baking dish, spread a small amount of garlic sauce over the bottom. To filling mixture, add reserved bacon & enough garlic sauce to help the filling stick together.
  3. Divide filling between the 16 cooked pasta shells & place in baking dish. Top with any remaining garlic sauce then sprinkle topping over all.
  4. Bake for about 30 minutes making sure not to overcook the salmon. Serve.

Salmon Lasagna

Lasagna is not a quickie weekday meal but as we (lasagna lovers) all know, it’s definitely worth the effort. There’s several elements involved: making the filling, the sauce, layering everything and cooking it all together.

Canned salmon is a nutritious option to have in your pantry staples. Being very versatile it can be paired with plenty of different ingredients to transform it into a variety of healthy meals. Whether you use red or pink is a personal choice but opt for responsibly sourced wild as opposed to farmed in any case.

I have given ‘meaty’ lasagna a seafood twist that’s just as delicious if you enjoy salmon.

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Salmon Lasagna
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword salmon lasagna
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Ingredients
Mushroom & Leek Filling
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword salmon lasagna
Servings
Ingredients
Mushroom & Leek Filling
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Instructions
Mushroom & Leek Filling
  1. In a saucepan, heat butter & saute mushrooms, leeks & garlic for 5-10 minutes, stirring over low heat until softened & moisture has evaporated. Add the salt.
Bechamel Sauce
  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan until it is foaming. Whisk in the flour to make the roux & cook for 2 minutes. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly until it is incorporated into the sauce. Bring the sauce to a low simmer & cook for 3-4 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in mustard, dill, lemon zest & (40 gm) grated Parmesan. Season with salt & pepper.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Evenly spread a small amount of sauce to the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Place a layer of 3 cooked lasagna noodles over the sauce then cover with a bit more sauce.
  3. Spread the salmon over the sauce & top with half of the shredded mozzarella. Top that with a bit more sauce & the next layer of 3 lasagna noodles. Spread the mushroom/leek filling on top then add the remaining shredded mozzarella.
  4. Top with a final layer of 3 lasagna noodles & cover with the remaining bechamel sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan/cheddar combo.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing to serve.

Pork Tenderloin w/ Bulgur Apricot Stuffing

Just for a change of pace, I decided to make a nutty tasting bulgur wheat stuffing instead of the traditional bread version for our tenderloin today.

Bulgur is more than just something to make tabbouleh with. Its nutty taste and hearty texture work in so many dishes or you can just use it as a substitute for other grains like brown rice, couscous or quinoa.

This kind of wheat should not be confused with its less-tricky-to-harvest cousin, cracked wheat. While they are similar, cracked wheat is completely raw while bulgur is pre-cooked and has a much shorter prep time.

For me, if the recipe involves grain, I’m in! I guess you can take the farmer’s daughter off the farm but you can never take away her love for food with grain in it.

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Pork Tenderloin w/ Bulgur Apricot Stuffing
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Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, place bulgur & vegetable broth. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium low & simmer until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Add chopped apricots during the last 5 minutes. Remove from heat & drain any excess liquid. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together egg & spices. Add almonds, scallions & reserved bulgur & apricots; mix to combine.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  4. Butterfly pork tenderloin & pound with a meat mallet to an even thickness. Place on an oiled piece of foil paper on a baking sheet. Cover one half of the tenderloin with stuffing; press to flatten a bit. Fold other half of tenderloin over top stuffing. Secure with kitchen twine to keep stuffing from falling out during roasting.
  5. Brush with olive oil & season with salt & pepper. Roast about 45 minutes or until tenderloin has a slight pink color remaining. Remove from oven & allow to sit for a few minutes before untying & slicing.
  6. For the blog picture, I opened our whole tenderloin before slicing to show how nice this filling is. These flavors are so good!

Roasted Garlic Chicken w/ Asiago Gravy

Tender, juicy roasted chicken leg quarters are easy to prepare and delicious. The leg quarter is made up of the thigh, drumstick and part of the back of the chicken. It’s named a quarter because it consists of about a quarter of the whole bird. The dark meat takes well to roasting and yields moist and flavorful chicken.

Asiago has long been a favorite cheese of Brion & I. It is a brilliant cheese to bake into bread for a cheesy treat or grate over soft pretzels before baking. It also works particularly well with chicken dishes.

Asiago is a whole milk cheese that originated in Northern Italy, around the Po River Valley where Italy borders Austria. Coming from the mountains, Asiago is similar to other mountain cheeses, such as Switzerland’s Gruyere or France’s Beaufort. Asiago is made in large wheels designed for long-term aging to get through tough winters. Dense and flavorful, Asiago’s flavor profile changes as time polishes the wheels over the course of several months or years. Taken from the milk of cows grazing on the grasses and wildflowers of the mountains, Asiago can have a fresh, fruity flavor or a savory, zesty taste on the palate.

This is a very simple recipe but has an amazing flavor and is well worth trying, especially if your an Asiago lover.

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Roasted Garlic Chicken w/ Asiago Gravy
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Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, fry bacon, blot on paper towel & set aside. Add the seasoned chicken & brown, about 3-5 minutes per side. Set aside.
  2. Add onion, mushrooms & garlic to saucepan; sauté until tender crisp & lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle in the thyme & flour; cook for a minute.
  4. Add the broth & deglaze the pan by scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan with a spoon while the broth is sizzling.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 F. Mix asiago cheese into the sauce & season with salt & pepper to taste.
  6. Add the chicken, cover with a lid or foil & roast for 15 minutes. Alternately, you can turn heat down to a medium-low & simmer on top the stove for 15 minutes.
  7. Add crumbled bacon to sauce after roasting. Serve.

Leeks Cordon Bleu

As my love affair with leeks continues, I just can’t imagine what took me so long to try them. It’s amazing how many ways there are to use these giant ‘onions’.

The ‘cordon bleu’ idea has been around forever and generally it features a specific cut of meat stuffed with ham and cheese. In this recipe, the leeks are wrapped in Swiss cheese & Canadian bacon, then baked in a béchamel sauce and served over steamed rice.

Though ham and Canadian bacon look and taste remarkably similar, they’re not the same thing. Ham comes from the back legs, specifically the thighs and rear end, while Canadian bacon comes from the center of the pig’s back otherwise known as the eye of the pork loin.

There are a few names for Canadian bacon which include back bacon and pea meal bacon. During the early part of the last century, yellow peas were ground up and used to coat and cure pork loin. This became known as pea meal bacon. Once cornmeal became more readily available, it was swapped out for the pea meal.

Probably the bacon most people are familiar with is American bacon, which comes from the belly of the pig and tends to be much fattier …. hence the name ‘streaky bacon’.

I have to be honest, I’ve never been a bacon lover (which probably stems back to my Dad’s home cured version !!) but I did find this meal light and tasty.

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Leeks Cordon Bleu
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
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SERVINGS
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Instructions
  1. Remove roots, outer leaves & tops from leeks; leave 6-inches of each leek. Cut each in half crosswise. Steam, covered 8 minutes or until tender. Wrap each leek half in 1 piece of cheese & top with 4 pieces of Canadian bacon. Place leeks in an 8-inch square baking dish.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 F.
  3. Place flour in a small saucepan; add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Stir in broth. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook 6 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly with a whisk. Reduce heat & season with salt & pepper. Pour sauce over leeks & sprinkle with panko crumbs.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Serve over steamed rice.