I awoke last night to the sound of rain pummeling the roof. It was a welcome sound as we south shore Nova Scotians in Shelburne County have been experiencing drought conditions recently. It’s still raining, mid-morning as I write. Some folks in town have been without water since the end of June. Glenn and I are lucky to still have water in our well, but it is getting low.
We’ve been invited out for a Thanksgiving potluck dinner this evening and my plans to make a large Grilled Veggie Salad have been foiled by current weather conditions. It’s most definitely not a day for firing up the BBQ. So I’ve been thumbing through my ragged old notebook (filled with recipes and clippings collected over time) trying to decide what to make for Georg and Harry’s gathering.
I’ve finally decided on a recipe given to me at least 25 years ago by a dear friend from my Yukon days, Heather Alton. Perhaps this recipe, Buns for Fifty, was passed along from grandmother, to mom, to daughter … or; maybe it originally came out of an old, self-published church cookbook. It kind of has that feel to it.
- 6 C lukewarm water
- 1 T sugar
- 4 T baking yeast
- ½ C white sugar
- 1 C softened butter
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 2 tsp salt
- 6 C unbleached white flour
- 4 – 6 additional cups of unbleached white flour
- Dissolve 1 T of sugar in the lukewarm water and sprinkle in the yeast. Set aside for a few minutes until the yeast gets soft and bubbly.
- Combine the soft butter and ½ C of white sugar and beat, using a hand mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time while continuing to beat using the mixer on a low setting. Pour in the yeast/water mixture and add 6 cups of flour, one cup at a time, while continuing to mix.
- Add the remaining flour, one cup at a time mixing by hand until the dough becomes too stiff to stir. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface sprinkled with flour and knead for 15 – 20 minutes, adding flour as needed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Oil a large bread bowl and place the dough inside the bowl, rolling it around until it is lightly coated with the oil. Cover with a clean tea towel and place in a warm draft-free place to rise, until double in bulk (about 1 ½ hrs). I place my bread bowl in the oven with the internal oven light turned on. The heat from the light bulb makes the oven a perfect warm and draft-free spot for rising bread dough.
- Punch down the dough and divide it into 6 equal portions. Roll each portion out into a rope about 3 inches thick. Cut each rope into 10 equal sized chunks and form these chunks of dough into round, bun shaped balls. Line cookie pans or round cake pans with parchment paper and place dough balls on the pans so they are close but not touching. Brush the tops of the buns with melted butter and let rise for 25 minutes.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 F and bake the buns on the middle rack of the oven for 15 minutes or until a nice golden brown on top.
Yield: 60 dinner sized pan buns
If your oven space is at a premium while preparing your thanksgiving feast, why not employ your BBQ? This recipe for grilled veggie salad can be made quickly and bonus … you can prepare it in advance. In fact the whole thing tastes better when it has had the opportunity to marinate in the fridge for half a day. So, throw the veggies on the BBQ right after you get the turkey in the oven or even before!
I am providing a list of ingredients for the salad I made but really; just use what you have on hand. The amounts you use will depend on how many people are joining you for the giving of thanks.
The recipe that follows will make a nice side-dish for six.
ingredients for the salad …
- 1 ear of corn, shucked
- 1 medium sized zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
- 1 purple onion, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
- 3 plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
- 1 red pepper, seeded & cut into thirds
- 1 yellow pepper, seeded & cut into thirds
- 12 spears of asparagus, woody part of stems removed
- 1 head of romaine lettuce, cut in half, washed and patted dry
- 1/3 C olive oil
ingredients for the vinaigrette …
- 1 T Dijon mustard
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or pushed through a press
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
- salt & pepper to taste
- ½ C oil
- Pre-heat your BBQ to medium-high for about 15 minutes with the lid down while you prep your vegetables.
- Place all the veggies, except the romaine lettuce in a large bowl and drizzle the olive oil (hold 1 T of the oil in reserve) over-top. Gently toss the vegetables so they all get evenly coated with the oil.
- Lift the lid of the BBQ and spread the veggies around on the lower grill rack. Using long-handled tongs, flip them over and move them around so all sides of each vegetable gets cooked evenly. Some vegetables will grill faster than others so keep a close eye on them all, removing each from the heat when done.
- Brush the romaine halves with the reserved oil and place, flat side down on the lower rack of the BBQ. Grill for a few minutes until nicely charred. Remove and set aside to cool with the other vegetables.
- When cool enough to handle slice the grilled corn kernels from the cob and place them in a bowl large enough to handle all of the salad ingredients. Cut the remaining veggies into chunks, except the romaine, and transfer to the same bowl.
- To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the Dijon mustard, minced garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Trickle the oil into these ingredients in a slow, steady stream while continuing to vigorously whisk it altogether. This action works to emulsify the oil into the rest of the ingredients, creating perfectly blended vinaigrette.
- Use half of the vinaigrette on this salad, reserving the rest for another day.
- Cover and refigerate until feasting time.
- Cut the charred romaine into chunks and toss into the salad right before serving.
In days gone by I used a mock mincemeat recipe from a really old version of The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, but sadly this book has gone missing from my bookshelf. I have a newer edition of the book but I think the recipe in this one has been altered from the original.
So, here’s my current version of Vegetarian Mincemeat. It combines what I can remember from that original recipe with the spices I have available in my pantry. Plus, I have also factored in the amount of green tomatoes and apples I have on hand. The butter in this recipe replaces the suet used in traditional mincemeat.
Once again I have to give kudos to my good friend Pat who allowed me to pick green tomatoes from her garden. She also supplied lovely Gravenstein apples from the Annapolis valley. I used quite a few of the green cherry tomatoes that don’t have a hope of turning red before the killing frosts set in. I found these little green orbs to contain more moisture than their larger cousins so I strained them (once chopped) before adding them to the big pot.
The end result: just under 5 pints of really tasty mock mincemeat.
- 6 C green tomatoes, very small dice
- 6 C tart apples, very small dice
- 3 C raisins
- 2 C apple cider vinegar
- 4 C dark brown sugar
- 2 ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp finely grated whole nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 ½ tsp allspice
- ¼ – ½ tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp kosher salt flakes
- 2/3 C butter
- Prepare the green tomatoes and apples. It takes quite a while to dice these ingredients by hand so feel free to use a food processor. Just make sure to work in small batches and use the pulse action. The apples and tomatoes can easily go from being pulsed into an ideal small dice to unusable mush in the blink of an eye. Drain the tomatoes after they have been diced if necessary.
- Put everything except the butter into a large pot and bring to the boiling point slowly, stirring occasionally. Note: I’ve used the smaller amount of ground cloves as I find it can be a strong and overpowering spice. Let your taste buds be your guide!
- Adjust the heat so the mixture continues to simmer. Continue to stir now and then over the course of approximately 3 hours. The apples take a while to cook. The mincemeat is done when the apples are no longer white. The mixture will be slightly chunky and a dark golden brown when ready to come off the heat (see picture above).
- If you need to keep the mincemeat until Christmas have your pint jars and lids sterilized and ready for canning. Process the filled jars according to your canners instructions.
Last year there was a bountiful harvest from the wild apple trees surrounding our home but this year there aren’t as many apples for easy picking. However, it seems the rose bushes are yielding plenty of ripe red rosehips so I’ve paired these tart little wonders with the apples I can easily reach for a small batch of vitamin c rich jelly.
I used approximately 5 cups of apple chunks (stems removed but skin and cores with seeds included) and 3 ½ cups of rosehips (stems removed and bottom parts cut off). You can vary the amounts of chopped apple and rosehip for this first part of the recipe. Just make sure to use more apples than rosehips as the pectin from the chopped apples is what actually causes the jelly to set up. You won’t be adding any extra pectin to this recipe for jelly.
I like to start the jelly making process in the early evening. This allows the juice used for the jelly time to drip out of the prepared fruit overnight.
Preparation Part One
- The rosehips take longer to break down so start the jelly making process by placing them in a stainless steel or enameled pot and add enough water to just cover the fruit. Bring to a boil and adjust the heat so the mixture stays at a slow boil for about 30 minutes or until the rosehips become soft and their skins break open. You may have to add extra boiling water from the kettle during this process.
- Add the apple chunks and more boiling water to just cover the fruit and continue to boil for 20 more minutes. Remove from the heat and lightly mash up the soft apple chunks and rosehips.
- Pour into a sterilized muslin jelly bag and suspend over a glass or stainless steel bowl. Refrain from squeezing the bag if you want your jelly to be clear and not cloudy. Allow the juices to drip out slowly overnight. Alternatively, you can also line a large enameled colander with several layers of clean cheesecloth and place the boiled and mashed fruit inside. The colander can then be placed over a stainless steel or glass bowl and left overnight so the juices can drain out slowly.
Preparation Part Two
- Measurements must be more exact for this part of the process. Measure the juice that has gathered overnight. Use one cup of sugar for every cup of juice. The amounts of fruit I used garnered 3 cups of juice so I used 3 cups of sugar to make my small batch of jelly.
- Place sugar and juice in a stainless steel pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Adjust the heat under the pot to keep the liquid at a rolling boil. This mixture must reach 220 F which is the gelling point. The best way to know when your jelly should come off the heat is to use a thermometer. If you don’t have one you can always use the old fashioned method of placing a small amount of liquid on a cold plate. Place in the refrigerator for a few moments then drag your finger through the liquid. If the trough created holds its shape then it’s time to take the jelly off the heat.
Note: The amounts of fruit cited above took 20 minutes to reach 220 F. If you are making a larger batch the boiling time will be longer. I ended up with 3 ½ small jars of jelly. Each jar holds about 1 cup of jelly.
- Pour jelly liquid into sterilized jars leaving ¼” space at the top of the jars. Screw on the sterilized lids and seal by placing in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (at sea level). Add one minute for every 1000 feet above sea level.
Here’s an easy variation of my Quick Banana Bread Loaf recipe. Simply add 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips and spoon the batter into a muffin tin lined with paper cups. The yield from this recipe will be 10 large sized muffins. These moist muffins freeze well and make a great snack or lunch-box addition.
When you are in a hurry this recipe for barbequed Korean style ribs will fit the bill. Whip up the marinade a day in advance, cover the ribs with the mixture and refrigerate overnight. All you have to do at meal-time is fire up the barbie to medium high and grill these babies for 3 or 4 minutes per side. Serve with a side salad and some steamed rice for a yummy and satisfying meal.
- ¾ C soy sauce
- ¼ C Mirin ( Japanese rice wine) or sweet Sherry
- ¼ C rice wine vinegar
- 1/3 C brown sugar, packed
- 1 tsp Asian sesame oil
- 2 T minced garlic
- 2 tsp, minced ginger
- ½ tsp cumin
- 3 – 3 ½ lbs Korean style short ribs, 1/3” thick (16 pieces)
- 2 scallions, cut diagonally for garnish
- Make the marinade by mixing together the soy sauce, Mirin, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger. Place the ribs in a re-sealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over the ribs. Seal and refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours but preferably overnight. Flip the bag over periodically.
- Pre-heat the BBQ to medium high. Remove the ribs from re-sealable bag and discard the left-over marinade. Place ribs on the BBQ over direct heat and grill for 3 – 4 minutes on each side. Watch them closely and don’t overcook or they will be chewy instead of tender.
- Serve garnished with scallion slices.
Don’t send those black bananas to the compost bin! You can whip this recipe up in one bowl. It tastes great, stays fresh for quite awhile and around our home it’s a family favourite.
- 3 very ripe bananas
- 1 egg
- 1 C brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/3 C melted butter
- 1 1/2 C unbleached white flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Place peeled bananas in a large bowl and, using a fork, mash the bananas into a pulp.
- Crack the egg into the bowl and beat it into the banana pulp. Add the vanilla, melted butter and brown sugar. Mix well.
- Sprinkle the flour, baking soda and salt into the banana mixture and continue to mix until everything is well incorporated.
- Spray a loaf pan with cooking oil and spoon the batter into the pan, spreading it around evenly.
- Place the pan on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Let the loaf rest in the pan for 5 minutes before removing and placing on a rack to cool.
As you know, I’ve recently been thumbing my way through, Jerusalem, a cookbook by Yotam Ottalenghi and Sami Tamimi. Today I am sharing a slightly tweaked version of a traditional Arabic casserole. Maqluba means “Upside-down” and that’s exactly how this savoury chicken and veggie casserole is presented. Once cooked, the pot, layered with tasty food is flipped over and if luck is with you, the casserole drops out in one piece onto the awaiting platter. Last night luck was with us and, posted here you see the results.
Traditionally the veggies are fried before being layered into the casserole dish but I roasted mine instead. This way, less oil was used and the vegetable flavours were deepened and intensified during the roasting process.
Now, the list of ingredients might seem long and daunting but really, most of what you see below is various spices. They add distinctive flavours to this upside-down casserole making it hard to resist.
- 1 medium sized eggplant, cut into 1/2 ” slices
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 large onion, cut into quarters lengthwise
- ½ medium sized cauliflower, cut into florets
- ¼ C olive oil
- 1 tsp oregano
- ¼ tsp kosher salt & grinding of pepper
- 1 C basmati rice
- 8 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs
- ¼ C cooking oil
- 1 ½ C chicken broth (or water)
- 1 small onion, cut into quarter sections
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp black pepper
- Lay the eggplant pieces out flat on a piece of paper towel. Lightly sprinkle both sides with salt. Leave for 15 – 20 minutes. Beads of moisture will appear on the eggplant surface during this time. Pat the slices dry.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
- Coat the eggplant, cherry tomatoes, onion quarters, and cauliflower with the olive oil and sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper. Spread the veggies out on one or two baking pans lined with parchment paper and place on the middle rack of the pre-heated oven. Roast the vegetables for about 40 minutes removing individual veggie slices/pieces as they are done.
- Cover the rice with water and leave it to soak for at least ½ hr.
- While the rice is soaking and vegetables are roasting, heat the 2 T of cooking oil in a large heavy pan with a tight fitting lid. Brown the chicken thighs on both sides. Add the broth or water to the pan, along with the onion halves, bay leaf and peppercorns. Bring to a boil then lower the heat so the broth is just simmering. Cover with lid and braise for 20 minutes. Remove chicken using a slotted spoon and strain the chicken broth. Set both chicken pieces and broth aside for later use.
- Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the casserole pot you will use to assemble the Maqluba. Select a pot that has a tight fitting lid and doesn’t slope inward from bottom to top. The sides should be straight up and down with the top opening of the pot being the same size as the bottom of the pot (see what I used pictured below). Spray the sides of the pot with cooking oil.
- Now it’s time to layer the casserole. First place the roasted cherry tomatoes on the bottom followed by the roasted slices of eggplant. The chicken thighs come next followed by the roast onion sections and cauliflower florets. Strain the soaked rice and distribute it evenly across the top layer of the casserole. Press everything down firmly.
- Add the remaining spices (turmeric, cumin, smoked paprika, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and black pepper) to the reserved chicken broth and stir. Slowly pour enough of the chicken broth mixture over the last casserole layer to completely cover the rice. Cover the pot with its lid.
- Place the covered pot on the middle rack of the 350 F oven. Bake for one hour. Leave it for a bit longer if there is liquid that still needs to absorb and reduce. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before flipping onto platter. Good luck but don’t worry; the Maqluba tastes great even if it’s not in one piece when served.
Garnish with lightly browned pine nuts if desired.
Ham & Cheese Strata photo by: Janet Moore
Glenn and I are hosting a Boxing Day brunch tomorrow morning and I’ll be assembling this ham and cheese strata before tucking in tonight. It will come right out of the fridge and pop into the pre-heated oven a half hour before we plan to eat. This recipe serves six but can easily be scaled up or down to suit the number at your table. It might sound odd, but I use Sweet Thai Chili sauce in the strata for added zing! Give it a try – you’ll find it adds a unique flavour to a tried and true brunch favourite.
- 2 T butter
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 6 stale croissants cubed
- 3 C of shredded old cheddar cheese (225 gm)
- 2 C of baked ham cubed
- 3 oz of cream cheese cut into small chunks
- 12 eggs
- 1½ C milk
- ½ C Sweet Thai Chili Sauce
- 1 T Dijon mustard
- 1½ tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
- ¼ tsp salt (omit if ham is salty)
- Grinding of pepper
Pre-heat oven to 350 F
- Sauté onions in melted butter until softened and beginning to brown – remove from heat and cool slightly.
- Spray large casserole or individual ramekins with cooking oil
- Place half of the cubed croissants into a large casserole dish or 6 individual ramekins. Add half of the ham, sprinkle on half of the sautéed onions, ½ of the cream cheese chunks and half of the grated cheddar cheese. Repeat this layering process ending with the rest of the grated cheddar cheese.
- Wisk the eggs, milk, Sweet Thai Chili sauce, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, thyme, salt and a grinding of pepper together in a large measuring cup.
- Pour the egg mixture over the casserole (or spread evenly amongst the ramekins) and cover with plastic wrap. The strata(s) can now be refrigerated overnight.
- In the morning pre-heat the oven to 350F and place the strata on the middle rack once the oven is hot.
- Bake for 30 minutes (20 – 25 minutes for individual ramekins).
To test for doneness insert a metal skewer into the centre of the strata. If it comes out clean the strata is ready to serve.
You don’t have to be following a gluten-free diet to love these crackers. They are a staple in my home and are often requested when I am invited out to dinner.
- 1 cup almond meal (also known as almond flour)
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 3 T poppy seeds
- 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 egg white
- 1 T softened butter
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
- Mix together the almond meal, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt and poppy seeds
- Add the egg white, Dijon mustard and soft butter to the dry ingredients mixing everything together using a flat spatula
- Place small mounds, about 1 tsp each, of the mixture onto two small parchment lined cookie sheets
- Flatten each mound by placing a small piece of parchment paper that has been sprayed with cooking oil over top the mound
- Press down on the mound with a flat-bottomed glass to create a flat round cracker-sized disc
- Repeat with each mound until all the mixture has been used
- Place cookie sheets on the middle rack of the pre-heated oven and bake for 8 minutes until the crackers begin to brown around their outer edge
- Cool on a wire rack and store in an air-tight container