Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

Christmas Appetizers-Manitoba Chicken

December22

The first real dump of snow came down the day and evening that a number of bloggers and Manitoba Chicken Fans were to be assembling to batch cook some Christmas appetizers. In spite of the slippery roads and traffic congestion, the turn out was great.

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We gathered at the Kitchen Sync, the cooking studio that I have raved about previously in this space.

On this evening, we were being coached by Chef Brent Barna of Pine Ridge Hollow fame. He had been the guest Chef at another Manitoba Chicken occasion that I had the pleasure of attending.

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Our family loves appetizer recipes, whether they be a nibble with a cocktail before our mandatory Sunday dinners or as one of many small plates that pass for dinner. I have often thought that an appetizer exchange held in the same manner as you might participate in a Christmas baking exchange would be such a good idea. I even started to get an exchange going last Christmas season, to no avail.

This evening was the closest thing.

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First up were Blue Moon Chicken Bites where we mixed up ground chicken, spices, panko flakes and did not use any egg. The resulting texture was firm and surprising. When they came out of the oven, we tossed them in a sauce of hot sauce mixed with Blue cheese dressing and crumbled Blue cheese.

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Here is the recipe for Chicken Tartlettes with Cranberry Salsa (that recipe is below) elevated them from delicious to sensational!

Cranberry Salsa
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Canadian
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
The salsa topped chicken tartlets but was SO good, I would eat with on every chicken dish.
Ingredients
  • ½ c fresh or frozen cranberries
  • ¼ c sugar
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • ¼ c chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 t coarsely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 lime, juice and zest
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced
Instructions
  1. Combine all salsa ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Pulse on/off until the mixture is chopped (not pureed).
  3. Cover and chill at least 2 hours.

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Then I discovered that the salsa made everything taste wonderful, including our next recipe – Tropical Chicken Taquitos.

The evening was warm with our efforts, the opening and closing of the oven doors and the friendship that the blogging community shares.

Kath’s quote: “Cranberries: “The Indians and English use them much, boyling them with Sugar for Sauce to eat with their Meat, and it is a delicious sauce.”-John Josselyn, while visiting New England in 1663

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Love, that is all.

 

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Happy Birthday to Me!

June3

In our family birthdays are a big deal and it is not because of the lavish gifts that we bestow upon each other.  I think that it is because of the care that goes into the celebration.  Take this weekend for example.  My birthday fell on a Friday which typically means that I have a longer break from my computer on some sunny patio with friends.  This year though we spent 2/3rds of the day on the road.  First driving in from Regina and then after a quick turn around right out to our beach house for the weekend.  Besides a salad that I ate in the car and a bowl of chicken soup that we shared with our grandbaby, there was not a lot of focus on food or merry-making.  But on Sunday afternoon, D scooted into the city early so he could start with supper preparations.

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He didn’t have any trouble knowing what meat would be the main, just how to prepare the pork chops that he knows that I love.

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In addition there were savoury grilled potatoes;

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my favourite grilled eggplant

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and also grilled zucchini and onions.

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Sister #3 contributed the salad and everyone loved it so much, that I am sharing the recipe here.

Birthday Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Originally titled Winter Salad.
Ingredients
  • Dressing:
  • ½ c sugar
  • ⅓ c lemon juice
  • 2 t grated onion
  • 1 Dijon mustard
  • ½ t salt
  • ⅔ c canola oil
  • 1 T poppy seeds
  • Salad:
  • 1-2 heads romaine lettuce, torn
  • 4 oz. cubed Swiss cheese or other
  • 1 c cashews
  • ¼ c cranberries
  • 1 apple, cubed
  • 1 unpeeled pear, cubed
Instructions
  1. Mix dressing with a whisk. Makes lots. Use about half.
  2. Combine salad ingredients and toss with dressing.

All the food was lovingly prepared and The Frenchman picked up a banana log Jeanne’s cake which is my absolute favourite.  But the highlights of the weekend were the following:

  • Last year I was in Philadelphia for my birthday and although I love to travel to and dine out in various cities, my favourite spot at the end of May is the lake.  The smells of the forest, the surprising warmth of the beach, the new growth everywhere-I can’t get enough.  We live very simply at the beach house and it was only a year ago that we got an indoor biffy.  What a lovely treat when you are all sleepy and cozy from watching movies and drinking wine, to know that you don’t have to make the trek outside one last time before bed.
  • We got to take the Wee One as both J1 and J2 had commitments.  We were thrilled with how easily she just slipped into “lake” mode with us.  In the mornings when D an J1 are off playing tennis and J2 is catching up on some sleep, I walk with the Wee One for her hour nap.  She has this lovely chariot stroller that can be pushed on wet sand and so both mornings, we spent the time on the beach; she singing to herself and watching the birds and the water until she fell asleep and me just basking in the warmth and so happy that spring and the promise of summer had come again to the Canadian prairies.

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  • As is our tradition at a birthday dinner, everyone took a turn sharing what they loved about the birthday girl (me).  This is the most precious gift of all, not only because it is lovely to be in the spotlight every once in a while but because of the beautiful words that my family blessed me with.  Not only was our Mom and Sister #3 there to celebrate with us but Daughter #2 skyped in from Colombia where she is away studying.  Although we felt funny eating in front of her, she visited with us throughout our entire dinner!  I love technology when it brings people together.

In our home, we find something to celebrate most days or at the very least most weekends BUT birthdays are a special opportunity to give and receive love.  Make the most of every opportunity as birthdays also remind us that our days are finite.

Kath’s quote: “That outdoor grilling is a manly pursuit has long been beyond question. If this wasn’t firmly understood, you’d never get grown men to put on those aprons with pictures of dancing wienies and things on the front and messages like ‘Come ‘n’ Get It'”.-William Geist

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Love-that is all.

 

 

Bacon Wrapped Queso Fresca Stuffed Figs

August29

I was reading through a blog post from last week and realized that I had not posted a recipe which I had promised.  This turned out to be one of the hits at the recent baby shower that Daughter #2 hosted for the Wee One.

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I find it mighty hard to leave all this behind.

Truth is, the appetizer was a bit of a fluke.  I wanted to do some of my prep while out at the beach house to lessen my responsibilities once I got into town.  So I  snooped around the freezer and found a pound of bacon.  I discovered that I still had some California figs left when the producers graciously sent them to me.  I tried a ricotta at first with no success-too mild and impossible to stuff without a pastry bag so I rattled around a little more in the fridge and found this deliciously salty cheese that I was going to brown in a fry pan and serve with taco chips.  Best of all, it was firm enough to be cut into little sticks and then pressed into the fig with ease.

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Bacon Wrapped Queso Fesca Stuffed Figs
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Fusion
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 package of bacon, cut each strip in half
  • count the number above
  • match that number with the same number of figs
  • match that number with the same number of cheese sticks
Instructions
  1. cut off the stem end of the fig
  2. use your paring knife to gently make a tunnel into the fig, making sure that you do not break through the other end
  3. gently ease the cheese stick into the fig
  4. wrap with one half strip of bacon and secure with a toothpick
  5. line a 8 x 8 square cake pan with parchment paper
  6. place the figs close together in the pan so that they will support each other making sure that the closed end is next to the pan
  7. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until the bacon has crisped up to your desired likeness

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So quick, easy and SO delicious.

Kath’s quote: “Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.”-Doug Larson

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Love-that is all.

Amazing Appetizers Culinary Challenge-My Secret Ingredient: Califoria Raisins

May7

Hello readers!  Ready to root me on in a cooking contest?  Part of the fun for the upcoming “Eat, Write, Retreat” conference that I will be attending in Philadelphia later this month, is a Culinary Challenge.

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When my contest package was delivered, I was thrilled with all of the OXO gadgets that it contained and quite frankly stumped, when I saw that my secret ingredient was …RAISINS! For an original appetizer challenge, good grief, what was I going to come up with?

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I had already imagined that I would be preparing an olive tapenade or figs wrapped in a smoky bacon or something with potatoes.  Why didn’t I get potatoes?  I’ve not been dubbed the “Queen of Carbs” for nothing!

Don’t get me wrong, I love raisins.  In my cereal, cookies, rice pudding and even salads they are an integral addition, but an appetizer?  Up until that moment, the only appetizer dish with raisins as an ingredient that I have had the pleasure to enjoy, married them with baked brie, pecans and brown sugar.  I still make this dish each Christmas, much to my family’s delight.  The sole experience I have had with raisins at dinner time, though, was in a regional dish served to us when visiting friends in Sicily.  While Concetta (Connie) was in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on our supper, her cousin called to inquire what was being made for the Canadian visitors.  When Connie explained, her cousin responded with “What, you are making them eat peasant food?”  Connie defended herself by saying:  “They requested Sicilian recipes, what was I to do?”

When you hear a recounting of Sicilian history and make note of exactly where the island dwells in the Mediterranean, it is not surprising that there are many Arab influences on the cuisine.  I think that both Connie’s recipe and my adaption of it hold true to this notion.

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Cauliflower & Raisin Strudel
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Sicilian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Ingredients
  • 1 head of cauliflower, broken into large florets
  • ¼ c canola oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ½ t red pepper flakes
  • zest and juice of an orange
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • ½ c golden raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
  • ¼ c natural raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
  • ⅔ c pine nuts
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 12 sheets phyllo dough, thawed in refrigerator overnight
  • ½ c canola oil
  • 1 c dry breadcrumbs
Instructions
  1. In a large pot of salted water, par-boil the cauliflower for 5 minutes.
  2. Drain and let sit in colander for a couple of minutes.
  3. Place a large skillet on high heat.
  4. Add the canola, garlic and red pepper flakes.
  5. Add the drained cauliflower and heat until well browned in spots.
  6. Don't be tempted to turn the cauliflower too often.
  7. Add the orange and lemon juices, orange zest and raisins and then turn off the heat.
  8. Adjust with salt and pepper.
  9. On a clean counter, lay out the phyllo dough and cover it with a barely damp tea towel.
  10. Peel off one sheet and lay it on the counter surface.
  11. Replace the damp tea towel on the stack of phyllo.
  12. Brush the sheet with canola oil.
  13. Lightly sprinkle bread crumbs over oil.
  14. Continue with another five sheets, brushing each sheet with oil and sprinkling bread crumbs.
  15. End with a sixth sheet of phyllo.
  16. Arrange half the cauliflower mixture along the long side of the phyllo about 2 inches from the edge and the bottom and sides of the dough.
  17. Starting at the edge nearest the filling, carefully begin to roll the phyllo over the filling.
  18. Poke in the edges of the dough while rolling.
  19. Continue to roll so the dough completely encases the filling.
  20. Place the strudel, seam down on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
  21. Cut 12 diagonal slits along the top to allow steam to escape and for easy cutting when you serve.
  22. Brush the top with remaining canola.
  23. Repeat the procedure with for the second strudel.
  24. Bake for 40 minutes or until crisp and brown.
  25. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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I didn’t actually know the difference between natural and golden raisins (natural are brown and golden are well, just that) until I was putting together the ingredients for this appetizer.  This recipe, along with a healthy dose of your day’s veggies, contains 3 portions of fruit because it takes just 1/4 of a cup to provide a fruit serving.  This was new to me too!

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My readers know how important family is to me.  Many of the farms that produce most of the world’s supply of raisins are century old family farms where raisin knowledge is passed from generation to generation.  I would love to wander the rows and rows of grapevines and meet the growers of the San Joaquin Valley in California.  San Francisco has long been on our bucket list and is only a three hour drive away.  Now, I’m California dreaming……

Kath’s quote:  “Then Abigail hurried and took two hundred loaves of bread and two jugs of wine and five sheep already prepared and five measures of roasted grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs, and loaded them on donkeys.” 1 Samuel 25:18

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Love-that is all.