Pecan pie is a very indulgent treat, yes, it is sweet and, yes, pecans are expensive. This special pie reminds me of my childhood, I loved it. Pecan pie was my mother's favourite pie of all, she only ate the pecans. After baking with the filling, the pecans become so deeply nutty. I could understand why she would eat the entire topping. Everyone loves Pecan Pie. How do you pronounce Pecan? Puh-con or pee-Can? Homemade pecan pie is quick and easy to make and so delicious. I find it a go-to dessert for company. No one believes how easy it is to make. But everyone agrees how delicious pecan pie is and how hard it is to resist a second slice.
For the pie crust, many bakers swear by the Tenderflake lard recipe. I like to use a pure butter crust. If you follow me you know that I recommend having a few homemade pie crusts in the freezer, they do come in handy. Remember to date them.
For convenience, you can buy a pre-made crust. I have tried the Pillsbury brand and it is very good. You will find it in the refrigerator section of your grocery store. Make sure to check the best-before date on the package. I find that the frozen pie shells are often chipped and they break too easily. I add a tablespoon of lemon juice to the pie to cut the sweetness. Make sure to taste the pecans before using them to test for freshness. I use both roughly chopped and whole pecans as this gives the pie a more complex texture and flavour. Use only pure vanilla when you bake, it makes all the difference.
Farmhouse Pecan Pie
1 1/2 to 2 cups pecans, divided (3/4 whole pecans, 3/4 cup roughly chopped pecans)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup corn syrup
3/4 cup white sugar
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons Bourbon, Kahlua or Rum (optional)
1 (9- to 10-inch) unbaked pie shell
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Place the pie plate on a baking sheet covered with parchment or foil to catch any spills; set aside.
Place the 3/4 cup whole pecans on the bottom of the unbaked pie shell.
In a medium bowl, stir together eggs, corn syrup, sugar, the pinch of salt, melted butter, vanilla, lemon juice and liquor until well-blended.
Stir in roughly chopped pecans. Pour into shell and place on the prepared baking sheet and then into the preheated oven.
Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until center is set. Cool on a wire rack.
Serve with bourbon- or vanilla-laced whipped cream, or ice cream if desired. I do not add sugar to my whipped cream, this pie does not need any more sweetness.
The days are getting longer in Georgian Bay but there are plenty of snowy days ahead and this French Onion Soup is a delicious end to a busy day. This 1970s classic, made popular by Julia Child, deserves a comeback. At one point I am sure everybody had a set of onion soup dishes. Outside of the cheese, this is an economic meal.
This can be made in a slow cooker. You can use your food processor to slice the onions. Try and buy Vidalia – they are sweeter. You can make this ahead and refrigerate or freeze the soup. For best results use good quality baguette regular bread will disintegrate into the soup.
Chef Elizabeth’s Classic French Onion Soup
Servings: 4 servings | Difficulty: Easy
1/2 stick butter = 1/4 pound
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cups thinly sliced onions (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
8 cups beef stock or chicken stock – beef gives a richer flavour, divided and heated
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup cognac, or other good brandy (this adds flavour but it is optional)
1 cup dry white or red wine or vermouth
8 (1/2-inch) baguette cut into thick slices and toasted or cut into croutons and toasted
3/4 pound coarsely grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
Heat a heavy saucepan over moderate heat with the butter and oil. When the butter has melted, stir in the onions, cover, and cook slowly until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes.
Blend in the salt, pepper and sugar, increase the heat to medium high, and let the onions brown, stirring frequently until they are a dark walnut color, 25 to 30 minutes.
Sprinkle in the flour and cook slowly, stirring, for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool a moment, then whisk in 2 cups hot stock. Bring the soup to the simmer, adding the rest of the stock, cognac and wine. Add the bay leaves and sprigs of thyme.
Cover loosely, and simmer very slowly 1 1/2 hours, adding a little water if the liquid reduces too much. Taste for seasoning and remove the bay leaves and thyme leaves.
Divide the soup among 4 ovenproof bowls. Arrange toast on top of soup and sprinkle generously with grated cheese. NOTE: You can make the French Onion Soup up to this point and then refrigerate or freeze.
Place bowls on a cookie sheet and place under a preheated broiler until the cheese melts and forms a crust over the tops of the bowls. Serve immediately.
Wine suggestion: a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or Merlot
Recipe adapted from Julia Child's "The Way to Cook"
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Everyone looks for shortcuts in the kitchen especially during the weeknights. I suggest you pick up a package of broccoli slaw or even prepared coleslaw and have it as a staple in your kitchen. It is affordable, the work is done, and it is delicious.
When I'm busy on the farm, I like to have prepared broccoli and or carrot slaw in my fridge. I find that I reach for it all the time to add color, freshness, nutrition and crunch to my dishes.
There are two main ways to use Broccoli Slaw:
Make a Slaw: by that I mean dress and season it, and use it as you would any coleslaw – eat it as is or get creative and use it as a topping or filling.
Use it Raw: by that I mean no dressing – use broccoli slaw as a mixed vegetable to add flavour, color and crunch and, yes, nutrients. You can chop it or process it and use it as a nutritious filler for your meat or fish loaves.
Or try one of these suggestions:
- On top of grilled chicken, pork, beef
- As a “bed” for grilled chicken or seafood
- On top of burgers or hot dogs
- As a garnish for chili
- Use in fish or crab cakes
- On top of a lobster roll
- As a filling in po' boys
- Inside a submarine sandwich
- Inside a fish taco
- Add golden raisins or dried cranberries like Mom used to
- Add to rice or quinoa
- Mix with kale for a nutritious salad
- As a topping for pulled pork
- Inside a tortilla wrap
- Add it to soup
- Add it to or top a bowl of pho
- Inside salad rolls
- On top of any salad
- As a slaw to serve with salsa and tortilla chips
- As part of a stir fry
- Mix it with Asian noodles and dressing
- Chopped, it can be used in a veggie “burger”
- Chopped, it can be used inside meatloaf, burgers or meatballs
- Chopped, use it inside stuffed peppers or cabbage rolls
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The holidays are over, and we all have eaten lots of heavy food. A deep freeze has hit my area, and I am looking for ways to remind me of summer. I love avocado and I make guacamole all year round. It is so versatile, and on cold days, it is delicious on top of your favourite chili con carne or vegetarian chili for that matter.
You can also serve it alone as a dip as you find in restaurants. Guacamole is a quick and refreshing appetizer. It is a family favourite, and my girls always fight over the last bit of guacamole in the bowl.
The hardest part of this dish is getting the avocados at just the perfect point of ripeness. One hint is to buy them fairly firm and let them ripen for a few days. Most of the time I find if they are soft at the store, they are probably over-ripe. I always buy a few extra just in case one is rotten or one is under ripe. Why Roma tomatoes (also known as plum tomatoes)? Because they are less watery and have more flesh than seeds.
Check your jalapeno peppers to see how hot they are because the heat can vary wildly from pepper to pepper. Remember you can always add more heat, but you can't take it out. Also remember to carefully clean the cilantro, as it tends to be very dirty.
I prefer guacamole without garlic but feel free to add a minced clove or two if you like it that way. As a chef I have tried all sorts of ways to keep it green, and I have found it is hit and miss. I have added a bit of water to the top and one time it worked and the next time it didn't. If you cover the top of the dip with plastic wrap, it might stay green, no promises. Guacamole is best eaten the same day.
Suggested Ways To Use Guacamole:
There are lots of ways to serve guacamole … you can basically substitute it for mayonnaise.
Guacamole is traditionally served with Mexican dishes such as fajitas, tortillas or fish tacos. Guacamole is also fantastic on burgers, hotdogs or chicken breasts. Why not try it on toast with eggs, use guacamole as a sandwich or wrap spread, in a salad dressing, with fish or fish cakes, as a dip for shrimp or as part of your deviled egg filling? Guacamole makes a great topping for baked potatoes, soup or chilli.
Chef Elizabeth's Guacamole
4 ripe Haas avocados
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (2 to 3 limes)
1 finely chopped jalapeno pepper, taste a piece to see how hot it is
1/2 cup finely diced red onion (1 small onion)
1/2 cup washed and chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 medium Roma tomatoes diced
1. Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and, using a large spoon, scoop the flesh out of their shells into a large bowl.
2. Mash gently with a potato masher, whisk or a fork. Try to leave some larger pieces of avocado in the guacamole as it adds more texture.
3. Add the lime juice, jalapeno pepper, onion, cilantro, salt, and pepper and toss well. Add the tomatoes. Mix well and taste for salt, pepper or lime juice.
Serve with salsa and tortilla chips. This goes really well with a cold frosty drink such as ice cold lemonade or beer. An easy treat for Super Bowl 2015!
Today is January 3, 2015. It is the start of a new year and new kitchen adventures. This morning, as I was making coffee, I l started to empty the dishwasher and I discovered I had no room for glasses in my crowded cupboard. I decided to take action. I wanted to have time to get outside and snow shoe around the property! But I had a kitchen to start organizing.
After the holidays my kitchen is a disorganized mess, and it is time to organize. Kitchens tend to get cluttered and often you will find you have three or more of the same item. We all have busy lives and time is at a real premium. Being organized is your best friend; it is getting there that is all the work. I hate the "organized" word because it seems to me that the minute you purge, tidy, clean and organize it is all messy again.
Last night we were finishing up the last leftovers from the holidays. This morning I am facing a dozen Christmas coffee mugs, a huge amount of plastic containers and a series of platters and baking dishes that are impossible to stuff into my drawers. I came up with a list of things to do to get my kitchen back on track so that things are where they need to be, and I can find them when I am cooking or baking.
In the French restaurant tradition, we have a term called “mise en place,” which roughly translates as “everything in its place.” This is done so that when service starts everything is close at hand. I have found that “mise en place” gives you the freedom to be creative because you are not running around looking for things. This means not just your food but also your equipment. Make sure you have a knife block and canister holding your most used utensils close by as you prep and cook. This makes cooking much easier.
Many people have told me they hate to bake because it means too much time trying to locate items in their pantry. Organizing is a way of taking inventory to see what you have, what you have too much of, or what you may need. Before you know it your counters are filled with appliances and your drawers are stuffed with all sorts of good-for-one-job gadgets. You may be surprised at how few kitchen utensils you really need.
As a professional vhef, I have a large and busy kitchen; all the drawers are packed and I have stacking plastic containers to hold baking tools I have collected for decades. I refuse to give them up. However this Christmas, I decided I needed more space. I went through the entire collection of small appliances that I never use – ice crushers, juicers, can openers and salad spinners. I placed them in a plastic tub and told my daughters to go through them and the rest will go to a second-hand store.
Try to find the time to do one chore; it is overwhelming to try and tackle all the jobs
Here Are A Few Suggestions on Organizing Your Pantry and Kitchen
Keep a kitchen journal: As you know, I always suggest keeping a kitchen journal – it's a practice I began decades ago as a professional chef. Keep notes about what you need, what needs to get done, your menu planning and a log of meals cooked. It will become a handy reference and a keepsake.
Label, label, label: I have a sharpie and labels at the ready. Label your dry goods, your fridge goods, and especially label and date your freezer goods. Freezer food all starts to look the same after a while. In professional kitchens, we are required to label and date all food. It makes sense for health and safety, for food cost control and for eliminating waste.
Consider purchasing a vacuum sealer: I recently purchased a vacuum sealer to extend the life of food and to control costs. Vacuum sealers have one disadvantage: The sealer takes up quite a bit of shelf or counter top space. I think it is well worth having one.
Purge your cupboards of mismatched plastic containers. Try to buy one brand that stacks together; it will save you from cleaning up the avalanche that tumbles out of your cupboards.
Purge your table ware – dishes, mugs, glasses, linens – your food wrap and don’t forget your utensil container. It will save you time; there is nothing I hate more than trying to find places for things. Place your most used items in a spot that is easy to reach.
Purge your pots and pans, they take up so much space. I recently won a pair of Eaziestore stacking stock pots and I love them. Pots and pans are a huge space waste, so buy just a few good quality multi-purpose pots and pans.
Clean out your freezer and fridge: Discard expired food; you might be surprised what you find!
Clean your appliances and clean behind them, and, yes, vacuum or dust the coils.
Sort through your wine or liquor cabinet and decide what you will never use – you can use bits of leftover wine for cooking. I have tried making vinegar so many times and it never worked out. If you have odd bits of alcohol taking up space, considering making vanilla. It is simple: Add a vanilla bean or two to pure alcohol and let steep. Or use up some of the liqueurs when you are baking.
Clean out under your sink and figure out what cleaning products you have. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher.
Sort through your pantry and group things together as they are used, such as baking items or oil and vinegar. Try to keep spices at eye level in alphabetical order; I know it is tough.
Purge your pantry: Check for expiration dates and donate what you don't want or need to a food bank.
Be brave and clean out your “EVERYTHING junk drawer.” Empty it all out into a large container and only put back things you regularly use. If you can't decide, put things into a zip-lock bag, label it and put it away until you are ready to sort thorough it. I find myself doing that on a regular basis when I can't find a single thing. Buy a drawer organizer and use it. Throw out all the odd pieces of junk you have collected. You will never use the twist ties or corks.
Purchase: Every kitchen is unique and some have more room than others. The smaller the kitchen the greater the need to be streamlined and organized. Consider purchasing some of these organizing tools to make you life easier: Drawer separators, lid racks, unde-the-sink organizers, pot racks, a dish towel rack, a magnetic knife holder, lazy Susans. There are stores that specialize in these organizing tools. Good old Ikea sells quite a few. Just remember to consider if you have the space before purchasing.
I hope this helps you start your 2015 Kitchen Journey.
I have just finished preparing a four-day feast for my family, and now the farmhouse kitchen is somewhat tidy. I still have tins of shortbread cookies and five types of cakes strategically placed and easy to reach. I wanted to write a few kitchen resolutions for 2015. As someone who spends most of her time in the kitchen, I'd like to share some of my resolutions. My goal for 2015 is to continue sharing my passion and knowledge. I want to give back. My dream of starting a community kitchen and studio was dashed by fraud; however, I will continue to work towards that dream.
You may have your own resolution – please share them with me. I love connecting with people through food.
Waste less food – buy less, buy what you need and eat it.
If you have excess produce, donate it to the local food bank.
Experiment with new ingredients – a new vegetable, protein, spice or flavor.
Experiment with new cooking methods: wrap fish in greens and steam, or make cheese.
Donate to a food bank or offer to volunteer.
Share your kitchen with family and friends; begin a “dinner club.”
Master one dish you always wanted to.
Start a casserole, cookie or cake swap, any time of the year.
Pack a picnic and enjoy the outdoors all year round.
Write a recipe by hand and share it.
Revive one of your family’s cooking traditions.
Cut one thing out of your diet that you KNOW is bad for your health.
Commit to the entire family sitting down at the dining room table to share a meal as often as possible.
Buy local and support local farmers and businesses.
Participate in a Community Share Agriculture (CSA) program.
Join the Seed Savers Exchange.
Join a food initiative that you believe in. Such as World Vision or Heifer International.
Read labels and know where your food comes from.
Visit a pick-your-own farm and can something for the winter.
Start a small vegetable garden. A few herbs or tomato plants is a start.
Start a food journal
Feed the bees and butterflies with flowers.
Remember food is love and food makes memories and those are the most precious things we have.
Happy New Year! May 2015 bring you health, prosperity and joy in the kitchen!
Another Christmas has come and gone and the last of my holiday guests left after an enormous feast. I spent two hours cleaning up and putting food away, and finally got to sit in front of the fire and relax. It was a very busy few days here and I am exhausted. I had all of my children under my farmhouse roof for the first time since I bought the farm two years ago. That made me very happy.
Today it is snowing … it rained for Christmas and that was a huge disappointment. When my daughters arrived, I had to find umbrellas to keep their perfectly wrapped packages dry. I had my trombone ready and bugled them in. My eldest daughter cringed and smiled at the same time.
So what does a chef prepare for the holidays? Just about everything. It is the busiest time of the year for me.
This is what was on my Christmas 2014 menu: On Christmas Eve I baked five cakes: Buttermilk Ginger Cake, Almond Cranberry Cake, Butter Rum Cake, Chocolate Cointreau Cake and Sour Cream Coffee Cake. I made a double batch of shortbread cookie dough. It turned out that I did not have enough oven space or time to get them baked until Boxing Day. That is what I did instead of running out to fight throngs of shoppers hunting for a bargain. In Canada, Boxing Day is like Black Friday.
I also baked a Quiche Lorraine, poached shrimp with cocktail sauce, goat's cheese marinated with garlic and olive oil, and freshly picked rosemary from my garden, artichoke spinach and cheese dip, a cheese and relish tray, marinated olives, and guacamole with salsa canned last summer.
I had promised my daughter’s boyfriend that I would prepare duck – that was five years ago – and this year I finally got around to it. It was a huge success … only the men ate the duck. The seasoned and roasted duck was served with divine “confit” style of vegetables. Mini potatoes, carrots and onions were roasted alongside the duck. Every chef knows that duck fat is liquid gold … the French secret to delicious frying. I also served a green salad that is the dish the women ate. I was delighted with the leftover duck fat and used it the next day when braising the ham and roasting the turkey.
For Christmas morning it was farmhouse pancakes and fruit compote, my classic scrambled eggs, bacon and fresh fruit. There was plenty of hot coffee and eggnog or cider for those who wanted it. I, of course, had a wee bit of champagne as we opened our gifts. It was around 2 o'clock by the time everyone was fed. My youngest daughter and her boyfriend had stayed up for hours decorating the tree. They did a splendid job. I finally got the turkey in around 4 p.m. Dinner was served just after 9 p.m. Yes, I know, very late.
Christmas dinner was epic. I served Madeira braised ham, stuffed turkey, green beans, whipped potatoes, wild rice, green salad, homemade cranberry relish that no one seems to eat. There was no room left for dessert but I whipped some cream to serve with the cakes.
My company stayed for three days, and I continued to cook. We had guacamole again – no one ever gets enough of it … there had been a fight late the night before as my daughter's boyfriend found the guacamole stored away in the fridge and ate it all by himself. Isabel had been counting on eating that herself.
On Boxing Day I finally got to the shortbread and that took about four hours. I made a video of how to cook shortbread. It is full of hints, and I am calling the upcoming video series “In the Kitchen With ...”
For dinner, it was roast prime rib and Yorkshire pudding with broccoli and cauliflower gratin and all the leftovers, if anyone was inclined to eat them. We really enjoyed the prime rib with its garlic Dijon rub and the puddings were perfection. Yes, the house smoked up with the pudding cooking, but that is all part of the fun. Opening the kitchen door to let out the grease and let in the icy cold. No fire alarm went off.
It came time to leave and as family was gathering their presents and looking for lost ones, I made pumpkin blueberry muffins for them to take on the road. Farmhouse pancakes and compote were also waiting. My son loves them, and he took a stack to eat while playing his new game system in the game room.
The girls were busy getting their presents in order. The men sat and waited – impatient to get on the road. Although determined to get on the road by 1, the overly packed car left shortly after 3. Smiles were on everyone’s face as I serenaded them out with my trombone. Then I turned and walked back into the house with tears in my eyes. I was sad, very sad. I hated to see them go, I realized they all had lives that they were anxious to get back to. Things had changed and that made me wistful.
After my children left, I spent hours cleaning and repurposing food, and made stock and soup for a quiet fireside meal. In the winter I love to eat by the fire. I am always chasing heat, as this place is so large. I try and heat up one or two rooms and leave the rest to the cold. With my entire family here the whole house was warm.
I did not have too much time to be lonesome for the laughter of my children; I had my brother and his three children and their fairy godmother arriving for a late lunch.
I baked a chocolate Bundt cake, I deboned a double turkey breast and stuffed it, and also made bacon-wrapped pork loin with mushroom cream sauce. I served peas and broccoli, and a green salad with marinated tomatoes. While showing Shirley my farm, I left the wild rice with my niece to finish cooking. As I returned to the kitchen there was smoke and Annie was scraping the burnt rice out of the charred pot. No matter – there was plenty to eat and drink, and we had a wonderful time talking about Christmas memories.
Yesterday was another clean-up day. and I have lots of fresh memories to keep me company as I pack away Christmas 2014. Now I am looking back at my year and reflecting on my life lived and on lessons learned.
Happy New Year!