Summer is around the corner and everyone loves to have a delicious fruit muffin recipe in his or her repertoire. Here is a recipe that works well with all sorts of seasonal fruit. These blueberry muffins are absolutely delicious. The extra step of stewing some of the berries is well worth the trouble. These muffins are more like a coffee cake with its crumb/streusel topping. I am a huge fan of streamlined baking recipes that do not call for creaming the butter and sugar. This muffin recipe is fairly low in fat, and yet it stays moist. Many muffins dry out very quickly. I published a cake recipe last summer that called for the cooked fruit method, and it really does adds flavour, texture and moisture. (This recipe has been adapted from Cook's America's Test Kitchen.)
I pick my blueberries each summer at a local farm called Patch of Blue in Penetanguishene, Ontario. I use frozen berries all year round, and I love having them in my freezer to make these muffins, compote for my desserts and pancakes, to add to my morning cereal, to add to crisps, and to use in smoothies.
One of the great benefits of country living is that I am near several pick-your-own farms. I have always loved picking my own fruit and vegetables with my children, and we still do it every summer and fall. I have already picked local fiddleheads and my asparagus. I recall picking strawberries and apples when my eldest daughter was just a baby, and she waited patiently in the baby carrier. Picking peas was more difficult because I had to keep bending down, and she would almost fall out of the carrier. The chef in me is happy when I stand in the heat and stare at a sea of berry bushes begging to be picked.
This summer I strongly suggest you pick your own fruit and/or vegetables and that includes blueberries, or buy local organic – you will be happy you did. Picking your own saves you lots of money, and you will see how much hard work it is. Picking your own brings you great satisfaction, and it also helps to release your inner harvester – after all, we are hunter-gatherers. The best part is that you will have loads of berries all winter at a fraction of the cost. Blueberries that are frozen are just as good in baking as fresh ones. One piece of advice would be to pick what you think you can eat or put up for the year. It is best not to pick more than you need because then it becomes wasted energy and food. Last night I made sauce (ragu) with the tomatoes that I canned last fall, and it tasted as fresh as if the tomatoes were freshly picked. I hope everyone enjoys nature's bounty this summer.
When you go to pick your own remember: Bring lots of water, a hat and wear sunscreen.
Best Blueberry Muffins
Yields 12 muffins.
For Crumb Topping:
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 cups (about 10 ounces) fresh or frozen blueberries, picked over and divided into two amounts of 1 cup each
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon white sugar, divided
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup neutral flavored oil
1 cup buttermilk or soured milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1. To make the crumb topping: In a bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Pour in melted butter and toss mix until large crumbs form.
2. To make the muffins: Adjust oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat oven to 400 F. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or line with large parchment paper liners; set aside.
3. In small saucepan, bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 tablespoon sugar to simmer over medium heat. Cook gently while crushing berries with potato masher or whisk, and stir frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and stir the berry mixture until it cools to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes. To speed up the process, place the mixture in the fridge. (You can do this ahead if you like or even substitute thinned down jam.)
4. In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In medium bowl, whisk together reaming sugar and eggs until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk, vanilla and almond extract. Using a rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (The batter will be very lumpy, be careful not to over-mix.)
5.Divide half of the batter equally among prepared muffin cups. The cups should be about half full. Spoon 1 teaspoon cooked berry mixture into center of each mound of batter. Using a skewer or the handle of a spoon, gently swirl berry filling into batter to evenly distribute the mixture. Cover the berry mixture with the rest of the batter. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over muffins, pressing the crumb mixture gently into the batter so that it sticks to the batter.
6. Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time.
7. Place the cooked muffins on a wire rack and let the muffins cool for 5 minutes, then remove them from the muffin tin to finish cooling. If you use parchment paper, which prevents sticking, this job will be much easier. (They are delicious while still warm, try spreading some butter over the muffins.)
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Mitzi's German Goulash is a family heirloom recipe that is the essence of simplicity and rusticity. You can make it with just three ingredients: stewing beef, onions and seasonings.
You will never believe how just a few ingredients can turn into such a hearty flavorful dish. This goulash is perfect comfort food on those chilly spring nights. There are many variations of goulash and, in certain areas of Europe, it is considered a soup if it is served with bread. You can add potatoes or celery or carrots, but I like how intense the flavor is with fewer ingredients. That is the magic of the recipe. When Mitzi first served this goulash for me a few years ago, it was love at first bite.
This is the simplest recipe you will ever make, and, trust me, it is delicious. No need to brown the meat or the onions. This would make a great slow-cooker recipe – just increase the cooking time to 6 to 8 hours on low depending on the slow cooker. There is no need to use any oil.
Some people like to buy a whole cut of meat and break it down themselves for stewing meat. This way you are sure of what you are buying. What you buy at the grocery store is of the large variety of bits and pieces from various cuts or scraps. Often the pieces in the “stewing meat” packages are very uneven. If you buy your ow,n you can cut it into equal sized pieces that will cook evenly.
Cuts of meat vary across North America. Some of the suggested cuts are chuck, top chuck, rump roast top round, or outside round. You are looking for lean cuts that have collagen in them that break down through slow cooking to make the meat so tender.
Choose well-marbled meat for the best results. For deep flavour you need the fat to break down and add moisture over a long cooking time. If the meat is too lean, the goulash will be dry and tough.
Do not cut the pieces too small or they will dissolve in the goulash.
Make sure your pan has a heavy bottom and a tight fitting lid because this is what causes the steam and creates the juices for the sauce.
I use sweet onions, but you can use regular cooking onions. If you like, you can cut back on the onion.
You do not need to add wine if you do not want; the result is delicious just the same.
Make sure your paprika is fresh. Feel free to use smoked paprika if you prefer.
I serve this with fresh homemade bread or over egg noodles or mashed potatoes.
This recipe keeps well in the fridge for two or three days, and in the freezer for up to a month. Remember to label and date your leftovers.
Mitzi’s German Goulash
2 pounds well-marbled stewing beef cut into even-sized pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 pounds onions, sliced (I use the sweet variety)
2 or 3 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (optional)
1 to 2 teaspoons paprika
Cut the beef into even sized pieces for even cooking; season with salt and pepper.
Place the meat and the onions in a medium heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or sauce pan with a tight fitting lid, and place lid on top.
Bring to a gentle boil and let simmer for 2 to 3 hours, stirring often to prevent scorching. Check to see if enough liquid is being generated by the steam. If not, add water or wine.
If desired, you can add carrots during the last 45 minutes of cooking.
Thirty minutes before the goulash is done, add paprika.
Serving Recommendations: I serve this with cayenne pepper on the side and fresh homemade bread or over egg noodles.
Beverage Recommendation: Cabernet or Merlot or a Cold glass of German Beer
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.