Thursday, December 29, 2011

Turkey Croquettes

If you are like me it is now day four of "what do I do with all the turkey leftovers". I was the host this year for Christmas Dinner. My parents, my sisters and their children all gathered at our new home in Hamilton for the "roast beast". I enjoy playing host, so I was excited to have everyone here.

In honour of the occasion I ordered a lovely 17 lb turkey from Julia's Poultry and Eggs at the Hamilton Farmer's Market. It was perfect, antibiotic and hormone free, locally grown and delicious.  However, despite everyone's best efforts, we were still left with an enormous amount of leftover turkey (as well as mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, etc, etc).

So, what to do with all of this food now that there is just the four of us to finish it off? Honestly, I was not in the mood for stew and I am NOT a fan of Turkey Tetrazzini. On the first night we did Hot Turkey Sandwiches, which is just some of the leftover turkey simmered in the leftover gravy and served over a slice of toast.  It was delicious, but did not completely solve the leftover dilemma as I was still left with a good pound of turkey. 

A quick search led me to the idea of making Turkey Croquettes.  I wanted something easy and a little different from the norm. Plus, I was able to use up some of the other leftovers in the recipe, so it was a great solution. The croquettes were lovely. Moist on the inside with a nice crisp outer coating of breadcrumbs.  Served with cranberry sauce and a few steamed green beans it was a perfect light dinner.

This recipe would work well with any number of substitutions. You could use leftover roast chicken, duck or pork or try it with salmon or shrimp.  I would just change the seasoning to suit the meat, like rosemary for the pork or dill for salmon or shrimp. I would also not use sweet potatoes with fish (but that's just me).  The possibilities are endless.

Now, if I could only figure out what to do with the rest of the turkey...hmm, maybe a curry.

Turkey Croquettes
This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Yield: 6 - 8 croquettes

  • 2 cups finely diced or shredded cooked turkey
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons of fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1/4 cup half and half cream
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1/2 cup leftover mashed sweet potato
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs, season with salt and pepper to taste
  • vegetable oil for frying

Cooking Directions
  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat saute the onions in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Stir in the herbs and salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the turkey and cream, and cook until liquid evaporates, about 1 minute.
  2. Transfer to a large bowl, and let cool for 15 minutes. Add the potatoes, flour, and egg and stir until combined.
  3. Take about 2 tablespoons of the turkey mixture and gently work it into a flat disk with your hands. Coat with the breadcrumbs and arrange, in a single layer, on a platter or baking sheet. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes.
  4. Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, (about 2 - 3 croquettes at a time) cook croquettes in a single layer until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.
  5. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shortbread Cookies

Come Christmas Eve we will leave a plate of cookies out for Santa. Now, I 'm sure this isn't a revelation to you. Everyone knows that Santa likes a little snack after he has filled the stockings. So I am quite sure this ritual will be happening all over town.

But that doesn't mean we can't stop to talk about this a minute. Because I've thought a lot about it. Look, you're busy, Santa's busy. I get it, we need to keep this simple. Plus, he has so many houses to visit, I think it is best to keep it light. He doesn't want to be weighed down, over-stuffed by the end of the evening. He just needs a quick bite, a bit of milk and he's on his way.

So for me, that means Shortbread Cookies. They look gorgeous, pale golden brown with a splash of red. Crisp, buttery and delicious in their simplicity. They are a classic, just like Christmas on a plate.

These are traditional Scottish Shortbreads. No corn starch, no icing sugar; they are the real deal. Just three ingredients: butter, brown sugar, flour and that's it. You can press the dough into a shallow dish to bake and cut into squares or you can roll it out, as I did, and cut them into whatever shape you like. Add a bit of glace cherries for colour and you have cookie perfection.

Trust me. Santa will love you for it. You might even find a little extra in your stocking this year! (And don't forget to leave a little something out for his reindeer.)

Shortbread Cookies
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: 2 dozen cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup room temperature butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the flour and mix well until incorporated into a dry stiff dough. It is easier to do this in a stand mixer as the dough takes a bit of mixing to come together, but it is more than possible to do by hand, it just takes a bit of elbow grease.
  3. If you want to bake into squares press the dough into a 9 inch square cake pan lined with parchment. You can score the top or prick with a fork in a decorative patter. Bake 20 -25 minutes until light golden and just set in the middle. Remove from the oven and turn the cookie sheet out once cooled. Cut into squares.
  4. If you are cutting the dough into shapes, dust a clean cooking surface with flour. Form the dough into a ball and roll out to a 1/4 inch thickness. The dough is dry so it will crack when you roll it, don't worry, just press it back together and keep going.
  5. Cut with your favourite cookie cutter and decorate with glace cherries or silver dragees. Transfer to a cookie sheet, keeping cookies an inch apart.
  6. Bake in the centre of the oven for 10 - 12 minutes or until the edges are golden. Remove, cool and enjoy!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fig Pistachio Oatmeal Cookies

This is something I whipped up last week.  I was in the kitchen getting lunch ready for my little one when I all of a sudden had the urge to make Oatmeal Cookies.  Yes, that really does happen to me. I will be carrying on like normal, going about my day and BANG I am overpowered by some kind of culinary craving.  I don't know what set me off this time but I all of a sudden I needed a warm Oatmeal Cookie.

Let me be clear though, I did not want just any Oatmeal Cookie, I wanted something little out of the ordinary.  I needed a cookie with a little spice and a hint of the exotic. I needed an Oatmeal Cookie that would capture the best flavours of this holiday season.

And so I ended up rooting through my pantry, trying to design a combination that will satisfy my craving. I started with the familiar; comforting oatmeal, rich brown sugar and a touch of whole wheat flour for a hint of nutty flavour as the base.

Then I began to layer in the more exotic flavours. For texture and intense sweetness I added dried figs and paired them with buttery pistachios.  Next, I added cinnamon, ground coriander seed and a bit of orange zest.  In the end I was quite happy with the result.  The cookies were chewy and soft, just as a proper Oatmeal Cookie should be and the combination of flavours seemed perfect for the Holiday Season.  Better yet, my eldest daughter said they were the best cookies ever and she was really glad I am her mom!  So happy I listened to my cravings!

Fig Pistachio Oatmeal Cookies
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: 3 dozen

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs
  • 3/4 cups shelled, salted pistachios
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl or in a stand mixer, cream together sugar and butter. Add eggs, orange zest and vanilla and mix until combined.
  3. In a separate small bowl mix together all the dry ingredients including the spices. Add to the butter, sugar and egg mixture. Mix until well combined. Stir in the chopped figs and pistachios.
  4. Scoop about one heaping tablespoon of batter per cookie. Roll slightly and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat sheet. Flatten the dough a bit with the tines of a fork. Leave about 2 inches of space between each cookie on the cookie sheet.
  5. Bake in the centre of the oven for 10 - 12 minutes or until the centres are just set and the edges are brown.
  6. Remove the cookies to a cooling rack. Let them cool as long as you can and then enjoy!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Spice Cake

This is a story about a cake. It is also a story about family and memory and love. 

I often mention my Grandfather.  He had a tremendous influence on me. Memories of the time I spent with him, working in his bakeshop, listening to his stories, watching and learning, are a touchstone in my life. But today, this story is about my Grandmother. 

When I think of her I think of early weekend mornings, lying in bed listening to the sounds of pots and pans, cupboard doors being opened and banging closed, as she began the task of making breakfast for a house full of people. I would stay there, under the covers, waiting for the the smell of bacon and toast and coffee to reach me.  Going downstairs I would find a table laden with warm sweet buns from the shop, eggs with homemade chili sauce, bacon, sausage and buttered toast just waiting for her homemade jam. 

I think of coming in the back door and being careful, as I removed my coat and shoes, to avoid the large earthenware pot that sat in the back cupboard and contained cucumbers and onions from her garden. They sat immersed in the sweet brine that would slowly turn them into the bread and butter pickles I loved so much.

I think of wanting a snack and going downstairs to fetch a jar of her pickled beets, or spicy dills, or pickled beans from the cold room.  I think of the marigolds she loved at the front of her house, of the fact that she always had chocolate hidden in the sideboard among the good dishes.

And I think of this cake.  This is the first recipe I ever got from my Grandmother.  I can't make it without thinking of the afternoon I first had it at her house. We were alone, which was a rare treat, and we sat at the table and talked and enjoyed this cake.  It's a simple memory but for some reason that moment stayed with me and I often think of that afternoon, that quiet time with my Grandmother and that talk.

So now this cake is my husband's favourite and it is what he has on his birthday every year.  It is also one of the first cakes I made with my children and it is special to me for those reasons as well.  And maybe one day, when my children think back to times spent with me they will think of these memories, of their father's birthdays and of helping me in the kitchen.

Spice Cake

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: 9 inch cake

  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup room temperature butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 inch cake or springform pan and line with parchment.
  2. In a small bowl, combine oatmeal and boiling water. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a medium bowl cream together the butter and sugars. Add the eggs and mix until combined. Stir in the vanilla.
  4. Place the dry ingredients in a second medium bowl and whisk until they are well combined. Alternate adding the cooled oatmeal mixture and the dry ingredients into the butter, sugar and egg mixture. Add half of each starting with the oatmeal and ending with the dry ingredients. Repeat until all ingredients are incorporated. Mix until just combined.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the centre of the oven for 45 - 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the centre of the cake come out with a few moist crumbs.
  6. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the topping. Spread over the top of the cake while still warm. Place under the broiler for 3 - 5 minutes watching closely that the top is browned and not burnt.
  7. Let the cake cool. If you have used a springform pan, loosen the sides with a knife and remove the collar before serving. If not, serve from the cake pan. (this is the reason for the parchment, it will make serving the cake easier. Enjoy!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Chocolate Bread Pudding with Bourbon Butterscotch Sauce

A couple of weeks ago my darling eldest daughter broke her arm at school. Not long after I dropped her off I got the call that every parent dreads, telling me that that my child was hurt. I rushed back to the school and took her over to the hospital and even though I knew she was hurt I was in no way prepared for the extent of her injuries.

A simple mis-step and fall in the playground led to three days in the hospital, surgery, pins placed in both bones in her forearm, three months in a full arm cast and another surgery to come. It was a terrible thing to see my child go through. She was hurt and scared in a way I never want to witness again.

But, strangely enough, this incident reassured me. Mostly because I saw what a tough and capable little person my daughter is even at the tender age of six. She handled the stress and pain of the situation with tremendous dignity. She communicated with the medical staff, accepted what needed to happen to get her arm fixed and stayed calm throughout.

I came away from it all with an enormous sense of pride. She amazed everyone with her strength, her determination and her ability to just get back to a normal routine as quickly as possible. She was brave and strong in a way I never thought possible. I am just in awe of how she adapted to a difficult situation and moved forward. It has been a lesson and it makes me re-examine how I should approach life's setbacks and mishaps.

So now things have pretty much gotten back to normal. She is back at school and I am in the thick of holiday preparations: planning, shopping, baking, etc, etc. But I feel like we are due for something a little comforting. Something that will make me take a moment to slow down, relax and enjoy the now.

Today, that comfort comes in the form of Chocolate Bread Pudding.  It is warm and homey but still special enough to feel like an indulgent treat, so it fits the bill perfectly.  And, just because I am never satisfied leaving well enough alone, I served it with a generous dose of Bourbon Butterscotch Sauce. Decadent!

Chocolate Bread Pudding
This recipe is adapted from Paula Deen. It makes quite a lot but the recipe can easily be cut in half if you are serving a smaller group.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Yield: serves 10 - 12 people

  • 15 cups stale Challah or egg bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • pinch salt
  • 6 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Place the bread cubes in the baking dish.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together all remaining ingredients, except the chocolate chips. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and a uniform consistency.
  4. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread cubes. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the surface of the bread and egg mixture. Give everything a light stir to distribute the chocolate chips throughout and to ensure all the bread is evenly coated.
  5. Let stand, stirring occasionally, for at least 20 minutes, or until the bread has absorbed most of the milk mixture.
  6. Bake the pudding for 1 hour, or until set (a knife inserted into the center of the pudding should come out clean).
  7. Serve the pudding warm or at room temperature. You can add the butterscotch sauce if you like or serve with a bit of whipped cream. Enjoy!

Bourbon Butterscotch Sauce
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Yield: serves 8 - 10

  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup room temperature butter
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Using a medium sized saute pan, whisk sugar and butter over medium heat until the butter melts. Whisk in cream and stir until the sugar dissolves and the sauce is smooth and thick. Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the bourbon and vanilla. Be careful as it will bubble up. Continue whisking until combined. Serve warm over the Chocolate Bread Pudding.
  2. The remaining sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week and re-heated over low heat as needed.

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