Grilled Fruit Kabobs

A few years ago now, we decided to have a dinner completely on the grill.  We grilled up all kinds of yummy savory things – sausages, stuffed peppers, etc etc etc.  But what to do for dessert?  My buddy Renee solved that problem with these fruit kabobs.

In this hot summer heat, we usually try to cook dinner on the grill to help keep the kitchen cool.  But what about when you’re having company, and want to make something impressive for dessert?  You can have a no-bake option, there are plenty of those.  You can fire up the oven and defeat the purpose of keeping the heat down.  Or, you can have your dessert off the grill like the rest of your meal.

Many fruits grill up beautifully.  The little bit of char from the grill combines wonderfully with the natural sugars of the fruit.  Fruit that is normally sweet gets that much sweeter when cooked over a fire.

You’ll want to use fruit that will stand up to the grill and the heat.  Raspberries and such are not recommended.  You’ll lose them for sure.  Great fruits for grilling are pineapple, peaches, strawberries, melons, even bananas.  Go crazy, use your favourites.  The little treat in between the fruit makes it that much better.  Get yours before they’re gone!

Ingredients:

2-3 different kinds of your favourite fruits, cut into chunks, about 1 inch.

1/2 to 1 loaf french bread, cut into cubes roughly the size of the fruit.

1 cup cinnamon sugar – use 1 cup granulated sugar, mixed with 1 tsp. ground cinnamon – you might not need this much, but you can save the rest for other uses.  It’s great sprinkled on buttered toast.

1/2 cup (or more if needed) melted sweet butter

A bunch of wooden skewers soaked in water for 15 minutes or so, or metal ones, whichever is fine.

Directions:

Simply roll each piece of bread in the melted butter and then cinnamon sugar.  Put the fruit on the skewers, leaving some room on one end for turning.  For every two pieces of fruit, put one piece of bread on.

Clean your grill to get all the remnants of supper off.  Lay a piece of foil over the grill at one end for the ends of the skewers to hang over so they don’t burn.  Grill the kabobs over low heat, turning as necessary.  It’s okay to get a few grill marks on the fruit and bread, but be careful, with the high sugar content these can burn easily.  There is nothing to cook through here, you’re just heating them up, getting things going.  The bread becomes candy like – it’s delicious!

These are delicious with a bowl of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt, a nice fruit sorbet, or simply a big blob of Cool Whip or whipped cream to dip in.

Be sure to make lots, the average is 2-3 kabobs per person.

Enjoy!

Butter Tarts

Honestly, who doesn’t love butter tarts?  Many people are intimidated by the thought of making them, but they don’t have to be just something that you either pick up in a store or bakery, or something that Grandma used to make.  This is a fairly simple recipe, and there really is nothing like homemade butter tarts.  Give these a try and enjoy with a cup of tea in the afternoon.  Delicious!

Ingredients:

Pastry:

1 1/2 cups flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup cold butter, cubed

1/4 cup shortening, cubed

1 egg yolk

1 tsp vinegar

Ice water

Filling:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup corn syrup

1 egg

2 tbsp butter, softened

1 tsp each vanilla and vinegar

pinch salt

1/4 cup raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, whatever your preference.

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine flour with salt.  With pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter and shortening until in fine crumbs.  In 1 cup liquid measure, whisk egg yolk with vinegar, and add enough ice water to make 1/3 cup.  Gradually sprinkle over flour mixture, stirring briskly with a fork until pastry holds together.  Gather dough, press into disc.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or until chilled.

For the filling: In a bowl, vigorously whisk together brown sugar, corn syrup, egg, butter, vanilla, vinegar and salt.  Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to 1/8 inch thickness.  using a 4 inch round cookie cutter, or clean empty 28 oz can, cut out 12 circles, re-rolling scraps if necessary.  Fit into 2 3/4 inch muffin cups.  Divide raisins or nuts among pastry cups.  Spoon in filling until 3/4 full.

Bake in bottom third of 450 degree oven for about 12 minutes or until filling is puffed and bubbly and pastry is golden.  Let stand on rack for one minute.  To prevent sticking, immediately run a metal spatula around tarts to loosen.  Carefully slide spatula under tarts and transfer to rack to let cool.

Makes 12 tarts.

If you have a pastry recipe that you prefer to use that is different than this one, go ahead and use it.  You can add whatever you like to the filling.  A handful of coconut might be good as well.  Or mini M&M’s for the kids.

Enjoy!

Quick Oven Ham “Tetrazzini”

This was another one that my mom made a lot growing up, because it was quick and easy.  This recipe calls for ham, but you could also use chicken, leftover turkey, whatever you like and have on hand.  If we had ham on the weekend though, you could pretty much bet that we would have this dish one night through the week.  It’s still a family favourite.

Ingredients:

1 cup leftover ham, cut up – or more.

1 large + one small can (or 3 small) cream of mushroom soup.

1 can sliced mushrooms, drained, or 1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced and sauteed until tender.

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

1/2 tbsp granulated garlic.

1 package Extra Broad Egg Noodles (I prefer regular to no-yolk for this recipe)  cooked and drained.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large casserole dish or roasting pan with a lid or a dutch oven, combine all ingredients until well incorporated.  Sprinkle a bit more Parmesan cheese on top.  Cover and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Remove cover and allow to bake until hot and bubbly, and the cheese on top begins to brown slightly.

Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

This is great with a salad and a slice of crusty bread or garlic bread.

Being a pasta dish and fairly neutral, it lends itself to many additions.  You could add several kinds of veggies to this – if you saute your mushrooms, you could do onions at the same time and throw them in.  Chopped red peppers would be a nice addition.  Par boiled broccoli florets could be added as well.  You’re only limited to the scope of your imagination.

Enjoy!

Not Your Boring Old Meatloaf

Meatloaf is a funny thing.  I find most people either really love meatloaf, or it makes them shiver from the memory of having to force it down as a child.

The reality is, that a good meatloaf recipe is very useful to have on hand.  It often contains ingredients that we keep on hand in our pantry or refrigerator, and is a wonderful comfort food meal on a blustery winter day.  I know it’s summer, but I make it quite often on a day that is too rainy for grilling.

This is a combination of the meatloaf recipe that I grew up with, combined with a few things I’ve picked up along the way.  I have no measurements to give you, so I’ll try my best to guess as close as possible.  The best thing to do with meatloaf is to try it, and then add your own personal touches.

Ingredients:

1 – 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef – it really doesn’t matter how much you use as this will not have to fit in a loaf pan.  If you’ve got an army to feed, use as much as you like and adjust the other ingredients accordingly.

1-2 egg yolks

2 slices white bread, put to soak in milk – just put the bread in a bowl and cover them with milk.

1 pkg. onion soup mix

1 tbsp granulated garlic

1/2 cup ketchup (BBQ sauce can also be used)

4 or 5 good shakes of Worchestershire sauce – be generous

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Glaze: (make according to size of loaf)

2 parts ketchup

1 part mustard

sprinkle (about 1/4 tsp) nutmeg

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine meat with all ingredients.  Add the bread, but not the milk.  Mix together with your hands, making sure that the bread is broken up and all ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the meat.  Don’t overwork the mixture, or it will toughen.  If you feel it needs more moisture, you can add some of the reserved milk.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Transfer meat mixture to baking sheet and form into an even log shape.  Mix together ingredients for glaze and cover loaf completely.

Bake for an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the size of the loaf.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes or so.

Best served with potatoes – scalloped or mashed.  Garlic mashed is even better.

There are so many variations you can do with this.

You can use different kinds of meat, a mixture of beef and pork, ground chicken, sausage meat mixed in, the possibilities are endless.  I once saw Tyler Florence drape strips of bacon over his meatloaf, which would add amazing flavour, and prevent drying out.

If you want to go Italian style, omit the ketchup and add some of your favourite pasta sauce, bump up the Parmesan cheese, and add some Italian seasonings.

You could go southwest style and add salsa and some Cheddar cheese to the mix, using salsa as the glaze as well.

Ground turkey or chicken would be amazing with some smoky cumin or curry powder mixed in.

To kick it up a notch, fry up some onions and mushrooms until they’re caramelized and throw them in.  Or serve with them drizzled on top.

So if you aren’t sure if you like meatloaf, give it a chance.  Start out with a basic recipe like this one and go from there, developing it based on your tastes.  There is no right or wrong!  Enjoy!  If you have any suggestions, please feel free to post them in the comments.

 

Chicken Lasagna

My dear friend J and her family had my family over to dinner one night and she made this delicious dish.  We totally fell in love with this dish and after weeks of serious badgering she finally cracked and gave me the recipe.  (Just kidding Jennifer – just kidding!)

This is a wonderful – if not healthy – alternative to traditional lasagna.  If I’m having a large group, I like to make both and give people the option of having a little of each.

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

3 pkg. Hollandaise Sauce (I use Knorr) – prepared.

1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil

1 lb fresh mushrooms, or 2 cans of canned.

One onion, diced

2-3 cloves minced garlic

1 pkg lasagna noodles

2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed

2 cans asparagus, drained

2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Preheat a skillet and add oil to the hot pan.  Saute mushrooms, onion and garlic until tender.  Set aside.  If you use lasagna noodles that you have to boil, cook them till just shy of al dente in a large pot of salted water.  Some prefer to use ready bake ones, that’s fine too.

In a lasagna dish, put a bit of Hollandaise sauce in the bottom.  Line the bottom of the dish with noodles.  From there, just go about assembling the lasagna as you normally would, layering the sauteed vegetables, chicken, cheeses, asparagus and spices.  Make sure you add layers of the sauce in between as well.  Add all the ingredients evenly so you have a nice balanced lasagna.  You’ll want to finish with the cheeses on top.

Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes, until hot and bubbly and when you insert a sharp knife in the center, the noodles should be cooked throughly.

Allow to sit and cool for a few minutes before serving.  It goes great with a salad and garlic bread.

It’s pretty hard not to like this decadent dish.  It definitely is not something you want to be eating 4 times a week – your arteries won’t thank you for that, but it is delicious and wonderful for that special company or special occasion.  Or simply when you feel like treating yourself.

Enjoy!

New York Cheesecake – Basic Recipe

I truly believe that everyone should have a basic cheesecake recipe in their recipe box.  The dense, rich cheesecake that gets baked in the oven, not that no bake stuff.  Not that the no bake doesn’t taste good, it’s just that I prefer the authentic recipe.

There are several recipes out there, as well as several methods.  Some methods include a water bath, this one does not.  So print this puppy off, and tuck it away for when you need to take dessert somewhere and you want people to be “mmmmmm-ing” all through the dessert course.

Notes:  This needs to sit in the fridge for at least four hours.  It’s best made the morning of, or even better the night before.  Also, when I say “Moist Oven,” I mean to put a cake pan or shallow dish full of water on the lower rack of the oven while preheating and baking the cheesecake.

Ingredients:

Crust:

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

3 tbsp sugar

3 tbsp butter, melted

 

Filling:

4 pkg. cream cheese, softened. (if it’s right out of the fridge, unwrap and place in a microwave safe bowl, nuke for 30-45 seconds on half power.  If needed, add more time)

1 cup sugar

3 tbsp flour

1 tbsp vanilla

4 eggs

1 cup sour cream

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325. (Moist oven) – Move top rack to middle position.

Mix crumbs, sugar and butter, press into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.  Bake 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla at medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing at low speed after each addition, just until blended.  Blend in sour cream, pour over the crust.

Bake for an hour or so, but start checking after 50 minutes.  The edges should look done, but the center should still wobble slightly when shaken.  I like to shut off the oven about 5-10 minutes before it will be ready and crack the oven door slightly to allow to cool gently.  This helps prevent cracking.  If your cheesecake cracks, don’t feel bad.  Almost everyones cracks.  That’s what topping is for – to cover that up.

Run your knife around the outside of the cake, and once it has cooled to room temp, store it in the fridge for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Allow your cheesecake to come back up to room temp before serving.  The flavours are more prominent this way. Take it out of the fridge a good 1/2 hour to 45 minutes before serving.

As far as topping, that’s totally up to you.  You can go the traditional route, with cherries or blueberries, just using regular old pie filling.  If you choose to go this route, wait until shortly before you serve to add it, so it doesn’t make the top mushy.  You can just cut it into slices and top with a chocolate or caramel sauce, or fruit coulis if that is your preference.  You can cut up fresh fruit on the top and serve with a healthy dollop of whipped cream.  That’s the beauty of a basic cheesecake recipe.  You can change it up to make it your own.

And once you’ve got this under your belt, you can try the literally thousands of variations to suit the occasion, or just to suit your taste.  Chocolate, pumpkin, swirled, different, fruit, different nuts….the possibilities are endless.

I’m excited to hear any ideas you may have to change this up and make it your own.  Please feel free to add them in the comments.


Bowtie Sausage Casserole

I love this dish. It satisfies all kinds of cravings. It’s creamy, and full of flavour. It’s also very quick to prepare, only needing about 15-20 minutes in the oven.

Ingredients:

1 pkg (3-4 links) store made sausage – sweet, Italian or garlic
1 small onion diced finely
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 lg can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 sm can condensed tomato with basil and oregano soup
1 1/2 – 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 pkg bowtie (Farfalle) pasta, cooked to al dente

Directions:

Preheat a large deep skillet. Crumble sausage meat and brown over medium heat. Add onion and cook until slightly tender. Add mushrooms and garlic and combine. Cover, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender. Add soups and stir. Add about half of the cheese and cooked pasta. Combine completely.
Move to a glass or Corning 17×10 (shallow) or 9×13 (deep) dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes until heated through and cheese is melted and bubbly.

Great served with a salad and some fresh bread or garlic toast. Fantastic for leftovers.

You can often find sausage meat not in the casing which is great as it saves a step.