Niagara is a great place to live, and especially in the fall with autumn colours around and harvest season upon us. We have a garden and usually grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and (thanks to a well designed cage to outsmart very motivated bunnies), beans. A great thing about our location is an abundance of local farms: everything from pick-your-own strawberries in June, cherries in July, to apples, pears, and peaches in the fall. We cook and bake a lot, as well as do a lot of home canning.
The recipes presented below are some of our favourites. In many cases we've learned how to make dishes we have enjoyed at restaurants and in other cases I have some rare European delights such as kifli. Enjoy!
Artichoke Spinach Dip
This is a classic recipe from Disney's Sci-Fi restaurant at Disney's Hollywood Studios Park in Florida. At the Sci-Fi, patrons can enjoy "good food" while watching "bad movies" while sitting in a car at the drive-in. You can reproduce the effect, I suppose, by nibbling on the following recipe while watching a "classic" like "Plan 9 from Outer Space" :).
As of 2009 the restaurant has changed the dip (apparently eliminating Asiago and substituting with parmesan), but this recipe, taken from a Disney planning board, is the original! We've made a few minor changes as well.
Using a food scale, weigh-out the following and mix together in a bowl, the set aside:
In a second bowl, mix together the following:
Now, in a saucepan, add 500mL of 18% heavy cream. Heat, and boil for 10 min. to thicken. Add cheeses slowly to the cream until it is all melted into a creamy cheese sauce. Add the ingredients from the second bowl (veggies and spices) into the mixture. Simmer for a few minutes, then serve with chips. The dip can also be transferred to ceramic serving bowls, frozen, and later reheated in a microwave then the oven before serving.
French Onion Soup (Soupe a L'Oignon Gratinee)
This is a modified recipe from Chefs de France in Disney's EPCOT park. It was modified from a recipe found on a Disney planning board.
In a large saucepan, dice 11/2 pounds of onions and saute in 1/2 cup salted butter. Cook until onions are carmelized, quite brown, and will stick to the bottom of the pan (over ten minutes) - this is important since they must be very brown and stick to the pan for a nice colour and flavour.
When the onions are cooked, add 2 Tbsp flour and stir for about 30 sec. to form a roux.
Gradually add 21/2 litres of chicken broth stirring from the bottom to dissolve the "stuck" brownings from the pan. Then add the following spices:1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. thyme
2 Tbsp. dried parsley
2 bay leaves
Simmer, covered, on low for several hours.
Cut French bread slices 1/2-inches thick and dry in a 350F oven. Cut into pieces and place into several heat resistant ceramic bowls. Discard bay leaves and fill bowls with soup. Top with grated Gruyere cheese (or a mixture of 1/2 Gruyere and 1/2 Mozzarella if the Gruyere is strong). Place bowls in a hot oven until cheese melts and is golden brown.
Wenny's Salsa Dip
This one, borrowed from a friend, made me a lover of sour cream!. With a hand blender mix about 1/2 cup of sour cream and 1/2 cup of cream cheese together. Whip until smooth and layer into a plastic or glass dish (glass looks nice when guests come over :). On top of this add a layer of salsa. Chop three small green onions into fine pieces and sprinkle across the top of the salsa layer. Finally, chop two ripe tomatoes into fine chunks and spread on top. Add a thin layer of finely shredded cheese (I use a fine grater for this) and you're done. If stored in the fridge, microwave for a minute before serving.
For a low-fat snack, use fat-free sour cream, light cream cheese, and serve with chips made from dried Pita breads (left-over from Souvlaki, usually). Rip Pitas into chunks and put in a 225F over for an hour to dry.
Over the years I have made several version of Shrimp Creole but this one is the best. Adapted from a recipe we got while on a cruise. Serves four.1 lb raw shrimp (large tiger shrimp, zipperback)
1/4 cup white wine
Olive oil or Olive/Canola blend
1 cup half-and-half cream
3 cloves of chopped garlic
1 large onion
half red pepper, chopped into eigth-inch pieces
half green pepper, chopped into eigth-inch pieces
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
half can tomato paste
Pre-chop all ingredients and put into separate bowls. Peel raw shrimp and saute in oil over high heat until just cooked: cook until both sides are pink but do not overcook. Remove from pan and set aside. In oil, saute onions and garlic until just brown. Add chopped green and red peppers to pan and cook. Add tomato paste and stir until vegetables are coated. Add chopped tomato and cook until all pieces tender. Now add white wine, stir well, then add cream. Reduce over heat until thickened and add previously cooked shrimp bringing back to a low boil. Add cayenne (about 1/2 tsp), salt (about 1 tsp), and pepper (about 1/2 tsp) to taste. Remove from heat, sprinkle top with dried parsley flakes, and serve atop a bed of rice.
Here's an interesting recipe developed with a good bit of prototyping over many years. These are HOT wings and trust me, the flavour and HEAT blows other wings out of the water! Nowadays, we no longer use wings but uinstead pieces of chicken breast cut into pieces about 1 inch long ... lower fat than wings and far less waste.
12 Wings per person or a half large-breast cut into pieces per person ... deep fry for 12 mins. from frozen, 4 mins. for fresh pieces
1/2 cup ketchup
Combine all ingredients & heat until butter is melted. Deep fry wings (or chicken pieces) and put into sauce. Shake until wings covered with sauce. Put wings with sauce in a glass baking dish into oven at 250 degrees F to keep warm until rest are ready. If you prepare the sauce ahead of time ane let it sit several hours, the heat soaks out of the crushed chillies and the sauce increases in heat!
If you like garlic and you like oregano you're sure to love this Mediterranean dish, adapted from three recipes I found on the web.
Mix the following ingredients together:
Add two pounds of chicken pieces, cut from white meat into 1 inch squares, to the mixture and put into a sealable container. Let marinate overnight in the fridge (at least three hours is required to get the flavour ... overnight is best). Skewer chicken pieces (saving the liquid marinade separately) on bamboo skewers and put on the top rack of a barbecue on low ... the chicken should take 15 to 20 minutes to cook. Be sure to turn the skewers every few minutes and cut open to ensure they are fully cooked. Put the recovered marinade into a deep skillet and heat to boiling. Add pieces (1" square) of onion, green pepper, and mushrooms (cut in half) and fry in the marinade in the skillet while the chicken is cooking on the barbecue.
When all is cooked, de-skewer the chicken, mix everything together, and serve. Serve either on, or in, pita bread on a plate and add a few tablespoons of tzatziki - a spread made of cucumber, garlic, and yogurt spread. It tastes better than it sounds and the best brand I've found so far is 'Skotidakis farms' from St. Eugene, Ontario available at Costco.
If you don't barbeque the chicken, it can be pan-fried separately from the veggies.
Best if you make your own pita breads from scratch. I use a recipe from Chef John with the exception being that I cook these in an oven on a cookie sheet instead of a skillet. Preheat a sheet in a 500F oven, quickly place the completed pita dough circles on the sheet (before the cookie sheet cools), and cook for four minutes until they expand.
If you have FRESH oregano available (I do during the summer when I grow it in the backyard) use this instead of dried. Strip the leaves from the stems and wash the leaves. Chop finely and use like regular oregano
Puffed French Toast
Another Disney recipe, this time from the Crystal Palace buffet. Found of the "kids" table, I always dive into these gems when at the crystal palace and evidently I'm not the only adult to do so! Serve with bacon (I'm Canadian, after all, and following the stereotype really love my bacon).
Mix the following ingredients for the sugar topping and set aside:
Now make a batter as follows:
After blending all of the above ingredients slowly add the following, mixing until smooth:
Now, prepare slices of soft bread. We use French bread, making slices 3/4 inch thick, cutting the large slices in half, and cutting the crusts off. The above recipe will make nine slices of French bread (cut in half to make eighteen pieces).
Preheat a quarter-inch of oil in a pan. Dip bread into batter, covering both sides, and fry in the oil on each side until golden brown (about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes each side). Remove from hot oil, place on a paper towel for just a few seconds to remove excess oil, and roll the entire piece in the sugar mix to thoroughly coat it. Place completed pieces on a cookie sheet, and finish in a hot oven (325 F, convection) for 15 minutes.
Since discovering pulled pork on a trip to Williamsburg Virginia in 2006 (or, as the locals called it, "Barbequed Pork" despite the fact it has never seen an actual barbeque), this has become a staple.
Start with a pork sirloin roast (the fatty-end type, usually packed in a bag). Often we cut a portion from a six pound pork roast just large enough to fit into the slow cooker. The slow cooker should not be more than two-thirds full (so it you have a smaller slow cooker, don't ram it full).
In a slow-cooker, place one-half of an onion, thickly sliced, on the bottom then the pork on top with the fat side UP. On top of that, place the rest of the onion, also sliced. Pour two cans of Dr. Pepper on top (any cola should work: cola contains phosphoric acid which helps break-down fat).
Cook on low-medium all day (six to eight hours). If the pork is huge and not fully submersed, flip-over for the last two hours to ensure it is completely cooked. During cooking, avoid the temptation to "peek" into the cooker by raising the top as it slows cooking quite a bit. Check with a meat thermometer to ensure it is at least "pork done" (180F / 80C).
Take the pork out of the cooker and onto a plate. Discard the onions and pop/juice. Trim fat off the pork, and allow it to cool a bit.
Pull the pork apart with two forks into small "shreds". Now, mix with a bottle or two of barbeque sauce. Use a heavily-smoked sauce like "Diana Western Smokehouse" or, if you like it a little spicier, a Chipotle flavoured sauce. We usually use two bottles with a large (4 lb) pork and add a little water to rinse the bottles and thin it a bit ("Diana" is very thick).
Mix thoroughly and serve on buns. It can be frozen for later use: simply microwave. Better if made a day ahead and microwaved to warm it since it marinates.
Hungarian Gulyas (Goulash)
This recipe was adapted from the original recipe of the Hungarian Hall in Welland, famous (at least in the area) for their Gulyas
1.5 lbs beef cut in half-inch cubes
Into a large soup pot, fry the onions in 2 Tbsp bacon fat (important) until translucent then add the beef pieces and stir-fry until lightly browned. Some sticking to the bottom of the pot will occur.
Now, add beef stock, water, caraway, paprika, wine, vegeta, red pepper, carrots, celery, parsley, and cabbage. Simmer for a few hours then add potatoes an hour before the Gulyas is done. When done, remove the cabbage and discard.
Note that several modifications were made: Cabbage is a substitute for kohlrabi in the original recipe. The original recipe used parsley root instead of parsley. Caraway seeds can be boiled in water to eliminate the seeds from the stew.
Since I was small, I always enjoyed these meat sticks which were served only at special meals like Christmas and Easter (probably owing to the relatively long preparation time). These are common in Slavic cultures and always considered a treat!
4 lbs Pork Tenderloin, cut into 1/2" by 1/2" pieces
Alternately, the seasoning salt may be made by mixing the following:
In a zip-lock bag or sealed container, mix the pork, seasoning salt, onions, and garlic together as shown in the adjoining photo. Marinate the meat overnight in the fridge.
Soak two dozen wood skewers (about 12cm long and with pointed ends) in water for an hour. Separate the meat from the mixture, discarding the onion and garlic pieces, and skewer the pieces (about five per meat stick).
Bread the meat sticks by rolling in flour, then a mixture of egg and milk (with a little salt and pepper added), then rolling in breadcrumbs. Fry each meat stick in hot oil to lightly brown the coating. Now, place into a double-boiler arrangement with water underneath and bake in a 350F oven for one hour - this may be made from an inner layer of aluminum foil to hold the sticks placed into a larger roasting pan (as shown in the large photo in the center above). Remove the meat sticks and place on a cookie sheet. Finish cooking on the sheet at 325F in a convection oven for 30 minutes to crisp the coating.
Cherry Lattice Pie
Ahhhh, the end of July and fresh Ontario red tart cherries are out. Available only for two weeks,
I buy a 5kg pail and freeze them for winter ... nothing reminds you of summer like a pie made
with fresh cherries during the cold winter months.
If buying a pail of cherries like I do, separate into 2lb margarine containers for freezing. Be sure to divide the liquid evenly between the containers. For this pie use a single 2lb container. Drain 2 lbs of fresh cherries saving the liquid. In a saucepan combine 1 cup of the cherry liquid with 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup cornstarch. Heat to boiling (medium heat) and stir constantly until very thick. The mixture must be VERY thick - like molasses or even thicker before continuing - this could take up to ten minutes.
Remove from heat. Add one tablespoon of margarine, six drops of almond extract, and another 1/4 cup of sugar and stir in. Stir in cherries and put the entire mixture into a pie shell before it cools (since it will be too thick to work with is when it cools).
Now the fun part: the top crust. Flatten a crust and cut into 8mm (1/4") wide strips, preferably with a serated-edge cutter (like the type used for the kifli recipe below). Weave each strip under/over as per the photograph and press into the edge of the lower crust using a fork.
To prevent burning the thin edge of the crust, cover the edges of the crust in aluminum foil strips about 2" wide. Fold these over the edge of the entire pie and place in a 350F convection oven (probably 375 if non-convection) for 25 min. Remove the foil and bake for another 25 uncovered. Cool on a wire rack.
Fudge Sundae Pie
A cool treat for a hot day. CRUST: Combine 1/4 cup corn syrup, 2 Tbsp firmly packed brown sugar, and 3 Tbsp margarine or butter in a sauce pan and heat over low heat stirring occasionally untl mixture boils. Remove from heat and add 2.5 Cups of rice krispies cereal until well coated. Press evenly into a 9" pie pan (sprayed with cooking spray) to form the crust. Put crust into freezer until solid.
Stir together 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/2 cup fudge sauce (the type used for ice cream), and 6 Tbsp corn syrup. Spread a half of the mixture onto the crust, going up the edges, and again put into the freezer until solid. This layer seals the crust.
Now spoon slightly softened ice cream into the crust until full and again freeze until solid.
Finally, top with remaining fudge sauce and freeze again. Keep frozen until served
An excellent summertime treat, cool and easy to make!
Mix 1/2 cup of margarine and 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs together. Put into a pie plate (forming a crust) and bake for eight minutes at 350F (325F for glass). Let the crust cool.
For the filling, beat (with a mixer) 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and one 6 oz. can of frozen lemonade. Fold into the mixture one large tub of cool whip. Pour the mixture into the crust and sprinkle a smal quantity of graham crumbs on top of the pie. This recipe can be made a day ahead. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.
Kifli / Roszky
Known as Kifli (Key-Flea) in Hungarian or Roszky/Rozky/Rosky* (Rho-Sh-Key) in Slovak, these crescent-shaped rolls were a favourite of mine. Both grandmothers made them, the Hungarians making them larger and the Slovaks smaller. Often filled with a walnut filling, I have always preferred the moister kifli filled with plum jam (Lacvar or lekvar, pronounced 'Leck-Var'). For this reason, I had also become accustomed to locating the kifli I liked by the excess jam spilling out the sides - I now overfill (by my Baba's evaluation) my kifli and they always ooze jam! This is one of my favourites recipes of all time, derived by my mother from the recipes of both of my grandmothers. It is impossible to say if this recipe is truly 'Hungarian' or 'Slovak' (since kifli was originally of Hungarian descent) however a little research shows that these are likely "Pozsonyi Kifli" which translates into "Bratislava Kifli" making them the Slovak version of a Hungarian sweet dessert ... makes sense given the source.
Making these has become a Christmas tradition.
The completed kifli. This recipe makes 60-80 Kifli.
Mix together the following three ingredients and set aside. Ensure it does not clump.
1/4 CUP MILK (Warmed)
Using a pastry knife, Mix the following three ingredients in a bowl:
3 CUPS FLOUR
Add the following two dry ingredients to the above:
3-1/2 TBSP SUGAR
In a separate bowl, mix the following:
3 EGG YOLKS (SEPARATE FROM WHITES), Beaten
The add the yeast mixture from above (by now it has frothed) and add:
1/2 CUP SOUR CREAM
Mix these 'wet' ingredients together with the dry ingredients. Should have the consistency of peanut butter cookie dough. Add flour if sticky. Knead well and let stand 2 to 3 hours in a warm place. To allow the dough to rise, we place the bowl with the dough (covered with a tea towel) onto the top rack of our oven and place a bowl of hot water on the lower rack. Leave the oven off and it will gently warm and allow the dough to rise. Don't let the dough sit too long: we've had the butter separate out after an extended period.
Divide the dough into 5 equal sized balls. Sprinkle sugar on a board, put a dough ball on the board, and roll out into a circle about 12 inches across. Flip the dough over and put more sugar on the board. Cut like a pizza into wedges about 1-1/2 inches at widest. Put Lecvar plum jam on each wedge (about 1 tsp each) and roll in sugar. Bake on a cookie sheet at 325 F for 13 to 15 min (time given for a convection oven) until golden brown.
The kifli dough being cut with a traditional kifli cutter
Cut wedges with lacvar filling just prior to rolling. These are, by my Baba's appraisal, overloaded and the jam will overflow onto the cookie sheet when baked (the way I like it, but less "dainty" looking).
Dough wedges are then rolled in sugar sprinkled on the cutting board. The sugar is quite necessary to hold the kifli together - lack of sugar will cause the kifli to unroll during baking and the resulting kifli will have "tails". As well, when baking, be sure to put the "tails" of the rolls on the bottom (again, to keep them from unrolling).
A perfect kifli. Cooked golden-brown in about 14 minutes this one is the perfect shape and has only a little leaking lekvar (useful for identifying the contents, which I consider a desirable feature).
And what to do with the defects ... you know, the ones that end-up mis-shapen? This one lasted only a few seconds after this photo was taken and was conveniently "disposed-of" by the author!
Lacvar / Lekvar
When I first made kifli, my Baba said don't bother making lacvar as it is a lot of work and takes too long. She then told me it's hard to find good lacvar anywhere. Hmmm, quandry?
I made a batch, as per below, and when canned properly it can be kept for a long time. You might consider making a smaller batch since twenty-four jars lasts a loooooong time. The ascorbic and citric acide serve to preserve both flavour and the deep purple colour.
1/2 bushel Italian Prune Plums
Grind plums, and split between two pots. Put 1/2 tsp of ascorbic acid and 1 tsp citric acid in each pot. Boil very slowly for about 2 hours.
Put in a roasting pan in a 325 degree F oven to thicken (to the consistency of cake batter) for about 5 hours - To test, put the lecvar on a metal spoon ... it is done when no water seeps out when cooling.
Now, add sugar (it will get thinner). Bake again for 1.5 hours. Put into 250 mL canning jars and process for 10 minutes in a hot water canner (time from when the water returns to a boil). Makes twenty-four 250mL jars.
* I've seen it spelled a variety of ways in Slovak, and apparently these are made in a variety of styles as well likely depending on the region.
Main Street Bakery Cinnamon Rolls
If you've been to DisneyWorld in the 2000's, before Starbucks, then you might remember the oh-so-good cinnamon buns from the Main Street Bakery. Nothing, and I mean nothing, at Disneyworld could touch these for the yummy factor! Many times we'd buy a few as we were leaving the park and let the kids enjoy them the next morning for breakfast in the hotel room before starting our day.
The Main Street Bakery is gone, like so many other treasured things at Disney, but these rolls have become a new tradition for us: we make them on Christmas Eve day and have them for Christmas morning.
To give credit where credit is due, the original recipe was from the Disney Food Blog and slightly modified, primarily to accommodate available ingredients as well as our pans (inconceivable one could bake all 20 at once). As well, I've added photos describing the assembly steps ...
Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
Takes 4 and a half hours in total to make and makes twenty rolls. Rolls may be frozen for later.
Baba's Pickled Peppers
What do you do when you get a bumper-crop of peppers? Can them, of course! Here is a recipe from my Baba for her pickled peppers
One Recipe of Pickling Solution:
One recipe of solution makes almost 2 jars (1 litre size), Make 4 recipes for a canner load of 7 jars
One-half bushel of peppers makes 10 litre jars. Use a mix of hot and sweet peppers including shepherd, hot banana, hot Hungarian wax, super-stuffers, and sweet cherry peppers - anything goes.
Wearing gloves (these are hot), prepare peppers by washing, splitting, removing seeds, and cutting into one-inch wide strips. Into each jar add one peeled clove of garlic (whole) at the bottom and pre-pack pepper strips into litre jars, arranging to fit tightly.
Boil all ingredients together to make the solution. Pour solution into each jar leaving 1/2 inch of headspace, cover with a snap-seal, and process in boiling water for 15 minutes (Most canning books recommend 25 min processing but this yields 'mushy' peppers).
Makes six or seven 500ml jars8 Cups of Tomatoes
7 Jalapeno Peppers
3 Larges Onions
3 Garlic Cloves
2 Green Bell Peppers
2 tsp ground Coriander
3/4 Cup White Vinegar
1/2 tsp ground Cumin
1 can(156ml) Tomato Paste
2 tsp Cayenne (see below)
7 Hot Hungarian Yellow Peppers (mild) (see below)
3 Hot Hungarian Red Peppers (see below)
Blanche and coarsely chop tomatoes. Wearing rubber gloves, slit Jalapeno and optional hot peppers (see explanation below) down the sides and remove all seeds. Finely chop all peppers, onions and garlic (a food processor works great). Combine all ingredients into large heavy saucepan. Bring to boil reduce heat and gently boil, uncovered, until Salsa reaches desired consistency (between 30 mins to 2 hours).
To get the salsa very thick, press a fine screen-type strainer into the surface of the pot of salsa allowing liquid to float to the top then ladle excess liquid off - up to 3 cups of liquid can be removed per batch and this will leave the salsa very thick.
Put into clean 500 ml or 250 ml canning jars and process in hot water canner for 20 mins.
For MILD salsa: Just add the Jalapenos (essential) and skip the Cayenne and Hot Peppers