What are you eating on New Year’s Eve?

Cooked lobster dinner-to-go a perfect solution!

It’s been said that luck favours the prepared. I’m inclined to agree, particularly after this week when I was offered the opportunity to surprise my husband with a delicious take-home meal on the 30th anniversary of the day we met.

The Pelican Seafood Market & Grill launched this party-perfect offering five years ago and it’s steadily grown in popularity. Last New Year’s Eve they packaged up 250 lobster dinners-to-go for eager Ottawa diners.

As Jim Foster, the Pelican’s affable owner explains, it’s the perfect hassle-free solution. The meal includes a generously-portioned shrimp cocktail, a serving of lobster bisque, a crisp green salad, a whole lobster, expertly steamed and cracked plus a lemon-lavender cheesecake. Instructions for reheating and serving are included.

For our romantic celebratory meal, we served it up with a bit of a family-favourite twist. Instead of enjoying the lobster cold with a squeeze of lemon and dipped in hot garlic butter (both provided), we shelled the lobsters and reheated the meat gently in a frying pan with butter and vinegar. It might sound unusual, but quite honestly it’s one of the most delicious ways ever to eat lobster! I paired our meal with a fabulous crisp white wine – Blomidon Estate’s 2017 Tidal Bay, picked up on a recent trip to Nova Scotia – but champagne would have also been an ideal match.

Jim told me that last New Year’s Eve there was an even split of what he calls ‘oldsters and millennials’ who ordered the take-home lobster dinners. In some cases, friends each ordered and paid for a dinner online in advance, then picked them up to enjoy together as their New Year’s Eve meal.

If lobster’s not your thing, the Pelican also offers a host of other ‘to-go’ options including such delights as seafood platters, hot and cold smoked salmon and oysters – shucked or unshucked.

Our take-home feast was the perfect way to celebrate in style without the fuss or mess of cooking lobster ourselves. Thanks to Jim, Emile and the rest of the Pelican crew for helping make our anniversary so delicious!

Note: this was a gifted experience but opinions, as always, are entirely my own.

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‘Everything bagel’ crackers

Healthy and flavourful thanks to seeds, spices and whole wheat flour!

These crackers are so crispy and delicious that my family finds them positively addictive! They get their name from the spice and seed mix which mimics the famous ‘everything bagel’ topping that is wildly popular across North America. I like that these crackers include some whole wheat flour and contain no sugar or preservatives. The crackers themselves make a great hostess gift, perhaps paired with a favourite cheese. The ‘everything bagel’ spice mix is so versatile that it would also make a great gift as well!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) ‘everything bagel’ seasoning blend (see below)
  • 2/3 cup (160 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) water
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
  • Extra water to brush dough

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Line two baking trays with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Combine flours and salt in a bowl, add water and oil, then stir to make a soft dough.
  • Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 20 times.
  • Cover dough with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to one hour so flour can become fully hydrated.
  • Roll dough out between two large sheets of parchment paper, as thinly as possible (1/8 inch / .4 cm, or less).
  • With a large, sharp knife, cut into 1.5 inch (3.75 cm) squares.
  • Transfer squares to parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) apart. Prick the tops of each square several times with the tines of a fork.
  • Brush lightly with water and sprinkle ‘everything bagel’ seasoning on top, distributing evenly across the crackers.
  • Bake 10 – 12 minutes, until light brown and crispy.
  • Cool completely then store in airtight container for up to a week or freeze.

Makes approximately 4.5 dozen crackers.

Everything Bagel Seasoning Mix

  • 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted
  • 5 tablespoons black sesame seeds, toasted
  • 5 tablespoons dried onion flakes (not onion powder)
  • 5 tablespoons dried garlic flakes (not garlic powder)
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt or fleur de sel

Put all ingredients in a small jar and stir or shake to blend together. Store at room temperature for up to 6 months.

This spice and seed mixture is fabulous blended into butter or mayonnaise. It’s also great sprinkled on salads, sandwiches, cooked eggs, loaves of bread before baking, pizzas, baked potatoes, chicken, fish, homemade pita chips, sliced tomatoes, roasted vegetables, hummus, guacamole, avocado toast and, well… everything!

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Pancetta and parmesan spiral bread

Make-ahead marvel for breakfast, brunch…or any meal of the day!

This rich, brioche-style bread is incredibly delicious and super versatile too. While it’s absolutely amazing fresh out of the oven, my taste testers have decided it’s even more delightful the next day, toasted and buttered, possibly with a fried egg on top. No matter how it’s served, it’s a loaf that will be the star of the show at any meal. You can make and bake it all in the same day if you like, or prepare the bread and let it nap in the fridge overnight before baking. It’s terrific made with pancetta, but double-smoked bacon would be ridiculously tasty in this as well. Next time I might even go wild and add some caramelized onions too.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (17 oz or 480 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
  • 1 cup (250 mL) milk
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) olive oil
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups (625 mL) grated Parmesan
  • 2 1/2 cups (625 mL) diced pancetta or bacon
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) melted butter (to brush on loaf before baking)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.25 mL) fleur de sel or coarse kosher salt

Method

  • In a large frying pan, cook pancetta or bacon until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside to cool.
  • Prepare the dough by putting the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl (use a stand mixer if you have one); set aside.
  • Heat the milk gently in the microwave until it is warm to the touch, but not hot (110F with an instant-read thermometer if you have one).
  • Add the yeast to the milk. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes then add the mixture to the flour and stir into a shaggy dough.
  • Add the vegetable oil and beaten eggs and continue stirring until dough forms a ball. Knead 3 minutes with the stand mixer or turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead by hand for 5 minutes, adding a little flour if necessary to keep it from sticking to the bowl or the counter.
  • Transfer the kneaded dough to a clean bowl that’s been lightly oiled. Cover with a clean towel and let rise 1 hour.
  • Take the dough out the bowl and roll out as thinly as possible to form a large rectangle about 12 × 24 inches (30 x 60 cm). Sprinkle the dough with the Parmesan then the pancetta, leaving a half inch (1.25 cm) border around all of the edges.
  • Starting with a long end facing you, roll the dough up into a tight cylinder jelly roll-style, pinching the seams and ends to seal. Once you have finished rolling the dough, gently coil it into a spiral and place in a 10 inch (25 cm) springform pan that’s been lightly coated with vegetable oil.
  • Brush the coiled bread with melted butter and then cover loosely with plastic wrap and then a tea towel. Let rise again for 45 minutes.
  • NOTE: At this point you can put the shaped, covered bread in the fridge and let it sit overnight instead of having it rise on the counter for 45 minutes. Remove from fridge in the morning when you turn the oven on to preheat.
  • After 45 minutes (or overnight in fridge), preheat oven to 350F.
  • Remove plastic wrap and sprinkle loaf with fleur de sel or kosher salt. Place in preheated oven and bake 35 – 40 minutes, until golden brown on top.
  • Store leftover bread in a plastic bag or airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freeze for longer storage.

Makes 1 large loaf.

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Hearty Lamb Stew

A comforting, flavourful make-ahead meal

So many people mention stew when the topic of comfort food comes up. Warming and delicious, stew can be prepared many different ways with a host of different ingredients. I often make beef or chicken stew, but a yearning for lamb led to this this recipe’s creation and it was a huge hit. I bought a bone-in lamb leg on sale and cut it into cubes myself; if you’re pressed for time, call your butcher and have them do it for you! Serve this with warm crusty bread to mop up the delicious gravy.

Ingredients

  • 4 strips regular or double-smoked bacon, cut in 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) pieces
  • 2 lbs (1 kg) leg of lamb or lamb shoulder (in 1 inch/ 2.5 cm cubes)
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) flour, seasoned with salt & pepper
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons (15 – 30 mL) olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) butter
  • 1 pound (454 g) white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cups (1 L) low sodium beef broth
  • 1 cup (250 mL) red wine
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) Dijon
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) dried
  • 3 cups (750 mL) potatoes in 1” (2.5 cm) pieces *
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut in 1/2″ (1.25 cm) pieces
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

*  I like to use a mixture of small yellow and red skinned potatoes, halved or quartered

Method

  • Preheat oven to 325F.
  • Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven or heavy, oven-safe pot placed over medium heat until crispy, stirring often. Once cooked, transfer to a small bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving bacon fat in pot.
  • Put flour, salt and pepper in a small plastic bag. Add meat cubes, 10 or 12 at a time and shake in bag to coat with flour (you’ll need to hold bag closed as you shake).
  • Put Dutch oven back on medium heat and carefully remove lamb from flour bag, tapping off excess as you work, and add to hot pot. Don’t overcrowd the meat in the pot or it won’t brown nicely.
  • Remove each batch of meat to a large bowl when nicely seared before adding more to pan.
  • When lamb is all browned, add a bit of oil to the pot if it looks dry and sauté onions for 3 – 5 minutes, stirring often. When onions are translucent, add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  • Transfer the onions and garlic to the same bowl as the browned lamb.
  • Add the butter to the pot along with the sliced mushrooms. Cook, stirring often, until mushrooms have released their moisture and are just starting to get a bit crispy.
  • Return bacon, lamb, onions and garlic to the pan.
  • Add broth to pot and stir gently to release the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add red wine, Dijon, tomato paste and thyme and stir again.
  • Cover pot and bring the mixture to a boil then add in potatoes and carrots. Bring to a boil again then cover and transfer to the preheated oven. Let cook for 1.5 hours. Check once or twice and add a few tablespoons of water or red wine if the liquid has evaporated somewhat and the meat is not covered.
  • Note that the stew can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 48 hours until ready to reheat and serve.
  • Just before serving, remove pot from oven and taste, adding add salt and pepper to your liking. Serve hot, garnished with parsley.

Serves 4 – 6.

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Goat cheese and caramelized onion puff pastry palmiers

The fabulous appetizer that pulls a disappearing act!

I could not believe how fast these little treats got devoured when I served them to my book club recently. They’re the perfect thing, really – crisp and light and full of flavour. I love that you can prepare them ahead of time and tuck them in the fridge so they’re ready to bake right before you serve them. Palmiers are traditionally made in sweet versions (though I prefer them in savoury form) and get their name because apparently they are shaped like palm leaves. There are so many different ways you can fill them, but I love the simplicity of goat cheese and caramelized onions. You can play around with different flavours of goat cheese (I used a cranberry version for my book club and it was terrific) or you can add in fresh herbs or even a drizzle of honey. Palmiers are best eaten the day they are baked and they’d be ideal for a brunch or even a baby or bridal shower.

Ingredients

  • 1 large Spanish onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed but still cold
  • 5 ounces (140 g) goat cheese (plain or flavoured)

Method

  • Caramelize onions by combining with olive oil in a large saucepan. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring often, for 3 – 4 minutes, or until onions have softened. Reduce heat to medium low; cover pot and cook 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove lid and increase heat to medium-high then cook, stirring constantly, for 4 – 5 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  • Roll lightly floured puff pastry out between two sheets of parchment paper to form a rectangle approximately 9 x 14 inches (22.5 x 35 cm).
  • Scatter caramelized onions across the pastry, leaving a small gap down the centre.
  • Repeat with the goat cheese.
  • Working on one long side, roll the puff pastry into a cylinder, just until you get to the middle of the sheet.
  • Roll up the other side.

  • Wrap the cylinder in parchment paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until ready to bake (within 12 hours).
  • To bake, preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Slice the cylinder of filled dough into 1/4 inch (.6 cm) slices and lay them out on the parchment-lined sheet.
  • Bake for 16 – 18 minutes, or until pastry is puffed and beginning to brown.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes approximately 30 palmiers.

 

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Edible gifts featured on Shepherd’s Fashions Coffee Talk

Five fabulously tasty treats you can share over the holidays!

Today, more than ever, consumable gifts are so stylish. When you take the time to prepare edible gifts in your own kitchen, the family and friends with whom you share them will appreciate that you care about them and want to offer something to spice up their holidays. Be sure to take a few extra moments to package them up prettily and your treats will make an even more impressive impact. I encourage you to think beyond cookies as there are loads of great options for edible gifts. I’m delighted to share five of my favourite giftable recipes, all of which are super easy. They are featured in a fun video segment called Coffee Talk with Marlene Shepherd and Kathie Donovan. Watch our talk here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GjHk1r6ox6o. Click on the Edible Gifts category on the right hand side of the screen to access more ideas!

Click on the titles to link to the recipes:

No-bake lemon coconut squares

Pickled Apple Slices

Festive maple snack mix

Mushroom seasoned salt

Festive Pretzel Bites

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Festive maple snack mix

A sweet-salty-spicy treat!

My mom’s savoury nuts ‘n bolts were a highlight of the holiday snacks menu when I was growing up. I loved every component – the Cheerios, pretzels, peanuts and Shreddies, not to mention the tangy sauce that got drizzled over and baked in, making the house smell amazing. I still have a huge soft spot for this classic mix, but I’ve had fun coming up with some new varieties to spice things up. My new favourite is this maple-cayenne-cardamom infused variety. If needed, you can use gluten-free pretzels and Chex cereal. This mix makes a fantastic hostess or teacher gift …. and you might want to make a double batch as it tends to disappear very quickly.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 1/2 cups small pretzel twists or sticks
  • 1 1/2 cups wheat squares (Shreddies) cereal
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1 cup raw whole cashews

Method
• Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
• In a small bowl, combine canola oil, maple syrup, cinnamon, ground cardamom, salt and cayenne. Stir to blend well.
• In a very large bowl, gently combine the pretzels, cereal and nuts.
• Drizzle the maple syrup mixture over top and gently toss until everything is evenly coated.
• Spread the mixture evenly onto the lined baking sheet.
• Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, stirring gently every 5 minutes. Mixture should look dry and be a deep golden colour when done.
• Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on the baking sheet.
• Serve immediately or store in an airtight container.

Makes 6 cups.

 

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