30 minute turkey stew with puff pastry crackers

Tastier and easier than turkey pot pie!

I’ve loved turkey and chicken pot pie since I was a little kid. I remember being so impressed that leftover cooked poultry could be transformed into something so delicious and, of course, the pastry crust that my mom put on top was always flaky perfection. I switched things up and started using storebought puff pastry on my meat pies years ago – it’s a shortcut I’ve been very happy with, although sometimes I found it tricky to get the pastry as crispy all the way through as I wanted it to be. This recipe solves that problem, since you bake the pastry separately from the cooked vegetables, turkey and gravy. It’s been such a hit at my house I doubt I’ll ever make it any other way now.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped into 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) pieces
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground sage
  • 4 medium or 6 small potatoes, cut in 3/4 inch (2 cm) pieces
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut in 3/4 inch (2 cm) pieces
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped in 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) pieces
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and chopped in 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) pieces
  • 1 cup (250 mL) chopped fresh green beans, in 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) cooked turkey, in 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) pieces
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) butter
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) all-purpose or gluten-free flour
  • 2 cups (500 mL) chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground sage
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed but still cold

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • In a large pot over medium heat, warm olive oil.
  • Add onions and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.
  • Add white and sweet potatoes and just enough water to barely cover the vegetables.
  • Place a lid on the pot and bring to a boil. Let cook for about 8 minutes, until potatoes are just tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.
  • While potatoes cook, prepare crackers. Roll the sheet of puff pastry out between two fresh sheets of parchment paper, making a 10 or 11 inch (25 – 27.5 cm) square.
  • With a sharp knife, cut the puff pastry into 2 inch (5 cm) squares (approximately). Put the top sheet of parchment used from rolling on a large baking tray and transfer the cut squares to the baking tray. Prick each square several times with the tines of a fork then put the baking tray in the oven.
  • Bake for 12 – 14 minutes until crackers are golden brown and slightly puffed.
  • While potatoes and crackers cook, melt butter in a small saucepan. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Whisk in chicken stock a bit at a time to form a smooth, thick sauce. Add sage and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm on low heat.
  • When potatoes are just tender, add carrots, zucchini and beans to the pot and stir gently. Add the sauce from the smaller pan and stir again.
  • Heat until the mixture is simmering and carrots are tender (about 5 – 7 minutes).

Serves 4 – 6.

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Baked pasta and cheese bites

Humble mac ‘n cheese gets a delicious makeover!

I’m always looking for ways to make healthier, baked versions of favourite deep-fried dishes. My super crispy oven-baked chicken wings are a great example as are my fish and chips. This new recipe is inspired by my love of arancini, stuffed rice balls which are coated with bread crumbs and then deep fried. I decided to swap out the rice for rice-shaped orzo pasta, and switched things up to bake the pasta balls instead of deep frying. The results of this experiment were fantastically delicious. I chose to add in a little chopped kale to make them even healthier; chopped spinach and/or onions would be good too. I can pretty much guarantee that anyone from toddlers to great-grandparents will love these beautiful bites.

it's a mac and cheese switchup as cheese-sauce coated orzo gets breaded and baked for a delicious treat

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup (180 mL) orzo
  • 4 teaspoons (20 mL) butter
  • 4 teaspoons (20 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) milk
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) grated cheese *
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) each salt, pepper and smoked paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon (.65 mL) cayenne
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) finely chopped kale or spinach (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup (180 mL) panko
  • Flavoured olive oil in a spray bottle (optional but delicious)

* I used Tex Mex; Italian blend would be good too

Method

  • Bring a medium-sized pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add orzo and stir. Cook for 7 – 9 minutes, stirring occasionally, until just tender (al dente). Drain and set aside.
  • While orzo cooks, make cheese sauce by melting butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
  • Whisk in milk and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Add cheese and spices and whisk until cheese has melted (about 1 minute). Remove from heat and stir in kale or spinach, if using.
  • Add cooked orzo to the cheese sauce and stir until well blended. Put pot into the fridge to chill. Note that you can make the dish up to this point and refrigerate for up to 48 hours.
  • If you want to speed up the chilling, transfer the pasta and cheese mixture to a shallow glass dish (about 8 x 10 inches / 20 x 25 cm is ideal) and put the dish in the freezer for 15 – 20 minutes, until orzo mixture is cold to the touch.
  • When ready to bake, preheat oven to 425F.
  • With a small cookie scoop or two teaspoons, scoop out golf-ball sized portions of the cold pasta mixture and place on a parchment lined baking tray. You should get about 15 portions.
  • Beat the egg in a small dish (a ramekin or custard cup is ideal). Put the panko in a small, broad bowl (like a dessert dish).
  • One at a time, dip the shaped pasta bites in the egg mixture then roll in panko and place back on the baking tray.
  • Once all the bites are coated, spray lightly with flavoured olive oil (I used roasted garlic oil) or baking spray. You don’t need to spray them if you don’t want to – they’ll still be very tasty!
  • Bake for 13 – 15 minutes, until golden brown. Serve hot with ketchup for dipping, if desired.

Makes 15 pasta bites.

it's a mac and cheese switchup as cheese-sauce coated orzo gets breaded and baked for a delicious treat
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Warm beet and pear salad

An easy, elegant appetizer!

sauteed beets with a little balsamic, topped with warm sauteed pear slices makes for an easy, elegant appetizer.

I first tasted the combination of warm beet and pear in Tuscany decades ago and was instantly smitten. Nutritious, colourful and delicious, this salad remains a favourite to this day and makes a nice change from the beet and goat cheese salads that were all the rage a few years ago. I recommend using dark purple beets for the colour contrast they provide, though any variety would taste wonderful. You can cook the grated beets ahead of time if you like and then re-heat them in the pan as you sear the pear slices. Note that for super-speedy prep, you can cook the beets in an Instant Pot; simply sauté for about 3 minutes then cook under pressure for 2 – 3 minutes until tender.

Ingredients

  • 3 – 4 beets (enough to yield 4 cups / 1 L when grated)
  • 1 medium-sized ripe pear
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) water
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) balsamic vinegar (or more, to taste)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh herbs to garnish

Method

  • Peel and grate beets and measure out 4 cups.
  • Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large frying pan placed over medium heat. Add the grated beets and toss well to coat with the oil. Add water and cover pan with a lid.
  • Sauté, stirring often, for 10 – 15 minutes, until beets are tender. Reduce heat to low and stir in balsamic, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Peel, core and slice pear. Put remaining oil in a frying pan large enough to hold pear slices and place over medium heat. Cook pear slices for 2 minutes, flip and cook for 2 minutes more.
  • Divide the warm, cooked beets among two serving plates. Top with pear slices and a few sprigs of fresh herbs. Serve immediately.

Serves 2; can easily be multiplied.

sauteed beets with a little balsamic, topped with warm sauteed pear slices makes for an easy, elegant appetizer.
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Melt in your mouth cinnamon hearts

A no-bake treat that’s fun for the whole family!

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve sneaking sweets out of my grandparents’ always-stocked candy dishes. In hindsight, I now realize that I likely wasn’t very sneaky at all and they surely knew who the candy-napper in the house was, but they were ever so kind not to thwart my thievery. Among my favourite treats as a kid were pillow-shaped butter mints. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re pastel-coloured, melt-in-your mouth candies that resemble the texture of thick frosting. For Valentine’s Day this year, I decided to recreate this retro sweet in a cinnamon version. They’re super easy and absolutely delightful and you could easily use peppermint extract if you prefer that flavour to cinnamon. Cake decorating supply stores are a great source for good quality, affordable extracts.

based on old-fashioned butter mints, these melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon hearts are easy to make and super tasty

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups (340 mL) powdered (icing) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon extract
  • Red or pink food colouring (optional)

Method

  • Put the butter in a medium sized bowl with high sides. Beat on medium-low speed with an electric mixer (or beat vigorously by hand) for 1 minute.
  • Add the icing sugar, milk and cinnamon extract and continue beating until the mixture takes on a crumbly texture.
  • Stop mixing and test the dough by pinching a small amount between two fingertips. It should stick together when pressed and have the consistency of play-dough. If the dough is too wet, add a bit more icing sugar (1 tablespoon / 15 mL) at a time) or a bit more milk (1/2 teaspoon / 2.5 mL at a time) until dough achieves desired consistency.
  • Add just a few drops of food colouring and continue beating until the colour is thoroughly mixed in.
  • Roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper to 1/4 inch / .6 cm thickness. Cut with a small cookie cutter (I used a 3/4 inch heart) and place on a wire rack to dry overnight. Dough scraps can be re-rolled.
  • Note: if not rolling dough out immediately, wrap well with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks before bringing to room temperature and rolling out.
  • If you have difficulty picking the hearts up off the parchment paper, refrigerate the oval of ‘stamped’ dough for 10 minutes and it will be easier to peel the individual hearts off the paper.
  • After 12 – 18 hours of drying, transfer the hearts to a container with a tight lid and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Makes approximately 75 hearts.

based on old-fashioned butter mints, these melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon hearts are easy to make and super tasty
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Celebrating citrus

Some unique was to enjoy fresh, flavourful fruit!

While Mother Nature may be a practical joker by times, she did get one thing right. Having citrus fruits be in season in the south when it’s freezing and snowy in the north is a good thing. I’ve been gorging on oranges and grapefruit for weeks now, and putting fresh lemon and lime juice on just about everything. It’s not just for all the extra Vitamin C; I’m also craving the bright, fresh flavours of citrus. I was excited when asked to come up with a quartet of citrus-based treats for an episode of Shepherd’s Fashions Coffee Talk – below are the recipes I shared. You’ll find lots more citrus recipes if you use the search function on the Constantly Cooking website.

four great recipes to make the most of citrus season

Quick pickled fennel with orange and star anise

Fennel is ideal for pickling and adds a bright pop of flavour to any plate.

Citrus salad with arugula and pomegranate

A mix of citrus fruits with arugula and pomegranate plus a light lemon vinaigrette makes for a delicious winter salad

Grapefruit shortbread bars

Bright, fresh grapefruit curd over a shortbread base

Candy-coated fresh fruit lollipops

candy-coated clementine segments are great fresh fruit lollipops
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Candy-coated fresh fruit lollipops

Move over, candy apples – there’s a new treat in town!

As a kid, I just couldn’t seem to lock in the lesson that candy apples can be quite the disappointment. I loved the look of their glossy, sugary coating and would badger my parents to buy me one at least once a year at an exhibition or carnival. Every darn time, I’d take a couple of bites and remember a few simple truths: the candy shell is not as tasty as it looks AND they’re actually really hard to eat. Fast forward to last week when, in a reflective mood, I pondered dunking bite sized pieces of fruit in hot sugar syrup. Good news, friends: these beautiful little lollipops are actually really tasty and they’re super easy to eat as well. Clementines and blackberries were my first experiments but if you need me, I’ll be in the kitchen dipping all the fruit. Grapes! Raspberries! Blueberries! Kumquats! If I can put it on a skewer, it’s getting candy-coated.

Cardamom-scented sugar syrup hardens beautifully on fresh fruit to create delicious lollipops.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250 mL) white sugar
  • 1 cup (250 mL) water
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) freshly ground cardamom seeds (as finely ground as possible)
  • 30 – 40 pieces of fruit (clementine segments, fresh berries, etc.)

Equipment 

  • Block of crafter’s or florist’s foam
  • Instant-read digital or candy thermometer

A simple hard-crack sugar syrup is the perfect way to coat pieces of fruit to turn them into lollipops!

Method

  • Put the sugar, water and ground cardamom into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat the mixture, without stirring, over medium heat until it turns golden and reaches 305F on an instant-read digital or candy thermometer; this will take about 10 minutes.
  • While the syrup cooks, place the block of foam on a platter – you’ll be using this to hold the dipped fruit skewers in place while the candy coating cools and hardens.
  • Push the pointy end of short a bamboo skewer partway through each piece of fruit. You want to segment to be firmly on the skewer but ideally the tip of the skewer isn’t poking through the fruit.
  • When the syrup reaches 305F, take the pot off the heat and place it on a cutting board or other heatproof surface.
  • The syrup will be burning hot so be very, very careful as you hold the end of each skewer (one at a time) and dip each piece of fruit into the pot, coating thoroughly. Tilt the pot with one hand as needed to make a greater depth of syrup for dipping.
  • Stick the skewer into the foam block to dry, starting at the centre of the block and working your way out. Repeat with remaining pieces of fruit.
  • If the syrup starts to thicken too much during the dipping process, return it to the stove on medium-low heat for a few minutes to soften it and then resume dipping.
  • Candy-coated fruit is best enjoyed the day it’s made but I can attest to the fact that is still absolutely delicious (especially for breakfast) the next day.
Cardamom-scented sugar syrup hardens beautifully on fresh fruit to create delicious lollipops.
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Grapefruit shortbread bars

Grapefruit and vanilla a winning combination!

Why does lemon curd get all the attention? Sure, it’s brightly coloured, tangy and delicious, but other citrus fruits make great curd too. I love these little orange tarts but these grapefruit shortbread bars are definitely my new favourites. If you can find them, use ruby red grapefruit for the best colour and flavour. The vanilla is optional but I can assure you it is sublime combined with grapefruit. If you fall in love with the combo, as I did, check out this great cocktail and also this tasty seafood dish. PS in case you’re wondering where the gorgeous crystallized violets came from, I got them from Ottawa Edible Flowers.

Tangy grapefruit and vanilla custard layered over a shortbread base make for a truly delicious dessert

Ingredients

Shortbread crust

  • 1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) white (granulated) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) cold, salted butter, cut into 12 pieces

Grapefruit-vanilla curd

  • Zest of 1 large grapefruit
  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) white (granulated) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla bean paste (or extract)
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) salted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 drop pink or red food colouring (optional)

Method

  • Make shortbread crust by preheating oven to 350F. Line an 8 x 8 inch (20 x 20 cm) baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang for ‘handles’ on each side.
  • Make crust by combining flour, sugar and butter in a large bowl. With a hand or stand mixer, beat together until crumbly.
  • Press crust firmly into the parchment-lined pan. Bake for 15 minutes then remove pan from oven but leave oven turned on.
  • While crust is baking, prepare grapefruit-vanilla curd. Start by combining zest and sugar in the top of a double boiler (or in a heatproof bowl placed over a pot of steaming water – just be sure the bottom of the bowl rests above the water level). Stir vigorously so sugar gets infused with oil from the zest.
  • Add grapefruit juice, eggs, egg yolks and vanilla bean paste to the zest-sugar mixture. Whisk until smooth. Continue to whisk constantly as the mixture heats up and thickens (about 6 – 8 minutes).
  • When it has thickened to a pudding-like consistency, remove from heat and whisk in the butter pieces one at a time until melted and fully incorporated. If you want a more vibrant colour, whisk in one drop (no more!) of food colouring.
  • Pour grapefruit curd over baked shortbread crust.
  • Return pan to oven, baking for 16 – 20 minutes until curd is set.
  • Let cool on a wire rack until it reaches room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator, cover pan and chill until very cold, at least 3 hours, or preferably overnight.
  • Just before serving, slice grapefruit bars into 1 x 2″ bars and dust with powdered sugar if desired.
  • Store covered bars for 4 days in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer.

Makes 32 bars.

Grapefruit and vanilla curd on a shortbread base made for a truly delicious dessert
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