Fast and fabulous taco biscuits

A fun and flavourful new way to enjoy a family favourite!

Biscuits could be a food group in our house. We love them in their simplest form (with jam or Nutella, of course), made with buttermilk, studded with cheddar and apples, or popping with coconut and mango. This recipe consists of easy to make, buttery biscuit dough stuffed with salsa, taco-seasoned cooked ground meat and cheese and I could honestly eat these things all day long. Unlike some savoury filled bun recipes which rely on yeasted dough, there’s no rising time needed for quick biscuit dough, made with baking powder. You can even make these rolled-up beauties with a gluten-free biscuit dough if you prefer! These biscuits are great for tucking into lunchboxes and they freeze beautifully as well.

Quick biscuits with taco filling

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound (225 g) ground beef, chicken or turkey
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) taco seasoning blend
  • 2 cups (500 mL) flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
  • 4 teaspoons (20 mL) baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) cold butter
  • 1 cup (250 mL) cold milk
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons (15 – 30 mL) extra flour, for work surface
  • 2/3 cup (160 mL) salsa
  • 2/3 cup (160 mL) grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

To serve: guacamole, sour cream, additional salsa

baking powder biscuits with taco filling

Method

  • Preheat oven to 425F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • In a medium-sized frying pan, cook ground beef, turkey or chicken over medium heat, stirring often to break up clumps. Once cooked (about 8 minutes), add taco seasoning and cook for 2 minutes longer, stirring often. Transfer cooked meat to a broad, shallow dish and put in the refrigerator to cool while you make the biscuit dough.
  • Make dough by combining flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl.
  • Using a box grater, shred the cold butter into the flour mixture. Toss with a fork or your fingers to evenly distribute butter into the flour.
  • Add milk and stir until just combined.
  • Scatter a little flour on your work surface and turn the dough out onto the floured area. Knead 8 – 10 times until dough comes together; note that it will still be somewhat sticky.
  • Lift up the dough and scatter a bit more flour on the work surface. Use your hands to flatten the dough into a rectangle approximately 9 x 14 inches (22.5 x 35 cm). Lift the dough up as needed and scatter a bit more flour to keep it from sticking to the work surface.
  • Working with a long side of the rectangle closest to you, spread the salsa on the dough, leaving a 1 inch (2.5 cm) border free at the top.
  • Scatter grated cheese over the salsa, followed by the cooked meat.

taco biscuits before rolling

  • Starting with the edge closest to you, roll up the dough into a cylinder, pressing on the border to seal the roll.

rolling up the taco biscuits

  • With a sharp knife, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) slices; lay them flat on the parchment-lined baking sheet, about an inch apart.

sliced taco biscuits ready for baking

  • Bake for 18 – 20 minutes, until biscuit dough is puffed and brown and filling is bubbly.
  • Serve hot or at room temperature, with sour cream, guacamole and salsa.

Makes 14 pizza biscuits.

Roll-up baking powder biscuits with taco filling

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S’mores brownies with salted caramel and dark chocolate

A favourite campfire treat gets a fabulous makeover!

Rich, gooey and deliciously decadent, these brownies are one of the most wonderful things I have ever baked. Putting a graham cracker crust under my favourite chewy brownie recipe, throwing in some salted caramel baking chips and popping a layer of marshmallows on top really takes this dessert to the next level. These squares are super quick and easy to prepare and just one bite definitely made me feel like I one was step closer to summer campfires.

Ingredients

Graham cracker crust:

  • 1 cup (250 mL) graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) butter, melted

Brownies:

  • 1 cup (250 mL) brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) dark chocolate baking chips
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) salted caramel (or butterscotch) baking chips
  • 1 cup (250 mL) mini marshmallows

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8 x 8 inch (20 x 20 cm) baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
    In a small bowl, combine graham crumbs, brown sugar and melted butter until evenly blended.
  • Press into bottom of prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes.
  • While crust is baking, in a medium bowl, combine brown sugar and cocoa powder. Add melted butter and beat well. Add vanilla and egg and beat well again.
  • Add flour, dark chocolate chips and salted caramel chips and stir until flour is completely incorporated.
  • Spread the brownie batter on top of the baked graham crust, using a spatula or the back of a spoon to spread evenly in the pan.
  • Scatter the mini-marshmallows evenly over top of the brownie batter.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  • Let cool and cut into squares approximately 1.5 inch x 2 inches (3.75 x 5 cm) in size. Store leftovers in an airtight container for 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Makes 20 brownies.

 

 

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Sparkling ginger-mint lemonade

Enjoy as a mocktail or in a spiced-up gin & tonic!

At this time of year, I often find myself craving all things citrus. Lemon is a particular favourite of mine – I love its bright, fresh, tanginess which adds a huge pop of flavour to any recipe. With fresh ginger and mint, this lemonade is as healthful as it is delicious. I usually mix fruit concentrates with soda water, but find this one is especially delicious with tonic water (with or without a splash of gin). This lemonade – spiked or not – would be great for pitcher drinks for a party. Cheers to spring sunshine in a glass!

Ingredients

Lemonade Concentrate

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) peeled, chopped fresh gingerroot
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) packed coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) honey
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) boiling water
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) cold water

To serve

  • Ice cubes
  • Fresh mint leaves
  • Lemon slices
  • Tonic water or club soda
  • Gin (optional)

Method

  • Combine ginger, mint and honey in a medium-sized heatproof bowl. Add boiling water and let sit for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally with a metal spoon.
  • Strain into 4 cup (1 L) canning jar or glass pitcher, pressing on solids in the strainer with the back of a spoon to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  • Add lemon juice and cold water. Stir.
  • The lemonade concentrate can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for up to 3 months.
  • To serve, fill glasses with ice. Add a 1.5 oz (3 tbsp / 45 mL) shot of gin, if using, then add enough lemonade mixture to fill the glasses 3/4 full. Top with tonic water or club soda. Garnish with mint leaves and lemon slices and serve.

Makes approximately 3 cups of lemonade.

 

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Old-fashioned creamy maple fudge

Patience and science make for great candy!

One of my fondest childhood memories is that of making fudge with my maternal grandmother, whose much-used fudge pan I was recently gifted by my mother, who’s also a fantastic cook. Grammy taught me that the two secrets to great fudge are patience and a good candy thermometer (unless, like her, you’re an alchemist who can divine the stages of candy making with just a bowl of cold water). Though it was decades ago, I vividly recall the sound of her heavily-laden charm bracelet jangling wildly as she vigorously beat the fudge mixture for 10 minutes by hand with a wooden spoon, willing it to undergo the magical transformation that makes fudge unique from other candies. Here’s a great article that explains the sugar science behind fudge, in case you’re interested. I like my fudge unadorned, but you could easily add toasted, chopped walnuts to this mixture if you like, or press walnut halves into the fudge once you’ve put it in the pan for hardening. My husband thinks chopped, cooked bacon would also be a great addition! I recommend cutting this fudge into very small squares as it’s quite rich and decadent.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (22.5 mL) salted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (60 mL) maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) whipping cream
  • Pinch baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) maple extract

Method

  • Lightly butter the bottom and corners of a 7×7 or 8×8 inch baking pan. Line the pan with two criss-crossed overlapping pieces of parchment paper cut just wide enough to fill the bottom of the pan and long enough to hang out over the sides. Set aside.
  • Lightly butter a metal or heatproof bowl (the bowl of a stand mixer is ideal for this, if you have one) and set aside.
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Swirl the melted butter so it coats the sides of the pan, about 3 inches (7.5 cm) up from the bottom.
  • Add brown sugar, whipping cream, maple syrup and a generous pinch of baking soda. Stir to combine.
  • Bring to a boil and let cook without stirring, until mixture reaches 238F (the middle temperature of the soft boil stage) on a digital instant-read or candy thermometer.
  • Immediately pour the very very very hot candy syrup into the buttered bowl. Place in the fridge (or outdoors, in winter time) and let cool, swirling bowl occasionally, until the mixture reaches 125F.
  • Add the vanilla and maple extracts and beat the mixture (using your stand mixer, a sturdy electric mixer or your own strong hands and wooden spoon), until it loses most of its glossiness and starts to take on a more granular form, about 10 minutes.
  • With a sturdy spatula, transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan, smoothing down the top to even it out.
  • Let stand at room temperature until hardened (about one hour).
  • Lift out of the pan using the parchment paper ‘handles’ that extend over the sides and transfer to a cutting board.
  • Cut into small squares. Store fudge in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days or in the fridge for up to a month.

Makes several dozen pieces of fudge, depending upon how large you cut them.

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Pizza meatball casserole

A delectable mashup dish!

This lovely creation is the result of my menfolk being unable to decide what they wanted for dinner. The premise is simple: meatballs cooked up with classic pizza toppings including onions, mushrooms, green pepper, sauce and mozzarella. If you’re pressed for time, frozen store-bought meatballs would be perfectly acceptable in this hearty dish (and since most brands are fully cooked, the dish will be extra-fast to prepare). We enjoyed scooping the meaty, saucy, cheesy deliciousness onto wedges of pita bread, but this casserole would also be terrific served over rice, pasta or mashed potatoes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds (680 g) lean ground beef, chicken or turkey
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) finely minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) sliced mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) chopped sweet green pepper
  • 2 cups (500 mL) pizza sauce (see below to make your own)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) grated mozzarella

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Combine meat, minced onion, mustard, egg, pepper, garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl. Mix with your hands to blend well.
  • Shape the mixture into one inch (2.5 cm) meatballs and place them in single layer in a lightly-oiled, oven-safe skillet (cast iron is ideal) or casserole dish.
  • Note: you can make meatballs ahead and freeze them uncooked; thaw before using or increase cooking time by 10 minutes.
  • Bake the meatballs for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and drain off most of the fat.
  • Scatter the chopped onions, mushrooms and green pepper over the meatballs. Return pan to the oven for 10 minutes.
  • Pour the pizza sauce over the meat and vegetables and top evenly with grated mozzarella. Return pan to the oven and bake for approximately 10 minutes more, until sauce is bubbling and mozzarella is melted.
  • Dish can be fully baked ahead, refrigerated and reheated at 350F for 20 minutes or until hot.

Serves 4 as a meal; 8 – 10 as an appetizer.

Quick pizza sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) finely minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 jar passata (crushed, strained tomatoes – most jars are approx. 680 mL)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) each salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) each dried oregano and basil
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) baking soda (to neutralize the acid of the tomatoes)

Method

  • In a medium saucepan placed over medium heat, cook onion in olive oil for 2 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more.
  • Add passata, salt, pepper, oregano, basil, sugar and baking soda to the pan. Stir and let simmer 10 – 15 minutes.
  • Leftover sauce can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for up to 6 months.

Makes 3 cups / 750 mL of sauce.

 

Posted in appetizer, Beef, casserole, cheese, Chicken, dinner, Main DIsh, Make Ahead, make-ahead, make-ahead meal, turkey | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Traditional beef tartare

Top quality ingredients shine in this classic dish!

I’ll never forget the first time I tasted beef tartare. I’d avoided it out of unfounded fears about eating raw beef, but curiosity eventually got the better of me and I was hooked after just one bite. There are loads of variations out there but I’ll likely always prefer a classic preparation, which is similar to what they serve at Ottawa’s Supply and Demand restaurant (although they do mix things up every so often for fun and variety). I’ll admit I was a little nervous about serving raw beef at home but I followed the wise instructions of Transparent Kitchen which showcases the work of top restaurants in a number of Ontario cities (read more about Transparent Kitchen here.) Per Transparent Kitchen’s description of Supply and Demand’s beef tartare, I purchased top quality, local beef from The Piggy Market so I knew I was beginning the process with the best key ingredient.

The artisanal deli’s affable owner, Dave Neil, recommended a new-to-me cut of beef called the shoulder tender which was, true to its name, very tender; if you can source it you will find it just as delicious yet cheaper than tenderloin.  I highly recommend quickly pickling some vegetables to go with your tartare as they add great contrasts of flavour and texture to the finely minced beef, but if you’re pressed for time you can use cornichons (tiny pickled cucumbers, sometimes called gherkins) instead. Caper berries (larger, stemmed versions of the tiny pickled capers which are the buds from the same plant, with which you may be more familiar) are available at most specialty food shops. The Transparent Kitchen site also taught me that one of the secret ingredients in Supply and Demand’s beef tartare is a light dusting of quality cheese like Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, Canada’s 2016 Cheese of the Year. It’s a small-batch product but you can often find it – or a great substitute like Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar – at the Piggy Market.

Ingredients

Beef tartare

  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) small capers, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) sambal oelek (Asian chili-garlic paste)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
  • 3/4 pound (340 g) top quality beef (shoulder tender or tenderloin)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) finely chopped shallot
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

To serve

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) finely grated cheese (see above)
  • Crostini (see below), sliced baguette or sturdy crackers
  • Pickled vegetables (see below), caper berries or cornichons

Method

  • Make crostini and quick pickles ahead of time, if using.
  • Pop the beef into the freezer for about 30 minutes to firm up the meat and make it easier to mince.
  • While beef is chilling, combine the lemon juice, mustard, egg yolk, capers, and sambal oelek in a medium-sized non-reactive bowl (glass or stainless steel).
  • Drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly. Taste and add additional sambal oelek plus salt and pepper, to taste. Put bowl of vinaigrette in fridge while you prepare the beef.
  • With a very sharp knife, slice the meat thinly, then julienne the slices into matchstick-sized pieces. Cut the matchsticks crosswise to form a 1/8 inch (3 mm) dice.
  • Add the meat to the vinaigrette in the bowl and stir gently. Refrigerate for up to one hour if not serving immediately.
  • To serve, mound the beef tartare on a serving plate and garnish with pickled vegetables, caper berries and/or cornichons and grated cheese. Serve with crostini.

To make crostini:

  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • Slice a half a baguette thinly (1/4 inch or 1.25 cm) and lay the slices out on a baking tray.
  • Brush bread slices very lightly with olive oil and bake until just beginning to brown (6 – 8 minutes). Flip slices over and bake 3 – 4 minutes longer.
  • Remove from oven and transfer slices to a cooling rack. (NOTE: you can make the crostini several days ahead.)

To make quick pickled vegetables:

Brine

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) water
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) salt
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) white sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, halved
  • Pinch hot red pepper flakes
  • Few grinds black pepper

Vegetables

  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) small cauliflower florets (1/2 to 3/4 inch or 1.25 to 2 cm in size)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) peeled, sliced carrots (1/4 inch or .6 cm thick)
  • 1 shallot, cut crosswise into rings

Method

  • Combine the brine ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar and salt have dissolved and mixture is almost boiling.
  • Put the vegetables in a heatproof bowl and pour brine over top.
  • Let sit for 30 – 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Transfer pickles and brine to a jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months if not using immediately.

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Roasted cauliflower with spicy peanut sauce

A delicious, healthy meal or side dish!

I will forever be disappointed in myself for all the time I wasted before I embraced cauliflower. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the taste; I just found it always looked so plain and pale and sad on the plate. Recently, however, I’ve learned  just how versatile cauliflower truly is. I mean, roasted cauliflower is just about the tastiest thing ever, whether it’s been tossed with a few spices like in this Moroccan-inspired dish or gets treated to a delicious sweet and spicy sauce. This Thai-inspired cauliflower dish is fabulously flavourful and super easy to make. If allergies are an issue, you can use another nut or soy butter instead of peanut butter to make the scrumptious sauce.

Ingredients

Cauliflower

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) soy sauce (or tamari for gluten-free version)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) very finely minced ginger
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon (1.25 to 2.5 mL) sriracha (Asian hot sauce), or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) freshly-squeezed lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) hot water

Garnish

  • Lime wedges and slivered green onions

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
  • With a sharp knife, trim away outer leaves of the cauliflower then cut the head into small florets (about one inch / 2.5 cm) in size.
  • Put cauliflower florets in a bowl and drizzle with sesame and olive oils. Toss with two forks (or your fingers) so the florets are evenly coated.
  • Spread the cauliflower out on the parchment-lined pans and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until the largest florets feel tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.
  • While cauliflower roasts, combine sauce ingredients and whisk together until smooth. Add a bit more water if needed to make it a ‘pourable’ consistency.
  • When cauliflower is tender, transfer to a serving dish and drizzle peanut sauce over top. Garnish with slivered green onions and lime wedges. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Serves 6 as a side dish or 3 – 4 as a main (depending upon the size of cauliflower).

Posted in Asian, dinner, gluten-free, peanut sauce, Thai, vegan, Vegetables, vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment