Halloween Cassoulet Stuffed Pumpkin

Halloween Cassoulet Stuffed Pumpkin

Whether you are throwing a grownup Halloween party, having a pre trick-or-treat family dinner, or just want something cool for you and your partner, this Halloween Cassoulet Stuffed Pumpkin is exactly what you’re looking for. Cassoulet is a French white bean and meat stew cooked in a casserole dish. This version is cooked inside a pumpkin and uses a combination of ham and sausage to mimic the intestines and guts. When you cut the pumpkin open tableside, all the insides come out in a gory but delicious display. You can find the recipe directly below but keep reading for a more detailed explanation.


Preparing The Pumpkin

Buying the right type of pumpkin

The pumpkin you want to use for this recipe isn’t your typical jack-o-lantern pumpkin. These are smaller, more tender, and will likely be sold as pie pumpkins. Essentially, these are eating pumpkins. If you can’t find one, a large buttercup squash will work as well.

Wash and clean the pumpkin

To start, wash the outside of the pumpkin with hot water and a scrub brush. Make sure to remove any dirt. Next, cut the top off the pumpkin like you would when making a jack-o-lantern. Make sure to angle your knife slightly, so the lid fits back on the pumpkin rather than falling in. Cut the seeds and pith off the top and set it aside. Use a spoon to scrape the inside of the pumpkin. Remove all the seeds and loose bits. Put the pumpkin in a casserole dish and move on to the filling.


Preparing The Cassoulet

Vegetables

Start the cassoulet by preparing the vegetables. You will need 1 cup of sliced onion, 2 cloves of sliced garlic, 1/4 cup of diced celery, a 1/4 cup of diced carrots, and 1 diced Roma tomato.


The Cassoulet Meat

For the meat element of the cassoulet, I used summer sausage, ham and plain breakfast sausages. If you can’t find summer sausage, a good quality salami would work well. In total, you want about 1/2 a cup of diced ham and 1/2 a cup of diced summer sausage or salami.


Sausage

As I said, I used plain breakfast sausages for this. These are not a traditional ingredient, but in keeping with the Halloween theme, I wanted the sausage to be whole to mimic intestines when it all comes spewing out of the pumpkin. You can use a different variety of sausage you’d like, but these work very well for the presentation. And, the flavour works well with the overall taste of the cassoulet. Roast the sausages for 15 minutes in a 350°f oven, flipping them halfway through.


Other Ingredients

The other cassoulet ingredients are 1 cup of canned white kidney beans, 1/4 cup white wine, 3/4 cup chicken stock, and 1 tsp chopped thyme.


Preparing The Halloween Cassoulet

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil along with the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Cook the mixture for 3 to 4 minutes or until the onions soften. Next, add the diced meat and tomatoes. Cook for another 3 minutes before adding the thyme and white wine. Continue to cook the mixture until the wine has all but evaporated. Add the sausages and chicken stock along with a big pinch of pepper. Don’t add any salt as enough will come out of the sausage and ham. Bring the mixture to a boil, add the beans and give it a taste.


Stuffing the Pumpkin

Carefully transfer the cassoulet mixture into the pumpkin. Put the lid on the pumpkin and bake at 350°f for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft to the touch but not falling apart. Take the Halloween Cassoulet Stuffed Pumpkin out of the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes, then serve. To serve, you can scoop the stew out of the pumpkin then cut the pumpkin into pieces, or you can cut the pumpkin with the stew still in it and watch it come pouring out for a delightfully disgusting Halloween display.


The Wrap-Up

A few days ago, I was asked to prepare a Halloween recipe on local morning television. I had no idea what I was going to make, but after some thought, this Halloween Cassouelt Stuffed Pumpkin was what I came up with, and I have to tell you, I am pretty pleased with myself. Not only does it taste great and look amazing, but it is also the perfect Halloween-themed dinner though I can see myself making this a few more times this year. Enjoy and Happy Halloween!

Cassoulet Stuffed Pumpkin

A delicious tasting Halloween-themed dinner. French white bean and sausage stew cooked inside a pumpkin. To give your guests that authentic Halloween scare, cut the pumpkin open tableside and watch all the insides become outsides.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Canadian, French
Keyword: Beans, Cassoulet, Halloween, Pumpkin
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Chef Ben Kelly

Ingredients

  • 1 med. Pumpkin make sure to buy one that says "pie" pumpkin or use a large butercup squash
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1 Roma tomat, diced
  • 1 cup white kidney beans, soaked and boiled or just use canned ones.
  • 1/2 cup ham, diced
  • 1/2 cup summer sausage, diced or another smoked or cured sausage or salami
  • 6 links of breakfast sausage don't use maple or apple breakfast sausages.
  • 1 tsp thyme, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Pre-heat you're oven to 350°f
  • Cook the sausages in the oven for 15 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  • Cut the top off the pumpkin like you would when making a jack-o-lantern. Then scrape and scoop out all the seeds and loose bits.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the olive oil, then the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery. Cook the vegetables for about 4 minutes or until the onions start to soften.
  • Add the diced ham and summer sausage, along with the diced tomatoes and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Add the thyme, a pinch of pepper, and the white wine. Cook until the wine has almost all evaporated.
  • Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  • Add in the cooked sausages and white beans. Bring the pan back to a boil.
  • Put the pumpkin into a high-sided casserole dish and spoon the meat and bean mixture into it. Put the lid on the pumpkin and bake in the oven for 1 1/2 hours or until the pumpkin is soft to the touch but not falling apart.
  • Serve the stew directly out of the pumpkin, then cut the pumpkin and serve slices along with the stew. Or for a more Holloween themed presentation, cut the pumpkin open at the table and let all the sausages and beans and everything come pouring out. Make sure do to this in a casserole dish so as not to make a big mess.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Vanilla Panna Cotta – The Valentine’s Day Dessert You Want

Vanilla Panna Cotta – The Valentine’s Day Dessert You Want

When you look at a panna cotta, it seems like it should be hard to make. It gives off the impression of being this super elegant dessert that you can only get in fancy restaurants. But, it isn’t that at all. It’s actually a really simple dessert. Milk, cream, sugar, vanilla and gelatine, that’s all there is to it. It’s like a very light and elegant pudding. You can make it in under twenty minutes, then throw it in the fridge for a few hours to set. It is a great make-ahead dessert that anyone can put together. It also is a great way to finish the Chef’s Notes Valentine’s Day meal series, which is a three-course meal I’ve been sharing over the past week. You can check out the appetizer and the main course here. If you are looking for a simple dessert to end a romantic meal or something quick you can make for a nice family dinner, panna cotta is the answer. Let’s get to it.


Working With Gelatine

To make panna cotta, you have to use gelatine, something you may or may not be familiar with. Don’t worry, it’s not hard to work with, but there are some things you need to know. First of all, you can find gelatine in any grocery store. It most often comes in powdered form and is usually found in the baking aisle. When working with gelatine, you have to bloom it first. All that means is that you mix the powdered gelatine with cold water and let it sit for a few minutes to hydrate. Then, you have to heat the gelatine until it melts and turns from opaque to translucent. It’s easiest to do this by setting the bowl containing the gelatine over a pot of boiling or simmering water. The gelatine will turn to a liquid in a minute or two and turn clear in another minute or so. Now your gelatine is ready to use.


Making Panna Cotta

To make your panna cotta pour one cup of whole milk (you can also use 2%) and one cup of whipping cream into a 2 qt pot. Add half a cup of sugar and half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Put the pot on the stove on medium-high heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved and the dairy is just about to boil. Take the pot off the heat and whisk the mixture into the bloomed gelatine.


Cooling The Panna Cotta

The traditional way to serve panna cotta is to let it set in a ramekin, then unmold it, so you have this nice white jiggly dessert on your plate. You can do this, it’s not difficult, and it looks nice. You can also leave it in the ramekin if you’d prefer. If you’re not going to unmold the panna cotta, I suggest setting it in clear glasses. It will look amazing. To cool and set the panna cotta, pour it into four dishes, whatever you’d like. Cover the dish with plastic wrap, making sure to push the plastic right down onto the surface of the panna cotta to prevent a film from forming. Put the dishes in the fridge for at least three hours to set.


Unmolding The Panna Cotta

Again, unmolding the panna cotta is optional, but it really does add a bit of WOW! to the dessert. To unmold the panna cotta, place the ramekin in a bowl of hot water and let it sit for about fifteen seconds. Take it out of the water, run a knife around the inside of the ramekin, put a plate on top of the ramekin and flip it over. You will likely have to jiggle the ramekin a little to get the panna cotta to let go.


What to serve with your panna cotta.

Serve the panna cotta with fresh berries, a fruit compote or a bit of jam. Whatever you’d prefer will be just fine. I opted for jam, but I will share my blueberry compote recipe at the end of the post.


panna cotta

Vanilla Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta is a surprisingly simple dessert that is the perfect way to cap off a romantic meal or even a family dinner.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Dessert, No-bake dessert, Panna Cotta, Valentine’s Day
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Chef’s Notes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 package powdered gelatin
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions

  • In a 2 qt pot, combine the cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla. Put the pot on the stove on medium heat. Heat the mixture, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the milk is just on the verge of boiling.
  • Pour the water into a medium-sized, heatproof bowl. Sprinkle the powdered gelatin of the water and stir it in. Let the gelatine sit for 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Put a medium pot on the stove with an inch of water in the bottom. Turn the burner on high and bring the water to a boil.
  • Set the bowl with the gelatine and water over the boiling water and heat until the mixture is liquid and clear.
  • Pour the hot milk mixture into the gelatin and whisk to combine.
  • Pour the milk mixture into four ramekins, cover with plastic wrap, making sure to push the wrap down on the surface of the panna cotta to prevent a film from forming on the surface. Put the dishes in the fridge for at least 3 hours to cool and set.
  • Serve the panna cotta either in the ramekin or unmold it by dipping the ramekin in hot water for 15 seconds, then flipping it over onto a plate and giving it a little shake until the panna cotta breaks free. Serve it with fresh berries, a fruit compote or a bit of jam.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

The Wrap Up

If you really want to impress someone or just want something delicious to finish a meal, look no further. Panna cotta is what you’ve been looking for. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this Chef’s Notes Valentine’s Day mini-series and that you make one or all the parts of this meal. If you do, I’d love to hear about it. You can tell me the comments below or on social media @chefbenkelly. Thank you, everyone, and have a great weekend. Oh, and you can find the other two courses to this meal here and here.


Thank you for reading this post. Please share it on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter to help Chef’s Notes grow. Subscribe to Chef’s Notes below, and you will never miss a post again.

[jetpack_subscription_form show_subscribers_total=”false” button_on_newline=”false” custom_font_size=”16″ custom_border_radius=”0″ custom_border_weight=”1″ custom_padding=”15″ custom_spacing=”10″ submit_button_classes=”” email_field_classes=”” show_only_email_and_button=”true”]
About me

Blueberry Compote

The perfect sauce for your Charcuterie Board, or for roasted or grilled pork.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: Basic Sauces, Christmas, Holiday, Pork, pork chops
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Chef’s Notes

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot or onion
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/8 tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/2 tsp fresh chopped thyme

Instructions

  • Heat a small pot over medium heat. Add the canola oil and shallot. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the shallots start to soften.
  • Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes or until a spoon dragged across the bottom of the pot, leaves a line for at least one second.
  • Cool to room temperature and serve.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Roasted Squash & Goat Cheese Salad – Your Valentine’s Day Starter

Roasted Squash & Goat Cheese Salad – Your Valentine’s Day Starter

This week at Chef’s Notes is all about helping you craft a perfect Valentine’s day meal at home. Let’s face it, you probably aren’t going to a restaurant this year. Today, we’ll make a delicious Roasted Squash and Goat Cheese Salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette and almonds. This salad makes the perfect starter for your Valentine’s Day meal. On Wednesday, we’ll make the main course, and on Friday we will make dessert. By the end of the week, you’ll have all the knowledge and skill to make a delicious three-course Valentine’s Day meal for two. Let’s get to it.


Roasted Butternut Squash

For two people, you’ll need half of a butternut squash. I prefer the bottom half for this salad, you’ll see why in a little bit. Cut the top half off your squash, use it to make soup, or roast it for a side dish. Cut the bottom part of the squash in half and remove the seeds. I recommend peeling the squash even though I didn’t. It’s easier to eat if you do. Once you have the bottom of the squash freed of seeds and skin, slice it into one-centimetre slices. Put the squash on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a 400°f oven for 35 minutes or until the squash is tender and slightly brown. Take the squash out of the oven and let it cool to room temperature.


Balsamic Dressing

While the squash is roasting, make the balsamic vinaigrette. You can find the full measurements in the recipe below. Start with mustard powder, salt, pepper, and honey. Then add in your balsamic vinegar. Slowly whisk in your oil, perferrably canola or vegetable oil. The dressing should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Put the finished dressing in a jar and store it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.


Putting The Squash Salad Together

The salad ingredients are the roasted squash, the balsamic vinaigrette, arugula, sliced almonds, and goat cheese. If you aren’t a fan of arugula, you can substitute it for baby spinach or mesclun if you’d like. I really like arugula and I find the peppery nuttiness of it balances the tartness of the dressing with the sweetness of the squash. The goat cheese can be substituted for blue cheese, parmesan, or old cheddar. You can also substitute the almonds for hazelnuts, cashews, or pecans.

Dressing The Arugula

For two people put three to four cups of greens in a mixing bowl and toss with two to three tablespoons of the dressing. You want just enough dressing to coat the greens, but not drown them.

Plating The Squash Salad

Get two small round plates, and plate the roasted squash in a circle around the middle of the plate. Put the dressed greens in the middle of the squash, then top with a few tablespoons of the cheese and the nuts. If you’d like, you can finish the salad with a little bit of fresh cracked pepper and a pinch of salt.

Roasted Squash Salad

Squash Salad

Roasted butternut squash salad with balsamic vinaigrette, arugula, almonds and goat cheese. This makes the perfect start for a dinner party, or a romantic dinner for two.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Salad
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: Butternut Squash, Starter, Valentine’s Day
Servings: 2 servings
Author: Chef’s Notes

Ingredients

Roasted Butternut Squash

  • The bulb of a butternut squash
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 1/2 cup canola oil

Roasted Squash Salad

  • 4 cups of arugula
  • 1/4 cups sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup of goat cheese

Instructions

Roasted Butternut Squash

  • Cut the squash bulb in half through the middle. Remove the seeds and peel it. Slice the squash into 1 cm slices.
  • Put the squash slices on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Roast the squash in a 400°f oven for 35 minutes of until the squash is soft and slighty brown around the edges. Take the sqaush out of the oven and let it cool to room temperature.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • In a medium mixing bowl combine the mustard powder, salt, pepper, honey, and balsamic vinegar.
  • Whisk in the canola oil in a slow steady stream. If you notice that the oil isn't mixing in, stop adding oil, and whisk until it has been incorporated then continue to whisk in more oil.
  • The finished dressing should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  • Once the dressing is made, transfer it to a jar and put it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

Roasted Squash Salad

  • Put the arugula in a large mixing bowl and toss with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the balsamic vinaigrette. You want just enough dressing to goat the arugula, but not so much that it is drowning.
  • Get to small round plates and palce the roasted squash in a circle around the center of the plates. Put the dressed arugual in a pile in the center of the squash circle.
  • Divide the almonds and goat cheese among the two salads. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

The Wrap Up

The hardest part of making this salad is the dressing. If you are that intimidated by it, you can buy balsamic vinaigrette at the grocery store instead. The fact is that this a very simple salad that looks beautiful and tastes amazing. Whoever you are making this salad for is going to be blown away because it is exaclty the type of thing you would get in a nice restaurant on Valentine’s Day. The difference is that you made it yourself for a fraction of the price. You can’t beat that. Remember to come back on Wednesday for your Valnetine’s Day main course.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share it on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter to help Chef’s Notes grow. Subscribe to Chef’s Notes below, and you will never miss a post again.

[jetpack_subscription_form show_subscribers_total=”false” button_on_newline=”false” custom_font_size=”16″ custom_border_radius=”0″ custom_border_weight=”1″ custom_padding=”15″ custom_spacing=”10″ submit_button_classes=”” email_field_classes=”” show_only_email_and_button=”true”]
About me
Creating The Perfect Holiday Charcuterie Board

Creating The Perfect Holiday Charcuterie Board

Whether you are having a big party (in any other year) or a small intimate evening in, nothing can beat a well presented Charcuterie Board. The key is that it has to be well presented. Otherwise, it’s just some meat and cheese on a plate. Today, I’ll share some tips and tricks with you so that you can make your next Charcuterie Board look just like the pros. Let’s get to it.


Getting Started

First things first, let’s talk about ingredients. There is no point in putting in the effort to make a beautiful charcuterie board using low-end ingredients. Now, to be clear, I’m not saying you need to spend loads of money here. But, we’re not making a supermarket deli tray either. Splurge and get a few nice cheeses and a few nice types of meat. That’s all you really need. Let’s look at some specifics.

Choosing The Right Cheese

There are three things that I think about when I choose the cheese for any charcuterie board. First and foremost, it has to taste good. If it doesn’t, why would you use it? Next, I think about shape and texture. If all of the cheese on the board is the same shape and texture, it will look boring, and it will be boring to eat. Yes, you can control the shape to some degree with how you cut and present the cheese, but there is only so much you can do. Finally, I think about variety and the style, and the taste of the cheese. Usually, I try to have one soft cheese like brie or camembert. I like blue cheese, so I pretty much always include one such as gorgonzola or stilton. And, I usually use a semi-firm to firm cheese. This can be anything from a really nice aged cheddar to asiago, to manchego, or Beemster.

If you want to really get into it, you can use cheese that comes from the same places as your meats. So, if you are using Italian meats, or Spanish meats, you would use Italian cheese, or Spanish cheese. I don’t generally worry about this too much unless the board itself is themed to a specific place. Using French cheese with Italian meat isn’t going to ruin your board or your experience.

One other tip when it come to the cheese is to avoid novelty cheese like beer-veined ones, or holiday shaped ones. For the most part, they aren’t going to taste good. They aren’t going to pair well with the other things on your board. And they are going to make your charcuterie board look kind of hokey.


Charcuterie Meats

When it comes to the meat on a Charcuterie Board, I actually really like the three packs of Italian meats you can get at most grocery stores. Please don’t buy the cheapest one. It will likely taste cheap. Having said that, you don’t have to buy the most expensive one either. These packs work best when making a board for two to six people, but any more than that, and you are going to want to go to the deli counter and get them to cut the meats fresh for you. This will save you a considerable amount of money.

If you have a specialty charcuterie store in your city, go there. It is going to be exponentially better than what you get at the grocery store. They will likely have some delicious paté, terrines and lots of other items that you can use on your Charcuterie Board as well. Speaking of paté, I don’t typically recommend grocery store paté, but if you like them, go for them.

Charcuterie Meats

Sauce

It’s always nice to serve at least one kind of sauce with your Charcuterie Board. This could be as simple as nice mustard to pair with the meat or a high-end jam to go with the cheese. I really like a savoury blueberry compote paired with cheese, especially brie and blue cheese. If you’d like to make my blueberry compote, you can find the recipe at the end of this post.


Bread

Every Charcuterie Board needs some type of bread item. This could be as simple as some torn up baguette or store-bought crackers. But, I find that toasting some bread (this is gluten-free sourdough from Promise Gluten-Free) with olive oil and aged balsamic or balsamic reduction not only tastes great but looks great too. It really adds that extra wow factor to the board. To make these, cut some bread into 5 cm x 5 cm squares, put them on a lined sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and thick balsamic vinegar (reduction or aged), then bake on 400°f for ten to twelve minutes.


Assembling Your Charcuterie Board

Now that we have the main components of our Charcuterie Board mapped out, let’s look at how to put it all togehter.

The Board

Obviously, you are going to need a plate or board to put your ingredients on. For two to six people, I use a twelve to sixteen-inch board. For two people, this would be a meal, not an appetizer. The board can be a cutting board, a sanded and oiled piece of maple, or even a long narrow plate. You can plate your charcuterie on a round plate, but that’s not what we are doing today. The board I’m using is from Ashwurks Cutting Boards.

The Cheese

I always start with the cheese becasue it helps shape the rest of the board and becasue the cheese is best served at room temperature. So, as I’m putting the rest of the board together, the cheese is coming up to the perfect eating temperature. I always put cheese on opposite corners when using a square or rectangular board, then one cheese in the middle. This helps to break the board up and gives me lots of room for everything else.

Brie and other wheels of cheese can be served as either a whole wheel or a half wheel. Obviously, you can buy bigger pieces of brie, in which case, you would not use a full or even half wheel. But, when buying small wheels, I will put a half wheel in a corner or put a full wheel right to the center of the board. I also like to pre-cut brie and other soft cheese becasue it is easier to cut when it’s cold, which prevents a large mess later on.

Blue cheese I don’t cut becasue it is typically pretty crumbly. I put a wedge of it in one corner and make sure to serve a cheese knife with it. Whatever it may be, the third cheese is what I use to break up the board visually. I avoid cutting the cheese into cubes like the plague. There is nothing that is going to make your board look cheaper than cubed cheese. Suppose the cheese comes in a wedge, cut across it to get thin triangles. If the cheese is rectangular, slice it, cut the slices into triangles if you can, or use the thin rectangles. Fan the third cheese out. This looks great and makes the cheese easy to grab.

How much meat and cheese to serve?

If the charcuterie board is served before a meal, aim to have about 56 grams or 2 ounces of cheese per person and the same amount of meat. If the board is the meal, aim for about 150 g or just over 5 ounces per person. That is cheese in total, not of each kind of cheese and the same with the meat.


Cups and bowls

After the cheese, I like to add any cups or ramekins that I may be using. On my example board, I use one small cup of blueberry compote. But you may have cups of mustard, pickles, olives, anything like that. Essentially, anything rigid should be added to the board, right after the cheese.

Your Charcuterie Meats

Next up, the meat gets added. Just as with cheese, you want to create different textures with the meats. Again, this isn’t a meat and cheese tray from your local grocery store’s deli section. Avoid rolling meats into tubes and stuff like that. How you present the meat really depends on what meat you have. With my example board, I have coppa, salami, and prosciutto. The coppa and salami are both round, and the prosciutto is prosciutto shaped. Generally, I fold salami into quarters. It holds well and looks nice enough. With the coppa, I pinch it gently in the middle and form it into a loose bunch.

There is a common mistake when it comes to preparing slices of prosciutto for a charcuterie board. People tend to roll it or fold it up, but it makes eating very unpleasant. Eating rolled prosciutto feels very similar to eating raw meat, which is not usually very much fun. Instead of rolling, gently fold the prosciutto into ribbons. When your guests eat it, they should be eating only one-two to layers at a time. This makes the prosciutto much more enjoyable to eat.

Position of the meats

As for where to place the meats on your board, I like to bunch them up with the cheese. You don’t have to do this, but I find it helps keep everything looking nice and tidy, and saves room for bread or crackers, and other garnishes.


Bread and Crackers

The next elements to be added to the board are the crackers or bread. I like to use these items as borders or dividers between the different sections of my board. There are salami and blue cheese at the top, then a bread border. At the bottom, coppa and brie, and a bread border. Again, this helps with the visual appeal, but it also puts the bread or crackers exactly where you want them next to the spreadable cheese.


Garnishing Your Charcuterie Board

The final step, and visually the most important, is to garnish your charcuterie board. For the best visual appeal and variety in eating, use a few different garnishes. I have grapes, cranberries, dried figs, pistachios, gherkins, olives, dried orange slices, and a few sprigs of fresh thyme on my board. So that you know, most of these items I had on hand already. Don’t spend more on garnish than your main items. Buy one or two things, then use whatever you have around the kitchen.

You don’t have to use the exact garnishes that I did, but the idea is to fill the blank space with pops of colour and different textures. Of course, you want most, if not all, of your garnish to be things that you actually want to eat. Also, don’t go overboard here. There is such a thing as too much garnish. A few pieces of each item is more than enough.


The Finished Charcuterie Board

Your finished charcuterie board should be visually stunning and easy and enjoyable to eat. This is food, after all. Ideally, your guests or partner will literally say, “Wow!” when they see it. If someone says, “I don’t want to eat it because it is too beautiful.” you know you’ve done your job.


Conclusion

There isn’t much difference between a professionally prepared Charcuterie Board and an amateur one. It’s mostly the same meats and the same cheese. Like with most things, it is the little extras that separate the two. Pay attention to the placement of things. Think about colour and texture. And use garnish to fill up the board and add pops of colour. Just like that, your amateur looking Charcuterie Board has become a masterpiece that any pro would be happy to serve.

You can find the Blueberry compote recipe below.

Thank you for reading the post. If you liked it, remember to share it on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. Did you know that Chefsnotes.com has over 400 posts just like this one? Subscribe to the blog below, and you will be notified of every new post so you will never a helpful tip or recipe again. And if you would like to know more about me, click the picture of me below to read my story “Life on the line.”

[jetpack_subscription_form show_subscribers_total=”false” button_on_newline=”false” custom_font_size=”16″ custom_border_radius=”0″ custom_border_weight=”1″ custom_padding=”15″ custom_spacing=”10″ submit_button_classes=”” email_field_classes=”” show_only_email_and_button=”true”]

Blueberry Compote

The perfect sauce for your Charcuterie Board, or for roasted or grilled pork.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: Basic Sauces, Christmas, Holiday, Pork, pork chops
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Chef’s Notes

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot or onion
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/8 tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/2 tsp fresh chopped thyme

Instructions

  • Heat a small pot over medium heat. Add the canola oil and shallot. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the shallots start to soften.
  • Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes or until a spoon dragged across the bottom of the pot, leaves a line for at least one second.
  • Cool to room temperature and serve.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Caramelized Pear and Blue Cheese Tarts

Caramelized Pear and Blue Cheese Tarts

Last week I shared My Mom’s Cheese Ball Recipe, and it got me thinking that it would probably be a good idea to share some other holiday or Christmas hors d’oeuvre recipes. So, for the next few Fridays until Christmas, I am going to do exactly that. This week I will share my recipe for Caramelized Pear and Blue Cheese Tarts. Don’t let the name scare you. These are not complicated to make at all. I promise. I feature an item very similar to this on my hors d’oeuvres menu, and it is always popular, so I’m excited to share it with you. Obviously, most of us won’t be getting together in big groups this Christmas, so I’ve cut back all the recipes in this mini-series to suit two to four people, which should be ideal. Let’s get to it!


Tart Shells

When it comes to entertaining during the holidays, premade tart shells, puff pastry, and phyllo dough are your best friends. You can do so much with those three items as the base. I’ve never seen gluten-free puff pastry or phyllo here, but I did manage to get a hold of some gluten-free tart shells. I found them at Sobeys if anyone is looking for them.

To prepare the tart shells, I first defrosted them then poked them, or docked them, which is the technical term, with a fork and baked them at 375°f for fourteen minutes. The cooking time and temperature may vary depending on the tart shells you use, so always make sure to read the package’s instructions.

Caramelizing the pears

While the tart shells are baking get to work on the caramelized pears. Peel, core, and dice (1 cm x 1 cm) three bosc pears. Set them aside.

Additional Ingredients

Next up, peel and mince two shallots. You want about half a cup of minced shallot in total. If you don’t have or don’t want to buy shallots, you can use an equal amount of yellow onion, make sure to cut them as small as you can. Also, chop about one teaspoon of fresh thyme. You can use dried thyme for this, but fresh is much better. If you use dried thyme, use half as much and add into the pan with shallots, right in the beginning. You will need one tablespoon of cider vinegar, two tablespoons of sugar, two tablespoons of hot water, and a pinch of salt along with the shallots and thyme.

Cooking the pears

Heat a medium frying pan over medium heat. Put one tablespoon of butter in the pan and wait for it to melt and start to foam. Add the shallots and cook for two to three minutes or until they soften. If you are using dried thyme, add that in as well. Once the shallots have softened, add in the diced pears and cook for another three minutes or until they start to soften. Add in the sugar, vinegar, water, salt, and fresh thyme if you are using it. Cook the mixture, stirring, until all the liquid has evaporated. Take the pan off the heat.


Making the Pear and Blue Cheese Tarts

Assemble the pear and blue cheese tarts by spooning the pear mixture into the cooked tart shells. Top each tart with a few crumbled blue cheese pieces. Serve with dry white wine and enjoy. For lunch, you can also serve two of these tarts with a small green salad.

pear and blue cheese tarts

Pear and Blue Cheese Tarts

Things are going to be different this year, but they don't have to be THAT different. Enjoy pear and blue cheese tarts with the ones you love.
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Course: Appetizer, hors d’oeuvres
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: Blue Cheese, Christmas, Christmas Baking, Entertaining, Gluten Free, Pears, Tarts
Servings: 6 mini tarts
Author: Chef’s Notes

Ingredients

  • 6 3- inch tart shells
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup minced shallot
  • 2 cups diced pears
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp hot water
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped thyme
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

Instructions

  • Cook the tart shells according to the package instructions.
  • Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the butter, wait for it to melt and foam, then add in the shallots and cook for two to three minutes or until they soften.
  • Add the pears to the pan and cook for three more minutes or until the pears start to soften as well.
  • Add the sugar, vinegar, and hot water. Cook for two minutes, then add in the thyme and a pinch of salt.
  • Cook until all the moisture has evaporated.
  • Remove the pan from the heat, spoon the pears into the pre-baked tart shells, and top with the crumbled blue cheese.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Conclusion

These Caramelized Pear and Blue Cheese Tarts are super simple, delicious and they look great. All the components can be prepared ahead and then assembled at the last minute, or you can make them all at once, as I did. Any guest, husband or wife, will be thrilled that you made these for them. They are the perfect thing for Christmas eve or New Years.

Thank you for reading the post. If you liked it, remember to share it on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. Did you know that Chefsnotes.com has over 400 posts just like this one? Subscribe to the blog below, and you will be notified of every new post so you will never a helpful tip or recipe again. And if you would like to know more about me, click the picture of me below to read my story “Life on the line.”

[jetpack_subscription_form show_subscribers_total=”false” button_on_newline=”false” custom_font_size=”16″ custom_border_radius=”0″ custom_border_weight=”1″ custom_padding=”15″ custom_spacing=”10″ submit_button_classes=”” email_field_classes=”” show_only_email_and_button=”true”]
My Mom’s Christmas Cheese Ball Recipe

My Mom’s Christmas Cheese Ball Recipe

Anyone who has lost someone knows how hard the holidays can be. It doesn’t matter how much time has passed; there’s always going to be a bit of sadness. My mom passed away almost eight years ago, and though it is easier, it is never easy. A long time ago, my mom, whether she knew it or not, gave me a gift that helps me feel that she is with me during the holidays. The gift she gave me is her recipes and the skills and know-how to cook them. This cheese ball is one of those recipes. This has been a staple of my family’s Christmas since before I was born. Even though my mom is gone, I still enjoy her cooking, which feels like a big hug through time and space. Each bite takes me back to every Christmas I did get to spend with her. And even though my son never got a chance to meet his grandmother, he will get to know her, in some way through these recipes. What an amazing gift she gave me.


Cheese Ball Ingredients

You obviously can’t have a cheese ball without cheese, so we’ll start there. For this recipe, use two cups of old or extra old cheddar cheese. Along with the cheese, there is one hard-boiled egg, some green bell pepper, sweet gherkins, pimento-stuffed olives, cracker crumbs, minced onion, mayonnaise, and salt. It is important to cut everything as small as possible; otherwise, the cheese ball will fall apart. For the egg, it is easiest to grate on a cheese grater. You can find the full list of measurements in the printable recipe at the end of the post.


Putting The Cheese Ball Together

To make the cheese ball put the cheese in a medium mixing bowl, grate the egg into the bowl, then add the remaining ingredients and mix well.


Forming and Resting The Cheese Ball

Once the ingredients have been mixed, divide the mixture into two and form into two balls. Then, wrap the balls tightly in plastic wrap. Put the cheese ball in the fridge for at least two hours to rest. It’s best if you let it sit in the fridge overnight. This time allows all the flavours to combine and is crucial in getting the right taste.


Serving The Cheese Ball

Take the cheese ball out of the fridge, unwrap it and serve it with assorted crackers, sweet gherkins, and olives. You may want to make a double batch becasue it isn’t going to last long.

Cheese Ball Recipe

Cheese Ball Recipe

Mom’s Cheese Ball

My Mom made this every year as part of our Christmas spread. It was always one of my favourite parts of the holiday. I still make it every Christmas and probably always will.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: Cheese Ball, Christmas, snacks
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Chef’s Notes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Old Cheddar Cheese, grated
  • 2 tbsp Onion, minced
  • 3 tbsp Green Bell Pepper, minced
  • 2 tbsp Olives stuffed with pimento, minced
  • 2 tbsp Sweet Gherkins, minced
  • 1 Hardboiled Egg, grated
  • 1/2 cup Soda Crackers, crushed
  • 1/4 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp Salt

Instructions

  • Combine and mix all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Mix well.
  • Divide the mixture into two and form into two balls.
  • Wrap the balls in plastic and store in the fridge for two hours before serving with crackers, olives, and pickles. It is best to rest the cheese ball in the fridge overnight to allow the flavours to come togehter.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Conclusion

This cheese ball, more than almost anything else, is Christmas to me. I can do without the presents or decorations, but not without this. I hope you enjoy the recipe, and I hope that it brings you a little cheer even if you can’t be with the ones you love. And, if you’re feeling a little extra lonely this year, know that every bite you take of this cheese ball is like a big hug from my mom and me. Enjoy.

Thank you for reading the post. If you liked it, remember to share it on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. Did you know that Chefsnotes.com has over 400 posts just like this one? Subscribe to the blog below, and you will be notified of every new post so you will never a helpful tip or recipe again. And if you would like to know more about me, click the picture of me below to read my story “Life on the line.”

[jetpack_subscription_form show_subscribers_total=”false” button_on_newline=”false” custom_font_size=”16″ custom_border_radius=”0″ custom_border_weight=”1″ custom_padding=”15″ custom_spacing=”10″ submit_button_classes=”” email_field_classes=”” show_only_email_and_button=”true”]
20 Christmas Gifts Under $20 For The Foodie In Your Life

20 Christmas Gifts Under $20 For The Foodie In Your Life

It can be hard to figure out what Christmas gifts to get that foodie on your Christmas list. They’ve probably already got at least one drawer full of little gadgets and tools that they never use (cherry pitter anyone?). But, luckily for you, I’ve taken the time to put a list together of 20 Christmas Gifts Under $20 For The Foodie In Your Life. You’re probably thinking, “yeah, but won’t these just end up in the junk drawer?” Come on, you know me better than that. All the items on this list are useful. I know because I have versions of all of these, and I use them, or I don’t have them but really want them. Some will get more use than others, sure. But none will sit in that dreaded drawer collecting dust, never to be seen again. Alright, without further ado, let’s get to it.


Disclaimer:

This is not a sponsored post. I have chosen every item on this list because I believe that it is a useful item. However, each item does have an amazon.ca affiliate link attached to it. Meaning, if you click on any of the pictures, you will be taken to their amazon.ca page to buy them. If you buy one of the items on this list after clicking on it on this page, amazon pays me a small affiliate fee. But, you can also find most of these items in your local kitchen supply store, and I recommend buying them there if you can becasue that local store is probably struggling pretty hard right now.

1. Swissmar Peeler

The first item on this list is a Swissmar Vegetable Peeler. These will cost you anywhere from $8 to $18, depending on where you buy them. You may think that $18 is an awful lot to spend on a little piece of plastic with a metal blade. I mean, those fancy old school metal peelers with rubber grips don’t even cost that much. But, this peeler is different for a lot of reasons. First of all, you can take the blade off to clean it, which is a big deal. Second of all, it makes peeling vegetables very quick compared to other peelers. And finally, it will last a lifetime. Every professional Chef I know has at least one of these peelers. I have two, one for work and one for home. The peeler I use at home is my old work peeler. I’ve had it for at least eight years, probably longer, and it has never let me down. If these peelers can last essentially forever in a professional kitchen, they will last forever for the foodie you’re buying them for.


2. Microplane

A good Microplane is a precious tool in any kitchen. They are used for finely grating hard cheese, grating spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, and zesting citrus. A Microplane will cost you anywhere from $12 to $40. But, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a quality one. The important thing to look for is a sturdy handle and firm teeth that won’t bend. Any foodie will be happy to open one up one of these on Christmas morning. And, you may end up with a little cinnamon or nutmeg grated over your coffee.


3. Probe Thermometer

When it comes to Foodie Christmas Gifts, a probe thermometer is almost always at the top of the wish list. These range in price from $10 to over $100. But, a $20 thermometer will last a couple of years and will give an accurate reading. These are great for foodies that cook a lot of meat, especially roasts and barbecues.


4. Paring Knife

There is almost nothing more useful to a cook than a good paring knife. They have a million uses, from cutting small items to peeling vegetables, you name it. The Victorinox paring knife listed below costs $10 and will stay sharp for a long time. What’s more, the thin ergonomic handle is easy and comfortable to hold no matter the size of the person’s hand.


5. Silicone Baking Mats

If your foodie likes to bake, silicone baking mats are a must. They are completely reusable and save money becasue they remove the need for parchment paper when baking. These cost about $20 even and are worth every single penny. Any baker will be thrilled to see these under the tree.


6. Apple Corer

This may seem like an odd item for me to include on this list. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m not a fan of single-purpose items, and what could be more single-purpose than an apple corer? But I have one, and I love it. I use it all the time for coring apples and pears for tarts and galettes. They also work well for cutting little cylinders out of a pound of butter, if you’re into that kind of thing. We used to do that for our bread service at a restaurant I worked at years ago. An apple corer will cost about $11 and may even take that foodie by surprise, but they will use it more than they think they will.


7. Bench Scraper

A good bench scraper can be used to clean bits of stuck flour off a countertop, for cutting dough, for picking up ingredients off a cutting board, and for many other purposes. They run about $13 and are a work horse for anyone who knows how to use them. If your foodie friend is a foodie indeed, a good bench scraper may be just what they need. (see what I did there?)


8. Meat Mallet

Not only is a meat mallet useful for tenderizing tough cuts of meat and for making scallopini and schnitzel, but it will also lead to countless meat beating jokes, which are just delightful. A decent meat mallet will cost about $16 and will likely last a lifetime. If your foodie likes flattened meat and dirty jokes, this is the Christmas gift for them.


9. Kitchen Towel Push Hooks

Full disclosure, these Kitchen Towel Push Hooks are the only item on this list that I don’t have. But they look really cool and handy. What I’m saying is that I want them. If my wife is reading this (just joking. I know she isn’t), I would like these for Christmas, please. These will run you about $10 on amazon.ca.


10. Digital Kitchen Scale

A digital scale can be used for weighing ingredients (especially when baking) and for portion control. I don’t use my kitchen scale every day, but I’m glad it’s there when I need it. The price range on kitchen scales varies greatly, but the one pictured below will cost you about $20 on the dot.


11. Kitchen Shears

No kitchen is complete without a good set of kitchen shears, which are just heavy-duty scissors. They can be used for cutting chives, cooked chicken or even pizza (which is the actual Italian way). Really, they are scissors. They have a million uses. Kitchen Shears will cost you anywhere from $20 to $60, but there is no need to go top of the line with them. A $20 set will do the same jobs as a $60 set.


12. Ove Glove

I remember seeing the commercials for these years ago and thinking how stupid the “chef” in them looked. “I would never use that,” I told myself every time I saw them. But then, about ten years ago, or more now, my mom got me one for Christmas. It turns out I love it. The Ove Glove works really well and is by far the best oven mitt I’ve ever owned. I still have the one my mom got me all those years ago, though I am probably due for a new one. The Ove Glove will cost you about $18, but it will last a long time and save you from many potential burns.


13. Cork Trivets

Trivets are what you put hot pots and pans on to protect your countertop and table. They are not a fancy gift by any means, but they are incredibly useful. You can buy all kinds of different trivets, from cork to castiron, but I find for the money and usefulness, cork trivets are the way to go. You can get these at Ikea really cheap. Even the dollar store usually has them. The ones pictured below from amazon are actually pretty expensive at $19. Get them somewhere else if you can.


14. Fine Mesh Sieve

If the foodie on your Christmas list likes making sauces, stocks, or puréed soups, then a sturdy fine-mesh sieve is just the thing to get them. I use mine at least a couple of times a week and highly recommend having one on hand for straining sauces or passing soups. A decent Fine Mesh Sieve will cost about $20 bucks but is worth the price.


15. Gnocchi Board

A Gnocchi Board is probably the most specialized item on this list. And it’s not for everyone. But, if your foodie loves Italian food or making pasta, this may be the thing they’ve always wanted. It’s really just a block of wood with grooves cut into it. When you make gnocchi, you roll them on the board to create grooves that will hold on to the sauce. A Gnocchi Board costs about $16 and, again, isn’t for everyone. But for the right person, the Italian food lover, the foodie that loves to make pasta, this will be their favourite gift of the year.


16. Fish Spatula

A Fish Spatula is a thin, flexible metal spatula used mostly for delicate things like flipping fish. However, there are a million uses for a thin, flexible spatula. Whether or not your foodie likes cooking fish, this is the right gift for them. The Fish Spatula pictured below is the exact one that I have, and I absolutely love it. It costs about $19.


17. Candy/Deep-Frying Thermometer

A candy thermometer (which doubles as a deep-frying thermometer) is a great Christmas Gift for anyone who likes to make candy, caramel, or likes to deep fry but doesn’t have a deep fryer. Like the gnocchi board, this isn’t a gift for everyone but for the right person, it is perfect. The one pictured below is the one I have, and it works great. It costs about $17.


18. Sushi Rolling Kit

Every foodie dreams of making sushi. But, to make sushi, you need the right tools. The right tools are a sushi mat and a rice paddle. That’s it. The one pictured below comes with a set of chopsticks as well. This kit costs $18, though you can find cheaper sushi mats in most places. If your foodie loves sushi, get them this, because whether they’ve said so or not, they’ve been dying to try their hand at making sushi at home.


19. French Dowel Rolling Pin

French Dowel Rolling Pins are all the rage right now. Personally, I don’t see what all the fuss is about, but I know for a fact that if your foodie likes to bake, they’ve had their eye on this for the last year or so. I’m positive that there are a few local artisans in your area making these, and you should buy one from them though it will likely set you back more than $20. On Amazon, they are $18.


20. Ring Molds

These ring molds are $18, which kind of pisses me off becasue I spent $60 on mine. They are used for many things, from cutting out biscuits and cookies to forming perfectly even fish and crab cakes, to stacking food in that old school way. Whatever skill level your foodie is at, they will find many uses for ring molds.


Conclusion

There you have it—my list of 20 Christmas Gifts under $20 for that foodie on your Christmas list. I hope you found this useful, and if you did, share it becasue you may help a friend struggling to know what to get their foodie for Christmas. And, if you have a foodie gift idea under $20 that I didn’t mention, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below or on social media. Thank you, have a great day and a great weekend.

Thank you for reading the post. If you liked it, remember to share it on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. Did you know that Chefsnotes.com has over 400 posts just like this one? Subscribe to the blog below, and you will be notified of every new post so you will never a helpful tip or recipe again. And if you would like to know more about me, click the picture of me below to read my story “Life on the line.”

[jetpack_subscription_form show_subscribers_total=”false” button_on_newline=”false” custom_font_size=”16″ custom_border_radius=”0″ custom_border_weight=”1″ custom_padding=”15″ custom_spacing=”10″ submit_button_classes=”” email_field_classes=”” show_only_email_and_button=”true”]
Your Complete Christmas Dinner in 7 Recipes (a no-fail guide to Christmas Dinner)

Your Complete Christmas Dinner in 7 Recipes (a no-fail guide to Christmas Dinner)

Good morning everyone and happy Friday! With Christmas right around the corner, only five short days away, I thought it was about time I acknowledged it here on the blog. Usually, around holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, I share tips and tricks to get you through the holiday. Well, been there, done that. Rather than just keep repeating myself year after year I thought this time I would do something different. This year, I wanted to give you a gift like no other, so I wrote an entire Christmas Dinner worth of recipes, and today I am going to share them with you.

Below you will find recipes for homemade Cranberry Sauce, Gravy, Glazed Carrots, Maple Pecan Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, and of course, Turkey. There are seven recipes in total just for you as my way of saying thank you for your support throughout the year and for making this year so great here at How To Not Burn Shit.

Before I jump into this, this is my last post of the year. I’m going to take a little bit of well deserved time off to spend with my 10-week old baby and my lovely wife. I hope that you all have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year. I will see you all right back here on January 6th, 2020!

In the meantime…


Cranberry Sauce

Way back in 1941, there was a former Lawer turned cranberry bog owner who was looking for a way to extend the short selling season for his Cranberries. He decided to make a cranberry jelly, can it and sell it year-round. He did this, though it mostly only sold at Christmas and Thanksgiving. Since its invention in 1941 canned cranberry sauce (jelly) has been a staple on holiday tables across North America. Well, I say 78 years is long enough.

It is only 11 days away from 2020 and if you haven’t already started, it is time to start making your own cranberry sauce. It isn’t hard, it doesn’t take a lot of effort, it’s not expensive, and it tastes way better. What have you got to lose?

Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Why are you still buying cranberry sauce in a can? It is so easy to make and way better when made fresh.
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Christmas, Cranberry Sauce, Thanksgiving
Servings: 12 servings
Author: Chef Ben Kelly

Ingredients

  • 4 cups Fresh Cranberries
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 Orange, Juice and Zest
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 1/2 cup Water

Instructions

  • Put all the ingredients in a pot and place on high heat.
  • Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer.
  • Simmer the sauce for about 30 minutes or until thick.
  • Let cool slightly before serving.

Notes

You can add a little more or less sugar depending on your taste. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Christmas Stuffing

First of all, what’s the difference between stuffing and dressing? Stuffing is cooked inside a turkey, dressing is cooked outside the turkey. That’s it.

You may have grown up having stovetop stuffing every Christmas and you may even love it. But, I implore you to just this once make your own stuffing if you’re not already doing so. The recipe below is a straightforward no BS stuffing recipe that you will be happy you tried.

Christmas Stuffing

The only stuffing recipe you will ever need
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Christmas, salad dressing, Smoked Turkey, stuffing, Thanksgiving
Servings: 12 servings
Author: Chef Ben Kelly

Ingredients

  • 8-10 cups Torn or Cubed bread
  • 2 med. Onions, Diced
  • 2 tbsp Summer Savoury
  • 2 tsp Dried Rosemary
  • 2 tsp Dried Thyme
  • 1 tbsp Dried Sage
  • 1/2 cup Melted Butter + 2 tbsp
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 1 cup Dried Apricots or Dried Cranberries Optional

Instructions

  • Heat a frying pan over medium heat.
  • Add 2 tbsp of butter along with the onions into the pan.
  • Cook the onions for 10-12 minutes or until soft.
  • Put in a large bowl and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and mix.
  • Stuff inside a turkey and cook the turkey as desired.

Notes

If you are cooking the stuffing outside the turkey (which makes it dressing) add 2 cups of chicken or turkey stock to it. Cover with foil and bake on 375°F for 35-40 minutes. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Maple Pecan Brussel Sprouts

If you don’t like Brussel Sprouts, it’s probably because you’ve only ever had them when they’ve been boiled to death. When they are overcooked in that way they are mushy and taste like farts. However, when they are roasted, they get crispy, and not at all fart like. The touch of sweetness from the maple syrup in the recipe below really makes the flavour of the sprouts come to life. If you’ve never had roasted Brussel Sprouts, you are in for a very serious treat.

Maple Pecan Brussel Sprouts

A delicious alternative to your regular Brussel sprouts recipe
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Brussel Sprouts, Christmas, Thanksgiving
Servings: 12 servings
Author: Chef Ben Kelly

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs brussels sprouts
  • 3-4 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2-3 tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 cup Chopped Pecans
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper

Instructions

  • Wash the sprouts and pat them dry with a towel.
  • Cut the sprouts in half and place in a medium mixing bowl.
  • Pour the olive oil and maple syrup into the bowl along with the salt and pepper.
  • Spread the sprouts out onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes on 400°F.
  • Remove the sprouts from the oven, sprinkle over the pecans, stir, and return to the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the sprouts are tender and dark around the edges.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Glazed Carrots

Let’s face it, those regular old boiled carrots are getting a little boring. Jazz up your carrots this year by making a glaze for them. Sound complicated? It isn’t. To make this recipe you just need to be able to use measuring spoons and a pot. All kidding aside, this is one of my favourite ways to make carrots. You put everything in the pot, and cook the carrots until the liquid has mostly evaporated. What you end up with are perfectly cooked carrots, with a flavorful glaze.

Glazed Carrots

Carrots cooked with honey, cider vinegar, thyme, and butter…what's not to love?
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Christmas, Glazed Carrots, roasted carrots, Thanksgiving
Servings: 12 servings
Author: Chef Ben Kelly

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs Carrots, Peeled and Sliced
  • 1/4 cup Honey
  • 1/4 cup Butter
  • 1 tsp Dried Thyme 4 sprigs fresh
  • 2 tsp Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper

Instructions

  • Put the sliced carrots in a pot along with the other ingredients.
  • Add enough water to just cover the carrots.
  • Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 5-10 more minutes or until the water has mostly evaporated and all that is left is the glaze at the bottom of the pot.
  • Stir the carrots, coating them in the glaze and serve.

Notes

Keep an eye on the carrots once the water starts to get low because you don’t want to burn them 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

You’re going to be making mashed potatoes. Why not put a pile of garlic in there along with cream and butter. You can’t go wrong here.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

If you're making mashed potatoes, why not make garlic mashed potatoes?
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Christmas, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes, Potatoes, Thanksgiving
Servings: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs Russet Potatoes
  • 1/2 cup Butter
  • 1 cup 35% Cream
  • 8 cloves Garlic, Peeled
  • 1-2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2-1 tsp Pepper

Instructions

  • Peel, dice, and rinse the potatoes.
  • Put in a pot and cover with water.
  • Put the pot on the stove on high.
  • Add 1 tsp of salt along with garlic and cook until the potatoes are tender.
  • Drain the potatoes in a colander.
  • While the potatoes are draining put the pot back on the stove and add in the cream and butter.
  • Heat until the butter melts.
  • Add the potatoes and garlic back into the pot and mash.
  • Mix the potatoes well and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Put a lid on the pot until ready to serve.

Notes

Use a food mill  to get the potatoes very smooth. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Christmas Turkey

We all have our own special way to cook our turkey for Christmas. But, there are some of us out there who might be making Christmas dinner for the first time. The recipe below is a very basic, intro to turkey type recipe. Having said that, it is still really delicious and I’m sure no matter how many turkeys you’ve cooked in your life you would be happy with it.

If you are looking for something a little different to do with your turkey check out this post I did back around Thanksgiving.

For more specific turkey cooking tips check out this link to the turkey farmers of Canada whole turkey guide.

Christmas Turkey

A very basic, but very delicious turkey recipe.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Christmas, Christmas Turkey, Thanksgiving, Turkey, Whole Turkey
Servings: 12 servings
Author: Chef Ben Kelly

Ingredients

  • 18 lb Turkey Defrosted in the fridge for three days
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper
  • 2 tbsp Summer Savoury

Instructions

  • Remove the neck and giblets from inside the turkey.
  • Use a piece of butchers twine and tie the legs together.
  • Tuck the wing tips forward under the breast.
  • Pat the turkey dry with paper towel then drizzle with olive oil
  • Season with salt, pepper, and summer savoury.
  • Roast uncovered in a 325°F oven for 4 1/2 – 5 1/2 hours.
  • Check the turkey is done by inserting a thermometer into the breast (170°) and into the thigh (180°F)
  • Remove the turkey from the oven, loosely cover with foil and let rest at least 30 minutes before slicing.

Notes

If you stuff the turkey cook for 20-24 minutes per pound and check to make sure the stuffing has reached 165°F before serving. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Christmas Gravy

When I was a kid, one of my main jobs for Christmas Dinner was to stir the gravy. It had to be stirred while it cooked so that it didn’t scorch on the bottom. It was an important job and I took it very seriously.

The recipe below is not complicated but it does involve a lot of stirring. This is the perfect job for a child or that pesky inlaw who keeps asking if there is anything they can do.

Christmas Gravy

Wet your whistle with this delicious gravy recipe.
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Christmas, Christmas Gravy, Gravy, Thanksgiving, Turkey, Turkey Gravy
Servings: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 L Turkey Drippings and/or Chicken Stock Fat removed
  • 3 tbsp flour can use all-purpose gluten-free
  • 3 tbsp Butter, or Fat from the turkey drippings
  • 1/2 cup Diced Onion
  • 1/2 cup Diced Celery
  • 1 tsp Dried Thyme Leaves or 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp Dried Rosemary or 2 tsp fresh
  • 1 tsp Dried Sage
  • 2 tsp Summer Savoury
  • 1-2 tsp Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper
  • 1 cup cold water

Instructions

  • In a medium-sized pot melt the butter and combine with the flour.
  • Stir over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  • Add in the diced onion and celery and cook, stirring for another 5 minutes.
  • Add in the cold water while vigorously stirring the flour and vegetable mixture.
  • Once the water is fully combined with the roux (should look like paste at this point) add in the stock.
  • Bring the stock to a boil while stirring, add the remaining ingredients, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes stirring every minute or two.
  • Season the gravy to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Strain the gravy through a fine-mesh sieve and serve.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Christmas Dinner

Cooking Christmas dinner can be stressful. It is usually the largest and most complex meal you will cook all year. The key to it being a success is to make everything the best it can be while at the same time not over complicating things. All the recipes above will add a little extra to the meal without adding much in the way of prep or cooking time. Elevation without complication.

And with that, I bid you ado. I hope that you have the Merriest of Christmases!

Oh and if you feel like you need to get me something this Christmas, the best gift you can give to me is to share this post around so that anyone who needs it can find it.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

5 Turkey Hors D’oeuvres To Get You Through The Holidays

5 Turkey Hors D’oeuvres To Get You Through The Holidays

The holidays are almost upon us and we all know what that means; potlucks, parties, and entertaining. For one final time this year I have partnered up with ThinkTurkey.ca and Turkey Farmers of Canada to create not one, not two, not even three, but five delicious Turkey hors d’oeuvres to help you get through this Holiday Season.

So, what did I come up with? To start, Mini Moroccan Spiced Turkey Meatballs, and Turkey and Brie Sliders, then on to Oven-Baked Turkey Tenders with Cranberry Sweet and Sour Sauce, Teriyaki Turkey Skewers, and finally, Southern Braised Turkey on Corn Bread Muffins. Drooling yet?

Let’s take a look!


Mini Moroccan Spiced Turkey Meatballs


With Moroccan spices and apricot, these turkey meatballs are flavourful and have a little pop of sweetness. These could easily be made ahead, frozen and reheated so there ready when you are. One pound of ground turkey makes about two dozen mini meatballs, of course, you can make larger ones and just have them for dinner too.

To make these Mini Turkey Meatballs, combine all the ingredients listed in the recipe below, mix and form into 24 balls. Heat a frying pan over medium heat, add a touch of oil and sauté until cooked through. Easy peasy.

Mini Moroccan Spiced Turkey Meatballs

Delicious little meatballs made with Moroccan Spices and apricot.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Course: Appetizer
Keyword: Meatballs, Moroccan Spiced, Turkey, Turkey Meatballs
Servings: 24 pieces
Author: Chef Ben Kelly

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Ground Turkey
  • 8 Dried Apricots
  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/8 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Coriander
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp Allspice
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Cloves
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp Bread Crumbs

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl and mix well.
  • Divide the meatball mixture into 24 pieces and roll into balls.
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat.
  • Add 1-2 tsp of grapeseed oil, then add in the meatballs.
  • Sear the meatballs on all sides and continue to cook until cooked through.
  • Spear the meatballs with a toothpick and serve with yogurt and a squeeze of lemon.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Turkey and Brie Sliders with Green Apple Relish


The second item I made was Turkey and Brie Sliders with Homemade Green Apple Relish. The turkey patties I made for this could easily be made a bit bigger and used as a great turkey sausage breakfast patty. Seriously, try it.

To make the sliders I mixed some ground turkey with the spices listed below and formed it into small patties. I fried these and then topped them with a slice of brie. I put mine on a gluten-free baguette with a bit of mayo, you can use any kind of bread you’d like.

For the relish, I combined vinegar, sugar, water, salt, and spices in a small pot, brought it to a boil then added in 1 green apple cut into match sticks and half an onion thinly sliced. I cooked this all together for a minute or two, then it was ready to top the sliders.

Turkey and Brie Sliders

Delicious turkey sliders with brie and homemade green apple relish.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes
Total Time: 23 minutes
Course: Appetizer
Keyword: Brie, Relish, Turkey, Turkey Recipes, Turkey Sliders
Servings: 12 pieces
Author: Chef Ben Kelly

Ingredients

Sliders

  • 1 lb Ground Turkey
  • 1/4 tsp Chili Flakes
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
  • 12 slices Brie
  • 1 Baguette (sliced into 12 small pieces) or 12 Slider Buns
  • 1/4 cup Mayo

Green Apple Relish

  • 1 Granny Smith Apple
  • 1/2 Onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp Sugar
  • 2 tbsp White Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Water
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 pinch Chili Flakes
  • 1 tsp Mustard Seed

Instructions

Sliders

  • Combine all the ingredients except the brie and baguette.
  • Mix well and form into 12 small slider patties.
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat and add 1-2 tsp of oil.
  • Add the sliders to the pan and cook for 3 minutes per side or until cooked through.
  • While the sliders are cooking top the baguette slices or the slider buns with mayo.
  • Once the slider are cooked top them with the brie and put them on the buns.
  • Top the sliders with the Green Apple Relish and serve.

Green Apple Relish

  • Put the vinegar, water, sugar, bay leaf, salt, mustard seed, and chili flakes in a small pot and bring to a boil.
  • Cut the apple into match sticks and put in the pot along with the half onion.
  • Cook for 3-4 minutes then serve.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Oven-Baked Turkey Tenders with Cranberry Sweet and Sour Sauce


If I had to choose my number one favourite item from this list, this would be it. The turkey was tender, the breading was crisp, and the sauce was out of this world. I will definitely be adding this into the meal rotation and putting it on my hors d’oeuvre menu.

To make these Turkey Tenders I seasoned some flour (I used gluten-free flour and bread crumbs) with the spices listed below. I breaded the turkey using the standard breading procedure of flour, egg, breadcrumbs. Then I baked the turkey on a greased baking sheet on 400°F for a total of about 25 minutes.

For the sauce, I combined sugar, vinegar, cranberry juice, and dried cranberries in a pot and brought it to a boil. I then added a mixture of cornstarch and water to thicken it.

I cannot stress enough how much you need to make these. You will be so, so happy that you did.

Oven-Baked Turkey Tenders

These Turkey Tenders will not only become an entertaining staple but you will want to eat them every day of the week. Pair them with the cranberry sweet and sour sauce and you have a real winner.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Course: Appetizer
Keyword: appetizers, Sweet and Sour, Turkey
Servings: 12 pieces
Author: Chef Ben Kelly

Ingredients

Turkey Fingers

  • 300 g Turkey Breast Fillets, cut into 12 strips
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 tsp White Pepper
  • 1 tsp Ground Sage
  • 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne
  • 1/2 cup Bread crumbs (or more as needed)
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup Flour (or more as needed)

Cranberry Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • 1/2 cup White Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Cranberry Juice
  • 1/4 cup Dried Cranberries
  • 2 tsp Cornstarch
  • 2 tsp Water

Instructions

Turkey Fingers

  • Add the spices to the flour and mix.
  • Dip the turkey in the flour, then the beaten eggs, then the bread crumbs.
  • Place the breaded turkey fingers on a greased cookie sheet.
  • Bake the turkey fingers in the oven at 400°f for 15 minutes then flip and bake for 10 more minutes or until cooked through.

Cranberry Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • Put the vinegar, water, sugar, cranberry juice, and dried cranberries in a medium pot and bring to a boil.
  • While the vinegar mixture is boiling combine the cornstarch and water and mix well.
  • Cook the sauce for 3-4 minutes, stir the cornstarch and water and add to the vinegar mixture.
  • Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 3 more minutes.
  • Serve with the turkey fingers.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Teriyaki Turkey Skewers


Little pieces of turkey breast put on a skewer and baked with a simple homemade teriyaki sauce, who isn’t going to love that?

These are about as straightforward as it comes. Thinly slice the turkey, put it on skewers, baste with the sauce and bake.

The sauce is a mixture of soy sauce (I used gluten-free tamari), sugar, rice vinegar, and water. That’s it. Boil this until it’s thick and you are good to go.