Classic pumpkin pie

Alana Hardy

Thanksgiving may be long past, but it’s still pumpkin season, right? Perhaps you have a Jack O’Lantern whose services are no longer required. Or maybe you bought a can of pure pumpkin on a whim. Or you have a butternut squash you don’t know what to do with (trust me, no one will know the difference once the squash is cooked, mashed and spiced up with cinnamon and nutmeg!). What better thing to make than pie?!

Blog Alana's pie

Pumpkin pie is my favourite and has been for some time. But I’m very finicky (and a bit of a snob) when it comes to pumpkin pie. Not just any pie will do. I’d rather go without than eat a store-bought pie. It took me years to figure out why a grocery store pie wouldn’t cut it. Initially I thought it was the pastry, but that turned out to be only part of it. The filling always lacked something, and I eventually put my finger (or tastebuds?) on it. Molasses. Many pies (homemade and storemade) don’t contain molasses. As a result, I think they lack the depth and nice, rich colour of the pumpkin pies my mom would make for Thanksgiving.

If you’ve been exposed to from-scratch pies and other baked goods, you know that anything made in a grocery-store kitchen is not likely to measure up. My mom never bought pie shells. Pastry was always made at home. I’m not loyal to a particular pastry recipe, and I usually just take a look through my cookbooks for a recipe that will make enough for a single crust (my mom swears by the recipe on the Tenderflake box, which makes enough for three double-crust pies. I love pie, but that’s a lot for a gal to consume, even if I freeze some of the pastry! And even if I have the help of my fella, Tim, to eat them!). This time, I halved a recipe from Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I like her blog and thought I’d give this all-butter pastry a go. While the end result wasn’t as light and flaky as I’d hoped, I’d try it again. Her recipe can be found here: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2008/11/pie-crust-102-all-butter-really-flaky-pie-dough/.

Now, the main event: the custard filling. My mom’s recipe, which is the one I always use, came from a cooking encylopaedia set we had at home. It’s simple and yields a deliciously smooth and creamy pie.

Pumpkin pie filling ingredients

2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground nutmeg

3 tbsp molasses

1 ½ cup mashed, cooked pumpkin

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup milk

1 cup light cream (I used 18% table cream this time, but have used 10% and 5% in the past)

Mix everything together in a blender and pour the filling into your pastry-lined pie plate. You’re going to have more than will fit (don’t overfill! It WILL get messy!). If you have any scraps left from trimming your pastry, you might be able to make some small individual pies. Otherwise, pour the custard into small ramekins and bake along with the pie. You could place them in a bain-marie, if you like. They tend to get a little dry if you don’t. But they still taste good! I suppose that if you didn’t want to go to the trouble of making pastry, you could bake all the filling this way. Now that’s a thought…

I usually put the pie plate on a cookie sheet (before filling),. This makes it easier to transfer the pie to the oven, and catches any mess in case othere is some overflow. Place the pie in a 500°F oven for 8 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325°F and bake for 55-60 minutes longer, or until a knife inserted into the filling comes out clean. I find that I usually end up baking it for an extra 10 minutes, until the centre doesn’t jiggle too much. If you’ve blind baked your pastry shell, place the pie in a 325°F oven and bake for 55-60 minutes.

Serve with whipped cream, if you wish, but I like to enjoy it all on its own.

Alana lives in Ottawa, Ontario, with her two adorable cats. She loves baking and is usually thinking about her next meal.
Welcome to our family’s discussion forum on food. If you’d like to submit a post, please consider yourself family, and email us at familyfoodforum@gmail.com.

After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

- Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

A nice cup of ambrosia

Sharon Jessup Joyce

blog tea collection

The world doesn’t always accommodate those of us who are faithful to what we love best. For example, I’ve changed my perfume only twice in my life. I wasn’t bored with the old perfumes, you understand. It’s just that I couldn’t get them anymore.

But now I’m facing a discontinuation crisis a lot bigger than perfume.

The blow fell one rainy September afternoon, with a message from Caroline at Cooke’s Fine Foods. Caroline was apologetic about delivering the bad news that Twinings had discontinued Prince of Wales tea – my signature beverage, my comfort in troubled times, my oasis in chaos, my companion in relaxation. Ironically, I was working at the computer at the time, a mug of that very tea at my elbow. I sent anxious messages to Olivia and Jesse, who responded with suitable concern. Livy checked Pete’s in Halifax, and found the Prince of Wales section of the tea shelf bare. Jesse sent me a link to Amazon, which still had the tea in stock.

The hunt was on. Amazon in the United States had plenty, but I couldn’t have it shipped to a Canadian address. (“Do we know anyone living in the States anymore?” I called to Bob one evening. He responded in a wary voice, “I have some clients there…why are you asking?”) In the end, I was able to order from Amazon Canada. They didn’t have as much of the tea as their American counterpart, and the price wasn’t as good, but I checked with other merchants, who kept saying, Sorry, no, out of stock; we don’t expect more. I reminded myself that she who hesitates is thirsty, and I bought everything Amazon Canada had.

I now have 28 boxes of teabags (20 to a box) and eight tins of loose tea. If I am careful, it will probably be sufficient for 2 to 3 years, which is roughly the shelf life for packaged tea. I’ve researched best storage practices (cool, dark, dry, leave cellophane on boxes, don’t store with other food products in case of odour or flavour transfer). As Olivia said, now I have time to find a replacement.

I’d like to think Twinings is engaging in a New Coke scheme, and it’s all a marketing ploy to boost interest and sales in an ageing product. In a few weeks or months they will announce that Prince of Wales tea is back by popular demand. But I fear that’s a faint hope: the company’s websites in various English-speaking and tea-drinking nations contain nearly a year of posts from customers bemoaning the dwindling availability of their favourite tea, coupled with vague and regretful statements from Twinings that don’t make any promises about future supply.  International tea gossip (or whatever it’s really called) suggests that Twinings has two issues with Prince of Wales tea: availability of the teas used in the blend; and a restricted marketplace, since Prince of Wales is a darling of speciality food shops, but has not found a home in large supermarket chains.

Why do I think Prince of Wales tea is so special? For one thing, it has the traditional scent and taste of a classic black tea, but is very mild. For people like me, who find most black teas too intensely tannic, it’s the tea’s greatest asset. But while it’s mild, it doesn’t taste weak or watered-down. It is fragrant and clean, with a nice depth of flavour.

Blog tea with teapotIt has a charming back story, too. It is reputed to have been the favourite tea of the Duke of Windsor, formerly a Prince of Wales and, briefly, King Edward VIII, the man who famously gave up his throne for the twice-divorced Wallis Warfield Simpson. It is said the tea, which came on the market in the early 1920s, was the Prince’s own blend, but it is unclear if it was blended on his behalf, if his own preferences were considered, or if he actually came up with the blend himself. I like picturing him in the kitchen at Buckingham Palace, his sleeves rolled to his elbows, with a pert kitchen maid at his side, handing him various tins of black China tea for his careful consideration.

Twinings says Prince of Wales tea is best enjoyed in the afternoon  — though they have recently extended the ideal enjoyment time back to late morning — and suggests the tea is very nice accompanied by a scone or biscuit. I have a fine biscuit recipe that often pleases, but I think I’ll save it for another day, and let this post stand simply as homage to my favourite beverage.

Thank you, Your Highness.

Do you have a favourite beverage? What about a favourite food or beverage that has been discontinued?

Sharon lives in Kingston, Ontario where she dabbles in the domestic arts, eats very well, and appreciates every sip of her beloved Twining Prince of Wales tea.
Welcome to our family’s discussion forum on food. If you’d like to submit a post, please consider yourself family, and email us at familyfoodforum@gmail.com.

After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

- Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

Parsnip-apple soup with crispy chestnuts

Olivia Schneider

blog finished parsnip soup

When I went to Bern two years ago, Summer introduced me to a delicious snack—roasted chestnuts. They sell them from stands on the street, and you just eat them whole with nothing else. They have a delicious meaty texture and taste. Once I returned to Halifax, I looked for them, and found a few specialty grocers in Halifax that sell packaged roasted chestnuts. They’re not quite as good as the ones I had in Bern, so I usually add them to dishes , as opposed to eating them plain.

Like most of the soups I make, this recipe was created because I had ingredients in the blog parsnip soup chestnutshouse that needed to be used up. But I was inspired by a recipe in September’s Canadian Living to make the crispy chestnut garnish, and these added a really interesting texture to the dish. This soup ended up being so good! It was simple to make, and made my house smell like Thanksgiving while it was cooking.

Ingredients (makes two lunch-sized servings)

3 parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped

Half an apple, peeled and roughly chopped

5 chestnuts, diced

1 slice of onion, diced

1 small garlic clove

1 cup vegetable broth

¼ teaspoon dried sage (obvious fresh would also work, but I didn’t have any on hand)

A few leaves of rosemary, half of it chopped

Butter

blog parsnip soup ingredientsDirections

Sauté the onions in an oiled pan until soft, then add the garlic and sage. Once the garlic is browned, add the parsnip, apple, three of the chestnuts and the rosemary that was chopped. Add enough broth to cover the ingredients. Bring the soup to a boil and allow it to simmer until the parsnip is soft.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a separate pan. Add the whole rosemary leaves and cook until they begin to crisp. Then add the remaining chopped chestnuts into the same pan and cook those until they’re crispy.

Once the parsnip in the soup is soft, puree the soup.

Serve the soup topped with the crispy rosemary leaves and chestnuts.

Olivia lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she enjoys making fast-but-good meals on a budget, and exploring new restaurants and recipes.
Welcome to our family’s discussion forum on food. If you’d like to submit a post, please consider yourself family, and email us at familyfoodforum@gmail.com.

    After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

- Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

Hail, Margarita!

Bob Joyce

blog - finished drink

As one of the male members of this blog community, I have had a certain amount of pressure recently to contribute a post. I didn’t have a legitimate excuse like Justin, who’s up to his eyeballs in house renovations, or Stewart, who simply stated that he was on a warship in the Atlantic. (I’m not really sure what that has to do with anything, but we do have to support our troops, so I guess he gets a pass.)

No, the real reason I hadn’t submitted a post was that I couldn’t think of anything I could do or offer that was food-related that would make for an interesting post. Then, one night, while I was sipping on that frozen concoction that helps me to hang on, it came to me: if there’s one thing for which I have gained a degree of notoriety within the family, it’s that I make a pretty darned good frozen margarita, if I do say so myself.

The history of the frozen margarita is somewhat unclear. It’s a relatively modern drink, as none of the versions of its origin dates it prior to 1940. According to Wikipedia, the most common version has the drink being first served by a bartender in Ensenada, Mexico, to Margarita Henkel, the daughter of a German ambassador who lived nearby, and he named it after her for being the first person to taste it. Other versions of the drink’s origin exist that also seem plausible. For current generations, however, I believe the drink owes much of its popularity to Jimmy Buffett’s song “Margaritaville,” which appeared on his 1977 album Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes – one of his best ever, in my humble opinion.

Contrary to what some might believe, I was not present at the unveiling of the first margarita ever served, whenever that might actually have occurred. My own history with the drink is much more recent. The first recollection that I have of ever having a frozen margarita was in April 2004. It’s possible that I had one before then; if so, it clearly wasn’t as memorable as this one.

Sharon and I were travelling to San Antonio for a business conference. After a tiring trip that started with a 4:00 a.m. wake-up to catch the pre-dawn flight out of Kingston, we arrived in San Antonio mid-afternoon. A 40-minute bus ride later, we were dropped off outside the Hyatt. And there, waiting for us in the outdoor courtyard, was a Hyatt bartender with pitchers full of frozen margaritas. What a wonderful sight, and welcome to the Lone Star State!

Back in Canada, we decided to make the concoction at home. As with most things in the kitchen, I turned to Sharon for help with the instructions. Since then, I have tweaked the recipe somewhat, and here it is.

blog - Margarita ingredients

Ingredients and directions

  • 1 can Bacardi Margarita Mix
  • About 24 regular ice cubes
  • About 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • About 6 oz. tequila
  • About 2 oz. triple sec
  • Margarita glasses – not essential, but preferred
  • Salt to rim the glasses
  • Blender

Our blender has a 48-ounce jar, so this will provide four 12-ounce drinks.

blog - margarita blenderIt is essential to have a powerful blender, as you’ll be crushing a lot of ice.I learned the hard way about needing a powerful motor when I blew out Liv’s favourite red Hamilton Beach blender several years ago. If your blender isn’t powerful, add the cubes in stages, about a third at a time. If you are adding the ice all at once, I have found adding half of the ice cubes, then the margarita mix, followed by the remainder of the ice, works well. Don’t throw out the can, as you will need it later.

Next, add about a tablespoon of sugar – we use the President’s Choice organic sugar in the carton. This is a personal preference, so you might like more or less than this amount. I then add the juice of a whole lime, more if the lime is small or on the dry side. Again, this is a matter of preference as to the amount.

Now add the tequila and the triple sec. I tend to use Jose Cuervo Gold, but I have tried other brands. If you have extra-nice tequila, save it for sipping, as the beauty of the smoothness will get lost in the frozen blend. I use the empty margarita mix can to measure, adding three-quarters of a can of tequila, and then one-quarter of a can of triple sec.

To rim the glasses, slice into the edge of one of the lime halves that you’ve already juiced. Slip the notch over the rim of the glass and moisten the entire rim. The proper way to salt the rim is to angle the glass into the salt container and rotate the glass until it’s salted. I’ve never mastered this technique, so I place the top of the glass straight down into the container and half-turn the glass.

Blog - margarita saltFinding a good margarita salt is important. We don’t like flavoured salts, but you do want a salt that adheres well to the glass. We use the Williams-Sonoma brand, but it is getting harder to find. The Toronto store didn’t have any the last time we checked, but you can still find it at Williams-Sonoma in the States, or by shopping online.

Now you’re ready to go. Blend the ingredients until you have a smooth consistency, pour and enjoy! 

Bob lives and has learned to love adventurous eating in Kingston, Ontario, just a short drive and a thousand flavours from his childhood home in Brockville, where black pepper was exotic.
Welcome to our family’s discussion forum on food. If you’d like to submit a post, please consider yourself family, and email us at familyfoodforum@gmail.com.

    After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

- Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

Parsnip biscuits

Olivia Schneider

blog parsnip biscuits finished product

When I packed up my old apartment, I got rid of some cookbooks I felt I’d outgrown. They were the type of cookbooks that explain in great detail how to cook pasta noodles. As I went through all my cookbooks, I realized that a lot of my vegetarian cookbooks are very simple and borderline boring. I’m all for letting the natural flavours of food be the focus, but I also think that too often eating vegetarian is limited to eating dishes that are a little lacklustre.blog parsnip biscuits cookbook

Recently, I bought a new cookbook called Vegetarian by Alice Hart. I was flipping through it in Chapters when I saw this biscuit recipe. I took a picture of the recipe on my phone (I know…bad girl!) with no intention of buying the book. As I continued to flip, I kept seeing recipes that looked delicious. Taking one picture was bad, but I felt that taking twelve was really inappropriate. So I bought the book, and I absolutely love it. The book itself is beautiful, and the recipes are great. They’re not hard to make, but they’re a little more complex in flavour than those in some other vegetarian cookbooks I own.

blog parsnip biscuits ingredients

Ingredients

1 ¾ cup white flour

1 ½ cups grated parsnip (I used one large parsnip)

2 1/3 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

Salt (to taste)

2 eggs

2 tablespoons milkblog parsnip biscuits dough

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Mix the flour, baking powder, rosemary, salt and parsnip together. Beat the eggs and milk together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and use a pastry cutter to mix everything together. Don’t over mix it! Then shape the dough into a rectangle and use a sharp knife to cut the large rectangle into smaller biscuits. Place a rosemary sprig into the centre of each biscuit. Cook for about 20 minutes.

blog parsnip biscuits ready for oven

Olivia lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she enjoys making fast-but-good meals on a budget, and exploring new restaurants and recipes.
Welcome to our family’s discussion forum on food. If you’d like to submit a post, please consider yourself family, and email us at familyfoodforum@gmail.com.

    After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

- Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

Corn pancakes: a year-round taste of summer

Sharon Jessup Joyce

Blog - corn pancakes close-up

We are corn connoisseurs at our house, preferring the fuller flavour and firmer texture of golden corn varieties. Bi-coloured corn, often and incorrectly called Peaches and Cream (only one of many bi-colour varieties is Peaches and Cream), is just a little wimpy for us.  From early August to mid-September, crops permitting, we buy corn at our Saturday farmers’ market, eating some right away and freezing the rest in two-cup amounts. We even have a ranking system, based on how good each batch tastes right out of the pot: good corn (for chowder and chili); better corn (for corn pudding and pancakes) and best corn (reheated and served as a side dish as is). One year we had a batch Adrian labelled Ambrosia, so we must have decreed that it was even better than the already-labelled best corn.

Is our home-frozen corn really better than commercially-frozen stuff? Yes it is. And a lot cheaper.

A couple of years ago, I started making corn pancakes to universal acclaim. Okay, by that I mean Bob and Adrian loved them. We tried different recipes, seeking inspiration from our cookbooks and our own modifications – some were too bread-y, others too bland, others too full of other flavours. We eventually developed our own favourite recipe that has a nice balance of corn and batter, with hints of other flavours in amounts that don’t compete with the corn.

The first time I made these I served them as a side dish, with grilled chicken and a big green salad. I had not known two things: how filling even one corn pancake is; and how unlikely we were to eat just one. Now when we eat corn pancakes, we eat corn pancakes, with perhaps a dab of salsa or some sliced cucumber or tomato.

Blog corn fritters with tomato-cucumber salad

Ingredients

(This makes about 10 pancakes – most people will eat 2 or 3 as a main dish, and up to 4 if they get carried away by corn lust.)

About 2-1/2 cups cooked corn, or the yield from 4-5 medium-sized cobs

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon melted butter

¼ cup buttermilk

5 tablespoons flour, any kind (we usually use unbleached all purpose wheat flour, but have used others)

5 tablespoons corn meal or corn flour

2-3 scallions, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)

1 teaspoon chili powder or smoked paprika

1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

1 teaspoon baking powder

Salt and pepper

Melted butter to brush on cooked pancakes (optional)

Directions

  1. Cook corn and remove from cob.
  2. Preheat electric or stovetop griddle to medium.
  3. Combine dry ingredients.
  4. Lightly beat eggs, milk and melted butter together.
  5. Mix dry and liquid ingredients together; blend until just combined.
  6. Stir in corn, scallions and cilantro or parsley.
  7. Let batter stand at room temperature for 10-15 minutes.
  8. Put ¼ cup of batter on griddle for each pancake (a soup ladle usually works well), leaving about two inches between mounds of batter.
  9. Flatten batter slightly with a spatula – just enough to achieve even cooking.
  10. Cook for about 4 minutes, then turn with spatula and cook for another 4 minutes.
  11. Cooked pancakes are golden to golden-brown on the outside, and moist on the inside.
  12. Brush a bit of melted butter on the top of each pancake and add a bit more chopped cilantro or parsley.

These are  great on their own, or with a dollop each of salsa and sour cream. In this picture, they’re served with a simple salad of tomato, cucumber, scallion and basil in a balsamic vinaigrette.

You can set aside leftover pancakes  and reheat them briefly under the broiler, turning after a minute or so.

We eat these all year round. They’re fast, easy and inexpensive. And when we pull out a bag of corn we froze last summer, and make these on a cold February evening, it’s late summer all over again – at least for a few minutes at the dinner table.

Sharon lives in Kingston, Ontario - now nearing the end of corn season - where she dabbles in the domestic arts and eats very well.
Welcome to our family’s discussion forum on food. If you’d like to submit a post, please consider yourself family, and email us at familyfoodforum@gmail.com.

After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

- Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

Pumpkin pancakes

Olivia Schneider

blog pumpkin pancake

Early in September it felt like the seasons changed in Halifax overnight. For many people this is sad, but I love fall and everything that goes with it—apple picking, the fashions (hello boots and jackets!), cool evenings, colourful leaves, turkey dinners and, of course, pumpkins. It’s obvious that Starbucks controls me too much, but when I see blog pumpkin teatheir Pumpkin Spice Latte on the menu, I know fall has arrived. I told Mom last week that our blog would be nothing without a pumpkin food post. She argued that tomatoes were still in season, and it was too early for fall favourites, but if Starbucks and David’s Tea think it’s time for pumpkin, then I do too!

Recently I’ve been playing around with different pancake recipes. My favourite recipe so far has been a vegan and gluten-free banana pancake recipe. I decided pumpkin pancakes would be a simple first pumpkin meal of the season. I used a Martha Stewart recipe and made very few changes. Essentially, all I did was add extra pumpkin and change up the spices a bit. I also used King Arthur Flour’s Ancient Grains flour blend so I could convince myself the pancakes were healthy. The earthy taste actually ended up complementing the spices really well. I had mine with Dablog pumpkin flourvid’s Tea Pumpkin Chai, which is a fantastic black tea they only release in the fall. These were seriously delicious. I could barely resist eating them all while I took pictures. I froze the leftovers for quick toaster snacks. I also froze the rest of the pureed pumpkin in half-cup portions so I have many more pumpkin recipes to look forward to.

Ingredients

1 cup flour

1/4 cup ancient grains flour

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (I added a little more)

1/4 teaspoon ground gingerblog pumpkin spices

1/8  teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon allspice

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 egg

6-8 tablespoons pumpkin puree

blog pumpkin wet and dry ingredientsDirections

Mix the dry ingredients together. Mix the wet ingredients together. Fold dry ingredients into wet. Heat a non-stick skillet to medium-low. Add ¼ cup of the pancake mix to the pan. Let each side cook for about 3 minutes.

Olivia lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she enjoys making fast-but-good meals on a budget, and exploring new restaurants and recipes.
Welcome to our family’s discussion forum on food. If you’d like to submit a post, please consider yourself family, and email us at familyfoodforum@gmail.com.

    After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

- Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance