Oatmeal Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies

We are now officially into fall, so its time to think in terms of a bit of pumpkin. I had not considered pumpkin as part of a sandwich cookie before, but oatmeal with pumpkin and cream cheese makes good sense to me. There’s more to oatmeal cookies than the recipe on the Quaker Oats box. In fact there’s a lot of amazing combinations out there but first a bit of food history.

Oatmeal cookies evolved from oatcakes, a type of plain flatbread made centuries ago by the British and the Scots. Raisins and nuts were added to the mix somewhere around the Middle Ages to make them tastier. When oatmeal cookies became elevated to the ranks of ‘health food’, a recipe for them appeared on containers of Quaker Oats. These recipes were circulated widely and oatmeal cookies were soon common in households throughout North America.

An important part of these cookies lies in the spices. Rather than using a pre-made ‘pumpkin pie spice’, I like to give them a personal touch by using my own combination. This way, you can control the flavor better. Feel free to adjust the spice mix to suit your taste or just simply go with cinnamon.

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Oatmeal Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies
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SANDWICH COOKIES
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Cookies
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SANDWICH COOKIES
Ingredients
Cookies
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Instructions
Spice Mix
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together spice mix combination from recipe notes & set aside.
Cookies
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt & 1 1/2 tsp spice mixture; add oatmeal & pumpkin seeds; mix together.
  2. In a bowl, using a hand mixer, cream butter until light & fluffy. Add sugars & beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add pumpkin puree, egg yolk & vanilla; mix to combine. Add flour mixture, mixing ONLY until combined. Place dough in refrigerator & chill for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scoop dough into 2 tsp sized balls & place on cookie sheet. Press with a dampened for to flatten a bit. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until done but not browned. Allow to cool for 1 minute before transferring to a wire cooling rack.
Filling
  1. In a bowl, beat together cream cheese & butter until smooth. Add in pumpkin & mix until fully incorporated. Add remaining spice mixture & powdered sugar about 1/4 cup at a time, allowing each prior amount to fully mix into the filling before adding more.
  2. Spread or pipe filling on half of the cooled cookies & top with remaining cookies. This recipe makes 5 dozen filled cookies so you may want to freeze some.
Recipe Notes
  • ¬†Spice Mixture Recipe (2 1/8 tsp):
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp EACH nutmeg & cloves
  • 1/8 tsp EACH ginger, cardamom & white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground star anise

 

Pepper-Peach Glazed Pork Tenderloin

There’s something very complex about the taste of sweet and spicy. Have you ever used hot pepper jelly? If not, its a preserve in a jelly form …. somewhere between jam and jelly. The main ingredients are peppers, sugar and vinegar which are combined with pectin to form a preserve.

Hot pepper jelly is such a versatile product, that there is no limit of different ways you can use it, depending on your taste preference.

I was thinking that if this recipe appeals to you and you purchase some of this jelly, here are a few other ways you could make use of it.

  • Ham & Turkey Sandwich – use jelly instead of mustard
  • Cocktail Meatball Glaze
  • Serve on Cornbread – with or without butter!
  • Dip for Egg rolls
  • On a Bagel with Cream Cheese
  • Sauce for Hot Wings or Chicken Tenders
  • Topping for Baked Brie Cheese
  • Glaze for Baked Ham

One thing about pork tenderloin is it will never disappoint when it comes to tenderness and flavor.

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Savory Pork Wellington w/ Pepper-Peach Glaze
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Instructions
Tenderloin
  1. Remove silver skin from tenderloin by sliding the knife tip under one end of the silver skin. Keep the blade flat (parallel to the meat) & slide the knife between the meat & the silver skin, pulling up on the sliver skin as you go. Discard silver skin. Remove any excess fat if any.
Glaze
  1. In a small saucepan, heat jelly, preserves, vinegar, mustard, brown sugar & sage to simmering over medium heat; stirring occasionally. Remove saucepan from heat.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  3. After trimming the meat, brush it all over with a generous amount of olive oil. Place the tenderloin in a skillet that has been heated to a hot temperature previously. Sear tenderloin about 1 1/2 minutes on each quarter turn.
  4. Place meat on a piece of foil paper in a roasting pan. Lightly coat the meat with some of the glaze using a brush so it will spread evenly. Roast tenderloin for about 25-35 minutes depending on the size of your tenderloin.
  5. Insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of your meat & check the temperature. The pork will continue to cook for about 10 more degrees outside of the oven & then will stop cooking after that. Once out of the oven, Generously brush meat with remaining glaze. Allow to rest between 5 & 10 minutes before slicing.
Recipe Notes
  • I had actually doubled the glaze recipe so we would have some extra since we both enjoy pepper jelly. Strangely enough, it tasted real good not only on the meat but the mashed potatoes we had with it.¬†

Apple Walnut Mini Tarts

There is nothing more enjoyable than baking with the flavors and scents of fall. Sometimes I feel like apple season takes a back seat to pumpkin but in my opinion its equally important. With their sweet scent and crisp bite, apples are one of those things that define ‘fall’.

The apple pie as we know it, originated in Europe. The most widely known variations are the English, Dutch & Swedish apple pies. While all made their way into North American food culture, the English version is the one familiar to most of us. Worldwide, there are over 7500 types of cultivated apples, reflecting both their versatility and popularity.

Apples, perfectly spiced in a fall dessert, can be amazing. Like most spice blends, the flavor of apple pie spice is variable since the maker can choose the components according to their preference. In all cases, the goal is to provide warmth and sweetness that compliments the tartness of apples.

These little mini tarts started out with an idea I had to incorporate an upside down cake with some shortbread pastry and spiced apples. They actually turned out better than I had expected. After baking, it seemed like they might be quite dry, but instead were real tender and not too sweet. I’ve always enjoyed to use the cardamom spice. It gives such complexity and depth to the flavor of whatever its used in.

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Apple Walnut Mini Tarts
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Shortbread Pastry
Apple Filling
Walnut Topping
Servings
Ingredients
Shortbread Pastry
Apple Filling
Walnut Topping
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Instructions
Shortbread Pastry
  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or a fork, cut in butter & add vanilla & lemon zest. Mix only until combined, divide in half & wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Place in freezer until slightly frozen & ready to use.
Apple filling
  1. In a bowl, combine sliced apples, lemon juice, sugar, flour & spices. Set aside.
Walnut Topping
  1. In a small bowl, combine chopped nuts, brown sugar & melted butter. Divide mixture between 4 mini tart pans. If your tart pans have removable bottoms, I suggest using a large paper cupcake liner, placing it first in the pan & then putting 'bottom' on top. This will avoid having any of the filling leaking out.
Assembly/Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Remove one half of the pastry from the freezer. On a CHEESE GRATER, grate pastry. Divide between the 4 mini pans, placing the pastry on top of walnut mixture.
  3. Strain apples, reserving liquid. Divide apples between mini tarts. Microwave reserved juice for a few seconds just to thicken it a tiny bit, then pour over apples in each tart.
  4. Remove second half of pastry from freezer & grate. Top each mini tart with grated pastry. Bake tarts for about 45-50 minutes or until apples are soft. If browning too fast, float a piece of foil paper over the tarts.
  5. Remove tarts from oven & allow to cool for about 5 minutes before inverting onto serving plates. Nice to serve warm with a little ice cream or whipped cream.
Recipe Notes
  • If you care to make your own, here is a recipe for apple pie spice. It makes about 1/3 cup & of course you can always customize the levels of the spices to suit your own taste. I like to keep some handy in my spice drawer to use for various baked goods.
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 4 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • Mix together & store in an airtight container in a cool dark place.

Creamy Mushroom & Sausage Orecchiette

Orecchiette pasta originates in the sunny, southern province of Puglia, Italy. This pasta’s round concave shape led to its name, which means ‘little ears’ in Italian. The rigid exterior and cup-like interior captures chunky sauces and scoops up small vegetables, making orecchiette perfect to serve with sautes. I should mention that I didn’t find orecchiette on the regular supermarket shelves. We are lucky to have some real good Italian grocery stores in our area which definitely have them available.

You will notice, another ingredient I used in this meal is Italian sausage. Sausage is so common that people rarely stop and think about how and why they are made the way they are. Every country has a unique sausage tradition and puts their own twist on the classic meat.

Italian sausage is one of the more popular sausage varieties available, but its origins in Italy are actually different from what we are accustomed to in North America. The true Italian sausage or ‘salsiccia’ (sahl-SEE-tchay) is made of meats that have been seasoned heavily with chili and other hot ingredients and allowed to marinate and change the flavor of the meat overnight.

The more common Italian sausage that North Americans know, is a pork sausage with a fennel and anise mixture as a base seasoning. It is packaged as either HOT or MILD, the difference being in the amount of red pepper flakes that are used.

If you choose to try this meal, I think you will find it real tasty. We just loved it and I have to say it was actually the first time we had ever tried Italian sausage. I have always thought it would be too spicy hot for our liking. Needless to say, I went with the mild version.

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Creamy Mushroom & Sausage Orecchiette
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Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, cook sausage with a splash of olive oil, until browned & cooked through. Set aside.
  2. Add butter to saucepan & saute onions until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Mix in garlic, cook another 2 minutes. Add mushrooms & zucchini, sauteing until tender-crisp, about 5-6 minutes. Return sausage meat to pan & keep warm.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add salt. Cook orecchiette pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta & return to pot. Fold in cheese, sausage/vegetable mixture, fresh parsley & pepper to taste. Slowly add chicken broth until preferred consistency is reached. Serve garnished with red pepper flakes & Parmesan cheese.

‘Cinnamon Roll’ Cherry Pie

This cinnamon roll cherry pie is a unique take on the classic cherry pie. Mini cinnamon rolls line the pie pan to form the ‘crust’ makes it look so special.

After I saw a photo of a similar idea on Pinterest, some of our sour cherries came to mind and my recipe development came into play once again.

Taking that classic cinnamon roll flavor and making the base of a fruit pie seems perfect. You would probably not want to use it with a key lime pie, but anything that already uses cinnamon such as pumpkin or sweet potato should work great with this type of ‘crust’.

After I made a small amount of sour cherry filling it seemed only logical to make a bit of cream cheese filling to go with it.

While my little culinary creation was baking, I mixed up a bit of lemon glaze for drizzling on it when it had cooled slightly. This turned out to be a seriously good cherry cream pie!

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'Cinnamon Roll' Cherry Pie
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Cuisine American, Ecuador, German
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Instructions
Sour Cherry Filling
  1. In a saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch & salt. Add juice/water mixture & stir to thoroughly combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes. Immediately remove from heat. Fold in cherries & cool to room temperature.
Cream Cheese Filling
  1. In a bowl, beat together cream cheese, egg, sugar & vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth. In a separate dish, combine cinnamon & cardamom spices.
Assembly
  1. On a sheet of parchment paper, roll puff pastry into a 12 X 16-inch (35 cm X 45 cm) rectangle. Brush on a thin layer of the cream cheese filling. Sprinkle with spice mixture. Roll it up tightly, starting from one of the long sides. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes or until firm enough to slice easily.
  2. When pastry has chilled, slice roll into 18 pieces. Line a greased 9-inch pie dish with half of the mini spiced rolls. Lay them in the center first & work your way outwards. Press them down in the dish so they stick together & form a base for the pie. Top the pastry first with remaining cream cheese filling, then the sour cherry filling.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. On a sheet of parchment paper, lay out the remaining 9 pastry rolls in a circular shape. Place a second sheet of parchment on top. Using a rolling pin, flatten the rolls slightly so they stick together to form the top crust. Pull off the top parchment & flip pastry over the filled pie; gently press it to conform to the pie edges.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes. If top crust is browning too fast, cover outside edges with foil.
  5. In a small dish, combine powdered sugar with lemon juice. After the pie has cooled, drizzle with lemon glaze.

Loaded Hasselback Potatoes

Hasselback potatoes are a type of potato dish, not a variety of potato. In their simplest form, hasselback potatoes are nothing more than whole potatoes cut in such a way as to resemble a fan or accordion when roasted. The outside of the potato becomes crisp and brown while the inside is soft & creamy.

This Swedish dish gets its name from Hasselbacken, the Stockholm restaurant where it was first served. You might say, they are a cross between baked and roasted potatoes. What distinguishes the two is the way the potato is prepared for roasting. The potato, which may or may not be peeled, is cut into very thin slices but without completing the cuts, leaving all slices connected along the bottom of the potato. As the potato cooks, the individual slices separate slightly and give the finished dish its distinctive look. The original recipe drizzles them with melted butter and seasons with salt & pepper which creates their crispy exteriors.

Over time, many variations have been made and are simply products and preferences of the individual preparing them. It is the slicing and roasting that distinguish the dish as hasselback potatoes rather than the variations on seasonings or toppings.

Today, I’m doing a ‘loaded’ version, taking it from a side dish to the main course.

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Loaded Hasselback Potatoes
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Instructions
Potatoes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Make a row of deep cuts in each potato from end to end, they should be just under 1/4-inch apart. Take care not to cut the potatoes all the way through. See 'Recipe Notes' below.
  2. Place the potatoes in a casserole dish, brush them with melted butter & sprinkle with salt & pepper on top. Bake potatoes for an hour OR until TENDER but crispy. Allow potatoes to cool a little then place a small piece of cheese in each gap. Set casserole with potatoes in it aside.
Filling
  1. In a saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp oil & add onions & garlic; saute for a few minutes then add beef & continue to cook until meat is no longer pink. Drain any extra oil/fat from saucepan. Stir in tomato paste (if using) & beef broth; simmering until liquid has been reduced so only a small amount remains.
Bechamel Sauce
  1. In a heavy saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour & cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly, about 2 minutes. Add hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring to a boil; add salt & pepper to taste, lower the heat & cook, stirring 2-3 minutes more. Remove from heat.
Assembly / Baking
  1. Divide the filling between the potatoes, which should still be in the casserole dish. Pour the sauce evenly on top & sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Place the casserole back in the oven (350 F) for another 30 minutes.
Recipe Notes
  • The secret to making hasselback potatoes is to use a large wooden spoon. Place the potato onto the spoon & cut thin slices across the potato. The edges of the wooden spoon will stop the knife from cutting all the way through the potato.

Fresh Fruit Slab Pie

CELEBRATING LABOR DAY!

Although, we have not officially reached the first day of fall (Sept. 22), this part of the year often begins with a tinge of melancholy. Even so, there are many ways to appreciate Canada’s most sentimental season.

Part of our country’s appeal is its four season’s: Winter, Spring, Summer & Fall. We are entering the season of the fall harvest and the leaves on the trees begin their transformation to stunning shades of orange, red and yellow.

Labor day week-end gives us an opportunity to enjoy family and friends before summer is officially over. Whatever your choice of relaxation is, you know good food will play a big part in the week-end gatherings.

I’m sure you are all familiar with ‘slab’ pies. If not …. a slab pie is a shallow pie baked in a rimmed baking sheet instead of a pie pan. These are a genius way to serve a crowd with less fuss and less mess. Almost any fruit pie recipe will work in this format. Just double you pie recipe, bake it in a jelly-roll pan (15 x 10 x 1) which are a little smaller than the typical baking sheet and have 1-inch sides. Most will serve 15-20 people.

For the sake of choice, I went with four different fruits in one slab pie. That should cover it I think!

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Fresh Fruit Slab Pie
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Shortbread Crust
Fruit Filling
Streusel Topping
Servings
Ingredients
Shortbread Crust
Fruit Filling
Streusel Topping
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Instructions
Crust
  1. Line a 15 x 10 x 1-inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter & sugar until light & fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add vanilla & lemon zest; beat another minute, or until blended. Add flour & salt, mix until fully incorporated, taking care not to over-mix the dough.
  2. Turn dough out onto paper-lined baking pan & evenly press into the bottom & about 1/2-inch up the sides of the pan. Place in refrigerator to chill for at least an hour or overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. With a fork, prick crust all over & bake for 20 minutes until JUST PALE golden in color. Remove from oven & cool slightly on a wire rack.
Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, combine rhubarb with 1/4 cup water. Simmer 5-7 minutes ONLY until slightly softened. Strain rhubarb juice into a one-cup measure. Set aside. Place rhubarb in a dish until ready to assemble pie for baking.
Streusel
  1. In a bowl, combine oats, brown sugar & flour. Add butter & mix until coarse crumbs form; stir in pecans.
Sauce
  1. To reserved rhubarb juice in one-cup measure, add cherry juice & 3 Tbsp lemon juice. Add enough water to make one full cup. Return juice/water to small saucepan; add sugars & cornstarch. Cook until mixture boils & thickens.
Assembly
  1. Place rhubarb, saskatoon berries, peaches & cherries in partially baked crust. Form each fruit in a diamond shape to give it a bit of pizzazz!
  2. Drizzle hot sauce evenly over entire slab pie. Sprinkle streusel topping over all & bake in a 350 F oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to cool on a wire rack before serving.

Parmesan Baked Scallops over Egg Noodles

Whether broiled, fried, baked or pan-seared, fresh, wild-caught scallops are an excellent stand-alone dish or will compliment a salad or pasta with their sweet flavor and delicate texture.

Sea scallops are widely known for their iconic, beautiful shape …. a fan-like shell with fluted grooves. Different varieties are found in oceans all over the world and come in many sizes. For commercial purposes they are labeled similar to shrimp. A number is used to designate how many scallops of a given size it would take to constitute a pound. The label 20/30 means it would take 20/30 scallops to make up a pound and labels like U10 means it would take less than (‘under’) 10 to make a pound.

Scallops are bivalve mollusks (meaning having 2 shells- usually united by a hinge) that have a reddish-pink, upper shell and white or cream colored, lower shell.

Brion & I love seafood so this meal definitely works for us.

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Parmesan Baked Scallops over Egg Noodles
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Instructions
Gouda Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter; whisk in flour & cook, stirring until frothy. Add milk, whisking until sauce comes to a boil & starts to thicken. Add cheese & spices & continue to cook a few more minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; set aside.
Parmesan Scallops
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. In a 9-inch square baking dish, melt butter & toss scallops in it. In a bowl, combine next 5 ingredients & sprinkle over scallops. Gently stir to spread them out in one layer. Bake about 15-20 minutes.
Egg Noodles
  1. In a pot of salted, boiling water cook egg noodles until al dente. Drain. Reheat sauce & combine with pasta. Divide between two serving plates & top each with baked scallops.

Banana Cheesecake Bites

Seriously!! I find it hard to believe we have reached September 1st already. Not that I don’t love the fall colors coming up but …..

What’s not to love about the traditional baked cheesecakes but the no-bake variety does have its own merits. Not only do you skip the long baking time, but you also get a smooth, creamy texture. Just a few ingredients and a little mixer time and you’re done. Chill and serve!

Cheesecake is always a crowd-pleaser, its even been called the perfect dessert by some. This recipe adds a nice bit of spice which stems from its gingersnap cookie crust and the creaminess definitely comes from the pudding/cream cheese filling combo.

Brion & I thought these ‘bites’ tasted the best when the cheesecakes came directly from the freezer then top them with the fresh bananas, caramel & whipped cream. Of course, that means they are available at any given time!!

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Banana Cheesecake Bites
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Gingersnap Crust
Caramel Sauce
Servings
Ingredients
Gingersnap Crust
Caramel Sauce
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Instructions
Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a bowl, combine gingersnap crumbs & pecans. Drizzle in melted butter & mix well. Press crumb mixture into 24 cheesecake mini cup pans. Bake for 7 minutes or until light brown, cool completely. You can skip the baking step if you wish.
Filling
  1. In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat cream cheese until fluffy & no lumps remain. Add sugar & beat until combined. Add heavy cream & vanilla & beat until medium-stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together pudding mix & milk. Let pudding stand for 3 minutes in the fridge until thickened. Fold into cheesecake mixture until combined.
  3. Fill each of the 24 cups & smooth the tops. At this point you can either refrigerate until very firm (at least 6 hours) or freeze. Once they are firm, remove from pans to serving plates & add banana slices, caramel drizzle, whipped topping & a cherry. Or freeze, remove from pans & store in an airtight container in the freezer until ready to garnish & serve.
Caramel Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, bring brown sugar, butter & milk to a gentle boil & cook until thickened, 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat; add rum extract.
Recipe Notes
  • The newspaper ad at the bottom of the blog was from the fifties when this idea for a pudding cheesecake was created.

Zucchini Cordon Bleu w/ a Crunchy Crust

An easy dish, with a real taste experience for a warm summer day. Zucchini Cordon Bleu is a light version based on a slice of turkey (or chicken) and cheese, layered in zucchini slices and breaded in a crispy, nutty Parmesan crust then baked (or fried). Perfect to serve for a light meal.

One of the ingredients in the breading is almond flour. If you’ve never cooked or baked with almond flour, always stick to whatever the recipe calls for (almond flour or almond meal). This will ensure that the texture comes out the way its supposed to.

Blanched Almond Flour -refers to almonds that are ground up into a very fine flour. The almonds have had their skins removed by blanching them before grinding them up and sifting them into a fine almond flour.

Almond Meal or Unblanched Almond Flour – is made using almonds with their skins still on when grinding them up into flour. This creates a flour that is more coarse, hence the term almond ‘meal’.

One of the best things about almond flour is that it can be used in both sweet & savory recipes. Almond flour adds a slight sweetness to baking but note that it bakes up denser than all-purpose flour because there is no gluten.

This is such a great way to use up some of those plentiful zucchinis at this time of year.

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Zucchini Cordon Bleu w/ a Crunchy Crust
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Instructions
  1. Wash zucchini, cut off ends & slice in half. Next, cut lengthwise into slices that are several centimeters thick & then halved. Place zucchini slices on paper towel to remove some of the liquid.
  2. Place 1 slice of Gouda & 1 slice of turkey between 2 slices of zucchini. If you prefer, you can use some toothpicks to help keep the cordon bleu together while breading & frying.
  3. Using 3 separate shallow dishes; place flour in one, beaten eggs, salt & pepper in the second one & ground almonds, chopped pumpkin seeds & Parmesan cheese in the third.
  4. Dredge zucchini cordon bleus in flour, then in eggs & lastly with nut/cheese mixture.
  5. Heat oil in pan & fry the zucchini cordon bleu on medium heat. Fry for about 2 minutes on each side until golden & crispy. Drain on paper towel.