Amigos Birthday

Today, December 21st, a very special member of our family is having his 15th  birthday. He is ‘our’ little mini German Dachshund with the cute name of ‘Amigo’. My sister Loretta, adopted Amigo when he was only two months old so needless to say, their hearts have been well secured together.

Brion & I have had the incredible pleasure of being able to share in his life as well. On different occasions he stayed with us while Loretta had to attend to other things. It would usually take a bit of time at first for him to accept the idea she was gone temporarily. Then we would become part of his ‘pack’.

When I was growing up on the farm we had a Collie. I loved that dog but being a farm dog living outdoors, your interactions were only when you were out of the house. Until we cared for Amigo, I just had no idea what a privilege it is to be loved by a dog. Dachshunds are such a special breed. Amigo has left an imprint on my heart that will remain forever with me. Whenever Amigo is present, he brings such happiness and the perspective to enjoy the moment along with a dogs’ uncanny ability to understand humans and give so much unconditional love. We humans really need to learn some of these virtues.

As we watch him growing older, I find it so unfair that animals give so much and yet they still have to suffer the aches and pains of old age the same as humans. It seems they should be spared this ordeal.

Amigo is definitely a great source of pleasure to Loretta and I am truly grateful their lives were connected so long ago.

Two of Amigos favorite foods have always been cheese and chicken. Although he isn’t going to be having any, I’m putting a chicken meal on my blog today in honor of his birthday.

                                             HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMIGO!

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Cranberry-Gruyere Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Chicken breasts go from ordinary to extraordinary when filled with tart cranberries and Gruyere cheese.
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
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Instructions
Chicken & Stuffing
  1. Flatten chicken breast to a 1/4-inch thickness. In a small bowl, combine cheese & cranberries. Divide cheese mixture between breasts; roll up & secure with toothpicks.
Breading
  1. In a food processor, place walnuts & parsley; cover & process until ground but not over processed. Transfer to a shallow bowl; stir in bread crumbs, salt & pepper. In another shallow bowl, combine eggs & mustard. Place flour in a third shallow bowl. Coat chicken with flour, then dip in egg mixture & coat with walnut mixture.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with greased foil paper. Place breasts seam side down & bake for 35-40 minutes or until thermometer reads 170 F. Remove from oven; discard toothpicks & serve. This is real nice served with couscous & a veggie.

Baked Stone Fruit Dumplings

Part of the enjoyment of writing these blog stories and recipes is the research process. I find it fascinating to learn about the different cultures through their recipes. With some, you have to dig deep to retrieve the authentic recipe or process. Many recipes, as I know from my own family heritage, only exist in memory. These recipes are priceless pieces of family traditions. Each having a history and story of it’s own making them unique and special.

Whenever I feel inspired to create a new recipe, I try to learn everything I can about it’s history and the way it is traditionally made, then I set out on my own. It’s not that I think I can do it better, but rather just personalizing it to our taste.

Fruit dumplings were most popular in England and Central Europe. As people crossed the ocean, they carried with them the recipes for the foods they knew and loved. As time passed they experimented more with the flavors of fruit dumplings. The dough evolved from flour and potatoes to the pastry dough we know today.

I have made this BAKED STONE FRUIT DUMPLING  recipe with either my own homemade pastry or frozen puff pastry. We found them real good either way.

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Baked Fruit Dumplings
Adding a scoop of ice cream makes this an irresistible dessert.
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Course dessert
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Dumplings
Ingredients
Dumpling
Streusel
Caramel Sauce
Course dessert
Servings
Dumplings
Ingredients
Dumpling
Streusel
Caramel Sauce
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Instructions
Dumplings
  1. In a small bowl, combine sugar, bread crumbs, cinnamon & nutmeg. On a lightly floured surface, roll pastry into two 12-inch squares. Cut each sheet into nine 4-inch squares. Brush squares with egg. Place 1 tsp sugar mixture in the center of each square; top with 2 Tbsp chopped fruit of your choice & 1 more tsp sugar mixture. Gently bring up corners of pastry to center; pinch edges to seal. Place on greased baking sheets.
Streusel
  1. In a small bowl, combine streusel ingredients. Brush remaining egg over dumplings; press streusel over tops. Bake at 375 F. for 14-18 minutes or until golden brown. Place pans on wire racks & allow to cool about 10 minutes before serving.
Caramel Sauce
  1. While dumplings are baking, combine flour & water in a small saucepan beating until smooth. Add the sugars, butter & salt. Bring to a boil; cook & stir until smooth & blended. If serving immediately, place dumpling on serving plate & pour sauce over top.
Recipe Notes
  • These versatile dumplings can also be made with tart apples or mixed berries.

Dinner ‘En Croute’

Today, November 24, our neighbors to the south are celebrating Thanksgiving. Over the years, Brion and I have been in the USA numerous times on this occasion and enjoyed the food and holiday atmosphere very much. Today’s blog post acknowledges the American holiday with some special meal choices.

At the heart of a memorable dinner is the main entree, so why not make it just a bit more special by serving it  ‘En Croute’.  In the culinary arts, the term en croute (pronounced ‘on Kroot’) indicates a food that has been wrapped in a pastry dough and then baked in the oven. Traditionally the type of pastry used was a simple dough called pate pastry. Today, puff pastry  is frequently used for most en croute recipes.

The key to preparing items en croute is that however long it takes to cook the pastry until it is golden brown is how long the item will spend in the oven. Some of the best choices are beef tenderloin, salmon or a brie cheese, due to the fact they require less time to cook.

In the 1950’s and 60’s, Beef Wellington or as the French called it, ‘Boeuf en Croute’, became very popular. It was an elegant meal, using a beef tenderloin covered with liver pate and wrapped in pastry. My first introduction to this meal was a much more low key  version. It was simply achieved by making a nicely seasoned meatloaf, wrapping it a basic pastry and baking it. My mother would serve it with a tomato soup sauce. Definitely good but not quite the elegance of the true en croute entrees.

Two favorites of mine are variations of the classic ‘boeuf en croute’. One uses boneless turkey breast topped with a cranberry, hazelnut stuffing and baked in a tender puff pastry then served with a citrus-fig cranberry sauce. The other one is a seafood en croute using fresh salmon. The salmon is topped with shrimp or scallops in a seasoned egg/cream mixture and baked in puff pastry. A dill cream sauce is served to compliment this entree. Having a few alternatives to change out your traditional holiday meals always keeps it interesting.

 

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Turkey / Seafood 'en Croute'
Alternative ideas for those special occasions.
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine French
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Instructions
Turkey en Croute
  1. Saute garlic & onions in olive oil & butter 1-2 minutes. Add bread crumbs; toss until they begin to brown slightly. Add hazelnuts, thyme, cranberries, salt & pepper. Add only enough turkey stock to make stuffing hold together.
  2. Place the first pastry sheet on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place turkey breast along the center line of the pastry sheet. Brush the edges of the pastry with egg wash. Place stuffing on top of the turkey. Place the second pastry sheet over the turkey & stuffing. Trim the edges to form an oval shape. Save the trimmings in the fridge.
  3. Bring the edges of the dough together & seal by pinching them. Roll the dough from the bottom layer over the top layer & press down all the way around the perimeter of the pastry. This creates a tighter seal. Brush egg wash over the entire surface of the pastry. Decorate, cutting leaf shapes from trimmed pastry & score leaf veining into them with the tip of a sharp knife. Cut four 1/2" slots in the top of the pastry to let steam escape. Chill for 20 minutes or longer in the fridge before baking. This helps the pastry to puff.
  4. Bake at 400 F. for about 15-20 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 F. Use a meat thermometer to make sure that the center has reached at least 170 F. to be sure the turkey is completely cooked, about 35-45 minutes longer. Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting into servings.
Citrus - Fig Cranberry Sauce
  1. Simmer all ingredients together slowly for 30-40 minutes or until the cranberries are fully cooked & the mixture reduces & thickens to a jam-like consistency. Stir the sauce often as it simmers. Remove the star anise (if using). Store in a plastic container in refrigerator until serving time.
Seafood en Croute
  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll each pastry sheet into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle. Cut each sheet into four 6 x 5-inch rectangles. Place a salmon fillet in center of four rectangles.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the shrimp (or scallops), cream, onions, parsley, dill, garlic, pesto, salt & pepper. In another small bowl, beat egg white on medium speed until soft peaks form; fold into shrimp mixture. Spoon about 1/4 cup over each fillet.
  3. Top each with a pastry rectangle & crimp to seal. With a sharp knife, cut several slits in the top to let steam escape. Place on a 15 x 10 x 1-inch parchment lined baking sheet; brush with egg wash. Bake at 400 F. for 20-25 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160 F.
Dill Cream Sauce
  1. Mix all ingredients & refrigerate until serving time.
Recipe Notes
  • The original recipe source for the Cranberry Hazelnut Turkey & Citrus Fig Cranberry Sauce can be found at rockrecipes.com
  • The cranberry sauce uses star anise or extract but feel free to omit it if you do not care for that flavor.
  • The Seafood en Croute recipe is one that is featured on tasteofhome.com  which has always been my favorite 'go-to' recipe company forever. 

Savory Herb/Apple-Bacon Burgers

Today I have tried to incorporate another favorite ‘recipe’, this one is derived from the taste of my mother’s turkey/chicken stuffing. Most homemakers of her time did not have the luxury of opening their kitchen ‘spice drawer’ with all its many little bottles. Something I remember well, was this brown bag my mother always kept in the bottom of one of her kitchen cupboards. When I looked inside, what I found was some dried, prickly plant that had a wonderful smell. To this day, I’m not sure what it was, but every time she made stuffing she would crumble some of it into her mixture. For years, I have tried to recreate that exact taste in my own bread stuffing. The Savory Herb & Apple-Zucchini Bacon Burger   filling seems to have captured that ‘taste of a memory’ fairly close I think. The mixture seems to work well in anyone of the three meats used in the ‘Basic Meat Patty’  recipe from the previous blog in my ‘Stuffed Burger Series’.

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Savory Herb & Apple-Zucchini Bacon Burgers
With the addition of three more items added to the original savory herb stuffing recipe, you have one more tasty 'stuffed' burger to try.
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Ingredients
Savory Herb Stuffing
Apple-Zucchini Bacon Stuffing
Servings
Ingredients
Savory Herb Stuffing
Apple-Zucchini Bacon Stuffing
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Instructions
Savory Herb Stuffing
  1. Boil potato in salted water. Drain & mash; set aside. Saute onion, celery, garlic, mushrooms & seasoning in margarine. Remove from heat. Combine with fine bread crumbs, mashed potato & chicken broth.
  2. This stuffing will be enough for 8 burgers so you will need to double the 'Basic Meat Patty' recipe, using the meat of your choice. Divide stuffing mixture into 8 and place in the center of 8 meat patties. Flatten filling slightly, then place remaining 8 patties on top. Seal edges well.
  3. Place burgers on a greased piece of foil & place on a preheated barbecue grill over medium heat. Close lid & grill. Halfway through cooking time, turn & place a slice of cheese on each burger. Finish cooking, remove from grill & serve on slightly grilled buns. Lettuce & tomato slices with a little mustard all add to the nice flavor of this combo.
Apple-Zucchini Bacon Stuffing
  1. Using the SAVORY HERB STUFFING recipe, OMIT the MASHED POTATO. Instead, add the apple & zucchini; saute with the veg/seasoning mixture. Combine all with crisply fried bacon & chicken broth.
  2. Complete following steps 2 & 3 from above recipe.