Rhubarb Cheesecake Muffins

As usual, I can’t get enough of using rhubarb throughout its growing season. This year we started three new plants as our older ones are producing less and less. I think they are probably just becoming to shaded so we put the new ones in a great little spot on the south side of the garage.

Rhubarb’s awkward positioning between fruit and vegetable, sweet and tart, is a topic that’s constantly debated. It resembles sticks of celery dressed in their best pink Sunday attire, blushing from the first few washes of early sun peaking through its dense foliage after winter hibernation underground.

Pie remains the most common use for rhubarb, so much that older cookbooks called it the ‘pie plant’. While it generally is treated as a fruit, it has also been used as a savory ingredient, frequently paired with meats, cheese, stuffings, sauces and much more.

This is one of my favorite ‘sweet’ recipes from quite a few years ago. It has it all — rhubarb, cream cheese & streusal!

Rhubarb Cheesecake Muffins
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Rhubarb Cheesecake Muffins
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Stewed Rhubarb
Batter
Cream Cheese Filling
Servings:
Instructions
Stewed Rhubarb
  1. In a small saucepan, combine rhubarb, sugar & lemon slice. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar melts. Reduce heat & simmer about 10-12 minutes or until thickened & reduced to about 1/2 cup. Allow to cool.
Batter
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour & sugar. with a pastry blender, cut in butter to resemble coarse crumbs. In a small dish, measure 1 cup of the flour mixture & add walnuts & cinnamon. Set aside. To remaining flour mixture add baking powder, baking soda & salt. Set aside. In a third bowl, combine sour cream, vanilla & beaten egg.
Cream Cheese Filling
  1. In a small bowl, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 sugar, egg & lemon zest. Fold in stewed rhubarb.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper cups. Stir SOUR CREAM mixture into FLOUR/BAKING POWDER mixture until just blended. Do not over mix! Spread this batter evenly over bottom & up the sides of each paper cup. Place a spoonful of FILLING MIXTURE in center of each, then top with WALNUT MIXTURE & bake 12-15 minutes or until muffins test done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
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Rhubarb Custard with Mini Donuts

Rhubarb is one of those flavors that signals the coming of spring. A staple crop for every Canadian homesteader, in the 1800’s, as it thrives specifically in cool climates. The focus was initially on function, not flavor and was used as a medicine due to it’s perceived benefits for the digestive system. The tartness adds kick to it’s character causing it to be adored and despised with equal vigor.

Rhubarb ‘fool’ is a traditional English dessert that was popular throughout the 19th century on both sides of the Atlantic. It generally consists of a pureed fruit folded gently into a light, custard. Today’s recipe is a take on that idea using custard, pureed rhubarb and some mini donuts for ‘dunking’.

Rhubarb Custard with Mini Donuts
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Servings
2-4
Servings
2-4
Rhubarb Custard with Mini Donuts
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Servings
2-4
Servings
2-4
Ingredients
Donuts
Rhubarb Sauce
Custard
Servings:
Instructions
Donuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, whisk together milk, egg, oil & lemon juice. In another bowl, combine flour, sugar & baking powder. Stir wet ingredients into flour mixture until combined in a smooth batter.
  2. Brush mini donut pan with butter. Fill each cup about 1/2 full; bake for about 4-5 minutes or until they test done. Place some sugar in a shallow dish. Remove baked donuts from oven; while still warm coat with sugar. Set aside.
Rhubarb Sauce
  1. Cut rhubarb into small pieces. In a saucepan, add rhubarb, sugar & water; bring to a boil & simmer, covered, gently for 10 minutes. Remove lid & stir, then remove from heat when it reaches a jam consistency.
Custard
  1. In a saucepan, bring milk & vanilla to a boil. In a bowl, whisk egg yolks, sugar & cornstarch together. Add the hot milk to egg mixture slowly whisking as you do so. Return the mixture to the saucepan & bring slowly to a boil, whisking constantly until thickened.
To Serve
  1. Divide custard between 4 custard dishes; place a spoonful of sauce on top. Serve the mini donuts on the side, ready to be 'dunked'.
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Pistachio Thumbprint Cookies

Boxed instant pudding mixes have become an ingredient in many recipes from cake, cookies and pie to trifle and salad. In 1975, a salad recipe was developed by Kraft Kitchens, using two of their products, jell-o instant pistachio pudding and Cool Whip. It was called ‘Pistachio Pineapple Delight’. It seems though, that a forerunner to this salad was one using a lime jell-o powder instead of a pistachio pudding mix.

The lime gelatin / pineapple combination evolved over at least four decades. Research shows the salad on a menu in 1931 as well as another recipe from 1948 that contained NO marshmallows. In 1957, a pineapple pie recipe was printed with a filling made from the same ingredients as the salad.

This particular salad was a huge favorite of our family when I was growing up. One year, family friends that had been invited to Christmas dinner, asked if this salad had something to do with our German heritage because it always appeared on special occasions. It is hard to figure out where this dish belongs — dessert or salad? The fact that it is not so sweet you can get away with having it as a side dish but at the same time, it could also be enjoyed as a light dessert.

I have to be honest, I like both versions — lime or pistachio. Just for something different, I’m using the pistachio pudding mix in cookies and giving them a chocolate cream cheese center.

Pistachio Thumbprint Cookies
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Servings
22-24
Servings
22-24
Pistachio Thumbprint Cookies
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Servings
22-24
Servings
22-24
Ingredients
Chocolate Filling
Servings:
Instructions
Cookies
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together butter & sugar until light & fluffy. Add the egg & extracts; combine then stir in flour & dry pudding mix. Combine well but do not over mix.
  2. Form dough into 1 1/2-inch balls then roll in finely chopped pecans. Place on cookie sheet; make a thumbprint indentation on the top of each cookie. Bake for about 10-11 minutes; remove from oven & press each indent again, slightly. Remove to wire rack & cool.
Chocolate Filling
  1. While cookies are baking, Combine cream cheese & butter in a small bowl until smooth. Add sugar, cocoa powder & vanilla; beat until very creamy. If filling is to thick add a bit of milk to get the desired consistency. Divide filling between cooled cookies. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
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Swedish Apple Pie

Many cultures have embraced the ‘apple pie’ and put their own spin on it, so why is it known as the quintessential ‘American’ dessert. If your someone who hates making pie crust …. this pie is for you. Swedish Apple Pie is more like cake than a pie and very similar to a cobbler. You layer your apples in a buttered pie dish, whip up the batter, spread it over the apples and bake it. As it bakes, the batter fills in the spaces between the apples, creating cakey  goodness for each bite. 

This pie reminds me of an experience that seems quite comical when I think of it now. Before I had ever studied in the commercial food industry or made any amount of pies, a friend gave me a recipe for a ‘Swiss’ apple pie. Her instructions were to place the apple slices in a pastry lined pie pan. Next, pour vanilla pudding over the apples and bake. It sounded great! I purchased a box of Jell-O brand vanilla pudding & pie filling, made a crust and filled it with apple slices. I assumed you were supposed to cook the pudding before covering the apples with it for some reason. Wrong! What resulted was apples baked in a pastry shell with a ‘rubber top’. I guess we all have to start somewhere right?!

Nevertheless, I think you will enjoy this easy way to make an apple pie.

Swedish Apple Pie
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Swedish Apple Pie
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9-inch pie pan.
  2. Peel, core & slice apples. Place in buttered pie plate. Sprinkle apples with 1 Tbsp sugar & cinnamon.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine cooled, melted margarine, 1 cup sugar, salt, egg, flour, extract & walnuts. Mix well. Gently spread batter over apples. Bake for about 45 minutes or until top is golden. Serve warm or cold with ice cream or whipped cream.
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Orecchiette Pasta with Turkey Meatballs

Italians have been making and eating orecchiette pasta ‘forever’ and the way it is made has changed very little over time. Orecchiette means ‘small ears’, a name derived from the shape. They are a bit less than an inch across, slightly dome-shaped and their centers are thinner than their rims. This characteristic gives them an interesting, variable texture, soft in the middle and somewhat chewier around the edges. A very distinctive type of pasta that originates from the Italian region of Puglia, the southeastern region that forms the high heel on the ‘boot’ of Italy.

Orecchiette require only four ingredients: hard wheat, flour, water and salt. Their particular shape, combined with the rough surface, makes it perfect for any type of sauce. Although they are best in the fresh version, dried certainly are a good second choice.

As ordinary as this meal seems, the flavor is really good and the orecchiette does a great job of cupping the sauce. For a little extra flavor, I added a few bacon slices to the turkey meatballs. 

Orecchiette Pasta with Turkey Meatballs
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Orecchiette Pasta with Turkey Meatballs
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
Turkey Meatballs
  1. In a saucepan, fry bacon until crisp. Remove, drain on paper towels, & chop finely. In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, bacon crumbles, seasonings, egg & breadcrumbs. Mix & form into 20 balls. Brown meatballs in bacon drippings until cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Drain on paper towel.
Orecchiette, Vegetables & Sauce
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta & cook as label directs adding broccoli during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta & broccoli.
  2. Pour off any bacon drippings from skillet, then add 3 Tbsp olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes & 1/2 tsp salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring 1 minute. Add the pasta, broccoli florets & meatballs. Whisk egg with reserved cooking water in a small bowl, then add to the skillet & stir until the sauce thickens slightly. Season with salt & pepper. Serve with fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
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‘Spring” Whoopie Pies with Mascarpone Filling

Not a pie at all, traditional whoopie pies are two thin chocolate cakes sandwiched around a white frosting. The origin of the whoopie pie is somewhat controversial. Some people say they were invented in Medieval Germany and brought to the USA by immigrants. Women would bake cakes and use leftover batter and icing to make these special treats. The little cake sandwiches were placed in children’s lunch boxes, where upon discovering them, cries of ‘whoopie’ were shouted. From the basic chocolate and vanilla formula of the past, a whole host of varieties have since taken the stage.

I love the pastel shades of Spring and try to incorporate them into anything I can. When I was shopping the other day, I happened to see some little colorful  French Macaron  cookies in a bakery window. As great as they look, I personally have never cared for the ‘meringue’ type cookie. Nevertheless, it gave me some inspiration for some ‘spring’ whoopie pies. Adding a few new flavors to the chocolate and vanilla batters along with some flavored Mascarpone fillings takes whoopie pies (cookies) to a whole new level.

'Spring" Whoopie Pies with Mascarpone Filling
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'Spring" Whoopie Pies with Mascarpone Filling
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Ingredients
MASCARPONE FILLINGS - Raspberry, Blueberry, Apricot & Strawberry Preserve
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar & vanilla until light & fluffy. Beat in egg. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda & salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk.
  2. In separate small bowls, divide vanilla batter into 4 equal portions. Leave one plain, to the second dish add pistachio nuts & a tiny bit of green food color gel. To the third dish add 2-3 Tbsp Chambord liqueur & red food coloring. To the fourth add lemon zest & yellow food color.
  3. FOR CHOCOLATE BATTER: Follow directions in the first paragraph, adding cocoa along with flour mixture. Using a small scoop or heaped tablespoon, spoon mixtures onto baking sheet. Allow room for spreading. Bake for 10-12 minutes. DO NOT OVER BAKE. Remove from oven & transfer to wire rack.
  4. While whoopies are baking prepare Mascarpone fillings. For every 60 grams of Mascarpone use 2-3 Tbsp of one of the preserve flavors.
  5. When the whoopies are cold, match each with whoopie half with its closest partner size. Spread with a knife or use a piping bag to cover the flat side of one whoopie half of each pair generously with filling. Top each with its matching half, flat side down & gently press together.
Recipe Notes
  • Another flavor you might enjoy is lemon curd which can be purchased in the preserve section of the grocery store.
  • For chocolate filling, add a little cocoa powder & powdered sugar to some Mascarpone.
  • For some of the vanilla whoopies, I made a Rosewater flavored filling with 1 tsp margarine, 60 gm Mascarpone, 3 Tbsp powdered sugar & 3/4 tsp rosewater.
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Cherry Chai Cheesecake Bites

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!

It seems one of the most common symbols associated with Valentine’s Day are heart shapes, used to decorate cards, gift boxes, wrapping paper, cakes, cookies, candies, etc. etc. In April 2016, I had posted a blog reminiscing about a memory I had from the fifties. It referred back to the ‘invention’ of the ‘cut-up’ cakes. One of these was a heart-shaped cake covered in Baker’s Angel Flake coconut and decorated with some of those little spicy, cinnamon heart candies. Here’s a tidbit of ‘red hot’ info I found interesting.  In the 1930’s, Ferrara Pan Candy Company (USA) created the famous ‘Red Hot” candies, otherwise known as cinnamon hearts, using the cold panned candy method. This process involved building candy pieces from candy centers and tossing them into revolving pans while adding flavor, color and other candy ingredients. This process continues until the pieces become the desired size.

Brion loves these hot, spicy little hearts. It seems if he has some once a year that satisfies the craving which is probably more nostalgic than anything. Of course if there are a few too many around, there are numerous vintage recipes using them such as applesauce, apple pie, jell-o and so on.

In keeping with Valentines Day, I wanted to do something with the color red and add a little spiciness of my own.                                                                                                   Here you have it CHERRY CHAI CHEESECAKE BITES!

Cherry Chai Cheesecake Bites
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Cherry Chai Cheesecake Bites
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Crust
Cheesecakes
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray 12 mini muffin pans with cooking spray or use a mini cheesecake pan with the removable bottoms.
  2. In a blender of food processor, finely crush the gingersnap cookies. Transfer to a large mixing bowl & add melted butter. Mix well. Spoon about 1 Tbsp crumb mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup. Press to create a mini 'pie crust'.
  3. In another mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, egg, sugar, vanilla, cardamom, pumpkin pie spice. Using a mixer, beat for 2-3 minutes until smooth & creamy. Divide filling between the 12 'cups'.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove & let cool for 5 minutes or so. Run a knife around edges to loosen cheesecakes; carefully flip the tins over to remove cheesecakes from pans.
  5. To Serve: Place cheesecake bites on serving dish. Top with cherry pie filling (about 2 cherries each).
Recipe Notes
  • Recipe was adapted from cookingcontestcentral.com
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Sweet & Sour Cabbage Casserole

Stuffed cabbage rolls are a unique blend of various flavors. The art of seasoning is about far more than adding a few grinds of salt and pepper. It’s more about sorting out the sweet, sour, savory and bitterness balance.

Food history tells us cabbage rolls have their roots in the ancient Middle East and spread to Eastern Europe as trade routes flourished with various ethnic groups migrating. Many countries lay claim to their origin, which accounts for the several interesting versions on the traditional recipe. For example:

Ukrainian holubtsi  are typically vegetarian, filling pickled cabbage leaves with either buckwheat and wild mushrooms or a mixture of whole grains and root vegetables, braised in tomato juice or vegetable stock served with perogies.

Poland’s golabki, translating to ‘little pigeon feet'(named after the French dish that wrapped cabbage around cooked pigeon), stuffs the leaves with pork, beef, rice or barley, accompanied by sour cream and sweet paprika.

Romanian sarmale combines ground pork, caramelized onions and rice nested in a pickled sauerkraut leaf, then smothered in dill and tomato sauce. It is often topped with bacon or smoked sausage.

The Asian variation wraps Chinese cabbage around seafood blends, tofu and shiitake mushrooms.

Egyptian mahshi kromb are simmered in an aromatic tomato-based sauce with mint, cumin and other Middle Eastern herbs and spices.

Jewish holishkls are a combination of ground beef, rice and raisins enveloped in cabbage leaves and simmered in a sauce of brown sugar, lemon and tomatoes.

Today’s blog recipe gives you some of those same traditional flavors without the fuss of rolling the cabbage and meat. Brion and I really enjoy this particular version. Of course, it’s a given that most recipes will always need tweaking to account for the different cooking conditions and personal tastes.

Sweet & Sour Cabbage Casserole
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Sweet & Sour Cabbage Casserole
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Remove 5 large leaves from a head of cabbage; steam until tender. When cool enough to handle, roll up & cut into 1/2" slices; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine beef, cooked rice, minced garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper & 2 Tbsp parsley.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat oil. Cook onion & chopped garlic for a couple of minutes until fragrant but not brown.
  4. Add sugar, lemon juice, tomatoes & pineapple juice; bring to a boil. Add 2 Tbsp parsley & cook for 15 minutes, breaking up tomatoes with spoon. Season with salt & pepper.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 2 L casserole with 1/3 of the cabbage slices. Spread with half of the meat mixture & 1/3 of the sauce. Repeat with cabbage, meat & sauce. Top with remaining cabbage & sauce.
  6. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours until a meat thermometer reads at least 160 F. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp parsley & allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
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German New Years Cake

The German New Years cake is a traditional round cake with three layers of different fillings: poppy seeds, nuts & apple. Going back to pre-Christian days, ring-shaped breads and cakes were always considered fortunate because they signified continuity by ‘coming full circle’ or ‘the circle of life’.

The start of the new year has a tenancy to turn even non-believers a bit superstitious.  All around the world, New Years Day  is filled with traditions and symbolic ritual with many of the traditions revolving around food. Certain foods symbolize wealth, prosperity, health and good luck for the coming year. In some cultures, cakes or bread have symbolic items baked inside.

Poppy Seed is believed to bring a year of abundance. Nuts are a symbol of new life and potential. Apples, along with healing properties should bring a ‘sweet new year’!

Keeping all that in mind, it seems like a good reason to invest some time into making this special layered GERMAN NEW YEARS CAKE.

German New Years Cake
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Servings
12-16
Servings
12-16
German New Years Cake
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Servings
12-16
Servings
12-16
Ingredients
Cake Dough
Poppy Seed Filling
Apple Filling
Servings:
Instructions
Cake Dough
  1. In a large bowl, combine dough ingredients & knead until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap & place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Poppy Seed Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, combine all poppy seed ingredients. Place over LOW heat for 1-2 minutes; remove from heat & cool.
Nut Filling
  1. In a small bowl, combine all nut filling ingredients; set aside.
Apple Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, saute peeled & chopped apples over low heat with butter & sugar. Do not add any water as they need to be semi-soft, NOT MUSHY.
Assembly of Cake
  1. Divide chilled dough in HALF, then divide one of the halves into THIRDS. Roll out the largest piece into a circle big enough to cover the bottom & sides of a 12-inch spring form pan. Make sure to have a bit hanging over the top of the ring.
  2. Add the poppy filling. Roll out one of the small pieces of dough to fit neatly on top of filling. Gently cover with nut filling. Roll second small piece of dough; fit over nut filling. Add apple filling layer. Fold extra dough edges onto apples & top with third piece of dough. Your dough base & dividers should all be rolled quite THIN.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat egg & add a tiny bit of water. Brush it over top surface. Bake for about 1 hour & 20 minutes until golden. Remove from oven & place on a wire rack to cool. This cake is best if left in a cool place for a day or two before serving so the flavors will marry. Dust with a layer of powdered sugar before serving.
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Amigos Birthday

Today, December 21st, ‘our’ precious little Amigo is having his 14th birthday. Technically he belongs to my sister Loretta, who adopted him when he was only two months old. If you are a dog lover and have ever been in the presence of a Dachshund, you will understand how easily they can ‘velcro’ themselves onto your heart. Brion and I are accepted by him as if we were his aunt and uncle, so I guess you could call us part of his ‘pack’.

The antics of a Dachshund are priceless. During visits to our house he could come up with all kinds of games. One such game was to put his ball in a chosen spot then sit, out of sight, patiently waiting and watching to see how long it would take you to find it.

To be loved by a Dachshund is truly a privilege of a lifetime never to be taken lightly.

For today’s blog recipe, I thought it would be nice to have roasted chicken breast with a savory-sweet stuffing of apricot and brie, accompanied with small roasted potatoes.

                                       HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO AMIGO!

Apricot & Brie Stuffed Chicken Breasts
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Apricot & Brie Stuffed Chicken Breasts
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Potatoes
Servings:
Instructions
Potatoes
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a plastic bag, combine potatoes, olive oil, seasoned salt, pepper, garlic & lemon zest; toss well. Place on a foil lined large baking sheet & roast for 10 minutes.
Chicken Breast/Stuffing
  1. Place walnuts, 1 cup fresh basil & garlic in food processor; slowly add 1 Tbsp olive oil until mixture becomes paste-like. Next add brie, cream cheese & egg to the food processor & pulse until mixed well. Season with salt, pepper & pepper flakes.
  2. Place chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap & carefully flatten with a meat mallet. Divide stuffing between the 4 breasts. Roll up or fold over, enclosing filling well. In a small bowl, combine apricot preserves, balsamic vinegar & remaining Tbsp olive oil.
  3. Remove potatoes from oven & slide them around a bit to make room for the chicken. Place the chicken on the pan; brush apricot mixture all over breasts. Place the pan back in the oven & roast for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through & potatoes are golden. Garnish with fresh basil if preferred.
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