Bacon Crusted Quiche w/ Savory Madeleines

Quiche is one of those meals that appeals to me at any time of the year. The choice of ingredients is truly only limited to one’s imagination and what’s in your fridge or pantry. In this particular quiche, I opted to use bacon as my ‘crust’ since it was filled with vegetables.

I have been wanting to make some savory ‘madeleines’ for a while and think they will compliment this quiche well.

The madeleine or petite madeleine was first created in northeastern France in the Lorraine area. Technically — they are tea cakes, not cookies and are nothing like scones, very light, puffy and soft — not heavy at all.

Madeleines have a distinctive shell-like shape acquired from being baked in pans with shell-shaped depressions.

The appeal of them is how easy they are to make, how cute they are and how light and airy they are. And while they’re delicate and generally a sweet cake, madeleines hold up to having cheese and onion added to them as well. Many savory versions exist so I decided to go with a cheese madeleine today.

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Bacon Crusted Quiche w/ Savory Madeleines
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Instructions
Parmesan Cheddar Madeleines
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease depressions in madeleine pan. (If you are using a regular size it will have 12 or the mini size you will have enough batter for 36). It is a good idea to dust the pans with flour as well, tapping out any excess. Sprinkle dried thyme leaves in depressions of pans.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter & honey; remove from heat & cool for 10 minutes. In a bowl using a hand held mixer, beat eggs until pale, thick & doubled in volume.
  3. Using a large metal spoon, gently fold butter mixture into eggs. Next fold in flour, cheeses, yogurt & 1/4 tsp salt until combined. Divide between madeleine cups but don't smooth out.
  4. Bake until risen & golden. The time will depend on whether you are using a regular or petite size madeleine pan. Cool in tin for 5 minutes. Firmly tap tin on surface to loosen the madeleines, then carefully invert onto a wire rack to allow them to fall out onto the rack.
Bacon Crusted Vegetable Quiche
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 8-inch round baking pan with foil paper.
  2. In a skillet, fry bacon until lightly cooked but still pliable, 3-4 minutes. Remove the bacon from skillet & blot on paper towel. Drain all but one Tbsp of bacon drippings from pan.
  3. Add the leeks, mushrooms & thyme; cook over moderate heat until veg are tender crisp but not browned, about 5 minutes. Microwave potatoes & slice; drain corn (or cook corn on cob & remove kernels). Grate cheese. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk & remaining spices.
  4. Line the sides if baking pan with slices of bacon. Layer bottom with sliced, cooked potato & half of the cheese. Top with corn kernels & leek/mushroom mixture. Pour egg/milk mixture carefully over vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, until the quiche has puffed up slightly & browned. Test middle to make sure eggs have set. Remove from oven & allow to cool for 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan & serve with savory madeleines.

Vintage Chocolate Potato Cake

The vegetable cake idea is really not so strange if you consider that most of these dense moist cakes are either spice or chocolate. Who would guess that ‘vegetables’ would be lurking within?

When you think of how many veggies we have incorporated into our desserts, its amazing. Carrot cake is hardly novel having been around for decades but there is also beet torte, zucchini chocolate cake, sweet potato cake or the delicious chocolate sauerkraut cake just to name a few.

The popular chocolate potato cake recipe goes back to the early 1800’s, so its likely the oldest of them all. Like buttermilk, mashed potatoes make baked goods taste better, perhaps because both have the effect of making the cake crumb more tender.

It seems the humble potato is like a blank canvas and wears every role its put in with equal flair. This is a moist, rich cake so icing is purely optional.

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Vintage Chocolate Potato Cake
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  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a 9-inch round cake pan or a 12 cup muffin pan & line the base with parchment paper or paper cups.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, oil & eggs then potatoes.
  3. In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom & salt. Alternately add dry ingredients & the buttermilk to the egg mixture, beginning & ending with the dry ingredients; stirring with a spoon or rubber spatula.
  4. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the top springs back when touched lightly, 30-35 minutes.
  5. Invert the cake onto a rack & allow to cool thoroughly. Transfer to a plate & dust with powdered sugar if you wish.
Recipe Notes
  • Don't hesitate to add either some nuts or raisins for some extra flavor.

Beef Stew w/ Cornmeal Dumplings

Dumplings mean different things to different people. Wrap veggies, meat, seafood in dough or just leave them plain …. bake, boil or fry them. Dumplings are what your mother made and that is what you love and consider true comfort food.

The other thing that makes them amazing is that they aren’t necessities …. just pure culinary luxury, there to just enhance the meal.

The dough for most dumplings, has always been based either on cereals such as oats, wheat, corn, etc. or on one of the vegetables from which bread dough can be made from, like potatoes.

Originally made by shaping small portions from a batch of bread dough before specific mixtures were developed. I recall my mother making a big cast iron pan full of dumplings for us on her bread baking day. Its strange how a little ball of dough can evoke such a wonderful memory.

Being a lover of ‘all things corn‘, I decided to make some cornmeal dumplings for our beef stew today. Their still ‘dumplings’, right!!

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Beef Stew w/ Cornmeal Dumplings
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Beef Stew
Cornmeal Dumplings
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Beef Stew
Cornmeal Dumplings
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Instructions
Beef Stew
  1. In a large saucepan, heat 2 tsp oil. Stir fry beef in 2 batches until browned. Transfer to Dutch oven pot, cover & keep warm.
  2. Heat remaining 2 tsp oil in saucepan, add onion & garlic; cook until tender crisp & browned. Add spices; heat & stir for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add flour & 1/2 cup beef broth to onion mixture; stir for a few minutes to blend. Add beef, remaining broth, carrot, celery & salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover & cook about 30-40 minutes, until beef is tender.
Cornmeal Dumplings
  1. While your stew simmers, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cheese & green onion in a mixing bowl & set aside. In another bowl whisk the yogurt, eggs, oil.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. When stew meat is tender, combine wet dumpling ingredients with dry ingredients, stirring batter until blended. (If you wish, you can transfer tender stew into individual ramekins or a casserole dish at this point).
  3. Roughly drop scoops of the cornmeal batter onto each filled ramekin (or casserole). Place them onto a baking tray & cook in the oven for about 20 minutes or until dumplings test done.

French Christmas Bread/ Gibassier

Among the world’s many artisan breads and cakes, the breakfast bread ‘gibassier’ is one of the most popular in the French tradition. This buttery, textured bread is somewhat like an Italian panettone. What makes gibassier unique, is the use of orange blossom water which gives the bread a distinct flavor that is difficult to replicate with any substitute.

The recipe appears to have originated in the rocky, southeast of France, in Lourmarin Village, Provence. Many believe that this generations-old treat is named after the mountain called Le Gibas, which forms part of the village’s horizon.

Gibassier can be shaped and made as one big round loaf or larger or smaller single serve breads. Whatever size they come in, they are slashed or snipped decoratively before they are baked to give the fleur de lis or snowflake appearance.

It is difficult to say whether gibassier is a biscuit, a pastry, doughnut or a cookie. One thing is for sure …. its taste is unique. Traditionally served at breakfast and is dipped into honey butter while it is still warm.

Each Christmas I enjoy to try making a Christmas bread from another culture. Of course, that means as an extra bonus, researching the food history behind it.

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French Christmas Bread/ Gibassier
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine European, French
Keyword Gibassier
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Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine water, yeast & 2 Tbsp sugar. Allow to sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, 1/4 cup sugar & aniseed. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture & add eggs, butter, orange blossom water, orange zest & candied orange peel. Whisk to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Mix to make a 'shaggy' dough. Turn out on a floured surface & knead until a smooth, elastic dough forms, about 10 minutes.
  4. Place the dough into a lightly buttered bowl, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
  5. Punch down the risen dough & turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into two equal pieces & shape each one into a ball. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Flatten each ball of dough into a disc about 1.5 cm thick & place each one on one of the baking sheets. Cut the disc into 6 sections, leaving them connected at the center.
  6. Make a cut through the center of each section without cutting all the way through to the edge. Best to use something you can press straight down as opposed to dragging a knife through the dough. Pull the sections outward to separate & elongate them a little. Using your fingers, open out the slits & form a V-shape in the top of each section.
  7. Cover each loaf loosely with buttered plastic wrap. Set aside to rise in a draft-free place for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  8. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  9. Brush each loaf with a little egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden & baked through. Slide the loaves onto a wire rack & brush with honey butter while still warm or dust with sugar.

German Spekulatius Scones

Speculaas‘ is actually not just a flavor that’s known in the Netherlands. In Germany & Austria its called ‘spekulatius’ and in Belgium & France it s called ‘speculoos’.

I love spices and everything about them …. their history, their applications and how they can add such a depth of flavor to cooking and baking. I first became aware of this Dutch spice mix (speculaaskruiden) some years ago. It isn’t the same as British Mixed Spice or American Pumpkin Pie Spice but they are similar as they share many of the same ingredients. The smell of speculaaskruiden is amazing …. a deliciously warm and woody aroma. Making your own is not difficult but it does require about nine different spices.

In the mid 18th century, the recipe for ‘spekulatius’ made its way to Germany from Holland. The origin of the cookies name may have derived from the Latin word ‘spekulum’, signifying ‘mirror image’, which alludes to the wooden mold whose mirror image appears on the cookie.

In the course of time, many recipes using speculaas spices have been created. For many German folk, spekulatius are as much a part of Christmas as are Christmas trees. Sometimes bakers make dough three months in advance so the flavor will permeate the dough thoroughly.

As the holiday season approaches, I thought it would be nice to try incorporating the speculaas spice into some breakfast scones. I didn’t have any wooden molds so I baked them in those little sandbakkel tins I had spoke of in a blog at the end of November (Fig, Pear & Gorgonzola Tartlets). The flavor and tenderness of the scones is just amazing.

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German Spekulatius Scones
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  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine orange zest, sugar & spice mix. Set aside 1 Tbsp. of sugar mixture reserving it for the tops.
  3. To the remaining orange/sugar, add flour, oat flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt; mix well. Add butter, cutting in until mixture forms fine crumbs.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream, eggs & vanilla, blending well. Add to flour mixture; stir ONLY until soft dough forms.
  5. Drop by heaping 1/4 cupful's, 2-inches apart on to baking sheet. Sprinkle with reserved sugar mixture & sprinkle with almonds. Alternately you can use some baking tins as I did in which case only use a couple of Tbsp per scone.
  6. Bake 15-20 minutes (for the larger size) or until scones are golden on top. Remove to wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Recipe Notes

HOMEMADE SPECULAAS SPICE MIX:   (yield: 6 Tbsp)

  • 5 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp  EACH nutmeg & cloves
  • 1/2 tsp  EACH ground aniseed, white pepper, ground coriander, ginger, cardamom & mace
  • Mix spices together & either use right away or store in an airtight jar.
  • This recipe can easily be incorporated into many recipes or just make the amount you need.

Bacon, Potato & Leek Frittata

A frittata is a ‘blank canvas’ for so many different flavor combinations …. a giant omelet that is started on the top of the stove and finished in the oven.

Vegetables and cheeses are very common ingredients for frittatas, but two of my personal choices are leeks and potatoes. Leeks are like onions after charm school: less of an edge, a little more refined, with a more colorful personality. As for potatoes, their a classic breakfast ingredient that add great heartiness to a frittata.

Yukon Gold’ is my absolute favorite when it comes to potatoes. This variety was created in Canada in the 1960’s. It was bred from a potato grown in North Dakota, called Norgleam with a wild, yellow-fleshed variety grown in Peru. It has become one of the most successful potatoes in the world, a true culinary star!

Yukon Gold is an oblong, medium to large potato in size, with a slightly flattened shape. Their smooth, thin, gold to light brown skin is relatively ‘eye’ free, creating a uniform texture and shape. When cooked, they take on a creamy and tender consistency with a rich, buttery, earthy flavor. You can bake it, boil it, scallop it and even deep fry them. Yukon Gold answers the market’s demand for a disease-resistant, yellow fleshed potato that could be easily grown in North America.

This frittata is one of those meals that looks pretty ordinary but the flavor is amazing!

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Bacon, Potato & Leek Frittata
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  1. Cut OUTER dark green tips off of the leek. Trim off root end, then separate the leaf sheaths; wash thoroughly. Slice leek crosswise into 1/2" pieces. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towel & set aside. Remove all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon drippings from the pot. Add the sliced leek & 1/2 tsp sea salt. Stir & cook for about 5 minutes until leek has started to soften. Add 1/4 cup water to deglaze the pot, scraping up any leek bits from the bottom. Reduce heat to medium & cover pot for another 3 minutes, until leek is tender. Turn off heat & keep pot covered.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  4. In a 9-inch pie pan, scatter cooked potato cubes across the bottom. Top with cooked bacon, gruyere cheese & leek. In a bowl, beat eggs with ricotta cheese, cream, grated Parmesan, sea salt & pepper until smooth. Pour over ingredients in pie pan.
  5. Bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour, until top is golden brown & center is cooked through. Serve hot or at room temperature. Can be made several days ahead & reheated in the microwave for about 1 minute.

Anise Citron Biscotti

When most people mention biscotti, they actually mean a specific type of Italian cookie called ‘cantuccini’. Italians use the term biscotti to refer to any type of crunchy cookie, round, square and otherwise as the British use the word biscuit. Here in North America, biscotti refers to a specific type of Italian cookie, derived from the ‘Tuscan cantuccini‘, which is a hard, almond flavored cookie that is baked twice and usually served with the sweet Italian dessert wine, Vino Santo. This wine is loved for its intense flavors of hazelnut and caramel. When paired with biscotti, Vino Santo is inarguably Italy’s most famous welcoming tradition. What makes this wine truly special is the natural winemaking process which gives it a unique taste.

The word biscotti derives from ‘bis’, Latin for twice, and ‘coctum’ or baked (which became ‘cotto’, or cooked).

The original biscotti was created by a bakery in Prato, Italy. Cantuccini became a staple in the Tuscan cities of Florence and Prato then spread throughout the Italian peninsula. Tuscan biscotti are flavored with almonds from the plentiful almond groves of Prato. From the original recipe it expanded to lemon flavored dough as well as other flavors and spices with additions such as raisins, dried fruits and peels to chocolate morsels and nuts.

Biscotti have been baked for centuries and its iconic texture was the perfect for for sailors who were at sea for months. In modern times, biscotti range in texture from very hard to somewhat spongy and more cake-like. First, the sticky dough is shaped into a log and baked until firm. After a short cooling period, the log is sliced into diagonal pieces and baked again to cook out the moisture and produce the crisp, dry-textured cookie with a longer shelf life. The classic recipe has no butter or oil, using only eggs to bind the ingredients together. They are typically made in a 3, 5 or 7-inch size.

I have to be honest, biscotti has never been one of my ‘go-to’ cookie recipes. But, for something quick and easy, I decided to make a small recipe using two of my favorite ingredients …. anise seed & citron peel. Brion & I tried dipping them in wine and we realized we have been missing out on something real good!!

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Anise Citron Biscotti
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  1. Preheat oven to 300 F.
  2. In a bowl, combine oil & sugar followed by vanilla & eggs.
  3. In another bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder & anise seed then gradually stir this mixture into the egg mixture. Lastly, fold in citron peel.
  4. Divide dough in half & form into two logs (about 6"x 2"). Place logs on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake for about 30-35 minutes; remove from oven & set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 275 F.
  6. Cut logs on the diagonal into 3/4-inch thick slices. Lay the slices on their sides on lined baking sheet.
  7. Bake for another 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through baking time.
  8. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Store in an airtight container.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns

It doesn’t have to be fall to crave something pumpkin. It’s still a bit early for Halloween jack-o-lanterns but not too early for some pumpkin cinnamon rolls.

This recipe builds on the traditional cinnamon roll, but adds the magic of pumpkin and fall spices. The dough is more subtle, moist and not too sweet in taste. With the addition of pumpkin to the dough, it adds a nice vibrant orange color. The filling is the classic pumpkin pie spice mix, blended with butter and sugar. What makes the buns even more special is they are then ‘baked‘ in the spiced ‘sauce’ mixture. Last but not least, topped with some whole pumpkin seeds, adds a delicate crunchy texture.

Pumpkin, like zucchini, seem to grow in abundance so it is always nice when they can be used in either sweet or savory recipes.

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns
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Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, add yeast, lukewarm water & 1 tsp sugar. Allow to sit about 10 minutes until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture, butter, salt, cinnamon, eggs & pumpkin puree. Mix well. Add flour, one cup at a time, until well combined. Knead dough for about 8-10 minutes or until smooth & soft. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  3. While the buns are rising, place sauce ingredients (except pumpkin seeds), in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, while whisking, until sugar has dissolved & ingredients are combined. Remove from heat & set aside to cool for a few minutes while you are preparing the buns.
  4. In a small dish, combine filling ingredients, set aside.
  5. LIGHTLY butter a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Turn dough out onto a floured surface; roll out into a rectangle (about 12"x 18"), approximately 1/2-inch thickness. Spread the melted butter across the rolled out dough leaving 1/2-inch around the top edge. Sprinkle filling mixture over butter. Roll up tightly lengthwise towards the top edge. Using a sharp knife (or a string), cut dough into 12 slices. Place in prepared pan. Pour cooled sauce evenly over buns. You can reserve a bit for drizzling on top after they are baked if you wish.
  6. Cover the buns with plastic wrap & a tea towel. Set aside in a warm place for 20 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; allow to rest for a few minutes then drizzle with remaining sauce & sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.
Recipe Notes
  • Once the sauce is cooked & cooled, you can blend with a mixer or blender to keep it from separating if you wish.

Crispy Seed & Fruit Oat Diamonds

Faster to make than cookies, easier to transport than a cake and equally as delicious as both, what’s not to love about dessert squares (or in this case ‘diamonds’).

The classic rice krispie treats recipe found on the back of the cereal box call for very few ingredients. While we will forever appreciate the simplicity of the sweet treat in its unaltered form, its hard not to experiment with a few new ideas.

There’s a good reason why oatmeal cookies are the poster child for rolled oats. Oatmeal can enhance a whole range of dough and/or batters from pancakes to bread & muffins, etc.

The idea of putting oatmeal, rice krispies, pumpkin seeds & candied fruit peel all in one dessert bar is the ultimate rice krispie treat in my opinion.

You can choose to cut them in whatever shape you wish depending on the the baking pan you use. I wanted to bake these in a 9 x 13 pan and cut them into diamonds for this blog recipe. I had previously made the same recipe in a drop cookie form. Same great taste, just a different shape.

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Crispy Seed & Fruit Oat Diamonds
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease or line (w/parchment paper) baking pan of choice & set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda & oatmeal.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together butter & sugars until light & fluffy. Mix in vanilla & eggs until well incorporated. Add flour mixture & mix until completely combined.
  4. Stir in seeds, fruit & rice krispies with a spatula.
  5. Press batter into prepared baking pan. Bake 20 minutes, until LIGHTLY golden on the edges. These bars are best if slightly under-baked. They may look shiny & under-baked, but will darken & set up as they cool.
  6. Cool completely then cut into desired size & shape (squares, diamonds or bars). Drizzle with lemon glaze & remove diamonds from pan.
Recipe Notes
  • If you are not a fan of pumpkin seeds or candied fruit peel, just substitute them with your own favorites.

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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  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.