Russian Pelmeni

My love for noodles, dumplings, etc. probably could be accredited to my German heritage. This recipe for Russian pelmeni has been hovering in my ‘must try’ file for quite some time, so today’s the day.

It seems most food historians agree that these Russian dumplings originated in Siberia. Although pelmeni forms the heart of Russian cuisine and culture, it does have numerous look-a-likes in particular the Ukrainian vareniki and the Polish pierogi. The easiest way to spot the difference is to look at the shape and size; a typical pelmeni is almost circular and about two inches in diameter. The other forms are usually more elongated and larger in size.  Also, the fillings in pelmeni are usually raw, while the fillings of vareniki and pierogi are typically precooked. Pelmeni will never have a sweet filling , unlike its Ukrainian counterpart. The recipe may actually be an adaptation of Chinese pot stickers.

Fillings differ but essentially they are ground meat (pork, beef or sometimes lamb), fish or mushrooms as well as being quite spicy.

The word pelmeni comes from ‘pelnyan’ which means ‘bread ear’, a reference to the food’s ear-like shape.

Although this meal was favored by hunters who were looking for light, easy to prepare, nourishing food to take with them on long trips in the winter, its also seen as Russian fast food among students or bachelors.

This recipe gives you the option of making traditional pelmeni or using an alternate method called ‘lazy’ pelmeni. Both equally as good.

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Russian Pelmeni
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine European
Keyword Russian pelmeni
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Ingredients
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine European
Keyword Russian pelmeni
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Dough
  1. In a bowl, combine all dough ingredients & knead until a smooth dough ball forms, about 10 minutes. Cover, set aside & allow dough to rest until your filling is prepared.
Filling
  1. In a bowl, combine ground meats, onion, garlic, salt & pepper. Mix well.
Assembly
  1. FOR THE TRADITIONAL PELMENI: Divide the dough in half & roll each portion out into 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 2-inch diameter circles & place about a teaspoon of the filling on each circle. Fold the circle in half & crimp edges well, then bring the ends together & crimp. Repeat to use remaining dough & filling. It is best to refrigerate or freeze finished pelmeni before you are ready to boil them.
  2. To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place pelmeni in the boiling water & cook until they float to the top then cook for about 5 minutes more. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Add butter & mix to coat. Serve with sour cream & fresh parsley.
  3. FOR 'LAZY' PELMENI VERSION: Once dough has rested, transfer to a floured surface. Roll out the dough into a large thin rectangle. Spread meat filling over the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch at the far side of the dough.
  4. Tightly roll the dough up, starting from the wider side, forming a log. Put seam side down to seal the edges. Seal ends of the dough as well. Using a very sharp knife, cut the dough log into 2-inch sections.
  5. In a large skillet that will accommodate all pelmeni, heat oil & cook onion until translucent. Add garlic & continue cooking until fragrant. Add carrot & 1 bay leaf; cook until the carrot is tender, about 1-2 minutes.
  6. Place pelmeni rolls into the skillet with veggies, add the vegetable broth, salt, pepper & the other bay leaf. Cover with the lid & cook for 30 minutes on low heat. Check pelmeni from time to time, to make sure there is liquid in the skillet. Add more if it evaporates too fast. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately with sour cream if you wish.

Scalloped Potato Turkey Rolls

The wonderful thing about potato casseroles is that you can dictate the flavor by the types of cheese used as well as the added ingredients and flavor aids like herbs, garlic and spices.

There are many versions and variations of potato ‘bakes’. It comes down to little more than a free form of how the potatoes are cut and layered. Other ingredients such as herbs and cured meats like ham or bacon as well as smoked fish and other vegetables can be added.

With this recipe you are combining the best of all variations; scalloped, au gratin and dauphinoise. Béchamel sauce, a variety of cheeses and the flavor of garlic result in an amazing taste as well as the dish makes for some interesting eye appeal.

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Scalloped Potato Turkey Rolls
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Zucchini
Bechamel Sauce
Turkey Sausage
Servings
Ingredients
Zucchini
Bechamel Sauce
Turkey Sausage
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Instructions
Zucchini
  1. Place the shredded zucchini on paper towel & sprinkle lightly with salt. Cover & blot with another piece of paper towel. Allow to sit for about an hour or until moisture is absorbed. Place zucchini in a bowl & combine with panko, cheese, egg & spices. Set aside in refrigerator.
Bechamel Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter, whisk in flour. Cook for about 2 minutes then turn off heat & slowly begin to add milk. Continue whisking until all milk has been added then turn on heat & bring sauce to a boil. Whisk constantly until thickened then add 3/4 of the Gruyere cheese & stir until cheese is melted. Spread the bechamel sauce evenly in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
Turkey Sausage
  1. In a saucepan, saute bacon, leeks & garlic until cooked & tender. Remove from heat & place in a bowl; allow to cool then add turkey & spices. Mix well.
Potatoes
  1. Slice potatoes into about 30 thin slices, keeping them in their original potato shape. Wrap each sliced potato in plastic wrap & bake in the microwave until almost cooked.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Lay the potato slices on your work surface, spread a small amount of the zucchini mixture on each one. Top with a layer of the turkey mixture. Roll each potato slice in a spiral shape then place in rows over the bechamel sauce.
  2. Cover pan with foil & bake for 45 minutes then remove the foil & sprinkle the remaining Gruyere cheese on top. Bake uncovered for another 15 minutes until top is golden.

Savory Chicken & Onion Dutch Baby Pancakes

Today, February 16th, is officially known as ‘Shrove Tuesday’. This date varies from year to year and falls somewhere between February 3rd & March 9th. This traditional ‘feast’ day marks the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday and is always 47 days before Easter Sunday. The expression Shrove Tuesday derives from the word ‘shrive’, meaning absolve.

This day was observed by many Christians who wanted to make a point of self-examination to consider what wrongs they needed to repent. The ingredients for pancakes can be seen to symbolize four points of significance at this time of year.

EGGS -creation, FLOUR -the staff of life, SALT -wholesomeness, MILK -purity

For something different this year, I’m going the savory route with our Shrove Tuesday pancakes. When it comes to versatility, there aren’t too many dishes that can hold a candle to a Dutch Baby pancake. They easily go savory or sweet. You can go as minimal or maximal as you wish for the toppings or just have them warm from the oven as is.

The Dutch Baby is one of the simplest forms of pancakes to make. Just mix up a few pantry staples, pour the batter into a hot, buttery skillet or oven proof glass bowl and bake it until its puffed and golden.

I’m using a chicken/broccoli filling today. This meal is one of our favorites so we have enjoyed it with a variety of savory fillings.

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Savory Chicken & Onion Dutch Baby Pancakes
Instructions
Filling
  1. In a skillet, heat oil & sauté mushrooms for 5-7 minutes. Mushrooms will expel a lot of moisture. Continue to cook until mushrooms are tender & most of the moisture has cooked off. Season with salt & pepper. Steam broccoli in the microwave for about 30 seconds or until tender-crisp.
  2. Shred cooked chicken with 2 forks. Thinly slice green onions. Keep raw for topping filling with.
  3. Prepare chicken gravy mix. Even though the package suggests using only one cup of water, I like to use 1 1/4 cup so that it is thinner & will cover the filling nicer. If you feel you need to add some red pepper flakes to spice it a bit more.
Dutch Baby Pancakes
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Place (2) 6-inch diameter glass bowls (each with 2 tablespoons of butter in them) in the oven to heat while you are preparing the batter.
  2. In a bowl, whisk eggs & milk. Add flour & whisk until incorporated. Next, whisk in the Parmesan cheese, scallions, parsley, thyme, salt & pepper.
  3. Remove heated bowls; divide batter between them. Return to oven & bake for about 25 minutes. The Dutch baby will puff up during cooking & form 'bowl'. Once its removed from the oven & starts to cool it will deflate slightly.
  4. As soon as you remove it from the glass bowl, place it on a serving plate & fill with the mushrooms, broccoli & chicken. Top with gravy & sprinkle with green onions. Serve immediately. Your filling should be enough for 2 Dutch baby pancakes.

Coconut Chicken w/ Sweet Spicy Sauce

In late August (2020), I had posted a recipe for coconut shrimp. It has become one of our favorite meals so I thought there was no reason not to try the same recipe using chicken breast.

It uses Panko bread crumbs to give a light crispy texture to the coconut breading. Panko was invented during WWII by the Japanese. The word panko is derived from ‘pan‘, giving us the word for bread in Japanese (derived from the Portuguese word ‘pão’ for bread), and ‘ko’, indicating flour, coating, crumb, or powder.

Panko crumbs are made from grinding yeast-risen bread, which is baked using an electric current, which goes through the dough. This type of bread has no crust, instead, the entire loaf consists of the soft and airy bread center. Panko adds crispiness but being neutral in flavor, it does not over power the item it is coating.

This unique oriental product caught the attention of North America in the 21st century due to its interesting texture, subtle flavor and striking visual appeal.

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Coconut Chicken w/ Sweet Spicy Sauce
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Instructions
Sauce
  1. In a food processor, puree ingredients for sauce & set aside.
Coconut Chicken
  1. Using 3 separate bowls, place flour in the first, egg in the second & panko & coconut in the third.
  2. Slice the chicken breast & dust pieces in the flour then dip in the egg & lastly coat with panko/coconut mixture.
  3. Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Melt butter, then add oil. Once the combo is heated, place the chicken tenders in the skillet & cook 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden & cooked through.
  4. I prefer to place cooked chicken on a plate lined with paper towel to drain any excess oil from it before serving. Serve with spicy sauce on the side. This meal is real good with some steamed rice.

Angel Food ‘Grilled Cheese’

More than ever, our souls need Valentines Day right now. It’s time to embrace the challenge and think outside of the box on how to create something special for the occasion. Since February 14th falls on a Sunday this year and the pandemic keeping many celebrations at home, its the perfect excuse to enjoy a brunch with a grilled cheese …. ‘angel food grilled cheese‘ that is!!

When most people think of grilled cheese they imagine a savory, cheesy sandwich served over lunch, but have you ever tried a sweet grilled cheese? Is it dessert? Is it breakfast? It really doesn’t matter.

Sometimes we get stuck in a rut with that cheddar on white bread thing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that there’s so much more cheesy goodness out there to be melted. Grilled cheese ideas only continue to evolve.

Obviously, a good cheese is the key to grilled cheese success, but the truth is, you can never really go wrong. Its your personal preference that really matters.

The tone is set for a great grilled cheese with the first slice of bread or in this case, loaf of angel food cake. Lime flavored cream cheese gets melty and gooey spread between the cake slices. Its the perky part of the sandwich that adds something unexpected.

If strawberries aren’t your thing, try raspberries, blueberries, mango or even kiwi and if you prefer a sturdier outside, use a sweetened brioche or challah bread. Whatever works for you!

Brion absolutely L-O-V-E-S angel food so for me the choice was clear. The fact that the ‘grilled cheese’ is not overly sweet made it a real nice brunch item for us.

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Angel Food 'Grilled Cheese'
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Angel Food Cake (Yield = (8) 1-inch thick slices)
Strawberry Sauce
Lime Cream Cheese
Servings
Ingredients
Angel Food Cake (Yield = (8) 1-inch thick slices)
Strawberry Sauce
Lime Cream Cheese
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Instructions
Angel Food Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Have a 9-inch loaf pan available. Do not line or grease the pan in any way.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar, flour & cornstarch. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, add egg whites, vanilla, cream of tartar & salt. With a hand mixer on medium speed, beat until foamy, about 30 seconds. Slowly stream in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Continue to beat on high speed until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes.
  4. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, gently FOLDING them into the egg whites using a rubber spatula. Repeat with remaining flour mixture in two increments. FOLD EVERYTHING TOGETHER GENTLY so egg whites do not become deflated in the process.
  5. Pour batter into the loaf pan. Place the loaf pan on a baking sheet & bake for 35-40 minutes. When cake is baked it should not be sticky to the touch.
  6. Once the cake comes out of the oven, immediately turn it upside down & invert it over two cans. The cake needs to cool upside down so it doesn't deflate. Allow it to cool for at least an hour.
Strawberry Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan over low heat, add sliced strawberries, sugar, lemon juice & cornstarch. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, & cook for 6-8 minutes or until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat.
Lime Cream Cheese Spread
  1. In a small dish, beat together cream cheese, lime juice & powdered sugar until smooth & creamy.
Grilled Cheese Assembly
  1. Slice angel food loaf into 8-inch slices. In a shallow container, whisk together 2 cups milk or half & half, 2 eggs & 1/4 tsp cinnamon.
  2. Soak cake slices in milk/egg mixture for a couple of minutes, then cook on a griddle (or skillet) like you would with French toast. When the slices are golden on both sides, divide cream cheese spread between four of the slices. When cheese is warm & melted, top each with one of the remaining four slices.
  3. Place on four serving plates & top with strawberry sauce. Serve warm.

Rice & Potato Balls

The art of stuffing shouldn’t be reserved just for holidays. Stuffed foods let you combine different textures and flavors in every bite. They offer a unique presentation with one food acting as the dish for serving the other ingredients.

Stuffed mushrooms or peppers are probably some of the most common along with a basic sandwich or burger. One of my favorites is clam chowder being served in a bread bowl.

Stuffed foods appear in almost every culture. The options of ‘food inside of food’ is virtually limitless. Any food that can be wrapped around other foods such as large leaves, pasta or pizza dough can also make amazing delicacies.

Basic rice isn’t quite so basic when its shaped and stuffed. These rice and potato balls are a meal all in one …. rice, potatoes, chicken & cheese.

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Rice & Potato Balls
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Shell Mixture
To Bake
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Ingredients
Shell Mixture
To Bake
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Instructions
Shell Mixture
  1. In a food processor, place cooked potatoes & (cooked) rice; process for a few seconds then add salt & pepper to taste. Add parmesan & beaten egg; process a few more seconds. Do NOT over process or the mixture will turn into paste. This can also be done with a mixer if you wish. Set aside.
Chicken Filling
  1. To a large saucepan, add ground chicken & cook for 5 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Add onions & garlic; cook for 5-8 minutes or until onions are soft. Add spices & cook for another 5 minutes. Turn off heat, add the cilantro & set meat aside to cool.
Assembly
  1. Have a bowl of cold water nearby. Handling with moistened hands, take a small amount of potato/rice mixture & shape it into a round ball. Hold the ball in one hand & hollow it with the thumb of the other hand. Fill with some chicken filling & close opening. Lay filled balls on a large tray as they are made & flatten slightly.
  2. Place flour in a dish, beaten egg in another & the panko crumbs on a flat plate.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. & line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Roll each ball into the flour then dip into the egg & finally coat with panko bread crumbs. Place on baking tray, lightly spray with cooking oil & bake until golden, about 20 minutes.
  5. If you prefer, heat a combo of oil & butter in a skillet & pan fry balls instead. Alternately they could be deep fried as well.

Cuban Sugar Cookies w/ Guava & Lime

In a country where sugar has historically represented both the agricultural and industrial goals, desserts are found everywhere. Generally they are very simple, made mainly with fruit and sugar.

Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, African and Caribbean cuisines. It differs from other Latin American cuisines and has almost nothing in common with Mexican cuisine. Cuban recipes tend to share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. A small, but noteworthy, Chinese influence can be accounted for, mainly in the Havana area.

The fact that most Cuban desserts are extremely sweet (usually fruits and sugar are in equal quantities) has inspired the custom of eating them along with salted or cream cheese to help offset the sweetness.

The use of the lime and rum flavor in these cookies makes their taste distinctly Cuban. Brings back memories from a past vacation we spent in Cuba.

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Cuban Sugar Cookies w/ Guava & Lime
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Course dessert
Cuisine Cuban
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Course dessert
Cuisine Cuban
Servings
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon & salt.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together butter & sugar with a mixer until light. Beat in lime zest & egg followed by lime juice & rum. Gradually beat in the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you work, until it comes together.
  4. Divide dough into three portions, wrapping 2 in plastic wrap & place in refrigerator while you are working on the first piece.
  5. Place the first piece on a lightly floured surface & roll out to 1/3-inch thickness. Using a lightly floured 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles of the dough. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
  6. Cut pieces of guava paste into dime-sized circles or squares ( depending on what shape your guava paste comes in), making each approximately 1/4-inch thick. Lightly press one piece into the top of each cookie.
  7. Bake for 13-16 minutes, until cookies are light gold at the edges. Cool on the baking sheet for 4-5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. If you wish you can dust the cookies with powdered sugar.
Recipe Notes
  • As an alternate idea, assemble them similar to a 'linzer' cookie. Roll half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness; cut with a circular (more decorative) cookie cutter. Repeat with remaining dough but cut small circles in the center of these.
  • On top of each plain cookie, place one with a hole in it. Press a guava 'circle' in the hole & sprinkle with a few chopped pistachios if you wish. 
  • I used this method for the blog picture. Same cookie just a bit fancier.

Mango Cobbler

When it comes to some of the most common baked fruit desserts, there are a number of concoctions that go by many names. All work with whatever fruit is in season (or available) and in any shape pan.

The question is, what makes a cobbler, crisp, crumble, Betty or buckle different? To start with, a cobbler is so named because the topping is made with dollops of biscuit dough, not a smooth sheet of dough like a pie. The irregular surface, once baked, resembles the surfaces of streets paved with rough cobbles.

A crisp has a topping made with a combination of oatmeal, flour, butter & sugar (sometimes nuts). This topping completely covers the fruit and is baked.

Crumbles are very similar to crisps, however, usually they do not contain oats.

A Betty, although similar to a crisp has no oatmeal in the topping which is layered throughout instead of solely on top of the dessert.

Last, but not least is the buckle, which consists of fruit and cake baked together with a streusel topping. As it bakes, the fruit and streusel topping make the cake ‘buckle’.

This mango cobbler is a delicious dessert and a nice alternative to peach or apple cobbler. Fresh mangoes are peeled and sliced or diced and then simmered with a thickened syrup mixture. If you don’t have fresh fruit, feel free to use frozen sliced or diced mangoes in the cobbler.

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Mango Cobbler
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, European
Keyword mango cobbler
Servings
Ingredients
Fruit
Cobbler
Course dessert
Cuisine American, European
Keyword mango cobbler
Servings
Ingredients
Fruit
Cobbler
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Instructions
Fruit
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a large, heavy saucepan, combine mango, sugar, butter, flour, cornstarch, vanilla & salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly until bubbly & thickened. Place in a baking dish, set aside.
Cobbler
  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, oatmeal, sugar baking powder, spices & salt. With finger tips, blend in butter until crumbly. Add milk, stirring only to combine.
  2. Drop large tablespoons of dough on top of warm fruit. Place into preheated oven & bake for 35-40 minutes, until the edges are bubbling & the top is golden brown.
  3. Serve warm as is or topped with ice cream.

Roast Chicken & Stuffing Pie

Meals like pot pies are classics for a good reason which makes them the foundation for endless inspiration. When you chose to ‘reinvent’ classic dishes, you must keep some of the elements that make the dish familiar and at the same time, you want to make the dish better, not just new. Taking a new approach to an ‘old school’ dish gives a chance to appreciate what was great about the original but making it new again.

Pot pie is a comfort food favorite which I have posted on this blog in many renditions over the years. Along with chicken I have featured seafood, beef as well as some pork & oyster pot pies.

Chicken is arguably one of the most favored proteins to put on the dinner table. Its valued for its nutrition, accessibility, low cost and most importantly its extreme versatility. Poultry serves as a blank slate and flavor absorbing foundation for every type of cuisine imaginable.

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Roast Chicken & Stuffing Pie
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Sour Cream Cornmeal Pastry
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Ingredients
Sour Cream Cornmeal Pastry
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Instructions
Cornmeal Pastry
  1. In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in butter until mixture resembles both coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it.
  2. After you have added all the sour cream mixture, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed; if not add additional cold water, 1 tsp at a time. DO NOT overwork dough. Press dough into 2 disks & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Chicken Filling
  1. Dice previously roast or pan fried chicken; set aside. In a saucepan, melt oil & butter & add leek, mushrooms & garlic. Cook until fragrant & the leek has softened. Toss in the bacon & continue to cook for about 2-3 minutes; stirring to combine. Add diced roast chicken.
  2. Sprinkle with the flour & seasonings; stir to combine. Add the stock & milk. Cook to reduce the sauce as well as it thickening it. Remove from heat & transfer to a bowl to cool then refrigerate for 20 minutes. Prepare Stove Top stuffing as directed on package.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Prepare the egg wash in a small dish.
  2. Remove pastry disks & filling from refrigerator. Allow pastry to sit for a few minutes to become workable. Roll out first disk to about 10 1/2-inches in diameter. Line a 9 1/2-inch pie dish with it. Fill case with chicken filling. Fold top inch of pastry over filling in a cupping fashion. Using about 2/3 of remaining pastry, roll it into a 9-inch diameter & place on top of filled pie.
  3. Divide remaining dough into 8 strips. Place over covered pie resembling spokes of a wheel. On alternate wedges place chicken stuffing. Use egg wash on remaining four sections & on top of the narrow pastry strips.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden & cooked through. If the top is browning too quickly, loosely cover with a layer of foil until done. Remove from oven & allow to cool somewhat before serving.

Peach Gingerbread Oatmeal Cakes

We are already half way through January and I realize for many, gingerbread is a Christmas thing, but ….

Since gingerbread was not part of my Christmas baking list, I decided to add some oatmeal to it and make it a January ‘comfort food’ dessert.

Using molasses in baking is not an ingredient that generally appeals to me, but its kind of edible nostalgia. Pair it with ginger and that spicy, sweet smell evokes memories of my mother’s gingerbread cake and takes me back to a simpler place and time.

Gingerbread and more specifically ginger, have been around for a very long time. As it has made its way throughout the world it has been adapted to meet the taste of different cultures. In some places it is a soft, delicately spiced cake, in others, a crisp flat cookie or a bread.

My choice is to add some peach slices and bake it as little, mini bundt cakes. Nothing fancy …. just good!

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Peach Gingerbread Oatmeal Cakes
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MINI BUNDT CAKES
Ingredients
Servings
MINI BUNDT CAKES
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease mini bunt pans. Place a ring of peach slices on the bottom of 4 mini bundt pans.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter with sugar & molasses on a low heat. Remove from heat & set aside.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, oatmeal & spices. Add beaten egg, milk & molasses mixture. Mix until well blended.
  4. Divide the cake batter over peach slices in prepared bundt pans.
  5. Bake about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Move to cooling rack & flip upside down. Remove pans & allow to cool.
  6. Serve with cranberry sauce, gingerbread syrup, whipped cream or just simply sprinkled with powdered sugar.