Beggar’s Purse Crepes w/ Gorgonzola Sauce

Today July 25th, is my dear sister Loretta’s birthday. Having an older sister is a very unique experience that not everyone can truly know about. We are all products of our environment, and even if we are completely unaware of it, having that ‘big sis, little sis’ dynamic as you grew up, was a huge influence.

I remember how much I enjoyed being with Loretta and doing things together. She always seemed to have the answer to the ‘question’ and was just so much fun to be with.

Since Loretta was the ‘older’ one, she was expected to be more responsible and set an example, leaving me more lee-way to be a bit of a ‘dreamer’ at times. I have always valued Loretta’s advice and honest opinions. I am truly grateful to have her in our lives.

Although Loretta can’t be with us today, I think she would enjoy these little seafood crepes.

Crepes, whether they are rolled or stacked, sweet or savory make such a special meal. I remember some years ago, Brion & I had the pleasure of Loretta’s company on a trip to France. One of the first foods we enjoyed in France was crepes. They definitely made a lasting memory for the three of us.

Today, I wanted to do something a bit different. Sometimes, the name of a dish is simply inspired by its appearance. Such is the case of the crepes called ‘Beggar’s Purse’. The traditional dish consists of mini crepes topped with a good serving of high quality caviar and a dollop of sour cream. The edges of the crepe are pulled up into pleats and tied with a bow of chives. The resulting little bag looked like a purse.

Since then, the dish has been cloned thousands of times and the name beggar’s purse has become a somewhat generic term applied to dishes with various toppings tied in a similar way to resemble a purse. In addition to crepes, phyllo pastry, wonton wrappers or tortillas are used.

In North America, the beggar’s purse, reportedly derived from the French ‘aumoniere‘ pastry, has gilded origins. The dish became popular in the 1980’s. Aumoniere is a type of pastry but it also a medieval term for a small purse or pouch generally used in the 13th & 14th centuries. These purses were often embroidered.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LORETTA!

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Seafood Crepes w/ Gorgonzola Sauce
Instructions
Crepe Batter (yields 12-8" crepes)
  1. In a medium sized bowl, combine flour & salt. Add eggs, melted (cool) butter & milk; whisk to incorporate then add the water. Continue whisking until smooth then fold in chopped chives. Batter should coat the back of a spoon like heavy cream, but if it is too thick, add a bit more water or milk. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours (or up to 2 days).
Scallop Filling
  1. In a saucepan, saute mushrooms until moisture evaporates. In a medium bowl, whisk together soy sauce & cornstarch; add prepared scallops, ginger, garlic, green onion, cilantro & water chestnuts, mix together. Stir mixture into sauteed mushrooms & cook only until scallops are translucent. Set aside to cool until ready to use.
Gorgonzola Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add garlic & rosemary (if using); cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle in the flour & stir to make a paste. Whisk in milk & 1/2 & 1/2 cream. Stir & cook for 3-4 minutes or until thick. Add crumbled Gorgonzola, stir until smooth & season with pepper if desired.
Blanche Whole Chives
  1. Blanche chives in a small saucepan of boiling water 10 seconds. Drain & plunge into an 'ice bath'. Pat dry on paper towels.
Cooking Crepes
  1. Heat the clarified butter (oil or cooking spray) in a crepe pan or skillet. Remove crepe batter from fridge & before you use any , give it a quick tap on the counter. Place 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan & swirl to even it out & form a circle. When the edges start to pull away & the crepe looks cooked in the middle, give the crepe a quick flip & cook for just 10-20 seconds on the other side. Repeat with remaining batter.
Assembly
  1. Divide scallop filling between the 12 crepes, placing a portion of mixture in the center of each crepe. Gather the sides up to enclose the filling, secure with a toothpick & tie closed with a chive. Remove the toothpick.
  2. On serving plates, ladle some Gorgonzola sauce. Place 3 'beggar's purses' (per serving plate) on top the sauce. At this point, you may want to give each plate 30 seconds of heat in the microwave.
Recipe Notes
  • These little 'purses' can be served as appetizers or a main dish of 3-4 per serving.

Seafood Stuffed Whole Salmon

Something about summer makes us want to add more fish, preferably WILD CAUGHT, to our meals. Whole fish is usually less expensive than fillets and the presentation looks amazing.

Its common knowledge that fish is one of the easiest and fastest meals you can prepare. Their muscle fibers are much shorter than they are in beef, so fish cooks quickly and there is no tenderizing to do. In fact, the biggest challenge in preparing fish is to keep it from falling apart after cooking it.

To prevent it from drying out, fish require higher temperatures and shorter cooking times than meat. The transition from ‘almost done to perfectly cooked’, happens in minutes. Remember that residual heat means the fish continues to cook for a few minutes even after it is removed from the heat, so if it seems tough when you bite into it is probably overcooked. As it moves from ‘done to overdone’, the flesh continues to firm then shrinks, pushing out moisture, which evaporates and leaves the fish dry and chewy. It seems that cooking fish rests on science as well as the art of restraint.

This seafood stuffing is a great compliment to the rich flavor of the salmon as well as keeping it moist. If this seems like a lot of fish, it really isn’t when you think all all the other meals you can create with the leftovers.

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Seafood Stuffed Whole Salmon
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Instructions
  1. Clean & chop raw shrimp & scallops, cook rice & slice green onions. In a large bowl, combine rice, shrimp/scallop combo, cream cheese, butter, garlic, basil, marjoram, oregano, thyme, rosemary & celery seed.
  2. Lay salmon on a double thickness of greased foil. Fill salmon with stuffing mixture; secure with toothpicks. Brush with olive oil & sprinkle with dill weed & salt.
  3. At this point you can either bake the salmon at 425 F. in the oven or place it with the foil, over a medium heat on a closed grill. Allow 10 minutes per 1-inch (2.5 cm) thickness measured after stuffing at thickest part. Fish should flake easily with a fork at the thickest part when done.

Fajita Chicken w/ Zucchini Noodles

Despite having a fairly short history, Mexican fajitas are one of the most popular dishes in the world today. Apart from the fact that fajitas are incredibly tasty, they are actually very healthy not to mention the ease in cooking and assembling them.

As with many foods, time has changed the contents of the fajita and has evolved slightly from the original simplicity of the ranch worker’s dish, with different cuts of meat being chosen such as chicken or seafood. The vegetables have not changed as much as the meat, with peppers, onions & chilies still being predominant ingredients in the dish.

Probably, the most important thing when making fajitas is the marinade. It not only makes the ingredients incredibly tender but very flavorful.

Fajitas usually require some tortillas. While they are wonderful tasting, using zucchini noodles (or zoodles) as a base for the fajita chicken gives this meal an amazing flavor. Zucchini is perhaps the most popular choice for vegetable noodles. It’s long, thin shape makes it easy to spiralize and its neutral flavor allows it to pair well with almost any sauce or topping. This meal has such eye appeal along with a great taste.

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Fajita Chicken w/ Zucchini Noodles
Instructions
  1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine oil, lemon juice & seasonings (RESERVE a small bit of seasoning for zucchini noodles); add chicken, seal & turn to coat. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Wash zucchini & trim off ends. Using a spiralizer, cut zucchini into 'noodles'. Set aside. Prepare peppers & green onion.
  3. When chicken has finished marinating, Add 1 Tbsp oil to a griddle & saute peppers & onion until just tender crisp. set aside & keep warm. Add another Tbsp oil to griddle. Saute zucchini noodles for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle with reserved seasoning & keep warm.
  4. Grill marinated chicken strips until cooked through. Divide zucchini between serving plates. Top with peppers, onions & grilled chicken. Sprinkle with grated cheese.

Baked Potato Skins

With the last day of December right around the corner, its time to focus on New Year’s Eve celebrations. Even if you don’t have big party plans, you will no doubt still want to enjoy a few finger foods to ring in the new year with. The fact that so much emphasis is placed on sweets over Christmas, now is a good time to enjoy something savory.

During the many years I worked in the commercial food service industry, new years eve was all about finger food. I remember making hundreds of these little bite size morsels. The thing about this type of food is, it takes hours of prep work but they can be devoured in a very short space of time.

Although the humble potato skin appetizer is pretty basic, its easy to make and quite tasty. Originally served as a clever way to repurpose food scraps, potato skins have been around since the 1970’s.

Today’s recipe works well in that you can prepare them the day before needed and refrigerate. Half an hour before you are ready to serve …. bake, sprinkle with toppings and bring on the new year!

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Baked Potato Skins
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Pierce potatoes 2-3 times. Bake directly on middle rack of oven for 50-60 minutes until tender.
  2. When cool enough to handle, cut potatoes in quarters lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop pulp from skins, leaving 1/4-inch thick shells. Place skin side down on ungreased baking sheets. Brush with oil; sprinkle with Parmesan, garlic salt & chili powder. The potatoes can be prepared up to this point one day ahead. Nest skins in rigid plastic containers, cover & refrigerate.
  3. To serve: Heat oven to 450 F. Bake skins 15-20 minutes or until hot & edges are crisp. Remove from oven; sprinkle with bacon, green onions & cheese. Bake another 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve with sour cream or Ranch dressing.

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Red Peppers & Pears

Unlike some meats that are best served only as the main entree or at certain times of the year, pork tenderloin is perfect at anytime or occasion. You can grill, roast or bake it, making pork one of the most widely eaten meats across the globe.

Sometimes there is a bit of confusion in regards to pork loin and pork tenderloin. The truth is, they are cut from two different regions of the pig. Pork loins are thicker and are also referred to as ‘white’ meat. True to that name, they do turn white when cooked. Pork tenderloin is usually smaller in size, about 2″ thick. This is the softest part of the whole pig coming from the side under the back bone.

Pork is never served by itself, always being accompanied by various side dishes. I never fail to enjoy cooking pork tenderloin. It’s one of those reliable meats that is always tender, pairs with unlimited ingredients and can be ‘dressed’ up or down.

This particular meal uses a cornbread stuffing with red peppers and pears. Sort of unusual but has good flavor and is easy to prepare.


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Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Red Peppers & Pears

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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Cuban

Servings

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Instructions
  1. Prepare stuffing mix according to pkg directions.

  2. Make a lengthwise cut 3/4 of the way through the tenderloin; open & flatten to 1/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, minced garlic & 1/2 of the sliced green onion.

  3. Spread cornbread stuffing over meat. Roll up from long side; tuck in ends. Secure with toothpicks. Slice red pepper & pears. Place in a plastic bag with a small amount of fig balsamic dressing & CAREFULLY turn slices to coat well.

  4. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a 13 X 9-inch baking pan with lightly greased foil wrap. Place stuffed tenderloin on it & drizzle with fig balsamic dressing. Surround with pear wedges & top with red pepper slices. Roast for 25 minutes or until meat reaches 160 F. on meat thermometer.

Ham & Cauliflower Au Gratin

The word ‘gratin’ or ‘au gratin’  has been given numerous alternative and incorrect definitions. Many think that the term is French for ‘with cheese’, others say that it refers to a dish with a browned topping and some even claim that gratin means a baked casserole.

The word gratin actually derives from the French word grater or gratter, meaning ‘to grate’. Originally it meant something more like ‘scrapings’. This referred to the browned crusty material that forms on the bottom or the act of scraping loose these crusty bits and stirring them back into the dish during baking. However, it now tends to refer to the browned crust that forms on the top of the baked dish. Toppings generally consist of breadcrumbs, grated cheese, egg and/or butter.

The word gratin is also used to identify the types of cookware in which such a meal is cooked. Traditionally, they are oval, but can also be round and come in graduated sizes and are made of clay-based ceramic, metal or oven-proof glass.

This au gratin combines ham and cauliflower in a creamy, Parmesan sauce and is topped with cheddar cheese. We really enjoyed it.

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Ham & Cauliflower Au Gratin
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
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Instructions
  1. Fill a medium pot half full of water & add 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil. Cut cauliflower into small flowerets & add to boiling water. Blanche for 3 minutes. DON"T OVERCOOK! Pour into a colander in the sink & let drain well- about 5 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 6 X 8-inch glass casserole dish with cooking spray. Cut ham into small cubes & slice green onions. In a small bowl, place softened cream cheese, Greek yogurt, Parmesan & sliced green onions.
  3. Return cauliflower to cooking pot; gently fold in sauce mixture & ham. Season to taste with black pepper. Pour cauliflower mixture into prepared baking dish, spreading out evenly. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.
  4. Bake 30-35 minutes or until the cheese is melted & lightly browned. Mixture should be bubbling & hot through. Remove from oven & allow to stand 10 minutes for any liquid to be absorbed. Serve hot.

Chicken Fajitas

When I’m working in the yard, summer always tempts me to spend less time in the kitchen. As much as I love to cook, I find the ‘gardener’ in me takes over. I can’t simply just go out and do a bit of looking. The first thing I know, there’s a little weed that needs to be picked or a plant to prune and that does it — I’m hooked for hours. Nevertheless, one thing for sure and that is the fresh air and exercise builds an appetite which brings me to a fast-to-fix meal.

Today, I’m thinking some chicken fajitas for our evening meal. Before I even go outside, I’ll do a bit of quick prep work, that way it will be a ‘no brainer’ later when I’m tired.

Technically, only beef was used in fajitas, but the term has become ‘blurred’ and describes just about anything that is cooked and served rolled up in a soft flour tortilla. The origin of the fajita goes back to Mexican ranch workers living in West Texas (along the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexican border) in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s. When a steer was butchered, the workers were given the least desirable parts to eat for partial payment of their wages. Because of this, the workers learned to make good use of a tough cut of beef known as shirt steak. The first print mention of the word fajitas anywhere in the world didn’t occur until the 1970’s.

The chicken breast I’m using in this recipe is marinated for a number of hours making it nice and spicy as well as tender. This is a great little, quick and easy hand held meal.

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Chicken Fajitas
Instructions
  1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 2 Tbsp oil, lemon juice & seasonings. Add chicken. Seal & turn to coat; refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
  2. In a large skillet, saute peppers & onions in remaining oil until crisp-tender. Remove & keep warm. In the same skillet, cook chicken over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes or until no longer pink. Return pepper mixture to pan; heat through. Spoon filling down the center of the tortillas; fold in half. Serve with cheese & choice of other toppings.
Recipe Notes

Salmon Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

How is it spelled? Portobello or Portabella – from what I understand there is no ‘right’ spelling. Both versions are accepted, but the Mushroom Council  decided to go with Portabella to provide some consistency across the market.

The scientific name ‘agaricus bisporus’, for these giant mushrooms comes from the Greek word ‘agrarius’ meaning ‘growing in fields’. A portabella mushroom can measure up to six inches across the top. On the underside of the cap are black ‘gills’. The stems and gills are both edible, though some people remove the gills to make more room for stuffing or simply to avoid blackening a dish. Did you know that most of the table mushrooms we eat are all the same variety? The difference is just age– white are the youngest, cremini the middle and portabella the most mature. I really wasn’t aware of that for many years myself.

In May and June of 2016, I posted some recipes on my blog for a variety of stuffed burgers  including a mushroom burger. They became very popular on the Pinterest site so I thought you might like to try some of them.

This recipe is for a roasted stuffed portabella mushroom. If you don’t care for salmon you can always change it up for ground beef or turkey using your favorite herbs and spices.

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Salmon Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a bowl, combine all ingredients through salt & pepper, mix well. Coat both sides of mushrooms in Italian dressing & place them upside down in a baking dish.
  2. Equally distribute the salmon mixture between mushroom caps; form a mound. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese. Bake 25-35 minutes or until mushrooms are tender & the cheese is slightly browned.

Christmas Morning Strata

What could be more convenient on Christmas morning than a savory breakfast casserole that is just waiting to be baked!

‘Strata’ is a culinary term coined in the 1950’s for an old fashioned baked egg casserole. Ingredients are layered, using the same technique as when preparing a lasagna or quiche, only bread is used as the main starch and eggs are the binder. Strata’s are always savory as opposed to bread pudding, which can be sweet or savory.

In the late seventies, here in Alberta, Canada, eight ‘bridge club’ friends had an idea about writing a cookbook. They called it ‘The Best of Bridge’, which went on to become one of the most successful brands in Canadian publishing. One of their first recipes published in 1979, was called ‘Christmas Morning Wife Saver’, which became a signature recipe that put the group on the road to success. It was a breakfast casserole that could be prepared on Christmas eve, refrigerated overnight, ready to bake Christmas morning.

Time has passed and this has given way to unlimited ideas for such casseroles which are served at any time of the day now. On either side of us, our neighbors have small children. For a special Christmas treat some years, Brion and I have given them breakfast strata’s that they can bake while their children open gifts. They seem to enjoy them.

One of my favorite strata recipes, I happened to find in a California ‘Savemart’  magazine, when on holiday one year. I like to use apple/chicken sausage in ours but you can change it up to your personal preference.

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Bacon & Sausage Christmas Strata
Stay out of the kitchen Christmas morning with this wonderful make-ahead breakfast casserole.
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Cuisine American
Servings
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Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat for 15 minutes or until crisp; drain. Cut bacon into 1-inch pieces. Into same skillet, add sausage & cook over medium heat until browned, breaking up sausage with the side of spoon; drain. Prepare bread cubes & vegetables.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk eggs, milk, mustard, salt & pepper. Generously spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Using half of each, layer bread cubes, bacon, sausage, cheese, peppers & green onions into baking dish; repeat layers with remaining ingredients. Carefully pour egg mixture evenly over the casserole mixture.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap, gently pressing down so wrap is right on the surface of the mixture. Cover with foil & refrigerate overnight. Remove strata from fridge in the morning. Remove foil & plastic wrap. Preheat oven to 325F. & bake for 1 hour or until center is set, (if strata is browning to fast, loosely cover with foil). Allow to stand 10 minutes before cutting into squares.
  4. If you chose to bake it immediately after it is prepared, just wait long enough for the egg mixture to soak into the bread cubes.