Apple Chickpea Flan w/ Raspberry Sauce

There’s a whole chickpea world out there beyond hummus. From crunchy, spicy snacks to main ingredients in baking and cooking. This is a wonderful ingredient that can adapt extremely well with herbs and spices.

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, grow in hot parts of the world so they are naturally a key ingredient in the cuisine of countries such as India, Mexico, Egypt and the southern part of Italy. Despite their origins, chickpeas are available everywhere, usually in either canned or dried form. There is very little difference in nutritional value between precooked, canned chickpeas and the dried variety you cook yourself.

In our part of the country, I remember these peas/beans first appearing in the restaurant salad bars. Chickpeas were one of several choices set out in bowls to add to salad greens. Then a few years later they became better known when ‘Mediterranean hummus’ became trendy. Then the notion came up to use them in baking. Legumes in cake? Remember the big debate when ‘someone’ decided to put carrots and zucchini in cakes etc. (not to mention tomato soup).

Chocolate chickpea cake has been a success for quite a while now so I decided to try a different take on the idea of the flourless cake.

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Apple Chickpea Flan w/ Raspberry Sauce
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 4 custard baking cups or a 9 X 9-inch square baking pan.
  2. In a food processor, place applesauce, rinsed chickpeas & eggs; blend until almost smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Place in a large bowl.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture & stir to combine. Pour into baking dishes & bake for about 50 minutes OR until it tests done with an inserted toothpick.
  4. To make raspberry sauce: In a small saucepan, combine cornstarch, sugar & salt. Add water & raspberries; cook until clear & bubbling. Remove from heat & add margarine & lemon juice & zest. Cool & serve over chickpea flan.
Recipe Notes
  • In place of one of the eggs I used 1 Tbsp ground flax seed plus 3 Tbsp water. 

Wild Red Salmon & Mushroom Quiche

Eggs are one refrigerator staple that most households are rarely out of. While they have many uses, one of my personal favorites is always quiche. Another staple in my pantry is canned wild red salmon.

The idea for this quiche today came from an old appetizer recipe. It was for salmon tartlets with a cream cheese pastry. This type of pastry is one that seems to go either way —tender or tough. What I’ve come to find through trial and error, is that a 1:1 ratio by weight, of butter to cream cheese, ensures a flaky, tender crust. Cream cheese pastry is nice because it is so versatile. It can be used for both sweet and savory applications.

Since I am in ‘gourmet mode’ today, I decided to kick it up a notch and use a little exotic medley of fresh mushrooms. My choice is enoki, crimini, oyster, portabellini and button. For cheese, I’m going with Gorgonzola dolce. If I were to describe the end result, it would be, a tender, cream cheese pastry filled with an earthy mushrooms, red salmon and tangy Gorgonzola cheese. Hard to beat that flavor combination, but of course, only if you like those ingredients.


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Wild Red Salmon & Mushroom Quiche

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Cream Cheese Pastry

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Ingredients
Cream Cheese Pastry

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Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a bowl, beat butter & cream cheese; blend in flour to form pastry consistency. Press into a deep dish 8-inch quiche pan. Set aside in refrigerator until filling is prepared.

Quiche Filling
  1. In a skillet, saute sliced green onions, mushrooms & garlic in margarine until moisture has evaporated. Remove from heat. Preheat oven to 400 F.

  2. Grate cheese. In a container, whisk together eggs, milk & seasonings. Sprinkle about 1/2 of the Gorgonzola cheese in the bottom of the quiche shell. Top with mushroom mixture & salmon chunks then with remaining cheese.

  3. Bake at 400 F. for 10 minutes, adjust heat to 350 F. & continue baking for another 30 minutes. When filling is set, remove from oven & cool at least 10 minutes before cutting. It tastes great just out of the oven, but even better the next day.

Chicken Avocado Flax Crepe Stacks

Flax is a flavor that has always appealed to me. I like it both in the ground or seed form. Flax is sown and harvested much like a spring cereal crop and matures at the same time as wheat. Although its place of origin is unknown, it seems likely it it would be southwest Asia. Flax is one of the oldest textile fibers used by humans.  Evidence of its use have been found in Switzerland’s prehistoric lake dwellings as well as fine linen fabrics being discovered in ancient Egyptian tombs.

Here in Canada, flax is produced as an oil seed crop. Superior oil quality and higher oil content have long been major features of Canadian flax seed, attributed to Canada’s climate. I remember my father growing flax as a trial crop one year in southern Alberta. The thing that made a lasting memory for me was its pretty azure blue flowers and interesting little seed pods. Thinking about that, it must have been in the late fifties or early sixties.

Today, I’m making some crepe stacks using flax-meal in the crepes. It should give a nice nutty flavor to compliment the chicken-avocado filling.

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Chicken Avocado Flax Crepe Stacks
Instructions
Flax Crepes
  1. In a blender, combine crepe ingredients & blend for 1 minute at high speed. Scrape down sides; whirl for another 15 seconds. Cover & refrigerate for at least 1 hour or longer. Heat a non-stick griddle (or use a crepe pan). Using a 1/4 cup measure, pour batter on griddle using a circular motion to create the right size of crepe needed. Cook about 2- 3 minutes on each side. When cooked, cool on a wire rack until needed. This batter makes about 10 crepes.
Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt margarine; add flour to make a roux & cook for a few seconds. Slowly add milk/broth combo, stirring to combine well. Add spices & continue cooking for about 5 minutes or so. Set aside
Crepe Filling
  1. Mash avocados & add yogurt, spices, lemon juice, onion & sun-dried tomatoes. Set aside. Slice mushrooms & if you prefer, saute for a few minutes otherwise you can leave them raw. Prepare fresh tomatoes, red & green onions. Grate cheese.
Assembly
  1. On a work surface, lay out 3 crepes per person (for 2 people). Spread all but 2 crepes with avocado mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch border on each. Place two of the avocado 'spread' crepes on serving plates. Top each with some chicken, corn, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, 'sauce' & cheese. Lay another avocado 'spread' crepe on top of each plate & repeat with fillings, sauce & cheese. Now, top each stack with an un-spread crepe. Spread any remaining sauce in a small circle in the center. Top with the remaining filling ingredients & sprinkle with last bit of cheese. When you are ready to serve just give them a few minutes in the microwave & your done! Any remaining crepes can be frozen.
Recipe Notes

Flax can replace fat or eggs in a recipe:

  • 3 Tbsp  ground flax = 1 Tbsp butter, margarine, shortening or veg oil
  • 1 Tbsp ground flax + 3 Tbsp water = 1 egg  (combine & allow to sit 1-2 minutes before using)

Carrot Cake Doughnut Holes with Cream Cheese Glaze

With doughnuts, its all about the ‘hole’. No hole, no doughnut. That little circle means everything. The idea of frying a piece of dough is ancient. The Romans, Dutch, Spanish and Germans all did it. While we know who introduced the doughnut, the story behind the doughnut hole is a little less clear. The most likely explanation was that at some point, bakers started adding egg yolks to their recipes, which produced a richer dough. Of course, this meant the middle of the doughnut no longer cooked at the same rate as its edges, resulting in doughy, raw centers. They came to the conclusion, that if they removed the thick center, the doughnut would cook evenly throughout. It was also believed that the hole was formed to make it easy to ‘dunk’ the doughnut in coffee. However, as in all food history stories you will find various other versions that are more entertaining and whimsical.

In Canada, doughnut holes that are sold by the Tim Horton franchise, have become known as ‘Tim bits’. The name is a play on the word ‘tidbit’ (a delicate bit of food). They were introduced in April 1976 and are available in at least 20 flavors that differ from store to store.

I’m not big on deep fried things whether they are sweet or savory. These carrot cake doughnut holes are baked — no frying necessary. Dip them in a bit of cream cheese ‘glaze’, sprinkle with remaining chopped walnuts and enjoy!

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Carrot Cake Doughnut Holes with Cream Cheese Glaze
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Cream Cheese Glaze
Course dessert
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Ingredients
Cream Cheese Glaze
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Instructions
Doughnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, finely grate carrots. Sift in flour then add brown sugar, soda & spices. Add egg & oil & beat until mixture is smooth. Fold in half of the chopped walnuts.
  2. Butter & flour a cake pop pan. Divide batter between 14 holes. Secure top pan in place with rubber clamps. Bake for 10-12 minutes, testing with a toothpick at about 8 minutes. When baked, remove from oven & allow to cool before removing top pan.
Glaze
  1. In a small bowl, with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, margarine & milk. Gradually add sugar & vanilla beating to a glaze consistency.
  2. Once doughnut holes are removed from pan & thoroughly cooled, dip in glaze, sprinkle with remaining walnuts. Allow to firm up in refrigerator before serving with forks.
Recipe Notes
  • Self-Rising Flour is made with 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt & enough all-purpose flour to measure 1 cup.

Savory Pork Chops with Rice

Rice is one of those never fail staples that can be used in countless ways. Quick and easy, fancy and intricate, creamy, spicy, crispy or sweet — endless versatility.

This type of recipe became popular during the late 1930’s. Preparing one dish suppers and attending ‘pot lucks’ were how people during the Great Depression  were able to have fun and share food.

I remember my mother preparing such a meal when I was growing up. Basic recipes that didn’t need a long list of groceries, or a lot of time to make, but they were such delicious comfort food. Before we get right into summer mode with barbecuing and such, I wanted to make this super easy meal for today’s supper.

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Savory Pork Chops with Rice
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large skillet, melt margarine & add rice, celery & onion. Stir & cook until rice begins to brown & vegetables soften slightly. Place mixture in a baking dish. Combine beef broth with spices. Pour over rice mixture.
  2. Using the same skillet, add oil; season both sides of pork chops with salt & pepper. Brown chops for a couple of minutes on each side then place on top of rice in baking dish. Cover with foil & bake 35-40 minutes until rice is tender & chops are cooked through. If more liquid is needed add a bit more beef broth. Be sure not to over salt your meat as the broth will have salt in it as well.
Recipe Notes
  • If you don't care for the spices listed, change them for choices to suit your own tastes.

No-Yolk Noodles with Chia Chicken Meatballs

Although rice takes top priority at our house, noodles (pasta) are always a staple nevertheless. Some years ago, we started using the ‘no yolks’ version of egg noodles. 

Like many old world pasta products, there is a history. In 1976, Robert Strom created  NO YOLKS. They would become the world’s first                          no-cholesterol egg noodle. They are made with Durum wheat semolina, corn flour, egg whites and have no problem cooking up firm and fluffy.

In Canada, they are the top selling noodle and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. In this recipe, I have paired them with my favorite Chia Chicken Meatballs. Does it get more healthy than that?!

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No-Yolk Noodles with Chia Chicken Meatballs
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
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Meatballs
Sauce
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Meatballs
Sauce
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Instructions
Meatballs
  1. In a small bowl, mix together chia seeds & water; let stand for about 20 minutes. In a large bowl, combine remaining meatball ingredients. When chia gel is ready, add to meat mixture. Using your hands, combine ingredients well. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & lightly coat with baking spray. Scoop into 50 meatballs; place on baking sheet & bake 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven, cool completely if you are choosing to freeze half for a later meal. Set aside the amount you are using for this meal.
Sauce / Noodles
  1. In a saucepan, melt margarine; saute zucchini & green onion until tender. Sprinkle with flour & seasonings. Add milk/broth & cook, stirring until slightly thickened. Meanwhile, cook no-yolk noodles as directed on package in salted boiling water to which 1 Tbsp of olive oil has been added. Drain.
Assembly
  1. In the pot you cooked the noodles, combine noodles with sauce & meatballs. Fold together & serve topped with some parmigano-reggiano if you wish.

Seafood Avocado Omelette

I had no idea when I completed my studies in the commercial food industry that there would be some food items I would make so many times. One such item was an omelette. 

In the early years of my career, my first position was a short order chef. It all sounded pretty easy until it came to the weekends. On Sunday morning alone, you could use anywhere from 90-120 DOZEN eggs. A large percentage of them were made into omelettes with various fillings. All this would be made and served in the course of 4-5 hours as individual breakfasts in the hotel restaurant. That job definitely taught you the perseverance you would need to survive in the industry. 

Omelettes have a long history dating back to 16th century France. Most are made with just simple egg and dairy ingredients. The fluffiest omelettes use whole eggs or all egg whites, which are beaten with a small measure of cream, milk or water. I even recall adding just a tiny bit of pancake batter to give them more body.

Legend has it that when Napoleon and his army were travelling through the south of France, they spent one night near Bessieres. Napoleon ate an omelette prepared by a local cook and enjoyed it so much that he ordered the townspeople to gather all the eggs in the village and prepare a gigantic omelette for his army the next day.  Since 1973, every year on the Monday following Easter, people in Bessieres, France make a giant omelette, using 15,000 fresh eggs.

I have added some pictures of this huge omelette as well as one of a cook dumping egg shells in a pile.

The recipe I am including is an adaptation of an omelette I enjoyed at a restaurant called Mariah’s sometime in the eighties. At the time it was located in the seaside town of Carlsbad, California, USA.

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Seafood Avocado Omelette
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Course Brunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, French
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Course Brunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, French
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Instructions
Guacamole
  1. In a small dish, combine all guacamole ingredients; set aside.
Omelettes
  1. Preheat an electric flat griddle to 325 F. Saute mushrooms, green onions & shrimp in margarine keeping each separate from each other. Remove from griddle. Carefully pour beaten eggs onto griddle forming two large circles. Divide guacamole, mushrooms, cheese, crab meat & shrimp between the two omelettes.
  2. Cover with a large sheet pan for a few minutes until all is cooked, being careful not to over or under cook. Fold each omelette over & place on serving plates. Top with sauteed green onions. Add some fruit for a garnish if you prefer.

Vintage Puffed Wheat & Rice Krispie Squares

I haven’t thought of puffed wheat cake in years. It’s probably been 15 or 20 years since I’ve even made any. So what happened to puffed wheat? I remember this cereal from my childhood, being sold in HUGE plastic bags. It seems that puffed wheat cake (or squares) was a distinctly rural Canadian phenomenon. Nearly anyone from the prairie provinces recalls the recipe from memory. When I looked through my mothers recipe file, she had a recipe for ‘puffed wheat brittle’. This was the forerunner to puffed wheat ‘squares’. It was made using sugar, water, vinegar, molasses, butter & salt.

The Rice Krispie cereal came on the market in North America in 1928. Food history states that similar recipes existed for Puffed Rice & Puffed Wheat  but neither used marshmallows, only molasses. Most inventions are built on what has come before and the ‘Rice Krispie Marshmallow Treats’ were no different.

Home economists, Mildred Day and her co-worker, Malitta Jensen, who worked for the Kellogg’s company in 1939 are credited with inventing ‘Rice Krispie Treats’. Originally they had been developed as a snack for an organization called Campfire Girls. They were having a fundraiser and needed something unique that the girls could sell door to door.

In 1940, the original recipe for Kellogg’s Rice Krispie Treats first appeared on the cereal box and continues to do so to this day. In 1995, the company began selling the pre-packaged ones. The fact that they are so quick and easy to make attributes to their continued popularity and of course there are no end to variations you can make from the original recipe.

Here are a couple of ideas you might enjoy to try.

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Chai Puffed Wheat Squares / Rice Krispie Treats
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Chai Puffed Wheat Squares
Rice Krispie Treats
Course dessert
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Ingredients
Chai Puffed Wheat Squares
Rice Krispie Treats
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Instructions
Chai Puffed Wheat Squares
  1. In a large buttered bowl, measure out puffed wheat; set aside. In a saucepan, combine margarine, brown sugar, corn syrup & spices; bring to a boil. Remove from heat & add vanilla. Pour mixture over puffed wheat & stir quickly until completely coated. Pour immediately into prepared buttered pan (size will depend on how thick you like your squares to be) & press down firmly to flatten. When cool, cut into preferred size pieces.
Rice Krispie Treats
  1. Lightly butter a 9 x 13" pan. In a large bowl, measure rice krispies, flax flakes, cranberries, pumpkin seeds & flax seed. In a large saucepan, slowly melt margarine with marshmallows. Remove from heat, add vanilla. Add mixture from bowl & stir quickly to combine well. Pour into buttered pan & press down firmly. When cool, cut into preferred size pieces.

Swedish Meatballs

With New Years Eve gatherings fast approaching, these little gems come to mind in the form of  hors ‘d’ oeuvres. Of course, they are always great for a main dish as well.

The Swedish word for meatball, ‘Kottbullar’, first appeared in print around 1754. They are traditional Swedish ‘old-world’ fare at Smorgasbords and other festive occasions. Initially Swedish meatballs were only enjoyed by upper class Swedes but the increased availability of wood stoves and meat grinders in the 1850’s made meatballs accessible to the middle class as well. In northern Scandinavian countries beef was considered a luxury item, which meant meatballs were highly prized.

The meat content can vary based on geography. In southern Sweden, they are most often a 50/50 mix of beef and pork whereas further north in Sweden 70/30 of beef to pork is typical. Likely other options would be veal, venison, lamb or moose. Size-wise, they are smaller than those of Italy or Germany, typically not larger than a golf ball or smaller than  3/4″(2.5 cm) across.

The cream gravy (sauce) and spices play a big part in the taste of this dish, traditionally served with lingonberry preserves, mashed potatoes and pickled cucumber salad. The ‘pressed cucumber’, as it is called, provides some crunch, saltiness and acidity to the sweet creaminess of the rest of the meal.

In America, Swedish meatballs were very popular in the beginning of the 20th century and again in the 1950’s-1960′.

Brion and I have always enjoyed these tasty little meatballs so we are having them as our main course meal today.

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Swedish Meatballs
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depending on the size you make
Ingredients
Cream Sauce
Servings
depending on the size you make
Ingredients
Cream Sauce
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Instructions
Meatballs
  1. Soak breadcrumbs in 2 cups of 1/2 & 1/2 cream. Fry onion in margarine. Combine all meatball ingredients & mix well. Shape into 1-inch balls. Preheat broiler to a high setting.
  2. Place meatballs in a large baking dish, allowing a bit of space in between each one. Broil about 4" (10 cm) from heat until the tops are browned nicely. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Set oven to bake & reduce temperature to 300 F. Bake until meatballs are cooked through, depending on their size. If it seems they are getting too brown, cover lightly with a piece of foil to finish baking.
Cream Sauce (Gravy)
  1. In a small saucepan, cook margarine & flour until bubbly. Slowly add broth & cream; boil for a FEW minutes, add soy, salt & pepper. Pour over hot meatballs.
Recipe Notes
  • This recipe can easily be made in whatever amount you need but I find making the whole thing & freezing them in various amounts works great for quick future meals. Freezing them without any sauce also gives you the option to adapt them to other types of meals.

Stuffed Pork Rolls with Cornbread & Caramelized Onions

Pork tenderloin can be stuffed with anything, imagination is the limit. What’s not to like — easy to prepare, boneless and fork tender. The pairing of pork with cornbread seems perfect, add caramelized onions and you got it!

Cornbread is one of those nostalgic foods for me. It always brings me back to my mother’s kitchen. I remember very clearly that wonderful smell of fresh cornbread coming out of the oven and that small Pyrex, rectangle baking pan she always baked it in. Those special memories came to mind today as I was trying to come up with a supper ‘idea’.

I love stuffing or dressing, whatever you prefer to call it. Of course, my ultimate favorite is the one I grew up with. On the other hand when you just need a very small amount, I see nothing wrong with using a box of ‘Stovetop Stuffing’. Of course I can’t resist telling you just a bit of the history about the product itself —

 In 1972, General Foods  which is now known as Kraft Foods  introduced ‘Stovetop Stuffing’. It was quick, convenient, tasty and therefore was an instant hit. 

The secret lies in the crumb size. If the dried crumb is too small, adding water to it makes a soggy mass; too large, and the result is gravel. The nature of the cell structure and overall texture of the dried bread crumb used in this invention is of great importance if a stuffing which will hydrate in a matter of minutes to the proper texture and mouthfeel is to be prepared.

Ruth Siems, a home economist that spent more than three decades on the staff of General Foods was instrumental in arriving at the precise crumb dimensions — about the size of a pencil eraser.

That being said, here is my idea for this great little combination. We really enjoyed it!

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Stuffed Pork Rolls with Cornbread & Caramelized Onions
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, German
Servings
Ingredients
Caramelized Onions
Cornbread Stuffing
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, German
Servings
Ingredients
Caramelized Onions
Cornbread Stuffing
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Instructions
Caramelized Onions
  1. In a large skillet, heat oil. Add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with cider vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Sprinkle with brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown color.
Cornbread Stuffing
  1. Prepare as directed on package.
Pork
  1. Slice tenderloin into 4 pieces. Using a meat mallet, pound into thin slices. Divide caramelized onions between them and spread over meat. Top with a layer of prepared cornmeal stuffing. Roll tightly encasing the filling inside & tie with kitchen twine. Roll pork rolls in the 1/4 cup flour that has been seasoned with salt & pepper to coat lightly.
  2. In a large skillet, heat butter & oil; brown pork rolls well on each side. Remove rolls to a platter,
Red Wine Gravy
  1. Stir 'brown bits' remaining from frying rolls, with garlic, thyme & red wine. Simmer about 5 minutes. In a small dish, combine cornstarch with chicken broth; add to wine mixture, season to taste. Return pork rolls to the pan. Cover, simmer gently for another 8-10 minutes.
  2. Place pork rolls on serving platter & stir fresh parsley into gravy. Spoon gravy over pork rolls & serve immediately.