Pita Pockets

From what archaeologists can determine, pita bread originated with peoples west of the Mediterranean. Pitas have been both a bread and a utensil throughout the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean.It is a rather  simple bread that could be made with limited technology. Pitas are cooked quickly at a relatively high temperature. The flat dough expands dramatically to form an interior pocket from steam. 

Pitas’ popularity is partially attributed to using the pocket like a sandwich bread. Many traditional cultures use the pita more like a soft taco or the pita is pulled apart into pieces and dipped in a variety of sauces.

The possibilities of being able to pack, dip or wrap whatever you choose in the pita bread is limitless. Their taste can only be appreciated when eating your pita with different foods that will compliment them.

Although pitas are enjoyed all through the year, they seem like an easy summer meal to enjoy.

Pita Pockets
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Pita Pockets
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
Filling
  1. In a large skillet, cook beef, onion & green pepper over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, garlic powder, cumin & Italian seasoning; mix well. Simmer, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes.
Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, bring all the sauce ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes. Spoon meat mixture into pita halves; top with sauce, tomatoes & lettuce.
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‘Kartoffelpuffer’ – German Potato Pancakes

Today is Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day. The date can be any time between February 3rd and March 9th. It is exactly 47 days before Easter Sunday, based on the cycles of the moon. The expression ‘Shrove Tuesday’ comes from the word shrive, meaning ‘absolve’. This day is observed by many Christians who make a special point of self-examination of considering what wrongs they need to repent and what amendments of life or areas of spiritual  growth they especially need to ask God’s help in dealing with.

Shrove Tuesday precedes Ash Wednesday or the first day of Lent. Popular practices, such as indulging in food that one sacrifices before commencing the fasting and religious obligations associated with Lent.

FASTNACHT, (or Shrove Tuesday) is celebrated throughout Germany with masquerades, carnival processions and ceremonials that vary in character according to locality and folk custom. Fasching is Germany’s version of Mardi Gras, a French term for ‘Fat Tuesday’. This carnival climaxes on the night before the fast. It’s roots go way back to ancient Roman times.

Fastnachts are yeasted doughnuts that are eaten in Germany instead of pancakes. Typically they have no hole or filling and are dusted with powdered sugar. The rich treats presented a way to use up all of the butter, sugar and fat in the house prior to the self-denying diets of Lent.

GERMAN POTATO PANCAKES  are my Shrove Tuesday meal. I definitely grew up enjoying pancakes and with the many flavor options of today how could you not like them! 

Kartoffelpuffer - German Potato Pancakes
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Sour cream or applesauce make great compliments to this meal.
Servings
14 pancakes
Servings
14 pancakes
Kartoffelpuffer - German Potato Pancakes
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Sour cream or applesauce make great compliments to this meal.
Servings
14 pancakes
Servings
14 pancakes
Ingredients
Servings: pancakes
Instructions
  1. Par boil potatoes; cool slightly so you can peel & grate them. In a small bowl, combine next 6 ingredients. In a separate dish, whisk together melted margarine, buttermilk & eggs. Carefully combine wet & dry ingredients, stirring only until just blended.
  2. Heat a non-stick griddle to 350 F. Fold potatoes into batter. Using a 1/4 cup measure, place batter on grill, spreading slightly. Brown lightly on both sides.
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Spiced Pork Medallions with Mango Salsa

Today’s pork is leaner and more tender due to breeding and feeding changes over the last number of decades. Ounce for ounce, pork tenderloin is almost as lean as boneless, skinless chicken breast as well as being economical. Its one of those meats that can be an elegant company meal or used in a stir fry for a weekday supper. Pork tenderloin’s mild flavor partners well with sweet and savory ingredients. Unbelievable in its versatility, you can cook it whole, slice into medallions, butterfly and stuff it, or use it in stir fry. It’s great grilled, roasted or simply seared.

When I was growing up on the farm, pigs were a part of the ‘mixed farming’ my parents did. At that time, there wasn’t much about the animal I cared for. They squealed, smelled and were not much fun to feed. My parents cured their own bacon, which always seemed to be so salty to my liking. To this day, bacon is not something that has a big draw for me for that reason.

My dad was not a man that did any cooking. With my mother being such a fabulous ‘cook’, there certainly was no need. For some reason, every once in a while, dad thought he would show us the way he thought bacon should be cooked. The cast iron frying pan was made ‘smoking’ hot to which he would then put the bacon in to fry it. That little episode was definitely cause to have to ‘air’ out the house for the next couple of hours!

Years later I have come to enjoy today’s lean pork tenderloin as a staple in my rotating household menu choices. With mangoes being quite plentiful right now, it seemed fitting to feature some Spiced Pork Medallions with Mango Salsa. 

Spiced Pork Medallions with Mango Salsa
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Seasoned tenderloin wrapped in bacon and served with a fruity mango salsa
Servings
4
Servings
4
Spiced Pork Medallions with Mango Salsa
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Seasoned tenderloin wrapped in bacon and served with a fruity mango salsa
Servings
4
Servings
4
Instructions
Mango Salsa
  1. Mix together cubed mangoes & red pepper, green onions & sauce. Set aside.
Tenderloin
  1. Cut tenderloin into 4 equal pieces. Flatten cut side down into about a 3 1/2" circumference. In a small bowl, mix together all SPICE RUB ingredients. In a resealable plastic bag, combine medallions & spice rub, seal bag & shake well. Refrigerate for several hours.
  2. When ready to cook, wrap bacon slice around edge of each medallion; secure with wooden toothpicks. Heat BBQ to medium-high heat. Grill 8-10 minutes on each side or until done (160 F.) OR Heat a large skillet sprayed with cooking spray medium-high heat. Add medallions; cook, partially covered 25 minutes or until done (160 F.) , turning after 15 minutes.
  3. Serve topped with Mango Salsa.
Recipe Notes
  • Mango Salsa can be marinated with other choices of 'sauces' or salad dressing marinades if you prefer something less sweet.
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Gourmet Stuffed Potatoes with Caramelized Onion-Apple Burgers

CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY!

Father’s Day, a time to honor our fathers and father figures who have influenced our lives. Honoring your father on Father’s Day doesn’t require his physical presence. I feel what is more important is the just act of doing it

….. ‘Remembering you is easy, we do it every day.      Missing you is the heartache that never goes away’.

My father passed away in 2005 and Brion’s in 2011. The passage of time will never dim those precious memories we have of them. They followed very different paths in their life’s journey; my father was a farmer and Brion’s an army soldier. Both of them gave so much of themselves to their life’s work as well as to their families.

Since both of our Dad’s were ‘meat & potatoes’ kind of men, it seems fitting that my Father’s Day  blog recipes would center around just that. When I made the Caramelized Onion-Apple Burger combination for us, I made it with ground pork but I’m sure it would taste great with either ground beef or chicken. The Gourmet Stuffed Potatoes are definitely a tried & true recipe that has been around forever but are always enjoyed. 

Caramelized Onion-Apple Burgers with Stuffed Potatoes
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Servings
4-6
Servings
4-6
Caramelized Onion-Apple Burgers with Stuffed Potatoes
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Servings
4-6
Servings
4-6
Ingredients
Caramelized Onion-Apple Burgers
Onion-Apple Burger Filling
Gourmet Stuffed Potatoes
Servings:
Instructions
Caramelized Onion-Apple Burgers
  1. To Caramelize Onions/Apples: Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onions & apples; sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until both are tender. Reduce heat; sprinkle with vinegar. Cook, stirring until golden. Stir in brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown in color.
  2. To Make Stuffed Burgers: Place ground meat in a large bowl & combine with spices. Mix well. Shape into 8 thin patties. Divide onion/apple mixture into 8 portions. Place one portion on each of 4 patties ( reserve other 4 portions for later use). Top with remaining 4 patties & press gently to seal enclosing filling completely. Place burgers on preheated, greased barbecue grill over medium heat, close lid & grill, turning once. Cook approximately 14 minutes total. Top with remaining onion/apple mixture. Serve on buttered, lightly grilled Ciabatta buns.
Gourmet Stuffed Potatoes
  1. Pierce potatoes with a fork; rub with oil if desired. Bake at 400 F. for 1 hour or until tender. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Cut a slice off the top of each potato lengthwise. Scoop out pulp, leaving a thin shell. Place pulp in a large bowl & mash.
  2. In a small skillet, saute onions in 1/4 cup butter until tender. Stir Ranch salad dressing mix into sour cream & add to potato pulp along with cream, salt & pepper. Fold in cheese & bacon bits. Spoon into potato shells. Place on a wire rack in a foil baking pan. Melt remaining butter; drizzle over the potatoes. Sprinkle with paprika. Place pan on barbecue to heat through while meat is cooking. If you prefer, you can always put them in the oven at 350 F. for about 20 minutes instead.
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Portobello Mushroom Burgers

For as long as I can remember, I personally have had a love affair with the ‘Big Sur’ coastline in California, USA. The spectacular beauty of this rugged 145 km (90 mile) coastline, with the natural drama playing out between land and sea is breathtaking.

Over the years many of our vacations have either been in this area or it has made a fabulous ending to a long flight coming back from Europe, before returning home to Canada.

One of the special memories I have from this vicinity was the quaint little European-style village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, located about 190 km (120 miles) from San Francisco.

Some 30 years ago, actor Clint Eastwood, was elected mayor of Carmel for a two-year term. During that time he opened a restaurant/bar there called the ‘Hogs Breath Inn’. You had to enter it through a long , cobblestone alley corridor. The outdoor patio was nestled between the restaurant and the bar. A massive wall mural and numerous stone fireplaces all added tremendously to the wonderful ambiance. It was here that I first tasted a Portobello Mushroom Burger. 

Every time Brion and I have returned to Carmel, we have made a point of eating lunch at the Hogs Breath Inn, just so I could taste that burger again. The Portobello mushroom seemed to have been marinated and then grilled on a barbecue. On top of it were some battered onion rings, lettuce and tomato. All of this came in a grilled Ciabatta bun with pickles and a side dish of your choice.

Of course, never having been someone who could just leave it at that, I had to see if I could push this idea just a bit further. Along came some more recipes for the ‘Stuffed Burger Series’. If you like these ingredients, I think you will really enjoy them.

Portobello Mushroom Burgers
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Servings
4-6
Servings
4-6
Portobello Mushroom Burgers
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Servings
4-6
Servings
4-6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
Seafood-Avocado Filling
  1. Remove brown gills from the undersides of mushrooms using a spoon; discard gills. Remove stems, reserve for another use if desired. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add leek & garlic, & saute until tender. Remove from heat; cool.
  2. Gently combine mashed avocado with next 7 ingredients in a medium bowl; stir into cooled leek mixture.
  3. Dip round side of mushroom caps into Italian dressing; drain slightly. Arrange rounded sides down in a foil baking dish. Sprinkle parmesan cheese evenly into mushroom caps; then top evenly with seafood/avocado mixture, pressing filling to compact slightly. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover & refrigerate if making in advance.)
  4. Preheat oven or barbecue to 350 F. Combine Asiago & mozzarella cheese; sprinkle mushrooms with cheese mixture. Place foil baking dish with mushrooms in oven or on barbecue. Bake until tender & filling begins to brown, about 35 minutes. If necessary, cover loosely with aluminum foil so tops don't burn. Serve on slightly grilled Ciabatta buns. Serves 6
Spinach-Cheese Filling
  1. Remove brown gills & stems from mushrooms. Dip round side of mushroom caps in Italian dressing; arrange, rounded side down, in a foil baking pan. Preheat oven or barbecue grill to 400 F.
  2. Place spinach in a microwave safe bowl, sprinkle with a few drops of water & microwave on high for one minute. Chop cooked spinach; mix with cheddar & cottage cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper. Spread spinach mixture onto prepared mushroom caps.
  3. Bake in oven or on barbecue until mushrooms are tender, about 12 minutes. Nice served on slightly grilled wholewheat buns. Serves 4
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Stuffed Burgers

RESHAPING THE BASIC BURGER

It’s only mid May and the enticing smell of the neighborhood barbecues drifts through the air. Spring has felt more like summer due to the high temperatures we are having.

Burgers have long been a summer barbecue staple so why not put a new spin on it. My first thought goes to using the same spice combination for a variety of ground meats such as beef, chicken/turkey, or pork. Next make a filling that would taste great in whatever meat you feel like serving or better still use a variety.

Over the last couple of weeks I did some recipe development  on seven different ideas to simplify  making  ‘Stuffed Burgers’.   In my next few blogs I would like to share these recipes with you.  Here is the list:   > Moroccan            >  Apple-Zucchini Bacon            > Savory-Herb                               > Seafood/Avocado &  Spinach/Cheese Portobello Mushroom Burgers                                                  > Mushroom-Cheese Stuffed Ground Salmon    > Garden Grain Burgers    

The focus of my blog is very often on the ‘Taste of a Memory’  so I decided to start my stuffed burger series with a memory from Morocco.

In 2014, my husband Brion and I enjoyed a holiday travelling Spain, Morocco, and Portugal. I had never really paid to much attention to the interesting flavor of the Moroccan spices before that trip. Since then I have made numerous dishes that included them as we have come to really enjoy that flavor.

Key Moroccan spices include aniseed, black pepper, cayenne, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, paprika, parsley, saffron and turmeric.      

Morocco is like a tree whose roots lie in Africa but whose leaves breath in European air. This is a metaphor that has been used to describe a country that is profoundly traditional and strongly drawn to the modern. It is this double-sided, seemingly contradictory disposition that gives Morocco its cultural richness. The country is slightly larger in area than California. Unlike most other African countries, it produces all the food it needs to feed its people. Located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the country is rich in fish and seafood. Beef is not plentiful, so meals are usually built around lamb or poultry. Another Moroccan staple is couscous, made from fine grains of a wheat product called semolina. It is served many different ways with vegetables, meat or seafood.

In today’s  Moroccan Burgers, I used beef and turkey patties, stuffing them with a spicy fruit filling. Strange as it seems, Brion and I found mustard   to be a great condiment to use on them.  In keeping with the Moroccan theme, couscous makes a nice side dish however you choose to prepare it. Your comments are most welcome.                                       

Stuffed Burgers
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I used the same spice combination in the basic meat patty recipe for whatever meat I chose to use ( beef, chicken/turkey, pork), to keep it simple. These meat patties were then used to prepare the SAVORY-HERB, APPLE-ZUCCHINI BACON, & MOROCCAN burgers.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Stuffed Burgers
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Print Recipe
I used the same spice combination in the basic meat patty recipe for whatever meat I chose to use ( beef, chicken/turkey, pork), to keep it simple. These meat patties were then used to prepare the SAVORY-HERB, APPLE-ZUCCHINI BACON, & MOROCCAN burgers.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Basic Meat Patties
Moroccan Spicy Fruit Filling
Easy Couscous Side Dish
Servings:
Instructions
Basic Meat Patties
  1. Place ground meat in a large bowl & combine with spices. Mix well. Shape into 8 - 1/4" thick patties. Place equal amounts of prepared filling in center of each of 4 patties. Top with remaining 4 patties & press gently to seal, enclosing filling completely.
  2. Place burgers in a greased foil disposable pan. Preheat barbecue grill to a medium heat, place pan on grates & close lid. Turn burgers once during cooking time, (do not overcook as the meat is only 1/4" thick on each side).
  3. Serve on a Ciabatta bun (or hamburger bun of your choice).
Moroccan Spicy Fruit Filling
  1. Combine dates, apricots, raisins, apple & orange juice in a small bowl. Season with spices. Mix well; set aside to let marinate for a few hours. Divide between 4 burger patties & complete as above.
Couscous Side Dish
  1. Heat 1/2 tsp olive oil in small saucepan. Add next 4 ingredients. Cook & stir until green onion is softened. Add honey. Heat & stir until onion is coated.
  2. Add broth. Bring to a boil. Add couscous & 1 tsp olive oil. Stir. Cover. Remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes without lifting the lid. Fluff with fork; stirring in remaining ingredients adding a bit of butter if it seems to solid. Makes about 2 3/4 cups.
Recipe Notes
  • I found it really made this whole burger idea easy if I made 908 grams (2lbs) of each of the 3 types of ground meat into patties. Portion the meat with a scoop into 56 grams (2 oz.) balls, flatten & place in a plastic container, layered singly between a non-stick waxed paper to freeze.
  • When it comes time to use, take out the number of patties you require for the meal. Prepare the filling of choice, stuff & cook. What could be easier than that for a quick & easy great tasting meal! 
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