Grilled Korean Chicken Tenders

Despite the similarities in Asian cuisines, there are marked differences. Korean cuisine reflects a complex interaction of the natural environment and different cultural trends.

Korean food is bold, unique and well worth exploring. Strangely enough, it never has achieved the stature of Chinese food in North America and in recent years has been overtaken by Thai and Vietnamese.

Korean cuisine is largely based on meat, rice, vegetables and seafood. Dairy is fairly absent from the traditional diet.

The key ingredients needed in Korean cooking are garlic, fresh ginger, green onions, sesame seeds and oil, rice vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, dried red chilies and hoisin sauce. Each contributes to the oriental rule of five flavors: sweet, hot, sour, salty and bitter. Traditionally, Koreans also have tried to adhere to an arrangement of five colors in their meals: red, yellow, green, white and black.

Balancing flavor is both science and an art. The five taste elements build our overall perception of flavor. When each element is perfectly balanced, not only on the plate, but across the entire meal, its just amazing!

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Grilled Korean Chicken Tenders
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Instructions
  1. Place chicken tenders in a Ziploc bag. In a bowl, combine all marinade ingredients except green onion. Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade & transfer the rest to the Ziploc bag with chicken. Refrigerate & marinate for at least an hour.
  2. Over medium heat, grill the chicken tenders for 2-3 minutes or until they no longer stick to the grill. Turn the chicken, spoon reserved 1/4 cup marinade over tenders & grill an additional 2-3 minutes or until cooked through. Serve over rice & garnish with green onion.

Fried Meatballs w/ Potato

Meatballs are one of those incredible inventions that travel the world uniting cuisines from across the globe.

Polpette is a word denoting Italian meatballs, traditionally consisting of ground beef or veal that is shaped into small balls. These meatballs are usually enriched with a wide variety of ingredients such as parsley, eggs, garlic, mashed potatoes & Parmigiana Reggiano.

Although some might think that polpette are served with pasta, that is mostly a North American thing. Italian polpetti are typically consumed on their own as a snack, appetizer or finger food.

These little meatballs are incredibly soft due to the good amount of mashed potatoes in them. Instead of being appetizers, I added some extra veggies to make it a main course. We really enjoyed the whole combination.

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Fried Meatballs w/ Potato
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Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, cover the potatoes with cold water & boil gently until tender.
  2. In a large skillet, combine oil with 1/2 tsp minced garlic & the rosemary. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the garlic is fragrant but not colored. Add the ground meat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Season with salt & pepper, cook stirring occasionally until browned. Drain any fat from meat & transfer to a large bowl.
  3. In a small bowl, soak the bread in the milk for a few minutes; it should absorb as much as possible.
  4. Drain the potatoes as soon as they are tender. Peel them while still hot & mash or rice them. Place in the bowl with the meat; add soaked bread & remaining 1/2 tsp garlic, parsley, 1 egg & the Parmesan cheese. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Break the remaining egg into a small bowl & beat it lightly with 2 Tbsp water. Spread the bread crumbs on a plate. Lightly roll the meat mixture into 1-inch balls. Dip the meatballs first in the beaten egg, lifting them out one at a time & letting any excess egg drip back into the bowl. Roll them in the bread crumbs & set aside on a platter.
  6. Pour about 1/2-inch veg oil into a large skillet & heat. Add as many meatballs as will fit loosely in the pan & fry, turning as necessary, until evenly browned all over, about 4 minutes. Transfer the browned meatballs to a wire rack or paper towels. Continue to fry remaining meatballs. For our supper I added some mushrooms & peppers.

Turkey Stuffed Pasta Shells

I have always favored using ‘conchiglioni’ pasta, the name derives from the Italian word meaning ‘seashells’. Their shape, size and consistency are the perfect vessel for bold, rich fillings and flavorful sauces. Baked pastas, or ‘pastas al forno’ as they are called in Italy, date back to the Renaissance when they were being served at the banquets of nobles.

Over the years, I have stuffed jumbo pasta shells with just about every imaginable filling I could conjure up. To say the least, I love this kind of meal.

Since we are just past ‘turkey season’ and if you are someone who enjoys that festive meal … here’s a new spin on it. Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and gravy all tucked into some pasta shells.

Without a doubt, these shells were even better than I had expected and this recipe made enough that I froze some for another meal. What’s not to like about that?

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Turkey Stuffed Pasta Shells
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta shells according to package directions for al dente. Drain & set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, scramble-fry ground turkey with spices until no longer pink.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  4. In a large bowl, combine mozzarella cheese, turkey, stuffing & green onions. In a small bowl, Stir sweet potatoes with chili powder.
  5. Fill each pasta shell with 2 Tbsp stuffing mixture & 2 tsp sweet potato mixture. Combine 1 cup of gravy with any remaining filling & spread on the bottom of a 13" x 9" baking dish. Place filled shells overtop, drizzle with remaining gravy & sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  6. Bake, covered for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Serve with cranberry sauce if you wish.

Sage-Dijon Pork Tenderloin w/ Pistachio Couscous

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Many cultures around the world believe the key to a happy, healthy, prosperous & productive year begins with eating certain lucky foods on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The theory is ‘do good, eat good’ on the 1st day of the year, to begin the New Year right.

It hard to believe we have arrived at the end of another ‘complicated’ year and its time to reflect and assess the year it was. The word ‘new’ brings thoughts of hope and makes us realize how precious time is.

The tradition of eating pork on New Year’s dates back to …. well, no one really knows when. If your a meat eater, chose pork over chicken or beef on New Year’s Day because pigs dig with their snout, representing forward movement or progress, while chickens or turkeys scratch backward, the cows stand still. That’s it, that’s the folklore behind the tradition!

Many European countries such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland & Ireland, eat pork not only because of the belief of moving forward but because fatty meat is also symbolic of ‘fattening’ their wallets. Germans feel that pigs are so lucky that they give marzipan pigs known as ‘Glucksschwien’ or lucky pigs, as gifts to bring good luck in the coming year. They can also be given in other forms, such as little wooden or glass figurines.

With the pandemic situation that seems to be never ending, I think anything that will help in the good luck department is a good thing.

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Sage, Dijon Pork Tenderloin w/ Pistachio Couscous
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Pistachio Couscous
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Pistachio Couscous
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Instructions
  1. Cook the couscous according to package directions. Add parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper, and pistachios. Stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust for seasonings. Cover and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350º. Spray an 9” x 13” baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Using a knife poke several holes in the tenderloin about a half-inch deep so marinade can penetrate.
  4. In a small bowl whisk together the shallots, garlic, soy sauce, mustard, honey, juice, sage, salt and pepper, and olive oil.
  5. Pour the marinade over the tenderloin.
  6. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes basting every 10-15 minutes.
  7. Transfer the tenderloin to a large cutting board and allow them to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
  8. Slice the tenderloin and transfer to a serving dish placing atop warmed couscous. Drizzle the marinade from the pan over the sliced pork medallions & couscous.

Turkey Breast w/ Fruity Savory Stuffing

December 25th is not only Christmas Day, but it holds an extra special meaning for our family. It is my sister Rita’s birth date. When we were growing up, being able to enjoy all the great things that come with the Christmas meal as well as birthday cake …. could it get better than that!!

Although your family’s Christmas traditions may vary depending on the culture you were raised in, we like to think food is a language that needs no translation. I believe that many of our dishes are from an assortment of different cultures mixed into one recipe. Such is the case of our turkey dinner this year. I’ve incorporated a Moroccan inspired fruit stuffing along with our traditional savory one.

In view of the ongoing pandemic, hopefully caution will be taken in the holiday events your involved in. The best gift you can give this Christmas is not infecting others with Covid-19.

As much as I like certain aspects of the Christmas season, I find it becomes a little overwhelming. It seems a massive wave of Christmas capitalism takes over every aspect of one’s life from the end of October to January. I like to call it a form of OCD: Obsessive Christmas Disorder.

I was raised on a farm in southern Alberta at a time when Christmas celebrations were focused around our family blessings and not how many blow-up Santa Clauses or realistic sleighs we set up on our front lawns.

It would almost seem more importance is being given to getting more likes on Facebook & Instagram than it is carrying on a tradition based on family.

This year will not be perfect, it never is, and the holidays are a hard enough time for many, regardless of pandemics and catastrophic weather. I hope there will still be a little magic for everyone, however you spend the holidays.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RITA!

WE LOVE YOU VERY MUCH & ARE SHARING YOUR DAY IN OUR THOUGHTS

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Turkey Breast w/ Fruity Savory Stuffing
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Fruit Stuffing
Savory Stuffing
Herb Butter
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Fruit Stuffing
Savory Stuffing
Herb Butter
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Instructions
Fruit Stuffing
  1. In a small bowl, combine dates, apricots, raisins, apple & orange juice & zest; season with spices & mix well. Set aside to marinate.
Savory Stuffing
  1. In a saucepan, sauté onion, celery, garlic, mushrooms & seasonings in margarine. Remove from heat.
  2. Place vegetable/seasoning mixture in a large bowl & combine with dry bread cubes & broth, adding only enough broth to make proper stuffing consistency. Set aside.
Turkey
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Lay turkey breast on a clean work surface so that it lies open & flat. Cover with plastic wrap, then pound lightly with a meat mallet to flatten into an even thickness all over. Discard plastic wrap.
  3. On one half of the turkey breast spread a thick layer of the savory stuffing then top it with the fruit stuffing. Fold the adjoining half of the turkey breast over all. Fasten with metal skewers if you wish to help to keep stuffing enclosed.
  4. Place a wire rack in a roasting pan & lay stuffed turkey roast on it. Brush herb butter over turkey breast. Roast uncovered, until turkey reaches an internal temperature of 180 F. about 2 hours. Cover loosely with foil if top browns too quickly.
  5. Place any extra savory stuffing in a buttered casserole & bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is lightly toasted.
  6. Remove turkey breast from oven, tent with foil & allow to rest for about 5-10 minutes. Make sure to remove all toothpicks and/or skewers before slicing to serve.
Recipe Notes
  • You will notice the recipe for the savory stuffing is well more than what is needed to stuff the turkey breast. For me personally, the stuffing is the most important part of the whole meal so I made sure there would be lots. 
  • Don't hesitate to half the recipe if you feel its more than what you need.

Turkey Thighs w/ Persimmon Sage Stuffing

Cooking turkey parts instead of the entire bird serves a few purposes. It not only cuts way back on the cooking time but it allows you to cook more of your favorite pieces. For dark meat lovers, roasted turkey thighs are the perfect option as the meat is succulent and flavorful without losing its moistness during the roasting time.

As soon as I spot persimmons in the grocery store I can’t resist them. Persimmons are in season between November and February. They are mildly sweet and juicy with a slight crunch reminiscent of a cross between a peach and a pear. Since there is only a short window in which you can enjoy this exotic fruit, persimmons make up for it by working well in both sweet and savory recipes.

In acknowledgement to the USA Thanksgiving today (November 25th), I’m stuffing some turkey thighs with an interesting dressing containing persimmons & fresh sage. I know most people have their own traditional, go-to‘ stuffing recipes, but I’m hoping at least a few will venture from the norm and try a little persimmon in your stuffing. I can assure you, its worth it.

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Turkey Thighs w/ Persimmon Sage Stuffing
Instructions
Stuffing
  1. Preheat oven to 200 F. On a parchment or foil lined baking sheet, spread out the cubes of bread. Bake for about 10 minutes, until lightly toasted yet still pale in color. Set aside. Turn oven off until ready to bake ready to roast thighs if you wish.
  2. In a large saucepan or pot over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp olive oil & 1 Tbsp butter. When butter has melted, add the shallot, celery & leek. Cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, sage, thyme & pepper; cook until mixture is fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  3. Pour in the broth and toss lightly until everything is completely mixed. Give the stuffing a taste & add salt to your personal taste. Fold in the beaten egg & cubed persimmons; toss lightly till combined.
Herb Butter
  1. In a small dish, combine all herb butter ingredients & set aside.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Arrange turkey thighs, skin side down on a work surface so they lay open & flat. Cover with plastic wrap, then pound lightly with a meat mallet to flatten to an even thickness.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Discard plastic wrap; spread stuffing over 2 turkey thighs, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edge. Top each with a remaining turkey thigh. Butter a casserole dish with remaining butter & transfer any leftover stuffing to casserole dish, spreading it out evenly.
  4. Line a roasting pan with heavy duty foil paper. Grease foil on the bottom of pan & place the stuffed turkey thighs in roasting pan. Carefully spread HERB BUTTER over tops of stuffed thighs.
  5. Roast uncovered, basting occasionally, until thighs reach an internal temperature of 180 F. about 2 hours. Cover with foil if top browns too quickly. Bake the extra stuffing for about 30-40 minutes, until the top of the stuffing is golden brown.
  6. Remove turkey thighs from oven, tent with foil & allow to rest for about 5-10 minutes. Slice & serve.

Tender Pot Roast

Pot roast, as the name might suggest, is a roast cooked in a pot usually seared then simmered in liquid with herbs and spices. The actual process has been around for centuries, an invention of one part ingenuity and two parts thrift. As the idea evolved, it was realized that careful browning of the meat, in the beginning, would result in deeply rich, savory gravy. Less than prime cuts of meat that were tough, gristly and full of fat, would become tender by the long, gentle cooking process. In the final stage of cooking, the addition of some vegetables contributes to the flavor of this hearty meal as well.

There are endless ways to make pot roast. Everyone seems to have their own ‘ultimate recipe’. Brion & I don’t eat a lot of beef so when we do, having it come out nice a tender is the name of the game. I saw this 5-ingredient version of tender pot roast on Pinterest so I thought I’d give it a try. Certainly sounds like fool-proof.

I recall the smell of my mother’s pot roast cooking. Like I’ve mentioned before, a scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood memory. Smells detonate softly in our memory like land mines hidden under a ‘weedy’ mass of years. Hit a tripwire of smell and memories explode all at once with a complex vision leaping out of the undergrowth. So today I’m trying to create that wonderful smell and a taste of a memory.

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Tender Pot Roast
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
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Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 250 F.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the 3 dry mixes. Rub mixture over entire surface of roast.
  3. Place roast in a small roaster & pour water around meat. Cover with the lid & roast for 3 hours.
  4. If you prefer, during the last couple of hours, add a chopped onion, 5-6 carrots & 4-5 small potatoes.

Shrimp & Chicken Pelmeni

Though they come in all shapes and sizes, dumplings are a near-universal culinary constant as almost every culture has one. So naturally, dumpling recipes are incredibly versatile, coming with a wide array of fillings, wrappers, shapes and sizes. Eaten as an appetizer, dessert, side dish or for the main meal, they might just be the ultimate comfort food.

Chicken and shrimp go together surprisingly well, and this dish is no exception. In March of this year (2021), I posted a blog about Russian Pelmeni. Since then, Brion & I have had ‘pelmeni’ numerous times in which I’ve experimented with various fillings. In case you’re not familiar with these dumplings, traditional Russian pelmeni consist of a filling wrapped in thin, unleavened dough. The word “pelmeni” describes the ear-shaped appearance of these dumplings.

When I made them for the March blog, I used a different technique for preparing them. Instead of making them into the traditional ear shape, I rolled the dough out into a large rectangle. I then spread the raw meat filling over it very thinly and rolled it up in a jelly roll fashion. After slicing the roll into 2-inch pieces, they were steam cooked in broth in a skillet. It’s a quick and easy take on authentic pelmeni.

Since Brion & I eat a lot of chicken and shrimp, I could see no reason to ‘develop’ a new version with an almost oriental twist on it.

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Shrimp & Chicken Pelmeni
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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 with plastic wrap & set aside to rest until your filling is prepared.
Filling
  1. Chop mushrooms & mince garlic. In a skillet, heat butter & add garlic. When aromatic & light golden, add mushrooms & a light sprinkle of salt. Cook for about 2 minutes, until fragrant, soft & roughly a third of the original volume. Set aside in a bowl to cool.
  2. Chop shrimp into pieces the size of large peas. Add to the mushrooms with the chicken, green onion, water chestnuts & ginger. Combine with a fork.
  3. Stir together salt & white pepper, sugar, soy sauce & water. Pour over the filling; stir to mix & firm up. Cover & set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
Assembly
  1. Once dough has rested, transfer to a floured surface. Roll out the dough into a large, THIN rectangle. Spread filling over the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch at the far side of the dough.
  2. Tightly roll 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.
  3. In a large skillet that will accommodate all pelmeni, heat oil & cook onion until translucent. Add garlic & continue cooking until fragrant. Add grated carrot; cook about 1-2 minutes more.
  4. Place pelmeni rolls on top of veggies, add vegetable broth, salt & pepper. Cover with a lid & simmer for 30 minutes on a low heat. Check pelmeni from time to time, to make sure there is still some broth in the skillet. Add more broth if it evaporates too fast. Garnish with extra sliced green onions if desired. Serve.
Recipe Notes
  • A nice condiment for these dumplings would be a sweet chili sauce.

Tarte Tatin w/ Onions, Cheese & Thyme

If you’re familiar with the French dessert called ‘Tarte Tatin’, you know that it is an upside-down caramelized apple tart. Basically, the apples are underneath the pastry. As with many things of brilliance, the creation was actually an accident. Named after the woman who invented it, Caroline Tatin, who had become a little distracted while baking an apple dessert at her hotel restaurant. She mixed butter, sugar and peeled apples, poured the mixture into a baking dish, completely forgetting the pastry. The mixture cooked & caramelized before she realized there was no pastry under it. In attempt to save the dessert, she placed some pastry on top and returned it to the oven. The result was Tarte Tatin with deliciously inversed flavors.

Onions are really a perfect bridge to take a normally sweet dish into the savory world.  They already caramelize beautifully and when you add honey, spices, cheese and puff pastry, there’s really not a lot that could go wrong. The same traditional Tarte Tatin concept in a savory version. 

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Tarte Tatin w/ Onions, Cheese & Thyme
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Cut each onion lengthwise into 12 wedges, leaving roots intact.
  3. In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions; cook, turning occasionally, until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add vinegar & honey (or apple cider vinegar & brown sugar); cook for 5 minutes. Add thyme, salt & pepper; sprinkle with Parmesan. Remove from heat.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, gently roll pastry sheet to remove any crease lines. Using a knife, cut pastry into a 13-inch circle. Place pastry onto onions, carefully tucking edges down into skillet. Cut 2 small slits in top of pastry to release steam.
  5. Bake until pastry is puffed & golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Carefully invert tarte onto a serving platter. Serve immediately. Garnish with thyme if desired.

Pork Tenderloin w/ Bulgur Apricot Stuffing

Just for a change of pace, I decided to make a nutty tasting bulgur wheat stuffing instead of the traditional bread version for our tenderloin today.

Bulgur is more than just something to make tabbouleh with. Its nutty taste and hearty texture work in so many dishes or you can just use it as a substitute for other grains like brown rice, couscous or quinoa.

This kind of wheat should not be confused with its less-tricky-to-harvest cousin, cracked wheat. While they are similar, cracked wheat is completely raw while bulgur is pre-cooked and has a much shorter prep time.

For me, if the recipe involves grain, I’m in! I guess you can take the farmer’s daughter off the farm but you can never take away her love for food with grain in it.

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Pork Tenderloin w/ Bulgur Apricot Stuffing
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Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, place bulgur & vegetable broth. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium low & simmer until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Add chopped apricots during the last 5 minutes. Remove from heat & drain any excess liquid. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together egg & spices. Add almonds, scallions & reserved bulgur & apricots; mix to combine.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  4. Butterfly pork tenderloin & pound with a meat mallet to an even thickness. Place on an oiled piece of foil paper on a baking sheet. Cover one half of the tenderloin with stuffing; press to flatten a bit. Fold other half of tenderloin over top stuffing. Secure with kitchen twine to keep stuffing from falling out during roasting.
  5. Brush with olive oil & season with salt & pepper. Roast about 45 minutes or until tenderloin has a slight pink color remaining. Remove from oven & allow to sit for a few minutes before untying & slicing.
  6. For the blog picture, I opened our whole tenderloin before slicing to show how nice this filling is. These flavors are so good!