Mandarin Orange Cream Puffs w/ Craquelin Topping

Cream puffs start with choux pastry, a heady mixture of butter, milk, water, eggs & flour. When you combine these ingredients, they become so dense and sticky that it seems impossible they’ll come together as soft, puffy, light, tender. Heat is what initiates the expansion of the dense paste. Steam from the milk and water expands the pastry’s edges, puffing up its capacity until the oven heat provides just enough crispness and structure to hold the puffs’ boundaries. A cream puff expands so dramatically in the oven that it creates a cavern inside to hold any number of things—whipped cream, pastry cream, ice cream or savory fillings.

Cream puff pastry (or choux pastry) is the base for profiteroles (smaller puffs filled with ice cream), éclairs (elongated puffs filled with pastry cream and glazed), croquembouche (a tower of cream puffs held together and drizzled with caramel) and savory appetizer puffs called gougeres with cheese and herbs.

Craquelin (pronounced kra-ke-lan) is a thin biscuit layer that can be added over choux pastries before baking them. It is used to create a crackly appearance, crunchy texture and a buttery sweet taste as well as helping the choux pastry bake evenly to form hollow rounds. This topping reminded me of a similar cookie-like topping used on Mexican sweet bread called ‘conchas’. It certainly dresses up ordinary cream puffs.

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Mandarin Orange Cream Puffs w/ Craquelin Topping
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Mandarin Orange Pastry Cream
Choux Pastry
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Mandarin Orange Pastry Cream
Choux Pastry
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Instructions
Craquelin
  1. In a food processor, process sugar & butter pieces until it forms large crumbs. Add flour, salt & vanilla; process until a dough forms. Bring the dough together to form a disk.
  2. Roll the dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper until 1/16-inch thickness. Place covered in the freezer for at least an hour then cut the dough into (18) 2-inch circles & keep circles in the freezer until ready to use.
Pastry Cream
  1. In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar & cornstarch until it turns pale yellow. In a saucepan, combine milk & orange zest; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, slowly add the egg mixture a little at a time, whisking well until fully incorporated.
  2. Return mixture to heat & keep whisking over medium heat until it thickens. Stir in orange juice. Transfer to a bowl & cover with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the surface of the pastry cream. When it comes to room temperature, refrigerate.
  3. When cooled & you are ready to use the pastry cream, whisk with an electric mixer for 15-20 seconds to a smooth texture.
Choux Pastry
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a couple of cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a saucepan, combine milk, water, butter & salt; bring to boiling. Add flour, all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook & stir until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat & add eggs & egg white, one at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition.
  3. Place dough in a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe (18) 1 1/2-inch circles. Cover each with a frozen craquelin round circle.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden & firm. Transfer to a wire rack & allow to cool.
Assembly
  1. Carefully slice puffs. Fill a pastry bag with mandarin orange pastry cream & gently fill each puff. Place on serving platter & sprinkle with powdered sugar if you wish.

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.

Spiced Persimmon Tarte Tatin

Browning, bruised and overlooked, you can’t help but feel bad for the half dozen persimmons nestled on the grocery shelf waiting to be selected. As I mentioned in an earlier post, there is no end to the ways persimmons can be used.

In this recipe, I used some Chinese five-spice to give the persimmons a spicy upgrade. With the unique flavor profile of this interesting spice, it often pulls double duty in savory and sweet dishes.

It seems that the exact origin of five-spice powder is unknown but there is some speculation that the blend was created in traditional Chinese medicine. A very unique spice blend that represents a wide range of flavors from sweet, salty and bitter to pungent and sour. Rumor has it that the Chinese were trying to create a ‘miracle powder’ that was representative of all the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Then again, its possible that a cook accidentally stumbled upon this particular combination of spices and realized its power to improve on a bland dish. In any case, it is very versatile and can be used not only in cooking but also adds a unique flavor to baked goods.

Many recipes for five-spice powder exist but there is no one traditional recipe. Often the ingredients and amounts can vary from region to region and are different depending on the household and individual tastes. The original blend contained star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, fennel seed, cinnamon and cloves. A staple in Chinese cuisine but has also found its way into other international cuisines such as Vietnamese and Hawaiian food.

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Spiced Persimmon Tarte Tatin
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  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Lay puff pastry on a piece of parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap; chill until needed.
  2. In a skillet, melt butter & sprinkle sugar evenly over it. Add peeled, sliced persimmons & sauté until liquid is bubbling & lightly golden. Reduce heat & continue cooking until persimmons are tender. If you wish, thicken any juices with the cornstarch. Remove from heat & divide evenly into 6 ramekin dishes. Sprinkle persimmons evenly with five-spice & salt.
  3. Cut 6 rounds from chilled puff pastry larger than the tops of the ramekin dishes. Place a pastry round over each dish of persimmons tucking edges down inside.
  4. Bake until pastry is golden & cooked through, 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool then run a knife around edge of ramekin dish. Carefully but quickly invert onto a serving plate.

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.

Mushroom ‘Holly’ & Olive Straws

CELEBRATING NEW YEAR’S EVE!

A time to look back on the passing year and generally take ‘stock’ as well as looking forward to the new year approaching. New Year’s Eve means different things to different people. Before covid entered our lives, parties & celebrations were the order of the day, a happy way to speed the old year out and the new year in. Many traditions are involved in the New Year’s celebration, one of which is the singing of ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

The words and music of Auld Lang Syne have evolved over the years. Although the song has often been credited to the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, he never claimed to have written the poem or compose the melody but was inspired by someone singing it. The best translation of the Scottish words are ‘for the sake of old times’.

The traditional melody of the song is rarely heard nowadays and is more folkish. The version we’re familiar with dates to 1929. It was Guy Lombardo, the Canadian born bandleader that helped make Auld Lang Syne a New Year’s Eve tradition in North America. His band, the Royal Canadians, played the song at the turn of the new year in a series of popular radio (and later television) broadcasts that began on December 31, 1929 and continued for more than 30 years. This musical tradition is still sung all over the world, evoking a sense of belonging and fellowship, tinged with nostalgia.

Until I researched this songs history, I didn’t actually know the English ‘translation’ of it. This is what I found it to be:

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

And surely, you’ll buy your pint cup! And surely, I’ll buy mine! And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes and picked the daisies fine; But we’ve wandered many a weary foot, since auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream, from morning sun till dine; But seas between us broad have roared Since auld lang syne.

 And there’s a hand my trusty friend! And give me a hand o’ thine! And we’ll take a right good will draught, For auld lang syne.

So here we are, with a new year just around the corner. As a farmer’s daughter, I still hang on to the mind set of my father and that was, that next year will definitely be better.

I am posting a couple of little hors d’oeuvres you might enjoy if you are bringing in the new year at home with family.

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Mushroom Leaves & Olive Straws
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Instructions
Mushroom Leaves
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Using a holly leaf cookie cutter, cut 18 leaves from thawed puff pastry. Place in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate while mushrooms cook.
  3. In a skillet over medium-low heat, heat olive oil & add the shallot & salt. Sauté until beginning to brown & caramelize. Remove the shallot to a bowl & set aside.
  4. In the same skillet, heat the remaining olive oil & sauté mushrooms until tender & moisture has evaporated. Add garlic, thyme & pepper; sauté for an additional minute. Place in the bowl with the shallot. Stir in the cheese.
  5. In a dish, whisk egg & milk. With your finger tip, moisten edges of the pastry leaves with egg wash. Put a tiny bit of mustard in the center of each leaf.
  6. Divide mushroom/cheese mixture between leaves. Bake until pastry is golden brown and puffed, about 25 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Serve warm.
Olive Straws
  1. On a lightly floured work surface, unfold 1 (10"x10") sheet of puff pastry. Roll pastry with rolling pin to increase size slightly (about 1/2 -3/4-inch. Cut the sheet in half.
  2. Place about 10 olives, end to end in a straight line across the pastry starting about 3/4 of an inch from the edge. Repeat with 2 more rows, leaving about the same width between each row.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and milk. Brush egg mixture on all exposed spaces between olives. Cover with the other half of the puff pastry, pressing the whole surface of the dough between the olives & outside edges firmly with your fingertips. Transfer to refrigerator; let chill 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  5. Using a very sharp knife, trim edges of dough; cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide straws. Lay flat-side down on a baking sheet. Transfer to oven and bake until pastry is golden and crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer straws to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm. Yield: 24 olive straws

Mango Scones w/ Chambord Glaze

Scones are the quintessential, must be baked at home and eaten immediately foodstuff. Good scones are all about lightness and texture …. crumbly but a little moist, slightly dense but not grainy, flaky but not powdery.

The secret to a good moist scone that is also light, is in the proportion of rising agent to flour. Use too much leaving and your scone will definitely rise but be overpowered by baking powder chemicals. It is also important to keep the mixing to an absolute minimum or the gluten in the flour gets overworked, which makes the dough elastic and consequently the baked scones hard.

Many recipes call for self-rising flour as a staple ingredient. Often times, we find ourselves passing these recipes by because we don’t have it on hand, or because we don’t use it enough to actually want to buy it. Luckily, self-rising flour is easy to make at home. It requires only three ingredients and can be used in both recipes that call for it as an ingredient, and as a substitute for regular flour in quick-rise recipes to cut down on separate leavening agents.

The glaze is definitely the ‘icing on the cake’ when it comes to these scones. Chambord Liqueur is created using all natural ingredients. Black and red raspberries are blended before being steeped in Cognac to achieve a highly concentrated base. The mixture is then extracted and a second infusion captures the remaining flavors from the berries. The final step marries the berry infusion with Cognac and extracts of Madagascan vanilla, Moroccan citrus peel, honey and hints of fragrant herbs.

The total combination of scone and glaze is absolutely awesome!

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Mango Scones w/ Chambord Glaze
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Glaze
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Glaze
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Instructions
Scones
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, cardamom & lemon zest. With fingertips, cut in grated butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg & vanilla; add to flour mixture. Fold in JUST until incorporated then carefully fold in mangos.
  4. Place dough on parchment paper lined baking sheet. With lightly floured hands, pat dough into an 8-inch circle. Score into 8 or 12 wedges.
  5. Bake 20 minutes or until golden & test done. Cover lightly with foil if over browning before finished baking. Remove from oven to a cooling rack. cool slightly before glazing.
Glaze
  1. In a small dish, combine glaze ingredients & drizzle over cooled scones. Decorate with raspberries & mango if desired.
Recipe Notes

Self-rising flour contains baking powder in a proportion that is perfect for most sponge cakes, cupcakes and scones. Some recipes may ask for a little additional baking powder to be added, particularly if the cake is made with an all-in-one method as omitting the creaming stage in the cake making means less air is incorporated into the batter during the mixing stage. Other times a small amount of baking soda is added if the ingredients include cocoa powder, yogurt or buttermilk.

  • For 1 cup of self-rising flour use: 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder & 1/4 tsp salt. Multiply the amount as needed to create a larger amount.

 

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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Ingredients
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.

Red Velvet Cookies

Red Velvet Cake’s popularity extends far beyond its namesake it seems. Dessert enthusiasts have adapted the original recipe to craft their own, custom made versions of cupcakes, lattes, sundaes, waffles, cookies, pancakes, ice cream etc.

The precise origins of Red Velvet Cake remain elusive, as several times and places have claimed partial credit for producing it, with the different elements coming together as separate puzzle pieces.

One common legend is that it was first created in the kitchens of New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. Another story surrounding the cake is that the Canadian department store Eaton’s was responsible for its creation, as it was a popular choice in the retail chain’s bakeries and restaurants in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Although the company promoted the cake by saying the recipe was a closely guarded secret, the cake’s deepest roots appear to be traced more accurately back to the culinary traditions of the USA’s southern states.

The term ‘velvet’ was used in Victorian England to describe cakes with a fine crumb and a soft texture, distinct from other confections such as pound or sponge cakes. In the late 1800’s, what we know as brown sugar was commonly known as ‘red sugar’. So, at that time any cake made with red sugar and fine cake flour could be referred to as a red velvet cake.

Attempts to explain the red cake’s inception include use of boiled beets by bakers affected by rationing during WWII to enhance the color of their cakes. Another possibility is that because natural pigment of cocoa takes on a reddish hue when mixed with acidic substances such as vinegar or buttermilk, both of which may well have been included in early chocolate velvet cakes. Unlike today’s more common Dutch process cocoa, the PH of natural cocoa does cause a chemical reaction with acid causing a very slight reddish hue.

The notoriety of red velvet cake was given a huge boost in the 1930’s when the Adams Extract Company of Gonzales, Texas began marketing its food coloring and flavorings with recipes and photos of red velvet cake. Using food coloring was quicker and better, thus becoming a regular part of the red velvet recipe.

Now it seems when it comes to the white icing, the traditional kind used was a French style roux icing, which is also known as ‘ermine’ icing. These days, however, cream cheese frosting and buttercream frosting are much more popular and synonymous with the red velvet cake.

I’m not a food historian but as you’ve probably noticed, I do love delving into food history. Today’s blog recipe is for some red velvet cookies that are perfect for the Christmas season. Some time ago I saw this idea on the internet. I tucked it away in my ‘must-try’ file …. so today’s the day I’m trying my adapted version.

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Red Velvet Cookies
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
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COOKIES
Ingredients
Cream Cheese Filling
Icing
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
COOKIES
Ingredients
Cream Cheese Filling
Icing
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Instructions
Cream Cheese Filling
  1. FILLING SHOULD BE MADE AT LEAST 2 HOURS IN ADVANCE OR THE DAY BEFORE.. In a medium bowl and using hand-held mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until creamy and light, 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. On low speed, gradually add in the powdered sugar, flour, vanilla & salt. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the filling is light and fluffy.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a tablespoon-size scoop, scoop out 15 rounded tablespoons of cream cheese frosting onto the prepared baking sheet. Freeze until solid, at least 2 hours and up to overnight. You may have a few scoops left over.
Cookies
  1. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder and salt to combine; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or whisk, beat the softened butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium speed until well combined.
  4. Add in the egg, vanilla & red food coloring; mix on medium speed until mixture is smooth and emulsified with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let the mixture rest for 3 minutes, then mix for another 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat the process of resting and mixing 2 more times (a total of 3 rests and 4 mixes) until mixture is thick, smooth, and slightly lightened in color. This step helps dissolve the sugar better, resulting in a thicker, chewier cookie.
  6. Stir in the vinegar. The mixture will separate slightly.
  7. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.
  8. If the dough feels too soft or warm to scoop & shape into firm balls, cover and refrigerate for about ½ an hour or until firmer. Using the same scoop you used for the cream cheese balls, scoop out 2 scoops of dough per cookie onto the lined baking sheet, forming 15 equal dough balls.
  9. Using the back of a wooden spoon handle or your thumb, make a deep indentation into each dough ball.
  10. Take the cream cheese filling scoops out of the freezer and working quickly, peel the filling scoops from the baking sheet and place one inside each indentation of every dough ball. If you're working in a warm kitchen, you might want to keep the frosting scoops in the freezer, taking only one by one as you work, to prevent them from softening.
  11. Gather the dough up over the filling scoops to completely cover them. Roll the dough into smooth balls, making sure the frosting is completely wrapped inside and nothing is peaking out.
  12. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, then either bake immediately or transfer to a large zipper lock bag and freeze for up to 1 month.
  13. Preheat oven to 350 F. Adjust oven rack to middle position.
  14. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide cookie balls between the 2 sheets, spacing them at least 2 inches apart.
  15. Bake until the cookies flatten with a slight dome, and the outer edges start to set yet centers are soft and puffy, 10 to 11 minutes. The centers will feel undone, but they shouldn't be shiny or sticky. DO NOT OVERBAKE or you'll get hard cookies. The cookies will continue to bake after they come out of the oven from the residual heat of the baking sheet.
  16. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for at least 15 minutes before serving. They taste best at room temperature when the cream cheese filling is no longer warm. If you'd like to decorate them with the cream cheese icing, make sure that they've cooled down completely before doing so.
Decorate
  1. In a small bowl, beat together icing ingredients until smooth. Place in a small zip-lock bag & cut a tiny tip off one corner. Drizzle over cookies to create a pattern. Allow icing to set.
Recipe Notes
  • Brion & I found these cookies were best eaten straight out of the FREEZER! I know it seems strange but they are an extremely soft cookie & never really freeze hard. Cold but soft .... Yum!

Oatmeal Fig ‘Drops’ w/ Variations

For many people, figs are a traditional part of Christmas food. When it comes to the best fruits to add to your recipes, figs are probably the most underrated of the group. Not only are these sweet fruits delicious, they’re also incredibly versatile. Their concentrated sweetness is balanced by a complex spicy flavor that makes dried figs exactly the right ingredient for those holiday desserts. Fresh off the tree, dried, stuffed or baked, the fig is a classic fruit, ancient in fact.

We are fast approaching the Christmas season and if you have a sweet tooth, the holiday season is basically synonymous with one thing: cookies! Chewy or crunchy, chocolaty or nutty, flat, round or twisted … a cookie is a cookie. In the most basic terms, a cookie is a sweet, baked, flour based finger food. But it can come in all shapes, sizes, flavors and textures.

Figs seem to always have a way of catching my attention at this time of year. I recall my mother making filled date cookies at Christmas. She would make them in advance of Christmas, tucking them away in an airtight cookie box. When Christmas holidays rolled around and we could nibble on them, the flavors had marinated and they tasted amazing!

The combination of flavors and textures in these oatmeal fig cookies should create some tasty little morsels along with giving variety without fuss.

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Oatmeal Fig Drops w/ Variations
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Oatmeal Base
Raspberry-Fig Filling
Apricot-Fig Filling
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Ingredients
Oatmeal Base
Raspberry-Fig Filling
Apricot-Fig Filling
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Instructions
Oatmeal Base
  1. In a large bowl, cream together margarine & sugar; beat in sour cream & vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine oatmeal, flour, baking powder & salt; gradually stir into creamed mixture until blended. Cover with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or longer.
Raspberry-Fig Filling
  1. In a saucepan, combine figs, raspberries, water, apple juice & sugar; bring to a boil. Once mixture reaches a boil, reduce heat to low & simmer until figs are soft, stirring often.
  2. When figs are soft, the water/apple juice mixture will have cooked off & will be thick & sticky. Remove from heat, place in a bowl & cool to room temperature. If you wish, you can process in a blender to make a smooth paste/filling.
Date Fig Filling
  1. Snip off stem ends of figs & put the figs, dates & almonds into a food processor. Grind to a coarse paste. Stir in remaining date filling ingredients & process until mixed. Set aside.
Apricot Fig Filling
  1. Snip off stem ends of figs & put the figs & apricots into a food processor. Grind to a coarse paste. Stir in remaining apricot filling ingredients & process until mixed. Set aside.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray OR line with paper baking cups, 3 (12 cup capacity) MINI muffin pans.
  2. Remove oatmeal base from refrigerator & divide in thirds. Place one tiny scoop of oatmeal batter in each cup. Create an indentation in the center of each one.
  3. Place a dollop of filling in the center of each indentation, making 12 from each kind of filling. Place another tiny scoop on top of each cookie 'drop' & flatten with a fork.
  4. Bake cookie drops for about 15 minutes or just until they test done with a toothpick inserted.
  5. Place on a wire rack to cool. When cooled you can leave plain or dress up with a bit of icing drizzle if you wish.

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.

Print Recipe
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.