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
Turkey Breast w/ Fruity Savory Stuffing
In a small bowl, combine dates, apricots, raisins, apple & orange juice & zest; season with spices & mix well. Set aside to marinate.
In a saucepan, sauté onion, celery, garlic, mushrooms & seasonings in margarine. Remove from heat.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Place any extra savory stuffing in a buttered casserole & bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is lightly toasted.
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.
- 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.
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.
Pork Tenderloin w/ Bulgur Apricot Stuffing
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.
In a large bowl, whisk together egg & spices. Add almonds, scallions & reserved bulgur & apricots; mix to combine.
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.
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.
For the blog picture, I opened our whole tenderloin before slicing to show how nice this filling is. These flavors are so good!
Today, March 28th is the birth date of my mother. Her imprint on my life was huge and I will forever miss her. I read an article recently which I would like to share with you today. It read:
‘I’ve met two kinds of strong women. The first kind is snippy, closed off and only too happy to point out when something isn’t up to their standards. The second kind is like a majestic tree with roots firmly planted and arms open wide. They plant and nurture the seeds of the future and parts of them are passed on through the generations’. My mother was definitely the second type of woman.
When I was thinking about what I wanted to post today, my mind drifted to the recipe archive that lives in my head, eventually making its way to the yeast breads. This is an area my mother had mastered down to a science.
Bread is such a staple food in the diet of most populations and will have featured heavily in most people’s childhoods. This explains why it is one of those smells that evokes such strong memories, particularly of family, childhood and comfort.
I love yeast breads that have spices and dried fruits in them. I recall a combination I had used in another way sometime back so I decided to see if I could make it work in my bread today.
WONDERFUL MEMORIES OF OUR BEAUTIFUL MOTHER!
Moroccan Spiced Fruit Bread
In a small bowl, combine fruit, juice & spices. Set aside to marinate.
In a small dish, heat milk to lukewarm. Add yeast & 1 tsp sugar; let sit for 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup melted butter, sour cream & egg. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine.
In another bowl, whisk together flour & salt. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture 1 cup at a time, combining after each addition. Once all flour has been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes.
Lightly grease the large bowl, place dough in it & cover with plastic wrap & a tea towel. Allow to rest for at least one hour, in a draft-free place until doubled in volume.
Punch dough down & place on a lightly floured surface. With your hand, pat & shape the dough into a rectangle 14 X 12-inches in size & about 1/2-inch thick. Using a ruler & a pastry wheel or sharp knife, cut the rectangle into 5 strips. Cut each strip into diamonds about 2-inches long. With a pastry brush, lightly butter tops of 'diamonds' as well as the bottom & sides of a bundt pan with the melted butter.
Arrange a layer of diamonds side by side in a ring on the bottom of the bundt pan. Divide fruit mixture in half & sprinkle half over diamonds in pan. Repeat with another layer of buttered diamonds & sprinkle with remaining fruit. Top with last buttered diamonds, arranging each successive layer so that it fits over the spaces left in the previous ring.
Don't concern that the diamonds do not fill all the available space; as they rise & bake they will expand. Cover bundt pan with plastic wrap & a tea towel & allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in volume.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake bread for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown. To test for doneness, turn bread out & rap the bottom sharply with your knuckles. The bread should sound hollow; if it doesn't, return it to the pan & bake for 5-10 minutes longer. When baked, turn out on a wire rack to cool slightly.
In a small bowl, beat together drizzle ingredients until smooth, adding only enough milk to make preferred drizzle consistency. Spread or drizzle over warm fruit bread & sprinkle with reserved orange zest.
No other spice more completely captures the essence of the exotic. Cardamom’s complex flavor is difficult to describe. There’s nothing subtle about cardamom, so when used in all but sparing amounts it will dominate whatever its paired with. Used properly, it elevates sweet and savory dishes, adding layers of flavor.
A versatile spice, in that it can be used in everything from desserts to main courses. Relatively expensive, coming in after saffron and pure vanilla, but well worth the expense.
Today, I’m back to ‘recipe development’. My plan is to create some tender, little orange cakes and topping them with a fruit and spice mixture reminiscent of flavors from Morocco.
Cardamom Fruit Cakes with Rum Sauce
Fruit Topping Mixture
In a small bowl, combine dates, apricots, raisins, apple & remaining orange juice & zest from cake ingredients. Season with cardamom & mace; mix well. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter 6 custard baking cups. Divide fruit between them; covering bottom & pressing a bit up the sides. Set aside.
In a small bowl, beat together eggs & sugar until thick; gradually beat in oil. In a small dish, combine flour, baking powder & salt. Stir flour into egg/sugar mixture, then add orange juice. Combine well then add zest & vanilla.
Pour the batter over fruit in custard cups, dividing it evenly between them. Bake 15-20 minutes or until they test done with a toothpick. Allow the cakes to cool for about 5 minutes, then invert onto a rack to finish cooling. When ready to serve, place on individual dessert plates & drizzle with warm rum sauce.
In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter. Combine sugar & cornstarch; stir into melted butter. Slowly pour in milk, stirring frequently until mixture begins to lightly boil. Continue cooking until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & stir in rum extract. Serve warm.
Chicken is incredibly versatile and none more so than chicken breast that can be stuffed with endless filling choices. In 2014, Brion and I spent a brief part of our vacation in Morocco. At that point I became aware of some of the wonderful ‘flavors of Morocco’. Since then I have incorporated them into numerous recipes.
Moroccan cuisine has been influenced by Morocco’s interactions and exchanges with other cultures and nations over the centuries. Typically a mix of Mediterranean, Arabic, Andalusian and most importantly Berber. Morocco produces a large range of Mediterranean fruits and vegetables and even some tropical ones. Spices are used extensively – some of which are imported and others are home-grown.
The dishes that likely inspired the stuffed chicken breast idea were Chicken Cordon Bleu and Chicken Kiev. They appeared in the United States in the early 1960’s. Considered trendy dishes at the time, thus being served in fashionable, high class restaurants.
Recipes are not invented but rather evolve over time. Culinary evidence confirms roulades or roll ups of meat composed of veal or chicken were favored in centuries past by several cultures and cuisines. Mostly notably – Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Italy.
Today’s MOROCCAN STYLE CHICKEN BREAST is a meal we always seem to enjoy and it certainly doesn’t require a lot fuss to prepare.
Moroccan Style Chicken Breast
A spicy sweet and sour blend of chicken, fruit & Moroccan spices.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine dates, apricots, raisins, apple & orange juice in a small bowl. Season with spices; mix well.
Place chicken breasts in a heavy freezer bag. Pound breasts gently until about 1/4" thick. Mound some of the fruit filling on flattened breasts & fold over, tucking in the ends. Place a small amount of filling on the bottom of the baking dish & lay breasts on top. Any extra filling can be placed around & on top of chicken as well.
Cover with foil, bake 15 minutes. Remove foil; continue to bake another 15 minutes or until chicken tests done.
Christmas without making a few candy treats just wouldn’t seem right. Even if its not at the top of your baking list, they are just so handy to have on hand to add to those holiday gift trays.
There was only one very special candy treat my mother made at Christmas that I remember. A small group of ‘neighbor’ ladies in our farming community had formed the ‘Willonor Club’. It wasn’t just to gather for coffee and chit chat. They were all very hands on women that enjoyed ‘networking’ about a variety of subjects. Each meeting would be hosted by one the members in her home. They would always have a specific focus to learn or do something new. One of the ladies had learned how to make dipped chocolates with her church group. She, in turn taught the Willonor Club members. Now these were not just your average chocolates. They looked every bit as professional as the ‘Pot of Gold’ brand but tasted so much better. None of this sugary sweetness — just a creamy, not overly sweet center, covered in a milk chocolate. Yum!! I came across the recipe in her little file box, written in her lovely handwriting and there I was, reliving the ‘taste of a memory’ by just reading it.
I decided to limit this candy blog to three, tried and true favorites. They are KAHLUA BALLS * PUMPKIN CREAM CHEESE TRUFFLES * APRICOT DATE BALLS. Easy to make, taste great and freeze well — perfect!
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles
In a large bowl, combine cookie crumbs, walnuts & powdered sugar. Add Kahlua & corn syrup; mix well. Shape into 48 balls & roll in desired toppings such as cocoa powder, fine colored sugar, sprinkles, finely crushed walnuts or oreo crumbs. Chill overnight then either freeze or store in refrigerator in an airtight container.
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles
In a double boiler over medium-low heat, melt the 55 grams of white chocolate. Transfer to a bowl. Add remaining ingredients & beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Cover & chill until solid enough to roll into balls. Once mixture can be formed, roll into 16 balls.
Line a sheet tray with parchment paper. Chop almonds in almond bark then carefully melt in double boiler. Transfer to a small, deep bowl. Drop a few balls at a time into melted chocolate. Working quickly, spoon chocolate over truffle to coat. Using a small spoon or fork, lift truffle out of chocolate & shake off excess, transfer to prepared sheet. Chill truffles until chocolate is completely set. Place in an airtight container & either freeze or store in refrigerator.
Apricot - Date Balls
In a saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar, apricots, dates & eggs. Cook over low heat for 6-8 minutes or until mixture pulls away from the sides of saucepan, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & stir in walnuts & vanilla. Allow to cool until mixture can be handled. Line an airtight container with wax paper. Shape apricot/date mixture into 30 balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Place in container & either freeze or store in refrigerator.
- If preferred, use all gingersnap crumbs instead of graham crumbs in the original recipe for Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles.
It seems, we humans have a unique way of coming away from an experience or adventure, forgetting the things we want to and remembering others.
After visiting Morocco in 2014, I have many very interesting memories from our trip. One thing travel does well, is it teaches us so much more than can be learned any other way. On that trip we were travelling with the Trafalgar company so our experience was made exceptional.
Many cultures have influenced Moroccan cooking. For some reason, some of these flavors have resonated with me and I seem to find a way to use them no matter what kind of meat I’m cooking.
This dish celebrates the sweetly spiced seasonings of Morocco which pair so beautifully with fruit and couscous. I hope you will try the recipe and enjoy it as much as we did.
Fruited Pork Tenderloin with Moroccan Spices
A beautiful presentation with exceptional flavor pairings.
Heat oil in small saucepan. Add chopped green onion, cumin & ginger; saute until onion is tender. Stir in honey & add broth; bring to a boil. Remove from heat & add couscous, margarine, salt & pepper. Let stand 5 minutes then fluff with fork adding a little more margarine if necessary.
Chop dates & apricots. Shred apple. In a small bowl combine all filling ingredients adding 1/2 cup prepared couscous.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Trim pork tenderloin & remove 'silver skin', then butterfly. Place a piece of plastic wrap over meat & flatten to even thickness. Sprinkle meat generously with salt & pepper. Line the inside of the tenderloin with fresh spinach leaves. Spread filling mixture evenly on top of spinach leaves. Roll up in 'jelly roll' fashion; place on lightly oiled foil paper on top of oven broiler pan. Rub Fig Balsamic dressing on outside of tenderloin.
Place stuffed tenderloin in oven & bake for 20-25 minutes or until they have reached an internal temperature of 155 F. (68 C), then remove from oven. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. During this time the internal temperature will rise to 160 F (71 C).