Pepita seeds might not be what you ordinarily think of as chicken coating material, but these nutty, chewy kernels are every bit as tasty and versatile as almonds or pistachios in cooking.
Many people use the words pepitas and pumpkin seeds interchangeably, but they are actually two different things. A pepita is harvested from specific hull-less pumpkin varieties, known as Styrian or Oil Seed pumpkins. Any other variety of pumpkin produces a hulled seed that’s slightly fibrous and less tender.
Pepitas are more versatile in the kitchen than traditional pumpkin seeds since they’re not as tough. Aside from using them as a garnish or a snack, pepitas make good pesto, or as a crust for meat or fish, as a topping on muffins, mixed in granola, baked in focaccia bread or made into brittle.
Crunchy pepita seeds are little powerhouses of nutrition, so using them instead of breadcrumbs along with a light, spicy ‘tempura’ batter to prepare this chicken breast, really takes it from ordinary to special. It’s the whole package …. moist, crisp with the toasty appeal of pepitas.
Chicken Tenders w/ Pepita Seeds
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper & set aside.
In a bowl, combine all tempura batter ingredients (except pepita seeds), whisking until smooth.
Pat chicken tenders dry & add to batter. Turn in mixture to coat evenly. Allow to stand in refrigerator for 10 minutes.
Place whole pepita seeds on a large tray or plate. Lift chicken out of batter & coat evenly with pepita seeds.
Place chicken on baking sheet & bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown & cooked through.
- Alternately, you could cook the chicken on a griddle using a combo of oil & butter.
The flavors of the meal hint of Moroccan cuisine to me. It wasn’t until Brion & I visited Morocco on a holiday one year, that I realized how many of their spices appealed to me.
Moroccan cuisine is very refined because of its interactions and exchanges with other cultures and nations over the centuries. Its dishes are layered with sweet and spicy, earthy and bright flavors that reflect the vast array of spices available in their local markets.
Often referred to as the national dish of Morocco, couscous is made of tiny balls of wheat semolina, steamed so they’re are soft and fluffy. Subtle cumin and ginger spices add an exotic flavor to it.
Pairing apricot and lemon flavors with the chicken breast and serving it over couscous makes this simple meal quite special.
Apricot Lemon Chicken Breast w/ Couscous
Preheat oven to 425 F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Beat egg & water slightly. Stir together baking mix, lemon pepper & garlic powder. Pound chicken breasts gently to achieve uniform thickness. Dip chicken into egg mixture, then coat with baking mix mixture. Place on baking sheet & drizzle with melted butter.
Bake uncovered 20 minutes; turn chicken. Bake about 10 minutes longer until no longer pink inside. While chicken is baking prepare couscous & sauce.
In a saucepan, heat 1 tsp oil; add green onion, cumin, ginger & garlic. Cook & stir for about 3 minutes until green onion is softened.
Add honey. Heat & stir for about 30 seconds until green onion is coated. Add broth. Bring to a boil. Add couscous & second amount of oil. Stir. Cover & remove from heat. Allow to stand for 5 minutes without lifting lid. Fluff with a fork & stir in remaining 3 ingredients.
Apricot Lemon Sauce
In a small saucepan over low heat, combine sauce ingredients, stirring occasionally, until warm.
Place couscous on a serving platter. Top with chicken breasts & drizzle with apricot lemon sauce. Serve.
Although we may change the way we celebrate Easter this year, we can still enjoy some great food. One of the special things about any holiday is the brunch that seems to come with it and Easter is no different. The word itself sounds like coziness.
The practice of creating special breads to celebrate holidays, harvests, religious rites and other occasions worldwide, dates back thousands of years. In some cases, breads aren’t symbolic as much as traditional, baked as a reminder of family, togetherness and celebration. They often contain warm spices like cinnamon or cardamom. Some have a touch of liqueur added to them while others are created in special shapes or have little surprises baked in them.
Cardamom may not get the acclaim of cinnamon, nor does it pop up in recipes as often as ginger, but its flavor pairing capabilities are extensive. This is a flavor that you may love or hate, but for me it is very addictive. Warm, subtly spicy, exotically aromatic, a flavor that transforms both sweet and savory recipes into heavenly dishes.
With some simple snipping and shaping, this cardamom sweet dough turns into adorable bunnies for Easter brunch. Edible table décor!
Cardamom Lime Easter 'Bunnies'
In a small bowl, whisk together yeast , 1 tsp sugar & lukewarm milk. Set aside until yeast mixture begins to form a frothy foam, about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, remaining sugar & salt. Add yeast mixture, melted butter & egg. Knead until dough comes together in a ball & no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Transfer dough to a greased bowl & cover with a tea towel. Set aside in a draft free place until dough doubles in size, about an 1 hour.
In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, lime zest, cardamom & butter. Mix well. Set aside.
In a small bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter & lime juice. Add powdered sugar & mix until glaze consistency. Set aside until buns are baked.
Assemble & Bake
Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide in half; roll each half into a rectangle about 12x10-inches. Sprinkle filling evenly over one of the rectangles. Place the second sheet of pastry on top. Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the pastry & lightly roll with a rolling pin.
With a pizza cutter cut 14 strips. You will use 12 of the strips for 'bunnies' & 2 strips for their tails. To form bunnies, overlap one end of strip over the other to form a loop; bring the end that's underneath up over the top end, letting one end extend on each side to make ears.
Place the shaped 'bunnies' on a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving about 2-3-inches between them as they will expand a bit. Cut each of the remaining strips into 6 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball & place it in the loop to form the tail. Loosely cover the 'bunnies' & let them rise for about 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush bunnies with egg wash & bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven & allow to cool slightly on a cooling rack.
While still slightly warm, brush bunnies with glaze. Sprinkle with lime zest & top tails with whites candies.
- If you prefer your bunnies to be a bit more plump, instead of making 12, just make 8 or 10.
The ultimate Easter bun! Who doesn’t love hot cross buns?! Given the baked good’s long history, legends and superstitions have had ample time to develop and grow around them.
Hot cross buns are inseparably linked to Easter and to Christianity. But in reality, they probably have pre-Christian origins. Cross buns were baked to celebrate ‘Eostre’, the Germanic Goddess after which the season of Easter is said to be named.
Over the years, the bun has evolved and changed. Victorian recipes suggest various glazes to top the bun with after baking, including molasses or a honey/turmeric combo. The buns have become spicier too, with the addition of mace, caraway seeds and even coriander.
While some hot cross buns appear on grocery and bakery shelves as early as New Year’s Day, the sweet bun is usually associated with the end of Lent.
Every year I like to try and make a different version of these traditional, seasonal treats. This year I’m going with a ‘rum raisin‘ idea. Should be good!
Rum & Raisin Hot Cross Buns
Rum & Raisin Filling
In a bowl, combine raisins, warm rum & sugar. Cover with plastic wrap & allow to sit for at least 40 minutes. Strain, discarding liquid.
In a large bowl, combine lukewarm milk, yeast & 1/4 cup sugar. Let stand until mixture is frothy, about 10 minutes.
In a bowl, whisk together 5 1/3 cups flour, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg & allspice. When yeast mixture is ready, add half of the flour mixture to it, beating until just combined. Beat in melted butter, eggs & rum/raisin mixture. Gradually add remaining flour mixture, kneading until smooth dough forms. Add remaining 1/3 cup flour if needed as the dough should not be sticky.
Grease a large bowl, place the dough in it& turn to grease top. Loosely cover & allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Cream Cheese Filling (Balls)
In a shallow dish, combine sugar & cinnamon. Cut cream cheese into 12 cubes. Roll each into a ball shape then roll them in the cinnamon sugar, coating evenly. Divide dough into 12 pieces. Place a cream cheese ball in the center of each piece of dough, pinching to seal seam. Roll each piece of dough into a ball & place in PARCHMENT lined muffin cups. Cover & let stand in a warm, draft-free place for about 20 minutes.
In a small dish, whisk together egg & a Tbsp milk. When buns are ready to bake, brush with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. While the are baking prepare RUM GLAZE & CROSS PASTE.
Rum Glaze & Cross Paste
In a small saucepan, place water, spiced rum & sugar. Over medium heat, bring ingredients to a simmer & allow to bubble gently for 3-5 minutes. The volume of the mixture should drop by at least half. Remove from heat & set aside until ready to use.
In a small dish, whisk together cornstarch, flour, sugar & water until a thick paste forms. You want your paste to be stiff enough to be able to pipe in a clean line, but still manageable.
Brush warm rolls with rum glaze & allow to cool. Using a pastry bag fitted with a piping tip, pipe paste over top of buns to form a cross.
- If you prefer, don't hesitate to make these buns without the cream cheese inside. I'm sure they will be just as good --- they're hot cross buns!!
Today, March 21st, our family honors the memory of my father. He passed away at the age of 92, sixteen years ago. As a teenager, I never realized what a special privilege growing up as a farmer’s daughter really was. Coming home on the school bus and having to do ‘chores’ seemed so boring as opposed to being able to spend after school hours with your friends. As I look back on those times now, it all comes clear as to how treasured and valuable those life lessons were.
To be a successful farmer takes a tremendous amount of strength and courage. I think back to those days with great admiration and appreciation of the special man he was.
If you follow my blog, you’ve probably noticed I love ‘all things stuffed’. I have always been under the impression that ‘cordon bleu’ was a French invention. It seems it actually originated in Switzerland as a schnitzel filled with ham and cheese. The first reference to it in a cookbook came in 1949.
Thrift is often the best catalyst for for culinary invention and as the story goes, this meal originated in a restaurant in Brigg, Switzerland, when two large bookings turned up and the cook did not have enough portions to serve everyone.
The resourceful lady came up with the idea of making schnitzels and filling them with ham and cheese, ensuring there was enough to accommodate both groups. The restaurant owner was delighted with the cook’s creation and offered her ‘Le Cordon Bleu’ (the blue ribbon) used in France to recognize an excellent cook.
Being extremely modest, the cook said she did not need a blue ribbon, but suggested instead that it would be the ideal name for her invention.
Stuffing pork chops elevates them from ordinary to a special meal. It would have been a meal my Dad would just have loved.
SPECIAL MEMORIES OF OUR WONDERFUL FATHER TODAY
Pork Chops Cordon Bleu
Slice pork chops horizontally throughout the middle. Insert a slice each of cheese & bacon. Seal edges with a toothpick.
On a plate, whisk together egg & milk. On a separate plate, combine Panko, salt & pepper.
Season pork chops with extra salt & pepper, then lightly dust in flour. Dip in egg mixture. Immediately dip into Panko, pressing into pork chops.
In a skillet, heat oil & brown pork chops on both sides until golden. Transfer to a baking pan with a rack & continue baking until cooked, approximately 30-40 minutes.
Nice to serve with a steamed green vegetable, French fries, mashed potatoes or rice.
HAPPY ST PATRICK’S DAY!
It’s that time of year when everything goes green in honor of Ireland’s patron saint. What was once simply a religious feast day back in the 17th century has somehow evolved into a grand celebration of Irish culture.
Of all the Irish myths that exist, the story of the leprechauns and their pots of gold, seems to have infiltrated American culture the most. There are many old European stories describing fictitious creatures that hoard treasures. In Irish folklore, fairies put a pot of gold at the end of each rainbow with leprechaun’s guarding it.
These moist cupcakes use fresh avocado in the batter then are filled with raspberry filling & topped with a lime cream cheese frosting. I think they definitely make a real ‘pot of gold’ treasure fitting for St Patrick’s Day.
Pot of Gold Cupcakes
Lime Cream Cheese Frosting
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line muffin pan with 8 cupcake liners.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder & sugar. Add butter to dry ingredients & rub in until it resembles crumbs.
In a blender. place avocado, egg, milk & lime juice; blend until creamy & smooth. Stir into flour mixture until JUST mixed.
Divide batter between the 8 paper cups. Bake 20-25 minutes or until they test done. Remove from oven & allow to cool before filling & frosting.
In a bowl, using a hand mixer, cream avocado with butter & cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar. Once all the sugar is incorporated, add the lime juice & vanilla. Add milk as needed until frosting is light & fluffy. Beat on medium spread for 5 minutes.
When cupcakes are cool, cut a cone shape out of the center of each cupcakes with a sharp knife. Fill a piping bag, fitted with an opening that the raspberry will pass through. Pipe filling into each cupcake. Cut a small piece (of cake) from your cake 'cones' & place over filling.
Fill another piping bag (fitted with a star end). Pipe a swirl of lime frosting on top of each cupcake. Sprinkle your little 'pots of gold' with some gold pearls & lime zest if you wish.
Cornbread is one of those culinary creations that pairs well with almost anything. Over the years, I have prepared so many cornbread ‘pairings’, I have lost count. Needless to say, I love ‘everything corn’.
When it comes to chili, the version made with ground beef usually comes to mind. Although, Brion & I enjoy the original, this shrimp chili is a nice change up for us seafood lovers.
These little cornbread ‘cakes’ have only a hint of honey. This makes them a good compliment to the spicy chili as opposed to the sweeter, dessert version of cornbread (which, of course is wonderful too!)
March seems like a good month to still enjoy a bowl of chili before our thoughts turn to some lighter meals for the spring & summer.
Shrimp Chili w/ Cornbread
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms & garlic; cook, stirring for 30 seconds.
Stir in zucchini; cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Stir in spices & salt; cook for 20 seconds. Pour in tomatoes with their juice; bring to a simmer. Remove from heat. Stir in shrimp & cilantro. Pour into a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, whisk cornmeal, flour, baking powder & salt. In another bowl, whisk together milk, oil, egg & honey until smooth. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring only until just moistened.
You can either drop heaping tablespoons of the cornbread batter over the shrimp mixture OR bake it in greased individual pans.
Bake until the cornbread is golden brown (& the filling is bubbling) about 40-45 minutes if baked as a casserole. If your cornbread is baked on its own, test the cakes for doneness after about 15 minutes.
Garnish with grated cheddar & sliced green onions before serving.
- We enjoy the addition of some black beans in this chili as well.
Pairing chocolate and cream cheese has long been a favorite of bakeries. Brownies come in a variety of forms and may be either fudgy or cakey, depending on their density.
Arguably, one of North America’s major contributions to the dessert world, the first printed mention of them appeared in the Sears Roebuck & Co. Catalog of 1897, advertising ‘fancy crackers, biscuits, cakes, brownies …. in 1 LB. papers’.
Brownies were widely baked in the 1920’s and by 1931, the first edition of The Joy of Cooking included a recipe for ‘fudge squares’.
There are literally hundreds of types of brownies as well as ways to eat them. Cut them up to make parfaits or add a dollop of whipped cream, berries or a sprinkle of dried fruit and nuts or maybe some ice cream.
My choice today are some blueberry cream cheese brownies that consist of four layers. With the use of the Lor Ann Company’s blueberry emulsion, that wonderful blueberry flavor is intensified. These are brownies at their best!
Blueberry Cream Cheese Brownies
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a 9 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
In a bowl, combine all oatmeal layer ingredients until crumbly. Pat into prepared pan & bake for about 8 minutes.
In a bowl, beat cream cheese & sugar until fluffy. Add egg; beat well then add milk & blueberry emulsion & combine well. Set aside in refrigerator until chocolate batter is prepared.
In a microwave safe dish, carefully melt chocolate then add butter. Stir until combined & slightly cool; add beaten egg & sugar. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder & salt. Add to chocolate mixture alternately with combined milk & vanilla. Fold in walnuts. Carefully spread batter over baked oatmeal crust.
Pour cheesecake filling over chocolate layer & carefully smooth out. Bake 20-25 minutes or until chocolate & cheesecake batters test done. Remove from oven & cool on wire cooling rack.
In a small saucepan, combine cornstarch, sugar & salt. Add water & blueberries; cook until clear & bubbling. Remove from heat; add lemon zest (if using) & blueberry emulsion. Stir & allow to cool.
When brownies are cooled cut into serving size pieces. Spoon blueberry topping over brownie cheesecake & serve.
- Don't hesitate to add a bit more Blueberry Emulsion for a stronger flavor if you wish.
- Just for fun, I made some of the brownies as individuals to see what they would look like.
If you can’t have a tropical vacation at this time, why not enjoy some of the tropics in the form of dessert!
You may never have thought fruits were destined for you’re roasting pan. Although it does demand a bit of time and work, the return is worth it. Try it once and you will do it over and over again.
Fruit is a highly versatile item and its uses go far beyond a mere snack. During the summer months, grilled fruit is often a tasty end to a barbeque. Grilling caramelizes the fruits natural sugars and brings out the sweetness. During winter or colder months, continue the same process indoors by roasting and broiling fruit in the oven.
For the tarts on this blog, I roasted the fruit in the oven with a bit of extra butter and brown sugar as well as some spices to enhance the flavor. Another idea would be to arrange fruit slices on the filled tarts and sprinkle them with a bit of sugar. Then place tarts under the broiler until sugar bubbles and browns …. your choice!
Roasted Tropical Fruit Tarts
In a bowl combine butter & sugar, beat until light & fluffy. In another bowl whisk together flour & baking powder & add to butter/sugar mixture. Blend together.
Divide pastry between 6 individual tart pans. Using your fingertips, evenly press the dough into pans. Place on a baking sheet & blind bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven & prepare custard & fruit.
Vanilla Cream Custard
In a small saucepan, bring milk to a simmer. In a bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch & salt. Add egg; whisk until blended.
Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg mixture. Return to same saucepan; whisk over medium heat until sauce thickens & boils, about 5 minutes. Whisk in vanilla & remove from heat to cool.
Roasted Tropical Fruit
Preheat oven to 450 F. Peel & thinly slice fruit.
In a small saucepan, melt butter & add brown sugar, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom & vanilla; mix well.
Line a baking sheet with foil paper. Place sliced fruit on it & pour butter/sugar mixture over it. Gently turn fruit over to make sure all is evenly coated.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes, flipping over about half way through. The fruit is done when it turns a rich golden & begins to brown BEFORE it starts to blacken.
Place pastry shells on a serving platter. Divide vanilla custard between tart shells. Top with roasted tropical fruit & serve. Any extra fruit can be enjoyed just as a dish of fruit or with yogurt.