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.

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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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.

Plum Blossom Pastries

Its getting to be late summer/early fall and its ‘plum season’. Plums are easy to forget it seems. They’re not the most popular of summer fruits. Plums aren’t exotic as the fig or small and cute like blueberries. Plums are just plums and we should not overlook this humble fruit. They are actually quite special …. sweet & tart, not too big and not too small.

This particular dessert uses ‘plum butter’ which is simply a concentrated plum spread made by cooking plums down to a spreadable paste. These ‘cookies’ are using ready made puff pastry to keep life simple.

Puff pastry isn’t just for croissants. Arguably, its the foundation of many, many pastries as we know them today. Its a technique that lets you enjoy warm, flaky layers of dough instead of literally everything being a ‘biscuit’.

Using this spicy filling in the puff pastry dough really added a whole new dimension.

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Plum Blossom Pastries
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Course dessert
Cuisine French, German
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Spicy Plum Butter
Course dessert
Cuisine French, German
Servings
Ingredients
Spicy Plum Butter
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Instructions
Spiced Plum Butter
  1. In a large saucepan, combine juice & plums. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat & simmer 30 minutes or until tender. Place plum mixture in a food processor & process until smooth. Press pureed mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids.
  2. Combine plum mixture, sugar & spices in pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered until mixture becomes a thick paste. Cool. Any extra not used for these cookies can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 months.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Thaw pastry. Preheat oven to 400 F. From parchment paper, cut 9 pieces each about 4-inch square. In a small dish, whisk together egg & water to make egg wash.
  2. Using a sharp knife, cut pastry into 9 squares. Taking one square at a time, place on parchment paper squares. Brush edges with egg wash.
  3. Place about 1 tsp of the spiced plum butter in the middle of the pastry square. Bring the 4 corners together, then repeat for the sides.
  4. Shape pastry into a ball then flip. Lightly press the ball with your fingers. With a sharp knife, cut each piece into 12 equal parts from the center towards the outside edge. Leave the center part intact. Each part will become a pedal. Twist petals 45 degrees, all to the same side. The filling should be showing.
  5. Bake for about 15 minutes or until pastry is golden. Remove from oven & allow to cool. Dust with powdered sugar if you prefer.
Recipe Notes
  • Making the plum butter ahead of time definitely speeds up the cookie prep.
  • Alternately, you can probably find a nice jar of plum butter at a deli store & just add your own spices to it. Works too!

Raspberry Souffle

Soufflé is a light, airy cake that originated in France. In the dessert department, they are a hallmark of French culinary tradition.

The word itself comes from ‘souffler’, meaning ‘to breathe’ or ‘to puff’, which is what the egg whites do to the base once they hit the oven’s heat.

A soufflé has two main components, a flavorful base and glossy beaten egg whites that are gently folded together just before baking. It somewhat resembles angel food cake, but even lighter.

This billowy creation can be served as a sweet dessert or a savory meal. Sweet soufflés make spectacular desserts with fruit, chocolate or liquors. Savory soufflés usually incorporate cheese, vegetables, meat or seafood and are appropriate for a light meal or as a first course.

Soufflés are found all over France, with every region applying its own ‘spin’. This raspberry soufflé, with its nice pink color, makes a great Valentine dessert idea for that special meal.

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Raspberry Souffle
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
Ingredients
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Instructions
Raspberry Puree
  1. In a saucepan, combine raspberries, orange juice & sugar. Cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or until sugar dissolves & raspberries have released their juices. Remove from heat.
  2. Strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl & using the back of a wooden spoon, push excess pulp through sieve. Return juice to the saucepan.
  3. Combine cornstarch with water & add it to raspberry mixture. Bring to a boil, allowing puree to thicken to a custard consistency. Remove from heat & allow to cool.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place an oven tray in the oven to preheat. Brush 4 ramekins with melted butter & dust with sugar. Set aside.
Raspberry Soufflé
  1. Using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites in a medium bowl until soft peaks form adding 1 tablespoon of sugar while mixing to get a glossy texture. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the raspberry mixture, starting with half of the quantity.
  2. Once the egg whites have been fully incorporated into the raspberry mixture, pour evenly among prepared ramekins & fill them. Run your spatula around the top of each ramekin just above the soufflé mixture to remove the extras & clean the ramekins.
  3. Place soufflés on the preheated hot tray & bake for 15-17 minutes or until puffed & cooked through. Remove from oven & place on serving plates. Dust with powdered sugar & serve immediately.

Roast Turkey Breast w/ Fig & Sausage Stuffing

HAPPY THANKSGIVING DAY!

The second Monday of October has been the day Canada has celebrated Thanksgiving since 1957. You might say it is synonymous with autumn & the harvest season. For us, its a time to be thankful for having the privilege of being Canadian and able to live in such a wonderful country.

Autumn is not to be taken lightly, its a magical season that is often overlooked. The green around us gets replaced by flaming oranges, bright reds and golden yellows. Much like the leaves swirling in the crisp autumn breeze, we are reminded that Mother Nature has an incredible influence on our lives.

This year has been like no other in most of our lives. Without a doubt the world is experiencing a health crises of a huge magnitude. I doubt whether many aspects of the life we once new, will ever be the same again. Some time ago I read an article that was posted on Facebook. When things are verbalized it seems to make them unmistakably clear. I’ve always believed there is a reason for everything even if we don’t know what it is at the time. I want to re-post this article as I thought it is certainly worth reading and giving some thought to.

We fell asleep in one world and woke up in another * Suddenly Disney is out of magic * Paris is no longer romantic * New York doesn’t stand up anymore * The Chinese wall is no longer a fortress and Mecca is empty * Hugs & kisses suddenly become weapons, and not visiting parents and friends becomes an act of love * Suddenly you realize that power, beauty and money are worthless, and can’t get you the oxygen you’re fighting for * The world continues its life and it is beautiful. It only puts humans in cages. I think its sending us a message * ‘You are not necessary. The air, earth, water and sky without you are fine. When you come back, remember that you are my guests. Not my masters’.

For our Thanksgiving meal today, I am making a turkey breast roast. The turkey breast is deboned, butterflied and pounded to an even thickness, then filled with stuffing. Usually it is tied with kitchen twine and roasted in a low and slow oven.

This particular stuffing contains figs, apples and some Italian sausage. I think it should make for a good Thanksgiving meal.

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Roast Turkey Breast w/ Fig & Sausage Stuffing
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, simmer figs in orange juice about 4 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, melt butter & add apple, celery, onions, herbs & sausage, breaking up the sausage into small pieces. Sauté for about 10 minutes until fruit/vegetables are soft & sausage is browned.
  3. Add the nuts & figs with any liquid remaining & cook for another 2 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, add the sausage mixture to the bread cubes & grated parmesan. Toss until quite moist & well combined; season to taste with salt & pepper
  5. Lay plastic wrap on your work surface. Butterfly turkey breasts & carefully pound until you acquire an even thickness. Even though you are using a boneless turkey breast there is that piece of hard grizzle still holding the breast halves together. I like to remove it but still keep the skin in one piece. When you fold the breast to cover the stuffing everything stays together nicely. It makes it real easy when its cooked & you are ready to slice.
  6. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  7. Spoon stuffing on one side & press down slightly. Using the plastic wrap, flip the other half of the turkey breast over stuffing. Tuck in any stuffing that falls out. Tie roast with KITCHEN TWINE or leave as is. Place the turkey breast, on a foil lined baking pan (not glass).
  8. Brush with HERB BUTTER. Roast 2-2 1/2 hours. Each oven roasts different so test in a few places with a meat thermometer to be sure.
  9. Cover breasts loosely with foil for 20 minutes before slicing. remove twine & carve 1-inch slices & serve with extra stuffing if you wish.
Recipe Notes
  • This recipe will be enough for Thanksgiving dinner as well as leftovers for a few more meals depending on the amount of dinner guests you have.
  • I'm a stuffing lover, so you will notice there is ample stuffing in this recipe.

Rhubarb Pastries

Here we are at that time of year when rhubarb makes an appearance once again. As always, if you read my blog, you know I can’t resist featuring numerous rhubarb recipes during its growing season. The question is … do you love it or hate it? It demands an opinion. Is it fruit or a vegetable? Is it red or is it green? Doesn’t matter …. rhubarb is rhubarb. It is what it is and doesn’t care if we love it or leave it.

Today, I have made some rhubarb pastries. The tartness is there, as it should be, but is mellowed a bit by the velvety cream cheese so the sharpness is balanced. The night before just put the frozen puff pastry in the fridge to defrost. Make up the rhubarb compote and cream cheese mixture so they can chill overnight. The next morning its nothing more than a quick assembly job before you are ready to bake them.

Great little ‘upscale’ breakfast pastry!

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Rhubarb Pastries
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, European
Keyword rhubarb danish
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, European
Keyword rhubarb danish
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Rhubarb Compote
  1. In a small pot, place rhubarb, orange juice, sugar, cinnamon, anise, vanilla & ginger. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low; simmering for about 10 minutes. Rhubarb should be tender but still hold its shape. Set aside to cool completely.
Cream Cheese Filling
  1. In a bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, egg yolk, salt & vanilla together until well combined. Store in fridge until chilled. As with the compote, the cream cheese bakes better in these when it is chilled.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Lay puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface & use a pizza cutter to create 16 small triangles (first cutting eight rectangles & then splitting them into 2 triangles each). Spread each triangle with a thin layer of cream cheese mixture & top with some rhubarb compote. Starting at the long end, roll each triangle into a crescent shape. Transfer pastries to a parchment lined baking sheet with space in between each one.
  3. Refrigerate pastries for 10 minutes then beat together egg white & water. Brush the surface of pastry with egg wash & bake 12-15 minutes or until golden. Allow to rest on baking tray for 5 minutes, then move to a cooling rack.
Topping
  1. In a bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, extract & milk. Drizzle over danish & garnish with toasted almond slices. Serve warm.
Recipe Notes
  • Usually puff pastry is packaged containing 2 sheets. I only wanted to make one but you will definitely have enough of the cream cheese & rhubarb fillings to make both sheets if you wish.

Sweet Potato & Clementine Loaf Cake

Vegetables may seem like unusual ingredients to use in baked goods, but this style of cooking is actually the perfect combination of savory comfort and earthy, wholesome flavor.

I know this isn’t a new concept. We have all eaten our fair share of zucchini bread and carrot cake but if you haven’t tried using sweet potato in baking, you should.

The naturally sweet, super-creamy ingredient can go way beyond the classic Thanksgiving casserole dish. Sweet or savory, sweet potatoes are versatile magic-makers. Not only will they add a pop of color but they can reduce the need for some of the expected flour, eggs and/or sugar as well as help in retaining moisture to keep baking from drying out.

In this loaf cake, I paired the sweet potato with some clementine orange, resulting in a real nice flavor!

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Sweet Potato & Clementine Loaf Cake
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Candied Clementines
Cake
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Candied Clementines
Cake
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Instructions
Candied Clementine
  1. Thinly slice clementine orange into 1/4-inch rounds. Remove any seeds. Boil sugar & water in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, then carefully add slices. Simmer until slices look slightly translucent, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat; lay candied slices on a wire rack & reserve syrup for cake batter.
Cake
  1. Prick unpeeled small sweet potato several times with a fork. Microwave on high until tender, turning halfway through, 5-8 minutes. Allow to cool about 20 minutes. Cut in half & scoop into a small bowl. Mash until smooth. Reserve 1/3 cup for cake. The rest can be used for something else or eaten as is.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line or spray a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan.
  3. Rub 1/2 cup sugar & orange zest in a medium bowl with your hands to release natural oils. Whisk in flour, baking powder & salt.
  4. In large bowl, whisk eggs, oil, 1/3 cup mashed sweet potato, orange juice & reserved candied clementine syrup. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Scrape into prepared loaf pan & smooth top.
  5. Bake 35-40 minutes or until tests done. Cover loosely with foil if browning too quickly. Allow loaf to cool for 10 minutes in pan; remove to a rack to cool completely.
Glaze
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, marmalade & lemon juice. Brush loaf with glaze, then decorate with candied clementine slices.
Recipe Notes
  • Clementine rind is a little to bitter for our liking so I just removed it after it was candied & used the flesh.

Chocolate Cupcakes in Orange Peel Cups

With Victoria Day week-end upon us, many people will be thinking of outdoor events. For some reason, food just tastes better when it is cooked over a campfire (or barbecue).

To date, no one seems to know who actually started toasting marshmallows on a stick, over a campfire. S’mores have been a camp tradition ever since the recipe first appeared in the 1927 edition of the Girl Scout Handbook. No doubt it was given its name ….. short for ‘some more’.

It seems there are endless campfire dessert concoctions such as: dessert pizza, apple pie foil packets, monkey bread, pineapple upside-down cake foil packets, walnut chocolate burritos, cinnamon buns in orange peel cups, etc., etc.

Since Brion & I are not inclined to go camping, I baked these in the oven. The orange peels infuse the chocolate with a fragrant, citrus flavor. Nice!

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Chocolate Cupcakes in Orange Peel Cups
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Instructions
Oranges & Cake
  1. Cut oranges in half. Using a grapefruit knife, remove pulp from each half. Juice the pulp & reserve 1 cup for the cake mix.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, oil & 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice. Mix until batter has no lumps.
  3. Place the orange cups into a muffin tin & fill with about 1/4 cup each of the chocolate batter. Bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to cool.
Topping
  1. In a bowl, blend cream cheese, vanilla & orange zest with a hand mixer until smooth. Add butter & mix on medium-high for a couple of minutes. Add powdered sugar & blend until topping is uniformly smooth. Place a dollop of topping on each dessert.
Recipe Notes

If you wish to bake these desserts over a campfire:

  • Wrap each orange loosely in aluminium foil, taking care to keep the oranges upright.
  • Place the wrapped oranges on the edge of the camp-fire, out of the direct flame but close enough to the embers so the cakes will bake.
  • After 25 - 30 minutes remove the cakes from the heat and carefully unwrap. You should see cooked cake peeking out of the orange cup. Leave to cool for 15 minutes before adding a dollop of topping or just eat as is.

Papaya-Stuffed Chicken Breast with Basmati Rice

Something that was quite apparent to Brion and I when we visited Cuba last year, was that pork and chicken were their favorite meats. It is said that Cuban food reflects the Cuban spirit. A hearty appetite for sweetness and the richness of life, respect for tradition and spiced with a spark of adventure. Although papaya is native to the tropical areas of Mexico as well as Central and South America, it is now cultivated in most countries having a tropical climate. The fruit goes by several names such as pawpaw, papaye (French), fruta bomba or lechosa (Spanish).

It is unclear as to how rice became central to Cuban cuisine, but for a Cuban, a meal without rice is simply not complete. Basmati rice is a unique strain of rice often associated with Asian and Indian cuisine as it originated in India. Characterized by its light nutty flavor and floral aroma, Basmati makes a good choice to pair with fish or chicken dishes. When cooked it retains its individual, non-sticky grains which allow sauces to coat well. Both brown and white varieties are available but brown will give a much deeper flavor.


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Papaya-Stuffed Chicken Breast with Basmati Rice

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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Cuban, Moroccan

Servings

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Instructions
Chicken & Rice
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

  2. Using the tip of a sharp boning knife, cut a pocket in each chicken breast through a 2-inch slit in the side. Place papaya slices into each chicken breast & sprinkle with cinnamon. Dip each breast into melted butter then into cracker crumbs.

  3. Heat 1 Tbsp of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Place chicken breasts in skillet & brown about 5 minutes on each side. Place browned breasts on baking sheet.

  4. Bake for about 20 minutes, then flip over & continue to bake until chicken is no longer pink in center about 20 minutes more. Meanwhile, bring rice & water to a boil in a saucepan. Cover; simmer until rice is tender & liquid is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes.

Pineapple Sauce
  1. In skillet that was used to brown chicken, melt 1 Tbsp butter scraping up any brown bits. Stir in orange juice, pineapple, brown sugar & all spices. Reduce to medium & simmer until reduced, about 30 minutes. Reduce heat to low & continue to simmer until sauce is thickened. Serve the chicken breasts over rice with pineapple sauce spooned over top.

Kumquat & Walnut Stuffed Chicken Breast

Kumquats are believed to have originated in China with their earliest historical mention being around the 12th century. Orange in color, this small bite-sized fruit can be eaten skin and all. The peel is the sweetest part of the fruit and the sourness comes from the pulp, seeds and juice.

Unlike it’s citrus kin, kumquats are able to withstand low temperatures and frost. A small evergreen shrub that can also be hydrophytic, which means they can grow in aquatic environments, and the fruits will drift towards the shore during harvest season. Kumquats are in season January thru April.

Commonly cultivated in Asia, the Middle East, parts of Europe and the southern United States. They can be used in every imaginable combination including pies, cookies, smoothies, ice cream, marmalade, marinades, salsa and vinaigrette. My choice today is in a stuffing for chicken breast. The combination of kumquats and orange tastes very unique.

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Kumquat & Walnut Stuffed Chicken Breast
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Instructions
  1. Wash & chop kumquats (do not peel). In a small bowl, combine with walnuts, onion & pepper.
  2. Between two pieces of plastic wrap, pound chicken breasts to an even thickness. Spoon half of the filling on each breast. Fold over to encase filling; secure with picks if necessary. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Set out 3 shallow dishes. In one combine bread crumbs, orange zest & parsley; fill another with orange juice & in third beat the egg with water. Dip each stuffed breast carefully in orange juice, then in bread crumb mixture to coat, then in beaten egg & again in bread crumbs. Place coated breasts, seam side down, on a lightly buttered baking pan. Drizzle with melted butter.
  4. Bake, covered, 30 minutes. Uncover & bake 10 more minutes or until chicken is cooked through.