Turkey Zucchini Kebabs

The kebab idea is often said to have had huge impact in global cuisine, starting in the Middle East where initially they were simply grilled meat heavily seasoned. There are two particular varieties which those of us in the West are particularly familiar, being shish kebab and doner kebab.

Shish kebab is by far, the more commonly known term and while we usually see these dishes prepared with the vegetables and meat on the same skewer, they were initially done separately.

Almost every culture has its own take on skewered meat, but one theme connects them all …. whether simple or intricate, kebabs are uncomplicated and easy to cook and offer near instant gratification. I love any excuse to eat zucchini but these turkey slider-inspired skewers take my love to a whole new level.

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Turkey Zucchini Kebabs
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Instructions
Zucchini
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with foil paper. Slice zucchini into (18) 1/4-inch slices & place in a bowl. Add Italian dressing & gently toss. Remove from dressing allowing excess to drip off & transfer to the baking sheet, laying the slices in a single layer. Roast for 5 minutes to brown a bit. Remove from oven; drain off any excess moisture.
Turkey Sliders
  1. Wipe off dressing from foil paper on baking sheet. Place a wire rack over a foil lined baking sheet. Spray lightly with cooking spray.
  2. In a bowl, combine all of slider ingredients; mix ONLY until just combined. Form into (18) 2-inch patties; place on prepared baking sheet & bake approximately 15 minutes. Remove from oven & set aside until cool enough to handle.
Assembly
  1. On 6 soaked wooden skewers, alternately thread turkey sliders & zucchini slices (about 3 each per skewer). Dot with some salsa & sprinkle with grated cheese.
  2. Lay on wire rack over the foil lined baking sheet & return to oven to bake until cheese is melted & bubbly. sprinkle with a bit of extra parsley before serving if you wish.
Recipe Notes
  • If you prefer to make these on your barbecue, that works just as well.

French Mussels w/ Bacon & Leek Risotto

Thanks for the memories! This phrase says it all when I think back to the wonderful time we spent in France. Although this holiday is now 20 years past, the memories remain very vivid and special.

My sister, Loretta had joined Brion & I on this French vacation which had made it even more special. Our journey began in Paris where we had rented a car, then travelled south (about 613 km/380 miles) to the sleepy little village of St Thibery. For this segment of our trip we had rented an apartment to use as ‘home base’ during our time in this part of France. Many of these houses are from the 14th,15th & 17th century. The apartment was quaint but adequate even having a roof top patio.

St Thibery is situated between the larger towns of Agde & Pezenas and is just a short distance from the Mediterranean Sea. On one of our day trips we visited the town of Agde. It is one of the oldest towns in France and is captivating by its maze of narrow streets. Agde was built of black basalt from a volcanic eruption thus the black color of its buildings.

It was here we discovered a nice restaurant where we enjoyed some classic French steamed mussels. It would be an understatement to say how much the three of us enjoyed this feast of fresh seafood.

During the time we spent in the area, we made the 20 minute drive from St Thibery to Agde just to have some more mussels on numerous evenings.

Brion & I decided to revisit the taste of those ‘French’ mussels today with our supper meal. Of course, nothing compares to the ‘taste of a memory’!

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French Mussels w/ Bacon & Leek Risotto
Instructions
Risotto
  1. Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a saucepan, then turn heat to low & keep at a simmer.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat; add bacon & sauté until crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain & set aside.
  3. Remove all but 2 Tbsp bacon drippings from skillet (add extra olive oil if necessary to equal 2 Tbsp) then add leeks, mushrooms & shallot. Turn heat up to medium-high; season with salt & pepper. Sauté until vegetables are tender & starting to turn golden brown, about 7-8 minutes. Add garlic & sauté for 1 minute. Add rice; stir to coat & cook for 1 more minute.
  4. Turn heat back to medium; add wine & stir until absorbed by rice. Add hot vegetable broth; stir near constantly until rice is tender & all the broth is absorbed, about 25 minutes. If broth gets to a hard boil, turn heat down. Remove skillet from heat; stir in thyme, parmesan cheese & cooked bacon. Keep warm until mussels are ready.
Mussels
  1. Heat olive oil & butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Sauté the onion & garlic until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the mussels, wine, cream, butter & parsley. Season well with salt & pepper to taste.
  3. Mix well, cover pot with a lid & cook until mussels are cooked through & opened, about 12-15 minutes.
  4. Serve mussels along with the juices in the pan with risotto & crusty or garlic bread.

Shrimp Dutch Baby Pancake

A Dutch baby pancake is a cross between a fluffy style pancake and a soufflé. Its less work than standard pancakes and less complicated than a soufflé.

If you follow our blog, you probably have seen other versions, both sweet & savory featured on it. Dutch baby’s are such an easy meal to make, they are a regular in our meal rotation, not to mention how delicious they are.

Dutch baby recipes work best in cast iron pans because they retain heat and cook evenly. If you don’t have cast iron cook-ware, I find pyrex bowls will work as a substitute.

Because of the delicate nature of the batter, you can only add your toppings once the batter has baked. For some toppings, this will require cooking these ingredients on the stove top while the eggy batter bakes.

Be careful with recipes that instruct you to mix chopped veggies and meat directly into the batter. The combination of weight and moisture will prevent the batter from cooking and puffing up as it should. One exception to this would be finely grated Parmesan cheese. To help create height, bring the eggs to room temperature before mixing into the batter.

Being seafood lovers, this meal really works for us.

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Shrimp Dutch Baby Pancake
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Instructions
Dutch Baby Pancakes
  1. In a bowl, whisk together eggs & milk. Add flour & whisk until incorporated then whisk in parmesan cheese, scallions, parsley, thyme, salt & pepper. Set aside in refrigerator until sauce & filling are made.
Gouda Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter; sprinkle with flour & seasonings. Mix well; add milk & broth, stirring until sauce becomes thickened. Blend in cheese; set aside
Shrimp Filling / Baking
  1. Peel & devein shrimp (you can chop into pieces if you prefer). Prepare filling veggies for cooking.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  3. Place 2 Tbsp butter in each of TWO 7-inch pyrex baking bowls (alternately you can use one 10-inch cast iron skillet). Place bowls in hot oven to melt butter (and heat the bowls for baking pancakes in). Once the butter is melted & the bowls are hot, divide the batter between them. Bake for 25 minutes.
  4. The Dutch Baby will puff up during cooking, but once its removed from the oven & starts to cool it will deflate slightly. At this point its nice to do the final sautéing of your filling so that when the pancakes come out of the oven you are ready to fill & serve.
  5. In a large skillet, sauté zucchini, onion, mushrooms & garlic in oil until tender-crisp. Combine soy sauce with water in a cup; add to vegetable mixture along with shrimp. Gently stir fry ONLY until shrimp is cooked, then fold in Gouda sauce.
  6. When Dutch Baby pancakes are finished baking, remove from oven & transfer to 2 serving dishes. Divide filling between the 2 pancakes & serve hot.

Turkey Sliders in Stuffing Biscuits

CELEBRATING VICTORIA DAY!

For many Canadians, Victoria Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer. It is Canada’s oldest non-religious holiday and although we still hang on to the British Queen’s name (for old times sake), this truly Canadian holiday has everything to do with the end of the cold weather and short days and a lot to do with some great food.

This holiday is called ‘May Two-Four’ in some parts of Canada, a name that refers both to the date around which the holiday falls (May 24th) and Canadian slang for a case of twenty-four beers (a ‘two-four’), a drink popular during the long weekend.

I’m sure, for many this weekend, barbecuing will be up front and center with burgers, steaks and ribs taking top billing. Brion & I decided to wait a bit longer to start barbecuing and have some turkey sliders today instead.

In keeping with some food history ….

The name ‘slider’ originated in the 1940’s when sailors in the US Navy would refer to mini-burgers as sliders because of their extreme greasiness. In just one or two bites, the burger would just slide right down. Fortunately around 2007, sliders evolved from miniature ‘grease bombs’ to elegant culinary creations that now appeal to people of all backgrounds and tastes.

There’s something inherently appealing about a small burger. For the diet-conscious, the idea of a small gourmet burger is more feasible. When dining out, ordering sliders instead of an average sized hamburger also allows you to try several different varieties as they are often served in pairs.

The modern day slider has been reinvented from the traditional beef patty to being made from chicken, pork and veal as well as various seafood options. Having our turkey sliders in stuffing biscuits definitely added that gourmet touch.

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Turkey Sliders in Stuffing Biscuits
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Instructions
Stuffing
  1. In a large skillet, heat oil on medium. Add all stuffing ingredients & cook about 15 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a bowl & cool completely.
Biscuits
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Spray two 12-cup muffin pans with baking spray.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt until blended. Add butter; with finger tips, combine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk & one third of cooked, cooled, 'stuffing mixture' until JUST blended.
  3. Divide among the 24 muffin cups (about 3 Tbsp each). Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown; transfer biscuits from pans to wire cooling rack.
Turkey Sliders
  1. Line a baking sheet with foil paper. In a bowl, combine turkey, salt & remaining cooked 'stuffing mixture'. Form into 24 patties (2-inch width); place on foil-lined baking sheet & bake for 15 minutes or until cooked through.
Assembly
  1. Slice warm biscuits in half. Add turkey patties & dollops of mayo & cranberry preserves.

Pork Chops Cordon Bleu

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

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Pork Chops Cordon Bleu
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Slice pork chops horizontally throughout the middle. Insert a slice each of cheese & bacon. Seal edges with a toothpick.
  3. On a plate, whisk together egg & milk. On a separate plate, combine Panko, salt & pepper.
  4. Season pork chops with extra salt & pepper, then lightly dust in flour. Dip in egg mixture. Immediately dip into Panko, pressing into pork chops.
  5. 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.
  6. Nice to serve with a steamed green vegetable, French fries, mashed potatoes or rice.

Savory Chicken & Onion Dutch Baby Pancakes

Today, February 16th, is officially known as ‘Shrove Tuesday’. This date varies from year to year and falls somewhere between February 3rd & March 9th. This traditional ‘feast’ day marks the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday and is always 47 days before Easter Sunday. The expression Shrove Tuesday derives from the word ‘shrive’, meaning absolve.

This day was observed by many Christians who wanted to make a point of self-examination to consider what wrongs they needed to repent. The ingredients for pancakes can be seen to symbolize four points of significance at this time of year.

EGGS -creation, FLOUR -the staff of life, SALT -wholesomeness, MILK -purity

For something different this year, I’m going the savory route with our Shrove Tuesday pancakes. When it comes to versatility, there aren’t too many dishes that can hold a candle to a Dutch Baby pancake. They easily go savory or sweet. You can go as minimal or maximal as you wish for the toppings or just have them warm from the oven as is.

The Dutch Baby is one of the simplest forms of pancakes to make. Just mix up a few pantry staples, pour the batter into a hot, buttery skillet or oven proof glass bowl and bake it until its puffed and golden.

I’m using a chicken/broccoli filling today. This meal is one of our favorites so we have enjoyed it with a variety of savory fillings.

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Savory Chicken & Onion Dutch Baby Pancakes
Instructions
Filling
  1. In a skillet, heat oil & sauté mushrooms for 5-7 minutes. Mushrooms will expel a lot of moisture. Continue to cook until mushrooms are tender & most of the moisture has cooked off. Season with salt & pepper. Steam broccoli in the microwave for about 30 seconds or until tender-crisp.
  2. Shred cooked chicken with 2 forks. Thinly slice green onions. Keep raw for topping filling with.
  3. Prepare chicken gravy mix. Even though the package suggests using only one cup of water, I like to use 1 1/4 cup so that it is thinner & will cover the filling nicer. If you feel you need to add some red pepper flakes to spice it a bit more.
Dutch Baby Pancakes
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Place (2) 6-inch diameter glass bowls (each with 2 tablespoons of butter in them) in the oven to heat while you are preparing the batter.
  2. In a bowl, whisk eggs & milk. Add flour & whisk until incorporated. Next, whisk in the Parmesan cheese, scallions, parsley, thyme, salt & pepper.
  3. Remove heated bowls; divide batter between them. Return to oven & bake for about 25 minutes. The Dutch baby will puff up during cooking & form 'bowl'. Once its removed from the oven & starts to cool it will deflate slightly.
  4. As soon as you remove it from the glass bowl, place it on a serving plate & fill with the mushrooms, broccoli & chicken. Top with gravy & sprinkle with green onions. Serve immediately. Your filling should be enough for 2 Dutch baby pancakes.

Coconut Chicken w/ Sweet Spicy Sauce

In late August (2020), I had posted a recipe for coconut shrimp. It has become one of our favorite meals so I thought there was no reason not to try the same recipe using chicken breast.

It uses Panko bread crumbs to give a light crispy texture to the coconut breading. Panko was invented during WWII by the Japanese. The word panko is derived from ‘pan‘, giving us the word for bread in Japanese (derived from the Portuguese word ‘pão’ for bread), and ‘ko’, indicating flour, coating, crumb, or powder.

Panko crumbs are made from grinding yeast-risen bread, which is baked using an electric current, which goes through the dough. This type of bread has no crust, instead, the entire loaf consists of the soft and airy bread center. Panko adds crispiness but being neutral in flavor, it does not over power the item it is coating.

This unique oriental product caught the attention of North America in the 21st century due to its interesting texture, subtle flavor and striking visual appeal.

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Coconut Chicken w/ Sweet Spicy Sauce
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Ingredients
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Ingredients
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Instructions
Sauce
  1. In a food processor, puree ingredients for sauce & set aside.
Coconut Chicken
  1. Using 3 separate bowls, place flour in the first, egg in the second & panko & coconut in the third.
  2. Slice the chicken breast & dust pieces in the flour then dip in the egg & lastly coat with panko/coconut mixture.
  3. Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Melt butter, then add oil. Once the combo is heated, place the chicken tenders in the skillet & cook 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden & cooked through.
  4. I prefer to place cooked chicken on a plate lined with paper towel to drain any excess oil from it before serving. Serve with spicy sauce on the side. This meal is real good with some steamed rice.

Hunter’s Chicken Lasagna

Hunter’s chicken is a dish consisting of a chicken fillet wrapped in bacon, smothered in barbecue sauce then topped with cheddar cheese. This particular ‘style’ of chicken was originally adapted from a classic British pub food favorite.

Before I could give it a try, I saw a video of someone making lasagna by tucking these same ingredients into small folded ‘pockets’ of pasta instead of layering everything in a large pan. It seems there is always something unique about having your own individual serving as opposed to a chunk of the whole.

Lasagna is simple to eat but intricate in its appeal. Satisfying on three accounts …. pasta, gooey cheese and a savory sauce. In many ways, lasagna is the result of the interaction of cultures across generations …. an organized combination of different ideas and flavors.

No matter how you slice it, making lasagna is a big production. These lasagna pockets take a bit of work to make, but they are totally worth it!

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Hunter's Chicken Lasagna
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Instructions
Chicken
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Season chicken breasts with salt & pepper. In a small roasting pan, melt butter & brown chicken slightly on both sides. Add water, & herbs & roast until cooked thru. Shred the cooked chicken breasts with two forks.
  2. Cook bacon in microwave until done but not crisp; coarsely chop. In a bowl, combine bacon, BBQ sauce, crushed tomatoes, sliced green onion & shredded chicken; mix well.
Pasta & Sauce
  1. Boil lasagna noodles, shred cheeses & prepare the béchamel sauce.
  2. In a a saucepan, melt butter, stir in flour & cook until bubbly. Slowly add milk, stirring until sauce is smooth. Add shredded mozzarella cheese & salt.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Spread a dollop of béchamel sauce in the middle of a cooked lasagna noodle. Place another noodle on top of the first noodle so that it is perpendicular & spread béchamel sauce in the middle of the second noodle.
  2. Spoon a portion of the BBQ chicken mixture on top of the béchamel sauce in the center of the noodle & sprinkle some shredded mozzarella & cheddar cheese on top.
  3. Fold the ends of the two noodles over the filling to create a lasagna 'pocket'. Repeat the process with the rest of the lasagna noodles until you have 4 lasagna pockets.
  4. Place 2 lasagna pockets next to each other in a 9 x 5-inch casserole dish, cover with béchamel sauce, sprinkle with shredded cheddar & mozzarella cheese over the top. Place the other 2 lasagna pockets on top of the shredded cheeses, followed by another layer of béchamel sauce & more shredded cheese,
  5. Bake for about 15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Potatoes Stuffed w/ Bratwurst, Caramelized Onions & Sauerkraut

CELEBRATING OKTOBERFEST!

When the air becomes crisp and summer turns to fall, Germany marks the change of the season’s with Oktoberfest. A tradition dating back to 1810 in Munich Germany. Originally a celebration of the marriage of the King of Bavaria and Princess Therese. Everybody had so much fun that it was resolved to repeat the celebration, which has been done, every year since.

Oktoberfest is not only about the beer, singing, dancing and fair attractions. Many of the best known and most loved Bavarian specialties are enjoyed during the festival. Just to name a few …..

*Flammkuchen – a ‘white pizza’, popular on beer garden menus, has a thin crust, topped with sour cream, thinly sliced onions & smoked bacon.

*Sauerkraut & Bratwurst Balls – the two best known German foods rolled into bite-sized balls, breaded & fried & served with Bavarian mustard.

*Sauerkraut Strudel – a version of the famous Bavarian dessert, this savory treat features sauerkraut & bratwurst flavored with traditional German spices as its filling.

*Half Roast Chicken – Typically whole chickens are spit roasted, then split in half and served.

*Beer Brats – bratwurst simmered in a malty beer & onion sauce & served with mashed potatoes as a plated entree or on a soft pretzel bun.

*Pan Fried Trout – this dish is very popular in beer gardens across Bavaria, especially in the areas nearest to the mountains. Sometimes whole char is used,brought down from the cold waters of the North Sea.

*Schnitzel – German pork schnitzel is as recognizable as sauerkraut. Also made with chicken which is equally delicious.

*BBQ Pork Spare Ribs – a beer garden classic that has a prominent place on the Oktoberfest table.

*Bavarian Cream – a German high-cuisine dessert with French origins.

*Candied Apples – an irresistible favorite of young & old at Oktoberfest events.

*Candied Roasted Almonds – another favorite of both young & old.

Since the list of wonderful items is endless, I’m sure you could eat something different on every day of the festival. It runs from Sept 19th – Oct 4th/2020.

Brion & I are acknowledging Oktoberfest with a German stuffed potato meal. Its the perfect complement to sauerkraut and bratwurst.

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Potatoes Stuffed w/ Bratwurst, Caramelized Onions & Sauerkraut
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with foil; place a wire rack over the baking sheet. Place the potatoes in a bowl & drizzle a bit of oil over them; sprinkle with salt & pepper. Rub oil/seasoning into their skins. Place the potatoes on the wire rack & bake for about 70 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Remove from oven & allow to cool just until they can be handled.
  2. While potatoes bake, place a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Drizzle a small amount of oil into pan. Add bratwurst slices in a single layer; allow sausage slices to brown on the first side for about 3-4 minutes, then flip the slices & brown on the other side, until completely cooked through; drain on paper towel & set aside.
  3. Drain the grease from the pan leaving about 1-2 Tbsp. With heat still on, add the sliced onions plus a pinch or two of salt & pepper to caramelize to a deep golden brown, for about 20-25 minutes on a medium-low heat, stirring frequently.
  4. Once the onions are caramelized, add the bratwurst slices back into the pan with the onions; add flour & mustard & stir to combine. Add in the chicken broth (or lager). Simmer until just slightly thickened, turn off heat, check to see if any more seasoning is needed; set aside keeping mixture warm.
  5. Once potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, being careful not to cut all the way through. Carefully scoop out most of the flesh, leaving about 1/4-inch border all the way around. Reserve the flesh for another use.
  6. Brush some of the melted butter onto the inside of each potato (add salt & pepper to taste) as well as onto their skins. Place back on the rack, flesh side up; place under the broiler to brown for several moments, once inside is slightly browned, flip the potato & crisp the skins for a couple more minutes.
  7. Fill each crispy potato skin with the brat/onion mixture, & sprinkle with a some grated cheese; return under broiler to melt cheese for just a few seconds; then finish potatoes by topping with a bit of the sauerkraut & a twist of black pepper.
Recipe Notes
  • If you prefer, lager beer can be used instead of chicken broth. If doing so, omit the flour & mustard.

Chicken & Pear Bundles

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Thanksgiving represents many things to me. I have wonderful memories of growing up on the farm and all the hustle and bustle of harvest time before winter came. Of watching the Autumn landscape transforming into a beautiful tapestry of reds, gold and yellows.

As the fall comes in, the days grow shorter and the mornings darker, we start to reflect on the year we have had with its inevitable highs and lows. The Autumn season gives us a little bit of extra time to make the most of what we have left in the year before the ‘grand finale’. It is so important to just take the time to be grateful and appreciate the blessings we are fortunate to have in our lives and make every day count.

Since turkey is usually our Christmas meal, I’m making some chicken breast with pears and Gorgonzola cheese ‘bundled’ in puff pastry for our Thanksgiving dinner today.

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Chicken & Pear Bundles
Instructions
Raspberry Coulis
  1. In a small bowl, combine coulis ingredients well & set aside.
Chicken & Filling
  1. Peel, core & chop pear. Chop walnuts & crumble cheese. Slice breasts in about 1/4-inch thickness; sprinkle with salt & pepper.
  2. On parchment paper, roll thawed puff pastry to about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut 4 circles large enough to fit custard cups & have extra on top to gather & tie. Using the custard cup only as a form, place a circle of pastry in each. Line the pastry with thin sliced chicken breast, then sprinkle some walnuts & cheese in the bottom. Add some pear pieces, cheese, more walnuts. Top with another piece of chicken, cut to fit. Bring sides of pastry together in the center on top, pinch then tie with a chive green if you wish.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a cup, beat together egg wash. Lift bundles out of custard cups & place on baking sheet. Lightly brush egg wash over each bundle. Bake about 30-40 minutes or until pastry is puffed & golden & chicken is done (I sliced into one of the bundles just enough to see if the chicken was cooked).
  4. Slightly warm coulis in microwave & pour some on the serving platter. Carefully lay bundles on top & garnish with fresh herbs if you wish.