Saskatoon Clafoutis

Some might consider clafoutis (pronounced kla-foo-tee) just a lazy cook’s way to pie or cake, but its truly luscious comfort food complete with a French pedigree. Born in Limousin, in southern central France, a couple of centuries ago to showcase its fresh cherries. Very likely, the creation of a hurried & harried home cook with a glut of cherries to use up. Traditionally made with unpitted black or tart cherries. The pits supposedly added an almond flavor when baked.

The name clafoutis comes from the verb ‘clafir’, a rustic old word that means ‘to fill’ because after you arrange the fruit on a buttered baking dish, you fill the pan with eggy batter. It bakes into a light, custardy confection with a consistency somewhere between pudding, pancake and soufflé.

Clafoutis is a dessert you need in your life. It is neither difficult nor time consuming and it requires few ingredients.

The first time Brion & I ever tasted clafoutis was actually in France in 2001. Strangely enough, I’ve never got around to making it even though we had enjoyed it.

By using one simple batter recipe, you can make a variety of clafoutis by changing up the fruit and flavorings you use. Of course, there are some who would say that a clafoutis made with any fruit other than cherries would be properly called a ‘flaugnarde’, but what’s in a name when it comes to comfort food!

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Saskatoon Clafoutis
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine European
Servings
Ingredients
Batter
Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine European
Servings
Ingredients
Batter
Votes: 2
Rating: 5
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  2. Place all batter ingredients into a blender. Blend until well combined.
  3. Butter a large pie dish & sprinkle the 1 Tbsp sugar evenly over the butter. Pour the batter into the dish, then sprinkle the saskatoon berries evenly throughout the mixture. Sprinkle the ground almonds over the surface of the clafoutis & place in the oven.
  4. Bake until the clafoutis is puffy & nicely browned on top, about 35-40 minutes. To check if its done, remove it from the oven & gently giggle the pan. It should shake softly, but not look overly liquid. You can also test with a knife tip to ensure its set.
  5. Dust with powdered sugar if you wish & serve immediately.

Mandarin Orange Cream Puffs w/ Craquelin Topping

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

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

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

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

Turkey Stuffed Pasta Shells

I have always favored using ‘conchiglioni’ pasta, the name derives from the Italian word meaning ‘seashells’. Their shape, size and consistency are the perfect vessel for bold, rich fillings and flavorful sauces. Baked pastas, or ‘pastas al forno’ as they are called in Italy, date back to the Renaissance when they were being served at the banquets of nobles.

Over the years, I have stuffed jumbo pasta shells with just about every imaginable filling I could conjure up. To say the least, I love this kind of meal.

Since we are just past ‘turkey season’ and if you are someone who enjoys that festive meal … here’s a new spin on it. Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and gravy all tucked into some pasta shells.

Without a doubt, these shells were even better than I had expected and this recipe made enough that I froze some for another meal. What’s not to like about that?

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Turkey Stuffed Pasta Shells
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta shells according to package directions for al dente. Drain & set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, scramble-fry ground turkey with spices until no longer pink.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  4. In a large bowl, combine mozzarella cheese, turkey, stuffing & green onions. In a small bowl, Stir sweet potatoes with chili powder.
  5. Fill each pasta shell with 2 Tbsp stuffing mixture & 2 tsp sweet potato mixture. Combine 1 cup of gravy with any remaining filling & spread on the bottom of a 13" x 9" baking dish. Place filled shells overtop, drizzle with remaining gravy & sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  6. Bake, covered for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Serve with cranberry sauce if you wish.

Spiced Persimmon Tarte Tatin

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

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

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

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

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

Turkey Breast w/ Fruity Savory Stuffing

December 25th is not only Christmas Day, but it holds an extra special meaning for our family. It is my sister Rita’s birth date. When we were growing up, being able to enjoy all the great things that come with the Christmas meal as well as birthday cake …. could it get better than that!!

Although your family’s Christmas traditions may vary depending on the culture you were raised in, we like to think food is a language that needs no translation. I believe that many of our dishes are from an assortment of different cultures mixed into one recipe. Such is the case of our turkey dinner this year. I’ve incorporated a Moroccan inspired fruit stuffing along with our traditional savory one.

In view of the ongoing pandemic, hopefully caution will be taken in the holiday events your involved in. The best gift you can give this Christmas is not infecting others with Covid-19.

As much as I like certain aspects of the Christmas season, I find it becomes a little overwhelming. It seems a massive wave of Christmas capitalism takes over every aspect of one’s life from the end of October to January. I like to call it a form of OCD: Obsessive Christmas Disorder.

I was raised on a farm in southern Alberta at a time when Christmas celebrations were focused around our family blessings and not how many blow-up Santa Clauses or realistic sleighs we set up on our front lawns.

It would almost seem more importance is being given to getting more likes on Facebook & Instagram than it is carrying on a tradition based on family.

This year will not be perfect, it never is, and the holidays are a hard enough time for many, regardless of pandemics and catastrophic weather. I hope there will still be a little magic for everyone, however you spend the holidays.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RITA!

WE LOVE YOU VERY MUCH & ARE SHARING YOUR DAY IN OUR THOUGHTS

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Turkey Breast w/ Fruity Savory Stuffing
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Servings
SERVINGS
Ingredients
Fruit Stuffing
Savory Stuffing
Herb Butter
Servings
SERVINGS
Ingredients
Fruit Stuffing
Savory Stuffing
Herb Butter
Votes: 2
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Instructions
Fruit Stuffing
  1. In a small bowl, combine dates, apricots, raisins, apple & orange juice & zest; season with spices & mix well. Set aside to marinate.
Savory Stuffing
  1. In a saucepan, sauté onion, celery, garlic, mushrooms & seasonings in margarine. Remove from heat.
  2. Place vegetable/seasoning mixture in a large bowl & combine with dry bread cubes & broth, adding only enough broth to make proper stuffing consistency. Set aside.
Turkey
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Lay turkey breast on a clean work surface so that it lies open & flat. Cover with plastic wrap, then pound lightly with a meat mallet to flatten into an even thickness all over. Discard plastic wrap.
  3. On one half of the turkey breast spread a thick layer of the savory stuffing then top it with the fruit stuffing. Fold the adjoining half of the turkey breast over all. Fasten with metal skewers if you wish to help to keep stuffing enclosed.
  4. Place a wire rack in a roasting pan & lay stuffed turkey roast on it. Brush herb butter over turkey breast. Roast uncovered, until turkey reaches an internal temperature of 180 F. about 2 hours. Cover loosely with foil if top browns too quickly.
  5. Place any extra savory stuffing in a buttered casserole & bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is lightly toasted.
  6. Remove turkey breast from oven, tent with foil & allow to rest for about 5-10 minutes. Make sure to remove all toothpicks and/or skewers before slicing to serve.
Recipe Notes
  • You will notice the recipe for the savory stuffing is well more than what is needed to stuff the turkey breast. For me personally, the stuffing is the most important part of the whole meal so I made sure there would be lots. 
  • Don't hesitate to half the recipe if you feel its more than what you need.

Red Velvet Cookies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oatmeal Fig ‘Drops’ w/ Variations

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

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

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

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

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

Sweet Potato Muffin Tops

Not whole muffins, just the tops. The idea was first conceptualized by Elaine Benes, a fictional character on the American television sitcom Seinfeld, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I was not a Seinfeld fan and rarely even watched the show but the series lasted for nine years so obviously many did. It centered around four single friends dealing with the absurdities of everyday life in New York City, USA. Something as simple as soup or muffins became the focal point of the show but with a unique twist that only the actors on the show could make funny and memorable.

In a 1997 episode, The Muffin Tops, Elaine helps her old boss open his own business where they only sell the tops of muffins. ‘It’s the best part (nobody likes the stumps), it’s crunchy, it’s where the muffin breaks free of the pan and sort of does its own thing’.

Nowadays we have specific baking pans made just for making muffin tops and I think most food stores sell them. Muffins are an item I’ve certainly made my fair share of over the years in the food industry. But I have to say, I love the whole thing, especially if its soft and cakey.

This time of year is usually filled with pumpkin and sweet potato dishes and treats. These muffin tops are quite special with a slight sweet potato flavor packed with plenty of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and an added bonus of some pepita seeds.

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Sweet Potato Muffin Tops
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Ingredients
Muffin Top Batter
Streusel Topping
Servings
Ingredients
Muffin Top Batter
Streusel Topping
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Instructions
Streusel Topping
  1. In a small bowl, combine oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon & salt. With a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add pepita seeds, mix & set aside.
Muffin Tops
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a MUFFIN TOP PAN or line with paper cups. (This recipe makes 10 muffin tops the size shown in the blog picture). Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt & spices. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the brown sugar & eggs together; add sweet potatoes, oil, milk & orange zest (or vanilla) & whisk again. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients & stir until JUST combined. Do not overmix the batter. Scoop batter into muffin top pan; Sprinkle with streusel topping.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Pear & Gruyere Bread Pudding

It’s become that time of year. Our warm summer nights have slowly given way to crisp air. Layers have started to enter our daily fashion. Food preparation starts to gravitate towards warmth and comfort food. Pears of all shapes and colors, are waiting for us to pull out our oven mitts and get cooking. And, like so many fruits, there is the right variety for every job.

Here, sweet cinnamon bread meets juicy pears and the savory bite of Gruyere cheese. You want a pear variety that will hold its shape and won’t exude too much moisture as the bread pudding bakes, such as Anjou.

The nutty flavor of Gruyere compliments the pears and the cinnamon bread base. Its all bathed in a milk and egg mixture and left to sit in the fridge overnight. The next morning, simply bake and enjoy with the addition of something salty like you guessed it …. bacon!!

In 2015, ‘The Taste of a Memory’, a memorabilia/cookbook I wrote as a tribute to my wonderful parents, was published. It contained a compilation of stories, articles, recipes and reflections that evoke an intimate memory, a special time period and fond emotion brought about by the aroma and taste of food. Writing them down not only put them in print but allowed me to take a mental journey back to a gentler time.

This bread pudding recipe comes out of the low calorie section of that book. Who says bread pudding can’t be diet food !!

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Pear & Gruyere Bread Pudding
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Instructions
Cinnamon Swirl Bread
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together yeast, 1 tsp sugar & lukewarm water. Set aside until mixture begins to form a frothy foam, about 5 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, dry milk powder & salt. Add yeast mixture, melted butter, vanilla, raisins (if using) & beaten egg. Combine until dough comes together in a ball & no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  3. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. In a small dish combine 1/4 cup sugar with 1 Tbsp cinnamon.
  4. On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough into a 9 x 24-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with egg wash mixture & sprinkle with cinnamon /sugar mixture. Starting with a short end, roll the dough into a tight log & place seam-side down into greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
  5. Allow to rise, covered, for 40-60 minutes until loaf has crested 1/2-inch over the rim of the pan. Preheat oven to 350 F. while the bread is rising. Brush the loaf with egg wash & bake for 45-60 minutes, until golden. Cool the loaf in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Bread Pudding
  1. In a large bowl, combine pears, butter & 1 Tbsp sugar; toss gently. Butter a 9 x 9-inch glass baking dish & arrange half of the bread in it. Spoon pear mixture evenly over bread & top with shredded cheese. Arrange remaining bread over cheese.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together remaining 5 Tbsp sugar, milk, egg substitute & cinnamon. Pour milk mixture over bread pudding, pressing down lightly to submerge. Cover & chill 8 hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Uncover, sprinkle with 1 Tbsp sugar evenly over pudding. Bake for 55 minutes or until golden & set. Allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes
  • If you are making the cinnamon swirl bread, it helps to do this the day before making the bread pudding.
  • Alternately you could make your life easier & just purchase the cinnamon loaf at a good bakery.

Shrimp & Chicken Pelmeni

Though they come in all shapes and sizes, dumplings are a near-universal culinary constant as almost every culture has one. So naturally, dumpling recipes are incredibly versatile, coming with a wide array of fillings, wrappers, shapes and sizes. Eaten as an appetizer, dessert, side dish or for the main meal, they might just be the ultimate comfort food.

Chicken and shrimp go together surprisingly well, and this dish is no exception. In March of this year (2021), I posted a blog about Russian Pelmeni. Since then, Brion & I have had ‘pelmeni’ numerous times in which I’ve experimented with various fillings. In case you’re not familiar with these dumplings, traditional Russian pelmeni consist of a filling wrapped in thin, unleavened dough. The word “pelmeni” describes the ear-shaped appearance of these dumplings.

When I made them for the March blog, I used a different technique for preparing them. Instead of making them into the traditional ear shape, I rolled the dough out into a large rectangle. I then spread the raw meat filling over it very thinly and rolled it up in a jelly roll fashion. After slicing the roll into 2-inch pieces, they were steam cooked in broth in a skillet. It’s a quick and easy take on authentic pelmeni.

Since Brion & I eat a lot of chicken and shrimp, I could see no reason to ‘develop’ a new version with an almost oriental twist on it.

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Shrimp & Chicken Pelmeni
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Rating: 5
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Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Dough
  1. In a bowl, combine all dough ingredients & knead until a smooth dough ball forms, about 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap & set aside to rest until your filling is prepared.
Filling
  1. Chop mushrooms & mince garlic. In a skillet, heat butter & add garlic. When aromatic & light golden, add mushrooms & a light sprinkle of salt. Cook for about 2 minutes, until fragrant, soft & roughly a third of the original volume. Set aside in a bowl to cool.
  2. Chop shrimp into pieces the size of large peas. Add to the mushrooms with the chicken, green onion, water chestnuts & ginger. Combine with a fork.
  3. Stir together salt & white pepper, sugar, soy sauce & water. Pour over the filling; stir to mix & firm up. Cover & set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
Assembly
  1. Once dough has rested, transfer to a floured surface. Roll out the dough into a large, THIN rectangle. Spread filling over the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch at the far side of the dough.
  2. Tightly roll dough up, starting from the wider side, forming a log. Put seam side down to seal the edges. Seal ends of the dough as well. Using a very sharp knife, cut the dough log into 2-inch sections.
  3. In a large skillet that will accommodate all pelmeni, heat oil & cook onion until translucent. Add garlic & continue cooking until fragrant. Add grated carrot; cook about 1-2 minutes more.
  4. Place pelmeni rolls on top of veggies, add vegetable broth, salt & pepper. Cover with a lid & simmer for 30 minutes on a low heat. Check pelmeni from time to time, to make sure there is still some broth in the skillet. Add more broth if it evaporates too fast. Garnish with extra sliced green onions if desired. Serve.
Recipe Notes
  • A nice condiment for these dumplings would be a sweet chili sauce.