Sweet & Sour Pineapple Chicken Balls

Chicken balls aren’t authentic Chinese food but they were probably inspired by Chinese sweet and sour pork. The pork is replaced with chicken, it’s battered instead of breaded and the sauce is sweeter but its in the same ball park. These sweet and sour pineapple chicken balls are a type of modern Chinese food served in Canada, Ireland, United States and the UK as a staple of Chinese take-out. Due to their vast popularity among the masses, they have become linked unwilling to Chinese cuisine, for better or worse. They are largely unheard of in China, depending on the recipe and referred name.

Here in Canada, in our province of Alberta, many of the Chinese dishes that are served in small-town Chinese restaurants have a distinctly Canadian twist. Chinese Canadian food evolved over the decades and has developed into a its own unique cuisine. Some dishes that are unique to Canada and Alberta include ginger beef, cabbage chow mein & sweet and sour chicken balls. Across Canada, Chinese Canadian food has evolved from recipes that were created using the ingredients that were available to the restauranteurs decades ago.

The chicken balls we prefer are dipped in a light batter then baked in the oven as opposed to deep frying them. Brion & I enjoy them served over rice with the tangy pineapple sauce.

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Sweet & Sour Pineapple Chicken Balls
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Chicken Batter
Pineapple Sauce
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Chicken Batter
Pineapple Sauce
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Instructions
Chicken
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a food processor, chop chicken meat with seasoning, JUST until it is a roughly ground texture. Divide into 12-16 portions. Wet hands & roll into balls. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Do not overbake. Remove from oven & cool slightly on paper towels until batter is ready.
Sauce
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar & cornstarch. Stir in pineapple with juice, Zesty Italian dressing, (soy sauce), & minced garlic. Cook & stir over low heat until thickened. Set aside & keep warm.
Batter
  1. In a bowl, combine all batter ingredients; beat until smooth. Add chicken balls; stir until covered well with batter.
Baking or Frying
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper & place a wire cooling rack over it. Lift chicken balls out of batter with a fork & place on wire rack. Bake at 400 F. for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven to a serving plate. Alternately, you could cook battered chicken on a griddle with oil or deep fry it in a pot of oil.
Serving
  1. When chicken balls are cooked in your preferred choice; pour pineapple sauce over them & serve with steamed rice.

Portobello Pasta Casserole w/ Crumb Crust

It seems the Portobello mushroom got its name in the 1980’s during a marketing effort to glamorize and hopefully sell, a mushroom that was often discarded. The Portobello mushroom is a mature form of the common mushroom known by various names: button mushroom, white mushroom or cremini mushroom.

It appears that ‘Portobello’ was the original name invented but from what I understand there is no right spelling …. Portabella, Portobella??

The mushrooms cap can be up to 6-inches wide (15 cm). Some will have smooth caps while others will have caps that slightly wrinkled.

This savory casserole combines sautéed Portobello mushroom slices, onion & egg noodles and is topped off with a buttery crumb mixture and Parmesan cheese. Brion & I really enjoy the rich, strong flavor you get from Portobello mushrooms so I think this casserole will be a keeper!

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Portobello Pasta Casserole w/ Crumb Crust
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. In a pot of salted, boiling water cook noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse & set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion & sauté until slightly browned. Add water & mushrooms; cover & simmer for 10-12 minutes until mushrooms have given off a considerable amount of liquid. Remove to a bowl & set aside.
  3. In the skillet, melt 3 Tbsp butter; add flour & cook until frothy. Slowly add vegetable broth, stirring constantly as it thickens. Add salt, soy sauce & dried savory; simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Add mushroom mixture & cooked noodles; toss to mix well.
  4. Place mushroom/noodle mixture in a lightly greased shallow baking dish, cover evenly with the crumbs & top with the cheese. Drizzle with butter & bake until lightly toasted. Serve immediately.

Herbed Seafood Crepe Cake

Crepes hail from the Brittany region of France and can be served either sweet or savory. While savory crepes are traditionally made with buckwheat flour, this particular recipe calls for wheat flour.

In North America, pancakes are a breakfast time staple best served with a large helping of syrup. However, crêpes — the humble French pancake’s ‘skinny‘ cousin — come in both sweet and savory form and can be enjoyed any time of the day. Crepes differ from typical North American pancakes in that they don’t contain a leavening agent causing the batter to rise, hence the flat outcome.

Around 2001, Emy Wada, a Japanese pastry chef who had studied in France, introduced a ‘mille crepe cake’ at her New York city bakery. The word mille means ‘a thousand‘, and while there really aren’t a thousand crepes, it might seem like it! 

Crepes have become a favorite, sweet or savory delicacy all over the world. Made with just flour, sugar, salt, milk, eggs and butter, its simplicity is transcended by its versatility. A crepe can be used as a wrap or even stacked to create an elevated dessert or entrée.

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Herbed Seafood Crepe Cake
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Herbed Crepe Batter
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Herbed Crepe Batter
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Instructions
Crepe Batter
  1. In a bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together eggs & milk. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients then whisk in melted butter. Batter should be runny. Place in refrigerator while preparing the filling & sauce.
Filling
  1. In a large skillet, sauté shrimp in olive oil for several minutes. Add zucchini, green onions & garlic; stir-fry for several minutes. Add mushrooms & sauté over medium-high heat until mushrooms release their liquid & soften, about 5-6 minutes. Add ginger, soy sauce & water; cover pan & cook on low heat for several minutes or until cooked. Set filling aside. Grate cheese.
Sauce
  1. Sauté minced garlic & onion in butter. Add crushed, undrained tomatoes (& water, if using). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer uncovered 15 minutes. Place in a food processor & puree. Reserve for serving with crepe cake.
Cooking & Assembly
  1. Using a large nonstick skillet or crepe pan, add a small amount of butter over medium-high heat. Pour about 1/4 cup crepe batter onto skillet & form a circle with the bottom of cup or swirl it around the crepe pan so it flattens out. Cook 30 seconds on the first side or until it firms up, then carefully flip the crepe & cook for another 15-20 seconds. Repeat until all batter is used.
  2. Place a crepe on a large serving plate, top with a portion of the shrimp filling & some of the grated cheese. Continue with remaining crepes, filling & cheese.
  3. When ready to serve, place entire crepe cake in microwave & heat only until warm & cheese has melted. Slice & serve with warm tomato-onion sauce.

Grilled Korean Chicken Tenders

Despite the similarities in Asian cuisines, there are marked differences. Korean cuisine reflects a complex interaction of the natural environment and different cultural trends.

Korean food is bold, unique and well worth exploring. Strangely enough, it never has achieved the stature of Chinese food in North America and in recent years has been overtaken by Thai and Vietnamese.

Korean cuisine is largely based on meat, rice, vegetables and seafood. Dairy is fairly absent from the traditional diet.

The key ingredients needed in Korean cooking are garlic, fresh ginger, green onions, sesame seeds and oil, rice vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, dried red chilies and hoisin sauce. Each contributes to the oriental rule of five flavors: sweet, hot, sour, salty and bitter. Traditionally, Koreans also have tried to adhere to an arrangement of five colors in their meals: red, yellow, green, white and black.

Balancing flavor is both science and an art. The five taste elements build our overall perception of flavor. When each element is perfectly balanced, not only on the plate, but across the entire meal, its just amazing!

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Grilled Korean Chicken Tenders
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Instructions
  1. Place chicken tenders in a Ziploc bag. In a bowl, combine all marinade ingredients except green onion. Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade & transfer the rest to the Ziploc bag with chicken. Refrigerate & marinate for at least an hour.
  2. Over medium heat, grill the chicken tenders for 2-3 minutes or until they no longer stick to the grill. Turn the chicken, spoon reserved 1/4 cup marinade over tenders & grill an additional 2-3 minutes or until cooked through. Serve over rice & garnish with green onion.

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.

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.

Chicken Tenders w/ Pepita Seeds

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.

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Chicken Tenders w/ Pepita Seeds
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Tempura Batter
Chicken Tenders
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Tempura Batter
Chicken Tenders
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper & set aside.
  2. In a bowl, combine all tempura batter ingredients (except pepita seeds), whisking until smooth.
  3. Pat chicken tenders dry & add to batter. Turn in mixture to coat evenly. Allow to stand in refrigerator for 10 minutes.
  4. Place whole pepita seeds on a large tray or plate. Lift chicken out of batter & coat evenly with pepita seeds.
  5. Place chicken on baking sheet & bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown & cooked through.
Recipe Notes
  • Alternately, you could cook the chicken on a griddle using a combo of oil & butter. 

Apricot Lemon Chicken Breast w/ Couscous

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.

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Apricot Lemon Chicken Breast w/ Couscous
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Instructions
Chicken
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. 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.
  3. Bake uncovered 20 minutes; turn chicken. Bake about 10 minutes longer until no longer pink inside. While chicken is baking prepare couscous & sauce.
Couscous
  1. In a saucepan, heat 1 tsp oil; add green onion, cumin, ginger & garlic. Cook & stir for about 3 minutes until green onion is softened.
  2. 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
  1. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine sauce ingredients, stirring occasionally, until warm.
To Serve
  1. Place couscous on a serving platter. Top with chicken breasts & drizzle with apricot lemon sauce. Serve.

Mushroom Beef Roll

When you cook meatloaf/roll were connected to something bigger …. a tradition and a time line. A comfort food that has been enduring not only an answer to hunger but is served without undue fuss or expensive implements. It reigns supreme.

The reason meatloaf has stayed with us through so many generations is because it is a master of evolution. It can be personalized and adapted any number of ways, all the while requiring only basic skills.

In the 1955 edition of the Good Housekeeping Cookbook, a recipe for ‘mushroom-stuffed meatloaves’ was featured. To enliven a simpler offering, there was an inexhaustible trend for garnishing, glazing, saucing and decorating.

Then in 1966, the Campbell’s Soup Company featured a recipe for a ‘rolled, stuffed meatloaf’ to promote their tomato soup (in place of traditional tomato sauce). The idea was that by rolling a vegetable into the meatloaf, you could save the work of creating a separate side dish. A new one dish meat and vegetable dinner …. and soup makes it great!

The fact that meatloaf takes on variations so easily shows how it dresses up just as well as it dresses down. This meal definitely does not lack in flavor.

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Mushroom Beef Roll
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
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Beef
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Beef
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Instructions
Filling
  1. In a saucepan, saute onion in butter until translucent. Add mushrooms, garlic, soy sauce, salt & thyme. Cover & simmer on low for 10 minutes. Remove from heat; add heavy cream & cheese. Allow to cool.
Beef
  1. In a bowl, combine beef with kalbi sauce; mix well.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. On a piece of plastic wrap, press out meat in a rectangle about a 1/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle meat with green onions. Top with mushroom filling. Using the plastic wrap, roll from the short end in a jelly-roll style.
  3. On a piece of parchment paper, spread crushed french onions in a rectangle shape. Place meat roll on top & roll to cover it with the crushed french fried onions.
  4. Place parchment paper with meat roll on a baking sheet & bake for about 50 minutes.

Beggar’s Purse Crepes w/ Gorgonzola Sauce

Today July 25th, is my dear sister Loretta’s birthday. Having an older sister is a very unique experience that not everyone can truly know about. We are all products of our environment, and even if we are completely unaware of it, having that ‘big sis, little sis’ dynamic as you grew up, was a huge influence.

I remember how much I enjoyed being with Loretta and doing things together. She always seemed to have the answer to the ‘question’ and was just so much fun to be with.

Since Loretta was the ‘older’ one, she was expected to be more responsible and set an example, leaving me more lee-way to be a bit of a ‘dreamer’ at times. I have always valued Loretta’s advice and honest opinions. I am truly grateful to have her in our lives.

Although Loretta can’t be with us today, I think she would enjoy these little seafood crepes.

Crepes, whether they are rolled or stacked, sweet or savory make such a special meal. I remember some years ago, Brion & I had the pleasure of Loretta’s company on a trip to France. One of the first foods we enjoyed in France was crepes. They definitely made a lasting memory for the three of us.

Today, I wanted to do something a bit different. Sometimes, the name of a dish is simply inspired by its appearance. Such is the case of the crepes called ‘Beggar’s Purse’. The traditional dish consists of mini crepes topped with a good serving of high quality caviar and a dollop of sour cream. The edges of the crepe are pulled up into pleats and tied with a bow of chives. The resulting little bag looked like a purse.

Since then, the dish has been cloned thousands of times and the name beggar’s purse has become a somewhat generic term applied to dishes with various toppings tied in a similar way to resemble a purse. In addition to crepes, phyllo pastry, wonton wrappers or tortillas are used.

In North America, the beggar’s purse, reportedly derived from the French ‘aumoniere‘ pastry, has gilded origins. The dish became popular in the 1980’s. Aumoniere is a type of pastry but it also a medieval term for a small purse or pouch generally used in the 13th & 14th centuries. These purses were often embroidered.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LORETTA!

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Seafood Crepes w/ Gorgonzola Sauce
Instructions
Crepe Batter (yields 12-8" crepes)
  1. In a medium sized bowl, combine flour & salt. Add eggs, melted (cool) butter & milk; whisk to incorporate then add the water. Continue whisking until smooth then fold in chopped chives. Batter should coat the back of a spoon like heavy cream, but if it is too thick, add a bit more water or milk. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours (or up to 2 days).
Scallop Filling
  1. In a saucepan, saute mushrooms until moisture evaporates. In a medium bowl, whisk together soy sauce & cornstarch; add prepared scallops, ginger, garlic, green onion, cilantro & water chestnuts, mix together. Stir mixture into sauteed mushrooms & cook only until scallops are translucent. Set aside to cool until ready to use.
Gorgonzola Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add garlic & rosemary (if using); cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle in the flour & stir to make a paste. Whisk in milk & 1/2 & 1/2 cream. Stir & cook for 3-4 minutes or until thick. Add crumbled Gorgonzola, stir until smooth & season with pepper if desired.
Blanche Whole Chives
  1. Blanche chives in a small saucepan of boiling water 10 seconds. Drain & plunge into an 'ice bath'. Pat dry on paper towels.
Cooking Crepes
  1. Heat the clarified butter (oil or cooking spray) in a crepe pan or skillet. Remove crepe batter from fridge & before you use any , give it a quick tap on the counter. Place 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan & swirl to even it out & form a circle. When the edges start to pull away & the crepe looks cooked in the middle, give the crepe a quick flip & cook for just 10-20 seconds on the other side. Repeat with remaining batter.
Assembly
  1. Divide scallop filling between the 12 crepes, placing a portion of mixture in the center of each crepe. Gather the sides up to enclose the filling, secure with a toothpick & tie closed with a chive. Remove the toothpick.
  2. On serving plates, ladle some Gorgonzola sauce. Place 3 'beggar's purses' (per serving plate) on top the sauce. At this point, you may want to give each plate 30 seconds of heat in the microwave.
Recipe Notes
  • These little 'purses' can be served as appetizers or a main dish of 3-4 per serving.