Chicken Pastry Pockets

Long time no see, my faithful foodie followers! We all know that sometimes life happens, yes? Hopefully, since the last time we’ve all been together, you’ve had delicious food encounters, been adventurous in the kitchen, and perhaps found a new favorite food. I’ve had a lot going on in my kitchen, and I’m looking forward to sharing it all with y’all. The dish for this particular entry was born of my constant search for something fun and different to do with chicken breasts. One night, a search through my fridge turned up puff pastry and Laughing Cow cheese wedges. I thought to myself, “Surely I can combine these things for something delicious!” A quick Google search showed me that I wasn’t crazy and provided a template for my adventure. Now I bring my adventure to you: chicken pastry pockets!

Chicken Pastry Pockets

Chicken Pastry Pockets (adapted from: Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry recipes)

Ingredients
8 – 10 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast
4 wedges Light Mozzarella, Sun-Dried Tomato, & Basil Laughing Cow cheese
1 clove garlic – minced
7 basil leaves – chopped
1 sheet puff pastry – thawed
1 egg
splash of water
Seasoning of choice for the chicken
Olive Oil – no more than a tablespoon

Steps
1. Take your chicken breast and put it on a cutting board, cover with plastic wrap, take a flat-bottomed implement, and then pound the chicken breast until it’s all one thickness across. I don’t go for a particular dimension, just something that is uniform. My implement is a drink muddler, but use whatever you have…a heavy drinking glass, a meat mallet, or a heavy skillet.

Flattening Chicken
2. Season your chicken breast on both sides with your chosen seasoning. I went with Greek because the flavors go well with the cheese.
3. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
4. Preheat your skillet by placing on the stove turned to medium-high heat, or 5 out of 10. Add your olive oil, and let it heat up for 2 – 3 minutes.
5. Add your chicken breast and cook about 3 minutes on each side. You don’t want or need to cook it through as there will be more cooking time in the oven. You are browning it and just starting the cooking process.

PreCooking Chicken
6. In a bowl, combine the cheese wedges, minced garlic, and the chopped basil leaves.
7. On a clean cutting board, place your puff pastry sheet, and begin to gently use a rolling pin to roll it out and make it a little thinner, and extend the edges.
8. When you remove the chicken from the heat, let it cool for a few minutes (perhaps while you finish step 7) before you chop it or slice it into small pieces. Don’t worry if there is an undercooked section in the middle.  The chicken will finish cooking in the oven.

Cut up Chicken
9. Score your puff pastry sheet into quarters. Spread your cheese mixture evenly onto each quarter. Just eyeball the amount. Add the chicken pieces on top.

Chicken Pastry Pocket Collage
10. Carefully, pick up each quarter’s edges and fold/tuck them over and on top of each other until all the edges and corners are folded up. Pick it up as a bundle and place it on a parchment paper lined or greased jelly roll pan, seam-side down.
11. In a clean bowl, beat an egg, add a splash of water, and then brush your mixture over the pastry pockets so they’ll bake up a lovely golden brown.

Chicken Pastry Pockets Collage
12. Bake for about 12 – 15 minutes. In my oven, I check them at 10 minutes and rotate the pan to ensure even browning. As always, when you take it out of the oven, give it a minute to cool before you eat to avoid scalding your tongue!

I hope you enjoy these as much as folks in my home have! I believe that you could substitute the flavor of Laughing Cow cheese for a tasty variety in your pastry pockets, but so far I’ve stayed with the tomato and basil option. In terms of leftovers, they do keep for the next day or two and microwave at work just fine. The puff pastry will lose its crunch. But it will still have the deliciousness you had from the day before.

Golden Brown Pockets
Let’s chat about puff pastry for a moment or two, shall we? I’ve heard on Food Network and seen several recipes that talk about keeping puff pastry in your freezer as a kitchen staple. I agree that is a handy recipe ingredient, and fairly versatile as well. However, let’s be real that puff pastry is not an economical ingredient, really. I cringe when I buy it, and I don’t buy it often. Lately I’ve been using crescent rolls as a substitute for puff pastry in a lot of recipes, although I have not yet tried it here. Crescent rolls are less expensive and so far seem to work just as well, although they are a little flimsier, in recipes where I’ve substituted them. For a while, my grocery store stocked crescent roll sheets instead of the triangles. The sheets don’t require as much manipulation, and that made them easier to use as a substitute. I’ve wondered about pizza dough and its efficacy with this particular dish. It might turn out to be somewhat like chicken calzones. If you try it, let me know!  Even with these options, I do think that puff pastry is worth the splurge, now and again.

While the puff pastry may balance it out calorically, I do appreciate that Laughing Cow cheese is a healthier alternative to cream cheese, which is what I saw commonly used as a binder in this type of recipe on the web. Plus it comes already flavored! In terms of your additional flavor boosters (here, the garlic and basil), I think you could vary it as long as you stuck with the theme of the cheese. If you wanted, you could chop up some sun-dried tomatoes or other Italian herbs. If you were using the Garlic & Herb Laughing Cow cheese, any complimentary herbs could be used with a clove or two of garlic. Should you venture out into the Queso Fresco & Chipotle, I still think the garlic clove would be a good idea with perhaps some peppers of your choice. A little Mexican oregano would also be appropriate, I think. There are so many possibilities for flavor additions!

I know that so many of us eat chicken frequently and are thus constantly in search of creative ways to serve up new chicken dishes. I hope this has inspired you to try something new in your home with just a few ingredients that you might not have thought about combining before. The prep goes quickly, and it’s incredibly tasty every time. Let me know how you like it! Happy eating!

Nutritional InfoChicken Pastry Pockets Ingredients per pocket
Calories: 474
Fat: 28.7 g
Carbs: 29.3 g
Protein: 21.3 g
Calcium: 9.7 %
Iron: 11.9%

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Jalapeño Bacon Bites

Greetings and Happy New Year, my dear blog readers! I hope you all had a lovely and tasty holiday season! I know I did! Here’s to a new year with more delicious recipes and sharing the foodie love all around.

If I could, if I could convince myself it was acceptable, I would eat these all the time, y’all. I love them. Because I love them so much, I’m excited to share them with you as well. Because I also love you all, I will admit up front, these should not be eaten willy-nilly. I did go through a phase when I made them nearly weekly. That time in my life is past, but these do come out on nearly every special occasion. Birthday? They’re on the menu. Celebrating a promotion/getting a job? On the menu. Having friends over for a holiday appetizer party? Definitely on the menu. Fourth of July meal at my dad’s? Absolutely on the menu. In fact, that’s where I first had them. He has this gizmo where the peppers rest upright in the grill, which changes the whole approach. As I don’t really grill (yet), I had to modify my strategy. Plus my sister and I both agree that limp, half- cooked bacon is not good eats and can ruin the whole thing. Thus, it is important to me to have crispy bacon around the whole pepper. I think I have achieved a near perfect jalapeño bacon bite, which I believe you will enjoy. It is more of a method than a recipe, so feel free to adjust as you see necessary. If you feel the need to make a test batch before you debut this for company and you end up scarfing the whole lot of them, I won’t judge you. Just make sure you have company coming for the next go-round.

Deliciousness on a Plate

Jalapeño Bacon Bites

Ingredients
Jalapeño Peppers – Each pepper makes about 4 bites. I usually use about 1 or 1.5 peppers per person. Estimation is fine.
Cream Cheese – I used 4 ounces for 14 peppers
1 tbsp Adobo Seasoning – more would not be a bad thing
1 package center cut bacon

Steps
1. Set your cream cheese out to soften. I usually set mine out 15 or so minutes before I begin the pepper prep. I know it’s already soft, it’s just easier to stir in the spices when it’s super soft.
2. Don your trusty rubber gloves, and for each pepper, cut the tops off, and slice in half, lengthwise. Seed and cut out the ribs, according to your preferred heat preference. The more seeds and ribs of the pepper you leave in, the hotter the bite is likely to be. Cut the pepper “boat” in half again so you have 4 quarters per pepper.* Continue until all peppers are prepped.


3. In a bowl, mix your cream cheese and Adobo seasoning.
4. Using a butter knife (and leaving your gloves on), fill each pepper piece with a dollop of the cream cheese. It doesn’t have to be tidy. You want to make sure the dollop at least comes even with the edge of the pepper. Repeat for all your pepper pieces. Leave the gloves on because your fingers will get right messy holding those wee pepper pieces.

5. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
6. Using some kitchen shears, cut your bacon into thirds or quarters, depending on the size of your peppers. Test cut one piece before you cut too many slices. I cut two slices of bacon at a time.
7. Wrap a piece of bacon around your cheese-filled pepper piece. The great thing about bacon is that it stretches. This will work to your advantage. Wrap the bacon piece so that it covers the open ends. I wrap all mine and then secure each one with a toothpick.


8. Line a jelly-roll pan (a cookie sheet with sides) with foil (for easy clean-up), and place a cookie cooling rack on it. Your wrapped bites will go on the rack. They don’t need a super lot of space between each one, but they shouldn’t be touching.


9. Bake until the bacon is your desired crispiness. This could take 20 – 30 minutes. My personal desired crispness takes about 22 – 25 minutes.
10. Do NOT eat these straight out of the oven. They are boiling-lava hot and will scald your tongue. Let them cool before you enjoy.

If you are anxious about your toothpicks being in the oven on such a high temperature, you can set them to soak in some water before you start the whole process. Just know that when you put them in the oven and things begin to cook, there will be a lot of sizzle and snap as the oil and water fight it out in the oven. No harm will come to anything or anyone (as long as you keep your hands out of it). It’s just what those two do when they come into contact like that. Alternatively you can leave the toothpicks dry and just check on them. They may char, but it’s highly unlikely they’ll combust in your oven. At least mine didn’t!

*An additional alternative method is to save the quartering of your peppers until after you’ve filled them with the cream cheese mixture. I’ve done it both ways and think maaaaybe it saves some time to fill the larger halves of the pepper before slicing into quarters, but I can’t be certain as I’ve not actually set a timer. I suppose it just comes down to personal preference. It’s your kitchen, and you are the boss of it, so you do what makes you happiest!

Garden Peppers vs HEB Peppers

Any bacon that is leftover you can wrap and freeze for a later date. I had a few strips leftover so I just tightly wrapped them in plastic wrap and popped in them in a zip-top freezer bag. It’s important to wrap tightly to protect from freezer burn. Bacon is another one of those meats that defrosts super quickly when it is only 2 or 3 slices thick per personal package. These smaller packages are perfect for the single cook who won’t be defeated by packaging meant for a family of 4 – 6. I’ve taken to separating a larger package of bacon into the smaller units much like I do chicken or ground beef.  Alternatively you can buy bacon by the slice at the deli counter, which also eliminates waste and allows you to buy precisely as much as you need. However, I think it might be more expensive and sometimes…sometimes it’s early on a Saturday or even mid-day on a Sunday, and you want bacon but have none, and the thought of a trip to the grocery store is murderous. In that moment, my friends, you’ll be thankful for your single-serve packages of bacon in your freezer. I know I am.

I hope you enjoy the jalapeño pepper bites! Make some just for yourself so that you can get them just right and then share the tasty tidbits with your friends at your next shindig. They will be most grateful! 🙂 Happy eating!

Just a Few Ingredients!

Just as an FYI – I tend not to keep track of party food nutritional information. But if you really want to find out, you could take the information for your ingredients and enter them into the calorie calculator up on the left hand side, tell it how many bites you made, and it will tell you the calories per bite. Please don’t tell me. I’m happy living in ignorance. Thanks! 🙂