Cooked and chopped meat serves as the main component in these recipes, so by the time you roll out the dough, the hardest part is already done. When a recipe calls for cooked chicken, I often use my crock pot to bake the chicken breasts. A bit of olive oil on the bottom and sides of the crock and some water in the bottom keeps the chicken moist and tender. Don’t be afraid to use phyllo dough: just remember to thaw the dough in the refrigerator the day before you plan to use it, and keep the phyllo sheets under a damp towel to keep them from drying out. Crescent roll dough is versatile and easy to roll out into different shapes and sizes. These meat-filled dishes pair well with a side salad, some fluffy rice or peas with fresh herbs, or oven roasted potato wedges. And these meaty pastries are easy to make but impressive enough to serve to guests.

Chicken Bundles

• 3 ¼ cups chopped or shredded cooked chicken

• 1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced

• 5 TBSP. butter, divided

• 1 ½ tsp. mirin sweet cooking seasoning

• 2 TBSP. mayonnaise

• 3 TBSP. spreadable cream cheese

• 1/8 tsp. thyme

• ½-1 tsp. garlic salt

• Sea salt and coarsely ground pepper, to taste

• ½ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

• ¼ cup finely shredded Swiss cheese

• 1 tsp. poppy seeds

• 16 sheets phyllo dough, thawed overnight in the refrigerator

In a small skillet, sauté the onion with a tablespoon of butter, until tender. In a large bowl, mix together the chicken, mirin seasoning, mayonnaise, cream cheese, thyme, garlic salt, and onions. Stir in both cheeses. In a small bowl, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter; set aside. Remove the phyllo dough from the refrigerator and unroll on a work surface. Using a sharp knife, gently cut off 2 inches from the top of the dough sheets. Keep the dough covered with a damp kitchen towel to prevent the dough from drying out. Place two sheets of phyllo dough on a work surface and brush lightly with melted butter. Spoon about 3/4 cup of the chicken filling onto the center of the dough. Take each corner of the dough and fold over the chicken filling; twist the dough in the center to make a bundle. Brush outside of each bundle with more butter and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Repeat with remaining phyllo and filling to make 7 additional chicken bundles. Place bundles on a parchment lined baking sheet or a lightly oiled baking sheet, and bake at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes until lightly browned.

Savory Meat Pastries

• 1 ½ lbs. lean ground beef

• 2 TBSP. extra virgin olive oil, divided

• 1 onion, finely chopped

• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

• ¼ tsp. allspice

• 1/8 tsp. garlic powder

• 6-7 oz. creamy feta cheese, crumbled

• 1 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded

• 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

• 1/8 tsp. dill weed

• 16-20 phyllo dough sheets, thawed

• 1 egg (for the egg wash)

• Additional olive oil for the phyllo dough

Sauté the ground beef and chopped onions in a tablespoon of olive oil; add the salt, pepper, allspice, and garlic powder, and cook until meat it fully browned. Drain and allow to cool. In a large bowl, combine the feta cheese, Mozzarella cheese, 2 eggs, and dill weed. Add the cooked meat and onions and stir well. Place the phyllo dough sheets on a work surface. With a sharp knife, trim off about an inch along the long side of the phyllo dough sheets. Take two sheets and brush the sheets with olive oil. (Keep the remaining dough covered with a damp cloth.) Place several spoonfuls of the meat mixture evenly across the center of the dough sheets and across the short end, then roll up. Brush with a bit more olive oil and the egg wash. Place on a large baking sheet that is lightly coated with oil. Continue with the remaining dough sheets, working with two at a time, to make about 8-9 meat rolls. Serve with yogurt sauce.

Sauce:

• ¼ cup plain yogurt

• ¾ tsp. lemon juice

• ¼ tsp. fresh minced garlic

• 1/8 tsp. kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Keep refrigerated.

Chicken Puffs

• 2 ¼ cups cooked and chopped chicken

• 2 TBSP. butter, softened

• 3 oz. cream cheese, softened

• Salt and black pepper, to taste

• Dash of sweet paprika

• ¾ cups crushed seasoned croutons (I use Original Texas Toast Seasoned brand)

• 2 TBSP. milk

• 1 TBSP. finely diced onions

• 2 (8 count) cans refrigerated crescent rolls

• 1 ½ TBSP. butter, melted

Blend together the softened butter and cream cheese. Stir in the chicken, salt, pepper, paprika, croutons, milk, and diced onions; mix well. Using two triangles for each chicken puff, divide the crescent roll dough into 8 squares. Pinch seams together. Spoon the chicken mixture into the center of each square. Pull the four corners to the center and twist. Brush the tops with melted butter. Bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.

— Amy Fischer lives in Fort Payne, Alabama, and is a Southern food enthusiast who loves to spend time in the kitchen creating tasty recipes. You can contact her at facebook.com/MySouthernTable.

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