1.24.2008

Chicken Cordon Bleu

4-6 chicken breasts
2-3 slices of ham
4-6 slices Swiss or provolone cheese
4-6 toothpicks
1/2 bunch of green onions, chopped

Place chicken on a flat surface and bound a bit flat. Arrange 1/2 slice of ham and 1 slice cheese on each. Roll tightly and secure with a toothpick. Place in pan.

In a bowl mix:
1/2 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup apple juice
1/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Pour mixture over chicken. Back at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Top with green onions.

I made this dish as a Freeze Ahead Meal. I'm not a fan of thawing (I always forget), so the rule of thumb with baking frozen poultry is to take the cooking time for the thawed food, decrease the number of degrees by 25 and double the time to cook.

1.23.2008

Whole Wheat Bread By Hand

Nothing smells or tastes better than a loaf of fresh baked homemade bread! And despite what you may think, you can make it by hand. If you have a heavy-duty mixer (like a Bosch or Kitchen Aid), and would like to make a 4-loaf batch, see the Honey Whole Wheat Bread recipe.

sponge
3 1/2 cups warm water (about 110º)
3 Tbsp instant yeast
1/3 cup honey
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
----------
5-6 cups whole wheat flour

1. Mix the water, yeast, honey, salt, 1/2 cup of the flour with a wooden spoon in a large bowl until incorporated. Let sponge proof 5-7 minutes or until frothy-bubbly.

2. Add 3 cups flour and stir with a wooden spoon until almost incorporated. Add another 2 cups flour and beat until incorporated to make a moist, thick, sticky dough.

3. Turn the dough - scraping out the bowl - onto a work surface that has been sprinkled with some flour. Knead, adding only as much flour as necessary (up to one cup)* to form a soft elastic and still quite sticky dough, about 5 minutes... your hands should be tired.
*less flour is better, otherwise the bread will be dry.

4. Form the dough into a rough ball and place back in the large bowl; cover with a clean towel. Let rise in a warm, draft-free area until the dough has doubled in volume, about 20 - 40 minutes.

5. Heat oven to 375º. Liberally grease four 8.5" x 4" loaf pans. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface and cut into four equal pieces with a bench knife or large knife. Gently knead about ten times and shape dough into loaf shapes and place in pans. NOTE: For a more rustic look, gently rub the tops of the loaves with flour before putting them in the pans. Let loaves rise until almost doubled in volume, about 15-30 minutes, or until the sides of the loaf are 1/4" from the rim of the pan.

6. Score the tops on an angle with a sharp serrated knife. NOTE: To avoid deflating the risen loaves, use a fairly quick motion when doing this. Bake for 38-40 minutes. Transfer the bread immediately from the baking pans to a wire rack to cool. Cool completely (about 3 hours) before wrapping in plastic bags.

You can add sunflower, flax, millet and a variety of other seeds, raisins, cinnamon, cinnamon chips, dried fruit, nuts, cheese, etc. to make different kinds of bread. For an entire batch, add these ingredients at the end of step three. Or for one or two loaves, add these ingredients during the second kneading (by hand). You can also do a mix of whole wheat and white flours to make a light wheat or white batch.

1.15.2008

Stuffed Peppers

if you can splurge for red or orange bell peppers, do. their flavor is much more sweet and less bitter than green ones.

2 bell peppers
2 cups cooked rice
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
2 Italian sausages
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup slivered almonds
dash(es) garlic salt
1/2 cup cheese (parmesan or cheddar)
1-2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper

1. in a medium sauce pan cook rice according its directions, adding the oil and salt at the beginning.
2. while rice is cooking take sausages out of the casings, break up into small pieces and brown in a skillet over medium to medium-high heat. continue breaking the sausage up even more as it cooks.
3. once the sausage is browned, scoop it into a large bowl leaving the grease in the skillet. add onion to the sausage grease and sauté until tender. add mushrooms and sauté until tender and slightly browned, adding a generous dash or two of garlic salt along the way. add almonds just before onions and mushrooms are done. transfer into bowl with sausage.
4. add cooked rice to the meat mixture. add cheese and Worcestershire and mix well. add salt and pepper to taste.
5. heat oven to 375º F. cut out the tops of the peppers and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. rinse with water to get the peppers completely cleaned out. fill peppers with meat/rice mixture.
6. place stuffed peppers in a bread/loaf pan - or what ever pan the peppers fit in well. bake at 375º F for 15 minutes. serve immediately with any of the extra meat/rice mixture around the sides of the peppers.

you'll probably want to have serrated knives to cut the peppers as you eat them.

these can be made just as well with ground beef or without meat. if you make them with out, just sauté the onion and pepper in olive oil.

1.03.2008

Country Potato Soup

This is the potato soup that you've been waiting for!

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 lbs Yukon Gold or other yellow-flesh potatoes, chopped
6 - 8 oz cream cheese (depending on how creamy you like it)
dash cayenne pepper
salt and ground pepper to taste

1. heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat until hot. saute onion and garlic until soft and slightly brown.
2. add potatoes and broth and boil potaoes until tender, 8 - 12 minutes.
3. transfer most of the potatoes and onions and all of the liquid into a blender, add cream cheese and process until chunky-smooth.
4. pour mix back into sauce pan, season with cayenne, salt and pepper and heat through until hot - do not boil. if it's too thick, thin with a little water or milk.
5. garnish with shredded sharp cheddar.

For extra goodness add sweet corn (heat frozen corn in microwave first) and/or cooked bacon crumbled up.