Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cheesy Ham and Vegetable Chowder

In one last effort to get rid of Christmas ham, I made a hearty ham and vegetable chowder.

Cheesy Ham and Vegetable Chowder
from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

2 c. water
2 c. chopped potato (2 medium)
1/2 c. chopped carrot (1 medium)
1/2 c. chopped celery (1 stalk)
1/4 c. chopped onion (1 small)
1/2 c. butter or magarine
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. black pepper
2 c. milk
2.5 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 15-ounce can cream-style corn
2 c. cubed cooked ham

1. In a large saucepan combine water, potato, carrot, celery, and onion. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Do not drain.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan melt butter. Stir in flour and pepper; add milk all at once. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly.

3. Add cheese to milk mixture. Cook and stir until cheese melts. Add cheese mixture to potato mixture. Stir in corn and ham. Heat through but do not boil. If desired, season with additional pepper.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Farmer's Casserole

In my family, we have a ham every Christmas. My mom's Christmas bonus from work is a coupon for a free ham or turkey, so they brought one down with them when they came to celebrate Christmas with me and my husband. As delicious as that ham was, it was also over 10 pounds, so we are faced with a lot of leftovers despite sending some ham home with my parents. Due to the overabundance of ham in our lives, I now present to you Farmer's Casserole, a simple and delicious way to use up some of your leftover ham. Since it can be prepared ahead, it makes a great dish if you're having people over for brunch, in addition to being a tasty dinner.

Farmer's Casserole
loosely adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

Nonstick cooking spray
3 c. shredded potatoes (frozen hashbrown potatoes or fresh)
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese (or other favorite cheese)
1 c. diced cooked ham
1/2 c. chopped green pepper
1/2 c. chopped onion
4 eggs, beaten
1.5 c. milk
1/4 t. black pepper
1/4 t. salt
Additional shredded cheese for top (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 2-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange shredded potatoes evenly in the baking dish. If you are using fresh potatoes, I would recommend squeezing some of the moisture out with a paper towel. Sprinkle with cheese, ham, green pepper, and onion.

2. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, milk, pepper, and salt. Pour egg mixture over layers in dish.

3. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. If desired, sprinkle additional shredded cheese on top for the last 10 minutes of cooking time. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Make-ahead directions: Prepare as above through Step 2. Cover and chill for up to 24 hours. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 50 to 55 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

As a kid, orange rolls and sausage were the traditional Christmas Day breakfast. Since my husband isn't a huge fan of orange rolls, I made cinnamon rolls to go with maple sausage for Christmas breakfast.

Cinnamon Rolls
from the Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book

4 3/4 to 5 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 t.)
1 c. milk
1/3 c. butter
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1/2 t. salt
3 eggs
1 recipe Brown Sugar Filling (below)
1/2 c. golden raisins
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1 T. half-and-half or light cream
1 recipe Vanilla Glaze (below)

1. In a large mixing bowl combine 2 1/4 cups of the flour and the yeast. In a saucepan heat and stir milk, butter, granulated sugar, and salt just until warm (120 to 130 degrees) and butter almost melts. Add milk mixture to dry mixture along with eggs. Beat with electric mixture on low speed 30 seconds, scraping bowl. beat on high speed 3 minutes. Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can..

2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total). Shape into a ball. Place in a greased bowl, turning once. Cover; let rise in a warm place until double (about 1 hour).

3. Punch dough down. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half. Cover; let rest for 10 minutes. Lightly grease two 9x1 1/2-inch round baking pans or two baking sheets. Roll each half of dough into a 12x8-inch rectangle. Sprinkle Brown Sugar Filling over dough rectangles. If desired, sprinkle with raisins and/or pecans. Roll up each rectangle, jelly-roll style, starting from a long side. Seal seams. Slice each roll into 12 pieces. Place, cut sides down, in prepared pans or on prepared baking sheets.

4. Cover dough loosely with clear plastic wrap, leaving room for rolls to rise. Refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Uncover, let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. (Or, to bake rolls right away, don't chill dough. Instead, cover loosely; let dough rise in warm place until nearly double, about 30 minutes).

5. Break any surface bubbles with a greased toothpick. Brush dough with half-and-half or light cream. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until light brown (if necessary, cover rolls loosely with foil for the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking to prevent overbrowning). Remove from oven. Brush again with half-and-half or light cream. Cool for 1 minute. Carefully invert rolls onto wire rack. Cool slightly. Invert again onto serving platter. Drizzle with Vanilla Glaze. Serve warm.

Brown Sugar Filling: In a medium bowl stir together 3/4 c. packed brown sugar, 1/4 c. all-purpose flour, and 1 T. ground cinnamon. Cut in 1/3 c. butter until crumbly.

Vanilla Glaze: In a small mixing bowk stir together 1 1/4 c. sifted powdered sugar, 1 t. light-colored corn syrup, and 1/2 t. vanilla. Stir in enough half-and-half or light cream (1 to 2 T.) to make drizzling consistency. (I used 2 t. of vanilla; you may want to start with 1/2 t. and add vanilla to taste).

Candied Sweet Potatoes

I didn't get to have any sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving this year and dearly missed them, so I knew I had to make them for Christmas. Aside from the deliciousness of butter and marshmallows, this recipe has pure maple syrup, which makes pretty much anything better in my opinion. I added both mini marshmallows and walnuts for the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking time.

Candied Sweet Potatoes
from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

4 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds) or two 18-ounce cans sweet potatoes, drained
1/4 c. pure maple syruup
1/4 c. butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted if desired or 3/4 c. tiny marshmallows

1. Peel the fresh sweet potatoes; cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks. Cook fresh sweet potatoes, covered, in enough boiling water to cover, for 10 to 12 minutes or until just tender; drain. (Cut up canned sweet potatoes).

2. Transfer sweet potatoes to a 2-quart rectangular baking dish. Add maple syrup and melted butter; stir gently to combine.

3. Baked, uncovered, in a 375 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until sweet potatoes are glazed, stirring gently twice. Sprinkle with nuts; let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Creamed Corn Casserole

I made this dish last year for Thanksgiving and it was a big hit so I thought I'd make it for Christmas this year. I like anything that can be prepared in the slow cooker and free me up to work on other dishes and the fact that is has red and green peppers makes it festive and appropriate for Christmas.

Creamed Corn Casserole
from The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

2 16-ounce packages frozen whole kernel sweet corn
2 cups chopped red and/or green sweet pepper (2 large)
1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 10.75-ounce can condensed cream of celery soup
1 8-ounce tub cream cheese spread with garden vegetables or chive and onion
1/4 cup milk

1. Coat a 2-quart casserole with cooking spray; set aside. Place corn in a colander. Run it under cool water to thaw; drain. Set aside.

2. In a large saucepan cook sweet pepper and onion in hot butter until tender. Stir in corn and black pepper. In a medium bowl whisk together soup, cream cheese spread, and milk. Stir soup mixture into corn mixture. Transfer to the prepared casserole.

3. Bake, covered, in a 375 degree oven for 50 to 55 minutes or until casserole is heated through, stirring once.

Slow cooker directions: Prepare as above, except do not thaw the corn and omit the butter. In a 3 1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker combine frozen corn, sweet pepper, onion, and black pepper. In a medium bowl whisk together soup, cream cheese spread, and milk. Pour over the corn mixture in cooker. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours. Stir before serving.

Simple Wheat Rolls

I chose these rolls for Christmas Eve dinner because the dough could be left in the fridge for 2 to 24 hours before baking.

Simple Wheat Rolls
from The Better Homes and Gardens Better Baking Book

makes 24 rolls

4 1/4 c. all-purpose lfour
1/3 c. sugar
2 envelopes active dry yeast (4 1/2 t.)
2 t. salt
2 eggs
2 c. warm water (120 to 130 degrees)
3/4 c. cooking oil
2 c. whole wheat flour
Nonstick coating spray or shortening

1. In a large mixing bowl mix 3 cups of the all-purpose flour, the sugar, yeast, and salt. Stir together the eggs, water, and oil; add to flour mixture.

2. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping side of bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in remaining all-purpose flour and the whole wheat flour.

3. Transfer dough to a very large greased bowl; turn once. Cover; refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.

4. Stir dough down. Let dough rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile, spray a 13x9x2-inch baking pan and a 8x8x2-inch baking pan with nonstick coating, or lightly grease pans with shortening.

5. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface. Roll dough to a 12x8-inch rectangle; cut with a knife or pizza cutter into 24 2x2-inch rolls. Transfer rolls to prepared pans (put 16 in the 13x9-inch pan and 8 rolls in the 8x8-inch pan). Cover; let rise in a warm place until double in size (about 40 minutes).

6. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.

Reuben Dip

This year, my husband and I had my parents over for Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning. I wanted some simple appetizers that I could prepare ahead of time to go with Christmas Eve dinner. Shrimp with cocktail sauce is a staple appetizer for my family, but I also wanted something warm and hearty. Reubens are one of my, my husband's and my dad's favorites, so I thought reuben dip was an excellent choice for an appetizer. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures since I was too busy cooking and eating.

The recipe called to bake this in the oven, but I layered it in my mini slow cooker instead so the dip would stay hot.

Reuben Dip

16 oz. sauerkraut
8 oz. shredded corned beef
16 ounces shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 cup Miracle Whip (or mayonnaise)
1/2 cup Thousand Island dressing

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (if cooking in oven).

2. Drain and rinse the sauerkraut, then squeeze out excess moisture with paper towel. Spread in the bottom of 9x13-inch baking dish if baking in the oven or the bottom of slow cooker insert.

3. Layer corned beef and Swiss cheese on top of sauerkraut.

4. Mix Miracle Whip and Thousand Island dressing together and pour on top.

5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. If using slow cooker, heat for a few hours and stir before serving.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Hamburger Pie

This recipe is similar to my last one: complete meal in one dish (has protein, starch, and vegetables), is simple but satisfying, and helps me make more room in my freezer and cabinet for all the supplies I'll be picking up for Christmas dinner this week.

Hamburger Pie
adapted from The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

1.5 lbs potatoes, mashed or one 24-ounce package refrigerated mashed potatoes
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 can whole kernel corn, drained and rinsed*
1 can green beans, drained and rinsed*
1 10.75-ounce can condensed tomato soup
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. Prepare mashed potatoes if necessary; set aside. In a large skillet cook meat and onion until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain off fat. Add salt and pepper. Stir in corn, green beans, and soup. Pour into a greased 2-quart rectangular baking or casserole dish.

2. Spoon mashed potatoes onto ground beef mixture and smooth into an even layer. Sprinkle cheese over potatoes. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until mixture is bubbly and cheese begins to brown.

*Alternatively, you can use about 2.5 cups total fresh green beans and corn or frozen green beans and corn, thawed.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Banana Bread

When I buy bananas, I rarely eat them raw and usually save them for banana bread. It's not that I dislike bananas, but I definitely prefer them as part of something else instead of on their own. I got a really good deal on bananas last week and have been eagerly anticipating making banana bread ever since.

I often like to switch out part of the all-purpose flour for wheat flour and add flax seeds for a boost of omega-3s.

Banana Bread

adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (4 to 5 medium)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cooking oil or melted butter or margarine
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of one 9x5x3-inch or two 7 1/2x3 1/2x2-inch loaf pans; set aside. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Make a well in the center of flour mixture; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl combine eggs, banana, sugar, and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir until just moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in walnuts.

3. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes for 9x5x3-inch pan or 40 to 45 minutes for 7 1/2x3 1/2x2-inch pans or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. If necessary, cover loosely with foil for the last 15 minutes to prevent overbrowning. Cool in a pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely before slicing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Creamy Chicken, Broccoli, and Brown Rice Bake

It's been too long since I had a new recipe to share! This past week has been full of chaos and unexpected expenses, so I've been cooking really quick and easy food like tortellini or grilled cheese and tomato soup because I haven't had the time for anything more complicated. Also, my husband was gone this past weekend and I usually eat simple things like soup and sandwiches when he's not around. I've still got a lot to do before Christmas, so here's a quick and easy recipe that makes enough for dinner with plenty of leftovers (at least it does when you're only feeding two people). This recipe is an amalgamation of many recipes I've seen before, and can easily be switched up depending on what protein, vegetables, soup, and cheese you have on hand.

Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice Bake

1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
4 oz. cream cheese
1 can (10.75) oz. condensed cream of chicken or cream of broccoli soup
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
16 oz. bag frozen broccoli, thawed
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 1/2 cups instant brown rice
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9 baking dish.

2. Combine evaporated milk and cream cheese in baking dish, whisking until smooth. Add soup, water, garlic powder, and black pepper; mix well. Add vegetables, chicken, and rice; stir to combine. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.

3. Bake for about 60 minutes or until rice is just a little underdone. Remove foil and top with cheese. Continue baking, uncovered, for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and mixture is bubbly. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Oven-Fried Chicken

Although I'm usually game for KFC, I rarely fry chicken myself because it takes so much oil, which gets expensive, and is so unhealthy. I also usually only have boneless, skinless chicken breasts around the house unless I bought a whole chicken to make chicken noodle soup. This is an easy, low-fat chicken dish that makes a good alternative to fried chicken.

You may also want to dredge the chicken in flour before dipping it in the egg, but I usually don't. I use whole-wheat Ritz crackers instead of cornflakes because I'm likely to have crackers around and am not a big fan of cornflakes for breading (or as a cereal for that matter). I use only boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which cuts down on the cooking time. If you do this, keep an eye on them because they can easily dry out. I cooked 5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and they were done in less than 25 minutes at 375 degrees. This will, of course, vary greatly depending on the thickness of chicken breasts you use. This coating also makes excellent chicken strips.

Oven-Fried Chicken
from The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons milk
1 1/4 cups crushed cornflakes or finely crushed rich round crackers (about 35 crackers)
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 1/2 to 3 pounds meaty chicken pieces (breast halves, thighs, and drumsticks)

1. In a small bowl. combine egg and milk. For coating, combine crushed cornflakes, thyme, paprika, salt, and pepper; stir in melted butter. Skin chicken. Dip chicken pieces, on at a time, into egg mixture; coat with crumb mixture.

2. In a greased 15x10x1-inch baking pan, arrange chicken, bones sides down, so the pieces aren't touching. Sprinkle chicken pieces with any remaining crumb mixture so they are generously coated.

3. Bake, uncovered, in a 375 degree oven for 45 to 55 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (170 F for breasts, 180 F for thighs and drumsticks). Do not turn the pieces while cooking.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Spaghetti Pie

Spaghetti Pie
from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

4 ounces dried spaghetti
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces ground beef or bulk Italian sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
1/2 cup chopped green sweet pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese, drained
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (2 ounces)

1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions; drain. Return spaghetti to hot saucepan and keep warm.

2. Stir butter into hot past until melted. Stir in egg and Parmesan cheese; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet cook ground beef, onion, sweet pepper, and garlic over medium heat until the meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain off fat. Stir in tomato sauce and oregano; heat through.

4. Coat a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick cooking spray. Press spaghetti mixture onto bottom and up sides of pie plate, forming a crust. Spread cottage cheese on the bottom and up the sides of pasta crust. Spread meat mixture over cottage cheese. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

5. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and heated through. To serve, cut into wedges.

Friday, December 4, 2009


I knew this recipe would be good when I saw that it had 4 teaspoons of vanilla extract (the 12 tablespoons of butter couldn't hurt either). I am of the opinion that one, you MUST use pure vanilla extract and not imitation vanilla flavoring, and two, it never hurts to add a little more to a recipe. I know that pure vanilla extract is far more expensive than imitation vanilla flavoring, but it is definitely worth it. The last time I bought vanilla extract at a grocery store I believe it was $3.99 or so for a 2 oz. bottle, while imitation vanilla extract was $0.99 for a 4 oz. bottle and that's why I don't buy it at the grocery store anymore. At Sam's Club you can buy a 16 oz. bottle for only $6.48! I think I get my Sam's Club membership's worth from vanilla extract and tires alone. I've never checked out Costco, so they might have a great deal like that as well. But I'd still buy pure vanilla extract over imitation vanilla flavoring any day, even at grocery store prices.

Now, as much as I adore America's Test Kitchen, I don't follow all their recommendations, mostly because I'm lazy. Because weighing is more accurate the measuring out ingredients, the America's Test Kitchen Baking Book provides weights for many of the ingredients. Despite the fact that I have a digital kitchen scale, I still use measuring cups. Although toasting nuts gives them a deeper flavor, I don't always do it, usually because I don't have the time. The foil sling works well if you're going to remove the bars from the pan you baked them in for cutting and serving, I rarely am, so I just make sure to grease my pans well. My 9x13-inch pan has a cover, so I see no reason to remove them from that pan to serve or store them. Why create extra dishes? It's also a rare occasion that I can wait until a baked treat is completely cool to try it, unless I need to frost it first. Who doesn't love a warm brownie or cookie?

from the America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups packed (10 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (3 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (3 ounces) white chocolate chips
1 cup (4 ounces) pecans, toasted* and chopped

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13x9-inch baking pan with a foil sling** and grease the foil. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Stir in the chips and nuts.

3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the blondies until a tooothpick inserted near the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 22 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

4. Let the blondies cool completely in the pan, set on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Remove the blondies from the pan using the foil, cut into squares, and serve.

*You can either toast nuts in a skillet or in an oven. To toast less than 1 cup of nuts (or seeds), heat them in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking periodically to prevent burning, until the nuts are brown and fragrant, 3 to 8 minutes.

To toast a large quantity of nuts, spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in a 350-degree oven until they are browned and fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes. Shake the baking sheet every few minutes, keeping a close eye on them because it doesn't take long to go from toasted to burnt.

**To make a foil sling, fold or cut two pieces of aluminum foil so they are as wide as the baking dish, but longer. Lay the sheets of foil in the pan, perpendicular to one another, with the extra length of foil hanging over the edge of the pan. Push the foil so it is as flush with the pan surface as possible, ironing out any wrinkles and making sure to get it pushed into the corners. Grease the sides and bottom before you add the batter. When your bars are finished baking and cooling, you can easily lift the bars out of the pan using the foil overhang as handles to cut and serve them.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwiches

Traditional Chicken Cordon Bleu is a boneless, skinless chicken breast is pounded thin and rolled around ham and cheese, then breaded and either fried or baked, very similar to Chicken Kiev. As you can imagine, these are both quite fatty and indulgent dishes. My sandwich version is by no means a health food, but it's not breaded or friend, and doesn't have any butter unless you want to toast the bread. My personal choices for condiments are Light Miracle Whip and some kind of spicy or tangy mustard, but I'm sure there are many other excellent choices out there I haven't tried yet. As far as veggies, I usually add lettuce, but tomatoes, onions, and peppers could also make great additions if you like them. I despise raw tomatoes and won't eat anything with them.

Half of the sandwich pictured was one serving for me. If you have something as a side you'll probably only eat half, unless you're really hungry.

There's no cookbook credit for this recipe, as I came up with it myself, but I'm sure there are many similar recipes out there.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwiches

1 recipe French Bread or other bread or rolls
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 slices deli ham (I used honey ham; you may want to use more if your ham is really thin)
2 slices cheese (I used provolone; Swiss is another favorite)
Mayo or Miracle Whip (I used Light Miracle Whip)
Spicy mustard (I usually use spicy brown mustard, but used Wollersheim Winery wine mustard this time)
Lettuce, or other vegetables if desired

1. Slice the bread to an appropriate size for the chicken breasts you are using. I cut the bread once horizontally and then sliced it length-wise into appropriately sized pieces. Butter and toast the bread under the broiler if desired. Spread bread with your favorite condiments (you could also add these at the very end).

2. Meanwhile, grill the chicken breasts (I used the George Foreman). Alternatively, you could bread and fry them if you want something a little closer to the original dish, but this is obviously less healthy.

3. Place the cooked chicken on a slice of bread. Add two slices of ham and one slice of cheese. Put under the broiler until the ham is warm and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Add lettuce and any other veggies if desired. Top with the other slice of bread and enjoy!

French Bread

Yesterday I decided to make chicken cordon bleu sandwiches for dinner. I went to the grocery store and was planning on picking up a baguette or nice rolls, but I decided I was not willing to pay $3 or $4 just for a loaf of bread when I can easily do it myself. With a KitchenAid mixer, there really isn't any excuse not to at least try your hand at making bread since it does all the kneading for you, the most time-consuming step. Of course, if you don't have stand mixer you can do the kneading by hand.

I halved everything and only made one loaf since that was all I needed. I baked it for 15-20 minutes, keeping an eye on it since I didn't know how much the time would change for one loaf versus two. My oven also tends to run a little hot and I was worried the outside would get too dark. Fortunately for me, thw bread turned out chewy and moist on the inside and crusty on the outside.

French Bread
from the KitchenAid Baking Companion

makes 2 loaves

2 packages active dry yeast (one package=2 1/4 teaspoons)
2 1/2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 egg white
1 tablespoon cold water

1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in the warmed bowl of electric stand mixer. Add salt, butter, and flour. Attach dough hook to mixer. Turn to low and mix until well-blended, about 1 minutes. Knead on low about 2 minutes longer. Dough will be sticky.

2. Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

3. Punch dough down divide in half. Roll each half into a 12x15-inch rectangle. Roll dough tightly, from longest side, tapering ends if desired. Place loaves on greased baking sheets that have been dusted with cornmeal. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

4. With a sharp knife, make 4 diagonal cuts on top of each loaf. Bake at 450 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove from oven. Beat egg white and cold water together with fork. Brush each loaf with egg mixture. Return to oven and bake 5 minutes longer. Remove from baking sheets immediately; cool on wire racks.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Sweet potatoes were only $0.40/lb the week of Thanksgiving, so I bought a couple bags to cook myself once the family Thanksgiving celebrations were over. I really like sweet potatoes, but I want to broaden my horizons beyond covering them in butter and marshmallows.

Next time I might try using maple syrup in place of brown sugar because I love anything with a maple flavor and I make my candied sweet potatoes using real maple syrup. I also thinking I'll throw in some walnuts or pecans for crunch and heart-healthy omega-3s.

Sweet Potatoes and Apples
from The Joy of Cooking

6 medium sweet potatoes
1 1/2 to 2 cups thinly sliced all-purpose apples
Fresh lemon juice (optional; use on apples that are not tart)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons raisins (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped pecans (optional)
Dash of ground cinnamon or grated lemon zest
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1. Cook, covered, the sweet potatoes in boiling water until nearly done; drain. Once cool enough to handle, peel and cut into 1/2-inch slices.
2. Meanwhile, cook, covered, the apples in very little boiling water until nearly tender; drain. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water. If the apples are not tart, sprinkle them with lemon juice.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x9-inch baking dish and place in it alternating layers of apples and sweet potatoes, sprinkling each layer with a portion of brown sugar, cinnamon and/or raisins and pecans if desired.
4. Dot the top with butter. Pour reserved apple cooking liquid or 1/2 cup water over the top.
5. Cover and bake until tender, about 45 minutes.