Slow Cooker Chicken Cordon Bleu

Yep, I’m still alive.  I’ve been working a ton of overtime at my new job the past few months and haven’t been particularly motivated to do any hard-core cooking.  Things are finally starting to settle down, so I’m looking forward to getting back to the kitchen!  I made this a while back.  Definitely not gourmet fare, but it was easy and delicious!

DSCI0030 (2)

Slow Cooker Chicken Cordon Bleu (Courtesy of All Recipes)

Ingredients

  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cooked and shredded
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 c milk
  • 4 ounces cubed ham
  • 12 ounces shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1 (8 ounce) package herbed dry bread stuffing mix
  • 1/4 c butter, melted

Directions

  1. Mix together the cream of chicken soup and milk in a small bowl. Pour enough of the soup into a slow cooker to cover the bottom.
  2. Layer chicken breasts over the sauce. Cover with the cubed ham and 8 ounces of the Swiss cheese. Pour the remaining soup over the layers, stirring a little to distribute between layers.
  3. Sprinkle the stuffing on top, and drizzle butter over stuffing.
  4. Cover and cook on Low for 4 to 6 hours or 2 to 3 hours on High.  Cover with the remaining 4 ounces of Swiss cheese in the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Published in: on September 6, 2009 at 4:42 pm  Comments (13)  

June 2009 Daring Bakers’ Challenge – Bakewell Tart

The June Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart… er… pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800’s in England.

Here’s a bit of information regarding the tart and the challenge hosts’ take on whether or not it’s a tart or a pudding:

Bakewell tarts are a classic English dessert, abounding in supermarket baking sections and in ready-made, mass-produced forms, some sporting a thick sugary icing and glazed cherry on top for decorative effect.

Is it a tart or is it a pudding?  Someone once said something like “The Bakewell pudding is a dessert. The Bakewell tart is that girl over there.”

It’s a debate that rages on and we aren’t taking sides on this one. But we will say that many people call this pudding a tart.

While we’re at it…
The etymology of pudding is a rather interesting and slightly convoluted one. The naming confusion may come from the British manner of referring to the dessert course as ‘pudding’ (as well as referring to fat babies by the same name, though we don’t think that is what was the inspiration in this case). And so any dessert is a pudding until another name comes along and adds clarity to what it really is.

Well, I’m calling it a tart so there.  I’m getting this baby done just under the wire.  Eek!  Making this challenge is a first for me.  I’d never heard of Bakewell Tart before, but after reading the recipe, I was excited to try it.  I’d never made pastry crust before either (lame, I know), but it came together much easier than I anticipated.  I cheated and used a locally-made strawberry jam instead of making my own.  The end result was delicious, and I had a lot of fun making this challenge!  Thanks to Jasmine and Annemarie for hosting!  Please visit the the Daring Bakers’ Blogroll and The Daring Kitchen to view other Bakers’ creations.

DSCI0032 (6)

Bakewell Tart

One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tart
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it’s overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.

When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Sweet shortcrust pastry

Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film

225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Frangipane

Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Published in: on June 27, 2009 at 9:37 pm  Comments (19)  

June 2009 Daring Cooks’ Challenge – Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers

Ok, I’m waaaaay freaking late on posting my creation.  I’ve been fried due to my new job and finally found the time to make these this last weekend.  This month’s challenge was hosted by Jen of use real butter.  She chose Chinese Dumplings or Potstickers as the challenge.  While I’ve eaten these before, I’ve never attempted to make them.  These took a while to make due to having to roll out the dough, but they were relatively easy to make.  I ended up frying them instead of steaming them and used a purchased dipping sauce.  The end result was delicious!  I might make these again if I have the time, but they were time-consuming, so I don’t see myself doing it anytime soon.  Thanks, Jen, for hosting this month’s challenge!

Here they are right after I formed them:

DSCI0078

They didn’t look too bad.

And here’s the end result:

DSCI0079

Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers

Ingredients

pork filling:

 

  • 1 lb (450g) ground pork
  • 4 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
  • 3 stalks green onions, minced
  • 7 shitake mushrooms, minced (if dried – rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
  • 1/2 cup (75g) bamboo shoots, minced
  • 1/4 (55g) cup ginger root, minced
  • 3 tbsp (40g) soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp (28g) sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

dough: (double this for the amount of filling, but easier to make it in 2 batches – or just halve the filling recipe)

  • 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (113g) warm water
  • flour for work surface

Directions

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I mix by clean hand). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to a day, but preferably within an hour or two).

Make the dough: Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated. Pour the contents into a sturdy bowl or onto a work surface and knead until uniform and smooth. The dough should be firm and silky to the touch and not sticky.[Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water).

Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking – about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side.  Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

To pan fry (potstickers): Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.

Published in: on June 25, 2009 at 5:19 pm  Comments (9)  

Monster Cookies

I’ve been lax with respect to blogging lately because I’ve just started a new job, and I’m trying to get used to my new, really early hours.  I did find time to make these cookies, though!  Although it’s hard to choose a favorite cookie given my addiction to anything sweet, these are probably my favorite.  I love the overload of stuff in them.  They’re pretty much guaranteed to make your ass expand.

Picture 028

Monster Cookies (Adapted from Betty Crocker)

Ingredients

  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 1 c packed brown sugar
  • 1 c peanut butter
  • ½ c butter or margarine, softened
  • ½ c butter-flavor or regular shortening
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ c old-fashioned oats
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 2 c M&Ms
  • 1 c chocolate chips
  • 1 c peanuts
  • ¾ c raisins

Directions

1.  Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, beat sugars, peanut butter, butter, shortening, vanilla and eggs with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in oats. Stir in flour, baking powder and baking soda thoroughly. Stir in candies, peanuts and raisins.

2.  On ungreased cookie sheet, drop dough by slightly less than 1/4 cupfuls about 2 inches apart. Flatten to 3/4-inch thickness with bottom of glass.

3.  Bake 12 to 14 minutes or just until cookies are set and begin to brown. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.

Published in: on June 13, 2009 at 5:07 pm  Comments (3)  

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Another of my favorite food magazines is Cook’s Country.  It’s a spin off of another great magazine, Cook’s Illustrated.  Cook’s Country is full of great recipes and helpful hints.  I found this recipe in the April/May 2009 edition.  It was a make-ahead recipe meant to be frozen and baked later, but I made and served it immediately.  It was delicious!  The garlic-flavored bread crumbs were a great addition.

DSCI0054 (2)

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese (Courtesy of Cook’s Country)

Ingredients

  • 4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
  • 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8 T unsalted butter, melted
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 6 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 t dry mustard
  • 1/8 t cayenne pepper
  • 4 1/2 c low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 4 c shredded colby cheese
  • 2 c shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

2.  Pulse bread, parmesan, garlic, and 2 T butter in food processor until coarsely ground.  Set aside.

3.  Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.

4.  Heat remaining butter, flour, mustard, and cayenne in pot over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until golden and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.  Slowly whisk in broth and cream and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.  Off heat, whisk in colby, cheddar, 1 t salt, and 1/2 t pepper until smooth.

5.  Combine the macaroni with the sauce.  Divide the mixture between two greased 8 inch baking dishes.  Divide the crumb topping in half and sprinkle on top of the two dishes.

6.  Bake about 30 to 40 minutes or until the crumbs are golden brown.  Let cool 10 minutes.

Published in: on May 24, 2009 at 7:17 pm  Comments (5)  

March 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge – Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

Well, it’s that time again…Daring Bakers Challenge time!  Here’s the gist of this month’s challenge and the hosts:

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

I was looking forward to this challenge but also nervous because it included a component I’d never tried before:  homemade pasta.  As noted on a previous post, my awesome hubby bought me some great pasta making equipment just for this challenge.  Thanks babe!  I’m really glad he got me that stuff because I probably would’ve had a nervous breakdown if I’d had to make the pasta by hand. 

Here’s a pic of the dough:

dsci0003-5

And here’s the finished pasta drying:

dsci0004-5

In hindsight, I think my dough was a little too wet, but at least I’ll know better next time.  Considering this was my first attempt at making pasta, I didn’t think it went too bad. 🙂

Here’s the first layer of the lasagne during assembly:

dsci0005-5 And the finished product:

dsci0011-51

dsci0015-5

This ordeal was quite a time-consuming process, and I did it over the span of two days.  It was a lot of fun though, since I finally made pasta for the first time and made a lasagne different from what I’m used to.  I followed the recipes exactly for the pasta and béchamel, but I did some substitutions on the ragu.  I used half ground turkey and half turkey sausage to replace all the meat, used all beef broth instead of using red wine, and used one 14.5 ounce can of crushed tomatoes in place of the three plum tomatoes.  So how did it taste?  Eh, it was good, but I don’t see myself making it again.  I also made my usual lasagne along side this as sort of a compare and contrast, and I much preferred it.  Guess I like the “Americanized” version better. 

I’m gonna totally cop out on posting the recipe….it’s freaking long!  Visit Mary’s blog Beans and Caviar (very cool blog BTW) for the recipe in its entirety and also for some cool You Tube videos of the pasta making process.

Thanks to our three hosts for presenting us with a true challenge!  To view the creations of other Daring Bakers, visit the Daring Bakers Blogroll.  Also visit the new home of the Daring Bakers and Cooks, The Daring Kitchen.  Lis and Ivonne did an awesome job on it!

Published in: on March 27, 2009 at 7:48 pm  Comments (30)  

BBD #17 – Sourdough Rye Bread

This month’s Bread Baking Day #17 was hosted by Lien from Notitie van Lien.  She has a wonderful blog/website.  The theme Lien chose was “Bread and Potatoes.”  Potatoes had to be an integral ingredient of the bread.  I thumbed through my cookbook, The Bread Book:  A Baker’s Almanac, for ideas.  I found a recipe for a potato water sourdough starter and decided to start my recipe idea with sourdough.  I’ve wanted to make a sourdough starter for a while and thought what the heck…now’s as good a time as any to make one!  It was a lot of fun getting the starter going.  I’ve already made several other breads with it, all of which will end up here on the blog as well :).  Here’s a picture of the starter:

  dsci0024

It’s separated because I just pulled it out of the fridge.  I have it stored in this Mason jar with a piece of plastic wrap between the cap and the jar so the metal doesn’t touch the starter. 

Potato Water Starter  (Courtesy of The Bread Book:  A Baker’s Almanac)

Ingredients

  • 1 T dry yeast
  • 2 t sugar
  • 2 c warm water in which potatoes have been cooked
  • 2 additional cups water
  • 2 c unbleached white flour, or other flour of your choice (I used 1 c unbleached white flour and 1 c  Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Graham Flour)

Directions

1.  Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm potato water.  Put in a glass, plastic, or crockery bowl; cover with towel and let it sit in a warm place for about 48 hours. 

2.  At the end of this time, stir in 2 more cups warm water and two cups flour.  Cover.  Let stand overnight or longer, until the whole mixture is frothy and smells sour.  Make sure your bowl is large enough to allow for expansion. 

3.  Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator (Note – Don’t use metal bowls or utensils or store your starter in a metal container).  

4.  You’ll need to feed your starter about once a week.  Remove ½ to 1 c of starter (either discard or use in a recipe or use what the recipe directs).  Add equal parts water/flour (½ c water and ½ flour, for example, if you remove ½ c starter) and stir well.  Let it sit at room temperature for several hours, stir, and return to the fridge.

For the bread, I decided on a sourdough rye.  Rye bread is one of my favorites, and I liked this recipe because of the orange peel and seeds it contained.  It was rather dense but good.

dsci0178

Sourdough Rye Bread (Courtesy of The Bread Book:  A Baker’s Almanac)

Ingredients

  • 1 c sourdough starter
  • 3½ c rye flour, preferably stone-ground (I used Hodgson Mill brand)
  • 3½ to 4½ c unbleached white flour
  • ½ c warm water
  • 1 T dry yeast
  • ½ c warm water
  • 2 T honey or maple syrup
  • ½ c mashed potatoes
  • 2 T light oil
  • 2 t salt
  • 2 t fennel seeds
  • 1 t caraway seeds
  • ½ t grated orange peel
  • ¼ c unsulphured molasses

Directions
1.  In a large plastic, glass, or crockery bowl, mix together the starter, ½ c each of the rye and white flours, and ½ warm water.  If the batter seems too stiff, add a little more water.  Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let sit 6 hours or overnight.
 
2.  Add to the bowl the yeast, ½ c warm water, honey or maple syrup, mashed potatoes, and 1 c each of rye and white flours.  Mix and let stand again, covered, at least 6 hours or until the next day.
 
3.  Add the oil, salt, fennel, and caraway seeds, orange peel, molasses, and 2 c each of rye flour and white flour, stirring until the dough is too stiff to mix further by hand.  Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, adding a little more white flour if the dough remains sticky but don’t add too much otherwise the dough will be too dry.  Put the dough in a buttered or oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rise until doubled in bulk.
 
4.  Punch the dough down, turn out onto a lightly floured surface, knead a few times to press out the air bubbles, and divide in half; cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
 
5.  Grease a cookie sheet and dust with cornmeal.  Shape the dough into two ovals or rounds, place on the sheet, and slash the top with a sharp knife if desired.  Cover with a towel and let rise until almost doubled.
 
6.  Preheat the oven to 425° F.  Bake for 15 minutes.  During this time you can mist or brush the loaves with cold water two or three times for a hard crust.  Reduce the heat to 350° F and bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until the bottoms sound hollow when tapped.  Brush the loaves with melted butter.  Cool on a rack.
 
Makes 2 loaves

Published in: on February 28, 2009 at 7:41 pm  Comments (21)