Friday, April 6, 2012

Cream Puffs

I am in no way a pastry chef.  I'm shocked that these cream puffs even turned out as good as they did.  In fact, when I was making cream puffs my arm almost fell off from stirring the dough, I was left virtually armless.  My hand, cramping...going numb...and I thought for sure this recipe was going to be a dud.  

Tenacity and perseverance paid off though and the finished product was a golden cream puff with the perfect custard filling and a delicious chocolate drizzle.  But don't expect these again anytime soon.  I now need a pain reliever and a sedative.

Cream Puffs
cup water
cup butter or stick margarine
cup all-purpose flour
Custard Filling
cup granulated sugar
tablespoons cornstarch
teaspoon salt
cups half-and-half
egg yolks, slightly beaten
tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
teaspoons vanilla
Chocolate Glaze
tablespoon powdered sugar
cup chocolate syrup
  • Heat oven to 400°F. In 2 1/2-quart saucepan, heat water and 1/2 cup butter to rolling boil. Stir in flour. Reduce heat to low; stir vigorously over low heat about 1 minute or until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat.
  • Beat in eggs, all at once, with spoon. Continue beating until smooth. Drop dough by level tablespoonfuls about 1 1/2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets to make 36 puffs.
  • Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until puffed and golden. Cool away from draft, about 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, mix granulated sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually stir in half-and-half. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute. Gradually stir at least half of the hot mixture into egg yolks, then stir back into hot mixture in saucepan. Boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter and the vanilla.
  • Pour filling into bowl. Press plastic wrap on filling to prevent a tough layer from forming on top. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or until cool.
  • Cut puffs horizontally in half. Fill puffs with filling; replace tops. Sift powdered sugar over tops. Cover; refrigerate until serving. Serve drizzled with chocolate topping. Store remaining profiteroles covered in refrigerator.

Sexy Chicken

I love hearing the sizzle of a pat of butter when it hits a hot pan.  I love seeing the steam rise from a loaf of bread fresh from the oven.  I love the sound of a knife tapping its blade against a cutting board.  

Cooking, for me, is a sensory delight.  Truly.  It's where I can create and engage in my love affair with food.  It's where I combine a delicate balance of flavors and texture and where magic happens.  

I created this fantastic Sexy Chicken.  It's so easy and fast.  And a beautiful dish perfect for a special occasion or just to have on a Tuesday night.

4 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1 lb.) or tenderloins
Pepper to taste
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced, separated into rings
1 red pepper, sliced into very thin strips
1 cup fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
½- ¾ cup Caesar Dressing (you can use fat free)
1 cup Finely Shredded Italian Cheese Blend, Or you can use mozzarella or parmesan.
Hot cooked noodles or rice  
Heat large nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium-high heat. Add chicken, season with pepper; cook 5 min. on each side or until cooked through.  Remove chicken once cooled.
Add vegetables, sauté until softened.  Add chicken, broth and dressing; cover. Cook on medium heat 6 to 8 min.
Spoon vegetables onto platter; top with chicken, sauce and cheese.  Serve with noodles or rice.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Crab Quiche

What a day! What a day!!  After the usual work and errands I came home to a clean house and some jazzy tunes playin' on the turntable.  It was another lovely spring day in Norfolk and the sun was still shining at 7:13pm with a beautiful sunset painting the evening and hanging in the air.  

All week I have been embracing overcoming the fear of cooking seafood so I decided tonight would be no different.  I was feelin' the love for some of my shelly friends from the sea.  I don't so much mind making anything with crab meat...basically because the work is pretty much done for you if you purchase a pound of lump or backfin crab meat.  I don't want to waste my time picking meat from the tiny claws of a crab.  I'd much rather pay someone else to do it.  However, I highly recommend picking it over to be sure no leftover pieces of shell are hiding.  It's just no fun biting into a piece of shell.

Here's how to make an easy crab quiche.  I paired this with my favorite salad.  

1 Pie Crust (use your favorite recipe or use a refrigerated crust for a deep dish pie)
For filling

  • 1 (1-lb) king crab leg, thawed if frozen, or 1/2 lb lump crabmeat, picked over.  I picked backfin crab meat 'cause it was on sale.
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 green onion chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon seafood seasoning or cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 oz coarsely grated Monterey Jack cheese (1/2 cup)
  • 2 oz coarsely grated Swiss cheese (1/2 cup)

Prepare Pie Crust for a single crust pie.

  • Make filling:
  • If using crab leg, hack through shell with a large heavy knife and cut meat into 1/2-inch pieces. Discard shell.  Whisk together eggs, cream, herbs, seafood seasoning, salt, and pepper, and then stir in cheeses and crabmeat.  Pour into prebaked crust and bake until filling puffs and is no longer wobbly in center when quiche is gently shaken, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool in pie plate on rack 15 minutes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pan Seared Sesame Tuna

I have to say this year is shaping up to be another amazing one and APRIL is almost here and I'm happy to report I have stuck with several of my resolutions including the all important "face your fears", especially when it comes to cooking fish!

You know I've been afraid to cook fish for the longest time.  LONGEST time.  Well, I am excited that I finally got up the guts to turn my fear into curiosity and make some really delicious seafood cuisine and my only regret is that I haven't done this sooner.  Not only is fish incredibly healthy, but its also very quick and easy to prepare!!

A few weeks ago I baked some cajun salmon fillets that were absolutely fantastic!!  So, I thought I'd try my hand at Tuna Steaks, which are Scott's favorite.  I did try making Tuna steaks one time before, but they weren't quite as delectable the first time around.

Start with your beautiful tuna steaks.  Always make sure you buy sushi or sashimi grade Tuna steaks for this recipe and be sure they are a beautiful bright pink.

Preheat a skillet or cast iron pan with Olive oil over high heat.  Your pan really needs to be screamin' hot!

Rub tuna steaks with olive oil on each side.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Dredge in sesame seeds.  I only had black sesame seeds on hand, but a mixture of black and white would make this a beautiful fish dish.

Last, sear Tuna on each side for about 2 minutes or just until the outside is cooked.  Tip 1: Don't overcrowd the Tuna.  Allow a little room so the Tuna cooks properly.  Tip 2:  Don't overcook the Tuna.  It's perfectly safe and delicious for the center to be a beautiful pink.

 That's It!!  All there is to it.  Topped with a drizzle of Japanese Mayo (bought at the Asian market) and served with Rice is Scott's favorite way to eat.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Strawberry Tartlets

I've been MIA for a few weeks.  I just needed a break from things and I've been busy making plans (as if that's ever concrete) for what lies ahead in our family.  I'm happy to report I've conquered several of my New Year's resolutions.  But we'll save that for another post.  I'll have lots of new fantastic recipes to share as well.

It appears that Spring is in the air and that means fresh and new!  And who can believe it's already MARCH?? Wow, my birth month is here.  Another year older.   Another year of adventure behind me.  And hopeful for another wonderful adventure ahead.

Well, I whipped up Jambalaya tonight for a quick and easy supper.  It's one of Scott's faves.  To balance out the heat, I thought it would be nice for a cool sweet treat.  So I whipped up some Strawberry Tartlets.

I got a great deal on some mega sweet strawberries at the market and they were perfect for these tartlets.

I started with puff pastry.  You can find this flaky treat in the frozen section.  It's really easy to work with and goes great with just about anything.  Out of one sheet you can cut 9 equal squares.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place each square into a muffin cup.  This will form your flaky tart shell.  Bake 9-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool slightly.

Meanwhile, prepare Strawberry Glace.

3 cups fresh whole strawberries, hulled, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup water
Few drops red food coloring, optional

Mash 1 cup strawberries; set aside.
In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch; stir in water and mashed berries. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in food coloring if desired. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Cool for 10 minutes.

Then you can get started on your cream cheese filling.  This is my favorite part.  I could eat cream cheese every single day.  Just the thought of it makes me giddy.

1 block softened cream cheese
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients until smooth.  I like to pipe the filling so I add it to a plastic ziploc bag and snip the corner with my kitchen scissors.

The fun begins when you assemble these fun tarts!  Simply pipe the creamy filling.  Top with the strawberry Glace and a little whipped cream.  Garnish with fresh sliced strawberries.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Spicy BBQ Chicken Rub

You ever color your own hair?  Well, I have very dark black hair and can you guess what else?  Yep.  Those stubborn pesky grays which have increased at an alarming rate over the last few years.  (I feel as though I should be concerned.)  To avoid turning skunkish, I've been coloring my hair.

With my wild sticky black hair and adorned in my "hair color" shirt, which is merely an old and very large men's North Face Tshirt, wouldn't you know the doorbell rings!  I scared the UPS man.  Poor guy couldn't leave fast enough.  I'm not sure if he was frightened by the hair, put off by the scent, or afraid of my goopy gloved hands. Oh well, at least my hair looks fabulous again.  AND I received our replacement kindle fire for the one my children already managed to mangle since receiving it for Christmas.  Thank you Amazon warranty!

I wasn't the only one getting all prettied up!  I gave the chicken a massage with this delicious rub then topped the chicken with my favorite BBQ sauce and baked at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Perfect!

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 tablespoon ground cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients together.  Store in an airtight container.

Use about 3 Tablespoons as rub for 4 chicken breasts.

Monday, February 6, 2012

BFF Peanut Butter Pie

I love hangin' out with my best friend.

Over the weekend we went to paint pottery at Color Me Mine and have some eats and drinks at Colley Cantina.  We laughed and laughed and laughed until we couldn't laugh any more.

We made these awesome mugs!

I'm lucky to have a friend that knows so much about me and still loves me anyway.  We love to laugh.  We love Mexican and Margaritas.  We love to thrift shop together.  We watch the same great movies.  We have a strange sense of humor.  We are flamingos in a flock of pigeons.  She is the pop to my tart, the star to my burst and the peanut to my butter.

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese

1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 (16 ounce) package frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust or chocolate cookie crust

Beat together cream cheese and confectioners sugar. Mix in peanut butter.  Beat until smooth. Fold in whipped topping.
Spoon into crust.  Cover, and freeze until firm.

*NOTE:  The crust can be made with graham crackers and a tablespoon of cocoa powder if you don't have chocolate cookies.  Nutter butter cookies also make a great crust!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Chocolate Donut Cake

So my little baby girl is growing up!  I can't believe I'll have a middle schooler very soon.  Not that I haven't experienced middle school with our boys, but it's really exciting to see your child embrace their opportunities!

I had a fantastic meeting with, whom I consider, one of the best ever school guidance counselors in the world.  The woman is a saint and she is so special because the enthusiasm she has for her work just beams out of her room like sunshine after a rainy day!  Anyway, after telling me wonderful things about the options available in our area, I was really excited to get started on the process that lies ahead of us.  Applying to a middle school.

You're probably thinking, "Why in the heck do you have to apply to middle school?"  Well, my smarty pants of a kid is just that.  Incredibly smart, amazing grades, tests super high on benchmarks, and she is gifted!  So, she is being encouraged to take advantage of special programs our school system offers!  I'm totally proud.
And she's just so darn cute!

So tonight we celebrated her achievements with her favorite dinner, Fettucini Alfredo.  I also made a quick Academy Chicken and made a delicious Chocolate Donut Cake for dessert.

The best part of the donut cake is in fact the frosting.  I swear it tastes like it belongs on a long john at Krispy Kreme.  It's so thick, creamy and glossy!

The cake is just a basic Golden Vanilla bundt cake.

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 egg, at room temperature
2 egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup low-fat (1%) milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel, (optional)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4-1/2 teaspoons powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour Bundt pan; set aside.

Beat granulated sugar, butter, egg and egg whites in large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add milk and vanilla; mix well. Add flour, lemon peel (if using), baking powder and salt; beat about 2 minutes or until smooth.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Gently loosen cake from pan with knife and turn out onto wire rack; cool completely.

For the frosting:

2 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons skim or 2% milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, sift together the confectioners' sugar and cocoa, and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar mixture alternately with evaporated milk. Blend in vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust consistency with more milk or sugar.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Granola Bars

My kids are major snackers.  So I've been trying to incorporate the healthiest snacks possible for when their mood strikes.  And my sweet little 8 year old is addicted to peanut butter, so I whipped up these yummy Peanut butter and Chocolate Granola Bars.  They've lasted all of 8 minutes.  I digress.  Next time I'll make a double batch!

1/2 cup reduced-fat creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1 egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup peanut butter chips
1/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, beat the peanut butter, honey, egg, oil and vanilla until blended.

In another bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar and salt; add the peanut butter mixture and mix well. Stir in chips. (Batter will be sticky.)

Transfer to a 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray.  (I like to line my pan with nonstick foil)

Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until set and edges are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Taco Dip Super Bowl Dish

My dear friend Kristen (who is totally amazing) asked me for a vegetarian recipe idea she could make in the crock to take to a super bowl party.  I had to put my thinking cap on and come up with something munchie like so I offered my suggestion for a Taco Dip and Black bean stuffed peppers.

The more and more I thought about it, the more hungry I became for taco dip.  Amazing how that happens.

I highly suggest you take Beano before eating.  Just sayin'.

Taco Dip 
1 cup frozen corn
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 can black kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup mild taco sauce
1 can (4 oz) mild diced green chilies
1 can (4 oz) ripe olives
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
tortilla chips
sour cream

Mix first 8 ingredients in crock pot.  Cover and cook on low for 2-4 hours or high 1-2 hours.  Just before serving, stir in cheese.  Serve with tortilla chips and sour cream.  This can just be left on low for serving at a party.

*Note:  If you want to add meat, cook ground beef in a skillet until brown, drain well, then mix with other ingredients in the crock.

*Note:  This can be cooked in an oven safe dish at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Baked BBQ Burgers And Onion Rings

What a week.  What a very long week.  And it's only Wednesday.  

This shirt about sums it up!

I've been in a training class all week, which has thrown off my entire sleep/work/chore schedule, and that has prompted easy meals this very strange January week.  However, we have been eating our dinners early and that has made a huge difference in our entire day!  That just might become a new thing.  Early Bird special with the seniors at 4pm...I totally get it now.  

I've had a couple of new recipes on the menu and tonight I just decided to make some Baked BBQ Burgers and Crispy golden buttery salty delicious homemade Onion Rings and Fries.  Need I say more?

BBQ sauce is really easy to make and it's even better when you modify the ingredients to your own taste.  I like a smoky sweet sauce.  If you don't prefer to make your own, just use your favorite bottled brand.  Here's an easy fallback sauce recipe. 

1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup quick-cooking oats  (Adds great source of fiber and serves as a binder I use it in my meatloaf too)
1/4 cup BBQ sauce + 1/4 cup more for basting
1 tsp Montreal Steak Seasoning (my favorite)
1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef (you can easily substitute other ground meat)
hamburger buns
(lettuce, cheese, pickles, tomatoes, optional)

In a small saucepan, combine the first 10 ingredients. Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. Set aside 1 cup barbecue sauce to serve with burgers.

In a large bowl, combine the egg, oats, 1/4 cup of the remaining barbecue sauce, seasoning. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Shape into six patties.

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Place burger patties on a foil lined baking tray and bake for 20 minutes, or until desired doneness.  Serve with your favorite burger toppings.

*NOTE:  I like to use a roasting rack to place my burgers on, so all of the extra fat drains from the meat without allowing the meat to sit in it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cinnamon Streusel Ribbon Muffins

It's the beginning of another week and I can already tell is going to be a doozy!!  We cleaned the whole house and the girls were really helpful.  Everything is organized, dinners are prepped, and clothes laid out.  It always saves me so much time in the mornings if I've planned ahead.  That also includes what we'll be having for breakfast.  This muffin thing might be a new "Sunday thing" for me....Make a big batch of yummy muffins and store in an airtight container for breakfast throughout the week.

I whipped up these Cinnamon Streusel Ribbon Muffins and boy do they smell scrumptious!  I just love fresh muffins with coffee, fruit and yogurt.

I've been using unbleached King Arthur Flour for baking for a few months now and I'm sooo in love with the way my baked goods turn out!  

Streusel Topping
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
½ stick unsalted butter
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl using a fork until crumbly.
Sprinkle over muffins right before baking.

Cinnamon Ribbon
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Muffin Batter
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all the cinnamon ripple ingredients in a mixing bowl and use an electric mixer to blend them. Set the mixture aside. Then heat the oven to 400° and grease the bottoms only of 12 standard muffin cups or line with foil liners (foil are WAY better than paper ones).

For the batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until the mixture is pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Stir in the dry ingredients just until the batter is blended. Then sprinkle the cinnamon ribbon over the batter and use a flexible spatula to fold it in a couple of times.

Divide the batter equally among the muffin cups, top with streusel topping, and bake the muffins for 13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes before removing them.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Popcorn that Pops

It is Science Fair time in our little world.  My approach to the science fair is usually kicking and screaming, lots of tears and "please don't make me help you".  And then it's followed by something that resembles giving in.

Ugh.  Anyway, this year, my tune changed just a smidge when I realized my child actually picked something interesting.  POPCORN!!  Holy moly, what a concept.  Something I actually thought could be fun!  A little chemistry project.

The GREAT thing is I have learned how to make my very own popcorn (Thank you Pinterest) AND how to properly store it to get the most popped corn.  Don't you hate it when you pop a bag in the microwave and then there's nothing but 10,000 kernels rattling around in the bottom of the bag?  What a waste of money.

Move over Orville!  I've got the trick to your favorite snackaroo, I can save you money, and it's way healthier than prepackaged poppers.

On average the cost of prepackaged popcorn is a whopping $3.53 per pound....with my method you can save a bundle by buying in bulk and prepare your favorite snack at only 50-60 CENTS per pound.  A steal!!

Plus, there will be no mystery ingredients in your paper bag.  Check out the ingredient list on Act II popcorn:

Important Information
Safety Information:
Contains soy, milk.  Caution! Handle tub carefully.  Open away from face.  Tub and contents are very hot!

Popcorn, Partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Annatto Color.  Contains: Fish, Milk

Are you kidding me??  Fish and milk?  In my popcorn?  Gross.  Just gross.  But that's what happens when you don't read the label.

There are so many ways you can flavor a homemade batch and KNOW EXACTLY what is in your bag of deliciousness and there is no need for an expensive air popper.  NEVER will I buy those prepacks of popcorn again!

Now back to the basics of science:  Corn is merely made of starch and a tiny bit of water inside each little shell.  When the water is heated it turns into a gas and once it reaches a precise temperature, the gas explodes through the outer shell resulting in a perfectly popped kernel of corn.

Shall we?  Don't mind if I do!

Start with your basic no name brown paper lunch bags.  I picked up a stack of 40 at the Dollar Tree for one buckaroo.  And a 2 pound bag of Yellow Popcorn kernels, although I believe it also comes in white kernels, for $2.00 at the market.

1/4 cup good quality popcorn

1-2 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or popcorn salt
Paper lunch bag

Toss the popcorn with the oil and salt  in the paper bag. Fold the top of the bag over twice to close.

Place the bag in the microwave and microwave on high (100% power) for 2 minutes to 3 minutes, or until there are about 5 seconds between pops.  Each microwave is different, so popping times may vary.

Toss with your favorite flavored popcorn salt or other seasonings and/or melted butter!!  Enjoy!

*Science Fair Note:  The best place to store popcorn so it yields the most popped kernels is at room temperature!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Croque Monsieur Provençal

Butter.  Bread.  Cheese.  More butter. 

I've been craving grilled cheese sandwiches for days.  Probably since I came across the Cookoff of such sandwiches.  Yep.  The Grilled Cheese Invitational is held in Los Angeles and WHAT would be more fun than to enjoy every buttery bite of a such an intense competition??  I can't think of anything, but I'm sure it would involve food.  Bacon maybe. 

Anyway, I wanted to build upon the basics of the average grilled cheese and make it a WOWZA supper, so a little kitchen magic turned my plain old grilled cheese into a Croque Monsieur.  What the heck is that you ask?!?

Well, traditionally Croque Monsieur is just french for hot ham and cheese.  Something you'd probably find in a little bistro or cafe.  Croque Madame is the same sandwich, but with a fried or poached egg on top.  No matter what way you like it or the variation you choose, it's an out of this world experience and I urge you to try it soon.  Why am I calling mine provençal you ask?  Well, simple, I added a thick slice of tomato.  (Homegrown summer tomatoes would taste SO much better, but I did what I could with what I had.)

I picked up this beautiful fresh French loaf at the market.  

You can use what you have.  I got this baby for a steal, otherwise I probably would've chosen a hearty bread like Ciabatta or a Focaccia.  Eh.  It works.  If you want to impress someone though, just pop into your bakery and pick up something special.  Heck, just getcha some from Panera.  (our secret.)

One thing to remember when making these is to make sure your pan isn't too hot.  That, and Thick slices of bread are key to making this an amazing sandwich experience.  Well, that and lots of butter.

Anywho...back to sandwiching.

I choose to make a cheesy spread for each slice of bread, then assemble the sandwich with the slices of cheese of your choice.

For the Sandwich you'll need:
Bread (as discussed above)
Spread (directions below)
ham and/or bacon
sliced cheese in your favorite flavors

For the spread:
4 oz. cream cheese (softened)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 Tablespoons mayo (REAL mayo, not Miracle Whip)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together.
Smear it all over those bread slices.  Just a thin layer will do.  This batch will yield 4 sandwiches perfectly.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Place 2 slices of bread, plain side down in pan.  This will allow the cheesy spread to get all creamy and melty on top.  (SOOO good) 

Yes, I realize there is another pat of butter in my pan on the verge of melted happiness.  Don't judge.

Then layer with ham, bacon, tomato, sliced cheese....I had swiss, Meunster, Cheddar and Provolone on hand...everyone chose their favorite. 

Brown perfectly until golden on each side and heated through.  Adding butter 1 tablespoon at a time as needed.

Enjoy your Croque Monsieur Provençal!!!  Happy Eating!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Chicken Piccata

New Year.  More recipes. More family time.  More happiness. More homework.

This afternoon my 10 year old asked for some help. "Mom, there's this famous music guy that I need to find some facts on in order to get some extra credit in chorus. His name is Mozart or something?" 

Chew on that without choking while you make this recipe for an easy Chicken Piccata.  This Piccata doesn't have capers and I don't think it really needs them.  It's just a nice lemon butter sauce with a lightly breaded chicken. 
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 egg
3 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh squeezed is best)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon montreal steak seasoning
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon powder
1/2 cup boiling water

In a small bowl, beat the egg together with 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice. Set aside.

In a shallow bowl or dish mix together the flour and seasoning. Dip the chicken in the egg/lemon mixture, then in the seasoned flour.

In a large skillet, melt butter/margarine and brown the coated chicken pieces.  (Very important to brown both sides of the chicken before the next step.  If you rush it, your breading will fall off and the chicken will lose it's moisture.)

Dissolve the bouillon in the boiling water, then add the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Pour liquid into skillet. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, turning chicken pieces after 10 minutes, until chicken is tender. Garnish as desired and serve.