Tag Archive | holiday dinner ideas

White Sauces – Easy (and From Scratch!)

I found a wonderful “comfort food” recipe on Pinterest the other day. It was just perfect to prepare after being out in the cold temperatures – Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole. It dawned on me, as I was making the dish, that the recipe called for cream of (something or other) soup. I've made my own white sauces for many years. It's easy and you can skip all of the preservatives and chemicals that the canned soups contain.

By simply using three simple ingredients and spending about five minutes of your time, you can create a “cream of” soup (white sauce) for your recipe.

Here's how:

For a cup of white sauce (for creamed and scalloped dishes) simply melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan.

 

Blend in 2 tablespoons of flour, cooking over low heat and stirring until the mixture is smooth and bubbly. Remove it from the heat and stir in 1 cup of milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly for one minute. Done! Season as you wish with salt and pepper, etc.

Here's that comfort food recipe: Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

For two servings, I grilled two chicken breasts and sliced them in serving size pieces in the bottom of an 8 x 8 casserole dish. Then chop some deli-sliced ham and sprinkle over the top of the chicken, followed by thin sliced swiss cheese. Prepare your white sauce (recipe above) and when you bring it to its final boil after adding the milk, ADD a good squeeze of fresh lemon, a dollop of dijon mustard, some salt, smoked paprika and white pepper to the sauce. Stir to incorporate. Pour the sauce over your chicken mixture in the baking dish.

Now, as if this recipe doesn't have enough comfort food calories, you finish the dish with a topping. Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a pan, add 1 cup of Panko crumbs, 1/2 teaspoon of Lawrys seasoning salt and a tablespoon of dried parsley. Combine and sprinkle over the chicken dish.

I baked for 30 minutes until the sauce was bubbly and then stuck the dish under the broiler to finish those Panko breadcrumbs into a golden brown.

Wow – is this good! (certainly not a dinner your waistline or arteries could take on a regular basis, but once in a while was sure delicious!)

Enjoy!

 

 

Sous vide……..What a Great New Way to Cook!

The holidays are always greatly anticipated at our house, especially when we are privileged to host our family and friends. We go into high gear – and this year, it was even more fun than usual.

A couple of weeks ago, a new-found friend had been explaining a cooking technique he used. It was called sous vide. What??? How do you spell that?

It's French, pronounced “soo veed” and it means “under vacuum”. After our friend's animated description, we looked at each other and decided we just had to check into this technique a bit further. Off to the Internet we went, reading different recipes and understanding the whole concept of this type of cooking. The sous vide technique cooks your food in a vacuum sealed bag while it is submerged in a water bath at a precisely controlled temperature —- whew! That's a mouthful!

In a nutshell, you take your piece of meat, for example, and place your favorite spices, fruits, and/or rubs inside the bag. Vacuum seal the bag closed and submerge it in the sous vide cooker. It is preset to a special temperature and the cooker will hold water within one degree of that temperature for the entire period of time it cooks. The natural flavors and juices are locked inside the bag as it cooks. The nutrients found in the food are retained – compared to grilling or baking, where they may evaporate or stay within the pan.

The time and temperature that you cook your meat varies. We did a brisket for 48 hours (yup, you heard it right!). Beef tenderloin – 4 to 6 hours. Pork tenderloin took 6-8 hours and salmon was done in fifty minutes. Each cut of meat was sealed in it's own bag with it's own variety of seasonings. The low, slow way of cooking made the meat OH so tender and moist.

We chose to purchase a sous vide cooker, but have been told that you can make your own by purchasing a heating element and circulator on-line. I will tell you that the cooker, itself, was pricey – but we seldom go out to eat and I would liken the price to a fancy dinner out for four. The water temperature and the cooking time determine the “done-ness” of the food – so special attention was given to the cooking manual!

Not to be outdone by the main dish, we had to have some homemade Thanksgiving bread to complete the look. We made a batch of dough, shaped the rolls into balls and scored the sides with a sharp knife. As the dough rose, it spread apart and gave the appearance of a little pumpkin. We stuck a nut in the top to give it a stem – and off to the oven they went.

After a wonderful day of great family, friends, and food – we paused to say “thanks” for another holiday….and bustled off to the car to go see Santa!!

 

A Great Recipe for Your Cherry Tomatoes

It's October, and our area has already experienced a number of frosty nights. We hurriedly pulled the tomatoes from their vines and have frozen and canned a number of batches. One favorite recipe for our cherry tomatoes follows. It makes a beautiful presentation and is full of all kinds of nummy flavors!

 

Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed with Mozzarella and Basil

This recipe will yield about 36 hors d'oeuvres.

1/2 pound of fresh mozzarella, cut into very tiny diced pieces. Should cut enough to make approximately

1 1/4 cup

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup of chopped basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated lemon zest

Salt and pepper

20 cherry tomatoes

 

In a medium bowl, stir together the cheese, oil, basil, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before assembling to let the flavors all come together.

Slice each cherry tomato in half and scoop out the insides with a melon-baller or teaspoon. Sprinkle each half with a dash of salt and place, inverted, on a paper towel to drain for about 15 minutes.

Fill each tomato half with about a teaspoon of the cheese mixture and arrange on a serving tray. We like to finish the plate with a drizzle of balsamic reduction over the tomatoes – not much – just a little bit for a great flavor!

Enjoy!

 

Easter Dinner – en Croute!

The crew is coming here for our Easter celebration. I'm sure we will have bright eyes and smiles as the little ones come with their baskets to see what the Easter bunny has left for them!

It reminds me of an Easter Sunday just two years ago. Our family was blessed with five Swedish visitors, three of which would stay on with us for almost a month. They were chosen by their school to come to Colorado in a study to compare Sweden to America and how we use our horses! Of the other two visitors, one was a beautiful girl who had spent her senior year with us as an exchange student in the 1990s.

So, what better place to show our American horse heritage than on a ranch? Our eager visitors jumped in head first – learning how to move cattle, tag newborn calves, and even helping on branding day.

It was a month we all remember fondly!

Happy Easter girls!!!

A special Easter Dinner this year will be both Pork and Beef Tenderloins en Croute.

So…what's en croute? Sounds pretty fancy, huh? It typically means “to wrap”, so our holiday dinner will be wrapped in pastry. Since we raise our own beef and pork, we often put the tenderloins away for a special occasion.

Begin by taking a 3-4 pound tenderloin and roast it in 425 degree oven until it reaches 130 degrees. Remove it from the oven and place it in the refrigerator to cool. The reason we do this is so that the meat is “partially” roasted when you fold it inside the pastry.

Next, take 1/2 pound of finely chopped mushrooms and sauté in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add one 8 ounce container of your favorite cream cheese with herbs and garlic. (You can find it pre-packaged at the grocery store, or you can add your own favorite herbs yourself). Combine the mushrooms, cream cheese, 1/4 cup of dry bread crumbs and 2 tablespoons of Madeira wine or fruit juice of your choice. Finish the mixture with one tablespoon of freshly chopped chives and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Let this mixture cool.

The recipes that I have always used call for you to wrap your tenderloin in “puff pastry” sheets. Feel free to do that if you wish. I like to prepare a dough in my bread maker, any of your favorite bread recipes will work – just set your machine on the dough setting. This gives you even more control of the flavor surrounding your tenderloin.

Lay your pastry on a lightly floured surface and place the tenderloin in the middle. Spread the mushroom/cream cheese mixture over the meat and fold the pastry around it. Just like wrapping a present! Press the edges of the pastry to seal, and brush your masterpiece with an egg wash. Place in a greased pan for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. (Remember, we pre-baked the tenderloin, so it will basically just reheat inside the pastry envelope.)

 

Pork Tenderloin en Croute

If your group enjoys pork as much as mine does, try this slightly different version:

Using a 2 pound pork tenderloin, wrap with four pieces of prosciutto. Top with two teaspoons of Dijon mustard and a pinch of dried rosemary. You will note that you do not pre-bake the pork before wrapping it in your pastry. Poke three holes in the top of the pastry to allow the steam to escape. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes double checking the pork's progress with a meat thermometer. Let rest for five minutes.

Have a blessed Easter!