Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Slow cook mozzarella chicken

This recipe is for those days when you have a million things to do and want a delicious dinner in a couple of hours with minimal work.  You can make this with chicken or pork chops, and it's equally yummy.  I'll tell you the slight difference in instructions at the end.  The recipe calls for 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but I love leftovers, so I get a 13X9 glass baking dish and fill it up.  It's great to serve 6 or 8 people this way.  First I'll tell you the recipe and then we'll tweak it to make it work in the real world.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 pound mozzarella cheese
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 16 oz tub Sour Cream
1 Tbsp dried onion
1/2 soup can Milk
1 Cup Ritz or saltine crackers
1/2 stick butter, melted

Okay, since we're making enough for a larger group or for left overs, place the chicken in the bottom of a 13X9 glass baking dish side by side.  The chicken can be frozen or thawed, it doesn't matter.  The chicken can be touching each other.  Since there's more than 4 chicken breasts, we need more cheese, about 1 lb.  I cut pretty thick slices of cheese, about 1/4 inch thick, and place a slice of cheese on top of each chicken breast.

In a separate bowl, mix cream of chicken soup, sour cream, dried onion, and the milk.  Pour sauce over the chicken and cheese and spread out to cover.  In a small bowl, crush the crackers and combine with the melted butter.  Sprinkle this mixture over the chicken, cheese & soup mixture.

Do not cover.  Bake 275 degrees for 2 1/2 hours.  You can serve with rice or noodles.

If you would rather make this with pork chops, trim fat before placing them in the dish.  Pork cooks faster, so check it at 2 hours.  If you are watching carbs, you can delete the cracker/butter topping.  It's still very good without it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Peppercorn Chicken

This is a quick, easy chicken entree.  I'll start with the recipe and let you know how I have changed it in a pinch and still rescued dinner.

4 large chicken breast halves, skinned and boned
1 Tbsp crushed whole peppercorns
2 tsp butter
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp dried tarragon leaves

Place chicken in a zip-lock bag and pound with flat edge of mallet to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Remove from bag and sprinkle with peppercorns.

Heat heavy non-stick skillet.  Add butter and chicken.  Cook, turning once, until chicken is done, about 5 minutes.  Remove chicken to a plate and keep warm under foil.

Increase heat and add orange juice to pan and whisk in the cream and tarragon.  Boil, stirring, until sauce is glossy, thickened and reduced to about half the original volume.

Spoon sauce over chicken and serve.

Okay, this is really a good recipe.  I've done a couple of things with the orange juice, because I don't often have orange juice in the fridge in the evening.  You can spoon a Tablespoon of frozen OJ into the pan and add water to bring it up to the half cup, but if you don't add the full amount of water, you've just reduced the time to boil and reduce the sauce.  A time savings.  There have even been times when I haven't had a can of frozen OJ.  Don't laugh, but Tang works just as well.  Sprinkle about a Tablespoon of Tang in the pan and add a little water.  Again, don't put in the full 1/2 cup of water and you've just saved some time.  If you are cooking for more than 4 people, you can increase all the sauce ingredients to make more.

Before you start this dish, start some rice cooking to serve with this dish.  I like to spread the rice on a nice platter and then place the chicken breasts on the rice.  Then pour the sauce over the chicken and rice.  Now you have a really tasty side dish of Orange/cream rice instead of just plain rice.  A real crowd pleaser, and if the sauce isn't too thick, it soaks into the rice and tastes terrific.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Enjoy these recipies

A few days ago, a dear niece asked me if I would teach her how to cook and how to put Dinner together.  I was really surprised to hear this because her mom is a great cook.  She told me that even though she has always helped in the Kitchen, she has always been the prep chef and has never learned how to put the whole meal together.  She is far from home now at college and realizes that learning this skill is important to her future family. 

I do not consider myself a great cook.  I've had some successes and some failures too, but over the years, I have accumulated some recipies that are truly great.  I'll let you know what I've done to make the recipies better and what I've done to solve problems that contribute to failures.  In this way, I hope to share little lessons I've learned to help anyone be a better cook and not just someone following a chemistry project.

No Fail Pie Crust. . . FAIL

Okay, this really is a very tasty pie crust, the directions were just wrong.  Let's start with the recipie and then I'll tell you where it failed and how to fix it.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), softened but still cool
2 ounces cream cheese, softened but still cool

Lightly coat 9-inch Pyrex (glass) pie plate with cooking spray. Sift flour, sugar, and salt together in a bowl.

With electric mixer at medium speed, cream butter and cream cheese together in large bowl. Scrape down sides of bowl occasionally.  This should take about 2 minutes.  Add flour mixture and combine on medium-low until well incorporated.  Scrape down sides of bowl and mix again at a faster speed until dough begins to form large clumps.  Reserve 3 tablespoons of dough.  Turn remaining dough onto lightly-floured surface and roll out to fit the pie place.  Gently press the dough into the plate.  With reserved dough, roll into a 12-inch rope.  Divide into three pieces, roll each piece into 8-inch rope, and form fluted edge around the edge of the pie plate.

Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork and bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes at 325 degrees.  If large bubbles form, wait until crust is fully baked, then gently press on bubbles with kitchen towel.  Bubbles will settle as crust cools.

Okay, I love the taste of this crust.  The cream cheese makes it very good, and anything with this much butter is bound to be good no matter what.  But with a whole stick of butter in the recipe, you don't need to spray the pie plate.  When I made this recipe, it fell in on itself while baking, which made for a delicious mess.

So don't spray the plate.  The next problem is the reserved dough to make a decorative fluting around the edges.  It really gives too much weight, and again the crust fell in on itself.  My second pie crust failure for the day.  Even though this recipe only makes 1 crust, theres plenty to make decorations and bake them with the crust on a separate cookie sheet to decorate with later. 

Well, the 3rd time's the charm.  So, don't spray the plate and don't make a rope to decorate the edges with.  It makes it too top heavy and it will fall in on itself.  Delicious taste and now great results.  Try this crust for all your fruit and cream pies.