Saturday, June 25, 2011

Chicken Reuben Casserole

Here is something you can make for tonight if you have about an hour and a quarter before dinner, or you can make early and just reheat when needed.  Using chicken breasts instead of corned beef should make it healthier, I think.  I don’t really know though as determining the healthiness of food is outside my expertise.  Well, to be serious, cooking is outside my expertise, it is more of a hobby usually based on the help of others who do have an expertise.

Anyway, this works and I would expect that it works well with corned beef, ham, or turkey also but I haven’t tried those yet.


·   Cooking Spray
·   4 boneless     Chicken Breasts (4 half breasts are fine if you would rather and they are large      enough for you
·   1/8 tsp            Black pepper
·   14 oz can        Sauerkraut
·   4 slices          Swiss Cheese
·   1 cup             Thousand Island Dressing
·   2 Tbl             Parsley
·   4 boneless     Chicken Breasts (4 half breasts are fine if you would rather and they are large enough for you
·   Cooking spray


1.      Spray a good sized oven proof baking dish.  One large enough for your chicken.  Use two if you want.
2.      Cut the fat and skin off the chicken breasts, then wash them, and place in the baking dish.
3.      Wash your hands thoroughly.  Raw chicken can cause problems.
4.      Look into the oven and make sure nobody is storing anything in there.  I had some starter resting in mine once and forgot about it.  Oh well, it only takes about a week to start a new one.
5.      Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. 
6.      Place the sauerkraut over the chicken.  Use tongs so you don’t touch the raw chicken
7.      Place one slice of cheese over each chicken breast (or half breast if you are going that way)
8.      Pour the dressing over everything
9.      Cover the dish with foil and bake for 1 hour.  Poke it with a knife and if the juices run clear, it is ready.  If you really want to be safe, cut the largest piece in half and make sure that the inside isn’t red.  If you can save the chicken with a tourniquet then it really has a lot of time to go.  Maybe your oven isn’t working.  By the way, frozen chicken will take about a half hour longer.

Pesto Sauce

Pine nuts are great but their price and availability are limiting.  Want a great taste and save a few bucks, use walnuts.  Try this and see what I mean.

·         ¼ cup        Walnuts
·         1 clove       Garlic
·         ½ cup        Olive oil
·         1 cup         Basil leaves, fresh and tightly packed
·         ¼ cup        Parmesan Cheese
·         1/8 tsp       Salt
·         1/8 tsp       Pepper


1.      Pour the nuts into a small sauté pan and toast (don’t burn)
2.      Pour the nuts into a blender and chop on high for about 10 seconds
3.      Add the garlic, oil, and basil leaves to the nuts and puree on high for about 45 seconds
4.      Add the Parmesan, salt, and pepper and blend for another 10 seconds

This is good on chicken, pasta, fish, cheese tort, or as a dip.  You may have to increase the amounts though depending on how you are going to use it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Apple Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Chicken is a fantastic summer dish.  It can be made in so many ways, served hot or cold, and the addition of fruit only enhances the flavor.  My friends at Summer Recipes have come up with a nice and easy chicken recipe that incorporates the bird with apples, raisins, pecans, orange juice, apple jelly, and sherry.  Great for your tongue to play with and the leftover can be reserved or chopped up into a chicken salad spread between slices of raisin/cinnamon bread.  WOW.

·         6                boneless and skinless chicken breasts
·         1 ½ cups    Diced apples.  You choose red or green.  They both work
·         ¼ cup        Chopped golden seedless raisins (I like the golden in the Summer and red when it is cold)
·         ¼ cup        Chopped pecans (use walnuts if you prefer)
·         3 Tbl          Minced onion
·         2/3 tsp       Sage (pour it into your hand and rub it around a bit to get the oils working)
·         Some toothpicks
·         ¼ cup        Orange juice concentrate (make orange juice out of the remainder)
·         ¼ cup        Margarine
·         1/3 cup      Apple jelly
·         ¼ cup        Sherry (dry works much better than cream sherry here)


1.            Prepare the apples, raisins, nuts, onion and sage,  put into a medium bowl, and combine (stir them together).  (Prepare means dice the apples, chop the raisins, etc.)
2.            Take out a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap about 3 times as wide as the largest chicken breast.
3.            Wash the chicken and cut off the fat
4.            Fold the plastic wrap in half and put a chicken breast in the middle.  This will keep everything clean.
5.            Pound the breast with a meat mallet or rolling pin until it is about a quarter of an inch thick.  Don’t go crazy hear thinking about the guy who cut you off on the way to the grocery store.
6.            Place the breast on a plate and do the next one until all are done.
7.            Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
8.            Put about a spoonful of the apple mixture (stuffing) on each chicken breast.
9.            If you have some left either cook it or add it evenly to the chicken breasts.
10.        Roll the breast up, tuck in all sides, and put a wooden toothpick through each to keep them closed.
11.        Place the chicken in a baking pan with sides.
12.        Wash your hands very well.  Raw chicken is not something you want to play with.
13.        Combine the orange juice, margarine, Apple jelly and sherry.  I use the same bowl I had the stuffing in.
14.        Pour the orange juice mixture into a small saucepan and simmer for 2 or 3 minutes.  This will make about 1 cup of glaze.
15.        Put the chicken into the oven, uncovered, for around 45 minutes and brush/baste often with the glaze.

Authentic Italian Meat Balls

“Authentic”, don’t you love that word in a recipe title? As if somebody got everybody in Italy together years ago and said, “here isa da way we goin to makea da meatAball.” It never happened but having grown up in an Italian family I can tell you there are some things that are common and often not copied by cooks in other countries. Probably the biggest thing is bread. Most of us don’t use bread crumbs, we use slices of bread that are pulled apart into small pieces. Another is meat, we include veal when at all possible.

But like I wrote, we didn’t get together and come up with the “authentic” recipe so if you want to add pine nuts, diced prunes, ricotta, pecorino, mint, chives, or tarragon, go ahead.

About 3 slices of bread. I like a white bread for this because of the absorption factor.
¾ cup Milk. Whole milk is normal but I use what I have, including non-fat
20 oz Meatloaf mix (lean beef, pork, and veal)
2 Eggs
2 cloves Garlic
¼ cup Grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbl Italian parsley


1. Pour the milk into a large bowl.
2. Cut the crusts off the bread. You wont need it anymore so use it for crotons or at least give it to the birds.
3. Put the bread into the milk and press down with your hands or a large spoon. Don’t use much pressure though, you just want the bread to absorb the milk. Flattened bread won’t be any better than bread crumbs.
4. Put the meat into a bowl. If you had to purchase the beef, pork, and veal separately then mix them together by hand.
5. Squeeze the milk out of the bread, tear it into small pieces (about a half inch wide), and add to the meat.
6. Add the eggs, garlic, Parmesan, and parsley.
7. Mix everything together with your hands. Feel free to add salt and pepper to taste.
8. Pull out small portions of meat and form into balls of about 1 ½ inches thick.
9. You can cook these in several ways but I really like to just drop them into a tomato sauce. It will take about a half to three quarters of an hour and help flavor the sauce at the same time.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Irish Whiskey Bread

Tired of Irish Soda Bread? Well here is a simple recipe for something equally as Irish but I guess people in the Old Sod enjoy it so much that there is never enough to export to the New World. I got the inspiration from Irish Genealogy Toolkit where you can find a lot more than just recipes.

The recipe calls for “caster sugar” which is a European term for a finer than normal granulated sugar. You can use confectioner’s sugar or take granulated sugar and put it through a blender, food processor, coffee grinder or spice grinder instead. You want it super fine but not powdery. Powdered sugar is also good depending on the recipe but it may contain corn starch or something to lengthen the shelf life. By the way, if you want to make your own powdered sugar just grind granulated sugar even more.


• 1 Orange
• 2 tbs Irish whiskey (any brand will do, there isn’t a big whiskey taste to this)
• ¾ cub raisins
• ¾ cub Butter (about a stick and a half)
• 6 oz caster sugar
• 3 eggs, beaten
• 8 oz self raising flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• pinch of salt.

1. Grate the peel from the orange into a bowl. When you see the white portion of the peel then stop and move to another section. You can also use a vegetable peeler.
2. Squeeze 1 teaspoon of the juice over the peel.
3. Add the raisins and pour in the whiskey for a light coating.
4. Cover and put in a cool place for a few hours or overnight.
5. You can discard the orange peel but if it is grated real fine you may want to leave it in for a nice light taste. If it is long strips of peel, take them out and throw them in the compost.
6. Grease a decent sized bread loaf tin. I like to use the spray oil for this as it is easier, cleaner, and doesn’t allow you to overpower the loaf.
7. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
8. Break the eggs into a bowl and beat them.
9. In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar until the mix is fluffy.
10. Add the eggs in small doses and stir.
11. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together and gradually fold it into the mixture. Never just drop flour into a recipe, especially a bread recipe because it clumps and can bake that way. You don’t want to cut a slice of bread and find chunks of white flour.
12. Stir in the raisins and any remaining liquid.
13. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 20 minutes.
14. Check to see if it is browning properly. If it is browning to quickly then wrap some aluminum foil over the top.
15. Continue baking for 40 to 55 more minutes for a total of 60-75 minutes until cooked through and the top is light to mid brown.
16. Let it cool for 15 minutes before placing on a wire rack.
17. If you want a stronger whiskey flavor then, while still hot and in the loaf tin, punch some holes in it with a skewer and drizzle a teaspoon or two of whiskey over the loaf.
18. It can be served hot or cold.

Gnocchi with a Parmesan-Beer Sauce

First let me say that most of us with an Italian family history believe “potato gnocchi” is redundant. We never learned to make gnocchi with anything but potatoes, the flour type was always called Cavatelli. But now between “fusion” cooking and the Americanization of ethnic dishes many restaurants and food producers use the words “potato gnocchi”. Funny though, they never make gnocchi with anything else. Oh well like Shakespeare would have said, gnocchi by any other name would still be fantastic.

Second, it isn’t Ga Nochi.

Third, you can make your own or buy it at the store. I’ll show you how to make it from scratch in another post but for now, buy it. I want this to be simple.

Fourth, Parmigiano-Reggiano is the legal name for a specific cheese made in a specific area of Italy by a specific recipe. It is fantastic and has a great melting ability but if you are only using it to lightly cover something, then buy a less expensive parmesan for dishes like this or topping spaghetti.

As for this recipe, it was inspired by one I read on Oklahoma Beer. That is a good site for both recipes and facts about beer. Try it sometime.


• 3 Tbl Butter, divided
• 2 ½ Tbl Flour
• 1 cup Pumpkin ale (a good Lager or Cream ale will also do and produce interesting alternative flavors.
• 1 ¼ cups Half and Half
• 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated and divided
• 1/8 tsp Nutmeg, ground
• 1 lb Gnocchi
• 10 oz frozen peas and carrots
• Salt and Pepper to taste


1. Put water into a large pot, add some salt, and heat to a boil at a medium high heat setting.
2. Butter a glass baking dish or casserole about 11x17. Don’t use too much butter, only about ½ to 1 tablespoon.
3. Melt the remaining butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. If you used too much butter on the glass dish then make sure you have 2 ½ tablespoons of butter for this stage.
4. Slowly add the flour to the butter and whisk them together.
5. Pour the beer into the butter mixture and continue to whisk.
6. Now add the Half-and-Half to the butter mixture and keep whisking. In fact keep whisking until everything begins to boil. After about 3 minutes this stuff should begin to thicken.
7. Begin to preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
8. Add ¾ cup of the parmesan cheese and all the nutmeg to the butter mixture and cook for another minute. Add salt and pepper if you like and take the saucepan off the heat.
9. The water should begin to boil around now so add the gnocchi and cook according to the package instructions. That normally means about 3 minutes when the pasta begins to float.
10. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. If you would like, take the gnocchi out of the water by using a slotted spoon and put it on a plate. Then dump the water and gently return the gnocchi to the pot.
11. Add the butter mixture, which is no a nice cheese sauce, to the pasta.
12. Add the peas and carrots to the pasta.
13. Stir gently to make sure everything is covered.
14. Using one of those big spoons take the pasta and everything out of the large pan and put it into the baking dish/casserole.
15. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese on top.
16. Cook in the oven uncovered for 12 to 15 minutes. It should be bubbling.
17. Let it sit for a minute and serve it hot.