Friday, October 29, 2010

Pizza Cordon Bleu

I'm always on the lookout for new, interesting pizza recipes, so when I came across this recipe for Pizza Cordon Bleu in Cheap. Fast. Good!, I stuck a post-it to the page right away.

This pizza takes it's name from the often-breaded, ham and cheese stuffed chicken breast dish, Chicken Cordon Bleu. You can buy Chicken Cordon Bleu pre-made and frozen...ready to pop right into the oven. The first time I ate cordon bleu, this is exactly how it was prepared. I know that I shared this story before, when I wrote about Chicken Kiev. In case you missed it, here's that story again:
In college, we'd have an assortment of pre-made, pre-frozen, stuffed and breaded chicken breasts for our weekly formal dinner at my sorority house. I can just see our house mom and the cook deliberating over an order form while the frozen food delivery guy looked on. When they saw "Cordon Bleu" and "Chicken Kiev" they probably thought, "That sounds fancy enough for formal dinner." What ended up on our plates was anything but fancy. It was actually kind of spongy. Ewww. One of my roommates took to calling them hamsters. Why? Well, because those pre-made, pre-frozen, breaded chicken bundles were roughly the size and shape of hamsters. Gross. I can still hear my roommate hollering down the hall to me, "Hurry up, Bailey!(My maiden name) Hamsters tonight! You don't wanna miss out on hamsters!" And then she'd laugh a sort of evil laugh as she descended the stairs to the kitchen. Seconds later, I'd drag my feet as I followed her...

Well, this Pizza Cordon Bleu was WAY better than hamsters! With it's creamy Dijon mustard and sour cream base, topped with sauteed mushrooms, red onion, tender bites of chicken, diced ham, and topped with freshly shredded Swiss, this easy weeknight dinner was a fast favorite. I altered the recipe to suit the tastes of my kiddos and everyone left the table happy and full.

Here's how it came together:

I used a tube of refrigerated pizza dough for the crust, so to begin, I preheated the oven according to the directions on the pizza dough package.

Then, I cut up 2 chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces, seasoned them, and cooked them in a skillet heated with a tablespoon or two of olive oil until no longer pink. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside. You can prepare the chicken by roasting, boiling, broiling, or grilling as well. Leftover chicken would work for this too.

I added 1/2 of a red onion, thinly sliced and 1-1/2 cups sliced button mushrooms to the skillet (don't wipe it down after the chicken) and saute until tender. Not shown and not necessarily a necessary step: I moved the onion and mushrooms over to one side of the skillet and tossed in a cup of diced ham (leftover from Monday's Ham and Cheese Risotto) and let it sizzle and brown for a bit while I prepared the pizza sauce.

To make the sauce, just stir together a couple of tablespoons of Dijon mustard with 1/4 cup of sour cream (I used light).

Oil a baking sheet, sprinkle with a bit of cornmeal, and press the pizza dough to fit the pan. Spread with the prepared sauce.

I knew that my kiddos would never go for a mustard-based pizza sauce, so I spread their portion with Ranch dressing.

Now sprinkle all of the yummy toppings over the sauce. I only used chicken and ham on the kid portion.

I grated about 2 cups of Swiss cheese over the whole pizza and then baked it for about 15 minutes. Lately, I've been lining my kitchen counter top with waxed or parchment paper and sliding our pizzas out of the pan and directly onto the counter for easy slicing and quick cooling. Put a towel underneath the paper to save your countertops if you're afraid the heat or slicer will leave a mark.

My first piece...

Here's a closer look. Mmmmm.

I mostly used the ingredients recommended for this recipe, but I largely did my own thing with the preparation. Here's the recipe that I prepared, inspired by Cheap. Fast. Good!:

Pizza Cordon Bleu

1 tube refrigerated pizza dough
olive oil
2 cooked chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup diced ham
1-1/2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup sour cream
1-2 cups shredded Swiss cheese (shred your own from a block if you like!)

Preheat the oven according to directions on the pizza dough "tube". Cut up, season, and cook the chicken breast...or cook, cut-up, and season the chicken breasts. Whatever works for you. Set aside.

Sautee the onion, then add the mushrooms and cook until tender. Push to the side of the skillet, making room for the ham. Add the diced ham to the skillet and fry until some of the water cooks off and the ham starts to brown.

Mix together the mustard and sour cream.

Wipe the pizza sheet with oil and dust with cornmeal. Press dough to fit your baking sheet or form the dough into a circle. Spread the mustard/sour cream mixture unto the pizza dough.

Top the pizza with the chicken, ham, onion, and mushrooms. Sprinkle evenly with shredded Swiss cheese.

Bake pizza according to directions on the pizza dough package. I think that mine baked at 375-400 degrees for 15 minutes.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pumpkin Peanut Soup

My first try at Pumpkin Soup went so well, that I decided to try another recipe. I found this recipe for Pumpkin Peanut Soup in Cheap. Fast. Good! by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross. The idea behind the cookbook is to "eat like a big spender for just a few dollars". This cookbook is packed with tons of tips for how to plan smart, shop smart, and cook smart and boasts 275 delicious, thrifty, family-friendly recipes.

I enjoyed the soup, but not as much as the Pumpkin Corn Soup from earlier this month. If I make it again, I'll make some adjustments, most importantly, thinning this soup. It was pretty thick! Two of my friends happened to be visiting when I pulled this from the stove-top. I recruited them as taste-testers. While they both appreciated the flavor, one of them commented that she felt like she was eating "baby food". That observation stands to reason, with both pureed sweet potatoes and pumpkin making up a large portion of the ingredients here. Admittedly, it was the same color and texture of many types of Stage 1 baby food, although the flavor was much more intense and complex. Each of my kiddos and one of their friends tasted it, and none of them were big fans. After dinner, I ended up freezing the remainder into single serving portions for quick lunches for myself since it appears that I'm the only one who is going to eat it.

I really like the idea of pumpkin peanut soup. It's packed with vitamins, fiber, and even protein and it's relatively low in fat in spite of the peanut butter. This one had an Asian flair with the addition of a soy-ginger peanut sauce, but if you Google "Pumpkin Peanut Soup" you will find a number of recipes, all of them different.

I began making this soup by preparing the Thai-Style Peanut Sauce. In Cheap. Fast. Good! this very same peanut sauce is used as the basis for soup, stews, noodle dishes, salad dressing, dips, and if I am to add my own would work as a tasty marinade or grilling sauce for chicken too. The sauce recipe makes enough for the soup with extra to freeze for use in a later recipe. I love the idea of prepping ahead! There are a dozen ingredients in this sauce, but it's easy to prepare!

I just dumped all of the ingredients together...

then went at it with my Cuisinart CSB-76 Smart Stick Hand Blender. It's one of my favorite kitchen tools! It does the job of a blender, but I only need to wash one little blade when I'm through. Of course, you can use your blender or food processor for this step too.

While I was busy blending, my toddler was busy too...pouring out all of the garlic powder, smearing it around on the table, brushing it onto the floor, and oh yeah, licking it off of her hands! That is some serious baby dragon breath, by the way! Ahhh, the joys of cooking with kids.

Once I cleaned up the garlic powder, I set aside one cup of the peanut butter sauce for my soup and put the remainder in the freezer. Have you seen these Ball 82000 8-Ounce Plastic Freezer Storage Containers, 30-Pack? I love em' for freezing individual portions and sauces like this one.

With the "peanut" part of the soup complete, I prepped the sweet potatoes. I used 2 large sweet 'taters, peeled and cut up. You can microwave em', bake em', or boil em'. Whatever your chosen method, cook until tender. This would be a great way to use up leftover baked sweet potatoes!

Puree the sweet potatoes with a cup of chicken or vegetable broth. Again, I used my Cuisinart CSB-76 Smart Stick Hand Blender.

Next, melt a tablespoon of butter in a soup pot and add a small diced onion. Saute until the onion begins to soften.

Gather your peanut butter sauce, sweet potato puree, and canned pumpkin.

Add them to the onion in your soup pot with the remainder of the broth. Stir until combined, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover. Stir occasionally for the next 10 minutes or until you're ready to serve the soup.

Before serving, stir in 3/4 cup of half and half or milk. I added skim milk, because that's all I had in the fridge. If you use skim, low-fat, or whole milk, be sure not to allow the mixture to boil again after the addition of the milk or the soup can separate.

I garnished mine with some chopped peanut and cilantro. I ate a whole bowl and liked it. It's hearty enough to be dinner on it's own, maybe with some crusty bread for dipping...but it would make for a good starter or side soup too.

Here's my daughter's portion...untouched. Oh well. The author of this recipe recommended calling it "Jack-o-lantern Soup" to get your kids to eat it. That didn't work on my kids. I have to give them both credit for at least trying it before forming an opinion, though.

Here's the recipe:

Pumpkin Peanut Soup adapted from Cheap. Fast. Good!

Serves: 8 Start to Finish: Under 20 minutes (if you've already prepped the peanut sauce and sweet potatoes)

Thai-Style Peanut Sauce:

Makes: About 2 cups Prep Time: 10 minutes

4 cloves garlic, peeled
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 teaspoons finely minced ginger or ginger paste
1 tablespoon red wine or cider vinegar
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon Asian (dark) sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Add all ingredients to a food processor, blender, or use an immersion blender and process until smooth.

Refrigerates and freezes well.

*Notes: I used 1-1/2 teaspoons of bottled lemon juiced because when I grabbed for a lime, it was hard as a rock and juiceless. I used garlic powder instead of onion powder...only because I didn't read the recipe very well. : )

For the Soup:

1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion (for about 1/2 cup chopped)
3 cups cooked peeled sweet potatoes (about 2 large)or 1-29 oz. can sweet potatoes(not in syrup or rinsed if in syrup)
28 oz. fat free chicken or vegetable broth
1 can (16 oz.) pure pumpkin
1 cup Thai-Style peanut sauce (recipe above)
3/4 cup half and half or milk

1. Melt the butter in a soup pot. Add chopped onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile prepare sweet potatoes.

2. Process the sweet potatoes and broth (with immersion blender, stand blender, or even a mixer) until smooth.

3. Add the remaining broth to the soup pot. Add the sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and peanut sauce. Stir well, then cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes or until ready to serve.

4. Just before serving, remove from heat and stir in the half and half or milk.

*Notes: I would add more broth and or milk to make this soup thinner next time.** I used skim milk rather than half and half.*** Garnish with chopped peanut and cilantro if desired.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ham and Cheese Risotto

It has been nearly 1 year and 4 months since I last prepared risotto in my kitchen. (One of the perks of writing a food blog is having a record of exactly when you made a recipe, where it came from, and how it turned out.) It was high time to revisit this creamy Italian rice dish. While the last couple of days have been exceptionally mild and warm here; a cold, stormy front is moving in tomorrow. This recipe is the perfect hearty, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food for a dark, blustery day. I found a recipe for Porcini Ham Risotto on the Taste of Home website, and then I modified a few of the ingredients to create this Ham and Cheese Risotto. I didn't have dried porcini mushrooms, but I did have regular button mushrooms and so I used those. I have heard lovely things about the porcini mushroom, but honestly, I am always a little scared to try new types of mushrooms. While I can add plain old button mushrooms and morel mushrooms to my safe list, I am violently allergic to both the portabello and shiitake mushroom. Disappointing, considering I really enjoy both...for about 15-20 minutes...then it's all downhill from there. Ugh. This little allergy really inhibits my sense of adventure when cooking with fungi. These days I'm too busy to spend an entire night in the restroom in the name of experimentation, therefore, I don't even bother trying a 'shroom that I am unfamiliar with. Bummer. Anyhow, now that I have burdened you with my digestive woes, I will proceed with the creation of this ham and cheese risotto.

I heated 1/3 cup of butter in the bottom of a soup pot (the high sides come in handy with all of the stirring that is required to create risotto), then added in diced shallot, chopped mushroom, and minced garlic. Saute until tender.

Then, stir in 1-1/2 cups of arborio rice until coated with the butter.

Next, I stirred in 1 cup of a fairly dry white wine. I used a drinkable, yet inexpensive Chardonnay. I have learned my lesson when cooking with wine. It goes like this: If I wouldn't drink it, don't even bother cooking with it. The flavor does not improve upon cooking.

Cook and stir until the wine is absorbed.

While all of the chopping and sauteing were happening, I was also heating some chicken broth on the stove top. Keeping the broth hot is important because it helps to maintain an even temperature while cooking the risotto. Adding cold liquid to hot rice lengthens the cooking time.

I add the broth to the risotto ladle by ladle (or 1/2 cup at a time)...

and then stir, stir, stir, over the heat until the liquid is absorbed. Then add more broth and stir, stir, stir, some more. Repeat and repeat again until ALL of the broth is absorbed into the rice.

Here's the goal: a VERY creamy, near-tender rice.

Vigilant stirring lends itself to a creamy finished product.

Some people actually refrain from making risotto either because it seems complicated or they don't want to stand by the stove for all of this stirring. Here's the thing: Once you realize you're mostly committed for 20 minutes of hovering over the pot and stirring, it's no big thing. Plus, if you've ever tasted a good, creamy risotto, then you know that taking a mere 20 minutes out of your day to stir a pot is totally worth it.

Once all of the liquid is absorbed into the rice, then add in 5 oz. of shredded cheese. (The original recipe called for fontinella, but I got a great deal on an acceptable substitute: Asiago, at my local ALDI store.) Whatever you choose to use, stir until it melts.

Then stir in 1-1/2 cups of chopped ham. I just used whatever was on sale from my local deli, but if you've got leftover ham from Christmas or Easter, this recipe would be a delicious way to use it up!

In about 30 minutes, dinner was served! I sprinkled mine with a little fresh parsley. It was yummy. Like I said, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food! Often, risotto is a side dish, but this one is hearty enough to be the main course. I'd recommend serving it alongside a salad. : )

Ham and Cheese Risotto inspired by Taste of Home's Porcini Ham Risotto

8 Servings Prep/Total Time: 30 min.

1 cup button mushrooms, chopped
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped shallots
2 cloves minced garlic
1/3 cup butter, cubed
1-1/2 cups uncooked arborio rice
1 cup dry(ish) white wine
3 cans (14-1/2 ounces each)Chicken Broth, warmed
1-1/2 cups diced fully cooked ham
5 ounces asiago cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper


•In a soup pot, saute the mushrooms, shallots and garlic in butter for 3-4 minutes or until tender.

•Stir in rice until completely coated with butter. Add wine; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until wine is absorbed. Gradually add the broth; 1/2 cup or a little more at a time. Cook and stir until each addition is absorbed. Stir in the ham, cheese, salt and pepper; cook until cheese is melted and mixture is heated through. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley, if desired. Yield: 8 servings.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Easy Apple Dumplings and the Meal Plan 10/25-10/31

Hello friends! It's been so long since I posted a recipe on here, that I decided to include a recipe with my regular Sunday night meal plan post. Holy cow, were these apple dumplings ever delicious!

Apple dumplings are probably my favorite fall dessert. My recipe is the one that my grandma used to make (you can click HERE for the recipe), baked with the dumplings swimming in a sweet, spiced sauce. I wasn't really shopping for a new apple dumpling recipe, but a while ago, I came across The Pioneer Woman's recipe for apple dumplings, which she obtained from her mother, who got the recipe from a friend named "Donna". I decided to try the recipe because it was 1. a quick, easy take on apple dumplings (No need to make pastry dough, you use crescent rolls. Plus, I only needed to peel 2 apples for this one.) AND 2. It called for Mountain Dew, which piqued my curiosity.

In a fraction of the time that it usually takes me to make apple dumpling dough, peel apples, make sauce, and lovingly shape each dumpling using my grandma's recipe, I had the pan of PW's dumplings ready for the oven. I think it only took me about 15 minutes to assemble these babies!

Here's what I did:

First, I peeled 2 big, gorgeously green Granny Smith Apples. (The sauce is so sweet that the tart Granny Smith is a good choice).

Since I needed to cut each apple into 8 slices, I enlisted my 8 slice apple cutter for the job. If you don't have one, you can obviously use your paring knife to core the apple and cut into slices.

Next, I busted open a couple of tubes of crescent rolls. Separate the dough into triangles and then place one apple slice on each crescent roll.

Roll em' up and place them into a 13 X 9 baking dish.

Now make the sauce. Melt 2 sticks of butter (That's right....2 WHOLE sticks!) in a saucepan.

Then stir in 1-1/2 cups of sugar, until just combined. You'll still have a layer of butter over the sugar. Don't bother stirring it too hard or too much. It won't help. Just accept the obstacle presented by the mass quantity of butter in front of you and move on. : )

Oh, and add a teaspoon of vanilla too.

After you stir in the vanilla, pour the sauce over the dumplings.

And now for the surprise ingredient: Mountain Dew!

I used about 10 oz. Pour it around the edges of the pan and down the center too.

After I poured in the Mountain Dew, I realized that I had my dumplings lined up into two fairly tight rows, so I moved them around a bit so that each dumpling had a chance to soak up the decadent sauce and brown evenly on the sides.

Then I sprinkled the whole pan with cinnamon before popping it into the oven for 40 minutes.

I have to say that the whole house smelled pretty amazing as this dessert bubbled away in my oven. Here's what the dumplings looked like when I pulled them out to cool.

And now for a bite!

These apple dumplings were yummy for such a little bit of effort. Here's how the Pioneer Woman described them: "these are really surprisingly delightful! The texture of the crescent rolls becomes something entirely different during the baking process: the top gets delightfully crisp and flavorful, while the underneath side remains soft and mushy and more “apple dumpling-y”. And the Mountain Dew, coupled with the obscene amount of butter, creates a yummy, sweet sauce at the end."

I took them to an afternoon get-together and they were a big hit! Of course, they were quite different from my grandma's apple dumplings, but wonderful in their own rite. Faced with an apple dumpling craving in a time crunch, I'd definitely make these again!

Here's the recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Apple Dumplings

■2 whole Granny Smith Apples
■2 cans (8 Oz. Cans) Crescent Rolls
■2 sticks Butter
■1-½ cup Sugar
■1 teaspoon Vanilla
■Cinnamon, To Taste
■1 can (12 Oz.) Mountain Dew Soda

Preparation Instructions

Peel and core apples. Cut each apple into 8 slices each. Roll each apple slice in a crescent roll. Place in a 9 x 13 buttered pan.

Melt butter, then add sugar and barely stir. Add vanilla, stir, and pour entire mixture over apples. Pour Mountain Dew around the edges of the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Serve with ice cream, and spoon some of the sweet sauces from the pan over the top.

*Notes: I did not butter my pan first...I'm pretty sure there was plenty of butter in this recipe to prevent sticking. Also, I only used 10 oz. of Mountain Dew.


Now...for the Meal Plan:

Monday October 25th

Ham and Cheese Risotto

Tuesday October 26th

Slow Cooker Chicken Soft Tacos

Wednesday October 27th

Pumpkin Peanut Soup

Thursday October 28th


Friday October 29th

Chicken Cordon Bleu Pizza

Saturday October 30th

Trunk or Treat

Sunday October 31st

Trick or Treat (pizza party with neighbors and donuts in my driveway again!)

Grocery List


2 onions
2 large sweet potatoes
taco topping veggies: lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, etc.


1 lb. cooked deli ham
3 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast
1 cup cooked chicken breast meat, cut into chunks


5 oz. shredded asiago cheese
milk or half and half
Shredded cheese (for tacos)
flour tortillas
1 refrigerated pizza dough
sour cream
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

Canned Goods

white wine (8 oz.)
6- 14.5 oz cans chicken broth
peanut butter
Dijon mustard
soy sauce
vegetable oil
red wine or cider vinegar
sesame oil
1-16 oz. can pure solid pack pumpkin
1 jar salsa

Dry Goods

arborio rice
brown sugar
onion powder
red pepper flakes
3 packages taco seasoning

I hope that you all have a wonderful week!
Related Posts with Thumbnails