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Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole with Thick Gel

With the cooler weather fully in command I find my thoughts turn a lot to comfort foods, especially soups and casseroles. Not only are these recipes excellent comfort food, but they are also great dishes for using up leftovers and turning them into another fantastic dish. In this case I had some left over ham pieces and wanted a quick, but delicious, way to use them. I did some digging and found I also had some chicken breasts and cheese. This all lead me to making chicken cordon bleu casserole.

I love how quickly this dish works up, but how yummy it is. There’s a great contrast in flavors, and it can be served with rice, potatoes or pasta very easily. I like swiss cheese best, but if you have colby jack or even mozarella they’ll work fine too.

For this recipe we use Thick Gel in one of my favorite applications, that of building a roux base for a white sauce. I like Thick Gel in this method because it creates a beautiful cream sauce that doesn’t fracture or weep when it’s refrigerated and has a very smooth texture. I use a little bit of flour because I like the flavor of the butter and browned flour, but if you’re looking to stay completely gluten free Thick Gel can do all the work for you!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole with Thick Gel

2 cooked chicken breasts, diced

1 cup diced ham pieces

1-2 cups shredded cheese swiss, colby jack or mozzarella

Sauce:

2 Tablespoons butter

1 Tablespoon flour

2 Tablespoons Thick Gel (Or remove the flour and use 4 Tablespoons Thick Gel)

1 1/2 to 2 cups milk

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 Tablespoon spicy mustard

1/2 teaspoon paprika

salt and pepper to taste

Topping:

panko crumbs

In a 9×9 inch dripper pan layer ham, chicken and cheese and set aside. ‘

In a medium sized heavy sauce pan melt the butter. Once the butter is completely melted add the flour and Thick Gel and stir well to combine. Let cook for 30 seconds then whisk in the milk. It won’t look thick enough, but it will thicken as the temperature increases. Cook for 3-4 minutes until thick and creamy. Add lemon juice, mustard and spices. Add extra milk if needed to maintain a pourable consistency.

Pour sauce over meat and cheese layer and top with panko crumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until cheese is melted and the casserole is hot all the way through.

Serve with rice, pasta or potatoes and a vegetable side.

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White Chocolate Sweet Glaze with Ultra Gel

Around these parts it has been rather a strange weather year. The seasons seem to be hanging on for a while and then switch to the next rapidly and with hardly a by your leave. In this case the heat of summer has given away quickly to a cool, wet fall. I’m not complaining.

The thing about fall weather it is really brings out the baker in me. I dream in pumpkin spice and pies and… sweet rolls. Oh those lovely sweet rolls. But, what is a rich decadent sweet roll without a wonderful sweet glaze? And if you add about 4 ounces of melted white chocolate to that glaze it goes from merely good to…well…amazing.

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White Chocolate Sweet Glaze with Ultra Gel

4 ounces white chocolate, melted

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/2-3/4 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 pounds powdered sugar

2-4 Tablespoons VERY hot water

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with an electric mixer) combine butter, chocolate, salt, Ultra Gel and vanilla until very well mixed. Add powdered sugar and enough water to bring mix together into a pourable glaze. Pour over sweet rolls, quick breads or other sweet applications. Store any left over mix in the refrigerator, warm before using.

Peach Delight with Ultra Gel

From the time I was young it was well established that canning peaches came with setting aside enough fruit to make Mom’s Peach Delight. This was always the dessert of fresh peach season, and if we were lucky it’d grace the table more than once. I also remember taking it to a number of parties and get togethers where it was always met with rave reviews.

What exactly is Peach Delight, you ask? It’s a layered dessert consisting of a graham cracker crust, a layer of sugary fresh peaches, and a cream layer made from combining whipping cream and melted marshmallows.  Yes, it’s just as good as that sounds, and when you add Ultra Gel in each of the layers it makes it even better as the starch helps to hold the moisture so you don’t get a case of soggy crust or the whipped layer falling apart. Trust me…you’ve got to try this.

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Peach Delight with Ultra Gel

4 cups sliced fresh peaches, sprinkled with a mixture of 1/2 cup sugar and 1 Tablespoon Ultra Gel

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs – short bread crumbs work too, chocolate not so much

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 Tablespoon Ultra Gel

1/2 cup melted butter

1 cup heavy whipping cream whipped with 1/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon Ultra Gel and 1 teaspoon vanilla

32 large marshmallows

Sprinkle peaches with sugar/Ultra Gel mixture and let stand for 15 minutes. Combine cracker crumbs, sugar, Ultra Gel, stir in melted butter. Press all but 1/2 cup of crumb mixture on the bottom of a 9 inch square pan. Drain peaches, reserving 1/2 cup of the syrup. Combine reserved syrup and marshmallows in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave a minute at a time until a smooth mixture is achieved. Let cool. Fold whipped cream into marshmallow mixture. Layer peaches onto crust. Spoon marshmallow mixture over peaches and sprinkle with remaining crumbs. Chill 30-90 minutes before serving.

*If you like nuts, you can sprinkle the peach layer with chopped walnuts or pecans before applying the marshmallow layer.

Crispy Taco Wraps with Ultra Gel

So yesterday we talked about my favorite recipe for taco seasoning mix. If you didn’t see it, go back and take a read, or at least write down the recipe. You’ll need it. 🙂

There are several dishes I use this mix in, but this one is a new favorite inspired by the lovely folks at Tastes Better From Scratch. She’s right, the whole family loves this idea of a crispy wrap that isn’t deep fried or too heavy. We change up the flavors a bit and I like a wetter filling, so feel free to experiment until you find your taco nirvana!

Taco Wrap

These crispy taco wraps can be made large for a party, or wrapped in small tortillas for killer appetizers!

Crispy Taco Wraps with Ultra Gel

1 pound ground meat, we like beef or turkey or a mixture of both

1/2 white onion, finely chopped1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1/2-1 can whole kernel corn, rinsed and drained

1 small can diced green chiles (opt)

1/2 bell pepper, chopped

1 batch Taco Seasoning Mix

2-4 Tablespoons water or broth

sour cream

salsa

Cooked rice

cheese

tortillas

For the filling: Brown the ground meat in a large skillet, adding the chopped onion about half way through browning. Cook until meat is done through and onion is translucent. Add beans, corn, chiles, bell pepper and Taco Seasoning Mix. Stir well to combine and cook until veg is soft, adding water as needed to achieve desired thickness.

Lay out tortillas and assemble by layering sour cream, salsa, rice, taco meat and cheese. Fold in ends and cook on a hot skillet or electric skillet. For extra crisp brush or spray with olive oil before placing wraps on the skillet. Rotate until sides are golden and crispy. You may lose some filling in the turning, but I either just chalked that up to taste testing or shoved it back inside when I flipped the wrap back over.

Serve with fresh tomatoes and shredded lettuce.

Taco Seasoning Mix with Ultra Gel

Vegan Taco Soup

I don’t know about you, but there are days at my house where dinner is a matter of what’s thawed and what can I make of it in a hurry? You know these days when there are soccer games and school projects and life all happening in a blur. One of my favorite go tos on these days is tacos in various shapes and sizes.

Tacos are quick to make, and you can use just about any ground meat or beans as a base and you’re in business. Now, I learned a long time ago that you could make the creation of tacos even -faster- by using a taco seasoning mix. Just dump it into a pan of browned meat and onions, add a few beans and you were in business. The problem I had was that most of these mixes were really heavy on the salt, and sometimes they had an off flavor, or not enough of a flavor I liked. So what’s a girl to do?

Well, I’ll tell you. We came up with our own mixes, and started adding either Ultra Gel or Thick Gel. Why add the starch, you ask? There are two really good reasons for this. Reason the first, if you have a starch in the mix and add a little additional water or broth to your taco meat you get juicier meat. The starch thickens that additional liquid around the meat and catches all the lovely seasonings in it and… it’s so very very yummy. Reason the second is that the starch helps in keeping the spices from clump and helps the dispurse evenly when you pour them into your taco meat, soup, etc. They’re very clever kitchen helpers!

So here’s my mix. And unlike the store one if you try this mix and find you want a little more cumin, or a bit less chili powder or want to add hot peppers you have the power! I tend to make these mixes in snack bags or small candy bags 12 at a time. Why 12? Because I set out a muffin tray and put an open bag in each hole. Then, I go around and add each ingredient to each bag. When I’m finished pop a label on it and I’ve got 12 taco seasoning mixes all ready for use or ready to add to a gift for a friend. It’s a win all the way around.

The mix had the strongest flavor for about 2-3 months. After that it’s still good for another 3-4 months but the quality starts to suffer and the combination of flavors isn’t as strong.

 

Taco Seasoning Mix with Ultra Gel

1 Tablespoon chili powder (mild or hot, you choose)

1/2 teaspoon salt (I like a fine salt for this, versus a kosher or coarse salt)

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika (I like a smoked paprika)

1 teaspoon cumin

1/4-1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (Omit this for a mild batch)

2 Tablespoons Thick Gel or 3 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

Combine all ingredients in a small plastic bag. Seal, label, date and store in tightly covered container.

So there’s your mix. Stay tuned. Tomorrow we’ll talk about some ways to use this mix that take ordinary tacos and make them fabulous!

Raspberry Danishes with Ultra Gel and Cornaby’s Raspberry Jam

When it comes to baking I have a lot of simple favorites, but sometimes I like to challenge my baking skills and laminated doughs are always an interesting challenge.

A laminated dough is a dough where butter is ‘booked’ into the dough in order to create many flaky layers. Croissants and puff pastries are some of the most well known laminated doughs. Making these doughs isn’t necessarily hard, but it does take a lot of time because once you make the base dough you add butter to it, then refrigerate the booked dough. Then more butter and more fridge time. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Raspberry Danishes are another kind of laminated dough and are made in much the same fashion. Create dough. Book in butter. Shape and bake. These are fantastic danishes. They are light and flaky and rich and so very very yummy. We use Ultra Gel in the dough to help maintain a tender quality and increase shelf life, and there’s nothing like Cornaby’s Raspberry jam to top a delicious danish.

How to book butter into a dough

There are a lot of methods for booking butter. The easiest I have found is to prepare the butter ahead of time by taking chilled butter and pounding it out on a piece of waxed paper until it is a thin square of butter then refrigerating it. So you end up with 3-4 sheets of butter.

With your sheets prepared you roll out your dough, place the butter in the middle third and fold over the two outer thirds to cover the butter. Roll it flat. Turn 90 degrees and fold in thirds again. Wrap and into the fridge for 30 minutes. That’s one book. This process can be repeated anywhere from 1-15 times depending on how many layers you want in your finished dough. (And how patient you are). You can also choose to work herbs or other flavors into the butter before you start booking and these flavors will be carried through the dough.

Raspberry Danishes with Ultra Gel and Cornaby’s Raspberry Jam

Butter combination:

3 stick chilled unsalted butter

1/4 cup flour

Cut butter into small pieces and sprinkle with flour. Work butter and flour together until it is a smooth mixture you can form into three thin 4×2 inch rectangles. Wrap each in plastic wrap and chill.

Dough:

2 1/2 Tablespoons dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/3 cup sugar

3 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

1 egg

1 cup lukewarm milk

3 1/2-4 cups flour

Combine yeast, warm water and a pinch of sugar together in a large mixing bowl or bowl of an electric stand mixer. Let stand for 3-5 minutes until foamy. Add the salt, sugar, Ultra Gel, egg and milk and beat until well combined. Add 2 cups of the flour and beat until smooth. Add 1 1/2 cups additional flour and mix well. The dough will be very soft at this point. Turn out onto a well floured surface and knead for 3-5 minutes. The dough will still be quite soft and a bit sticky. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Bringing the butter and dough together

You will book the dough three times as described above. The butter shouldn’t be rock hard, but will be firm. Always book the dough on a lightly floured surface. If it ever gets too soft or sticky to roll without making a mess cover and chill it until the butter firms up and you can return to rolling.

The first few times you practice booking butter will be messy. That’s okay. If there are fewer books or they aren’t quite even it will just mean fewer layers in the end product. It will still taste fantastic.

Forming and baking

After the last time you work butter into the dough the dough needs to chill again for at least 45 minutes or as long as over night. Don’t go more than 12 hours or the dough won’t hold up as well.

Danishes can be formed in several ways. My two favorites are pretty simple.

In the first type roll the dough out and cut into rectangles. Lightly fill one half of the rectangle with Cornaby’s Raspberry Jam, fold the other half of the rectangle over the jam and seal the edges. Brush with a little egg wash and a sprinkle of sugar and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes until well browned. Cool and top with a little powdered sugar glaze or cream cheese icing.

The second shape is a spiral. Roll the dough into a rectangle and then cut it into long strips. spiral the strips around themselves on a baking pan. Press your thumb into the center to form a well and fill with Cornaby’s Raspberry Jam, or a combination of jam and cream cheese. Brush the edges of the dough with an egg wash and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes until done through and golden brown. Cool and top with a little powdered sugar glaze or cream cheese icing.

Picnic Baked Beans with Ultra Gel

Here in Utah it’s picnic season. It also is just days away from US Independence Day. Combine those two and it’s gonna be an epic weekend for great food and family time!

When it comes to picnics around our neck of the woods the food varies, but almost always includes a lot of seasonal fruits and vegetables and a large crock of amazing baked beans. Now, these are not just your pop open the can and toss in a spoon baked beans. Oh noooo… These are amazing baked beans with chunks of bacon and sometimes even peppers and pineapple depending on who’s doing the making. We add a little Ultra Gel to help keep the mix nice and thick, especially if we’re adding any of the fruit or veg which can increase the liquid level even as they add to the flavor.

There is a level of…taste and adjust to this recipe because things like how much barbecue flavor you want or what kind of mustard tickles your tastebuds can vary, but these baked beans will give you a solid base to build on.

Serve these up as a side to go along any picnic favorite. They’re always welcome at the party! Personally I like these baked beans on a hot dog much better than chili!

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Picnic Baked Beans with Ultra Gel

3-4 pieces of bacon, diced

1/2 medium white onion, diced

2 cans pork and beans

1 can black beans, drained

1 can Great Northern white beans, drained

1/2 cup favorite bbq sauce (I have a homemade recipe I use or I really love Sweet Baby Rays Original sauce)

1 Tablespoon mustard

2 Tablespoons ketchup

2 teaspoons Worchestershire sauce

2-3 Tablespoons dark brown sugar

2-3 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

Optional: sliced bell peppers, chunk pineapple (drained), smoked or pulled pork

pepper to taste – the beans and bacon generally have enough salt to them you don’t need more. For a vegetarian version leave out the bacon and double up on the onion and peppers.

In a large, heavy pan, cook bacon and onions until bacon is crisp and onions are translucent. (I always start with the bacon and add the onions when it’s about half done so they get done at the same time without anything burning). Drain off most of the grease. Add beans and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add other ingredients and stir well to combine. Let cook for 10 minutes over low heat. Taste (with a clean spoon please!) and adjust condiments and spices until you reach your desired flavor. More or less Ultra Gel may be required based on how much additional liquid is added to the mix. A bean with a lot of pineapple, for example, will need 2 to 3 times as much Ultra Gel to compensate for the juice which will cook out of the pineapple chunks. (But the pineapple flavor is REALLY good).

This dish is great warm or cold and stores well so can be made ahead of time.

My husband is fond of making up a double batch of these beans and instead of cooking them on the stove he’ll smoke them with a chunk of cherry or apple wood for about two hours. Delicious!