Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Chicken Chardonnay

If you're looking for an easy recipe that doesn't demand much of your time, and is generally a crowd pleaser, this retro recipe from my mom's collection might just fit the bill. It comes together quickly and bakes for an hour, giving you plenty of time to relax before dinner; a salad and pilaf of rice make nice accompaniments. I made it often for my two boys during those frantic years of running them back and forth to school between running myself back and forth to work. They both liked it a lot, although I could only sprinkle the stuffing mix on half of the dish because one of them liked it and the other didn't. Personally, I loved the topping, particularly when it mixed with the sauce because it always gave me that wonderful chicken-and-dressing dinner-at-grandma's down-home feeling.

The recipe below is the original. When I make it, I top the Swiss cheese with thin slices of crimini mushrooms and diced scallions.
Chicken Chardonnay

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
½ cup Chardonnay
4 slices Swiss cheese
1 cup Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing Mix
¼ cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350ยบF.

Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry.  Arrange in 9” x 9” square baking pan. Top each breast with a slice of Swiss cheese.

In a medium bowl, whisk together mushroom soup and wine. Pour sauce over breasts and cheese.  Top with stuffing mix and drizzle butter over all.  Bake, uncovered for 1 hour.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Pumpkin Spice Latte Caramel Sauce

I know that a lot of you slip into “pumpkin mode” once September arrives; for me, it takes a bit longer. I don't really jump onto the pumpkin bandwagon until early October. With it looming near week's end, and a number of farmers’ market and pumpkin patch visits in my immediate future, the smell of pumpkin-y baked goods is beginning to waft through the house.

If you're like me, you probably have stacks of pumpkin recipes just waiting to be tried, and enjoy reading them while sipping a pumpkin spice latte. I was doing just that when the idea for this sauce popped into my head. The caramel/pumpkin combination is one that hasn't been explored nearly enough, I don't think, and I'll be making pumpkin ice cream again this year to try with incredible this sauce. I am already swooning at the thought.

One caveat when it comes to making caramel, well, two, actually. First of all, do not be afraid. Second, know that the color “amber” is subjective. When I made caramel for the first time, it was heaven in a bowl. When Mr. O-P tried it, and he cooked it to what he considered to be “amber” (and what looked more to me like “copper”) his caramel sauce was bitter from overcooking. Don't let this keep you from trying this wonderful sauce, just be mindful and, if necessary, err on the lighter rather than darker side of amber.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Caramel Sauce

 1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced into tablespoons
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup solid pack pumpkin (like Libby’s)
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 - 1 teaspoon espresso powder, to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place sugar in a heavy-bottomed medium/large sauce pan. The mixture gets pretty rowdy when you add the cream so be sure to pick one with high sides.

Cook over medium-low heat stirring often. Be patient, it takes a while for the sugar to turn into a light amber liquid, about 7-12 minutes. Do not leave it unattended, it will burn quickly.
Once the liquid turns amber, add the butter and stir until it’s melted. Add the heavy whipping cream in a slow stream. It will bubble up as you add it to the mixture.

Turn off the heat and then stir in the pumpkin, spice, espresso powder, and vanilla. Stir until smooth.

Cover and store in the refrigerator. Keeps for about 2 weeks, if it lasts that long, and may require a slight warming in the microwave prior to using.
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