Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

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One of my absolute favorite things to do is invite people over to my house and feed them. No really, like feed them a LOT. It’s an obsession to feed people lots of food. I’m turning into my grandmother.

Even more than inviting people over just to feed them is inviting them over and TEACHING them how to make a meal. That’s what I did with this meal while I was putting together the second cookbook in my Moms On The Go cookbook series.

Since this is one of my favorite recipes in the whole book, choosing another recipe starting out just wasn’t an option, was it? Don’t be silly. Of course not.

Sometimes I don’t feel like making Chicken Cordon Bleu from scratch, or even buying the frozen “Chicken Twinkies” at the grocery store. Even worse, one of our favorite local restaurants that served Chicken Cordon Bleu closed down when the owner decided to retire.

When my friends came over to be my test dummies for the first cooking demonstration, my friend’s husband was very reluctant. “I don’t like chicken cordon bleu,” he said, matter-of-fact. “But I guess I’ll try a bite.” I looked at him like he had a tarantula growing out of his neck. “He’s only tried it one time, and it was the frozen one,” my friend informed me. “Oh, okay. That makes sense. Just trust me, and take one bite. Just one bite.” He grumbled and smiled playfully, but agreed.

He didn’t stick around for the demonstration, but came running when it was time to eat. We all sat down, and I watched him.

One bite.

Two bites.

Five bites.

Shoveling the casserole in his mouth like he hadn’t eaten in a year and it would be his last meal for another year.

Two minutes later, he got up. Went inside. Came back with a BIGGER serving than the first one.

I laughed. “That bad, eh?”

“Oh my gosh,” he responded, stuffing more into his mouth. “Can I take some home?”

A third serving and a to-go plate later, his mind was changed forever about Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole. I’m saving the world one belly at a time, folks.

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This recipe actually took some experimenting.

When I was hunting for Chicken Cordon Bleu recipes, nothing was jumping out at me. The Bearnaise sauce is a HUGE part of this dish for me, so anything other than Bearnaise sauce just wasn’t even an option. No Bearnaise? You’re fired!

This is why a packet of Bearnaise sauce mix that you find at the store was the perfect solution to making sure that flavor was in the casserole without making it all from scratch.

After three attempts at perfecting what I wanted this recipe to end up being, the end result was exactly what I was looking for. SUCCESS! Now get in my belly.

Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole Recipe:

3 cups cooked chicken (shredded or cubed)

1 cup diced ham

4 slices swiss cheese

1 (0.9 oz.) packet béarnaise sauce mix

1 (10 oz.) can undiluted cream of chicken soup

8 oz. sour cream

½ cup breadcrumbs

4 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine soup, sour cream, and béarnaise mix in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together well, then stir in cooked chicken and ham. Spoon mixture into an 8×8 inch baking dish. Place slices of swiss cheese on top of mixture, followed by breadcrumbs.  Drizzle melted butter on top of bread crumbs, then bake for 30 minutes.  Serve hot. Goes really well over mashed potatoes, pasta, or rice!

Chicken Piccata

Although I finished culinary school last August and went out with a bang as this dish for my final exam, I still can’t seem to get enough of this recipe.  It’s delicious.  I made it a few times at home before the big exam, and enjoyed every taste test of it.  The first time I made it at home, it was served with mushroom risotto.  For the big day though, I decided to serve it with creamy mashed potatoes and blanched broccoli.

final exam dish

While searching for recipes online for this, I came across this one by Giada de Laurentiis.  I have tried out a number of her recipes and love her show, so giving this a shot seemed like the perfect idea…and it was.  Personally, I don’t like an overpowering flavor of lemon, but do like a good hint…and that’s exactly what this was.

Chicken Piccata Recipe:

4 thinly sliced boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Salt and pepper to taste

All purpose flour (as needed for dredging)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

5 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup lemon juice

2 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter with olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate.  Remove pan from heat.

Into the pan add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.

Blanched Broccoli Recipe:

4 oz. broccoli florets

1 oz. butter, melted

Salt and pepper to taste

Blanch broccoli in boiling water until tender, remove to ice bath.  Heat butter in pan, add broccoli and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

This has to be one of my favorite chicken dishes of all time.  The first time I had it was on a dinner cruise in elementary school, and although the chicken cordon bleu I had then was one of the little frozen ones you can buy at the grocery store, I couldn’t get enough of it.  Several restaurants make this differently depending on where you go.  Some just use the frozen ones I was used to as a kid, while others will roll their chicken breast up with ham and swiss, and others make it somewhat like a sandwich style.

While attending culinary school, this was one of my assignments (that I eagerly jumped all over) one night.  I had tried out one recipe at home that my cousin had told me she found out about on allrecipes.com, but we both burned the chicken during the cooking process.  My cousin also had the same issue with that exact same recipe, so when I told her I was trying a different method, she wanted me to let her know how it turned out (because she also loves chicken cordon bleu).  Well, in culinary school when I made this, it was actually with veal…and it was deep fried.  When I made it at home, I decided to pan fry the outside for a nice crispy coating on both sides, then baked them for the remaining cooking process.  They turned out exactly what I was hoping for.

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First, trim your chicken breast of excess fat.

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Place 1 piece of plastic wrap both under and over the chicken, then pound it to 1/4 inch thick.  Don’t be afraid to really pound it out, it won’t hurt the chicken…it’s already dead.

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Place 1 piece of ham and 1 piece of swiss cheese on top, making sure it’s not the same width as the chicken.  As you can see here, I tore the cheese to make it even with the slice of ham.

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Roll the chicken up tightly with the ham and swiss, making sure to tuck in the sides.  Place in refrigerator for about 15 minutes.

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Prepare your dredging station.  Three containers for seasoned flour, egg wash, and breadcrumbs.

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First, roll chicken in seasoned flour, then egg wash, and finally in the breadcrumbs.  Make sure the entire piece of chicken is covered by all three.  Return to refrigerator for another 15 minutes.

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In a sauté pan, fill with canola oil, about 1 inch deep. Turn heat to low/medium.  Make sure oil is hot before placing chickens in there to fry.  Fry to a golden brown on each side, return to baking dish.  Bake in oven at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes, or until internal thermometer reaches at least 165 degrees (VERY IMPORTANT FOR CHICKEN TO NOT BE UNDERCOOKED…unless you want food poisoning, of course!).  Sorry for the tip, but school scared the heck outta me with food poisoning and undercooked food.  Especially chicken.

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Make your other side items and béarnaise sauce while chicken is baking (I made some creamy mashed potatoes with this).  Top chicken with sauce, or even put some in small sauce dishes for dipping.  I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Recipe:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

4 slices swiss cheese

4 slices ham

1 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 eggs, lightly beaten (with 2 tablespoons water)

1 cup breadcrumbs

 

First, trim your chicken breast of excess fat.  Place 1 piece of plastic wrap both under and over the chicken, then pound it to 1/4 inch thick.  Place 1 piece of ham and 1 piece of swiss cheese on top, making sure it’s not the same width as the chicken.  Roll the chicken up tightly with the ham and swiss, making sure to tuck in the sides.  Place in refrigerator for about 15 minutes.  Prepare your dredging station.  Whisk together the flour, paprika, salt and pepper.  Three containers for seasoned flour, egg wash, and breadcrumbs.  First, roll chicken in seasoned flour, then egg wash, and finally in the breadcrumbs.  Make sure the entire piece of chicken is covered by all three.  Return to refrigerator for another 15 minutes.  In a sauté pan, fill with canola oil, about 1 inch deep. Turn heat to low/medium.  Make sure oil is hot before placing chickens in there to fry.  Fry to a golden brown on each side, return to baking dish.  Bake in oven at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes, or until internal thermometer reaches at least 165 degrees.  Top with prepared béarnaise sauce (I just grabbed a packet of the instant sauce at the grocery store).

 

 

 

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti is such an easy meal, in so many ways.  It’s very popular, it’s easy to heat up some sauce and to boil some noodles, and of course throwing some garlic bread in the oven.  I honestly don’t remember ever hearing someone say “Eww!” when they heard they were having spaghetti for dinner.  Shoot, the two meals that my brother is able to cook includes spaghetti and hamburger helper…and spaghetti is always a winner!  One thing I have noticed about the jar of spaghetti sauce you buy at the store tends to have a watery texture to it.  Some more so than others, but it’s still there from the jar sauces I’ve had.  That was one of the several differences that I noticed about this sauce…no watery texture!

Although the jar of spaghetti sauce is super easy and convenient to make, I still wanted to make my own sauce from scratch (less preservatives, and I knew exactly what herbs and flavors were going in).  But, I also didn’t want to have to spend an hour preparing the sauce every time I make it, so making a batch and then freezing it in individual freezer safe mason jars was the way to go.  Since the jars at the store are typically 24 oz, that’s the size I decided to store this sauce in.  Of course, you always have the option to store your sauce in larger or smaller containers.  These jars come with the metal lids, but I also got the plastic lids for easier access, and just because I prefer them.  This batch fills up about 2 1/2 of the 24 oz. jars.  Typically, I like to double the batch and fill up 5 jars, just so I have to make the sauce a little less often.  Just make sure you have a big pot for it!  When I distribute the sauce in the jars, I let them sit out on the counter (uncovered), to cool for about 1-2 hours before putting the lid on and sticking them in the fridge.  After they’ve gotten cold in the fridge, I decide how many to put in the freezer to use at a later time.  Don’t forget to put sticker labels on your jars so you’re not scratching your head, trying to figure out if they’re still good to eat or not!

spaghetti sauce jars

You can store the prepared sauce in your refrigerator for up to 7 days, and up to 6 months in your freezer.  When you decide to take a jar out of the freezer to thaw, just make sure you do this the night before, and let it thaw in the refrigerator.  What’s great about the prepared sauce is that you can use it for more than just spaghetti…you can also use it for baked ziti and lasagna.  If using for spaghetti, just reheat in a pot.  My cousin loves to throw extra meatballs in her sauce for her family, and I’m a huge fan of that as well.  With frozen meatballs, you can microwave them according to the package directions before putting them in, or let them cook in the sauce for at least 30 minutes.  Personally, I just throw mine in the microwave to make the process a little faster, but that’s totally up to you.  you can also add some extra parmesan to your sauce…because you can’t go wrong with cheese.

spaghetti sauce

If you want to make a vegetarian version of this sauce, just replace the ground beef with 1 lb. of chopped vegetables of your choice (typically in this kind of sauce, I think of onions, green bell peppers and mushrooms).  If you do this, just make sure you add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook the veggies first, before adding the sauce.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce Recipe:

1 lb. ground beef

28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

16 oz. can tomato sauce

6 oz. can tomato paste

2 oz. tomato juice

2 tablespoons onion powder

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

Cook the beef in a large sauté pan or other pot (I use a stock pot when doubling this recipe).  When beef is fully cooked and browned, add all of remaining ingredients.  Cover and cook on low/medium heat, and stir occasionally for about 1 hour.  Serve immediately, or store in individual containers in refrigerator (for up to 7 days) or freezer (for up to 6 months).

 

 

Vegetable Tortilla Soup

Well, it’s been a while since my last post…  I recently took a part time job working as a cook in a restaurant, so now I’m working two jobs, going to culinary school, and making sure there’s quality time with the family in there with all of that going on.  Can we say busy?  Whew!  But, it’s amazing how much more I’m learning about cooking just by being in the environment itself.

I’ve been making this recipe for several months now, and always happily gobble it down.  During the day, I eat very healthy.  All the sinful goodies are saved for the evenings and weekends, and it has proven to be a happy balance for me.  So, I’m always looking for a healthy alternative to different recipes.

This recipe is a vegetarian/vegan twist of Chicken Tortilla Soup.  I actually came across putting this together when I was working on a sauce for one of my final exams in culinary school while pureeing the first five ingredients.  I loved the taste of this so much, that I decided to turn this into a soup.  So, if you love tortilla soup, but want it more of a vegetable base, here you go!

vegetable tortilla soup

Usually when I make this, I’ll portion it into smaller containers and freeze it.  This way, when you’re ready to have some, there is plenty in the freezer waiting.  You can either thaw it out in the fridge in advance, or directly put it in the microwave.  I’d recommend thawing it out some first though, because the cooking process isn’t as long.  This has become a regular in my household, and is made every couple of weeks.  Who knew something so healthy could taste so delicious?!

Vegetable Tortilla Soup Recipe:

1 onion, chopped into medium size pieces

6 garlic cloves

1/4 cup olive oil

1 poblano pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 corn tortilla, torn into 1 inch pieces

2 bags frozen corn, thawed

2 cans black beans, drained

4 cups vegetable broth

8 oz. tomato sauce

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Heat oil in stock pot at medium heat.  Add onions and garlic once oil is hot, sauté until tender.  Add poblano pepper and corn tortilla, cook for another five minutes.  Add two cups of the vegetable broth, simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove to bowl to cool slightly, then puree in blender for about 1 minute, or until mixture is smooth.  To stock pot, add tomato sauce, remaining vegetable broth, and frozen corn.  Return to medium heat, add pureed mixture and stir well.  Continue cooking for about 10 minutes, add black beans, salt and pepper.  Continue cooking until corn is tender and soup is thoroughly heated through.  Can be stored in refrigerator or freezer.

Black Bean Veggie Burgers

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t eat so healthy over the holidays.  All of the amazing cookies, chocolates, casseroles, gravy, stuffing, cakes, and everything else you could possibly think of that’s NOT healthy for you…that’s what I ate.  Oh wait, I believe there was a green veggie or two squeezed in there, although it was cooked in pretty much nothing but butter.  Yikes!  After going to bed with a bloated belly the other night, I swore to myself that I would only eat vegetables for the next few days, to bounce back from the sugar loading.

black bean veggie burger

Personally, I’m a fan of veggie burgers.  I started out with the frozen veggie burgers years ago…and although they weren’t bad, my family went to a restaurant that’s know for its delicious burgers.  As I was looking through the menu, there it was…the veggie burger.  Made from scratch.  So, I decided to get it…and wolfed that bad boy down.  It was awesome, so I decided to make one at home as well.  When it comes to veggie burgers, what’s great to top it with?  Veggies!  That’s right!  Adding sautéed onions and mushrooms to a burger only makes it better in my eyes, and this is a perfect example to add to its wonderfulness.

Black Bean Veggie Burgers Recipe:

1 (16 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
1/2 onion, cut up into wedges
3 gloves garlic
1 egg
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons worcestershire
1/2 cup bread crumbs

If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil. If baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), and lightly oil a baking sheet. In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until thick and pasty. In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Then stir into mashed beans. In a small bowl, stir together egg, chili powder, cumin, and chili sauce. Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans. Mix in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into four patties. If grilling, place patties on foil, and grill about 8 minutes on each side. If baking, place patties on baking sheet, and bake about 10 minutes on each side.

**These can be made ahead of time.  Wrap individually or store in ziplock bags in refrigerator for up to 5 days, and in freezer for up to 3 months.  To reheat, place in microwave for 45-60 seconds on each side.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Well, it’s a brand new year…AND it’s cold outside.  So, how about starting out the new year with a healthy, delicious, warm and satisfying classic comfort food?  Okay then, let’s do it!

chicken noodle soup

After making the chicken and corn chowder, I had to make more soups.  You can actually use the same procedures with this soup for that soup with the chicken and chicken broth.  Just as a head’s up…this is not a quick recipe.  But, it IS very nutritious and made with all fresh ingredients.  High in vitamins and minerals from using fresh veggies, but low in calories and still filling, all at the same time.  In culinary school in our soups class, one of the techniques we went over for thickening soups was pureeing vegetables and mixing that in with the broth.  Since there are some picky eaters in my family and some of them refuse to eat chunks of vegetables but will eat them pureed, this sounded like a great option to get some fresh veggies to those picky eaters.  Everyone has their own personal taste of how salty they like their soups, so you can play with how much salt you add…just don’t add too much at a time, because you can’t take away what you add!  After I made this, my husband took some to work with him to eat for lunch.  After lunch, I got a text message from him, telling me that the soup was awesome…and also suggesting that I make it again in a larger bulk so we can freeze it to have it on hand.  And you know what else?  My super picky brother that is one of my family members who refuses to eat any other vegetables besides peas, corn and lima beans ate the soup and loved it.  Success!

Ingredients:

whole chicken, giblets removed (4-5 pounds)

1 pound onions, cut up into 1 inch pieces

1/2 pound carrots, cut up into 1 inch pieces

1/2 pound celery, cut up into 1 inch pieces

1/2-1 whole package egg noodles (depends on how much noodles you want in your soup)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

9-10 cups chicken broth (if you’re not making your own with the chicken)

extra salt and pepper to taste for soup

Cook the Chicken:  Get a whole chicken that weighs about 5 pounds.  What we’re going to do is cook the chicken with the vegetables, so all of the flavors are absorbed together. Place the chicken in the baking dish or crockpot.  Combine olive oil, salt, and pepper, brush over chicken.  Add Mirepoix.  Mirepoix is the combination of 50% onions, 25% celery, and 25% carrots.  Since we’re using two pounds of mirepoix, that comes out to be 1 pound of onions, 1/2 pound celery, and 1/2 pound carrots. Mirepoix is used commonly in stocks and broths for flavor, so we’ll be using this as a way to flavor the chicken, as well as soaking up all the flavors of the pan drippings from the chicken during the cooking process.  After that, we’ll remove the chicken from the vegetables, and puree the vegetables and pan drippings in a food processor or blender.  The veggies will be tender enough from the cooking process to blend into a thick puree.

You can cook the chicken and veggies in your crock pot (on high for about 5 hours) or in the oven in a covered dish at 425 degrees for 1-1/2 hours.  If you don’t have a covered dish, just cover tightly with foil…you don’t want the moisture escaping during the cooking process.  VERY IMPORTANT:  CHECK THE TEMPERATURE OF YOUR CHICKEN!  It needs to be at least 165 degrees in the thickest part of the chicken (safety rule for all poultry, so the same goes if you make this recipe with turkey instead of chicken).  This will prevent anyone from eating undercooked poultry, which is a huge cause of food poisoning…and no one wants that!  After the chicken is done cooking, remove from dish or crock pot, and pick all of the meat (discarding fat, bones and carcass) bits that you want to be in your soup, shredding and breaking up into bite size pieces.  Once you have the meat picked out, set aside in a bowl.

Make the Broth:  In a large stock pot, fill a little over halfway with water, and bring to a boil.  Add the chicken fat and carcass, and simmer in water for an hour.  Remove carcass, then strain liquid into another large container using a fine mesh strainer.  You’ll be using 9-10 cups of chicken broth in this recipe for the soup, depending on how thick or thin you want it to be.  SHORTCUT:  Use reduced sodium canned chicken broth instead of making it yourself.

According to noodle package directions, boil noodles in chicken broth.  When noodles are done cooking, stir in pureed vegetable mixture.  Add chicken and cook on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.  Serve warm, store leftover soup in fridge for up to five days, and in freezer for up to three months.  Since everyone has their own taste with salt, you can add as little or as much as you feel it needs.  Personally, I thought 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper was the perfect amount…but my husband thought it was a little too much and my brother thought it needed more.  Perfect example of preferences.  😉

When reheating in microwave, cook in 1 minute intervals, stirring after each minute until heated through.  This ensures soup is heated evenly.  Depending on how much soup you’re reheating, this process takes 2-4 minutes total.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

**Make it Gluten-Free!  Just use gluten-free noodles, corn, or potatoes!