Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole – THM S

Wow!! It has been a really long time since I have written anything to share with you.

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Our first snow of the year! November 19, 2016

I must say the last 8 months have been very full and stressful at times. In April of this year, after 2 years in Senegal, I began the process of packing, saying goodbyes and a million other things needed for a cross-continent move. It was really hard leaving friends who had become like family and saying goodbye to the boys I had worked with almost every day for those 2 years.

Before returning to Minnesota I had heard missionaries talk about reverse culture shock and about the fact that it can be hard to transition back into “normal” life. While I was aware that I might experience a time of adjustment, I didn’t really didn’t think it was something I would struggle with. Mostly because I was only out of the country for two years and I felt like I had done pretty well staying connected with all that was going on here. But in all honesty it has been a lot harder than I expected.

Thankfully it is getting easier and it is so good being with my family on a regular basis! It was such a blessing to all be together for Thanksgiving and I’m looking forward to celebrating Christmas with everyone!!

Since returning home my parents and I have been following an eating plan call Trim Healthy Mama. It’s a great way to eat healthy and yummy food! If you are interested you can read more on their website…here.

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This eating healthy is so hard…

Tonight we created an awesome Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe that I just have to share! It was a hit! This recipe is a THM – S…which stands for “satisfying”. But whether or not you are eating the THM way I think you will really enjoy this casserole! Let me know if you try it.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole – THM S
Serves – 6

4 cups Chicken (cooked)
1 lb. Ham (cubed)

Swiss cheese sauce:
1 cup Chicken broth
4 oz. Cream Cheese – 1/3 fat
2 Tbsp. Butter
1/2 tsp. Onion powder
1/4 tsp. Garlic powder
1/2 tsp. Parsley
2 cups Swiss Cheese

Topping:
4 Wasa crackers (crushed)
1/2 cup Almond flour
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
2 Tbsp. Butter (melted)

  • Layer chicken and ham in a greased 2 quart casserole dish.
  • In a saucepan bring first 6 ingredients of the Swiss Cheese sauce to a boil. Add in the Swiss cheese. Heat until melted, stirring often.
  • Pour the sauce over the meats.
  • Mix together topping ingredients and sprinkle on casserole.

Bake at 400F for 30 minutes

 

Enjoy!

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Lentil Soup – THM E

I am anxiously awaiting the cool season here in Senegal. A few weeks ago we had a break in the heat and it seemed as if cooler weather was just around the corner. Sadly the progress is slow going. Now I’m just hoping it cools off by the time my Mom arrives from Minnesota on November 23rd!

Yes, you read that right. My Mom is coming to Dakar! She will be here in 10 days from now! I can’t wait! It has been almost exactly 10 months since I saw her last. I am so excited to have her here with me for a few weeks! It will be fun to show her around and have her meet all my friends here.

In my excitement I am also trying to make sure I have food in the freezer so that we don’t need to be cooking the whole time. Although, we both do enjoy cooking and it will be nice to cook together again! So today I decided to make some Lentil Soup and freeze it.

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All of the ingredients ready to go. Except the tomato paste…I forgot to get it in the picture.

This recipe is one I threw together earlier this fall and liked it so much I have made it a few times. It’s really easy to make, so I thought I should share it! You can also make it more like stew by using less chicken broth.

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Now it’s time to bring it to a boil!

(I’ll try to add a picture of the finished soup when I pull it out of the freezer…I forgot to take one before I put it away.)

My Mom has been following the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating about 1 1/2 years and I have been trying to eat that way as much as possible since June. If you are interested in learning more you can check out the website by clicking here.  This recipe is considered an E, which stands for energizing. It would be really tasty with a slice of homemade sourdough bread! The the recipe I use is from Gwen’s Nest and is also a THM E.

So as you being to feel the chill of fall here is a great recipe to warm up with!

Lentil Soup – THM E

4 cups Chicken broth
1 1/2 cups Lentils (cooked)
or
[2 cups Lentils (uncooked) and 8 cups Chicken broth]
2 Carrots
1 med. Onion
3 cloves Garlic
2 Tbsp. Tomato paste
3 Bay leaves
1/4 tsp. Thyme
1/8 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1/8 tsp. Turmeric powder
Salt and Pepper

——–

  • Chop carrots and onion. Mince garlic.
  • Add everything to a pot and bring to a boil.
  • Turn heat down, cover and simmer for 30 – 45 minutes.
  • If using uncooked lentil simmer for at least 1 hour.

There you have it…simple! Enjoy!

Just relaxing

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What do you enjoy doing to relax? Maybe you take a walk, read a book, go shopping, watch a movie, hang out with friends, sit in the sun or any number of things. For me relaxing depends on my mood, the weather outside and how tired I am. Today my form of relaxing was to bake.

I think one of the reasons I like baking so much is that I get to enjoy taking a few basic ingredients and turn them into yummy food! It’s always fun when the things you bake turn out as good or better than you expected…today was one of those kind of days!

I started the morning by mixing up dough to make English Muffins. I have never made them before today so I was a little nervous to see how they would turn out. I found the recipe for them on Pinterest…click here to go to the recipe. The recipe was very easy to follow, but mixing/kneading the dough was a little harder. The dough is very elastic and somewhat sticky, it would be best to use a mixer that can handle bread dough (like a KitchenAid). But in the absence of such a mixer I mixed/kneaded by hand with a wooden spoon. After I was done mixing I set the dough aside to rise while I began my next project. In the end I was really happy with how the muffins looked and I can’t wait to taste them tomorrow morning!

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My other baking project today was making soft pretzels. Homemade soft pretzels are one of my favorite baked goods to make. If you haven’t tried making them before you should definitely give it a try! They are really quite easy to make and are a fun kitchen project to make with the kids in your life. If you want to read more about my love for pretzels and see the recipe I use you can read my post called Homemade Soft Pretzels. (Sorry there aren’t any pictures with the Pretzel post…I need to fix that.)

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These made a perfect lunch!

 

I hope you are having a nice Saturday and take some time this weekend to relax!

A Taste of Home

I have been pleasantly surprised that since moving to Africa I have missed very little when it comes to food. That’s not to say I never miss any easy-to-come-by food from home. But in general I am very content with the food I eat here. Traditional Senegalese food is very good (even if you are a somewhat picky eater) and someday soon I will write a post about some of the most common Senegalese meals…but today is about American food!

Before I even set foot in Senegal I had heard of the “American Store”…where desperate Americans go when they need Frosted Mini-Wheats, Betty Crocker cake mix, Starbucks coffee and other hard to find essentials. (Or if they just really love American brands and don’t want to buy a French brand of apple sauce from a local grocery store.)

The New “American Store”

Recently, while on a trip to the American Embassy to pick up my renewed passport we stopped in at the new “American Food Store”…which is just down the road from the embassy.

Here is what I found that couldn’t live without…

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Okay…I could have lived without all of this but it is nice to have a taste of home!

But when you live thousands of miles from “home” you pay the price to eat like you were still living there…

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The exchange rate here is around 500CFA to $1.00.

So here is what my receipt would look like in dollars…

A&W Root Beet – $1.20

Hidden Valley Ranch – $3.20

Reese’s PB Cup – $1.30

Gold Fish – $0.80 x 4

Borax – $8.20

Total – $17.10

Toubab Cooking – Jewish Apple Cake

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Last Saturday I decided it was time to try my hand at some baking…just to make sure my baking skills were the same in Senegal as they were in Minnesota.  As of today I have been in Dakar for three weeks.  The time seems to have simply melted away.  Although it hasn’t been too hot, but it has been windy…so maybe I should say that the time seems to have blown away!

Here in Senegal it is hard to find good sandwich bread like we are familiar with in America and if you can find some it quite expensive…like — for a loaf! So making bread was high on my to-do list.  I was really hoping it would turn out good.  I was worried that the difference in climate and possible difference in ingredients would make it flop.  I used my recipe for Honey Oatmeal Bread and it turned out great!  The only thing I did different was I left out the wheat flour, as I couldn’t find it here.

I also wanted to make something sweet that we had all the ingredients for…so I made a family favorite, Jewish Apple Cake!  My Mom has been making this moist, cinnamon apple cake for as long as I can rem
ember.  But it was my grandma who first found the recipe in a local newspaper in the 1960’s.  The original recipe called for layering the cake batter and apples, but with having a large family and trying to save some time my grandma decided to simple fold the apples in instead!  As a young girl, I always remember my Mom getting complements  when ever she would make this cake for company…so it seemed like the perfect recipe to begin my time in Senegal!

I hope you enjoy making and eating this cake as much as my family and I do!

Jewish Apple Cake

3 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 Tbsp. baking powder

4 lg. eggs

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

1/3 cup Orange juice (I used mango and pineapple juice)

2 tsp. vanilla

5 apples

4 Tbsp. sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 cup raisins (opt.)

1 cup nuts (opt.)

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1/4 cup sugar and 2 tsp. cinnamon – mixed together.  Use for dusting the pan.

——-

Instructions:

– Grease a 9×13 inch pan and dust with cinnamon/sugar mixture.  This works great on a variety of sweet breads and cakes!  Save any extra to top the cake.

– Peel, core and thinly slice apples…I like to use a variety of apples if I can.  Mix cinnamon (2 tsp.) and sugar (4 Tbsp.). Toss with apples until well coated.

– In a large bowl add flour, sugar and baking powder. Mix.

– In another bowl mix together the eggs, oil, juice and vanilla.  Then add to the dry ingredients.

– Mix until thoroughly combined.

– Gently fold in apples and the nuts or raisins.

– Pour into your greased pan and top with any extra cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Bake at 350° for 1 hour

Enjoy!

Toubab – a Wolof word for white person. (Pronounced: to-bob)

Quick story…so last week I visited a local market for the first time.  There were lots of cute little kids running around many of them would come up to us singing, “Toubab, toubab! Bonjour, toubab!”  Many of them may have only seen a white person a few times in their lives.  They were so cute and polite, some of them wanted to come up and shake our hands!  It made my first time to the market a memorable experience.

 

Mac & Cheese Bites

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So…my brother and I both really like mac & cheese bites.  If you have never experienced these deep-fried bites of cheesy goodness you have to try this recipe!  For those of you who have had the opportunity to try mac & cheese bites I think you will be very pleased with this homemade version.  I used this recipe that I found on Pinterest as a springboard.

Mac & Cheese Bites (Makes about 35 bites)

1 box Kraft macaroni and cheese

1/2 cup sharp Cheddar cheese

Batter:

1 egg

3 Tbsp milk

1/4 cup flour

1 Tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp paprika

salt and pepper

Instructions –

Begin by preparing the macaroni according to the directions on the box.  After it is finished add in the 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar and stir to combine.

Next line a 9×9 inch pan with parchment paper.  (You could use a slightly larger or smaller pan.)  Pour the macaroni and cheese in to the pan, then use another piece of parchment paper to press the macaroni down.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Remove from the fridge and cut into “bite” size pieces, mine were about 1 inch squares.  Now put in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

Now it’s time to plug-in your fryer and make the batter.

In small bowl whisk together the egg and milk.  Then add all the dry ingredients and whisk some more.  That’s it, now you are ready!

Take the macaroni and cheese squares out of the freezer and dip each one in the batter before carefully placing in your hot oil.  I was able to fry 7 bites in each batch.

Fry at 400* for 3-5 minutes

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So good…I know you want to try one!

These really were simple to make and I’ve already been thinking of some add-in that might be yummy…bacon, pepper jack cheese, etc!  Let me know what you think if you try making these oh, so, good mac & cheese bites!!!

Homemade Egg Noodles

Beef and noodles.

It doesn’t sound like anything too amazing…but when those noodles are homemade it’s a perfect winter meal!  The first time I tried this amazing dish was 3 or 4 years ago, thanks to a very dear friend.  A few weeks later, I knew I had to try my hand at making homemade egg noodles myself.  So I called my friend for her recipe…well, there really wasn’t a recipe.  She just said break some eggs in a bowl, add a little water, salt and enough flour to form a soft dough.  So that’s what I did.  It’s surprisingly much easier than you may think!

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Step 1 – Crack eggs into a large bowl. I used 8 eggs, but you could use more or less, depending how many noodles you want in the end.

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Step 2 – Add salt and water. Salt: I used about 1/2 tsp of salt, but they were a little bland (that’s what happens sometimes when you don’t use a recipe). Next time I think I would use a 1 tsp. Water: I used about 1/2 cup.

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Step 3 – This is an easy one…whisk!

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Step 4 – Add flour. I think I put in 3 cups before taking this picture. Sorry, it’s been about a month since I actually made this batch of noodles.

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Step 5 – Using a sturdy spoon (I prefer wooden spoons) begin to incorporate the eggs and flour. As you can see, the dough is still quite sticky. Continue adding more flour at 1/2 cup at a time.

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Step 6 – Knead in any more flour you may need to have a soft, but not sticky dough. Then I split the dough into manageable sizes for rolling out.

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Step 7 – On a well floured surface, with a floured rolling-pin, roll your dough out fairly thin about 1/8″ – 1/4″. (The noodles will expand as the cook.)

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Step 8 – Cut the noodles. The easiest way to do this is with a pizza cutter…my Mom taught me that! You can cut them whatever size you want them, it might differ depending on what you are using them for.

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After they are cut I put them on a cookie sheet or plate with extra flour on it and toss them in the flour so that they don’t stick together.

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Ok, so this time I was making turkey and noodles. Not as good as beef or venison, but still good. So, before adding the noodles to the turkey broth I had it boiling in the oven (I think the oven was set at 425*) and then carefully began adding noodles to it. I had also seasoned the broth with celery salt and pepper, you could also add any vegetables you might want at this time. After the broth and noodles begin to simmer again turn oven down to 375* and bake, stirring occasionally, for 30 – 60 minutes.

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Here is the end result…

So if you are the type of person who likes very clear directions…I’m sorry.  I know there was a lack of specifics in this recipe, but that is the way my Mom and I cook much of the time.  So, I don’t actually have a written recipe for these noodles.  As a side note – if you have more noodles then you need at one time, stick the extras in the freezer (leave them on the cookie sheet with the extra flour).  After they are frozen, put them in a freezer bag and back in the freezer for some other time!

If you try this “recipe” I would love to hear how it works for you.  Or, if you have a question, feel free to ask and I’ll try to respond quickly.

World’s Best Homemade Pizza

After many years of trying to perfect our pizza crust my Mom and I finally hit upon a perfect recipe a few years back!  Now, I can’t claim that this crust is healthy but…pizza isn’t suppose to be healthy is it?  In the past we have tried to add in whole wheat, wheat germ, garlic powder, basil, etc.  But keeping it simple seems to be the best option it allows the full flavor of the toppings to shine through.

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Last week I got the chance to have my dear friend Leah and her new husband over for lunch.  It was a great chance to catch up with her and get to know the love of her life better!  She is really quite the woman of God and we always have such a nice time visiting…although our visits can be very few and far between. (If you want to you can check out her photography…a great new undertaking!)

It had been a long time since I had made pizza and I decided it would make a perfect lunch for my guests.  To help the lunch seem special I decided against the traditional pepperoni, sausage, or supreme pizza.  Instead, I opted for an elegant (Can I call pizza elegant?) chicken-bacon-broccoli pizza with an Alfredo sauce and a BBQ beef pizza.

I hope you will give this homemade pizza a try and enjoy it as much as my family and I do!

Ok, ok!  I know you are all saying, “When is she going to stop talking and give us the recipe?”  So, here is it.

Easy Pizza Crust

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp yeast

1 Tbsp sugar (or other sweetener)

1 tsp salt

2 cups of hot water (Hotter than lukewarm, but not too hot…it will kill the yeast.)

1 Tbsp oil (vegetable, olive, whatever)

– Mix together 2 cups of flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Then add hot water and thoroughly mix.

– Next add the rest of the flour a 1/2 cup at a time mixing as you go. At the end use your hands to knead in remaining flour, then form into a ball.  Dough may still be sticky, but that’s okay it’s what gives this pizza a nice soft crust.

– Pour the oil on top of your dough, roll to cover.  Cover with a tea towel and place in a warm place to rise.

– Let rise for around 20 minutes, in the winter months it may take 30 minutes.

– Punch down dough and split evenly into two balls.  Form dough until it reaches your desired thickness…I use my hands for this part, but my Mom prefers using a rolling-pin.

– Now have fun and top with all your family favorites!

Bake @ 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes

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Isn’t it cute how the yeast made a heart!

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Make sure to mix thoroughly!

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Begin adding in the extra flour.

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Pour oil onto your dough – make sure to coat all the dough and the bowl.

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Here’s the dough split equally.

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All ready for toppings!

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Pizza #1 with Alfredo sauce and parsley.

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Pizza #1 with chicken, bacon, and broccoli added…all it needs now is cheese!

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We each enjoyed a piece of this marvelous pizza!

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Pizza #2 is so simple – I just fried up a pound of ground beef and added barbecue sauce at the end.

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Pizza #2 I topped the meat with cheddar and mozzarella. I was amazing!

This recipe for crust can be used for many great meals!  Try making bread-sticks, pizza pockets, or easy dinner rolls (just remember the baking time may be different)!!

I would love to hear if you try this recipe and what you think of it!

Old-Fashion Strawberry Pie

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I have to start off by saying that I really enjoyed this pie!  I don’t know why I have never made a baked strawberry pie before…but I certainly will be making one again!

We had a great strawberry crop this year, harvesting 21 lbs of berries so far (I’m hoping to pick our last pound or two tomorrow), so I have been fun finding news ways to enjoy our berries.  Most years we  freeze some of the berries for a winter treat, make a strawberry shortcake or two and make some jam.  We did make our traditional strawberry shortcake, but I have also made a few batches of strawberry Italian water ice and most importantly this lovely pie!

When I decided to make a pie I started scouring Pinterest for the perfect recipe.  At first I thought I wanted to make a pie with strawberries topping a chocolate ganache, it sounded really yummy, but not quite what I was looking for.  Then I came across this recipe and realized that it was just what I was looking for!

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Dark Chocolate Strawberry Pie

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Pie Dough

2½ cups flour, plus ½ cup extra for kneading

2 tbsp sugar

½ tsp salt

1 cup unsalted butter, chopped into small chunks

2 tsp vinegar

5 tbsp ice-cold water

Filling

5 cups strawberries, rinsed and halved

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup white sugar (reserve ¼ cup for sprinkling at the end)

½ tsp cinnamon

3 tbsp quick tapioca

Juice from 1 lemon

¼ cup dark chocolate chips

2 tbsp butter

Instructions –

For the pie dough, combine flour, sugar and salt.  Use your fingers to combine (Or a pastry fork, it’s up to you…I prefer using my hands). Add in butter chunks and continue mixing until small crumbs form. Gradually add in liquid, until a dough forms. Don’t worry if it is too sticky.

Remove dough from bowl and knead on a clean floured counter for about a minute until it is no longer sticky. Divide dough into two even sized balls. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about one hour.

Roll out one batch of pie dough to fit into a greased pie pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the bottom of the pie shell.

Combine berries, brown sugar, ¼ cup white sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice and tapioca.

Pour strawberries into the pie shell (You may not want to put all of the juices in with the berries, as it may cause too much spilling out).

Roll out the second pie crust and cut into strips. Form a lattice topping on top of the strawberries with the pie strips.

Cut the 2 tbsp of butter into tiny pieces and dot them in between the opening piece of the lattice-work. Sprinkle the pie with the remaining sugar.

Bake for 1 hour, 20 minutes.

I love this old rolling pie...it was my grandma's!

I love this old rolling pie…it was my grandma’s!

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My not so yummy looking filling.

Here it is with the chocolate chips.

I love a little sugar on top, it makes it look so special!

I love a little sugar on top, it makes it look so special!

The finished product.

The finished product.

Old-fashion Strawberry Pie!  Mmmm!

Old-fashion Strawberry Pie! Mmmm!

 

I did make one small change to the original recipe…I changed the cornstarch to tapioca.  I’m sure cornstarch would work fine too, but I had recently bought the tapioca to make another pie (one that never got made) so I decided I had better put my tapioca to good use.  It didn’t look very pretty before it was cooked, as I’m sure you noticed in the picture, but the pie turned out great so I think I’ll have to try using tapioca again in the future!

Also, I’m not sure if I will use chocolate chips again in the future.  I couldn’t really taste them, so I would like to see what it tastes like without the chocolate.

What are some of your favorite strawberry recipes?  I would love to give them a try!

Homemade Soft Pretzels

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I LOVE SOFT PRETZELS!  This love was passed down to me from my mom, who had her first pretzel on a trip to the mall with her dad when she was young.  My brothers and I have enjoyed soft pretzels with nacho cheese for as long as I can remember and now our love of pretzels has been pass on to my niece.

In the past we bought frozen pretzel from the supermarket.  But in recent years we have been making our own, originally because soft pretzels got expensive, but eating homemade pretzels has spoiled us.  Now when I happen to eat a store-bought soft pretzel, I can’t help but notice the lack of flavor and texture.  So today I want to share my pretzel recipe with you!  They are simple and fun to make.  I like to make a double batch and freeze some, they  reheat very well.

Oh, and you will be proud of me, I took pictures of the process to share with you!

Soft Pretzels

Yield: 12 pretzels

1 Tbsp yeast
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups hot water
3 Tbsp oil
4-5 cups flour
—–
6 cups water
1/4 cup baking soda

In a large bowl mix together yeast, sugar, salt and 3 cups of the flour. Then mix in the water and oil. Once thourghly combined add more flour to form a smooth soft dough. Knead for 3-5 minutes. Cover with a clean towel and place in a warm, draft free spot and let rise until doubled in size (about 30 minutes).
While your dough is rising bring the water and baking soda to a boil. Then turn down to low until after your pretzels are formed.
Cut dough into 12 equal pieces. On a counter roll pieces into a long rope, then twist into a pretzel shape. Place on a parchment paper lined pan. Continue to roll and shape the rest of your pieces.
This next step is my favorite part! Bring your water back to a boil, I keep the temp between medium and med-high. Gently place pretzels in water, my pot holds 3 pretzels at a time, boil for 30 seconds. Then flip them over and boil for 15 seconds. Remove from water and return to the pan, sprinkle with coarse pretzel salt. Finish boiling and salting pretzels.
Bake @ 475* for 10 minutes. Brush with melted butter and return to oven for 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Grab a some family or friends and enjoy!

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I loved the way this last picture turned out! We had a beautiful, sunny winter day here in Northern Minnesota!