Saturday, March 31, 2012

Smoked Salmon Spread

I love smoked salmon for an appetizer, but I decided to try salmon spread for a change. This is Ina Garten's recipe, and it's great, as usual! Even people who don't love smoked salmon like this savory, creamy spread. It's also a good way to stretch pricey smoked salmon.

I served the spread with Town House Pretzel Crackers, which were really good. Bagel chips or rye cocktail bread would also be nice.

Smoked Salmon Spread 


8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill (I used one teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish, drained
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound (4 ounces) smoked salmon, minced


Cream the cheese in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until just smooth. Add the sour cream, lemon juice, dill, horseradish, salt, and pepper, and mix. Add the smoked salmon and mix well. Chill and serve with crudites or crackers.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Menu

Here are links to all the recipes I used for the Academy Awards-themed preschool teacher appreciation menu. It was a lot of fun!

Chicken Cordon Bleu
Twice-Baked Potatoes
Cobb Salad
Carrot Souffle
Artisan Bread
Raspberry Cheesecake

Raspberry Cheesecake

This cheesecake is the best plain cheesecake I've ever made. It's creamy, rich, and not too sweet. The lemon zest gives it tremendous flavor if you don't want to make the sauce.

The original recipe is from Ina Garten, but after making it four times, I've changed it quite a bit. It doesn't matter if you use a 9-inch or 10-inch pan. The baking instructions are great - the cheesecake never cracks and slices beautifully. Make it at least 24 hours in advance.

1 package Oreos
4 T. butter, melted
1 T. sugar
5 packages cream cheese
1 3/4 c. sugar
6 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 c. sour cream
1 T. lemon zest
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 c. strawberry jelly or seedless raspberry preserves
1 16 oz. package frozen raspberries

1. Process Oreos into crumbs in a food processor. Mix with melted butter and one T. sugar. Press into the bottom of a nine- or ten-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes. Cool.

2. Mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth - about five minutes - on high speed. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs and egg yolks, 2 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour into the cooled crust. Preheat oven to 450.

3. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 225 degrees F and bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and open the door wide. The cake will not be completely set in the center. Allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door open for 30 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for another 2 to 3 hours, until completely cooled. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

4. To make sauce, heat jelly in microwave until melted. Mix in berries. Add sugar if the sauce is too tart. You can cover the top of the cheesecake with raspberry sauce or serve it on the side.

Twice-Baked Potatoes

Or as we called them yesterday, Two-Time Award Winning Potatoes. Another 80's throwback! It's hard to mess up twice-baked potatoes, but here's the recipe. They are great to make for a crowd - you can do all but the second baking ahead of time. I made almost 20 lbs. of potatoes and baked them in two batches in my small home oven. At the commercial kitchen at the preschool, they fit on one full-sheet pan.

Instead of cutting an opening into the top of the potato or cutting large potatoes in half, I cut about the top 1/2 inch off the potatoes. This made the potatoes sturdier and left me with a bunch of potato skins for later.

Twice-Baked Potatoes
5 lbs. potatoes
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper
2 cups cheddar cheese shredded
1 cup sour cream
4 T. butter, softened
2 T. green onions, sliced

Drizzle olive oil over potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 until fork-tender (40 minutes for medium potatoes; at least 1 hour for large).

When potatoes have cooled slightly, cut off about the top 1/2 inch. Gently scoop out the potato into a bowl, reserving skins. Mash potatoes until smooth. Add 1 cup cheddar cheese, sour cream, butter, green onions, 1 1/4 t. salt and 1/4. t. pepper. Scoop back into potato skins and top with remaining cheddar cheese. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes, or until the cheese melts.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

I didn't intend for the teacher appreciation luncheon menu to be a throwback to the 80's, but it did turn out that way! I considered serving chicken Oscar to coordinate with the Academy Award theme but wasn't convinced everyone would love it. I chose Chicken Cordon Bleu (Blue-Ribbon Chicken) and renamed it Academy Award Chicken.

You can make it look a lot prettier if you pound and flatten the chicken breasts, but I didn't do that because of the time it would take. I sliced the breasts length-wise, rolled them up, and secured them with toothpicks which seemed to work pretty well.

This is a great make-ahead dish because you can roll the breasts and brown them on the stove but finish them later in the oven.

One of my friend's husbands ate some leftover chicken for dinner, and she texted me that he said, "I am fixing to smack somebody" after eating it. I had to ask her if that was a good thing, and she assured me it's very good - in a redneck way!

Chicken Cordon Bleu


3 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 2 lbs.)
6 slices Swiss cheese
6 slices smoked ham
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon paprika
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon chicken base (like Better Than Bouillon)
1 cup heavy whipping cream


1. Slice the chicken breasts in half the long way. Pound chicken breasts if they are too thick. Place a cheese and ham slice on each breast within 1/2 inch of the edges. Fold the edges of the chicken over the filling, and secure with toothpicks. Mix the flour and paprika in a small bowl, and coat the chicken pieces.
2. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and cook the chicken until browned on all sides.
3. Remove the chicken from pan. Bake for 20 minutes in a 350 oven.
4. Add tablespoon of flour to skillet and cook for one minute, stirring. Add the wine and bouillon. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer while the chicken bakes. 
5. Remove chicken from oven. Whisk cream slowly into the skillet. Cook, stirring until thickened, and pour over the chicken. Serve warm.

Cobb Salad

I had the privilege of catering the teacher appreciation luncheon at the boys' former preschool yesterday. I always love to go back and cook for the wonderful teachers there! The theme was Academy Awards, so I chose a menu at least tangentially related to Hollywood. I snapped a few pictures with my phone just before the luncheon started, so they are not that great!

I made Hollywood Derby Cobb Salad without chicken. Since chicken was the entree, I left it out, but it's included in the recipe below. This is a great salad to serve to a group because you toss the lettuces and then layer the toppings in vertical lines. That way those who don't like hard-boiled eggs (for example) can just choose the toppings they like.

I adapted the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Watercress would be an authentic addition, but I just went with iceberg and Romaine.

Hollywood Derby Cobb Salad

Serves 4 to 6

1/4 cup canola oil
2 T cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 T cup red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire

1/8 teaspoon sugar

1 small clove garlic, minced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1/2 head iceberg lettuce, cored and shredded

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped

2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
6 strips cooked bacon, roughly chopped
2-3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2-3 Roma tomatoes, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
 or slices
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons green onions, thinly sliced

Make the dressing: Combine the canola oil, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire, sugar, and garlic in a blender or dressing shaker. Purée the ingredients to make a smooth dressing and season with salt and pepper. Set the dressing aside.

Make the salad: On a large platter, combine the iceberg and romaine lettuces along with the watercress. Drizzle a little dressing on the lettuces. Arrange the blue cheese, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, chicken, and avocado on top of the greens in neat rows. To serve, drizzle salad with dressing, season with salt and pepper, and top with green onions.