Monday, June 27, 2011

Chicken Divan Recipe

For Father's Day my husband chose to forego grilling on the likely chance that I would be forced to involved him in the coal lighting and cooking process.  Instead he wisely chose one of his favorite casseroles, Chicken Divan which he knows I am more than capable of preparing without any assistance from him.  This retro comfort food  is a casserole that consists of chicken chunks, broccoli, and a decadent sauce which can be layered ahead of time and then topped with cheese and buttered cracker crumbs before baking.  It is a dish that my husband's mother used to make for his family and is one that we still enjoy today.

According to Wikipedia, Chicken Divan was first served in the 1950's at a New York restaurant called Divan Parisienne.  The word divan means meeting place which is fitting for this dish that is often served at church suppers or potlucks.  I bet the original recipe did not involve cans of Campbell's condensed soup, but the smart homemakers of decades gone by adapted the original labor intensive B├ęchamel sauce for a quicker version.  I love the freshness and tang that the lemon juice adds and the slight bite of the curry in contrast to the creamy sauce which is perfect over rice.
It seems that everybody from Paula Deen to the nice lady down the street cooks a variation of Chicken Divan.  Some folks include almonds and white wine and others shred the chicken as opposed to cutting it into chunks.  The recipe that I made is from a version that I copied onto a 5x7 index card decades ago.  I am not sure of its source, but it serves as a great launching off point.  It can easily be adapted by adding more curry, increasing  the amount of sauce, or substituting turkey instead of chicken.  Either way by following the simple steps below a tasty and homey casserole will be ready to share with family and friends.  
My original faded recipe is copied in my swirly cursive onto a 4 x 6 card.
Layer steamed broccoli in the bottom of a buttered casserole dish.
If your family includes a broccoli hater like mine does,
only place broccoli on half.
Top broccoli with chunks of cooked chicken or turkey.  Leftovers work great.
Slather decadent sauce on top of chicken and broccoli.
Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese on top of casserole.
Crush crackers in a zip-lock bag.  I use Ritz, Saltines, or whatever I have in the pantry.
This is a great time to involve the kids.
Melted butter can be added directly into baggie and mixed.
Bake and enjoy!

Chicken Divan Recipe

2 - 10 ounce bags of frozen broccoli florets, or less to taste
2 cups cubed cooked chicken or turkey
2 - 10 3/4 ounce cans Campbell's cream of chicken condensed soup
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon curry powder, or more to taste
1 cup crushed cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
  1. Butter a 9x13 casserole.
  2. Steam broccoli and layer in the bottom of the buttered casserole.
  3. Layer chicken or turkey on top of broccoli.
  4. Mix cream of chicken soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and curry powder until well blended.
  5. Slather broccoli and chicken layer with sauce.
  6. Sprinkle sauce layer with shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
  7. Crush crackers in a gallon zip-lock bag.  Add melted butter to baggie and mix until crackers are coated.
  8. Spread cheese layer with buttered cracker crumbs.
  9. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until topping is slightly browned and edges are bubbly.
  10. Serve over steamed rice.
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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day Cupcakes

Girlie Girl Cupcakes is thriving!  My 14 year old daughter and her friend have been continuing to create and sell batches of cupcakes while still managing to serve at Vacation Bible School, prepare for their dance recitals, and find time to relax by the pool.  Their latest creation is a batch of Father's Day cupcakes for a man that loves football.

To make this batch of cupcakes they first cut tiny footballs and jerseys out of fondant and added details with edible marking pens.  While the fondant adornments were drying on a cooling rack, they baked a batch of vanilla cupcakes, and whipped up some of their mouthwatering butter cream frosting.   They have found that in order to create their signature swirl of icing the consistency of this butter and confectioner's sugar mixture has to be not too thin and not too thick.  They work together until it is perfect for piping.  Then, when the cupcakes are fully cooled, they pipe on the frosting using a large star tip (Wilton 1M).  For this order they tinted half of the icing blue and left the remainder buttery white.  Lastly they perched a fondant football or #1 Dad jersey on the top of each fully iced cupcake.  

When these young entrepreneurs aren't baking they are fine tuning their business plan.  They are creating a scrapbook to showcase past Girlie Girl Cupcakes orders and are putting all of their Math skills to use as they calculate cost and profits.   I hope that the father who receives these sweet cupcakes will be as delighted as the girls who created them.  Happy Father's Day!

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Memories of Old Bay Seasoning

My "Fond Summer Memories of Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in the 1970's" include:
  1. Day trips to Rehoboth Beach Delaware with my best friend and our moms
  2. Glass mason jars filled with fire flies that I'd captured on sticky June nights
  3. Thunder storms viewed from the end of a pier on the Chester River
  4. Crab Feasts on picnic tables covered with white paper and strewn with Old Bay encrusted crabs
Alll of these experiences (with the exception of standing on a wooden structure over water while thunder and lightening abound) are ones that I hope my children will enjoy at some point in their lives.  Because we now live in Texas, however, the only one of these items that I can consistently include in their lives is Old Bay.  

Old Bay is a unique blend of spices that was created in Baltimore, Maryland over seventy years ago.  It is indispensable for all seafood, but also heightens the flavor of vegetables, salads, meats, soups, and more.  When my third child, who is my most adventurous eater out of the four, started to shy away from vegetables, I sprinkled some Old Bay on his green beans before serving and he devoured two helpings.  I also put Old Bay in recipes for soups and chowders that are new to my kids.  I'm not sure what the secret is, but dishes they will not ordinarily sample turn into family favorites with the addition of a little Old Bay.  In fact, in our family, like many other Maryland households, the three essential spices that perch on the back of the stove are salt, pepper, and Old Bay.  

Shhh, don't tell anyone, but Old Bay is the secret ingredient in my coveted Deviled Eggs.  It is what supplies that extra zest to my oven roasted potatoes.  Also, Old Bay is what adds that extra little sumpin' sumpin' to my daughter's roasted pumpkin seeds.  It is an essential part of our culinary heritage.  As a matter of fact, when we told my son that we were leaving our home in Maryland to move to Texas, one of his first questions was, "Do they have Old Bay in Texas?"  Seriously, he loves it that much!

Just in case Old Bay was not readily available in the Lone Star State, I did pack a brand new iconic yellow and blue canister of Old Bay in the moving box with my kitchen utensils.  After some searching in my new local Texas grocery stores, however, I did locate tins of Old Bay in HEB.  I had to squat down in the spice aisle and reach to the bottom corner of the shelf to locate the very small and slightly dusty row of this boldly flavored spice, but I did find it.  Nevertheless, I believe that with the power of Heidi's Recipes and the popularity of seafood in this region it is only a matter of time before Old Bay gets promoted to a higher shelf in HEB and joins Tony Chachere's Famous Creole Seasoning in the cabinets of all Texans.  

This coming summer it looks like my family and I will not be taking our annual trek to the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Even though we are all sad about this fact, I know that I can make some new memories down here in Texas; day trips to Galveston instead of Rehoboth, avoiding fire ants instead of catching fire flies, riding out thunder storms in the comfort of our air conditioned game room instead of on the end of a pier, and enjoying Old Bay on gulf shrimp instead of bay crabs.
Here are some of my favorite Old Bay Recipes:

Friday, June 3, 2011

SpongeBob Cupcakes

"Are you ready Kids?"  
"It's SpongeBob Square Pants, SpongeBob Square Pants, 
SpongeBob Square Paaaants! "
Or, in this case, should we say?. . .  
"SpongeBob Cupcakes, SpongeBob Cupcakes, 
SpongeBob Cupcaaaaakes!"

If you have had any children at all residing in your home for any length of time throughout this millenium, your brain has probably already filled in the voice of Mr. Krabs and the tune of the SpongeBob Square Pants theme song.  In fact, yesterday I observed that when SpongeBob Square Pants cupcakes are being made in one's kitchen, it is impossible not to have that little ditty hummed, sung, or whistled by all who pass within fifty feet of the area.  "Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?. . . "  

I know this for a fact because yesterday in my kitchen I had the pleasure of watching my fourteen year old daughter and her friend, a.k.a. Girlie Girl Cupcakes, create a batch of the most adorable SpongeBob Square Pants cupcakes.  It seems that these future high schoolers are now the owners of a full fledged business.  They both have organized and well-stocked baking cabinets in their respective kitchens, their bedazzled money box is being filled, and it seems that there is no project too difficult for their baking and decorating skills.  

Yesterday, on the first official day of summer, these teenagers created one dozen nautical nibbles.  They baked their chocolate cupcakes, whipped up their SpongeBob yellow butter cream, and then spent the next two hours creating the face of this silly and lovable Nickelodeon cartoon.  Again, I was thoroughly impressed with their grace and poise as they overcame their post sleepover fatigue to cut perfectly goofy fondant teeth and eyes and then pipe on all of the other silly details of this popular character's face.  They are always encouraging to each other, continue to share lots of belly laughs, and never accept anything less than perfection from themselves.  

Here is how to create your own batch of SpongeBob Cupcakes:

Bake your favorite cupcakes.
Although we used SpongeBob liners, plain white or blue would work.
Mix up a batch of Butter Cream Frosting and tint it SpongeBob yellow.
Using a small ice cream scoop place a dollop of frosting on each cupcake.
Using an offset spatula spread the yellow frosting evenly and smoothly.
Cut quarter inch circles from white fondant.
Moisten the back of each circle and place them on the cupcake .
Pipe a circle in the center of each eye with blue gel icing.
Outline the eye with black gel icing.
Pace a black dot in the center of each blue circle.
Add a funny nose and mouth using black gel icing.
Add freckles on the cheeks using red gel icing.
Add eye lashes using black gel icing.
Cut small squares from white fondant, moisten, and attach below mouth for teeth.
Share leftovers and rejects with little brothers:)