Croissant Bake

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One of Will’s favorite desserts is bread pudding.  I never had much of it growing up so it never made a big impact with me.  I also have a huge dislike of soggy bread so it wasn’t something I would reach for if given the choice.

Silly me, I should have realized that bread pudding is so much more than soggy bread!  Now, I am a huge fan of it and love to play around with the makeup of the recipe – a base of bread that absorbs a sweetened milk mixture and maybe the addition of fruit, nuts or chocolate.  This recipe is one example of a play on bread pudding.  The light and airy croissants easily and quickly take on the cream cheese and milk mixture but are hearty enough to support the fruit. It’s a delicious take on one of my now favorite desserts.


Croissant Bake

  • 3 large croissants, or 6-8 small, cut up (about 5 to 5 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries, blackberries
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup milk

Let’s start with those croissants.  Normally, when making something like a bread pudding I would say skip the knife and just tear the bread up into chunks.  For croissants though, my preference is to use a serrated knife to cut them into chunks.  Don’t stress about keeping the pieces the same size by any means, but using a serrated knife keeps the delicate bread nice and airy rather than crushing it.  This allows the croissant pieces to take in the liquid nicely but stay on the lighter side rather than being too dense.  By all means though, if that knife is just too far away… start shredding!

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Side note:  sometimes I feel like someone is watching me in the kitchen just hoping that something hits the floor…

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Grease a 9-inch square pan* and fill the pan with the croissant pieces. Spread the fruit along the top of the croissant pieces.  You can easily use fresh or frozen fruit here, whatever is easiest to work with at the time.  I’ve gone both routes and the end result is always delicious!  You can also switch out the flavors to whatever you prefer – add in other fruits such a banana or stick with one classic, add pecans or walnuts for a little texture, or toss in some chocolate chips for added decadence.

*As a variation, you can also bake these in individual ramekins for a different presentation.  See the end of the full recipe below for those baking instructions.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla and nutmeg until smooth.  I’m a slightly impatient baker so I tend to leave a few little lumps in the mix… we’ll just call those “lumps of love” 🙂

Slowly add the milk, mixing as you go.  Once that is combined, pour the milk mixture evenly over the fruit.

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Here’s the hardest part – cover and let it sit for at least 20 minutes.  While you are letting it sit, preheat the oven to 350. You can also make this the night before, cover it up, then let it sit in the fridge overnight.

Waiting is hard for all of us.

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When ready, bake the dish, covered, for 20-25 minutes.  Then take the cover off and bake another 20-25 minutes, or until the top is a nice golden brown and the center is set – no jiggles.

Serve the Croissant Bake warm with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and/or a little whipped cream.  (I’ve also let the dish cool and frozen individual portions of the Croissant Bake.  It reheats quickly and nicely for a breakfast on-the-go!)

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Full Recipe

Croissant Bake

  • 3 large croissants, or 6-8 small, cut up (about 5 to 5 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries, blackberries
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9-inch square pan.

Place croissant pieces in the pan.

Sprinkle with fruit.

Beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla and nutmeg in a bowl with electric mixer until smooth.

Gradually add the milk, blending well.

Pour evenly over croissant pieces.

Cover and let stand 20 minutes or soak overnight.

Bake, covered, at 350°F for 20-25 minutes.

Uncover and bake another 20-25 minutes, until the center is set and the top is browned.

Serve warm sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Variation:

Place croissant pieces evenly in 10 (1/2-cup) ramekins.

Sprinkle with fruit and pour cream cheese mixture evenly over croissant pieces.

Let stand 20 minutes.

Bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes or until set in center and golden brown.

Mexican Butter-Stuffed Chicken

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I’ll start this post with a warning:  this recipe is not a quick one to prep.  It’s not difficult to put together but it does involve a lot of “chill time” before cooking.  You can, however, prep and freeze the chicken ahead of time for a quick mid-week cook!  I’ve noted in the recipe below the best place to pack up and freeze for future cooking.

Another warning: slightly mushy story about this recipe coming up.

Will and I love to have friends over for dinner.  We love to plan a full dinner from appetizers to dessert, usually having guests contribute parts of the meal, and enjoy some wine and bourbon along the way.

One Friday night mid-June, we had some friends over for dinner.  We had made the butter-stuffed chicken before and thought it was a good dish to prep ahead of time and easily cook for a dinner party. Dinner was delicious and we went outside to enjoy the night and continue conversations.  Everyone was settled and Will brought out a wine bottle to refill glasses as needed.  He looked around, said “Now that everyone has a full glass…”, dropped down to one knee on the deck of our back porch and pulled out what instantly became my most favorite ring ever.

There was nervous laughter on my part, excited exclamations from our friends, that super-cute smile of Will’s and then a very firm “YES!” from me. Champagne was popped and thus began our year of wedding prep and life of marital bliss.

acceptance

I’ve said since this day that when we move out of this house, I’m taking with me the board that Will’s knee was touching on June 15, 2012.  We’ll serve Mexican Butter-Stuffed Chicken for dinner the night the board finds its new home 😉


Mexican Butter-Stuffed Chicken

  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 poblano, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 tablespoons cream cheese, cubed and softened
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ teaspoon minced fresh lime zest
  • four boneless skinless chicken breast, 6 to 7 ounces each
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cups panko

Place the onion, poblano, jalapeno, red bell pepper, garlic, cumin, oregano and coriander in a food processor. Pulse everything together until all the veggies are a fine dice.

I love my food processor as it cuts down chopping and mixing time and effort in many situations.  We have both a 3.5- and a 7-cup size and they both get a workout frequently!  Don’t have a food processor handy?  Chop all the veggies into a fine dice from the start – since this is part of the filling inside the chicken roll-up you just want small, fairly equal sizes so that it stuffs and stays inside the chicken well.

Take one tablespoon of the butter and melt it in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Saute the veggie mixture in the butter, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook the mixture until all the moisture from the veggies evaporates – about 15 minutes or so.  Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool a bit as you move on to the next step.

Mash the cream cheese and remaining 4 tablespoons of butter together. Mix in the cilantro and lime zest.  Stir in the veggie mix then taste to check for seasoning.  Add a little salt and pepper, if needed.  Place the butter in the fridge to chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

While the butter is firming back up, prepare the chicken breasts.  Place one chicken breast inside a resealable plastic bag with just about 1 teaspoon of water inside of it – the water helps the chicken to not stick to the bag as much.  Pound the chicken breast to 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick with the smooth side of a mallet.  You can also use the bottom of a heavy skillet or pan to pound the chicken down.  Repeat this with all four chicken breasts.

Once the butter if firm, divide it into quarters. Place one quarter of the butter in the center of each pounded chicken breast. Fold one end over the filling, tuck the sides of the chicken in, then continue rolling until the filling is covered.  Tightly wrap the stuffed chicken in plastic wrap and repeat the process with the remaining breasts and butter.

Chill the wrapped chicken at least one hour or as long as overnight.  If you are in a little more of a hurry, pop the wrapped chicken into the freezer until just firm.  You want the chicken breasts firm around the filling so that when they cook the chicken stays together without having to secure the meat with toothpicks.  I can never find all those toothpicks after cooking…  😉

Season the flour with salt and pepper.  Unwrap the chicken then dredge the roll-up in the flour.  Dip the roll-up into the egg, then roll in panko, pressing the panko into the chicken to coat it well.  Wrap the breaded chicken in plastic wrap again and chill to set the coating at least one hour, up to three hours.

** This is a great point to freeze any roll-ups that you don’t want to cook the same day **

Heat your oven to 450.

Heat about 1/2-inch of canola or vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  You want the oil to be about 375 degrees.  I don’t like to drag a deep-fry thermometer out so here are a couple ways to check oil temp without one:

  • Stick the handle of a wooden spoon, or use a chopstick, into the oil.  If the oil starts steadily bubbling, the oil is ready for frying.  No bubbles – keep heating.  LOTS of vigorous bubbles – let the oil cool a bit.
  • Drop a 1-inch square of bread in the oil.  If it takes about 60 seconds to brown the oil is at 365.
  • Drop a single kernel of popcorn into the oil. The kernel will pop as the oil reaches 350-360 degrees.

Fry the stuffed chicken, a couple at a time to not overcrowd the pan, until browned on all sides, about 5-6 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a rack set over a baking sheet and continue to fry/brown the rest of the chicken.  Place the rack with all the chicken breasts into the oven.  Roast the chicken until cooked through, about 18-20 minutes.  This is where you do want to grab a meat thermometer – when done, the chicken should register at 150-155.

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Let the chicken rest a couple minutes before slicing and serving so that the stuffing has a chance to settle a bit – if it is too hot when you slice the lovely juices will run out and you’ll end up with a messy, drier chicken breast.

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The stuffing can be changed up several different ways to swap out the flavors.  Simply leave the butter/cream cheese base the same and mix up the veggies – maybe a little drained spinach and feta?  Green bell pepper and mushrooms?  Sweet cherry peppers and olives?  How would you change it up?


Full Recipe

Mexican Butter-Stuffed Chicken

  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 poblano, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 tablespoons cream cheese, cubed and softened
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ teaspoon minced fresh lime zest
  • four boneless skinless chicken breast, 6 to 7 ounces each
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cups panko

Place onion, poblano, jalapeno, red bell pepper, garlic, cumin, oregano, and coriander in a food processor.

Process until everything is a fine dice.

Sauté vegetable mixture in 1 T butter over medium-high heat, season with salt and pepper.

Cook until moisture evaporates, about 15 minutes.

Set aside to cool a little.

Mash cream cheese, 4 tablespoons butter, cilantro and lime zest together.

Stir in veggie mix.

Season with salt and pepper.

Chill until firm, about 30 minutes, then quarter.

Pound chicken breast to 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick one at a time inside a resealable plastic bag with 1 teaspoon water using the smooth side of a mallet.

Stuff chicken breast by placing a quarter of the filling in the center of each pounded breast.

Fold the end over the filling tucking the sides then continue rolling until the filling is covered.

Tightly wrap the stuffed breasts in plastic wrap and repeat stuffing and wrapping with remaining breasts.

Chill breasts at least one hour or as long as overnight, or freeze just until firm.

Season the flour with salt and pepper.

Dredge the chicken in seasoned flour, then dip into egg, then roll in panko, pressing to coat.

Wrap the breaded breasts in plastic wrap and chill to set the coating at least one hour or up to three hours

**Freeze any wrapped chicken breasts you do not wish to cook today**

Heat oven to 450.

Fry the stuffed breasts in ½ inch of canola oil heated to 375°, until browned on all sides, about 5-7 minutes.

After browning, transfer breasts to a rack set over a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Roast stuffed breasts until an instant read thermometer inserted into the chicken registers 155°, 18-20 minutes.

Black Forest Pudding

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Ready for something sweet?

This recipe comes from my mom.  I’m not really sure why we call it Black Forest Pudding, since historically anything labeled “Black Forest” includes cherries and this one is most definitely cherry-free.

Grandpa McGee hates cherries.  As a result of this, my sister, Laura, and I would love to sit next to him at dinner.  Grandma McGee often made a fruit salad with dinner and, of course, fruit salad has cherries.  Grandpa would start the meal by picking up his medicine Grandma had thoughtfully put on his dinner plate, swallow it with a gulp of tea, make a big face of disgust to make us girls giggle, then slyly start picking all the cherries out of this fruit salad and slip them on our plates.  It was the highlight of every meal, followed only by Grandma’s fabulous cooking itself.  I’m going to guess that this recipe was developed to ease some of Grandpa McGee’s cherry pains.

After cooking the crust, this dessert is chilled and can be easily made ahead of time and stored in the fridge.  I’ve often made this as a housewarming or potluck dish as it travels well.

If you like cherries, you could easily add a cherry pie filling between the cream cheese and chocolate pudding layers.  Go ahead… I won’t tell Grandpa.


Black Forest Pudding

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 3 cups whipped cream (or one small package of prepared whipped cream)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 small package instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 small package instant chocolate pudding
  • 3 cups milk
  • Pecans, chocolate chips for topping

Mix together the pecans, flour and melted butter.

Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.  If you like a thicker crust, use an 8×8 pan – for a thinner crust, go with a 9×13 pan.  Press the dough onto the bottom of the pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, then cool the crust completely.

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Blend together the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, 1 cup whipped cream and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix together the puddings and milk.

Now, it’s all about the layering.  Top the cooled crust with the cream cheese mixture.  Spread the pudding mixture on top of that.  Cover with the remaining whipped cream.  When spreading the whipped cream, be careful not to push the cream too hard into the pudding or it will start to streak a bit.

I always like to decorate the tops of desserts like this with a hint as to what is inside – it’ll save you from having to warn eaters about nuts, chocolate, or other potential allergy items.  I sprinkle the top of the Black Forest Pudding with mini chocolate chips and a few pecan pieces.

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Refrigerate until ready to serve!

Try it out – cherries or no, this is an easy dessert for family, friends and Grandpas all over.

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Full Recipe

Black Forest Pudding

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 3 cups whipped cream (or one small package of prepared whipped cream)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 small package instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 small package instant chocolate pudding
  • 3 cups milk
  • Pecans, chocolate chips for topping

 

Mix together the pecans, flour and melted butter.

Spray baking dish (8×8 for thick crust, 9×13 for thinner crust) with cooking spray.

Press into baking dish and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Cool completely.

Blend together the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar and 1 cup whipped cream.

Spread on top of cooled crust.

Mix together the puddings and milk.

Spread on top of cream cheese mixture.

Top with remaining whipped cream.

Sprinkle pecans, chocolate chips on top of dessert.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.