Making the best of celebrations with family

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Every time one of our children has a birthday, it is a huge celebration. A friend of mine at the senior center told me to celebrate each and every family accomplishment as if it were the last. Taking his advice, we do that. We rejoice in their lives and the accomplishments they have achieved. As Ross turned 11 years old the other day, once again we had a grand party to celebrate with family and friends. Life is so good.

Jodi Thompson of Jackson sent in several recipes to share with you today. They sound wonderful and I have added them to my recipe collection.

Mac and Cheddar Cheese with Chicken and Broccoli

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan

1 pound chicken breast tenders, chopped

Salt and pepper

1 small onion, chopped

1 pound macaroni elbows or corkscrew shaped pasta twists

2 1/2 cups raw broccoli florets

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

3 cups whole milk

1 cup chicken stock

3 cups yellow sharp Cheddar

1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard

Place a pot of water on to boil for macaroni. Heat a medium pan over medium to medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil and chicken and season with salt and pepper. Sauté a couple of minutes then add onion and cook another 5 to 7 minutes until onions are tender and chicken is cooked through. Turn off heat and reserve. To boiling pasta water, add pasta and salt to season the cooking water. Cook 5 minutes, then add broccoli and cook 3 minutes more or until pasta is cooked to al dente and florets are just tender. While pasta cooks, heat a medium sauce pot over medium heat. Add butter and melt, then add flour, cayenne and paprika and whisk together over heat until roux bubbles then cook a minute more. Whisk in milk and stock and raise heat a little to bring sauce to a quick boil. Simmer sauce to thicken about 5 minutes. Drain macaroni or pasta and broccoli florets. Add back to pot and add chicken to the pasta and broccoli. Add cheese to milk sauce and stir to melt it in, about a minute or so. Stir in mustard and season sauce with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken and broccoli and cooked pasta and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings, transfer to a large serving platter and serve. Yield: 6 servings

Bourbon Beef Tenderloin

1 cup bourbon

1 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup soy sauce

1 bunch cilantro, leaves chopped

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 cups water

3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves chopped

1 (5-pound) beef tenderloin, silver connective tissue removed

Oil, to brush grill

Preheat grill or oven to 350 degrees. Prepare marinade by combining the bourbon, brown sugar, soy sauce, cilantro, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, water, and thyme in a bowl. Make sure the tenderloin has been cleaned and the tissues has been removed. Fold the tail end of the beef back underneath itself so that it is of uniform thickness and secure with butcher's string. Place meat in a dish and pour marinade over meat, cover, and refrigerate for approximately 8 to 12 hours turning meat over several times. When grill is ready, place meat on oiled surface and reserve the liquid from the marinade. Cook over high heat with lid closed, turning meat often and occasionally basting with the marinade. The tenderloin will cook to rare in approximately 30 to 45 minutes. Serve with horseradish cream on the side. Yields 8 to 10 servings.

Chicken Divan with Almonds

1 (2-pound) head broccoli, stems removed

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup milk

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

3 tablespoons dry sherry

12 slices cooked chicken or turkey

1 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup heavy cream

Place a collapsible steamer in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, pour in enough water to just reach the bottom of the steamer, and bring to a boil. Break the broccoli into florets and place them in the saucepan. Steam until just tender, about 5 to 7 minutes and drain. Preheat to oven to 350 degrees. Butter a shallow 2-quart casserole and set side. In a medium-size saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat, then add the flour and stir for 1 minute. Gradually add the broth and milk and stir until thickened. Season with salt and pepper; add the nutmeg, 1/4 cup of the cheese, and the sherry. Stir until the cheese melts, and remove from the heat. Arrange the broccoli in the prepared casserole in a single layer, sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup cheese over the top, arrange the chicken slices evenly over the broccoli, and sprinkle the almonds over the top. In a medium-size mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, fold into the cheese sauce, pour evenly over the chicken and almonds, and bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 35 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

Peanut Butter Cheese Cake Minis

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

4 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted

12 bite-size peanut butter cups

For the filling:

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or almond extract

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a paper cupcake liner in each cup of a standard muffin pan. To make crust, in a bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter until crumbs are moistened. Press crust into bottom of each muffin cup. Put 1 peanut butter cup into the center of each crust. Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add sugar, flour, and vanilla, beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Spoon cream cheese mixture over peanut butter cups and graham cracker crusts. Bake until just set, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before serving.

We haven't had any recipe requests in quite some time, and it is good to have one to share with you this week. Melba McCulley of Cape Girardeau remembers some Italian friends who made artichokes stuffed with bread crumbs. She recalls that they were so delicious and would like to make them for herself. Maybe some of you can help her with some recipes.

I'm all out of room so will wish you a great week and happy cooking.

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