Swiss Chicken and Orzo Casserole

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This is a creamy, delicious casserole dish that was inspired by Creamy Swiss Cheese Chicken Bake on Mel’s Kitchen Café, adapted to make the recipe easier and in a smaller amount, but with the same cheesy flavor.

CHICKEN AND SWISS ORZO CASSEROLE

  • 1 cup dry orzo pasta
  • 1 cup shredded cooked chicken breast
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese (approx. 4×4 inches)
  • ½ cup light mayonnaise
  • ½ cup light sour cream
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Spray a 9×9 baking pan

Cook orzo in boiling salted water according to package instructions.  Drain but do not rinse.  Lay the orzo in a layer on the bottom of the baking pan.  Top with the cooked, shredded chicken breast and then with the slices of Swiss cheese.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, ½ cup of Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Spread this mixture over the mixture in the casserole.

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Top with the remaining ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese.

Bake uncovered @ 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.
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4 servings 

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Toasted Orzo and Spinach Casserole

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I saw a recipe online which sounded interesting but I had some problems with my first version.  I made some changes on a second try that made the dish the way I thought it should be.  Toasting the dry orzo only takes 6 minutes and I believe it adds flavor to the pasta when it’s cooked.

I steamed the spinach and pressed out moisture to keep the sauce from having too much liquid.  Also changed out the cheese a bit.  The casserole really needs to rest 10 minutes before serving and is even better the next day.  This makes a very satisfying meatless casserole.

TOASTED ORZO AND SPINACH CASSEROLE

  • ½ pound orzo pasta  (1 cup)
  • 10 oz. bag of fresh baby spinach leaves, rinsed and stems removed
  • 3 Tblsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/4 cups milk
  • 5 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 ounces shredded very sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup plus 2 Tblsp. crumbled feta cheese
  • ½  tsp. salt
  • Grating of black pepper
  • 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, not drained

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Oil a 9-inch baking dish

Place orzo on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 6 minutes, stirring after 3 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.

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In a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, cook the toasted orzo pasta until al dente according to package directions (approximately 10 minutes). Drain (but don’t rinse) and set aside.

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Steam spinach, covered, over simmering water for about 10 minutes until wilted.  Press and drain excess water.  Set aside.

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In a large saucepan, place the flour and whisk in the milk gradually.  Cook over medium heat, whisking until the mixture starts to bubble.  Continue to whisk for one minute.  Remove from heat and add the mozzarella and cheddar cheese a half-cup at a time, stirring to be sure cheese is melted.  Stir in feta cheese (may not melt completely).

Stir in salt, pepper, tomatoes and spinach and orzo.

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Spoon mixture into prepared baking dish.  Add crumb topping.

Basil Crumb Topping

  • 2 slices of bread, torn into pieces
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves

In a food processor, place torn bread pieces and basil leaves.  Process until bread is in crumbs and basil is in tiny pieces.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.  Let dish rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

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Makes 6 servings


orzo-botClick on pictures to enlarge.

Last Day of Vacation

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We completed the last of the once-a-week vacation days that my daughter and I have enjoyed this month.  I’ve had medical problems the past year that have been manageable as far as going out for lunch or dinner, but have not allowed me to stand and walk long enough to browse through antique shops.  Since I’m better, this is what I chose for our annual fall vacation.  Fortunately, my daughter also loves antique shops and has patiently been the driver and dining companion.  For the last day, I chose a location that is about an hour from our home – Waynesville, Ohio.  The village was founded in 1797 and was an important Quaker settlement.  There are still over 200 historic homes, most of them in the shopping area of several blocks and side streets.  We stopped for lunch at the Hammel House Inn which was built in 1799.  The original brick walls are still visible and the fireplace is homey and charming.

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Our table was near an open window where we could look out onto the long front porch.

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We had a lovely lunch.  I chose the English Grille.  The salad with strawberries was especially delicious.
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My daughter ordered a Reuben sandwich and the cheerful and efficient waitress took our picture.

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We don’t usually have dessert, but couldn’t resist some really good quality vanilla ice cream with just a drizzle of chocolate, pecans and whipped cream.

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In just a two-block area, we visited three antique stores.  The Olde Curiosity Shoppe is one of our favorites.
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I found three items to add to my collection – a baking dish and pitcher with the poppy motif that I love and a Roseville bud vase in the freesia pattern which was reduced in price because of a chip that I didn’t mind at all.

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There’s also a great quilt shop, Fabric Shack, which is familiar to a lot of my quilting friends around the country because of their excellent online service.

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On the way home, we stopped off at a farm market called Hidden Valley to check out their very well stocked rustic store.
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There were even a few animals to see…

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…and we bought some fudge and cookies to take home.

I’m glad that my daughter and I were able to share these days and enjoy so many beautiful things that southwest Ohio has to offer.

Click on pictures to enlarge

A Staycation Day–Lunch and Antiques in Two Old Buildings

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My daughter and I are continuing to have one day a week this month as a staycation day, lunching and then visiting an antique shop in the Cincinnati area.  This week, we went to lunch at a restaurant we’ve been enjoying for over 35 years.   This beautiful place is located in the equally beautiful village of Mariemont.  Mariemont was founded in the 1920s as a planned community village and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007.  The area has houses built in the English architectural styles from Norman to classic Georgian.  The Mariemont Inn is a Tudor Revival which opened as a hotel in 1929 and the restaurant is named after the term the founder used to describe the village – a National Exemplar in practical town planning.

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There are two large dining areas plus party rooms and several areas like this beautiful lounge.

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My daughter and I always order a favorite turkey and dill crepe when we have lunch here.  The potatoes are simply wonderful – crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.

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We left the gorgeous Mariemont Inn ….

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And drove a short distance to the Cincinnati suburb of Oakley.  The antique store, Duck Creek Antiques, is housed in a building that used to be the Grace A Rush Bakery, in business from 1937 to the late 1980s.  Mrs. Rush had a thriving fruitcake business in her home in upscale Hyde Park before she moved to the building in middle class Oakley.  I raised my family in Oakley and remember the bakery and the wonderful Grace Rush fruitcakes very well.  It’s nice now to browse through the booths of over 150 dealers on two floors in this 1930s building.

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I found two items at reasonable prices:  A large soup cup with a Dutch motif….

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….and a small ironstone syrup pitcher.
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Another very beautiful and successful vacation day.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Ham Salad Wraps

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A few weeks ago when I posted a tuna wrap recipe, one of my blogger friends said she didn’t like tuna but wondered how something like deviled ham would work.  That reminded me of a great ham salad recipe I found on Kelli’s Retro Kitchen and I put this wrap together using some good flavored leftover ham.  I really enjoyed this lunch dish and thank both Susan and Kelli for the inspiration.

HAM SALAD WRAPS

  • 1-½ cups diced ham (leftover Honey Baked Ham)
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 4 Tblsp. cream cheese
  • 1-½ Tblsp. chopped pickle (used my homemade sweet/sour pickles)
  • Scant ¼ tsp each garlic powder, cumin and smoked paprika

Pulse everything in food processor for slightly chunky consistency – don’t make puree.

  • 4 burrito flour wraps (8 inches dia.)
  • 4 large lettuce leaves
  • 1 long cucumber, peeled and sliced thinly*

*Place cucumber slices in a bowl and cover with water.  Stir in about 2 Tblsp. white vinegar and ½ tsp. granulated sugar.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
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To assemble the wraps:

Heat wraps in microwave for 8-10 seconds and place a wrap on each of four plates.  Place a piece of lettuce on each wrap and spread ¼ of the ham salad down the center.  Top with cucumber slices ….

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…..and fold down each wrap at the top and bottom.
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Roll from one side and place seam-side down on plate.

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Cut each wrap on the diagonal into three portions.

Serve with additional cucumber slices.

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4 servings

Another Vacation Day at Home

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I’m unable to go on my regular vacation this year, so have planned to take one day a week through the month of September to go with my daughter to a nice restaurant for lunch and then on to some antique store browsing.

Both the restaurant and antique mall I chose this week are old favorites and both are housed in early 1900s buildings nestled in historic neighborhoods.

GRAND FINALE RESTAURANT
We’ve been going to the Grand Finale Restaurant since it opened in l975.  It’s located in a beautiful, old community called Glendale (Cincinnati) and the building started out in the early 1900s as a saloon, and then from 1928 to 1970 was a corner market.  The building is sedate even on a busy corner…..
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…with lovely Victorian décor throughout a large dining room and patio area.  Our table looked out on a small, lush garden, one of my daughter’s favorite spots.

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The staff is excellent as is the food – starting with salad and hot rolls.

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My daughter ordered our #1 favorite on the menu, Chicken Ginger with Spinach Crepe.

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This time, I decided to try their Chicken Potpie with Puff Pastry Topping.

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It was perfect.

VENICE ANTIQUE MALL
After lunch, we drove about 30 minutes to Ross, Ohio, to check out the antique store.  It’s housed in an early 1900s building which was the entertainment center for the surrounding neighborhood which is still rural.  Until the late 1940s, there was a restaurant (with chicken dinners) on the first floor, bowling alleys in the basement, and a huge dancing pavilion on the second floor.

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Now, every floor and every nook and cranny is filled with antiques.  The outside of the building looks very similar to the way it looked in the 1920s.

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It was a lovely visit to a great old store and I even found a little piece of 1930s-40s era ovenware to add to my Dutch collection.
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Click on pictures to enlarge.

Cold Cucumber Soup

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Here’s a tasty cold soup to enjoy on one of the remaining warm days we will surely have in September.  It’s very easy to make and tastes delicious.  It’s a light soup and I added an accompanying sturdy piece of homemade bread with a slice of good cheese, toasted under the broiler.

COLD CUCUMBER SOUP

  • One long English style cucumber
  • 3 Tblsp. lemon juice
  • ½ Tblsp. dried dill weed
  • 4 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper

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Peel the cucumber, cut into sections and remove the seeds.  A melon baller works well for this.
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Cut the cucumber into 1-1/2 inch chunks and place in a food processor or blender.  Add the lemon juice, dill weed, yogurt and broth.  Process until pureed.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Place soup in a covered container and refrigerate for at least two hours.

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Makes 4 servings

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Tags:  cook,cooking,recipe,recipes,soup,cold cucumber,cucumber,lunch,summer

Chicken and Cheese Dip–Crock Pot – Slow Cooker

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I adapted this recipe from one I saw a couple of years ago on Crockpot Recipe Exchange.  It was easy to mix the ingredients and let them cook in the slow cooker for about 2-½ hours.  The result was delicious – cheesy with a lot of chicken  and a delicious flavor.  I used the coriander chutney and didn’t need any additional seasonings.  You might want to taste and add salt, pepper or some kind of hot sauce.  I used this as an entree and it made a nice lunch for three people with leftovers for supper.

CHICKEN AND CHEESE DIP

  • 8 ounce package of cream cheese. cubed
  • 3 cups (12 oz.) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 14.1 ounce can of diced tomatoes, lightly drained
  • 4 oz. mushrooms, sliced and sautéed just until tender
  • 2 Tblsp. dried minced onion
  • 2 cups cooked chicken breast, diced
  • 1 cup feta cheese crumbles
  • 1-½ Tblsp. Coriander Chutney or 4 oz. can of diced green chiles

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Put all the ingredients in the order listed into a 2-1/2 quart crock pot. Place the lid on and cook on low for 2.5 – 3 hours.
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NOTE:  STIR EVERY 30 MINUTES TO BE SURE THE CHEESE IS MELTING.

I like to serve this with Tostido scoops.  Mixture can be kept warm in crockpot for up to 2 hours.  Reheat leftovers in the microwave or in a small pan on the stove.  This dip should be piping hot.


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Easy Tuna Dill Wraps

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This is an easy wrap that makes a nice, satisfying lunch any time.  Other than warming the tortillas, there is no cooking required.

EASY TUNA DILL WRAPS

  • Four 10-inch burrito-style flour tortillas
  • Dill Sauce*
  • Two 5-oz. cans white albacore tuna, drained
  • One medium tomato, sliced
  • 4 large pieces of lettuce
  • Salt/Pepper

*Dill Sauce

  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ tsp. dried dill weed (or 1 tsp fresh dill)
  • ½ tsp. grated lemon peel
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice

Whisk sauce ingredients in a small bowl until blended

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To assemble wraps:

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Warm tortillas in the microwave for about 10 seconds until they are pliable.  Place a tortilla on a plate and spread with sauce to within one inch of edge.  Spoon 1/2 can of drained tuna down center of tortilla.

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Place a piece of lettuce and tomato slices on top of tuna.

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Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Fold down top and bottom edges of tortilla….

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…and roll tortilla from sides, placing seam-side-down on plate.

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Slice completed wrap on the diagonal in three equal pieces.

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Complete remaining wraps and serve immediately.

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4 servings.  If made ahead of time and refrigerated, microwave for a few seconds to soften tortillas.

There will be enough sauce to have a little bit for dipping, if desired.

Chicken and Asparagus Crepes

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This is a delicious dish, not as complicated as it sounds.  It’s just a matter of preparing the vegetables, then the sauce, then the crepes.  Each component can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.  Also, note that the crepe batter should rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour before frying.  If prepared in advance, I would suggest warming the filling and sauce in the microwave and allowing the crepes to set on the counter until all are room temperature before baking.

CHICKEN AND ASPARAGUS CREPES


Filling:

  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cups fresh asparagus, broken into 1-½ inch pieces
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
  • 6 Tblsp sour cream
  • 2 Tblsp sherry (not cooking sherry)
  • Sprinkle of salt, grating of black pepper

Melt butter in medium skillet and saute mushrooms until cooked through.  Set aside.  Steam asparagus until fork-tender.
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Add asparagus to mushrooms in skillet, add chicken.

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Add sour cream and sherry to vegetable/chicken mixture, sprinkle salt and grate pepper over top and mix together gently.  Filling can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.

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Sauce:

  • 3 Tblsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sherry (not cooking sherry)
  • 1  cup chicken broth
  • ½  cup milk
  • 3/4 cup Swiss cheese, grated
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Grating of black pepper
  • Grating of nutmeg

Place flour in medium saucepan  Whisk in sherry, broth and milk.  Place pan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly until mixture is thick and at full boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for two minutes, whisking constantly..  Add grated cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Stir over low hear until cheese is melted.  Remove pan from heat.  Cover with a piece of waxed paper so skin doesn’t form.  Sauce may be refrigerated or frozen.

Crepes:

  • 2 eggs, beaten well
  • 1 cup  milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1-1/2 Tblsp. melted butter
  • pinch salt

In a large measuring cup, place beaten eggs.  Add milk to beaten eggs, whisk in milk, flour, melted (cooled) butter, and salt; mix until smooth.  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

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Lightly butter a 7-inch non-stick skillet and heat to moderately hot.  Using a small measuring cup pour about ¼ cup of batter into pan and quickly swirl to coat bottom.

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Brown and turn.

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Allow to brown on the other side.  Stack crepes on a plate with waxed paper between each crepe.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

To assemble crepes:

Spread filling down center of each crepe, fold over from each side…

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… and place folded side on bottom of a large (approx. 10×10) inch baking dish.  Cover with sauce and heat in oven @ 350 degrees F for 15 minutes until hot.

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Makes 8 crepes – 4 to 8 servings.