Low Carb Chicken Divan

Low Carb Chicken Divan

 

In the middle of all the craziness of the last few months, I was asked to write an article for a Low Carb Magazine and share a recipe with their readers.  I was very honored and more than a bit intimidated, but since cheese is naturally low carb and since I have stacks and stacks of cheese recipes, I decided to do it.  As I was sorting through my recipes I realized that I love carbs. I really love carbs. My recipes have a lot of carbs! Did I mention that I am prediabetic and should watch my carbs?  Writing the article was convicting.

Things have been a bit crazy starting in September with lots of little things going on. We remodeling the room over the garage.  Elizabeth (my blogging cohort) left to focus on her own business.  My daughter got married.  Our new creamery opened.  Little things like that. Okay, those aren’t little, those are big!  Then the holidays hit so my one month break from blogging stretched into four months.

I missed this so much.  Testing and tasting and sharing are so gratifying.  Writing the article reminded me of why I love sharing.  I’m really happy to be back and I have a bunch of new ideas for recipes that I think you will love!

Because of the article and my pangs of guilt, I was inspired to share a low carb recipe today.  It may be the only one and I will go back to eating lots of carbs, but I’m still basking in the enthusiasm of my New Year’s resolution to eat healthier.  Recipes like this make eating healthy a whole lot easier.

Chicken Divan

Prep the ingredients:

First, cook some chicken and cut it into bite size chunks.  I used boneless, skinless chicken breast, but chicken thighs would be good too.

Cut up chicken

Steam some broccoli.  It will cook more later so don’t overcook it!

Steamed broccoli

Put the broccoli and chicken in a large bowl.  Set aside.

Chicken and broccoli

Make the Bechamel:

Bechamel sounds so much richer than cream sauce, doesn’t it?  Start by melting some butter in a skillet.Melted Butter

Once the butter is completely melted and most of the water is cooked out*, add the flour.  Yes, I said this is a low carb recipe, not no carb.  Please forgive me, I’m doing my best.

*Most butter in the US contains 15-17% percent water, generic brands have the most.    European butter has significantly less.

Cook the flour and butter until the raw flour taste is cooked out.  It only takes a couple of minutes, but it makes a world of difference in the flavor.

Roux

Stir in some half and half.  You can use lowfat milk if you want, I won’t stop you.

Add half and half to the roux

Cook, stirring continually, until the bechamel starts to thicken.  Add the Maasdammer a little bit at a time.  Maasdammer is in the Swiss family and has a lovely flavor that is creamy and sweet, making it perfect for a sauce.

Maasdammer

Grate on a little bit of fresh nutmeg.  This is optional, but highly recommended.

Nutmeg

Put it all together:

Add the sauce to the chicken and broccoli.

Cheese sauce

Mix together.  Doesn’t that look luscious!

Chicken Divan

Grate some Parmesan.  The Parmesan adds a sharp nutty flavor to the divan.

Grated Parmesan

Spread the chicken and broccoli mixture into an oven proof casserole dish and sprinkle Parmesan over the top.

Parmesan

Make that LOTS of Parmesan.

Chicken Divan

Bake until bubbly and golden brown.  Enjoy!

Low Carb Chicken Divan

For your convenience, here’s a printable version.

 

Cheese Fondue Pot of Love

John and I found ourselves in Seattle on Valentine’s Day a few years ago and thought we would try The Melting Pot for dinner.  If you have ever been to the Melting Pot you would immediately recognize our mistake.  Valentine’s Day is booked months in advance.  They allowed us to have an appetizer in the bar, which was very nice of them considering how full it was and considering that everyone else was sipping champagne while we ordered Diet Pepsi.  They seated us near the fireplace and it was a lovely evening.  The restaurant was beautiful and the service was marvelous.  The servers treated us like their best customers even though they made almost nothing on us that evening.  I was very impressed.  If you get a chance to go there, I highly recommend it.

This year I decided to make up my own Melting Pot dinner so I picked up a nice little fondue pot for $7 at a second hand store.  According to the website the “Romance Package” at the Melting Pot is $199.  My version costs around $25 including the second hand fondue pot.

candles
I picked these cute candles up at the second hand store for $1

Here is the “Romance Package” description from the Melting Pot website:

  1. “A secluded table in Lover’s Lane.”  No problem, our dining room is always secluded.
  2. “Surprise your sweetheart with roses waiting at your table.”  I am skipping the roses, John wouldn’t even notice them.
  3. “Toast to true love with champagne.”  aka Diet Pepsi
  4. “Relax and indulge in fondue courses at a leisurely pace.”  I don’t think John could handle an entire meal of fondue.  My plan is a cheese fondue appetizer, steak for dinner, and follow up with a chocolate fondue dessert.  I will fill you in on dessert next week.
  5. “Bask in the intimate atmosphere.”  I can’t say that the atmosphere will be particularly intimate, but we will be basking in something.
  6. “Discover how a fondue fork can give Cupid’s arrow a run for its money.”  We will probably end up using our fondue forks for sword fighting over the last tortellini.  It happens every time we have fondue…or long forks.
  7. “Gaze longingly into each other’s eyes over a steaming pot of cheese fondue.”  Okay, I might have a fit of giggling over that one.  The cheese fondue recipe is below.
  8. “Learn the recipe for true romance as you cook your entrees together in a fondue pot of love.”  I’m trying to figure out how my $7 fondue pot could be a “fondue pot of love.”
  9. “Feed each other chocolate fondue-covered strawberries.”  That will lead to more sword fighting, I’m sure if it.
  10. “Ignite the flame of romance as you watch your server flambé your chocolate fondue tableside.”  We will skip that one too, John doesn’t trust me with fire.

cheese-fondue-(115-of-118)

 

Cheese Fondue Pot of Love

  • 1/2 pound Maasdammer, grated
  • 1/2 pound Sweet Red Pepper Gouda, grated
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 cup chicken broth (or substitute dry white wine)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
  • Assorted dippers

Place the cheeses in a small bowl and toss with cornstarch, set aside.

In a medium pan over medium heat, bring the broth and lemon juice to a gentle simmer.  Add the cheese to the broth a little at a time, allowing it to melt between each addition.  Once completely melted, add the mustard and nutmeg.

Transfer to a fondue pot and serve with dippers.  Some of our favorites are toasted baguette slices, fried kielbasa slices, fresh tortellini (cooked according to the package directions), broccoli, mushrooms, etc.

cheesefondue4

cheesefondue3

Cheese Soufflé

Cheese Souffle

There are a couple of things that my employees do for me that may not have been listed in the employee manual.  One is that they have to be able to read my mind.  I have a bad habit of not finishing my sentences, or starting in the middle of a thought.  Thankfully, I have a wonderful crew who just go with the flow and figure out what it is that I really mean, not necessarily what I say.

Another job skill not listed in the manual is posing for my photo manipulation hobby.  When the store is slow, you might find someone pretending to lean on a giant muffin or perched on a ladder.  I wonder if OSHA has any regulations against balancing my employees on a ladder.  I should probably look that up.

floating in the kitchen
Mars and Lindsey are flying

These people are also very tolerant of me saying, “here, grate some cheese for me!” then I snap a bunch of pictures while they smile and grate…and grate…and grate.  This week’s recipe is soufflé so we needed plenty of grated cheese.

We love the light airiness of the soufflé with it’s rich cheese flavor.  I started out using a wonderful recipe from my hero, Alton Brown, but over time I adapted it.  I especially wanted cheesier flavor, so I bumped up the cheese from one kind to three.  If you like a subtle cheese flavor, then you can cut it back to 6 ounces, but with cheese, more is definitely better.

Please note: My oven at the store is a professional convection oven.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t achieve the same lift on my soufflé that my oven at home does.  Your soufflé will look a lot nicer than mine!

Lots of cheese!
There is never too much cheese!

Cheese Soufflé

1/3 cup butter, cubed
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
a pinch of salt
Dash of hot pepper sauce
4 ounces (1 cup) shredded Maasdammer (or substitute Swiss cheese)
4 ounces (1 cup) shredded Cheddar
1 ounce (1/4 cup) shredded Aged Gouda
5 room temperature eggs, separated
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1-2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs

Brush butter in ramekins or soufflé mold (I use 4 ounce ramekins for single serve dishes or 16 ounce soufflé molds for family style meals).  Add the bread crumbs to the ramekins and roll around so the butter and crumbs go up the sides.  Place in the refrigerator.

ramekins

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in the flour until smooth; cook one minute.  Gradually whisk in the milk, dry mustard, hot sauce, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir until thickened.  Reduce heat to medium-low; stir in cheeses until melted.  Transfer to a large bowl.

Preheat oven to 350.  In a small bowl, beat egg yolks until light colored and a creamy consistency.  Temper the yolks into the milk mixture, constantly whisking.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites with cream of tartar on high speed until stiff but not dry.  Using 1/3 of the egg whites at a time, very gently fold the egg whites into the milk mixture.

filling

Remove the ramekins from the refrigerator and fill to ½ inch of the top.  Place ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until tops are golden brown.  Serve immediately.

Cheese Souffle

Quiche Two Ways

Quiche

I recently had the opportunity to go on a weekend trip with Karen Mullen Photography.  She is not only a fantastic photographer and consummate professional, but she is also an excellent teacher.  I’ve been in classes where her students had disparate levels of knowledge, from the woman who just received a camera as a gift and didn’t know anything about it, to the man who photographed professionally but wanted to hone his skills.  She helped each of us and easily switched from teaching beginner to advanced levels.  She also knew exactly what I needed to learn and gave me specific “assignments” geared to my individual needs.

leavenworth-170

I was so happy with what I learned from her that I signed up for her “Leavenworth Photography Journey.”  If you are interested in photography, I highly recommend going on one of her Photography Journeys, you will not regret it.  She did a reconnaissance before the weekend so that no time was wasted.  We hopped from location to location with a variety of photo opportunities from a waterfall to mountains to night-time shots.  When we got back to the retreat, we pulled out our laptops and she gave lessons in Lightroom (for those who had the program), photo editing, and composition.  In case you are wondering, no, she did not pay me to say this!

Waterfall

I love to cook, so I offered to bring breakfast for the group on Sunday morning.  I chose Quiche since that is such an easy and flexible dish.

Wine Bottle rolling pin
It turns out that the place we were staying in didn’t have a rolling pin. I improvised with a wine bottle and plastic wrap.

The basic Quiche recipe is a blank canvas with endless possibilities for flavor combinations.  With the holidays coming up and overnight guests, Quiche is a quick, easy breakfast or light lunch.  I keep crust in my freezer (or you can buy pre-made if you prefer).  The basic recipe is just Quark and eggs, that’s it!  Then add your favorite combination of protein and/or vegetables and cheese.

Quiche

Bacon Cheddar Quiche

  • 1 nine inch pie crust
  • 1 pound Quark
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup Appel Farms Sharp Cheddar
  • 12 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Layer the bacon and cheddar in the bottom of the pie crust.  It will fill the crust but don’t worry.  Whisk together the Quark and eggs and pour over the cheddar and bacon.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 – 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow the Quiche to rest for 15 minutes before serving or it will be runny.

Zucchini Sriracha and Maasdammer Quiche

-adapted from Will Cook for Smiles

  • 1 nine inch pie crust
  • 1 pound Quark
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon sraracha sauce* (more or less depending on your taste)
  • 1 cup Appel Farms Maasdammer
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen shredded zucchini

If the zucchini was frozen, squeeze out extra moisture.  Layer the zucchini and Maasdammer in the bottom of the pie crust.  It will fill the crust but don’t worry.  Whisk together the Quark, sriracha, and eggs and pour over the zucchini.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 – 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow the Quiche to rest for 15 minutes before serving or it will be runny.

*Sriracha is a Vietnamese hot chili sauce.  If you can’t find Sriracha, you can substitute your favorite hot sauce and adjust the amount depending on the heat level.

Fourth of July Picnic

John and I have been taking advantage of the nice weather and going on picnics on my day off. John starts work at 4am so we like to head to the park at 8 or 9am.  That makes it a late breakfast for me and lunchtime for him.  I thought it would be nice to come up with an easy stuffed sandwich that I could make the day before.  That way we could hop in the car as soon as John was done with his morning cheese chores.

John making feta
This is an old picture of John making feta. He doesn’t like having his picture taken so I have to sneak up on him.

I had my recipe books open which makes my son very happy.  I told him what I was looking for, he suggested using his favorite salad recipe.  This recipe was contributed to “A Taste of Tradition” Mt. View Church recipe book in 1998 by none other than my sister-in-law Ann.  We make this salad all the time as a light supper, especially during the summer.  Stuffing it into a loaf sandwich turned out perfect!

I also like this salad/sandwich because it uses three of our cheeses, Quark, Maasdammer, and Cheddar.  What’s not to love about that?

Elizabeth making cheddar
Making cheddar is a physically demanding job, just ask Elizabeth.

I do recommend choosing your bread carefully.  We loved the sourdough artisan loaf for flavor, but the chewy crust forced the filling to squish out a little bit.  It’s okay to get a little messy on a picnic, right?

Layered Basil Salad Sandwich

Layered Basil Salad Sandwich

  • Artisan bread loaf
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup quark*
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Lettuce, shredded (the amount will vary depending on the size of the loaf)
  • 1/4-1/2 pound deli ham slices
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup Maasdammer** grated
  • 1/4 cup sharp cheddar, grated
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, sliced

Mix the carrots, peas, quark, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Set aside.
Cut off the top third of the loaf and dig out the center, leaving an inch of crust to make a bowl.  Fill the bread bowl with lettuce all the way to the top, this layer will compress.  Layer the quark filling evenly over the lettuce, followed by the ham, red onions, cheeses, and eggs.
Cover with the top of the bread loaf and wrap tightly in saran wrap.  Chill for a minimum of four hours, can be made 24 hours in advance.  Slice in wedges for a round loaf or thick slices for an oblong loaf.

*you can substitute sour cream
**you can substitute Swiss cheese

Larrabee State Park
Relaxing at Larrabee State Park