Saturday, November 30, 2013

Chicken Cordon Blue Casserole

Having a baby makes it hard to cook. We've been eating through our freezer but sometimes I want to try something new. And on the weekends (or holidays), I can usually find a little time to cook while Jason is on baby duty. (And sometimes he sleeps and Jason can help in the kitchen!) 

I have seen this recipe floating around Pinterest for a while and wanted to make it. So. I. Did. :) 

Most of the pins I found didn't have a recipe attached, it was a pin of a pin of a pin. That got annoying so I turned to The Google. 

The only deviation I made from the recipe was I added two extra tablespoons of Dijon Mustard. The mixture you pour ontop is very similar to my Chicken Divan mixture and as my husband stated, it tastes similar to chicken divan, except instead of brocolli there is cheese. I have to warn you too - somehow my dish came out a little extra salty. I only added the tsp of salt, and I'm not sure if it's just the salt in the ham and cheese and maybe I need to somehow choose less salty meat. 

Even though I used the recipe as is, I'm going to copy it below (with a few small edits) word for word because I really hate having to constantly scroll through pictures and instructions. 

Chicken Cordon Blue Casserole
Ingredients
1 large rotisserie chicken, meat removed and pulled (about 5-6 C)
1/2 pound sliced deli-style black forest ham, chopped
1/2 pound sliced swiss cheese

Sauce:
4 Tb butter
4 Tb flour
3 C milk
1 Tb lemon juice
2 Tb dijion mustard (Substitute ground mustard if needed.)
1  tsp salt
1 Tsp of Garlic 
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp pepper

Crumb Topping:
4 Tb melted butter
1 1/4 C seasoned bread crumbs

1/2 C Parmesan cheese

Directions 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×13 casserole dish with nonstick spray.  Layer the chicken in the bottom of the dish followed by the ham and finally the Swiss/Havarti cheese.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
  3. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly add the milk, whisking to keep clumps from forming.
  4. Turn the heat to high and cook until the sauce thickens and boils completely, whisking often.
  5. Remove from the heat and add the remaining sauce ingredients.
  6. Pour the finished sauce over the base layer already in the dish.
  7. In a small bowl, mix together the topping ingredients until the butter is evenly distributed over the crumbs.
  8. Sprinkle over the top of the dish and bake for 45 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving so the sauce will thicken just a bit.

Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole

My inspiration for this comes from The Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond). She has one of my favorite food network shows and everything she makes looks really delicious. It's also hearty since she is serving her ranch hand family. 

Her recipe calls for a few more peppers, twice the potatoes, and doesn't incorporate sausage since it's a "side dish". I wanted to make this a breakfast casserole. 

I also like this because it's a two-dish casserole. One large skillet on the stove and one 9x13 glass casserole dish. (Unless you have to grate the cheese with your food processor... then there's an extra clean up item.)

Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole
Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
1 red pepper
2 poblano chilies (for more heat, add more chilies or pick a hotter one.)
1 white onion
2 pounds diced frozen hash brown potatoes (1 bag)
Salt & Pepper
1/2 pound grated sharp cheddar
1/2 pound grated Monterrey jack 
8 slices of bacon, fried & chopped
1 pound sausage

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. 
  2. Cook the sausage & bacon (separately), and set aside. Drain sausage/pat dry bacon. Chop bacon.
  3. Dice the onion, red pepper, and chilies.
  4. Melt the butter in the large skillet and saute the onion, red pepper, and chilies until onion is clear and pepper & chilies are almost blackened. (I also added garlic, parsley, and cilantro frozen cubes at this point. - See below for more info.) 
  5. Add the cooked sausage and the frozen hashbrowns, salt & pepper, and mix together. Let cook about 15 - 20 minutes. (Or however long it takes to shred your cheese.)
  6. Pour half the potato mixture into a greased 9x13 glass dish. Cover with a thin layer of cheese, pour the remaining half of hte potato mixture over the cheese layer. Spread the rest of the cheese over the casserole, top with bacon.
  7. Bake until hot and bubbly, about 30-40 minutes. 

Notes:
  • You can change the peppers to make it hotter or milder. I think it had the perfect spice for breakfast
  • You can make this the day before (I did) and I took it out about an hour before putting in the oven so it would come to room temperature. 
  • If you haven't discovered the frozen cubes of spices at Trader Joes, or now at Wal-Mart, you must! I keep the garlic, cilantro, and parsley on hand to flavor my dishes. As much as I love having fresh cilantro as a garnish, it's a pain to keep on hand. 
  • Since this has sausage in it, you don't really need another protein, but it would go good with a side of scrambled eggs. 
  • If anyone ever finds shredded Monterrey jack please, please call me ASAP. I love the flavor of MJ cheese, but am tired of always shredding it. My food processor does wonders, but then I have to clean that! 



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Moving onto and into bigger things

State Farm totaled my Highlander. I was a bit heart broken until they gave me a check for $15,800!!!! Say Wha??

It took a few weeks and a lot of research. It originally took me a year to figure out I wanted to replace my Ranger with a Highlander and a couple months of keeping my eye out for a great deal. Oh, I paid $17,700 for my Highlander back in October 2008. So that was quite a deal! 

I knew that in another 3-4 years I would want to upgrade my Highlander to a larger SUV. After looking at the budget, Jason and I decided we could do it. (Even without a second income.) So I started looking. First I asked my friends what they drove. Some drove smaller SUVs then what I wanted. Some drove what I considered "beasts". I read a lot of ocnsumer report reviews for their top rated picks and the pros and cons. I narrowed it down to a GMC Acadia, Chevy Traverse, and Mazda CX9. And then I used autotrader to look for the best deal. 

Uncle Pat laughed when I told him I wanted a 7-seater SUV, remote start, and with All Wheel Drive for under $35k. He said I would never find it. With the help of some Black Friday deals and a lot of research, I found Traverses and Acadias that met my criteria. The cheapest I found was a 2013 Traverse for $32,300 and next was a 2014 Acadia for $32,900. We wound up paying a wee bit more than $35k for an upgraded Acadia. Leather seats, tow package (boat buy is next!), navigation, dual sunroofs, and some other features that I can't describe because I haven't discovered them yet or figured out how to work it. (Today Jason and I had to figure out how to put gas in it.) 

The *only* reason we would really afford this SUV is because I had the $16k for my highlander. Otherwise we never would have considered an expensive vehicle. If I was going to have a car payment, I wanted it to fit in my budget.  

So without further ado, here is Em-V, my new SUV. She's called Em-V because Jason wants to call her my minivan. Because honestly, the interior is very similar to a mini-van. 





Monday, November 25, 2013

Get up and do something

On Thursday November 14 the world lost a hero. 

Grandpa Bill passed away peacefully surrounded by friends and family. I have a lot of mixed emotions and am not grieving the way a normal person grieves. It's hard to grieve when you have the most adorable 10 week old laughing at you while you cry. After so much loss throughout my life, I bury my emotions and it's easier to deal with them later. 

Grandpa has been sick for many years. And constant "This might be it" trips to visit him in the hospital. It happens a few times each year. It wasn't a surprise. He was airlifted on Sunday to Barnes. He had a great day, a surge, on Monday. But then Monday night took a turn and didn't recover. 

My father gave a great eulogy.  Grandpa was in WWII and when he landed on the beach  near Zamboanga in the Philippines, he had two choices. Lay there and get killed or get up and do something about it.

He received three Bronze stars, two for valor and bravery in combat. And one of those reads “for organizing and leading Philippine infantry in attacking and overcoming three Japanese machine gun positions.

So my father challenges all of us to Get Up and Do Something.

Grandpa's obituary:
William E. “Bill” Reed, 87, of Red Bud, Illinois, formerly of Belleville, IL,born Thursday, August 19, 1926, in Saint Louis, MO, died Thursday, November 14, 2013 at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in Saint Louis, Missouri.
Bill was retired from CBS/Viacom, having worked at Channel 4 television station for 35 years. He was a member of Saint Matthew United Methodist Church in Belleville Illinois. He was a volunteer for the Violence Prevention Center, Meals on Wheels, former Boy Scout and Cub Scout leader, Khoury League coach, a member of IBEW Local 4. He was a decorated combat veteran of WWII, having served in the Philippines and Japan with the 41st Infantry Division.
He was preceded in death by:
  • Father:  Henry Clay Reed 
  • Mother and Step-father:  Frances nee Domagolla and Charles Dougharty
  • Mother and Father-in-law:  Jesse and Pearl nee Rhine Fox
  • Brother and Sister-in-Law:  Bob and Beryl Reed
  • Nephew:  Larry Lee
Surviving:
  • Wife:  Wilma “Jean” nee Fox Reed of Red Bud, IL 
  • Son and Daughter-in-Law:  William Michael and Terri Reed of Red Bud, IL 
  • Grandchildren:
    • Melissa Reed of Red Bud, IL 
    • Meghan (Jason) Guilford of Maryland Heights 
    • William J. (Kelci) Reed of Godfrey, IL 
  • Great-Grandson:  William P. Guilford
  • Niece:  Sandra (Dan) Malan of St. Louis, MO
  • Cousin:  Reed (Carol) James of St. Joseph, MO
  • Great Nieces and Nephews
  • Special Cousins of the Rhine and Fox families
Memorials: Memorials may be made to the St. Matthew United Methodist Church, St. Peter United Church of Christ in Red Bud, Monroe County Humane Society or St. Louis Honor Flight 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

All I wanted was a new pair of shoes....

Saturday November 2. Liam is two months! 

So with Liam's Baptism a week away and a new dress hanging in my closest, I decided to venture out to the new Premiere Outlet Mall. My goal was to get a new pair of pumps form Easy Spirit. I tried on a pair Friday that were Size 8 Wide, but needed a little more room - like 8.5 Wide. The Outlet Store was going to be my best bet. 

The three of us headed out in my paid for and very well taken care of 2007 Toyota Highlander. We had the stroller (for the quick stop at the mall), were planning on getting some lunch, stopping at Sam's Club, and then going over to Cotton Babies to look at baby carriers. 

We had turned onto Outlet Blvd from Olive Street and I was in the left lane of our two lane road. Everyone but me was going in the first mall entrance. I was headed further north toward the second entrance. I wanted to get in and out - I was hungry for lunch. We had noticed an older green Ford in the right lane had slowed down and a few cars passed it. The Ford even started to pull onto the shoulder before deciding the best way to get out of his "lost" status (I assume he didn't want to go to the mall) was to make a u-turn. IN FRONT OF ME. Wait, he wasn't in front of me. He was still next to me when he decided to make a u-turn. I didn't have time to honk or brake before he was making his turn and dragging my poor little SUV with him. I kept braking but we weren't stopping. That was probably the scariest moment of it all. I just wanted to STOP MY CAR. 

When we did stop, we were in the opposite lanes, blocking traffic (thank heavens no cars were oncoming!!). My passenger door and his drivers doors were smashed together. I jumped out and checked on Liam. Who was still sleeping. Yea, he slept through me being broadsided. And I'm glad he was on the drivers side. I guess Jason crawled out the drivers side, I don't remember. Two vehicles with two lovely ladies (each) stopped and one of them called the police. They showed up quickly, which usually happens when you are blocking lanes of traffic. 

The other driver? Older man (70s?), he hit his head or something. He was bleeding, asked me to put a band aid on. I refused. I told him I wasn't giving him first aid, an ambulance was on the way. The EMT was very happy with our car seat install. The first thing he did was shake the car seat - which shook the car. Liam seemed/seems a-ok. I had a very sore right breast (from the seat belt) and bruised my left knee. Jason thinks I probably "turtled up" and hit my knee. Both my breast and boob have nasty bruises. I did call my doctor. No need to go in, me or Liam. Jason has a bruise on his elbow - he was probably turtling up and/or bracing himself. 

The air bags didn't deploy. I have side air bags too. It wasn't a head on crash... it was more like something you do with bumper cars.

While Jason stayed at the scene and for his brother to show up, Liam & I rode in the ambulance back to the firehouse. We waited inside the kitchen for Tim & Jason to come pick us up. It wasn't that cold, but it was nice to be away from the accident site and inside. 

The other driver admitted fault right away. To I think everyone - his son on the phone, the police officer, Jason, everyone that stopped. Or so I imagine he did. Jason just said "he admitted fault." And the police officer said he was going to write him tickets. The guy even had "expired insurance"... ok, 2-days, but still, gotta carry your new card! 

The truck driver asked Jason if he wanted to "sugar coat" it as he was picking up the pieces of my SUV. Jason wasn't sure what he meant - it pretty much looked past repair. You can't "sugar coat" the damage to the vehicle. Major frame damage, plastic parts of my engine laying on the ground... I'm not sure how insurance won't total it. If they fix it though I would be ok with that! I love my car. It was paid off, I took very good care of it, and it was holding it's value (still worth around $12k). If they do total it, hopefully the check provides a very large downpayment for my next SUV. I am not ready to buy a new SUV. It took me over a year to decide I wanted a Highlander, and two more months to bite the bullet and purchase one. I got a great deal on her too. 

We never made it to the mall. I ordered the shoes online... hope they fit ok.