By Rhonda Woods
Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, and memories come to mind. My sweet husband’s traditional Valentine’s gifts were usually and quietly placed on the placemat at my dining table seat before he left for work. A thoughtful card and my Whitman Sampler! Sometimes I would get to leave my Valentine for him, a heart-shaped tin filled with miniature Reese Peanut Butter Cups and a hand-picked card, simply signed “Your Bride,” the night before he left mine. The empty boxes were saved and occasionally used to store small keepsakes. Over the past year, I have found some of those boxes that he used to tuck away cards, photos, bumper stickers, and old Clemson Bowl Game tickets that we attended.
Valentine’s Day was not the only time we shared our thoughts and love for each other. Often a heart and little note was written on a napkin under a coffee cup. The anticipation for that annual yellow box with the “candy map” in the top for almost forty years was just perfectly him.
Like most couples we had our song, “Unchained Melody” by one of his favorites, The Righteous Brothers. I long to slow dance to that song with him. Dancing with a special step he added while singing along… I just miss it… I miss him. While watching America’s Got Talent a couple of weeks ago, I was caught off guard when a group called the Texas Tenors sang the soulful song. Coincidence? I think not! Listen to this awesome performance at @TheTexasTenors#AGTChampions. What is your “Our Song?” Does it describe your love for your husband, wife, or significant other like ours did?
I have had and will continue to have a pretty full schedule of faculty/staff lunches, catering functions, starting a new class for the spring semester, and diving into the baking and pastry chapter with my second-year students. I will take time to bake and decorate heart-shaped chocolate chip cookie cakes with all of my students. Taking that time to share a little something special with them will make my heart smile as they proudly leave the kitchen with their personal, tasty Valentine creation.
There are a few recipes we make that I say are “date night” recipes. One of them is chicken cordon bleu. Don’t let the name intimidate you. It is a simple “roulade,” meaning rolling layers of ingredients into a jelly roll style. After baking and cutting into the roulade, the ingredients should have a pinwheel look or swirl. Alfredo sauce tossed with fettuccine is another “fancy” recipe using grated Parmesan cheese and heavy whipping cream. You can also finish up your special meal with cheesecake: a full batch baked in a 9-10″ spring form pan or smaller ones baked in mini, standard, or jumbo muffin pans lined with paper liners. Then there is another decant dessert, crème brule. It is a little time consuming, but well worth the rich “mouth feel” of silky cold custard with caramelized sugar on top. Whatever you decide to make to celebrate the “day of love,” do it from your heart and start your own special Valentine’s Day tradition.
May God bless you and your family as He continues to bless ours,
Chicken Cordon Bleu
Tools and utensils
- Plastic wrap
- Solid spoon or meat mallet
- Measuring spoons
- 3 Small plastic container
- Measuring cups
- ½ sized hotel pan (9”x13” pan)
- Pan spray
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- ¼- ½ t. salt
- 1/8 – ¼ t. pepper
- 4 Swiss cheese slices
- 8 cooked ham, thinly sliced
- ½ – ¾ c. flour
- 1 egg
- 1 T. water
- ½ – ¾ c. seasoned bread crumbs
- Preheat convection oven to 325ºF
- Spray ½ hotel pan.
- Pound chicken breasts between plastic wrap to ¼” thick (aim for a rectangle).
- Sprinkle each side of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
- Place 1 slice of cheese and 2 slices of ham on top of each chicken breast, tucking the ends.
- Roll up each breast and wrap securely in plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.
- Place the flour in one plastic container.
- In one of the small containers, make an egg wash by beating the egg with water.
- Place the bread crumbs in the other container.
- Coat the chicken rolls in flour, dip in egg wash, and then roll in bread crumbs.
- It may be necessary to secure the rolls with a toothpick.
- Place rolls in the prepared pan and bake 30-35 minutes or until internal temperature of 165 ºF is reached.
- Remove toothpicks and serve.
Tools and utensils
- Liquid measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Straight sided sauté pan or large skillet
- ½ c. butter
- 2 t. garlic powder
- 1 ½ c. heavy cream
- 1 ½ c. grated Parmesan Cheese
- ½ t. white pepper
- Dash of salt
- 1 c. heavy cream
- In a straight-sided sauté pan or large skillet, melt butter and garlic powder, sautéing for 1 minute.
- Stir in 1 ½ c. heavy cream.
- Heat to simmer, stirring constantly with a whisk to prevent scorching.
- Cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and 1 cup heavy cream.
- Toss sauce with cooked pasta.
- Serve immediately
NY Style Baked Cheesecake & Variations
- 1 ¼ c. graham cracker crumbs
- ¼ c sugar
- 1/3 c butter or margarine, melted
- 2 lbs. (4-8 oz. pkg.) cream cheese, softened
- 1- 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 T. flour
- ¼ c. lemon juice
- 4 eggs
- CHEESECAKE VARIATIONS:
- Chocolate Cheesecake: 4 blocks chocolate candy coating, 2 T. melted Cocoa powder
- Peanut Butter Cheesecake: ¾ c. creamy or chunky peanut butter
- Pumpkin Cheesecake: 1 c. solid packed pumpkin, 2 t. pumpkin pie spice
- Fruit Swirled Cheesecake: ¼ c.-3/4 c. prepared fruit glaze such as blueberry, strawberry or peach
- Red Velvet Cheesecake: 1 t.butter flavoring, 3 T. cocoa powder, 4 T. red food coloring
- Preheat oven to 300°F.
- Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted margarine in a medium bowl until well moistened.
- Press the crumb mixture evenly on the bottom of a 9” or 10” spring-form pan.
- In a mixer bowl with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on medium speed until smooth.
- Add sweetened condensed milk and blend well.
- Add flour and lemon juice.
- Add any variation ingredients, if desired.
- Add eggs, one at a time, on low speed, just until the last one is blended in.
- Pour batter over the crust.
- Bake 30-45 minutes, or until the outside edge is firm. The middle may still be a little “jiggley.”
- Remove cake from oven and run a thin blade knife around the edge of the pan to prevent the cake from cracking as it cools.
- Cool completely, then cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight before cutting.
Tips: Do not beat on high speed or you will incorporate too much air and the texture will not be dense. Do not over-bake; the center of the cake will continue to cook after it is removed from the oven. To prevent cracks in the cheesecake, run a thin blade knife around the edge of the pan before cooling, otherwise the cake will stick to the side of the pan and crack in the middle as it cools. If the cheesecake cracks, simply add a topping to over it up!
5-4 oz. servings
Tools and Utensils
- 2 medium mixing bowls
- Fine mesh strainer
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Small saucepan
- 4-oz. ladle
- 5-8 oz. ramekins or baking cups
- ½ sized hotel pan
- Propane torch
- 12 egg yolks
- ¼ c. sugar
- 1 t. choice of flavoring or dry spice
- 16 oz. heavy cream
- 5 T. Sugar
- Garnishes as desired such as whipped cream, shaved chocolate cocoa powder or dry spices
- Preheat convection oven to 350°.
- Beat yolks with ¼ c. sugar and choice of flavoring or dry spice until light and slightly thickened.
- Scald heavy cream.
- Temper beaten yolks with scalded cream.
- Skim and remove all foam.
- Ladle mixture into ramekins or baking cups.
- Place filled ramekins in ½ sized hotel pans.
- Place pan on the oven rack and fill with water until ½ way up the ramekins.
- Bake 20-25 minutes or until custard is firm to the touch.
- Carefully remove hotel pan from oven.
- Cool ramekins completely in the refrigerator.
- Cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve.
- Before serving, evenly sprinkle 1 T. sugar on top of each custard.
- Caramelize sugar with propane torch.
- Garnish as desired and serve.
- Refrigerate any leftovers.