Lifestyle

from Jude's Kitchen: wintry food

Baked Chicken Cordon Bleu - Judie Steeves/Capital News
Baked Chicken Cordon Bleu
— image credit: Judie Steeves/Capital News

As we move into official winter this week, I like to keep up the tradition of observing the Winter Solstice with a little celebration of the move to gradually lengthening hours of daylight, beginning Dec. 21, and bid a glad adieu to those long dark nights of December.

A special candlelight dinner, served in front of a roaring fire will add a little extra sparkle to help push away the dark of this darkest day of the year, as you exult in the coming lighter days.

Of course, it’s all about food as well as about light.

And nowadays, there’s no shortage of books about food.

However, some are better than others. That’s certainly true about a children’s book called The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen by Diana Prichard, illustrated very cleverly by Heather Devlin Knopf and published by Little Pickle Press.

Written for children ages four to eight, this colourful book would be an ideal gift for anyone who believes in the importance of knowing where your food comes from, to give to their favourite little people.

In a simple and fun way, the book answers the question “Where does food really come from?” as Patrick discovers it’s not the grocery store, but farms.

His first lesson comes one morning in the form of a cow in his kitchen, along with a cluster of hens in his fridge, each of which offer up an egg for his French toast, to go with the cow’s milk.

It used to be that most of us had farm roots, but today, that’s no longer the case, and it’s creating a disconnect between urban and rural dwellers. That wouldn’t be so bad, but there are now more urbanites than those who still remember that we depend on animals and plants for our favourite meals—not the corner store.

Another Christmas gift book idea includes more recipes to help you celebrate both the Winter Solstice and the holidays. Pick up a copy of my cookbook, Jude’s Kitchen, at local bookstores such as Mosaic Books.

 

Pat’s Christmas Fruit Stollen

This is a traditional fruit bread served around our house at Christmas, and has been ever since my sister-in-law first made it for us decades ago. It makes wonderful toast and often accompanies scrambled eggs on Christmas morning.

1 c. (250 ml) warm water

2 tsp.(10 ml) sugar

2 tbsp. (30 ml) yeast

3/4 c. (175 ml) milk

2/3 c. (150 ml) butter

1/2 c. (125 ml) sugar

1 tsp. (5 ml) salt

3 eggs

6 c. (1.5 l) flour

1/2 c. (125 ml) slivered almonds

1 c. (250 ml) mixed candied fruit

1 c. (250 ml) raisins

1/2 c. (125 ml) candied cherries

Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water and let stand for 10 minutes.

Combine the milk, butter, sugar and salt and heat to dissolve the sugar and melt the butter, then cool to warm. Add the yeast mixture.

Beat in the three eggs and add about a third of the flour, beating until it is a mushy mixture.

Chop fruit and halve cherries and add to the mushy dough, mixing in well.

Stir remaining flour in gradually, until you have a soft dough. The amount of flour needed will vary by a half cup or so.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead it until it’s nice and smooth, 10 minutes or so.

Grease a large bowl and put the dough in and turn it, so the dough ball is lightly greased. Cover and let it rise until it’s doubled in size.

Punch down and divide into two or three; then shape into oval-shaped loaves. Place on a large baking pan.

Cover again and let rise for about 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 F and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly brown.

 

Baked Chicken Cordon Bleu

This is a healthier alternative to the traditional chicken breast or veal stuffed with cheese and ham and with a creamy sauce poured over it. This one is not fried in butter, but baked instead and I used a low fat cheese, light prosciutto ham and a fistful of spinach in each. There’s no full-fat, rich, creamy sauce either, but it was yummy.

2 chicken breasts

sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper

2 c. (500 ml) baby spinach leaves

3 slices lean prosciutto ham

1 oz. (28 g) light Swiss cheese

flour, to dredge chicken

1 egg

1 tbsp. (15 ml) cold water

3/4 c. (175 ml) Panko bread crumbs

salt and pepper, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400 F.

Carefully slice each chicken breast in half horizontally, to reduce its thickness. Don’t slice all the way through, so you can open up the breast to fill it. Place a piece of waxed paper over it and gently pound it with a pan, the flat side of a cleaver or a wooden mallet where it is thickest, to even out the thickness.

Season the breast. Wilt the spinach leaves in the microwave for a minute and let cool.

Slice the cheese and cover one half of each breast with slices, using just half the cheese. Top with the cooled spinach, then the remainder of the sliced cheese and the thinly-sliced ham.

Close the breast to sandwich the filling in. You may use a couple of toothpicks to hold it together.

Prepare a breading station with an egg beaten with a drizzle of cold water in a flat dish and the bread crumbs seasoned with salt and pepper in another. Dust the breasts with flour before immersing in the egg and then dipping into the crumbs.

Lay each breast in a baking pan covered with parchment paper.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until just cooked.

Serves 2-4.

 

 

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