Baked Chik’n Salad

this weekend is memorial day weekend.  this three-day weekend holiday is set aside to remember and honor all those brave men and women who have fought, been injured, or died fighting for our country.  it is also a favorite weekend for backyard barbeques, drinking, and swimming.  it’s a weekend that we all bask in the beautiful weather of spring and await the lazy burn of summer (you can tell by my language that i’m in arizona!)

yesterday, our friends threw a grilled pizza barbeque.  i love when people mix tradition (bbq on this weekend) with something new and totally unique (pizza instead of burgers… sweet!)  and perhaps most inspirational of all, they made their own dough and sauce and used the fresh basil from their yard. *droool* best pesto ever!

i was so inspired by their industriousness that when they asked folks to bring snacks to munch on, i decided to make this Baked Chik’n Salad from Morningstar Farms.  everytime i’ve made it, it’s been a hit! but as you’ve probably no doubt devised, i’m a little short in the confidence department and this endeavor was no different.  i’ve made it for picky friends, a picky husband, and my critical (but loving) family who have requested it a couple of times now. but this weekend i was making it for people who MAKE THEIR OWN DOUGH AND SAUCE!  i mean come on!  they can cook! and the rest of our crew can have discerning tastes as well.  add to that still feeling like the newb of the bunch, i don’t want to make anyone start asking, “Oh no! What fresh hell has she cooked this time??”  well this time was no exception… everyone who tried it said they really enjoyed it.  WOOT!!  it feels good to have the approval of more than just my too-polite-to-say-otherwise parents and husband!

the best part is… it’s vegetarian! can be made vegan, but the vegan mayo AND shredded cheese were just too expensive for my budget this time around.  but i’m eager to try it in the future!

you’ll notice a lot of blue text below.  as always i was very careful to follow the recipe exactly… NEVERRRRRR!  zombies don’t follow RULES! we use our BRAAAAAAINS!

Baked Chik’n Salad

(MorningStar Farms) 

Ingredient List

Serves 6

1 package MorningStar Farms® Chik Patties® Original
2 cups diced celery (i doubled this recipe except for the celery.  it had PLENTY of crunch without it)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup diced pimiento
1/4 cup diced green pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 cup shredded American cheese, divided (i use cheddar, mild this time… i’m a cheese snob and can’t stand to cook with american “cheese” aka orange plastic)
1 1/2 cups reduced calorie mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup crushed potato chips (i used lightly salted.  it still tasted great and reduced the amount of salt for those with high blood pressure)

Directions:

1. Place MorningStar Farms Chik Patties, celery, peas, pimiento, green pepper, and onion in large mixing bowl. if your patties have just come straight from the freezer, i suggest removing them from the packing and letting them sit on the counter while you dice the rest of the vegetables.  though the directions don’t call to do so, i chop up the patties first before mixing everything together.  if they aren’t thawed a little then they are way too rock solid to get a knife through easily!

2. Combine 1/2 cup of the cheese, mayonnaise, salt, and lemon juice. Add to MorningStar Farms Chik Patties mixture, tossing to combine. Place in shallow 2-quart casserole coated with cooking spray. i forgot the cooking spray but with all that mayo, it wasn’t an issue… it almost slid out of the casserole dish in the car!

3. Bake at 350° F about 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with chips and remaining cheese. Return to oven and bake 10 minutes longer or until cheese melts. Serve hot. i sprinkled chips, cheese, then more chips.  also, it’s not necessary to meassure the chips, just do to taste and add enough to give a crunchy top.

Some more images to feast your eyes upon:

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Vegetable Wellington (Easter Practice)

i’m a big fan of chef gordon ramsay and i watch every season of Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares.  there are two dishes that are part of the Hell’s Kitchen menu every season and almost every seating: risotto and beef wellington.   i’ve have several opportunities to try different risottos as it isn’t difficult to find vegetarian versions.  beef wellington i had not even heard of until i’d already gone vegetarian. juicy, soft, red meat melting in your mouth enveloped in a buttery, flakey, pastry crust.  *drool* hey i didn’t give up meat because i didn’t like the taste!  but anyways i always wanted to try a wellington but thought that would never be happening.  until my mom told me about a place that had a fantastic salmon wellington.  i will on very rare occassions eat tuna, tilapia, or salmon… very rare.  this was an occassion i was willing, except she couldn’t remember where the place was and so we never went.  but that opened up an awareness that it could be made with other stuffings.  i eventually started to see mushroom wellingtons pop up on catering menus when i was doing wedding vendor research.  ding ding ding!  i love mushrooms! i love portabellos! oh but those are so expensive!  so the search continued for a wellington that would satisfy my vegetarianism and wallet.  intro vegetable wellingtons.  most have extensive ingredient lists, which isn’t a bad thing, except being a newb at this i wanted to KISS (keep it simple, stupid).  Vegetarian Time’s came through for me!  today i bought the ingredients for and began making their Vegetable Wellington Redux.  my hope is that it will turn out fantastic enough that we’ll want it again for Easter dinner.

oh and on a side note, gordon ramsay hates vegetarians for some reason so i find it humorous that it was one of his shows that inspired me to seek out and try this dish.  take that gordon, ya donkey!

issues during making: i’ve learned that i am not good with puff pastry sheets.  it seemed as though i had too much stuffing and i couldn’t really fold the sheets over the filling.  also, i’m cheap and don’t like paying more than $2 for anything hehe so paying about $4 for frozen phyllo dough, over $6 for the goat cheese, and $3.50 for a jar of pesto was not my cup of tea but hopefully it’s all worth it!  my dough wrapping skills need some work, the side split though, on the plus side, that gave me a cool picture!  oh and you might want to use two sheets of wax paper… mine stuck to the wellington a bit and was difficult to take off especially since it got soft from soaking in yummy juices.  perhaps some Pam spray?  also the recipe calls for bell peppers, which i used, but i think next time i’ll use artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers because i’m really not a bell pepper fan.  for your cooking pleasure, i’ve provided the recipe i used and any changes i made in blue.

Vegetables Wellington Redux

Ingredient List
Serves 8

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 lb. asparagus, cut into 11/2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, cut into thin strips (i used 1 red bell pepper and 1 green bell pepper)
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced (11/2 cups)
  • 1 5-oz. pkg. baby spinach leaves
  • 1 4-oz. jar prepared pesto sauce (smallest jar i found was 8 oz so i used half)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 17.3-oz. pkg. frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 10-oz. log fresh goat cheese, softened (could only find 5oz logs, i bought 2 and choose the “herb flavored” ones for extra pop)
  • 1 16-oz. jar prepared tomato sauce, warmed (seems stores around here sell only 15oz cans/jars, not 16 so i was an oz short… oh well!)

Directions

1. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add asparagus, bell peppers, and onion, and sauté 5 to 10 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften. Add spinach, and cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until spinach wilts. Stir in pesto. Cool.

2. Whisk egg in bowl, and set aside. Cut 15- x 10-inch piece of parchment paper, and set on work surface. Place 1 sheet puff pastry on parchment paper. Lift parchment with puff pastry, and place parchment-side-down in 9-inch loaf pan. Press pastry into pan, being careful not to let folds get caught in parchment and allowing excess parchment and pastry to hang over sides. Cut squares from second puff pastry sheet, and press onto short sides of parchment-covered pan to make dough shell. Prick bottom of puff pastry all over with fork.

3. Spread goat cheese over bottom of puff pastry (when it says “softened” in the ingredient list, it means it!  work it a little before spreading it on to make sure it’ll spread well.  i didn’t and wish i had). Top with asparagus mixture. Fold excess puff pastry over vegetables, and brush edges with egg.

4. Cut 91/2- x 51/2-inch piece of puff pastry from remaining sheet. Set on top of asparagus mixture, pressing to seal edges. Refrigerate 30 minutes, along with unused pastry scraps and egg.

5. Preheat oven to 425°F, and place oven rack on second-lowest level. Brush top of Wellington with egg, and poke 2 or 3 holes in top. Cut decorative leaves and stems from remaining pastry, press onto top of Wellington, and brush with egg. Use tip of small knife to score leaves and top with decorative touches.  (i didn’t do the decorative florishes… that’s beyond my current level… for now!)

6. Bake Wellington 15 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 350°F, and bake 45 minutes more. Cool 15 minutes.

7. Use parchment to lift Wellington from loaf pan. Remove parchment, and transfer Wellington to flat serving plate. Slice, and serve with tomato sauce.

Nutritional Information

Per serving (1 slice wellington and 1/4 cup sauce):
Calories: 405
Protein: 15g
Total fat: 29g
Saturated fat: 11g
Carbs: 25g
Cholesterol: 48m
Sodium: 657mg
Fiber: 4g
Sugars: 6g