Chicken en Croute

After having a delicious chicken en croute dish at our friend’s wedding a couple of weeks ago, I decided to try creating my own fancy chicken/pastry concoction. At first, I was thinking of adding spinach or some kind of cream sauce. When that felt a little too daunting, I settled for simple ham and cheese, kind of a chicken cordon bleu gone the en croute route. The end result was delicious (if I do say so myself), and felt like an enormous achievement even though it was one of the easiest chicken dishes I’ve ever made.

Chicken en Croute

  • 2 sheets puff pastry*
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 4 slices swiss cheese
  • 8 thin slices ham
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp water
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large skillet, bring chicken breasts and broth to a simmer until the chicken is cooked, about 5-10 minutes (depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts).
  3. Spread flour on a cutting board and unwrap puff pastry. Take one of the sheets and roll it out evenly (this will help enlarge it slightly). Cut in half crossways, so you make two identical triangles.
  4. Place one slice of swiss in the center of each pastry triangle followed by a slice of ham. Grab one of the chicken breasts from the skillet and place in the center. Top with one more piece of ham and wrap the pastry around the filling, making sure it is completely sealed. Place on non-stick baking sheet.
  5. Repeat the process with the remaining sheet of puff pastry and chicken breasts. Once all are prepared, make an egg wash* and brush onto the top of each chicken en croute. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.

 

*Egg Wash: 1 egg mixed with 1 tbsp of water

*I used Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets but any kind will do!

Quick French lesson: en croute means “in a pastry crust”

 

Any other ideas for pastry stuffings? Have you ever made some version of chicken en croute?

 

In Bloom

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a garden post, and I’m happy to report that everything is doing very well. With the optimal ratio of rain and sunshine lately, the plants have grown tremendously (and in some cases, like the cilantro, maybe too well). The jalapeno plants are heavy with peppers, the cherry tomato plant I got a few weeks back is covered with little green fruits, and the long-suffering tomato plant is looking rough but slowly ripening its produce. More on all that later though because today is all about my favorite part of gardening, the beauty and color of everything in bloom.

On the patio, a theme has been slowly emerging. Early this spring, I chose white and purple petunias because I thought the color contrast was really gorgeous. Over time, we accumulated more flowers all in this same general scheme. This past weekend, the palette took another turn with a splash of red verbena (thanks again to my mom).

In my husband’s words, the backyard of our building is starting to “look like a jungle, but in a good way.” :) All of the plants are growing hastily (and I hate to admit it, but that goes for the weeds too…oh well), adding little splashes of color to the previously dormant space.

The marigolds, planted to prevent nasty bugs from attacking the other plants, are looking gorgeous in orangey hues.

The lily I found planted in a pot by a previous tenant has since been transplanted and is doing wonderfully. Here’s a look:

And I love our impatiens, pretty in pink and doing so well that I was actually shocked to see how much they’d grown.

Last but not least, the sunflowers I started from seed indoors and planted in a line against the ugly wall. I was expecting them to grow into the tall and imposing stalks you see in fields next to nurseries, but instead they have bloomed at a shorter height, making them the cutest sunflowers I have ever seen.

The little seedlings that braved the harsh conditions of a neglected urban yard,

have truly blossomed.

Taking a Hike

My husband and I love exploring. This can take on many different forms: sometimes we hit the streets of a bustling city (one we visit or even our own), other times we chart a new course on a road trip, and when possible we seize the opportunity to explore a quiet wooded trail or pristine strip of beach. This time, we were taking a hike with our camera, snapping pictures of things that caught our eye and made us stop for a second look.

 

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Even with the summer heat coming, sometimes I just can’t resist making soup. Broccoli Cheddar is one of my favorites, with plenty of yummy vegetables and creamy cheese, it makes a great pair with a bread bowl or ham sandwich.

 

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 carrots, skinned and cut into strips
  • 1 1/2 heads broccoli, cut into florets
  • 3 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  1. Melt butter in a large pot. Toss in onions and saute until softened, about 3 minutes.
  2. Stir in flour and cook until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in half and half until smooth, then add chicken broth and nutmeg. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Add carrots and broccoli florets and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
  4. Using a ladel, remove small batches of the soup into a blender and puree. Transfer blended portion into a separate bowl and continue the process. Once all portions of the soup are blended, transfer it back into the pot.
  5. On low heat, add the cheese and stir until melted and smooth.
What’s your favorite soup? Any other ideas for Broccoli Cheddar sides?

Atlas Loved: Make Your Own Magnetic Map

Ah…maps. Few things capture my eye quicker than a good map–old or new, large or small, city or globe, it’s all the same to me. Luckily, the maps and charts I love to hang around the house are actually “in” right now, you can find them gracing the walls of a country cottage, beach bungalow, or stately mansion. Now thrown aside in lieu of TomTom or Magellan, it seems everyone is ripping up and gluing down an atlas they found in an attic or thrift store (or in my case, the inner annals of ebay).

While I’d love to claim this idea as entirely my own, I actually found it here. Skimming the pages of Apartment Therapy, I stumbled upon this project, a culmination of two of my favorite things: cartography and organization. If works of art are essential to our understanding and enjoyment of the world, then my day just got a little brighter. I was setting out then and there to make one of my own.

This is not a one day project, unless you have all of this stuff lying around. In my case, it spanned a few weeks in the collection of materials. Anyway, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Mod Podge (or other decoupage material)
  • 1 foam brush
  • 1 gorgeous map
  • 1 magnet board
  • Newspaper
  • Pencil
  • Chair

I chose the Spontan magnet board from Ikea because it was inexpensive and large enough to display all of the essentials. I found a beautiful vintage National Geographic map (1943) for the covering. Here’s a little shot of the board before it was bedazzled:

And here’s the new and improved version:

You’ll notice mine is a little weathered, there’s a little bit of staining in the center, but I like that aged look. If you prefer something more pristine, check out new maps at your local bookstore.

Interested? Here’s what ya do:

  1. Cover the work area (preferably a large table) with newspaper to protect the surface. Lay the map down (face-up) and position the magnet board on top of it so your favorite parts of the map are displayed. Leaving a border to wrap around the edges (you may want to measure here), trace a line around the edge of your board. Cut along your lines and set the map aside.
  2. Set the magnet board on top of the newspaper and wipe the front down with Mod Podge using your foam brush. Make sure to apply it evenly, smoothing it out completely as you go. Carefully center the map on the board and smooth it out, pushing any bubbles to the edges of the board.
  3. Once the front is secure, carefully apply Mod Podge to each side, wrapping the map around the board as you go.
  4. After the sides are secure, lay the map board on the newspaper face-up and apply Mod Podge to the map itself to seal it. Once the front is dry, move the map to a chair to repeat the process on the top and two of the sides of your board. Once those areas are dry, flip the board over to seal the bottom edge.
  5. Allow the project to dry completely before hanging.

And there you have it, a beautiful way to organize pictures, invitations, calendars, and anything else your heart desires. There are some out there less in love with their atlases, so if you have any great decoupaging ideas let me know! I’m thinking posters or patterned paper may look cool? What do you think? :)