Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sunday Dinner Recipes: Dressed Chicken Breasts with Angel Hair Pasta

It's shop for Sunday Dinner recipes. This Sunday dinner recipe is the main event in a modest 3-course meal with Chicken and Angel Hair Pasta from Hidden Valley, Lettuce red onion salad, Crustless cheesecake and suggestions for wines. You can certainly add more courses, such as asparagus.

A well planned menu starts with a nicely decorated table centerpiece, beautiful placemats or ironed tablecloth, polished silverware and gorgeous glassware. Of course, the most important ingredient is the cook. Here's how to set the table.

Whether or not, you are a person who cultivates good food and wine, these dinner recipes are a whole lot of elegant.

Light the candles on the table, put on some soft music and relax at home with this gourmet meal.

Dressed Chicken Breasts with Angel Hair Pasta
Serves 8

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to a 1/2-inch thickness
1/2 cup butter
1 cup Hidden Valley® Original Ranch® Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix prepared
1 package (9 ounces) fresh, angel hair pasta cooked, drained
1/3 cup Dijon-style mustard
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 tablespoons parsley freshly chopped

In small bowl, whisk together salad dressing and mustard and set aside. In medium skillet, melt the butter until bubbly, add the chicken and saute for 5 to 7 minutes on each side or until golden and juices run clear. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the wine to the skillet and scrape up any brown bits with a spatula, continue to cook for about 4 minutes or until wine has reduced slightly. Whisk the dressing into the wine and stir until bubbly and smooth. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.

Salad, Lettuce with purple onion Dessert, Crustless cheesecake

Dinner Wine, White, Chardonnay, Blanc du Bois, Semillon
Dessert Wine, White, Orange Muscat

Dessert wines are typically chilled and served in a lovely wine glass. Keep the serving size at about half the usual pour, two to three ounces.

The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) is proud to play a role in the continuing success of the Texas wine industry. Find these Texas wines at Kroger, HEB, Randall’s, Fiesta, Whole Foods Market and Central Market.

In recent studies, the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) assigns a number of health benefits to regular, moderate wine consumption. The most widely reported benefit is The French Paradox, a theory that credits the drinking of red wine for the low incidence of heart disease in France – despite a famously high-fat, high-cholesterol diet.

Scientists note wine contains antioxidants and resveratrol, elements believed to be helpful in the prevention of certain diseases. Red wine consumption (and to a lesser degree, white wine) is linked to a number of health benefits, including: heart disease prevention; reduced risk of certain cancers; lowering bad cholesterol; weight loss; improved brain function; controlling glucose and insulin levels; and lowering blood pressure.

Most studies cited here recommend consumption of one or two glasses of wine a day with meals, noting the detrimental effects of over-consumption.

Shop for Sunday dinner today.

Selected by Alexandria Marx, wife, mother, homemaker, home kitchen cook, diabetic, Super Food Critic and Yum Expert.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Good and Bad News About Coconut

First, it's not a nut.
That's the bad news about coconut. That's not all?

It's not a fruit, either. The US government classifies the coconut as a drupe. A drupe is a fruit with stony covering over a seed (like a peach or olive). It comes from the word drupa meaning overripe olive. That's why a coconut can basically be a nut, fruit and a seed.

The brown seed has a white inside and coconut liquid. It's oldest known reference is from the 5th Century AD when an Egyptian wrote about an "Indian nut" after traveling through the land.

Coconuts differ from other "fruits," because coconuts contain "water."

In fact, the coconut is called the "Tree of Life," because every bit of the coconut can be, and is, used. Coconuts produce drink, fiber, food, fuel, utensils and musical instruments.

Various parts of the coconut have culinary uses. The seed provides oil for frying, cooking and making margarine.

Coconut flakes, oil and milk, are used in recipes. The white, fleshy part of the seed, (the coconut meat) is used fresh, grated or dried, especially in confections and desserts such as macaroons. In fact, there are many recipes that include and feature the mighty coconut. There are recipes for coconut cookies, biscuits, muffins, cakes, pies, puddings, salads, granola, just to name a few.

A coconut delivers many health benefits and nutrition with rich fiber, vitamins and minerals.  

Atkins produces a fabulous Dark Chocolate Almond Coconut Crunch, a decadent combination of crunchy almonds, sweet coconut and a smooth layer of dark chocolate. This snack sensation packs all the nutrition your afternoon needs with nothing you don't. It's so good,

Nutrition Information:
5g Protein; 1g Sugar; 8g Fiber; 190 Calories; 3g Carbs

Coconut water contains sugar, dietary fiber, proteins, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and provides an isotonic electrolyte balance. It is consumed as a refreshing drink throughout the humid tropics, and is gaining popularity as a sports drink.  

Coconut milk, not to be confused with coconut water, is obtained by pressing grated coconut or by passing hot water or milk through grated coconut, to extract juices, oil and aromatic compounds.

Coconut oil is thought to possess healing properties far beyond that of any other dietary oil and is extensively used in traditional medicine among Asian and Pacific populations. Pacific Islanders also consider coconut oil to be a cure for all illness.

The coconut palm is valued as both a source of food and medicine that's understandably called "The Tree of Life." Modern medical science unlocked the secrets to coconut's amazing healing powers.

Coconut growing regions are as far north as Hawaii and as far south as Madagascar.  It's  found throughout the tropics and subtropics. It takes up to a year for the coconut to mature.

To break open a coconut:
Wrap the coconut up so loose ends are secured underneath of the coconut. Then, when the coconut breaks open no pieces will go flying.

Place the coconut on the floor, concrete or other hard surface is best. Grab hold of your hammer and hit the brown shell hard. Some coconuts have grooves partially cut along the sides to make opening easier. If you have one of these, instead of wrapping up the coconut you can use the opposite end of the hammer and whack it around the groove until it splits open.

Once open, place the coconut over the container to drain the juice. If nothing comes out, you might drive a nail through the other side of the coconut to allow air to enter the top while the liquid drains from the bottom. If your nail bends, try using a slimmer one (or even a drill), the hole doesn't need to be big. Depending on the type of coconut you have this could take a few swings.

* Sources: Coconut Research Center, US Library of Congress, How to Open a Coconut, Wikepedia 

Dr Atkins, a well-known cardiologist, limited his patient's intake of sugar and carbohydrates. As a result, many of his patients successfully lost weight and kept it off – even though they had previously been unsuccessful on regular low-calorie diets! 

No one would guess the Atkins Diet is "based on delicious low-carb recipes and whole foods." If you are short on time, Atkins provides meal, snack, and treat bars and shakes to keep you satisfied, even when you are on the go. Here's how it works.

The good news about coconut is that it's healthy, healthy, healthy. Eat more coconut today.

Posted by Alexandria Marx, writer, food blogger, wife, mother, homemaker, home kitchen cook, diabetic meal maker, Super Food Critic and Yum Expert.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sandwich Saturday: Not Authentic Ciabatta Cuban

It's Sandwich Saturday, and it just keeps getting better. From Cuba, the featured bread is Ciabatta bread. I call this the "Hello Sandwich," because your mouth welcomes every bite like a lost lover found at last.

There are many recipes on how to make a Cuban sandwich. I've made a "fast lunchbox version," but it's a short-cut for make and take. You want the real deal for Sandwich Saturday.

There's a traditional version and an authentic version.

An authentic Cuban will not have mayonnaise, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, bell peppers or jalapeños. Leave off the good stuff? I don't think so. It's those ingredients that blast the flavor on the roof of your mouth and say kiss me quick before I fall down.

This recipe is the one you want to make for a savory meal. My mouth waters just thinking about the taste.

When you make this sandwich, you can decide for yourself what to add and leave off. This beauty is more than your average bite. It is a bite of flavors. Yum!

Ciabatta is an Italian white bread made from wheat flour, water, salt, olive oil and yeast, created in 1982 by a baker in Adria, Veneto, Italy, in response to popularity of French baguettes. Ciabatta is somewhat elongated, broad and flat and is baked in many variations.

French bread starts with white wheat flour. The loaf is shaped into a torpedo or baguette. Some French bread tastes like sourdough. After it's baked, it has a crunchy crust. Buy just want you need, because the best French bread doesn't keep very long.

We freeze leftovers from Sunday dinner, Justin Wilson's Pork Roast, just so we can make this bulgy-cheek sandwich. It's a keeper.

Cuban Sandwich Recipe
Serves one (Make two and save one for later.)

4 slices ham
4 slices roasted pork
3 slices of Swiss cheese
3 or 4 pickle slices (dill)
1 Jalapeño (roasted)
Yellow mustard (not spicy or dijon)
Fresh Ciabatta or French bread
Mayonnaise (optional)
Tomatoes (optional)
Lettuce (optional)
Onions (optional)

Remove stem and seeds from Jalapeño pepper. Slice and sauté in a little olive oil. When tender, remove to paper towel, pat dry. Set aside.

Cut your bread lengthwise. Spread mustard on the inside of each half. Layer the ham slices on one piece of bread, then top with the roasted pork.

Add Swiss cheese on top of the pork, and then add the pickle and sauteéd Jalapeño slices. Place the other piece of bread on top.

Lightly butter the outside of the bread and set loaded sandwich in skillet. Place a heavy pan on top of the bread to "press" the sandwich to the skillet. Smoosh down as it browns, and turn the sandwich over and smoosh/brown the other side until the cheese looks melted. You could use a brick wrapped in tin foil to press the top if nothing else is available.

If you have a panini press, place the sandwich inside after pre-heated. Press down firmly until the cheese has melted.

When finished, the sandwich should be flattened down to less than half the original size.

Serve with cold mayonnaise, sliced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, sliced onions.

Nutritional Information (amount per serving)
Calories 570; Carbohydrates 78g; Cholesterol 55mg; Fiber 5g; Sodium 2860mg; Sugars 0g; Fat 14g; Protein 32g

* Source: Taste of Cuba

Always try to use slow-roasted pork when possible. It's the key ingredient. Many supermarkets sell a pre-cooked roasted pork such as Hormel® Slow Simmered Pork Roast Au Jus and Hormel® CURE 81® Boneless Ham in their refrigerated meat section. Simply heat and slice.

Hormel® has been synonymous with quality, value and innovation since 1891. Founder, George A. Hormel held a strong commitment to quality, which has based on providing his customers a superior product, quality and flavor. Today, innovative products are a flavorful part of breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and party solutions — all created with convenience in mind to accommodate the busy schedule of you and your family.

Posted by Alexandria Marx, the Yum Expert. Anyone can cook up a great meal that gets oohs and aahs from family and friends. Make noise about food. Contact me. Follow me. Share your ideas.. Click here now to get the next menu, meal plan and kitchen tips in your inbox. Forward to a friend.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sweet and Savory Friday: Lemon Cake and Salad with Bacon

Sweet and savory food sometimes go together, sometimes they don't. Today, it's both in a lunch to go.

Take a forkful of moist sweet lemony pudding cake and a savory harvest salad with you when you're "on the go." Bake the cake ahead and freeze in portion-size ready-to-eat, grab-and-go containers.

A packed lunch all started with the lunch pail, didn't it? Did you take a lunch to school when you were a kid? Do you pack one for your kids?

Today, everyone's buzzing about the "jar" on the go for working moms and dads. Lunch in a Mason jar is pretty brilliant way to compete with all those zip and click plastics. Not such a bad idea. It's a good way to save money and eat healthy, too.

The Mason jar has been around for a time. It was invented and patented in 1858 by Philadelphia tinsmith John Landis Mason (1832–1902). The most common U.S. brands of Mason jars are Ball and Kerr.

I counted on jars to make jam back in the day. Today, I use them to save coins. I sometimes stuff Christmas candy inside and put a bow around the jar. Why not fixin's for a salad? Well, it's a trend or a fad, but definitely a spin on the old lunchbox, isn't it?

Unfortunately for the creators of the lunch in a jar idea, a jar isn't the only way to make-and-take lunch with you.

Sweet and Savory Harvest Salad with Bacon Bits
1/2 cup Granny Smith apple wedges
2 Tbsp. KRAFT Lite Ranch Dressing
1/4 cup seedless red grapes
3 slices OSCAR MAYER Deli Fresh Oven Roasted Turkey Breast, cut into strips
2 cups torn mixed salad greens
1/4 cup KRAFT Natural 2% Milk Colby & Monterey Jack Cheese Crumbles
1 tsp. OSCAR MAYER Real Bacon Bits

PLACE apples in resealable container. Add dressing; seal container. Toss to evenly coat apples with dressing.

TOP with layers of remaining ingredients; seal container. Refrigerate until ready to pack in an insulated lunch bag and head out the door. TOSS salad just before serving.

Nutritional Information (amount per serving)
Calories 250; Carbohydrates 26g; Cholesterol 40mg; Fiber 3g; Fat 11g; Sodium 890mg; Sugars 16g; Protein 13g

You probably won't be surprised to learn that 68% of bacon's calories come from fat, almost half of which is saturated. That's the finding of WebMD. Each ounce of bacon contributes 30 milligrams of cholesterol.

Eating foods rich in saturated fats can raise your cholesterol levels, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke. If those saturated fat-rich foods are also high in dietary cholesterol, cholesterol levels tend to rise even higher.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to less than 7% of your total calories (that’s less than 16 daily grams of saturated fat for someone eating 2,000 calories a day).

Under those guidelines, it might seem sensible to limit your enjoyment of bacon, and only bake it for your meal occasionally. You can also switch to turkey bacon, which is lower in fat and cholesterol.

When it comes to increasing the risk for certain cancers, things get downright scary for bacon lovers. Not only is bacon considered a red meat, it’s also a member of the dreaded "processed meat" group (even turkey bacon falls into this category). NO amount of processed meat is considered safe to eat, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Enjoy a BLT now and then, but use good judgement. It's probably wise to not make bacon a staple in your meat drawer. Enjoy in moderation.

Bacon tastes great baked in the oven instead of fried in a skillet. It's easier to drain off the fat, too.

Bacon bits can be fresh fried and broken into bits, bought as real or imitation. Bacon bits are small pieces of cooked bacon typically used as condiment, sprinkled on soups, salads and baked potatoes. It's a good way to enjoy bacon in moderation.

Difference between sweet and savory is that one reflects a sugar sensation and the other does not. A salad is savory, but it could include sweet slices of strawberries or a sweet salad dressing, which makes the salad both sweet and savory. For the home kitchen cook, you want to include a little sweet with savory flavors in the meal to satisfy the tastebud senses. That usually means dessert.

Sweet Winter Lemon Cake
Serves 16

1 pkg. (2-layer size) yellow cake mix
2 pkg. (3.4 oz. each) JELL-O Lemon Flavor Instant Pudding
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cold milk
1-1/4 cups water
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar

HEAT oven to 350ºF. PREPARE cake batter as directed on package; pour into 13x9-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. BEAT dry pudding mixes, granulated sugar, milk and water with whisk 2 min.; pour over batter in dish. Place baking dish on baking sheet. (Baking sheet will catch any sauce that might bubble over sides of dish as dessert bakes.)

BAKE 55 min. to 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 20 min. (Sauce will thicken slightly as it cools.) Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm. Refrigerate leftovers.

Nutritional Information (amount per serving)
Calories 280; Carbohydrates 44g; Cholesterol 40mg; Fiber 0g; Fat 2g; Sodium 400mg; Sugars 33g; Protein 4g

Source: Kraft Sweet, Oscar Mayer Savory

When meal planning, choose a portion from each food group. Typically, most adults need 6 to 11 servings of grain products per day; 3 to 5 servings of vegetables; 2 to 4 servings of fruit each day; 3 cups of dairy products every day; and 2 or 3 ounces per day of meat which equals 2 servings.

Sensible portion sizes and limited number of servings keep even the most decadent sweet and yummy desserts part of a balanced diet.

I'm Alexandria Marx, the Yum Expert and everyday home kitchen cook on family friendly food that's easy to make and tastes good. After feeding three kids for more than a couple of decades, living with diabetes and blogging over 500 posts, I evaluate everything food, and write about how to Think Thin. Forward to a friend.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What's the Best Sandwich in America?

Who doesn't love a good sandwich? Did you know that it isn't some new invention of the 20th century or even American born?

The sandwich evolved from a poor man's meal. "Let them eat cake."

Although, it didn't have a name then, it was probably stale bread leftover from the table of wealthy landowners, either thrown out or fed to beggars and dogs.

It's widely accepted that the first actual sandwich was by Rabbi Hillel the Elder, who lived during the 1st century B.C. It's reported that he slathered a mixture of chopped nuts, apples, spices and wine between two matzohs during Passover.

Then, of course, there's John Montague (1718-1792) the Fourth Earl of Sandwich. Yes, if you didn't know, that's his real title. He was Lord of Admiralty, patron to Captain Cook. You've heard of Cook, haven't you? He explored New Zealand, Australia, Alaska, Hawaii and Polynesia. Cook named the Hawaiian Islands, Sandwich Island.

Long story, but in 1840, the sandwich was introduced to America by Englishwoman Elizabeth Leslie (1787-1858). In her cookbook, Directions for Cookery, she had a recipe for ham sandwiches that she suggested as a main dish.

In the 1900's, the sandwich became popular in America when bakeries started selling sliced bread. Sandwiches were an easy, portable meal for skilled and non-skilled trades such as railway workers, carpenters and miners, as well as, school children.

Cream cheese had been invented in New York (1872) but became mass marketed by Philadelphia Brand in 1928. That brought on the cheesesteak, hamburger, hot dog, peanut butter sandwich and sloppy joe.

In the 20s, the luncheonette brought fame to hot sandwiches. Warm meat could be carved and placed on bread topped with hot gravy.

World War II years created popular sandwiches, such as the hero, hoagie, grinder, submarine, Po' Boy and torpedo.

Americans from various parts of the country began their own version of the sandwich. There's the Denver Omelet (eggs on toast), Fluffernutter (peanut butter and Fluff marshmallow creme, a New England invention), French Dip created in Los Angeles (sliced roast beef on French roll or baguette au jus).

There's the Muffaletta from New Orleans, with ingredients similar to a hero or sub, but served on a slice cut from a loaf of round Sicilian muffaletta bread, instead of a long roll; Philadelphia Cheesesteak (thin slices of grilled steak with melted cheese on a roll; the ever popular Reuben Sandwich from New York City—pastrami, sauerkraut and melted cheese on pumpernickel or rye bread.

World War II soldiers combined mess kit C-Ration crackers with peanut butter and jelly, and Elvis Presley made the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich his foodie fare.

The next gen began putting "extras" on sandwiches, such as crunchy potato chips and french fries. Salt and Vinegar "Chips" complimented fried fish sandwiches. BBQ "Chips" went well with the turkey sandwich.

The Reuben married the dill pickle; and the Torta got engaged to sour cream and onion "chips."

According to Blondie scripter Dean Young, his father, Chic Young, began drawing the huge Dagwood sandwich in the "Blondie" comic strip in 1936.

Named for the comic strip character, Dagwood Bumstead, the sandwich contains healthy amounts of cold cuts, sliced cheese and vegetables separated by more than one slice of bread. An olive skewered by a toothpick crowns the edible tower of goodness.

If you watch Guy Fieri on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, you see many different mouth-munching smiley faces enjoying all sorts of hot and cold sandwiches.

Esquire has a list of the best sandwiches in America, unranked. No burgers.

Award-winning travel writer Larry Olmsted, in an article for Forbes, clued me to the Food Network's list of favorite 50 sandwiches.

Can you guess which sandwich is the best sandwich in America?

Posted by Alexandria Marx, writer, food blogger, wife, mother, homemaker, home kitchen cook, diabetic meal maker, Super Food Critic and Yum Expert.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Recipe with Vitamin A: Savory Lemon Chicken Recipe

Here's a tasty, quick-cooking skillet dish that features sautéed chicken breasts in a brightly flavored lemon sauce. It's incredibly easy to make and serve.

Good Source of Vitamin A
One of the 13 essential vitamins needed for the body to function. You find Vitamin A in Dark-colored fruit, Dark leafy vegetables, Egg yolk, Fortified milk and dairy products (cheese, yogurt, butter, and cream), Liver, beef, fish.

Some foods such as apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, kale, liver, mangos, red peppers, spinach and sweet potatoes convert their carotenes into Vitamin A benefits.

Campbell's Savory Lemon Chicken Recipe
1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell’s® Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup or Campbell’s® Condensed 98% Fat Free Cream of Chicken Soup or Campbell’s® Healthy Request® Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup

Cooking Spray
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper or red bell pepper
4 slices lemons

Spray a 10-inch skillet with vegetable cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add the chicken and cook for 10 minutes or until well browned on both sides. Remove the chicken from the skillet.

Stir the soup, water, parsley, lemon juice, paprika and pepper in the skillet and heat to a boil. Return the chicken to the skillet. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Top the chicken with the lemon slices.

Nutrition Information (Serving size 1) : Calories 130; Carbohydrate 9g; Cholesterol 10mg; Fiber 3g; Sodium 870mg 20g; Fat 9g; Protein 2g; Potassium 60mg

* Source: Campbell, Wikipedia, Fitday, Health Diaries, Carotene

Campbell Soup Company is a growing global food company with annual sales of more than $8 billion and powerful brands in three core categories: Soup & Simple Meals, Snacks and Healthy Beverages.

Other brands include Pepperidge Farm cookies and Goldfish crackers; Arnott’s, Kjeldsens and Royal Dansk biscuits; V8 juices; Bolthouse Farms super-premium beverages, carrots and dressings; Plum Organics premium organic baby food; Swanson broths; Prego pasta sauces; and Pace Mexican sauce.

Cooking spray is reported as healthier for you than cooking oil, even with the fact that each can contains numerous calories. Unlike cooking oil, cooking spray cannot degrade into potentially dangerous compounds that, when consumed over a period of time, lead to serious health problems. However, cooking oil is probably the safer of the two to use in cooking since it is not as explosive or flammable as cooking spray is.

Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is indispensable for good health. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that occurs only in animal foods. Vitamin A strengthens mucous membranes, lining of eyes, respiratory, urinary and intestinal tracts, as well as white blood cells that fight infection.

Vitamin A, when converted into the retinal (retinaldehyde) is vital for healthy eyes. It allows the eye to effectively distinguish between light and dark, thus improving night vision. Furthermore, vitamin A is believed to fight against cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma and other age-related ocular diseases.

When converted into retinoic acid, Vitamin A effectively maintains healthy bones and teeth. Dentin, which also requires Vitamin A, forms the hard layer of material within our teeth, thereby ensuring their strength. Vitamin A also plays an important role in replacing worn out or old tissue with newer tissue to ensure healthy bones and teeth.

Posted by Alexandria Marx, the Yum Expert. I welcome comments and questions, requests. Make noise about food. Contact me. Follow me. Share with me. Click here to get the next menu, meal plan and useful kitchen tips in your inbox. Forward to a friend.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day Recipe: Monte Cristo Benedict Brunch

Here's a holiday brunch meal that Chef John of AllRecipes says, "Imagine the best French toast you've ever had, combined with the best ham and cheese sandwich you've ever had, topped with perfectly poached eggs. You don't need any Hollandaise because the poached egg yolks are the sauce."

Saint Valentine's Day is a holiday observed on February 14 each year. Valentine was a holy priest in Rome about the year 270. He refused to renounce his Catholic faith and was beaten with clubs and beheaded on February 14. Source

In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which faithful lovers expressed their devotion to one another by presenting flowers, offering confectionery and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines"). Source

For this decadent recipe, you want to take your time, set a vase of orange blossoms on the table, put on soft music and maybe some flavored ice tea or a chilled glass of champagne with a splash of fresh orange juice (Mimosa). Present a dozen roses to the one you're honoring. Other traditional gifts include jewelry, tickets for a long weekend and a book of poems. There's nothing that says "I care" more than a home-cooked meal.

Count of Monte Cristo Benedict Brunch

Ingredients:
2 large eggs
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 pinch salt
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
4 thick slices day-old French bread
1 tablespoon butter
8 thin slices cooked ham
4 slices Cheddar cheese
4 slices Havarti cheese
8 poached eggs
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives, or to taste
1 pinch kosher salt, to taste
1 pinch cayenne pepper, to taste

Whisk 2 eggs, cream, white sugar, salt, 1 pinch cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and allspice together in a bowl until batter is thoroughly combined.

Lay bread slices into batter, one at a time, and let bread absorb the mixture. Turn bread slices in batter until almost all batter has been absorbed, about 10 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and melt butter in the hot skillet. Cook bread slices in the hot butter until browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer French toast slices to a baking sheet.

Lay ham slices into the hot skillet and cook until meat begins to brown, about 1 minute per side.

To assemble, place a Cheddar cheese slice on a slice of French toast, top with 2 slices of ham, and lay a Havarti cheese slice over ham.

Bake in the preheated 375 degree oven until French toast pieces are no longer wet, the batter is set, and cheese has melted and begun to brown, about 20 minutes.

Place sandwiches on serving plates and top each with 2 poached eggs. Season with kosher salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Serve with fresh oranges in season, . Garnish with chopped parsley.

Nutritional Information (amount per serving)
Calories 651; Carbohydrates 26g; Cholesterol 637mg; Fiber 2g; Sodium: 316mg; Fat 45g; Protein 30g

Source: All Recipes

Happy St. Valentine's Day to my family, friends and followers.

Posted by Alexandria Marx, the Yum Expert. Anyone can cook up a great meal that gets oohs and aahs from family and friends. Make noise about food. Contact me. Follow me. Share with me. Click here to get the next menu, meal plan and useful kitchen tips in your inbox. Forward to a friend.