Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Quick and Delicious Chicken Pot Pie

Last Friday, my besty Ashley and I did our grocery shopping together and followed up our shopping trip by making a laid-back dinner for our boys.

We wanted something satisfying that didn't require a lot of hassle. Enter the amazing $5 rotisserie chicken. I snagged the rotisserie chicken because I knew that the possibilities for a quick dinner would be endless with it in hand. After talking with Ashley we realized that, between the two of us, we had a bunch of assorted veggies and a can of biscuits. Voila...dinner for 4 and a half including a few scraps for a cute boxer for the cost of a rotisserie chicken and some pantry-bustin!

Quick and Delicious Chicken Pot Pie
2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 potatoes, chopped
2 ears of corn, shucked and "de-corned" [you can use frozen corn, 3/4 of a cup, but wait to add until you add your chicken]
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
*Whatever other veggies you feel like pantry-busting
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
8 leaves of fresh sage, chopped or 1 1/2 T dried sage
Salt and Pepper to taste 
3 T flour
3 T whole milk or half and half
4 cups of chicken broth
Chicken pulled from one rotisserie chicken 
1 can of biscuits [feel free to substitute with your own biscuits or a batch of Bisquick]

*This could also be a great, hearty vegetarian meal. Omit the chicken. Replace the chicken broth with veggie broth. Substitute the bulk of the chicken with a couple extra starchy veggies, like potatoes and carrots...oooo or sweet potatoes, turnips or parsnips.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a dutch oven or stock pot.

Add onions, celery, potatoes, carrots, corn, sage, garlic, salt and pepper.
When veggies are starting to look translucent, sprinkle the flour over the vegetable mixture and stir to combine. Let floured vegetables cook for about a minute to cook out the "flour-y" taste.
Pour your chicken broth over your vegetable mixture. The broth should just barely cover your vegetables. Feel free to adjust the broth level to whatever suits your "veggie level."

While veggies are cooking, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Simmer until veggies are fork tender, approximately 20-25 minutes.

When vegetables are tender, add the chicken and milk to the pot. 
*At this point, your pot pie mixture should look like a really thick sauce/stew. In the above picture, I still needed to reduce/thicken up the broth a bit more. If you are in this bind, feel free to continue to simmer to reduce the broth or you can add a slurry of corn starch and broth or water, about 1 1/2 T of corn starch to 1 1/2 T of liquid.

Pour or ladle, whatever is easiest, your mixture into a baking dish. I used a 9 x 13 roasting pan but feel free to dole yours out however you want, you could even divide between 8 little baking dishes, so cute.

Space your biscuits evenly across the top of your pot pie mixture. If using biscuit dough or Bisquick, evenly dollop over your mixture. *Ashley wanted to get rid of 5 leftover mushrooms she had, so we sliced and chucked them on top before we added the biscuits.
Bake until the biscuits have turned golden-brown, approximately 20 minutes.

P.S. Your recipes will always come out better, if you have a watchful toddler examining your every move.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pizza Party and Awesome Vinaigrette

Last week was one of those crazy weeks where I barely saw my husband because we were hanging out with people almost every night. It was a great week full of food and friends but we probably need a date night to recuperate. 

On one of the nights, I had plans to visit a friend for dinner with instructions to bring a salad. Sam made last minute plans to have some of his fellow teachers over. Not wanting a handful of "end-of-the-year/ why hasn't summer break started yet" friends to go hungry in my absence, i decided to make fixins for a make your own, grilled pizza party.

This type of party is so good! It is an easy and great solution to the "I want BBQ, but I am tired/or out of meat to grill" blues. Plus, for my fellow pizza-adorers, grilled pizza is the closest, homemade thing I have found to amazing thin crust, slightly charred brick oven pizza.

I'll start with the food for my evening with friends. I was asked to bring a salad. I had romaine and feta and was about to make a standard greek-ish salad when I remembered that I had a can of beets. Ughhh, the joy of salty-sweet in a salad! 

I tossed together a head of chopped romaine, a 1/2 cup of crumbled feta and the drained can of beets.

I then made a small container of my go-to vinaigrette. I always have the ingredients for this on hand and never buy salad dressing because nothing compares to the perfectly balanced flavors of this dressing. It is salty, sweet and acidic! Mmmm!

Awesome Vinaigrette
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
1 tsp brown sugar 
1 tsp mustard [I prefer dijon or brown mustard]
3 tbsps balsamic vinegar
3 tbsps olive oil
*1 clove of finely chopped garlic is also awesome in this but I didn't feel like chopping.

Throw all ingredients into a sealable container. I used an empty baby food jar but you can also use any small tupperware container.

Shake vigorously and serve.

One of my big pet peeves is wilted salad so, since I had to travel with the salad, I put the salad in a to-go bowl and brought the jar of dressing to use at dinner.

Meanwhile, in pizza paradise...

I made my go to pizza/pita dough [see my earlier post on tzatziki and homemade pitas], let it rise for an hour, pinched off balls of dough, roughly large enough to fit in the palm of your hand, rolled them out and lightly cooked them. I like to use my big ole griddle pan for this.
This is hands-down the most important part of grilling pizzas....make sure that you par-bake the crust. I once made the mistake of putting the dough directly onto the grill and it glooped through all of the grates and burned. You can always experiment with sturdier pizza doughs but the par-baking method works well for me.

Another sidenote...if you don't feel like making dough or manipulating store-bought dough, you can buy pitas. They are easy and the perfect size for individual pizzas.

Once you have individual crusts made, enter pantry/refrigerator buster paradise. Fill bowls with anything you have that might taste good on a pizza. My kitchen-busting yielded: a little bowl of feta, spinach, sliced onions, peppers and tomatoes, a medley of all the meltable cheeses that I had in my fridge, tomato sauce, some salami, and, of course, oregano, parm, garlic powder and chili flakes. Sam's buddies graciously picked up some marinated olives and roasted garlic. Yum!

 When Sam came home he fired up the coals and waited for the hungry teachers!

 Everyone had a blast picking their own ingredients and making their perfect pizzas!
Look how delish!
When you try this, cook long enough for the cheese to melt. By that point, your crust should be a little charred underneath. If using a gas grill, cook over medium heat. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

My Mother's Day

I came home from a women's retreat this past Sunday morning to find my boys scurrying to get mother's day breakfast ready for me. By scurrying, I mean that Sam was making breakfast while Emm hung out at his feet asking for snacks.

I feel so blessed because my husband really knows me! He helped Emmett do some drawings for me, made me food, took pictures of said food so that I could post on my blog and got me fresh herbs in pots because he knew that I would like plants that I could eat and reuse more than flowers that would wilt in a few days.

Check it out!
The fruity drinks were San Pellegrino Blood Orange sodas with strawberry slices.

What is that bacon-y egg-y plate in the middle? Glad you asked...

Sam's Mother's Day Bacon Bake Up
2 tbsps chopped onion
2 tbsps chopped red pepper
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
5 eggs
4 slices of bacon
1 tbsp chopped green onion 

Preheat oven to 375.
Grease a small baking dish. Lay bacon slices width-wise across the dish so that the ends of the slices hang over the sides of the dish.

Whisk the 5 eggs together. Add your onion, pepper and sage. Whisk to combine.
Pour the egg mixture over the bacon slices.
Wrap the ends of the bacon up over the egg mixture so that it looks like a delicious bacon pile up.
Bake until eggs no longer jiggle and bacon pile up looks crisped. Approximately 20 minutes.

Sprinkle top with chopped green onions.

Serve to your loving wife!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sesame Peanut Noodles

When I first moved to Denver, my sister came to visit. We decided to frolic in the mountains but were too cheap and unskilled to ski or snowboard so we took sleds up to the continental divide. Well, needless to say you can't just sled down a mountain that butts up against a major road, but we did hike up [took 10-15 steps at a time then fell in the snow gasping for air] the mountain and were ravenous afterwards. Being such an amazing big sister, I had made sesame peanut noodles and served them cold in the back of the car after our "sledding" adventure. It may just have been the altitude and the hunger pains from our "hike" but those noodles were God's gift to our mouths!

A couple of weeks ago, my sister, Susie, politely requested/demanded that I make and post my recipe for those noodles since she still craves them, seven years later. Again, because I am such a stellar and devoted big sister/I had a hankering for those noodles, I made sesame peanut noodles for dinner last week. They were uh-mazing, even at a lowly 5280 ft and after an afternoon of playing trucks and trains with a toddler as opposed to "strenuous hiking."

If you try nothing else, please make this sauce and try not to ladle it into your mouth. In my opinion it is the perfect balance of savory, sweet, spicy and acidic. You could marinate meat in it, use it as a dipping sauce for egg or spring rolls or bathe in it. For you spicy people, you might want to add sriracha into it or that awesome vietnamese garlic chili paste. Mine was dinner for a one year old, so I omitted. 

Sesame Peanut Noodles
Yields 4 servings
1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed or 1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup of peanut butter [I prefer a natural, crunchy variety like Smucker's]
2 tbsps chopped cilantro
3 green onions, chopped
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 tbsp agave nectar or honey or brown sugar

*If you are missing any of the fancier ingredients in your pantry, don't be alarmed, this sauce would be great if it were just the soy sauce, peanut butter and sweetener...the rest of the ingredients are the icing on the cake.

1/2 pack/8 oz. of spaghetti/linguine noodles [I used whole wheat for the health and nutty quality]

1 tbsp cooking oil
1 small onion, sliced
1 cup quartered lengthwise baby carrots [I was out of normal carrots, feel free to substitute]
2 small bunches of broccoli, sliced into small florets
1 tsp ground ginger

1 tbsp each of chopped green onion and cilantro to garnish
*This is another great pantry/veggie drawer buster. Use whatever veggies you have on hand. I have used asparagus and even al dente green beans. You truly can't mess it up if it mixed in with this sauce. 

Add cumin and sesame seeds to a dry saucepan and toast on medium heat for about a minute to bring out the flavors. 

Add the soy sauce, sesame oil, ground ginger and peanut butter. Stir until the peanut butter is totally mixed into the liquid.

Remove from heat to keep the following ingredients tasting fresh. Add the green onion, cilantro, lime juice and sweetener. Stir to combine. Set aside.

Begin preparing your pasta by bringing water to a boil in a large pot. Prepare pasta as directed on pasta package. Cook noodles until al dente.

While pasta is cooking, stir-fry the veggies. I use a wok, but feel free to use a large frying pan. Heat the cooking oil on medium high heat and then toss in your carrots, onions, broccoli and ginger. 

Saute until broccoli spears are tender [10 minutes-ish]. This process can be expedited by putting a lid or piece of aluminum foil over your pan. If pasta is ready and your veggies are still looking raw, you can also "cheat" by adding a 1/2 cup of your pasta water into your veggies to help cook them quickly.

Add the al dente noodles to the pan with the vegetables and toss until combined.

Add the sesame peanut sauce and toss to equally coat the vegetables and noodles.

Garnish with cilantro and green onion and serve.

*Sidenote: Noodles taste way better when you eat them while watching a cute someone.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bacon Date Jam with Brie

Last weekend, I had a "bring your own appetizer" girls' night. I had dates leftover from an earlier failed attempt to make a jam for the Bacon Takedown. I had bacon, because I have a year's supply of bacon. I also unearthed some brie from the freezer. Normally I don't have such fancy things in the depths of my freezer and pantry, but this was my lucky day. 

I ran out and grabbed some crackers for dipping and then made to die for, super easy bacon jam to spoon over my brie and warm in the oven. 

While researching possible inspirations for my bacon jam I found that dates turn into luscious jam that kind of resembles apple butter if you simply simmer them in liquid for 10-15 minutes. I chose to do a salty sweet take on it with bacon but you could absolutely do a spicy sweet version with just the dates and maybe some cinnamon and nutmeg. The world is your date jam oyster!!

Bacon Date Jam
*Makes approximately 1 cup of jam
5 slices of bacon
12-15 roughly chopped and de-pitted dates
1 cup of apple juice

*How can such a short ingredient list make something so wonderful? Because bacon in anything makes it wonderful!

Saute your bacon slices until crisp.
Remove bacon slices and pour out all but 1 tbsp of bacon grease. Chop your bacon slices. Add chopped bacon and dates to the frying pan.
 Add apple juice and stir to combine. Cover and let simmer on low for 15 minutes.
 Stir jam and break up any remaining date pieces with a spoon.

This jam is salty sweet perfection. If serving on top of brie, spoon jam on top of brie and bake at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes to warm the brie.

This would also be wonderful served as an accompaniment on a sharp cheese tray or, for the wild and daring, perhaps as a spread for a flatbread pizza. Roll out your dough, spread with jam and a few shavings of parmesan or pecorino. Garnish with arugula when the pizza comes out. Ugh, now I am hungry for pizza!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fried Brown Rice with Bok Choy

A couple months ago, I tried my hand at healthy fried rice. It has quickly become one of my staples and an awesome pantry/ veggie drawer buster.

I always have some form of rice on hand in my pantry and am always looking for a way to use up my "end-of-week/ I desperately need to grocery shop" vegetables.

This week, I happened to have some chicken on hand that I sauteed up to go alongside the rice but there have been MANY times that I had no protein left besides eggs and substituted them in for my protein [and for that true fried rice feel].

Fried Brown Rice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch of bok choy, chopped, and/or
ANY veggies that you need to use: carrots, broccoli, celery, spinach
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp fresh, grated ginger
4 cups of cooked brown rice [you can sub any rice. I have a rice cooker and, for brown rice, place 2 cups of rice plus 5 cups of water into my rice cooker]
1 1/2 tbsp of asian beef/pho bouillon base [this is a tough item to find, I happen to have one from a visit to the Asian grocery store. It tastes like a slightly sweet beef bouillon with added spices like star anise. This can easily be replaced by adding an additional 2 tbsp of soy sauce]
4 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
Optional: 3 eggs

I usually start my rice in my rice cooker about 15 minutes before I begin preparing the rest of the fried rice. 

If using eggs, whisk your eggs together and fry, not scramble, in a greased frying pan. Flip once. Your eggs should resemble a flat omelette. Once your eggs are cooked through, remove from the pan and cut into 1 inch squares. Set aside.

If egg-less, start by heating your olive oil in a large frying pan or wok. Add the onions, salt, pepper and powdered ginger. Saute on medium heat until translucent, approximately 3-5 minutes. 

Add the white portion of your chopped bok choy, the chopped garlic and, if available, the asian beef bouillon and stir for about a minute. 

*If veggie drawer purging, adjust the cooking and adding time of veggies to match how long they need to cook. For example, carrots, broccoli or celery should go in with the onions. Cook those, and onions, for an additional 5 minutes or so to soften the carrots fully. Bell peppers can be added with the whites of the bok choy. Greens like spinach should go in at the very end with the rice, so as just to wilt. 

Add the green portion of the chopped bok choy. Then Grate/ mince your fresh ginger over the top [I used my microplane].  Stir to combine.

Add the rice, the egg [if using] and the chopped green onions. Sprinkle your sesame oil and soy sauce over the top. Stir to combine over medium high heat until all rice looks evenly coated with soy sauce.

If eggless, I like to serve this dish with a protein side. I sauteed some chicken to pair with the rice. You could also serve marinated tofu or beef skewers alongside. With the addition of the chopped egg, I feel happy eating just this for dinner!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cauliflower Soup and Garlic Parmesan Bread

Monday night was definitely a pantry-bustin, comfort food night. I felt like we needed something soothing and delicious to start off another long week. 

I spied the head of cauliflower that had been sitting in my crisper for forever [please, husband, don't be grossed out when you read this] and decided to make my go-to creamy soup. Mom's beet vichyssoise has, is and always will be the most luxurious creamy soup in the world, think velvety potato leek soup that happens to be hot pink from the addition of beets []. But when you want something cheap, super healthy and way fast it has to be creamy cauliflower soup.

For those of you who don't like cauliflower, don't worry, this just tastes like creamy velvet, not like a giant vegetable.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup
2 tsp cooking oil 
1 medium onion, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves of garlic, chopped 
1 head of cauliflower, loosely chopped
4 1/2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
2 tbsp of half and half [can be omitted or replaced by cream or milk, whatever you have]

Heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onion, salt and pepper and saute until onions are translucent. If you want to fancy this up you can substitute the onion with 2 shallots or add one chopped leek in with the onion. It would be to die for, but I didn't have either on hand.

Once onions are translucent, add the garlic and the cauliflower. Toss together and saute for about a minute. 

Pour in your chicken broth. If you are ever doubling or tripling this recipe, I normally, when not cooking for an audience, just pour in enough broth to cover the cauliflower. This tip could come in handy if you don't feel like measuring cup after cup of broth.

Cover the soup and let simmer for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender. One of the beauties of working with cauliflower is that it cooks up in no time.
Pour your soup into a blender and blend for approximately 1 minute. I have a nifty double-wide blender and it held all of my soup but, if using a normal blender, you will probably need to do two batches. 

Here is the soup right before being blended.
 Once blended, return the soup to the pot and stir in the half and half. You are ready to go! If you would like a thicker soup, feel free to turn the heat back on and let it simmer uncovered for a few minutes.

This soup is simple, creamy and delicious. It's flavors are very subtle and pair well with other dishes that pack a bit more punch. Try dolloping a little pesto on top or crumbling some bacon into it! Oh, goodness!

What I chose to pair with mine was homemade garlic parmesan bread. What I really wanted to pair it with was garlic white pizza but my more disciplined husband encouraged me to make bread with my pizza dough rather than gloopy, perfect, cheesy deliciousness. For the bread, I thought that if my New York heart couldn't have pizza then it wanted another New York pizzeria classic: garlic knots. But, I didn't feel like making tons of little knots or using as much butter as classic garlic knots called for. In a pinch, I made this loaf.

Garlic Parmesan Bread
1 ball of room temperature pizza dough [I used my go to pita/pizza recipe found in my pita and tzatziki post but store-bought is just dandy]
3 tbsp of room temperature butter or margarine
2 tbsp of grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 415 degrees.

Place your dough in a mixing bowl. Knead in half of your butter mixture until you can see that the specks of herbs have spread throughout the dough. 

Grease or spray a casserole dish. Choose a dish that allows your dough to be spread out to about an inch thickness while still filling the dish. Add your dough to the dish. Spread the remaining butter mixture over the dough and push it into the surface of the dough with your thumbs, similar to how people make cool thumbprints in focaccia.

Bake on a lower rack for approximately 20 minutes and then move to the top rack for another 5-10 minutes to brown the top of the loaf.

Sooo good!