Aunt Jennifer’s Chicken Pot Pie

My Aunt Jennifer is one of the best cooks I know, so when a few years ago when she passed down her old recipe binder to me (I guess she was updating her recipes into a new one), I felt like I inherited a treasure book of secrets.  I always think of Chicken Pot Pie as the quintessential meal that people make to fill up someone’s freezer when they’re going through a rough time and so it was no surprise to me that Jennifer’s recipe was for 2 pies with the directions: “Make one and freeze one to give away.”

Yes ma’am.

This recipe is super easy, but I was really happy with how it tasted.  I put in a few more veggies than it called for, and it made for a very filling meal.

Side bar: I literally cannot eat or make CPP without singing a little diddy to myself of “chicken pot chicken pot chicken pot pie.”  My HS best friend (Hi, Kris!) and I had this as an inside joke, and like most good inside jokes, I had no clue where it originated from.  Enter google.  It took me about 3 minutes to find out it was from an episode of Just Shoot Me, where David Cross pretends to be Slow Donnie in order to get attention. 

It’s at 0:57.  And now, it can be stuck in your head too.  You’re welcome.

Anyways!  Cooking, right?  Yes, cooking.

For most of the recipes I made this week, I had boiled a lot of chicken and then shredded it.  This went into these pies, the tetrazini and the buffalo chicken sandwich. 

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Aunt Jennifer’s Chicken Pot Pie
14 oz frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, peas & green bean mix)
1/3 C butter
1/3 C flour
1/3 C chopped onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 3/4 c chicken broth
2/3 c milk
3 c cooked shredded chicken (approx 2-3 chicken breasts)
2 pie crusts*

1. Melt butter
2. Add flour onion, salt and pepper.  Stir quickly to dissolve flour lumps.
3. Add broth and milk, stirring constantly.  Bring to a boil for 1 minute.
4. Add chicken and veggies.  Stir for a minute to thicken.
5. Pour mixture into 2 pie shells.
7. Bake at 425 for 40 minutes.  After the first 15 minutes, put tin foil on the edge of the pie crust to keep it from burning.

*I buy the Pillsbury pie crusts that are in the fridge/dairy section.  Take them out of the fridge before you prep to come to room temp.  Directions are on the box.  You will need a pie dish to make this in, and if you’re giving one away you can usually find a disposable tin one with a lid in the plastics aisle.  You can also buy the frozen pie crusts already in a tin (buy 2) and 1 box of the Pillsbury dough as the top crusts for each of the pies.

I have also seen CPP recipes where, instead of using a top layer of pie crust, you use the Pillsburgy crescent rolls and lay it out in a lattice shape across the top.  This is intended to cut down on how much pastry dough is used in order to make the recipe a little healthier.  I’ve done this in the past, and it does turn out fine.  So if you wanted to healthify this a little bit, you could do that. 

I decided to make it the traditional way this time though.

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Before & After.  The after-after?  An empty pie plate.  Yum!

If you freeze or give-away, include the instructions to reheat in the oven at 350 for 15-20 minutes.  For a truly authentic experience, be sure to add a Well, bless your heart as you deliver it to a friend or neighbor in need.

The next few day’s posts will be featured in one post at the end of the week explaining how I cooked *all* these meals in one day.  Yea, I’m superwoman.  No big deal.

Tomato Soup: I’m Obsessed.

Something fortuitous happened to me this week.  I had been couponing a little too aggressively and as a result, I ended up with 7 cans of crushed or diced tomatoes on my shelf.  I don’t really like stockpiling food, and all these cans of tomatoes were bugging me.  Since I don’t really care for pasta dishes, I wasn’t sure how I was going to use up all the tomatoes.  I went to AllRecipes to do a search by ingredients for crushed tomatoes when I came up on this recipe for Tomato Basil Soup.

It’s no secret I love tomato soup.  But I’ve gotten picky.  I don’t really care for the Campbell’s condensed version (although in a pinch, it will do… especially if there is grilled cheese to dunk in it.)  My craving is best satiated by Panera’s version – slightly creamy, a little hint of basil, and great tomato chunk texture.  This recipe looked like a perfect replica. 

I only made a half batch to see if I liked it, and I made a few tweaks by cutting back some of the butter that seemed extraneous.  It was so good.  I know exactly where the rest of those canned tomatoes are headed. 

Here’s the half-batch recipe (made 4 1 cup servings), with my tweaks.  You can still see the original in the link above:

  • 1 (28 oz) can of crushed tomatoes
  • 8 oz chicken broth
  • 10 basil leaves, minced**
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 T butter

**I didn’t have fresh basil on hand but I had minced, frozen basil on hand.  I get it in the freezer section of Harris Teeter.  This is the brand I use.

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How to:

1. Add the can of crushed tomatoes to the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

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2. Add basil and sugar.  Reduce heat to low and stir in cream and butter.  Stir until butter has melted.

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3. Serve with homemade croutons!  (See below).

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Homemade Croutons

This isn’t really even a recipe… just a quick how to.  Cut up any stale bread into bite sized pieces.  Put in a ziploc bag and add just a drizzle of olive oil.  Add any type of seasoning you want (I like just a pinch of salt and dried basil).  Pour on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.  Flip, and bake for another 10 minutes.  They’ll keep in a tupperware or plastic bag for about a week.

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Enjoy!  I apologize in advance to Panera on Penny Rd.  You will probably see a substantial drop in your tomato soup business now.

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(Oh hey, stats!  In case you’re counting.  Per 1 cup serving: 217 cals, 14.5g fat, 628 mg sodium, 6g fiber, 6g protein.  Croutons will depend on how much bread and OO you use.  I used 3 oz bread + 2 T olive oil.  Per serving (4 svgs): 116 cals.) 

Teriyaki Tailgate Wings

Football season has kicked off, which means … tailgates!  We had our first tailgate for Wake Forest’s season opener last night and I had been really craving chicken wings… so I decided to venture into making them myself.  Now chicken wings certainly don’t make anyone’s list of healthiest foods, but I figured if I could find a recipe with a great sauce and bake them, caramelizing the sauce would give it a little bit of a crispy outside without having to deep-fry them.

I don’t know what I was more excited about: Wake Forest’s 53-13 opening day win or discovering that chicken wings can indeed be very tasty without being deep-fried.  Score!

(Ok, that’s the last of my sports jokes.  They’ll only get me so far.)

Try these wings the next time you’ve got a tailgate or potluck to go, and no one will know that you’ve saved them from deep-fried madness.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

You’ll want to prepare the sauce first.  In a large saucepan (not turned on yet), add together:

1 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 T rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 red hot chile pepper, halved (remove seeds if you want it to be as hot)
2″ piece of ginger root, peeled and cut in half (it will be a large chunk)
5 garlic cloves, cut in half
Turn up to a boil, then switch to simmer.  *Keep your eye on this.  If it bubbles over, you have one sticky stove.  Not that I know from experience or anything…*

Sauce Fixins'

Making the Sauce

While it’s simmering….

Cover your cookie sheet with tinfoil.  This sauce makes a sticky mess, and it’s a whole lot easier to clean up this way.  Then take about 2 dozen chicken wings, rinsed and patted dry, and lay them out on your cookie sheet.   Spray with cooking spray or drizzle a little bit of olive oil, and then season with a little bit of salt and pepper.  Bake for 15 minutes, flip and bake for another 15.  (Total cook time: 30 minutes.)

Ready for the oven!

The sauce may take 30 minutes to really thicken, and it may even take a litte bit longer.  Remember, the thicker it is, the easier it will be to have it coat the wings.

Once you feel like the sauce is thick enough, put the wings in a mixing bowl and pour the sauce over.  Toss to coat.  I used tongs to do this.

Saucing the wings

(I also used the tongs to pluck out the ginger root, chile pepper and garlic clove.  Didn’t want someone to bite into one of those!)

Put the wings back on the cookie sheet, and bake for another 10-12 minutes to caramelize the sauce.  Reserve any extra sauce.  If you can, serve when hot.  I actually did make these the night before, and the day of the tailgate I just stuck them in the oven for about 5 minutes before we left to warm them up.  Extra sauce can then be poured over them.

Teriyaki Wings!

Sit back and watch the crowd cheer!

(Oops.  That one snuck in there.)

Pro tip:  Bring napkins, or even better, Wet Wipes with you.  Sticky fingers will abound.

Stats: I wouldn’t claim these as healthy per se, but they certainly are a healthier version than the original.  The sauce is fairly high in sodium, which is tempered by using the low sodium soy sauce but the ketchup and hoisin sauce still contribute to the sodium count.  75 calories per wing, 3.7 g fat, 426 mg sodium.  (Teriyaki wing from BBW: 100 cals per wing, 7g fat, 550 mg of sodium.)

Making Your Own Vinaigrette

Don’t worry, this just sounds impressive and like it will require a lot of effort.  It won’t.  (But other people will think it did and that’s okay.)

A few weeks ago, I gave you a recipe for homemade balsamic vinaigrette on my post for roasted vegetables.  Then I made a video of how to make it.  And forgot to post it.

So just ignore the part where I said I shared this recipe with you last week, because it was actually a month ago.  Better late than never.  Go make yourself some salad dressing, people.

Texas Caviar

The first time I came across the entry in her food log – “Texas caviar” – I didn’t think too much of it.  After all, as a Northerner transplanted to the South I’m used to coming across things in my clients’ food logs that I’m not entirely familiar with.  Succotash? Butter beans?  Banana pudding, fried okra, and even barbecue – all culinary creations I didn’t know existed until I crossed the Mason-Dixon Line.

Then I saw it everyday on her log for a week.  “Is she eating caviar EVERY DAY?”  I finally asked and she turned over the recipe.

Turns out the very same recipe is one of my best friend’s “go to” dishes for potlucks as well, only she calls it by the slightly less PC-term “Redneck Caviar.”  Whatever you want to call it, it’s easy, it’s delicious and best of all, it’s healthy.

The fixins:

  • 1 can of black-eyed peas (15 oz)
  • 1 can of black beans (15 oz)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • salt + pepper
  • 1/2 cup light Italian dressing or Lime dressing

Everything gathered!

Chop the Toms

And the Onions

Give it a stir....

Add dressing, salt + pepper... and chill!

In case you’re not a visual learner:

  1. Chop tomatoes, onions, green onions, jalapenos and green pepper.  Combine.
  2. Add rinsed black-eyed peas and black beans.
  3. Toss lightly.
  4. Add 1/2 cup salad dressing, a pinch of salt and pepper and the minced garlic.
  5. Allow it to chill at least 2 hours, up to overnight, to blend flavors together.

I like this just as “as is” as a side dish and with the beans in it, you could almost have it be a light meal by itself.  You can also use this a dip, which is how it’s mostly common served.  Of course, best served on a patio on a warm summer night with good friends and cold beers!

(When you look up the calorie count for this, you’ll find a range of 20 cals-200 calories per serving.  This depends mainly on two things: how many servings you make out of it and how much dressing you use.  Play around with it to figure out what works for you.  If I’m eating it as a side dish, I get about 20 servings out of my batch at 140 calories, 10 g of protein and 9 g of fiber.)

Enjoy, ya’ll.

Scones

I’ve been on a baking kick lately, which is highly unusual for me as I much prefer the less-precision-required art of cooking to the scientific act of baking.  However, I had a container of blueberries that were getting just past their grab n’ eat stage, and I thought scones were the perfect way to use them. 

This is a recipe from my go-to cookbook, The All New Good Housekeeping Cook Book.  It’s not a fancy cookbook or specific to any type of cuisine or diet or chef, but it’s got all the basics in there as well as good pictures.  I also like that since it was my mom’s copy, it has notes from her written in the margins and inside cover.

If you buy it, yours won’t have these lovely notes until you lend it to my mom for a year or so. 

So, where were we?  Scones!  I didn’t take pictures of the how-to process, because it was a spur of the moment decision to make them.  And in fact, it wasn’t until the FINAL piece was left that I remembered to grab my camera.

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This is the basic scone recipe, you can add whatever fruits or nuts you might desire after you’ve mixed all the other ingredients together.

2 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter (1 stick), cut into pieces
3/4 cup milk
1 large egg, separated

1. Preheat oven to 375.  In a large bowl, combine flour, 2 T of sugar, baking powder and salt.  With pastry blender or knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  (Note: I don’t own a pastry blender and have never been very successful at the two knives thing.  I usually use my hands here, and try not to over mix.)
2. In one-cup measuring cup, mix milk and egg yolk until blended with a fork.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in milk mixture.  Stir until combined.
3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 5-6 times, until smooth.  With lightly floured hands, pat into a round cake.  Transfer to ungreased cookie sheet.
4. With a lightly floured knife, cut dough into 8 wedges (do not separate wedges).  In a small cup, lightly beat egg white.  Brush scones with egg white and sprinkle with remaining sugar.  Bake until golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes.  Separate wedges, serve warm or cool on a wire rack.

Stats: 260 cals, 5g protein, 30g carb, 13g fat, 1g fiber, 360mg sodium.

I feel slightly bad that my Mom just emailed me for this recipe….because she would have it if I hadn’t stolen her book.  Sorry, Mom.  Next time I see you… I’ll make you some scones.  xoxo

Farmer’s Market Sandwich (Again)

I’m kind of obsessed with this sandwich.  I made it for dinner Tuesday night, and then had it again for lunch Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

It’s good, ya’ll.  Even if you’re not a big fan of squash, you might like it this way.  Besides, what else are you going to do with all the extra squash your neighbor keeps giving you?

I made a video how-to of this last year, which I’ll post at the end.  But if you prefer the drool-worthy picture step-by-step, here you go.

You’ll need: squash or zucchini, olive oil or balsamic vinaigrette, pesto, basil and real mozzarella (the kind that comes in a ball). 

1. Preheat oven to 350. 

2. Cut your squash (and/or zucchini) into rounds that about as thick as a quarter. 

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(PS, that’s my cute sister in my kitchen!)

3. Lay the squash coins out flat on a cooking sheet.

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4. Drizzle with olive oil or… even better the balsamic vinegar recipe I gave you in my previous post!  Sprinkle with Mrs. Dash’s, or Italian Seasoning or good ol’ salt n pepper.

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5. Roast the coins in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes.  Check them half way through, and flip ‘em over.

6. Meanwhile, spread about 2 tsp of pesto on a slice of bread.

7. Lay two thin slices of mozzrella (abt 1 oz) on the bread.  Sprinkle a little pepper on, and microwave for 10 seconds just to get it a little melty.  This is about where you should be dying from the delicious aroma of pesto + melted cheese. 

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8. Cover the mozz with basil.  I really don’t believe in too much basil, but use your own discretion. 

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9. Once the squash is cooked, add it as the “meat” of your sandwich.

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10. Devour.  Repeat for the next four days in a row.

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Okay, if that wasn’t good enough for you, you can watch me make it here.  This is a lower-calorie version with a few swaps, but the steps are still the same. 

Farmer’s Market Bounty

I was just thinking to myself the other day that I wished we still operated in a world where “bartering” was common and people paid for services with fresh eggs and zucchini and green beans, cos I had a hankering for some farm fresh food and no space in my day to get to the Farmer’s Market!

Be careful what you wish for, right?  A day after thinking this thought, I was given a bag of green beans, a bag of zucchini and squash, THREE bags of basil (pesto), a whole heap of cucumbers and some heirloom tomatoes.  It was time to get cooking!

This is obviously the best time of year for fresh veggies, and if you’re lucky to live near a Farmer’s Market (or have clients who show their thanks in produce) then this is the time to take advantage of the Earth’s bounty.  But one of the challenges of eating from the market, is eating what’s in season… and that might sometimes be veggies that you aren’t familiar with.  If your usual veggie MO is to tear open the bag of romaine and pour some ranch dressing on, then let me introduce you to my favorite veggie prep method…. ROASTING!

Roasting is so absurdly easy it shouldn’t even be called a technique, but I think it is truly the most delicious way to prep a vegetable.  Really…. better than a Bloomin’ Onion.  Roasting brings out the natural sugars in vegetables and makes their flavors sweeter, more potent and diminishes the bitter flavor that turns many people off from veggies.

Almost any veggie can be roasted.  My favorites are zucchini and squash, green beans, asparagus and root vegetables (onions, potatoes, beets.)

Prep work:

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  A nice toasty oven is the key to roasting.
2. Chop veggies into even sized pieces.  I like either “one bite” or “two bite” pieces.  (You know, a piece you can eat in either one bite or two bites.)

3. Put your veggies in a ziploc bag and add 1 T of olive oil.  You may have to adjust that depending on how many veggie pieces you have, but I find that’s enough to cover a whole cookie sheet of veggies.  Shake shake shake to coat all the pieces.
4. Lay out in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  If you’re not into messes, you could cover your cookie sheet with tinfoil and you’ll have the easiest clean up EVER.

5. Sprinkle with a little bit of rock salt, and pepper if you’d like.
6. Roast for 10 minutes.  Take out and move around (stir, flip, shuffle… just wiggle them around a little bit.)  10 more minutes, shuffle.  10 more minutes.
***Pay attention after the 2nd 10 minutes (20 minutes cook time.)  Some veggies will be done at this time.  You can taste or poke to be sure.
7. EAT!  )That’s my favorite step, of course.)

Alternative Options:
#1) Dress with balsamic vinaigrette for a little more flavor (works especially great on squash and zucchini.)
Shannon’s Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing (makes a big batch)
2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 T dijon mustard
1 T sugar

In case you’re wondering, Shannon was the owner of the coffee/sandwich shop I worked in all through high school.  We kept this dressing on hand and put on just about every salad and sandwich we made.  I still keep a batch of it on hand at all times.

#2) Toss afterward with a homemade vinaigrette.  Here’s one of my favorites to toss on green beans.
3 T olive oil
2 T white wine vinegar
2 t sugar
1 t dijon mustard
Any chopped herbs you might have (parsley, basil, dill) or a pinch of dried basil
Put in a glass jar with a lid and shake to emulsify, pour over hot green beans and serve!

Now, heat up that oven and get you some veggies!

Pesto!

For Valentine’s Day, my husband gave me a plant.  It’s called a polka dot plant.  And it’s sitting on a pot behind my kitchen sink.  The fact that it’s actually alive, a whole five months after I have acquired it is a miracle in and of itself.  I’m not exactly known for my green thumb.

One of these days though, I’d like actually have a garden.  I’d like to experience putting seeds in the earth and getting my hands dirty and seeing the fruits (and veggies) of my labor sprout out months later.  In the meantime, though, I’ll have to be content with polka dot … and my friends sharing the excess production from their labors.

Last week we had a potluck party to celebrate a friend’s birthday and another friend leaving for Italy.  Our friends showed up with dinner dishes in hand, and a bonus – basil!  Three of my girlfriends – Jamie, Anne and Akanksha – all came with a Ziploc baggie full of basil.  I knew exactly what I had to do with all this fragrant delicious green stuff… make pesto!
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This recipe comes from my Aunt Jennifer.  It’s incredibly simple, but so flavorful.  I make it in my food processor, but for years – during college and grad school – I would actually make it in a blender.  (Meaning if you don’t have a food processor, don’t despair… you can still make this!)

Here’s the recipe:
2 cup packed basil leaves
½ cup parmesan cheese
1/3 cup toasted pinenuts
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
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Throw in a blender or food processors.  Whirl.  Eat.
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Uses for pesto:
–          My Aunt Jennifer always cooks tortellini and chicken and tosses it in pesto.
–          I toss on roasted beets + potatoes for a little flavor.
–          Make a Caprese salad (sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and basil) and drizzle a little pesto over.
–          Slice a French baguette into thin slices, drizzle a little bit of pesto on each piece and add chopped tomatoes on top.  Broil for instant bruschetta!
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Pesto IS very calorically dense (cheese, olive oil, nuts….) – so remember, a little bit goes a long way.  But it’s a great way to use fresh basil from your garden, as well as heart healthy olive oil and nuts, and antioxidant-rich garlic.
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Other variations include swapping the pine nuts for walnuts, and swapping basil for other fragrant herbs like parsley or sage.  (See my parsley pesto here.)

The OMG Salad

I saw a picture of this salad on my friend Jenn’s Twitter stream the other day and thought “OMG.  I have to make that.”  Usually when I bookmark recipes, it’s a few weeks (months… years…) sometimes before I remember to get back to them.  Not this one.  I saw the picture Monday and made the salad Tuesday.  And ate again for lunch on Wednesday.  It is that good.  I like to give credit where it’s due, and from what I can tell, this is where the recipe originated.

I have since renamed it the OMG salad, because that was what I said immediately upon tasting it.  I know it’s just a salad but well… did I mention there was chocolate involved?  Ok, just go ahead and take a peek.  The recipe follows below, straight from Mindy’s blog.

Vinaigrette

  • 1 can (15oz) of Mandarin oranges (drained while saving 1/3 cup juice)
  • 1/3 cup Champagne Vinegar
  • 1/3 cup white chocolate chips
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

Salad

  • Spring Greens
  • 2 ½ cups strawberries- sliced
  • ½ cup mandarin oranges
  • ½ pint blueberries &/or blackberries
  • ¼ red onion sliced thin
  • ½ cup blue or goat or feta cheese (optional)
  • ½ cup slivered almonds or pecans toasted on the stove**

Mise en Place.

How To:

  1. Drain oranges and keep 1/3 cup of juice.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine Mandarin orange juice, vinegar, salt and sugar. Heat until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat and add white chocolate pieces stirring frequently…once melted whisk in olive oil.
  4. Pour over salad.

**Don’t skip this step.  Roasting the almonds brings out a really unique flavor to them, and this can be your protein on the salad. 

Please note: The dressing will harden/separate as it cools. Don’t be afraid of this. Just remember to sit it out in the sun or pop it in the microwave for a few seconds and whisk/shake before serving.  I found this made enough dressing for me to have 4 salads, at 200 calories a serving.  Granted that’s high for a dressing, but there’s chocolate in it… so you sorta saw that coming right?  But this salad was so filling, it’s all I had for my meal (add another 200 for salad/fruit/2 T nuts/2T cheese) and it was enough.

Ok, stop reading this and go make your salad now.