When is a chicken pot pie too much?

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I have no one to blame but myself. I exhausted myself making chicken pot pie. I bought into the easy-breezy style of the tv chef. I watched the episode and stored it away in my old mind, excited for the changes. I have made plenty of chicken pot pies. My previous attempts have resulted in soggy crusts. Not enough filling, too big a pan? Probably all of the above. This chicken pot pie is different. A few more steps. Cream cheese in the pie crust???? I am promised a flaky, bubbly pot pie. Why not?

I will tell you why not. After 700 steps, 50 pans and utensils, the final step is what flabbergasted me. “Put chicken pot pie in freezer for 15 minutes until the dough feels frozen.” If I had room in my freezer for a chicken pot pie, I’d have bought one. I have chopped, stirred, shredded, rolled, chilled, cooled off and grated. For hours. I followed each step with the focus of a dog, waiting for food to drop. I became dehydrated, forced  to drink 10 glasses of water. Now at 3am Hubs and I will be positioning for the bathroom. I still have laundry to do. Knitting? Someday. I have emptied the trash twice and run the dishwasher once. This process has been ongoing for hours.  I am now chilling the filling before I bake it. Hot filling in a cold crust is a no-no.

Why does only the pie dough get to rest for 20 minutes? I have done all the work.  I am heading to the couch with a coffee drip. Wake me in 30.

In lieu of the freezer step, I rolled out the dough and placed it in the pie plate, and the other crust on a cookie sheet, and placed them in the fridge. I call this my work around. I am now measuring all efforts by what needs to be hand washed or placed in the dishwasher. My efforts of rolling out the pie dough fell a little short. A little tug. A little pull. Good enough. The raw dough tastes delish! Crimping is crucial. I don’t want anything boiling over and under the crust. I speak from experience. I fork the crust. I pour the cooled filling from the bowl into the pie pan. Bowl and fork, dishwasher. Cookie sheet. Rolling pin. Hand wash. Damn it. I have to beat an egg to create an egg wash. Spread over top pie crust. Cut slits into crust for venting. What do you do with leftover egg wash? Sometimes I microwave it and then throw it out. I’m too weak. No lunch. Just water. Bowl, spreading thingy, knife, and another fork…..dishwasher. I placed the pie plate on another cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I just looked up and saw people outside. Walking. Freely. In the warm sunshine. Sigh. A ray of sun has landed on my tablecloth. Crumbs.  Parmesan? When…what…. oh, never mind. Add to laundry…some.day.

Pot pie is in the pre-heated oven. Please say prayers for me.

DONE! It is beautiful. Golden brown and bubbling, just as promised. No soggy top crust, no oozing filling. Will I make this again? Meh. It was delicious, but it’s very time-consuming to prepare. At the end of the day, it’s chicken pot pie, tasty but labor intensive.

 

Instant Post Black Bean Soup

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Black Bean Soup. It’s not pretty, but it’s delicious and filling. I stumbled upon this looking for healthier eats. I managed to make it a little less healthy. It’s a gift. I doubled the sausage and served it with rice. You’re welcome. I plead the Czech Republic. I don’t know if this belongs to any nationality, or if there’s a great story behind it. I’d figure it out and share, but apparently, people don’t want food bloggers to tell stories or have a voice. Meh to you all. Then don’t talk about food or included recipes in your books. Enough said.

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup coarsely chopped onion

1 tbsp chili powder

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 1/2 tsp dried oregano

2 cups water

2 tbsp. tomato paste

4 cups vegetable or any stock

1  (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 carrots peeled and diced

1 lb. (2 1/2 cups) dried black beans, picked over and rinsed

12 ounces andouille sausage, diced

4 to 6 garlic cloves, minced

2 bay leaves

salt to taste

In a 6 quart InstantPot, heat oil on sauté. Stir in the onions, carrots, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin and oregano. Cook until the onions are soft, stirring frequently. Your kitchen should smell heavenly. Add the diced sausage. Stir to brown for about a minute. The sausage is already fully cooked. I like to add it now for a little color.

Add the water, stock, tomatoes, garlic and bay leaves.  I swirl a little water in the tomato can to get all the tomato goodness. That’s what grandma would do! I wait before I add salt. The sausage is salty. I only add a little salt to the onions when they are softening.

Lock the lid in place. I use the manual setting for 30 minutes. Go have a snack or a cup of coffee. You’ve got 30 minutes to yourself. At the 30 minute mark, allow the pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes. The thing-a-ma-jig should drop and then you can open the lid. Don’t forget to shut off and unplug the InstantPot.

Give this ugly beauty a stir. I like to use my immersion blender and give it a quick whirl. You don’t have to. I like the blended look. First, take out the bay leaves. You don’t want to whirl those into your soup. This soup thickens as it cools. You can serve it with guacamole, sour cream, salsa, a little cheese…..dress it up if you’d like. I tend to only put a dollop of sour cream on it. I serve it over some rice. Yep. Dinner in a bowl.

After it cools, I freeze lunch size portions. I also freeze some rice. YES! You can freeze rice. Together, this makes a great lunch. It’s filling and won’t slop around your lunch box. I brought it to work, and people came to see what was smelling so good in the microwave!

Here is the original recipe! Enjoy!

 

 

Cranberry-Orange Ricotta Bread

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I love a good quick bread recipe as much as the next person. This one was shared by a friend from the past, Nancy. We went to school together from elementary to high school. I never saw her after graduation. I never saw most of the my friends after graduation. We didn’t have Facebook or Twitter or Instagram to say in touch. We had a black phone anchored to the wall, with a short cord, and the USPS. Nancy and I reconnected on FB. I’ve discovered she is an incredible baker. I adore her baking postings. She is talented, and oh so creative in all aspects of her life. I’d call her a crafter, but that would be an insult to her artistic abilities! This recipe is one that Nancy recently posted.

With the threat of snow and miserable weather, I printed the recipe and ran to the store. Where I forgot to buy the cranberries. So, I improvised and used dried cranberries. I didn’t want to fight the crowds at two stores, so I skipped the trip to Whole Foods for the “good ricotta”. I deeply regret that decision to this day.  I baked the bread with these substitute ingredients. It came out good. I knew it could be great. The next weekend I found frozen cranberries and my Calabro Ricotta. This time, the bread was fantastic. The quality of ingredients makes a difference!

When I decided to bake this, I started pulling out my hand-mixer. I noticed this recipe was mixed and folded by hand! Are you thinking, what I’m thing? I can make this early in the morning without waking anybody. No? I baked this in 4 mini loaf pans. This is my idea of portion control. Ha! It’s nice to freeze these mini loaves, wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in plastic bags. It makes a great gift if you’re visiting a worthy recipient. Don’t forget to label them. I tend to have a couple of different breads in the freezer. You want to know what you’re handing off to your friends!

Ingredients

1 2/3 cups + 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour; divided

1 3/4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup ricotta cheese; preferably whole milk

1/4 cup sour cream

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs + 1 egg yolk

2 tsp. grated orange zest

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup canola oil

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped

 

Glaze

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1-2 tbsp. orange juice

1 tsp. orange zest

pinch of salt

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large loaf pan, line with parchment paper. I also like to use 4 mini loaf pans, also using parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the ricotta, sour cream, sugar, eggs, egg yolk, orange zest, and vanilla. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the 1 2/3 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix to combine. Set aside.

Chop the cranberries and toss them with remaining flour. I chop them into quarters, unless the berries are big. I don’t defrost the frozen cranberries. Chopping them frozen is actually easy. Toss the remains 2 tbsp. of flour with cranberries. This helps prevent them from sinking in the pan while the bread is baking.

Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the oil into the batter, folding from the bottom and up. You want to fold in air. Make sure you get the bottom of the bowl with the spatula.  Mix until it’s all incorporated. Fold in the flour coated cranberries

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean. I’ve been know to use a skewer. Use what you have! If you are using mini loaf pans, reduce the baking time. I start checking at around 30 minutes. They start to get a little golden brown coloring on the tops.

Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer to a cooling wrap to cool completely.

To make the glaze, whisk together the ingredients until smooth. Add more juice for a thinner glaze, and more sugar to thicken it up. I like to put the glaze on while the bread is still warm. I put a cookies sheet under the cooling rack to catch the glaze. This makes clean-up easier!  Before you wrap this to store in the fridge or freezer, let the glaze cool and harden. You don’t have to glaze it, but WHY NOT?

NOTE: I have found this bread bakes better in mini-loaves. It’s very dense and it takes a little longer to bake in a loaf pan. They both taste great, but the mini-loaf comes out a little better.

InstantPot Chili-Lime Chicken

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I bought myself an InstantPot after Christmas. I held out as long as I could. I started a new job and I needed to cook more efficiently on the weekends. As appealing as a slow cooker can be, I cannot leave the house with something running. Nor can I go to sleep with anything running, like the dryer. Or anything!  So, I took the plunge. Game.Changer.

I read the included brochures with trepidation. I was having pangs of buyers remorse, and was looking for a reason to return it. As my daughter said, “Idiots use it every day. Of course you can too.” Such affirmation!

I started small. Boiling water. I actually had some trouble with this. Then on to hardboiled eggs. Those eggs turned out to be the best I have ever boiled. They peeled perfectly. Easy to peel hard-boiled eggs is something I have struggled with, if we are confessing our troubles. I felt my confidence building. Onward to more complex recipes.

So, Mr. Google directed me to some great recipes. This chili-lime chicken dish is absolutely easy and delicious. Perfect for the next step. You can even cook the chicken frozen! The only trick is to fillet the breasts so they are not more than an inch thick. You can them freeze them and use them when you need them. I did it! You can too. The trick to pressure cooking/InstantPot cooking is making sure there is enough liquid. I recommend sticking to a recipe from a reliable source. Ease you way into this method of cooking.

Tonight I made jasmine rice in the InstantPot to serve with the chicken. The recipe was in the book from the manufacturer. It was so simple. The rice was perfectly sticky. Three cups of rice, three cups of water and 4 minutes of cooking time and 10 minutes of natural release. Done! I covered the rice in a glass bowl and started cooking the chicken in a cleaned InstantPot insert. I also served roasted brussels sprouts. It wasn’t the most colorful meal but it tasted great.

You can make this chicken and use it in tacos, salads or anything else you think of, for another night You can prepare this while you’re cleaning the dinner dishes. It’s that simple and quick.

Ingredients

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 medium (or large) sized limes*

1 1/2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1/2 tsp liquid smoke

If the chicken breasts are more than one inch thick, fillet them, You can do this ahead of time and then freeze them. Make sure when you freeze them, you stack them two-by- two, so they will fit in the InstantPot if you plan on using them frozen.

In a small bowl I mix all the dry seasonings. I like to use about 1/2 cup of water, or broth in the pot. Liquid is important. When it heats up, the steam locks the InstantPot and the pressure builds, cooking everything.

Pour in the water/broth and the liquid smoke into the InstantPot. Place chicken in pot. Space them evenly. Them can overlap with no problems. Sprinkle the garlic over the chicken, and then the bowl of spices. Give it a slight stir if you can.

Secure the lid on pot and cook at high pressure for 6 minutes. I always use the MANUAL button. When finished let it rest for 5 minutes while the pressure naturally releases. Then you move the value to release the steam. Shut off the InstantPot and unplug it. I use a kitchen towel to do this. If you’re not sure if the chicken is done, an instant read thermometer should read the internal temperature at least 165 degrees.

Take the chicken out and shred it on a plate or in a bowl. Return the chicken to the pan and toss it around in the juices. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Notes:

If you are using chicken breasts that are about an inch thick, and frozen, you can cook them for 12 minutes. Really! What a time saver!

*I found that limes sometimes don’t make my grocery list. I bought a box of packets of True Lime. I just added the lime powder to the other dry seasonings. It was fantastic!

If you are uncertain about buying one, see if you can borrow a friend’s or cook with a friend. I’ve made braised lamb shanks, short ribs, ribs and several soups in the InstantPot. It helps with weekend cooking and weeknight meal planning.

Happy Eating!

Here’s the original recipe. I often find it helpful to read the comments section for ideas.

Chunky Beef, Cabbage and Tomato Soup

Thanksgiving is coming and so are your house guests. What do you serve them the Thanksgiving Eve? Soup and bread. It’s the perfect dinner especially if it’s made ahead. I have made this soup many times. It’s great the day you make it, but it tastes better the next day. Can soup age like a fine wine? I think so! Make this Sunday and serve it Wednesday. All you have to do is reheat it. Perfect.

The original recipe gives you exact measurements for your vegetables. I never measure the Holy Trinity of cooking. Can you have too much onion? I think not. I dice up the carrots and celery, eyeballing it. The soup will taste great with too many carrots. Is that really a thing? I also prefer to use vegetable stock over beef stock. You could even use chicken stock. I like to slice the cabbage thinly, and then chop it into thirds. The slices are still large, but spoon ready. I also add a 1/2 cup of uncooked rice. Maybe  I add the rice because I spill everything on myself, or I just like a thick soup, I may need an adult bib. The recipe makes quite a bit of soup, so the rice per serving doesn’t add that many carbs. Ok? You can also eliminate the rice. Sigh. I don’t know you anymore. Also, I usually don’t like cooking with lean beef. It works perfectly in this recipe. If you don’t have lean beef, tilt the pan as the fattier beef cooks, scooping out the fat. Pour it off into a heat proof container. Why, yes, you can even use a coffee cup. Here’s another way to increase the healthiness, add leftover cooked veggies, or legumes. I just added some cooked lentils and cannellini beans that needed to be used up. Delicious. I find soup recipes are more guidelines than rules. Make it your own. I strongly suggest you chop up all your veggies before you start cooking. It makes cooking so much easier, if you are prepared. Let’s get cooking!

1 lb. 90% lean ground beef

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced carrot

28 ounces canned diced or crushed tomatoes

5 cups of chopped green cabbage (1 medium head)

4 cups beef stock

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup uncooked rice

The original recipe has directions for stove top and Insta Pot cooking. I use a big Dutch oven on my stove for my soups.

Heat your pan until water beads up, rolls and evaporates. Pour a tsp. of olive oil into hot pan. Add the ground beef and salt. Cook until the beef is browned, breaking the meat up into small pieces. Drain any fat.

Add the onion, celery, and carrots into the pot with the beef. Sauté the mixture until the vegetables soften. It should take about 5 minutes, give or take.

Add the canned tomatoes, cabbage, beef stock and bay leaves. Put the lid on and simmer for 20 minutes. As the cabbage cooks it will release some liquid. You can always add more broth or water if you want it thinner, but you can’t take away. At this point I add the uncooked rice, additional cooked items, and simmer for an additional 20 minutes. Stir occasionally checking on the liquid.

Voila! You have dinner. I like to buy frozen rolls to serve alongside this soup. In 10 minutes you have hot rolls waiting for good butter. Enjoy your dinner. Thanksgiving will come and go. Enjoy all of the moments!

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Flour’s Famous Banana Bread

 

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Let’s talk about banana bread. It has been years since I thought about banana bread. One day, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I don’t remember what sparked my interest in banana bread. I looked through old cookbooks, perused the web. My daughter suggested I try Chrissy Teigen’s banana bread. It was delicious. Baked in a bundt pan. Crispy top. Deliciously moist from the package of pudding. Wonderful. I will share that recipe another time.

I wanted something closer to traditional banana bread, but not heavy like a brick. Cue Joanne Chang. She’s brilliant. She’s successful. She makes banana bread!  Someday I will use that Flour gift card. I checked out her first cookbook from the library a gazillion times, without ever baking anything. I’m like that. More of a cookbook hoarder. This time was going to be different. I ordered it from a consortium library. Bought a bunch of bananas and waited for them to over ripen. I’m not a patient person.

The next step: actually read recipe. I looked over the ingredients. Simple, every day ingredients. Sour cream was a little different, but I know this helps with the crumb. Cinnamon? I’m in. Walnuts? Not so much. I don’t like nuts in baked goods. Walnuts taste bitter to me.  I’m all set with ingredients.

I started to read the directions. What could make this bread different from the others?The ingredients were very similar. Not far into the recipe, the secret was revealed. It’s the process. You beat the eggs and sugar for 5 minutes. FIVE! The mixture is light and fluffy and has great volume. Genius. You fold in the dry ingredients. Brilliant. It’s so simple, but successful in producing a light, moist, delicious loaf of bread.  Let’s get baking!

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup canola oil

3 very ripe bananas mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)

2 tablespoons sour cream or creme fraiche

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped (optional)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Butter a 9 X 5 inch loaf pan. I like to cut a strip of parchment paper, so it releases easily and in one piece. Turn over the pan, and cut the parchment to fit the bottom, before you grease the pan. Duh. Let the parchment over hang a little. If you have metal clips, you can clip them to the parchment and the pan, to avoid the parchment from turning into the baking bread. Or not. I’m not patient. The parchment paper helps me lift it out of the pan in one piece after cooling for about 30 minutes.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. You can tap it through a mesh strainer instead.  I’ve made it without sifting and it was still scrumptious. Don’t fret.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat together the sugar and eggs on medium speed for about 5 minutes. If you use a hand mixer, beat it a little longer. I like the stand mixer, since I’m alway multitasking. The mixture should be light and fluffy.

On low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil. Another process that makes a difference. Don’t dump in the oil. It should take about one minute to pour the oil into the batter. Using this process, it incorporates into the eggs and doesn’t deflate the air you just beat into the batter. Add the bananas, sour cream, and vanilla. Continue to mix on low speed just until it’s combined.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture just until combined. You don’t want any streaks of flour in the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 1 – 1 1/4 hours. You want the loaf to be golden brown on top. If the center springs back, it’s done. I sometimes use a toothpick. Old school, riiiiightttt? This bread fills up the pan, because of all the air in the batter. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. The pop it out of the pan to cool completely on the rack. The bread in the above picture could have used a couple of more minutes. It was still yummy and cooked through. It’s almost gone.

The banana bread can be stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature. I prefer my quick breads to chill in the fridge. I think it enhances the flavor. It can be frozen for up to 2 weeks. Now that’s funny. No baked goods last two weeks in this house. Unless I hide them in the vegetable drawer.

Enjoy!

Note: If you have over ripe bananas, but don’t have time to make banana bread, freeze the bananas. I mush them in a zip lock plastic bag and label it. One banana, two banana, three banana, four…….When you have time to bake, the bananas just need to be defrosted. Perfect.

 

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (Panera Copycat)

It’s well documented that I love soup. It’s always soup season in my house. When I saw this posted by Heather Webber I hit “print” immediately. Let’s not pretend this soup is healthy. I compensate by adding more carrots and chicken. That’s all I got. I suggest you make it one day and serve it the next. This soup tastes good the day you make it, but it is soooooo much better the second. It becomes thick, yet smooth. It’s great for lunches, too. Transports well. It won’t slosh all over the place. Thin soups are difficult to eat without spilling. I need an adult bib. Or a Tide stain stick remover.

The original recipe calls for coconut oil. I prefer a good olive oil. It also lists a red onion as an ingredient. I never remember to buy one. A regular old yellow onion works great. I always add more onion to soups than called for.  I love to sauté onions. My theory is the more, the merrier. For this recipe I dice up my carrots on the small side. I like them to fit right into spoon. I use large chunks of chicken. It just seems right to have the chicken hanging off the spoon. I rarely have enough leftover chicken for this soup and resort to buying a roaster chicken. Anything to speed up the cooking process, right? Do yourself a favor and buy a cooked roaster chicken. They make great sandwiches for lunch, or in addition to the soup.

Let’s make soup. You will love this some dark, snowy night when you don’t feel like cooking. Warm soup, warm heart…..or something like that. For the vegetable counters out there, serve with a salad. Alright?

1 tsp. olive oil

1 large yellow onion

1 cup diced (small) carrots

1 tsp. dried marjoram

2 tablespoon flour

1 package Near East Long Grain & Wild Rice with Flavor Packet

4 cups low sodium chicken broth

3 cups water

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 milk

1 generous cup of cooked and shredded chicken

salt to taste

1/4 tsp. black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Ad the onions and carrots and cook until softened. There should be a candle with this scent. Eau de l’oignon. Oui?

Add dried marjoram, flour, and seasoning packet from the rice. Stir to combine. The flour will help thicken the soup. At this point you will ask yourself, “I’m going to eat this?” Not just yet.

Add rice, chicken broth, and water. Bring to a boil. Cover, and lower to a simmer. Let this potion cook for 15 minutes.

I pour the milk and cream into a glass Pyrex measuring cup and microwave it to take off the chill. The original recipe calls to heat in a pan. I’d rather just place that measuring cup in the dishwasher than wash a pan. Just me? I’ve even done it without warming the dairy liquids. No one died.

Stir in the shredded chicken. Cook about 30 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Stir occasionally. Simmer on a low heat. You want to avoid this bubbling over onto your stove. Advice from my “friend”.

Season with salt and pepper. I think the seasoning packet has enough salt in it eventhough it makes a lot of soup! I like to  have a hunk of french bread or baguette to dip in my soup. Sit back and enjoy. Make a cup of tea and grab a book, Your night is winding down!

Enjoy!

If you’re interested in finding a new author, please check out Heather’s books