Monday, April 29, 2013

Portuguese Chicken Stew and My Le Creuset French Oven

 I know what you are thinking. What is a French oven? Imagine my surprise when I went to the Le Creuset site and found out that a Dutch oven is just a cast iron pot used for cooking over a campfire. A french oven, on the other hand is a cast iron pot with a perfectly domed lid, that helps to keep the interior of the pot warm and steamy. It is twice coated with the highest quality enamel and being French has that certain je ne sais quoi. Really, this is on the web site. Plus, you can use it right out of the box and don't have to season it like that other kind of oven. Gasp! Horrors! 

OK. I own both.  One I bought to make my 24 hour bread in and my Ilse's potato kugel, which I still have to post. The second came to me courtesy of a very nice mother who bought it for me for Hanukah last year. I am a lucky girl. How I lived without this all these years is beyond me. Hard to believe that the French oven comes with a lifetime guarantee. Shoot, I wish I came with a lifetime guarantee. I could use it right now. I beginning to think I'm part feline and running out of lives but that's another story for another year. Meow.

As you can see Portuguese chicken is on the menu. Last week when picking up my son from the airport after his NY trip, I needed something simmering on the stove. Southwest kept delaying his flight and it wasn't due to the sequester.  Speaking of the sequester, don't you find it odd that those amazing congress people found time to lift the sequester on air traffic controllers right before they flew home for the weekend? Yeah, meow. And drum roll, please-back to chicken.

My son noticed my gorgeous, very deep blue, sexy FRENCH oven on the stove and asked me why they cost so much. Did it make a difference in cooking? This child who just came back from Russ and Daughter's and Momofuko was wondering. And really it is a good thing to wonder about. I mean who wants to shell out several hundred dollars or more on a Dutch  French oven. (Thank goodness, my mother does.) After many years of cooking in an aluminum dutch oven shaped pot that I bought back when I worked at the Kankakee County Courthouse, when a salesman was going office to office selling a set of pots and pans;  I remember I was so proud that I bought a set of ucky brown aluminum pots and pans that contained a dutch oven for $29.99. Yes, this is what I've been cooking burning in for over thirty years. Yeah, son. That French oven does make a difference. I LOVE IT!

The beginnings of chicken pot pie in my French oven.
Nothing burns or sticks. Everything cooks evenly. It is so pretty you want to keep your stove clean just so it looks good. And best of all, if I drop it, it has a lifetime guarantee. Unfortunately my floor does not. So all brides out there. Get one. You will use it for the rest of your life and still be able to put it in your will and when your lifetime guarantee expires you can will it to your favorite child. It is worth every penny and even more since I didn't have to pay for it! Thanks, Mom! And no, this is not a paid post. But there aren't many kitchen gadgets I am in love with except my knife, that my mother also bought me, and my teeny, tiny whisk and my Grandma's Kitchen Aid and a few other odds and ends. But in general, I am not a kitchen gadget person, because I don't like clutter. That however doesn't mean my drawers are clean.

And finally. The chicken recipe. Whenever I make it my husband always asks why I don't make this more often. It is good. Perfect for a chilly day. Perfect for company. Perfect for leftovers. Perfect for my son who had just arrived home from a few days of heavy eating. I almost forgot to mention that he was treated very kindly by an old friend at the Atlantic Grill near Rockefeller Center. She saw to it that he had plenty for not only his dinner, but also his long plane ride home. So, if you are touring this summer make sure to see Hannah. Tell her Greetings from Denver.. She will take great care of you.

And finally--- without further adieu---the chicken.

Portuguese Chicken
1/2 c flour
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t smoked paprika
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t thyme
1 4 lb chicken, cut in pieces, or I used 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut up
3T olive oil
1 lb ground chorizo
1 diced medium onion
2 c diced potatoes
2 peppers julienned (I used red and yellow)
1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 head garlic, peeled and split into cloves
1 c mixed pitted green and black olives
1/4 c capers
1 c white wine or port or sherry
1 c chicken stock
1/2 c chopped flat leaf parsley or cilantro
Red pepper flakes to taste
1/2 t smoked paprika
1/2 chopped green onions
Salt and plenty of black pepper
 2 c saffron or white rice, cooked
Fresh Parmesan shredded

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in your dutch french oven.Combine seasonings and flour in a zip lock bag. Add cut up chicken pieces and coat well with flour mixture. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and sear until golden brown on each side. Remove chicken from skillet when brown (It is best to do this in two batches as crowded chicken takes longer to brown.)

Add chorizo and brown while breaking up. Add onions, potatoes and peppers. Cook for bout 2 minutes, stirring a bit. Add tomatoes, shallots, garlic, olives and capers. Season with salt and pepper, smoked paprika. Stir in wine or port or sherry, chicken broth, parsley or cilantro and capers. Add back chicken.

Bring liquid back to boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer the chicken and vegetables about 45 minutes.

Add crushed red pepper flakes and chopped green onions. Test for seasonings.

Mound the rice in center of plate. Arrange chicken around rice. Garnish with cheese. Serve with good bread for dipping.

Other good food to try:
Chicken Scarpariello
Linguini with White Clam Sauce
Moroccan Fish with Saffron Lime Aioli
Tuscan Beans and Potatoes

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Not My Mama's Meat Loaf or Cap'n Crunch Meat Loaf

Not My Mama's Meat Loaf
The last 5 days found me on the East coast celebrating family. It began in Philly where my husband, son and I picked up our daughter before heading up north of NYC. Special doesn't begin to describe what it is when a family comes together that has been apart. Well, it might not seem so important to them, but to a mother who still hasn't gotten over her kids leaving home, it was very heartwarming. Our lives have been kind of stressful for awhile and this was one way to set that all aside and focus on what is really important. Family makes me feel whole. It allows me to center on what is right in the world and lets me feel that everything will turn out OK. If the kids are happy, then at least for a little while, I can set my cares aside and zero in on what is good.

This was a good eating trip. My daughter made sure of that. We started at the Szechuan Hans Dynasty near U Penn and had a spicy, mouthwatering experience. My son and husband thought they were back in China. My husband had to have beef tendons which were like shaved thin slices of cellophane in an extremely spicy hot, though the dish was cold, sauce. My son had fried potatoes fried with a bazillion, really a bazillion, red hot chili peppers and some star anise. He said he has never found them in the states before. And then we had the Dan Dan noodles which were my favorite. My mouth is salivating right now. The potstickers were superb and the chicken with vegetables and garlic and hot peppers was fresh and full of flavor. Please Hans, consider Denver. I beg you!

The next day we left for New York and the Bar Mitzvah that awaited us. This is what I can say as a fact. New Yorkers are over the top. Denver seems sedate compared to this party. I haven't danced like that since their last Bat Mitzvah. And that was good because I have a lot of calories to work off. They began the partay with a sushi bar and all the junk food goodies. Fries and lamb chops and mini tacos and I guess I can't remember in detail, because I think I was already on my second lemon drop martini. Dinner was  healthy halibut, but dessert was mini style hostess hohos and dingdongs and donuts. Like I said, it was amazing. But seeing family is over the top in my book and it's too bad we don't live closer!

So after that and the Sleepy Hollow cemetery, well, someone has to visit, we headed back to Philly. We did manage to rub Andrew Carnegie's headstone and William Rockefeller's for good luck, of course. And we saw Washington Irving's, too. There were lots of folks buried there and we wished them all well. It was a beautiful spot, high on a hill. Definitely a good view for eternity.

Sunday found my son quickly hopping the train into the Big Apple where he finished his weekend eating at Momofuku. Lucky boy. I think I taught him well. We drove with my daughter back to Philly and had a quiet evening alone with her in her cute little studio. She took my husband for burgers and as I don't eat burgers, I had a shrimp sandwich. We then watched The Apprentice and off to bed until we ate a really awesome breakfast. The potatoes were killer and I love potatoes.

Got back to Denver safely to arrive in freezing cold blowing snow. This is ridiculous to have weather like we've had at the end of April. But today looks gorgeous outside and the grass is very green. We might even have managed to avoid a drought, but I doubt it. And after all that crazy eating we felt like something comforting. And when I want comfort I usually think mashed potatoes. And if I think mashed potatoes I then think meat loaf. Now this isn't my mama's meat loaf. My mom did the onion soup variety with ketchup and I think she used Heinz chili sauce but this is not a verified fact. 

I decided to try something different. A while ago we ate in one of those hip breakfast spots where they used cereal in their meat loaf. Kid's cereal. Now the waitress didn't know for sure how they did it, but this meat loaf had a pleasant, sweet, salty taste and it wasn't heavy. They sliced it and lightly floured it and used it as a bed for fried eggs and potatoes. Well, this got me thinking. I do too much of that, really. But I decided to go buy me some Cap'n Crunch and experiment. I must admit, I really liked this meatloaf. Just like I took a leap of faith on baking that last cake, you'll have to trust me on this. Yeah, it sounds really weird. (Kind of like sweet gefilte fish weird), but it is really good. And if you don't want to use the Cap'n, you can always use oh so boring bread.

Not My Mama's Meat Loaf (Serves 4-5)

Time to Make: About 90 total, 15 minutes active
Serves 4-8
1 1/2 c Cap'n Crunch plus 1/3 c for mixing in or 3 slices crumbled bread
2/3 c milk
2 eggs
Salt, pepper, garlic powder
1/3 c chopped onion
1 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
19 oz ground turkey or use 1 1/2 ground beef for turkey and pork
4 oz ground pork
1/4 c ketchup
1/4 c brown sugar
1 T prepared mustard
Directions: Crush 1 1/2 c Cap'n Crunch. Let soak in 2/3 c milk until soggy, about 15 minutes. Add beaten eggs and seasonings and onions. Add 3/4 cheese and turkey and pork. Stick your hands in and mush it around. Add 1/3 c uncrushed Cap'n Crunch. Now take a tiny spoonful, put it in a dish and put in microwave for about 20 seconds. Taste it. If you need to add more seasonings, this is the time. 

Shape into a loaf  in a 2 qt baking dish. Mix ketchup, brown sugar and mustard and spread on top and sides of loaf. Top with 1/4 c of remaining cheese. Bake at 350 for about an hour. If you use turkey this may create a lot of meat juice. I just pour it off about halfway through so the sides of the loaf bake, not steam!

This is a good one. The rabbit catcher husband liked the tiny bits of sweet crunch that the whole cereal provides. Give this a try!

 You May Also Want To Try:

Sloppy Jose
Boboli Pizza
Skillet Cornbread
Patatas Bravas
Elote Corn in a Bowl
Tuscan Beans and Potatoes
Hashbrown Spud Cups

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Brown Sugar Spice Cake with Caramel Glaze or Friendship Cake

Baking a cake is something that happens rarely in our home. I love to bake but generally it is cookies or brownies or other sweets that appear on my plate. It is not that I don't like cake. I love cake but usually two people have a hard time finishing off an entire cake. Cookies can be frozen and well, it's just easier to pick up a cookie and eat it on the run. Can't do that with cake. And maybe that's why cake is so special.

Cake is meant to be enjoyed while sitting at  table. Cake is meant to be served on a plate with a fork and a napkin. Cake is special. Cake means conversation and a break in the day. It is good with tea or coffee or milk. It is good for beginning friendships and for renewing them.  It is good to begin your day or to end it. Cake is pure pleasure.

There are many different kinds of cakes. Special cakes are for special occasions. They are pretty and covered with sinful frosting and sometimes delicate flowers. There are ultra rich cakes where "only a sliver" truly applies. There are bundt cakes that are fun for bridge club or for picnics or for the school bake sale. There are loaf cakes and pound cakes where only the freshest berries should be served along side. Without a doubt there are cupcakes, but today is not that kind of day.

Today is about old fashioned cakes. Cakes that are good just for the cake and not what's on top. Cakes that are easy to make and always turn out. Old fashioned cakes like our grandmas used to make. (Well, I'm not sure about my grandmas.) But I did get this recipe from an old Wisconsin cookbook. It was a leap of faith cake. One that I wasn't sure was written right. It called for putting the cake in an ungreased baking pan. I don't think I've ever done that. But I did. And just like new friendships waiting to be discovered this cake rose with splendor and gave the signal to dive right in. 

The smell of this cake was enough to drive the rabbit catcher up from the basement. It is enticing and filled  the air with the scent of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg and allspice. The caramel glaze is simple to make and tempting enough to burn your tongue on. I think it would be superlative on ice cream and though it just sinks into the cake, its flavor is not lost. The moisture and stickiness that it gives makes this cake sinful. And this is a cake that lasts. Its flavor gets better with age as the spices permeate the interior. I don't think I've ever made a moister cake and that is another reason this cake will keep. If there is such a thing as keeping cakes...

Yesterday I made a new friend. The day before I made a new cake. Both are good things... 

Brown Sugar Spice Cake with Caramel Glaze

2 c all purpose unbleached flour
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 T cinnamon
1 T nutmeg freshly grated (I used 3/4 t or leave out)
1 T allspice
1 c vegetable oil
1 c packed dark brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
3 eggs
1 t vanilla
1 c buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk-1 t vinegar mixed into 1 c of milk also works. Let it sit a few minutes to thicken.)
1 1/2 c coarsely chopped prunes that have been soaked. (I think other dried fruits such as raisins or currants, cranberries or cherries would taste good also. I soaked in hot water and Patron coffee liquor) Let soak while making cake and then drain well.)
1 c toasted walnuts or pecans or leave out

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop prunes and cover with soaking mixture. Set aside.

Combine dry ingredients together. In large bowl of mixer combine sugars and oil. Beat well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.Stir in vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk. Blend well. Add prunes and nuts and mix well.

Now take a leap of faith. Pour batter into an ungreased 9 inch tube pan with a removable bottom. Bake for about 1 hour or until tester comes out clean.

15 minutes before cake is done, prepare glaze.

Caramel Glaze

1 c sugar
1/2 c buttermilk
1/4 c butter
1/4 c light corn syrup
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t vanilla

In a 3 quart saucepan cook all ingredients over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Bring to a full rolling boil. Boil 1 minute.

When cake is taken out of oven after tester comes out clean, poke holes all over cake. Pour glaze over warm cake. Let cake sit until cool, about two hours. Run knife around inside and outside edges of cake. Turn over onto plate and remove bottom.

Prepare for a new adventure.

And a few more you may want to try:

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Sugar Cake
Martha Mervis's Coffee Cake
Kadaif or Middle Eastern Cheese Cake
Hot Fudge Cake
Triple Layer Chocolate Fudge Cake

Monday, April 15, 2013

Some Days Require St Germain Lemon Aid

St. Germain Lemon Aid

Entering the blogger world is like entering a new dimension. It's a peaceful dimension where everyone is kind and polite and sweet and we are all good looking and of course, eat incredible food. It is kind of like being in 4th grade where the teacher makes everyone say something good about each student in the class and if there's a race in PE everyone gets a ribbon. Blogging is a benign, graceful world and one I am happy to be a part of. If only life was so simple and predictable.

I think fellow bloggers appreciate what it takes to get a blog out. It involves cooking and reading and maybe research. Good photos help and writing skills certainly are an asset. And even though we may only be writing to get our thoughts on paper for future generations and not for a sizable audience it is certainly comforting to get those pat on the back comments. It's kind of like a check plus that a teacher gives for getting the job done and turned in on time. But some days it's hard to come up with anything witty or suave.

Like today. I was going to tell you what a crappy weekend I had because our basement shower backed up because the trees feel desire each spring to grow and send out new roots. And also because Mr. Rabbit Hunter didn't feel like pulling the toilet to roto rooter before it flooded. Can't say I blame him. But it obviously needed to be done as the water  that so slowly eased into his office, kindly pointed out to him after jolting him from his office chair. This of course happened while I was washing a large load of dirty clothes, so it was my fault.

But all of that seems very trite right now as I think of the Boston Marathon and all the people it affected. Though I wasn't there and didn't know anyone that was, I feel for Boston tonight. I'm thankful for all of the people that came together and the massive effort put forth to help others. I hope the terrorist sees that while he's hiding out in his dirty rat hole; while being hunted like the prey he is.

In a few weeks it will be time for my daughter's race. She's only running a half marathon and she's doing it to raise money for a cure for leukemia. It will take place in our nation's capitol and she has trained hard for it. I am proud of her. She's met her financial commitment and  now completing her race is her goal. She will run and she will run with pride. I am sure she will run with thoughts in her head that shouldn't be there. But that won't stop her. And for that I am grateful.

She isn't being courageous. She is just running. She wants to get a good time. She wants to raise money. She just wants to cross the finish line. She is no different that any other runner in that respect. She runs because it makes her feel alive. It makes her feel proud. Kind of ironic, isn't it? Runners run to live. Terrorists run to hide. 

I won't tell you that I won't be nervous on race day. I will be. I want her safe and well and out of harm's way. But more importantly I want her to live. I want her to relish each moment of life with the respect it deserves. I want her to beat her time and I want her to feel the exhilaration of crossing the finish line. And I want her to feel it every day. Isn't that what life's about? Appreciating each day and living it to the fullest.  Can't do that hiding in a hole.

A few notes:
Some days we need a little aid, if you know what I mean. If you know me, you know I love a pick me up now and then. And so much the better if it involves a cocktail made with St. Germain. St. Germain is made from elder flowers and gives a light, fresh flavor with a hint of sweetness to any drink it happens to come across, I add it to wine or Prosecco in the summer and also love it with tequila or gin or vodka. I am easily pleased. And when the rabbit hunter wants to please me he makes me this drink. He says I am nicer to him with one of these under my belt than if I had a few glasses of wine. Well, go figure. Anyone would be nicer after this. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

To fellow bloggers who love Meyer lemons. This is my contribution to Meyer lemon mania. You can use any lemons to make this though, so don't worry when Meyer lemons disappear.

Everyone need a little Aid.

St. Germain Lemon-Aid (Dedicated to Mr. Kitchen Riffs who told me to blog this drink. But he would take a better picture!)

2 shots gin
1 shot St. Germain
1/2 shot agave nectar
1 lemon squeezed

Chill one large martini glass by filling with ice and then with water.

Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker. Shake 30 times. (A bartender told me this does the trick. What the trick is I don't know.)

Pour water and ice out of martini glass. Pour liquor in. Garnish with a thin slice of lemon rind. Prepare to enter a simpler world.

In a simpler world, ironing sheets is not required.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Red Chile Breakfast Sandwich

It was a cold, gray morning here in Colorado. After the snow and freezing temperatures my poor hyacinths just didn't want to wake up. Their dark green leaves and their pink and purple flowers lay drooped in the dirt. But their scent is still strong and I am hopeful they will make a recovery. It is the only flower the rabbits ignore. But they better watch out because my husband is closing in on them. He is establishing a perimeter and slowly chasing them out of the yard and into our neighbor's. Or at least that's what he thinks. The snow allowed these rabbits to leave telltale paw prints as a clue to their whereabouts.

He has now barricaded the bottom of the fence with boards. We could see where they were trying to dig their way back in but so far no success with that. He has boarded up the bottom of the tree house so they can't crawl underneath. And he has put netting under the one big juniper shrub we have left. Frankly, I wish he'd just take the juniper out because I believe snakes live their, too. He has made his own pepper spray in the hope that if we dry out around here the smell alone would keep them away. Yes folks, it's a game of war around here. And somehow I feel we are the ones being hunted. Those rabbits are going to come back with a vengeance. I just feel it. After all, baby rabbit season is almost upon us.

In any case smelling all those chili peppers and powders and hot sauce and sriracha and vinegar and cayenne, (yes his pepper spray is one gourmet mixture) got me thinking chili's. And after 2 cold days I needed something sultry. Something spicy and warm, but still mellow. Yes, I was feeling red chile. No, not the meat and beans kind of thing. New Mexican was more what I was thinking. I wanted something to spoon over my eggs or burritos or quesadillas. Something I could use for great cheese enchiladas or nachos or to put over a burger. Yeah, I need a Mexican fix.

But it isn't even dinner time so I decided on eggs. When in doubt I almost always decide on eggs. Or potatoes. Yeah, you should know that about me. And so I decided to make my favorite red chile. It's simple and easy and fills that empty spot in my tummy. And the rabbit hunter loves it. Well, he loves anything with chilies. Red chile is different than green chile. Green chile is made with fresh chilies and red is made from dried. Green is usually spicier but it all depends on what chilies you choose to use. I make my red chile from dried chile powder where as traditionalists will reconstitute dried whole chilies and blend them and cook them down. I have done that, but today I wanted something quicker.

It used to be that the grocery only sold standard chili powder meant for making the beans and meat chili varieties. Usually it contains a blend of chile powders and maybe some cumin,garlic and oregano, Now you can find ancho chile powder, chipotle chile powder and if you look in the Mexican section you can find a few others. Generally, they are labeled as to how hot they are so keep your preference in mind. I like using ancho chile powder for its rich sweetness and chocolate overtones with a combination of a more standard mild New Mexican chile powder like molido. It is fun to experiment and come up with your own favorite flavors.

The chile is easy to make and I am sure you will be able to come up with a million or so ways to use it. I made a quick breakfast sandwich with chorizo and cheese and a fried egg. Then I spooned chile all over so that the bread soaked it up. I could have used a tortilla but in this case the bread really held its own. This would be perfect for brinner! Or lunch! or breakfast. And it may even give you energy to catch a few rabbits!

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And a Few Others You Might Like:

Green Chili Poached Eggs with Cheddar and Bacon

Corn and Green Chile Quesadillas
Sloppy Jose
Green Chile
Elote Corn in a Bowl
Green Onion Garlic Chive Skillet Cornbread

New Mexican Red Chile (adapted from A Real American Breakfast by Cheryl and Bill Jamison)

2 T vegetable oil
1 medium onion minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 c dried, mild, red chile powder (I used 1/2c ancho and 1/4 c molido)
28 oz chicken stock or water or beef
1 t dried Mexican oregano
salt as needed

Warm oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is limp. Stir in chile and let toast a minute while stirring. Add stock, 1 cup at a time. Stir well. Add oregano and salt and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to a bare simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes until thickened. (This is a thin sauce but you may want to simmer it longer if you want a thicker consistency.)

This sauce does keep for a few weeks in the fridge. You can freeze it also, but I think if it is in your fridge you will find a way to use it.

New Mexican Breakfast Sandwich (Serves 4)
Hearty Bread (I used Ecce Pannis White Country Loaf sliced on the diagonal to give me a big thick slice)
4 T butter
1 lb fresh  ground chorizo
1 c grated cheese (I used cheddar but you may use your favorite)
1 egg per person
 2 chopped green onions
2 T chopped cilantro
Red Chile Sauce (see above)

Cook chorizo in skillet over medium heat. It crumbles easier if cooked on a lower heat and not on a high heat.

Slice bread into thick slices. Toast and butter. Keep warm.

Grate cheese and chop cilantro and onions.

After chorizo is cooked remove from skillet. Add 1T butter and melt. Slowly crack one egg into skillet and fry-one per person to your favorite degree of doneness. (Personally, I scramble mine but the rabbit hunter likes his fried).

Top bread with a layer of chorizo. Top that with shredded cheese. Top that with the egg. Now ladle red chile on top. Garnish with cilantro and green onions.

Prepare for a sultry, warm, rich, taste to enchant your senses. This is red chile!

Red Chile. OLE!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Not My Mama's Chicken Pot Pie

Not My Mama's Chicken Pot Pie
Let me start by saying that my mama never made chicken pot pie. She bought chicken pot pie.  And it was good. No, she never served pot pie for dinner but we did receive the cute mini pies when we were sick in bed or when the baby sittter was left instructions to serve it. Yes, the famous babysitter. The one who cut our Sara Lee brownies into 4 giant bites.  But one problem with the pot pies of old is that they took about 45 or 50 minutes to bake, which was a long time to wait if you were hungry. Now I think you can microwave them in a special sleeve because when the need for comfort hits, it usually requires a quick fix. 

I think they were Swanson's or Banquet chicken pot pies. I remember the box having a blue  turquoise label. We didn't have Marie Callendar's back then. But whatever brand it was had a very flaky crust. And the veggies and chicken were cut in cubes. And when you broke through the golden crust, hot steam came out. And who doesn't like there own little pie for dinner? I love pot pies. But I had never thought to make my own until  my kids were in high school. I guess I must have been really craving comfort because I remember that day when I had a refrigerated pie crust and some leftover chicken and decided to go for it. And there was no turning back then.

A few weeks ago I asked my husband what he wanted for dinner. I'm never sure why I ask because I never get an answer. Usually, he says something like,"Whatever you feel like making." Or,"Whatever sounds good to you." Or,"Anything you make is good." But that day he astounded me with a very simple answer,"I think I might like chicken pot pie." Hallelujah! I love not thinking about what to come up with for dinner.

 Lately, both of our brains have been really fried, I mean like mush, really fried. It's no secret that we've been under a lot of stress and financial worries, but (call me crazy) we still believe the rainbow is starting to appear on the horizon. I just wish it would develop a bit faster. Right now that horizon seems a little to far off and I am not a patient person. In any case, comfort food does a lot to soothe the soul. And lately we've been needing a lot of soul comforting. So enter, chicken pot pie. If only life was so simple and savory.

Colorado is in the midst of Spring. And as any Coloradoan knows snow is never far away in April. And yesterday it snowed. No, the blizzard that was predicted never showed but it did get very, very cold. Like January cold. And I wish this pot pie had been in my freezer. But it was devoured a few weeks ago. And so I pulled my photos out and decided to rewrite this recipe, because when it is cold out, I stay in. I know you will like it. I hope it will give you comfort when life is getting you down. And I hope it will give you comfort even when life is good. After all, it's usually the simple things that help set things right. And the simple things are usually the most savory.

The pot pie mixture

 Chicken Pot Pie - a few notes:

I use leftover chicken from whatever meal in my pot pie. I have also bought roast chickens at the grocery to use in pot pie and I have poached chicken breasts if necessary to use, too. I do use store bought crust but a cream cheese crust works well also. In this case, I decided to use flaky biscuit dough that I stuffed with cheddar cheese. I love these biscuits whether topping pot pie or on their own. You don't have to use cheese. They can be left plain or filled with dried fruit, or herbs or cheese or onions, or.... You get the idea, don't you? you can also add a bit more sugar and vanilla and have a great biscuit for shortcake. These are good biscuits! Flaky and tender with just a pinch of salt; I love them with honey or jam.

Before Baking
Chicken Pot Pie  Serves 4-6

3 c leftover chicken (cooked, boned and skinned) torn into chunks or diced
2 small potatoes - diced
1 c sliced carrots
3 T butter
1 c diced onions
1 c diced celery
3 T flour
1 c chicken stock
1 1/2 c milk
1 T dijon mustard
1 c grated cheddar
1 c frozen peas, thawed
1/3 c chopped Italian leaf parsley

Par boil diced potatoes in salted water for 2-3 minutes. Add sliced carrots for the last minute. When tender but still crisp, drain and reserve.

Melt 2 T butter in dutch oven. Add 1 c diced onions and 1 c diced celery. Saute over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Remove from dutch oven and reserve.

To make cheese sauce: Melt remaining 1 T butter in dutch oven over medium heat. Add 3 T flour and stir constantly until light olden in color. Add 1 c chicken stock while whisking into flour and butter. Stir in milk slowly. Cook until thickened. Add 1 T dijon mustard and stir in grated cheddar. Now add peas, parsley, chicken, potatoes and carrots and onions and celery. Leave in dutch oven and make biscuit dough to cover.

Biscuits Makes 8-12

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2 c all purpose unbleached flour
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
1 T sugar
4 T cold butter
3/4 c cold milk
1 1/2 c grated cheddar

Stir dry ingredients together in bowl. Cut in with forks or pastry blender the cold butter. Slowly stir in the cold milk until a soft dough is formed. Turn out onto a floured surface.

Knead dough a few turns and then pat into a rectangle about 12 x 9 inches. Roll bout 1/4 inch thick. Now fold in thirds and rotate dough 90 degrees. Roll again about 1/4 inch thick into a 12 x 9 rectangle. Sprinkle with cheese and fold in thirds. (like a business letter). Now roll to about 3/4 inch thick. Cut in about 8 or 9 pieces in whatever shape you want. Lay on top of chicken mixture inside the dutch oven.

Bake uncovered for about 15-20 minutes or until mixture is bubbling and biscuits are golden.

Notice the cheese.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Chocolate Brownies with Chocolate Glaze or Nobody Doesn't like Sara Lee

Chocolate Fudge Brownies with Chocolate Glaze

 Growing up my mantra might have been "Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee!". If you know the jingle from  their television commercials I apologize for this being stuck in your head for the rest of the day. And even if you don't know the jingle I hope you know Sara Lee. Sara Lee was cheesecakes with cherries and graham cracker crusts all in a foil pan and a cardboard top. For all I know they still may make those, but I know what they don't make. They don't make their chocolate fudge brownies any more. And that is sad. Very, very sad.

Sara Lee's chocolate fudge brownies were one thing we always looked forward to when my parents went out for the evening or the weekend or on vacation. That and Gino's pizza rolls. And maybe a few Swanson TV dinners. But back to brownies. I don't ever remember my mother baking brownies. She did bake chocolate chip cookies. She made a Heath Bar cake. I remember a few bundt cakes and apple pies but I don't remember brownies. And I love brownies.

 I prefer fudgy brownies over cake brownies. I don't like mixes but one day I'll tell you my secret for mixes which comes in handy if you need a pan of brownies at the last minute for a school function. Though they involve a mix they are truly decadent. But other than those I stay away from mixes. Just because I can, I guess. However, I've always been on a search for something similar to Sara Lee. 

There was always something special about the cold brownies straight from the freezer. We would thaw them just a bit while getting ready to savor our first bite.  One bite through the thick chocolate glaze and then deeper into the fudgey brownie insides laden with tiny walnut chunks would send a child to heaven. But what really sent me over the top was our baby sitter's treatment of the brownies. No joke. I still remember the time she cut the 8' foil pan of iced fudgy brownies into 4 pieces. One for her and three for us kids. She was very clearly not my mother. My mother would cut us pieces that were 1 inch squares. We loved our babysitter. And she rewarded us with treasure in the form of  fudgey brownies.

Not long ago I came across this recipe from a site I read, Creative Culinary. Barb does a lot of alcoholic beverages which are fun to read about (though I'd be happier drinking them) and also a variety of other dishes. This brownie was one that featured pinot noir and though that sounded great, what caught my eye was the way the brownie looked. It looked like I remember Sara Lee brownies looking like. And for that alone I say, THANK YOU BARB! (Soon, I'm going to meet Barb and I can't wait. I've never personally met another blogger before. Oooh, my heart is pounding with anticipation!)

So to make a long story short I made the brownies. AND they are about as close to SARA LEE as I think I'm ever going to find. I didn't use the red wine but I did use milk the first time and coffee the second. Truthfully, I couldn't tell the difference. If you need a simple but decadent brownie this is it. And I know no one ever needs a brownie but sometimes your day goes a bit better with one. That's all I'm sayin'. Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee.

So I could type out this recipe but I really think you should just click HERE and go see it at Barb's site-Creative Culinary. Her pictures are much better than mine and well, it's always good to pass the love along. And I promise these are brownies you are going to love!

I promise these are 2" pieces!

AND THE RACE IS ON: Help us find a cure!

And a few more you may want to check:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Moroccan Fish with Chickpeas and Saffron Lime Aioli or Another Skillet Dinner

Moroccan Fish with Chickpeas and Saffron Lime Aioli

 I'm not trying to become the skillet queen or anything close. But it is true that I am not a fan of dirtying too many dishes or utensils. My husband is grateful for that. However in the winter since I don't grill because of the cold, and I don't eat as many salads because I want something warm, I do tend to cook on the stove. I love to cook one dish meals  like veggies and protein  all in one pan. Then all I have to do is  add a salad or a starch. And maybe some bread. (I love bread, so that is an extra special meal when that is in the mix.) And dessert, well that is a subject better left untouched, because I love dessert. And like I said, in our house it should be untouched. But oh, how dessert can brighten your day!

So that is why today we are doing fish. SORRY! But this is a great recipe that I found in the Jewish cookbook that I checked out at the library. I am really digging this cookbook, "Jewish Holiday Cooking" by Jayne Cohen published in 2008. Surely, I've been living in another universe for awhile now otherwise I don't have a good excuse for never having heard of this book. Soon I hope to buy a copy. Yes, it really is that good. Jayne writes with conviction about the Jewish history of food and talks about how various foods became traditional. She throws in family history too. Jayne has Italian Jewish roots so her food is different than the dishes I grew up with. My family's roots are from Lithuania, Poland and Russian and my dad didn't arrive here until 1938. He was only 7.

I grew up in a small town with a small Jewish community. We didn't have a local deli or a bagel store. The Jewish food I had was cooked by someone I knew or if we were lucky after a night on the town in Chicago, my parents on their drive home would stop at a late night deli for take out. It was a lucky Sunday when we would be greeted with white butcher paper wrapped packages that contained corned beef, pastrami and lox. And a smoke fish. And a bag of onion rolls... When my grandma would visit from Detroit she would carry grocery brown paper bags of bagels on the plane to bring to us.

But enough memories. Let's stick to the book so they say. It has some great takes on traditional dishes plus some clever new Sephardic recipes that never were seen in Kankakee. At least not in my home or cooked by my mother. In any case, I hope the library doesn't mind  my dog eared pages and I am very careful about fixing them before returning my books. I mean it's not like I let grease spots get on any of the pages.

This book has all the traditional  recipes for chopped liver and kugels and soup. But Jayne is a very good cook, I can tell. She does things like Duck and White Bean Cholent and Rhubarb Prune Tsimmes. Maybe I might like these if my mom had made them with those ingredients. I can't wait to try the Artichoke Soup or the Sauteed  Chive Mamaliga with Feta Scallion Sauce. And I wouldn't mind the Challah French Toast with Mango Ginger Maple Syrup for breakfast. But that's not what's for dinner. Tonight's menu features Moroccan Fish with Chickpeas and Lentils and a Saffron-Lime Aioli. 

I simplified by using canned chickpeas and I even had a can of lentils on hand so I used that too. Improvising is my forte and I was also lacking coriander and cilantro. I love those two but what I made was very good. It was a perfect meal to end our Friday with and it was quick to make. And one skillet. Plus I have leftover aioli that I can eat on sandwiches or with my finger. Did I say healthy? No. Never mind. This is to good to be healthy-but it is!

I used ono to make this dish. Ono means good to eat in Hawaiian and it is. I buy it at Costco in the frozen section. It is a mild flavored, steak type white fish that is commonly used in fish tacos. It is also known as wahoo. This is  a great fish to bbq in the summer because of its meatiness. Don't overcook or it will dry out. And I guess it is a sports fish because it swims  fast as its body is shaped like a torpedo. Yes, I know this is more than you ever wanted to know about ono. But in case you still play trivial pursuit, you just never know when this info may come in handy. 

Ono is good to eat!

Moroccan Fish with Chickpeas, Lentils and Saffron Lime Aioli  (Jewish Holiday Cooking) Serves 2 but can be doubled

1 15 oz can garbanzos
1 15 oz can brown lentils (or just two cans of one or the other)
8 garlic cloves sliced
1 t red chili flakes or 4-6 dried red hot chili peppers 
4-5 T olive oil
1/2 t ground coriander (This has a lemony taste. If you don't have it leave it out!)
Salt and Pepper
2 ono fillets thawed or 1 lb snapper, cod, haddock or other firm fleshed white fish
2 T fresh lemon or lime juice
1 t cumin seeds toasted and ground (I used 1/2 t ground cumin because cumin isn't my fave)
1/4 c chopped cilantro (I was out so I used Italian parsley)
1 t grated lime or lemon zest (I used 1 T)

Combine chickpeas and lentils with 1/2 c water, garlic, pepper flakes or peppers, 2T olive oil coriander and salt and pepper in skillet. (I use my 12" cast iron.) Simmer over low heat, covered for 30 minutes to marry the flavors.

Preheat oven to 350.

Now prepare the aioli.

Saffron Lime Aioli
Saffron threads
1/2 c good quality mayonnaise (I use Hellman's)
2 T fresh lime juice
1 T good olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely minced
3/4 t toasted cumin seeds ground (I used a pinch)
Salt and Pepper

Crush a pinch of saffron threads into a small bowl. Add 1 T hot water and stir. Let soak for about 10 minutes. Press threads with back of spoon to release more color and flavor. Stir in mayonnaise, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Let flavor develop while you make the fish.
Back to the Fish:

Discard pepper pods if you used those from chickpeas. Place the fish fillets on top of chickpeas and season with 2 T lemon or lime juice, cumin and salt and pepper. Top with 2 T chopped cilantro. (I used Italian parsley) Spoon a few chickpeas on top of fish. Drizzle everything with 2 T of olive oil. 

Cover the pan with foil and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. This depends on the variety of the fish used!

To Serve:
Scatter remaining 2 T cilantro or parsley, the lime or lemon zest, and more chili flakes if you prefer over the fish. Stir some of the aioli into the chickpeas and pan liquid. Drizzle a little over the fish and pass the rest separately. Or save to dip your fingers into on another day! 

Enjoy the ono!