Monday, March 30, 2015

Mini Chicken Pot Pies


Pie crust is one of my worst subjects, pie crust and frosting cakes. In a blind taste test no one would know but I can't make them look pretty. There are worse things. 
Today while figuring out what to make for dinner while also figuring out how to not go to the grocery store, this came together...
Mini Chicken Pot Pies
Crust:
2 sticks of cold butter cut up
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold water
Filling:
1 onion diced
3 celery stalks diced
3 carrots diced
1 cup frozen petite peas
1 lb chicken breast chopped
Veg oil
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup half & half
Tbs butter
Chicken broth 2 cups
Salt, pepper, garlic powder,  herbs de Provence 
In a food processor, pulse flour and salt. Add butter and pulse until it resembles coarse crumbs. Drizzle most of the cold water and continue to pulse until it starts coming together. Turn out to a floured board and work in remaining water by kneading. Make 2 discs, wrap in plastic and refrigerate. 
In a large sauté pan cook veggies in some veg oil until they just become slightly tender. Add a tbs of butter and  Make room for chicken, season everything with salt pepper, garlic, and herbs. Sauté until fully cooked. Sprinke 1/4 cup of flour and stir until cooked. Add 1 cup of broth until combined, add 1/2 cup half & half and stir until thickened. Add remaining broth, stirring constantly. While we are on the broth subject, I purchased this by accident 
And decided to try it. I like to flavor things myself but this worked really well for the sauce, it gave it a nice rich taste. Nice job College Inn!
You want the sauce pretty thick but not pasty. 
Let that sit and cool a bit. Preheat your oven to 375 and get your dough out. Roll it out pretty thin and see how many mini pie plates you can get out of the first rolling. I have a variety of sizes here; 3 individual tarts, 1 topless ramekin, and a small pie dish that's bigger than a tart but smaller than a pie because my husband would not be full on a tart size. So, you line the plates that you are using,  you may have to roll out the next disc for the last one but that's ok (says the unskilled pie maker) the tops use less dough to cover. Scoop the filling with a ladle and put a top on it. Crimp the edges (do it nicer than mine). I had extra filling so that's how I ended up with that topless ramekin. Waste not, want not. Brush tops with egg wash, and cut some airholes. 
Bake on an old baking sheet, because they will probably leak, for 30-40 minutes until golden and bubbling. 
 





Monday, March 23, 2015

Death by baking


If spring doesn't arrive soon, my family may die from homemade baked goods! By the looks of it, Spring is taking its time. 
When it's cold out, I cook and I bake and then I bake something else. I typically work 7 days a week for weeks at a time but I had the ENTIRE WEEKEND OFF. It was glorious and dangerous at the same time. Yesterday I baked these unbelievably good oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. 
This wouldn't be so bad if I didn't try to kill my family with these potatoes for dinner. 
They were delicious. I tried to make them less deadly by using smaller potatoes, using less cheese and bacon 
Oh and burning the parsley by forgetting that they were under the broiler. 
Oh, and the day before I made this apple pie that was declared as "the best pie ever" by three family members. 

Crumb topped Apple pie with homemade crust, two types of Apple and a brown sugar and oat crumb topping. 

It really was quite good. 

Here's a double tip for bakers, although maybe everyone does this already, I don't know. 

I store my flour in a lock-tight plastic bin and dedicate an entire set of measuring cups to this bin. I never have to search for or dirty a separate cup for flour. Also, because I have a ridiculously small counter area, I open my silverware drawer and place my flour bin on it while I'm working. I do this with Baking sheets as well when I need a little extra space. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

bunny bag and general craftiness



It's been a good week as far as getting crafty goes, nothing too crazy but I will take any creative time I can get! So I made this cute little bunny bag, what follows isn't really a tutorial because it's a basic lined tote bag that you can find a million tutorials for out there on the web. I will offer you a tip on cutting burlap that is imperative. I am all about shortcuts and getting things done quickly but cutting burlap is where I follow the rules. After you measure where you would like to cut, find a strand that is at your cutting line

and gently ease it out of the fabric by bunching it and holding the strand while you smooth it back

If it breaks (and it probably will), just find the end and unweave it by pulling it out with a pin until you have a long enough thread to pull, bunch and smooth until it is free. Once it is out you will cut on that empty space and it will be a perfect straight cut.


I thought an aqua polka dot oilcloth bunny would be a cute idea. You can trace a shape onto the back or just wing it like I did.


I pinned this on (pins are a no-no for oilcloth but I am not about the rules today) and did a simple zigzag stitch around the edges.  I love the look of shiny oilcloth against the natural burlap! I happened to have a matching twill tape that I used for the straps and a cute floursack print for the lining.
That's it! Ready to give as an Easter gift. 

This week was Spirit week at my Julia's high school so we had to come up with different costumes every day, it's so much fun! Here are three:
Barnacle Boy


101 Dalmations



Tacky Florida Tourist
Not pictured are Green Alien and Star Wars day. 
My creative soul is happy. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Pasta CeCe

Pasta with chick peas...one of my favorites! This is a good meatless meal (use white wine and pasta water in place of chicken stock) for lent. Here's how I make mine:
1 can chick peas drained and rinsed
2 onions sliced thinly 
4 cloves garlic chopped or crushed
Olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley chopped
A few splashes of chicken stock
1 lb pasta
While pasta water is heating, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil. 

Once they are cooked down and carmelizing, season with salt and pepper
And add chick peas. Mash them a bit to break them up or else they will roll all over the plate when you eat. 
At this point you need a little liquid to loosen everything up. A few good splashes should do it (appr. 1cup)
Add parsley and check seasoning. Toss with cooked pasta and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and lots of grated cheese. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Puttanesca

This is another dish that I can throw together at any given time, which also means it never comes out the same twice. The one thing that is a given is that there will never be anchovies in it if I'm making it. I absolutely love puttanesca sauce made with anchovies but I am still not over my 23 year pregnancy aversion to the sight and smell of them, therefore I can't cook with them. It's very sad. Fresh tomatoes are my usual go to but none today.  Here is how this one was made:

Olive oil
4-5 cloves crushed and/or sliced garlic
I diced onion
Crushed red pepper to taste
Fresh chopped parsley and basil
Tomatoes- canned diced 
1/2 cup Chopped olives- black, calamata, or oil cured
Roasted peppers chopped
2 tbs capers
1 lb pasta
Grated Parmesan
While pasta water is boiling, Sauté garlic and onion (anchovies too) until tender. Add red pepper flakes, olives, roasted peppers. 
Add tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and simmer over medium heat until the sauce cooks down slightly. 
Toss in chopped herbs and cooked pasta. Serve with grated cheese. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Super crunchy chicken strips


This falls into the not healthy section of my recipes but it's really good, and my Julia might starve to death if I didn't make them every few weeks. Here's what you need: 
Boneless chicken breast cut into strips
Buttermilk
Spice mix (see below)
Flour
Vegetable oil for frying 
Season chicken and pour buttermilk I've to cover, you'll want excess milk. 

Let that soak at least 30 minutes or even overnight. In a pie plate, add some flour and seasoning 
and put an inch of oil in a fry pan and heat to med-high. 
Take one chicken strip at a time and dip into flour, back in milk and back in flour. You want it to look lumpy, that's what makes the good crunch. 

When you get 4-5 done drop them in oil. 
Let them get deep golden brown on the bottom before turning  
Depending on size of strips I would say 3-5 minutes per side. Adjust heat as needed, you want the chicken to cook through without the outside being over done. Drain on a wire rack and serve warm.  These stay really crisp even when they are cold. You can serve with any sauce. 
Spice Blend:
This is my go-to blend for a lot of things, mainly chicken. I love how it looks like sand art before I mix it. Here's what's in the jar:
Coarse black pepper, kosher salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper.  
Shake it up and save yourself some time when you are seasoning with your go-to spices, it's way cheaper than a blend you buy and you control the flavor!

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Double chocolate banana cake


This cake tastes way more "unhealthy" than it could be or is. The amount of banana in it allows you to cut back on the fat you add and you can hide some whole wheat flour in here as well. 
Here's what you need: 
4-5 over ripened bananas 
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cups of flour (ap and/or whole wheat)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
I cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 and generously grease a bundt pan. 

Mash banana with baking soda and set aside. 
Cream butter and sugar with a mixer and add eggs. 
Add the flour, salt mixture a little at a time until blended. Add banana, vanilla, and cocoa powder and mix just until blended. 
Stir in chocolate chips and pour into greased bundt pan. 
Bake for 55 minutes. Let cool a bit and invert onto a plate.
 At this point you can sprinkle with confectioners sugar or a decadent chocolate ganache.