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Chicken Pot Pie

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I am mad at myself because I forgot to type up/have a hard copy of the recipe I wanted to post today to share with you, so I'm digging through my "to be posted" folder on my computer and thought you might enjoy this one, especially if it's cold where you live.  I first saw this recipe in a 2008 issue of Kraft Food and Family magazine and thought it a nice spin on chicken pot pie.  I've made it at least once or twice (or more) each winter, and I even took it to a couple who had just had a new baby, so it makes a good food for taking to people as well. 



It's not necessarily that chicken pot pie needed updating or improving, but I didn't really know how to make it to begin with, and many times its richness and heaviness made it one of those foods you should pretty much never eat.  This is why I like this recipe; it's light enough that you don't feel bad eating it and it's a fairly quick spin on the original as well. 



The main change I make to this recipe is that I substitute an equal amount of cream cheese for the Velveeta for health and flavor reasons.  I also usually use chicken thighs in place of chicken breasts.  If you don't mind dark meat then definitely make this substitution. 



Updated Chicken Pot Pie
from Kraft Foods

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
2 Tbsp.  KRAFT Zesty Italian Dressing (or just 2 Tb oil of any kind)
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, corn, green beans, peas)
1 can  (10-3/4 oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup
1/4 lb. (4 oz.) VELVEETA Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 sheet  frozen puff pastry (1/2 of 17.3-oz. pkg.), thawed
1 egg, beaten
 
HEAT oven to 400ºF.

COOK and stir chicken in dressing in large skillet on medium heat 5 min. or until chicken is done. Stir in vegetables and soup. Spoon into 9-inch square baking dish sprayed with cooking spray; top with VELVEETA.

UNFOLD pastry sheet; place over chicken mixture. Fold under edges of pastry; press onto top of baking dish to seal. Brush with egg. Cut several slits in pastry to permit steam to escape. Place dish on baking sheet.

BAKE 30 min. or until crust is deep golden brown. Let stand 5 min. before serving.

Notes
  • It's already been mentioned, but I use cream cheese instead of Velveeta and chicken thighs in place of the breasts.
  • A word on puff pastry- it's great but you need to take it out of the freezer about 20 minutes before you start or it'll crack and break.  That's not irreparable, but it's a bit of a pain. 

Spicy Black Bean Soup

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All this cold weather must have me in the mood for Mexican type food and the warmth it evokes because today's dish is just as south of the border in its flavors as those fajitas I posted on Monday.  Hey, if you can't take a vacation to the tropics, at least cook with those ingredients!  I am also apparently on an Everyday Food magazine kick, too, because that's where this recipe was found, along with something like 20 other recipes I have bookmarked in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue. 

So back to the soup- I loved this!  The pureed beans give it a nice, thick heartiness and the onions are a delicious addition, as well.  The squeeze of lime juice brightens up the flavor and when garnished with avocado and tortilla chips, well, it's all I need.  It's also a really inexpensive dinner, which always suits me.

 

The recipe makes about two quarts of soup, which will feed four to six people at one time.  I find this soup hearty enough to be its own main dish, but you could definitely pair it with some bread, cornbread, a quesadilla, or a baked potato. 

I couldn't find a link to this recipe off the Martha Stewart website, but will post the recipe as it appears in the magazine and put their alternate suggestions, along with my own in my notes section.

Spicy Black Bean Soup
from Everyday Food, January/February 2011

1 lb. black beans, soaked approx 8 hours
2 large yellow onions, diced
2 jalapeños, minced
1 Tb. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced, pressed, or grated
2 tsp. cumin
1 3/4 cups vegetable broth
1 Tb. corn starch
2 Tb. lime juice, from 2 limes
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Chopped avocado, salsa, sour cream, tortilla chips, etc, for topping

1.  In a medium saucepan, cover beans with cold water by 2 inches. Add one-quarter each of onions and jalapenos and bring to a boil over high. Reduce to a rapid simmer; cook until beans are tender, 45-50 minutes.


2.  In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and remaining onions; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until onions are soft and golden brown;, about 10 minutes. Stir in remaining jalapenos, cumin, beans and their cooking liquid, and broth. Bring to a simmer and cook until beans are soft, about 20 minutes (if necessary, add up to 1 cup water to keep beans covered while simmering).


3.  Transfer 2 cups soup to a blender and add cornstarch. Puree until smooth. Return to pot. Cook, stirring, until soup thickens, 1-2 minutes. Add lime juice and season with salt/pepper to taste.


Notes
  • The original recipe suggests that if you do not have time for the beans to soak, you can use the rapid soak method, which involves bringing the beans, along with 2 qt. water, to boil in a pot.  Boil for two minutes and then turn off the heat and let them soak in that liquid for one hour.  Or, you can use 3-15.5 oz cans of black beans, drained and rinsed, along with 3 cups water.  If you use canned beans, start with step 2. 
  • My note- if you soak your own beans, don't throw out that liquid.  Just use it and add more to cover the beans with 2 inches of water.  I also added maybe 1/4-1/2 tsp. salt in step 1. 
  • I used chicken broth instead of vegetable because I had an open box in my fridge I needed to use.  The flavor was great.  You only really need to be picky if you have dietary restrictions.
  • I did use two jalapeños, and the soup wasn't very spicy to me, and I'm pretty sensitive to spice.  Being the dead of winter, it could have been that no pepper is at its tasteful peak, but use these at your discretion. 
  • If you forget to put the corn starch in with the reserved portion to blend like I did, DO NOT add it to the whole soup mixture.  It will clump up and not be good eats.  Just leave it out if you forget.  The soup will just be slightly thinner. 

Seared Steak Fajita Tacos

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As you'll see, the recipe as it is printed doesn't specify that this dish is a taco, but that's how we ate it, and we loved it.  In my effort to try more recipes from the plethora that I have purchased in magazines, books, and printed via the internet, I tried these this weekend, and found them to be an economical and tasty meal that allows you to have your steak, but in lesser quantities, and delicious vegetables as an accompaniment.  The lime and soy marinade gives the steak a nice flavor while allowing it to maintain its beefiness, and the peppers and onions are amazing.  Another accolade of this meal is that it's quick (once the meat is marinated)!  While the meat marinates, you can chop the vegetables and then relax.  Everything comes together in around 1 hr, 15 minutes, including marinating time. 

You start by marinating beef in a lime and soy marinade:

   

Then you sear it in a hot pan.  The trick is to pat the meat dry with paper towels, season it with salt and pepper, and then stick it on the pan.  The original directions said to cook 2 minutes per side for med-rare.  That's a little too rare for me, so we cooked it three minutes per side.  I guess our cut of steak was thinner than the one the recipe testers used, because ours was almost well done.  So, you'll need to work that out yourself.  Next, you remove the beef and, without cleaning the pan, throw in the peppers and onions.  They start out like this:

And then reduce down to this:
All the while picking up the browned bits (fond) that the steak left behind.  As an old friend would say, it's so good it'll make you slap your mama.

Then, of course, you put it all together in either flour or corn tortilla shells and enjoy.  We topped ours off with canned diced tomatoes and chiles and avocado.  This was a great meal- make it soon!

Note: I am linking to the original recipe (click the recipe title to be taken to the original recipe) and writing the recipe as I made it.  Not too much variation, but enough that I wanted to do it that way.

Seared Steak Fajitas
from Everyday Food, October 2010

3/4 lb. top round steak
1 Tb. soy sauce
1/4 c. plus 1 tb fresh lime juice, plus more lime wedges for squeezing over the finished meal (approx. 3 limes)
1 Tb. extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic cloved, minced, grated, or pressed through a garlic press
Salt and pepper, for sprinkling over the steak and vegetables
1 large white onion, sliced thin
2 bell peppers, sliced thin
8 flour tortillas
1 avocado, sliced (optional)
1- 10.5 oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles (optional).

Combine 1/4 c. lime juice with the soy sauce in a shallow dish; place the steak in the dish, coating with the marinade, and marinate 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over med-low heat with the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Place into a small dish and add 1 tb. lime juice.  Set garlic-lime oil aside. 

Remove steak from marinade and pat dry with paper towels.  Season each side with salt and pepper.  In a cast iron or other heavy skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium high heat.  Cook 2 minutes per side or until to your liking.  Remove the steak from the pan; place on a plate and cover loosely with foil to let it rest.  Add the peppers and onion to the pan; season with salt and pepper.  Saute until crisp-tender, about 6 mintues.  Remove from the pan and toss with the reserved garlic-lime oil.  Thinly slice the steak and serve with the tortillas, vegetables, and any desired toppings, such as avocado, diced tomatoes, jalapeños, etc.

Poor Man's Supper

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Here's a post for lots of people- dieters, cost conscious, vegans/vegetarians, those who like little prep, or if you're from my church, those undergoing a Daniel fast.  Now for the educational component of the blog: Poor Man's Supper is, after looking around on the internet, a sort of category of recipes that usually have their origins in the cooking of the early 20th Century, particularly during the Great Depression.  Now it's used here in the South to indicate a meal, usually put on by churches or civic organizations, to fund raise or socialize and is comprised of beans, cornbread, and other lower cost items.  In my case, a recipe my mom used to make for us made out of beans is known to us as Poor Man's Supper.  I have no idea where she got the recipe, but it's a favorite from when I was a kid, and it's incredibly cheap, easy, and versatile, and healthy.   

The recipe utilizes canned beans, all of which I purchased for under $1 a can.  I actually cooked dried pintos for the pinto bean portion.  So, in the case of versatility, you could either use cans (the easy and quick way) or you could, for most of the beans called for, cook dried beans (still easy, but takes a little longer).  My mom's recipe instructs you to throw everything in a slow cooker and let it go, but I am sure you could make this on the stove top if you wanted. 

The beans are great when topped with a little chow-chow relish, hot sauce, and/or finely diced raw onion.  Serve with cornbread and your choice of potatoes, mac and cheese, or cooked greens, and you have a great meal. 

Poor Man's Supper
from my mom's recipe collection

1-15 oz can each:
    Pinto Beans
    Butter Beans
    Navy Beans
    Great Northern Beans
    Chili/Mexi Beans
1 large onion, sliced

Pour the contents of each can and place the sliced onion into a slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours. 

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

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Along with the salmon that I posted about on Thursday, we had twice baked sweet potatoes.  These are a great side dish to accompany nearly any meal.  They're easy to make, healthy, and fairly quick.  I first saw the recipe in one of the Kraft Food and Family magazines a couple years ago, and have made them a few times.  Each time I've made them Drew is pleasantly surprised and we both eat until there is no more.  The recipe itself makes enough to feed two very hearty eaters to four normal/lighter eaters. 



Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes
by Kraft Foods

2 large sweet potatoes
2 oz.  (1/4 of 8-oz. pkg.) cream cheese (1/3 reduced fat suggested)
2 Tbsp. fat-free milk
1 Tbsp.  brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup  chopped pecans
 
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Cut the sweet potatoes in half and place them, cut side down on a baking sheet (line the sheet with foil or parchment for less mess).  Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork.
 
Remove from the oven, scoop out the centers, and place into a medium bowl.  Add all other ingredients except the pecans and stir to combine. 
 
Fill the potato skins or shells back with the mixture and top with the chopped pecans.  Place back into the oven and bake another 8 minutes or until the potatoes are heated through and the nuts lightly toasted. 
 
 
 
 

Maple Glazed Salmon

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I am excited to share this recipe with you, as it has been a favorite with Drew and me for a few years now.  When the salmon is good quality and on sale, we love to buy some and make this recipe.  One thing about salmon (or other fish) is that I like to buy the wild Alaskan salmon. The problem is usually the cost and availability of said salmon.  I can only find it in one grocery store in my area, and it's usually out of my price range.  I finally got smart last week and, catching it on sale, purchased almost four pounds, already frozen, and am now storing them in the freezer.  See, this way I can take out what I need and there's none of the thawing and refreezing business that messes up the texture.  So, there's a tip- when you see a fish you like on sale at your grocery store and you want to stock up, ask the guy behind the counter if there are any fillets still in the freezer.  They usually look a lot better and are much fresher than what's in the case.

 

So, on to this recipe.  I can't remember what made me want to try it other than Drew, but this is the recipe that turned me on to salmon, and I've probably made it at least a dozen times, which is pretty frequently for me.  The maple syrup and soy sauce come together to create a great marinade/glaze with contrasts between sweet and salty, mellow and sharp.  The garlic also rounds out the flavor.  I may add sliced green onions in the future. 

Maple Salmon
from allrecipes.com, courtesy of Starflower

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound salmon

In a small bowl, mix the maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, garlic salt, and pepper.


Place salmon in a shallow glass baking dish, and coat with the maple syrup mixture. Cover the dish, and marinate salmon in the refrigerator 30 minutes, turning once.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Place the baking dish in the preheated oven, and bake salmon uncovered 20 minutes, or until easily flaked with a fork.


Notes
Nothing really, just an apology for the top picture- the fish doesn't look so whole and  pretty because I took off the thin part of the fillet so that it wouldn't be overdone when the thicker part of the fish was actually cooked.  For prettier pictures, click the link just above the recipe.

Peter Reinhart's Cinnamon Rolls

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Happy New Year!  The #1 resolution people to make is to lose weight.  If you've resolved to lose weight, I am sorry that this post will not help you.  It will, however, give you a delicious, homemade treat. 

I had wanted to make homemade cinnamon rolls for a while, and chose Peter Reinhart's recipe from previous successes with his recipes.  These are good, but unfortunately, I'd still prefer store bought, so I'm still searching for my holy grail recipe.  I am not sure if it was the cinnamon to sugar ratio or the bread to filling ratio or what.  I can tell you that they are better the day after they're baked, reheated, and re-iced.  They get gooier. 



Making cinnamon rolls from scratch takes a long time, but you will be rewarded by the praise you receive when you serve these and tell people they're homemade, as well as being able to control ingredients, ratios, and toppings.  They also make a lot of rolls, so you'll be able to give them as a gift or freeze them for later enjoyment.  This particular recipe divides the work into two days, but I still recommend making them the day before you'll want them.

I made a simple milk and powdered sugar icing to go on top of mine.  The second batch I put in a bit of light corn syrup and that helped to keep it smoother and to prevent it from hardening up as the rolls cooled. 



Cinnamon Buns
from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday

Dough
6 1/4 cups (28 oz) unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp (.5 oz) salt or 1 tb Kosher salt
6 Tb (3 oz) sugar
5 tsp (.55 oz) instant yeast
2 cups plus 2 Tb (17 oz) lukewarm milk (not skim)
1/2 c (4 oz) vegetable oil or melted unsalted butter
zest of 1/2 lemon, 1 Tb lemon extract, or 1/2 tsp. lemon oil (optional)

Topping
3 Tb (1.5 oz) ground cinnamon
3/4 cup (6 oz) sugar
melted butter or vegetable oil, for brushing
1 cup raisins or to taste (optional)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

To make the dough, combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Whisk the yeast into the milk until dissolved, and then pour the mixture into the dry ingredients, along with the oil and lemon zest.  If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  If mixing by hand, use a large wooden spoon and stir about 1 minute.  The dough should form a soft, coarse ball.

Switch to the dough hook and mix on med- low speed or by hand for 4 minutes, adding flour or milk as needed to create a smooth, soft, slightly sticky ball of dough.

Increase the speed to medium or stir by hand 2 minutes more, until the dough is soft, supple, and tacky but not sticky. 

Transfer the ball of dough to a lightly floured surface and knead 1 minute, then form into a ball.  Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl large enough to hold the dough when it doubles in size.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for up to four days.

On Baking Day
Remoive the dough from the fridge about 3 hours before you plan to bake.  Divide the dough in half and form each piece into a ball.  Cover each ball with a bowl or plastic wrap and let rest 20 minutes.

On a floured work surface, roll each ball of dough into a 12" x 15" rectangle, rolling from the center to the corners and then rolling out to the sides.  If the dough starts to resist or shrink back, let rest for 1 minute, then continue rolling.  The dough should be between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick.

Make the cinnamon sugar by whisking the cinnamon into the sugar.  Brush the surface of the dough with melted butter, then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface, leaving a 1/4" border.  If using, sprinkle the raisins and/or chopped nuts over the surface.  Roll the dough up like a rug, rolling from the bottom to the top. to form a tight log.

Cut the log into 1 inch thick slices and place them on a sheet pan or two round cake pans lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat, placing the rolls about 1 1/2" apart.  Mist the tops of the rolls with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, until the dough swells noticeably and the buns begin to touch one another. 

About 15 mintues before baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. 

Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, then rotate and bake for another 5 to 15 monutes, until the buns are a rich golden brown.  Meanwhile, make the topping of your choice.  Once the buns are glazed, enjoy!



Notes
  • I didn't include the lemon in the dough, so I can't tell you what that would be like.
  • I did include raisins, but not nuts. 
  • I didn't follow his glaze options, but did take the hint of adding orange extract into the powdered sugar glaze I made.  I loved it.