How a Pot Pie Saved the Day

On Friday, or was it Thursday… no matter, I found myself with a hankering for a pot pie, and as usual, I set my sights on finding the perfect recipe and cooking it this weekend.

When Saturday rolled around I had a recipe of my own in mind. A vegetable pot pie, with peas, mushrooms, carrots, corn and celery, in a white wine cream sauce with fresh thyme and garlic folded in a light, flaky, buttery crust. Didn’t happen.

When I looked in the fridge I had six red skin potatoes, a red and green bell pepper and some onions. Not half bad if I was making a hash. But a no-go for my pot pie. I had some frozen corn, and peas…but no wine, ‘shrooms or carrots, celery, thyme. Nada.

Then it dawned on me. I’d roasted some root vegetables a while back that had many of the missing ingredients. I also had some balsamic mushrooms left over, not enough to make a side dish, just enough to provide a filler in my pot pie.

First I made what I like to call the most delicious pie crust ever. 1 1/4 cup of all purpose flour, 1 stick of butter cut into tiny pieces, 1 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of pepper. Mix dry ingredients and add butter. Use a fork to break butter into tiny pieces, slowly pour 3-4 tbs of cold water. Mix until dough starts to form. Knead into a flat disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour or overnight.

I reheated my roasted vegetables (red skin potatoes, celery, onion, carrots, sweet potatoes) in the oven at 300 degrees. I threw the balsamic mushrooms in for good measure.

In a sauce pan, I melted 1 tbs of butter, added a half of a sliced onion and one clove of garlic. I let it soften, then added 1tbs of flour and 1/4 of cream to make a roux. I didn’t have any white wine, so I used 1 cup of vegetable broth. I also poured the juices from my roasted veggies in for flavor. I dumped in 1/4 cup of frozen peas, 1/4 frozen corn, then chopped up the red skin potatoes, celery, mushrooms and carrots from my roasted dish. Turned the heat low and added salt and pepper to taste. Then added two dollops of sour cream. This is my filling.

I pulled my dough out and cut it in half. Rolled one side and lined my Pirex dish, then poured in the filling. Rolled out the other half and laid it on top. I even got fancy and put fork marks along the side and cut out leaf shapes to make a star on top. Egg washed it and popped it in the oven at 450 degrees for 45 minutes. The result was amazing.

Seriously, I know it sounds like a lot, but because my roasted vegetables were already done, it cut my prep time in half. It only took about 20 minutes to prepare.

I like recycling food. Doesn’t make sense to be wasteful when you can potentially make a better dish.

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The Flip

I’m not a chef, I cook. And sometimes I burn garlic, or cut my fingers or add too much salt. I’ve got a lot to learn. There is no one skill I’ve mastered, but there are tons that I execute with the confidence that no matter how many missteps I make, the outcome will be something delicious.

That was a disclaimer for what I am about to say… I cannot make pancakes. I’ve tried and tried and tried yet they all seem to turn out like this:

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I’m good for going online and finding some recipe that challenges me, but when it comes to pancakes, I shy away. I just don’t get it. Is my pan too hot? My batter to thin?

I not only can’t flip a pancake, I can’t manage not to burn a pancake. Nor do I ever want to eat them after I make them.

Which brings me to my next task at hand. I wanted (I don’t know why) to make homemade pancakes. Apple cinnamon pancakes. I’m getting in this autumn mood. Everything smells like nutmeg and Thanksgiving and I want to sprinkle cinnamon sugar on everything. I’m even motivated to use the word “harvest” for no relatable reason at all.

So I found this recipe, only I used wheat flour instead… I just felt like it was more “harvested”, but mostly because it was within my reach in my pantry. Everything was going well, until I had to actually cook the pancakes.

First, let me start by saying I was gifted two new cast iron skillets for my birthday which technically sparked the urge to make the pancakes in the first place. Cracker Barrel can do it, so. can. I.

I am clearly not ready to use those yet (see first photo). So I switched to a non-stick pan, and burned two more. My batter was getting scarce and my misshapen pancakes were inedible and unappealing. Then a voice from the heavens (my boyfriend on my cell) whispered “turn your heat down”… And voila! A beautiful, perfect pancake.

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The pancakes that followed weren’t the best; some were shaped like Ohio or Georgia. But I felt like I was getting somewhere. I actually wanted to eat them when I finished. And they were delicious. Seriously.

Moral of the story is I make less than mediocre pancakes. But I’ll eat them if no one else will.

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click here for recipe

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Let it Simmer

Today was one of those days when I am too lazy to get up and find new batteries, so instead I swap batteries between my TV remote and DVD remote to avoid getting out of bed.

But alas, I have obligations. I had to work out, clean my apartment, wash my hair and so on, and of course, eat. But I didn’t feel like standing in the kitchen all day or spending a hour prepping some fancy meal. Nor washing dishes.

I made three very simple, flavorful things in just over 90 minutes, prep time included, which freed me up to do other stuff so that when everything was done I could eat and go right back to being lazy.

Here’s how my day shaped up:

First, I pre-heated my oven to 375. Cut 8 Roma tomatoes into fourths, sliced a large carrot and 1/2 of a yellow onion. Oiled (with olive oil) a baking pan and dumped all that stuff in. Spread it out, drizzled more oil on top. Added three
garlic cloves salt, pepper and fresh thyme, gave it one last toss then covered with foil and put it in the oven. Hold that thought…

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Then I sliced one package of fresh Baby Bella Mushrooms, set them aside. Sliced the other half of my onion and minced two cloves of garlic. Reserved a tsp. of my fresh thyme and set aside. To a stock pot I heated (medium heat) 2 tbs of olive oil. Dumped my onions in, let them cook for about 3 minutes, added my fresh thyme and garlic and 1/2 cup of pearl barley, and let it cook for another 3 minutes. Poured in 4 cups of stock; recipe calls for beef, I used mushroom. Added my sliced
Mushrooms, a tbs of tomato paste and a table spoon of balsamic vinegar with one bay leaf. Bring to a boil then add salt (about a tsp) and turn the heat down.

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Then I sliced an eggplant. Cracked and mixed two eggs in a bowl and poured about a cup and a half of Italian bread crumbs into a separate bowl. To the bread crumbs I added a half cup of grated Parmesan, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, 1/2 tsp of dried oregano and 1/2 tsp of dried basil. I oiled a cookie sheet with olive oil, dredged my eggplant through egg then bread crumb mixture and laid the breaded egg plant flat on the cookie sheet. Popped it in the oven with my tomatoes, which coincidentally already had my kitchen smelling magical.

Then I load my dishwasher… I can smell my eggplant after about 20 minutes so I pull it out. It’s golden brown and crisp. In a baking pan I pour 1/2 cup of my favorite chunky tomato sauce, then lay my breaded egg plant, then sprinkle mozzarella, Parmesan and repeat. Sauce, eggplant, cheese. Put it back in the oven.

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I put in my workout DVD and struggle for the next forty minutes. I turn my oven off, but leave it closed after 25 minutes, pull my tomatoes out. Finish working out.

By that time, my egg plant parm is perfect. Cheese melted, bubbling and golden brown on top. My mushroom and barley soup is also perfect. My barley is puffed up and tender.

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Lastly, I put my roasted tomatoes, onions and carrots in my blender/ food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste, a tbs of tomato paste and a tbs of fresh or dried basil. Pulse, pulse, pulse, then pour it into a sauce pot, add 1/2 cup of stock and bring it to a boil… Let it simmer. And finito!

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I give you eggplant Parmesan, mushroom barely soup and tomato basil soup. Now, I can shower and return to being lazy for rest of my day which undoubtedly means attempting to eat soup laying down.

Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Brunch

You sleep late, you have brunch. Got a hangover, here, have some brunch. Tired of burgers and fries, help yourself to some brunch. Want eggs and booze, call it brunch.

Brunch is genius.

Since I’m an early riser, I’ve usually already eaten before most people even realize its not the night before any longer. But every once in a while, I’ll lay in. This morning, that wasn’t the case, and I’m realizing that I’m probably going to complete this blog before any of you awaken.

Nevertheless, I got up early and wanted to cook. I ran out, got some eggs, hurried home and prepared a salmon bake with eggs, red skin potatoes, and biscuits. It got me to thinking about brunch. Had it been 11:00a, I would have just prepared a perfect feast. Today, it made a damn good 8:00a breakfast.

Brunch is a dance between two of my favorite meals. Typically combining foods and ingredients that are served after noon with foods considered to be breakfast staples and incorporating alcohol if you choose.

Here’s why you should indulge:

1) Brunch is often a time when my friends and I get together to gossip and talk about shit that happened the night before.

2) Brunch is a great reward to a good workout. Nothing like working up a good sweat and then downing a short stack.

3) Brunch is a good way to start your day drinking without judgement. No one is gonna say anything when you have four mimosas or three bloody Marys. Those things are like liquid breakfast.

4) Brunch offers and array of hearty options for the morning after the night you should have said “no” to that last drink. Most notably, pancakes, french toast and waffles. There’s no better way to protect your esophagus from the boiling cauldron of stomach acid waiting to erupt than bread. Try a fried chicken and waffle combo. Thank me later.

5) After brunch you can do whatever floats your boat. Take a walk, ride a bike, go back to sleep until 3:30p which is usually around the time that you get hungry again. Brunch is the best prelude to the mid morning/early afternoon nap.

6) Brunch allows you to serve dinner sized portions of meat with eggs. Try steak and eggs, or salmon croquettes.

7) There’s always some clever/ inventive casserole-type dish at brunch. Like this Strata.

8) Brunch is what happens to your Thanksgiving leftovers before they turn into ham and turkey sandwiches.

9) I watched an episode of How I Met Your Mother once that featured Jason Segel’s character, Marshall not wanting to go to brunch alone after a break up. I dig that. Brunch is better when you’re with someone. Or a bunch of people. It’s a little more social than just breakfast, because on the weekends, brunch is served at a socially acceptable hour.

10) Brunch allows you to lull around in bed for hours after waking and still get all your favorite breakfast foods.

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This was brunch this morning. And in case you’re wondering what that heap to the bottom right of this photo is its a salmon bake,and it’s incredible.

You’ll need a can of salmon, remove the bones. Mustard powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder, bread crumbs, green onion, red bell pepper, white onion, crushed red pepper, sour cream, an egg and sharp cheddar.

Mix ingredients, spread in casserole dish and sprinkle cheese on top. Bake for 30 mins at 400 degrees and viola! You can also crack eggs on top of the cheese, sprinkle with dill and let eggs bake on top. Best if served with a croissant or biscuit.

Cock-a-Doodle Dooooo

I’ve made up my mind, I’m giving fowl up again and going back to being a pescetarian (fish eating vegetarian… If such a thing exists). But, before I depart, I’m giving the remaining birds in my fridge one last hoorah.

You may remember me mentioning to you that I was a pescetarian for many years, then joined civil service and took up eating the featherlings again. Well, I’ve been eating chicken since summer of 2009. More importantly, in 2011, I became acquainted with fried chicken in the form of a sandwich.

I don’t know why I never ate fried chicken sandwiches before, but ever since I sank my teeth into a #1 from Chick-Fil-A, its become a Saturday afternoon tradition. Wake up, dilly dally, jump in line at Chick-Fil-A at 10:53am, lunch is served by 11:00am.

I love Chick-Fil-A so much, I’ve tried perfecting their recipe…albeit unsuccessfully; I’ve gotten as close as common folk can get without copyright infringement. I’ll share that recipe with you one of these days, but here’s a good start, mind you, this one needs a little tweaking, it’s tasty nonetheless.

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This past weekend, I had a fried chicken sandwich that gave Chick-Fil-A a run for their money. It was from Rooster’s, a quaint eatery in Jackson, Mississippi, located in the popular Fondren neighborhood. Part of the Glenn Foods restaurant group, Rooster’s offers a variety of steak and chicken sandwiches, burgers, salads and side items. But it’s the fried chicken sandwich that you want.

Offered on a variety of breads, I opted for the jalepeno cheddar bun. The sandwich is served with onion, pickle, tomato and lettuce and your choice of side. I got the curly fries, my beloved, the onion rings. Speaking of my boyfriend, true to form, he got me on camera devouring 13 fries at a time.

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I told you there would be lots of these photos.

Man. This sandwich though. It was amazing. Crispy, golden batter, tender juicy chicken. A near perfect recipe. Amazing. There, I said it…twice.

A fellow diner and his wife suspiciously lurked around our table. Finally, the man said “excuse me, but what is that you’re eating?!”, when I told him, he replied “clearly, I’ve ordered the wrong thing. I got a grilled chicken salad.” Yeah buddy, you did. This isn’t the time to be stingy with the calorie intake. I almost made that same mistake and got chicken fingers, never again. This sandwich is where it’s at.

The only gripe is that Rooster’s doesn’t have hot sauce. Tabasco, yes, but not hot sauce. No biggie, just put some in your handbag. Plus, our service was great.

If you’re ever in Jackson, Mississippi, do yourself a favor. Try. This. Sandwich.

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Bringing Something New to the BBQ

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There is something so great about traditional barbecue food. The smells, the sauce, the smoke… Just the atmosphere. Delicious. But with people becoming more and more health conscious, it doesn’t hurt to have a few new twists on some old favorites.

Who doesn’t like a grilled burger? If you say “me”, go away, this isn’t for you. Maybe not all the time, but sometimes a nice burger off the grill or in my case out of the pan, is right on time.

Anyways, I found this recipe in People magazine and did it my way:

Garden Turkey Burger

Ingredients:
1lb. Ground Turkey (lean)
2 tbs. Fresh Italian Parsley (chopped)
2 Cloves Garlic (minced)
1/2 Plum Tomato (diced no seeds)
1tbs. Green Bell Pepper
1tbs. Red Bell Pepper
2tbs. Chopped Carrots
2tbs. Chopped Red Onion
2tbs. Diced Crimini Mushrooms
1 Egg (whites only)
1tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tbs. Italian Bread Crumbs
1tsp. Ground Cumin
1tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste

Should look like a salad, no meat in sight.
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Get your hands dirty. Mix this jive all together.

Now. The choice is yours, you can either A.) make it into lady palm sized meatballs so that when you mash them down on the grill or in my case, the pan, they turn into little sliders. Or B.) make a fist sized hunk of meat into a big ass burger. Do you.

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I like to make my patties and refrigerate them for a spell. Or overnight. Or if I’m just making one for myself, I freeze the rest.

They’re grill ready (or pan). Cook for about 6 mins on each side depending on the thickness of the burger, but cook it all the way through. This is turkey, not beef; Bloody=Salmonella in this case, k?

Slap your sliders on Hawaiian rolls or tiny Ciabatta rolls, or serve it up open-face on your favorite bread, I prefer pumpernickel… But only because it’s incredible.

Heat a pan, add 1tbs. of butter or Olive Oil and toast your bread. Or brush the bread with oil and let it get warm on the grill. Either way, serve with warm bread. Makes it even better.

Oh… And feel free to add cheese. Found something called Jalapeño White Cheddar that rocks my socks.

And in case you were wondering, that’s pesto mayonnaise on that burger. Store bought pesto, 2tbs. Lemon juice, 2 tbs. Mayonnaise…fin.

Moving along to a delicious side item. A co-worker passed along a recipe for French Potato Salad, and after sampling her’s I had to give it a shot. Except, of course I had to do it my way. And it turned out delicious.

Cajun French Potato Salad

Ingredients:
6-8 Large Red Skin Potatoes (chopped into 4ths, skin on)
1 Small Red Bell Pepper
1/4 Large Red Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic
2 tbs. Chopped Italian Parsley
1 tbs. Creole Mustard
1 tbs. Cajun Seasoning
Pinch of Cayenne
2 tbs. Olive Oil
3 tbs. White Wine Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Parboil potatoes. For those of you that have never done it, it’s simple. Boil for about 12 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes. You want them to be somewhat firm. Drain and dump them in an ice bath. Scoop them out and set them in a bowl.

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Now the original recipe for the French potato salad calls for them to be prepared warm. But I did this differently, here’s why.

Add onion, parsley, and red bell pepper to your drained, cooled potatoes.

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In a small pot, or saucer or in my case, metal bowl, pour your olive oil and add minced garlic cloves. Place over the fire and let the oil get warm…Not burn. I love Garlic Oil.

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Into your Garlic Oil, add your Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper, cayenne, vinegar and creole mustard. Wisk, Wisk, Wisk… Until you have a delicious warm yellowish dressing.

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Pour on top of potatoes and vegetables, mix but DO NOT refrigerate. Leave it out and let everything come up to room temp. Mix well before serving. You won’t miss the mayo and mustard potato salad. I promise.

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Wanna make it extra good, add scallions or bacon (or turkey bacon). Enjoy.

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Seis De Mayo: Vegetarian Enchiladas

When I originally started blogging, it was with the intent of blogging about food. Who doesn’t love food? I love food. Anyways, I got away from that and started blogging about other things. Equally as important, but not as delicious. So this is the first entry of my food blog. Don’t worry, you won’t be forced to watch me cook all the time. But today you will.

Fast forward. Today I made enchiladas in honor of Cinco De Mayo and because I love them in general… And they were awesome. Why didn’t I make them yesterday you ask? Because I didn’t feel like it. That’s why. Moving on…

So, many of you know that I was a Pescetarian for some 13 years or so. Pescetarian: a fancy word for “I’m a vegetarian, oh, but I do eat fish.” And it wasn’t until I went to the Police Academy and practically soiled my shorts because I was so rattled with anxiety that I went back to eating other kinds of poultry (chicken, turkey, etc.) in order to hold my food down. Anywho…Not important, I say all of this to say, these are vegetarian enchiladas. Vegan enchiladas if you want to cut out the cheese. But why would you do that? Use vegan cheese or whatever, just don’t leave that step out.

Also, I’ll always give ways to shortcut stuff.

Starting from scratch you’ll need the following:

First, preheat oven to 400 degrees

1 red pepper

1 green pepper

1 jalapeno pepper (no ribs or seeds)

1 onion (purple or white or yellow, whatever is lying around)

1 tomato (hot house, plum, whatever is lying around)

3 large tomatillos

1/2 cup of shredded carrots

4 cloves of garlic

4 porcini mushrooms

1 small yellow squash

1 small zucchini

1 can of black beans drained

1 can of kernel corn drained

2 tbs of tomato paste

1 tbs of cumin

1 tbs of chili powder (ancho, chipotle, Mexican, whatever is lying around)

sea salt and black pepper to taste

Goya Adobo seasoning to taste

Olive or vegetable oil

1/2 small lime

10 small corn tortillas

1 Cup of brown (or white or Jasmine) rice

I’ll keep this one healthy.

First up. The enchilada sauce. You can avoid this step all together and buy the store bought kind. But if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll be rewarded.

In a medium skillet (you’ll read this a lot today), add 2 tbs of oil, 1/4 onion, 1/4 bell pepper (red and green), 2 cloves of garlic, quartered tomatillos, and one whole tomato, diced. Add a little fresh jalapeño if you’d like. Let these get soft. Season with 1 tbs of cumin, 1 tsp of chili powder, salt and pepper and Adobo. Set aside and let cool.

When cool, purée in the blender or food processor. Viola!

Part Uno:

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Dice vegetables (mushrooms, onions, peppers, shredded carrots, garlic, plus corn and black beans, zucchini and squash).

Salt and pepper, add 1tbs of cumin and the juice if 1/2 lime.

Part Dos:

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Heat medium sized skillet and add 1 tbs of olive oil (or vegetable or canola). Sauté vegetables until fork tender. Don’t make them mush, we’re not making baby food. Stuff should start smelling pretty awesome, by the way.

Set aside and let cool.

Part Tres:

Boil your cup of brown rice in 2 cups of water or chicken stock until tender.

In a medium skillet (which reminds me, I hate doing dishes), sauté 2 tbs of each; onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, and 1 clove of garlic. To that add 2 tbs of tomato paste and 1/4 water or chicken stock. Stir together and add rice. Continue to stir until mixed well; set aside to cool.

Mix sautéed vegetables with rice mixture in a bowl.

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Part Quatro:

In a medium skillet (-_-), use paper towel to coat pan with oil (or non-stick cooking spray). Heat corn tortillas on both side for about a minute each.

Add mixture to warm tortillas and roll into wee little logs. REPEAT THIS STEP. Hate to have to say that, but some people need a little encouragement.

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When you’re finished rolling up your tortillas it should look like this:

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Take your enchilada sauce and pour it on top; like so:

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Smother this with cheese (cheddar, Monterey jack, white cheddar… Just don’t leave the cheese out).

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Bake at 400 degrees for about 15-20 mins (or until your cheese is golden brown).

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Serve with cilantro rice, Mexican rice, refried beans, black beans, pinto beans, salad, cigarettes… Whatever tickles your fancy. Beer-ritas would be awesome along side these. Never had one? Too bad for you.

Although these are vegetarian, trust me, you won’t miss the meat. Carnivores, herbivores, human and dog alike will love them.

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They’re delicious! Enjoy!