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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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.

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 JalapeƱo 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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