Sunday, January 25, 2015

Chicken Mushroom Pot Pie

I've been traveling often for work, which means I can't cook dinner for my family.    So, I've been trying to come up with things I can make ahead.   I had read that pot pie was good to make ahead and freeze, so I gave it a shot.   I didn't freeze this batch as the guys will bake them for their supper tonight, and save the little ones for lunches later this week while I am gone.

I cooked the filling first, and then topped it with my Old Reliable Pie Crust: I halved the recipe and made it with half shortening and half butter because that's what I had.   Here's how I made the filling:

Chicken Mushroom Pot Pie filling

2 T butter
1 med onion, diced
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
1 lb chicken breast or chicken tenders, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 t. dried thyme
1 can low sodium chicken broth
2 t. flour
1 c. frozen peas
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 egg, well beaten

In a dutch oven, melt the butter and add the onions and mushrooms, and saute until soft.   Add chicken carrots celery and thyme and broth and cook on medium until carrots are soft and chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes.   Add flour to a measuring cup and enough water to make a slurry, add to chicken mixture and cook on high until thickened.   Taste and adjust seasonings.   Add frozen peas and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, make the crust.    Ladle chicken into oven safe bowls, top with pie crust.  Poke holes in the top.   Brush with beaten egg.   Wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and freeze.

To cook, preheat oven to 350F .  Unwrap pot pies and place on a baking sheet.   Bake for 1 hour, or until; crust is browned and filling is bubbling.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

2015 Pierogi Festival

Diane, Cindy, Vera, Ellen and Jen

We decided to get together today to make some pierogi....I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, but we had a blast....all together it took about 2 hours, plus some wine drinking time at the end to let the pierogi chill outside.    Here's how we did it:\....we made about 8 batches which yielded about 200 pierogi total

For each batch
Pierogi dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup potato water*

To make the dough, add the dry goods to the bowl of a food processor, then add the egg and the sour cream and give it a couple pulses.  Then, with the processor running, slowly add enough potato water to form a ball....about 1/2 to 3/4 cup.  If it's too sticky, add some flour until you have a smooth ball.

Filling for 8 batches....cheese and potato and onion & kraut and onion and bacon

The filling base:
1 lb bacon, diced
2 lb onion, diced

Brown bacon in a large dutch oven until lightly browned.   Pour half into a large skillet.   In the skillet, saute onions until soft.

For the kraut filling:

In the dutch oven, add

2 (32 oz) bags sauerkraut, drained
about  1/4 of the sauteed onions

Cook for about 30 minutes.

For the potato/cheese/onion filling

10 large potatoes, diced
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
remaining sauteed onions
salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes until soft...drain, but save the potato water* to make the dough.  Mash potatoes with a potato masher.  Let cool.   Add cheese, onions, and salt and pepper to taste.

To make pierogi:

Roll out dough as thin as possible, and cut out with a 3 inch diameter round cutter.   Fill with a spoonful of kraut filling -OR- a 1 inch ball of potato filling.   Pinch in a half moon.   If it is cold out, put the pierogi out on the back deck to freeze and then bag them by the dozen in your freezer.   If not, freeze separately on a cookie sheet and do the same.

To cook....boil a pot of water and add frozen pierogi.   Boil until they float, drain.   Brown pierogi in bacon fat or butter with sauteed onions.   Serve with sour cream.

I noticed that the frozen pierogi at Meijer cost over $5 for 8 (about 62 cents each) cost us $40 to make about 200 of them (about 20 cents each).   I think ours are better....we definitely had more fun making them.  

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Pasta e Fagioli soup

I don't eat at Olive Garden very often; I try to never eat at chain restaurants unless I have to do so.  I travel occasionally for work, and notice that most places that support manufacturing facilities often have every chain restaurant known to man and so I can expect to be invited dine at least one of them; Olive Garden is usually in the mix.  Or the inevitable Panera boxed lunch, or Subway.  Even factories in the middle of acres of cornfields often manage to provide a Panera boxed lunch (sub sandwich, cookie, chips, pop).  It must be part of Panera's business model to locate themselves near midwest industrial parks.    When I am asked for my preference, I always suggest that I'd like to try whatever the town's specialty is.    I don't get to travel to exciting locales, instead, I am usually going to a place that might end in "-ville".   My boss often adds "-ville" on the end of any city we are going to just for fun, even if it doesn't actually have it appended to it's name.  By asking about the local favorites, I find out about the local favorite salad dressing in Cozad, Nebraska or the delicious cream cheese filled blueberry muffin from a bakery in Montpelier, Ohio or the best takeout pizza in Cleveland.   If I was always eating at Panera or Starbucks, I would never have found these local food gems.   But sometimes, people think that the Olive Garden is the best restaurant in their town, so I will go there on occasion, but it's never my first choice.  I realized that perhaps I was a bit of a food snob when my son was going to the Olive Garden with a group for the homecoming dance, and he was concerned about it because he doesn't like olives and thought that is all they might feature there.   He was 15 years old and never had been to an Olive Garden in his entire life!  He made up for lost time - all during football season, he'd go there with his friends for team dinner because they really serve huge portions.

When I go to Olive Garden, I always get the same thing: the unlimited minestrone soup and salad.   I rarely eat pasta at's too easy to make at home.   I try to eat as many vegetables as possible on business  trips because it is really easy to gain weight eating out for 3 meals a day.    So I confess, I've never tried the original Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli soup, but when I was talking to my sister the other day, she said it was one of her favorites and she made a copycat version of it and thought it was great.   After eating tons of rich foods this holiday season, I thought soup would be a good meal for the day before Christmas Eve, so I trolled the internet for a recipe.   I found one that I thought I could start with, however I wanted to use dried beans instead of canned and increase their proportion.  Also, I thought it was silly to cook the pasta separately, so I changed that, too.   The result was a very good hearty soup; more like a chili and full of lots of vegetables.   The men in the house usually rebel as soup served as a meal, but I didn't get too many complaints this time!  It is very filling.

Pasta e Fagioli a la Mothers Kitchen

1 c dried red kidney beans
1 c dried great northern beans
1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 14.5­ ounce cans diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 15­ ounce can tomato sauce
1 1/2 c V­8 juice
1 c. water
1/2 pound (1/2 pkg.) ditali pasta
1 T white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Cook dried beans your favorite way and drain.   My favorite way is to cover beans with water and pressure cook them for 25 minutes.  Meanwhile,  brown the ground beef and add vegetables, garlic and herbs and cook until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes.   Add tomatoes, sauce and juice and cook for about 30 minutes.   Add water, beans and pasta and cook until pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes.  Add white vinegar and season with salt and pepper.   Serve with parmesan cheese.