Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cook Once, Eat Twice: Un-Stuffed Cabbage Skillet and Egg Roll Filling Stir Fry

Blogging is not like riding a bicycle wherein you learn the skill as a child and then for the rest of your life, no matter how much time has passed, muscle memory takes over and after a few wobbly moments you find your balance and then speed down the sidewalk, wind in your hair, like you never stopped riding at all. My point here being, I'm rusty. When I was accustomed to writing about my daily adventures in the kitchen, the words just flowed from my fingertips to the keyboard and onto the screen, articulating the steps of the recipes and witty comments about how it all came together. Tonight as I sit here typing this first post in approximately 2 years and 7 months, I am conscious of the fact that the brain IS like a muscle. The more you exercise it, or condition it for a certain task (like writing), the easier that task will be when you are "in shape" for it.

The most writing I have done in the past 3 years has been focused on IEP progress reports, remediation plans, grade card comments, emails to social workers, and the occasional submission to the Department of Youth Services newsletter in an effort to highlight the acheivements of my students. Don't get me wrong, that's A LOT of writing, but it's just a different sort of writing altogether. Shout out to all of you teachers out there who feel like they are buried in paper work. If you are doing all of that and still really teaching those kids and giving them awesome learning experiences ROCK! Because it's not easy.

Which brings me to the "where I've been" segment of this post and why I think I might just might be able to start posting again. Might. So non-committal, aren't I? Well, baby steps. Now might be a good time to include this little note: If you didn't even know I'd been away from this blog, if you don't care where I've been, or if you "just want the darn recipes already" scroll on down. I promise, I won't be offended. I get it, there are only so many hours in your day. I tend to get a little "wordy". I once had an English teacher write R/o (run on) in red pen all over my papers. When I asked her about it, she explained that I write the way that I talk. Fair enough. For those of you whom have ever held a conversation with me, you know that I tend to "run on" when I'm talking as well.

I announced on this blog back in November of 2011 that I was returning to work full-time. Of course, I had every intention of continuing to share recipes and meal plans here. I anticipated that my posts would be less frequent with balancing the needs of my family with full-time employment and moonlighting as a blogger, but I believed that I was equal to the task. Ha. Double Ha! Ha! Silly me. Here's my shout out to all of you working moms. And if you are a working mom who maintains a blog...WHOA! You are in a different class of "superwoman". Because after I loaded everyone into the car each morning, checking and double checking that my children had their book bag, climate appropriate clothing, and a healthy snack, dropped them at the sitter, commuted to work, put in a full day- cramming as much as possible into every minute in an attempt to not stay too long after, commuted home, made dinner, helped with homework and bath and bedtime, tucked them in and said their prayers, packed everyone's bags for the next day, did a quick pick up of the house, started the dinner dishes and maybe a load of laundry, my brain was the equivalent of J-E-L-L-O.

And because things weren't crazy enough, 16 months ago we added a bouncing baby boy to our family. No really, in our nice little routine as a family of 4, we just didn't realize that we needed a baby brother to mix things up (and sometimes to turn them upside down). This kid is awesome and joy-inducing. Now I get to see what my middle sister (who has 3 active little boys of her own) was talking about. Baby Aidan is sweet and funny...and crazy! 25 pounds of pure daredevil energy. I'm going to need more hair dye after this one because I'm certain that he gives me at least 1 new gray hair per day.

I continued to work full-time for the first 11 months after our son was born, but when we looked at the numbers, it just made sense for me to stay at home again. And honestly, as much as I loved my job, I was grateful that it was an option. I love being a stay at home mom too. In April, at the end of the quarter (my teaching job is year-round), I resigned.

After a month of getting my house back in order (funny how little things like organized closets go by the way-side when you have to pack all of your cleaning and household projects into Saturdays), we flew full force into the 4-H season. I loved being a 4-H mom to my oldest daughter who began her first year of 4-H this year. We also had a lovely summer catching up with family and having an "actual" summer break.

Now that my oldest kiddos are back in school, I've agreed to go back to work part-time. Just a couple of days a week. My return to work involves teaching a Servsafe certification course to our graduates, which means less of those reports that I've grown so fond of typing (NOT!).  And so, as we settle into a routine and the baby is a little older, and the girls are a little more self-sufficient, I feel like I can finally budget a little time for Krista's Kitchen. Lord knows I'm cooking dinner every night. I might as well share it with all of you again....

Last week I was making the meal plan for our family. Admittedly, my  "Guide to Meal Planning" post on this site is dated. When I started this blog and wrote that post nearly 6 years ago, Pinterest didn't even exist!  Imagine that. A world without Pinterest!?  Pinterest is a great tool for gathering recipes for your meal plan. However dated my "Guide to Meal Planning" may be, I still complete Step #3: "take inventory of what you already have", every time I set about planning our meals.

Last week I had 2 lbs. of ground beef and a head of cabbage that I needed to use. I found a couple of easy skillet recipes that called for cabbage and ground meat and altered them to suit our tastes and to utilize the other ingredients that I had on hand. My goal here was to cook once and eat twice. I prepared both the Un-Stuffed Cabbage Skillet and the Egg Roll Filling Stir-Fry on Tuesday night. I thought we would eat one of the recipes hot off the stove and then put the other dish away for the next night  to re-heat. As it turned out, our kiddos treated the meals as a buffet and wanted to try some of each. Luckily these recipes yield enough that we still had plenty to heat up for the next night, and the next night after that! Sometimes my family can be difficult when it comes to eating leftovers, but this time they didn't complain, which means that these recipes get my "Re-heats Well" seal of approval.

Staying true to my modus operandi, I will break down the steps of how these two delicious and easy meals came together. So....I began with ground beef. 2 lbs. of lean ground beef. Mine comes from the steers on my grandparent's Indiana farm, hence the "Not For Sale" that you see on the packaging.

Then I rinsed that head of cabbage that I needed to use up. I have no idea how long that cabbage had been chillin' in my crisper. I don't remember purchasing it and I certainly don't remember why I purchased it. Maybe for this Cashew Cabbage recipe that I was mildly obsessed with for a minute? Or possibly because I've put on a few pounds in the last couple of weeks and I thought it was time for a batch of that Weight Watchers Vegetable Soup that I love so much. Either way, I'm just glad it was still viable.

Brown the 2 lbs. of ground beef with a chopped onion. Salt and pepper to taste. Drain away the excess fat.

While the hamburger browned, I chopped the cabbage.

Divide even amounts of the browned hamburger/onion mixture into 2 skillets. Although both meals start out exactly the same (hamburger, onion, and cabbage) we ended up with 2 meals with very different flavor profiles. A deconstructed cabbage roll recipe, this first skillet has it's roots in Eastern Europe while we're taking the other meal more in the direction of the Far East.

Add the cabbage to the skillet, then dump in 8 oz. of tomato sauce (spaghetti sauce will work too), a 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes, a cup of uncooked rice, and 2 cups of water.

Stir it together and season to taste.  I added Italian seasoning and some more salt and pepper. I'm thinking Creole seasoning might be good too. Now bring this to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and cover to simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes or until rice is done and cabbage is soft. The length of cooking time will depend on the type of rice you decide to use. Check the rice package instructions for an estimated cooking time.

Tah-dah! Take off the lid and you have this! A perfectly cooked medley of flavors and textures.

Now, top with some shredded chees and put the lid back on until the cheese melts.

Here it is served up for our dinner. I loved that this was quick and easy. I loved that my family ate this up without a single complaint. And...hey, it's better for them than Hamburger Helper. Cabbage is high in fiber and vitamins and low in fat and calories. Plus all of those tomatoes boast the supposed health benefits of lycopene.


Mmmm. Cheesy! And cheese has calcium, so we'll count that as healthy too. However, if you are focused on a low-fat diet you could eliminate the cheese or use a low-fat version. Also, you could use a leaner meat in the preparation of this recipe, such as ground turkey. And for one more healthy tip, you could incorporate whole grains into this dinner by preparing it with brown rice. As a Family and Consumer Science teacher, I have the Dietary Guidelines for Americans burned into my brain. So consider this a PSA: Remember folks, make half of your grains whole. ; )

Un-stuffed Cabbage Skillet
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 small or 1/2 of a large onion, diced
1/2 of a cabbage, finely chopped or grated
1-14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1-8oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup uncooked rice
2 cups water
Salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning
1 cup shredded Cheddar or Colby Jack cheese
Brown ground beef with onion. Salt and pepper to taste. Drain excess fat. Add remaining ingredients except for cheese, to the skillet. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Cook for 20-30 minutes until cabbage is tender and the rice is cooked.  Note: stir once or twice to prevent sticking. Once the cabbage is tender and rice is cooked, turn off heat. Top the mixture with cheese and return the lid to the skillet until the cheese melts.

Now for the preparation of the "Eggroll Filling Stir Fry".  My oldest child recently mentioned how much she loved the filling in the egg rolls that we sometimes order from the nearest "Strip Mall Chinese Restaurant." When her little sister agreed, I thought, I should just make the's better for them without the deep-fried wrapper anyhow. And so here we are...

I added a tablespoon of minced garlic, a tablespoon of mashed ginger, and 4 chopped green onions to the browned beef in the skillet. Cook on medium-high heat just long enough to get everything sizzling.

Then add in the finely chopped cabbage and carrots. I just used my vegetable peeler to slice thin strips of carrot directly into the skillet. You could use a grater.  The only grater I have right now is the attachment on my Ultimate Mandoline and it seemed like a hassle to haul that out of the cupboard and then have to wash it after grating a couple of measly carrots.

Once the cabbage and carrots have been added, cook and stir until the cabbage is not only tender, but actually begins to caramelize.

Stir together 1/4 cup of low sodium soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and a couple of teaspoons of sesame oil. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Then remove from heat.

I initially served this over rice, but my family decided that we liked it better as a filling for lettuce wraps. We ended up just peeling the leaves off of a head of lettuce, filling the "cups" with this yummy mixture, and stuffing our faces while leaning over our plates. We're a classy bunch. 

Egg Roll Filling Stir Fry

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced
4-5 sliced green onions
1 tablespoon mince garlic
1 tablespoon "mashed" ginger
1/2 head of cabbage finely chopped or grated
2 carrots, grated or thinly sliced
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Brown ground beef with onion. Drain fat. Add in green onions, garlic, and ginger. Heat and stir to a "sizzle".  Add the cabbage and carrots to the skillet. Stir fry until the cabbage is tender and begins to caramelize, turning a deep golden-brown color. Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, and sesame oil. Stir the soy sauce mixture into the skillet and heat through. Serve over rice or as a filling for lettuce wraps.

There, now I've dipped my toe back into the waters of food blogging. Hopefully, I will write my next post sooner than 2 years and 7 months from now. Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Drunken Pineapple Upside-Down Pancakes

My last post was just inside of the new year, nearly 3 months ago. I had good intentions to maintain this blog. I've cooked a number of meals in this space of time and taken my customary step-by-step pictures of the best of them, but unfortunately I have not found the energy to translate even one of those meals into a blog post.

I realize that when I made the announcement of my return to full-time teaching, back at the beginning of November, I wrote:

"With these upcoming changes on the horizon, I still plan to update here with new recipes. This isn't a goodbye (after 3 years of documenting my cooking adventures, I wouldn't dream of abandoning "Krista's Kitchen") but realistically, my posts will be less frequent while I adjust to my new job and a typical work schedule."

When I typed the words "less frequent", I anticipated that I would post once a week, maybe every two weeks at the worst. I never imagined that I would find myself staring at the computer screen at 9 pm every single school night, with pictures of meals taken and downloaded, and nothing left in me to edit those pictures and type up even a brief description about my latest kitchen adventure. Granted, I could've/should've posted on the weekends- but I was too busy doing all of the stuff that I used to do during the week when my work-from-home schedule provided the luxury of flexibility.

I guess that it has taken me longer than expected to adjust to a typical 9-5 or rather a 7- 3:30 schedule (Which usually turns into 4:30 because I am adapting to a whole new kind of teaching.) Plus, this time I am doing it with 2 children, and one of them has homework now! (When I left my last teaching position, I only had one toddler.) I know- Excuses, excuses....

I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for you working moms who "do it all", but that respect has certainly been elevated, now that I am living it.

All of that said, I love my job teaching "life skills" to incarcerated youth. It lends itself to a feeling that I am making a difference on a daily basis. Additionally, the "Type A" planner in me is being challenged (which is a good thing) because no two days are ever the same. I'm certainly never bored! Plus, the stories that I hear from my students truly inspire me to count my blessings. I am grateful for this life that I was delivered into, my parents who loved and supported me, and the family that I have built with my wonderful husband. Every Single. Day.

And now it is Spring Break for 2 WHOLE WEEKS! (My breaks are longer because I teach at a year-round school.) I decided to kick off this break by celebrating with a special breakfast.

I prepared these amazing pancakes on my first Spring Break Saturday morning. We usually head South for Spring Break to enjoy the beaches of Florida.  However, this year, with the rise in fuel prices and the sheer need to just "catch up" around home, we decided to stick a little closer to home.

This recipe is perfect for a lazy Saturday "staycation" because it possessed the ability to take me to another place. It is involved and indulgent, compared to other pancake recipes I have prepared. With warm tropical flavors of pineapple, brown sugar, cinnamon, and dark rum- I may as well have been breakfasting on a beach patio with the taste of saltwater in the air and tradewinds in my hair.

This recipe begins by melting butter in a skillet with a cinnamon stick. I was just out of cinnamon sticks- I used the last one in a Faux Pho recipe (which I never got around to posting here...). I used some Pampered Chef Sweet Cinnamon Sprinkle instead, with a little bit of extra powdered cinnamon stirred in. (By the way, I used this same Pampered Chef Cinnamon blend to make the most easy, amazing cinnamon rolls for my family on Sunday morning. The recipe was on the back of the container).

Once the butter begins to brown, add fresh, 1/2" thick, pineapple slices...

Cook until light, golden brown, 4-5 minutes per side. Then add in dark rum and brown sugar.

Cook over medium-high heat until the juices are thick and syrupy.

Note: This recipe did not make enough syrup for all of the pancakes when cooked until the juices were perfect "syrup" consistency. Next time I will double or even triple the amount of pineapple juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, and rum.

While the pineapple syrup simmered, I began making the pancake batter. While these pancakes were more dense than Martha Stewart's Buttermilk Pancakes, a personal favorite, they were incredibly rich and delicious, even without the "drunken" ring of pineapple and the decadent pineapple-rum sauce. This time, the dense texture was actually a welcome change.

My kiddos, who are not a fan of pineapple, still loved the pancakes. I just left out the fruit.

To make the pancakes, mix the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.

Note: Because I was out of granulated sugar (which never happens!) I used the cinnamon-sugar that we usually reserve for sprinkling on toast. It made the pancakes extra-cinnamony...which in my opinion was not a bad thing. :)

Add the liquid ingredients: buttermilk, egg, melted butter, and vanilla. Stir until smooth.

Once the pancake batter was mixed, I returned my attention to the pineapple simmering in syrup on the stovetop. I removed the pineapple slices to a plate and poured the syrup into a serving pitcher.

To make the pancakes, heat a griddle or heavy skillet then brush with oil or spray with non-stick cooking spray. For pancakes, I prefer to use oil. Pour the batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto the griddle. Cook for 2 minutes. Once little bubbles form on top of the pancake, top it with a pineapple ring.

Then flip!

Cook the pancake for another two minutes, until golden brown. The recipe calls for the pancakes to be transferred to a 325 degree oven for another 5 minutes to cook through. However, I found that mine were completely cooked when I removed them from the griddle.

Top with syrup and allow yourself to be transported to a place of sheer breakfast bliss....

Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes as seen in Bon Appetit Magazine March 2012

Makes eight 4" pancakes
Recipe by Moderne Barn in Armonk, NY


1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 large pineapple, peeled, cut into eight 1/2" rounds, cored
3/4 cup dark rum
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
Melt butter with cinnamon stick in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook until butter begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add pineapple slices; cook until light golden brown, 4–5 minutes per side. Remove skillet from heat; add rum and brown sugar. Cook over medium-high heat until juices are thick and syrupy. Transfer pineapple to a plate; let cool. Reserve syrup.
Preheat oven to 325°. Set a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Whisk first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add buttermilk and next 3 ingredients; whisk until smooth.
Heat a griddle or large heavy skillet over medium heat. Lightly coat with nonstick spray. Working in batches, pour batter by 1/4-cupfuls onto griddle. Cook each pan- cake until golden brown and bubbles form on top, about 2 minutes. Top each pancake with a pineapple ring. Flip; cook until pancake is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Place pancakes on prepared rack and bake in oven until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Rewarm reserved pineapple syrup. Divide pancakes among plates; drizzle with pineapple syrup.

Tip: To make perfect rings of fresh pineapple, slice in 1/2"-thick circles, then round off the edges and punch out the core with 3 3/4"- and 1 1/4"-diameter cookie cutters, respectively.

Nutritional Information
4 servings, 1 serving contains:
Calories (kcal) 375.0
%Calories from Fat 24.6
Fat (g) 10.2
Saturated Fat (g) 6.0
Cholesterol (mg) 71.6
Carbohydrates (g) 60.6
Dietary Fiber (g) 1.9
Total Sugars (g) 36.3
Net Carbs (g) 58.7
Protein (g) 7.1
Sodium (mg) 835.5

Wow, that felt good. It's nice to be posting again. Stay tuned for my next "staycation" post: Crab Cakes with a Spicy Remoulade Sauce.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


It's been about 2 months since my last post, so I guess that I should begin by saying, "Happy New Year!"

I spent part of the past 2 months away from home, living in a hotel Monday-Friday and training for my new job teaching in a correctional facility. Weekends were spent teaching cooking classes and travelling to THREE out-of-state family Christmases! Then I worked until December 23rd. It was a whirl-wind of a holiday season! Christmas day was the first full day that I was at home in over a month. It was so nice to spend the day with my little family; snuggling around the fire, playing games, and cooking their favorite foods. I missed my family so much during my time away- and I missed my kitchen too. It was nice to spend the day enjoying both.

I have spent the past week being a wife and mommy and catching up with friends, putting away the holiday decorations, cleaning, and organizing around here (It seems that after a month away nothing was where or how I left it.)- basically "re-claiming" my house before my Christmas break draws to a close. And now, as school clothes are laid out and backpacks and lunches are packed for the first day back after a lovely break, it is finally time for me to share a recipe with all of you.

I found this recipe for Four-Cheese Pimento Dip in the December 2010 edition of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I thought that it would make a nice mid-day snack on Christmas day between our big breakfast and the "fancy" candlelight Christmas dinner.

As I mixed up the ingredients late on Christmas Eve, I decided that the 5 cups of dip would make excellent cheese balls, and so I divided the mixture into 3 parts, formed it into balls, and chilled the balls until they were ready to be served.

Rolled in crisp bacon and chopped green onion, this cheese ball was a huge hit. We ate one on Christmas, I served the second at our New Year's Eve party, and no doubt we will polish off the final cheese ball at my daughter's 4th birthday party this weekend. These cheese balls are nice to keep in the fridge for an easy snack while entertaining holiday guests. And thinking ahead for next year, they'd make great gifts too!

Here's how it all came together:

First, I beat 3 oz. of cream cheese for 30 seconds.

Then I added in the other 3 cheeses: sharp cheddar, extra sharp white cheddar, and a good Swiss. The recipe called for Gruyere, but that's a little pricey...

Next, I added mayonnaise, diced pimentos, finely chopped onion and jalapeno, Worcestershire sauce, and cayenne pepper.

Beat until well combined.

I divided the cheese mixture into three portions. I dropped each portion onto a piece of plastic wrap, then formed them into a ball, using the plastic as a barrier so that my hands didn't get messy.

The wrapped cheese balls went into the fridge to chill.

Then I fried up some bacon.

And crumbled/chopped it into little bits.

I combined the bacon with some chopped green onion in a shallow dish...

Then rolled the cheese ball around to coat it.

To serve, I plopped the cheese ball into a bowl and arranged some crackers around it on a serving plate. We preferred butter crackers and wheat crackers (not pictured) as a way to transport this delicious 4-cheese concoction into our mouths.

Here's a closer look...

And that first delicious bite!

I think that the reason we enjoyed this cheese ball so much is because it combined elements from many of the cheese ball recipes that we enjoy. This one has it all...

Four-Cheese Pimiento Cheese Balls adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
Yield: 3 cheese balls

Start to Finish: 35 mins


1 3 ounce package cream cheese, softened
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
8 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
4 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded (1 cup)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 4 ounce jar diced pimientos, drained (or 2 2-oz jars)
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 small jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced*
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Optional Cheese ball toppings: crumbled crisp-cooked bacon, toasted pecans, chopped green onion
Dippers: celery sticks, carrot sticks, pita chips, and/or crackers

In bowl beat cream cheese 30 seconds. gradually beat in other cheeses. Beat in mayonnaise. Stir in pimientos, sweet pepper onion, jalapeno, Worcestershire, and cayenne. Divide the pimiento cheese into 3 portions. Transfer to plastic wrap and shape into balls. Chill. Roll in crumbled bacon and finely chopped green onions before serving. Serve with dippers.

From the Test Kitchen
•Tip *Hot chile peppers, such as jalapenos, contain oils that can burn your skin and eyes. When working with them, wear plastic or rubber gloves. If using bare hands, wash hands well with soap and water after working with the peppers.

Nutrition Facts (Four-Cheese Pimiento Dip)
Calories 220,Protein (gm) 8,Carbohydrate (gm) 3,Fat, total (gm) 20,Cholesterol (mg) 39,Saturated fat (gm) 8,Monosaturated fat (gm) 3,Polyunsaturated fat (gm) 6,Dietary Fiber, total (gm) 1,Sugar, total (gm) 1,Vitamin A (IU) 680,Vitamin C (mg) 9,Thiamin (mg) 0,Riboflavin (mg) 0,Niacin (mg) 0,Pyridoxine (Vit. B6) (mg) 0,Folate (µg) 20,Cobalamin (Vit. B12) (µg) 0,Sodium (mg) 275,Potassium (mg) 165,Calcium (DV %) 242,Iron (DV %) 0,Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Easy Creole Shrimp and Sausage Stew

Hello friends! I realize that my last post was over 2 weeks ago. It's not that I quit cooking. Far from it- I've been cooking (and baking) a TON of food lately...but mostly for other people. This fall has found me extremely busy with catering, teaching cooking classes, and a few other odd jobs that I have taken on. In addition to all of that, I've been preparing for my return to full-time employment, which means making arrangements for our children, filling out paperwork, and getting my household in order (if that's possible) for the days when I will no longer be home. One week from tomorrow I will begin 6 weeks of training for my new teaching assignment and after the holidays, I will return to the classroom as a high school teacher.

I'm sorry that I left some of you loyal readers hanging and I certainly appreciate those of you that have checked in with me to express your concern make sure that all is well.

With these upcoming changes on the horizon, I still plan to update here with new recipes. This isn't a goodbye (after 3 years of documenting my cooking adventures, I wouldn't dream of abandoning "Krista's Kitchen") but realistically, my posts will be less frequent while I adjust to my new job and a typical work schedule.

For now, I'd like to share one of the (delicious!) recipes I have prepared for my family recently. This Creole Shrimp and Sausage Stew came together quickly and totally hit the spot on a cool fall evening. Served with a crusty bread for sopping up the flavorful broth, on the night that we ate this for dinner, I thought it was just about the best thing I'd ever tasted. Sometimes a meal just "hits the spot", ya know?

I found this recipe in the "Super Fast" section of the September 2009 edition of Cooking Light magazine. Labelled a "20 Minute Dish" it fit the bill for my busy lifestyle as of late.

Doesn't it look delicious?

Here's the easy step-by-step:

To begin, just chop onion, green pepper, and smoked sausage.

Saute with a couple of cloves of minced garlic in a little oil until the green pepper is tender.

Add a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles and some broth. Bring it to a boil.

Now peel some shrimp. The original recipe called for 8 oz. of medium shrimp. I used WAY more than that! I had these beautiful jumbo tiger shrimp in my freezer. (They were left over from last Christmas and my grandma sent them with me to use up the last time I visited her.) This was the perfect way to use them up! I think I ended up adding about a pound and a half.

Add the shrimp to the stew and simmer, covered, until the shrimp are done. Then, stir in some freshly chopped parsley.

And, that's dinner!

Quick, delicious, and figure-friendly too! You can't beat that!

Creole Shrimp and Sausage Stew adapted from Cooking Light September 2009
YIELD: 4 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)
TOTAL:20 Minutes

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup thinly sliced turkey smoked sausage (about 6 ounces)
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
3/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained (such as Rotel)
8 ounces peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1 handful chopped fresh parsley
1. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add bell pepper, sausage, and garlic to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until bell pepper is tender, stirring occasionally. Add broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Stir in shrimp and beans; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 6 minutes or until shrimp are done. Sprinkle with parsley.

Nutritional Information
Amount per serving

Calories: 191
Fat: 6g
Saturated fat: 1.7g
Monounsaturated fat: 2.7g
Polyunsaturated fat: 1g
Protein: 21.3g
Carbohydrate: 13.2g
Fiber: 3.5g
Cholesterol: 97mg
Iron: 2.9mg
Sodium: 694mg
Calcium: 127mg

Notes: 1. I used 2-3 cloves of pressed fresh garlic rather than garlic from a jar. 2. I used "regular" smoked sausage rather than turkey. 3. I tripled the amount of shrimp. 4. The original recipe calls for a can of kidney beans. I omitted the beans because a)I didn't have any and b) I knew that my kiddos would pick them out anyhow.However, if you're in the market for a good source of dietary fiber, then toss in the beans!

Serving Suggestion: Serve with slices of a good, crusty bread for dipping/sopping.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie...From Scratch!

Three years ago, not long after I started this blog, I prepared an easy chicken pot pie recipe from Kraft foods. The recipe, found HERE, used frozen vegetables, condensed soup, processed cheese, and pre-made puff pastry. While I'm sure that many of my more health food conscious readers just shuddered at that description, I'm not going to lie, it was good. My family really liked it.

But, since that first chicken pot pie, I have wanted to try my hand at making one from scratch, with fresh ingredients. Last week, I finally got around to creating this comfort food classic.

It was worth the wait!

I decided to slow cook the chicken in my crock pot, which allowed for tender, juicy meat and also created a flavorful broth that I would use in the "gravy" for the pot pie filling.

In the morning, I dropped 1 whole cut-up chicken into the crockpot, seasoned it with salt and pepper, added celery, carrots, onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, a handful of fresh parsley,some poultry seasoning, and a bay leaf. Then I poured in enough water to cover everything. I set the crock pot on low and let it simmer the day away.

Here's what it looked like 5-6 hours later.

I separated out the vegetables and chicken and then I poured everything that was left in the crock pot through a strainer. From this, I ended up with 8 cups of homemade chicken broth. Since I only needed around two cups of broth for the pie filling, I froze the rest into 2 cup portions.

Before I continued on with the "chicken" part of this chicken pot pie, I decided to make the pastry as it needed to chill for 30 minutes before I would be able to roll it out.

I largely borrowed my pastry recipe from Ina Garten's chicken pot pie recipe. I just cut it in half, since her recipe is for 4 individual pies and I was just making 1 family-sized pot pie.

As with most pastry recipes, you combine the dry ingredients and then cut in the fat. This time, shortening and butter qualified as "fat". The shortening makes for a flakier crust and the butter gives it wonderful flavor. Tip: The shortening and butter should both be cold.

That way, you can obtain this crumbly texture as you mix the ingredients with a pastry cutter. All of those little chunks of fat give off steam as they bake in the crust, creating air pockets in the pastry and ideally making for a light, flaky crust.

Once the fat was cut into the flour mixture, I stirred in just enough ice-cold water to help the dough stick together.

Once the dough starts to come together, I put my hands in the bowl and knead it just until I can form it into a ball. You don't want to work the dough any more than you absolutely need to, because the more you work the dough, the stronger the gluten bonds in the flour become. Strong gluten bonds = tough pastry. Since we're going for tender and flaky here, just remember not to overwork the dough.

I divided the dough into 2 parts, one for the top crust and one for the bottom. Then I wrapped them up and put them into the fridge for at least 30 minutes while I prepared the filling for the pot pie.

To make the filling, I melted 1/3 cup of butter in a skillet, then I added some diced onion to saute.

Once the onion was tender, I stirred in 1/3 cup of flour until well combined.

Next in was the yummy homemade broth that I cooked up with the chicken in the crock pot. Stir or whisk as you add the broth, so that you don't get any lumps in the gravy. Cook over medium to medium high heat until the mixture starts to thicken.

Then add in some milk or cream. Return to a low boil.

Once the sauce was finished, I turned off the heat and just let the skillet sit on the burner to stay warm.

By the time I finished picking all of the chicken from the bone, I had a LOT of chicken!

I cut up about 2-1/2 cups for the pot pie, then I put the rest into freezer bags and froze it for a later shortcut to chicken and dumplings, soups, or casseroles.

I added the cut up chicken with the carrots and celery from the crock pot and some green beans (because my family refuses to eat peas) to the sauce to complete the filling. You definitely want to taste this mixture and season it before assembling the pie. Mine was a little bland upon my first taste. I needed to go to work on it with the salt and pepper!

Okay, so now everything is ready except for the pastry...

I rolled chilled dough ball #1 to fit my pie plate.

Then I pinched the edges (not my greatest talent, as you can see) and baked the crust at 425 degrees for about 8-10 minutes.

Once the shell was pre-baked, I poured in the filling.

And then I rolled out chilled dough ball #2 and topped the pie off. I realize that the placement of the top crust looks a little haphazard in this photograph. I'm calling it "rustic"...

Brush the top of the pastry with 1 beaten egg. Then cut a few slits around the top to let the filling vent.


Look how perfectly golden brown this turned after 30 minutes in the oven! Oh, and look at that savory gravy oozing from the edges! Try not to drool....

Once the pot pie cools for a few minutes, then you're ready to slice...

And serve!

Hooray! While this one pot pie was quite a project from start to finish, I am so glad that I finally made a chicken pot pie completely from scratch! I could certainly taste the "homemade" difference and I felt accomplished as I served this up to my family for dinner.

Here's my recipe for Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

For the chicken and broth:

Add one whole cut-up chicken to your crock pot. Salt and pepper liberally. Toss in 4 peeled carrots, 3-4 stalks celery, one onion- peeled and quartered, a fistful of fresh parsley, 3 peeled cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning, and bay leaf. Cover with water. Cook on LOW until the chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender. Remove the chicken to a dish and pick from the bone. Reserve 2-1/2 cups of chicken. Package the rest and freeze for later. Reserve the carrots and celery for the pot pie filling. Strain the broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reserve 1-1/2 cups of broth for the pot pie filling. Package the remaining broth and freeze for use in future recipes.

For the pastry (adapted from Ina Garten's Chicken Pot Pie recipe)

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, diced
1/4-1/3 cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper

Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening and butter. Add in enough cold water to make the dough begin to stick together. Knead dough (in the bowl) until you can form the pastry into a ball. Divide dough in half. Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

For the filling:

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4teaspoon pepper
1- 3/4 cups reserved chicken broth
1/2 cup milk, half & half, or cream
2 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 cups pre-cooked mixed vegetables (I used the carrots and celery from the crock pot and added some home-canned green beans)

1. Heat oven to 425°F.
2. Roll out bottom pie crust to fit a 9 inch pie plate. Place dough in pie plate. Cut off excess around the edges and crimp or pinch. Pre-bake shell for 8-10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, In 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until well blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk, cooking and stirring until bubbly and thickened.
4.Stir in chicken and mixed vegetables. Remove from heat. Spoon chicken mixture into crust-lined pan.
5. Roll out second crust. Top pie, then seal edge. Brush with beaten egg. Cut slits in several places in top crust. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. During last 15 to 20 minutes of baking, cover crust edge with strips of foil to prevent excessive browning if needed. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
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