Real chicken pot pie.

Not your average pot pie found in the freezer section, this is even better because you can decide what goes into it. If you prefer a biscuit topping, you can use one – homemade or canned. If you don’t like carrots, or peas, or corn, then leave them out. If you’d like to have peppers, more garlic, parsnips, broccoli – the list goes on forever – then add it!

This is a basic, all-American pot pie recipe, in my opinion. You can add or subtract, make a twist for another flavor (Southwestern? Thai?), or change out the topping for endless possibilities. I tweaked the recipe found on Feeding Andy, which in itself is a great recipe. I’ve knocked down the amount of dishes, changed a few ingredients, and increased the amounts for a batch-style recipe. You can freeze the filling by itself for later use, or make everything but the topping and freeze the whole thing for another day.

Chicken Pot Pie
yields enough for 2 9×13″

4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tablespoon butter
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 medium sweet onion, medium dice
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced fine
1 bag frozen sweet corn kernels, thawed and drained
1 bag frozen green peas, thawed and drained
1 bag frozen sliced carrots, thawed and drained
4 cups veloute1
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 can crescent roll dough
ice bath

Preheat oven to 450F. In a saute pan over medium-low heat, melt butter and stir in onions. Cover and Fill a 4-6 quart pot with water and blanch vegetables (it works best if you blanch and shock each separately, but you can drain them all in one colander). Use the same water to poach chicken breasts until cooked through. Remove from water, drain and dice fine. Combine vegetables and chicken in two greased 13×9 pans. Bring veloute to a simmer, add heavy cream, and simmer 5-8 minutes or until thick and custard-like. Split veloute mixture in half over both pans. Cover one pan with crescent roll dough and bake 15-20 minutes, or until dough is puffy and golden-brown. Dig in while you let the other pan cool, then cover with a double-layer of aluminum foil, label and freeze.

1 veloute: a gravy-like sauce made with a blonde roux and chicken stock. To make 4 cups, start with 4 tablespoons each of butter and flour in a pan over low heat. I use the same pan that I browned the onions and garlic in, so get all the pan drippings and flavor. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until color has formed and flour taste is gone. Slowly whisk in 4 cups of chicken stock, bring to a simmer and let cook for 5-10 minutes.

Chicken enchilada casserole.

Two months of adjusting to life with a baby attached to me more often than not, and I think I may be getting the hang of it. (Tip: Don’t get too used to any “normal” – just roll with it.) To be honest, Little Man isn’t that much of a hassle in everyday life, although breastfeeding every 2-3 hours definitely creates a schedule I have to stick to.

That schedule means I’m more limited with my cooking. I definitely understand the value of casseroles and batch cooking, now! My latest Pinterest search led me to a wealth of make-ahead freezer meals that I’m looking forward to trying out. One of those meals was the Layered Enchilada Casserole. We had almost everything on hand already, and I figured if we didn’t like it, I wouldn’t worry with making one to freeze.

It turns out this one was a hit, and it made well even though I altered the recipe from Joyful Momma’s. I’ll be making it again, and have some waiting for us when I don’t feel like cooking.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole
serves 6-8

3 cups cooked, shredded chicken*
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
1 15 oz. can kernel corn, drained
1 can green chiles
1 can mild enchilada sauce
2 cups shredded cheese
Tortillas chips

Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 2 quart baking dish. Mix chicken, beans, corn, chiles and sauce. Layer chicken mixture and tortillas chips in baking dish, ending with chicken mixture. Top with cheese, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Serve warm with sour cream, sliced jalapeños, or whatever your heart desires.

*You can use canned chicken in a pinch; or you can boil chicken breasts until done, and shred them yourself. My new favorite trick is to shred them using my KitchenAid – just put the cooked chicken in the mixer bowl with the paddle attachment, and turn it on “Stir.” In a few minutes, you’ll have restaurant-quality shredded chicken!

Mustard potato salad (a Southern-type recipe)

There are not so many variations in potato salad (that I’m aware of), but there are loyalist fanatics to the versions I’m aware of: the “classic” mayo base, the mustard base, the vinegar base, and of course, the German and Dutch variations. I’m sure there are plenty more out there, given the prevalence of potatoes in the world, but I’m not familiar with those versions. Then there are the nearly infinite variations on the old favorites: red potatoes, new potatoes, fresh dill, pickle relish, hard boiled eggs, homemade vs. store-bought… the list(s) go on and on.

I’m not too picky, but I have my preferences. I like my potato salad simple and colorful. If done “right,” I like a mayo base, but prefer mustard or vinegar, and I don’t want a lot of it covering up my potatoes. (If I wanted to eat condiments with potato in it, I’d glop some on some potato chips. And right now, people would expect it of me.) I like it good and cold, and I don’t really care for anything other than potato and seasoning in my salad – no pickle relish, egg, or other “texture,” please. I don’t mind a little paprika, and I love me some fresh dill, but don’t get crazy. I like colorful potatoes when I make my salad. Give me some skin-on red potatoes for best results, but I love the look of some Russian blues, purple Peruvians, or Yukon Golds for variety. What about a red, white, and blue potato salad with a vinegar or mayo base for the Fourth of July? Beats that Jello cake with blueberries and Cool Whip every time. In a pinch, I’ll buy a tub of it from Publix, but not often (I prefer their mayo base with dill and red potatoes).

After a request for potato salad and some debate over the best kind, I went on a search for a good basic mustard version. I couldn’t seem to find any that fit my needs or desires, and had started to get a little frustrated when I mentally thumped myself in the head. Why, if I know what I like and I know what the general outcome should be, am I searching for potato salad recipes? Internet dependency; I rue the day. I started mixing ingredients in a bowl and voila! A desirable potato salad is born. Keep in mind that most of this is to taste – I have yet to actually measure anything out, and am afraid that actually doing so would take all the taste out of the dish. So forgive my this and that, grab a bowl, and make you some of your own. Add relish if you want, or egg, or smoked paprika. Take some to that church potluck, or keep it all to yourself. I won’t tell.

Mustard Potato Salad
serves 4 generously

2 lbs. red potatoes, washed & quartered
1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise (I use Duke’s, or homemade, if I have it)
2 heaping tablespoons yellow mustard
2 teaspoons coarse-ground mustard
fresh dill, finely minced
salt & black pepper

Place potatoes in a large stockpot and cover with water; salt generously, and bring to a boil. Cook potatoes until just tender. If serving immediately, prepare an ice bath and cool potatoes for 5-10 minutes, or until cool. Drain well.

In your serving bowl, combine potatoes, mayonnaise, mustards, dill, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix gently but thoroughly, until potatoes are evenly coated. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or overnight. (If overnight, you may want to add the dill right before serving.)

Mint Chip Ice Cream in the Quest for the Best

Image ©Graeter’s 2009

The other night, Cullen decided it was time for a treat. I had been hurting all day from the kid’s positioning, and we’d been pretty busy out of necessity. We went to Kroger for some lazy supper items, and splurged on a pint of Graeter’s mint chip ice cream. If you’re unfamiliar with Graeter’s, they’re one of the oldest family-run ice cream manufacturers in the States, and they’ve been making ice cream via their French pot method since 1870. All their ice cream is made in two-gallon batches, and hand-packed in containers to ship directly to their scoop shops, grocery stores, or the consumer. I grew up on Graeter’s, but I hadn’t had it since I was small, and couldn’t ever justify the price tag in store.

Boy, was I glad we spent that little extra for some damn good ice cream. It was so worth it.

However good a pint of Graeter’s is, I still can’t justify the price tag every time we make a trip to the grocery. Cullen mentioned making a batch of mint chip at home, and a mild obsession was created. It appears that I don’t nest, so instead I suppose I cook. Continue reading

Menu Plan Monday – 9 Apr 12

With four adults in the house, a baby on the way, three dogs, and very limited finances (I’m not employed, two of us have a part-time job or two, and one of us is employed full-time), things are pretty tight around the household. And I’m sure that many folks are feeling the same way. There is a lot of pantry- and freezer-cooking going on around here, especially now that MIL and I cleaned out the big freezer today to figure out what’s available! Because I’m not working (for pay, outside the home), and probably won’t be offered many opportunities now that I’m in my 7th month of pregnancy, I’ve offered to do meal planning for the family so we can save on groceries, and so I can try to build up a stockpile of healthier food while I’m “out of commission” for a while. Even better, having to meal plan for the family, instead of just the two of us, means I’m held accountable for posting every week! Bonus!

Unlike the last time I tried this (almost a YEAR AGO), I won’t be doing a full day’s meals for the whole week, just suppers and a few desserts. Lunches can be taken care of with leftovers; and breakfast is a pretty routine affair, for me, and basically nonexistent for everyone else.

Continue reading