24 April, 2013

Dairy Free Deep Dish Chicken Pot Pie

The title is quite loaded and your baking dish will be as well!  This is a SUPER easy recipe that takes the cake on the "fix it and forget it" front.  Make the guts and the crust, fill it and toss it in the oven to bake.  What could be easier than that on a week night? Not much!

I saw Gordon Ramsay make this once...and I took notes.  But, I of course adjusted the original recipe to leave out dairy, but if you don't have a dairy allergy the exchanges are even, so just use butter in place of "vegan buttery spread".  For the cream I left it out completely and used dry white wine for a different tone of flavor.

Dairy Free Deep Dish Chicken Pot Pie
3 1/2 T. vegan buttery spread
1 large onion, peeled & chopped
3 stalks celery, diced
1 large carrot, peeled & chopped
1 large potato, peeled (or not) & diced
1/3 c. all-purpose flour, plus extra to dust for crust rolling
2 c. chicken stock
1 c. cream or dry white wine (I used dry white wine)
Sea salt 
Fresh cracked black pepper
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts, chunked
1 pkg. good-quality ready-made puff pastry
1 medium egg beaten with 1 T. water, to glaze

Melt the butter in a large, wide pan and add the onion, celery, carrot, and potato. Saute on medium heat for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. **If you use the dry white wine, this is when you put it in.  Let the alcohol cook out for 4-5 minutes then add the flour to make a roux and stir well. Cook, stirring frequently, for another 2 minutes to cook out the flour.

Pour in the stock and add the cream if you are using that instead of the dry white wine, then season well with sea salt and black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, for about 5 to 10 minutes until thickened. Add the chunks of chicken and simmer for 5 minutes or until the pieces are just cooked through. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Take the pan off the heat and let cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Roll out half of the puff pastry for the bottom of the baking dish/pie pan.  Once the pastry is lining the bottom of your baking dish, spoon the chicken filling in to just below the rim.

 Now, roll out the other half of the puff pastry dough.  Trim your edges just a bit and fold under as you would a regular pie.  Crimp the edges in any way you wish.  Brush the pastry with egg wash to glaze.

Bake the pie in the oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.

Let stand for 10-20 minutes before serving.

This recipe is SO incredibly simple but packs so much yumminess into each bite, you'll swear this pot pie took hours in the crock pot!  The layering of flavors from one step to the next is what makes this so wonderful.  Now, had I been cooking for a different crowd I would have added green peas to the mix.  But these days, much to my personal dismay, the Sprout is "anti-pea".  If you want to avoid the starch of potatoes, you could go with a root vegetable like parsnips or with a healthier potato; a sweet potato.  If you aren't a fan of celery pieces you could put them through a food processor until it is pulp or use "celery flake".  Celery flake is basically dehydrated celery that was shredded before being dehydrated.  The bright, fresh flavor boost that the celery gives is paramount to this turning out so well.  I hope you enjoy this as much as we did tonight!  

17 April, 2013

Saw It On Facebook....

Every once in a while there are meme-like pictures that people put up on Facebook and pass around like hot cakes that are food with their recipes attached.  Y'all already know I am a sucker for food, but this pregnancy has been especially hard on me and my body...and most likely my family.  So, when I see something that claims it is "easy" I am ALL over it like white on rice!

The most recent few piqued my interest because I could keep most of the treat dairy free.  It was simply cookie dough with a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in the middle and topped with brownie batter.  Sounds simple right?  It was.  I made these with the Sprout.  Although, in the original post the person baked the treats in a Wilton brownie pan...I made mine in a regular sized cupcake tin.  My mistake of the day....  We'll talk more about that and the conclusion I came to about this recipe later.

Brownie Cookie Surprise
1 tube of store bought chocolate chip cookie dough
1 recipe of your fave dairy free chocolate chip cookie dough 

12-24 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
1-2 boxes of your favorite organic dairy free brownie mix

Preheat oven to 350 F

If you choose to use store bought cookie dough, this will go a bit quicker, but honestly...it doesn't take much more than 5 minutes to whip up a batch of cookie dough (even with a 3 year old!) in a bowl with a hand mixer or in a KitchenAid stand mixer.  So...I recommend fresh cookie dough for this.  **If you click on "dairy free chocolate chip cookie dough" up there in the ingredient list, it will take you to my recipe for the dough.

Spray your wells with non-stick cooking spray before putting anything in them, you'll thank me later.  The Sprout & I used my Pampered Chef medium scoop to measure out the perfect amount of dough.  It is also a perfect way to include the children without worry about them putting too much dough in the cups.  Just tell them "one scoop" and you're golden!.  Just 1 scoop in each well and the rest of the dough went in the fridge for the Mister to nibble on.  Raw cookie dough is his favorite...

It is best to mix up your brownie batter before you start putting the peanut butter cups in the wells, that way you can keep the children occupied with scooping while you mix the brownie batter.

But...TOTALLY enlist them to help put the cups in...make sure you have extra in case they decide to "try" one. 

Next come the Reese's Peanut butter cups.  Put one peanut butter cup in each well, upside down, so when you look at the wells you see the bottom of the peanut butter cup.

After you finish adding the peanut butter cups, you're ready to put the brownie batter over the top.  For the batter I used my Pampered Chef small scoop and did TWO scoops of batter per well.

Then you toss this in the oven for about 25 minutes.  The original directions on Facebook called for only 18 minutes, I quickly peeked in the oven and my brownie batter wasn't even close to being baked through at the 18 minute mark.  So...watch your brownie batter for the "shine" to be gone off the batter and you'll know they are done or very close to it.

This is where I will tell you that using the square welled pans rather than a regular cupcake pan is going to make all of the difference.  I got two or four of 24 of these suckers out of the tins without the tops busting off a bit.  **This is why I told you to use non-stick cooking spray.  (The Facebook directions didn't call for it.  Now, it MAY be simply the shape of baking tin I used.  But, until I have a square welled pan, I can't tell you that for sure.)  Let these sit for at least 10 minutes before you attempt to remove them.  It totally depends on the material that your pan is made out of.  Silicone pans will most likely release the bars before a metal tin will.

These are how they look on the inside.

Now, these tasted mostly marvelous.  The problem my taste buds encountered was the fudgy brownie flavor trying to marry with the milk chocolate on the peanut butter cup.  Same thing with the cookie dough on the bottom trying to marry with that milk chocolate.  It just didn't work for me.  I had the Mister try them and...same thing.  The chocolates just didn't mix.  But!...to me the brownie/cookie dough combo on its own would have been total MAGIC in my mouth.  Which is awesome to me...because then THAT particular treat would indeed have been completely dairy free.  So...SCORE one for the dairy free team!!  New treat discovered.

Okay, so from now on when I tell you that anyone can cook AND that everyone makes mistakes and learns in the kitchen....I'm not fibbin'.  I'd most likely not make these this way ever again, unless someone who knows the recipe and LOVES it to death requested it.  But, brownie cookies...heck yeah!  I'll be makin that some time in the near future.  Sometimes being a kitchen guinea pig has its perks.  You find new favorites where you least expected them.  Happy cooking everybody!

10 April, 2013

Challenge Accepted!!

An old roommate of mine (who is still a dear, sweet friend...for 14 years now) recently sent me a package in the mail.  I assumed it was a baby gift, but when I opened it I got the most exciting surprise I've been given in a long time.  A COOKING CHALLENGE!!  Omgosh!  I honestly haven't been this excited about cooking something in a LONG time!

She sent me these...

Yeah, Chocolate Pasta Noodles People!  The note enclosed in the package read:


You're probably wondering why I sent noodles for your baby gift.  It's not your baby shower gift.  I am issuing a challenge.  I've sent the same type of noodles out to 7 other people.  The challenge is to come up with a delicious dish.  It is your choice if you want to make an appetizer, entree or dessert.  Once you have made the meal and tried it, please post the recipe to both Gabi (my friend's sister) and my Facebook page.  Include any tips, pointers, and "maybe it would taste better with such and such" type of suggestions.  This all started with me seeing chocolate noodles at the farmers' market.  I thought I should send them to my sister.  Her first thought would be "Yum!".  The second would be "What do I do with them?".  We, my creative kitchen loving friends, are going to help her come up with those ideas!  Consider it my own version of the Food Network's series "Chopped", only we ALL win.  I'll completely understand it taking a while for you to get to this challenge as more pressing and important items are going on in your life right now (referring to me being pregnant and due in just 3 weeks).  Thanks in advance!


Ha!  Sure, the baby has turned and her head IS "pressing" at this point, but HOW in the world could I resist taking this HEAD on...and RIGHT now??  Yeah, I don't know either.

I looked at the list of ingredients on the noodles:  durham wheat, cocoa powder, cane sugar, etc...  I assumed most of the people getting them would make a dessert.  But there were TWO ingredients in there that made me steer my attention to an entree.  The cocoa powder and....cayenne pepper.  Can you say "mole"??  I sure can!  Enter in my personal version of "Rattlesnake Pasta", served with Lime Cilantro pan seared Chicken.

Mexican, Spanish and Portuguese style cooking have such a wide variety of flavors and are so inclusive you can make almost ANY ingredient into a dish with those flavors.  I couldn't help myself from going south of the border and fantasizing about all of the tastiness about to meet my mouth tonight!

Lime & Cilantro Chicken Marinade
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 c. oil (grapeseed, olive or whatever you have)
juice of half a lime
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped 

Toss everything EXCEPT the chicken into a food processor or Magic Bullet type of contraption.  Pulse or put it on lowest setting and let it go until the cilantro is completely broken down and the mixture resembles a pesto paste/sauce.

Pour directly into a gallon sized ziploc or a large dish with a lid.  Put your chicken breast in the bag, squeezing all of the extra air out so when you seal the bag you can easily coat/roll the chicken breasts around in the goop.

If you put it in a flat dish...roll the breasts in the mixture several times before covering.  Once you have coated the chicken well, stick it in the fridge for at LEAST 2 hours, but 4 hours is better.  I do mine ALL day.

When the time comes to cook these beauties (Or...you can choose to grill themIt would certainly add a depth of flavor to the chicken you couldn't get any other way.) They should first be baked in the oven for ultimate moistness.

**To keep it under 30 minutes for total cook time, in keeping with tradition on "Chopped", skip the baking and pan sear/grill them straight after marinading them.  If you skip baking them, pan sear on each side for 5-6 minutes OR until internal temperature registers 140-150 degrees. 

Pan Seared Chicken Breasts
4 T. of oil
2 T. of butter, melted OR oil
1 T. flour
1 tsp. cornstarch or potato starch
1/2 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 275 degrees

Line a baking dish with foil and give it a light brush with 2 T. oil or melted butter.  Poke the thickest part of each of your chicken breasts 5 or 6 times with a fork.  Place the breasts "top side" down in the baking dish.  Doing this will make them flatten out well, well enough so when you pan sear them, they are almost completely flat on both sides rather than just one.  Cover the pan with foil to lock in the moisture as it cooks.  Bake the chicken until the internal temperature in the THICKEST part of the breast registers 145-150 degrees.  This can take about 30-40 minutes.

When the chicken is finished, remove it from the oven and pat breasts dry on a paper towel lined plate.  Heat 2 T. oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  While pan is heating up, whisk together flour, starch and pepper then add in and whisk the melted butter/oil.  With a pastry brush, brush one side of chicken breats.  Place the BRUSHED SIDE DOWN in the pan and begin searing.  While that side is cooking, brush the exposed side with remaining mixture.  If you are grilling instead of pan searing, follow the same steps, placing brushed side down on grill first.  Then brush exposed side while bottom is cooking.  Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side or until it develops a loverly browned crust.  Then flip and cook the other side for 3-4 minutes as well.

When the chicken is finished, transfer it to a plate and allow it to rest at least 5 minutes before slicing for serving.  (Note:  Don't worry about the chicken drying out.  Baking it a a low temperature, enclosed and then searing it locks all the moisture inside.)  Save the pan, you'll be making your pasta sauce in this pan!!

Rattlesnake Pasta
1/4 c. flour
4 T. butter
3/4 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 c. shredded pepper jack cheese
8 oz. bag of Mexican cheese blend (whatever brand you choose)
1/4 c. of mild or medium good quality picante 
2 1/2-3 c. milk
1/2 of a green pepper, julienned
1/2 of a red pepper, julienned
8 oz. bag of linguini or fettucini type (flat) pasta
4 qts. boiling water
1 T. salt
fresh cilantro for garnish

In a large pot boil 4 qts of water with 1 T. of salt.  When it comes to a rolling boil, all at once add your noodles to the water.  Cook until al dente (usually about 7 minutes) or as instructed on the package.

In the same skillet you pan seared your chicken in, toss in the butter and let it melt.  Add in the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds.  Then, with a silicone coated whisk, stir in the flour and pepper to make a roux.

Let it bubble for a minute or two, until the flour no longer looks raw but seems to look yellow.  In 1/2 c. increments, stir in milk.  Completely incorporating each addition until all of the milk has been added.  After adding 2.5 cups of milk...asses the thickness.  Some people don't like super thick pasta sauces; some do.  If you prefer your sauces thinner, add the last half cup of milk before you incorporate the peppers and cheeses.

Whisk in your cheeses and stir until melted.  Add in the julienned peppers and cook for 5 minutes or until tender (NOT MUSHY!!).

Add in the picante at the very last minute, stir in well.  Immediately toss with the cooked pasta.

Serve on a plate with your chicken sliced and fanned out on top.  Garnish with a small bit of fresh chopped cilantro and serve.

This was one of the most complex flavored dishes I've endeavored in quite a while.  All of the confidence in the world can't fix "blech".  Luckily, this was a successful dish.  This recipe, of course, could be made with pasta that ISN'T chocolate flavored and it would be just as wonderful.  But the chocolate really brought the spice out in the sauce.  The Mister was surprised at how successful it was.  I was not.  I was just plain excited!  The cayenne made its presence known at immediately after swallowing.  It sort of "hung out" in the back of your mouth...reminding you that the noodles weren't just sweet...they were SPICY as well.  Not too spicy though, which was the key to this being a happy marriage in the mouth.  

I loved this challenge and would TOTALLY do something like this again in a heartbeat!  I am grateful that my dear friend included me in the fun...even if I am a HUGELY pregnant, swollen indivdual.  Pregnant folks gotta eat too!  Try this recipe out today, whether you have the chocolate-cayenne pasta or not!  You'll make it again and again.  I know I am going to!