Thursday, January 31, 2013

Chicken in the Pot with Winter Vegetables

My husband came with a dowry. A vacuum, a nice crock pot, and lots (and lots) of books, including a very respectable cookbook library. I don't think that he actually used the cookbooks (at least not very often), he just liked the books. In fact, one of the things I loved about my husband from the first was how he would stroll through a bookstore, perusing the shelves, leafing through and even buying random books. Like the one about Amish furniture, and the two about building your own farm equipment and buildings.

One of the cookbooks he brought to my kitchen is called French Cooking for Beginners, by Helene Siegel. I love what she writes in her introduction:
"Everyday French cooking is no more complicated or costly than any other style of cooking...French cooking means bringing an attitude of caring and respect as well as technique into the kitchen...At it's best, it is cooking with the heart as well as the hands, and it needn't be haute to be so...When all is said and done, food, along with wine, is meant to be savored slowly and enjoyed with friends graciously--not worried to death. To the French it is natural to care passionately about what they eat and how they eat it. It is a way of life."
A recipe I've made many times from her book is this Chicken in the Pot with Winter Vegetables (her variation of poule au pot, from southwestern France). It is incredibly easy to make, and has a fantastic, delicate flavor. I've made this with chicken breast and thighs, and also just thighs. Both are equally as good, so just use the kind of meat you like best. She has you leave the skin on while cooking and then remove it for serving. This is also up to you. I like to leave the skin on half of my chicken pieces and then remove it after cooking. I think the skin adds a bit of extra flavor, but it does add some fat to the broth (not necessarily a bad thing). I've found that leaving the skin on half the chicken is a good compromise.

Helene also has you leave the chicken pieces whole for serving (place the piece of chicken on top of the vegetables in your bowl and ladle the broth over the top). I did this the first time--and it was a lovely presentation--but it was tricky to eat the chicken, so since then I've always removed the meat from the bone, shredded it, and returned it to the pot. This does make it more of a soup, and further away from the true French poule au pot, but cooking is all about adapting recipes to suit your needs and style. Yes?

Chicken in the Pot with Winter Vegetables (adapted from French Cooking for Beginners)
printable recipe

1 large turnip, trimmed and peeled
3 carrots, trimmed and scraped
2 celery ribs, trimmed
1 small onion, trimmed
1 bay leaf
2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, breasts, or combination of both, skin removed if desired
1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon
2 whole cloves
1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 32-oz carton chicken broth (4 cups)
1 cup dry white wine

1. Cut all the vegetables into sticks, about 2- by 1/2-inchs, and mix them together in a bowl.

2. Put half of the vegetables in the bottom of a medium pot. Top with the bay leaf and then the chicken pieces, skin-side up. Put the remaining vegetables on top of the chicken. Sprinkle with the tarragon, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper. Pour in the chicken broth and white wine.

3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook for 35-40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Remove the chicken to a bowl and keep warm. Remove the bay leaf and whole cloves and discard. Remove the meat from the bones, shred it, and return it to the pot. Heat it through and serve.

Makes 4 generous servings.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Cups

I have a 16 1/2-year old daughter, who, in spite of her fantastic intentions of going to bed at a reasonable time so she can get up at a reasonable time, is usually running out the door at mach 2 in order to make it to school. This often translates to: not eating breakfast. We needed something she could pick up and walk out the door with, without having to slow down a whole lot.

I've run across recipes for baked oatmeal in my travels around Pinterest and decided we'd give it a try. When baked in muffin tins it definitely looked like to-go food. I thought this recipe by I Heart Eating seemed fairly straight forward--without excess sugar, or vegan ingredients that I don't use--and was a good place to start. I changed the mix-ins a bit to accommodate what I had on-hand, and they turned out perfect for what we were looking for. They were just sweet enough, had a dense, muffin-like texture, and the frozen blueberries I added were fantastic. And, most important, my daughter gave them a thumbs-up. Score.

A great thing about these grab-and-go oatmeal cups (something I didn't realize until I was mixing them up) is they can easily be gluten free! (Make sure to use gluten-free oats.) My brother-in-law had to go gluten-free several months ago, so now I'm always looking for recipes to help my sister adjust her way of cooking (the transition has been a bit traumatic for both of them).

Another great thing about these oatmeal cups is the nutritional information! Sometimes I figure out the nutritional information and include it with the recipes I post, and sometimes I don't. For example, you might notice that not many (if any) of the desserts, treats, or other delicious things on this blog have the nutrition information. There are some things I just don't want to know. But these were a pleasant surprise, especially the Weight Watcher's Plus Points, which came in at 3 points per oatmeal cup if you make 12. If you have a jumbo muffin pan (which I do!), and you make 8 jumbo muffins, they are 5 points each--still a great deal! (You could also eat 1 1/2 standard-size oatmeal cups for the same 5 points.) The rest of the nutrition info is at the end of the recipe, so keep reading. Or scroll down to skip my blabber. Either way.

Assembly is pretty standard: mix the dry together; mix the wet together; mix the wet and the dry together; scoop into muffin tin. The scoop-into-muffin-tin part proved to be a bit tricky. Here's why: Because there isn't any flour to soak up the liquid ingredients and the oatmeal needs time to soak up the liquid ingredients, as you scoop out the mixture, you find yourself left with a puddle in the bottom of the bowl. Since the idea is to divide the mixture (liquid included) evenly between the muffin tin cavities, I found if I stirred it up before each scoop I was able to get it pretty evenly distributed. I did use a spoon to add a bit of the puddle to my first couple of scoops because they were noticeably dryer than the rest.

Another issue I had, and I have this same problem when making chocolate chip cookies, is that my last two scoops were very light on the blueberries. I tossed a few extra blueberries into the bowl, stirred them around, and we were good to go.

You can mix these up, fill your muffin tin, and bake them right away, or you can refrigerate them and bake them in the morning. They make your house smell absolutely divine, so this would be a very nice way to wake up in the morning. For me, I baked them at night, let them cool, and put them in a covered container in the fridge, because baking them in the morning would necessitate me getting out of bed early enough to put them in the oven in order for my daughter to be able to have one for breakfast...and that's just too. darn. early.

Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Cups (adapted from this recipe)
printable recipe

3 cups old fashioned oatmeal (GF, if you're going for that)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium banana, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 cup frozen blueberries, plus a few extra for the last few scoops
1 cup 1% milk
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Heat your oven to 350, and line a standard-size, 12-cavity muffin tin with cupcake papers (or spray the cavities lightly with non-stick spray)

2. In a medium bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients, the banana and blueberries, and mix well. In a separate medium bowl, combine all of the wet ingredients, and mix well. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, and gently mix until well combined.

3. Divide the mixture evenly between the 12 prepared muffin cavities and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until set and firm to the press of a finger. Cool completely before storing in the refrigerator (the cupcake papers will also come off more cleanly if they are cooled all the way).

Makes 12 oatmeal cups.

Per muffin (1/12 recipe): 125 cal; 1.6g fat; 25g crb; 2.8g fbr; 10.7g sugr; 4g pro; 3 WW+ pts.
Per muffin (1/8 recipe): 187 cal; 2.4g fat; 38.5g crb; 4.2g fbr; 16.1g sugr; 6g pro; 5 WW+ pts.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sausage Pie

After having such a mild fall, this winter has officially been the coldest winter I've ever lived through. Driving my daughter to school in the morning in temperatures that have ranged from -3 to 5 degrees has been simply insane. The heated seats in my van are getting a good workout, though. These frigid temperatures call for warm, cozy food, like this Sausage Pie.

This pie is very, very tasty, and very easy to make. I love to make it a one-pot dish and finish it off in the oven in the skillet, but you can instead transfer the filling to a 9x13 baking dish, top it with the pie crust, and bake it. If you decide to leave it in the skillet, make sure that yours is oven-safe, and that you've removed the silicone/rubber handle cover (oops.). And please, please remember that your handle is going to be hot, and don't grab it with your hand after you've taken it out of the oven. It. Really. Hurts.

This time I made the pie with a pie-crust top, but I've also made it with biscuits on top. Yum. I used a Pillsbury pie crust, but if you have a pie crust recipe you love, please feel free to use that instead. Also, this time I used frozen peas and carrots, but I've also used 1/2 cup frozen peas and 2 fresh carrots, scraped and diced.

To speed things along, I cooked the potatoes until they were almost tender in a bowl of water in the microwave, about 15 minutes on high.

Sausage Pie

1 12-oz tube Jimmy Dean 50% less fat sausage
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 medium bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup 2% milk
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 cup frozen peas and carrots, thawed
1 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust, softened according to package directions

1. Heat your oven to 425 deg. If you're going to use your skillet in the oven, make sure you take off the handle over before starting the filling. If you're going to transfer the filling to a 9x13 baking pan, spray it lightly with non-stick spray.

2. Put the potatoes and salt in a microwave-safe bowl, and cover with water. Cook in the microwave on high for about 10-15 minutes, or until almost tender. Drain and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, heat a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat. Brown and crumble the sausage until only a few spots of pink remain. Add the bell pepper and onion, and cook, stirring often, until the veggies are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and thyme, and stir to coat everything. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often.

4. Add the chicken broth, milk, and Worcestershire sauce, and mix well. Bring it to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened, 5-10 minutes. Stir in the parsley, peas and carrots, and partially cooked potatoes. Remove from the heat.

5. Lightly flour your counter top or work surface. Unroll the pie crust and gently roll it out with a rolling pin so it's just a little bit bigger. If you're leaving the pie in the skillet, gently place the pie crust on top of the filling and make several cuts in it to let steam escape. If you're using a 9x13 baking pan, transfer the filling to the prepared pan, top with the pie crust, and make the cuts.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly around the edges, the crust is golden brown, and the potatoes are tender.

Makes 4 generous servings.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Spinach Quiche Squares

This crust-less quiche makes regular appearances in our house. It's so easy to make, and tastes so good. It also freezes well, and I'll often freeze portions wrapped in plastic wrap for quick meals or snacks. Over the years I've served this as breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, and it's been fantastic every time.

I've tried several different types of frozen hash browns, and prefer the Ore Ida brand Country Style. The generic store brand I tried was too thinly shredded to be noticeable in the finished quiche, and the Ore Ida Southern Style (little cubes) were too big.

For the cheese, you can use any combination of cheddar, Swiss, Jack, etc. I usually use half cheddar and half a white cheese; my store sells a nice mix that is a combination of several white cheeses.

I almost never make bacon for eating as-is, but I like to use it in cooking, so I always have a bag of real bacon crumbles in the fridge. I like the Costco Kirkland brand or Oscar Meyer, just make sure what you buy isn't imitation, bacon-flavored stuff.

Even though the spinach is already chopped, run a knife through it several times after you've squeezed out as much water as you can. I've found if the pieces of spinach are too big it's hard to cut nice-looking squares of the quiche.

Spinach Quiche Squares
printable recipe

1 3/4 cup 2% or whole milk
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
6 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2-3/4 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional)
1 small onion, minced
1/3 cup real bacon crumbles
4 oz shredded cheese (any combination of cheddar, jack, Swiss, etc.)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cups frozen Ore Ida Country Style Hash Browns
8 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry, and chopped
3 medium tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch slices

1. Heat your oven to 325 deg, and spray a 9x13 pan with non-stick spray.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and flour. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth. Add the salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and whisk until combined.

3. Add the onion, bacon crumbles, cheeses, hash browns, and spinach, and mix until well combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared 9x13 pan, and spread solids evenly. Arrange 12 tomato slices on top of the mixture in 3 rows of 4 slices.

4. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the quiche is slightly puffed and set when the pan is gently jiggled, and just beginning to brown around the outside. Serve warm or room temperature.

Makes 12 servings.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Rustic Apple Crostata

Happy New Year! What better way to bring in 2013 than with a luscious dessert? Because none of you have had enough desserts and treats during the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, right? Yeah, that's what I thought.

This Rustic Apple Crostata was one of the desserts we had with our Italian-themed New Year's Eve dinner. It's super, super easy to put together because it's a free-form tart (hence the "rustic" part), which means you can't really do it wrong. We enjoyed it with some lovely vanilla bean ice cream, and it would be equally as delicious with some sweetened whipped cream.

I used 1 refrigerated Pillsbury pie crust, but if you have a pie crust recipe you love, feel free to use that instead. Also, I used Gala apples, but you can use any variety of apple you like.

Rustic Apple Crostata

1 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust, softened at room temperature for 15 minutes
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2-3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 medium to large Gala apples, peeled, cored, sliced into 1/8-1/4 inch slices
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar

1. Heat your oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Add the sliced apples and toss gently to combine. Set aside.

3. Unroll the pie crust and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Using a rolling pin, roll the pie crust to make it just a little bit bigger, about a 13-inch circle.

4. Pile the apple mixture onto the center of the pie crust, leaving a 2 1/2-inch border. Gently fold the edge of the pie crust up and over the apple mixture, dabbing on a bit of water where the pie crust overlaps. The finished crostata should be about 8 inches across. Brush the pie crust with heavy cream and sprinkle it with sugar.

5. Bake the crostata for 25-30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Serve warm or room temperature.

Makes 6-8 servings (or 2-3 servings if you're at my house ;)

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