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Posts from the ‘Meal Foods’ Category

Chick-a-Pot Pie

I know this isn’t an end-of-March dish, but March has been full of November here on the Palouse, so we’re still wallowing in winter comfort food. This is one of our favorites for a bone chilling day.

Chicken Pot Pie

Pie crust for a 2 crust pie
¼ cup butter
1/3 cup of flour 
2 cups milk
Salt & Pepper
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 cup chopped fresh carrots
1 cup frozen peas
1 can corn – drained

I start with the carrots first because they need time to cook. They get chopped with my usual imprecision and placed in a small sauce pan with plenty of extra water to simmer on medium heat while I work on the sauce. Later: When they are tender and the sauce is nearly done I dump the frozen peas and the drained can of corn in and bring the water back to a boil for just long enough to tenderize the peas and heat the corn. If you start them all at the same time, the green and yellow will be mush by the time the orange is tender.

Next I chop the chicken. My favorite is a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, but any chicken will do.

The next step is to start the sauce. See All-Purpose White Sauce AKA “Cream-of-Whatever” for instructions.

While the sauce is thickening, I start on the crust. I wish I could say I do this from scratch, but the truth is: I usually don’t. But I’m planning to get better about that.

I’m not proud of the perfectly able bodied food processor next to the Pillsbury box.

After spreading one of the rolled out crusts in the bottom of the pie plate, it’s time for some play-dough style fun – unless there’s a child on hand. Then I maintain my dignity and let them handle the next couple of steps.

I (or the child) get out a cookie cutter and cut the dough into shapes, usually leaves. Then with the scraps that are left, we make snakes!

CAUTION: Don’t let child helpers become emotionally attached to their snakes. The next step is to chop the snakes to bits and roll the bits into balls.

Waiting on the Filling

Those little balls turn out to be the stuff my family squabbles over when the pie is finished. After all, who doesn’t like little balls of pie crust! The trick is to keep dough lovers from eating them before they make it into the oven.

The veggies and the sauce are about done by now. Turn the oven on to pre-heat at 375 degrees.

Stir the chicken into the sauce.

Drain the vegetables thoroughly before adding them to the sauce. I let them stand and dry for 3-4 minutes in the strainer, because wet carrots and their friends can ruin the sauce you’ve worked so hard to thicken.

Bring the sauce back to steaming hot on the stove before filling the pie plate otherwise the crust will be soggy.

Arrange the fruit of your art atop the steamy filling. I like to group the little balls of goodness into threes. It looks pretty that way and it allows my children to practice skip counting while they’re making sure nobody got more than their “fair” share.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15-25 minutes until you like the look of the crust. If you like a really crispy crust you can bump the temperature up a bit.

Not Perfect – but Very Tasty!

This one probably could have used another 5 minutes or so in the oven, but it was already about 7:00PM and the boys were circling the kitchen like piranhas. It was better to sacrifice blogging perfection than keep them waiting any longer.

Basic White Sauce or “Cream-of-Whatever”

The fancy French word for this sauce is “Béchamel”.

I call it “Cream-of…” sauce, because it’s basically what you get when you buy a can of cream-of-mushroom (or cream-of-whatever-else) soup to use in cooking – only it’s better – and it makes you feel like a real cook.

Variations on this sauce form the base for homemade macaroni-n-cheese, Alfredo, tuna casseroles, creamy soups, pot pie fillings, biscuits-n-gravy and more. It never stands alone in the form you see below, but knowing how to get the base layer accomplished is a handy tool for so many recipes.

Medium/Thick Sauce:
1/4 cup butter (or another fat)
1/4 cup flour
2 cups of milk

Start by melting the butter on medium –low heat. When it’s bubbly, toss in the flour. (Other fats can be used according to recipe directions, and vegetables can also be added to saute at this stage but otherwise the procedure remains the same.)

Hot Butter with the Flour Just Added

Mix until it makes a smooth paste. Keep stirring until it is bubbly again and the butter begins to turn golden. The flour needs to cook a bit at this stage to avoid having a pasty texture in the final sauce. (Keep the heat at medium or less and go slow if this is a new procedure for you.)

Butter and Flour

Begin slowly adding milk – about ¼ cup at a time to start with and mix everything back into a smooth paste before adding more.

Add milk in small doses.

Add more milk when it’s back to looking like this.

After the first cup of milk has been added and the sauce is thinning out, I go ahead and dump the final cup of milk in all at once. It will then seem too runny, but as it simmers over low-medium heat for the next 10-15 minutes it will thicken considerably. While it’s simmering it needs to be whisked frequently (at least every 60 seconds) or it turns into various kinds of messes. Add salt and pepper to taste – which, of course, means you have to taste it.

This is about where you want it for sauce – to add cheese, etc…

My Man’s First Married Meal

I got married about 20 years ago, young and naive, but very blessed. Ric was a great catch.

Poor guy! He had no idea what he was in for the next time I fed him!

Our honey moon was a five-day drive from Macon, Georgia to South Prairie, Washington. My grandmother lived there and it was conveniently close to Fort Lewis, where Ric’s first assignment in the Army was to help supervise ROTC summer camp for two months before proceeding to Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

We were newly-weds in my Grandma’s house which was weird, but my grandma was very cool and we were pretty close to broke, so the price was right.

The price was also SO right on a perspective apartment in Lawton, Oklahoma that we decided I should go ahead of Ric to nab that dive before any other bottom feeders snagged it. The trek with two cats in a Blazer and a trailer that I couldn’t backup is another story, but it places me in Oklahoma, well out from under the umbrella of Grandma’s cooking, to greet my husband upon his triumphant arrival.

I should mention here that I didn’t know how to cook anything that mom hadn’t dictated via notes atop my formative kitchen catwalk (that’s the countertop) regarding what to drop in the crock-pot before I left for my days in middle school.

But…I was married now.

So, I tore into to the stack of wedding gifts and unboxed my very own slow cooker, with a chic early ’90’s cornflower adorning the poorly designed crock. I was in my microscopic culinary comfort zone but married life called for something sexier than the meat and veggies that mom had always set forth.

Chili, of course!

I can’t even remember what I might have dumped into that mess, but I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t humble enough to consult a cookbook. Ugg!

Anyway, everything was fine until Ric was getting closer and the chili was runny. My solution seemed ingenious at the time – yellow cornmeal! After all, chili goes SO well with cornBREAD. Surely dumping cornMEAL into chili would be a tasty way to soak up extra “juice” and perfect my first wifely culinary offering.

For the record, cornmeal does NOT smooth out the texture of runny chili. It hangs tough in the face of tomato acid and remains just as hard and grainy as it is raw. And, the chili is still runny.

After 30 hours on the road, Ric arrived to his first romantic, home-cooked meal.

I wish you could see the color in my face twenty years later as I recall that first taste. I learned a valuable lesson that night about my own kitchen intuition and began to consult the printed work of experts.

My officer and gentleman never acknowledged any issues. What a man!

J.P.’s Potato and Leek Soup

Some people aren’t sure what a leek looks like, so I thought I’d draw one. Then I got carried away with a gardening memory from last summer. What you see below is my rendition of the day I found the supposedly dignified Rouge Vif d’ Etemps Pumpkin plant dragging a poor innocent leek down the row by its throat. It was funny for everyone but the Leek. Silly pumpkin! Leeks are for kids!

Pumpkin kidnaps a Leek!

Maybe not all kids like leeks, but mine sure do. J.P. spotted the last bag in the freezer a few days ago and launched a campaign for soup until I let him loose in the kitchen. He did a marvelous job! (Original posted 3-18-2011 on the old blog.)

Potato and Leek Soup

¼ – ½ cup butter
¼- ½ cup flour (equal to the butter)
2 cups milk
1 quart of chicken or vegetable broth
1 large or 2 medium leeks chopped 
1 can of corn
6-10 small Yukon gold or red potatoes peeled and chopped
Salt & pepper to taste

The Last Veterans of the Great Pumpkin Raid after winter in the Freezer

First, peel and chop the potatoes.

You don’t need these pictures, but I’m proud of my kiddo!

Heat the butter to bubbling, toss in the leeks and sauté until they are soft and the house smells absolutely FABULOUS.

Leeks in the Butter

Dump in the flour and stir to make a paste. (We missed pictures of this step because the neighbors stopped in with their adorable baby and JP and I were both so happily distracted that it was all we could do to remember to stir!)

J.P. with baby Will.

Start adding the milk, little by little, stirring until you have a smooth paste before adding more. Once you’ve added it all you should have a liquid base without lumps. (If you’d like a richer soup you can use whole milk or even substitute a little bit of half-n-half for some of the milk.)

After the Milk has all been Added

Add the rest. Pour in the broth and dump in the diced potatoes and corn. The smaller the chunks of potato, the faster they cook.

Ready to Simmer for a While

Let it simmer until the potato chunks are tender enough to break with the edge of a wooden spoon. Taste, and add salt and pepper until it’s just right.

Just about Ready

If you like a creamy soup, then stick the immersion blender into the pot and run it for a few seconds until you get the consistency that suits your fancy.

Making Creamy Soup

Last, but not least, share with the neighbors that let you hold their baby.

Cups for the Neighbors

Salt Crusted Prime Rib

From cookies to carne! (My first non-cookie post.) – originally posted 3/14/2011

This weekend, we were CELEBRATING! Ric finished his Ph.D. in Nuclear (Radiological) Chemistry! Instead of commemorative pocket protectors we went with Prime Rib. My Aunt Angela, Uncle Pete, Cousin Melissa and all the kids were in the kitchen at some point.

Just after we took the photo we realized we needed to re-platter.

The first time I tried roasting prime rib was after watching one of our students, (who is determined not to be a chef, except when he’s in the kitchen), pull it off for a crowd at a Christmas party. It was delicious. I came home and studied my Julia Child cookbook for a few days, and finally plunged in on Christmas day 2009 for my family, mom, dad and grandma. The results were spectacular with twice-baked potatoes, steamed artichokes and luscious white rolls.

Here’s the basic recipe:

Details are lacking, but it jogs my memory.


About six hours before you want to eat, Start the Sauce with Veggies and Broth – Coarsely chop two onions, a few stocks of celery and several carrots. Toss them into a sauté pan with olive oil and garlic. When the vegetables are soft, and just beginning to brown at the edges, pour a cup or so of red wine into the pan to “deglaze”. Then dump it all into the bottom of a large stock pot and pour a couple of quarts of beef broth over the top. Add a bay leaf, thyme, rosemary and black pepper to taste. Let it steam on low while the vegetables give up their essence and the sauce reduces.

The sauce, off to a good start.

Decide on Go Time for the Meat: Divide the weight of the prime rib by 3 to figure out approximately how many hours to allow – for example: 12lbs needs about 4 hours. Just before you need to start, preheat the oven to 400, and prepare the salt crust for the meat. Mix the salt, oil, peppers and mustard in a small dish until you get a coarse paste. Rub it all over the outside of the roast.

The salt-crust paste.

Place the salt encrusted meat on a roasting rack and put in the oven at 400 degrees for the first 30 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 325 degrees for the duration. It takes 15-20 minutes per pound to get the meat to an internal temperature of 135 degrees – medium rare in the center and a little more done at the edges.

A coat to wear in the oven.

About 1.5 hours before the meal: Chop the Portobello – The earthy flavor of the final sauce comes from these flavorful mushrooms. Chop 3-4 of them – coarsely if you want children to be able to pick them out at the end, or more finely if you want a sophisticated looking version with tiny bits of mushroom. They will shrink a lot in the broth so there’s no need to mince at the start.

I actually don’t care for mushrooms, but these are so good!

Gutting mushrooms.

Cutting mushrooms.

Once you have the mushrooms chopped: Ditch the Veggies – About an hour before you want to serve the meat, it’s time to remove the vegetable carcasses – their flavor is gone and they have nothing left to offer except making what would otherwise be a beautifully smooth sauce full of slimy chunks. Pour the contents of the stock pot through a strainer into another pot. Press the final juices from the vegetables in the strainer and discard them. Oops…I wasn’t going to use text-bookish words like “discard” so, how about – “plop ’em in the trash”.

The vegetables are spent. It’s time to dump them.

Once the veggies are out: Dump in the mushrooms and let them do their work.

There’s broth under there somewhere…the mushrooms will shrink.

Watch the Temperature. It’s really important to have a thermometer in the meat in order to keep from wasting a very expensive cut by over or under cooking. The Javin says 130, but that’s pretty rare for the home environment where it won’t continue to warm in a chafing dish. I think that waiting until it hits 135 works a little better.

When the temperature reaches 135: Take it out! Admire it. Then put it under a loose blankie of foil and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.

Right out of the oven.

Shhh…while the meat is resting…thicken the Sauce. Quietly, dissolve 1-2 TBSP of cornstarch in ½ cup of cold water and pour it into the fortified broth mixture. This will help thicken the sauce slightly.

Sauce almost ready – the mushrooms did shrink!

When everything is ready, uncover the roast. Carve. Cover in sauce. Eat.

A Sprinkle of Reality: That part about quietness while the meat rests…that was a joke! All of the above would be simple and calm if we ate prime rib without any sides. But, in those gaps between steps, you have to fit the potatoes, any veggies that don’t get dumped, bread, salad and perhaps even plans for dessert. On this particular occasion we kept it pretty simple with a green salad, mashed potatoes, Uncle Pete’s homemade rolls and apple crisp with freshly whipped cream for dessert.

Uncle Pete forming rolls.

Ready to eat.

Liam working on Apple Crisp Crust.  Isn’t he cute!!