Friday, October 30, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie is one of the ultimate comfort foods. We can switch it up to accommodate what happens to be available at the time. So, here's a good starting place for you guys.

This does my family one dinner and one lunch easily. If we are careful (read, Jim doesn't decide that it's WAAAY too good), it can do 2 dinners.

Chicken Pot Pie
1 chicken
1 can cream of chicken soup (or mushroom, or chicken and mushroom)
8 oz frozen carrots
8 oz frozen green beans
8 oz frozen corn kernels
Salt, lemon pepper, Italian seasoning, pepper, (ok whatever you want...helpful, aren't I?)
1 pie crust

Optional: 1 large onion, diced and saute'ed, 1 or 2 potatoes, diced small (1/4")

1. In a large pot, cover the chicken with water, and boil for several hours. If it falls apart when you try to pull it out of the water, that's about right. When it's fall off the bone tender, pull the chicken out, and let it cool. Pick the carcass clean. You want the meat for the pie, not the skin and bones.

2. In a LARGE bowl, mix the chicken, soup, seasonings, and the veggies. Tasty tasty to make sure it's all nummy.

3. Put the filling into a lasagna sized pan. I use the foil pans, myself.

4. Roll out the pie crust to fit the pan. I have a great cutting board that is JUST the right size. Put pie crust over the filling, and cut steam vents in the top.

5. Bake for about 1 hour at 300, or about 30 minutes at 350. (Temp check = 180ish)

6. Eat and enjoy.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Shepherd's Pie

My grandmother's recipe was the foundation for this one. She showed me the basics, I made it taste. If anyone has heard about my grandmother's cooking, you know that she is not real big on taste in her cooking.

2 pounds of ground meat
2 pounds potatoes
1 large onion
2 TBSP tomato paste
garlic powder
Italian seasoning
whatever veggies you want to toss in.

1. Take your potatoes, and cut them into large chunks. Boil them until fork tender in salted water. Make mashed potatoes according to your family's preferences. (Mine like cheesy-garlic smashed taters.)
2. Brown your meat. The type of meat isn't too important. I use what's on sale, or what I have on hand. Beef, pork, turkey, venison, lamb, it all works. I'd mix turkey 1/2 and 1/2 with something though.
3. Chop up your onion. 1/4" to 1/2" dice is fine. Saute in whatever you want to, I use butter, until translucent. Add to meat.
4. Mix in seasonings to taste into your meat and onion mixture. Mix in the tomato paste. You can substitute some tomato sauce if that's what you have.
5. Mix in whatever frozen (thawed is ok, and fresh works too) veggies you have on hand that work for you. Corn, green beans, peas all work pretty good.
6. Spread meat in the bottom of an oven safe 9 x 13 baking/roasting pan. Top with the mashed potatoes.
7. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, until heated through and veggies are cooked.

Shepherd's Pie is the ultimate in "use up what you got" around my house. It's a great and filling supper, that warms you up when the temperatures outside start dipping. As always, make this your own. There are lots of variations out there.

Friday, October 16, 2009

What to Cook Friday

Fridays are not the best days for me to cook. First of all, it's payday, which means it's the day to shop. Which means not getting home until 9pm. Who wants to cook then? Not I. However the kids and the husband insist they must be fed dinner. What's a girl to do? I hit my basic ready-in-minutes meals. Here's one.

This recipe will cost a bit more than usual, as I generally pick up things that are already sliced, and ready to cook.

Friday Night Rush

16 oz package sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 pounds sliced beef or chicken
4 large baking potatoes
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
3 cloves garlic
1/2 to 1 soup can milk

1. Scrub potatoes, and cook them in the microwave (8 minutes, check them, and see where you are at.)
2. Saute the mushrooms in about 2 TBSP of butter. As they release their water, add some salt to season, not much more than a pinch.
3. Season the meat. I use lemon pepper, salt & pepper, sometimes garlic powder. Whatever you have.
4. Melt another 2 TBSP butter in another pan. Press the garlic into the melted butter and saute for a few minutes. Add meat, and saute until fully cooked.
5. In a sauce pan, put the can of soup, and milk. Warm it up, stirring it until the milk is fully incorporated. Add the cooked mushrooms.
6. To serve, put meat on plate, and put some of the mushroom sauce over it. Add baked potato, and whatever toppings you like. Add another side (sauteed bell peppers, steamed green beans, broccoli or whatever you like). Viola! Done. Usually takes me about 20 minutes to get it to the table.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Oh, Look! I'm Early

Ok, tomorrow the family and I are going to be at and in (in hubby's case) a wedding, so I'm posting early.

Earlier this week, someone on one of my lists asked what to do with meatballs. The wheels in my head started turning so fast that smoke came out of my ears. (At least, that's what the kids said!) I was facing the day with 2 kids and me down with "flu-like" symptoms, and as the H1N1 was barreling through the gym where my daughter goes to gymnastics, it seemed prudent to keep everyone home, and safe(r). I was mentally running down what we had in the cabinets to put together for a dinner that was substantial and delicious. Apparently, I succeeded. So, here you are. As per usual, measurements are approximate, seasonings are "to taste", and variations are offered.

Brat's Meatballs Made 1 dinner meal and 1 lunch meal for 4 people

2 pounds of 1-2oz meatballs (recipe follows)
3 cups cooked rice (Jasmine, YUM)
1 can cream of chicken soup (hey, it's what I had!)
2/3 can milk (yeah, approximate this one)
1/3 cup sour cream
4 oz mozzarella cheese, grated (it's what we had, that needed used up)
salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

1. Line a 9x13 roasting pan with foil, and spray it with cooking spray (or brush w/ whatever you like to avoid sticking). The foil helps immensely with clean up.
2. Preheat oven to 325.
3. In a small pan, put the soup, milk and sour cream over a low heat to begin warming it up. Mix very well, ensuring an even mix. As it gets warm you can add your cheese, stirring it in. If you made the meatballs today, add the meatball juice, yes it's fat, but it tastes good! Mine wasn't too warm, and I had everything waiting for me. (Steps 3 and 4 can be interchanged.)
4. Put the cooked rice on the bottom of the roasting pan and spread the meatballs evenly across the rice.*
5. Carefully ladle the sauce over the meatballs and rice. You should be able to get some over just about the entire area. If you miss a spot or two, don't worry too much.
6. Put in oven for about 10 - 15 minutes until heated through.
7. Serve! Enjoy!

*You can also break up your meatballs in to smaller bits, I wouldn't want to break them into smaller than 1/4 meatballs, but we like the chunky aspect.

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground lamb (or use whatever meat you want)
garlic powder, lemon pepper, italian seasoning, salt, pepper to taste (I can't tell you how much, we never measure, and we make this mix 10lbs at a time.)

1. Mix meat with seasonings. If you feel the need to use bread crumbs or eggs as a binder feel free (I think 1 egg for 2 pounds is good), but these cooked up super moist and held together just fine. IF you are working with a small amount of meat (like this), you could press a clove or 2 (or 10) of garlic into the meat as you mix.
2. Make meatballs, approximately 1 - 2 inches across. We like them at about 1 1/2 inches.
3. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the meatballs on the baking sheet, and put in 300 degree oven for about 25 minutes, or until temperature reaches 140 degrees on a meat thermometer placed into the middle of a meatball.
4. You can now put these away in fridge or freezer (after cooling)or just use them in the above Brat Recipe. I just used them and the juice in the recipe.

You knew there would be variations, right?
1. Use any Cream of **** soup. You can change up the whole flavor base right there.
2. Use pork, veal, seafood, whatever you want for the meatballs. Try to pair your soup with the meat.
3. Use tomato soup, italian seasonings w/ milk, broth or red wine and just sprinkle your cheese on top. (For those who have family members who don't like cream sauces....)
4. Change your cheese...using a different cheese will change the character as well.

Just remember, I highly encourage you to change up anything in any recipe I put up that doesn't work for you. Working with the base recipes, and utilizing variations gives you a bigger number and differentiation of recipes to serve your family. It might be *like* what you served last week, or 2 weeks ago, but it isn't the same.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Feeding the Soul - Chicken Noodle Soup

So, it's been a strange couple of weeks, and yesterday I think I walked my feet off at the Tulsa State Fair. But the cooler weather is dropping in, and that means soup weather. There are thin soups, thick soups, weird soups, and old comfort food soups. Chicken Noodle Soup always makes us feel better, whether you believe it helps your body or just your mind. (Science tells that it actually helps us reduce mucus generation so we aren't as stuffed up, Gramma says it's just good for you. And frankly, anything that reminds us of the love Gramma has--can't be bad.)

Also, I make this by the truckload, and freeze it. So, here are my quantities. Also, the first list of ingredients is more geared toward the fact that I just need to look out the door to fine next Sunday's chicken dinner! (Ok, last weekend, all the chickens got processed, but you get the idea). Also, it takes a while, but it is so worth it.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Stage 1
1 Chicken, rinsed (especially if you buy this at the grocery store)
Water to cover
3 Carrots, scrubbed
3 Ribs Celery, including tops, scrubbed
1 Onion

Stage 2
2 - 3 Carrots, scrubbed, and sliced in about 1/4" slices
2 - 3 ribs of Celery, scrubbed, sliced in about 1/4" slices
however many cloves of garlic your family can stand, minced
1 16oz package of egg noodles (I use thin, OR make my own pasta)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place chicken in a large pot. Cover with water. Rough chop the carrots and celery into about 3 pieces each. Quarter onion. (NO peeling necessary). Toss vegetables in with chicken.
2. Bring to a boil, put lit on pot. Allow to simmer for at least 2 hours. This is where your stock comes from, don't skimp on it. I usually like to leave it about 3 hours. By this time the chicken should just about be falling off the bones. Carefully remove chicken from the stock, and put on a plate; allow to cool.
3. Strain stock. That is sometimes harder than it sounds. Place a colander over another large pot, and carefully pour the stock and veggies thru the colander, so you save your stock, but remove the veggies. Pick out any chicken that actually DID fall of the bones. The veggies are compost heap fodder at this point, but that's ok.
4. It can take between 30 minutes to an hour for the chicken to cool enough to handle. When it is, strip the chicken clean, discarding skin, connective tissue and bones. You should be left with a mound of chicken. Rough chop it if you wish.
5. Slice carrots, celery, mince onion. Put chicken and veggies into the freshly made chicken stock. Check seasoning, add a little salt and pepper to taste.
6. Bring to a boil and add noodles. Simmer until noodles are cooked, and serve. I like to put a little dollup of sour cream or shave a little cheese over each bowl.
7. Watch the smiles light up everyone's faces.

Short Cut Chicken Soup
But, but, I don't have TIME to cook all day............ok, yeah I hear ya. You know you can make a huge amount any day you are home, right? Complete everything up to and including step 4, then add chicken to broth, and freeze. Remove from freezer and thaw in refrigerator. Then finish as above.

But the real shortcut:

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked
3 carrots, sliced 1/4"
3 celery ribs, sliced 1/4"
1 16oz package egg noodles
salt and pepper to taste
1 quart chicken broth, or water

1. Cut up chicken breast.
2. Put everything EXCEPT noodles in pan. Adjust salt and pepper. Keep in mind, if you are using store-bought broth then you will probably have enough salt in there already.
3. Bring to a boil, add noodles, cook 10 minutes or until noodles are done. Serve.

Change up the veggies in Stage 2. Add potatoes instead of noodles.