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Chicken Pot Pie – Like Grandma Made, with Less Guilt!

January 7, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie is one of those comfort foods that I just can’t resist.  It warms you up with it’s nostalgic flavor, but it isn’t exactly kind to your behind…typically loaded with butter and heavy cream, I’m not sure how much good all those veggies do for you.  So, instead of following a recipe, it was time to create my own and make it slightly better for you.  Yes, only slightly…so it’s a bit of a work in progress.  The cold nights are here, so try it out and forget about buying those frozen pot pies ever again.

  • 4 Chicken Thighs
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup celery, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, sliced
  • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup water + 1 bouillon cube
  • 1-2 sheets puff pastry or pie crust
  • egg wash (egg white + water)

Sprinkle your chicken with paprika and salt.  Using a non-stick pan, brown the chicken until just cooked (don’t overcook!).  Remove from heat and once cooled, dice the chicken and set aside.

If using puff pastry or pie crust on the bottom, follow the direction to pre-cook the bottom layer in your pie dish.  To make things healthier, only use puff pastry or pie crust for the top.

Drizzle the olive oil in your non-stick pan and sauté the garlic, onion, celery, carrots, and bell pepper until softened.

Sprinkle the vegetables with flour and cook for 1 minute.  Slowly add the chicken broth, constantly stirring to avoid lumps.  Bring to a simmer and add chicken, thyme, and bouillon (dissolved in 1/4 cup water – I use a paste called “Better than Bouillon”).  Simmer for 5-10 minutes until thickened.

Pour chicken and vegetable mixture over the cooked puff pastry or pie crust (if using) then top with puff pastry or pie crust.  I prefer to use puff pastry.  Brush egg wash over your crust.

Bake according to your puff pastry or pie crust directions.  A convection toaster oven makes things a bit quicker.

Once your top is a nice golden brown, remove from the oven and let is rest.  If you don’t, the sauce will still be thin and will ooze out like this:


PREP: 20 minutes    COOK: 40 minutes   SERVINGS: 6   LEVEL: Easy

This recipe isn’t as heavy as a cream based pot pie, so you can enjoy it with less guilt.  Oh, and no butter!  I had never had chicken pot pie with bell pepper before and am so glad that I threw it in.  The flavor from the bell pepper added a lovely sweet note and some additional nutrition.  Make sure to use yellow or orange since they are mild and sweet.  This is a great recipe to prep ahead of time – just make all of the filling in advance, pour into a pie dish, top with your prepared crust (skip the bottom) and bake.   And, this is a kid-friendly recipe…the entire pie was eaten so if you want leftovers, make two!


Turkey and Stuffing Dumpling Soup – Relina’s Leftovers

November 22, 2011

I created this recipe last year after hosting Thanksgiving for a few people.  I made enough food for 20 and had a ton of leftovers.  After days of eating them, I was tired of the taste of Thanksgiving and after some online research, created this Award Winning Recipe (so funny to be able to say that!).   This recipe won a Recipe Contest with Taste of Home Magazine for Thanksgiving Leftovers which earned me a coveted spot in the magazine.  The magazine caught the attention of our local news Reporter who asked me to demo the recipe for their Thanksgiving segment.  This has been incredibly unexpected and terrificly exciting!  Hopefully it will turn into more! 

  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (add more if you prefer more broth since most of it will be absorbed by the dumplings)
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped fresh carrots
  • 2 teaspoons Creole seasoning (more if you like)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups cooked stuffing
  • 2 cups cubed cooked turkey
  • 1-1/2 cups cut fresh green beans

In a Dutch oven, saute mushrooms and onion in oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add the broth, carrots and Creole seasoning. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered for 5-8 minutes or until carrots are tender.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk eggs and flour until smooth. Crumble stuffing over mixture; mix well. If necessary, add water, 1 teaspoon a time, until mixture holds its shape.

Add the turkey and green beans; return to a boil. Drop stuffing mixture by heaping tablespoonfuls onto simmering soup. Cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in a dumpling comes out clean (do not lift the cover while simmering). 

Black Pepper Biscuits – Buttermilk Biscuits Beat Bisquick!

October 9, 2011

Hot, fresh biscuits just make me feel warm and fuzzy!  After having spent a few years in high school working for Bob Evans, not only do I love fresh biscuits, but I love them with sausage gravy!  The hubby is also a huge fan and always orders biscuits and gravy when we go out for breakfast.  For years, I used Bisquick thinking that biscuits were hard to make.  After finally trying out a biscuit recipe, I realized how quick and easy they are.  I’ve made a few versions of Buttermilk Biscuits and when Bobby’s recipe was in the October issue of Food Network, I had to try them!  So far, they are my favorite!  And, they go great with my Dad’s recipe for Sausage Gravy.  Try these biscuits and you’ll never make Bisquick biscuits again!

Adapted from Bobby Flay, 

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus 4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick), melted
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, chilled
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream – this is not a required ingredient
  • Freshly ground pepper – black pepper and I don’t get along, so I omit it

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  No parchment?  Spray your baking sheet with pan spray.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the cold butter using your fingers or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the buttermilk and mix gently until the mixture just begins to come together.

Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured counter. Pat into a 10-by-12-inch rectangle, about 3/4 inch thick.  I like big, fluffy biscuits, so I rolled mine out to about an inch thick.  Use a 2-inch round cutter to cut out biscuits. Press together the scraps and repeat.

Place the biscuits 2 inches apart on the baking sheet – I like soft edges, so I place the biscuits next to each other; brush the tops with the cream or butter and sprinkle with pepper (use 2 teaspoons total). Bake until light golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Brush the biscuits with the melted butter and transfer them to a wire rack to cool at least slightly.

PREP: 10 minutes   COOK: 15 minutes   SERVINGS: 4

These biscuits were quick and easy to make plus they were light and fluffy, even without having a pastry cutter.  These are restaurant quality biscuits – you will love them, I promise!  So, save that bisquick for…umm, okay just toss it, you don’t need it anymore!

LEVEL: Easy   TIME: 25 minutes   GRADE: A

Crockpot Hawaiian Pineapple Chicken – Get Tropical Any Day of the Week!

July 23, 2011

All busy families need quick meals.  Crockpots and slow-cookers aren’t quick to cook the food, but your hands-on time is typically very short.  I have made a few versions of Hawaiian Chicken, but many called for a bottled Terriyaki sauce.  I didn’t have a sauce on hand that I liked, so after a little online research, I played with the ingredients and came up with this recipe.  It’s lighter than any chicken made with a bottled sauce and will take you to a tropical place with very little time invested.  Aloha!

  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 6-ounce can pineapple juice
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry ginger
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • 4 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon corn starch
  • 20-ounce can pineapple chunks
Place thighs, onion and garlic in your crockpot.  Whisk pineapple juice, ginger, soy, water, oil, sugar, and corn starch and pour over chicken.  Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.  An hour before serving, turn crockpot to high and add the entire can of pineapple chunks.  Cover until bubbling, then remove lid and continue cooking until ready to serve.  Use forks to shred the chicken and serve over rice.
PREP: 10 minutes   COOK: 7 hours  SERVINGS: 8

Chicken Marsala – That Won’t Cost $13 + tip!

February 14, 2011

I’ve been on an Italian kick lately…not sure why.  Chicken Marsala is one of those dishes that I didn’t try until I was in my 20’s, mainly because I couldn’t order anything other than Chicken Parm.  I’ve made Chicken Marsala a few times and it is shockingly simple to make.  For our Valentine’s Dinner, I tried Emeril’s recipe which isn’t much different than any other recipe out there.  This is such a basic dish, but remarkably, some restaurants can’t make it well.  Now you don’t have to wonder if the Marsala you order is going to be any good, you can just make it yourself!

Adapted from Emeril Lagasse,

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour  – I had checked out Olive Garden’s recipe and went with their suggestion to use Wondra flour.  It’s really fine and gives the chicken a nice, light dusting of flour.  Add a little more to thicken your sauce.
  • 1 tablespoon Essence, recipe follows
  • 2 (6 to 8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in halves and pounded thin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups sliced mushrooms (cremini, oyster, shiitake)  – I used a combination of cremini (baby bellas) and white button
  • 3/4 cup Marsala
  • 1 cup chicken stock  – stock, not broth.
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped chives, for garnish

Essence (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning):

Make extra and keep it on hand.  It’s a fabulous addition to…almost anything!

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

You must use pounded chicken breasts or you’ll be waiting for a long time for those big knockers to cook.  My preferred method is to cut the chicken breasts in half so they aren’t quite so thick, then put them in a gallon sized freezer bag and gently pound them with the flat side of my meat tenderizer until they are about 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick.  Small, quick taps will help prevent the chicken from tearing…if you hit them like you’re trying to kill them, you’ll have torn up chicken that will taste fine but not look so pretty.

In a shallow bowl or plate combine the flour and Essence and stir to combine thoroughly. Quickly dredge the chicken breast halves in the seasoned flour mixture, shaking to remove any excess flour.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter (I just used olive oil – then I didn’t have to feel so bad about adding the butter later) and cook the chicken breasts until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side – don’t overcook, once the edges of the chicken start to turn white, flip them over (they will be golden with an orange tint because of the seasoning).

Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining butter to the pan and add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are golden brown around the edges and have given off their liquid. Add the Marsala wine and bring to a boil, scraping to remove any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. When the wine has reduced by half – I gave it about 8 minutes, add the chicken stock and cook for 3 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Lower the heat to medium and return the chicken breasts to the pan and continue to cook until they are cooked through and the sauce has thickened, about 5 to 6 minutes. At this point I didn’t feel my sauce was thick enough, so I sprinkled in 1 Tablespoon of Wondra flour and then it was perfect. Swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, add salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with chopped chives and serve immediately.

PREP: 10-20 minutes   COOK: 30 minutes   SERVINGS: 4

This is a fabulous marsala as a base, but I still think you should adjust it to your liking.  Personally, I prefer more Marsala and less stock, about a 2 to 1 ratio – the Olive Garden doesn’t use any stock, just Marsala.  I have found that you have to cook the sauce down far too long to reach the consistency I like, so add a little Wondra and save yourself some time.

In my 20’s I ordered Chicken Marsala almost every time I went out to an Italian restaurant.  Now, I don’t know if I will ever again!  Why?!  It’s just too easy to make at home.  I’ll order the time consuming stuff…like fresh gnocchi and lasagna.  Mangia!

LEVEL: Easy   TIME: 40 minutes   GRADE: B+

Mac N Cheese – Please don’t buy boxed mac!

February 13, 2011

I think that my kids are pretty typical eaters, for the most part.  Yes, they will eat things that some kids won’t, but their fave foods are still pizza, hot dogs, and mac n cheese.  We are a cheesy family…the hubby is a cheese addict who has imparted his addiction onto the rest of us.  As the cook of the family, I am happy to make sure my family gets their cheese fix – in moderation, of course!  So, mac n cheese isn’t made more than once every few weeks…which is plenty.  I don’t typically make my mac from a recipe, I just throw it together.  This time, I decided to actually write down what I put in it so that you can recreate it.  Do NOT buy boxed macaroni and cheese ever again!  I know that this recipe is loaded with cheese, that can be modified to be slightly less bad for you, and it is far better than feeding yourself (or anyone else) a cheese flavored powder mixed with milk.  I’m just sayin’.

  • 1/2 – 1 cup diced brown onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 4 Tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 4 ounces (1/2 brick) cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 Tablespoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (thanks, Nate!)
  • 4 cups grated sharp cheddar
  • 1 lb. box of macaroni noodles, cooked al dente, drained

Heat the olive oil in a deep pan (don’t use a nonstick pan – you will ruin it when you get to the whisking) on medium heat.  Toss in your onions and sprinkle with salt.  Saute for about 5 minutes until the onions are translucent and soft.

Add the butter and once melted, sprinkle the flour and combine.  Slowly add milk, constantly whisking.  If you don’t take your time, you will have flour clumps.  If that happens, the best solution is to grab a stick blender or dump it all into a regular blender.  It’s not what you want to do but it will save your macaroni and cheese if it’s lumpy.

Once the milk is combined and you are lump free, add in the 1/2 block of cream cheese and stir until combined.  Add the garlic salt, ground mustard and Worcestershire sauce.  Bring to a simmer and whisk constantly for 5 minutes until the sauce has thickened.

Add the cheddar a handful at a time, stirring to combine.  Turn off heat and stir until the cheese is incorporated.

Mix in your drained pasta and serve.

PREP: 5 minutes   COOK: 20 minutes  SERVINGS: 6-8

BBQ Ribs – Made In Your Oven!

February 10, 2011

We have been perfecting our oven-baked ribs for years.  Growing up, I remember a time where my Dad destroyed a batch of ribs on the bbq…they were burnt to a crisp and even the dog wouldn’t touch them (sorry, Dad)!  Anyone that knows me knows that I don’t eat meat if it is overcooked…I love my sushi, rare steak, and tender ribs!

There are some key tips for you to make tender, flavorful ribs at home…it’s really not that hard, you just have to be patient.  The type of ribs you use will most certainly make a difference…after working with both beef and pork, I prefer pork but that’s just personal preference.  Baby back ribs are the most tender on their own and require a little less TLC , but with this method, you can make tender, lip-smacking spareribs, too!

Oven-Cooked Ribs Method

  • Your choice of Ribs
  • Dry Rub
  • Liquid: Wine, Broth or Water
  • Sauce

This first step is crucial…you MUST remove the membrane that covers the bone side – I’ve seen several recipes that suggest making a cut at the membrane and I don’t think it’s enough.  If you don’t remove the membrane, the ribs are difficult to cut apart and make you feel like an animal gnawing on a bone.  If you’re not sure how to do it, check out these step by step instructions: Skin ‘n’ Trim If you’re lucky, you purchased ribs that already had the membrane removed.

A dry rub will add dimension to your ribs and impart flavor throughout the meat.  I’ve used a variety of rubs, some store-bought and even some that were for other things…recently I used some leftover spiced pork rub that is fantastic on it’s own, but partners well with a sweet bbq sauce.  Brush some oil on the meat side of your ribs, then add your dry rub.

The whole point of this is making tender ribs, right?  Well, slow cooking is the way to go…but that’s not all.  The oven dries meat out, so we’ve got to add back in some moisture.  If you have a roasting pan, you’re all set.  If not, it’s time to take a look at what you have on hand and get creative…you need a pan that is about 2 inches deep and you need a rack to rest the ribs on, preventing the ribs from laying in the liquid.  Pour in your liquid ingredients below the ribs – I use whatever broth and wine I have on hand.  Bake at 250 for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, longer for larger ribs.  You want your ribs to be nearly done with an internal temperature close to 160 degrees.

Turn the oven up to 375 degrees and slather your ribs with your choice of sauce.  Cook for 30 minutes, removing every 10 minutes to add more sauce.  Your ribs should  have an internal temp of 180 degrees and when you pick them up with tongs, wiggle them a bit and they should bend and start to break apart.  Turn off your oven, crack the door, and let your ribs rest for at least 15 minutes.

Now you can enjoy BBQ ribs all year long!

PREP: 15 minutes  COOK: 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 hours

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