Tag Archives: recipe

Recipe: Chicken-Potato-Pea Soup

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This will be a super-quick post for a super-easy recipe–or it was easy for me because I made it with leftovers.

Remember when I made chicken broth?

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Well, I took the last container of frozen broth, put in some of the leftover pasty filling, and made soup.  Because what is soup but broth and filling?

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I just heated the two leftovers together in a sauce pan.  I started off with the heat on high, to melt and thaw the ingredients quickly, then, once the broth had all liquified, I let the ingredients simmer together until I felt it had been long enough.  Maybe altogether, the soup was on the stove for half an hour.

The most difficult part of the process was breaking the frozen pasty filling into pieces small enough to put into a pot.  Not until I went to put the filling into soup did I realize that putting all of that filling into one gallon-sized Ziploc was maybe not my smartest ever decision because it had frozen into one block of frozen filling.  I ended up swinging the bag into the lip of a concrete stair step a few times to break it into manageable chunks.

So as a postscript to my pasty recipe, maybe put leftovers into smaller bags.  Or keep a concrete step or sledgehammer handy.

DSCN6722The resulting soup was rather like pea-potato soup with chicken and onion.  The peas pretty much liquified when heated and the potatoes had begun to break apart too.  I appreciated this, though, because it added some thickness to the soup, which might otherwise have been pretty brothy.

A little extra salt and pepper was all the soup needed to be delicious.  My roommate and I ate ours with grilled cheese sandwiches, using the soup first as a dunking sauce, and then as soup itself.

All photos are mine.  Click to view them larger.

Recipe: Whatever-You’ve-Got Pasties

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Yesterday I wandered into the kitchen around dinnertime and opened the fridge, freezer, and pantry, hoping for something to draw me towards it and make me salivate at the thought. What drew me instead was a memory, though I could not tell you at all why. I had the strongest craving for a pasty, a treat you’ll probably be familiar with if you’ve visited England, where a proud pirate hangs over tiny street corner vendors and the occasional brick and mortar store. There are no pasty shops that I know of in my area. (If there are any especially in Southern Virginia please let me know, but I bet readers would appreciate hearing about pasty shops in other parts of the country too.) Although both recipes that I referenced for this meal were for steak and potato pasties, I knew from my time abroad that pasties come in many flavors (my favorite was actually a pork and apple that seems to have vanished from West Cornwall Pasty Co.’s menu), so I made pasties of whatever I had in the house: frozen store-bought pie dough (because I’m lazy), potatoes (I don’t even know what variety exactly because they were on the discount rack of our local grocery store, labeled merely as $.99 for a package of produce, but they are smaller and had red skins), frozen chicken thighs, a can of peas, and some frozen diced onions. The main recipe that I referenced is one out of Dinah Bucholz’s Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook—the first time I’ve used this book though I’ve had it for some time.  The other is this by Jim of Upper Peninsula Now, which I found because I wanted to hear from someone who used store-bought pie crust.

Because I decided to do this late last night I had most of today to prep it. I took the pie dough out of the freezer last night and put it in the refrigerator to thaw. I did the same to two chicken thighs (one fairly large, one fairly small) this morning.

Around 4:30 PM today, I finely diced three potatoes, one largish, two small, put those in a bowl with the drained can of peas, threw a generous helping of the frozen onion on top of that, and then microwaved the chicken to thaw it a bit more and diced that as finely as I could, adding it to the bowl too. (Note: on raw chicken, a serrated blade is better than a flat-edge, but a good flat-edge does wonders on potatoes. Also note: there is a lot of fat on chicken thighs.) A bit of salt and pepper was added to the mix even though those are the recommended spices for steak and potato.

DSCN6718I had only one roll of pie dough left, what could have been the top or the bottom of a pie. I gathered the pie dough into a ball, separated that ball into two and rolled each half into two round- or oval-ish pieces. Those pieces I moved one at a time onto an ungreased baking sheet. Once on the baking sheet, I moved some of the mixed filling onto the center of the dough. Really only about two heaping spoonfuls of the mix fit into my pieces. There was a lot leftover, and I’ve put those leftovers into a bag in the freezer in the hopes that this recipe works well and that I can use the same ingredients again.

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Once the mix was on the dough, I folded the dough over on itself and pressed the edges together with my fingers, trying to trap all of the filling inside of the dough. One came out beautifully; the other not so much (I think that that piece was both too thin and maybe not round enough; I had to flip it over because the bottom was sort of tearing apart).

I cut two vents into the top of each.

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I put the pasties into an oven preheated to 425 F—or I meant to, but this is a new oven to me, and I’d never used it to bake, and didn’t know how it would signal that it was done preheating. They baked for 10 minutes at a hot temperature climbing towards 425 F, then for another 5 minutes at more exactly 425 F (just to be sure; there was raw meat to cook thoroughly after all).

Then I turned the oven’s temperature down to 375 F and let the pasties bake for another hour.

That’s really it. Not a difficult recipe, especially when using store-bought pie dough to escape the hassle of making dough oneself.

They came out of the oven a bit after 6:30, so this first time these took about 2 hours of combined prep and bake time.  Really, the prep time was only about 30 minutes, after factoring a bit of time for preheating the oven, which I forgot to do before mixing the filling.  And the bake time should only have been 1 hour and 10 minutes instead of the 1 hour and 15 that I used because I was still learning my oven.  So altogether, it should have only taken 1 hour and 40 minutes combined prep and bake time.

Out of the oven, the steam is visible rolling off of them and out of the vents, and they’re beautiful—even my too thin one with the tears.

DSCN6721I admit that while these were pretty good, they didn’t taste as good as West Cornwall’s–or my memory of West Cornwall’s anyway.  These pasties maybe could have used a bit more seasoning, but I’m not sure what (I’m open to suggestions), and the dough was actually a bit drier than I’d like, but it held the filling in beautifully, even with the vents and tears.  For as easy as this recipe was and as inexpensive, I’ll definitely give it another go.  These were very filling–or at least I thought so.  I couldn’t quite finish mine, but my roommate was not displeased to have my last bite.

All photos are mine and can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Recipe: Spaghetti Squash Casserole–Made Easier

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I have tried this recipe several times, and it’s been cheered by a number of people. This is a great vegetarian recipe. It’s not a recipe I found online, but a recipe provided to me by my mother, who got the original recipe from her old Moosewood Cookbook (her exact version of the cookbook seems now to be out-of-print), then modified by me to better suit my laziness and my preference for nonperishable ingredients, so let’s put an ingredients list up front, shall we, especially as it’s a long one? Get ready to raid your spice cabinet and messy the kitchen.

  • 1 whole spaghetti squash
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • ½ lb (8 oz) of sliced mushrooms
  • 2 medium cloves of crushed garlic (or garlic powder)
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tsp basil
  • thyme
  • ¼ cup of freshly chopped parsley (or 2 tsp of parsley flakes)
  • 2 fresh tomatoes (or a small can of diced tomatoes to save time)
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup of cottage or ricotta cheese (I’ve always used ricotta)
  • 1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese to taste
  • butter or cooking spray (I usually use cooking spray, and anywhere that I say to “butter” in these instructions, you can substitute “lather with cooking spray.”)

*If you’re missing some of these spices, don’t fret overly much. I would try it anyway. I’m not sure I’ve once made this recipe with parsley because for whatever reason it’s not in the house.

Sometimes, you’ll be lucky enough to find spaghetti squash on a deep discount at your local grocery store—and when you do, this becomes a fairly inexpensive but impressive crowd-pleaser.

I learned by sheer accident that in a dry cabinet, a spaghetti squash will keep for several months. These pictures are from this past June. That squash had been in our cabinet since probably February at the latest.

I was particularly fortunate in this hardy squash. It was more squash than I could fit in just one of my baking dishes, and I had to scrounge in the cabinets to find a second—meaning I got lots of meals out of this one night of baking.

First, a good, long knife is needed to cut the squash in half, lengthwise. Perhaps some of you will be strong enough to manage this Herculean feat without a hack, but I am not, though I keep trying. I liberally poke holes in the squash skin with a fork, the way you do when baking a potato. Then I microwave the whole squash for about two minutes. This softens the squash enough to make it easier to coax a knife through—even if it still requires some wiggling and leveraging to crack the squash.

Scoop out the seeds (so it looks like the squash half on the left).

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Butter a cookie sheet (usually just one suffices—unless like I did, you find yourself with a rather enormous squash) and bake the squash, hollowed inside down, at 375 F for about 30 minutes.

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It will come out super hot, and you will need to be able to handle the squash before you can finish the process. Like too many of my recipes, this one always takes longer to prepare than I expect it to—waiting for the squash to cool especially takes longer—and I am slow to learn. I think ideally, these first steps ought to be done the night before and the squash set aside to cool. The process could probably be sped by putting the squash into the refrigerator. I am impatient and frequently end up handling my squash gingerly through oven mitts—which keep me from being burnt, but the squash is still uncomfortably hot.

Now you’ve got your squash baked. How about some fixings to make this a proper casserole?

Sauté 1 cup of chopped onion (which is about ½ of a small onion) with two medium cloves of crushed garlic (or a liberal dusting of garlic powder), salt and pepper to taste, ½ pound of sliced mushrooms (this is one of those 8 oz packages—I use fresh mushrooms, not canned), ½ tsp of oregano, 1 tsp of basil, a dash of thyme, and if you have it, my mother’s recipe calls too for a ¼ cup of freshly chopped parsley or 2 tsp of parsley flakes.

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When the onions are soft and beginning to become more translucent, add the freshly chopped tomatoes—or I usually use a can of mostly drained diced tomatoes. Continue to cook the lot in the pan until most of liquid evaporates. I’m pretty sure it’s almost impossible to overcook this, but if it starts to blacken, you’ve probably left it on too long. Still, I left mine on the stove a good long while this past time after not draining my canned tomatoes enough.

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Good? Got all that cooked up?

Scoop out the insides of the squash into a big old bowl (you can toss the skins) and combine everything: the squash, the sauté, the breadcrumbs, and the cheeses (except the Parmesan—that’s for later). Stir it all up.

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Pour all that into a buttered casserole dish (or two if you need to do). Top the lot with Parmesan because more cheese is never a bad thing and because it’ll give the casserole a nice, crispy, golden brown crust.

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Bake all that at 375 F, uncovered, for about 40 minutes, and your vegetarian casserole should be ready to wow. It’ll look a little soupy in places. It’ll be a little soupy in places. But it’ll be delicious—or I hope you’ll find it so.

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All photos are mine and can be enlarged by clicking on them.

An Untimely Post About Leftovers

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Well, one of these recipes is untimely. It’s very difficult to hold or attend a Thanksgiving meal without receiving leftovers. Turkey is not my favorite, but I recognize that it is traditional, and I would frankly miss it if I were to attend a Thanksgiving meal without it. The sides are what I love best. This year I discovered a wonderful remedy that helps me eat up all of the Thanksgiving leftovers without becoming tired of turkey or of any of the leftovers either:  I wrapped it all up in a tortilla. This year’s leftovers included turkey, stuffing, cranberry chutney, and Brussels sprouts (the last not shown here, but they were actually pretty tasty in this tortilla recipe; I had it several times in the weeks following the holiday).

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I never did quite figure out how long to microwave these tortillas for. The easiest thing seemed to be to microwave the fixings without the tortilla and then spoon all that onto the tortilla.

This next recipe is less seasonal, though perhaps it is more fitting for winter. One of my first roommates post-college used to buy roast chickens and from the leftover bones make some really excellent chicken soup. I got into the habit then of not tossing away the bones, knowing they could have some use. I don’t have her chicken soup recipe, but I found a recipe on 100 Days of Real Food for Crockpot chicken stock.

We had maybe two and half sandwich sized Ziploc bags worth of frozen chicken bones from various meals, fried and roasted, in the freezer. I used baby carrots because they are simpler to snack on and so more likely to get used in our household. The onion we had.  I bought a whole celery from the grocery store, but retrospectively, I wish I’d bought a more expensive but less wasteful carton of celery sticks.

I used what spices we already had: a bay leaf, thyme, and salt. I didn’t have parsley.

The recipe was simple—beyond simple. I minced the carrots and celery and tossed it all in the Crockpot without bothering to defrost the chicken.

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Then I filled the Crockpot with water to within about an inch and a half from its lip, and I turned the Crockpot on low.

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Because I’m still nervous about using a Crockpot and leaving it be, I did this all during the day instead of overnight as the recipe suggests, though my roommate did convince me to leave it on overnight to make more flavorful stock. (We tasted it before bed.)

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In the end, we had four full Tupperware containers of thick yellow stock, ladled from the Crockpot into a wire mesh strainer held over the Tupperware. (The remaining bones, overcooked celery and carrots, and all we had to toss in the trash, which seemed a sad waste. Maybe the carrots could have been edible if I’d been able to detangle them from the bones.)

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We kept one container in the refrigerator and froze the rest to be used later. Since then we’ve used it to cook chicken noodle soup, to add some flavor to rice and to pastas, and mostly to add to soup cans to make a can of soup last a little longer. I mixed it with both chicken soups and beef soups, and both were delicious.

There’s still some in the freezer.

All photos are mine.  Click to view them larger.

Don’t Let Fruit Spoil: Frozen Grapes and Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites

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This is going to be a highly irregular post for me, but today several friends posted links to Emily Fleischaker’s Buzzfeed article “26 Foods You Should Learn to Cook In Your Twenties.” Well, it’s a timely article to be trending. In your twenties, you should also learn how to prolong the food that you buy. That’s what I did with my day off.

First, it’s no myth. A banana in your fridge will keep longer. Though the skin will turn brown more quickly, the banana flesh inside will be white long after the skin has gone a frighteningly muddy shade. I peered into my fridge last night and feared that the last of our bananas might soon start trying to communicate with us. I’d stuck it into the fridge several days back after I picked up the two remaining bananas from our fruit bowl, and the ends fell away with the ease of a blink. I didn’t want to leave the bare flesh exposed to the elements and the insects that sneak through our open windows.

I’d learned from a friend that frozen grapes are a delightful snack. When a few grapes in a bunch became overripe or just when I want a cold snack, I put the grapes into a Ziploc bag, rinse them, and stuff the full bag into the freezer. Healthier than just about any other frozen dessert and somehow one or two more quenching than a whole bowl of ice cream, freezing grapes also prolongs the fruits’ ripeness.

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I thought that the same principle might apply to bananas, and I remembered the frozen bananas delights from fairs in my childhood.

The recipe that I found on AllRecipes.com was for frozen banana bites covered with peanut butter, chocolate, and toffee bits.

(And let me take a moment to promote this website. Search for recipes for a specific dish or put in a few ingredients that you have about the house and want to use. It won’t give you your mother’s recipes, but it’s fantastic in a pinch, gives you some ideas for modifications, and might just find you some new favorites.)

I followed this recipe pretty truthfully, but I was impatient, and I didn’t have any toffee. I cut that last banana into seven pieces and put them down on a piece of tin foil that I made into a tray by curling up the edges to give the foil a bit of lip. (This makes it a bit easier to carry than a flat piece of foil, I didn’t have wax paper, and a bit of foil takes up much less space in my full fridge than a full baking sheet would have done.) I smeared peanut butter on the tops (crunchy variety gave it a toffee-like crunch) then punched toothpicks through the peanut butter and banana. These went into the freezer for maybe two hours.

A double boiler can be made by resting one pot inside of another. It’s not something I’ve done often and not for a long time, but it worked well.

Because I had only one banana to cover instead of the 4 suggested for the recipe, I used just about two handfuls of semisweet chocolate chips and maybe a teaspoon of shortening (I just scooped out a bit with my rubber spatula).

The chocolate was at just the perfect temperature and consistency for the first two banana bites that I dipped into the mixture. The spatula smoothly plastered it to the sides of the banana and then to the bottom. Then the chocolate burned. I hurried the chocolate off of the burner. The chocolate on these first two hardened into a wonderful shell as I tried to rescue my scorched chocolate.

A splash of milk smoothed the chocolate again, and I plastered it to the remaining banana bites and even got to drizzle a bit over the peanut buttery tops.

Perhaps because my chocolate had to be resuscitated, the chocolate shells took longer to freeze. They sat on their tin foil tray (I only used the one) for about an hour in the fridge before I could resist no longer and I just had to see how they’d come out.

I didn’t wait the 15 minutes before serving that the recipe suggests either. I wanted frozen banana bites.

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It was delicious. It could have used more peanut butter, and if you try the recipe, I’d suggest coating the whole thing in peanut butter rather than just the one side (or at least the top and rounded side). But otherwise… glorious. And I bet I could smear the extra peanut butter onto my frozen bites before biting too. Mmm… I’ll try that on the next one.

This is a great recipe, I think especially for the twenty-something. Peanut butter is inexpensive and doesn’t spoil in a cabinet (or I’ve never had it spoil, even if it’s separated a bit). Bananas are perhaps the least expensive fruit that you can buy (usually less than 60¢ per pound when it’s available at all in the grocery store). And once frozen, I bet these will keep forever (not that they’ll be kept more than a few days). They might be a healthier option than some frozen treats. There’s fresh fruit and protein in the peanut butter, but the chocolate isn’t going to help make these any healthier nor is the shortening. I’m not sure why the recipe called for shortening. It’s possible—even likely—that that ingredient could be left out without any ill effects.

If any of you try this recipe, I’d love to hear how it goes. Leave me a comment or a link.

All photos are mine.  Click to view them larger.