Monday, September 29, 2014

Chicken Pot Pies

Nature does not hurry yet everything is accomplished.
Comfort foods are traditionally eaten foods which often provide a nostalgic or sentimental feeling to the person eating it, frequently with a high carbohydrate level and a simple preparation. The nostalgic element most comfort food has, may be specific to either the individual or a specific culture. 
That being said here are the Best Top 25 Comfort Foods 
published by Huffington Post (1-31-14)
1. Grilled Cheese
2.Mashed Potatoes
3. Mac and Cheese
4. Cheap unauthentic tacos
5. Pizza
6. Dumpling
7. Baked Ziti
8. Tomato Soup
9. Cheeseburger
10. Chocolate Pudding
11. Chicken Soup
12. Pie
13. French Onion Soup 
14. Gravy
15. French Fries
16. Shrimp Grits
17. Fried Chicken
18. Chicken Pot Pie
19. Spaghetti and Meatballs
20. Ice-cream
21. Peanut butter
22. Roast Chicken
23. Creamed Spinach
24. Ratatouille
25. Tuna Melts
Any surprises? For me not so much the foods included but the order that surprised me.
#18 Comfort Food: Ever Ready Puff Pastry Chicken Pot Pie (photo below) just happens to be the featured recipe.
Cook's notes: Chicken and tuna frozen pot pies were staple foods at our house when I was growing up. Remember these pies served in little tins?
Well not exactly one of my favorite meals having had them for many years so I took a gamble and set out to create my own. I had seen recipes using puff pastry for top crusts which seemed like a good alternative to standard pie crust. I also wanted a filling that was not too time consuming to make. The result was a savory pot pie chocked with veggies. It was quite tasty.
The recipe serves 4 and each ramekin dish is 5. 4 inches in diameter.  
Advance preparation: cut celery, onions and carrots and place in a baggie. Use rotisserie chicken for easier prep.   
Ingredients:
  • 1 package (17.3 oz. ) Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry, 2 sheets, thawed
  • 3 Tb. butter
  • 1 cup each diced carrots, celery, peas and mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup diced onions
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3-1/4 cups chicken broth (low sodium-fat free)
  • 1 TB.  Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 TB. parsley flakes
  • 1 tsp. herbs de Provence
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cups cooked chicken, diced
  • 1/4 cup each white wine and heavy cream
Directions:
  • Melt 3 TB. butter. Add in carrots, celery, mushrooms, potatoes and onions. Sprinkle spices over the mixture and stir fry for 8-10 minutes until carrots and potatoes are tender-crisp.  
  • Add in 1/3 cup flour and stir for 3 minutes until flour is golden.  Slowly add in chicken broth and stir until it boils and thickens. Whisk in mustard.
  • Add in chicken, peas, wine and cream. Cook on low for 6-8 minutes. 
  • On a large sheet of wax paper sprinkle flour and lightly roll out 1 pastry sheet.
  • Invert 2 ramekins on each pastry sheet and use a pizza cutter to cut puff pastry tops.
 
  • Invert ramekins and spoon chicken filling in each one. Top with puff pastry top. Whisk one egg with a tablespoon of water. Brush the puff pastry tops with egg wash and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Make an x in the center for vents. 

  •  Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Watch carefully the last 5 minutes so it doesn't  get too brown. 





Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fall At Its Best

It was a scenic drive to the neighboring state of Wisconsin. A quick 24 hour (but action packed) stay near the town of Hayward provided lots of photo opportunities and fun with friends. 
The colors were at peak this past week and some trees had already been stripped bare by recent winds. 

The Early Morning
The moon on the one hand, the dawn on the other:
The moon is my sister, the dawn is my brother.
The moon on my left hand and the dawn on my right.
My brother, good morning: my sister, good night.
by Hillaire Belloc 

This photo above was taken just after sunrise on Hathaway Bay off of Sissabagama Lake near the town of Stone Lake.
You just never know what you will encounter in a small town. After hearing Wisconsin is the leading producer of cranberries, with over half of U.S. production and the annual Cranberry Festival is next weekend I had hoped to see this

unfortunately this is all we saw of the bog (it had already been harvested). 
But we managed to support the community by buying cranberry wine and dried cranberries.
An expected discovery was this 6 ft. sock monkey, the store's mascot, part of a window display and 
the popular and famous West's Dairy End Creamery shop.   
Now this is no ordinary ice cream shop. In case you have not heard of its illustrious owners you need to buy the book Scoop:Notes from a Small Ice Cream Shop by Jeff Miller.  In the picture above my friend is holding up the book
I had just purchased. The store seems to have quite the following.

Minnesota-born lawyer, Jeff, and his partner, Dean, enjoyed a successful and fashionable life in London. They shopped at Harvey Nichols, walked their dogs in Kensington Gardens, and vacationed in France and Tibet. Yet, they dreamed of a new life. One January, Jeff was promoted to a coveted position at his bank; but in the following March, he resigned. Jeff and Dean sold their house, packed the dogs, and moved to the sleepy resort town of Hayward, Wisconsin, where they acquired a nostalgic ice cream shop and rundown Victorian mansion.

Scoop: Notes from a Small Ice Cream Shop is the chronicle of Jeff and Dean’s first year in Hayward—how they are welcomed by a collection of colorful characters and how they are humbled by the challenges of operating both the ice cream shop and a bed and breakfast. It is also a story of Hayward and how the traditions and the stories of those who built the town helped our entrepreneurs adjust to the rhythm of life in their new home. 

The book gives you the flavor of life in a small town in the Midwest. The author is an excellent storyteller with an easy folksy style. Jeff operates Mc Cormick Bed and Breakfast House and West End Creamery in Hayward. Dean, while no longer living in Hayward, still remains a business partner.  
All this talk about ice cream reminded me of one of my favorite ice cream desserts.
Minty Ice Cream Squares
Cook’s note: A refreshing dessert enjoyed anytime of the year. Use a glass 13 x 9 pan for ½ gallon ice cream. The recipe is adapted from Pillsbury Holiday Baking and ganache frosting from A Taste of Anchuca Cookbook by Chris Brinkley
Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 gallon mint chocolate chip ice cream, softened
  • 1 regular size package of Oreo cookies  
  • 3 TB. melted butter 
  • 1 cup chocolate chips 
  • 1 TB. Kahlua 
  • ½ cup heavy whip cream plus 1/3 cup (use it as liquid mixture do not whip it) 
  • 2 TB. butter 
  • Optional:use Andes Thin Mints for decoration-see picture for detail
Directions:
  • Remove ice cream from freezer and set aside to soften. 
  • In a food processor break 6-8 cookies in half at a time,finely crush in food processor.
  • Place cookie crumbs in a large bowl. Stir in melted butter. Pat cookie mixture into a glass pan and freeze to firm crust about 30 minutes.  
  • Ganache frosting: Chop 1 cup chocolate chips in food processor. In a saucepan heat whip cream just to boiling point and then add cream in a slow stream into feed tube of the food processor. Add in 2 TB. softened butter and 1 TB. Kahlua, blend until smooth and set aside. 
  • After 30 minutes remove chilled crust from freezer and spread softened ice cream on top of cookie crust.  
  • Place dessert back into freezer for 15 minutes to firm it up.
  • Pour cooled ganache icing over the top of the ice cream and return to freezer.
  • Freeze dessert several hours before covering the pan with foil. 
  • Let dessert stand at room temperature about 10 minutes before cutting into squares. 











Friday, September 26, 2014

Hard At Work

Autumn paints in colors that summer has never seen.
Today I decided it was hard work being a kindergartner. There were lots of expectations. 
They...
practiced arranging the letters of their name
matched block shapes on a worksheet 
read from I Can book
counted out plastic ladybugs and placed on numbered leaves
cut out numbers squares and pasted corresponding dots
and took a bathroom break. And all of this was done in 2-1/2 hours. As you can see many had smiles and were up for the challengec. This girl was ready for a nap but
her teacher said they had to go for recess and lunch.  Still ahead for all, an afternoon of fun working on apple related projects.
I was tired and needed a nap myself :)

FUN  HEALTHY FOODS FOR KIDS











Thursday, September 25, 2014

More Travels With A Blue Vase,

News from Mary Ann Miller, author, educator and artist (Jacksonville, Florida)

My new book is finally here! NEW TRAVELS WITH A BLUE VASE: A SKETCHBOOK OF BRITAIN AND IRELAND with watercolor sketches and recipes from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales is now ready. See travelswithabluevase.com
for more information or to order.
I met Mary Ann at Amelia Island Book Fest last February. Her eye catching display caught my attention with Provence colors, homemade lavender cookies and clever book title.

I wrote a blog about the book More Travels With A Blue Vase and the book fest in February. See link below
http://sockfairies.blogspot.com/2014/02/travels-with-blue-vase.html
After the book fest I had several email conversations with Mary Ann over her book and my blog. She was interested in one of my recipes Baileys Irish Creme Pound Cake posted March 11, 2014. http://sockfairies.blogspot.com/2014/03/bailyes-irish-cream-poundcake.html

Some time went by and I heard from Mary Ann again. She wanted to include Baileys Irish Creme Pound Cake in her book New Travels With A Blue Vase:A Sketchbook of Britain and Ireland. 
So my news is the recipe can be found on page 130 in her new book. To order Mary Ann's books go to travelswithabluevase.com or orders can be placed directly at mamgam1@bellsouth.net

Mary Ann writes a blog at http://sketchersinprovence.wordpress.com/ 
It is a charming blog Mary Ann started in 2013 with travel pictures from Provence, England and Scotland. She also includes some of her sketches of different areas visited. Mary Ann has a group of friends called The Sippers. They  have all traveled together to France to sketch, eat and laugh. 


Mary Ann is a teacher for Cafe Sketching classes in the Jacksonville area. They meet regularly in cafes and restaurants to sketch. The classes change every 4 week term. 



Mary Ann sketching along the roadside in Provence.

To celebrate Mary Ann's newest book and my published recipe in her book, 
I chose a recipe fitting for the English, Scottish and Irish cuisine featured in her new book New Travels With A Blue Vase.
Guinness Stout Gingerbread Cake
Cook's notes:
Gingerbread is said to have been invented by the Greeks around 2800 B.C. At one time gingerbread was made with breadcrumbs and sweetened with honey, but as it made its way throughout the world it was adapted to meet the tastes of different cultures. That is why if you sample gingerbread in a country other than your own it may not look or taste as you expected. It can be a bread, a spicy sweet cake or a molded/shaped cookie that can range from light colored with just a touch of spice to dark colored and very spicy.
In England and North America, we like to make our Gingerbread with either treacle or molasses instead of the original honey. The British favor treacle which has a much stronger taste and darker color than the milder tasting and lighter colored molasses that we like in America. Ground ginger is always present and, at least in America, ground cinnamon and often times ground cloves.

Guinness Gingerbread Stout Cake is flavorful and moist. It is really the perfect dessert for fall and winter. This recipe is also very adaptable. Although it contains lemon zest you could use the zest of one orange. Toasted nuts, minced fresh ginger, or even crystallized ginger could be added. For the brave at heart a little ground black or red pepper could be added for heat. Gingerbread Cake is very nice plain but it is absolutely delicious when frosted with a lemon glaze.

The most unusual thing about this recipe is that stout is substituted for the water or coffee used in most gingerbread recipes. I find it adds a lot of richness and underscores the spices. Since the cake is made with oil, it will stay moist for several days. Dress it up or simply enjoy it on its own, with coffee, tea, or leftover beer from the recipe :)
One word of caution-Do not be alarmed when baking soda is added to beer and molasses mixture. It foams up just like the science volcano projects we all once helped children make for school.
Cake Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup Guinness Stout or dark beer 
  • 3/4 cup mild flavored (light )molasses 
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking soda 
  • 2 cups of flour 
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger 
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder 
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon 
  • dash of ground cloves and cardamon 
  • 1 tsp.apple pie spice 
  • 3 large eggs 
  • 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar 
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil 
  • optional: adding 1 TB finely minced crystallized ginger 
Glaze Ingredients:
  • 1-2 TB. lemon zest 
  • 3 TB. fresh lemon juice 
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar 
Cake Directions:
  • In a saucepan whisk together stout and molasses. Bring to a boil over a medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda. Set aside to cool. 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 8 x8 or 9 x 9 baking dish. 
  • Whisk together flour, spices and baking powder. 
  • In a large bowl whisk egg, sugars and oil to blend. 
  • Add in stout mixture and mix all ingredients together with a whisk. 
  • Bake for 22-25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. 
  • Cool cake 10 minutes and pierce top of gingerbread liberally with a wooden skewer. 
Glaze Directions:
  • Mix lemon zest, lemon juice and powdered sugar with a whisk. 
  • Pour glaze over gingerbread. 









Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fun and Easy Halloween Party Food Ideas

Cook's notes: I picked 3 of my favorite magazines for holiday party ideas to share.  Check them out.
Tombstone Taco Dip
Follow this link for 25 easy ideas for Halloween foods. 

Cookie Monster Pumpkin-a creative idea from Pinterest
Breadsticks Haystacks
follow this link for 18 more ideas 
http://www.southernliving.com/food/holidays-occasions/halloween-party-appetizers-drinks-recipes

follow this link to easy Halloween Treats
http://www.midwestliving.com/food/holiday/easy-halloween-sweets-snacks/
The following are two treats I picked out to make that were easy.
Wrap refrigerated breadstick dough around jumbo frankfurters, letting the frankfurters show slightly through the bread. Press in olive pieces or raisins for eyes. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for about 12 minutes or until bread is golden.
Hot Artichoke Red Pepper Dip with Asiago Cheese
Ingredients:

  • 1- 8 - ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup Miracle Whip
  • 4 ounces Asiago or Parmesan cheese, finely shredded (1 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jar 7 0z. marinated artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 small jar roasted red sweet peppers, drained
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • Thinly sliced French bread, toasted or toasted pita wedges
  • 2 TB. melted butter
  • 1-2 TB. Italian herbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1-1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

Directions
  • In a food processor bowl, combine cream cheese, Miracle Whip, 1 cup Asiago or Parmesan cheese, and garlic. Cover and process until mixture is well combined. Add in drained artichoke hearts, drained sweet red peppers, mushrooms, and green onions. Cover and process with on/off turns until finely chopped.
  • Transfer mixture to a lightly greased 8-inch quiche dish or 9-inch pie plate, spreading evenly. 
  • Mix bread crumbs, butter, herbs and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over the top of cheese mixture.
  • Bake, covered, in a 350 degree F oven for 25 minutes or until heated through. 
  • Serve warm with thinly sliced French bread or pita wedges. Garnish with additional red pepper and parsley, if you like. Makes about 3-3/4 cups (12 servings).

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pumpkin Sunflower Apple Quick Bread;

Taste the Season
A bushel of fall flavors are packed into this moist loaf: pumpkin, apples, nuts and spices. A half-cup of cider adds unmistakably fruity zing to the bread. Honey walnut cream cheese is the perfect accompaniment spread on the baked bread served with a cup of coffee or tea.   

Recipe adapted from Midwest Living.


Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour 
  • 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2- 1/4 tsp.pumpkin pie spice or 1- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp.ground nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. ground ginger and 1/8 tsp.ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp.baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup apple cider or apple juice
  • 1-15 - ounce can pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • 1- 1/2 cups finely chopped, peeled firm, sweet apples (such as Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Pink Lady, Braeburn and/or Cameo)
  • 1/2 cup dry-roasted sunflower seeds or chopped walnuts
Directions
  • Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of two loaf pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper; grease parchment and set aside. In a large bowl, combine whole wheat and all-purpose flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside.
  • In an extra-large mixing bowl, combine granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well mixed. Add eggs; beat well. Alternately add flour mixture and cider to sugar mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. 
  • Beat in pumpkin. Fold in apples and sunflower seeds. Spoon batter into prepared pans; spread evenly.
  • Bake in a 350 degrees oven for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean.
  • Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans; remove parchment. Cool completely on wire racks. Wrap in foil and store overnight before slicing.



To keep brown sugar from drying out add a few marshmallows to bag and seal. 







To prevent an apple from browning after being cut;use a rubber band to hold apple pices together. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Apple Walnut Cake with Warm Caramel Sauce

Apple Shape Poetry

Fall season offers a wide variety of apples to choose from. Honeycrisp has met its match with a new variety called SweeTango. This apple has a 
satisfying crunch and a juicy blast of sweet-tart flavor. It is quite delicious!
SweeTango are produced from a new Minneiska variety developed by the University of Minnesota. This variety has great parentage as it is a cross between two stars of the University of Minnesota apple breeding program: the Honeycrisp Apple and the Zestar Apple.


There are so many varieties of apples available in stores and at farmers markets these days, that it can be challenging to choose apples for baking. In the past, a baker might have reached for sweet-tart Granny Smith apples without a second thought, but there are many different kinds of apples that will work just as well, if not better, in baking pies, crisp and other apple desserts.

Texture and taste are the two most important qualities to consider in a baking apple, and the apple that you like best for everyday snacking might not hold up when put into a pie. Apples need to retain their shape and not turn into applesauce during baking. The best apples will be able to offer a little bit of resistance (keep a little hint of crunch) even after a long time in the oven. Baking apples should also not be too sweet, since most pie recipes call for a fair amount of sugar. The sugar serves as flavoring and helps thicken the juices of the apples as they cook, and cutting it down to compensate for super-sweet apples can sometimes change the outcome of the final pie.

Granny Smiths are always a decent choice for pie, as they are easy to find, will hold up during baking and can take a lot of extra flavor from sugar and spices. Jonathan, Jonagold and Pippin apples are other excellent sweet-tart choices. Gravenstein, Braeburn, Fuji and Pink Lady Apples are all crisp and sturdy, as well. Red Delicious and Golden Delicious, despite their promising names, are not good choices for baking, and neither are Gala and Cortland, since they tend to become mealy in pie fillings.

Choose a tart apple for baking this apple walnut cake. When served with warm caramel sauce it is one serious bliss.  
 Apple Walnut Cake with Warm Caramel Sauce
Ingredients:
Apple Layer
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. each allspice and nutmeg
  • dash of ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup cold butter and 1/4 cup margarine, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tart apples (about 2 cups) peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 large egg beaten 
Caramel Sauce
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 TB. melted butter
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Cake Directions:
  • Grease a 9 inch square pan with cooking spray.
  • In a large bowl mix flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, spices and baking soda.
  • With a pastry cutter cut in butter and margarine or pulse flour mixture a few times in food processor with butter/margarine.
  • Stir in egg and chopped apples. Mix well.
  • Spoon batter into pan (it will be thick). Use a sheet of wax paper to press batter down and spread evenly in the pan.
  • Cool cake for one hour and serve with warm sauce. 
Caramel Sauce Directions:
  • In a small saucepan add cream, sugars and butter. Whisk to blend and cook on medium low heat until sugars are dissolved about  6 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and add in vanilla. Whisk to blend.  Drizzle sauce over each cake slice.