Monday, January 31, 2011

Chicken pot pie

Double-Crust Chicken Pot Pie

Few things are more comforting than chicken pie. The kids and I are reading Little Town on the Prarie, and in the story the Ingalls are looking forward to having a brood of chickens so they can finally have fresh eggs and bake... chicken pie.

Right after Carter was born, our church very lovingly brought us meals. As a new nursing mom, I was ravenous, so you could imagine my joy when someone would arrive with a golden crusted chicken pie. However, we had only lived in that area for a short time, and there must have been a regional tradition that I had been unaware of up to this point: boiled eggs in the chicken pie. Lots of boiled eggs.

Now I love a frittata, an omelet, or a plate of scrambled eggs stirred into buttery grits. I even like fried eggs cooked over easy, where the yokes run out and soak up into your toast. But I have never been able to stomach boiled eggs- the texture of the slimy white contrasted with the chalky yellow... no, thank you. This can create a dilemma when ordering Cobb salad or chicken salad at most restaurants (even my beloved Chik-fil-a disappoints here!). And I always passed those Easter eggs onto my mom.

So it was a huge tease to be given these gorgeous, steamy chicken pies- that must have taken quite a while to prepare- only to discover under that flaky crust a rather large amount of chopped, boiled egg. I guess adding the egg keeps in theme with the chicken. But, really? The funny thing was that this must have been the church tradition, because I know we received at least 4 of those pies.

This is where I say that I appreciated those pies. Every one of them. We didn't deserve to be shown that kind of care, and we were very grateful. But you KNOW how thrilled we were when someone brought us the more mundane and utterly delicious roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and broccoli.

Our family loves chicken pie, especially in the winter. We usually eat it with salad on the side. I normally use pie crust, but when the new Southern Living came and had this beauty on the cover, I knew I had to try it. I am discovering a newfound love of puff pastry, which is great for appetizers and deserts, so I was happy to incorporate it into the main meal.

I do have to say that I followed this recipe closely, since it was my first time making it, but I found out that you do not have to use the frozen (expensive!) potatoes (barely cooked cubed potatoes will work fine, and you can just add a couple of tablespoons of green or red pepper if you like). The same thing is true of the (expensive!) leeks, which could be substituted for green onion. I loved the leeks, but using the green onion is an easy way to cut your cost a little.

For the chicken, I boiled a whole chicken with root veggies and seasoning, so I would have the broth as well. I had at least a cup of pulled chicken left over, and several cups of broth to put in the freezer for another time. But you could use a rotisserie chicken and a can of broth and it would be great!

The star of the show is the puff pastry, so the filling can be played around with. You could use broccoli, peas, or whatever you think sounds good. Just keep the flour/butter/broth proportions the same so you don't end up with sludge or soup inside your incredible crust.

1/2 cup butter
2 medium leeks, sliced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 (14.5-oz.) can chicken broth
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 1/2 cups frozen cubed hash browns with onions and peppers
1 cup matchstick carrots
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 (17.3-oz.) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
1 large egg

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add leeks, and sauté 3 minutes. Sprinkle with flour; cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Whisk in chicken broth; bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Remove from heat; stir in chicken and next 5 ingredients.

2. Roll each pastry sheet into a 12- x 10-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Fit 1 sheet into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate; spoon chicken mixture into pastry. Place remaining pastry sheet over filling in opposite direction of bottom sheet; fold edges under, and press with tines of a fork, sealing to bottom crust. Whisk together egg and 1 Tbsp. water, and brush over top of pie.

3. Bake at 375° on lower oven rack 55 to 60 minutes or until browned. Let stand 15 minutes.

Southern Living, FEB 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tomato Soup 101

While we were vacationing last fall in the mountains, we stopped at what might have been the world's worst restaurant. We were lured in by the signs claiming this place was 'famous', along with the strong hunger created by a morning filled with antiquing, driving the Blue Ridge Parkway with the windows down, and listening to blue grass music at the apple orchard.
So we pull off around Linville, and followed the signs to the 'famous' restaurant. Turns out this fine establishment is famous not due to its cuisine but because it was built where 3 or 5 (?) counties meet.

Scott and I ordered something or other that we are still trying to forget about. Scott was hopeful enough to send food back that was cold... turns out it wasn't much better hot. :) So in one last attempt at something somewhat satisfying, he tried Sophie's grilled cheese. It's really hard to mess up grilled cheese, and as he ate it, he exclaimed that grilled cheese is one of his favorite things to eat.

Well, that was enough for me. I love to see my husband and kids smile when they sit down at the dinner table. Dinner is a main event at our house, so when I heard Scott exclaim his love of grilled cheese, I was thrilled. This is doable almost any night of the week, no matter if there are soccer practices or meetings competing for our dinner time.

So of course my next thought was what could go with the beloved grilled cheese, and tomato soup was the obvious choice. I remembered seeing a yummy sounding recipe online, and here was the perfect opportunity to put it to use. And so began Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup at our table.

Due to my kid's aversion to Kraft singles, or any American cheese (how did this happen?? I loved nothing more when I was a kid than to open the fridge and grab a cellophane-wrapped square of yellow goodness!), we use grated cheddar and real butter to prepare our grilled cheese sandwiches. The kids are onto something, because you have never had a better, more simple grilled sandwich than two pieces of whole wheat bread, spread with butter, sprinkled with a generous mound of cheddar, and grilled on the griddle. The bread gets golden and toasty, and the sweetness from the whole wheat and butter combine perfectly. And if a little cheese sneaks out and sizzles on the griddle, all the better.

But about the soup. It is hard to believe so few ingredients can come together to be so satisfying. A few notes: I use fire roasted canned tomatoes and half and half instead of heavy cream. Last time I made it, I used the tube of chopped basil (found right beside the fresh at the grocery store), and it turned out great. If you use the food processor, your soup will be chunkier; using the blender turns out creamier soup.

Le Madeline's Tomato Basil Soup

4 cups fresh tomatoes, cored, peeled, and chopped (8-10) or 4 cups canned whole tomatoes, crushed
12 -14 basil leaves, washed fresh
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 lb sweet unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Simmer tomatoes in saucepan for 30 minutes. Puree, with the basil leaves, in small batches, in blender or food processor. Return to saucepan and add cream, butter, salt and pepper while stirring over low heat.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

So it has been a long time since I wrote on the blog.  Some difficult experiences over the past year left me winded, sucking for air, and without extra words.  But now, through the grace of the Savior, the gasping is giving way to slow, even breaths again, and the color is returning to my cheeks.

This is a good place to be, but I'm starting to look back at the dark time as good, too.  While we were going through the experience, I read The God I Love by Joni Erickson Tada.  She relates her own life, full of suffering, but full of joy that has come as a direct result of the faithfulness of God through that suffering.  One line stands out as she relates her faith in the God who not only walked her through her suffering, but orchestrated it for her joy.  She says that God does what he hates (allows our suffering) to accomplish what He loves (his glory and our joy).  Strong words.  

But I clung to those words as I walked through the valley, knowing that God wasn't wringing His hands in despair (as I was!).  I was walking a bit of the Calvary road, and even though God did not delight in my suffering, He does delight in His children and in giving them fulness of joy, and in leading them to deeper fellowship with Christ as they walk the road Christ walked.

So in His kind providence, God has taken me out of that place of suffering, but I am only at the beginning of learning from that experience.  It is morning, and joy has come, but the weeping still lingers, at times the breathing still comes in ragged puffs.  But I anticipate the Breath of Life continuing His resuscitating efforts in the future as I look back on His faithfulness to me in my suffering, and as I look back to His faithfulness to all His people throughout all generations.  How great is our God.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

To our family- we love and miss you very much!
My Josh

Happy Baby

Scott with the boys in Jamestown

Ferry ride from Hattaras Island to Ocracoke

Mom and the kids at the Ocracoke Lighthouse

The boys with some lego creations

Monday, November 24, 2008

Today is Scott's day off, so we are going to spend the day resting, playing and finishing our shopping for our Thanksgiving feast.  I've got Christmas music playing and all four kids are here with me in the playroom, singing along and playing.  It's nice.  And rare.

Over the past couple of months, we've experienced a few traumas that have left me a bit speechless... hence the long absence from the blog.  My words have been directed up to the Lord who sees and knows, my sweet husband, and a few close friends.  

I don't have a sense of quickly coming out of this period of difficulty, but I do have a clear sense of being carried by arms stronger than my own.  The fact that God has sovereignly, perfectly planned all my days, both good and bad, for His glory and for my joy, gives me peace and even a sense of anticipation for may lie ahead.

This is not to say that I don't wish I could snap my fingers and make everything in my world ok.  I do.  But at the same time, I am grateful that Someone wiser than me planned all this.  And He loves me.  This is good news.

I told Scott last night this is such a strange mixture of feelings.  Deep pain and deep peace, and even joy.  Wanting it all to go away with all my heart and yet knowing it won't go away and that it will be okay.  I'm going to guess that this is a little of what Paul was saying when he said he had learned to be content in all circumstances.  I'm not there yet, but I am starting to see glimmers of that seemingly impossible possibility.  

Monday, October 27, 2008

Trip to Raleigh

We recently made a trip to Raleigh.  Scott was attending class in Wake Forest, so the rest of us rode with him and stayed with my brother Tommy and his wife Melannie.  Here's a few photos:

Check out Tommy and Jared.  Jared and Caroline are the same age.  We visited Pullen Park and rode the train.  
We also went to the North Caroline Museum of Natural Sciences (or something like that).  This is one of our kid's favorites.  Here is me with our kids and Jared.  I got more than one comment about the size of our family.  Check out Josh.  He just can't handle taking a normal picture.  

Uncle Scott shows Jared the fishies in the tank.

We had a great time with Tommy and Melannie!  I am thankful for where we are, but trips like this make me sad to live so far away from family, especially since Tommy and Melannie are not only family, but our good friends.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hi everyone

Outside it is turning cooler. This time of year is lovely, but it does hearken at even cooler days to come, which I would love to speed right through into Spring. My kids are outside for hours every afternoon, and I almost hate to call them in for quiet time or reading time. Some days I don't, and just let them revel in being little kids on a crisp fall day. Right now they (my boys) are playing Indiana Jones, complete with whips and ropes and hats and brown clothes. My girls are taking a nap in their room recharging for the afternoon and the evening when Dad will be home and we can enjoy our evening meal together.

This has been a precious time in my spiritual life... as days pass, trials come, seasons change, the Lord has been gracious to draw me close, teach me to trust Him, shown me his love and mercy once again. How great is our God.