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Recipe Megapost: My Old Kentucky Home

6 May

Roger, our native Kentuckian, invited Joe and I over for Derby Day this year. He and Lynn always loved celebrating the Kentucky Derby. I imagine that it was particularly special for her, having grown up so close to Churchill Downs.

While I pawned mint julep duty off on the men-folk, I took charge of the food. Roger’s only “must-have” request was derby pie, an amazing chocolate-nut pie that’s possibly sweeter than actually winning the race itself. Other than that, I was free to do as I pleased.

It got me thinking a lot about Lynn. She liked to get me cookbooks, especially Southern ones. Last summer she gave me an edition of Seasoned Cooking of Kentucky, and several years ago an edition of Charleston Receipts. But the foods that make me think of her are the ones that she talked about the way that I talk about food from Pittsburgh, and those that she eventually wrote down for me the on cards I received at the bridal shower last year.

20130503_142327One of the things I remember her always loving was ham biscuits. Exactly what they sound like; cured, country ham (not the sweet, smoked style of Virginia), thin sliced and piled on top of fresh, fluffy biscuits. Roger mentioned in one of his recent emails to me that they were indeed her favorite, so I searched high and low—the wonderful butcher at Union Meat finally came through with beautiful, red slices of country ham, and I went on a search for a sturdy, slider-style biscuit recipe. The next item on the menu was from one of the books she’d given me.  Pickled shrimp are a popular picnic food in the summer that sounded just refreshing enough to cut some of the richness in the menu (oh believe me, we haven’t even started). Steamed, chilled shrimp, mixed with some vegetables, herbs, and a sweet/sour pickling liquid, all layered into a jar to marinate overnight. Along with the ham biscuits, and pickled shrimp, I figured a vegetable had to enter into the picture somewhere, so I roasted some beautiful spring Brussels sprouts with herbs de provence,  red onion, and bacon and served them at room temperature. They were an amazing contrast to the shrimp.

But the Hot Brown was what intrigued me the most. Not only was it an iconic dish, but I’d never made it before, and had only seen prepared briefly on a Food Network segment done at the Brown Hotel. On one of the recipe cards she shared with me, Lynn wrote down the Brown Hotel’s recipe for their signature dish. What is this incredible food item, you might ask? It is an open faced turkey sandwich on thick slices of Texas toast, covered by creamiest, richest pecorino romano mornay sauce I have ever made, broiled until golden, and then finished with sliced bacon, fresh parsley, and paprika.

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And yes, this whole ordeal ended with pie. Because you should always save room for pie.

Pickled Shrimp

  • 1 lb. peeled, jumbo cooked shrimp with tails
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 1/3 cup peanut oil
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. hot sauce
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 tsp. dried crushed red pepper

20130503_170453Layer the shrimp, onion, bell pepper, and bay leaf in a quart-sized mason jar.

20130503_170919Whisk the remaining ingredients together, and then pour over the shrimp and vegetables. Seal and allow the shrimp to marinate for 1 day, shaking and turning the jar every few hours or so.

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Ham Biscuits

These biscuits needed to be sturdier, and a little taller than normal to accommodate being made into sandwiches. Three leavening agents keep them light and fluffy, while giving you some freedom with manipulating the dough.

  • 1/2 envelope active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp. warm water (110-115 degrees F)
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, cut into pieces and chilled
  • 2 oz. unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. buttermilk
  • Slices of country ham
  • Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, or other condiments

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine yeast and warm water in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes or until foamy.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, then cut cream cheese and cold butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender or fork until crumbly.

Combine yeast mixture and buttermilk, and then add to the flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly 6 to 8 times.

20130504_073019Roll or pat the dough to 3/4-inch thickness. Cut with a round cutter or slice into squares.

20130504_073652Arrange biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush with an egg wash or melted butter, and bake for 15 minutes or until deep golden-brown.

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Split biscuits and top with thin slices of country ham and condiments as desired.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts

  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, washed, outer leaves removed, and cut in half.
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 slices bacon (cooked), and 1 tbsp. bacon drippings
  • 1/2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 tsp. herbs de provence
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl and taste for seasoning. Then spread the sprouts on a baking sheet and roast at 375 degrees F until lightly browned, but not soft. It will take anywhere for 15-30 minutes depending on the size of your sprouts.

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Kentucky Hot Brown

I used the Brown Hotel’s original recipe and followed it to a T. The only exception being that I was able to make three sandwiches, rather than two. Honestly, I think that the amount of sauce this yields could easily be spread across four. The recipe can be found here, but here’s a photo sequence and my description of the process…

Gather your ingredients and preheat a broiler.

20130504_171142Lay one piece of crustless Texas toast in an oven-safe dish, and cut the other into triangles, putting them on either side of the whole piece.

20130504_170551Layer turkey on top, and put a slice of Roma tomato on two sides of the Texas toast.

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Make a roux and cook it until smooth, then add the cream and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture begins to simmer lightly and gets very thick.

20130504_17251920130504_172656Add the pecorino cheese and whisk until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

20130504_17353620130504_173625Ladle the hot mornay sauce on top of the turkey, and then place the sandwich under the broiler until lightly browned on top.

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Top with two slices of bacon and finish with a sprinkle of fresh parsley and paprika.

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Dark Bay Pie

The Derby Pie originated at the Melrose Inn, but the name is trademarked  by the Kern family and the owners are not shy about suing to protect it. Although numerous variations and recipes for this type of pie exist, to refer to anything that is not Kern’s recipe (which is again, heavily guarded by the owners) as Derby Pie is breaking the law. Hence, why my truly delicious AND SHAREABLE recipe has its own moniker, given for the final product’s similarity in color to that particular horse coat color.

  • 1 1/4 cups toasted, roughly chopped nuts – I used a mixture of pecans and walnuts
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • Pastry for one 9 in. crust

First, prepare your pastry. I use my super-no-fail pate brisee, of course! You can find that recipe right here, in the butter tart tutorial. After making the dough, patting into a disc, and refrigerating it, roll it out into a circle a bit larger than your pie pan, and then fit into the pan and crimp the edges. Return the crust to the refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes.

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Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until thoroughly blended and slightly foamy. Add the brown sugar, white, sugar, light corn syrup, dark corn syrup, flour, and salt and whisk until smooth.  Add the melted butter, bourbon, and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly.

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Fold the nuts and chocolate chips into the mixture, brush the inside of the pie crust with a little bit of egg wash, and then pour the filling into the prepared pie crust.

20130504_10154920130504_101333(0)20130504_101745Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the center is just set and the edges are golden brown. It will deflate slightly as it cools.

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An hour after finishing everything up, I was putting my recipe cards safely back into the book when I noticed another one from Lynn that contained three simple ingredients: An orange, a cup of sugar, and two cups of pecans. Well shoot, I already had everything…so why not? Roger and I have since decided that these are far too habit forming. If you make them, not eating the entire batch will truly be a challenge.

Orange Pecans (and Walnuts)

Lynn’s recipe called for 2 cups of pecans, but I had a mixture of pecans and walnuts leftover from the Dark Bay pie, so I went with that.

20130504_113957Zest and juice the orange into a small, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the sugar and mix well. Put the pan over medium high heat.

20130504_114512Once the sugar has begun to dissolve, add the nuts to the pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring vigorously throughout, and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed (5-6 minutes).

20130504_114629Spread the nuts out onto a baking sheet and separate using a fork. Once completely cool, store in a well-sealed container at room temperature. And again, this is if you actually have any to store.

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20130504_125706So that was what we enjoyed with frosty mint juleps as Orb made his valiant gallop from almost the back of the pack, to a massive garland of roses.

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Dioji found all of this very exhausting.

Dioji found all of this very exhausting.

It was a really wonderful way to spend a Saturday, tasting and seeing things that reminded me of my mother-in-law. Sometimes it hurts to think about Lynn, because the fact that she is gone is still so raw. But Saturday was one of the first times that the cheerfulness I remember overshadowed those pangs of sadness. I am grateful that she shared so much of her home with me, and hope that I have done her proud sharing it with you.

Ciao for now,

Neen

Unexpected Favorites: Zucchini Lasagna

22 May

Creativity, in my opinion, is one of the most important assets any cook can have. It is always really interesting to me when I have a chance to exchange recipes with other RNY post-ops. Generally they’ve revamped favorite recipes into ones that fit into their new healthy lifestyle. People have come up with really interesting, delicious things like chocolate cakes sweetened and moistened with canned pumpkin, or protein-packed pancakes made from ricotta cheese and nut flour.

It was during one of these exchanges many years ago that someone first brought up the idea of using zucchini squash as a replacement for lasagna noodles. Although skeptical (I love pasta), I gave it a try and LOVED it. If, like me, you are currently being driven crazy by a project and just need something simple to heat up at lunchtime, this is the answer. You can use low-fat cheeses if you wish, but I prefer to use full-fat in this recipe. Even with full-fat cheese, it only works out to 8g of fat per serving.

Zucchini Lasagna

  •  1 lb. ground turkey breast
  • 2 zucchini, sliced thin on a mandoline
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups diced mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 16 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 oz. whole-milk mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1 oz. parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 egg
  • Thyme, salt, onion powder, and cayenne pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Brown the turkey in a large saucepan and season with salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms and minced garlic and saute a minute longer. Add the tomato sauce, herbs, and seasoning and simmer while preparing the filling.

Combine the ricotta, 2 oz. of the mozzarella, and parmesan with thyme, salt and pepper. Taste and re-season as needed, then add the egg and mix well.

Put a thin layer of the tomato sauce mixture in the bottom of an 8×8 in. square baking dish. Top that with a layer of zucchini, and then finally with a layer of the ricotta mixture. Repeat this process until you’ve used up the filling. I usually get about 8 layers.

Top with any remaining small slices of zucchini and mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until bubbly and cooked through. After removing from the oven, allow it to sit for 15 minutes before cutting into slices. Yield: 9 slices.

Want to get a bunch of meals out of this? Simply refrigerate the leftovers in the baking pan overnight so that they firm up. Then wrap individual servings in several layers of plastic wrap and then freeze. To reheat, either place in a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees F until warm, or in the microwave for 3-4 minutes.

That’s all for this healthy and happy recipe. But I’ll finish this post off with something even happier. Check out my face as I realize that I’ve just walked into a surprise bridal shower thrown by my wonderful family and friends this past weekend:

Then realized my sister-in-law flew in from New York to be there:

And ended up with a bouquet of bows from generous gifts for Joe and I:

Truly, I am the luckiest.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Ciao for now,

Neen

DIY Charcuterie Returns: Duck Prosciutto

21 Sep

First, a bit of shameless self-promotion:

The Choral Arts Society of Washington (of which I am a member) is performing Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana with the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Rafael Frübeck de Burgos and featuring soloists Nicholas Phan (tenor), Laura Claycomb (soprano), and Hugh Russell (baritone). The performances will take place at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on the evenings of September 29th, 30th, and October 1st. Also on the program is Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8.

Please come hear what is going to be a really spectacular show! Tickets are available through the Kennedy Center’s website here: http://www.kennedy-center.org/events/?event=NLCSV#blurb

Secondly, football season is at last in full swing, which is awesome, and also means the return of fantasy football. Let me tell you, team Merchant of Menace is looking pretty good so far (fingers crossed) aside from an injury or two. Here’s this year’s lineup so that I can look back at the end of the season and go “What was I thinking?” But hopefully not. The starters are in boldface:

  • QBs: Matt Ryan, Kyle Orton
  • WRs: Roddy White, Mike Wallace, Kenny Britt, Pierre Garcon, Hines Ward
  • RBs: LeSean McCoy, Tim Hightower, Ryan Mathews, LaDanian Tomlinson
  • TEs: Owen Daniels, Aaron Hernandez
  • K: Sebastian Janikowski
  • DEF: New England

I’ve been luckier than most the first few weeks. My only major downer is Aaron Hernandez going down with a sprained MCL. It could be anywhere from 2-6 weeks before he returns, but I’ll keep him on the bench until I absolutely need the roster spot. It’s a shame; he started off the season really strong.

Now let’s switch gears entirely and talk about duck. How is it that in all of my charcuterie posts from earlier this year that I never got around to sharing the delightful creation known as duck prosciutto? You can even see it hanging in the pictures of the pancetta and soppressata!

But honestly, it’s a good thing that I waited. Really. I’ve made the duck prosciutto from Charcuterie a few times now with my own little changes and have discovered a few things along the way that I think will make your first time trying it more successful. This is definitely the easiest charcuterie project to take on, so if you’re looking for a place to start, you’ve found it.

Duck Prosciutto, adapted from Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn

  • One duck breast (I normally use a moulard duck breast weighing in around 20 oz.)
  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • Fresh sage and orange zest
  • Cheesecloth and butcher’s twine

First, find a lidded container that will snugly fit your duck breast. I use a small rectangular Ziploc tub, but a 1 qt. oval baking dish covered with plastic wrap would work well too.

Pat the duck breast dry and set aside.

Combine the 2 cups of salt with the herbs and zest to make a cure. You can use other flavors too. Some people like to add crushed juniper berries, herbs de provence, or a combination of hot pepper and brown sugar to their cure. Think about the kind of flavors you like. For my preference, nothing brightens up duck like orange zest and a few torn sage leaves.

Pour one cup of the salt cure into the storage tub or baking dish and place the duck breast on top of it. Pack enough of the remaining cure around and on top of it to just cover the surface on all sides. Cover the container and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Remove the duck breast from the cure and rinse it under cool water. Pat it dry once again and weigh it.

Wrap the duck breast in a layer of cheesecloth and hang it in a cool, dark, and mildly humid place to dry. Ideal conditions are around 60 degrees F. and 60-70% humidity.

Hang for 1-2 weeks, or until it has lost 1/3rd of its original weight. Store wrapped in butcher paper in the refrigerator or vacuum seal for longer-term storage. Serve very thinly sliced with peppery greens like arugula, and fresh tomatoes.

On slicing: To make it easier to slice thin, you can put the duck breast in the freezer for a half-hour or so prior to slicing to make it firmer. And just look at the beautiful color:

Happy Autumn to you all. I assure you that after the Carmina Burana performances, I’ll be back with more fall (football!) recipes.

Ciao for now,

Neen

Busy June, Happy News, and Brand New Recipes!

6 Jul

Boy, have we been busy. First we ran off to Chincoteague for a weekend of fun in what I think may be the most peaceful place in the world.

Two weeks later, we hopped on a plane for a whirlwind four days in New Orleans. The days were sweltering, but the beignets were sweet and the coffee was strong. There is nothing so joy-filled and rejuvenating as a few days with the family.

As if all of that wasn’t enough excitement, somewhere in between (June 18th for precision’s sake) Joe got the wild idea to ask me to marry him. I bet you can’t guess what my answer was…

Of course, I said yes.

And so after a June full of excitement, we crashed over the 4th of July weekend. I spent most of it languishing in the joy of having nothing to do but enjoy the sun, play with the dog, and read.

But what would a summer holiday weekend be without a little outdoor cooking? Some smoky, savory chicken breasts and a bright summer salad of avocado, yellow squash and tomatoes made for a perfect Saturday picnic.

Pecanwood Smoked Chicken Breasts

  • 3.5 lbs. of bone-in split chicken breasts
  • 6 cups water, divided
  • 6 tbsp. kosher salt
  • The zest of one lemon (large strips)
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice berries
  • 1 tbsp. telicherry peppercorns
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • 6-7 chives
  • 4-5 parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1.5 lbs. wood chips (I used pecanwood)

Combine 2 cups of the water with the salt, lemon zest, herbs, and spices and bring to a boil. Set aside to cool for at least one hour. Add the brine to the remaining 4 cups of  cool water in a large plastic tub. Put the chicken breasts into the brine and refrigerate for 4 hours, turning once.

1 hour before grilling, add the wood chips to a bowl of water to soak. Drain, and then place them in an aluminum foil basket.

Preheat a gas grill to 300 degrees F. with all burners on high. After preheating, maintain a temperature of between 275-300 degrees. On my grill, this took one burner set on high. Place the basket of wood chips directly over the heat source. Otherwise, you won’t get any of that wonderful smelling smoke.

Remove your chicken breasts from the brine, pat them dry, and then put them on the grill away from the lit burner. Indirect heat is key for slow smoking. Also, keep your grill lid closed as much as possible. Cook the breasts, turning 180 degrees every 40 minutes until the internal temperature close to the bone is about 160 degrees. It will take about 2-3 hours. Rest 10 minutes and then slice.

Lemony Summer Salad

I really loved this salad. Not just because it gave me a chance to use some of the (excessive) bounty of squash that appeared in my garden while I was in New Orleans, but because of the balance. It’s very zen. You get this bright, tart flavor from the lemon juice and tomato, a little bit of creaminess from the avocado, and a sweet crunchy bite from the summer squash. It played very well with the smoky, salty flavor of the chicken. Best part: five minute prep time.

  • 1 ripe avocado, chopped and treated with lemon juice or citric acid to prevent browning
  • 1 summer squash, matchstick cut
  • A handful of grape tomatoes, sliced
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 5 or 6 lemon-basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the lemon juice and olive oil and a bowl and whisk together thoroughly. Toss with the avocado, tomatoes, squash, and lemon basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a bit of lemon zest.

Happy July to all! Hope you’re enjoying the summer as much as I am. County fair season is coming up, so hopefully I’ll have some interesting recipes to share as I start experimenting with what to make for Arlington’s competition.

Ciao for now,

Neen

Friday Night Comfort Food: Chicken Pot Pie

28 May

In the infamous words of the lovely Chef Carla Hall, “I’ve been thinking about chicken pot pie all week!”

I can’t tell you the last time I had chicken pot pie, and no, I’ve never made one before yesterday. But soon after Chef Hall whipped up a might tasty looking one on Top Chef, I saw Alton Brown make his version on an episode of Good Eats. Ever since, it’s been calling to me like a siren. Juicy chicken and savory vegetables in a creamy, rich gravy tucked away beneath a buttery crispy crust. Yes, please.

There are things about traditional pot pie of which I’m not a big fan. As much as I love chicken and potatoes together, I think there’s enough starch in the crust and gravy to suffice. Secondly, I cannot stand cooked peas. Maybe lightly steamed and shocked in ice water, but otherwise, no thank you ma’am. What I needed was a different green vegetable for both color and deliciousness, some earthiness, and something special to kick up that gravy. No sad, gray gravy here.

Let’s begin! Here’s what you’ll need

Filling

  • 1.25 lb. chicken breast, diced
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 5-6 cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3 tbsp. dry sherry
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 2 tbsp. butter, unsalted
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig parsley, chopped
  • Red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Crust

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 oz. unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2-3 tbsp. ice water
  • Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water)

First, prep the crust. I used a pretty basic pate brisee for this. Just combine the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor, and then slowly add in the butter and process using short pulses. The resulting texture should be sandy.

Add 2 tbsp. of ice water and process just until the dough will hold together when pinched between your fingers. Add more water only if necessary and then roll the dough into a ball. Flatten the ball into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour. If you do this in advance, take the dough out of the refrigerator 20 minutes before rolling it out.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss the diced chicken with a little bit of olive oil and the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and then brown the pieces in a large pan.

In a separate pan, warm the milk and chicken stock together over low heat.

Add a small amount of oil to the same pan and sautee the onions, garlic, zucchini, carrots, and mushrooms just until they release their juices. Add the sherry and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking.

Add the butter, allow it to melt and then mix in the 3 tbsp. of flour. Slowly whisk in the milk/chicken stock mixture and then add the parsley, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Cook until the mixture reduces and thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the chicken.

Pour the filling into a shallow baking dish. This 2 quart oval casserole dish was just the right size. A deep dish pie pan or 8 x 8 in. baking dish would probably work as well.

Roll out the pie dough to the shape of your cooking vessel, only slightly larger so that there is some overhang. Cover the filling and crimp the crust along the edges of the baking dish to secure. Cut some vents in the crust to let out steam, and then brush it with the egg wash.

Bake the pot pie for 30-35 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown

Allow it to cool for 10-15 minutes before digging in. Eat and be comforted.

Hope you all have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Ciao for now,

Neen

Clean BBQ? It’s True…

28 May

When Joe and I decided to have folks over for Memorial Day this year, I decided that I wasn’t going to prepare a bunch of food that I couldn’t eat. For one thing, I knew that there would be leftovers and I wasn’t tossing away my grocery money on food that wasn’t in my plan. Furthermore, I thought my guests deserved food and not “food-like products.”

Here I am hanging out with Mr. Stripey ready to grill, so what was on the (mostly) clean menu?

Clean Eating Magazine’s Caramelized Onion, Spinach, and Artichoke Dip served with Trader Joe’s natural corn tortilla chips, chopped carrots, toasted whole grain bread, and sugar snap peas (from Westmoreland Berry Farm—so delicious!).

Dry rubbed chicken legs grilled to perfection and then glazed with a natural BBQ sauce.

Grilled portabella mushrooms, green peppers, and tomatoes tossed with olive oil, red wine vinegar, kosher salt, lemon-thyme, pepper, and garlic.

Not pictured: Dry rubbed smoked spare ribs that I had hanging out in our freezer for awhile. I was saving them for a special occasion. I warmed them over low heat in the crock pot for a few hours with a bit of cider vinegar and sucanat in the bottom. It made its own sauce and tasted absolutely fantastic!

Chocolate sour cream cupcakes, modified from Clean Eating’s recipe. I replaced the skim milk with unsweetened chocolate almond milk the second time I made these and never looked back. Best chocolate dessert ever.

I also made classic and in no way clean vanilla ice cream using the base for Cliff’s ice cream recipe from the Top Chef cookbook. It was some really great stuff. I used heavy cream and milk that was practically fresh from the dairy and the rest of the eggs that I gathered from the farm. Joe is still savoring the final container of it.

Sunday evening I realized that my berries from Westmoreland were on the verge of over ripening. Not wanting to let them go to waste and having cold/sweet stuff on the brain, I made some frozen yogurt. That vanilla ice cream might be decadent, but this stuff is sweet, tangy, cool, and 94 calories a serving.

Fresh Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

2 cups good quality low-fat plain yogurt (I buy mine from Blue Ridge Dairy Co.)

1 cup pureed fresh strawberries

1/3 cup raw, natural honey

Pinch salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender and then chill in a lidded container in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. This really improves the texture and flavor quality of the final product, so don’t skip the rest period!

Churn for approximately 25 minutes in a countertop electric ice cream maker and then transfer to a lidded container and freeze for at least 3 hours before serving. On his show Good Eats, Alton Brown often says, “Your patience will be rewarded.” Listen to these wise words.

(Makes 6 servings)

I really would have taken a picture of it’s awesome pink color, but it didn’t last long enough! I guess I’ll just have to make it again soon…

Stay local!

-Neen