Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Chicken Pot Pie with Cheddar Chive Cobbler Topping

Living in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in March means plenty of bi-polar weather - pouring buckets one minute, sun shining the next, and high winds 10 minutes later - you just never know what you're going to get from one minute to the next.  For me, it's the final call for winter comfort foods before moving on to the fresh flavors of new spring vegetables and the lighter dishes that will lead the way into summer.

Between the pouring rain with moments of sunshine, springing forward into daylight savings and a late night, I woke up on the late side this morning with the desire to spend the day drinking tea under a cozy blanket watching cooking shows and movies... and craving Chicken Pot Pie.  Somehow I managed to let almost the entire winter pass by without making any of this fabulously comforting dish.  This recipe rectified the situation quite nicely.

Although I love to bake and do bake often, pie crust and I have never quite meshed.  I always seem to end up with too-dry pastry that fails to roll out well and cracks when placed in the pan so I tend to gravitate towards alternate solutions that vary from purchasing store bought crust or frozen puff pastry, to topping the dish with biscuits.  Today I decided I'd simply try it with the cobbler topping used in this Chicken Enchilada Cobbler recipe with just a minor addition of chives.

Let me tell you, it turned out great!  The cobbler topping had a nice, crisp crust while the interior of the cobbler was fluffy and provided the perfect balance for the creamy pot pie filling.  My husband really enjoyed the bigger pieces of chicken and it was just the ticket for a blustery, lazy day, taking less than an hour to make from start to table.  Success!

I already had 1 chicken thigh left marinading in the fridge from some dishes I had made earlier in the week so I started with that and added 1 large chicken breast to a saucepan with about 1 cup of chicken stock  (I went ahead and added the marinade to the pan as well, knowing the olive oil and seasonings would only serve to add more flavor to the overall dish.) and poached the chicken until it was just cooked through).

Meanwhile, I chopped and sauteed some carrots, onions and celery (I was out of potatoes, but feel free to include them) in a couple of tablespoons of butter and a tablespoon of EVOO (the olive oil helps prevent the butter from burning), lightly seasoning the whole works with a bit of salt and pepper.  By the time the veggies were  tender, the chicken was ready so I removed it from the pan and cut it into bite-sized chunks and set it aside.  I added 3 tablespoons of flour to the veggies, stirred it in and let it cook for a couple of minutes before adding milk and the chicken stock I had poached the chicken in.  I stirred this well and let it cook for a bit to gauge the thickness of the sauce.  I ended up adding a couple more tablespoons of stock from the carton before I had the consistency I wanted (about as thick as gravy).  Once I had that dialed in, I added the chicken...

I added some parsley and thyme and just stirred everything together, then I turned off the heat and poured the whole mixture into a small casserole dish that I had already prepared with cooking spray and got to work on my cobbler topping.  Just mix 1 cup of Homemade Baking Mix with some sharp, shredded cheddar cheese and 1 tablespoon chopped chives (I used freeze dried), then mix in 1 cup of milk, 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon of butter, mix well and pour on top of the pot pie filling.


Bake it in a preheated 400 degree oven and bake it for 30 minutes.  It will come out looking like this:

... just look at how beautifully the cobbler topping rose...

Serve it with a salad on the side and your favorite beverage and you're all set!

Here's the recipe:

Chicken Pot Pie with Cheddar Chive Cobbler Topping
serves 4 

2 boneless, skinless pieces of chicken (I used 1 thigh and 1 breast)
1 cup chicken stock
2 TBLS butter, unsalted
1 TBLS extra virgin olive oil
2 carrots
2 celery stalks
1/2 of a medium, sweet onion
2 medium potatoes (optional)
3 TBLS flour
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp thyme
Salt & Pepper

Cobbler Topping
1 cup baking mix
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 TBLS butter, melted (*if you use storebought baking mix, omit butter)
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 TBLS chopped chives (reserve a couple of pinches to sprinkle on top)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare a small casserole dish with cooking spray or butter.  Melt 1 tablespoon butter and set aside to cool.

For the filling:
Place whole chicken pieces in 1 cup of chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut potatoes into bite-sized pieces and chop onions, carrots and celery into small dice. Preheat a skillet on medium high heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet and melt butter.  If you're including potatoes, add them to the skillet first and let them cook for several minutes before adding the remaining vegetables.  Saute until all vegetables are tender.

At this point, the chicken should be ready.  Remove the chicken from the pan, reserving the stock. Set chicken aside.

Add flour to vegetables, stirring in and allowing to cook for a couple of minutes.  Stir in milk and allow it to cook briefly, until it thickens to almost to a paste.   Add all of the chicken stock you poached the chicken in.  Stir in and reduce heat to low, allowing sauce to simmer a bit, stirring occasionally while you cut the poached chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Add chicken to filling mixture in skillet.  If the sauce is too thick, you can add more chicken stock or more milk or simply use water to thin it to the desired consistency.  (You want it about as thick as a gravy.)  Pour into prepared casserole dish and set aside.

For the topping:
In a medium bowl or measuring pitcher, mix together baking mix and cheddar cheese.  Pour in milk, melted butter (which should be cool), chives, and eggs.  Mix until it's all combined.  Pour on top of filling in casserole dish.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, until nicely browned on top and a toothpick inserted into topping comes out clean.  Allow to set for about 5 minutes prior to serving.  This goes great with a salad or some fresh fruit.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Tutorial: Hiking Boot Cookies

Today is the first day of Spring - HOORAY!  That means hiking season is almost upon us.  To get your ramped up for the season, I wanted to share this tutorial with you for Hiking Boot Cookies.

Last July, my sister got married.  She and her new hubby started out their relationship hiking together and it grew from there so when they planned their wedding, they planned a casual, hiking themed wedding that was as much fun for the guests as it was for them.  It was very laid back and casual (and it was held on what turned out to be the hottest day of the summer - yikes!) and the menu was no different.

They picked a casual menu and asked me to oversee the shopping, cooking and preparing of the food, which included a special request for a platter of hiking themed cookies.  Here's what they looked like:

I decided to use Lila Loa's End All for Chocolate Cookies Recipe for a couple of reasons.
1) the chocolate cookie would show through on the boot-print scene cookie and look like earth, adding to the overall effect
2) They are absolutely the best, most reliable cut-out cookie recipe I have ever used - these cookies DO NOT SPREAD when you bake them - which makes them perfect for cut-outs

For the Royal Icing, I always use this recipe from The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle.  I've found it to be a reliable recipe and tastier than most Royal Icing recipes I've had.  You can also find lots of tutorials and excellent tips on this blog, and I highly recommend it if Royal Icing Cookies are something you enjoy playing with.

I had no trouble finding a basic idea for the backpack and bootprint cookies, but I had no luck finding anything for the hiking boot.  So, I figured it out for myself and took pictures of every step (ha ha, see what I did there?), so I could share them here...

Once you have cut and baked your roll out cookies, allow them to cool completely.  Still-warm cookies will result in runny frosting - a disaster for this type of decorating.

I mixed up a dark gray Royal Icing and thinned it to a 20 second consistency.  This is just thick enough to hold a line, but thin enough to use as a flood icing to fill in the outlines. I started with the bottom of the sole...

...while that was drying, I added the upper edge that you see on so many pairs of hiking boots...

...and while those details were drying (and while I was adding details to some of the other cookie shapes that used this same color), I mixed up a light tan color, which I also thinned to a 20 second consistency.  I sealed it up and let the other details set before filling in a flooding the body of the boot while the body of the boot was still try I thinned the grey icing even more - to about a 10 second consistency (maybe less) and added the eyelets to the boots, using a small round tip, and just dropping a tiny dot of icing in a row.  This results in the added icing sinking into the icing that's already there, while still holding it's shape.

Now I used the Royal Icing straight up, with just coloring to add the lacing...

On one cookie, I also added their initials and the date of the Big Day to place on the top of the cookie platter.

And there you have it, Hiking Boot Cookies for a Hiking or Camping themed cookie platter!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Chicken Enchilada Cobbler

I first had this Spicy Taco Cobbler when I facilitated a workshop this past March with my friends Janet and Amelia for a group of Adult Girl Scouts.  Janet had made the recipe before, shared it on her blog – Chuck Wagoneer – and knew it to be reliable and popular.  I was a bit skeptical, to say the least, I had a snobbish attitude about the recipe since it called for Bisquick and Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice, but it did sound delicious and kind of perfect for a camping trip in March.  Ya know, a hearty, stick to your ribs and warm you to your toes casserole.  March in the Pacific Northwest can be a real crap shoot, to say the least, in the weather department.  We had facilitated workshops at this yearly event several times in the past and had experienced everything from the nasty rainy weather you would expect from a Pacific Northwest early Spring to sunny and clear with below freezing temperatures to cloudy and mild.  Yikes!  Not to mention the fact that standing on cold cement all day, teaching a workshop OUTSIDE, can just chill you to your unmentionables.  Yep, definitely perfect casserole weather.

This recipe actually has a lot going for it – it’s pretty high-carb since it has both rice and a bicuity-cobbler topping, but it’s also pretty packed with protein since it has both meat and cheese, plus it has just a hint of a spicy kick (which you can definitely kick up a notch or three, if you prefer) that just warms you through and through and stays with you for hours.

The original recipe calls for ground beef as well as the aforementioned Bisquick and Spanish Ready Rice.  But I knew this recipe was ripe for variations.  I have made it a couple of ways already first by kicking up the spice a tad by using Chorizo and making both the baking mix  Spanish Rice from scratch.  But my favorite variation of this recipe is Chicken Enchilada Cobbler.  It tastes like chicken enchiladas with a savory cobbler topping and the simplicity of a casserole. I was super happy with the results right out of the gate and my husband gave the recipe his seal of approval too. 

Best of all, if you already have the rice made up this recipe can be made in one-pot AND it’s outdoor cooking friendly!  Visit my friend (insert link) Janet’s blog for dutch oven cooking instructions. 

Start by placing the rice in the bottom of a buttered casserole dish (I'm using Cilantro Lime Rice here), dutch oven or cast iron skillet.

Mix some pre-cooked chicken with shredded Monterey Jack Cheese, a can of dice green chiles, a little bit of green enchilada sauce and chopped fresh cilantro... the rice with the chicken enchilada filling mixture...

...spread it evenly over the rice.

Now pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the whole thing... with cheese - I used both Monterey Jack and Cheddar.  

Now mix up your cobbler topping: Start by adding cheese to the baking mix...

...and mixing the cheese in....

Now add your milk and eggs...

...and melted butter...

Pour the cobbler topping over the whole shebang...

...and bake until it looks like this:

This recipe is sure to be a family favorite and it’s a great candidate for making and freezing for meals-in-a-hurry.  Muy Delicioso!

Chicken Enchilada Cobbler

2 Cups (insert link) Cilantro Lime Rice (or any rice you have on hand)
2 Cups cooked chicken, shredded or cut into bite-sized pieces
1 – 10 oz can Green Enchilada Sauce
1 - 3.3 oz can dice Green Chiles
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
handful fresh cilantro, chopped
1 Cup Milk
2 Eggs
1 TBLS Melted Butter, unsalted
1 Cup (insert link) Baking Mix
2 Cups Shredded Cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Butter casserole, dutch oven or cast iron skillet.  Place rice in bottom of buttered casserole.  

Mix chicken, 1/4 cup of the cheese, 2 tablespoons of the enchilada sauce, the green chiles, oregano, garlic powder and cilantro together.  Layer on top of rice in casserole dish.

Pour Green Enchilada Sauce over rice and chicken mixture.  Top with 1 1/4 cup of the Shredded Cheese.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together baking mix, and final 1/2 cup of cheese.  Mix well.  Add milk, eggs, and melted butter.  Pour or spoon over cheese in casserole. 

Bake 30 minutes or until top is golden brown (this took 25 minutes using the convection setting on my oven).  Serve with sour cream, chopped green onions and sliced olives if desired.

Serves 6

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Make Your Own Takeout: Cilantro Lime Rice

I live about 20 minutes from the nearest anything.  Grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, hardware get the idea.  And what is available 20 minutes away is limited which means we often have to drive quite a bit further to satisfy our cravings...which we almost never do.  Seriously, after spending a minimum of 2 hours in the car per day, 5 days per week the craving has to be pretty intense for either one of us, much less both of us, to be willing to put on proper clothes, hop in the car and go out anywhere for anything.  This has led to a desire on my part to learn to make as many of the foods I crave from our favorite takeout joints as possible.  If you happen to follow me on Pinterest, you may be aware I have a huge group board I call Make Your Own Takeout.  Hence, this first installment of Make Your Own Takeout: Cilantro Lime Rice.

One place I have been introduced to since starting my job in Kent is Chipotle.  I really like the burrito bowl with Cilantro Lime Rice, Carnitas, beans, corn, etc.  The rice is very good, but I knew I could not only easily make it at home, but make it even better with more flavor.  The beauty of this dish is that you can either make it completely from scratch or make it using leftover rice and, if you're in a hurry, you can even make the whole thing in your rice cooker (or saucepan on the stovetop) in one fell swoop!

I am making Chicken Enchilada Cobbler today and I had some leftover rice in the fridge I decided to use up so I started with 2 cups of the leftover rice and added the zest of 1 lime...

...and the juice of half of the same lime...

...a handful of cilantro.... some ground cumin, onion powder, and salt.  Mix it all up, reheat and Voila!  Cilantro Lime Rice.  At this point you can reheat it and serve it with Fish Tacos, Fajitas or top it with Carnitas and Make Your Own Takeout burrito bowl - or any other recipe you'd like to use it in - like the Chicken Enchilada Cobbler I'm making.

Here's the recipe:

Cilantro Lime Rice

Method 1: Precooked Rice

2 cups cooked rice
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1/2 lime (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp onion powder
pinch of salt
handful fresh cilantro, chopped or 1 tsp dried cilantro

Mix all ingredients together, reheat and serve.

Method 2: Rice Cooker
*1 1/2 cups rice
*3 cups water or chicken stock
zest of 1 lime (or more to taste)
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt (less if using salted chicken stock)
handful fresh cilantro, chopped or 1 tsp dried cilantro

Thoroughly rinse uncooked rice until the water runs clear.  Add to rice cooker along with all ingredients except cilantro if using fresh.  Set rice cooker per manufacturers instructions.  Serve hot with your favorite Mexican dish.

*NOTE: You may need to adjust these amounts per the manufacturers instructions for your rice cooker.  The manufacturers instructions trump those above.  If using a saucepan on the stovetop, follow the instructions for rice to liquid ratio on the package of rice you choose to use, then add everything else and cook as per usual.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Homemade Baking Mix

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big user of baking mixes.  I just don’t see the point in paying a premium for someone else to mix something up for me that I can do myself from ingredients that I stock in my pantry on a regular basis already.  I have to confess that this has resulted in snobbery against recipes that call for pre-mixed, pre-prepared items.  Kinda funny actually (and hypocritical if I’m being completely honest) since I often purchase and use pre-shredded or pre-sliced cheeses, canned cream of mushroom soup and canned chili and think nothing of cake/brownie mixes, pre-made pie crust and store-bought cocoa mix.  But last year I was co-facilitator for an “Outdoor Chef” workshop with my friends Janet (of the Chuck Wagoneer blog) and Amelia for Adult Girl Scout Volunteers and one of the recipes we decided to make was this Spicy Taco Cobbler, which called for not only Bisquick but also (*gasp*) Uncle Ben’s Spanish Ready Rice.  I was resistant to using this recipe because I really felt a workshop titled “Outdoor Chef” should include recipes that would allow the participants to really maximize their cooking skills by making everything from scratch.  Well, the recipe was a huge hit and I was completely won over.  I’ll talk more specifically about why it was so good in a near-future blog post, but let’s just say that I was determined to re-create that recipe from scratch and that meant I needed a good Baking Mix recipe.

I ended up choosing this recipe from King Arthur’s Flour for All-Purpose Baking Mix, omitting the shortening because I didn’t want to worry about shelf-life and I have been, up to this point, a very infrequent user of baking mixes.  I went ahead and made up the whole batch – happy for an excuse to make the Biscuits & Gravy my hubby and I have been craving lately as well as a myriad of other tasty delights.  You’ll need to remember to add fat to your recipes when you make this if you decide to make it without the shortening.  For my scratch version of the Spicy Taco Cobbler, I added 1 Tablespoon of melted, unsalted butter and it worked out perfectly so plan on a ratio of 1 tablespoon fat to 1 cup of mix as a starting point (and I’ve since used the same ratio when I’ve made pancakes and waffles).  You may need to play with your recipes a bit to determine works for you as well to determine which fats work best with each of your recipes.
This worked beautifully for the Spicy Taco Cobbler, rising nice and high and developing a golden brown, crust on top with a tender, moist interior.  I’ve also made wonderfully fluffy, light pancakes and really tasty waffles with that perfect balance of crunch on the outside and tender on the inside using this mix and I need to make another batch already.
This is super easy to do - I assembled the mix right in a re-sealable plastic bag and then stored it next to my flour in the hopes that it’s presence there will act as a reminder to use it (unlike the who-knows-how-many-years-old box of Bisquick I found in my pantry earlier today). 

Here’s the recipe (sans the shortening):
9 Cups Unbleached Flour
5 TBLS Baking Powder
1 TBLS Salt
¼ C Granulated Sugar

Measure all ingredients directly into a re-sealable plastic bag.  Seal the bag.  Shake to mix well.  Label and store.