Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chicken Potpies

This meal was the ultimate team effort. Usually when I make the menu for the week I run out of ideas after three meals and start asking Brett for his input. Usually he has no input at all, which is very frustrating for me. However, last week Brett expressed an interest in making chicken potpies and even found us a recipe to try in that red and white checked Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that EVERYONE seems to own.

Our job assignments were very clear. I was in charge of the goo, Brett was in charge of the crust.

I chopped half an onion, a handful of baby carrots, and one potato. Then I boiled the potatoes and carrots for about 10 minutes (the prep was pretty similar to Cheddar Chowder) and threw in a handful of frozen peas for the last 2 minutes. While that was going, I sauteed the onion in a saucepan with a couple tablespoons of butter (the recipe called for mushrooms too, but I left them out.) I added 1/6 cup of flour and let that cook for about a minute before adding 1/2 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper, a couple shakes of dried thyme, 1 cup of vegetable broth and 1/2 cup of milk. I stirred and stirred until that stuff got pretty thick, then I added the drained veggies and shredded chicken (leftover from a roasted chicken earlier in week.)

Meanwhile, Brett had been busy with mixing and rolling out the crusts. He just used a recipe for basic pie crust. Our potpie recipe is for the "fake" potpie where the crust is only on top. Brett wanted to do the "real" potpie with the crust all around. I must say that it was a great decision. He fitted our custard cups perfectly.

Of course he had the duty of spooning the goo into the crust and covering them with a top circle of crust.

To help get them in and out of the oven we snuggled the custard cups into a rectangular baking dish. They baked for about 15 minutes and came out gorgeous.

At this point it was nearly 7:30 and I was starving! The only problem with a potpie is you risk extreme mouth burns if you try to eat it right away. The goo is liquid hot magma! Potpies require patience and lots of blowing, and when I'm hungry, patience is not a quality that I possess.

When I could finally start eating it, it tasted pretty good. It was a little on the bland side, so next time I will put more salt and seasoning in the filling. We thought that we would each eat one and then split the third, but we were both pretty full after one. That means that we have one leftover to eat for lunch this weekend! In the future, I think this will be a weekend meal, simply because an hour and a half is too long for a weeknight meal.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Chow Mein with Hoisin Sauce

I love hoisin sauce. I think something I made long ago called for it because there's been a half full jar of it in my fridge for a very long time. I wanted to use it before it got too far past the "best by" date so I turned to the food network website and found this Chow Mein recipe from, strangely, Giada de Laurentiis.

The hardest thing about this recipe was cutting the carrots into matchstick-size pieces. I only had baby carrots, so I'm not sure if this made it harder or easier than a regular sized carrot, but I just took my time and tried not to slice my fingers.

The rest was super easy. I put the carrots and some frozen french-cut green beans into boiling water for one minute, then I took them out with a strainer and put them in cold water.

The pot of water went back onto the burner and when it quickly came back to a boil, I put a package of wide lo mein noodles in for 5 minutes. While that was going, I minced some garlic and fresh ginger.

I'm not sure if it was because the water had already been used (it's the only difference I can think of) but the water got really foamy and kept boiling over. It was really more annoying than anything else because I kept having to leave my cutting board to babysit the boiling noodles.

Once the noodles were done, I drained them, ran some cold water over them, and patted them dry with a paper towel. Then the noodles, garlic, and ginger went into a wok with some hot canola oil. I stirred for 3 minutes like the recipe said, but those noodles never got the slightest bit brown. Then I added the veggies and let those reheat for a couple of minutes. Then I added a mixture of hoisin sauce, soy sauce, vegetable broth, and honey, and let it thicken up for a couple of minutes.

By this point I was so hungry that I forgot to take a picture. Thankfully, Brett eats slower than I do and had a reasonable amount left on his plate.

It tasted good! I never realized that hoisin sauce has a little spicy kick to it, but I liked it. The only thing I might do differently next time is put a tad bit less sauce. It was a little bit overwhelming. All in all, I think we have a keeper! I love it when that happens!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls

First of all... Happy Birthday Dad! He's probably the number one fan of this blog, so if anyone will see a birthday shout out on here, it's him.

Last week, for a Labor Day treat, Brett and I made some homemade cinnamon rolls. Believe it or not (I hardly do) I got this recipe from a fellow blogger waaaaay back in May of 2008. This recipe has been on my mind for over two years and I'm just now getting around to trying it! These rolls proved to be well worth the wait.

If you want to eat cinnamon rolls for breakfast, then you need to start making them the night before. So Sunday night we mixed up the dough (we used our stand mixer like the recipe says, but Brett would have rather done it by hand). I kneaded it for eight minutes and then we let it rise in our usual way (covered with plastic wrap, in the off oven, with a pan of hot water beneath) for 2 hours.

When it came out, it was time for Brett to do his thing! He punched it down and rolled it out into the proper dimensions and I slathered on the softened butter and sprinkled on the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Some of the brown sugar mixture sprinkled onto the mat instead of the dough, which is almost inevitable if you're me, but wincingly painful to watch if you're Brett.

I backed away and let Brett roll the dough into a log. I have no doubt that I would have made a giant mess. He, of course, was extremely careful and neat.

Next, Brett (again, I would have made a mess of this) sliced the log into 18 equal pieces and put them into the greased baking dishes (I can handle spraying Pam without making a mess...sometimes). The recipe called for two square 9x9 pans, but we used a 9x13 baking dish and a 9x5 loaf pan. It worked out fine.

After being refrigerated over night. I got them out and put them (still covered) in a cold oven with a pan of hot water underneath to rise for about an hour.

Then they baked for 18 minutes.

They looked ok when we pulled them out. But the real magic is hidden.

We flipped them out onto the cooling rack and simultaneously said, "Oooooh."

I stirred up some simple frosting (powdered sugar and milk). The recipe called for a cream cheese based frosting, but I think cream cheese flavor can be overwhelming sometimes, and I really wanted to be able to taste the cinnamon rolls.

The final product was absolutely wonderful. It got me thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas and wanting to share these with family (also the fact that there were 18 rolls got me thinking about sharing). This is definitely a special occasion worthy breakfast and I've no doubt we will see these again.

They heat up great in the microwave too. We were eating the leftovers for the rest of the week.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Orange/Pineapple Shrimp

This was another recipe from Simple and Delicious that we tried during our meat-fest a couple of weeks ago. Their recipe was called Sesame Shrimp and Rice, but I believe this is a wildly inaccurate name. The mandarin oranges and pineapple chunks are what give this dish most of its flavor.

I started out with 20 minutes of peeling and deveining 18 GIANT shrimp. It was really gross and took forever. Next time I will ask the butcher to do it for me. I had peeled shrimp before, but never deveined. Yuck, yuck, yuck! The term "devein" is also wildly innaccurate, but I won't go into details.

Then I stir fried some snow peas with the shrimp and added some green onion when the shrimp were about half-way done. At the very end I dumped in a couple handfuls of mandarin oranges and lots of pineapple chunks. The mandarin oranges are so delicate that as soon as I started stirring in the sesame ginger sauce (the recipe says salad dressing, but we had some leftover sesame ginger teriyaki sauce) the oranges disintegrated. There was not a whole orange to be found anywhere in the finished product. Next time I will add the oranges last and not allow any stirring of any kind. Or maybe I will just place oranges on top after it is already plated.

The final product was pretty good. I wish the oranges had stayed whole and that I had put fewer oranges in. The orangey-ness was a little much for me. Brett liked the orange mush all over the place though. My favorite part, by far, was the shrimp. All that work to get them cleaned up and ready to go turned out to be mostly worth it... but I'm still never deveining my own shrimp again!