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Chicken Pot Pie

Happy New Year everyone! As the holiday season ends its time to start thinking about getting back to reality! My swift kick of reality hit me this morning when I realized I needed to make food for myself for the upcoming work week. While I was cooking for myself, I also decided to make some food for my grandparents. For the past year or so I’ve been making my grandparents freezer meals because they aren’t as able to prepare meals as they once were. Today I made them chicken pot pie! This has become a staple that I make sure they have in their freezer all the time! Preparing the meal is a little labour intensive, especially if your knife skills are as bad as mine, but I guarntee its worth it in the end! I made a large batch today which has given me 3 pans of chicken pot pie (20ish servings). If you don’t want so much, I recommend halving the recipe!

Ingredients

8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 quart of vegetable broth (poaching liquid)

1 bunch of celery (finely diced)

4 large carrots (finely diced)

3 medium onlions (finely diced)

2 large yams (finely diced)

2 cartons of low sodium chicken broth

8 tbsp whole wheat flour

8 tbsp butter or margarine

2 tbsp thyme (dried) (use more if you use fresh)

3 tbsp za’atar seasoning mix *see note below about this seasoning*

1 tbsp celery seed (not celery salt!)

2 slices of thick cut double smoked bacon

2 packages of tendercrisp puff pastry

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup milk

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Method 1. Poach the chicken breasts in vegetable broth. This will take approximately 15 – 20 minutes.

** Note, if you’ve never poached chicken before it is a cooking method that I highly recommend, especially if you’re re-heating the chicken later. Poaching is a very healthy way to cook meat, as it renders and separates most of the fat, and leaves the meat incredibly juicy. I wouldn’t recommend using the broth afterwards. If you need to make sure you take out all of the fat and oils left from the chicken.

2. While the chicken is poaching fry the bacon on low. You’re bacon won’t burn, or taste over done if you cook it on low. For bacon lovers its hard (I know!!) to wait for bacon to cook, but the results speak for themselves!

3. In a soup pot cook the vegetables with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Continuiously stir the vegetables, as you don’t want any to burn on the bottom.

4. Once the vegetables are mostly cooked through add the cooked chicken (diced), and the bacon. Stir and add both cartons of chicken broth.

5. While everything in the pot comes to a boil make a roux. To make a roux add the butter and flour into a saucepan and cook on med-high until the butter has melted and the flour has begun to cook. This usually takes about 2-3 minutes. Once the roux has cooked add it to the soup pot and mix with a whisk vigorously.

6. Mix in 1/2 of milk once the mixture in the soup pot has thicked.

7. Once the mixutre has thicked portion equally into pyrex dishes. Leave 1.5 inches from the top of the pyrex.

8. Let the mixture cool a bit in the pyrex dish before putting on the puff pastry. While the mixture is cooling roll out the puff pastry to fit 1 inch over the pyrex dish. Once the mixture is room temperature put the puff pastry over top.

To Cook

Take out of freezer and bake for 75 minutes at 375 degrees. If you like, brush 1 large egg (well whisked), over top to make golden brown.

Notes:

1. Za’tar is a great thyme seasoning mix from Palestine. Check the hyperlink for more information. In Canada it can be purchased at Ten Thousand Villages locations for $6. Its well worth the money if you can find it!

2. Potatoes vs Yams. Traditionally potatoes are the starch in chicken pot pie. I have to say, I need a break from the traditional potato. Potatoes are very starchy, and are more for texture than for flavor. Yams or Sweet Potatoes have less starch and more flavor, they’re also better for your belt buckles.

3. To pea or not to pea?! Frozen peas are boring in my opinion! Why not add sweetness from the yams?

Hope you enjoy everybody!!

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Ricotta Gnocchi in a Tomato Sauce with Crispy Prosciutto.

Ricotti Gnocchi in Tomato Sauce with Crispy Prociutto

This was a true culinary challenge for me, but it ended up being completely worth it in the end! Gnocchi is traditionally a pasta dumpling made out of potatoes but ricotta cheese has a similar texture to cooked potatoes, and therefore works well as a substitute. This pasta dish ended up tasting a lot like traditional lasagne, all that it was lacking was the pasta, which I didn’t miss at all!

You’ll Need:

Prociutto (thinly sliced), Ricotta (drained overnight), 2 eggs, flour, S&P and freshly ground nutmeg

1 container of fresh ricotta cheese (it should weigh approx 1.5 lbs)

2 eggs

1/4 – 1/2 cup flour

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

6 slices prosciutto

1 jar pre-made pasta sauce (tomato based)

1 lb ground pork

Ground Pork

For the Sauce:

In a saucepan cook your ground pork in 1 tbsp of olive oil. While cooking your pork make sure to stir often to stop your meat from clumping. Also, make sure to season your pork before adding the sauce. When the pork is just cooked add your tomato sauce and let simmer for atleast 1 hour. This will enhance your flavor, and will make the pork taste like it was a part of the sauce from the get-go.

For the gnocchi:

1. Open your ricotta, and put into a fine strainer over a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let drain for 8 hours to over night. This will remove any excess milk and liquids in the ricotta which will help the dough form better.

2. After the ricotta has drained place in a bowl, add in eggs (already beaten), salt and pepper, nutmeg and flour. Add the flour slowly as you do not want to have a dough that is too hard. It is easier to make a dough harder then to soften it. Your dough will be just a bit firmer than muffin dough when everything has mixed.

3. Bring a pasta pot with salted water to a boil.

4. When the water is boiling begin to make your gnocchi. This is done by taking a tablespoon of gnocchi and forming an oval by rounding it out with a second spoon. This technique takes more finesse than I was expecting, therefore I recommend practicing this while the water is boiling.

5. As soon as you have shaped your gnocchi, drop into the water. When the gnocchi rises it is fully cooked. Remove from water and place in serving dish.

For the crispy prosciutto

1. Pre-heat your oven to 400

2. place your prosciutto on a baking sheet

3. bake your prosciutto until it darkens in color.

4. when cooked crumble and serve as a garnish.

To plate:

Spoon a few tablespoons of sauce in the bottom of the bowl and gently place the ricotta on top. After the gnocchi is placed sprinkle the prosciutto on top!

Enjoy this dish!

C'est Finit!!

Chicken Cordon Bleu with White and Green Asparagus!

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Homemade Chicken Cordon Bleu is one of my favourite dishes. Traditionally the dish is time consuming, and not waistband friendly. My version is quick, and is much better for you! The major difference between my version and the traditional version is I bake my chicken, and do not add breading to my protein.

Today I decided to pair my chicken with white and green asparagus with a garlic brown butter reduction! Although asparagus is typically more expensive, when on sale I suggest picking up as much as you can!

Heres what you’ll need for the chicken (serves 2):

From left: ham, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, salt, swiss cheese, 2 chicken breasts

-2 slices of ham. ( I used black forest, but any ham is good)
-2 chicken breasts (preferably fresh, but thawed completely if not fresh)
-4 slices of swiss cheese (I purchased pre-sliced to save time. If you’re going to get pre-sliced cheese, make sure its not processed!)
-salt and pepper to taste

Lets cook Chicken!
– start by butterflying each chicken breast. Typically when I do this I start by separating the small piece of meat under the breast and even the meat out from there.

-salt and pepper both sides of the meat to taste.

Make sure not to over salt the inside as it will be getting cheese and ham added.

-After the chicken is seasoned place a slice of cheese on the inside on each breast, on top of the cheese add a slice of ham. Then, carefully fold the breast on itself to sandwich the ham and cheese in. Use toothpicks if needed to keep it closed.


-In a frying pan heat 1.5 tbsp of oil. While you are doing this preheat your oven to 350.
-After the oil is heated (not to smoking point), place the chicken in the pan and let each side brown for a few minutes. When the chicken is browned place in the oven for 20-25 minutes to continue the cooking process.

Sorry its blurry!

For the Asparagus:
10 pieces of green asparagus
8-10 pieces of white asparagus
1 stick of butter
6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

From left: white asparagus, pepper, salt, butter, garlic, green asparagus

Lets cook Asparagus:
– In a small pot place your butter and garlic. Cook on low for 20 minutes until brown, stirring occasionally.
– wash your asparagus, and break at its natural point.
-After the asparagus is washed place in a frying pan with a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and pan fry until lightly brown. This leaves the asparagus cooked but with a bit of crunch.


When its done lightly drizzle the brown butter reduction over the chicken and the asparagus! Enjoy!

Its so good even my puppy wanted some!!

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Sole with Pesto Quinoa

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Do you ever have one of those days where there is no food in the fridge, but the thought of going to get groceries seems impossible? Maybe you’ve had a long day at work and don’t have the energy, or you’ve been out and about all day and forgot to stop at the supermarket. I have those days from time to time, and to avoid ordering pizza, or eating really unhealthily I’ve stocked my shelves with foods that taste great, and are healthy with little to no fresh produce.I do my best to always have grains, some form of pesto or other sauce, and a quick protein to cook up on hand all the time.

Today I took what I had and made a spinach and cheese stuffed sole with pesto quinoa. It sounds complicated but believe you me it took only 15 minutes, and used very few ingredients!

You will need:

For the Sole
1 package of Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Sole
*I know this sounds like a cop out but this is a brand that I stand behind! The actual fish is great quality and they have tons of variations. Plus, its very wallet friendly. Most of the fish that I get are only $1.50/pack. Thats a lot cheaper than buying a filet of fish, stuffing it with spinach and cheese etc etc etc. I’ve been able to find my fish at Sobey’s, typically it is the Ocean Classic Brand. I was unfortunately unable to find their website.

For the Quinoa
1/2 cup of tri-coloured Quinoa
1 cup of water
1 tsp of chicken bouillon
1 tsp pesto
approx 1/4 cup frozen spinach
pepper to taste


Lets Cook!

Start by putting the quinoa, chicken bouillon, water, spinach, pesto and pepper in a pot. Turn to high. Once the quinoa is boiling turn immediately to low and put a lid on the pot. Let simmer for 15 minutes.
Note: if you’ve read my previous post about quinoa you’ll remember that quinoa comes in many varieties. In North America white quinoa is more common, but I find its quite tasteless. I prefer red and black quinoa for savoury dishes as they add a lot of flavour.

About ten minutes after the quinoa starts simmering take out your fish. Poke a few holes in the packaging, and microwave for 2.5 minutes and you’re done!

Quinoa Banana Muffins

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You Will Need:

1/4 cup white quinoa
1/2 cup water
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 cup of chocolate chips

Method
Preheat oven to 400. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
-Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for `10 minutes. Turn off heat and leave the covered saucepan on the burner for another 15 minutes. Fluff with fork and allow to cool.
-Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
-mix together banana’s, brown sugar, vegetalbe oil, sour cream, and egg until smooth. (I blended the banana’s with a hand blender which made the muffins really smooth!)
-slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet. when it is mixed and smooth add the chocolate chips.
-pour into muffin tins and bake for approximately 25 minutes.

The muffins will be a lot moister than typical banana muffins because of the quinoa so don’t be alarmed. Also, I mixed the chocolate in when the quinoa was still a little warm which turned the muffins chocolaty brown!

Budgeting your groceries.

When I started budgeting for food, the hardest part was grocery shopping. It is so tempting to buy everything and anything, no matter how obscure, when its on sale. This was something I had to overcome. These are some hints and tips I use when trying to budget in a grocery store. 

1. Plan what food, and meals you will be having until you go shopping next. Bring your list to the store and do your very best not to buy anything outside of that list.
2. Only buy in quantities that you need. I found that the most wasting money I did was purchasing too much food, and having to throw it out later. 
3. Price check! It may cost you a little extra gas money but all grocery stores have different items on sale at different times.
4. Be mathematical! Some products may look like they are a good find, but how does it compare to a different brand? Is the price per lb, per gram, etc. You’d be surprised where some hidden fees are!
5. Put household items like toilet paper and cleaning supplies in a different grocery budget as these products typically cost a lot of money, and they don’t need to be purchased every time you shop. I used to set aside about $50 for these products monthly. If you don’t spend that money on those products, its free money!
6. Finally, do your best not to exceed your grocery budget.  When I would set my $50 bi weekly food budget I did my best to stick to that number. If certain foods were more expensive during one shop I would opt not to buy it, or find a similar food that was cheaper. Setting these budgets is really important because its so easy to exceed and go over!

 

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