Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pot Pies (Quick and Easy)

Pot pies are considered one of America's great comfort foods.  Although I didn't grow up eating too many pot pies, I do find them hearty and delicious.  I am not a scratch pie crust maker so I looked around my fridge for something I could substitute that was quick and easy.  I decided  Pillsbury grands biscuits would be perfect.  They worked out great and  I had a very comforting meal hot out of the oven in around 30 minutes.

1lb of frozen mixed vegetables
1lb of lean white meat diced
1/2 a onion chopped
1 scallion chopped
1 can of Pillsbury Grands Biscuits
1 cup of half and half (or whole milk)
1 bay leaf
1 clove of garlic minced (or garlic powder)

1/2 tsp of thyme
1 tsp of red chili flakes (or to taste)
3 Tbs of butter/margarine
3 Tbs of flour
Salt and plenty of pepper

Heat 1Tbs of canola oil on medium high heat.  Add your diced pork and saute with plenty of pepper and some salt for a few minutes.  Then add your onions, garlic and scallions.  Saute for another few minutes.

Next add your bay leaf, thyme, red chili flakes and saute for a few more minutes.

Next add your flour and butter.  Allow the flour to cook with the other ingredients for a few minutes.

Finally add your frozen vegetables and half and half.  Cook for a few minutes until the gravy thickens.  Taste for seasoning.

 Take out a grands biscuit and roll out so it is bigger than a small oven safe baking dish. Fill the baking dish with the pot pie filling and cover with the biscuit.  Then secure it around the edges. Then make sure you make some venting holes on the top of the pot pie so the steam can be released.  Brush some half and half or milk or beaten egg on the top of the biscuit dough so it gives it and nice gloss after it bakes.

I made only 4 individual pot pies.  I did bake off the rest of the biscuits to use for additional dunking.  Enjoy.

Thai Steamed Fish in Banana Leaf (banana leaf not required)

My mother was sweet enough to give me some banana leaves she had bought at our local grocery store.  I was totally surprised they even carried them.  Go figure... I guess the world is getting smaller.  I wanted to do something with them immediately so this Thai Steamed Fish came to mind.  The fish is steamed inside the banana leaf with a thick fragrant coconut sauce.  Of course you don't have to use a banana leaf to get this same dish.  You can use parchment paper or aluminum foil instead.  What a flavorful and healthy way of eating fish.  This meal got an immediate thumbs up from all at the table (even my picky son).  I served it with my Sri Lankan fragrant yellow rice and steamed carrots.

  Ingredients for Steamed Fish:
4 (5oz) pieces of white firm fish (I used Cod)
1/2 can of coconut milk
Juice of half a lime
1/2 medium onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 inch of ginger
2-3 Tbs of fish sauce
1 tsp of brown sugar
handful of Thai Basil leaves
1/2 tsp of chili flakes (or to taste)

If you are using banana leaves (wash and set aside).  Take all the ingredients listed above (except for the fish) and blend it well in a blender until it forms a thick sauce.  (Reserve more that half the sauce to heat up and serve with the dinner.)   Place some sauce on the banana leaf then the fish and more sauce on top of the fish.  Fold the sides of the banana leaf and wrap the fish like a parcel.  Secure with a toothpick.  Repeat for all the fish.  Now if you are using foil or parchment, do the same steps.  Place the fish parcels in a baking dish (in case it leaks) and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until the fish is cooked and flaky.

Take the other half of the sauce and heat it in a pan. I added some more basil leaves for extra flavor.  Cook until it makes a nice sauce to pour over you fish and rice. 

When the fish is done cooking open up the parcels and you can serve with the sides right inside the parcel. 


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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Taco Shell Ice Cream Sundae

I am still a kid at heart and making an ice cream sundae is just plain fun.  Well, why not take that fun to the next level by making an eatable bowl?  That's just what I did when I made my own cinnamon and sugar coated bowl with a flour tortilla.  I made the bowls with my kids and they couldn't believe that a tortilla made such a fun dessert.  4 people, 4 bowls of ice cream, one very happy and sweetly satisfied family.

To make 4 bowls you will need:
4 (8 inch) flour tortillas
1 tsp of cinnamon powder
2 Tbs of white sugar
1 Tbs of melted butter


Apply melted butter on both sides of each tortilla and warm on a griddle or frying pan. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together on a plate.  Coat each tortilla with the cinnamon and sugar on both sides. 

Place the coated tortilla on an inverted ice cream size bowl (that is oven safe) so you can mold it.  Press gently around the tortilla and mold it into shape.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 5-7 minutes (keeping an eye on them).  Then allow to cool on the bowls for a hour or more.

Your bowl should be crispy and ready for a sundae.  It's time to to fill them with your favorite ice cream.  I recommend vanilla bean ice cream with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar (left over from making the tortillas bowls), chocolate syrup, caramel sauce, lots of chopped nuts and a cherry to finish it off.  That's what we did and they were delicious!

  Note: if making the bowls are too much trouble. You can do the same process and cut them into triangles then bake off and make cinnamon chips to eat with your ice cream.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Spicy Russian Stroganoff Spaghetti and Meatballs

Here is another spaghetti and meatball dish with a twist.  This time I made it a Russian twist.  I definitely left my comfort zone here trying to make a stroganoff inspired spaghetti and meatballs. Of course I had to spice it up( I don't want to stray too far from my spices).   This creamy sauce is full of mushrooms and some bold flavors.   Next time you have some mushrooms and sour cream hanging around, take a try at this spaghetti stroganoff  and see what you think.


To make the meatballs you will need:
1 lb of lean ground meat (I used ground chicken)
1 tsp of paprika
1/4 onion grated
2 cloves of garlic grated
salt and pepper
2 Tbs of fresh parsley minced
1 bread slice worth of crumbs

Mix the meatball ingredients and make your desired size meatballs.  In 2 Tbs of canola oil, brown the meatballs on all sides.

Note:  Cook your pasta and have it ready for the sauce. I recommend you cook it shy of al dente because the spaghetti will cook some more in the sauce at the end of the dish. 
To make the Mushroom sauce you will need:
1lb of sliced button mushrooms
1 onion chopped
2 Tbs of butter
1/2 cup of sherry
2 cups of chicken broth or powdered chicken bullion with water
1 cup of milk, cream or half and half 
2 Tbs of flour
3 cloves of garlic grated
1 tsp of chili flakes (or to taste)
1 tsp of paprika
large handful of fresh parsley minced
1/2 cup of sour cream

In the same saucepan you fried the meatballs add the butter and the mushrooms. Allow the mushrooms to saute for 5-10 minutes until they start to brown (do not salt until after they are browned).

 Then add your diced onion and grated garlic and saute for another few minutes.

 Next add your paprika, red chili flakes, salt and pepper and saute for a few more minutes.

Now add 2 cups of chicken broth (or the granulated bullion/water equivalent) and your sherry.  Stir well and add your meatballs that you browned earlier to the pan. Allow to simmer for 12-15 minutes with a lid on .

Now mix one cup of milk with 2 Tbs of flour.  Pour milk/flour mixture into the pan and stir well.  Allow the sauce to boil for 2-3 minutes and thicken.  Taste for seasoning here.

Finish the dish off with 1/2 a cup of sour cream and the minced parsley.

At this point you will toss it with our pasta.

You can also use egg noodles that are traditionally used with stroganoff or spaghetti type pasta.  If you are using spaghetti pasta I recommend cooking just shy of al dente then allowing the pasta to finish cooking off in the sauce so it has time to absorb all the sauce and flavors.

Serve 4-6 people. Enjoy.  You can also make this rich mushroom and meatball stroganoff and serve it over rice.

Nutella and Banana Stuffed French Toast

My husband and kids were "Wowing" this breakfast even before they tasted it.  What's even more wonderful is that it's such a simple, fast and healthy breakfast to make.  I love the flavors of banana and nutella together and stuffing those flavors into french toast so it's all warm and melted is even more perfect.

Ingredients to make one stuffed french toast:
2 slices bread (any kind, I used 100% whole wheat)
1 banana mashed
1 egg beaten
1 Tbs of whole milk or cream
Enough nutella to slather on two slices of bread.
Maple Syrup or Powdered sugar Optional

Directions:  Beat the egg and milk/cream together then set aside.  Apply Nutella on both slices of bread and sandwich the mashed banana between the two slices.  Dip the bread on both sides to soak up the egg batter (allow to sit in the egg batter for 20-30 seconds so it has time to soak up a lot of egg batter)

Get a non-stick frying pan or griddle heat on medium-low heat with a little bit of butter.  Allow both sides to cook for several minutes until the egg is cooked though. Repeat steps for additional sandwiches.

Serve immediately. Optional garnishes are powdered sugar and/or Maple syrup.  Enjoy.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Curried Hoppin' John with Pork and Bacon

I love rice and curry, but what I don't like is the multiple dishes.  You need to cook at least 2-4 dishes to accompany the rice and make it a real meal.  That means many pots/pans and lots of cleaning up to do.  Sometimes a one-pot dish is just what is in order.  This curried "Hoppin' John" is just that.  It pretty much comes together in one pot (with the exception of the rice).  This is also a great way to use up leftover rice.  I added a lot of lovely blacked eyed peas, pork and BACON!  The crumbled bacon bits are little little jewels in this dish.  I created this dish on the cuff and I was very happy on how easy and good it was.   It's spicy, filling, full of protein and flavor.  This one is definitely a home run.

Note:  Hoppin' John is a Southern United States rice and beans dish that originated from West Africa. 

5 cups of cooked rice (brown or white)
2 (15oz) cans of black eyed peas rinsed
1lb of lean pork diced small
6-8 slices of bacon diced
15-20 curry leaves
1 small stick of cinnamon

1 tsp of cumin seeds
1tsp of black mustard seeds
1/3 tsp of ground turmeric
2 tsp of curry powder (I used McCormick brand)
2 cloves of garlic grated
1 inch of ginger grated
1 medium onion chopped
2 celery stalks diced small
1 bunch of scallions sliced
2-3 green chilies
1 tsp of red chili flakes (or to taste)
1 1/2 cups of chicken stock (or chicken bullion and water)
salt and pepper to taste

Note:  Before cooking the "Hoppin' John Curry make sure you have 5 cups of cooked rice ready to go.  Rice that is already cool gives the best results. 

In a large pot/pan render out the diced bacon.  When the bacon gets crispy (but not burned) you can drain on a paper towel and reserve until later.  You can get discard the oil and use canola oil or you can use 2 Tbs of the bacon fat to cook the vegetables and pork that comes next. 

I decided to go for the bacon fat this time around.  It gave a lot of flavor.

In the same pan add your curry leaves, bay leaves,  cumin seeds, mustard seeds and cinnamon stick.  Fry for 30-45 seconds until the seeds start to splutter.

Next add your diced pork, onions, celery, chilies and scallions.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.  Then add your grated ginger and garlic.  Cook for another 1-2 minutes.

** salt to season your pork and vegetables here, but remember you will be adding chicken stock/bullion and bacon later so salt conservatively.

Now add your ground spices: curry powder, chili flakes and turmeric.  Allow the spices to bloom for 1-2 minutes.   Then add your chicken stock or water and chicken bullion powder.

Next add your cans of drained and rinsed black eyed peas.  Simmer the dish on medium for 10-12 minutes. 

Once the curry is made and seasoned to your desired taste, add the cooked rice. Mix the rice into the curry gently.

Top with the crumbled bacon and serve.  Serves 4-6 people.  This dish goes very well with a raita yogurt salad.  Here is a link to one of my raita salads:  Cucumber and Carrot Raita.    Enjoy.

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