White Veggie Cups

I’ve now made two or three different renditions of this recipe and it’s become one of my favorites. It’s a great way to use up any leftover vegetables in your fridge and is healthier than most of the things I can come up with to eat for a quick meal. Veggie cups (made with some white wine) are delicious, versatile, and even freeze-able!

Ingredients: 

  • A leafy green vegetable (I’ve used a bunch of Swiss Chard, Spinach, or even Kale), chopped fairly fine
  • Onion (I like to use 1/4-1/3 of a sweet onion), chopped fine
  • Leftover vegetables from the fridge, chopped.  I used a small yellow pepper in these photos, but I chopped up a tomato recently and it was equally delicious
  • Shredded Cheese (I sprinkled a small amount on each muffin cup – it totalled about 3/4 of a cup).  I have used Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheese – use your favorite
  • 2 cups of egg mixture (I used 1 1/2 cups of fat-free egg substitute, 1/4 cup egg whites, and 1/4 cup white wine
  • Seasonings (I like simple salt and pepper, but go wild and use what you like!)WhiteVeggieCups

DIrections:

  1. Chop all your veggies, put your egg mixture together, spray your muffin tin with cooking spray, and pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Into each muffin cup, place some chopped greens, chopped onion, chopped veggie (yellow pepper, tomato, whatever you’re using), and top each with a sprinkling of cheese.  Add seasonings.
  3. Ladle a bit of the egg mixture into each muffin cup, using the ladle to push the veggies and cheese into the egg mixture.  If you have extra egg mixture left over, add it to the cups so everything is as equal as possible but DO NOT overfill the cups.  They should be about 3/4 full since they will puff up as they cook.
  4. Cook the Veggie Cups at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes until the egg is set.  Allow the veggie cups to cook slightly before removing them from the pan and serving.

This recipe is extremely versatile.  You can add bacon, sausage, or ham to the veggie cups if you’d like.  You can substitute vegetables as you prefer.  This is a great way to make a quick breakfast sandwich but simply toasting an english muffin and putting one veggie cup in the middle.  Play with this recipe and see if it doesn’t become one of your favorites as well.

Enjoy!

Advertisements

Starter Recipe: Easy Chicken Pie

A quick note about this new term; “Starter Recipe”… I have two sons who are learning to cook.  E has been playing around with recipes and ingredients for awhile now, but D has just started to venture into making his own meals.  Because of D’s newly found interest, I’m going to start posting recipes (aptly named “Starter Recipes”) to help those, like D, who want to cook but are intimidated by huge lists of ingredients or just want to make something that can be pulled together with things that are easy to keep on hand.  Use the search engine on my blog for more “Starter Recipes”… until I get more recipes posted, here’s our first of what I hope will become a long list of easy-to-follow and delicious recipes.EasyChickenPie

D wanted to use some of the leftover turkey that I had given him to take back to his apartment, but he didn’t just want to make a few sandwiches… he wanted to make a Chicken pie (with turkey).  We started with a short list of ingredients.

Ingredients:

  1. Leftover turkey/chicken NOTE: You can pull meat off a pre-roasted chicken if you don’t have any leftover from a previous meal.
  2. One can of mixed vegetables. NOTE: I like to use a can of “Veg-all” because it includes potatoes.
  3.  One can Cream of Chicken soup, undiluted. NOTE: If I were making this, I would add a bit of white wine here.
  4. One can of pre-made Biscuits NOTE: Use whatever biscuits you like best… these will be your topping.

Directions:

  1. Spray a 9×9 baking pan with cooking spray and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Chop or shred meat and cover the bottom of your pan with bite-sized pieces.
  3. Open and drain the canned vegetables.  Spread them over top the meat in an even layer.
  4. Open and spoon the soup over the vegetables.  If you would prefer to mix these three ingredients together and then pour them into the pan, feel free to do so.  This is your dish, so make it however you like.
  5. Top with approximately 5 biscuits (as shown in the photo).  You can also cut each biscuit into smaller pieces and layer them on top of your pie… again, this is your dish.
  6. Spray top of biscuits with cooking spray (“Pam” is cooking spray) so they brown as they cook.
  7. Put pan in oven and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling.  Serves 2-4 (depending on serving sizes)

I do hope that you’ll try this recipe, especially if you’ve never cooked before.  Cooking can be a relaxing experience, as long as you have all your ingredients at hand and feel confident that your final outcome will be tasty and satisfying.  By following these recipes, I hope to help you learn how to become more comfortable with cooking for yourself and for others.  There’s really nothing as wonderful as making a meal that satisfies both body and soul.

Enjoy the journey!

Recipe: Chicken Pie

My new neighbors were driving home from NC on Monday and I knew they were going to be stressed, so I decided to make dinner for them, while making dinner for us at the same time.  Since I decided to make a chicken pie, it was extremely easy for me to double ingredients and make two dinners at the same time.  This is one of my favorite things to make, so I hope you’ll try this recipe some day… it’s a great comfort meal with lots of old-home appeal.ChickenWinePie

I started with one rotisserie chicken that I bought from the grocery store.  I put the chicken and all its juices into a large stock pot, added water up to the halfway point of the bird, then set the pot to simmer on medium low for about a half hour.  While it was cooking, I threw in some leftover veggies that I had in the fridge (three stems of broccoli without the crowns and six chunks of celery) and allowed them to perfume the water until it became stock.  NOTE: This is my favorite way to make stock… although I usually use carrots, celery, and onion, this turns plain water into something you can use in a myriad of ways.

Once the chicken had cooked in the liquid long enough to be easy to shred, I removed the meat and vegetables to a colander (I used a set of tongs and the chicken fell apart nicely as I removed it from the pot). I then strained the stock through the same colander and into a bowl big enough to hold all the stock so I could use the same pot to start making the chicken pie sauce.

To make the sauce, I started with four Tablespoons of margarine and/or butter and four Tablespoons of flour and whisked them together over medium heat until the fat had time to cook the “raw” taste out of the flour. NOTE: Remember, we’re making enough sauce for two chicken pies.  I then added about one cup of chardonnay white wine (Use whatever wine you prefer) and whisked the sauce to incorporate the wine.  It was still very stiff at this point, so I added an equal amount (equal parts wine to chicken stock) of the reserved chicken stock to the sauce and whisked that until things started looking like a “sauce”.  Feel free to add more wine or stock to get the sauce to the consistency you want for your chicken pie.  I actually went back and added more of both the wine *and* stock, but made the sauce too thin.  TO FIX THIS, I used 1/4 cup of reserved stock and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch to create a slurry and added it to the sauce, whisking to make sure not to create any lumps.  Once I had enough of the thickened sauce, I needed to season it before adding it to the dish.  I used freshly ground pepper, some Herbes de Provence, some thyme (I like these two seasonings with chicken, but feel free to use your own favorites), and a squirt of dijon mustard.  I whisked everything together and then let it cook slightly, while I put the chicken pies together.  NOTE:  I went into greater detail in a previous post, entitled “How to make a sauce” on this blog, so feel free to open another tab and use those directions if they seem clearer to you.  I didn’t use any cheese in this sauce, as I did in the previous post, but the method is still the same.

To assemble the chicken pies, I picked and shredded half of the chicken into two separate casserole dishes.  I then drained two cans of mixed vegetables (this usually includes squares of carrots, potatoes, beans, and corn) and poured a can of the vegetables over the chicken in each dish.  NOTE: Since I had cooked extra celery and the broccoli stems, I sliced and added these as well, although they weren’t necessary. I then spooned the sauce evenly over both dishes to finish off the inside of the chicken pies.  NOTE:  I wasn’t sure if my neighbors were watching their salt intake, but knew that I would need to add a little more “umph” to our sauce, so I added a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce to the sauce in our dish.  This isn’t necessary either, but it’s a flavor I know we like.  

For the topping of the chicken pie, you can go in a variety of directions.  For this version, I used a box of Puff Pastry dough. I allowed the dough to thaw for 15-20 minutes, then laid the dough on top of the dish, folding the edges over and brushing everything with an egg wash (mixture of egg and water) to make a nice crust.  I also sprinkled our dish with some garlic salt, since that’s a favorite in our house.  NOTE:  Be sure to make 3-4 slits in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape during the cooking process.

To bake these beauties, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and pop the chicken pie into the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until you see bubbling sauce coming up through the edges of the slits.  NOTE:  You need to cook Puff Pastry version at a higher temperature.  You can decrease the oven temp to 375 degrees if using another topping of choice.  Remove the chicken pie from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes before serving so no one burns their mouth on food that is, to quote my husband, “hotter than the sun”.

NOTE:  If you don’t want to use Puff Pastry dough for your topping, you can use a can of biscuit dough, a pie crust, or some homemade Bisquick topping.  Whatever you choose, make sure you cook the dish long enough to allow the topping to cook thoroughly.  

I do hope you’ll try this recipe sometime soon.  As the Fall approaches and the weather gets cooler, this meal is a staple in our house.  It always reminds me of my childhood and never fails to bring a smile to my face.  May this become a staple in your home as you create those same memories for your own families.  Enjoy!

Recipe: Easy Wine’d Beef

Since the weather was so chilly last week, I was searching out a way to make something for dinner that would warm us up.  Stir-fry would have been tasty, but since I don’t have a good non-stick pan at my disposal yet (still in the apartment), I opted to make a faster version of a traditional Beef Bourguignon.  EasyWine'dBeef

I started with a piece of beef that was on sale at the local grocery store.  I’m not exactly sure what cut of beef I purchased… I just know that there was some great marbling of fat (for yummy flavor) and it was boneless.  I popped it in the freezer for a bit to make it easier to cube, then tossed the cubes of beef with some flour seasoned with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.

In the meantime, I heated some olive oil in a large stock pot and then sauteed a diced onion, a little green pepper, and a few handfuls of celery until they were softened and fragrant.  I love the way the smells in a kitchen can permeate the entire apartment and make the place smell “homey”, don’t you?

Once everything had a nice browned glaze to it, I moved them over and added the flour/seasoned beef to the pot.  I added a little more fat (some olive oil and a little margarine) to start the browning process for the beef.  This took some time, but it was well worth it.  NOTE: You’re not trying to cook the beef the whole way through, you’re just browning it in preparation for the slow cooking it will do in the liquid you’ll add next.

Once the beef is nicely browned, you are now going to add liquid.  I like to add a half bottle of a delicious red wine (like James River Cellars Merlot, Meritage, Rad Red, or even Hanover Red).  I also add about a cup of water and a beef bouillon cube to add some depth of beef flavor to the meal.  Your seasonings can be added now – I like to use a bay leaf or two, some herbs de provence, some worchestershire sauce, and a glop of ketchup.  Mix everything together, pop a lid on the top, and put the entire pot into a preheated 300 degree oven for an hour or two.  Stir it occasionally, to make sure that you’re getting the right blend of thickness and flavors… feel free to add more liquid if it’s getting too dry and don’t forget to remove the bay leaf before serving.

When you get close to dinner time, choose and cook a vegetable and a pasta of your choice.  As you can see by the photo, I used spaghetti noodles and broccoli.  Since my pantry is limited at the moment, I have an abundance of spaghetti, so I just broke the noodles in half and cooked them in salted water.  I then put a small bag of broccoli into the microwave and cooked it until it was bright green and cooked through.  I love serving this meal with wide egg noodles, but those didn’t make the cut when I was choosing what to bring to the apartment… feel free to use whatever pasta (or even a baked potato) you and your family like best.

I hope my recipes give you some ideas of meals you can make for your family, even if you don’t have a lot of “extras” at your disposal.  Play with what you’ve got on hand, pick up one or two essentials, and you can make a delicious dinner at home instead of spending extra money on dining out every night.  I have a hard time going to a restaurant and ordering something that I know I am able to make at home.  While I believe that going out should be a special experience, I do believe that staying in and making dinner for your family can bring about some pretty wonderful satisfaction as well.  It’s all in how you frame the experience.

Wishing you fun as you re-frame your own cooking experiences with your family!

 

 

Recipe: Chicken Stir Fry

Stir fry is one of my favorite things to make for dinner for a number of reasons.

  1. I love being able to get dinner on the table in a relatively short amount of time.
  2. I like using whatever I have in the fridge for the vegetables.
  3. I love using broccoli slaw for the vegetable when I don’t have anything “bigger” on hand.
  4. I’ve learned to make a fairly consistent sauce with wine that my whole family enjoys.

Tonight’s dinner was no exception. I started with chicken tenders, slicing them into bite-sized chunks and saute’ing them in a pan sprayed with Pam until browned. I then removed them from the pan, added a little bit of olive oil, and popped in the vegetables. Tonight’s assortment included broccoli slaw and fresh green beans. Once these were cooked to crisp-tender, I added my sauce.

The sauce for dinner tonight was a standard for me, albeit unique from most conventional stir-fry sauces. REMEMBER: I USE THE FORCE WHEN I COOK! Using a 1-cup Pyrex measuring cup, I poured in about 1/4″ of hoisin sauce, a small amount of oyster sauce (seriously using The Force on this sauce), a large amount of an oaked Chardonnay (maybe 3/4-cup?), an inch of pre-crushed garlic from a tube, an inch of lemongrass (again, from a tube), a spoonful of flour and a smaller spoonful of homemade pesto. I had mixed this together earlier so the flour wasn’t glumpy and stirred it occasionally until it was time to add to the saute’ pan.

Once I added the sauce to the veggies in the pan, I dropped the chicken back into the pan and popped a package of Uncle Ben’s Microwave Brown Rice into the microwave. 90 seconds later, the sauce was thickened and the brown rice was done… dinner was served!

There are tons of ways to make this recipe your own, but this is one of my favorites. I’ve substituted shrimp, pork, or beef for the chicken. I’ve used Vidal Blanc, Chardonel, or even a Sauvignon Blanc if that’s what I had on hand. I absolutely love the tubes of garlic, ginger, lemongrass, basil, or Italian herbs that I can find at my local market, so usually add a variety of flavors from those handy items. There’s enough salt in the ingredients already that I typically won’t add more, but I have been known to add paprika or some lemon thyme if I want a different taste to come through. It all depends on my mood as I’m cooking.

Dinner in a flash… it can certainly be done, but it does take some thought and a little planning. I’m just grateful that my family enjoys most of my experiments. It’s not a 15 minute dinner, but it doesn’t take that much longer to go from fridge to table.

Try this with your family and see where The Force might lead… a totally unique dinner might be just around the corner!

Cheers!