Chicken and Leek Pie

I haven’t found a new recipe to add to our family dinner menu rotation in a long time.  Recently I made a recipe that I was going to make with the butter it called for, but at the last-minute decided to try our usual dairy substitutions.   Sometimes these cooking adventures turn out just ok, but this endeavor turned out DELICIOUS.

The recipe is a Chicken and Leek pie recipe from Williams Sonoma.   I saw this recipe originally in the Williams Sonoma book, The Weeknight Cook, which I love.   I always saw the pretty picture of this dish and then skipped it because the topping looked like puff pastry to me and I figured that butter would be pretty crucial to the dish.  (Really I should have just read the recipe.)

One night I decided to stop skipping this recipe and make it mainly for my husband and myself (with butter), but my husband challenged me to give it a go with our Earth Balance Soy Free Spread and rice milk (vanilla is all I had on hand!)   I was dubious.  I also didn’t realize the chicken was supposed to be cooked and shredded ahead, so we cut raw chicken into small pieces and cooked it in the pan before actually starting the recipe.  (I didn’t shred it)

The result was a delicious, creamy dinner that reminded me a LOT of chicken pot pie.  It’s flavor was a little different though, without the carrots that usually show up in a pot pie.  The topping was not at all like puff pastry but more like a dumpling or biscuit.  It was fluffy, browned on top and just a bit moist on the bottom, not at all soggy.   leek pie 1

We were amazed, especially because I had used vanilla rice milk, and also really happy to find a creamy dish that was dairy free.  We all fought over the leftovers that week.  It will definitely be one to make again and again this winter.

If you aren’t too familiar with leeks, they are in the same family as onions and garlic but their flavor is very mild.  In the raw state they are very fibrous but if you cut the main bottom section (white and light green tube-shaped part) thinly so they are thin rings, they cook easily and become very soft.  So soft my kids didn’t realize there were leeks in the meal.   Well they probably did know, because my husband feels compelled to make “leek/leak” puns for hours by putting the leeks tops on things like the faucet and yelling “Kids! The faucet is leaking!”  (ahhh Dad jokes!)

So check out the original recipe Here or see my dairy free substitutions below.  And if you are worried about your milk substitute, be adventurous!  Our vanilla rice milk worked fine!

*I am not affiliated with Williams Sonoma or Earth Balance in any way, nor receiving any compensation from them. Not that I would mind …… 🙂

Chicken and Leek Pie

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons neutral oil like Olive oil or Canola Oil
  • 5 tablespoons Butter Substitute -I use Earth Balance Soy Free Spread
  • 2 large leeks (or 3 medium) white and light green parts, thinly sliced
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups shredded cooked chicken, homemade or purchased
  • 1 cup baby peas
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups milk substitute – I used rice milk

Directions
Preheat an oven to 375ºF.

In a large ovenproof fry pan over medium-high heat, add 4 tablespoons of oil.  Add the leeks, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add 1/3 cup of the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken and peas, and season with salt and pepper.

In a bowl, combine the remaining 2 cups flour, the baking powder and the 1/2 tsp. salt. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in 5 tablespoons of butter replacer until the mixture forms coarse crumbs about the size of peas. Add the rice milk (or your substitute) and, using a rubber spatula, stir until evenly moistened. Place heaping spoonfuls of the batter evenly over the chicken filling.

Bake until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 25 minutes. Serves 4 to 6.

 

 

 

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Freezer Meal #1: Honey Sesame Chicken

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of my recent cooking ventures was to attempt to make freezer meals to pull out for dinner on busy nights.   I read a lot of Once-A-Month-Cooking websites, a lot of freezer-meal websites and came up with a collection of meals.  It wasn’t a giant collection, as many of the recipes were impossible to make dairy/soy free, but a good number of recipes nonetheless.  I made a grocery list and headed to the store.  In addition to the meats and veggies and spices, I purchased two boxes of freezer friendly gallon size ziptop bags. (I like to double bag my freezer stuff in case a leak should happen).   Then when I got a 2 hour window of time I set it all up:

1.   A meat chopping station

2.  A veggie chopping station

3.   Lots of measuring cups and spoons (every set I had)

4.   My recipes all printed and laid out in order of assembly-  I tried to do all chicken ones in a row so I could chop all the chicken at one time.

I assembled five recipes in about an hour and tucked them into the freezer.  We’ve eaten most of the meals now and some of our recipes were total flops.  A few were good with some additional spices. The best by far was Honey Sesame Chicken.

I found the recipe Honey Sesame Chicken on Damn Delicious where the recipe had been adapted from The Comfort of Cooking.   It originally contained soy sauce, but I swapped it out for coconut aminos  and added some salt to the recipe.  My coconut aminos is much sweeter than soy sauce and lacks the salt that soy brings to the party.  Add a little salt to the recipe and my family never misses soy sauce.  I wasn’t sure about the ketchup in the recipe when I read it, but when we ate it we couldn’t pick out that flavor at all.  Seems crazy but don’t skip it!  Lastly, my kiddos can’t handle any heat/spiciness in food so we left out the red pepper flakes.  Red pepper usually just adds a great background flavor and I love it, but it always seems like my most heat sensitive child ends up with the flakes in her food and then refuses to eat any more.  So we left that out of our batch.

The recipe was super easy to prepare.  To make it for the freezer,  I set a freezer friendly gallon zip top bag in a large bowl to keep it from falling over.   I dumped in the diced onion, garlic, honey, coconut aminos, ketchup, oil, chicken, salt and pepper.   I pushed the air out of the bag, sealed it, double bagged it in another ziptop bag, labeled it and froze it flat in our freezer.

I defrosted the meal still in the bag. and in the fridge, the night before I cooked it in the slow cooker.  I do want to note that I’ve started cheating in this part of the freezer meal recipes.  Most freezer meal recipes say to defrost in the fridge starting the night before.  Well, I often don’t have my act together that far in advance.  After cleaning up a dinner, getting two tired kids through the bath and bedtime routine and finding an hour to regain my sanity, I rarely think ahead about dinner the next day.  (Gotta work on this, I really do.)   So since I usually wake up and think, “Oh no!  Forgot about the freezer meal again!” I’ve started defrosting a double-bagged freezer meal in a sink half full of water with the tap dripping slightly.  (The dripping breaks up the cold water around the frozen item.)   In an hour most of my meals are completely defrosted and ready to dump into the slow cooker.   This procrastinator-friendly strategy is a time saver, but if you try it for any recipes make sure your meat is fully defrosted so it cooks evenly and fully.

My family ate this meal over rice.  This recipe calls for cooking the chicken for 3 and a half hours and then removing the chicken to cool and shred it.  When I took the chicken out I immediately started a pot of rice on the stove.  The recipe for the chicken says to cook an additional 30 minutes with the shredded chicken added back into the slow cooker, so my rice and chicken were ready right about the same time. My family loves jasmine rice.  Check it out if you’ve never tried it.

Honey Sesame Chicken

Ingredients

1 small onion diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

½ cup honey

½ cup coconut aminos

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup ketchup

2 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral oil

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Garnish for serving day (optional)

1 green onion, thinly sliced

sesame seeds, for garnish

 

For Freezer Meal Preparation:

In a heavy-duty gallon sized ziptop bag, combine the onion, garlic, honey, coconut aminos, salt, ketchup, oil, and red pepper flake (optional).   Place chicken thighs inside the bag. Seal bag tightly.  Gently squish/massage bag to combine the ingredients.  Place inside another ziptop bag, label and freeze flat.

When ready to make the meal:  Defrost.  Add to slow cooker.  Cook on high for 3 ½ hours.  Remove chicken from the slow cooker and shred with forks.  Return chicken to the juices in the slow cooker.  Cover and keep warm fro 30 minutes.   Great served over jasmine rice.

 

You Won’t Miss The Cheese Stromboli

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It has been way too long since my last post.  I used to write once a week when Colin took two naps a day.  Now my goal is one a month. Colin has taken to skipping naps if there is anything interesting going on and when Hannah is home, his nap hour is our dedicated read-together time.   It is really tough to find an hour or so in the evening to sit at the computer. With both kiddos doing some sort of school in the fall, I know this crazy time will pass and I will miss being so busy with them.  So although I’m paring back a bit, I’m not disappearing. Bear with me!

Speaking of days when I had more time:  Before Colin was born I used to go to one of those meal making places where in one hour I could make 12 meals for my family and fill my freezer.   It was such a time saver but these days it just doesn’t work for our diet needs.  A few months ago I tried to make my own “Freezer Meals” but I just couldn’t find a lot of recipes that didn’t involve Cream of Something soup or lots of cheese.   It wasn’t a total failure though.  I did find a stromboli recipe that we love at a site called Freezer Friends, written by a group of girls who work together to make freezer meals each month.  Genius!  I would love to do this someday.

Anyway, at first I made two different stromboli, a cheesy one for my husband and daughter, and a cheeseless for Colin and I, but after trying our dairy-less version, my husband said to just make the dairy-free version in the future.  He didn’t miss the cheese.  That is a HUGE win in our house.

I think the key to this stromboli is the egg yolk and herb mixture that is spread on the dough before the rest of the toppings.  It brings the fat, richness and moisture to the party that keeps us from missing cheese.

The original recipe called for 1lb defrosted bread dough.  I couldn’t find any soy free varieties so I always use fresh dough.  I’ve tried various things and usually use either the olive oil dough from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day (the recipe is down a bit in their post) or I use Fleischmann’s Pizza Crust yeast and follow the directions on the back of the yeast packet.    The olive oil dough you have to make a few hours in advance.  The Fleischmann’s dough you can whip up and use in 5 minutes.

I tend to stick to the meat and veggie ingredients in the recipe below, for no other reason than we like it.  When I find something that works, I go with it.  Feel free to swap things out, just try to not to overload the dough with filling or with extremely wet ingredients or you might run into trouble sealing the dough.  If yours starts to have a life of its own, don’t panic.  In the past I’ve had ugly, patched up and messy looking stromboli going into the oven but they bake up delicious.

Stromboli

Adapted from Stromboli By Jackie

Ingredients

1 lb defrosted frozen bread dough or fresh pizza dough (my favorite way is using this yeast)

12 oz. italian pork sausage (we use mild, light turkey sausage)

1/2 onion, diced

2 egg yolks, save the whites

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil

2 oz. turkey pepperoni

Italian Seasoning

Directions  (photos below to help with construction)

Have dough defrosted/ready to use.  Place the pork sausage and onion in a medium-sized pan and cook over medium-high heat, chopping sausage into small crumbles while cooking.  Cook until sausage is cooked through and onion is translucent. Turn off heat and set meat mixture aside.  In a small bowl beat the egg yolks and combine with the next four spices and the 2 tablespoons oil.  Next, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, or a Silpat mat or just grease your cookie sheet generously.  Use a rolling pin to roll your dough into a large rectangle (about 8×12).   Spread the egg yolk mixture on the dough but leave a half-inch border on the sides a 1 inch border at the bottom with nothing on it.   Now add toppings: spoon the sausage mixture over the egg yolk and herbs, again leaving the sides and one inch border at the bottom empty.  Spread pepperoni evenly over the sausage mixture.  Using two hands start at the top (where it is covered with toppings)  and roll the dough in on itself until it reaches the bottom.  Roll up that bottom 1 inch and stop, so that the seam is on the bottom of the stromboli.  Gently beat the egg whites in a bowl and then give the stromboli a light brushing of egg white.  Sprinkle with Italian seasoning.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.  Cut into slices.  Serve with warmed marinara or spaghetti sauce for dipping.

 

Spread the herb mixture over the dough

Spread the herb mixture over the dough

Add toppings

Add toppings everywhere but the bottom 1 inch.  I put the pepperoni on first on this one.  As long as the egg mixture is down first it doesn’t matter.

 

Roll up from the long edge- use both hands to roll evenly

Roll up from the long edge- use both hands to roll evenly

Finish rolling seam side down. Tuck ends in and bake.

Finish rolling seam side down. Tuck the ends in. 

Slice and serve with marinara

After baking, slice and serve with marinara

 

 

 

Beef Daube Provencal

I bought a copy of Eating Light magazine recently and found a number of new recipe ideas.  Due to the magazine’s focus on healthier eating, there are a lot of recipes without butter/cheese and many other recipes that are easy to change to fit our dietary needs.

The first recipe I tried was Beef Daube Provencal.  It was in their “Top 25 Favorites” list and I can see why.  It was delicious, pretty easy to throw together and a definite hit all around the dinner table.

Are you wondering what a “daube” is like I was?  Well the good old internet taught me it is a French word for a stew made of braised meat, vegetables, herbs and spices.  Yep- that about sums up the recipe!  When we ate it we said it tasted like a fancier beef stew with great depth of flavor.

The recipe can be made in a slow cooker or in the oven.  I chose the slow cooker route since I love “fix it and forget it” cooking.  I chopped my veggies the night before, adding in a handful of mushrooms that I needed to use up.   In the morning I browned the beef  and made the sauce before throwing it all in my slow cooker.  (I skipped the cloves, since I am either out of them or they are winning in the hide and seek game happening in my spice rack.)   I cooked it on low for most of the day and by dinnertime the meat was really really tender and our house smelled fantastic.

The first night I served it with some nice crusty bread to mop it up with. The second night I served it over egg noodles.   Both nights I used scissors to cut up the meat into tiny pieces for my kids.  Had I served chunks they probably would have balked, but with the meat blending into the veggies and sauce, they gobbled it up.

Here is the recipe for Beef Daube Provencal and a picture of it.   I swear I took a photo of ours but it too is hiding somewhere.   I swear I’m losing my mind this month!

Need an easy bread side to serve it with?   Pepperidge Farm Stone Baked Artisan Rolls are frozen bread rolls that you don’t need thaw.   Just remove from the freezer and bake.  (Nice to have something simple in an MSPI house!)   I found them in the freezer section and there are several types you can buy.  The variety we had,  French bread, was dairy and soy free.  Here are the ingredients for the French Bread rolls:   Unbromated Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Water, Contains 2 Percent or Less of: Salt, White Rice Flour, Malt Syrup, Yeast and Sesame Seed Meal.

A Dinner Winner- Crispy Fish with Dill Sauce

The cover of the Cooking Light magazine (October edition) caught my eye recently in the grocery store checkout lane.  It had 25 of their best recipes so I decided to splurge on a copy.  I’ve found Cooking Light has a lot of dairy/soy free friendly recipes or ones that are easy to adapt.  This month’s copy has a lot of things I think we can eat.  This last week we tried Crispy Fish with Dill sauce.

This fish dinner was a hit with everyone at our dinner table, which is a huge win!   The fish was tasty and although not as crispy as a fried piece of fish, it wasn’t mushy like it usually is when I make it.  The dill sauce is basically a much better version of a store-bought tartar sauce.  I don’t think you’ll ever try to go back to store-bought tartar sauce once you’ve tried it fresh at home.

I didn’t have to make any adjustments to this recipe.  It even calls for canola mayonnaise, which is a soy free version I already use!  We used cod like the recipe called for, but I will try it again with other fish, whatever I find on sale.

Since I didn’t change a thing (and Colin is waking up), instead of typing it all out  I’m just leaving the link below:

Crispy Fish with Dill Sauce

Hope it is a winner at your dinner table!

Honey Dijon Salmon

My family has been vacationing in Wisconsin since I was about three years old.  One of my favorite things to do there is to go salmon fishing with my dad in the waters of Lake Michigan.  Salmon fishing involves getting up between 3 and 4 in the morning, being very patient, and for me, snacking constantly on crackers so I don’t err… chum the waters.  Regardless of my lack of sea legs,  I love it.   The quiet chug of the motor, the gentle roll of the boat, the way the taut fishing lines sing in the wind and of course the excitement/chaos when something finally is on the line.  It is an experience I highly recommend. (Minus the sick part.  Get the motion sickness patch if you can.)   If the fishing doesn’t excite you the taste of fresh caught salmon will.  It is so much better than any salmon I’ve ever bought at the store or been served at a restaurant.

Being that it is February, I am all out of lake caught salmon.  I wanted some fish in our weekly dinner menu and so I asked the fishmonger at Whole Foods what he thought would be a good stand-in for our usual fish fare.  He recommended the Icelandic Salmon and I asked him to cut enough for four people.  (If you aren’t sure how much salmon you need in pounds, asking for portions is an easy way to go.)  Usually we grill the salmon on cedar planks with dill  but the weather wasnt cooperating.  I found this recipe online and decided to give it a try, omitting the nuts and using the Earth’s Balance Soy Free Spread for the butter.  Looking back at the recipe now, I think I could replace the melted spread with olive oil without a problem.  The butter/butter replacer brings some fat to the party and makes the honey dijon easier to spread, but there is so much flavor going on that butter flavor or texture itself isn’t necessary.   The results of this recipe were fantastic.  They honey dijon  mellowed as it cooked and was not overly tangy as I worried it might be.  My husband, who is not always sure he likes fish, gobbled his up while eyeing the leftovers my daughter had on her plate.  It is definitely now our go-to salmon recipe.  I can’t wait to try it out this summer on some freshly caught salmon and wow the family.

Honey Dijon Salmon

Ingredients

Canola or other safe oil for oiling baking dish/cookie sheet

1/4 cup soy/dairy free spread, melted (or try olive oil)

3 tablespoons soy free dijon mustard

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs (I use 365 brand at Whole Foods)

4 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

4 (4 ounce) salmon fillets

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Prepare a baking dish or cookie sheet by oiling the bottom lightly. (For easy cleanup I like to line a pan with foil and oil the foil).   In a small bowl combine the melted spread or oil, dijon mustard and honey.  In another bowl mix together the breadcrumbs, parsley and a dash of salt and pepper.   Place salmon fillets, skin side down, in the baking dish/cookie sheet.  Brush each fillet with the honey dijon mixture and then sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the fillets.  Bake the salmon for about 15 minutes or until it reaches 140 degrees F and flakes easily with a fork.  To check this, use a fork and try to cut the fish lightly in the middle of the fillet.  If it still looks mushy, cook it longer.   If it separates into chunks, or flakes, it is done.  Serve immediately.