Thursday, October 18, 2012

Carve-Your-Own Jack-o-lantern Pancakes

We're a big pancake family; we eat them at least twice a week, and often four or five times.  Generally I stick to the round variety, but during holidays it's fun to shake it up a bit.  This week we had Carve-Your-Own Jack-o-lantern Pumcakes.  Or Pancakes.  Whatever.

Each person got one pumpkin-shaped pancake, and then carved a face in it before eating.  It doesn't sound like much, but the kids were crazy about it, and it's certainly easier than carving an actual pumpkin!

Here's my pancake recipe: Buttermilk Pancakes

Then you just have to dye a little bit of the batter green (no more than 1/2 cup), and the rest orange, and make some nice pumpkin shapes.

Serve them up nice and hot, and go at the carving!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Chicken, Sausage, and Leek Pot Pie

Chicken pot pie is one of those homey foods, like macaroni and cheese, that just feels comfortable on a cool fall night.  This recipe fulfills all those comfort-food requirements, but is dressed up enough to serve to company.

The sausage is really the key to making this recipe amazing.  Don't leave it out!

A note on leeks.  Leeks are usually pretty dirty when you buy them, and even if they look clean, they need solid washing.  Cut of the tops first, then slice the stem part into rounds.  Separate the rounds and put them in a sink or bowl of clean water.  Let all the dirt settle to the bottom, and then scoop out the clean leeks.

Chicken, Sausage, and Leek Pot Pie
Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver

1 T olive oil
2 T butter
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces (you can use breasts, but it won't taste as good)
2 medium leeks, trimmed, sliced, and washed
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 sticks celery, finely sliced
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried)
2 Tbs flour
1 cup white grape juice or white wine
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 cups milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 oz ground italian sausage
1 sheet of puff pastry
1 egg + 1 tsp water

Preheat oven to 425F.  Remove puff pastry from freezer and set out to thaw.

In a large pot heat oil and butter over medium heat.  Add chicken, leeks, carrots, celery and thyme and cook slowly on the stove for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Turn heat to medium-high and add flour, stirring constantly for 1 minute.  Add juice, water, and milk and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then cover and reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer for 30 minutes, or until chicken is tender, stirring occasionally so the bottom doesn't stick.  If sauce is still very thin, simmer uncovered until mixture thickens slightly.

Meanwhile, cook the sausage in a skillet until browned and crumbled.  Mix them into the thickened chicken mixture.

Pour the chicken mixture into a 9-inch pie pan.  Roll out the puff pastry to 1/4-inch thick.  Make an egg wash with the egg and 1 tsp water beaten together.  Rub the rim of the pie pan with the egg wash and then put the pastry on top of the pie.  Trim the edges of the pastry and crimp the edges.  Using a knife, lightly score the top of the pastry in a crisscross pattern, which will allow it to puff without shrinking around the edges.  Egg wash the entire top of the pastry, then place in the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes at 425F.  Let sit 10 minutes before serving.
Serves 6.

French Dip

When I was in elementary school, the lunch menu had ten items on it, repeating every two weeks.  French dip was one of my favorites, and I always ate every bit.  That's why I was pleased when my own children, upon first trying this delightful treat, also loved it.  There's something about dipping a sandwich into a hot liquid that just immediately appeals to kids.  And even though they don't like swiss cheese on its own, they loved it on the sandwich.

The other great thing about French Dip is that it's easy.  Slow cooker cooking at it's best.  I bought some hard French rolls at my local grocery store's bakery section, but you could, of course, make your own.  This makes enough to feed a crowd, so be prepared for leftovers if you're feeding your family of 4!

French Dip au Jus
Recipe adapted from Our Best Bites

2 T olive or vegetable oil
1 beef roast, 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 lbs
Freshly ground black pepper
1 package (1-oz) dry onion soup mix, or 1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup water
1 can (14.5 oz) beef broth
Swiss cheese, sliced (about 1/2 lb)
Crusty buns or rolls, for serving

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  While oil is heating, sprinkle salt and pepper over the whole roast.  Sear the roast in the hot oil on all sides, just long enough to lightly brown the meat.  This seals in the moisture and adds flavor.
Transfer seared meat into the slow cooker.  Sprinkle with dry onion soup mix, or onion, and add water (omit if using fresh onion).  Add beef broth.
Cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8-10 hours.  When the meat shreds easily with a fork, shred the entire roast with two forks.  Serve on sliced crusty rolls with a slice of swiss cheese.  Serve with a side bowl of the juices from the meat, for dipping the sandwiches into.
Serves about 8.