Recipe of the Week: Lemon Vinaigrette

This is the vinaigrette I used for my composed salad for my A la Carte finale for my final practical for school. Chef loved my salad and said the vinaigrette rocked.

I did a composed salad of chopped romaine and chopped grilled romaine with marinated tomato concassé (marinated in a bit of the vinaigrette for flavor) as well as grilled squash to add a bit of height and a toasted almonds for garnish for crunch.

1/4c olive oil
2T fresh lemon juice
1/2 t dijon mustard
1 minced garlic clove
salt and black pepper

I was originally going to use fresh minced thyme or parsley or chives or even tarragon but I didn’t want to go against my thyme by having to go to the garden to pick the herbs. I played with the flavors until I was happy. I added a bit of the lemon zest and sherry vinegar as well as a touch of sugar to balance out the acidity.

The main thing is that this is a starter recipe. You can make it your own by adding what you want.

A great way to test the vinaigrette before you add it to a salad is to test it with one of the leafs of the salad greens. That way you can get a taste for how it will be on the salad. It is a truer way to taste than if you just use a spoon.

Definitions:

Composed Salad – A type of salad prepared with a number of ingredients that are all arranged neatly and symmetrically on the plate instead of being tossed together. Usually there is a main or centerpiece item. It can feature contrasting colors, textures (Crisp/Soft, Lean/Fatty), flavors (Spicy/Cool, Sweet/Sour) and temperatures (Hot/Cold). Each ingredient is capable of standing alone but enhanced by the other ingredients.

Concassé – It is a diced tomato that has been peeled and the seeds removed. Fresh tomatoes are scored on the bottom with a T or a X and blanched for no more than a minute, ideally no more than 30 seconds because you do not want the tomatoes to be mushy. The tomato should be firm but soft enough that the skin loosens. The length of time depends on the size of the tomato. It is then shocked. Remove the tough part of the stem by using the tip of a paring knife to carve a the small cone-shaped piece out of the stem. This can be done before blanching or after. You can also do this by slicing the tomato in half and cutting of the stem in a small V shape. Then proceed to remove the seeds. To remove the seeds, cut the tomato in half and either squeeze or scoop out the seeds with your fingers or a spoon. For each tomato, remove the tough part where the stem used to be by using the tip of a paring knife to carve a small cone-shaped piece out of the stem end.

Recipe of the week: Chicken Pot Pie

Double Crust aka Deep Dish Chicken Pot Pie

As you can tell, my family ate/eats a lot of chicken. Again I am going to provide the old-fashioned recipe and the update recipe.

Old fashioned recipe:

This is the basic Betty Crocker®/Bisquick® version of the recipe. The original recipe was meant to be something quick and easy. Something housewives or women could put together fast and not have to stand over a hot stove and watch.

  • 1 package (16 ounces) frozen mixed vegetables, thawed or 1 can mixed vegetables, drained
  • 1 cup cut-up cooked chicken
  • 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed cream of chicken, cream of potato or cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup Original Bisquick® mix
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg

1. Heat oven to 350ºF.
2. Mix everything but Bisquick, milk and egg in greased casserole dish.
3. Mix Bisquick, milk and egg til blended. Pour over casserole.
4. Bake 35-45 minutes or til golden brown.

Alternate:

Instead of using Bisquick®, milk and egg you can top with biscuits or pie crusts.

* If using biscuits, heat ingredients through and then pour into casserole dish. Then top with biscuits (homemade or store bought) and cook until biscuits are golden brown about 15 or 20 minutes.

* If using pie crusts, combine ingredients. Place one pie crust on bottom and then pour in ingredients, top with other pie crust. Crimp together edges. Cut slits for steam. Bake until crusts are golden about 25 – 30 minutes.

My version:

The basis for my chicken pot pie is a creamed chicken and veggies. Of course the key to this recipe (and any recipe really) is mise en place, which means to have everything prepped and ready to go ahead of time. Also, this is just a basis, you can substitute different vegetables (parsnips, leeks or broccoli for example), or eliminate some (take the mushrooms or potatoes out if you don’t want them)

  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups cooked and cubed chicken (store bought rotisserie chicken or mix of breast and thighs)
  • 2 Tbsp dry white wine
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • lemon juice
  • salt and white pepper
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-3 carrots, cut into rounds
  • 2-3 large baking potatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup, fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/4 celery, diced
  • 1 package of frozen peas thawed
  • 3 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
  • 2 pie crusts

1. In a saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Combine with flower. Let cook for minute til it is a blond or very light beige. Add in chicken broth off heat and whisk until smooth.
2. Return to heat and whisk in milk and heavy cream. Bring to a simmer.
3. Take off heat and whisk to make sure it is free of lumps.
4. Return to a low heat and in wine. Cook for a minute. Add in chicken and rest of seasonings.
5. While chicken is cooking, sautee vegetables (except peas and parsley) in remaining 2T of butter in a seperate pan, 3-5 minutes. Once done, stir into chicken mixture.
6. Taste for seasoning and add additional seasoning if necessary.
7. Roll out pie crust and transfer to baking dish. Pour in filling. Top with remaining crust. Trim, crimp and seal edges of crusts together. Cut slits for steam.
8. Bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes

Basic Pie Crust aka 3-2-1 Dough:

For the crust you can either make from scratch or use store bought – what I use depends on my mood. It is a very versatile crust and can be used for making pies. It can even be frozen to use later. This is a very basic pie crust recipe.

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup, 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces. If you use salted butter, eliminate salt in recipe.
  • 1/2 cup ice water (about 8T)

Directions:

1. Combine flour, salt and sugar and stir until blended. Cut together flour mix and butter. It should be crumbly and resemble small peas. You can use your hands, two forks or a pastry blender if you have it. (I prefer to use my hands.) The pieces should be small and yellowish in color. It can take between 3-5 minutes.
2. Drizzle in ice water 2T (about 1/8 of a cup) at a time. Mix just until dough comes together. Add last tablespoon or two of ice water if necessary. Be careful not to overwork or your dough will be tough.
3. Divide dough into 2 disks. Shape dough into a flat disk, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  When ready, roll out into a square or circle (whichever shape is best to fit you casserole dish).  For an 8-9 inch square dish. I usually roll into a 10-12 inch square for the bottom. And a 9 inch square for the top.

Note: You can also top with biscuits, puff pastry or even phyllo dough.

Recipe of the Week: Chicken & Dumplings Redone

Everyone knows I am a cook as well as a writer. One thing I also get asked is what’s my signature dish. I always say chicken and dumplings. It’s one of the first things I remember making. Now there are thousands of Chicken and Dumplings recipes to be found on the internet. This is one that has been in my family for a while.

Chicken N Dumpmlins

I put my changes in parenthesis. It is modified and updated from my families version. The original version is included down below.

Ingredients:

  • 3 teaspoons vegetable oil (You can use canola oil, olive oil, or one of the blended oils)
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (you can use white pepper if you prefer)
  • 1 whole chicken, cut in de-boned, cut in pieces (you can use boneless chicken breasts and thighs, chopped in pieces)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped in a small or medium dice (Or 1 onion and 1 leek. For the leeks use white and light green parts sliced thin)
  • 1 bunch of celery, cut into a small or  medium dice (I use 1/2 a bunch usually 3 or 4 ribs.)
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into rounds (roughly 1/2 inch thick) or diced
  • 1 medium clove of garlic, finely minced (this is optional)
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 4 cups broth
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or sherry
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 springs thyme (leaves only), chopped

Dumplings:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 c all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of white pepper
  • 1 cup milk

Note: My changes/additions to the dumplings. I usually do one or the other.:

  • 2 teaspoon fresh tarragon, finely chopped/minced
  • 2 teaspoon fresh parsley, finely chopped/minced
  • 2 teaspoon fresh chives, finely chopped/minced

For chicken stew/soup:

1. Lightly season chicken with seasoned salt and pepper.
2. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 1 1/2 teaspoon of oil over medium high heat. Add in chicken in a single layer. You may have to cook in batches to ensure even cooking. Let the chicken cook, flipping once, until the outsides are browned and the center is almost or just cooked through.
3. Remove chicken to a plate and set aside.
4. Once all the chicken is cooked, add rest of oil.  Add in vegetables and cook til soft about 5 to 7 minutes. If using garlic, add in and cook for one minute.
5. Add in flour and stir until vegetables are coated. Cook 1 minute. Add in liquids and herbs (wine, broth, milk, thyme and bay leaf).
6. Cook for a few minutes and add back in chicken pieces. You can chop the chicken up into smaller bites or shred depending on your on personal preference.
7. Stir. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook covered for 30 to 35 minutes. Stir to combine and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes.
8. After 30 minutes, uncover and taste. Add in additional seasonings if desired.

For Dumplings:

1. Mix egg and oil
2. Mix dry ingredients except herbs.
3. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix until mixture is crumbly.
4. Add milk to crumbly dough mixture a small bit (1 to 2 Tablespoons) at a time til sticky. Add in herbs.
5. Portion out dumplings with a scoop, spoon or hand. (The following is how I make my dumplings – see notes/recipe below) Or knead dough. Roll into a square on floured surface. Cut into small or medium squares. Add dumplings to the stew/soup and turn heat to low.
6. Cover and continue cooking for an additional 15 minutes. Dumplings should be puffy, doubled and floating. Stir to dunk and coat dumplings and serve.

Of course this recipe is vastly different from the Good Old-Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings. So you can compare. This is how the recipe started out in my family.

  • 1 whole chicken
  • salt and pepper
  • enough water to cover (a quart or two)
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 1 bunch celery chopped
  • 2 carrots chopped

For Dumplings:

  • 2 cups flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup milk

1. Rinse chicken. Season
2. Add everything into a large pot.
3. Add chicken, breast side down.
4. Add more water to cover chicken if needed or as necessary.
5. Bring to boil. Skim surface for scum and foam.
6. Reduce heat and simmer covered til tender. Usually 2.5 to 3 hours.
7. Remove chicken. Keep liquid on a low simmer. Skim off fat and reserve about 1/2 cup.
8. Cool chicken and fat roughly 30 to 45 minutes.
9. De-bone and shred chicken. Return to pot.
10. Mix cooled reserved fat with milk. If fat to hot, mix with 1 or 2 ice cubes. Add flour to make dough. Dough will be stiff.
11. Knead dough. Roll out into 1/2 inch thick square. Cut dough with sharp knife. Usually makes 20 to 30 dumplings depending on size of cutting.
12. Taste simmering liquid. Season if desired. Add dumplings to simmering pot. Cover. Simmer for additional 15 to 20 minutes.
13. Serve in bowls. Garnish with green onions or chopped parsley.

I still make my dumplings this way.

Tuesday Tasting – Chicken & Dumplings

Last night I made Chicken and Dumplings. It’s one of my fave comfort dishes. It’s also one of the first things I learned how to make.

I started by cutting up my veggies – celery, carrots, onions, leeks & 2 garlic cloves (smashed). I add about a box and a half of stock and 2 cups of water and the veggies to my pot. Then I poached 1 chicken I had cut into 8 pieces.

Boil and then simmer for about 35-40 minutes.  The chicken should be practically falling off the bone. Reserve the chicken and allow to cool slightly, so it is cool enough to handle and then chop into small pieces or shred.

I added chopped parsley, thyme and black peppercorns, salt and 3 bay leaves to the pot for flavor. You can add them in a bouquet garni or lose. I did my loosely and just strained them out when I strained the stock/broth.

I made up the dumplings while I waited for the chicken to cool so I could shred it.

Dumpling recipe – 2 cup all purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 egg, 1 tbsp oil, 1 cup either broth/stock from pot or milk (your preference). I used the stock. I also added some chopped parsley and ground black pepper to the dumplings. Mix dry ingredients together. Mix egg and oil together. Add egg mix to dry ingredients, mix til crumbly. Add broth 2 tbsp at a time til dough is sticky. Knead dough on floured surface and let rest about 15 minutes. Roll dough out to your desired thickness about 1/8 of an inch or so. Cut with either a pizza cutter or sharp knife into about 1 inch squares. You can then either leave the squares as is or cut them into triangles.

Before you add the dumplings to the pot, after you add the shredded chicken and any veggies you want to back in, stir in 1 can of cream of chicken or cream of celery soup. If you want the soup to be thicker then add a slurry before you add the dumplings in. Mix 1 T flour or cornstarch with a bit of the broth and whisk together til smooth and then whisk into the soup. Add dumplings 1 at a time. They will float when they’re done.

I garnished the bowl with a bit of left over chopped herbs. You can see the chicken, dumplings, carrots rather nicely in the last picture.

Thanksgiving Menus

I love to cook. And this year, for Thanksgiving I’m only making 2 dishes. Both of them desserts – 7-up Cake and Ambrosia Salad. We’re eating with extended family, instead of our usual small family gathering of me, mom, aunt, grandmom and maybe my sister & nephew. It’s going to be fun. Whenever we get together there is lots of fun, laughter and good times. And we usually have a dry house (meaning no alcohol – no reason except my family isn’t big drinkers).

Thanksgiving Day Feast

The menu this year is –

  • Turkey
  • Cornish Hen
  • Ham
  • Cornbread Dressing
  • Black-eyed Peas
  • Rice
  • Macaroni & Cheese
  • Homemade Rolls
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Peach Cobbler
  • 7-Up Cake
  • Sweet Potato Pie
  • Ambrosia Salad

Tell me what are you planning to eat or cook for the holiday, if you celebrate. Will you be spending it with family, friends or a mixture of both? Are you travelling or staying home?

And since I’ve been asked I’m sharing the 7-up Cake Recipe. It’s a family favorite and family tradition. And is my second favorite dessert besides German Chocolate Cake. I have made it from scratch but the quickie recipe works well.

Quickie 7up Cake –

Ingredients:
* 1 package yellow cake mix
* 3/4 cup vegetable oil
* 10 ounces 7-Up
* 1 package instant vanilla pudding (or lemon if you want it real lemony)
* 4 eggs

***Icing Ingredients***
* 1 1/2 cup sugar
* 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup margarine
* 1 cup crushed pineapple
* 1 cup coconut
* 2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mix cake ingredients together. Divide batter between two greased and floured 9″ round cake pans. Bake according to package directions, approximately 25 – 30 minutes.

Combine all icing ingredients together in a medium sauce pan. Cook until it has the consistency of thick gravy. Spread over one cake layer, top with second layer; frost second layer.

Note: I typically make it in a bundt pan cause that’s how my mom makes it. Also the pineapples in the icing/glaze makes it really sweet so using it has become optional in my house.