Kale Salad: Building Blocks

salad title

It’s been a bit of a rough week, in terms of stress management.  The most frustrating part is that I am not even at the actual busy, stressful time yet–I’m just worrying about it.  Anxiety life.  Oy.  But, if I can just keep on picking away at my assignments and project prep: a little bit of work this evening or that morning, I shouldn’t have any problems at all.  I’ve just gotta remind myself that the best thing I can do is to break everything into manageable tasks.

Kale Chop

Freshly chopped.

I also have to find some stress relief.   That is currently in the form of watching season 1 of Once Upon a Time (I’m behind, I know.  But I am also totally over whiny James and would just like him to disappear, please!) and planning a mini patio makeover for us.  We haven’t done much with the space in our two years here.  We brought a pair of plastic adirondack chairs we found at the curb of our old neighborhood, and purchased an Applaro table + chairs + stools from Ikea when we moved here, which I still love!  Every piece folds up, so its a total space saver!  Other than that, we have my herb planter and a very old, giant grill that was another curbside find.  M and I agreed that we would be getting a new grill this year (possibly even this weekend!) and I was feeling like things needed a little sprucing up, in general.  I want to enjoy my time on our patio, rather than simply abandoning it to the bugs.  Since the beginning of this year and our grocery budget revamp, I have also been trying (semi-successfully) to purchase our groceries with cash.  I almost never carried cash before, so this has been a huge shift for me.  But, our ATM only allows withdrawals in sets of $10, so, with my $35 to spend at the grocery store, I’m left with $5 that isn’t budgeted for groceries.  It had been easy enough to stash this weekly $5 bill in a jar and forget about it.  Now, four months into the year, I have a nice little cash fund that I can use towards a patio update: to get some string lights, pillows, and maybe a lantern or two!  Since we are hosting our families for a small Easter lunch, I am hoping to have the patio finished by then!  I’ll be sure to share the results when I do get things done.

Kale Ready

After “massaging” the kale.

Today, I am sharing our absolute favorite recipe for kale.  This is the only salad that we eat consistently, but it never disappoints, even when it is so simple.  It’s gleaned from several different recipes across the web and also from a few kale salads that we have sampled in restaurants.  By thinking of this salad in flavor building blocks, rather than in specific ingredients, we always have enough “building blocks” on hand in our pantry to make this salad, and we have endless combinations to try!  There are 5 important parts: Sweet (some kind of dried fruit works best), Crispy (breadcrumbs or croutons), Crunchy (nuts or seeds), Salty/Creamy (cheese), and Tangy (vinaigrette).  Add each of these elements to some kale and you will not be disappointed!  This salad is almost more like a coleslaw in terms of the thinly shredded greens and the ratio of greens to other ingredients.

salad close

Kale Salad

Serves: 4-6 | Prep time: 10 minutes |Cook time: (optional) 3-5 minutes

  • 1 bunch curly kale
  • 1/2 c. dried fruit
  • 1/3 c. tiny croutons (about 1-2 slices of bread)
  • 1/3 c. sliced/chopped and toasted nuts or whole, shelled, toasted seeds
  • 1/4 c. shredded parmesan or other hard, salty cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 5 Tbsp. vinegar, divided (red wine, champagne, or apple cider vinegar is best)
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 6-8 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • salt & pepper

Place the dried fruit in a small bowl and add 2 Tablespoons of water and 2 Tablespoons of vinegar.  Microwave for 30 seconds and allow to sit while preparing the rest of the salad ingredients.  This allows the fruit to rehydrate slightly, making it softer and adding a chewy bite to the salad.

Remove the leafy part of the kale from the stems.  Stack the leafy part and slice the greens into thin strips.  Add to a large bowl and massage the kale greens.  The greens will get softer, will slightly change color, will shrink a little in mass, and will begin to smell like grass.  Your hands may even turn a bit green.  This breaks down the tough leaf without cooking and makes the raw salad infinitely more palatable! Check out the photos above–can you see the difference?  Set the greens aside.

Chop the bread slices into the tiniest pieces that you can manage.  I prefer this to breadcrumbs, as it gives a more hearty texture.  Plus, then I don’t have to keep GF breadcrumbs around.  I’ll be totally honest, we usually freeze the ends of bread loaves for this exact purpose!  Place the bits of bread in a skillet with a glug of olive oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until these tiny croutons are a little toasted.  Set aside.

Mix up the dressing: add 3 Tablespoons of vinegar, 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice, 6-8 Tablespoons of olive oil (the usual ratio is 1 part vinegar to 2 parts olive oil, but we prefer less oil for a tangier dressing), 2 teaspoons dijon mustard*, and 2 teaspoons honey into a jar.  Lid tightly and shake until the dressing is combined.  Taste the dressing and adjust as needed–perhaps more honey or more vinegar.  If I need more vinegar, I’ll first use the water-vinegar combination from my soaked fruit!  You can jazz up this vinaigrette by using different types of vinegar and oil, adding herbs or garlic, etc.

Put together the salad: Drain the soaked fruit and add the fruit to the greens.  Add the nuts/seeds, then the cheese.  Pour over about half of the dressing.  Sprinkle salt and black pepper over the salad, fairly liberally.  Toss all of the salad together until thoroughly mixed.  Add more dressing if needed.  Last, add the croutons, and mix in.  This helps to prevent them from getting soggy.  Serve immediately or set in the fridge for up to an hour before serving.  Leftover can be stored in the fridge tightly covered for up to 2 days, but you will lose a lot of the texture from the nuts and croutons as they soften.

*The mustard helps the oil and vinegar emulsify, so do your best not to skip it!

Some of our favorite combinations are:

–Dried cherries, pumpkin seeds, and parmesan

–Dried cranberries, sliced almonds, and parmesan (in the photos)

–Dried currents, toasted walnuts, and asiago

salad top


Homemade Granola: Your Way

titleI mentioned in my last meal-plan post that I was planning to make a batch of granola for my breakfasts this week.  Granola is one of those items where I almost always have the ingredients on hand, without even trying, as it’s super flexible and made entirely of pantry staples.  It is also one of those items that I forgot how much I enjoy it until it in right in front of me, on the spoon, on it’s way to my mouth.  I love granola!  I prefer it over yogurt or treated like cereal, in a bowl with milk, but when you make it at home, you control how large/small the clusters of granola are, so you can keep the clusters large and take the granola on the go, dry, for a crunchy snack.

dry ingredients

I also was thinking (though I’m sure that I am not the first), that it wouldn’t be to hard to swing granola’s flavors into a savory-sweet option too.  Curry, rosemary, spicy–it would make an awesome topping to salads or a “savory” yogurt (I’ll admit, I still haven’t tried those…and I’m a little hesitant) or even as an accompaniment to a cheese board!

wet mix

As I said, granola is super-customizable, but it is also very easy.  Just think of it as a ratio!  My basic ratio is: for every 1 cup of (gluten-free) oats, I have 1/3 cup (total) of mix-ins, 2 tablespoons of fat and 2 tablespoons of liquid sweetener.  I like to bump up my omega’s too, so I bargain for 2 teaspoons apiece of chia seed and flax seed.  With the variety of mix-ins, fats, sweeteners, and spices, the granola possibilities really are endless!  Here are some ideas for each:

baked

My granola looks extra dark because of the molasses–it’s not burnt!

Customizable Granola!

Be sure to use oats that are certified and labeled “gluten-free”–otherwise you risk cross-contamination.  Combine up to two different fats and two different sweeteners (just be sure the total volume remains the same) for extra depth of flavor!

1 cup GF rolled oats, plus:

Fats (2 TBSP per 1 c oats):

  • melted butter
  • melted coconut oil
  • olive oil
  • avocado oil
  • safflower oil
  • 1/2 nut butter + 1/2 fat choice above

Liquid Sweeteners(2 TBSP per 1 c oats):

  • maple syrup
  • molasses
  • Lyle’s golden syrup
  • honey
  • agave nectar

Mix-ins(1/3 c total per 1 c oats):

  • Nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, brazil nuts, macadamias…)
  • Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, squash, sesame, poppy seeds, millet…)
  • Dried fruits (cranberries, raisins, blueberries, chopped apricots, cherries, figs, goji berries…)
  • Other (dried shredded/flaked coconut, chocolate chips, cocoa nibs, crystallized ginger…)

Plus 2 tsp chia seeds and 2 tsp ground flaxseed and about 1/2 tsp each of spices (cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, clove, nutmeg, chili, etc), with a pinch of salt and a dash of extract (vanilla, cinnamon, lemon, etc) with 1 cup of rolled gluten-free oats.

jars 1

My batch that is in the photos above a larger triple batch.  I just multiplied it all (roughly) by three!

jars 2

Pantry Clear-out Coconut-Almond Granola

Serves: 10-12 | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 25-30 minutes

  • 3 c rolled oats, raw
  • 1/3 c. pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 c. sliced almonds
  • 1/3 c. shredded coconut
  • 2 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 6 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 3 Tbsp. Lyle’s golden syrup
  • 3 Tbsp. molasses
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • big pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Lightly spray with cooking oil.  Add the oats, mix-ins, spices, and other dry ingredients to a large bowl.  Mix until combined.  Stir together the melted butter, golden syrup, molasses, vanilla extract, and salt until combined.  It may take a minute or two for the fat to mix into the liquid sweeteners.  Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir until all of the dry ingredients are coated.  Spread into a thin layer on the lined baking sheet and baked for 25-30 minutes.  Remove the granola from oven and allow to cool completely on the pan without disturbance.  This will allow the granola to stick to together.  Gently lift an edge of the granola–it will begin to break into pieces.  Stir and crumble until clusters reach desired size.  Store is a tightly closed container at room temperature for up to 10 days.

yogurt


Simple Roast Chicken

roast chicken titleWe finally got our snow day on Tuesday, and I think it’s thrown off my whole week.  Monday was spent preparing for the storm (our work is tied heavily to the schools, so when they close, we are left with a lot of rescheduling) and then I feel like all of Wednesday was spent trying to get back into the groove.  But I did enjoy the day off!  It finally gave me a chance to mix up some homemade house cleaning and hair/skincare supplies.  I pulled most of my “recipes” from The Hand’s On Home, with which I am only slightly obsessed.  All of the various preserved recipes look amazing!  Considering that I’ve have breathing trouble the last few times that I’ve cleaned our bathroom (hello childhood asthma) I have really, really wanted to mix up a few sprays and scrubs made from gentler ingredients.  I now have a “grime spray” for the kitchen that is already working wonders on our glass stovetop, along with an all-purpose cleaning spray, a scrub for tougher stains, and an acidic spray to cut through soap scum.  I’m definitely willing to put in a little more elbow work if it means having the ability to breathe, so we’ll see how it goes!

roast chicken skin

Last week, a roast chicken was the focal point of my meal plan, with the meat going into another two dishes after the initial roasting night, plus the bones providing the base for several quarts of bone broth.  Now, I do realize that roast chicken recipes are a dime a dozen and range from “super” simple to the most complicated mix of flipping and brining and rubbing and soaking, all in order to get a nice golden bird with crispy skin and juicy meat.  Roasting a chicken was a little intimidating when I first tried it a few years ago, mostly just for the dense amount of conflicting information that I encountered.  I’ve honed my method of choice over the past few years, and I wanted to finally share it here.  Yes, it does involve a flip or two, but it only requires 5 ingredients (not including salt and pepper) and, in spite of the flip, is mostly hands off during the roasting time!

I’ve also included the most basic instructions for a drippings-based gravy, plus noted where I add in vegetables, when I decide to make those as well.  I’m certain you’ve already heard how well a roast chicken can be used when meal-planning and/or early frugally.  It can easily provide the protein for 3 meals, plus creating the base for a fourth meal if you make the bone broth.  A rotisserie chicken certainly saves time and effort, and can usually be grabbed for $5.  But, I’ve yet to encounter a rotisserie chicken that is clearly marked as being gluten-free.  Plus, I’ve found most rotisserie chicken’s clock in at about 3 pounds.  I’ll just note that my 5+ pounder was $5.05 and I can be absolutely certain that it is safe for me to eat.  That being said, if anyone has a reliable source for GF rotisserie chicken, let me know.  Because on some nights, my not having to do anything at all would totally be worth the extra dollar or two!

roast chicken 1

Roast Chicken

Serves: 6+ | Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 1.5-2 hours

  • 1 whole chicken, 5-6 lbs
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper

Place a metal cooling rack in a higher-walled baking dish (or use a roasting pan, if you have one).  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Mix together the butter, thyme leaves, garlic, and a pinch each of salt and pepper.

It is likely that your chicken still has the giblets and neck within the cavity.  Make sure to remove those.  You can simmer these in a small covered pot filled with water while the chicken roasts, to create a basic broth to use to make gravy for the chicken (if gravy is your thing–it certainly is a necessity in this house!)  Pat the chicken dry all over, including inside the cavity.  Cut the lemon into quarters and place within the cavity of the chicken.   Place the chicken in the pan, breast side up.

Now we want to get the butter underneath the skin of the chicken.  The butter will help to keep the meat from drying out and help to keep the skin crispy.  Win-win!   Starting at the tail end of the chicken, you should be able to pull up the skin away from the meat.  You might have a little resistance, but it should pull away.  (Cue me trying not to get too technical, for those who may be a little squeamish!)  Use a spoon (or honestly, your fingers) to spread the butter over the breast meat, beneath the skin.   You should be able to poke through the dividing layer to get between the skin and the leg meat, too.  Add a little butter there as well.  Certainly can’t hurt!  Sprinkle the rest of the salt and pepper over the outside of the chicken.  Truss the chicken.  I tried this method for the first time and was quite pleased with it.  It definitely keeps the skin from shrinking!

Place the chicken in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, to start the initial browning of the skin.  Remove the chicken from the oven and turn the heat down to 350 degrees F.  Flip the chicken upside down, so that the breasts are down in the pan (I found it easiest to use tongs).  Place back in the oven and continue to cook.  You should bargain for 20 minutes per pound (So a 5-lb chicken should cook for 1 hour and 40 minutes.  A 6-lb chicken should cook for 2 hours.)  Make sure you do the math and set a timer! 🙂  If you want to add any vegetables to roast alongside your chicken, I like to give the chicken a headstart by about 30-40 minutes (if the roasting time is 90+ minutes), then add the chopped veggies into the pan around the chicken for the remainder of the roasting time.  Once the time is up, remove the chicken from the oven and use the tongs to flip breast-side-up.  Check that the temperature at the thickest part of the thigh has reached 160 degrees (it will raise to 165 degrees while it rests.)  If the skin is a little pale, go ahead and broil for a minute or two.  Just be sure to keep an eye on it!  After broiling (or not), pull the chicken out of the oven and allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes.

While the chicken is resting, you can make gravy.  Spoon a tablespoon or two from the drippings at the bottom of the roasting pan into a large skillet over medium heat.  Add a spoonful or two of flour until it makes a roux.  Let this cook, stirring frequently, until the roux turns a light brown.  Add a little broth (from a carton or from the boiled giblets/chicken neck).  The paste will bubble and thicken.  Keep adding the broth bit by bit, stirring until smooth, until the gravy reaches your desired thickness.  Taste and salt/pepper if needed.  By now the chicken should be rested and ready to eat!

 


Coconut-Creamed Spinach

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It doesn’t look like much, but it is totally delicious!

How is your week going?  It seems like everyone either has massive winter storms or unusually spring-like weather.  We are in the latter, with our afternoons reaching almost 70 degrees!  It has been a lovely respite, in a certain sense, but a little unsettling.  It is still February, after all.  Will we even have a winter season this year?

I’ve been starting to think about my garden plans for this year, because the extended forecast is still staying pretty mild!  I think I will be aiming to put a few hearty green seedlings into the ground within the next couple of weeks: swiss chard, kale, etc.  Whatever I can get my hands on, knowing that this isn’t actually planting season.  Normally Home Depot fills my seedling needs, but I may need to venture to an actual garden center to find seedlings.  I also need to check the almanac for the last predicted frost, but I’m feeling pretty confident about planting seeds soon, as well.  I’ve always felt like I start my seeds too late, so this mild winter may be the reason that I finally get them out on time!  I’m still planning to use square foot gardening, but I am expecting to tweak a little from last year’s garden plan.  It was not as successful as my first year, unfortunately. I didn’t really get any onions or carrots last year, and I bought tomato plants that were too big for my box.  This year, though, I’ll learn from those mistakes!

spinach-pan

I am also dreaming of a patio makeover.  And I am determined to make those dreams a reality!  Our patio is the one part of our apartment that I’ve also felt was a little neglected, so I’ve been saving up a few dollars here and there for a cheap update!  Some actual decor, perhaps a few pillows, maybe some new (cheap) chairs, and a new grill!  I will keep you posted on our progress!

This Spring weather also has us see-sawing back and forth between comforting winter meals and lighter Spring ones.  Which is why I keep finding my meal plans full of slow-cooked, heavily spiced Indian dishes and soups…or sushi.  Haha!  On Sunday, I let myself play in creating a big vegetarian, Indian meal.  I had wanted to make Paneer cheese again (I’d give myself about an 85% success rate with this batch…insufficient draining, I think) and we had potatoes and cauliflower to make Aloo Gobi, so I rounded things out with a batch of Coconut-Creamed Spinach, which is totally my go-to side dish for any Indian food!  I’ve talked before about how I am working to appreciate cooked greens more and this is one of the few cooked greens dishes that I will always enjoy!  It is so delicious over a bit of rice, creamy and comforting and full of flavor!  Light Indian spices and coconut milk instead of cream give this dish an unexpected twist, without being too overpowering.  A healthy dose of garlic and salt, with a little heat, are still required, just like in regular creamed spinach.

spinach-close-side

Coconut-Creamed Spinach

  • 2 packages frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 can (15 oz) coconut milk
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. chili flakes
  • 2 tsp. coconut oil
  • salt & pepper

Press the thawed, frozen spinach into a mesh sieve to squeeze as much water as you can from it.  Leave to drain as you cook the onion.  In a sauté pan over medium heat, as the coconut oil and the diced onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened and is mostly translucent.  Add the minced garlic and the spices (garam masala, ginger, cumin, and chili flakes) and stir the whole mixture for about 2 minutes, until the garlic and spices are fragrant.  Add the drained spinach to the pan and stir to combine with the onion.  Pour in about half of the can of coconut milk, stirring until the spinach mixture loosens up and the coconut milk in incorporated into the mix.  Add the remaining coconut milk and simmer the mixture until the desired thickness–the milk should hold together everything: the liquid shouldn’t pool from the greens.  It should only take a few minutes, at most!  Add a hefty pinch of salt and pepper, taste, and add more salt if needed!


Turkey-Broccoli Quiche (Thanksgiving Leftovers)

turkey-broccoli-quiche-title

Happy post-Thanksgiving, everyone!  Things got away from me in this past week or two.  Everything at work and school is starting to gear up.  We have three weeks until our performances and I have three/four weeks until my finals for my classes this semester.  Both of which include papers, on top of one final exam and one oral presentation.  I am desperately trying to make serious headway on both papers during my free time this weekend, but it will also be my only chance to decorate for Christmas and prep my food gifts (no telling what those will be, yet!).  I’m planning to make the dough for three different Christmas cookies tomorrow, which I will shape into cookies and pop in the freezer.  I know all three freeze beautifully and this will make things so much easier as the month goes on!  I might even make up a batch of my Cranberry Chutney, which is the ultimate sign that the Christmas season is here!

tb-quiche-side

We powered through our fundraiser for work last weekend, which went splendidly!  However, I felt my throat get a little sore throughout the day and by Monday I was knocked flat with some kind of winter muck.  A scratchy, painful throat that made my whole mouth hurt, some crazy body aches, super fatigued.  Ugh.  Thankfully, an afternoon of sleep, lots of soup, and a few eucalyptus & epsom salt baths got me back up on my feet to finish out this week and still get through my prep for Thanksgiving.  I still don’t know what it was, but I am hoping I avoided catching my coworker’s bronchitis and, instead, just picked up a bug off one of our students.  My asthma and allergies make me very prone to bronchitis and pneumonia, but this hasn’t really moved down into my chest as bronchitis normally would, so I do think I got lucky and it’s just a bad cold!

tb-quiche-meat

Anyways, on to more pleasant topics!  Thanksgiving at M’s mum’s house ended up having 18 people and was, all-in-all, stress-free.  We had a few sticky moments when politics and other controversies came up (it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it, huh?) and trying to get the massive 21 lb turkey in the oven in time, but otherwise, it was lovely.  About half of those 18 people had already sign-up to bring a dish, so I focused on desserts (pumpkin pie, vanilla bean cheesecake, cranberry curd tarts, and a praline sauce) and ended up putting together the green bean casserole since M ran out of prep time.  But everything else was taken care of!  It was nice to loosen the reins a little bit!  Shockingly, with all of those people and all of that food, there wasn’t too much in way of leftover.  I managed to snag a few slices of dessert, cranberry sauce, and a solid 3 cups of turkey–some of which went into this quiche and the rest will go into a double batch of Turkey Pot Pie Soup tomorrow night.  I’m not too sad about our lack of leftovers.  We have a ton of veggies in the fridge from our Produce Delivery box, so I’m planning to do a lot of simple, plant-based meals to reset ourselves after this weekends indulgences.  Plus my crisper box is completely overflowing and this is the only way to deal with it!

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This quiche is, hands-down, my favorite quiche that I have ever eaten.  My mother made it often when we were younger, but I was only reintroduced to it after I graduated and we tried making it gluten-free.  I love quiche because it take so few ingredients to make a solid dish with many servings (with just M and I in the house, this will last us a few days worth in lunches, too).  But I usually don’t go through the fuss of making pie crust (often, I just thinly slice potatoes, layer them in a greased pan, and cook them until brown and crispy before adding in the quiche filling).  So this lovely mix of turkey, cheese, bacon, and broccoli, all wrapped up in a flaky, buttery crust, is extra special.  That last bite with more crust from the side as well as the bottom is just total bliss.  Every time I make this, I wish I had grabbed even more turkey leftovers, so I could stash them in the freezer.  I never seem to remember, so I will just have to do my best to enjoy this quiche now, before waiting another whole year to make it again!

tb-quiche-close-up

Turkey Broccoli Quiche

  • – 1 gluten-free pie crust
  • – 3/4 c. chopped broccoli
  • – 1 c. chopped, cooked turkey
  • – 1/2 c. shredded baby swiss cheese
  • – 1/4 of a medium onion, finely chopped
  • – 6 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped
  • – 1 Tbsp. butter
  • – 3 extra-large eggs
  • – 1 1/4 c. half-and-half (or: 1/2 c. heavy cream + 3/4 c. milk)
  • – 1 tsp groud thyme
  • – salt & pepper to taste

Roll out the pie crust and spread into a 9-inch pie pan.  Crimp the edges and place the pan in the fridge while you preheat the oven and prep the filling.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, add the broccoli and onion and sauté until tender, when the broccoli is bright green and the onion has softened.  Sprinkle turkey, bacon, and half of the cheese into pie crust.  Pour vegetables over top, spread evenly.  Top with the remainder of the cheese.  Whisk the eggs, half-and-half, and spices in bowl until thoroughly mixed.  Pour eggs over other ingredients in pie shell.  Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees F and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, until a knife inserted at the center comes out clean.

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Flashback Friday Post Update: Gluten-free Pie Crust

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Hi again, everyone.  I won’t bother asking how your week was, because I don’t really know that I want to talk about it.  At least not yet.  But, like always, the days keep going forward, which means we are getting closer and closer to Thanksgiving.  And what is Thanksgiving without dessert, right?  And what is a more Thanksgiving-worthy dessert than pie?  Maybe cheesecake…but I’m here to talk about my very favorite pie crust, so let’s keep the focus on pie!  Pie crust was one of the very first gluten-free recipes that I mastered.  The keys are: lots of starch to keep things light and to make the perfect mix with the fat (butter) to create a crispy crust.  A dash of vinegar helps too.  And best of all, while I suggest gentle handling while kneading and rolling out the dough, that isn’t quite as crucial.  See, the reason that we are so careful with pie crust is to (1) not melt the fat in the dough and (2) not activate the gluten in the flour.  We’ve removed one of those factors by using gluten-free flours.  No risk of tough, gluten-activated dough here!  Now we can focus on keeping everything chilled and make ourselves some super tasty pie!

Last Thanksgiving I made three pies: Pecan, Apple, and Maple-Nutmeg Custard.  (Don’t worry, my mother made a pumpkin cheesecake, so we fulfilled the pumpkin requirement!)  All three were delicious, but this year we have a ton of guests.  I plan to scale back to give them some room at the dessert table, so I am planning to make a traditional pumpkin pie using this crust.  And maybe a cheesecake, if I can’t help myself.

So here’s the deal with pies.  In general, fruit pies can be made with the dough raw, and the pie dough will bake along with the fruit.  Filled pies (that do not have a top crust), typically, want a par-baked (also known as blind-baked or prebaked) crust first.  Par-baking is nothing to be scared of, just form the bottom shell in your pie pan, place a sheet of parchment over the crust and fill the pie shell with a layer of dry, uncooked beans.  Bake for 12-15 minutes at 425 degrees, then remove the parchment and the beans (careful, they are hot!) and bake for another 5 minutes.  Then your crust is partially baked and much sturdier.  It will hold up better to the liquid, custard type fillings.

So pick your favorite fillings and get planning!  I usually try to cook my desserts one or two days before Thanksgiving, as they will keep.  Then I can warm them up gently, if needed, while we eat dinner!

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Check out my recipe for Gluten-Free Pie Crust!


Weeknight Biscuit-Topped Chicken Pot Pie

pot-pie-title

Did you vote today?  I am typing away while the results roll in (eek!  I’ll be distracted soon enough).  Today was a student holiday workshop day, since the public schools were closed in order to be used as polling sites.  That means I had to be in work two hour earlier than normal.  And since I still had the late shift at work as well, and couldn’t be positive that I could get away during the day, my only choice to cast my vote was to wake up and do it before work.  I wanted to be sure that I had enough time, in case there were lines (there were), so I aimed to get to my polling place before it opened at 6am.  While my mother’s house isn’t that far away (I haven’t actually changed my permanent address yet…), in order to be up and prepared for the day plus the drive over, I had to wake up at 4:45am this morning.  Whoof.  Good thing I am all about making sure my voice is heard.  Plus, there was already a line when I got to the polling site at 5:40am, so I’m glad I was early.  I got the last spot inside out of the cold!  It was so worth it, but I am definitely beginning to drag!  I did manage a twenty minute catnap since I made it to work a little early (bargaining for traffic in this area is always a crapshoot).  Thankfully working at a theater company means we have handy items like beanbag chairs to add to my naptime comfort!

pot-pie-side

In the continuing saga of today, I had to bite the bullet and get a new car battery after my car died (totally knew it was coming) and my phone’s SIM card seems to be dying as well.  I can’t catch seem to a break whenever I am running on too little sleep.  I’ve tried all the tricks from the internet to try to reset the SIM card, but the best I can do is make my phone recognize the SIM but find no service…so, a dying antenna, most likely.  Unfortunately, this is not the best week to try to squeeze in an appointment at the Apple Store, but I may have no choice.  Thankfully, while on wifi, I can still have everything function and receive iMessages.  Occasionally, I’ll even have a regular text get through.  What is it about the holiday season, hmm?  Just when the gift and food costs start to add up (even extra, since M’s birthday is in November), everything electronic and/or mechanical in my life suddenly needs repairing, too.  Sigh.  I suppose that is how that goes!

However, speaking of stressful elections and less money, this recipe can be the answer to both!  Cheap eating comfort food at it’s finest!  Plus, by trading pie crust for super easy biscuit dough, it becomes quick enough to whip up on a weeknight. (Though if you want the more traditional version, I have that too)  Dare I even point out that, since your are putting the chicken into the mix when it is already cooked, it would be so easy to swap this for cooked turkey in order to use up some Thanksgiving leftovers!  If your family does roasted potatoes at the Thanksgiving table, you could also swap those leftovers for the fresh potatoes in this recipe, too!  (Just cook the raw vegetables until tender and add the potatoes then, just before you add the broth).

pot-pie-dish

Gluten-Free Biscuit-Topped Chicken Pot Pie

  • 1 batch gluten-free biscuit dough*
  • 1 large chicken breast (or 2 mid-sized chicken thighs), cooked**
  • 1 medium russet potato
  • 1 small-medium sweet potato
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 c. frozen peas
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 3 Tbsp. rice flour
  • 3-4 c. chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. poultry seasoning mix***
  • salt & pepper

* My favorite biscuit recipe is from the Blackbird Bakery cookbook, which, fortunately, was shared on Epicurious!

***Or a heaping 1/4 tsp. each: ground sage, ground thyme, and finely minced rosemary

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Grease a pie pan or an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish.

Dice the potatoes, onion, and carrot into medium, equal-sized pieces.  Take a pat from the 3 Tbsp of butter and add the pat of butter to a large saucepan.  Melt over medium heat and then add the potato, sweet potato, onion, and carrot pieces.  Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally until all the pieces are softened and tender, about 4-7 minutes A fork should easily pierce the potatoes and the onions should be turning translucent.  Chop the chicken into equally-sized pieces and stir into the vegetable mix.  Add the rest of the butter to the pan.  Once melted, add the rice flour and stir occasionally.  Allow the flour and veggie mixture to cook for 3-4 minutes.  Finely mince the garlic clove and add to the pan with the spices, including salt and pepper.  Slowly whisk in the chicken broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, until you have a thick gravy holding all the vegetables.  Add in the frozen peas and remove from heat.

Make the biscuits according to directions, stopping after you have cut the raw dough into biscuits (for cut biscuits) OR right before you are instructed to drop the dough onto a baking sheet (for drop biscuits).  Spoon the gravy-veggie mixture into your prepared pan, leaving almost a inch of space from the rim of the pan.  Top the mixture with a biscuits and bake for 12-15 minutes.  Allow the pie to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving (it will be hot!) and enjoy!