Friday, December 24, 2010

To a great 2010 - served many

I can't believe it's the end of the year.  On the eve of Christmas, I reflect on what 2010 has given me.  It's given me a new perspective on being home with my kids after not having that option, it's given me time to reflect on what's important, it's given me the wonderful opportunity to pursue my dreams, it's given me better and new relationships, it's provided me with an opportunity to travel to Italy with a wonderful group of women, it's taught me that "through thick and thin" I can still love my husband and it will end on us taking a trip with our family.  And, like the picture above, which I took in Italy, I plan to do.  Not just in the next week, but as my life continues.  Because if you think about it, our life here on earth should be spent reflecting on the many blessings God has given us, whether we think them of blessings or not.  Slow down and take in the things, either good, bad, disappointing, stressful or just plain wonderful.  All of this is only temporary for the vacation that will be ours in the end.

Eat well, cook more meals and laugh more in 2011 and thanks for all your fabulous support!  I hope to feed more of you....

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Homemade Marshmallows

One of the BEST things about Christmas is marshmallows.  I'm not talking about the ones you get at the grocery store already made with ingredients you can't pronounce.  I'm talking about homemade marshmallows.  I'm telling you, and I'll bet you all my presents, you'll never taste anything like a homemade marshmallow.  This is what they should taste like.

This recipe has now become a tradition within our household during the holidays.  The kids are so into to making them, that I can't just make them myself.  All have to participate.  Watching the concoction start as a creamy mixture then evolve into a foaming white, heavenly mass before your eyes is quite a sight to see.  It's hard not to eat the final product before you let it sit to form into perfect squares of holiday bliss.  In fact, the creamy mixture is WONDERFUL smashed between gingerbread cookies or even stirred into hot chocolate.  I mean, c'mon, folks!  Even Santa would put on a few extra pounds to eat this.

So, from my house to yours, enjoy this wonderful recipe.  I hope all of you have a Christmas as fantastic a homemade marshmallow, melting in you mouth and a New Year as sweet.


Nonstick vegetable oil spray 
1 cup cold water, divided 
3 1/4-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin 
2 cups sugar 
2/3 cup light corn syrup 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1/2 cup potato starch 
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil. Coat foil lightly with nonstick spray.
Pour 1/2 cup cold water into bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until gelatin softens and absorbs water, at least 15 minutes.
Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup cold water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush. Attach candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat and bring syrup to boil. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 240ºF, about 8 minutes. 
With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin mixture in thin stream down side of bowl (avoid pouring syrup onto whisk, as it may splash). Gradually increase speed to high and beat until mixture is very thick and stiff, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to blend, about 30 seconds longer.
Scrape marshmallow mixture into prepared pan. Smooth top with wet spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, about 4 hours.
Stir potato starch and powdered sugar in small bowl to blend. Sift generous dusting of starch-sugar mixture onto work surface, forming rectangle slightly larger than 13x9 inches. Turn marshmallow slab out onto starch-sugar mixture; peel off foil. Sift more starch-sugar mixture over marshmallow slab. Coat large sharp knife (or cookie cutters) with nonstick spray. Cut marshmallows into squares or other shapes. Toss each in remaining starch-sugar mixture to coat. Transfer marshmallows to rack, shaking off excess mixture.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie - serves 6 unless you eat the whole thing yourself

I am a healthy eater.  Almost so much that my husband rolls his eyes at what I eat (umibushi plums), the things I make him try (kale shakes) and the things I make him omit from his diet (meat once or twice a week opposed to 14).  All of which he's catching on quite well.  If he wants to eat in this house, he'll have to endure a healthy eating lifestyle.

Until I make chicken pot pie.  Words can not express the goodness in this dish.  It's one of those meals that as you take a bite, you're immediately taken back to your childhood when you were served it the first time.  As for me, I have fond memories of my parents going out to dinner on Saturday nights, leaving my sister and I with Swanson's Pot Pies.  Then, they were a mystical meal that I would take my time eating, saving the crust around the metal foil pan for last.  I could make a pie last during the entire episode of Love Boat and Fantasy Island.  Saturday night out for the parents was the highlight of my week.  I knew I'd get a pie or a Night Hawk Chopped Steak TV Dinner with tater tots.  (You know who you are and don't be ashamed that you liked it also.)

Now, back to reality.  I wouldn't touch that stuff to save my life (well, maybe).  But, I can damn sure make one to match that's a tad healthier.  If only I could watch Love Boat and Fantasy Island, it'd be, once again, a Friday night favorite. (And what goes better with pie than kale?)


First the creamed chicken or turkey, then the pot pie.  For creamed chicken or turkey:

3½ lbs organic chicken parts, or 1½ lbs boneless skinless chicken breast or turkey breast cutlets or tenders
1¾ to 2 cups organic stock
4 Tbs (½ stick) unsalted organic flour
1/2 cup all purpose
1½ cups organic whole milk, half&half, or light cream (I use cashew cream)
2-3 Tbs sherry (optional)
several drops lemon juice, salt and ground white or black pepper
2-3 pinches freshly grated nutmeg

For Pot Pie:

2 Tbs organic butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled sliced ¼ inch
2 small celery stalks, sliced ¼ inch thick
¾ cup frozen organic peas, thawed
3 Tbs minced fresh parsley
1 beaten egg
1 Immaculate  Baking Company Pie Crust (Central Market or Whole Foods)

Creamed Chicken:
Place the chicken in a dutch oven and add chicken stock and just enough water to cover the pieces. Chicken parts may need as much as 3 cups and boneless skinless pieces may not need any. Bring to simmer over high heat, then reduce to simmer so the poaching liquid barely bubbles. Partially cover and cook until the meat releases clear juices when pierced with a fork, 25-30 minutes for chicken parts, 8-12 minutes for boneless, skinless breasts. Remove the meat from the stock and let stand until cool enough to handle. If using chicken parts, remove and discard skin and bones. Shred or cut the meat into bite-sized pieces. Skim the fat from the stock with a spoon.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, and whisk in flour until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly for one minute. Remove the pan from the heat. Add 2 cups of the chicken stock and whisk until smooth. Whisk in cream (or half&half etc.)

Increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture just to a simmer, whisking constantly. Remove the pan from the heat, scrape the inside of the pan with a wooden spoon and whisk vigorously to break up any lumps. Return the pan to heat and, whisking, bring to a simmer and cook for one minute. Stir in the cooked poultry along with sherry and cook for 1 minute more. Remove from heat and season with salt & pepper, lemon juice and nutmeg.

Pot Pie:

This pot pie has a top crust only using pie pastry. Sauteing the vegetables separately instead of cooking them with the chicken ensures that they will retain their texture and color.

Prepare (using ½ cup flour) creamed chicken.  Position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°. Butter a 13x9 inch baking pan or other shallow baking dish. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the foam begins to subside. Add onion, carrots, celery and cook, stirring often, until barely tender, about 5 minutes.Stir the veggies into the creamed chicken along with the peas and parsley.  Pour the chicken mixture into the prepared pan. Arrange pre-bought pie dough (you'll need both, trimming excess). For a golden glaze, brush the top with egg. Bake until chicken is bubbly and the topping is nicely browned, 25-35 minutes.