Friday, October 5, 2012

October 5, 2012

It is definitely fall.  There is a chill in the air that actually made me turn on the heat...and it takes quite a lot for me to do that (just ask my dear husband!).  Soccer has no longer "just started" but rather we are mid-season.  Notre Dame is undefeated (Go Irish!).  I have a paper and a project due for my class soon.  So yes, the autumn is upon us.

In my quest for new keepers for the dinner menu, there was but a single success this week.  However, depending on your family, you can cook once and eat twice.  A take on Chicken Pot Pie from one of my favorite resources, America's Test Kitchen, went over fabulously well here at our home, and I hope it will be a hit on your dinner table as well.  I didn't realize ahead of time that it was going to be a good idea to split this into 2 meals, so instead I ate leftovers for lunch all week.  Thankfully it made for a few tasty lunches!  When I was working full time outside the home I planned leftovers into the dinner so that I could take it to work for lunch.  This week reminded me of those days.  There were a few other new dinners tested but none I would make again, let alone give out the recipe!

Fall is the season for quick breads - and I have a great one for you!  Do you find yourself tossing bananas in the freezer when they've started to speckle?  No one likes the look of them, no one is slicing them into cereal bowls or putting them into lunch boxes.  When the bananas are getting judged by their looks, you toss them in the freezer to use in smoothies or banana bread at some later date, right?  I do that, but man - does one of my best friends do that!!!  She had so many frozen bananas she called me to take some off her hands.  I kid you not when I say that I took 10 off her hands one afternoon, and then an additional 6 about 2 days later!  And I don't think she was free of frozen bananas after I pulled out of her driveway!  I had found a banana bread recipe that called for 6 bananas, so we made it, we loved it, and we made it again!  The first time we made it the bread was instantly voted a keeper.  The second time we added walnuts and it was even better.  So, if your freezer is overflowing with frozen bananas who have lost their beauty, this is the recipe for you.

Finally - I tried a new cooking technique this week: canning.  It is the fall, so farm stands are full of pumpkins, apples, mum and freshly canned produce.  While I don't want to jar jam or chutney, I did really want to pickle some green beans!!!  You read that right - pickled green beans.  See if you can follow this one: my sister's husband's mother's boyfriend makes the most fantastic pickled green beans ever.  Of course, I have only ever tried his dilly beans, but Ryan, Owen and I were hooked.  When the market had beautiful green beans at a ridiculous price I reached out and got the recipe, and this week I have for you Part I of the Dilly Beans Experience.  I could have called it the Dilly Bean Experiment, but I am really hoping to not change any of the variables, so in my opinion experience was more appropriate. Today I have for you the recipe and pictures fresh from the canning bath.  In 2-4 weeks I will be back with the taste results, and then perhaps another month or 2 down the line revisit it again to talk about how the flavor deepened.  The Dilly Beans I had probably had been pickling for months, so I don't know how mine will compare, but I have high hopes.  Canning - definitely new and uncharted territory for me, so we'll see how this works!  I am keeping my fingers crossed and will keep you posted.

One of my sisters did ask me to try some new slow cooker recipes so I'll be working on that for the next few weeks.  If you have one you love or want me to test out for you (so you don't have to), let me know by dropping me a line at

Happy Cooking!

New Recipes
Chicken "Pot Pie" with Biscuit Crumble
Six Banana Banana Bread
Dilly Beans

Chicken "Pot Pie" with Biscuit Crumble

Ingredients for filling
*         1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts 
*         3 cups chicken broth 
*         2 tbsp vegetable oil 
*         1 medium onion, chopped fine 
*         3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into slices 
*         3 small celery ribs, chopped fine 
*         8 oz white mushrooms, washed and sliced 
*         1 tsp tomato paste 
*         4 tbsp butter 
*         1 cup milk 
*         1/2 cup all-purpose flour 
*         2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice 
*         3 tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves 
*         3/4 cup frozen baby peas

Ingredients for crumble topping 
*         2 cups all-purpose flour 
*         2 tsp baking powder 
*         3/4 tsp salt 
*         1/2 tsp ground black pepper 
*         1/8 tsp cayenne pepper 
*         6 tbsp butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, chilled 
*         1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated 
*         3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 450.
2. Bring the chicken and broth to a simmer in a covered Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook until chicken is done, then transfer chicken to a bowl. Pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and save.
3. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a large bowl. Sprinkle the butter pieces in and incorporate with your fingers until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Stir in the Parmesan, then add the cream and stir until just combined. Place on a lined, rimmed baking sheet and bake 10-13 minutes until becoming fragrant and browning. Set aside.
4. Heat 1 tbsp oil in the empty Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and stir well. Cook until vegetables are tender, and while they are cooking,  shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Transfer cooked vegetables to the bowl with the chicken and  set aside.
5. Heat the remaining oil in the pot and then add mushrooms, cover and cook until mushrooms have released their juices, about 5 minutes. Remove cover and stir in the tomato paste. Cook, stirring until the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are browned. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with  the chicken and veggies.
6. Heat butter in the pot, add the flour and cook for one minute, stirring. Slowly whisk in the reserved chicken broth and milk. Bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan to get those browned bits up. Simmer about a minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and parsley. Stir in chicken and vegetable mixture and peas into the sauce. 
7. Pour into a greased 13×9 baking dish and sprinkle crumble topping evenly over the top, or pour 1/2 the filling into a greased 8x8 baking dish and save the other half to freeze for a future evening.  Bake until filling is bubbling and topping is well browned, about 12-15 minutes.

If you have leftover chicken, this is a perfect meal to use that.  And to be honest, it is tough to call this a "pot pie".  It is made in casserole dish and there is no pie crust! You can use any combination of chicken meat, or turkey for that matter!  Perhaps mark this and make it after Thanksgiving.  We used only thigh meat and it was delicious.  If you are going to make this into two meals, only make a half batch of the topping.  Then when you pull the other filling half out of the freezer all you will need to do is make the biscuit topping.  A note about the topping. It called for heavy cream, which is probably to make sure it was a light and fluffy texture.  I used the milk we had on hand, and it still turned out great!


Six Banana Banana Bread

* 2 cups all purpose flour
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 1 tsp cinnamon
* 1/2 cup butter, softened
* 3/4 cup brown sugar
* 2 eggs
* 6 bananas, overripe and previously frozen (preferred)
* 2/3 cup walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Use the wrapper from your softened butter to prep your 9x5 loaf pan.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
3. In a second bowl cream the butter and brown sugar.  Add the eggs one a time and beat after each addition.  Add the thawed bananas one at a time by simply opening the banana peel and letting the fruit and juice drop into the bowl.  Beat each banana into the sugar/egg mixture.
4. Once all 6 bananas have been incorporated, stir the dry ingredients into the bowl.  Do not over mix.  Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.  If using the walnuts, cut them into the batter in the loaf pan at this point.
5. Bake the bread for 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let the bread cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and turn onto a wire rack to complete cooling.

6 bananas in one loaf???  I thought I had misread the recipe, but no, it really calls for 6 bananas!  This quick bread is dense, but very moist, and very banana-y tasting!  What a great way to use those frozen bananas.

Dilly Beans

* green beans - cleaned and trimmed (for 4 pint jars I needed just about 1.5 lbs)
* 1 tsp cayenne pepper
* 4 cloves garlic
* fresh dill
* 4 grape leaves
* 2.5 cups water
* 2.5 cups white vinegar
* 1/4 cup pickling salt
* 4 pint jars

1. Bring the water, vinegar and pickling salt to a boil.
2. To each hot pint jar, add 1 crushed clove of garlic and cover it with a grape leaf.
3. Pack the jars with green beans lengthwise, then add some dill and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper in each jar.
4. Pour the boiling brine over the beans leaving 1/2 inch head space.
5. Seal and process for 10 minutes in boiling water bath.
6. For best flavor, let stand for a minimum of 2 weeks.

The recipe called for dill heads for each jar, but I was unable to get those at my market, so I used sprigs of dill in each pint.  We shall see what kind of difference this makes.  Also- grape leaves are jarred, and I found them over in the international section of my local grocery store.  And if you are thinking of trying this, you can use regular salt, but pickling salt ensures a crystal clear brine solution for your beans or other canned creations.