Chicken Pot Pie

chick_pot_pieWhat is it about chicken that no matter how good it tastes on day one, it’s always ‘eh’ on day two and downright inedible by day three?  I’ve learned over time that if I’m making slow cooker chicken during the week, it makes great sense to have a leftover plan.  Pot pie works beautifully in this scenario because I’ve already got the chicken stock AND chicken I need.  I may be pushing the season just a tad by breaking out the pot pie in August, but it’s been a loooong week.  And I really haven’t eaten much butter in the past 6 months.  I deserved it.

I usually have puff pastry in the freezer for days like these, but today I didn’t–and since I deserved pot pie, I probably deserved actual pie crust as well.  Here’s my issue with most of the pie crust recipes I come across though.  They include shortening.  Shiver. If I’m being totally honest, I do have it in my pantry sometimes around the holidays because there are a few cookie recipes I need it for.  But I never feel good about it.  And I definitely don’t use it for anything else.  I always thought this precluded me from making a perfect pie crust, so I never really tried.  It turns out I shouldn’t have given up so easily.  Would I win a bake-off against someone who uses a recipe with shortening?  I don’t care.  It was darn good without it and you can’t make me bake with that nasty stuff.   And in the whole four minutes it took me to make the dough, I realized I will never buy another store bought crust again.

Chicken Pot Pie
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6
Pie Crust
  • 1¼ cup AP flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, diced
  • ¼ cup ice water
Pie Filling
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, in 1-inch cubes
  • ¼ cup AP flour
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, heated
  • ½ tsp salt (adjust based on how salty your stock is)
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp dried tarragon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp water
Pie Crust
  1. Mix together flour and salt
  2. Add cubed butter and, using a pastry knife, work the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs
  3. Stir the ice water in a little at a time until the mixture just holds together
  4. Handling it as little as possible, shape it into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate from 30 minutes until overnight as needed
Pie Filling
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
  2. Melt the butter in a large pan or dutch oven
  3. Add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic to the pan and sauté until onions and celery begin to soften, several minutes
  4. Meanwhile, heat the stock in the microwave on high for 2-3 minutes
  5. Add the chicken and stir to combine
  6. Add the flour to the pan and stir, cooking for about a minute
  7. Add the warm stock and bring to simmer
  8. Add salt, pepper, thyme and tarragon and adjust seasoning as necessary
  9. Pour mixture into a pie or baking dish
  10. Remove pie crust from refrigerator and, on a floured surface, roll out to just larger than your pie pan or baking dish
  11. Place the pie crust over the baking dish and pinch or crimp edges, depending on your preference
  12. Using a sharp knife, cut two vents in the center of the pie
  13. Beat one egg with 1 tbsp water and brush over the top and edges of the pie crust
  14. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until pie crust is golden and filling is bubbly

Simple Things

cuke_tomatoWhen I had the opportunity to go to Ukraine more than 10 years ago, I almost didn’t take it.  I didn’t have enough vacation time.  I didn’t have a lot of extra money.  I didn’t speak the language.  I was scared.  Not scared for my life.  It was a peaceful time there then.  I was just scared of the unknown.  So much so, that the night before my flight, I lay awake convinced I wouldn’t get on the plane.  I did though.  And the trip was filled with highs and lows and absolutely no regrets.  Particularly now, as I watch with sadness the news from there, I am so thankful and glad for that opportunity–and my courage to seize it.

One of my more light-hearted memories from that trip is how my brother would often finish my meals for me.  Not because he was that hungry, but because I couldn’t bring myself to eat everything I had been served (and not to finish was to be rude to our hosts).  He may have gained 10 pounds on that trip.  One thing neither he nor I ever had trouble finishing was the simple cucumber and tomato plate we were often served with our meals.  To this day, one of my most favorite and very simple things.  Garden fresh cucumbers and tomatoes with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Slow Cooker Whole Chicken

slow_cooker_chickenThere’s a part of Rhode Island fairly well known for something they like to call Family Style Chicken.  Each restaurant has its own subtle variation, but, generally speaking, it involves some herbed/salty fall off the bone chicken, pasta with marinara sauce and, if done correctly, both roasted potatoes AND french fries.  It really is a meal made in heaven.  And I was lucky enough to eat it fairly frequently growing up.

I’ve tried loads of chicken recipes over the years–roasted, baked, in the dutch oven, on the grill, in the slow cooker–all in search of recreating that wondrous fall off the bone preparation.  It wasn’t until I came across a marvelously simple approach to cooking a whole bird in the slow cooker that the stars finally aligned.

I don’t think I would have made it through the five months that I had two kids under two without this meal.  We ate it every week.  Even the engineer started to complain a little (not as much if I served roasted brussel sprouts and mashed potatoes with it).  As with most of my bestest recipes, this one is easily adaptable to whatever you have on hand.  Only have onions to throw in the bottom of the cooker?  No problem.  Want to use dried herbs instead?  Fantastic.  Nothing to stuff into the bird?  Who cares.  There is actually no way to ruin this preparation.  Well, except maybe if you lost power during the day at some point.  That would definitely ruin it.  Oh, one other word of caution.  Don’t mess with the chicken parts.  As in, think you’ll be all healthy and use boneless skinless breasts instead.  It is possible to substitute split chicken breasts (on the bone, with skin).  However, add some liquid (water or chicken stock) prior to cooking, definitely cook on low and don’t expect the results to be quite as moist (although, will still beat baked chicken any day of the week).

One other note–DEFINITELY use your scraps to make chicken stock.  This little trick is almost as good as the chicken itself.  Once you’ve eaten dinner, return all of the bones, skin, and ickies to the slow cooker.  Fill it up with water and throw in whatever you’ve got that may make stock taste good (carrots, celery, onions, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns). Cook on low overnight, strain all of the bits out, refrigerate for 24 hours, skim the fat off the top and use or freeze as needed!

Slow Cooker Whole Chicken
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Serves: 6
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 3 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces (or 1½ cups baby carrots)
  • 3 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped (one large or 2 regular sized sprigs)
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 4-5 lb whole chicken
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  1. Slice the onions, carrots and celery and place in the bottom of the slow cooker along with the bay leaves and 3 of the thyme sprigs
  2. Remove the rosemary and thyme leaves from the sprigs and place them along with the garlic, salt and pepper into the bowl of a food processor (alternatively, chop/mince with a knife)
  3. Remove the chicken from its packaging
  4. Remove the neck and innards from the cavity
  5. Rinse the bird inside and out
  6. Pat dry with a paper towel and place on top of the onions, carrots and celery, breast side up (note: I accidentally cooked the chicken breast side down and results were equally great, dare I say even moister)
  7. Stuff the cavity with the lemon quarters
  8. Smear the rosemary mixture over the skin of the bird and drizzle the olive oil over the mixture to moisten it slightly
  9. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 5



Chicken Teriyaki Meatballs

chick_teriyaki_meatball2So, it’s some kind of crime that I haven’t already mentioned my love affair with my slow cooker.  All three of them.  I don’t mention the number to suggest my kitchen is excessively or lavishly stocked (it isn’t).  I mention this to convey the depth of my devotion (dependence, really) on this extraordinary little device.  It’s brilliant for summer time cooking when you don’t want to heat up your kitchen.  Equally brilliant during the winter just for the plethora of comfort dishes it’s well-suited for (not to mention how amazing it makes your house smell).  Ok, so we are all agreed then.  Slow cookers are essential.  And when you can cross them with something else equally essential like, oh, a MEATBALL, well jack pot.

The recipe here is actually for a double batch of meatballs.  It’s the only way I roll.  Trust me, the next time you’re coming up empty for time and dinner ideas and you remember you’ve got a meatball stash in the freezer, you’ll thank me.  Another thing you should know about me and meatballs–I only bake them.  Because I don’t mess with perfection when I’ve found it.

I usually make the meatballs during nap time and then throw them in the slow cooker for the rest of the day, but you could very easily make them the night before (or pull them out of the freezer) and slow cook all day.  In a pinch, you could also make them at dinner time and just quickly simmer them on the stovetop.  I used bottled teriyaki sauce today (here’s my favorite MSG-free brand), because that’s what I had handy, but if you’ve got the time and the recipe to from-scratch it, do it!

Chicken Teriyaki Meatballs
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4
  • 2 lbs ground chicken
  • ¾ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 3 scallions (greens only), chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1⅓ cup teriyaki sauce
  • 1 lb carrots
  • 2 tbsp AP flour
  • ¼ cup cold water
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Prepare two baking sheets either with a baking rack or by lining them with parchment paper
  3. Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and stir until just combined (alternatively, use a large bowl and clean hands to mix)
  4. Using a small scoop (2-tbsp sized), measure equal sized portions of the meat mixture and place on the prepared baking sheet
  5. Once all of the mixture has been scooped out, roll each meatball gently with hands until evenly rounded
  6. Place in preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes (if using parchment paper, turn meatballs after 10 minutes)
  7. In the meantime, turn the slow cooker on to low and add the teriyaki sauce
  8. Wash, peel and chop the carrots into one-inch pieces (larger if slow cooking all day)
  9. Add the carrots to the slow cooker
  10. When the meatballs are done cooking, remove from oven and let rest for five minutes before placing half of them (about 20 meatballs) into the slow cooker
  11. Let the meatballs, carrots and sauce simmer on low in the slow cooker for at least 3-4 hours
  12. Just before serving, remove the meatballs from the slow cooker
  13. Combine 2 tbsp flour with ¼ cup cold water and stir
  14. Add the flour mixture to the sauce in the slow cooker and stir for one minute
  15. Return the meatballs to the slow cooker and mix gently to coat the meatballs in the sauce
  16. Serve over rice or thing spaghetti
  17. To freeze the other half of the meatballs, allow meatballs to cool to room temperature. Place them in the freezer on a baking sheet or glass pan in a single layer for about 30 minutes or until partially frozen. Remove from freezer, place in freezer bags and return to freezer until ready to use.





Do you Focaccia?

focaccia_2I can’t say that I ever had before.  Sure, I’ve eaten it out of a bread basket at restaurants here and there.  But to have the urge to make it?  Can’t really say I ever had.  For some reason, one morning last week, I all of a sudden needed fresh focaccia bread.  (No, I’m not pregnant)  I poked around for awhile until I found a recipe that met my basic criteria (mostly good reviews, no ingredients I didn’t want or didn’t have) and had it thrown into my bread machine within 5 minutes.  I know.  Again with that bread machine.  But, you know what?  We went to the playground while the bread machine did all the work.  Gosh, I love that bread machine.

Overall, it was easier than I thought to get my focaccia on.  I didn’t go nuts leaving finger marks in the bread the way you are supposed to in order to get those indentations typical of focaccia.  Mine came out more rustic looking and that was fine with me.  Next time, I would halve the recipe and use a couple tablespoons of fresh rosemary (the recipe makes a full half sheet pan which is way more than my family needed!)  Happy baking :)

Bread Machine Focaccia Bread
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 10
  • 1¾ cup warm water
  • 1 cup olive oil, divided in half
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 5 cups AP flour
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2¼ tsp bread machine yeast (or one package active dry yeast)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp Herbs de Provence
  1. Place the warm water, ½ cup olive oil, sugar, flour, salt and yeast into the bowl of the bread machine according to bread machine instructions
  2. Set the bread machine to Dough setting and press Start
  3. When the dough cycle has completed, pour the other ½ cup of olive oil onto a half sheet pan (or standard baking sheet)
  4. Place the dough in the sheet pan and turn it over a few times to fully coat it with olive oil
  5. Begin kneading, pushing and stretching the dough to fill the entire pan
  6. Cover and let rise for about an hour
  7. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  8. Sprinkle the kosher salt and Herbs de Provence over the dough
  9. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes


From the Farm

farm_haul_7272If you’ve been keeping up, you know this week’s trip to the farm wasn’t ideal.  The chicken incident happened before we made it into the farm stand, so I was a little flustered while shopping.  I realized when I got home that I missed the squash/zucchini, lettuce and blueberries this week.  Oh well.  Highlights of this week’s haul are definitely the corn, green beans, peppers and tomatoes!

Not so happy place

farm_flowersYou know what stinks?  When something happens to spoil how you feel about one of your happy places.  You may have caught on by now that one of my happy places is a local farm.  I started taking my daughter there last year when she was just a teeny toddler.  We’ve had nothing but good memories and she’s always excited to go.  This weekend, she and I had a rare opportunity to go, just the two of us again, to pick up our produce for the week.  She asked on the way if we could get an ice cream while we were there.  Heck yeah, we could!  Summer is too short and we need to seize every opportunity for ice cream.

Everything started out as expected.  It was a beautiful sunny afternoon with a hint of a breeze.  As I ordered our ice creams, she sat on the old wooden rocking horses on the porch.  We sat down to enjoy our ice cream (strawberry with rainbow sprinkles for her, coffee in a sugar cone for me), I snapped some pictures of the echinacea and catmint, and then I noticed that the chickens were making a bee line for us.

So, we’ve been to this farm enough times not to be surprised to see a random chicken strolling around.  They usually are poking around the perennials or meandering by the ice cream stand.  They’re always pretty calm and tame and nothing to worry about.  It was pretty clear to me that these chickens were starting to evolve.  Have you ever been to a petting zoo where you can feed the goats?  The second anyone approaches the feed machines, they descend like vultures, jumping, nipping and pushing.  At a recent trip to one such petting zoo area, I found myself body checking these animals just so my child could give a handful of feed to one of the baby goats.

Anyway, I’m sure you see where this is going.  Chickens charged my little girl for her sprinkles and she, being the sweet-hearted child that she is, went to push some sprinkles onto the ground for them, they jumped and pecked and bit her little finger.  The worst!  The bite was small enough.  But, of course, afterwards she was fearful of the chickens and didn’t want to finish her ice cream.  Happy place turned unhappy just like that.  For both of us.  Will we have to find a new happy place now?  To be continued.

Lazy Girl Bar-le-Duc

white_currantsI owe this post and my new obsession with Bar-le-Duc jelly to my favorite farm stand and my 2 year old daughter.  This morning, as I stood sweating in the farm stand while the 2-year-old threw a tantrum which sent an entire container of white currants on the ground, I never could have imagined the day could end with this revelation.  And yet, here we are.  Let’s back up a little bit.

We made an unscheduled trip to the farm stand this morning after Facebook told us that the first crop of corn was fresh off the tractor.  How could we not?  My intention was to do a quick trip to get the corn and be home in time for lunch.    After a visit to the chickens and goats, a quick ride on the toy tractor, and a stroll through the perennials, I had finally convinced my travel companion that we should check out the farm stand.  As I made my way to the corn, I saw her, out of the corner of my eye, grab her own shopping basket and proceed to walk around the stand.  I should mention that, for whatever reason, all of the shelves in the farm stand are at toddler height.  So, really, whatever looks good to her, she can reach (yay).  Apparently, today, white currants looked pretty good to her.  She had no sooner put them in her basket and they tipped over onto the floor and, well, we were going to be buying them.

I had no idea what to do with them once we got home though.  While white currants, in particular, are often used raw in salads and other dishes, I found them a bit too tart for our family.  After a little googling, I found the story of Bar-le-Duc jelly and I was in love.  With the idea anyway.  Basically, there is one town in France that has made jelly with white and red currants since something like forever and it’s an insanely expensive delicacy.  Because these women remove all of the seeds.  By hand.  With goose quills.  I cannot even imagine having the time to do that, so this recipe includes seeds.  It’s so amazingly good that it doesn’t even matter that much.  I still need to buy a jar of the real stuff someday.  Just because.

If you don’t like liquor, substitute more water for the Grand Marnier.  I wouldn’t advise it though.  In fact, my next batch I’m planning to use wine.  Can you even imagine?  I can hardly wait.  I wish it were cheesecake season for me because this would be so amazing over an almost savory cheesecake.  In a pinch, over cream cheese with crackers should do just fine though.

Lazy Girl Bar-le-Duc
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 2 half pint jars
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup Grand Marnier
  • 1 cup white or red currants, stems removed
  1. Combine sugar, water and Grand Marnier in a small saucepan over medium heat
  2. Cook until sugar dissolves, 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently
  3. Add currants and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring almost continuously
  4. Immediately pour into jars
  5. If jars have been prepared for canning, cool and store as you normally would. If cans have not been prepared for canning, place in refrigerator immediately


Rosemary Garlic Bread

rosemary_breadIt seems to me like bread machines were so 1999.  Maybe even earlier than that.  I don’t remember exactly because I definitely wasn’t using one back then.  Do people (besides me) even use them anymore?  I’m awfully glad I was never a trend follower because, man, do I love my bread machine.  It’s not fancy, but it sure gets the job done.  I always have a jar of yeast in my fridge and bread flour in my pantry, which means I can have fresh bread whenever I want.  Well, actually, whenever the baby naps and I have 15 minutes.  5 to come up with the idea to make bread and 10 to put everything in the bread machine.  Whatever.  Fresh bread for everyone!

There are loads of basic bread machine recipes floating around out there.  I’ve yet to found “the one”, so in the meantime, I make one that’s good enough.  Some recipes call for letting the yeast “bloom”, while most bread machine instructions tell you to place all the ingredients into the machine and just hit start.  My experience has been that letting the yeast bloom definitely gives a softer, fluffier and taller bread.  The soft and fluffy part is good, but I have a small capacity bread machine, so the tall part ends up looking a little silly.  Either way, I don’t think you can go wrong.

My rosemary plant is still thriving on the deck right now, and it was practically demanding to be baked into bread.  You could substitute any of your favorite fresh or dried herbs and I’m sure the result would be equally super.

Rosemary Bread
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Bread Machine Bread
Serves: 1 loaf
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2¼ tsp bread machine yeast (or one packet active dry yeast)
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  1. Combine the warm water, yeast and sugar in the bread machine
  2. Let sit about 10 minutes or until yeast bubbles
  3. Add olive oil, salt, rosemary, garlic and lemon zest to bread machine
  4. Select Basic or White bread setting and press Start


At Last

cornCue Etta James, because the moment of summer we’ve been waiting for has arrived.  Well, in this house anyway.  CORN!  Hopefully, your farm stand now has it fresh from the field too.  Go get some!