Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Leaner, Easier Chicken Pot Pie

My cooking philosophy changes as often as my mood. I enjoy making as much as I can from scratch, but I cheat often. I soak dried beans one week and buy canned the next. I make a cake from scratch for a birthday and then use a mix for brownies. Any number of factors influence my decision to do it one way or another. The decision to try this easy recipe was also easy. It looked and sounded like a simple and delicious way to make more of the comfort food I've been craving. I was sure glad I took a short cut in this case: I was out of time by the time I got to making dinner. Cheating or not, this chicken pot pie is delicious.

Serves 6

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced celery
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 can of low fat cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup no salt added or low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced fat Bisquick mix
  • 1 cup 1% milk
  • salt and pepper to tasted


Preheat oven to 350F. In a large casserole dish coated with nonstick spray, layer the chicken onto the bottom of the dish. Top the chicken with the carrots, celery and frozen peas. Whisk together the stock, soup and salt and pepper if needed in a separate container. Add the mixture overtop of the chicken and vegetables. Combine the milk and Bisquick mix, whisking well to remove any lumps. Pour the batter over top of the pie. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until the top of the pie has browned. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pumpkin & Mushroom Risotto with Chocolate & Coffee Glazed Short Ribs

When I first saw this recipe, I drooled a little, but then did a double take at the work involved in preparing the dish. After having made all elements of it once, I can tell you that it is not as complex as it may appear at first. The trick is to plan ahead. Too bad I didn't. The beef needs to marinate overnight and I had trouble finding short ribs in the first place. When I finally did, I had to cut down on the marinating and cooking time in order to have the dish ready later that day. This isn't a meal that affords short cuts. Follow the recipe and you should be wowed. 

The second issue I had was my choice of meat. Had I had more success at finding quality short ribs, I would have picked some that were cut between the bone instead of through it. I suspect I would have been able to shred the beef with ease had it been cut differently too. 

Despite my experiment's shortcomings, I still enjoyed the meal. The pumpkin risotto was particularly yummy and can be made on its own. The ribs are spicy so if spice is an issue, I would omit the chipotle peppers. If not, add more!


Serves 8


For the short ribs

  • 3lbs short ribs
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced onions
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 beef or veggie broth
  • 1 T molasses
  • 1 cup beer (recipe calls for porter or a chocolate stout, but I used pumpkin ale0
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup coffee
  • 2 chilis in adobo, chopped
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 t ginger, minced
  • 2 T soya sauce
  • 1 T dijon mustard

For the mushrooms

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 t fresh chopped sage
  • 1 t fresh chopped thyme
  • 1, 8 oz package of crimini mushrooms

For the risotto

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup pumpkin beer
  • 1 cup veggie stock
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 1/4 ground pepper


For the short ribs

Place the ribs, the cayenne pepper and lemon juice in a freezer bag and shake well. Seal and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight, squishing the bag every so often to mix the marinade with the beef.

Once marinated, remove the beef from the bag and pat dry. Heat oven to 375F. Heat a pan on medium-high heat and add the oil. Sear the ribs on all sides and set aside.

Turn heat down to medium and add the onions, stirring for about 5 minutes. Once softened add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add in the cacao powder and stir until all the onions are coated. Add the broth to deglaze the pan, scraping the bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the molasses until incorporated and then add all other remaining ingredients except the salt and pepper to the mix.

Transfer the onions and sauce to a dutch oven and add the ribs. Cover and bake for 2-3 hours, or until the ribs are very tender. Remove the ribs from the dutch oven and place the oven on the stove on medium heat until the liquid is reduced by half.

When the ribs have cooled enough, remove the meat from the bones and add the meat back into the dutch oven (my ribs weren't shreddable...long story, but were added anyways). Keep warm until the risotto is ready.

For the mushrooms

In a pan over medium heat, add the oil and the mushrooms, cooking until the mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes. Blend in the thyme and sage and cook for 1 minute more. Set aside and keep warm.

For the risotto

Mix the pumpkin puree, beer and stock in a pot over low heat. Reserve with a ladle on hand. 

In a second pot on medium heat, add the olive oil and onions, stirring frequently and letting them sweat for about 10 minutes. Stir in the rice until coated with the oil and browned slightly. Add one cup of the liquid and stir until absorbed by the rice. Continue adding the liquid, half a cup at a time until half the liquid is gone. Add the mushrooms, stirring well. Keep adding the liquid in half-cup increments until the rice is al dente. Portion the rice into shallow bowls. Top with the rib mixture and serve.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Shepherd's Pie for the Sophistimacated

Oh the weather outside is...well you know what it is. In the spirit of Mad Men, I am considering getting an apartment near work, not so I can have a mistress like the male cast members, but so I can avoid a two-hour commute home when the bad whether socks in. 

It's a good thing I had comfort food waiting for me when I got home. Thick, rich, whipped potatoes, blended with Greek yogurt and parsley and buried underneath: a bed of ground beef, vegetables and spices. This is a leaner version of Shepherd's Pie and one worth making on the weekend because it makes for great leftovers. I call this recipe sophistimacated because I doubt the Irish had all the spices and perhaps even the vegetables available for this version. Luckily, I do!

Only slightly modified from:

Serves 6


  • 1lb lean or extra lean ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup of chopped carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups of green peas ( I used frozen)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped and divided in half
  • 1 1/2 cups of stock
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 t dried thyme 
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 1/2 t cayenne pepper
  • pinch of allspice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 T corn starch disolved in 2 T water
  • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I chose 2%)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the potatoes. Boil for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through.

While the potatoes cook, sauté the onions until translucent. Add the garlic, carrots and thyme and cook until soft. Blend in the tomato paste. As the vegetables cook, break up the ground beef in a bowl and mix in the oregano, half of the parsley, coriander, cayenne and allspice. Add the seasoned beef in small amounts to the vegetables that are cooking until all is added and cooked through. Add the peas and stock and simmer, covered for 15 minutes.

While the beef mixture is simmering, drain the potatoes and mash them, adding the Greek yogurt and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. 

Once the stew's stock has reduced, add the corn starch mixture, stirring well. Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish and top with the potatoes. Place under a broiler on high until the potato topping peaks is golden brown, about 5-10 minutes. Remove and serve with the remaining parsley sprinkled on top of the pie.