Chicken Pot Pie

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It’s beginning to get a little cooler here, which I hate because I love summer.  However, I do like the comfort foods that are associated with fall and winter–stews, roasts, and pot pie!  It was a rainy day when I made this last week and I had leftover rotisserie chicken, so pot pie it was!  This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten, so you know it’s good!!!

Ingredients
2 cups shredded chicken
5 cups chicken stock
2 chicken bouillon cubes
12 tbs. unsalted butter
2 cups chopped yellow onions
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups diced carrots, blanched
10 oz package frozen peas
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Pie crust
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbs. water

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a small saucepan, heat up chicken stock and bouillon cubes, making sure the cubes are fully dissolved.  In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat.  Add onions until they become translucent.  Add flour and turn the burner to low.  Stir mixture thoroughly until it becomes a very light brown, very wet sand with onion mixture.  Add stock and stir until it becomes thick.  Add salt, pepper, and heavy cream.  Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.  Then add chicken, carrots, and peas; mix well.

Divide mixture into 4 ovenproof bowls.  Divide pie crusts into 4 pieces to cover the bowls.  Brush some egg wash on the edges of the bowl, then place pie crust.  Crimp and seal crust over the bowl.  Brush crust with egg wash, sprinkle pepper (and sea salt) on crust, and then cut 3 small slits into the crust.  Place bowls on a baking sheet and place in the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the crust is golden brown.

Cook’s Notes
This can be a baby led weaning recipe.  I would either take a baby portion of the crust and stew and have it sit in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Or I would just cook the crust separately and serve the warmed stew and crust.  The stew bit is already cooked, but when it comes out of the oven it is soooooo piping hot.  My son’s pot pie sat for an hour, even after we put an ice cube in, before it was cool enough for him to eat.

To save time, I always use a cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.  A whole chicken costs $4.99 where I am, and we never eat an entire one for dinner.  So I repurpose the leftover chicken into the pot pie.  It’s easier and saves me time.  I also buy pie crusts just because it’s easier and saves me time.  But I know some people like to make their own crusts, which you can do of course.

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Braised Chicken and Kale

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So this is a go to recipe in our home.  It is a very light, healthy meal that’s also rather filling.  That’s because I adapted this recipe from Cooking Light.  I end up making it once a week and I feel healthier for doing so (although I really don’t like kale and can’t wait for that food trend to end).

Ingredients
2 tbs. canola oil
4 chicken thighs
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup flour
5 garlic cloves, minced
16oz package chopped kale
14oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
1 tbs. red wine vinegar

Directions
Preheat oven to 325°F.

Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add the canola oil.  Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour.  Place chicken, skin side down first in oil.  Render out most of the fat from the skin, about 5 minutes.  Then flip over chicken and brown for another 2-3 minutes.  Remove from dutch oven.

Take half of the kale and put in dutch oven.  Stir and then cover for 2 minutes to let the kale wilt down a bit.  Then take the remaining kale and garlic and add to the dutch oven.  Stir and cover again allowing the kale to wilt all the way down.  Then add tomatoes and its juices and stock.  Bring to a boil.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom bits off the dutch oven.  Then bring mixture down to a simmer.  Place chicken back inside the dutch oven.  Cover and place in the oven for about 50 minutes (or until the chicken reaches and internal temperature of 165°F).

Remove from oven when done.  Take chicken out and add vinegar to the veggies.

Cook’s Notes
I actually serve this with a side of rice because we can’t live without carbs in this house.  I’m sure it would go great with potatoes, or as pictured above.

This is actually a really great baby led weaning recipe.  Just take the skin off and shred the meat.  And make sure you give the kale without the rib pieces as those are far too tough to gum.  I mix it all up in a bowl with rice and serve it to my kids.  My daughter actually preferred the kale over the meat.

Baked Zucchini Fries

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With summer coming to a close, so does our version of French fries.  These baked zucchini fries make a great side dish or snack (or in the case of my kids, their main course).  Pair it with this homemade avocado ranch dipping sauce, and you’ll have a great snack for watching that football game with your adult pals.

Ingredients
1 large zucchini, cut into fry shape
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
cooking spray

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Take a cookie sheet, line it with foil, then spray with cooking spray.

Combine the bread crumbs and cheese in a shallow bowl.  Whisk eggs in a separate shallow bowl.

Take the zucchini, dip in the eggs, coat in the bread crumb mixture, and then place on your baking sheet.

Place in the oven for 20 minutes, turning the fries over after 10 minutes.

Cook’s Notes
chef_OllieThis is actually a great recipe to have a toddler help you with.  My son loves to help out in the kitchen, and this is our go to recipe to make his “French fries” (this is what he calls them).  I have him beat the eggs a little.  I place the zucchini in the eggs and then mix it in the bread crumbs.  I then have him fish for the zucchini to place on the baking sheet.  Obviously, you know your child best, so whatever task you feel comfortable with them doing you should have them do.  Just make sure you aren’t too pressed for time since little kids are super super slow, and that you are ok with a mess because little kids just don’t know what clean really means.

eatingThis is also a great baby led weaning recipe.  The fries provide different, great textures–the crunchy coat and the soft middle of the zucchini.  It’s also a great shape for your baby to easily pick up on their own to feed themselves.  They might not be so keen on the dipping sauce, but they will love the fries themselves.

Spinach and Bacon Quiche

quiche

This is a great go to recipe in our home.  When my son was first learning how to eat, this was a major hit with him.  My daughter tried it tonight, and she too loved it (although I was picking out the bacon pieces).  It’s a great dish to sneak in some good spinach.  Most of all, I love how I can make it for dinner and then reheat it for breakfast and lunch.  How can you not enjoy pie dough for all three meals?!?!

Ingredients
Pie dough for a 9″ pie or tart pan
6 oz. bag of baby spinach
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1 minced garlic
1 tbs. olive oil
~5 cooked bacon strips
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. pepper
A dash of nutmeg
1 cup cheese (cheddar or gruyere)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F.

You will need to blind bake your pie crust.  This means slightly baking your pie crust, that way your crust and filling will finish at the same time.  To do this, line your crust with parchment paper (or foil) and fill with pie weights (or dry beans you have lying around).  Pop it in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove the weights and poke the dough all over with a fork.  Then pop it back into the oven for another 10 minutes.

While your dough is baking, cook your bacon strips.  You can do a quick short cut and buy microwavable bacon too.  Just make sure your bacon is pretty crispy to give your quiche more texture.  I feel like soggy bacon gives you a more ham-type texture.  When your bacon is done, finely chop and set aside.

In a saute pan over medium heat, add the olive oil.  Saute your shallots until they become translucent.  Add half of the baby spinach and cover it for 2-3 minutes to allow the spinach to wilt down.  Then add the rest of the spinach and cover again for 2-3 minutes.  Add the garlic and mix for another minute or two, then place mixture in a bowl and set aside.

In a bowl, thoroughly mix the milk, heavy cream, eggs, pepper, and nutmeg.  Set custard aside.

When your pie crust is done blind baking, add the spinach mixture and evenly spread.  Then add the bacon and cheese.  Slowly add your custard mixture making sure things don’t overflow.  Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes (your quiche should be firm, but jiggle a bit).  Allow your quiche to cool for 10 minutes and serve.

quiche2You can omit the bacon if your baby isn’t ready to eat it (which I would do with Sammy).  I also didn’t add any salt because I feel like you get enough saltiness from the bacon.  So if you omit the bacon, you may want to add salt (unless you are baby led weaning, in which case you are probably becoming very familiar with your salt shaker by now).  Like I said earlier, such a great go to dish!

Turkey Meatloaf

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So with Sammy getting the hang of eating solids, we decided it was time to venture out from fruits and veg into meats. This Ina Garten recipe was a hit when Oliver was her age, and so tonight it was Sammy’s turn (she was a bit skeptical, but ate it with a little mash and steamed carrots).  I halved the recipe because no one wants meatloaf for days.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup of chopped onions
1 tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. of fresh thyme
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/6 cup of Worcestershire sauce
3/8 cup of chicken stock
3/4 tsp. tomato paste
2 1/2 lbs. of ground turkey
3/4 cup of plain bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
~1/2 cup of ketchup

Directions
Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Warm the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add onions, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook until the onions are translucent.  Mix in the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste.  Take mixture and put in a bowl and let it cool in the freezer for about 5-10  minutes.  You don’t want to put your hot mixture in with your cool turkey because you will end up cooking some of the turkey.  Plus you don’t want to burn yourself doing the next step.

In a large bowl, combine onion mixture, turkey, bread crumbs, and egg. Mix well, but don’t over mix the turkey.  Once combined, put mixture on a baking sheet (I usually line mine with aluminum foil so there’s less clean up) and form mixture into a loaf shape.  Then take the ketchup and spread it evenly on top using an offset spatula.

Place in the oven for about 45-50 minutes, or until you get an internal temperature of 160°F (I always go by internal temperature).  Serve immediately and the next day the leftovers can be used in sandwiches.

Crock-Pot Pot Roast

pot_roast

crock_potProbably not the best post photo of food I’ve ever taken, but it’s hard to take a nice fancy plated photo when you have a monster demanding dinner and daddy monster away for the evening.

Anyhoo… I don’t know why, but I really don’t like using my crock-pot.  I know it is convenient cause you just throw things in the pot, set it, and then forget it.  I also know that it is much safer than say braising something in the oven, which is my preferred method of cooking.  But today I forced myself to find a decent recipe for the crock-pot.  With Baby #2 on the way, I doubt I’ll have time to really slave over a stove and oven.  Although this recipe probably isn’t the easiest of crock-pot recipes.  I adapted a Food Network recipe, and it was pretty tasty.

ingredientsIngredients
3-4 lb. chuck roast
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup flour
2 tbs. olive oil
1-2 tbs. butter
4 medium carrots, chopped into 1 in. pieces
4 stalks celery, chopped into 1 in. pieces
1 medium onion, chopped into 2 in. pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbs. tomato paste
1 cup red wine
3 cups low-sodium beef broth
4 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. all spice

Directions
Generously sprinkle kosher salt and ground pepper on your roast.  Heat the olive oil in a medium-high skillet.  Sear all sides of the roast (about 4 minutes per side), then transfer into the crock-pot along with your chopped veggies.

Reduce the heat to medium, and add the butter and tomato paste to your skillet.  Stir with a wooden spoon until you achieve a brick reddish color.  Grab a whisk, add the flour, and then add the wine.  Whisk vigorously.  You’ll end up with clumps, which is ok.  Make sure you try to scrape the bits off the bottom of the skillet.  Add the beef broth, bay leaves, thyme, and all spice.  Bring to a simmer.  Add some salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk until the gravy has thickened (it’s ok if there are still a few lumps).

cookingPour the gravy into the crock-pot.  Cover and set to low for 8-ish hours (or if you are in a hurry, high for 3-4 hours).  Your roast is done if both the veg and meat are tender (the meat basically falls apart with just a tug of the fork).  I also make sure that the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160°F.

Take the meat out, cut against the grain, place on your serving platter.  Toss the thyme and any of the bay leaves you can find.  Strain the veg and place along side your meat.  You should be left with the gravy in the crock-pot.  Taste it as it may need additional salt and pepper.  Take a little gravy and pour over your platter just to moisten, and serve the rest of the gravy on the side in your gravy boat.


oliver_pot_roast

I serve this with a side of mash potatoes for Oliver and I.  He did look at it a bit hesitantly.  But he does that with every meal, including cake!

oliver_approved

But judging from that face, it was a huge hit!  He also wanted a second portion of mash.  Not sure where he is putting all this food…

I’ve made pot roast before for Oliver when he was much younger and doing the baby led weaning.  You can give your baby everything in the pot, just make sure the chunks of meat are large.  They’ll end up gnawing and sucking on the beef, which is fine (they are getting some iron and enjoying the flavors).  Just make sure you leave out all the salt.

Crunchy Parenting

I think because I started cloth diapering my son people assume I am a “crunchy mom”.  In actuality I am just a cheap mom, and my husband and I probably lean more on the side of main stream parenting than not.

Cloth Diapering

So yes, we cloth diaper in the beginning.  Why?  Because a newborn goes through A LOT of diapers in the beginning–something like 12 times a day.  But when you are washing the diapers yourself to reuse them, it actually will work out cheaper when you reuse them with your second child (which is what we are doing).  The initial cost is a lot, but ultimately in the end you may even make out a profit when compared to disposables (I plan on selling my used cloth diapers when we are done with children).  It also really isn’t difficult, especially when you are dealing with breast milk.  You are already doing a lot of laundry anyways, what’s one more load of diapers every other day?

Why I don’t think I am crunchy?  We stop cloth diapering when the kid grows out of the diapers or starts solids, whatever comes first.  It’s harder to deal with solid poop (like putting the poop in the toilet, spraying, treating, etc.).  We start using disposables, and at this point they aren’t going through as many diapers as they were in the beginning.  Now we probably go through 3-5 diapers a day.  And it’s just easier to roll the poopy diaper up and toss it in the trash while my kid tries to break free from the diaper changing–there’s just no time to deal with cloth diapers then.  We have always used disposables at night and whenever we are going out of the house for the entire day.

Co-Sleeping

I guess we did a form of co-sleeping in the beginning.  We had something similar to a co-sleeper that we used next to our bed.  It made sense cause the newborn will be fed every 2-3 hours in the beginning.  It was also nice to know that he was still breathing cause I could easily just look over and stick my hand on his chest (yes, I did that a few times that first couple of weeks).

Why I don’t think I’m crunchy?  Cause we immediately stopped this sleeping arrangement when we sleep trained him when we knew he could sleep through the night.  My husband and I wanted an independent child who has the ability to put himself to sleep on his own.  Admittedly it was selfish at first; it was completing exhausting for both my husband and I to physically put him to sleep EVERY SINGLE TIME.  We were no longer sleeping well again, which meant that we were not pleasant to him or each other during the day.  We also realized we couldn’t have him sleep in our bed with us.  As easy as it was for him to fall asleep next to me in our bed, I would never sleep well between him kicking me out of bed or just the sheer worry that either my husband or I would crush him.  Though it was tough at first, we now have a son who is able to sleep on his own after we tell him goodnight for both naps and night time sleep.  He doesn’t need a pacifier to soothe himself; just his own voice singing himself to sleep.  He very rarely wakes up in the middle of the night and our naps have more often than not been good, long naps.

I do admit that we occasionally have him sleep with us.  These special occasions are when he is sick (basically he’s miserable with a fever) or we are in a hotel cause he just won’t go to sleep in a hotel.  Otherwise, he’s a good sleeper and we in turn as parents sleep well.

Baby-led Weaning

Yes, this is quite a progressive parenting choice.  Babies usually get their first taste of solids at 3 or 4 months, something like rice cereal.  But here’s a progressive method of introducing solids that requires you to delay the introduction of solids till at least 6 months and the parent should be ok with the baby not really consuming foods in the beginning.  This was totally us, after a trial and failure at purees (but at 6 months instead of 3 months like it was suggested to us).

Why I don’t think I’m crunchy?  I did this because I was tired of struggling to get my son to eat solids food.  It was honestly just easier to give him the food we were eating and letting him explore vs. trying to force food down his throat while one parent ate food.  This ended up being my son and husband having dinner together and me eating later.  From that point forward, it was just pleasant to (kind of) eat dinner as a whole family, which we still do now.  It wasn’t because we believe that baby-led weaning is the best way to introduce solids.  I mean if my son took to purees easily, we would have done that.  But again, we did what was easiest and less stressful for us as a family.

Baby Wearing

Yes, we wore my son in the beginning.  It was nice to have him close to us and bond in that way.  He enjoyed it, and we figured out which carriers worked best for us.

Why I don’t think I’m crunchy?  We didn’t nearly wear him a lot when compared to other parents.  The only times we wore him were times we could not use the car seat and/or stroller.  Again, it was out of convenience.  This new baby will probably be worn more than her brother just because he will be in the stroller (and I don’t want to buy a new double stroller for the both of them to use).

So while others may think (judge) that I am a crunchy mom and that my husband is a crunchy dad, in actuality we just parent how we think fits our family’s needs.  This is usually whatever is easiest and convenient.  As I told my friend earlier today, there’s no right or wrong way to parent.  If you find the balance, you and your partner are on the same page, and you are happy (albeit, tired) at the end of the day, then you are doing it right.