All Pie’d Out

Tonight was the annual Book Fair and also the Pie and Cider Fundraiser for my older son’s elementary school. It also happened that I made Chicken Pot Pie for dinner. Naturally, in addition to dinner I did have to sample the dessert pies (apple and pumpkin) at the fundraiser. And now, much as I love pie, I can officially say I am all pie’d out for the night.

Of all the pies, I will say mine had the best crust. Pie crust can be tricky to make, but over the last couple of years I have figured out a basically foolproof recipe. People argue over whether a butter crust or an oil or lard crust is better. Butter crusts are supposed to be more flavorful and flakier, while oil/lard is easier to work with and crispier. My pie crust secret is not to choose between the two types of crust, but to combine the benefits of both – I do this by using butter AND oil in my crust. It always turns out really well.

Here is the recipe.

Chicken Pot Pie with Perfect Pie Crust.

Perfect Pie Crust

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, chilled
4 Tablespoons oil
1/2 cup ice water

Chicken Filling

2 cups cubed cooked chicken
2 Tablespoons cooking oil
1 small onion, chopped small
2 small peeled potatoes cut in 1/2 inch cubes
Flour to make a roux
Chicken broth
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
Salt, pepper and sage to taste
1/4 teaspoon thyme

Making the crust:

The crust must be made first and refrigerated for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

To make the dough for the crust, combine the flour and salt in a bowl (such as the bowl of a large stand mixer). Stir well.

Slice chilled butter into 1/4″ cubes

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Add cubed butter to the flour and salt mixture.

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Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour, until the butter is in consistent pea-sized lumps.

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Use a mixer on slow speed to incorporate oil to the flour and butter mixture, then very slowly add chilled water. When dough balls up, turn off the mixer. It is very important not to overwork this dough. Visible chunks of butter are good – they will make the crust flaky.

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Remove dough to a floured board. With floured hands, lightly pat together the dough. Do not knead. Roll the dough ball into a cylindrical shape and cut in half. Roll both halves into a ball, sprinkle with flour, cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

At this point you can also freeze this dough for future use.

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To make the filling:

Cube 2 cups of cooked chicken in 1/2″ cubes and set aside.

Finely chop a small onion. Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a large sauté pan on medium low heat, and sauté the onions until translucent. Do not allow to brown.

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Cube 2 small potatoes in 1/2 inch cubes, and sauté with the onions.

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When onions and potatoes start to soften sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of flour to make a paste (technically, this paste is a roux).

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To the roux, add broth over low heat to make a thick gravy.

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When gravy has thickened, add in frozen vegetables. Mix well and reduce heat to low as you assemble the pie.

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Assembling the pie:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove one ball of pastry dough from the refrigerator and place on a floured board.

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Using a floured pastry roller, begin to roll out the dough ball until it is large enough to fit your pie plate (recipe easily fits a 9″ plate when rolled to about 1/8″).

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Drape the first crust over the pie plate. Roll out the second dough ball in the same way and set aside while you fill the pie.

Spread the cubed chicken evenly over the bottom crust in the pie plate. Over the top of that, pour and evenly spread the vegetable/gravy filling. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, sage and thyme to taste.

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Drape the top crust over the top of the filling. Fold back the crust 1/3 at a time to expose the bottom crust edge and brush it with water using a pastry brush. Fold the top crust back down to cover and repeat two more times, press the edges together to seal the pie.

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Cut off the excess crust – you can set this aside to roll out and make apple dumplings if you have enough left over. Use a fork to make a decorative edge. Poke some holes in the top and place in a 350 degree oven.

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Bake for 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

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Serves 4 – 6 people who like pie.

Banana Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Nutella

Today we were having trouble with one of our cars, so going to the gym to work out wasn’t really possible. Evidently it needs a new starter, so we were down to one car. I did my long run yesterday, so it was supposed to be a recovery day anyway. However, when I don’t go to the gym I need to find something to do to keep Oleg (and myself) entertained. He likes helping with baking, so I decided to bake up some muffins. I had some old bananas around that were just right for making banana muffins, so I decided to go with that, with a few special tweaks. For instance we don’t put nuts in muffins – we put chocolate chips. Because they are better that way.

By the way, did you know that you can store overripe bananas in the freezer? It’s true. They always seem to go bad one or two at a time and you usually need 3 or 4 for baking. Just freeze them as they go bad and use them for muffins or banana bread once you have enough.

These are the muffins we made and they are every bit as ridiculously awesome as the name suggests.

Banana Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Nutella

Dry Ingredients
2 cups flour (1 cup whole wheat, 1 cup white)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients
4 overripe bananas, mashed
1 egg
1/4 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

Add Ins
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Nutella

Ready? Let’s go. Gather your ingredients.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl (I actually just used a large measuring cup), stir together the dry ingredients until they are well mixed. Set aside. Oleg wants you to know he was in charge of this part. He did a very good job.

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In a large bowl (I just throw everything into the bowl of a large stand mixer), pour in and mix together the wet ingredients.

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When all wet ingredients are incorporated, slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix until wet and dry ingredients are fully incorporated.

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Stir in the chocolate chips.

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Grease a muffin tin with butter. Kids can help with this part.

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Scoop about 1/4 cup of batter into each muffin cup, filling each cup about 1/2 full (should fill all cups of one muffin tin). When tins are filled, scoop a small dollop of Nutella (about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon) onto the top of each muffin batter.

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Swirl a toothpick around in the Nutella and batter to give a marbled effect.

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Bake in oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean (a little Nutella may stick, but the batter should not). Makes 12 muffins.

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Oleg gives these his seal of approval. You can trust him. Not only is he an excellent baking assistant, he’s also a noted connoisseur of baked goods. His first English word was “cookie,” after all.

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Quinoa and Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

For dinner tonight I made Stuffed Squash with Quinoa and Sausage. To save time and add a nice flavor, I used a quick cooking Olive Oil and Rosemary Quinoa and Brown Rice blend from Near East foods (here) as the base for the stuffing.

To save time, the filling can be prepared and squashes can stuffed ahead of time. To save even more baking time, the squash halves can be microwaved until soft prior to being stuffed. If this is done, the stuffed squashes will only require 20 minutes of baking time.

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Quinoa and Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash
1 box Nile Foods Olive Oil and Rosemary Quinoa blend
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
2 medium to large acorn squashes
1 small to medium onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lb. chicken Italian sausage
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Prepare the Quinoa blend according to the package instructions, adding in 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage before cooking. Set aside and allow to cool.

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, sweat the onion in the olive oil over low heat until translucent.

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Turn up the heat to medium and add the sausage.

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Brown the sausage, being sure to break up the sausage into small chunks.

Turn off the heat and add the cooled quinoa blend and 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese.

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Cut acorn squashes in half from stem to flower end (the pointy part).

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Scoop out the seeds. Cut a small slice of peel off each squash half so that they will lie flat on a baking sheet. If the flesh is more than 1/2″ thick, microwave the squash halves for 2 – 3 minutes or until flesh just starts to soften. Place the squash halves on a baking sheet.

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Stuff the squashes with the quinoa/sausage mixture. Use all the mixture, mounding the stuffing on top of the filled squash halves. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

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Bake about 30 – 40 minutes or until squash is completely soft when poked with a fork in the stem end. If cheese browns before the squash is done, cover the tops with tented foil (make sure the foil doesn’t touch the cheese). Makes 4.

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Peanut Butter Oatmeal Gems

It’s a cold, rainy Friday here at our house and this kind of weather makes me want to do something to make myself feel better. I miss the sun already. Although I will say I am cheered somewhat by the fact that snow has started falling in the mountain passes. Maybe we will have an early ski season? Trying to stay positive!

Hey, speaking of staying positive, it is a scientific fact that cookies can improve mood, especially if they contain chocolate. I can’t point you to any official research on the subject, but I can tell you that I have personally tested and proven this hypothesis many times. However, in my observation it’s dose dependent. If I am feeling down and eat one or two cookies, I feel happier after. If I eat an entire batch, then I am more depressed and considering bulimia as a viable life choice.

(Just kidding, this blog neither practices nor endorses bulimia).

It is said that emotional eating = no bueno. However, I am pretty sure that whoever said this does not live in Seattle. If you live in Seattle and you know you are at the front end of a 6 month stretch of no sun, you do what you gotta do. So, I am going to have some damn cookies. However, in the interest of not undoing all my hard work, I need something sort of healthy(ish) that still tastes good and feels satisfying. Everyone in the family has to like them, since I don’t want to have to eat them all myself.

Here is a recipe that fits the bill. It contains no flour, no butter and only 7 ingredients, so it is super simple to make. The dough also keeps pretty well for a few days in the refrigerator, so if you’re like me and can’t leave cookies alone, you can just make a few at a time so you avoid eating the whole batch in one sitting.

Hopefully this time I listed all the ingredients! There are only supposed to be seven, so I think we are okay this time.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Gems

1/2 cup peanut butter (can be crunchy or creamy)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 and 1/4 cup instant oatmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the peanut butter, brown sugar and egg in a medium size bowl (I mix them in the bowl of a stand mixer).

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In a small bowl, stir together the oatmeal and baking soda, then add to the peanut butter mixture. Stir until all ingredients are incorporated. Stir chocolate chips in by hand.

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Scoop a spoonful of dough (should be a 1″ to 1-1/2″ lump) and roll into a ball between your hands. My lovely assistant here demonstrates the proper technique – it’s more of a cradle and pat, than a true roll.

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Place about 2″ apart on a nonstick cookie sheet.

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Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or just until bottoms are slightly golden.

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These cookies are about 100 calories each, fairly high in protein and low in cholesterol due to using peanut butter instead of butter. Just don’t be like some people I know and eat the whole batch. Remember it’s not so much about what you eat but how often and how much.

So go ahead and enjoy yourself. Winter IS coming, after all.

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This is Max and Oleg, Eatandrunmom’s official cookie testers, and they have approved this message.

Recipes are Hard!

Turns out that this recipe needed baking soda and salt. Also pumpkin. Pretty sure those are crucial ingredients in a pumpkin muffin.

Oh well. Hopefully nobody followed it the way I originally wrote it but if you did, a) I apologize, and b) I’m curious from a scientific point of view to know what happened. I suppose it would be sort of an unleavened spice cake. So either really good, or really gross.

Probably the latter.  Kind of like the time I made cookies without flour.

Anyway, thanks Barbara for catching my mistake!

Welcome Fall!

I have to admit that the end of summer and the coming of the Fall season makes me feel a little melancholy, since living here in the Seattle area means that the rainy, cloudy season will soon be upon us. No more days at the beach with the kids, no more need for sunscreen when I run, and pretty soon we’ll have to turn on the heat. I’ll even have to keep my jacket on when I run.

But there are some bright spots – one is the tastes of Fall. When it comes to autumn flavors, the ones I like best come in the form of pumpkin and spice. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies and muffins – anything but that nasty Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks. Seriously, that stuff is gross.

So to welcome Fall and keep looking on the bright side, I made pumpkin muffins today.

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My recipe is a slightly healthier variation on the recipe from the Libby’s website. You could healthy it up even more by substituting some applesauce for the oil but I never like how things turn out when you do that. So mine is a full fat, full sugar, slightly more fiber version.

Welcome Fall Pumpkin Muffins

Dry Ingredients
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Wet Ingredients
4 eggs
15 oz. can pumpkin purée (NOT pie filling)
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup apple juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease or paper line two large baking tins (24 medium muffins). In a large bowl (I use a stand mixer), blend together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until light yellow, then mix in the rest of the wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients, and mix with a hand or stand mixer on low until all ingredients are fully incorporated.

Scoop about 1/3 cup of muffin batter into each muffin tin, about 2/3 or 3/4 full. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean. Remove from the tins to a wire rack to cool.

Serve with coffee or Market Spice Tea, and think happy autumnal thoughts. Be sure to allow someone you love to lick the beater.

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