Chicken Pot Pie

Is there anything more comforting than a Chicken Pot Pie? It turns out, yes, yes there is: four chicken pot pies!

This recipe is a beast. The original recipe claims it makes three pies. My best friend uses the same recipe and routinely gets 5 or 6 pies out of it. I always get a solid four. Maybe it has to do with the pan size and/or the amount of filling per pie, or maybe there’s some Sisterhood of the Traveling Pies magic going on here… hard to say. Either way, you can count on your freezer being fully stocked after making this.

Here’s the thing, though. It’s kind of a commitment. It takes two to three hours, all in. Your feet will hurt. Your back will hurt. But your house will smell heavenly, and your husband will do the dishes for you because he’s going to be so grateful for the Chicken Pot Pie about to be stuffed in his piehole (see what I did there?).

It’s time-consuming, but it’s not difficult, and that makes all the difference in the world. Here’s how it goes:

You chop a LOT of veggies. You will feel like you’ve been chopping for your entire life. Your hand will cramp. Your eyes will be watery (from the onions and from the sheer exhaustion). And you will have a mound o’ veggies to show for it.
Chicken Pot Pie | Chrissie Cooks

You boil and shred some chicken. A LOT of chicken (sensing a common theme with this recipe?). But here’s the good news: you’re about to learn a new trick. Don’t shred your chicken with two forks like some kinda chump (unless you want cramped claw hands for the rest of the day). Just drop that cooked chicken in your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, and run it on low for 30 seconds to a minute. And then watch with amazement when your chicken is shredded to perfection with zero effort.
Chicken Pot Pie | Chrissie Cooks

While the chicken is shredding itself, you sautè the veggies with a bit of butter in the biggest pot you’ve got (trust me – you’re gonna need a ginormous pot). After a few minutes, add in chicken broth and potatoes, and let it simmer. At this point you’re thinking, “oh yeah, my pot is totally big enough. I got this.”
Chicken Pot Pie | Chrissie Cooks

Let that simmer until the broth reduces by half (or about 20 – 25 minutes, if you have no idea how to mark how much “half” is in a humongous pot filled with veggies and potatoes, like me). Then add in a few cans of Cream of Chicken soup, your self-shredded chicken, and some peas, and stir that up real good. (This is when you start to panic that maybe your pot isn’t going to be big enough and what if it overflows and oh god if I have to dirty another pot for this meal I’m going to lose it but oh thank god it all fits!)
Chicken Pot Pie | Chrissie CooksAnd now the fun part – assembly! Line your foil pie pans with crust, drop in some filling (I usually mound it very slightly in the middle so it’s not totally flat), then top with another crust. Smoosh the crust edges together with your fingers or a fork, poke some holes for venting, and repeat, until you’re out of filling.
Chicken Pot Pie | Chrissie CooksWrap up the ones you’re freezing nice and tight, label them, and stick them straight in the freezer before temptation overcomes you and end up eating the raw dough and filling. Assuming you’re making one of them right away (because what kind of superhuman could do all that work and not get any instant gratification?), put that one in the oven at 350 F for 45-50 minutes. And then collapse on the couch until it’s ready and make your husband get up and get it out for you because you’re exhausted and you’ve earned it.
Chicken Pot Pie | Chrissie Cooks

Chicken Pot Pie
Adapted From The Test Kitchen of Melissa Fallis
Yield: 4(ish) pies

Ingredients:

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 onions
  • 6 carrots
  • 6 celery stalks
  • 3 potatoes
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 42 oz. chicken broth
  • 3 (14oz) cans of green peas
  • 3 (10oz) cans of cream of chicken soup
  • 4 boxes refrigerated pie crusts
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Put chicken breasts in a large pot and fill with water until chicken is just covered. Bring to a boil for about 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Set aside.

Meanwhile, chop the onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes. Melt butter in a large stock pot, add the onions, carrots, and celery, and sautè for 5-10 minutes, until onions start to get translucent.

While veggies are cooking, shred the chicken, either in a stand mixer or with two forks. Set aside.

Add chicken broth and potatoes to the stock pot, and simmer over medium high heat, until broth has reduced by half (20-25 minutes, usually). Remove pie crusts from the fridge to soften for 10 minutes. Pre-heat your oven to 350 F.

Stir in shredded chicken, green peas, and cream of chicken soups into the stock pot, and turn heat down to medium low. Mix together really well, and let it blend together for a couple minutes. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Line 9″ foil pie pans with bottom crusts, and evenly distribute chicken filling so each pie is filled and slightly mounded in the center. Place remaining crusts over the filling, and pinch the edges together with your fingers or a fork. Poke a few holes in the top to ventilate using a knife or fork.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Keep an eye on the crust, and cover with foil if it starts to brown too quickly. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

Wrap the ones you’re freezing really well (2-3 layers of saran wrap), and label with date, oven temp, cooking time, and put them directly in the freezer.

Homemade Lasagna

A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to step up my game, and attempt one of the real cooking staples: lasagna. I feel like being able to throw together a lasagna totally from scratch makes you legit.

Remember that episode of Friends (“The One With The Sonogram at the End”, if you wanna get specific) where Monica’s parents are coming over and she makes lasagna to impress them, but then Rachel realizes she lost her engagement ring IN the lasagna so they have to destroy it to find it? And Monica was devastated because it was so much work, and because she knew her mom wouldn’t be impressed but whatever non-lasagna alternative she threw together? That’s probably where I got it from – most of my life views came from Friends.

"Now Monica, you know that's not how you look for an engagement ring in a lasagna..."

“Now Monica, you know that’s not how you look for an engagement ring in a lasagna…”

Anyway, so I’ve always put homemade lasagna on a pedestal and been too intimidated to attempt it, but I decided it was time to take the plunge. So I scoured the internet for the perfect recipe to work from, and came across “World’s Best Lasagna” from AllRecipes. Recipe titles don’t lie, right? In this case, recipe titles and 8,400 reviewers don’t lie. At all. This lasagna took up the better part of my Sunday, but it was so worth the sacrifice.

And really, it’s not all that hard to make. It’s just time-consuming. I ended up doubling the recipe because it doesn’t add that much more effort to the already-lengthy process, but you end up with a bonus lasagna for the freezer.

First, you brown the meat with onions and garlic in a dutch oven (or any heavy, ginormous pot you have). Then, you dump in all the tomatoes/pasta/sauce/seasonings, etc., and fill that pot to the BRIM, so it spatters all over your stovetop and annoys your husband who has to clean up after you.

Lasagna | Chrissie Cooks

Cover it, and let it simmer and smell delicious and torture you for, like, a lifetime.

After an eternity, you assemble your lasagna: sauce, noodles, cheese, more cheese, repeat. I forgot to document this part because I was too frantic that it was already 6:00 and I was starving after being tortured by deliciousness all afternoon and it still had to bake for an hour.

Sidenote: Notice there was no step for “boil the noodles.” I don’t know if there’s some magical benefit to old-fashioned lasagna noodles vs. the no-boil, oven-ready kind, but in my book, skipping a step always wins. Please enlighten me if there’s some reason I should use regular noodles instead!

Once you’re all layered up, pop it in the oven for 50 minutes, make some garlic bread, and then finally devour it. You won’t even feel bad afterwards; you’ll just be blissfully full and warm and cozy.

Lasagna | Chrissie Cooks

Yes, we were blinded by the mesmerizingly delicious smell of homemade lasagna, so I forgot to take a pic of my masterpiece before we ate… you will too, just wait.

 

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They may not be the prettiest layers, but they were the tastiest.

Homemade Lasagna
Adapted from AllRecipes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
  • 2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. white sugar
  • 1.5 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 4 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 16 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 lb. mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
In a dutch oven (or large, heavy-bottomed pot), cook meat, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well-browned. Drain the grease if you need to.

Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Cover and let simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Assemble the lasagna: spread roughly 1.5 – 2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread half of the ricotta cheese mixture on top. Then, a third of mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil (make sure the foil doesn’t touch the cheese, or spray with cooking spray to prevent sticking).

Bake, covered, for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake for another 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes (or as long as you can muster) before serving.

One Pot Chicken Lo Mein

There’s a revolution coming, y’all, and I will be gladly leading its charge. Although, I can’t imagine there will be much of a fight, because no one in their right mind would fight this one:

One. Pot. Cooking.

In my experience, one pot cooking has always consisted of soups, and stews, and chili (which I guess is some combination of a soup and a stew, if you really think about it). But this “One Pot Wonder,” as Amanda at The Wholesome Dish calls it, is on a whooooole ‘nother level.

It’s fast. It’s easy. It’s delicious. That’s the trifecta, my friends. You seriously just dump all the ingredients into a pot—uncooked chicken, dry pasta, raw veggies…

One Pot Chicken Lo Mein | Chrissie Cooks

…and top it off with some liquids—broth, sesame oil, soy sauce…

One Pot Chicken Lo Mein | Chrissie Cooks

…and simmer it for 15 minutes. 15 minutes. And then you eat it.

One Pot Chicken Lo Mein | Chrissie Cooks

And then your mind is blown because you can’t believe you just threw together a meal that good, that quickly, and you only have one pot to clean. The future is here, folks.

One Pot Chicken Lo Mein
Adapted from: The Wholesome Dish

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb chicken breast, cut into small chunks
  • 12 oz whole wheat linguini or fettuccini, broken in half
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3 inch long strips
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 3 inch long strips
  • 1 bunch green onions, white part diced and green part cut in 3 inch long strips
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. corn starch
  • 1 packet Splenda
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil

Directions:
Place chicken and pasta in large stock pot. Add carrots, red pepper, and green onions in the remaining space in the pot. Add all remaining ingredients.

Cover and bring to a boil. Stir, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, or until most of the liquid is gone and chicken is fully cooked through.

Food Fail: Parmesan-Ranch Chicken

OK, I think I’m finally ready to share a food fail here. A big, fat, ugly one. Trust me when I say I don’t do this lightly. In general, I pretty much suck at admitting defeat, and Lord help you if you try to tell me you didn’t like something I made for you. Dan has learned the hard way to tread very lightly when “critiquing” my meals. Before he even takes his first bite, he knows I’m staring intently, awaiting his reaction. And if it’s anything less than, “oh wow that’s good!” I’m going to be offended.

It’s a tough life he leads, clearly, what with his kitchen-slaving wife settling for nothing less than deliciousness for his every meal. Real tough.

Now, the actual hardship Dan deals with is my inevitable meltdown when I start to sense that a meal isn’t going as planned. It gets ugly, folks. And with this meal, that meltdown happened right around this moment…

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…The moment when I flipped my Parmesan and Ranch-breaded chicken, and all the Parmesan-Ranch goodness remained glued to the pan, not to the chicken. Not a good sign.

Now, I don’t know how, exactly, Talitha at Love Pomegranate House managed to keep her parmesan-y breading firmly secured to her chicken breasts, but I followed her seemingly simple instructions to T, and all I got was a black lump of coal glued to my pan. (Epiphany: have I been bad this year? Is this a mid-year warning from Santa for what’s to come if I don’t shape up?!)

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Doesn’t that look like a *blast* to clean? Sigh.

So we essentially had plain, unseasoned chicken for dinner last night, since all the flavors were left-behind, destined to forever be burnt onto my pan. Could I have thrown some garlic powder on top, salt & pepper, and saved the meal? Perhaps. But not in my irrational, mid-fail state of rage. And bless his heart, Dan ate that bland chicken up like a champ, without a word.

Needless to say, tonight we’re having my tried and true salmon. I can’t handle another failure.

But seriously, what did I miss?! What is the magic that prevents Parmesan from melting onto the pan?

Apricot-Glazed Chicken

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There’s something about this Apricot-Glazed Chicken that just makes you feel classy. Maybe it’s the word “apricot.” Or perhaps it’s the glaze—I’ve always been intimidated by glazes for some odd reason. Little did I know, glazes are just a bunch of stuff mixed up in a bowl and drizzled on top of something else. Regardless, this classy-sounding dish doesn’t take nearly the effort you’d expect it to.

This is another recipe I got from the fabulous The Weeknight Cook cookbook. This cookbook is true to its name; most of the recipes I’ve tried from it actually can be cooked on a weeknight, which means about 30 minutes or less for me. I’ve found that most recipes that claim to be “30 minute meals” actually take twice that long, unless you have a team of people chopping and assembling stuff for you, so an entire compilation of recipes that all more or less take 30 – 35 minutes is a big win as far as I’m concerned. Especially when they’re as fancy-sounding (and tasting) as this one. A+, Williams-Sonoma!

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Apricot-Glazed Chicken
From The Weeknight Cookbook
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 cup apricot jam
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp whole grain or Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed, quartered, and thinly sliced
    • turns out, I have no idea what a fennel bulb looks like, so I couldn’t find it at the store, and just left it out altogether

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper to your liking. In a large ovenproof pan over medium-high, heat the canola oil.

Toss in the chicken (using tongs, of course, and possibly oven mitts, if you have PTSD like me), and cook, turning a couple times, until golden brown, 8 – 10 minutes total.

While the chicken is browning, stir together the jam, vinegar, mustard, garlic, and 1/2 tsp salt. (That’s all it takes to make a glaze! Who knew?!) Brush the glaze over the chicken, leaving a tablespoon or so in the bowl. Add the fennel to bowl (assuming you know what that is and where to find it), and toss with the rest of the glaze, then add it to the pan over the chicken.

Place the pan directly in the oven, and bake about 10 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked through.

And that’s it! I served it with good ol’ mac & cheese and green beans. Enjoy!

Shrimp & Spinach Penne

Time for another old favorite! As much as I love testing out new recipes, sometimes, after a failure or two, I just need the comfort of knowing a dish is going to be good after all the effort. That’s where my A-List comes into play. I’ve got a few recipes that I always know I can throw together for a good meal, no doubt about it. And this is one of those meals: Shrimp & Spinach Penne.

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It’s healthy, tasty, and easy to get on the table in 30 minutes. And it’s got that rustic flare to it, that makes you feel like an Italian chef while you’re making it. I mean, just look at these shrimp and tomatoes sizzling in the pan, and tell me that doesn’t look awesome:

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Then, you add in the spinach, and it turns into this beautiful, colorful masterpiece:

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So if you ever need a confidence-boost in your cooking abilities, give this one a shot. You’ll feel like a pro in no time, and your payoff will be a delicious, healthy dinner!

Chicken Taco Chili

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Taco + Chili = delicious. Throw in “skinny” and you’ve got delightful. Add in “couldn’t-be-easier,” and you’ve got perfection. (So, for those not paying attention, Perfection = Taco + Chili + Skinny + Couldn’t-Be-Easier.)

And therefore I present to you, Skinnytaste’s Chicken Taco Chili.

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In all seriousness, this meal couldn’t be more perfect for Dan & me. My favorite food is tacos (well, any and all Mexican food, really), and I think he’d agree that his favorite food is chili. And of course, Skinnytaste has healthified it up, meaning I can add sour cream and Fritos on top, without even feeling guilty. And for an added bonus, it makes an entire Crock Pot worth, so it feeds Dan and I for two dinners, and approximately 50 lunches.

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In this case, since I was heading out of town for five days, it fed both of us for one dinner, and then fed Dan for roughly three dinners and three or four lunches, and still had some leftover when I got back.

Serve this with brown rice, if you’d like, top it with a teensy bit of low-fat shredded cheese, and of course, finish it off with sour cream and Fritos. Then, devour it.

Chicken & Spinach Rollatini

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First, I would just like to sincerely apologize for the horrible food photography on this blog. I read these other blogs with their gorgeous pictures of their food, and I’m aware that mine are awful. See, my problem is, I finish making a meal, and get so excited that I immediately dig in. Then, about halfway through, I’ll think to myself, “man, this is good, I gotta tell someone about this.” Then I remember that I have this blog, then I remember to take a photo—when it’s already half-eaten and my plate is mess. Who can possibly wait long enough to lug out their DSLR and find the right lighting and adjust the aperture and identify the best focal point? Not to mention, actually plugging that camera into their computer and editing the image before posting their blog. For now, my crappy iPhotography will just have to do. Sorry bout that!

Now that that’s out of the way, onto the recipe. This recipe was perfect to satiate a craving for Italian food, without all the fatty, carby nonsense that usually comes with it. Chicken & Spinach Rollatini… It feels like you’re eating delectable Chicken Parmesan, but really, you’re nomming on healthy ol’ baked chicken with spinach.

And of course, it’s pretty easy to make. I feel like that almost goes without saying on this blog. I rarely do difficult-to-make meals. Ain’t nobody got time for that. In fact, I got home from work later than expected the night I made this, but with Dan’s help dipping the Rollatinis in the breadcrumbs, I managed to get this meal on the table—OK, let’s be honest… couch—in about 40 minutes, including the 25-30 minute baking time.

Just pair it with some whole wheat angel hair and a couple spoonfuls of marinara, and whaddaya know, you’ve got a meal. This one’s officially added to the monthly rotation!

White Bean Chicken Enchiladas

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Happy Cinco de Mayo! To celebrate, I thought I’d share the first of my semi-healthy recipes, which also happens to be perfect for this holiday.

I should preface that I’m very aware that what I consider “semi-healthy” is (for the most part) not actually healthy or diet-friendly. I just try to look for things I would normally crave, and find lightened-up versions of them. That way, I know it’s at least better for us than what I would usually make.

These White Bean and Chicken Enchiladas are actually not too bad at all. The worst part of the whole recipe is the tortillas, and if you use whole wheat or low-carb, then you can soften that blow a little bit. It looks like there’s a ton of cheese dumped on top in the photo, but there’s really only about 1/2 cup or less of low-fat cheese sprinkled on them. The creamy green chile sauce melts in with the shredded cheese, though, giving it that delightfully melty texture.

These take a little bit longer than my typical meals—about an hour all in. They definitely pushed my skills right to the limit, with three different pieces of the meal going on the stove simultaneously at one point (cue cooking meltdown!)… But in the end, I think it’s pretty fool-proof. The filling and sauce both probably simmered a little longer than they were supposed to, because I was working on the Cilantro-Lime Rice I served with this, but they still turned out delicious, super-filling, with just a kick of spice.

Dan even declared these as my best Mexican food yet… And I cook a LOT of Mexican food, so that’s sayin’ something!

Pan-Seared Salmon

Pan-Seared Salmon | Chrissie Cooks
This one’s an oldie but a goodie; I usually make it once a week.

Some of you may know that I second-degree burned my right hand/arm a few years ago—that was all thanks to *this* pan-seared salmon. Regardless, it’s still my favorite way to make salmon, especially now that I’ve (mostly) overcome the PTSD from my incident.

I originally got this recipe from “The Weeknight Cook” cookbook, but I’ve adapted it over the years to be my own special recipe; my one and only of the sort. Now that I’ve somewhat perfected the process, I feel obligated to share, so no other poor soul mangles her arm 6 months before her wedding by learning the hard way. Please excuse the awkward step-by-step… There’s a reason I didn’t go into teaching.

Here’s what you’re gonna need:

  • 2 salmon filets
  • 1-2 TB canola oil
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • pinch parsley

The first trick I’ve learned with pan-searing in oil is to let the pan get hot before adding the oil. This helps prevent sticking. I have amazing All-Clad pans that conduct ridiculous heat, so I usually let it heat on medium for about a minute to a minute and a half.

Once the pan feels hot (hover your hand a couple inches over it—don’t touch it, silly), add the oil. An important note here: use canola oil, not olive oil. My father would disown me if I didn’t emphasize that. Leave a comment if you really want me to explain why.

While the oil is heating for a minute or two, you can prep your salmon. Another key tip here that is apparently common knowledge but no one ever taught me (lookin’ at you, mom and dad): if you rinse your salmon off, make sure it’s super duper mega dry. Apparently, oil and water don’t mix. This is what caused my burning oil explosion 2.5 years ago. I can’t stress it enough.

Once you’ve thoroughly dried your salmon, season it with garlic powder, salt and pepper on both sides. I don’t actually measure, so the amounts above are an estimate. Just rub it in all over the filets.

Pan-Seared Salmon | Chrissie Cooks

Once the oil is hot (just baaaarely smoking, nothing crazy), add the pinch of parsley. This just flavors the oil a little. It also prepares you for the sizzling terror that’s about to follow with the salmon (OK, maybe I’m not totally over the PTSD yet…). It should sizzle a little bit when you toss the parsley in. That’s usually a good indicator that the oil is at the right temp.

Now you’re ready to add the salmon to the pan. Tongs are clutch here. (Mistake #2 in the Great Burn Incident of 2010: tossing the salmon in haphazardly with my bare hands. Fool move.)

Pan-Seared Salmon | Chrissie Cooks

This is the scary part, but try to remain calm. The oil will sizzle and probably bubble when you add the salmon. It might even pop a little. Place the filet in the pan gently, and step away for a second. Repeat for the second filet. You can’t really see the volcanic oil horror show going in my pan here, but trust me, it’s there:

Pan-Seared Salmon | Chrissie Cooks

If that terrifies you as much as it does me, grab a splatter screen and cover that puppy up. This is probably not necessary for most sane people, but given my clear mental issues, it’s very necessary for me. I also find that it helps steam the fish a little bit and help it cook all the way through faster.

Give it about 4-5 minutes, then flip it—carefully! It’ll probably be delicate. I’ve broken many a salmon filet in half in the flipping process (I let Dan eat those ones). Give it another 4 minutes or so, and you should be left with this perfectly cooked, lightly crisped salmon. I usually serve it with saffron rice (or “yellow rice,” as we call it here in McKinney, Texas) and broccoli or green peas.

Pan-Seared Salmon | Chrissie Cooks

It’s one of our family faves, and usually makes the weekly menu! Hope you like it too, and I hope you’ve all learned a thing or two from my mistakes.