Monday, October 31, 2011

October Assessment

I feel a little bad about not having a treat for you today. Though, as a mother, I really must say that I think you've had quite enough, don't you? Yeah, I have too. I'm a little Halloween'd out.

If, however, you're still in need of a little something, have a look at my favorite pumpkin muffins/bread. They come in three flavors: not so healthy, very healthy, and in between. Or if you're in need of a little detox, take a look at my smoothies (under the 'drinks' label). Here's a good one.

And now on to our Cheap Eat Challenge monthly assessment. I must admit I'm getting sick of all the food we buy/eat.

This month our total--with CSA and milk share came up to $283.80. Subtract $25.00 for entertaining and you get $258.80, which comes out to $8.35/day. More details in Costs.

Here's the breakdown:

Produce: 52.61 plus 27.00 for the CSA
Grains: 39.23
Dairy: 46.27, plus 17.00 for the milk share
Sugars/sweets: 18.39
Fats: 26.69 (whoa, we went a little butter crazy this month)
Meat/Eggs/Fish: 33.80
Beans/Nuts/Legumes: 22.56
Condiments: .25

You may have noticed that last month I kind of sort of promised a Food Waste Friday. It just didn't happen, mostly because when we did waste, I just couldn't handle hanging on to it until Friday--like all those partially eaten sandwiches Emma (quite literally) picked through, or the half drunk sippy cups I found in the girls closet (though, really, what's another day or 2 to week-old milk). When I found them, I tossed them. And we didn't waste much refrigerated food, so that wouldn't have made for a very interesting Food Waste Friday. Here's the skinny on what we did waste:

1/2 beet
bread crusts
1 egg
several parts of sandwiches that Emma didn't finish
1 nearly whole bagel with PB that Mark didn't finish
a small bit of cilantro, though I managed to freeze most of the leftover

Two months to go. What will be different or amazing about them? Um, turkey. And then a whole lot of cookies. I'll probably be giving myself $30.00 for entertainment for the next couple months because we give away/share more food. And in November, we've got family coming for Thanksgiving, so I'm not going to be counting the days they're in town, though I will give you a head's up on how much we spent on our humanely raised turkey (note to self: order that).

Be sure to come to the blog tomorrow. It's our One-Year Anniversary and not to blow any surprises, but I'll probably be giving something away.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What is Kefir and How Do I Use It (and Why Would I Want To): An Introduction

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Kefir (pronounced kuh-FEER) is, essentially, fermented milk. Oh stop it with the gag reflex already. What do you think Yoplait's been selling you all these years, cotton candy?

What's so special about it?

1. It's an excellent probiotic and also has lots of protein and calcium. Furthermore, since it is fermented and much of the milk sugars are eaten up during fermentation, it is an excellent food for people who are lactose intolerant.

2. You can ferment it right there on your very own kitchen counter for much less work than it takes to make homemade yogurt since kefir just does its thing at room temperature.

3. And it's much much cheaper than making your own yogurt. Or buying it.

I've been using it in my smoothies since I think that this is a probiotic time of year (in other words, a time of year when we want our guts as healthy as possible in preparation for those joyous bugs our kids will be bringing home from school and those joyous food binges we shouldn't, but might go on over the holidays). I think it would make excellent drink yogurt as well blended with fruit and sugar, although it is too runny to eat as we would eat the types of yogurts we're used to. (However, as a side note, the types of yogurt we're used to have been strained by the companies that make them. Normal yogurt also comes out fairly soft/runny too and then the food companies strain out much of the whey to get the yogurts to a consistency we're used to.If you wanted you could strain your own kefir for a more yogurt-like texture. However, it would still be more sour than plain yogurt.)

Haven't had enough fun yet? Well, from it you can make a soft, although crazy sour, cheese without heating any milk or adding a thing. Easiest cheese ever. My slightly crunchy friend, Vanessa (who introduced me to kefir), and I thought that--while it had some serious sour pop alone--it was really good spread on apples with some peanut butter.

How did I get to know kefir?

I was introduced to it by said slightly crunchy friend, Vanessa. I got some grains last year (the grains are those chunky cauliflower-looking things in the picture at the top of the post) and used it a time or two to bake with, but was--for whatever reason--too daunted or lazy to consume it raw, which is where most of the benefit lies.

And then this fall I kept hearing about probiotic this and probiotic that. I'm not one to ignore a sign when it spits at me in the face. So I got some more grains from Vanessa. And I've become a huge fan.

How do I use kefir?

1. Obtain some grains. They look slightly cream colored or yellowish and somewhat like cauliflower. If you have a slightly crunchy friend, you can ask him/her. If not, you can start your own slightly crunchy movement by ordering online. My other friend, Brooke, got hers here. In the picture up top, you see the grains in the red sieve. They act as the fermenters.

2. Once you've obtained your grains, pour some milk--raw or store-bought over the grains.

3. Cover it with something breathable--a dish towel or coffee filter or something like that. I keep mine in an old yogurt container with this patented lid system. Impressed? But of course you are.

4.Let sit for at least a day. If you're a highly motivated person, you can swish it around a time or two during the day. (Note: If it's hot in your house, you can let it sit for less time that that.)

5. When ready to use, strain out the grains using a non-metal strainer. I use the silicone one pictured at top. (Note: You probably can use a metal strainer, but over time, fermented things corrode metal. Another note: Do not let kefir sit in a metal container because it will corrode the metal and also absorb the metal-y taste and you'll have weird, who knows what kind of kefir.) Your normal kefir will look something like this.

Unless you've neglected it a bit, in which case it's separated and you'll see either a somewhat congealed, possibly slightly chunky looking bit like this (sorry, bad picture),

 or whey like this (depending on whether your whey has sunk or risen).

If it's separated, you can swirl it about with a spoon to get it white again or just dump it through the sieve and let some whey come through and some white stuff. Doesn't matter unless you end up with a whole lot of whey (which is still rich in protein, but not so much in probiotic).

6. Add a few tablespoons to your smoothie or granola or cereal or whatever. It's a bit sour, so go slow at first and see if you notice it. Or add some extra sugar at first or whatever. I usually use about 2-4 Tbsp in my smoothie and can't even tell it's there.

7. You can also cook with it as a milk, buttermilk, or yogurt substitute. This is a great thing to do if you're starting to get a little too much. However, the bacterial goodness will cook out, so you'll be cooking to use up something you don't want to waste, rather than cooking to get all the probiotic goodness out of it.

8. If you get a lot, you can make a cheese. Easiest cheese ever, but sour. We'll have a tutorial on that later. But when I made it I forgot to take pictures.

What should I warn you about kefir?

1. It's sour. So is plain yogurt, but kefir is a little more so. Especially if it's left to sit for long periods of time. And really especially if it's left to sit for long periods of time in a warm house.

2. The longer you let it sit, the stronger the sourness becomes. Also, the more grains it grows. (You don't need many grains to keep it going. If you get lots of grains, you may want to discard some or give them away or just throw them in your smoothies because the more grains you have the more milk this will eat and the faster it will ferment and soon you'll have your own factory. This is great if you want to make cheese out of it or just drink a lot of smoothies. But if you want to go at it a bit slowly at first, keep your grain population down).

3. When left to just sit, it will separate into whey and the creamy stuff with the grains mixed in. If you want to keep it mixed and more yogurt-y looking, give it a swirl a time or two a day. If you want to make cheese, let it sit and separate and that will be easier to do. If you could care less, that's fine too. You'll end up with part whey, part white stuff straining into your smoothie.

4. Refrigeration is okay and might become necessary (see below). Just don't forget about it and discover it two years later (though by then perhaps it will contain the cure to Parkinson's disease, but you'll never know because you won't dare eat it, much less feed it to a sufferer of Parkinson's disease).

5. If it's hot the grains will grow faster and the kefir will become more sour, more quickly. If you don't want this, throw it in the fridge. Just don't forget about it for, like, 17 months or anything.

6. If you look up "Why is kefir good for you" or something like that online, you may meet some wonky people (and I mean that in the kindest possible way)--people who drink sometimes quarts a day and maybe claim that it cured their cancer/diabetes/acne/the national debt. That may well even be true (except for the national debt; pretty sure it's still there) and it doesn't bother me if you want to drink it all the live long day, but it's not my approach to kefir. I see it as a healthy, cheap probiotic that can be consumed in small portions daily by me (and by mine without their even noticing). P is for probiotic and that's good enough for me. C is for cheapy and that's good enough for me, um, too.

7. If you're not used to eating gut-healthy foods (aka whole grains, fruits and vegetables and yogurt-y stuff), use only a bit at first as it might really get your gut moving. You know what that means, right? Just making sure. So start slowly and as you get used to it, you can up the ante.

Seriously, it's fun. You can pretend you're a pioneer. Or a goat farmer. Or just a crunchy person. And then you might decide you like it. You might even end up taking pictures for your very own blog about kefir. You might be thinking about all those wonky crunchy people whose blogs you were reading online. And then you might have to move the wilting roses intended for the compost bin out of the way. And then you might have this weird kind of moment where you wonder if you have actually become a real live crunchy person. Only time will tell. In the meantime, you can eat a really healthy, really easy to digest, really cheap food.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pumpkin Cake: A Reminder

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

A little less than a year ago, I posted my favorite pumpkin cake. I've learned a thing or two about photography since then. (Don't snork that pumpkin batter through your nose like that; it's unbecoming.) Okay, fine, I've learned a thing: that pictures look better when taken by my window at sunny times. I can't always manage that in the winter, but I try. At any rate, my pictures are no longer taken with glaring flash (go on, have a look). That's something right (oh, come on, right). But photography aside, this cake is worth remembering. I enjoyed remembering every bite tonight when we had some friends over. And I thought you might want to as well.

This pumpkin cake is a breeze to whip together (though the caramel frosting requires a bit more fuss) and it can serve a crowd.

Plus, it's super loaded with pumpkin. Which makes it acceptable for breakfast, right? Wrong. Unless you were planning on frosted donuts anyway, in which case, go for it.

The frosting is fussy, but you could sub it out with your favorite vanilla or maple or cream cheese or caramel. And you can add a chocolate glaze for extra pizzazz, though I ran out of time today.

It was pretty anyway and we enjoyed licking the spatulas.

Pumpkin Cake.

Pumpkin Cake
(Serves 24-48 depending on the type of friends you have)

2 C sugar
1 1/4 C oil (I use canola)
3 C pumpkin
4 eggs
3 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice

Preheat your oven to 325. Stir sugar, oil, eggs, and pumpkin until well mixed. Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and allspice. Blend dry into wet. Bake for about an hour  or an hour and 10 minutes in a greased bundt pan. (If you halve the recipe, bake for about 40 minutes.)

For the frosting:

1 C brown sugar
2/3 C evaporated milk (I used regular, though I think that makes it take longer to get to softball stage)
1 C powdered sugar
1/2 C butter

Mix all ingredients in sauce pan and boil on medium heat until mixture forms a soft ball when dropped in cold water. [Okay, here's where I try to make it less fussy. You're going to be boiling it for 10-15 minutes without stirring it. So once it gets going, you can ignore it (unless you've got your heat up way high--do not do that) for at least 10 minutes. Do your dishes or something. If you've got a candy thermometer or instant read thermometer, you're going to let it get to 235-240 degrees. Frankly, even as a cheapskate, I think a decent instant read thermometer is a worthy investment. It saves you from gross or wasted food, and it saves you from obsessing about whether your turkey or cheesecake isreally done. It just makes cooking life easier. 

Anyway, if you don't have an instant read thermometer, give your frosting a good ten minutes and then take a bit in a spoon and drop it in a glass of cold water. If it falls/drifts apart, it's not ready and you should give it a couple more minutes and try again; if you can form it into a loose ball with your fingertips, that's softball stage. If you accidentally let it get to hard ball or the next stage where it forms candy in the water, oh well, glop it on your cake lickity split and call it candied pumpkin cake.) Alright, once it's to soft ball stage, take it off the heat, let it cool for just about 30-60 seconds and pour it in a bowl and beat it. You're going to beat it until it becomes lighter in color and creamy looking. When it gets to that point, get it on your cake as quickly as possible because it's cooling down fast and if you wait to long to--say--take a few pictures, you're going to have to glop/paste it to your cake (only a problem aesthetically; still tastes great).]

Here, you actually might appreciate my old pictures as they gave a visual on how the frosting changes. They're right here

For the ganache:

1/4 C cream
1/2 C chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli 60%. It's a good way to get a fairly cheap, fairly good chocolate, though any old semi-sweet will do)

Heat cream and chocolate on medium low and whisk until chocolate melts. 

Drizzle over cake.

I served this the next day and liked how the frosting sort of bled sugary-ness into the cake. I guess I'm that kind of a person. 


Linked to Sweets for a Saturday

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spider de Hummus

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Okay okay, before the rude comments (not that you would, but I know you're all thinking it), start pouring in about the utter homeliness of this little guy, (not to mention the slightly embarrassing scratched state of my Fiesta ware), not to mention the fact that this poor fellow is missing no less than 6 eyes and those creepy pincer things and his thorax for heaven's sake... Just first hear me out: Each and every one of my kids knew that this was a spider. And they were all delighted by it. Only one joined in dining on the hummus with me, but one is more than none, one is--by my very low standards--practically a conquest.

I got the idea for a savory spider from a much more stunning example over at Apron Strings. I liked the idea of a non-sweet, yet still thematic snack. But I wanted to make mine completely healthy and I had a purple pepper languishing in my refrigerator. I'd never had a purple pepper before, but when I saw Donna's spider, I just knew that dark purple legs would be just the thing, right? I said, right. Okay, well, maybe if Apron Strings had done it. But they didn't; I did. So I confess it, this snack isn't cute enough to take to a party. Unless of course, it is a party with very loving friends. But it is cute enough to delight your kids. And I was thinking it might be just the right pre-trick-or-treat snack: savory and protein-filled, with some veggies thereby. If, of course, your brood is the type to go for the hummus thing. 

But even if they don't, you can. Because my frumpstress spider tasted awesome and there's no use pretending you're not going to dip into any of the kids' candy after they're in bed.

By the way, purple bell peppers have a stronger taste than I expected. I was thinking they'd be along the lines of the sweet reds, but not so. They have a slightly stronger taste than green bells even, at least this one did.

Spider de Hummus
Serves 1-2
Prep and assembly time: 10 minutes
Cost: $.65
(hummus: .35, bell pepper: .25 (farmer's market for a small one), jalepeno: .05)

Your favorite hummus recipe (here's mine)
Bell peppers (one per spider), cut long (I used purple, but green would work too)
Jalepenos, sliced into rounds, for the eyes (or olives or some carrot rounds or whatever)

Plop 2/3 C hummus onto a plate. Add legs. Add eyes. Eat up.

Note: A recipe of my hummus will make 3 or 4 spiders like this.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How to Prepare Swiss Chard

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Q: What's the prettiest green I know?
A: Swiss chard.

Especially the rainbow chard with it's orange, yellow, red and green, stalks, but they're all lovely. Our CSA had a little window box full of chard and when I saw it I decided it was a must try for me next year.

Q: What's the hardiest green I know?
A: Swiss chard.

You can grow it in any old dumpy spot in your garden. Clay-like soil, rocky soil, not really enough sun--sure why not. (I grew mine in a particularly lousy spot--clay-y soil, lots of run off, rocks on top of the clay-y soil, 2-3 hours of sun--this year and it did fine, not amazing, but fine.) Furthermore, it will grow all spring, summer, and fall, and doesn't have issues with bugs. Spinach and lettuces bolt come warmer weather and kale has trouble with cabbage loopers. Also, you can grow chard from seed easy peasy.

Q: What's one of the healthiest greens I know?
A: Swiss chard.

Have a look here for the skinny on chard. It's super packed (as in supery super packed) with antioxidants, as well as vitamins K, A, and C.

Q: What's my least favorite green to eat?
A: Swiss chard.

Sigh. It tends to run a bit bitter sometimes and has a more distinct flavor than other greens. Thus it doesn't hide as well in a casserole or omelet as it's green leafy brothers. But that hardly makes it unusable. Here are a few links to good recipes I've tried with chard, as well as a few pointers if you have a thing for pretty healthy vegetables, even if they require more prep than just being thrown in a salad. So next time you see a packet of seeds or a bunch of it at the farmer's market, go ahead, give it a whirl.

How to eat it raw:

It's good in a smoothie. I can't cram as much in as I do with spinach and kale because it doesn't hide as well, but you can certainly throw in a few leaves to good effect. Which is nice because it's good to mix your greens up and eat a variety (some green fiends say it's important to rotate or eat a variety because of the alkaloids that greens contain, but most of us never eat enough greens to have any alkaloid effect anyway).

I've also heard you can use very young leaves in salads, but haven't tried it.

How to sautee:

Cut the thick stems off the plants. Saute them first for 2-3 minutes. Then chop up the leaves and throw them in and saute another 2-3 minutes or until they are soundly wilted. Also, because they do tend to have a stronger flavor than other greens, you might want to use stronger flavorings in your saute--things like soy sauce and garlic, instead of just some butter with salt.

And of course you could boil them:

I don't, but you can. If you do, they might be good mixed in with mashed potatoes a la colcannon, only with chard instead of kale. It'd probably also be good with cream or lemon, salt, and pepper, or--again--heavier flavors.

A few good recipes:

New York Times Swiss Chard with Red Peppers. I made this this week (it's the one pictured above) and had it with brown rice. It was pretty good and packed with lots of healthy in-season-right-now-vegetables. P.S. I ate it by myself for lunch since wild horses, starvation, or Hitler could not have induced my family to try it. P.P.S. When Kip walked into the kitchen--before he saw what was in my pan--he said, "Wow, something smells good."

This savory tart from Smitten Kitchen. Kip did eat this one and liked it well enough, although he prefers spinach tart/pie, so that's what we usually stick to. As an additional note, Deb at Smitten Kitchen really loves chard, so she has a whole boodle or recipes involving it. Let me know if you try one and love it.

And speaking of letting me know, I've changed the settings on my comments section to make it easier to comment. So get commenting already. And eat swiss chard. And be happy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

No Sugar Added Applesauce (with Crock Pot Option)

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Yes, and double yes.

Until now, my applesauces had demanded a bit of sugar. Sometimes more than a bit. And until now they'd demanded a bit of my attention.

No more friends, no more. An easy recipe just got easier. And a healthy recipe just got healthier.

Sugar-Free Applesauce (with Crock Pot Option)
Makes 2-3 C or about 20 oz.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cost: $1.05 (You'll note that this is not as cheap as you'll get generic applesauce from the store. It does taste better and it is a great--really great--way to save apples that are bland or bruised and might otherwise be thrown out, but to compete with store (Walmart brand, 46 oz for $1.69) applesauce, you'll have to get your apples for .50/lb. This may be possible at some pick your own farms or at a really cheap sale, but I haven't seen any in Evansville that cheap.
(apples: 1.00--3 lb for $2 from Aldi, apple juice: .05)

Note: I made a small batch because I wasn't sure how well it would work. Feel free to double, triple or beyond.

Another note, somewhat sassier: Do you feel like you're cheating by adding the apple juice? Don't. I'm guessing that this is similar to how applesauce manufacturers manage to get their All Natural varieties sweet enough while still labeling the ingredients as merely apples, water, and ascorbic acid.

1 1/2-2 lb apples (I used golden delicious from Aldi), peeled and cut into chunks
a few grates lemon peel (approximately 1/4-1/2 tsp)
a generous sprinkle cinnamon (approximately 1/4 tsp)
1/4 C apple juice (You can use any apple juice, but I used 1 Tbsp frozen apple juice concentrate with 3 Tbsp water. I like this method because if you have really awful apples that will need a little extra sweetness, you can use 2 or 3 Tbsp apple juice concentrate with just 1-2 Tbsp water to get the applesauce decently sweet. And then you can throw the rest of the concentrate back in the freezer and use it in smoothies as needed.)

Throw your apple chunks in the crock pot. Grate some lemon rind over top. Sprinkle some cinnamon over top (or throw in a cinnamon stick if you're feeling fancy). Add apple juice (it won't seem like enough liquid, but it is). Cover crock. Set crock pot to low. Cook for 2 hours or until you feel like checking on it. (You'll likely have to cook longer if you've doubled, tripled, etc. this recipe.) Mash the apples with a potato masher. I find that a masher like this gives a smoother mash: OXO Good Grips Smooth Potato Masher.

Remove from crock pot and put in a sealed container. Eat when cooled.

If you don't have or wish to break out your crock pot, you can prepare this on the stove by throwing all ingredients into a pot, covering it with a lid, and bringing it to a simmer, then cooking on medium low for 15-20 minutes. Stir it occasionally. Mash it when it's all mashable.

If you want directions for canning your fresh applesauce, have a look here.


Linked to Fusion Friday

Monday, October 24, 2011

Kale Apple Smoothie

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family eats on less than $10/day.

Kale and apple goodness: check. Spiderlike tentacles of sad aloe vera plant: check. Pumpkins painted in exact same manner as aloe vera pot: check.

Well, I don't know why I'd need to say more here, but of course I will.

I really enjoy a good green (or purple or orange or pink or even sludge colored) smoothie. But this time of year--the very time of year when sneezy pukey children start touching your otherwise perfect specimens of children--blueberries, strawberries, and peaches aren't exactly at their peak. Sure, you can freeze a bunch when they are at their peak, but what if you didn't. Or didn't freeze enough. Of just have 7,000 apples sitting on your counter. Don't worry; I've got your back.

This smoothie is tasty, seasonal, cheap, and very virtuously green (even in the sad night-time lighting that fall has brought my kitchen). And while we're talking about what I love about this smoothie, let's talk about this: this is a great solution for that half apple that didn't get eaten (come on; surely my kids aren't the only ones who do this) or for that bunch of apples that just wasn't as good as you thought they'd be. Chop them up, freeze 'em, and buy a bag of kale.

And kale--yeah, yeah, it's such a supery super food. But also it is a supery super easy to grow food. I'll talk more about it in the spring, but for now, know that at this time of year, when everything else is starting to wane, it just gets growing and does beautifully. And it grows incredibly easily from seed, which means that a bunch can be grown for pennies. However, even if you don't grow it yourself, it tends to run significantly cheaper than spinach.

But heck, if you're just too afraid of it or can't find it at your store, raw baby spinach will work great in this too.

Kale Apple Smoothie
adapted from Real Simple
Serves 1
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cost: $.53
kale: .10, apple juice: .10 (from concentrate), apple: .25, banana: .08)

Note: I recommend having your apple and your banana frozen. However, if you only have one or the other of those frozen, you'll be fine. Just make sure something's frozen, because there's no ice in this recipe, so if all your fruits are at room temperature, you'll get a slightly lukewarm smoothie that will be edible, but not as appealing. Moral of story: next time your kid eats only half an apple or you get a mushy one, peel it, cut it into chunks and throw it in a freezer bag. Or the next time your bananas have more brown than green, peel them and into the freezer bag with them too.

3/4 C kale (about 3-4 four-inch leaves), large ribs removed
1/2 C apple juice
1 frozen apple, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 frozen ripe banana (also peeled, but I didn't find it so essential to say so here)

Put all ingredients in blender and have at it. If it's incredibly thick, add several more tablespoons of apple juice (or even water). If you didn't get any of those fruits frozen, add a few cubes of ice (providing your blender can handle it; mine can't). Blend it well because this smoothie can get a wee bit of an applesauce-y feel to it if you don't blend it up really well. This isn't necessarily a problem, but it's a texture that would bug some people.


Looking for another cheap seasonal smoothie, check this one out: Pumpkin Smoothie

Linked to Sweets for a Saturday

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Katie's Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (aka Whoopie Pies)

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family eats on less than $10/day.

The first holiday themed food of the season. Oh boy. (I mean "whoopie.") 

And speaking of oh boy, oh boy do I have lots of holiday plans for these little cookies. Of course, you can make the filling any color you wish (we did orange). Or you can coat it in colored sugar or sprinkles or crushed peppermint or crushed nuts, or gold or pretty much any good thing you can smash. Or you can build your ginger bread house out of this stuff. Ha ha. No you can't. First off it's too tender; secondly, you'd eat it all mid-construction. But you can mess with the flavorings of the filling--add a Tbsp cocoa to make it chocolate, or change the vanilla out for almond or mint. Heck you could sub out the vanilla in the actual cookie with mint or almond as well. Endless possibility. I like that in a cookie. Especially a cookie as fine as this.

I first had these on my road trip home from visiting one sister, while stopping at the other sister's house for a break and a much shorter visit. My sisters always feed me well. We'd been driving for 6 hours and we walked into Katie's house right at dinner time. The house was warm and lighted and dinner was being set on the table.  If you've never had the experience of being tired and travel worn and walking into a house with loving people, especially loving people who have dinner ready--well, it's almost worth making yourself tired and travel worn, just to give it a try. So we had a great dinner. And then we had a smorgasbord of cookies because my brother-in-law Travis had had a work party and brought home some of the bootie. These cookies which Katie, who is a beyond-marvelous baker, had made herself were, by far and away the best. The were so good, in fact, that I ate myself to the point of feeling a little yuck, which is something I almost never ever do. But I couldn't stop. 

Which is why it was so prudent for me to take these to a party tonight. 

Make these. They look fussier than they are. Katie tells me they actually have a cake box cheater counterpart that is good as well. Maybe I'll give it to you sometime, but maybe not. I don't like to mess with perfection. 

Katie's Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (aka Whoopie Pies)
Makes 2-3 dozen
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 7-8 minutes per batch
Assembly time: 5-10 minutes
(See less fussy than you'd think)
Cost: $2.50
(butter: 1.00, sugars: .45, eggs: .20, cream cheese: .25--usually more, but mine was on sale, cocoa: .40, flour: .20)

1 C (2 sticks) butter
2/3 C sugar
2/3 C brown sugar (packed)
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 C flour
2/3 C cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (reduce to 1/4 tsp if using salted butter)

[Note: I was surprised the filling had cream cheese in it and even called my sister to make sure that's what she'd served me. My point is that even if you don't like cream cheese frosting, the cream cheese taste is very muted here and you probably won't even notice it.)

4 oz cream cheese
1/4 C (1/2 stick) butter
1 1/2 C powdered sugar
drop vanilla
food coloring, if desired

Preheat oven to 325. Mix butter (I get mine so soft, it's nearly melted), sugars, and vanilla. Add eggs. Mix in dry ingredients. 

Roll into balls on a cookie sheet. Note: If you've nearly melted your butter, like me, you'll need a quick hand in rolling or a stint in the fridge (the dough, not you) for the dough so it can firm up a bit. 

Since you'll be doubling these up into little cookie sandwiches, I recommend rolling them small (you don't have to, but they are pretty rich). I used a heaping teaspoon of dough and rolled that into balls. 

Bake for 7-8 minutes or until they are done (ha ha, don't you like instructions like that with a brown cookie). They are done when they've lost a bit of their sheen. You'll notice if you check them at 5 or 6 minutes that they're flat, but a little shiny still. Give them another minute or two and you'll notice they're not as shiny. Take them out here. We're not going for brickdom here, but a cookie that is too underdone will be harder to sandwich.

Allow to cool completely. Yes, completely. Don't cheat. Your filling will melt and run off. If you're going to be neglecting them for a while before filling, loosen them from the pan before you head off to run errands or plant irises. Otherwise, they might get a little stuck to the pan and we want them pretty.

(See how small they are.)

While they're cooling, whip up your filling. Beat the cream cheese and butter (again, very very soft) until creamy. Add a drop of vanilla. Add powdered sugar. Add food coloring if using. Beat it all till it's smooth and lovely. 

When your cookies are cool, flip them over so the flat side is going to get the filling. You can pipe or plop the filling with a spoon It'll look like a little bit of orange doo doo. 

Then put another cookie (flat side touching filling) on top. The weight of the cookie will likely smash down the filling, but if not, give it a gentle press.

My filling was quite soft (due to my tendency to super soften butter), so I threw mine in the fridge for a couple hours to firm up (if you don't have time for that, don't let your butter get super soft). This also allows you to hide them from yourself so they actually make it to the party. Good luck, stalwart friend. But do have just one because once they make it to the party, you might not get one. And then you'd have to make another batch. And then you'd have to lie and tell your husband the kids ate all of that one. And then he'd want you to make another batch. And you see the vicious cycle that could be avoided by eating just one little cookie right now. Indeed, you're doing the world and your figure a favor. (But then seriously, stick them in the fridge. Or you'll have to lie and tell the hostess that your husband ate all of them. And there you go again.)


Friday, October 21, 2011

Poor Man's Pesto (Also, it's nut free)

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Anybody priced out pine nuts lately? They've never been what we here like to call cheap, but this year they are what we here like to call really outrageous. Earlier in the summer when I made pesto, I used the remainder of a big bag I bought last summer and and stored in the freezer. This time around, I kept looking at different stores thinking that the last store with its crazy expensive pine nuts must have been a fluke. (In some circles, this is called denial.) After about 5 stores of this, I put some expensive ones in my basket. Then on my way to the checkout, I walked past some sunflower seeds. They had a bright yellow and red sale sign. That always catches my eye.

The sunflower seeds cost 1/4 of what the cheapest pine nuts cost. And I thought, "What the heck; they're kind of sort of in the same kind of sort of family, right. And they've kind of sort of got the same kind of sort of look and texture, right?" That was good enough for me.

My Poor Man's Pesto turned out pretty good too. Let me level with you; it wasn't quite as good as Classic Pesto (aka that with pine nuts). I'm a huge pine nut aficionado. Plus, the sunflower seeds I bought were pre-roasted; I think raw would have been better and more like a pine nut in that oily, toothsome texture they have. However, this pesto is awesome, and while I don't know how it will measure up with classic pesto in pasta, I think it might be even better on sandwiches and meat than classic pesto. It's nuttier, and I like that in a seed.

P.S. This is also nut free, so it's great for anyone with allergies who wants to enjoy some pesto.

Poor Man's Pesto
makes 1-2 C
Prep time: 10 minutes; maybe a little more if you need to clean your basil well, as I did
Cost: $.75
(my basil was free; sunflower seeds: .50, olive oil: .20, garlic: .05)

4 C basil leaves, well washed
1/2 C olive oil
1/2 C sunflower seeds (if wanting for sandwiches, this is perfect; if you want it in pasta sauces, I'd reduce it to 1/4 C or 1/3 C)
6-8 large cloves garlic
salt if your sunflower seeds are raw; otherwise omit

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Not having pesto tonight? Put the remainder in ice cube trays, freeze, and then store in a freezer bag.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Caesar Salad with Kale and Romaine

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

It's been a long day--the kind of day when good ideas are not the ones coming from my own head. So I did what any self respecting food-blogger/human being would do: I stole one from someone else.

A little while ago, I saw a Kale Romaine Caesar Salad on Kalyn's Kitchen and thought (humbly of course) that there was no way that would work for me. I am a great lover of kale, but so far I've mostly made it work in smoothies or cooked to a sound wilting point. Raw kale in a salad? How could this work? Kale is so thick, so ribbed, and so, so kale-y. Kalyn assured us that if you cut the kale small, all would be well.

And then one day I had kale and I had romaine and I had my favorite ever Caesar dressing (Girard's) and I thought, "Well, I guess I could add just a little kale." I removed the ribs and sliced it up good and small (seriously, do not even think about leaving it in any kind of large bite) and I'll be darned if I couldn't even tell it was there. The next time I tried it with more of an equal ratio of kale to romaine as Kalyn suggests and I'll be double darned if I still could barely sense it's presence. And the presence I did sense was most pleasant--not chewy and potentially bitter as I had expected it to be.

So, go ahead, live a little. Maybe live nice and long--this is kale we're talking about after all. Throw some (well chopped) kale in your next salad and see what happens. I highly recommend it in a Caesar as the kale and romaine complimented each other very well and the strong flavors of the dressing really gave those greens what for.

You might even find yourself going back for more. I personally have had this salad or a variation thereof at least 5 times in the last 4 days, and at least once when I would have normally had a dessert. Yeah, it's that good.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Apple Tart with Whole Wheat Crust

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Apples are cheap right now and I have big plans for them. For starters, we've been eating several of them a day. For seconders, I've got a plan for sugar-free crock pot applesauce. For thirders, I've got tarts and pies and apple cakes calling my sweet sweet name.

This tart calls it particularly sweetly because it weighs in with only 5 Tbsp sugar for the whole thing and you can sub out nearly half of the flour with whole wheat and not even notice.

Still, I must warn you, it is not an apple pie. It shares many qualities with apple pie, such as apples, sweetness, and crust. But it is missing some key factors as well, such as at least 11 Tbsp sugar and a top. Go into it pretending you're perfectly French and then add a dollop of some homemade whipped cream or, heck, some creme fraiche over the top, and you'll be fine.

Approach it as an American ordering an "apple pie" from McDonald's and you'll keep wondering "Where's the beef?" Or something like that.

Not that I mean to downplay this little beauty in any way by pointing out that it isn't super sweet. One of the things I love about it is that it gives the apples a chance to come through. It's got no cinnamon, nutmeg or other spices (though you could certainly add them if you wished), so you end up with a lovely lightly sweet, very apple-y treat. That you can eat for breakfast. Uh-huh.

Apple Tart with Whole Wheat Crust
adapted from smittenkitchen
Makes 1 pie
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Cost: $2.45
(flours: .20, butter: .70, apples: 1.50 if you get sale apples, sugar: .05)

For crust:

1/2 C white whole wheat flour (regular whole wheat will give it a stronger wheat taste, but I bet it'd work just fine)
3/4 C all purpose flour
1/2 C (1 stick) butter, cold
1 tsp sugar
2-4 Tbsp cold water

For filling:

2 lb apples or about 3 rather large apples (I used a granny smith and several golden delicious)
2 Tbsp butter, melted
5 Tbsp sugar, divided

Prepare your crust. I did mine (and always do) by throwing the dry ingredients into a food processor and then adding the butter and giving it a whirl until it's in pea sized chunks. Then I add the cold water, starting with 2 Tbsp and adding more if it won't come together. You want to stop the food processor just as the dough begins to come together.

Take it out and roll it out. (It helps to throw it in the fridge for 10-30 minutes, but I usually skip that because I lack dedication.) So I just flour my surface and do my best not to roll it into a parallelogram. I'm a terrible terrible roller. Thus, all my crusts end up looking sloppy rustic. It's a curse. But things taste good anyway. Roll out your crust. Patch the edges if necessary and flop it into a pie pan. Smittenkitchen says you can do a rustic little gallette too and I did a mini one this week with some dough leftover from my chicken pot pie.

It was excellent, but truly I liked the way the pie pan forced everything to stay put a little better.

Now peel and slice your apples. Try to get them nice and thin. Toss them with 2 Tbsp of the sugar. Then layer them into the pie pan by overlapping the slices around in a circle until you get to the center. (Then throw your extras on top in a haphazard fashion like I did. I tried to accordion mine into the pie pan, I did, but they didn't look so accordion-like.) Just overlap them and life will go on.

Fold any remaining crust over onto the apples and crimp it at inch intervals or wherever your very rustic design looks to need crimping. Brush the crimped edge with the melted butter. [Note: I've made this twice and forgot to do this the second time; it was still great, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the butter. It added something by way of flavor and texture to both apples and crust. So I highly recommend not skipping or forgetting the butter. Continuance of excessively long note: Don't you love that I mess all these recipes up so I can give you the skinny on how bad the mess ups make the final product.)

Then sprinkle the rest of your sugar on the apples and the crimped crust. It will look like a lot, and you can reduce it by a tablespoon or two if you wish, but that was too tart for Kip (not a problem; he just got some ice cream to go with, but still). The sugar will combine with the juices of the apples and butter to make a syrupy yum, so don't worry about it.

Bake at 400 in center of oven until apples are soft and a bit brown at the edges, or for about 45 minutes. I turned the pan at 15 minute intervals because the back of my oven cooks hotter than the front. Let cool at least 10 minutes.

Note (and it's another long one): Smittenkitchen used a simple syrup made from the apple peelings, cores, 1/2 C sugar, and enough water to cover. This stuff is simmered for (smittenkitchen said 25 minutes, but at that point, I still just had slightly sweet water) until it's thickened and reduced a bit. She then strained it out (yeah, I thought it seemed fussy too). Then, when the tart is done, she poured this over the tart. I did this and it was fine, but I found it unnecessary. My friend, however, who recommended this recipe also recommended watering down a bit of plum or berry jam to make a glaze and putting that on the tart. I thought that sounded yummy and pretty, but haven't tried it yet. Let me know if you do.

This tart is great warm (of course), but I actually love it best cold.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

No Knead Oat Bread (Guilt Inducingly Easy)

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

I know that fall means pumpkins and apples, caramel and hot chocolate. But what it also means--at least for me--is bread. Warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven, soft, but hearty bread. Of course, sometimes with the cooler temperatures, getting it to rise in a timely manner can be a challenge, but you've got nothing else to do except bread, so you can wait for it. Oh, wait, except you can't. You do have other things besides bread. Well, not to point the finger or anything, but clearly someone's priorities are just a wee bit skewed.

No matter. With this bread, you can have your life and eat your bread too.

You just mix it up in a bowl, let it rise for 30--yup, 30--minutes. And then you bake it for another 30. That's 65 minutes from start to finish fresh-out-of-the-oven, yeast bread. Seriously, it's so easy. Even if you've never successfully baked bread in your life, make this. It's tough to mess up (I always try, for scientific blogging purposes, of course). This is the yeast bread for the bread impaired. This is the yeast bread for the time robbed. This is a yeast bread for the baking defunct. Do I need to go on?

Oh, yeah, and it's healthy too.

No Knead Oat Bread
adapted, just a bit, from 101 Cookbooks
Makes 1 loaf
Prep time: 3 minutes
Rise time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Cost: $.45
(flour: .10, whole wheat flour: .18, oats: .09, yeast: .05-.35 depending on if it's bought bulk or not; honey: .03)

A note on oats: I used quick because that's all I had. This worked great for our family, since they hate things they refer to as "chunkies." The quick oats melded with the bread and no one knew of their healthful existence. However, if you and yourn like a little texture, you're going to need oats of the old-fashioned variety.

1 1/4 C warm water (it's going to be about 110 degrees if you want to be exact; just stick your finger in and it should feel warm)
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp honey
1 C all-purpose flour (I haven't done it yet, but I'm willing to bet that this could be subbed for white whole wheat to very good effect)
1 C whole wheat flour
1 C rolled oats
3/4 tsp salt

Put water, yeast, and honey in a small bowl and mix.

Put dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients. Stir them up. It'll be wetter than a normal yeast bread. Like this.

Butter or grease a small loaf pan (mine is 7x3.5 or something like that). Flop your floppy dough into it and sort of nudge it to the edges if necessary. Let it rise, covered with a dish towel or plastic wrap, in the pan for 30 minutes. (P.S. I've made this twice and the second time forgot to put it in the bread pan to rise and just let it rise in the bowl. All was well, although the loaf was a wee bit shorter when cooked.)

While it's rising, set oven to 350. Bake for 30-40 minutes until it's getting golden.  101 Cookbooks suggests putting it under the broiler "for just a heartbeat" to give the crust a deeper color, but I didn't do that. I do like to take my bread's temperature. It should be about 170 and will get a little hotter after you take it out. (But you don't have to take it's temperature--if it's golden and your oven is set at 350 with the bread on the middle rack, you will be fine, unless your oven is from, say, 1772 or really doesn't heat right).

Remove it from the oven. Let it cool for a minute or two and then turn it out to cool (if you wait too long, it will sort of steam and the outsides could get soggy in the pan, and we don't want that for all that hard work you did--oh wait, it wasn't hard work, but no one has to know that. Just don't let it steam, okay, because it's not the end of the world, but you'll be annoyed at yourself if you do.)

Eat warm or not.

Note: This bread keeps a couple days at room temperature, but it does have a very short shelf life, even in terms of homemade bread. We ate most of ours in the first 2 days, but there was a crust that got left. When I went to eat it on day 4 or 5, it smelled ferment-y (as opposed to most of my homemade breads, which just get stale). So, if your bread happens to make it past day 2, refrigerate or freeze it.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Oven Dried Tomatoes

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

So I've got a bunch of really ugly tomatoes ripening in my basement right now.

Which is why it was so perfect that I got Miz Helen's Country Cottage this month for the Secret Recipe Club. She hails from Texas and is thereby obligated by Texas state law to provide plenty of stick to your ribs kinds of meals/desserts (the brownie torte I'm going to make comes to mind), though hers tend to have plenty of finesse (and they're not all of the stick to your ribs variety). Like her oven dried tomatoes.

This recipe was especially appealing to me because--did I mention my ugly tomato situation--but also because I often dry my tomatoes in a dehydrator. That's all fine and good, but I've often wanted to do some that were accessible to the non-dehydrator-owning crowd. Perfect.

And you know, I liked hers even better. They weren't as thoroughly dried as their dehydrated counterparts (Miz Helen says they'll keep for 3 months in the fridge, but mine kept for 12 hours and were gone--2 pounds all mine), but because of the roasting they come out with this more complex, roasty flavor, which I LOVE.

I do have one note. Miz Helen says to leave them in the oven at 250 for 3 hours. And she says you can leave them up to 6 hours. But don't think this means you shouldn't check them at 3 hours, because you should. You might even want to check that at 2 1/2 hours. Or you should set the oven to 200. This is especially true if your tomatoes are not all sliced, um, exactly in the same thicknesses, not that I happen to know anyone who might slice her ugly tomatoes in such a careless way.

I checked mine at 3 1/2 hours and the outer ones and little ones were crispy and a little blackish around the edges. I happen to like blackish around the edges where roasted things are concerned and I ate those ones that night as a sort of tomato chip (mmm, tomato chips). The rest I ate the next day like this, and--oh--they were pretty much beyond amazing.

Oven Dried Tomatoes
from Miz Helen's Country Cottage
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours
Cost: nearly free, you ugly tomatoes, you

2 lb Roma tomatoes (they work best since they have the fewest juices and seeds; if you want to use another variety, you may want to remove some of the seeds/juices, though not all as they add to the flavor of the tomatoes)
olive oil
spices (Miz Helen recommends a whole slew as options--basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme. I thought that was a great idea, but went simple with merely salt and pepper)

1. You're going to remove the grody parts of your ugly tomatoes. Get it all gone. Good job.

2. Next slice them lengthwise. Try to keep your slices as uniform as possible, but don't stress if they're not.

3. Lay parchment paper on a baking sheet (do this or you will be beating yourself with a spatula later on).

4. Brush olive oil onto the top of the tomatoes.

5. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper (generously, people) and then with whatever other seasonings you wish.

6. Bake at 200 or 250 for 3-4 hours. Give them a check at 2 1/2 hours. If some are already dry and ready to come out, remove them and then put the rest back in to finish drying.

7. Allow them to cool and eat them plain as snacks or throw into a meal. They go great with pasta, rice, or salad.

How I Ate Mine should anyone care to know what one might do with oven dried tomatoes

1 C cooked spaghetti
1 generous Tbsp pesto
1-2 tsp cream
1 Tbsp Parmesan or Romano cheese
as many tomatoes as you can cram in there

Mix all together and eat.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Onion Hater's Chicken Pot Pie

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Until this year, I'd never made a chicken pot pie. There are many reasons for this.

Like that I hadn't conquered a pie crust until 2 years ago.

Or that I had an unfortunate experience with a super disgusting who-knows-what-filled frozen pot pie when I was pregnant with my 2nd baby. Seriously, those memories are hard to recover from.

And then there's just the idea that chicken pot pie is a pie crust filled with a highly thickened chicken soup. I mean, is that the potential for disaster or what? (Relax, it's really the recipe for a perfect leftover meal.)

But lately, the main thing that has kept me from chicken pot pie recipes is that they have the audacity to allow nutritious little things we like to call vegetables into their butter and cream saturated existence. The most blatant offender is the mighty onion.

If you're an onion lover, or even an onion liker, you won't understand this. However if you are an onion hater, you will know that they very visage of one of those pungent, thin-skinned fruits of the soil in your humble crisper drawer is repugnant. And the idea that one such should be consumed, as in through your mouth, truly unthinkable. Your feelings as an onion hater run very deep. You would happily march on Wall Street to contain the--as you see it--vile root vegetables from further corruption in an otherwise ding dong filled culture.

And what we onion likers really don't get is that even just the smallest sliver of this offensive vegetable can prevent a person from eating an entire dish in which it is contained. Yes, ever. Even the tiniest crunch from bitty nibs can be detected and rejected by you. It's a rough life for the onion haters because people--viscious, cruel, barely human people--are constantly trying to "sneak them past you" or "coax"--as they call it--you into eating them. I myself am married to a long-standing onion hater. And--because I don't like to get stuck eating something all on my own--he's largely won this battle in our marriage. If I use them, and I try not to too much, I make them super big chunks (say next to a pot roast) so they can easily be avoided, or I use a wee bit of onion powder. He can detect even those dried onion bits, and he hates them. He is okay with a tiny bit of the flavor (thus my ability to use a bit of onion powder), but the mouth feel, the texture, the--say it isn't so--crunch: that is unacceptable. This is a quality I believe to be shared with many onion haters. It's not the hint of it they cannot bear, but the texture and the often front and center flavor that repulses them. Unfortunately for chicken pot pie, it pretty much demands them.

It also generally calls for celery, which doesn't exactly have a fan page around here either. And carrots, which can only slide by in an otherwise perfect food environment.

Of course, I love all those vegetables, but the idea of making s lightly fussy, from-scratch "comfort food" so that everyone in my family could complain (and possibly cry) about it--I just wasn't feeling it. But I'd just made a delicious and easy crock pot chicken, so I had pieces and broth.

And then I had an idea--I had a terrible awful idea. I reduced and hid the biggest offender (we shan't even refer to it by name) and replaced another with the always inoffensive potato. And then I chopped those carrots into smitherines and let them hang out and soften with butter.

That pot pie was good. Kip was a huge fan. He liked it a good bit more than my last chicken pot pie--one in which I used onion powder. (And truly, this recipe is some kind of wonderful.) So, onion haters unite, and thank my husband.

And onion likers--you can give me a secret handshake sometime later because although you can't crunch a single onion in this pie, or even taste it exactly, there's a hint of it there--giving it that little something something you'd miss if it weren't there at all. Just--for heaven's sake--don't tell.

Onion Hater's Chicken Pot Pie
adapted from Mom's Crazy Cooking and Pioneer Woman
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Stand time: 10 minutes (this can be skipped, but your fillings will run out more
Cost: about $4.00-4.50

Note: This makes enough filling for 2 pies. You can double the crust if you wish and make two pies. You can freeze the other and then dethaw and cook another day. Or you can reduce the filling recipe by half. Or you can do what we did and make one pie and then eat the leftover filling as a soup.

recipe for 2 pie crusts (a top and a bottom)--I used white whole wheat flour for half of the flour and really couldn't tell much of a difference at all
2 small potatoes, chopped small--about 1 centimeter cubed (I used red and recommend them)
3 medium carrots, chopped, like, a lot (let's call them 1/8-1/10 of a carat--ha, I didn't even intend that pun)
1/2 C frozen peas
2 Tbsp onion (this is about 1/4 of a medium small onion), thrown in the food processor or grated in a cheese grater
4 Tbsp butter
2 C diced chicken (I like it diced small so you get bits of everything in each bite)
1/4 C flour
2 C chicken broth
1 bouillon cube
1 C heavy cream (I never said this was low-fat, only low-onion)
1 tsp thyme or 1 Tbsp fresh thyme
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400.

Dice potatoes and carrots (get the carrots small). Grate the onions or--if you used a food processor to make your pie crust (I did), throw them in there and give them a whirl, scrape and whirl again until they are kind of mushy or at least terribly small.

Melt butter in a large pot. Add the onion mush. Let it cook for a couple minutes, stirring occasionally. Add potatoes and carrots. Cook for a few minutes more. Add frozen peas and cook for several more minutes. (You want to get your potatoes cooked a bit, so try not to rush it too much.) When the veggies are soft, add chicken and stir to combine. Sprinkle the flour on and stir to combine. Stir for a minute or so.

Whisk in broth. Stir in bouillon cube (or 1 tsp granules--my preference). Stir and this will begin to thicken. Pour in the cream and kiss your diet good bye (whatever, it needed to go). Allow mixture to cook over low heat, for about 5 minutes. Season with thyme, salt, and pepper. Taste for seasonings and to be sure your potatoes are cooked or darn close.

Put a crust in the bottom (some folks skip this and do a sort of soup with a crusty top, but I'm more of a traditionalist). Pour chicken mixture in. (Remember if you make this full recipe, you'll have leftovers.).

Put the top crust on. Crimp the edges or flop them onto each other into a manner so sloppy you wonder how you ever made it through elementary art. Crimp them if they're not too impossibly mismatched--at least get then to stick together. Cut several vents in your crust so it doesn't ?explode?--I don't know--I've always obediently made my vents. (Okay--just looked it up, you make vents to the top crust settles onto the pie.)

Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Let sit for 10 minutes. Serve. Watch your onion-hater eat. Enjoy pie; enjoy victory compromise.



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