Friday, June 20, 2008

Ritz Crackers, Butter and Cinnamon Sugar

Okay, this one was almost a no brainer, but I was astonished all the same. I’m in the kitchen. I’ve just made us a pasta salad and it’s chilling in the fridge. But, it is hot outside. It is almost too hot to eat and certainly too hot for a regular big old dinner.

So, I thought, “Hey, what about some cheese and crackers?” I did up a few and they weren’t exactly exciting, but they were something to nosh on and to tide us over until it gets a heck of a lot cooler and we can actually consider dinner.

That’s when the guides told me to get out the butter and the cinnamon sugar and dress up a Ritz cracker.

That’s it. Butter and cinnamon sugar on a Ritz Cracker. Never, in the 52 years I’ve been on this planet have I ever thought that might work.

It’s absolutely delicious and has been elevated to a family favorite in our house.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Where We Make a Couple of Chicken Pot Pies

This recipe utilized the chicken I made last night in the crock pot. We love pot pies and chicken is one of my personal favorites. There was enough to make 2 pies, one for us and one for our neighbor Phil.

I began with making the pie dough. I decided to make a doubled recipe out of my Joy of Cooking cookbook: 3 cups of flour, 1½ teaspoons of salt, 2/3 and half of a third measure of Crisco, 4 tablespoons of butter.

Using the pastry blender I worked this until it looked sort of lumpy. Folks in recipes say it should look like coarse corn meal. I don't know about that. I've never seen corn meal look like what I always do with my pie dough. Maybe I've led a sheltered life.

The next step was to fork in the ice water. The recipe called for 6 Tablespoons, but I always use more. In this instance I think it was more along the lines of 8 or perhaps even 10. I sort of lost count. Work it in until the dough doesn't want to fall apart anymore.

I had a friend once who used to win blue ribbons with her pies. She told me the secret was to handle the dough with your hands as little as possible and to use ice water.

Usually I just start in rolling dough at this point, but today I divided it into 2 equal parts, wrapped it up in plastic wrap and put it into the fridge while I prepared the chicken part of the pot pie.

I cut the chicken away from the bones, gave a rather large helping to our cat Captain Jack who wouldn't leave me alone and ended up with 4 cups diced to use in the pies. Then, I debated whether to use the veggies from the crock pot which were sort of on the mushy side, but the guides said to throw them in. Why I'm getting a visual picture of some guide holding his nose I don't know unless they didn't actually urge me to do that. Could be I forgot. I did complain to them as we were preparing this dish that I probably wasn't going to be able to remember all the stuff they said. They said they'd help me out when it came time to write it up.

I measured out 2 cups of frozen mixed vegetables to add to the veggies left over from last night and then began preparing the white sauce.

And, as the guides said this is where they stepped in to help.

I melted 4 tablespoons of butter in my skillet and then threw in 4 heaping Tablespoons of flour. I may have put too much in because later on I had to keep adding more and more liquid to get the sauce to the right consistency. Anyway, however you do the flour you can start after it's had time to ball up in the skillet and cook through a little bit by adding 2 cups of milk. I also sprinkled on a good teaspoon of chicken bouillon. I have the powdered kind right now, so that worked out well. Had I used a cube I would have nuked it in a little water to dissolve it.

After it cooked I began adding a bit of seasoning. A little salt and pepper, a bit of chevril just because I like it and some Beau Monde in honor of my mother who used to use it in all sorts of things.

Then, I went out onto our patio and raided the kitchen garden and stripped off some oregano and a few sprigs of parsley. Added that all in and as it cooked and got really gluey and stiff began adding in the extra liquids. I started with milk, but the guides stepped in and said, "You'll be sorry." You know how they say that too: "You'll be soooorrrrrryyy." I don't know so much as how I'd be sorry adding more milk unless I'm going to need it for something else down the road or if water was just the better choice. In any case, it is a guide tactic to really get my attention and to get it quickly when they say, "You'll be sooorrrryyy." like they do. So, I stopped with the extra milk to thin out the mixture and switched to water.

Rolling out the pie dough was uneventful other than the fact that I don't have enough counter space. So, with a bit of grumbling that commenced. Then, I sprayed Pam into the pie tins and loaded them with the chicken mixture. Topped both pies with their lid. I didn't use pie dough underneath this time simply because there wasn't enough.

Then the roses for the tops. Roll out your left over dough and trace out a petal sort of shape. Work it with your fingers until the edge looks like you think a flower petal might look like. Roll it gently into the middle of the flower and add on another petal. I used 3 petals for these pies. Usually I use more, but today I did quickie flowers. Position the flower by gouging out a good sized circle that it can sit in.

Then, you make the leaves. By now you'll need to ball up the dough you've been making petals out of because there won't be anymore room to cut out the leaves and roll it out again. It doesn't matter how many times you ball it up and roll it out because this is not really going to be eaten. It's for decoration. However, DeeDude always claims the rose and says he likes it, so I guess he doesn't mind it being sort of tough.

Once you have a leaf shape drape it over the tip of your finger and gently, very gently use your knife to score in the veins. Dip the end in some water to use as glue and artfully drape and arrange it around the flower.
Cut some slits into the top of the pies to let the steam out. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 50 minutes. Or so.

And, since it's done now and my stomach is growling, I think we can eat.


So you know who I'm talking about when I refer to DeeDude, this is the him. He's my husband of 32 years. In this picture he is enjoying a dish of ice cream. He is a writer and had written several books. You can read more about what he's doing at his website

Where We Cook Chicken in a Crock Pot

After making the tapioca yesterday I figured I might as well do something else in the crock pot with the chicken I’d purchased at Luckys that day. $3.97 for the whole thing and you can’t get a better price than the 68¢ a pound they were charging. It's not often I get the crock pot out, so I figured I'd use it again.

So, here’s what happened. I peeked at some other recipes to get a bit of guidance. I’m still a little rusty channeling recipes, though as you will see reading further in this entry I had lots of help.

So, here I am chopping up vegetables and we begin to have an argument about the red pepper. I was for chopping stuff up into uniform sized chunks. We had onions, celery and carrots to work with. Except DeeDude hollered from the other room that I should add green and red pepper. Not my first choice, but hey, he was going to be eating it too, so I grabbed what was left of them from the crisper drawer. Here’s where the arguing began:

Guides: Slice that into long slivers.
Me: What? No. That’s going to be different than the other stuff. It all needs to be diced.
Guides: (Insisting) Slices. Long.
Me: You really want this?
Guides: This is what comes from too many cooks in the kitchen.
Me: Okay, okay. We’ll do it your way.

As I finish up with the red pepper and move on to the green pepper I began to do the same sort of slicing action except this time they said it was okay to slice the green slivers in half. So, we had red peppers the about 4 inches long and the green slices 2 inches long. The carrots I cut into coins and the onions into chop.

The recipe I had read had you putting all the veggies on the bottom of the crock pot, layering chicken pieces on top, slapping the lid on and cooking on high for 4 hours.

I stood there looking at the prepared food dubiously thinking there was something wrong with not adding a bit of liquid. So, I added in half a cup of water. About half way through the cooking process it looked dry so I opened up a little can (lunch box size) of V-8 and poured that on top.

And, so it cooked. When it was pretty much done I realized there was a boat load of liquid collected, so I siphoned off 2 ¼ cups with my bulb baster to use in cooking the cup of raw Uncle Ben’s rice I planned to use as a side dish.

I made the mistake of adding a little bit of cayenne pepper to the rice, but DeeDude liked it. I won’t do that next time, though, because it was too hot for my tastes.

With the next post you’ll see the chicken pot pie I’m making for tonight’s dinner.