Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Slippery Pot Pie

When most of you hear "chicken pot pie" you probably envision a crust, layered with chicken and vegetables, covered with another crust and baked.

Chicken pie is one of our comfort foods - but if you are from south-central Pennsylvania, you know that "pot-pie" is not a pie, it doesn't have a crust, but it is good. Often it is called "Slippery Pot Pie" to distinguish from the baked crusted version.

In southern Pennsylvania, you may see signs for a church supper or fire hall fundraiser for "pot pie." Back in the kitchen, you'll find some grannies simmering a large pot with chicken and veggies swimming in broth. They will roll out pasta dough, cut into squares, and drop the pasta in the stew. Crowds gather and if you come late, there may not be any left.

I'm guessing that pot pie, Pennsylvania Dutch style, is something you either love or hate. It wasn't a meal I was fond of as a child. My mom usually made it with rabbit, and maybe the idea of wild critters in the pot was my turn off.

But now I find pot pie a favorite comfort food and perfect winter night meal. It is very similar to chicken soup. I took the liberties of changing the original recipe. Most pot pie is colorless and slightly bland. I preferred to add some color and flavor. The measurements are not exact. Use more or less as you wish. I added corn the last time and next time I'd like to try mushrooms. You can even substitute the chicken for beef, pork - or rabbit!

If you have never made homemade pasta before, this is a good place to start. The dough does not need to be super thin. Roll it as thinly as possible but the goal is a noodle thicker than normal. For fast cutting, use a pizza cutter.

Slippery Pot Pie

1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, diced
2 cups chicken, chopped

2-3 potatoes, diced 
2 quart broth
3 T parsley
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Saute onion, celery and garlic. Add vegetables, chicken, and broth. Cook until vegetables are tender. Drop pasta dough into boiling broth. Cook for 5-10 minutes. Serve

Pot Pie Pasta Dough

1 1/2 cup flour
1 egg
3 T cold water
1/2 tsp salt

Mix flour, salt and egg. Add water. Knead to form ball. Cover and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Roll out thinly and cut into 1 or 2 inch squares.

Have you ever heard of slippery pot pie?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Spring Fever

Our winter has been so mild this year, it hardly seems possible that spring is near. This week, I have noticed the birds singing in the morning. By the sound of their music, the birds think spring is here.

I have deliberately not been spending much time thinking about gardening. If you know how much I enjoy my garden, you may not believe it. But I've learned to know myself well. I can make dreams and plans in February that are not within the realms of possibility.

In my realization that I can't "do it all" I want to base my garden plans upon reality. Last year, I couldn't keep up with our garden. Yes, I know that we had a lot of other projects in process last year but I prefer to not doom myself to failure this summer. My goal is to stick with the basics, but plant a lot of them. Our family is growing and eating more than I dreamed possible.

Instead of trying some exotic vegetable that I maybe won't enjoy even if I can persuade it to grow, I'm focusing on things like potatoes, onions, green beans, and tomatoes. Vegetables we love, we can grow, but we didn't have nearly enough of last year.

So, unlike most winters, I haven't been reading gardening books. I haven't perused seed catalogs with a red pen. I know my self control has it's limits and I'd rather not tempt myself.

The garden is far to wet to plant. But last week my hands were in the soil to start a few seeds. I don't have a good place to start seeds indoors. Maybe sometime I can acquire some grow lights. I know it is pointless to start tomatoes or peppers. But I do have success starting lettuce,  broccoli, and similar plants who like the cool basement window sill. This year, I'm also trying to start my own onion and leek plants. With my dismal success in keeping onions over winter, I'm hoping that starting my own plants instead of growing from sets will be an improvement.

What have you started in your garden plans this year?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Blueberry Pancake Sauce

By now, you may have figured out that we love breakfast. Eating breakfast has never been an option for either Ed or me. We like to jump start our day with a good meal. And we love breakfast food.

If you don't do breakfast, then choose a night to cook breakfast just to enjoy all the great breakfast menu options. It is cheap eating, too!

Saturday, I made pancakes with our favorite blueberry sauce. This time I actually planned ahead and removed the blueberries from the freezer the night before. Usually, I make it with frozen berries. It takes longer to heat, but otherwise, works fine.

Blueberry Pancake Sauce

1 qt blueberries
1 1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar or honey
4 T. cornstarch

Mix all ingredients together in pan and cook until thick.

If somehow we have leftover sauce, the children eat it on toast, or as topping on cake, or straight out of the bowl!

This recipe can also be used with frozen strawberries, but decrease the liquid to only 1/2 cup water.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Review - Danny, the Workhorse

Every child enjoys a good horse story, especially when the horse loves chewy oatmeal cookies and hates to work!

Danny the Workhorse is a beautiful hard cover book, illustrated with water colors. It tells the story of the large work horses at Pleasant Valley Farm. My children loved the story of how Farmer Don and Missus Dora encouraged Danny to enjoy his work.

I hope the author, Helga Moser, shares more stories from her childhood on a Wisconsin farm and continues the Pleasant Valley Farm series.

I received a free copy of Danny the Workhorse from Christian Light Publications. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What we did with all that Chicken

Kelly asked what we did with the case of chicken that I struggled to purchase last week.

Some of it was marinated and frozen for quick meals of grilled chicken. But the majority was turned into chicken marsala, added to a plateful of garlic smashed potatoes and roasted green beans, and served at a sweetheart dinner last Saturday.

I've wanted to host a sweetheart dinner for the couples at our church. With our home addition, we now  have the space.

I knew the task was too big for just Ed and I. We asked another couple to join us in hosting the meal and they graciously agreed. Regina is one of those who can make food look too good to eat. Our husbands both are comfortable in the kitchen and we joke about starting Gina and Gina's Catering.

Besides our chicken entree, we served salad, bread (of course) with dipping oil, Russian creme and two kinds of cake.

My brother and sister provided us with violin music with our dinner.

 A crackling fire was the perfect accompaniment. My feet were weary by the end of the evening but a project tackled with my sweetheart and joined with good friends is time well spent.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wild Yeast Hearth Bread

This bread is not a soft sandwich type bread like most of the other sourdough bread recipes I've shared. This is a hearth style bread that has the crispy crust and chewy crumb that is perfect with a bowl of soup!

I started using this recipe with mostly white flour and only a little whole wheat flour. The above picture shows this bread. But gradually I've been using more and more whole wheat flour until now I'm using all whole wheat. The photo below is 100% whole wheat. The crust is not as crispy when using whole wheat, neither do I get as large of holes in the interior, but we still love it. If you choose to use all or some white flour, you will probably need slightly more flour.

Wild Yeast Hearth Bread

6 cup whole wheat flour (or white if you prefer)
2 1/2 cup water
1 1/4 cup active starter
1 T honey
3 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients except salt just until combined. Allow dough to rest for 30 minutes.

Add salt and mix on low or medium speed for 5 minutes.

Transfer to oiled bowl. Allow to rise for 3 hours. During rise, at each hour, stretch and fold the dough.

After rise, turn onto counter and divide into loaves. Make two large or four small loaves. Shape into round or oblong loaves and allow to rise for 2-3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Slash loaves, mist with water, place in oven, turn heat down to 450 degrees, and bake for about 30 minutes. The crust should be a deep brown.

For even better crust and oven spring, cover loaf with roasting pan lid for the first 12 minutes of baking time to add humidity.

If you wish, you may allow the shaped dough to rise for about 1 1/2 hours and then refrigerate for 2 hours or up until a day. Bake directly out of the refrigerator with no warm up time needed.


I like to form the dough into a round loaf and place it seam side up in a VERY well greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. When taking out of the fridge, the dough will be risen to fill the bowl. Turn out of bowl onto a baking sheet, score and bake immediately. This gives a lovely golden blistered crust.

I like the refrigerator method especially when we are having guests. It is nice to have all the prep work done the day before but still have fresh hot bread out of the oven.

To find more sourdough information and recipes, check out the sourdough page.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Egg Stacks

No food is better than the food that brings back memories of home.

My mom often made these egg stacks when we had overnight guests. It was easy way to serve breakfast to a crowd. Now it is a favorite breakfast for my children.

1. Toast bread and place it on a baking sheet.

2. Scramble eggs. I figure one egg for each piece of toast and an extra egg for good measure.

3. Spread a little cream of mushroom soup on top of each egg. I use my homemade cream soup. Usually I warm the soup a little first.

4. Layer a piece of cheese on each piece of toast.

5. Broil in oven just until the cheese melts.

6. Enjoy!

What breakfast recipe brings you memories of home?

Have you entered the giveaway for the book Life Is a Gift yet?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Doughnut Day and Lost Brain Cells

Every year since I was a little girl, my mom and I have spent a winter day making doughnuts. As years passed, sisters, sisters-in-law, and recently a few granddaughters, joined us in Mom's kitchen. Yesterday was our annual doughnut making day, though it wasn't Fausnaught Day, the traditional day for making doughnuts.

This year we dumped a twenty-five pound bag of flour and untold amounts of sugar into numerous batches of my mom's potato doughnuts.

 We never did count the doughnuts since we started eating them as soon as the first one came out of the fryer. 

(Neither did we count calories.) 

 We filled containers for each family to freeze, plus some plates of doughnuts to share with neighbors, while our children ransacked Grandma's house with their cousins. Soup was pulled out for lunch, for anyone who still had an appetite.

Last Christmas, my mom had sewn aprons for all the women and girls of the family with directions that we bring them to Doughnut Day. Surprisingly, none of us forgot. 

But this day won't otherwise be remembered as an example of my good memory.

I arrived home in the mid-afternoon with a vanload of tired children and Tupperware filled with fresh doughnuts. I handed each child an armload to carry to the house and was looking longingly at the couch when I remembered. The chicken! On the way home, I had planned to pick up a case of chicken ordered at a local butcher shop for a sweetheart supper later in the week.

What could I do but herd the children back into their car seats and backtrack to the butcher shop? Arriving, I parked the van, reached for my purse, and found it missing. A thorough search of the van—and still no purse. Then I realized the four year old, given the responsibility of carrying my diaper bag to the house, had done his duty.

Back in the van again, for another trip home. I was going to completely miss naptime. And I had no one to blame for this ridiculous afternoon but myself.

I forced myself to find a way to redeem the wasted time. I had been trying to teach the children they are responsible for the way they react to unpleasant circumstances. We now discussed our choice between frustration and acceptance. It took all my will power to choke back my complaints and instead help the children sing.

A quick stop at the house for the purse, another trip to the butcher shop (this road was becoming far too familiar), and finally we arrived. That can't be a "closed" sign in the window! It was. I had forgotten that the butcher shop closed early on Mondays.

By now, I was ready to bang on the door and force someone to give me my chicken.

Or at least timidly knock. 

An elderly lady came to my assistance, listened to my sob story, and graciously ushered me to the back room. There are advantages to supporting home businesses. Walmart would never have been so kind. But then, neither would Walmart close at 3:30 on a Monday afternoon!

Soon a man was loading my chicken into my van. I even had a fresh doughnut handy to express my thanks. I traveled the road home for the sixth, and thankfully final, time. If any neighbors were watching my frantic trips up and down our road, they must have wondered if I had lost my mind.

Maybe I have. Wonder where I left it?

Can a doughnut restore lost brain cells?


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