Mmm, comforting “Tourtiere”

I have had a strange obsession lately about making a meat pie. One of the best food memories I have is of eating my first meat and gravy hand pie at a locals rugby game in New Zealand a few years back. It was warm and steamy with a lovely flaky crust, and the air was crisp and damp as men in their thirties, forties, and fifties thrashed each other on a muddy field for fun. I still remember the day and the players and the fans in the stands. I believe it was there that I fell in love with rugby, New Zealand, and meat pies.

I have since had several renditions of meat pies, and none (but those in NZ during that same trip) have satisfied. Not even this version did, but it was still delightful and I’m sure that I will modify the recipe again to bring it closer to that brisk afternoon outside of Hamilton, NZ.

While we are slowly working meat out of our diet, we are not removing it entirely. This is a meal that allows us to use meat as part of a meal, stretching it further than a hamburger or steak might. This made six very large servings of hearty food using a pound of beef.

French-Canadian Meat Pie
Adapted from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion

One double-pie crust (I admit to using store bought this time, but pie is NOT my forte. At all. Some day I will master the pie crust, but I picked this up at our new organic grocery co-op.)

1 to 1 ½ t. salt
2 c. water
1 ½ c. peeled potatoes cut into ½-inch dice (12 to 14 oz, 1 large potato)
1 lb ground beef (I “ground” my own in the food processor)
1 c. chopped onion (4 to 5 oz, 1 large)
1 c. diced carrots (2 carrots)
1 c. chopped mushrooms (5-6 medium button)
2 garlic cloves (more to tasted), peeled and minced
¼ t. ground cloves
1 t. ground thyme
½ t. ground sage
1 t. ground black pepper

1. Put the salt, water, and potatoes in a medium saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Boil until the potatoes are fork tender.
2. While potatoes are cooking, brown the meat. Add onions, carrots, mushrooms and spices to the meat. Drain the potato water into the meat and vegetables. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Stirring occasionally, continue simmering the mixture for 30 minutes or longer, until the liquid has evaporated and the vegetables are tender.
3. Mash about half the potato chunks and add them to the meat. Gently stir the remaining chunks of potato. Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool to room temperature. (Cooling can be accelerated by placing mixture into a metal bowl and resting it into a larger bowl filled with cold or ice water, stirring the mixture over the cold water to cool it down.)
4. Assembly: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Take one piece of dough from your refrigerator, unwrap, dust both sides with flour, and roll it out to about ¼ inch thick, or so. Or, pull the pre-rolled dough from its plastic wrapper and line a 9-inch pie plate with either prepared or pre-fab dough. Fill dough with cooled meat mixture. Roll out second dough ball or pre-rolled crust and place it over the filling. Trim excess dough and crimp the edges together with a fork or your fingers.
5. Cut vents in top crust and brush with egg wash, if desired. Bake pie for 15 minutes at 450 degrees. Reduce oven temp to 350 and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes, until pie is golden brown.
6. Let pie cool for 15 minutes or so to set up before slicing.
7. Serve with a lovely salad and ketchup or tomato chutney. We used our homemade ketchup, which was lovely.

Bean Dinner – Comforting and Autumny

I made this for a harvest party last month and promised to get it posted. I presumed I’d make it again but we’ve traveled and I’ve been a bit unpredictable lately, so no picture, but here’s the recipe. It’s yummy, pretty cheap with good protein, and SUPER FAST, and if you’re really lucky, on a cold day it will warm you to the bone. Even my two-year-old loves it, but who doesn’t love beans and sausage in a tomato-y mustardy brown sugary sauce?

Hot Bean Dinner
1 tsp. Vegetable Oil
1 link (16 to 20 oz.) Kielbasa or Smoked Sausage, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cans beans, may include Lima or Butter beans, Kidney beans, Cannelini, drained
1- 15 oz. can tomato sauce
2-Tablespoons Brown Sugar
3-Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
3-Tablespoons Spicy Brown Mustard

Brown sausage, and add onion, cooking until softened. Add everything else, bring to a boil, cover, and then simmer for 15 minutes!! Can be kept warm or on low heat for a long time, reheats and freezes well.

Serve with buttered bread, best with rye.

Barbeque Pork

Soooooo easy and soooooooo good.


One pork roast
One bottle of BBQ sauce (natural and recognizable ingredients preferrable)


Put the pork roast in the crockpot, pouring water half way up roast. Cook on low for 8-12 hours (I threw it in at 11pm). Pour out excess water.  Shred meat with a fork- it will literally fall apart.  Add barbeque sauce. Let simmer on low for 2-6 hours and voila, you are done (at 6 hours, that made dinner at 5pm).

We served it on fresh tortillas with cheddar cheese and lettuce. I think the BBQ would be quite heavenly on homemade rolls too. Whatever you like.

Not only did this turn out to be an easy meal but also inexpensive. Costco carries pork roasts 3 for $10, about 1.5 lbs. each. One roast served our family of four.

Happy cooking!

PS- Sorry for the lack of pics. The laptop died and we are transitioning to a new one.  Thanks for your patience!

For your Rice Leftovers – Baked Rice, Cheese & Vegetable Casserole

(NO PICTURE ALERT! I’m so not Pioneer Woman. I still only have 24 hours in my day, and much of them involve not taking pictures.)
We’re working on reducing the meat content of our diet and increasing the whole grains and vegetables in our diets. It makes sense for a bazillion (yes, bazillion) reasons, but it’s hard when that is not the normal way of American eating. I’ve started making Jennifer’s (Alton Brown’s) brown rice recipe in the oven more often, and I must say, I still love it.

And don’t we all love leftovers of rice? Okay, not really, I don’t. It’s usually dry and unpalatable afterward, and two nights of plain rice in a row? It’s not my thing yet. So, I have a recipe I used to use more often that I pulled out of the archives. We loved it then, and we love it now. With a nice green salad, it’s a full meal and full of fiber, if you’re into that.

As you look through it, you will see that it calls for certain veggies and swiss cheese. Please don’t be too afraid to mix it up. We happened to have ALMOST all of the listed ingredients on hand, and I think it is the best way it is prepared. I’ve tried making it a southwestern dish, but it wasn’t my thing. Tonight, we did it with half Jarlsberg and half aged white cheddar that wasn’t too cheddary, but more rich. (I’d give you a name, but it’s been wrapped in wax paper in a zipper bag for a few months with no identity.) That’s the best way I can describe it. One day I might be a total cheese snob and start using words like bouquet and floral and crystals.

Sorry, there aren’t pictures, but I’m just trying to share recipes people have asked for and ones I think people could use and enjoy.


An excellent main dish, or a rich side dish for pork or lamb chops.

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
1 large tomato, seeded, chopped
3 cups cooked rice (about 1 cup raw)
2 cups grated Swiss cheese (about 6 ounces)
3 tablespoons whipping cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and bell pepper and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add corn and tomato and sauté 3 minutes. Add rice, 1 cup cheese, cream and thyme and stir until cheese melts and mixture is heated through. Transfer mixture to 8-cup soufflé dish.
Preheat broiler. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup cheese over rice mixture. Broil until cheese melts, about 2 minutes.

Serves 6 to 8.

Bon Appétit
May 1993

Corned Beef anticipation

Jen here!  I’ve never cooked corned beef (at least that didn’t come in a can first – and that’s a completely different beast, only ever for Scoop Shovel Stew).  We never just plan ahead well enough to have it for St. Patrick’s Day.  But this year, we’ve already bought an “uncured corned beef round” from Trader Joe’s, along with a twin-pack of cabbage.  I’m sure we didn’t get the most cost effective option – (from what I understand, Amanda’s getting a brisket and corning her own this year), but we have it, so I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with it.

Amanda (who just spent a few wonderful days out in California and is probably hanging out at the Oakland Airport as I type) said she used the slow cooker last year.  So, I looked in my slow cooker books, and I did find a “corned beef and cabbage recipe” that looks pretty good.

My recipe is from “Taste of Home Slow Cooker Recipes 2007” – one of those annual magazines that Taste of Home puts out with reader submitted recipes.  I’m sure there are many other wonderful tried-and-tested corned beef options out there, and I would love to hear your suggestions.

Corned Beef and Cabbage (page 88)

cook time: 8 to 9 hours
Karen Waters from Laurel, Michigan
I first tried this fuss-free way to cook traditional corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day a few years ago.  Now it’s a regular  menu item.
1 medium onion, cut into wedges
4 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 pound baby carrots
3 cups water
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 corned beef brisket with spice packet (2-1/2 to 3 pounds), cut in half
1 small head cabbage, cut into wedges

Place the onion, potatoes and carrots in a 5-quart clow cooker.  Combine water, garlic, bay leaf, sugar, vinegar, epper and contents of spice packet. [I’ll have to adapt here because my spices are just sealed loose in the package with the beef.] Pour over vegetables.  Top with brisket and cabbage.  Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours or until meat and vegetables are tender.  Remove bay leaf before serving.

YIELD: 6-8 servings

I’ll let you know next week how things turn out.  And, I’m definitely open to feedback.  Enjoy!

Easy dinner – slow cooker to the rescue with Salsa Chicken

I love a slow cooker for a billion reasons. Okay, maybe not that many because I’m not sure I’ve lived long enough to have a billion reasons for anything. But I like a slow cooker because it eliminates dinner stress. I hate thinking about dinner all day, and then come 4pm when my son is the most wild, trying to put it together. Then I get the “I have to work a little late” call and I start to fall apart.
Okay, not really. But it’s not as easy as putting something in the slow cooker during naptime and having the scent of deliciousness permeate the house for hours making me insatiably hungry until dinner time.
This chicken is the easiest thing on the planet, and I have been asked more times than I can count (clearly less than a billion) how I make it. It has five ingredients, one of which is salt. EASY!
We were lucky enough to make a lot of salsa this summer. It is chunky and yummy and I didn’t add enough salt so it is terrible for dipping chips in. So I pour it on chicken and make chicken tacos to die for. Yes, to die for. Okay. No death. I didn’t mean it.
This is so easy you’ll be mad you haven’t done it before. And you won’t even call it a recipe I don’t but too many people have asked for it that I am starting to accept it.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

2 to 3 chicken breasts (depending on your family’s needs)
1 pint of salsa (or so, but make sure you have enough to cover the chicken)
1/2 to 1 t. cumin
juice of 1 lime
salt, to taste (taste your salsa and season accordingly. If your salsa is flat, add enough to season the salsa and chicken. If the salsa is salty enough, just enough to season the chicken)

Place chicken in slow cooker and everything else on top. I sort of stir in the lime juice and cumin. Look at the clock. If you need to eat in less than six hours, turn it to high for two hours or so, then turn it down to low. Or just leave it on high if it needs to be ready in four hours. If you’re really good, and you have more time than that, put it on low and let it rip all day.
When it is time to eat, shred the chicken with two forks and stir it all together. Mmm, so yummy! I usually eat several bites at this point. But for your family, serve on warmed tortillas with your favorite toppings, including slow-cooker beans (black or pinto are the norm, but not the final say, in our family). We like cheese, cabbage or lettuce, sour cream, avocado, corn, whatever we have on hand.
I promise you, if your family likes food like this (fake Mexican, tomatoes, etc), they will love you. And if they don’t, get better salsa.

Mmm . . . this makes your house smell so good – Bacon ricotta noodles

Bacon Ricotta Noodles

Jen here!  This is actually the first of a two-for-one recipe . . . but we almost never get to the second part (“Mock spinach and Ricotta Lasagna) because we like these noodles so much – but I’ll give those instructions, if you really, really want.  I’ve run across the recipe (or similar) a couple of times.  I’m sharing from another favorite cookbook, Desperation Dinners!, which is a book full of (and I quote from the cover) “Home-cooked meals for frantic families in 20 minutes flat.  by Beverly Mills & Alicia Ross.”  These recipes really do go together fast . . . maybe up to 30 minutes if you’re interrupted by your kids . . . or have to wash the pot before you can use it.  But, hey, I’m flexible.  They also don’t count oven preheating or water boiling in their 20 minutes to the table time.  They figure you walk in the door, turn on the oven or stove, drop off your stuff, get home and settled, and then start your 20 minutes dash to dinner.

So – here it goes – and remember, there are few things that make your house smell better than bacon and onions cooking together.  (While attempting to type this post, I fixed a bowl of these noodles, only to have it hijacked by my two-year old.  They’re kid-friendly, too.  We used whole wheat penne this time for a bit more nutritional punch.)  I’m guessing that over time, we’ll learn to make our own ricotta cheese, because I think it can be made with the same kit as the mozzarella.  When making this, don’t forget to save the 3T pasta water for the sauce.

Bacon Ricotta Noodles (Two-For-One Noodles p. 170)

4 cups (16 ounces) penne
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion (for 1/2 cup diced)
3 slices bacon (turkey, regular, or low-sodium)
1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves (optional)
1 large container (15 ounces) reduced-fat ricotta cheese
1/4 cup already-grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
1/2 teaspoon dried basil*
3 tablespoons hot water from the pasta pot

1.  Place the penne in 3 quarts of already-boiling unsalted water and cook until tender, 11-13 minutes (per package).

2.  Meanwhile, heat the oil in an 8-inch or larger nonstick skillet, over low heat.  Peel and dice the onion and add it to the skillet.  Coarsely chop the bacon, add it to the skillet and cook until  the onion is tender and the bacon is not quite crisp, about 3 minutes.  While the onion and bacon cook, chop the parsley (if using). *If you have fresh basil substitute 1 tablespoon chopped for the dried.  Chop it when you chop the parsley, if using.

3.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and onion to a 3-quart or larger serving bowl.  To the bowl add the ricotta, the 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, parsley, basil, and hot cooking water from the pasta pot.  Stir well and set aside.

4.  Drain the penne well and pour half immediately into the bowl with the ricotta mixture.  Stir well to mix, and add the remaining penne and stir well again.  Season with salt and pepper and serve, passing extra Parmesan at the table.

Serves 8 or 4 with leftovers to make the lasagna.

Mock Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna p. 172

1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach
4 cups leftover Two-for-One Noodles (half of the above recipe)
1 jar (26 ounces) spaghetti sauce (or one quart bag if you’ve made your own)
1 cup (4 ounces) already-shredded mozzarella cheese

1.  The oven should be already heated to 425°F.

2.  Place the block of frozen spinach in a microwave-safe dish, cover, and microwave on high for 5 minutes to defrost.

3.  Meanwhile, place the Two-for-One Noodles in a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish, separating any that may be stuck together.  When the spinach id defrosted, drain well and scatter over the noodles.  Top with the spaghetti sauce and sprinkle with the cheese.

4.  Bake until bubbly hot, 12 minutes.  Serve at once.

Serves 4

Hop, Hop, Hoppin’ John.

Matt didn’t believe me that there was a book called “Hop on Pop” by Dr. Seuss. I’m not sure what rock he has been living under for the last 30 years, but apparently it included only Latin, Shakespeare, and obscure poetry.
One of our New Year’s resolutions seems backwards from what we have been doing otherwise. I want to cycle through our pantry and freezer foods, and re-stock with new and fresh foods. This has little to do with our food storage, just rotational problems. We had a huge load of ham left over from Christmas and lots of rice and beans to boot. So as I flipped through my trusty America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook for Ham recipes, I found one for Hoppin’ John. Being a westerner from generations back, I had no idea this was a TRADITIONAL New Year’s day recipe in the South. Apparently, it is almost requisite that you eat black-eyed peas on new years if you want ANY luck whatsoever. Sorry, it’s too late for most of you, but better luck next year, right?
It actually turned out really excellent, considering I’ve never seen the dish prepared (not even in the cookbook), or had ever cooked with black-eyed peas before. Matt can’t seem to get enough of it, and since I checked out Hop on Pop from the library, we’ve cleared up the other hop issues.
My recipe is almost straight from the cookbook, but as usual, I made a few changes. We were lucky to find that our parsley has continued to grow through the snow, as it brightened up a somewhat dull looking dish. Traditionally this is served with white rice, and we took no exception to that. While brown is healthier, the white rice was perfect at helping tone down some of the gorgeous heat of the dish. And strangely, like the post before, this is great with a glass of milk.
Hoppin’ John
8 oz bacon, chopped coarse
2 onions, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed (minced is ideal, but pressed is about a billion times easier)
1 1/2 t minced fresh thyme or 1/2 t dried
6 c water
1 pound dried black eyed peas, picked over and rinsed
2 bay laves
1/2 t red pepper flakes
2 to 3 cups thick sliced ham, chopped into small bite pieces
2 T chopped fresh parsley

1. Adjust oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat hte oven to 300 degrees. Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Stir the onions and 1 teaspoon salt and continue to cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Stire in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in the water, scraping up any browned bits (aka flavor). Stir in the black-eyed peas, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 t. pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and transfer to the oven. Bake, stirring every 30 minutes, until peas are tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Mine took 1 1/2 hours).
3. Remove the lid and stir in the ham. Continue to bake, uncovered, until the liquid has thickened, about 30 minutes.
4. Discard the bay leaves. Let the peas sit for 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with salt, pepper, and Tabasco to taste. (And the Tabasco really adds some nice flavor, not just heat)

Easy! Slow cooker chicken and vegetables

This is healthy, warm, comforting, and just too easy!
We have made this in a dutch oven outside in a fire and in a slow cooker, and of course the dutch oven was better, but not necessarily practical all the time.

New potatoes – scrubbed and chopped
Carrots – scrubbed/peeled and chopped
Onions – chopped
Garlic – diced/pressed/grated
Any other root veggies you have lying around
Chicken pieces – thighs are best, but 1/2 breasts are good too but have less flavor, but use whatever you have
salt, pepper, italian seasoning
chicken base – about a teaspoon or so, depending on how much food you’re making

Throw this ALL in the pot, stir it up, cover it and cook it low and slow until it’s all melded together (low for 8 hours should be adequate in a slow cooker). And it’s super healthy and screams – “EAT ME!”.

Obviously I’m delaying studying, but we haven’t had dinner yet, it’s late and I’m really tired of easements and covenants and right now I’m reviewing marketable title acts – gag!

I shouldn’t be cooking, but I am – Cupcake Tin Porkpies

I have more on my plate right now than I like, and usually that puts me into an “eat what comes my way” mode, but I’m lashing out against my better judgment. I am losing weight still, which I guess comes with continual nursing and recurring illnesses of the digestive system. That isn’t what most people like me for, in fact, I think it makes some people angry that I have to make sure I eat enough. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not my mother or cousin who would blow away if they didn’t remember to eat every meal, but my numbers are below normal for me, despite the postpartum pooch that will probably remain with me to my dying day. That said, I am going into the kitchen to make sure that what I put in my body is good for me rather than the empty calories that supported me through law school.

This week, after spending the majority of Sunday and Monday ill, I made brownies, skillet tuna casserole, veggie fajitas, pork loin with roasted root vegetables – including these wonderful blue potatoes we got at the farmers’ market this summer and have been storing in our window well, and last night it was mini pork pies. That is more than I probably make when I’m not studying for the bar. Weird, but I guess I have just felt the need to be domestic when all around me is legal and brooding.

I didn’t really get any good pictures of what I made, because guilt still compelled me to quickly return to the books, but I had such a nice time in the kitchen that I am disliking studying more and more everyday. I guess I would probably do that anyway.

For the brownies, pork loin and tuna casserole (comfort food after our sickness last weekend), the recipes came from my America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. The pork pies were a modified version of a magazine rip-out.

Cupcake tin pork pies:

3/4 lb ground pork (I took off a chunk of the pork loin before I roasted it and threw it in the food processor to make my ground pork)
1 medium onion, small dice
salt and pepper
1 T chopped fresh sage
1/2 c bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten and divided
2 9 inch disks of refrigerated pie dough – yes, I used premade pie dough because I am afraid of making pastry dough.

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Butter 12 muffin cups
3. Combine all ingredients, but the dough and 1 T of the beaten egg
4. Unroll and cut out twelve large circles (big enough to line the muffin cups)
5. Re-roll the dough and cut smaller circles for the tops, or if you’re like me, then you didn’t have enough left over so you cut out fun little shapes for the tops of the pies.
6. Line the 12 cups with the dough and fill them with about 1 1/2 T of the pork mixture, using it all up among the 12 cups.
7. Place your toppers on – if you got enough out to make full toppers, put a small hole in the top for a vent. If not, decorate the top with your decoration.
8. Bake until the tops are brown and slightly puffy – 30-35 minutes, removing to cool for about 15 minutes before eating.

We want to experiment and try other fillings because these were so good and really handy. Next, I think we will try feta, ground chicken and sun-dried tomatoes with a touch of oregano. And yes, i took pictures, but I have no idea where the camera has gone.

Here is the roast pork loin and the really pretty and out of focus purple potatoes.