Just Call Me Mrs. Flores

I always knew I was meant to write.  For who, that’s still sort of TBD.

There’s a certain fire that ignites inside of me when I get the itch to write…the kind that makes me stay awake most hours of the night in thought, pondering the shoulda woulda coulda scenarios of my life and wondering what will be in the future.  

It’s the kind of fire that makes you think deep, like really deep.  A digging into the depths of your soul sort of deep.  Writing is expression, it’s an out to words that don’t verbally flow as smoothly or naturally.  For me, it’s a platform.  I’ve held back far too long.  

Sometimes at night, I’ll pop up from my bed and jot down notes of things I want to write about in my iPhone notepad (with one eye open – only normal being I’m half asleep at this point), hoping I’ll have time to continue that thought at a later time, which rarely ever comes to fruition.  Like now. 12:16am.

I knew I was meant to write from the day I submitted poems in middle school that were published into a large poetry book.  They had asked me to come read the poem aloud from the book but too shy, I turned down the opportunity.  I sometimes think back and wonder what would’ve happened if I pursued it. 

I knew I was meant to write when in high school, the teachers would use my essays an examples in front the whole class.  I’d feel myself turning beat red on the outside but inside…well, inside it felt good to be praised. 

I knew I was meant to write from the days when I would write my Dad poems in jail.  My Mom would mail them for me via snail mail (yes snail mail was and still exists people).  That’s a story for another time.  

I knew I was meant to write when I’d play certain songs over and over again repeating the lyrics in my head to figure out what story they were telling with their words.  It always intrigued my how artists could piece words together so beautifully but then sound even more harmonious verbally as they recited their own lyrics. 

I knew (but now I know) with certainty that it’s my time to write.  About all things.  My life.  My kids.  My recipes. For you, for anyone who wants to read it.

My voice on paper is infinite, endless thoughts in my mind.  Here I am, it’s my time to let it all out.

“On the lighter side,” Pot Pie

Cooking Difficulty:  Intermediate

Ingredients:

  • 1 pack of organic, thinly sliced chicken breasts (mine came with 3 breasts)
  • Chopped fresh Thyme (1 tablespoon for chicken seasoning and 1 tablespoon for pot pie seasoning) and for garnish if you want to get fancy
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Sage
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 cups chopped carrots into thirds
  • 1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and chopped into thirds
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 5 white mushroom caps, stems removed
  • 1.5 cups low fat milk
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch, 1 tbsp cold water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 package phyllo dough
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • Salt, pepper, Adobe all purpose seasoning, red pepper flakes (optional)
  • A LOT OF PATIENCE 🙂

I don’t know why but I was craving chicken pot pie on Monday night after working the entire day…weird, I know.  I just wanted comfort food…something mushy, gooshy, delicious and satisfying. Little did I know what I was getting myself into on a weeknight but hey, it turned out amazing so I’ll let myself slide.  You most likely don’t have a 4 month old screaming baby that interrupts your chopping carrots every 5 minutes…or maybe you do.  In all seriousness, I think the dish may have not been such an ordeal if my baby boy didn’t know that he should cry at the exact time my hands were covered in flower or particles of mushroom.  It’s like they sense you cooking and their internal baby instincts make them cry at the exact moment of you chopping up carrots and shredding chicken.  I think it took me 30 minutes just to shred the chicken.  Of course as his mother, I wash my hands and tend to him on command at every cry but he’s the cutest thing on earth so it’s okay in my book.

I was searching the web for chicken pot pie recipes that were “lighter” than the normal cream and pie crust but couldn’t find any with more than 3 star reviews.  I guess no one has perfected their chicken pot pie on the first 4 pages of Google where I was searching.  Most of the reviews said that the pot pies were bland or runny…ew.  That’s okay…I would for sure give this recipe at least 4.5 stars.  Not because I am biased…because it was really good.  My husband honestly didn’t care for it but his only “love” meal is chicken parm so I can’t really go by his judgement; however, my sister and friend said it was great.  I’ll stand by their review.  I even had the leftovers for dinner the next day and it tasted just as yummy.  It’s not a 1.2.3 quick meal so leave yourself some time to cook this.  All in all, it took me about 2 hours between prep and cook time but I think next time I would do the prep work before hand and have the right ingredients.  I threw this together with fresh mushrooms, fresh carrots and well…I sat and meticulously picked out the corn, green beans and peas from a frozen bag of assorted vegetables because I didn’t have any in the house.  DON’T DO THAT…what in the world was I thinking?  Obviously you will have fresh veggies readily available and not be the crazy lady picking minuscule sized corn out of a jumbo size assorted frozen veggie bag.  PS – don’t mind my grease streaked oven in the pictures I am going to post…not sure what that’s about.  Maybe I need a cleaning lady!

Note:  If your phyllo dough is frozen like mine was, take out of your freezer about 3-4 hours in advance and put in your refrigerator.

Step 1:  Cooking the chicken.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  In a glass baking dish, coat 1 pack of thin chicken breasts (mine came with 3 thin chicken breasts- I use organic) on both sides with a little olive oil, salt, pepper. Chop up about a tablespoon of fresh thyme and 1 tbsp of sage leaves.  Sprinkle the fresh herbs on both sides of the chicken and pat down so everything is adhered to the chicken breasts.  If you prefer pan frying the chicken instead of cooking in the oven, by all means, go ahead.

Bake the chicken for 20-30 minutes until completely cooked.  Once the chicken is cooled a bit, shred the chicken with two forks and set aside.

Step 2:  Chopping your veggies and herbs

While your chicken is cooking, take 2 cups of baby carrots and chop each one into thirds.  Chop up 5 white button mushroom caps (stem removed) into small cube size pieces.  Chop 1/2 of 1 yellow onion into cube size pieces.  If using fresh green beans, chop each green bean into thirds.  Set aside 1 cup of frozen peas and 1 cup of frozen corn to thaw a bit.  Chop up 1/4 cup of Italian parsley and 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme.  Also mince 2 tablespoons of fresh garlic.

Step 3:  Heat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  Once hot, place your carrots in the pan (do not add any seasoning at this point).  The carrots take a while to soften.  Mix every few minutes until the carrots are softened, about 10-15 minutes.  Once you can pierce with a fork without much resistance, add your chopped onion and fresh chopped green beans in with the carrot.  Let these veggies hang out for a few minutes until they are somewhat softened.  Add in your mushroom and your minced garlic.  Mix for 1-2 minutes.

Step 4:  Liquids

In a measuring glass or bowl, pour 2 cups of low sodium chicken broth mixed with 1/3 cup of all purpose flour.  Dissolve the flour into the chicken broth by mixing with a spoon or whisk.

Taking your 1.5 cups of low fat milk, alternate pouring in the chicken broth mixture and the milk, mixing as you go along.  The sauce will begin to thicken over the veggies.

Take your 2 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with cold water (mix this so that the corn starch is dissolved) and slowly pour into your pan.  Mix and cover the pan on low-medium heat for 10 minutes (stirring occasionally).  The sauce should be getting very thick.  If you don’t like this thick, omit the corn starch mixture.  I like mine not watery at all so I prefer to make it as thick as possible.  Here is where you season this baby up and I used A LOT of seasoning.  I kept tasting it and finding it way too bland.  Add in salt, pepper, Adobe All Purpose Seasoning to your liking (a good amount of it) and because I’m weird, I added in red pepper flakes to kick this up a notch.

At this point after you have seasoned and are happy with the flavor, gently stir in your shredded chicken, peas, corn, chopped parsley and fresh thyme.  Stir to incorporate.

I used ramekins for cooking individual pot pies but you could use a larger dish if you like.

Take the veggie and chicken mixture and spoon into your ramekins – I had 5 oval ramekins filled to the top.

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Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in the microwave in a bowl.  In another bowl, crack and whisk 1 egg mixed with 1 tsp of water.

Next, open your phyllo dough package and cut the sheets in half.   Take a sheet of the dough and place over the ramekin.  Using a cooking brush, brush a light layer of butter over the top of the sheet.  Fold in the edges so that nothing is hanging over the sides.  Continue to put another layer of phyllo dough on top of the first, brushing with butter.  Fold in the edges.   Do this with a 3rd sheet of phyllo except do not brush the top of this one with butter.  Once you cover all ramekins with the 3 sheets of dough, use your brush to top each last sheet of phyllo on the tops of the ramekins with a light layer of egg wash.  This will ensure your pot pies comes out nice and crispy.

Last but not least, cut a small slit in your pot pies so steam can escape while in the oven.

Stick your pot pies in the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden brown (I put mine on a baking sheet in case anything oozed over while baking…which is did).  WARNING:  these were seriously so hot when I took them out of the oven – I suggest waiting a few minutes before trying to put any of this deliciousness into your mouth.

Bon Appetit!

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The Art of Ravioli

Who doesn’t love pasta, honestly?  Let’s face it, on those nights when we are starving, stomach rumbling and are too lazy to whip out 100 ingredients to make a lavish meal, pasta is our BFF.

Although I would agree that pasta from a box is easy and convenient, it’s not always the best tasting, especially after you have tried homemade pasta. Once you go homemade, you will NEVER look back – take my word on that.

In keeping with my theme and obsession with Fall everything lately, I am shying away from pumpkin for just this moment to focus on butternut squash. I was never overly in love with butternut squash until about a year ago when I made a Giada recipe that had roasted butternut squash mixed with onions, goat cheese, pasta…OMG – I think you get the idea of how amazingly delicious this dish was.  Viola – my new found love for butternut squash was born and I use it every chance I get.  We invited a friend over for dinner and he became overly obsessed too…Let’s get started on this fabulous homemade butternut squash ravioli.

Original recipe:  HERE

  • Butternut squash = 1 medium
  • Light Agave Nectar = 2 Tablespoon

Ravioli Filling:

  • Heavy cream = 4 Tablespoon
  • Parmesan cheese = 4 Tablespoon, grated, plus more for garnish
  • Brown sugar = 3 Tablespoon
  • Cinnamon = 1/4 Teaspoon
  • Nutmeg = 1/4 Teaspoon
  • Vanilla extract=  1 Teaspoon
  • Salt To Taste
  • Pepper To Taste
  • Pine Nuts (Optional) = 3 Tablespoon

Sage Butter Sauce:

  • 1 Stick butter
  • 8 sage leaves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Take your 1 butternut squash, cut in half, and spread a thin layer of light agave nectar on the surface of both halves to evenly coat.

Bake in the oven for 1 hour until the squash is golden and soft when punctured with a fork.

Let the squash cool before handling.

Dough:

  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons Water (add more if dough isn’t coming together)
  • 3 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt

You can either manually make this dough by piling the flour on a flat surface, creating a crater in the middle of the flour and pouring the eggs and water into the center.  You slowly fold the flour into the liquid until a dough is formed.  Then you need to knead the dough until it is smooth and form into a ball.

I wanted to speed up the process so I used my kitchenaid mixer to get the dough started.  You may need to add more water if your dough is not coming together.  I then removed the dough, formed a ball and began to knead for about 2 minutes until it was smooth.

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Take the dough, wrap it in saran wrap and set it aside to let it rest for about 20 minutes.

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While the dough rests, take your cooled butter nut squash and scrape the flesh out into a food processor (discard the skin). Then add, heavy cream, parmesan cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon, fresh nutmeg, salt, pepper and vanilla extract into a bowl and puree all of these ingredients together.

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Using a zip lock plastic bag, scoop the squash mixture into one corner of the bag and cut a small slit to form a homemade “pastry” bag.

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Cut your dough into 4 pieces and take 1 of the 4 pieces out of the saran wrap.

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Using a pasta maker or pasta machine, go from level 7 and run your pasta through one time through each level until you get to level 2.  Cut the sheet in half so you have two thin sheets of pasta.  One will be the bottom to hold the filling and the other will become the top to the ravioli.

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To fill the ravioli, Place 1 tbs of filling onto the dough and leaving ½ inch of dough around the edges.   I created circle ravioli using a metal circle cookie cutter; however, you can make square or any shape you like.  Moisten the circular area around each filling drop with water and top with the other sheet of thinned dough.  Press firmly so all the air is out and using the metal cutter or ravioli cutter, create the desired shape you like.  I used the ends of a cocktail fork to indent the circle pasta, to ensure no squash would escape when I boiled.  Repeat the process until all of the dough is used.

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Drop your ravioli into salted, boiling water for 4 minutes until al dente and remove with a pasta strainer.  Pour the sage butter sauce on top and grate fresh parmesan cheese for a final touch.

Happy pasta making – if you come up with any yummy variations, let me know! 🙂

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