Saturday, October 17, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie

So I've made a few changes in my eating patterns in the past couple weeks.  But the relevent one is keeping vanilla soymilk onhand.  I bought it to make cornbread and tried to come up with ways to use it and found I prefer soymilk on cereal and in pancakes, and by the recommendation of ctheflute, in chicken pot pie as well.  And I figured, soymilk has so many advantages: it has the same calcium as regular milk, but lower sugar (granted it is added sugar while regular milk's sugar is natural), slightly few calories and higher protein, it tastes great in lots of baked goods, it doesn't bother my stomach before runs, and it lasts longer.  The longer refridgerator life is probably the most appealing quality given my weird schedule this semester (I don't always eat any meals at home, which means I don't drink any milk all day).  Of course it has it's disadvantages, most notably, I can't just drink a glass of it.  Also, the soybean industry is pretty corrupt, on the level of meat manufacturers (only with less problems with foodborne illness).  However, the problem with soybeans is the wind mixes seeds of the big company (yes, there is only one, which is one of the big issues) and the smaller farmers, so you can't buy pure, fairly raised products.  This should almost be enough to not eat soyproducts, but if I'm honest with myself, I'm not going to give up edamame or putting tofu on my thai food at restaurants (although these wouldn't be huge sacrifices), so it would be kind of pointless to not drink soymilk in the name of supporting local farmers.  But my point is, I'm not going to drink it exclusively.  I'm thinking of switching to buying a half gallon of milk at a time and drinking that, while using soymilk for cereal and baking.  It might limit the issues I have with milk going bad before I can finish it off.

Anyway, the point of this entry is I made chicken pot pie.  Only it was more like veggie pot pie with chicken.  By the recommendation of Runner's World, an easy way to get more veggies in is to switch up the classic casserole by amping up the veggies and cutting back on the meat.  So I used ctheflute's recipe as a starting point, but the final product was really nothing like that.  Also, her recipe calls for a double crust, but after making the pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, I was out of shortening (and don't really like buying more since I rarely use it) and had milk that was about to go bad, so I made a biscuit top instead.  I threw together a bunch of veggies, some fresh, some frozen, and honestly, I didn't measure, so these are approximations.  Also, I had chicken stock (as well as chicken) in the freezer from the free rotessarie chicken I got from Whole Foods on Labor day, so I'm not exactly sure how much of that I used, maybe a cup of stock?  Well, I guess the best advice I have is make this to the appropriate texture, rather than following my advice carefully.  Oh, this made a 9x13 pan

4 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, sliced
1 onion, diced
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup flour
1 cup vanilla soymilk
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp sage
1 tsp tarragon
1 tsp basil
ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cooked, shredded chicken
1 1/2 cup frozen vegetables (I mixed peas and leftover frozen veggie blend)
1 1/2 cup instant biscuit mix
3/4 cup milk

Melt butter in large saucepan, add onions, celery, carrots, and 1/4 cup of soymilk, cook until tender (or tenderish).  Add flour, sage, tarragon, basil and pepper.  Stir until blended.  Add rest of soymilk and chicken stock and cook until thick and bubbly.  Add chicken and frozen veggies and season to taste.  Mix and remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 400.  Make biscuit topping as directed (mine said 2 to 1 ratio of mix to milk, no egg needed).  Pour veggie/chicken mix into 9x13 pan.  Top with biscuit mix.  Bake for about half an hour or until golden.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

So the news of the week: it's fall.  It's definitely fall in Atlanta.  Highs have been in the mid-50s-low 60s, but that means we don't see those highs until late afternoon.  The rest of the day is, well chilly.  Plus the sun hasn't been out much lately.  It feels like October in Wisconsin for goodness sake.  So I've been feeling fall-y.  And my old aversions to things like pumpkin and fall type spices are disappearing (as witnessed by the apple spice cake trifle I have yet to post about).  But this means I've really been craving pumpkin lately.  However, Publix has been out of pumpkin (they just restocked VERY recently) and then because of the reduced pumpkin market, Target was also out.  So I ran to Kroger and grabbed a can without much though.  I brought it home and opened it and... it was a little runnier than usual.  And it smelled like... spices.  It was pumpkin pie mix, oops.  So this works in cookies, but now I'm stuck trying to figure out other sweet things I can make with pumpkin pie mix (I was planning on using it to make pumpkin black bean soup this weekend, but I don't think I want pumpkin pie mix in that!)

In spirit of fall, I think I might attempt an apple cake with pumpkin carmel (and yes, "carmel" is a two syllable word in my world) sauce.  I just need to find someone to feed it to.

But anyway, here are the pumpkin cookies.  I brought them around in the math department and everyone really liked them.  I grabbed the AXO recipe, but it's pretty much the same as all the others you will find out there.

This one is from Maura O'Beirne-Stanko and these cookies are fabulous!! I know pumpkin and chocolate aren't an obvious combination but at my house these are a favorite year round - not just in the fall. Maura just made them for ZU Initiation last week and the sisters raved about them.

1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup shortening (or butter)

1 cup pumpkin

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla
6 oz bag chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Cream together the sugar, egg and shortening. Add the pumpkin. Blend well.

Stir together flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Add to pumpkin mixture.

Add vanilla, chips and nuts (if using).

Drop in rounded teaspoonsful on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Restaurant Review: Panahar

What can make a long day of working a homework set better? Taking a "break" by trying a new restaurant of course! And by "break" I mean we did math while waiting for our food. We were too hungry to really be productive though.

Panahar is a Bangladeshi restaurant, and let's be honest, the food isn't that different from Indian. Maybe someday I will know what makes it different, but I do not claim to at this point. But I do know it was delicious. And possibly more importantly: it was cheap! Each dinner was $9 including tax. Granted, we ordered the obligatory naan (and the rice might not have been included either, or maybe Basmati rice was more, I'm not sure), but I came out with $12 after tip, which is certainly not bad for a dinner out. Granted, that did not include a samosa. And the manager is a somewhat pushy salesman, always offering the most expensive suggestions and suggesting add ons. But hey, he's just doing business, right? The service is not particularly fast, which is okay if you brought work with you and don't feel the time pressure; it's probably a cultural difference.

But the food was definitely good, the menu was huge, and when there are huge menus, of things that all sound somewhat familar (which at this point most Indian food does and Bangladeshi sounded similar enough), I usually ask for suggestions. The manager suggested the Chicken Tikka Masala (noting this fell into the most expensive category of dishes, I think this was about $12 for just the meal as opposed to my $12 with naan and tip), which I never order because it's too "safe." I usually like to get something a little more special to a particular restaurant. I ended up setttling on Daal Mahkani, a creamy lentil dish which was very tasty. My friend ordered Shaag Maang-sho, chicken with spinach, which was very good. I've had some spinach dishes I wasn't too keen on (sometimes they are too sweet), but this one was very good. The portions were large, too, which made them definitely worthwhile. I've found that often large portions correspond to lower quality Indian food, but this was not true here. So I'm happy and although, I know, it's Bangladeshi, it's probably the better (at very least a better value) than the Indian food I've had or heard of in Atlanta.

Oh, and the dishes weren't very spicy. I didn't really look into ordering them hotter, but they didn't ask how hot we wanted them.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The secret to good cornbread (even if it's from a box)

So chili night was tonight and after all that cooking and cleaning and preparing, I'm exhausted. I need to finish washing dishes and do some homework before bed, so I'll keep the post short and focus on possibly the simplest dish I made: cornbread. It was just from a box, but with my own touch. And now it is confirmed by people other than me: the secret to good cornbread is vanilla soymilk. I discovered this cooking with people allergic to milk in college, but it could just be my preference. But two others complimented me on my cornbread, noting that they usually don't like cornbread, but that this was better. I also put a can of corn in the cornbread because I like it that way.

So that's one of my favorite cooking/baking secrets, which I guess is no longer a secret. Oh and you know what you do with the leftover vanilla soymilk (if you don't like to drink it)? Make pancakes. Same thing, they are so just a little sweeter and more moist with the vanilla soymilk.