Thursday, December 10, 2015

Pie Dough For Tender, Flaky Crust

This pie crust recipe is slightly different from my other one, in that it is less sweet.   I prefer this recipe when making savory / meat pies.    Generous portion, tender, flaky (more so than my other one) and delicious!   Classic, simple flavor that actually goes great with both sweet and savory pies.   

Pie Dough For Tender, Flaky Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter-flavored vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/2 cup ice cold water 

.       In a large mixing bowl, blend flour, salt, and sugar until combined. Add butter and shortening, cut the butter/shortening into the flour using 2 butter knives or a pastry cutter.  Continue cutting/blending until none of the butter/shortening pieces are larger than a pea. 

2.       Sprinkle water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.  Roll out to ¼ inch thick between 2 sheets of wax paper or parchment paper and use as top and bottom crusts for our favorite pie.  

Melissa's Chicken Pot Pie

I made up this recipe after doing some research online on many other different chicken pot pie recipes.   These were the flavors and portions that I found most appealing.  Nice classic taste with a hint of rosemary, good flavor and flaky crust!   You can also do this with any kind of meat (and any broth to match) like beef or turkey.   You could even dice up a potato or some garlic and add that to the vegetable mix!  Its versatile and easily customized to suit your taste.  I prefer to use thigh meat rather than breast meat, because it is more flavorful and tender.   But you can use whatever you like.

Melissa's Chicken Pot Pie


1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 pound raw boneless, skinless chicken cut in ½ inch chunks (thigh meat is best)
2 ½ cups your favorite frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, corn, green beans, etc.), or use the same amount of fresh or canned diced vegetables, drained.
½ tsp salt
½ tsp dried rosemary, well crumbled
¼ tsp celery seed (optional)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 medium onion chopped
¼ cup white wine (optional)
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk
¼ tsp turmeric (for that nice yellow color in the filling)
2 prepared raw pie crust (one for bottom layer, one for top layer), both rolled out with one molded in the pie pan and the other kept flat and separate.   

My preferred pie crust recipe for this dish:  Click Here   


1.        In a large pan over medium heat, sauté the chicken, mixed vegetables (except the onion), salt, rosemary, celery seed and thyme, until meat is done.   There should be no pink in the middle of the meat and it should be firm (at least 15 to 20 minutes).   Remove chicken and vegetable mixture, set aside in a large bowl.   
2.       Melt butter in the pan you used for the chicken, over medium heat.  Add onions and turmeric, cook until onions turn clear.   Add flour and blend well.  
3.       Add chicken broth and milk to the onions, blend very well to break up any clumps in the flour.  Turn up heat to medium-high and cook until thick like a gravy, stirring frequently.  
4.       Place bottom pie crust (with its pan) on a baking sheet for safe and easy transport.   Spread meat and vegetable mixture evenly over bottom of pie crust.  
5.       Add second pie crust over the top.  Trim edges to fit the pie pan, if necessary.  Pinch the edges of the top and bottom crusts together, all the way around.  Cut 4 one-inch slits in the top crust for the steam to escape during cooking. 
6.       Heat oven to 425 degrees, F.   Place pie (on baking sheet) in the oven and bake 35 minutes, or until crust is golden.   Carefully remove from the oven and let cool 15 minutes.   Cut in wedges and serve. 


Monday, November 23, 2015

Easy Turkey Stuffing Recipe, Make Regular, or Gluten Free!

 I saw this recipe online and I have used it a few times.   LOVE it!   I like the Stove Top brand of stuffing / dressing, but its always nice to know you can still make it if there is any reason you can't buy it at the store.   Maybe you were too late on grabbing some stuffing on the shelves, or you live outside town, or the weather is bad?  Or maybe you just want the bragging rights of making your own.  Feel free to jazz it up too, if you want (add cranberries, nuts, whatever you like!).

IDEA:  For "Gluten Free" stuffing, just grab a loaf of gluten free bread, an follow this recipe!  

  • 8 slices of bread (or 2½ cups store bought dried plain bread cubes or croutons)
  • 4 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
  • 1 tbs dried parsley
  • ½ tsp sage
  • ¼ tsp marjoram (optional)
  • ⅛ tsp pepper
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 11/3 cups chicken stock
TIP:   If you are using store bought bread cubes, skip the bread toasting directions.  If you are making your own bread cubes, follow all of the directions.

Making Bread Cubes
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the bread evenly on a sheet pan and toast in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
  2. Then flip the bread slices and toast until the other side is golden brown, roughly 6 minutes more.
  3. Remove the toasted bread from the pan and dice into ¼ -1/2 inch cubes and set aside.
Making the Stuffing
  1. Dice the celery and onion and portion out the remaining ingredients so that you have them on hand.  This makes the preparation quicker and easier.
  2. In a large sauce pan, melt the butter and kosher salt over medium heat.
  3. Add the celery, onion and garlic and cook until the veggies are softened and the onion starts to become translucent. Roughly 5 minutes.
  4. Add the herbs, spices and chicken stock to the mix and stir. Bring to a boil.
  5. Once the mixture hits a rolling boil, add the bread cubes. Quickly mix in the cubes to the liquid and then cover.
  6. Remove from the heat and let the pan sit for 5 minutes. Using a fork fluff the mixture and serve.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Melissa's Apple Pie

Looking over my cooking blog with the holidays coming up, I realized that I never added my apple pie recipe…  What a crime!  I thought of this today because we purchased a bag of mixed apples (some green, some red) from a local farmer.  When we got home, I decided I should make some apple pie.   I scrolled through my cooking blog, thinking my recipe would be here, but it wasn’t.   Well, it certainly will be from now on.   On this note, I would like to say that I am somewhat picky when it comes to apple pie.   I really don’t like when an apple pie is piled up in a big mound, I prefer a level or only slightly mounded pie.   I also like a tasty, tender-but-flaky crust.   Sweet-tart apple flavor.  A thick sauce in the filling.   Tender apples, but not too mushy.   With a slight kiss of cinnamon in the mix.   Too many people today make apple pie a bit dry (no sauce inside), or the apples taste crunchy or tough-chewy, like they weren’t cooked all the way.  And if that doesn’t happen, the contents of those mile-high mound pies will condense in baking, leaving you with a huge empty cave under the top crust! This is why I slice my apples thin and pre-cook them in the “filling sauce” before putting them in the pie shell.   A lot of the condensing is already done and the apples are sure to be tender.   Hope you like my recipe! 

Melissa’s Apple Pie

1 prepared, raw pie shell in a 9 inch pie pan (and enough pie dough for a top layer of crust, pre-made is fine, but my personal pie crust recipe is below the ingredients)
4 apples (peeled, cored and thinly sliced)
¼ cup (half a stick) unsalted butter
1 ½ tablespoons flour
3/4 cup white sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon 

My "Simple Pie Crust" recipe: 


1.       In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter.  Sprinkle in the flour and whisk quickly with a fork, to avoid any clumps.  Be sure flour is well blended with the butter.  Mix in the sugar, water and cinnamon, blend well.
2.        Add the apple slices to the sugar/butter mixture, and stew them down until the apples start to become tender, about 15 minutes.
3.        Place your prepared pie shell in on a cookie sheet for easy transport.   Pour apple mixture into pie shell, sauce included.   
4.       Roll out the pie dough for your top layer of pie crust and lay it over the top of the pie (you can also cut the dough into strips and weave them onto the pie, as seen in the picture).   Trim away any excess dough from the edges.  
5.       Pinch the top crust dough to the bottom crust dough, so seal them together.   Press the edges of the crust/dough with a fork for a nice design, if desired.  
6.       Cut 4 slits in the top layer of the crust (if you are leaving the top crust whole), each about an inch wide.  
7.       Bake pie in the oven for 1 hour, keeping it on the cookie sheet.   Carefully remove from the oven and allow to cool to a safe-to-the-touch temperature.   Slice into wedges and serve. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Chocolate Cream Pie

“You know what I love about cooking?  I love that after a day where nothing is sure-- and when I say noting, I mean nothing—you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick.  Its such a comfort.”
 Quote from the movie “Julie and Julia”, during a scene in which Julie Powell is making a chocolate cream pie after a rough day at work.    

Chocolate Cream Pie
(The original recipe calls for a chocolate wafer crust, but I changed it to include a graham cracker crust, like the one in the above-mentioned movie)


1 2/3 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter melted 1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt   
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
7 ounces semisweet chocolate finely chopped
3 tablespoons cold butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Serves 8 - 10
Set oven to 350°F.


Pre-Make The Crust:

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and sugar until all the crumbs are moist.  Mixture should be crumbly.   Transfer mixture into an 9-inch pie pan and press the mixture evenly to the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Bake crust 7 to 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool. 

1.  In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, and salt together thoroughly. Then whisk in the whole egg, egg yolks, and 1/2 cup of the milk until it is thoroughly combined.

2.  Using a large saucepan (heavy bottom) over medium-high heat, bring to a boil the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk. Remove from the heat. While constantly whisking, slowly (very slowly) drizzle  the hot milk into the egg mixture. Continue whisking to avoid scrambling the eggs. Return all the mixture to the pan. Continue to cook over medium heat, constantly stirring.  Allow mixture to come to a boil and thicken.  This should take 3 to 5 minutes.

3.  Remove mixture from the heat.  Then add in the chocolate, and let sit in the mixture for a minute. Also add the butter and vanilla.  Whisk the mixture together until everything is thoroughly blended and the chocolate is smooth.

4.  Pour the filling into the prepared and cooled pie crust.  Smooth the surface of the filling over with a rubber spatula. Use plastic wrap to completely cover the whole surface, so that a “skin” will not form.  Be sure the plastic wrap is touching the filling.  

5.  Cool pie in the refrigerator until it is completely set, which will take about 2 hours.  Top with whipped cream (store-bought or homemade, recipe below) and serve.

Whipped Cream Topping:

1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In an electric mixer with a whisk attachment (or using a bowl with an electric hand mixer) whip together the cream, sugar and vanilla on a medium-high speed, until peaks begin to form.  Spread topping over pie.

Dad's Chicken-Fried Pork Chops

Our family would have pork chops probably once a week, or at least once every 2 weeks.   We always used pork SHOULDER chops.  They had better flavor because of their good fat marbling.  They tended to come out more scrumptious—crispy fat, and tasty meat.  Other cuts would often be too thick or too dry and tough, because the center of the meat was so un-marbled and dense.   The ones we selected were often oblong, and we would cut them in half either before or after cooking.   We almost never used any other cut. 

Dad's Chicken-Fried Pork Chops

2 to 4 pork shoulder chops, about ½ inch thick
2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup corn starch
Salt and pepper to taste
Enough cooking oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet

1.        Heat a heavy bottom skillet between medium and medium-high heat (cast iron is best).  Cover bottom of pan with oil.  
2.       Place the flour and corn starch in a container large enough to hold a pork chop.   Blend the 2 dry ingredients together thoroughly.   Corn starch helps to create layers and a more crispy crust.   
3.       Roll the raw pork chops in the flour/corn starch mixture, until well coated.  Set aside on a plate or other safe surface to rest.  This will let the flour stick to the meat better.  
4.       Place flour-coated chops in the hot skillet and allow to cook for 5 to 7 minutes.   Do not move or lift the chops during this time.   Some people believe it will prevent sticking, but this is not true.  Moving the chops too soon will cause the soft flour to peel away from the meat and stick to the pan.   You should allow the flour to turn into a crispy skin before you move the meat.  
5.       When edges of the chops are golden-brown, flip them over.  Cook an additional 5 to 7 minutes.  If additional cooking time is needed for a slightly different cut of chop (thicker, etc.), please do so.  Look for signs that the meat is done—both sides should be golden brown and NO pink or red juices (or under-cooked blood which looks thick and white/pale grey) should be seeping from the meat.  Center of meat should be firm.  Bottom should be golden brown.  
6.       When chops are done, remove from the pan and transfer to a paper towel to drain.   Serve with your favorite sides like:

Mashed Potatoes: 
Milk Gravy: