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Chicken Pot Pie, But I Don’t Care. (Yes I Do.)

September 25, 2011

Chicken pot pie. I could eat it weekly.

Chicken Pot Pie! So Delicious.

It’s second on my Comfort Foods list. Biscuits & bacon gravy (yes!) are first on the list. During the oh-so-stressful high school years (pfft), Mama made biscuits & gravy for me when I sulked because I made dumb dating choices. Thankfully, HotPants has saved me from myself in that department. :-)

Tonight, HotPants and I made a chicken pot pie. I can’t remember whether I’ve made one using another recipe before–probably because this recipe is so insanely tasty, I’ve blocked all others from my memory.

This recipe is well worth the prep time! The second/third/fiftieth time you make this dish, it will go faster.

We don’t make it exactly per the recipe. Here’s the lowdown on our changes:

  • 1 or 2 bags of organic frozen vegetables
    - Usually carrots/peas/corns/green beans)
  • We use a diced yellow onion rather than pearl onions.
  • For the filling, we use only 1/2 a stick of butter, rather than 1.5 sticks.
  • We make one large pot pie, rather than 4 smaller ones.
    - This recipe makes enough for two regular pot pies (including a top crust for each pie).
  • We’re double crusters.
    - We use both crusts on one pot pie.
    - We bake the bottom crust for about 20 minutes, then add the filling and top crust.
We’re already thinking about eating chicken pot pie for breakfast.

Meet Ova Lee: Our Beautiful Great Granny, Maker of Magic Biscuits

September 3, 2011

Look at her face. It’s pretty amazing. I’ve always loved her thick, wavy white hair and her soulful brown eyes. An old soul. One of my very favorites. If you’ve met her, you know she was a Southern sweet pea.

Ova Lee Burgess, in Her TN Kitchen

Her ‘lil hands told silent stories of hard work; one of her fingernails had a split from when she ran her finger under a sewing machine while working. We used to have hair and manicure dates, which I loved. I had so much fun styling her great hair and painting her nails.

I’d dry her hair all wonky at first, in what I now know is a faux-hawk, and then I’d use the round brush to make those big curls delightful. I don’t remember a manicure during which she didn’t grumble about that pesky machine messin’ up her nail. She didn’t grumble much, but that split made her sassy.

She and our great grandpa Bud had amazing gardens in their back yard, and she always canned vegetables. Her daughter Elise (my mama’s mom) also had great gardens and canned. Elise made dill pickles — I’m pretty sure hers are the root of our family’s love of them. Bread and butter pickles? Eh. I’ll eat ‘em sometimes. HotPants thinks I’m whack for not loving them. But dill? Yes please.

Elise Burgess (Gray) and Ova Lee Burgess

L to R, back: William Henry Johnson (Ova's father), Art and Elmer (Ova's sister) Real, Ova Lee, Elise, and Bud L to R, front: Mama and Aunt Cathy

Mama said Chris, my brother, was Elise’s official Pickle Tester. He’d go to the basement and take a pickle out of the barrel for taste testing. How awesome is that?!

I remember having a Snickers bar and a Pepsi at her house…and I remember eating fantastic meals there…and I remember loving to see all the colors in the jars for everything she canned. But I don’t remember the pickle testing. We lost Elise too soon; I was 7, I think. Chris was 12. And 6 months later, we lost Bud too soon. Thus began an even closer, more wonderful relationship with our great granny Ova Lee.

When we’d visit her in Cookeville, TN, she’d be up before the roosters to make breakfast: eggs, fried apples, biscuits, sausage, etc. I remember thinking, “Really, we have to get up right now for breakfast?” because a 7:30 a.m. rising time seemed insane during vacation. We did get up, and every bite was so delicious. Ova would sit at the table smiling. She was magical to me.

I. Love. Biscuits.

Ova would send leftover biscuits and sausage with us, so we’d have road snacks. Sausage and biscuit sandwich? Quite possibly the best road snack ever. Though HotPants might argue that beef jerky is the clear winner.

Ova would stand at the end of the sidewalk with teary eyes, waving to us while we waved back until we couldn’t see her from so far down the street. Even though I knew she’d be in OH to spend the winter with us soon, I remember being teary on many occasions about leaving her there alone. She had brothers and a niece nearby but in my mind, she was ours — I wanted her with us. Things just seemed right that way.

We lost her 10 years ago this month.

I’ve been missing her a lot lately. She made so many great meals, but her biscuits (and bacon gravy!) have always been one of my favorite comfort foods. Making biscuits always reminds me of her.

So I decided to make biscuits while we’re in MI.

The local store doesn’t carry White Lily self-rising flour — my favorite flour for biscuits. I felt pretty violated about making Ova’s biscuits with Gold Medal self-rising flour. They tasted good, but they didn’t have the same soft, fluffiness factor as the biscuits we make with White Lily. And they weren’t as moist. I added almost 1/4 more buttermilk than I usually use, and I still thought they were kinda dry. This just in: I’m a flour snob. (We’ve since picked up some White Lily in a larger town nearby. Victory!)

Peach Freezer Jam August 29, 2011

I also decided it would be fun to make peach freezer jam to eat with the biscuits. We found some fantastic local peaches, and I conned HotPants into helping me. He peeled peaches and washed the 4-oz. quilted jars we bought at the local grocery store. I couldn’t wait to make biscuits the next morning for taste testing.

Technically, we weren’t in a biscuit eating contest. But we didn’t know that as we repeatedly jammed (get it? bwuhahahaheee.) them into our faceholes.

Want to try the best biscuits in the universe?

Check it:

Biscuit Fixins: Self-Rising Flour, Buttermilk, and Butter

2 c. self-rising flour

1 c. buttermilk (more if needed for moist dough)

1 stick butter, cubed

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Do not grease your baking sheet, or whatever you bake them on/in. Mama makes hers in a cast iron skillet, just like Ova Lee. They’re delicious that way.

I find it’s helpful to have the baking sheet within reach before I start making biscuits. I’ve had one-too-many instances in which I’m messy from dough and realize I’ve yet to remove the baking business from its hiding spot.

In a medium size bowl, work the butter into the flour w/a pastry cutter (or fork) until the pieces are small. I usually work it until the pieces are smaller than a pea.

Add the buttermilk and stir the ingredients just until they’re combined. The dough should be fairly wet. If it seems dry, add a bit more buttermilk.

Sprinkle some flour on your work surface, and dump the dough onto it. Lightly sprinkle flour on top of the dough, and rub a bit between your hands to help prevent sticking while you work the dough.

Work the dough with the flour until it isn’t sticky anymore. It shouldn’t take long, and should feel soft like a baby’s booty.

Pat the dough to your desired thickness; I usually do a good 3/4 inch, because I love tall biscuits. I use a medium size biscuit cutter, which works pretty well.

En Route to the Oven!

Cut the biscuits, and place them on the baking sheet. For softer biscuits, I place them against each other (as in the picture above). For biscuits with browner edges, I place them about 1/4 inch apart.

I’ll probably make a lot of biscuits this month, in honor of ‘lil Ova Lee.

You should make some too, in honor of your facehole.

I have missed you, Facehole.

September 3, 2011

I haven’t written anything on here in over a year.

True story.

While I realize the world doesn’t revolve around yet another food blog, I’ve missed rambling about great meals we’ve made/eaten and sharing pictures that are nowhere near fancy enough for Savuer magazine.

So begins the next chapter (or two). Because I like to eat. And I like to cook. And I like to share ideas. And I like  to learn about fantastic meals folks make.

And…and…and…

Go!

Pasta Salad by HotPants -- So Good!

St. Patrick’s Day: Green Sugar Cookies & Biscuits

April 8, 2010

I’ve always loved food coloring. I love how it makes the ho-hum coloring of many foods bloom into vibrant shades of tasty magic.

I remember one St. Patrick’s Day when I was in middle school, and Ma was sick. My friend Shelly and I made a green cake with white icing and a green shamrock (gel-icing art courtesy of Shelly; I can barely draw a stick figure). We were pretty sure it would seem totally appetizing, especially for someone who was sick (uhh…not). Fast forward about 23 years (gah! seriously?!)…

I had an itch for baking cookies, so I decided St. Patrick’s Day (the week before, actually) would be a good time to bake (drum roll, please!) green sugar cookies and biscuits. Yes! First, the sugar cookies…

Bake, Baby, Bake!

Several years ago, my mom gave my sister-in-law and me a copy of Rose’s Christmas Cookies, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. If you haven’t flipped through the pages of this gem, I recommend you take a peek. Rose’s Traditional Rolled Christmas Cookie recipe is our go-to recipe for sugar cookies. They’re delicious! And they’re versatile–you can change flavorings, and you can roll them thin for crispy cookies or thicker for chewy cookies. Winner.

One change I made to the sugar cookie recipe is that I used lemon flavoring rather than lemon zest. Why? I was a lazy baker that day, and had zero motivation to zest a lemon and chop the zest. Seriously. I didn’t measure how much I flavoring I used (helpful, right?), but I probably used about 1.5 teaspoons.

Iced Cookies (I forgot to Remove the plastic wrap. Duh.)

I rolled them fairly thin and used our biscuit cutter to give them a pretty, scalloped-edge shape. While the dough chilled, I made royal icing with meringue powder (thanks, Ma!). Green icing? Yes please. I like using the meringue powder for royal icing, because it has a bit of a longer shelf life.

Oh, cheery green cookies! They were a hit with HotPants, my EKG class, and our neighbors during a ladies’ craft/drink night. The cookies had a wonderful lemon taste that pleasantly surprised everyone who tried them. Victory.

Biscuit-Cuttin' Time

Let’s talk biscuits. I grew up eating the best buttermilk biscuits ever in all the universe. It’s true. My great granny made them (at dark o’clock, most mornings!), as did my granny, Ma (also at dark o’clock), and now me (nowhere near dark o’clock). Biscuits and gravy (bacon gravy!) = one of my favorite comfort foods.

Yum!

On Sunday, I decided to make green biscuits before HotPants woke up. I had no designs on what the rest of breakfast would include, but I knew green biscuits would be involved. Our friends Leslie and Doug called to see if we wanted to meet for brunch, and we invited them here to build lunch around green biscuits. Snort.

We ended up with scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits/gravy, pan-roasted cherry tomatoes, and a light salad with olive oil/lemon juice/truffle salt dressing.

Doug made a seriously good  Ramos Gin Fizz using the recipe in The Craft of the Cocktail, by Dale DeGroff. I’ve had two other versions of a Ramos Gin Fizz since–at bars known for their awesome, old-school drinks–and Doug’s was the best. Nicely done, Mr. DeGroff.

Excellent Ramos Gin Fizz, Courtesy of Doug

Here’s the buttermilk biscuit recipe we use:

1 stick butter, cut into small cubes

2 cups White Lily self-rising flour

1 cup buttermilk

Set your oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Add the butter and flour in a bowl, and cut the butter into the flour with a fork or pastry tool until the texture is a crumbly mixture. Next, add the buttermilk and mix until it’s combined with the flour/butter mixture.

Lightly flour your work surface, and gently knead the dough until it’s not sticky. Pat the dough to the desired thickness (I love thicker biscuits!), cut the biscuits with a biscuit cutter. If you don’t have a biscuit cutter, a round cookie cutter will work. You can also cut square biscuits if you don’t have a round cutter.

Place the biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet, with the edges of the biscuits touching. This will help keep them a bit more tender.

Bake the biscuits until the edges are golden and the biscuits bounce back when you press their tops lightly.

Yum! Happy baking!

Sashay, Marché.

March 10, 2010

I discovered the tasty joy of Marché when HotPants first took me there a couple of years ago. He’d eaten lunch there several times while here for work, and he knew (duh!) I’d dig it. We’ve taken friends and family there (read: our families have taken us there!) when they’ve been in town, and it’s one of our favorite treats when we go out for brunch or lunch. We’ve been there for dinner once, a few months ago. Tasty Town.

Today, we enjoyed a lunch date at Marché before we ran errands. I know, I know. We party hard. I’ll tell you about our meals in just a minute. First, a little about Marché Artisan Foods.

Owned by Margot McCormack and Jay Frein, Marché is a european-style cafe and marketplace (just ask my mom, she’s found many treasures!) in East Nashville. You can buy milk from local dairy farms, gourmet cheeses, artisan breads, flower waters for cooking/baking, and many, many more fun food items. And you can overcaffeinate on Drew’s Brews coffee (which Pop digs!). Now we’re talkin’.

This is the sister restaurant to Margot Cafe and Bar, which is about a block from Marché. I know there are many (many!) fantastic restaurants in Nashville, but I’m putting in my vote for Marché and Margot as two of the best.

Reuben Sandwich

Today, HotPants ordered the reuben sandwich: corned beef, sauerkraut, spicy Russian dressing, and gruyere cheese on Jewish rye. Today’s side was a warm jardinière. The jardinière included carrots, cauliflower, and cabbage (we think). Man, what a great sandwich! I don’t think he breathed much while he inhaled it. I’m not a huge fan of pickled items (though I love dill pickles), but I think the jardinière was tasty. HotPants really liked it.

Roasted Broccoli and Mozzarella Omelet

I ordered the omelet du jour: roasted broccoli, mozzarella, and assorted fresh herbs, with a side of the green salad. I’m fairly sure I ate in fast forward. I didn’t finish it all, so we took the rest home. I don’t recommend leaving an omelet in your car while you run errands; your car will smell sassy.

At Marché, you can easily gorge yourself into snapping buttons off your pants. No shame in that. Once you’re home in your sweatpants, enjoy the dessert you took home. Your facehole will thank you.

Come Here, Gnocchi. Right Now.

March 9, 2010

If you haven’t tried gnocchi at this point in your life (I say this as though I even know anything about your life), we need to have a talk. :)

We need to make homemade gnocchi. But we haven’t yet. Still (lame). So tonight, we made dinner using gnocchi from Lazzarolli Pasta. Last week, we tried the kale and pancetta ravioli. Uh huh. For that one, we made a simple shallot/garlic/cream sauce. In my face(hole)! So good. I probably won’t post a picture of that dish on here, simply because it isn’t very colorful. S’all. Back to gnocchi…

First, we made a brown butter cream sauce with a pinch of truffle salt (Hello? Oh yes).We sauteed some spinach in olive oil and pepper, then chopped it once it cooled. Smelling good, smelling good. Once the gnocchi was ready, we added the spinach, a handful of craisins, and the brown butter cream sauce to the bowl.

Gnocchi with Brown Butter Cream Sauce, Spinach, and Craisins

Says HotPants, “I like the craisins. They were sweet.” (Really.)

If you’re looking for a quick meal that might be somewhat healthy (or not, depending on how much butter you use), this is a good’un. I mean, can’t you see the deliciousness crawling out of that picture?

I used the butter/cream proportions from Rachel Ray’s Butter Cream Sauce recipe, but we didn’t use nearly as much salt, we didn’t use any cheese, and we didn’t use all of the sauce on the gnocchi, so I can’t say that I’ve actually tried that sauce. I will soon though, it sounds tasty.

What’s your favorite way to dress gnocchi?

My First Entry…8 Months Later.

March 7, 2010

Now and then, procrastination has its benefits. Like now, for example. Had I actually uploaded pictures and entries in the 8 months since I registered for this blog (who does that?), my first post wouldn’t have been about I Dream of Weenie. And if you love hot dogs–especially if you love eating hot dogs cooked on a charcoal grill in a converted VW van–you’ll soon see why this is the perfect first entry. So let’s get to it…

Mother Nature’s still smacking us with a bit of frost overnight, but one East Nashville business has started the Give-Us-Spring-or-Else wrestling match with her. The staff at I Dream of Weenie has fired up the grills and dusted off the picnic blankets to lure us out of hibernation. It’s working. Hot Pants took me on a lunch date there yesterday. Actually, we decided to get crazy–we took our weenies to the park and watched strangers feed ducks while we ate. Sexuh.

Don Juan's Magical Lunch Tour

Editor’s note: HotPants just told me to make sure I mention that we went to the park for lunch. He said “I want everyone to know what a Don Giovanni I am…” (wait for it, waiiiit for itttt) “…oh, wait. Don Juan! Not Giovanni. Don Giovanni’s romantical, but Don Juan’s romantic. Put that in there.”

We first visited I Dream of Weenie in July 2009, a few weeks after we moved to Nashville from Cincinnati. At first, I was so stoked about the converted VW van that I didn’t even consider the magic brewing inside it. Imagination fail. Our first pick: the Dill Weenie. We visited several times after that, and were giddy each time. Then Mother Nature got sassy, and I Dream of Weenie had to close for the season.

The Dill Weenie, Modeled by HotPants

Enter, First Weenie Lunch Date of 2010. She’s a beauty, that first one of the season. We decided to get three dogs so we could trip the taste fantastic. I’m not even ashamed about typing that sentence.

I’ve read many reviews of I Dream of Weenie, along with reviews of other hot dog joints in town. We’ve been to a couple others, and I’ll post more reviews to include them. The more I read about h’dogs (funny, since I thought they were gross for the 10 years I decided to go vegetarian), the more one thing is cemented in my noggin–hot dogs are personal, and they are serious business for some folks. Pay little attention to the somewhat blurry pictures. Let’s talk dogs…

They Don't Know We're Fixin' to Shove Them in Our Faceholes.

The Rebel Yelp: with Tennessee chow chow (a southern sweet & spicy relish) and jalapeno

The Greek: with olive & artichoke salad and feta cheese

The Kraut: with sauerkraut

Ranking: (1) The Rebel Yelp, (2) The Greek, and (3) The Kraut

I’m a wuss. I can’t handle really spicy foods. My lips tingle, and my throat gets sad. That said, the Rebel Yelp was our favorite dog yesterday. Maybe it’s the chow chow. Beef hot dog + chow chow + jalapeno = tasty town.

Olive & Artichoke Salad? Yes Please.

The Greek was good also. I have an issue with feta. I like it in moderation; I think it adds a great flavor to many dishes. I just don’t love a big ‘ol pile of feta on my food. The olive salad on The Greek was flavorful; it was full of spices and sun-dried tomatoes. Yum!

Sauerkraut + H'Dog = Uh Huh

The Kraut was our least favorite, but only because the sauerkraut seemed bland. We’re fans of sauerkraut that makes your face pucker so much your cheeks get tangled in your teeth. Keep that visual in your mind for later. The combination of a hot dog and sauerkraut is fantastic. We’ve decided to make our own sauerkraut and make our DIY version of this one.

Clearly, we’re no h’dog connoisseurs. We just like food (duh), and we like to visit places that make the tasty happen. So while I can’t say whether theirs will be the best h’dogs you’ll ever eat, I hope you’ll visit I Dream of Weenie this spring and summer. The vibe is great, the h’dogs are tasty,  and you’ll be able to say you’ve eaten at a full-service weenery. ‘Nuff said.

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