Friday, January 27, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie Cups

It was Architect's turn to cook but her kitchen is all torn up due to a flood courtesy of a destructive little critter. So we switched nights and I decided to make Chicken Pot Pie. I love Chicken Pot Pie...with its blend of of meat, vegetables, cream, and herbs, it's like heaven on a fork. And - BoNuS - it takes the "what should I make with it?' quandary off the table.

I've posted a recipe for this comfort classic before so I thought I would try something a little different....Chicken Pot Pie Cups. I first saw the inspiration on Pinterest and, as I've been known to do, I gave it my own twist.

2 packages of crescent rolls
1 cup chicken broth (sometimes I use 3/4 c broth and 1/4 c of white wine)
1 bag of frozen veggies. These bags usually include veggies that are diced smaller better in the cups.
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon of garlic (my addition)
1 1⁄2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 1⁄2 teaspoon dried (this time I added some freshly chopped sage and rosemary too)
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups bite-size pieces cooked chicken (I like to grill mine)

Grill the chicken and when cool chop it into small, bite-size pieces. Spray each cupcake cup with cooking spray. Open the crescent rolls -- I used Immaculate Baking Company crescent rolls --and line each cup with a roll, pushing the dough up the sides and along the bottom. Leave some pastry hanging over each cup. Note that you may have to reserve one of the rolls to "patch" some holes.

Put the frozen vegetables in a saucepan, add the stock and the wine, cover and cook over medium heat just until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, reserving vegetables and broth in separate bowls.

Return the saucepan to medium heat. Add butter, and when melted, add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes until soft. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes more. Gradually whisk in reserved broth, then half-and-half, herbs, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until thick and hot, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in chicken and cooked vegetables.

Spoon the chicken mixture into the prepared cupcake cups, flip the hanging dough over the top of the mixture and bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until the dough is browned.

I don't have small children any more but this would be a hit with kids! Beef stew or any vegetable stew would also work.

We had a lovely bottle of French red wine from the Rhone Valley, Perrières. The bottle says that "The vineyard is cultivated following strict biodynamic principles." Oh. Regardless of the fancy-pants standards, the wine was very tasty!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Side Fringe Scarf

Younger Daughter visited Swarthmore's local knitting store Finely, A Knitting Party and while there, she saw a side-fringed scarf. This fancy feature was achieved by pulling stitches out from the side of the scarf once fully knitted. She bought the required balls of yarn, a chunky Berecco "Sundae,"
in a variegated cobalt blue -- Snozzberry -- and proceeded to explain the look to me. Getting a headache and unable to completely comprehend how one might attempt such an undertaking, I handed her my size 13 needles, she casted on 20 stitches and she knitted....and knitted. Since this was a chunky yarn and rather large needles, the knitting went quite quickly.

When the mysterious creation was about 36" long (all knit stitches) we moseyed on back to the knitting store where Natalie, the shop's very helpful and capable knitting assistant, explained what daughter had to do next.

1. Bind off 14 to 16 stitches depending on how long you want your fringes.
2. Secure the bound off stitches.
3. Begin to unravel the unbound stitches working from the middle of the row to the edge of the row....from the inside to the outside.
4. Repeat Step 3, working your way down the scarf to the last row.
5. Like magic.... You have a side fringed scarf!
6. Enjoy!

With wear, the fringes will tighten up so don't bind off too many stitches in Step 1. I think Younger Daughter did a fantastic job...great University of Delaware color too. What we thought would be fairly insurmountable, turned out to be quite doable. Great project for an advanced beginner or intermediate knitter.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Beer Chuck Roast

Perfect Sunday dinner idea.

This Beer Chuck Roast was cooked for five hours in a bottle of good beer. Some would say this is a waste of a perfectly good bottle of beer. I say it's a perfectly good way to showcase the versatility of beer...and beef.

Chuck is an economical and hearty cut of beef, typically tough and fatty, so the solution for a shredded, mouth-watering, flavor-packed encounter is to cook Chuck -- and similar cuts -- slowly in beer.

I have also used wine, cola and ginger ale but yesterday was a beer kind of day.

For the record..I didn't plan a Beer Chuck Roast post but I sat down to eat dinner and the plate screamed "take my picture." So I did and wrote a post.

The plate didn't really scream...personification.

First, I added a thin coating of olive oil to my Dutch oven and seared the beef on both sides. Then I added one roughly chopped sweet Vidalia onion and minced garlic, about 2 or 3 cloves. Once the onions became translucent, I poured in the beer and simmered for four hours. I added carrots and simmered another hour. I served this deliciousness with broccoli and mashed sweet potatoes. Yum.

My beer braising choice...16 Mile Blues' Golden Ale. I was curious about the name of this brewing company so, as I've been known to do from time-to-time, I did a little research. 16 Mile Brewing Company tells me that "The 16 Mile Brewing Company name harkens back to the late 1700’s when Georgetown (Delaware) was still known as Pettijohn’s old field, a rather isolated town, centrally located in Sussex County. The area was “16 miles from anywhere” in the county and was the best place for farmers, merchants, and politicians to meet to conduct official business."

Now I know.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Butternut Squash Lasagna

We had dinner at Foodie’s house on Wednesday – always a treat – and she made Butternut Squash Lasagna. The particular lasagna calls for a Béchamel Sauce to moisten the layers so what better source to consult about this classic velvety blend of butter, flour and milk than Ms. Julia Child. Julia explains that “Sauce Béchamel in the time of Louis XIV was a more elaborate sauce that it is today. Then it was a simmering of milk, veal, and seasonings with an enrichment of cream. In modern French cooking, a Béchamel is a quickly made milk-based foundation requiring only the addition of butter, cream, herbs or other flavorings to turn it into a proper sauce.”

Well, Foodie’s sauce was a proper sauce indeed because this lasagna was delicious.

First, I share how to make a proper Béchamel Sauce…according to Julia, page 57.

Sauce Béchamel
“In a heavy sauce pan, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter over low heat. Blend in 3 Tablespoons of flour and cook slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon until the butter and flour froth together for 2 minutes, without coloring. This is now a white roux.

Remove the roux from heat. As soon as the roux has stopped bubbling, pour in 2 cups of heated milk and ¼ teaspoon of salt OR 2 cups of heated chicken stock. Immediately beat with a wire whip to blend liquid and the roux, gathering in all bits of roux from the inside edges of the pan Set saucepan over moderately high heat and stir with a wire whip until the sauce comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring. Whip in salt and pepper to taste. Add 2 Tablespoons of butter or herbs to enrich the sauce.”

If lumpy: Force the sauce through a sieve or whirl it in a blender then simmer for 5 minutes.

Can’t you just hear Julia saying “whirl it in a blender?”

If too thick: Thin out with milk added gradually

If too thin: Either boil it down or add 1 Tablespoon of butter made into a paste with a ½ Tablespoon of flour.

Butternut Squash Lasagna
1 box of Barilla ready-to-use lasagna noodles
One butternut squash or a bag of butternut squash from Trader Joes
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4-6 cloves of Garlic
4 cups of Béchamel sauce
Parmesan cheese – enough to use generously between each layer
1 cup Mozzarella cheese
Fresh Sage leaves

Dice the butternut squash and sauté in olive oil and garlic until slightly caramelized. Add chicken broth to moisten, cover and simmer until tender, about 15-20 minutes depending on how large the diced pieces are. When done, mash with fork.

Place a layer of squash in the bottom of a baking dish, add the noodles, then butternut squash, top with several spoonfuls of Béchamel sauce, but do not completely cover the squash, top with parmesan cheese. Repeat. End with Béchamel to cover the noodles. Top with mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese and sage leaves and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

A little fancy and full of flavor. Plate with a lovely Caesar salad and a nice bottle of red wine. For dessert, pumpkin bread….

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Art of the Parallel Park

Younger daughter is determined to get her driver’s license before the end of her fairly-long winter break on February 5th so she scheduled her driving test before she returns to school. She is fairly confident that she will pass. There are a few things we still need to work on:

1. Slow down when heading into a turn. When I admonished her about this little gaffe she replied….”Mom, you’re the only person I know who slows down when heading into a turn!” Really?! Once I set Trixie straight, she is now making very nice turns and I have peeled myself away from the passenger window.

2. Better judge distance on your right. There are some bushes in Wallingford that wishes she mastered this lesson sooner. She only slightly brushed them but embellishment makes for a better story.

3. Parallel Parking. The bane of a new driver’s existence. I did the typical parent thing and put two metal trash cans simulating a parking space in the street for her to park between….perhaps I should have used plastic cans. Regardless, this lesson is going swimmingly and to help illustrate the experience, I staged a little demonstration with these toy cars (notice the Mini):

Wait, what?

I am in the space!

This space ain't big enough for the three of us....

This is, of course, an exaggeration at the expense of my good-natured daughter. In the unlikely event that any PennDot driving testers or insurance company representatives follow this blog, please know that she is an excellent and responsible driver and her minor blunders are part of the learning experience.

My trash cans were dented already anyway.

Thank you to Champion Driving School for the excellent and professional driving instruction.


Sunday, January 15, 2012


I had some frozen meatballs and sausage left over from our Christmas dinner so I decided to make Timpano. But first, for inspiration, I watched the movie “Big Night.” Big Night is the story of two brothers who immigrated from Italy and opened an Italian restaurant. The restaurant is struggling and they are trying to save the same from certain bankruptcy. One brother, Secondo, the businessman of the duo, tries – in vain – to convince his irascible chef brother, Primo, to offer mainstream and predictable food to encourage patrons. The idealistic chef is insistent and believes that when impeccably prepared, traditional Italian foods are offered the palate of the public will eventually change and the people will then come. Primo says “To eat good food is to be close to God.” Italian Food is the star of this movie and the leading lady is the “Timpano.”

Timpano is a traditional Italian dish that is large, hearty and can feed a lot of hungry people. You can make this dish with any pasta (the tubular varieties work best), meat or cheese, such as leftover spaghetti and meatballs. The pasta is served inside a crust and the result is total bliss. To make Timpano, you need a Timpano bowl or basin. I ordered my 14” enamel Timpano basin from It came in different colors and I ordered my favorite color, red. The basin is oven and freezer safe with a baked on porcelain enamel finish that makes it easy to clean.

2 packages of store-bought puff pastry dough
1 large container of Ricotta Cheese combined with an egg and Parmesan cheese
2 cupa of Italian Blend Cheese
2-4 cups of meat, sliced into bite-size pieces (meatballs, sausage, pork, grilled chicken…mix it up!)
4 hard boiled eggs
4 cups of sauce (gravy)
1-2 pounds (depending on how many people you are feeding!) of ziti, penne or rigatoni pasta that's been boiled to al dente (still a little chewy…it will cook some more while being baked)
2 tbsp. of olive oil

All ingredients should be at room temperature for easy handling and to not pre-cook the puff pastry.


Coat the bottom of the Timpano pan with a thin layer of olive oil or butter and line the pan with the puff pastry.

Begin to layer the ingredients.






It's like you’re making a lasagna. Repeat the layers.

To seal the Timpano shell, place a second sheet of puff pasty over the mixture to meet the bottom sheet pinch together to seal. Poke holes in the top of the puff pastry to allow air to escape during baking. Brush with olive oil.

Bake the Timpano at 400° for 45-60 minutes. Check periodically and if the crust begins to burn, cover with foil.

To remove the Timpano from the pan cover the top of the timpano with a large plate and flip the pan over so that the Timpano comes out upside-down onto the plate.

The mixture has to solidify before you can cut it so let it rest for 20 minutes after removing it from the oven.

Timpano is traditionally into "V" shaped slices, like a pizza or pie. Serve with a nice salad and a good bottle of Italian red wine.

What I will do differently next time.

Next time, I will use a smaller, oven-safe bowl. The Timpano bowl I purchased is lovely, but too large and cumbersome to work with. I am thinking about fun would that be!

Frozen pie crust may be easier to work with than the puff pastry and next time I will try that instead.

The whole wheat pasta did not work for me. Some recipes just scream for the more traditional stuff!

I’ll be more generous when greasing the bottom of the bowl prior to filling it with the Timpano ingredients.

Much like flipping a cake, flipping the Timpano can be tricky business so I’ll loosen the sides of the Timpano with a small spatula. One side did not survive as neatly as hoped. My photo is strategically positioned to spare you the buckle but it's important to talk about our mishaps so we can learn from them.

I combined the pasta with gravy before I filled the Timpano, but I did not add more gravy with each layer…next time I will. It was a little dry, but I offered extra gravy when serving.

My layers weren’t as obvious as I hoped when I sliced into the Timpano so next time when filling, I will make each layer a little thicker. The dished solidified nicely though.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Spicy Chocolate Cupcakes with Coffee Frosting

I had a business dinner to attend Wednesday evening so I knew I would miss the first half of our weekly dinner gathering. Not being in possession of the salad bowl and knowing better than to interfere with the wine-drinking ritual, I asked if I could bring dessert.

Dessert it was.

I decided to make Spicy Chocolate Cupcakes with Coffee Frosting. I had never made these before but got the idea to blend non-traditional ingredients from watching Cupcake Wars. I started with an organic chocolate cake mix and doctored it up. It called for 1 1/3 cup if milk and I infused the milk with strongly brewed Yogi Aztec Sweet Chili tea..... I love Yogi teas because they are good and each tea bag extends an inspirational message…the message from the tea bag I used “Together we can do what we can never do alone.” See, pure inspiration! I also added just a pinch of red pepper powder. I filled my pretty red and white Martha Stewart cupcake holders using my trusty ice cream scoop (best kitchen hint ever shared) and baked as directed.

While the cupcakes were baking, I made the frosting. I trolled the intranet (actually my intern trolled for me) for a coffee frosting recipe and decided to use a simple one from

2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons strong brewed coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat together confectioners' sugar, butter or margarine, coffee, and vanilla until smooth. Add more liquid or confectioners' sugar as needed.

I used strongly brewed instant espresso instead of regular coffee. I sprinkled each cupcake with a little Equal Exchange Spicy Chili Cinnamon Cocoa mix.

These cupcakes were both pretty and delicious....not too sweet with a subtle spiciness.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Bicycle Dress

I love bicycles.

When we were in Italy, I could not resist taking photos of the wheeled beauties propped up against the charming old walls and trees of the towns we visited.

Biking is one of the most efficient ways to travel about locally in Europe and I had a blast shutter-bugging while walking around!

One day we stopped to have a cappuccino in a Lake Garda café and providence called to say thank you for noticing Italy's beautiful bikes because our caffeinated bliss was served in these fanciful little mugs..I just had to bring one home!

Fast forward nine months to this week. I’m strolling around Anthropologie with younger daughter and I spot this little lovely. I left without it but could not stop thinking about it…. I even “stalked” it on that night.

So, the next day I raided my 2011 piggy can, go back to the store and I take this bicycle-clad treasure home. I love the vintage-like feel of this dress and, BONUS, it has pockets and detachable straps. I’m thinking of pairing it with a little denim jacket or a knitted shrug in blue…maybe orange…I don't know, I can’t decide. Sigh.

I was meant to have this dress.

Close up of bicycle detail.

You can read about the history of the bicycle here.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Resolutions vs. Goals

We all make resolutions for each New Year. I have a few and they seem realistic, doable. We approach them with the best of intentions and hope that by the end of the year we can reflect back with success. Besides the Dutch oven I vow to acquire in 2012, here are my other (modest) resolutions or goals:

1. I will bring my lunch at least three days per week and put $5 in my piggy bank for each day I do. By my calculations, based on 20 working days in a month, that piggy will be stuffed with about $720 by this time next year. It’s not really a piggy bank, it’s a coffee can that I duct tape shut so I can’t easily raid it, but that’s a detail.

2. I will finish the knitting projects I have on the needles and I will complete the new projects I start. I think my projects may be too ambitious or perhaps (and more likely) I’m just a procrastiknitter or lazy or both.

3. I will continue practicing Yoga and ZUMBA…I like the variety and I have met some wonderful people. I should mention that I am not very coordinated and this makes for an interesting ZUMBA experience and I cannot hold the tree pose without some possible limb pruning.

4. I will throw a decent bowl on the pottery wheel! I will do my best to keep more clay on the wheel than on me because I suspect the clay is fundamental to the bowl-making process.

5. And finally, I will read more books and blog about those I like. Here’s some on my hopeful list:
• “The Table Comes First: Family, France and the Meaning of Food” by Adam Gopnik. I heard this guy speak and he’s a riot.
• “Nudge” by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein because it’s never too late to be inspired to make better choices.
“Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. If you saw Serendipity, that’s basically the gist of this book …believe in happy accidents and that fate will eventually intervene.

What’s the difference between a resolution and a goal anyway? Let’s find out, shall we?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

French Pot Roast

Happy New Year dear readers!

As has been the tradition for the past several years, we welcomed the New Year while enjoying a lovely dinner at Architect’s house…and I made my first resolution – I’m getting a Dutch oven! She and Mr. Architect made the most delectable French pot roast in their Dutch oven that was just melt-in-your-mouth tender. In addition to the carrots and onions that happily simmered away with the beef, we also devoured roasted root vegetables. It was all very delicious and, of course, the company was delightful.

I walked in and was greeted with a Dirty Bellini. A Bellini is a mixture of Prosecco and peach juice…adding a splash of Campari makes it dirty! Then there was the cheese tray that included a wonderful cream cheese slathered with pepper jelly. Do serve this at your next gathering….the surprising combination of spicy and creamy will make this a “can-you-bring-that-jelly-cheese-thing” hit. After enjoying a homemade pasta appetizer served with a gorganzola and walnut cream sauce, the Pièce de résistance was dished! YUM.

French-Style Pot Roast
November-December 2007 Edition of Cooks Illustrated

1 boneless chuck-eye roast (4-5 pounds), pulled apart into 2 pieces and fat trimmed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 bottle medium-bodied red wine
10 sprigs fresh parsley plus 2 tablespoons minced leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Ground black pepper
4 ounces bacon, preferably thick-cut, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups beef broth
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut on bias into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups frozen pearl onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup water
10 ounces white mushrooms, wiped clean, stems trimmed, halved if small and quartered if large
Table salt
1 tablespoon powdered unflavored gelatin bloomed with a ¼ cup of cold water

1. Season meat with kosher salt, place on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet, and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, bring wine to simmer in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until reduced to 2 cups, about 15 minutes. Using kitchen twine, tie parsley sprigs, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves into bundle.

You can also bundle herbs in cheese cloth.

3. Pat beef dry with paper towels and season generously with pepper. Tie three pieces of kitchen twine around each piece of meat to keep it from falling apart.

4. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat to 300 degrees. Cook bacon in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 6-8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate and reserve. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat; return Dutch oven to medium-high heat and heat until fat begins to smoke. Add beef to pot and brown on all sides, 8-10 minutes total. Transfer beef to large plate and set aside.

5. Reduce heat to medium; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, 2-4 minutes. Add garlic, flour, and reserved bacon; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add reduced wine, broth, and herb bundle, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Return roast and any accumulated juices to pot; increase heat to high and bring liquid to simmer, then place large sheet of foil over pot and cover tightly with lid. Set pot in oven and cook, using tongs to turn beef every hour, until dinner fork flips in and out of meat, 2 1/2 to 3 hours, adding carrots to pot after 2 hours.

6. While meat cooks, bring pearl onions, butter, sugar, and 1/2 cup water to boil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until onions are tender, 5-8 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, and cook until all liquid evaporates, 3-4 minutes. Add mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon table salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are browned and glazed, 8-12 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Place 1/4 cup cold water in small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top.

7. Transfer beef to cutting board; tent with foil to keep warm. Allow braising liquid to settle about 5 minutes; then, using wide, shallow spoon, skim fat off surface. Remove herb bundle and stir in onion-mushroom mixture. Bring liquid to simmer over medium-high heat and cook until mixture is slightly thickened and reduced to 3 1/4 cups, 20-30 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Add softened gelatin and stir until completely dissolved.

8. Remove kitchen twine from meat and discard. Using chef’s or carving knife, cut meat against grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Divide meat among warmed bowls or transfer to platter; arrange vegetables around meat, pour sauce on top, and sprinkle minced parsley. Serve immediately.

I imagine that this would be absolutely divine the next day as well.