Thursday, February 12, 2015

Frozen Feasting

I don’t love a lot of things about being snowed in, but there is one thing about it that I do love: Cooking. I love to cook comfort food during snowy weather. Warm, hearty meals that make the whole house smell wonderful. Dishes that bring me back to my own childhood of playing in the snow, skating on the pond, sledding in the backyard for hours. So I would like to share with you a handful of my favorite dishes for feasting on during this freezing winter weather.

Chicken Pot Pie

My recipe is something of a mish-mash of several different recipes. My mom used a standard pie crust; my husband adores when I use puff pastry sheets instead. Sometimes I make a big pie and serve it family-style; sometimes I make individual pies. You can use whatever vegetables you prefer, and whatever herbs you prefer. This is my favorite variation.

1 stick butter, cut into pieces
½ cup flour
4 cups chicken stock
1-2 tsp poultry seasoning (to taste)
1/2 a medium onion, chopped
two stalks of celery, sliced
two medium carrots, sliced
two medium potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
1-2 cups cooked chicken (~2 breasts), cut into bite-size pieces
½ cup each frozen peas and frozen corn
salt and pepper to taste
1 pkg frozen puff pastry, (thaw for 40 minutes)
optional: 1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp water

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then whisk in the flour, whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Slowly add the stock, whisking till smooth, and bring to a boil. Add the poultry seasoning, celery, carrots, and potatoes, and cook for 5-10 minutes until carrots are tender. Add chicken, vegetables, salt and pepper, and continue to cook until the potatoes are tender (another 5-10 minutes). Divide into 4 oven-proof baking bowls (I use ramekins for the kids’ portions) placed on a baking sheet. (There may be extra filling, depending on the size of your bowls.) Brush the edge of the bowls with water and lay the thawed puff pastry on top, pressing to seal. Brush the pastry with the egg mixture, if desired. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until pastry is golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. 


The combination of sausage and ground beef makes this dish especially flavorful. Since I make this recipe in the winter more often than in the summer, I usually use dried herbs, but it’s even better with fresh, especially the basil. Not only does it taste better, it makes the whole house smell marvelous!

(This recipe has its roots in a number of recipes whose sources were lost long ago, so I can’t give credit to anyone. Except myself, I guess.)

½ lb. Italian sweet sausage, removed from casing
½ lb. ground beef
3 tsp minced garlic
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tbsp parsley, divided
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp salt
1 (16 oz.) can whole or diced tomatoes (plain or with herbs), undrained
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
16 oz. ricotta
1 egg
¼ c. grated Parmesan
1 tbsp parsley
1-1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 c. shredded mozzarella
¼ c. Parmesan
12 uncooked lasagna noodles

Cook sausage, beef, garlic and onion till browned; drain fat. Stir in 2 tbsp parsley, sugar, basil, salt, tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Break up tomatoes. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. Combine ricotta, egg, Parmesan, 1 tbsp parsley, and oregano in a large bowl. Spread 1 c. sauce in ungreased 9x13” pan, top with 4 noodles. Spread with 1 c. cheese mixture and 1 c. sauce. Cover with 2/3 c. mozzarella and 4 more noodles, then the rest of the cheese, 1 c. sauce, 2/3 c. mozzarella, and 4 more noodles. Finish with the rest of the sauce, the rest of the mozzarella, and Parmesan. Bake uncovered at 350 for 45 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes before cutting.

Lentil Soup

My family is, sadly, not big soup eaters, but they will eat this soup less grudgingly than most. And I don’t mind finishing all the leftovers myself! I slice all the vegetables super-thin on a mandolin, which makes them very tender and a less objectionable texture for the non-veggie fans. It’s also excellent without the sausage, and can easily be made with vegetable stock for a vegetarian version. It’s especially delicious when served with a nice, crusty bread.

(I use this recipe exactly as I found it online a number of years ago, but I have no idea where it’s from and I’ve passed it along enough times that googling parts of the recipe only results in my own postings of it!)

3 tbsp butter
½ onion, sliced thin
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
6 cups chicken broth
1-1/2 cups carrots, sliced
1-1/2 cups celery, sliced
½ package dried lentils (~1 cup)
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage (optional)
Grated Parmesan-Romano cheese

Melt the butter in the bottom of a dutch oven or large saucepan. Saute the onions and garlic for a few minutes. Stir in the thyme, cumin, salt, and pepper. Slowly add the chicken broth. Stir in the carrots, celery, and lentils. If desired, remove the casing of the sausage and crumble into the pot. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 50 minutes (covered). Sprinkle with cheese before serving.

Shepherd’s Pie

This dish is, hands down, my husband’s favorite dish out of everything I make. It’s such a simple recipe that I don’t even have it written down any more. You can vary it by using different types of cheese and vegetables and by adding sour cream or chicken or beef stock to the potatoes or by using real mashed potatoes, but in our house it’s considered absolutely perfect just as is. It’s quick and easy, and I almost always all have the ingredients on hand. And you can make it ahead of time and just pop it in the oven when you need it – just add a little extra baking time when you’re putting it in the oven straight from the fridge.

(This recipe came from my mom; I have no idea where she got it or if it was something she created herself.)

1 lb. ground beef
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups frozen corn
6 servings instant mashed potatoes
shredded cheddar cheese
Brown the ground beef, season with salt and pepper, drain, and place in a deep casserole dish. Top with corn, then potatoes. Covered with a generous sprinkling of cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, removing the foil for the last 5 minutes so the cheese can brown.


I don’t usually make risotto as a main dish, but it’s a wonderfully rich complement to any meal. It’s somewhat time-consuming but not at all difficult to make. Any time we don’t quite finish a bottle of white wine, I freeze half-cup portions in Ziploc baggies for the next time I want to make risotto without opening a bottle of wine. Most of the time, I use making risotto as an excuse to have a nice glass of wine with dinner – and, of course, a nice glass while I’m cooking, too! The more your stir, the more tender the risotto, so I often perch myself on a stool next to the stove with a stirring spoon in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. This recipe is a halved version which makes the perfect amount for a romantic dinner for two, but it can also be doubled to serve four.

1-1/2 to 2 cups  chicken broth
2 tablespoons  butter, divided
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp minced garlic,
3/4 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer and keep warm over low heat (I often warm it in the microwave instead). In a separate medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the onion is transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until it is well coated with the butter and starts to turn translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and simmer gently until all the liquid is absorbed, 3 to 5 minutes. Ladle 1/2 cup of the warm broth into the rice mixture and simmer, stirring often, until the broth is absorbed. Repeat, adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time, until the rice is cooked through but still firm, 20 to 25 minutes total. Add the remaining butter and the salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup of Parmesan. Stir to incorporate. Adjust seasoning with more salt to taste. Serve immediately, topping with additional Parmesan.

Stay warm, and happy eating!!

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