Friday, November 29, 2013

Chicken Pot Pie Stew and Southern Style Biscuits

During the month of November, the restaurant chain Sweet Tomatoes (in some areas known as Souplantation) has a special, limited-time soup called chicken pot pie stew.  It is my favorite of all their soups/stews.  It is so creamy and delicious eaten with a biscuit.  LOVE IT.  I've always wanted to make something similar at home and I've tried loads of recipes, but nothing quite hit the nail on the head for me.

To my surprise, I discovered the company shared the recipe on their website back in 2011!  However, the posting is all jacked up and difficult to read.  And once I got it deciphered, the number of steps and sheer amount of stew it made was way too much for a typical household.  I was able to condense the steps and reduce the amounts and came up with something doable.  It's by no means a quick and easy meal, but it's worth the work every once in a while when you get a craving.

As for the biscuits, I am very happy with the recipe found here.  However, I'm always interested in trying new recipes and methods and thought I'd give these "southern style" ones a try.  Anyone from the south who knows their way around a biscuit will tell you to only use White Lily brand flour.  Well, it's not available everywhere, and I discovered that you can get the same result by using a mix of all-purpose and cake flour.  So, if you are living somewhere other than Dixie, you can use this trick to get the same fluffy biscuits.

adapted from the Sweet Tomatoes recipe

4 large red potatoes, cubed
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
4-5 cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion (or 1/4 lb. pearl onions)
1/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2/3 cup heavy or whipping cream
1 cup frozen peas
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried thyme

In a small pot, cover cubed potatoes with water.  Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes or until fork tender.  Drain and set aside.

While potatoes are cooking, heat olive oil in a large pot over med-high heat; add chicken and brown on both sides.  Once chicken breasts are cooked through, remove them to a cutting board.  Reduce heat to medium and add carrots, celery, mushrooms, and onions to the pot.  Saute for about 10 minutes or until tender.  While veggies are cooking, chop chicken into 1 inch chunks and place in a medium-sized bowl.  When veggies are ready, remove them to the bowl with chicken.

In the same pot, melt butter over medium heat with garlic.  Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute.  Whisk in chicken broth, pepper, and salt until smooth.  Heat to a low boil and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Stir in milk and cream and simmer for another 3 minutes.  Add chicken and veggies, potatoes, peas, parsley, and thyme and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Season as needed with additional salt and pepper.  Serve with biscuits.

slightly adapted from Southern Buttermilk Biscuits on

1 1/4 cup cake flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt (or you can use table salt)
6 Tbsp. cold butter
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Combine dry ingredients in a bowl or in the bowl of a food processor.  Cut the butter into chunks and cut into the flour with a pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal.  If using a food processor, just pulse a few times until this consistency is achieved.  Add the buttermilk and mix just until combined.  If it appears on the dry side, add a bit more buttermilk.  It should be very wet.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface.  Gently pat (do not roll with a rolling pin) the dough out until it's about 1/2" thick.  Fold the dough about 5 times, gently pressing the dough down to 1" thick, adding flour as needed.  Use a round (about 2.5" in diameter) cutter dipped in flour to cut out biscuits, but do not twist as you cut!  You should get 6 round biscuits.  (You can gently knead the scraps together to make 2 more biscuits but they won't be as good or look as pretty.) 

Place the biscuits on a baking sheet close together for soft sides or 1" apart for "crusty" sides.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until a light golden brown on top and bottom.  Makes 6-8 biscuits.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Chocolate Orange Cookies

You know those chocolate oranges that people give around the holidays?  Well, I'm excited to share the cookie version!  These were super popular at a recent church function, so they are tried and tested.  And they look so pretty with the sugar and orange zest.  I think these would be great for a cookie exchange - something different from the usual.

You'll probably need to zest two oranges, depending on their size.


1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. orange zest
2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans, optional

1 tsp. orange zest
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, beat butter, shortening, sugars, eggs, vanilla, and 1 Tbsp. orange zest until light and fluffy.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir into the butter mixture until well blended.  Mix in the chocolate chips and pecans, if using. 

In a small bowl, combine the 1 tsp. orange zest and 1/2 cup sugar; mix with your fingers.  Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls (I use a medium-sized cookie scoop for uniformity) and then roll in the orange sugar to coat.  Place on ungreased or parchment-lined cookies sheets, 2 inches apart, and bake for 8-10 minutes.  Remove from oven and press cookies gently with a  flat-bottomed glass or measuring cup (this creates the cracks and crinkles).  Let cookies cool on cookie sheets for 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.  Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Chili Cheese Tot Casserole

Okay.  I never, ever, ever in my life thought I would be endorsing canned chili, yet here I am.  Some nights you just want something quick, easy, and hot and this casserole delivers.  And it tastes good!  When my hubby reheated some leftovers at work, people were commenting on how good it smelled.  My daughter ate every last bite on her plate.

This recipe is adapted from one I found on LoveBakesGoodCakes.  If you are simply disgusted by the thought of using canned chili, you can make your own following the original recipe.  As for me and my house, we are okay with using canned chili a couple of times a year for the sake of saving time and energy.  Especially since, for me, making good homemade chili is a several hour affair.  And I looked at the ingredients list of the Hormel brand and it wasn't terrifying like I thought it would be.  Totally normal stuff!  Not a single ingredient you couldn't pronounce or wouldn't use otherwise.  And it's cheap.

adapted from LoveBakesGoodCakes

1 (32 oz) bag frozen tater tots
3 (15 oz, each) cans chili, with or without beans
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 green onions, sliced for garnish, optional
sour cream, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place tater tots in a 9x13 casserole dish and bake for 25 minutes.

While tots are baking, heat chili in a pot over the stove or in a microwave-safe bowl.  Spoon chili evenly over baked tots and sprinkle with cheese.  Return to oven for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and casserole is heated through.  Sprinkle servings with green onions and dollop with sour cream, if desired.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pumpkin Gingerbread Muffins

Yep, it's that time of year when all things pumpkin surface on the food blogs.  I don't mind a bit because I think of pumpkin as a comfort food.  These muffins are a great way to share that comfort with others.  They bake up pretty and are nice and moist.  I promise these will not disappoint!

adapted from RecipeGirl

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened (or you can sub shortening or coconut oil)
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease or line a muffin tin.  In a large bowl, beat together brown sugar, butter, and molasses.  Add egg and pumpkin puree.  Beat in remaining dry ingredients, just until moist.  Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full and bake for 20 minutes.  Makes 1 dozen.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Chicken and Barley Soup

This is just a variation of the classic chicken noodle soup.  I wanted to try adding barley instead of noodles and I was pretty happy with the results.  The barley adds a great chewy texture and is very filling.  I just throw all the ingredients in a pot and let it simmer.  You could just as easily make it in a slow cooker, so I've added instructions for that as well.


2 large chicken breasts (skinless, on the bone or not - up to you)
3 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 small onion, diced
3 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup pearl barley (uncooked)
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried parsley
salt and pepper, to taste

Stove top instructions:
Combine all ingredients except salt and pepper in a large pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes - 1 hour.  Remove chicken and shred, then return to pot.  Season with salt and pepper.

Slow cooker instructions:
Combine all ingredients except salt and pepper in a slow cooker.  Cover and cook on LOW for 8-9 hours.  Remove chicken and shred, then return to slow cooker to heat through.  Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I love a spicy cookie.  That's probably one of the reasons I love fall and winter food so much.  Not that it needs to be fall or winter to enjoy these cookies.  These are good any time. 

I've discovered a way to make them semi-healthy:  I make them with coconut oil.  Coconut oil is great for baking, though I don't use it in all of my recipes because the coconut flavor does linger.  However, in a recipe like this, with spices that mask the coconut flavor, it works great.  The cookies are nice and chewy and deliciously spicy.

adapted from

1 cup coconut oil*
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cup sliced almonds, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, beat together coconut oil and sugars until creamy.  Add vanilla and eggs and beat until smooth.  Add the baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt and slowly add in the flour until combined.  Mix in oatmeal, raisins, and almonds (if using).

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls (or use a medium cookie scoop) onto ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake for 8-10 minutes until light and golden.  Let cool for 2 minutes on baking sheet before removing to wire rack.  Store in an airtight container.  Makes about 3 dozen.

* The coconut oil can be replaced with 1 cup butter or shortening or a combination of the two.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Creamy Corn Chowder

This recipe was posted back in January of 2011.  I found it on OurBestBites, one of my favorite food blogs.  Since posting, I have come up with a quicker way of getting this soup to the table, so I've altered the recipe a little - not the ingredients, just how it's put together.

A tip for cooking bacon: line a cookie sheet with heavy duty foil. Lay bacon on cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees.  Check it after 12 minutes and continue baking until desired doneness. The result? Perfectly cooked bacon without all the mess (since you can just wrap up the grease in the foil and throw it out).

from Our Best Bites

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
3 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup minced onion
1/4 cup flour
1 cup water
2 1/2 cups milk
2 chicken bouillon cubes or 2 tsp. chicken base
1/2 lb. bacon, crisp-cooked and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 can corn, drained, or 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
dash of hot sauce or cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Add potatoes to a small pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until soft.  Drain.

While the potatoes are cooking, melt butter over medium heat in a soup pot. Stir in onions and cook until tender and translucent.  Add flour to make a roux and whisk it until combined - cook for one minute. Add  1 cup water and whisk until there are no lumps.   Add milk, chicken base, cooked potatoes, and garlic and simmer until thickened, stirring very frequently.  Add bacon and corn and heat through.  Add a dash of hot sauce or cayenne and salt and pepper to taste.