Chicken and Biscuits Pot Pie

I danced around my kitchen singing “I’m So Excited” right before digging into this meal, and it turns out I had very good reasons to do so. This pot pie is unbelievably amazing! This recipe takes time, especially if you roast your own chicken and make your own stock like I did, but believe me, every second is totally worth it.

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The filling is creamy and delicious. The chunks of chicken and vegetables are nice and hearty and the sauce has really nice flavor from all the fresh herbs. What really made the sauce so great though was the homemade stock I made it with. You could definitely use a boxed stock, but you really can taste the difference and making stock is SUPER easy. Just take the leftover bones and whatever’s still stuck to them after pulling most of the meat off a chicken and put them into a big pot with onion, celery, carrots and enough water to cover it all. Add a bit of salt and let it simmer for hours. Strain out the chunks, separate out the fat, and you’ve got a delicious stock to use in soups and sauces.

As delicious as the filling is, the real star of this show is the cheddar chive biscuits. When I tasted the bit of batter left on the spoon after forming the biscuits I said to Greg, “Ooh! This stuff is like liquid gold!” And it only got better once baked. The top got a nice golden brown crust from baking, while the bottom was a bit softer and dumpling-like from poaching in the sauce. The dumpling-biscuits were so soft and moist, and not the least bit tough or dry like biscuits unfortunately can be sometimes. And Oh. My. Gosh! The cheese! I used some aged cheddar that I had leftover from another recipe. Normally I wouldn’t buy expensive cheese to put in a biscuit, but since it was already in the fridge I grated it up and tossed it in the batter. (I have a bad habit of leaving leftover bits of expensive cheese sitting forgotten in some dark corner of the refrigerator until I find them weeks later, covered in mold and completely ruined). The aged cheddar definitely pushed these biscuits over the edge from your run-of-the-mill cheddar biscuits into something that completely blew my mind with their fabulousness.

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This biscuit dough was unlike any dough I’d ever worked with before. It is exceptionally loose. Like so loose you’ll feel like you’re trying to dredge a spoonful of liquid in flour and then form it into a semi-solid biscuit-shaped mass. Fear not! This loose batter is what makes the biscuits so soft and dumpling-like. And I promise, you’ll be able to form biscuits with it. Abstract, free form, but super delicious biscuits.

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Pork Scallopini with Apple and Sweet Potato Hash

This quick cooking dinner is full of fall flavors. The scallopini is topped with an apple cider-butter sauce with sage, and a sweet potato and apple hash. The cider-butter sauce is absolutely amazing. I literally told Greg three times during dinner that I could eat the sauce with a spoon!

The recipe calls for a bit of apple cider vinegar to cut the richness and sweetness of the sauce. My cider had been sitting in the fridge for quite some time, and it was actually a bit vinegary tasting on its own, so I ended up not adding any actual vinegar to the sauce. If you’re working with cider like mine that isn’t as sweet as it used to be, I’d recommend tasting your sauce to see if it needs a bit of acid to cut the richness before adding any vinegar.

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Because the pork is pounded so thin, it only takes about 5 minutes to cook. And as long as the potato and apple are finely diced, the hash should be nice and golden-brown by the time the pork is done and you’ve finished the sauce.

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Cajun Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork with Southwestern Cole Slaw

I’ve made this recipe a bunch of times, but I made it most recently several weeks ago for my brother’s birthday. This sandwich was originally two separate recipes in Food Network magazine, but some genius at Food Network thought to combine the two recipes for the magazine’s cover photo.  I’m so glad they did because the flavors in the pork and the cole slaw go together PERFECTLY!  Greg and I don’t normally care for cole slaw, but this is NOT your typical cole slaw. The slaw is made with corn and poblano pepper in addition to the cabbage, and it’s dressed with a creamy avocado dressing. The creamy, crunchy, slightly tangy cole slaw complements the moist, spicy pork so well that I can’t imagine eating one without the other!

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The recipe has you cook the pork shoulder in a slow cooker on low for 8 hours. I was pressed for time when I made this for my brother’s birthday though, so I decided to try cooking it on high for 4 hours. I wouldn’t recommend it. The pork was fully cooked and the flavor was fine, but the fat didn’t render out the way it would have if it was cooked low and slow, and the meat didn’t get as tender and just fall apart.

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This was the first picture I ever took of my food in front of a professional picture of the same dish. Clearly it was the beginning of a new habit.

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Peach-Bourbon Upside-Down Cake

I’ve always been impressed by the appearance of upside-down cakes. They look so elegant with the fruit beautifully arranged in the caramel on top. I never made one though because I was afraid of the potential disasters that could occur upon turning it out of the pan.  When I saw this recipe though, I decided to put my fears aside and finally give an upside-down cake a try.

After pulling the cake out of the oven and letting it sit for 15 minutes the big moment had finally arrived. I said a quick prayer and flipped the pan over onto a plate. When I lifted the pan and saw my cake in tact, it was as if the sky opened up and a choir of angels started singing. I instantly burst into an epic dance of extreme joy. Fortunately Greg was the only one around to witness this embarrassing moment.

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It turns out my fear that the cake would crumble out of the pan while leaving the fruit and caramel crusted in the bottom was completely unfounded. I didn’t even use a non-stick pan! I used a stainless steal straight sided 10 inch skillet and the cake came out just fine.

Not only did the cake come out looking pretty, it was delicious too. I really liked the addition of the ground pecans to the cake batter. They provided a mild pecan flavor, and gave the cake a little bit of texture. If you don’t like bourbon you could probably substitute spiced rum or brandy–or  you could just leave the alcohol out entirely.

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 This never gets old! 🙂

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Grilled Vegetable and Quinoa Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

This salad is fresh, clean and super easy to make–it’s just grilled vegetables, quinoa and a simple vinaigrette. I absolutely love grilling fresh veggies in the summer! They develop this amazing caramelization that brings out their natural sweetness, so you don’t have to add anything to them other than a little olive oil and salt to make them delicious. That’s probably why the dressing for this salad is so simple–just lemon juice, Dijon mustard and olive oil. Add some basil and mint for more fresh flavor, some slivered almonds for a crunch and BAM! Simple, healthy, delicious salad.

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This salad would be a perfect accompaniment to anything cooked on the grill. With all the protein from the quinoa and the almonds, you could even eat this as a tasty vegetarian, even vegan, entreé.

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Zucchini Parmesan

I realize zucchini season is basically over at this point, but this recipe is definitely one to file away for next summer, especially if you’re one of those people with your own garden who inevitably ends up swamped with tons of zucchini during the summer. This is a great way to use up those zucchini and it’s WAY more interesting than just making another loaf of zucchini bread. This dish is a creative, summery twist on chicken or eggplant parmesan.

This would be a great meal option for a time when you have to feed both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Just leave the prosciutto slices out of some of the stacks for a vegetarian option.

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This recipe has quite a few steps and honestly it’s pretty time consuming. It’s not at all hard to make, but it’s certainly not something you’re going to whip up on a weeknight in 30 minutes or less.

I didn’t follow the sauce recipe that’s included below. I had several batches of my own homemade marinara in the freezer, so I just used that. This sauce recipe would be great if you have fresh tomatoes from your garden. If not, I’m sure you could substitute a large can of crushed tomatoes for the fresh ones or you could just use a jar of your favorite tomato sauce.

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Having my finished food look like the picture that accompanies the recipe in a book or magazine is one of the best feelings in the world. It’s a feeling I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of.

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Peanut Butter S’mores Brownies

I’ve made these brownies a couple times, and they’ve been a big hit every time! They’re like an open faced s’more, but instead of a chocolate bar between the graham cracker and marshmallow, there’s a peanut butter and chocolate brownie! The bottom layer of the brownies is a basic graham cracker crust like you’d use in a pie. After adding and baking the brownie layer, you top the brownies with mini-marshmallows and pop it under the broiler until they’re golden brown.

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Be INCREDIBLY careful when roasting marshmallows under the broiler. They go from being puffy but still very white, to very dark brown or even black in less than 60 seconds. I learned this lesson the hard way the very first time I made these brownies. The marshmallows were just starting to turn the palest golden color so I walked away from the oven briefly. When I came back the ENTIRE marshmallow surface of the brownies was black. Fortunately I was able to scrape off the burned top and they still tasted alright, but we lost most of the marshmallow layer. Ever since then, I watch the marshmallows like a hawk when they’re under the broiler.

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