Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mini Pot Pies

Haven't been cooking too many new things recently, but this was something I've been wanting to try ever since I found the recipe for a slightly sweet dough used for homemade pop tarts. I was initially told that the dough was far too salty for something that was supposed to be a sweet treat, so I doctored the recipe for those, as well as for these, because let's be honest, salty dough. Doesn't sound too appetizing, does it?

So here we have mini pot pies. Savory empanadas. Ripoff rissois. Whatever you'd like to call them. They were tasty and pretty filling despite being on the small side.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 Tbl. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tbl. milk
  • 1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken
  • 2 yellow potatoes, peeled & diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled & diced
  • 1 cup shredded cheese of choice
  • 1/8 Tbl. butter
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic
  • cayenne
  • paprika
  • parsley (optional)
  • flour
  • pot
  • pastry blender
  • rolling pin
  • cookie sheet
  • mixing bowls
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together. With the pastry blender, work the unsalted butter into the dry mixture until it has become small pea-sized morsels. Add one egg and milk and work with the pastry blender. Form the dough into two halves.

Flour the counter/workspace generously. Flour the rolling pin. Take one of the two halves and roll out into 1/8" thickness. What works best to cut these are small tupperware bowls. They shouldn't be too small in diameter. The smaller you make them, the less filling you will be able to put inside. Cut out the circles and set them aside, either in between sheets of wax paper to stop them from sticking, or on saran wrap. Refrigerate them, especially if it is warm out.


Peel the potatoes and dice them into very small pieces. Throw them into a small pot with water just covering the tops with salt and pepper. Let the water boil until the potatoes become tender, but not so soft they crumble the moment they are touched. Strain excess water out and set aside in medium sized mixing bowl.

Peel the carrot and dice them into very small pieces. In the same pot that you boiled the potatoes, add the carrots to a little bit of water and 1/8 Tablespoon of butter. You can add a couple pinches of parsley for added flavor, but it is not necessary. Let the water/butter combination boil until the carrots are more soft than hard, but not mushy. Strain the water and butter from the carrots and add them to the potatoes in the mixing bowl.

In the same pot you boiled the potatoes and carrots, boil the chicken with salt and pepper until fully cooked. Shred into small pieces once done and add to the carrot and potato bowl.

Add salt, pepper, cayenne (not too much), garlic, paprika (very small amount), and mix in the bowl thoroughly. Let sit and cool. Remove the dough rounds from the refrigerator and let sit on the counter until workable. They should not be too stiff, otherwise in the folding process, they will not be as malleable.

Beat the second egg in a cup to use as a wash. Lay one dough round on a flat surface and coat the top side with the egg wash. Sprinkle shredded cheese of choice in a line in the middle of the flat. Spoon in the filling. Make sure it isn't overflowing. Fold the round in half and press firmly on the edges to close. It will be harder to make them stay closed if they are still very cold. Put a layer of egg wash on the top side of the pastry and set aside to finish the rest. When the top side has dried, flip over and brush the bottom with the wash.

Heat the oven to 400. Spray a cookie/baking sheet with Pam or similar cooking spray. Place finished pastries on the tray. They will not expand in any way, so feel free to pack the entire batch on if necessary. Let bake for 10-12 minutes on one side, then flip to finish baking for another 5-7 minutes. The outside shell should be a mix of the dough color and a nice golden-brown.

The filling is extremely hot so please be careful!

The dough rounds do not have to be refrigerated, but as we're nearing summer months and the temperature is rising (especially in the kitchen!), it's easier to keep the dough from reacting. However, if the filling is made first, followed by the dough, there is no refrigeration necessary.

The grand total for this meal that made 12 mini pies is $4.27.

  • dough ingredients 1.18$
  • 1/2 lb. chicken 1.50$
  • potatoes 67¢
  • carrot 13¢
  • cheese 79¢

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Catfish Stew

After a few month hiatus from experimenting with new and delicious meals, we return with a couple of awesome dishes sure to make any mouth water.

Unlike previous entries, this does not come with a photograph or details on cost, due to our failure to log anything until now, a week after the stew was made. However, it is something we will have again and I will be sure to update with costs and a picture.

  • 3/4 lb. catfish nuggets
  • 1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled & de-veined
  • 1/2 acorn squash, cubed
  • 1 sweet potato, cubed
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 can chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/4 stick butter
  • pepper
  • garlic
  • chopped onion (dried)
  • basil
  • hint of cayenne
As is the style of Daren's cooking, he threw all of the ingredients, including the still-frozen catfish and shrimp, into one large soup pot, put on low heat, and let stew together for about an hour. This ensures the seafood is properly cooked and that the other various ingredients soak up the flavor of the broth.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Portuguese Bean Soup

When I lived in Hawaii, one of my favorite restaurants had a fantastic soup and salad bar for cheap and the soup always on "tap" was Portuguese Bean. Essentially, it's meat and veggies in a delectable tomato broth. The potatoes were always tender, the carrots soaked up all the flavors, and the sausage used was spicy and artery-clogging. My mom tried to copy the recipe and to this day, she's made this soup and it's just the same.

  • 14.5oz. Hunt's whole (or diced) tomatoes
  • 1/8 head cabbage, shredded
  • 1/4 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 Russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 14.5oz cans of beans; see below
  • 1 cup pearlized barley
  • 1 package sausage; see below
  • 14.5oz. water
  • salt
  • pepper
  • blender
  • soup pot
  • soup pot lid
As far as the beans go, I use 4 different types for the original recipe: dark and light kidney, navy beans, and some form of other white bean. I used to use lima until I found out that stores around here do not sell canned lima beans, only frozen. Which would work if you really want them. For this recipe, you will only be using 3. Do not drain the juices as they will be used in the soup.

My mom's original recipe calls for one pack of Portuguese sausage, as well as another pack of Hillshire Farms (or other brand) polish sausage. Portuguese sausage can be difficult to find and is expensive, so I tend to use any cheap brand of turkey sausage. It's just as tasty and is heart-healthy(er).

The recipe I use makes a giant pot and smaller sauce pot of soup. I've doctored the ingredients to make it a smaller portion, since not everyone has the room for all the extra.

Cook the sausage first according to the instructions on the package. I use the oven as opposed to the frying pan method due to it being easier and not needing to be constantly watched. When the sausage is completely cooked, remove from the oven and let cool. Once cooled, chop into small, bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

In the blender, add the whole or diced tomatoes (it doesn't matter which type you buy) and blend on medium until it's completely smooth with no tomato chunks. Transfer the tomatoes to the soup pot. Add the 14.5 ounces of water (the same size as your can of tomatoes), salt, and pepper to taste. Turn the stove to high, around 8, and let boil for about 10 minutes.

You can use the time while it's boiling to chop up the vegetables or they can be prepared beforehand. Beforehand is better just so things are ready to go.

After 10 minutes, add the pearlized barley, potatoes, and carrots. Turn down to about medium heat, 5 or 6. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so the barley doesn't burn to the bottom. If you notice they're sticking a lot, stir more often. After that 10 minutes, add the beans and their juices. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring often again. After another 10 minutes, add the cabbage, onions, and already-cooked sausage. Cook this for another 10 minutes, still stirring. Throughout the cooking process, taste test the broth. If it's too tomato-tasting, add a little more water. If you find the broth is too bland tasting, adding more salt and pepper makes up for it. However, with the amount of water being put into the pot, the latter shouldn't be a problem.

After the final 10 minutes, remove the pot from the burner, place a lid on top, and set aside to let it cook from the generated heat. Wait about 15-20 minutes, still stirring to keep the remainder of the extreme heat at the bottom from burning the barley.

Serve and enjoy!

  • tomatoes 98¢
  • cabbage 20¢
  • onion 10¢
  • carrots 30¢
  • potatoes 99¢
  • beans 3.56$
  • barley 25¢
  • sausage 2.50$
The grand total for this meal (using the original recipe that calls for more veggies/beans/etc.) provided two nights of dinner with two servings a person, per night, with 3-32oz. containers for the freezer is $8.88.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Shrimp Pasta in a Butter Sauce

Daren whipped something up while I was in the shower so this was a pleasant surprise to emerge to. Very simple, very tasty. Enough said.

  • 4oz. of shrimp, thawed
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 9oz. of penne pasta
  • 1 Tbl. vegetable oil
  • basil
  • garlic
  • pepper
  • cayenne
  • skillet
  • skillet lid
  • boiling pot
Add water to the pot to let boil on high heat. When at a full boil, add the penne pasta to cook.

Put the vegetable oil in the skillet on medium-high heat. Add the shrimp to start cooking. About half way through the cooking process, add the butter to melt it down. Combine the milk with the butter in the pan. Sprinkle in the spices to taste. When all the ingredients are completely melted down, place lid over the top of the skillet and turn the stove down to about a 5 to simmer for about 5-10 minutes based on how much longer the shrimp has to cook.

Strain the water from the penne pasta and serve with the buttered shrimp.

  • shrimp 2.00$
  • butter 25¢
  • milk 43¢
  • pasta 63¢
The grand total for this delightfully light pasta with enough for three people is $3.31.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Orange Chicken

We had been wanting to try to make our own orange sauce for a long time but never really realized how easy it would be with the right ingredients. While we didn't have the exact ingredients used in a traditional orange sauce, what we did ended up being quite good and even a little better than what your average Chinese restaurant serves up.

  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade
  • 2 Tbl. soy sauce
  • 2 Tbl. sesame oil
  • 1 Tbl. white wine
  • 1 Tbl. water
  • 2 Tbl. brown sugar
  • ginger
  • garlic
  • 4-5 chicken breasts
  • breadcrumbs (see below)
  • 1 egg
  • flour
  • frying oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic
  • rice
  • small sauce pan
  • large skillet or fry daddy
  • sauce pot
Fried chicken
If the chicken you are using is frozen, place it in the sauce pot to boil, to cook it. High heat with enough water to cover, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and garlic. When it is completely cooked, remove from the pot and cut into smaller, bite sized pieces.

In a small bowl, crack the egg. Lay out a small pile of flour on a plate, alongside a pile of breadcrumbs. For the breadcrumbs, I make my own. I take any combination of crackers and mash them up into very fine particles. For this particular breadcrumb mixture, I used a handful of Ritz crackers and Target's brand of cornbread crackers, mixed with salt, pepper, garlic, and cayenne. I leave a container of it sitting in my cupboard for later usage.

When the chicken has cooled, dip the pieces into the flour, coating it evenly. Then dip them into the egg. Then into the breadcrumbs. Set aside each piece.

In the skillet, add enough oil so you can fry the pieces of chicken. To save on oil, I put just enough to do one side of the chicken at a time and flip it half way through. Either way, heat the oil on medium, about a 6. You don't want it to flash fry if you're using the skillet method (as opposed to a fry daddy) because they will burn very quickly. Once hot enough, put in a couple pieces at a time and let sit for a few minutes. Turn occasionally to get a nice golden-brown color. Since the chicken is already cooked, you only have to worry about getting it as crisp as you'd like. Remove from the oil and place on paper towels to soak up the excess drippings.

In a small skillet, add all the ingredients. If you find that it is extra thick, add a little more water to thin it out. If you find it is too liquidy, a sprinkle of cornstarch will thicken things up. Let simmer on low heat until it's evenly formed. Taste to make sure it's to your liking. It should be a little sweet and a little sour. If you find it doesn't have quite the right kick, a little more white wine should do the trick.

Follow the instructions on your bag/box of rice.

Serve the chicken on a bed of rice, drizzled with sauce. I found that this particular orange sauce was good in smaller doses and not saturated like a normal Chinese restaurant's orange chicken. However, Daren thought differently and soaked his chicken pieces in it. Also, unlike Chinese restaurants, this chicken stayed crisp the entire meal instead of going soft like we normally find.

  • marmalade 25¢
  • soy sauce 5¢
  • white wine 3¢
  • brown sugar 15¢
  • chicken 1.15$
  • breadcrumbs 50¢
  • egg 11¢
  • oil 16¢
  • rice 29¢
The grand total for this sweet and sour little mix-up which afforded two large helpings for two people with a little left over for a second helping is $2.69.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Meatloaf. Just like mom makes it. I haven't had her meatloaf since last April when I last saw her and I've been craving it ever since. No one else's comes close. It plus other yummies like mashed potatoes, corn, and even croissants or breadsticks make for a perfect meal. I ended up not making a bread option since I was in a bit of a rush to finish the meal.

**This was by far the most expensive meal we've made at home, due to the fresh, extra lean ground beef being used. Also, the potatoes we used for this dinner are the remnants of the 10lb. bag Daren's dad bought us last month, so they were actually of no cost to us, though still including in the overall price; as was the corn.

  • 1 1/4 lb. ground beef
  • 1 package Lipton onion-mushroom soup mix
  • 1 cup Progresso original bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 4-5 small potatoes
  • 3 Tbl. butter
  • 1/2 - 1/3 cup milk
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 can corn
  • loaf pan
  • medium mixing bowl
  • saucepan
  • hand or electric mixer
  • small skillet
Spread out the ground beef in the bowl. Add the egg, some of the breadcrumbs, the ketchup, and the onion-mushroom mix to the middle. Work with your fingers, kneading it thoroughly. Continue to add the remainder of the ingredients -- the breadcrumbs and hot water -- a little at a time. Once all the ingredients are mixed into the meat, form into a loaf to fit into the pan.

Heat the oven to 350. Place loaf pan inside for about 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the meat. It will start to turn golden brown and work itself into more of a deep brown. Cut into the meat with a knife to make sure the insides are fully cooked. Mine was still slightly pink at the 30 minute mark, so I cut the loaf into smaller pieces so it could continue to cook. By the time I took it out of the oven, it was all brown, but had a light hue of red in it, from the ketchup.

The potatoes should be peeled and diced into small pieces. Add to the sauce pan with enough water to cover them by about half an inch or so. Boil on high heat until they are tender and barely crumbling. Drain the water from the pot and add some of the milk, salt, pepper, and butter to the potatoes. Use a hand or electric mixer to mash the potatoes. If they look dry, add more milk. Continue this process until they are smooth and creamy.

Put the corn with its juices into a small pan to heat. You can start heating the corn on 2 or 3 at the beginning of boiling the potatoes or you can heat them on high right before the meal is served.

Serve the meatloaf, corn, and potatoes.

The grand total for this meal with 2 large pieces of meatloaf and a 32oz tupperware container of mashed potatoes left over is $7.69.

  • egg 16¢
  • ground beef 4.43$
  • onion mushroom mix 89¢
  • breadcrumbs 12¢
  • ketchup 6¢
  • potatoes 1.00$
  • corn 69¢
  • milk 16¢
  • butter 18¢

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Beef Stew with Pumpkin

The one flaw Daren found with this concoction of his was that the pumpkin absorbed too much of the flavor. I will provide the directions he used to make this particular meal, however, it should be noted that he said in the future he would heat the pumpkin with some water into a sauce in a separate pan before adding it to the overall stew. That way, it's not so thick and doesn't steal the taste.

  • 8 oz. beef
  • 1 can (15oz) pumpkin
  • 1 bottle dark beer
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 - 2 cups water
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic
  • basil
  • small soup pot or large saucepan
In the pot, add all the dry ingredients together, including the uncooked beef, which will cook as it stews. Add the beer to the mixture. Fill with water until the ingredients are covered by about an inch of water. The amount of water you add will be different for every person due to size of pot being used. If it seems like too much water, it will boil down. Put on medium heat to cook, allowing for about an hour to ensure the meat is cooked and it has thickened into a stew. Taste test for flavor, adding additional amounts of the above spices until desired result.

Serve as is or with a side of bread.

The grand total for this meal which left a 32oz tupperware container full is $3.71.

  • beef 59¢
  • pumpkin 1.19$
  • beer 91¢
  • celery 16¢
  • potatoes 60¢
  • carrot 20¢
  • onion 6¢