Friday, September 28, 2012

Pot Pie

I am often told that my tiny mini looks just like me.  I am also often told, during her moments of brilliance, that she acts just like me too.

So the other day my tiny mini got to bring her bike to preschool for a bike parade.  She was very excited, so she dressed herself in her exercise clothes and proudly told me she was going to beat all the boys.  I reminded her that was a parade, not a race.  And then I realized, that I had passed this mentality on to my mini.....

So I did the only thing I could do, I zipped up her vest, adjusted her headband, and sent her off on her Disney Princess bike to beat all the boys.

And, to Mr. McGhee, all my concerned readers....I did put a helmet on my tiny mini.  We just choose to leave it off for the photo.

I wanted to cook up something special for my little racer, so I decided that what she needed was to come home that night to a piping hot homemade chicken pot pie.

First step is to make your pie crust.  I doubled this recipe to make mine.  I used whole wheat flour for mine, which you will soon see was a mistake!

Pie Crust
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening, chilled
  • 3 tablespoons ice water
  1. Whisk the flour and salt together in a medium size bowl. With a pastry blender, cut in the cold shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Drizzle 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water over flour. Toss mixture with a fork to moisten, adding more water a few drops at a time until the dough comes together.
  2. Gently gather dough particles together into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling.
  3. Roll out dough, and put in a pie plate. Fill with desired filling and bake.

The shortening that I used.

Mixing my ingredients.

Dough is rolled up and ready to chill.

My dough would not roll out.  So I had to basically push in into the pie plate to mold it into a crust.  It wasn't pretty, but it was tasty!

Next, you make your filling.

Chicken Pot Pie
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cubed (I used thigh meat, it was on sale!)
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1/2 cup sliced celery
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into one inch cubes
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 (9 inch) unbaked pie crusts
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C.)
  2. In a saucepan, combine raw chicken, carrots, peas, and celery. Add water (I used chicken broth) to cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.
  3. In the saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Place the chicken mixture in bottom pie crust. Pour hot liquid mixture over. Cover with top crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Put your chicken and veggies in a saucepan.

Cover with water or chicken broth and cook for at least 15 minutes.

Once cooked, drain and set aside.

Saute your onion in butter.

Slowly add your flour and spices, stirring with each small addition.

Stir until your onions resemble this.  

Then slowly start adding your milk/chicken broth, 1/4 of a cup at a time.  Stir and mix very well after each addition.  Fancy people call this making a roux, country people call this making a gravy.  Hungry people call this delicious.

Put your chicken and veggies into your pie pan.

Pour your gravy on top.

Place your pie crust on top.  Mine is pitiful, I know!

Bake until golden.

Chicken pot pie is hands down one of the favorite meals in our house.  I love that I can make (and bake) this ahead of time and warm it up for dinner.  I have heard that these freeze well, I will try that soon.  Once I can perfect a pie crust!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Walmart Apples

I did a little experiment the other day.  I stopped by this little farmers stand where I have been getting my produce lately to buy some apples.  I was ecstatic to see that they had honey crisp apples, which are our favorites.  Our farmers stand just so happens to be located in the Walmart parking lot.  And it dawned on me that Walmart sells apples too.  So, I ran inside Walmart to purchase a honey crisp apple.  And, I am sad to say, I did not have any people of Walmart moments on that trip, unlike the last time I was at Walmart and the check out girl showed me her hysterectomy scar.

I took the apples home and compared the two.  I was pretty shocked at what I saw.

(organic on the left, Walmart on the right)

(Organic on top, Walmart on the bottom).

My first thought when I compared these two is "what the heck is Sam Walton putting on his apples?"  Now, we all know that apples are on the top of the dirty dozen list because they contain the highest level of pesticides found in produce.  And guess what?  The apples are then dipped in wax to preserve their freshness...essentially, sealing in all those pesticides.  

Buy organic apples.  

Now this would be the perfect time to share my favorite apple recipe with you.  If I had a favorite apple recipe.  We eat ours straight up, so I don't have an apple recipe to share!

I'll make it up to you and share a recipe that contains my mini's two favorite foods, asparagus and bacon.  

Bacon Wrapped Carmalized Sesame Asparagus

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, about 20-25 spears, stems removed
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack on top. Spray the rack with nonstick spray. 
2.  In a small bowl, whisk together oils, brown sugar and garlic. Set aside.
3.  Bunch together 5-6 asparagus spears and tightly wrap a piece of bacon around the bundle. 
4.  Place on the wire rack seam-side down and repeat. Using a pastry brush, a spoon or even your hands (I did this…), brush the spears thoroughly with the oil/sugar mixture. Give each bundle a hefty sprinkle of sesame seeds. Roast for 35-40 minutes, or until bacon is crispy. Serve warm.
(I also read an adaptation on Pinterest that you can marinate the spears in italian dressing, wrap in bacon, and then bake).
Wrapped up and ready to bake.

 Finished baking and ready to be enjoyed.

These were delish.  We all loved them.  One of us preferred the bacon over the asparagus spears.  I won't name names, but it's the mini McGhee that wears pigtails and all things sparkly.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Autumn Meal

This weekend was gorgeous.  In fact, this was such a perfect weekend that autumn may be replacing summer as my favorite season.  Here's a few snapshots to show you why.....

Picture overload.  I know, sorry!  But, when your 9 year old mini tells you many times throughout the day that this is "the best day of my life", you want to document that day properly.  And I'm a blogger, so this is how I document things.  And I also encourage everyone to set aside a day and spend it outdoors  with your family.  The exercise (6 miles!), the fresh air, the unplugged-ness, the's incredible!

And of course, you will be HUNGRY afterwards!  And naturally, the only meal suitable for the McGhees was a bowl of warm chili.  We had our chili with grilled cheese (colby-jack on Great Harvest honey wheat bread) and served with a side of sweet potatoes.

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees and position oven rack to middle position. Line the bottom of a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2.  In a medium sized bowl, place the prepared, cubed sweet potatoes, garlic, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, dried thyme. Distribute the ingredients evenly to cover the sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the sweet potato mixture to the prepared baking sheet and spread out the potatoes so that they are in a single layer.
3.  Roast in oven for about 40 minutes -OR- until the sweet potatoes can be easily pierced with a sharp knife. Set the oven to broil and broil until the tops of the sweet potatoes start to brown, about 8-10 minutes (keep an eye on the potatoes when broiling, as your time may differ and you want to take care not to burn them).

Cut up your potatoes.

Season your potatoes.

Arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake until soft and then broil until browned.

These were delish.  Seriously, seriously tasty.  Everyone in my family loved them.  Everyone except for my middle mini, who hates sweet potatoes.  However, he did mange to eat his portion of sweet potatoes by pretending his was spiderman and using his web-powers to shoot the potatoes directly into his stomach.  And I kind of believe that he could be spiderman....

.....and in case you were wondering, he landed on his feet......

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sore Throat Remedy

It's cold and rainy and my boy minis have sore throats.  It's nothing like strep throat, more like a "I wanted to stay home from school until my mom told me I would miss my basketball game so I decided to go to school" sort of sore throat.  

I wanted to give my minis something to soothe their throats this morning before I shipped them off to school. So I did what I usually do when I need answers in my life, I did a quick pinterest search.  And what I learned was shocking.  And life changing.  

Marshmallows soothe sore throats.

It's as easy as that.  Got a sore throat?  Pop a marshmallow.

And I actually had marshmallows in the house leftover from one night when I caved and we had s'mores.

My minis swore they felt better after only 3 marshmallows each.  Who knew?!?!  But, being the dedicated mother I am, I decided to also brew the some sore throat soothing tea.  

Sore Throat Soothing Tea
  • chamomile tea bag
  • 1 inch cube of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 2 lemon slices
  • 1-2 tbsp honey
  • boiling water
1.  Place all the ingredients in a mug and pour in boiling water.
2.  Let steep for 5 minutes.

If you are super cool, you would put this in a travel mug and drink it on your way to school.

And, yes, I let my minis watch a movie on the way to school today.  I justify it by saying it is the movie, The Lorax.  So, technically it's educational.  And I needed time to think about what the appropriate after-school snack on a cold, rainy day would be.

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2.5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1.5-2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (melted slightly)
  • 1 cup honey
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  
2.  In a bowl mix flours, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  
3.  In a separate bowl, mix eggs, pumpkin, oil, applesauce, coconut oil, and honey.
4.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour wet ingredients into well.  Mix just until the dry ingredients are absorbed.  DO NOT OVERMIX.  
5.  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean.

And, since my mini looked so cute drinking his hot tea on his way to school, I decided to make our favorite tea to enjoy with our pumpkin muffins.

Chai Tea Latte
  • 20 bags of chai tea (or 1/2 cup loose-leaf tea) (I used Tazo Organic Chai)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (you can use more or less, depending on how sweet you prefer)
  • 3 cups of water
1.  Put all ingredients into a pan.
2.  Heat to just boiling.
3.  Reduce to simmer and stir for about minute to make sure all sugar is dissolved.
4.  Cover and remove from heat.
5.  Let steep for 15-20 minutes.
6.  Strain the tea leaves.

This is to show you, use loose tea leaves.

I filtered with cheesecloth.

This is your chai tea concentrate, the equivilent to this that you would buy in the store.  Do not drink the concentrate, you need to dilute it with warmed milk.  Dilute it to your preference.  This drink is seriously tasty and cozy.

I am certain our tea and muffins will be served with a side of marshmallows this afternoon.  For sore throats, of course!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The journey to soup

I am currently training for a 5k.  I started running 6 years ago, and in that time I have ran dozens of 5ks.  But, this one is different because I am running it for my oldest mini.  Now, for those of you that know my oldest mini, you are probably expecting me to say something emotional and touchy-feely about why I am training so hard for this race since I am dedicating it to him.  Well, the real reason I am training so hard is because my oldest mini has very high expectations for me.  And he told me that sometimes he swims until he wants to barf and he expects me to run that hard as well.  

So yesterday, I set out to do a 4 mile training run.  And I got lost, so my 4 mile run became a 6.35 mile run.  And at the end of my 6.35 mile run, I realized that those 2.35 extra miles I ran were the best miles I've had in months.  Because in those 2.35 miles, I took the time to enjoy my view and get some extra thinking in.  

And I know that this is where I am supposed to refer to some insightful quote about finding your true self when lost on the journey of life.  But, really, what I was grateful for was the extra time to reflect up on chicken gnocchi soup.  

Because chicken gnocchi soup rocks.  It warms the soul.  Serve it with crusty bread and it is the ultimate comfort food.  I mean, really....dipping bread into a soup that has dumplings in it?  Perfection.

First, you need to make your gnocchi.
  • 12 oz potato, cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¾ cup of flour (I used half white whole wheat and half all-purpose) + more for the cutting board
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
    1. Steam potatoes for 12 minutes or until soft. Use a potato ricer, and rice potato into a bowl, discarding skins. Let sit for 5 – 10 minutes to cool.
    2. Make a well in the center of the potatoes, and pour the beaten egg into the well. Cover with ¾ cup of flour. 
    3. Being careful not to overwork, cut it all together until combined (if the dough is still too sticky feel free to add up to ¼ cup more flour, if it’s not sticky enough add another egg yolk, not the whole egg like before).
    4. Flour your cutting board (you may have to re-flour as you go). Divide dough into 6 portions and roll into cigar shaped logs. Cut each log into 1 inch pieces. Now either run each gnocchi over the tines of a fork, pressing lightly as you go, or just press down lightly on each piece with the fork. (I did half of it by rolling over a fork then decided that was taking way too long and then just pressed down on the other half with the fork).
    5. In a pot of boiling water, cook the gnocchi until they rise to the top of the water. Wait 30 seconds – 1 minute after they start to float, then drain.
    *sidenotes*  I do not have a potato ricer.  Heck, I didn't even know what a potato ricer was until I googled it today.  A website called it an extra-large garlic press.  Well, I've got one of those, so good enough....just press the cooked potatoes through the garlic press if you don't have a ricer.  I also forgot to add the nutmeg, salt, and pepper, which means when my gnocchi were done boiling in water, they tasted like bland potatoes and flour.  No worries though, because after they were cooked I tossed them in the soup and they were delish by dinner time!

    Here's the potatoes after I pressed them through garlic press.

    Here's the rolled out dough.

    Here's my pressing the fork into the dough.

    We also need to make chicken stock.  I HIGHLY suggest doing this regularly, it's very easy and you can freeze it for when needed.  Lucky for me, I had some in the freezer.  I use this recipe from 

    Chicken stock

  •  4 pound chicken
  • 7 cups water
  • 1 large onion, halved
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 3 carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • salt to taste

    1. Place the chicken in a large pot over high heat. Add water to cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 1 hour.               
    2. Remove chicken from pot. Leave water in pot. Cool chicken. Remove skin and bones from meat. Return bones and skin to pot. Add onions, carrots, celery, bay leaf, ginger, and salt. Continue simmering for 3 to 4 hours.
    3. Strain and cool the stock, uncovered.
    4. Use the meat for soups, salads, sandwiches, or other dishes where cooked chicken is needed. After stock has been defatted, use or freeze immediately. I freeze the stock in one-cup amounts and use instead of water for cooking rice or vegetables or making gravy.               
    Now, you're all set to make your chicken gnocchi soup.  I tweaked the recipe to make double batch with a few other changes.

  • 2 cups chicken , cooked and diced (I baked my chicken in the oven with sprigs of fresh thyme)
  • cups chicken stock
  • cups half and half 
  •  2 cups milk
  • stalk celery, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves,  chopped
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 handfulls of fresh spinach
  • tablespoon olive oil
  • teaspoon thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 16 ounces potato gnocchi

  • 1.  Saute the onion, celery, garlic, carrot in oil over medium heat until onion is translucent.  (You can also add the thyme at this step, or you can wait until step 2 to add it).

    2.  Add chicken, chicken stock, half and half, salt and pepper, thyme. Heat to boiling, then add gnocchi. Gently boil for 4 minutes, then turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes.

    3.  Add spinach and cook for another 1-2 minutes until spinach is wilted.

    *sidenote*  I did not put the gnocchi in at step 3.  I added spinach, and then when spinach was wilted, I turned down the heat and put gnocchi in (they were already cooked).

    Here's the pot of soup.

    For those of you that faithfully read and memorize my blog, you may realize that this is a repeat recipe.  I first posted this recipe on January 18th.  This is the first time I have reposted a recipe.....I apologize if this upsets you!  I am choosing to celebrate that I've made it 8 months without repeating a blog recipe!

    Enjoy your soup!  Eat with crusty bread and steamed veggies.  Follow dinner with your favorite movie, the couch, and a down comforter!