Tortilla Soup

DSC_0586A few months ago, Jason and I went out for dinner at the Mexican place here in Carrboro. It’s sort of a hole in the wall (hole in the strip mall?) and we had never been, so we gave it a try. I was planning to order some kind of standard Mexican restaurant combo plate, but saw tortilla soup on the menu. Now, to explain my decision, I have to say that there is a Mexican restaurant in Wilmington that has tortilla soup that is to. die. for. It’s cheap, cheesy, a little spicy, a perfect for weeknight dinner. It comes with chunks of avocado and it’s always exactly the right thing. Always. Admittedly, I chose it with high expectations from the little place in Carrboro that I have no previous experience with. I didn’t know how disappointing it could be.  Continue reading

Roasted Beet Pesto

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We have totally talked about the color of beets before, yes? Are you done with that conversation? Okay, good. Me either. Check out that color! It’s like everything you ever wanted from a nail polish. Or lipstick. Or a pair of skinny jeans. (Maybe that last one is just me?) I’m on a newly found mission to incorporate beet-magenta into my life in new and interesting ways. I think that this beet pesto is a good place to start. Continue reading

Mini Chicken Pot Pies

Do you know those days when you just need some comfort food? Those days when you’re worn out, maybe physically, or emotionally, and you just need to eat something warm and heavy that makes you feel full and content. Maybe for you it’s pot roast, or buttery mashed potatoes, or maybe it’s dessert–like a warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream.

This week has been a long one for me, filled with lots of love and a more than a little heartbreak, and I’m absolutely wiped out. At the end of it, I found myself in dire need of some serious comfort food. I decided on chicken pot pie. Warm, flaky crust with soft, creamy filling. Making chicken pot pie is enough work that it feels homemade, but not so much that you’re tired by the time you sit down to eat. I love it. Problem is–if I make a whole chicken pot pie, I think I might be able to eat a whole chicken pot pie. I’d like to introduce you to the mini chicken pot pie!

I totally used store-bought puff pastry dough. This is casual. All you really need are the cute little ramekins.

Here’s the recipe: (makes 4 mini chicken pot pies)

2 sheets puff pastry dough (or however much you need to get enough circles)

1 boneless/skinless chicken breast (or a couple of boneless thighs)

1 small squash

1 small zucchini

1 carrot, peeled

1/2 cup green peas (frozen)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon butter

3/4 cup half & half (plus more for brushing the tops of the pies)

1 teaspoon nutmeg

juice of 1/2 lemon

salt and pepper to taste

To start, make sure your puff pastry dough is out of the freezer before you get started because you’ll need to let it thaw. When it’s defrosted quite a bit, spread it out on the counter and cut large circles out of it (the size of your ramekins). You’ll need two large circles for each pie. I also cut some small circles to decorate the tops with. Also, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Spray each ramekin with non-stick spray or wipe a little butter on the inside. Then, line each one with a puff pastry circle.

Now, chop your veggies and the chicken into little pieces. Throw some butter into a pot over medium-high heat and when it gets hot, brown the chicken pieces. When they’re about halfway cooked through, throw in the veggies and let everything soften up. Throw some salt and pepper in, too.

To make the cream sauce, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small pot over medium heat. When it’s melted, add the 2 tablespoons of flour. It’s going to make a sort of paste. Now, add the half & half. (A word on the half & half: you can totally use cream. It’s going to be delicious if you do. You can also use milk, but it’ll be less delicious. Half & half is nice because it’s somewhere in between. Not quite so heavy, but still thick and creamy.) At the same time, add salt and pepper and the nutmeg. Whisk the mixture constantly, and in a few minutes, it will begin to rapidly thicken. When it’s thickened, remove it from the heat. Next, whisk the mixture as you pour in the lemon juice.

At this point, you can either mix the cream sauce in with the veggies and then put the whole thing into each ramekin, or you can put the veggies in first, and then pour some sauce on top. (Confession–I prefer the latter because the pot is easier to clean if there isn’t any cream in it!) However, you make it happen, after you do, you’ll put the second puff pastry circle on top, then decorate however you’d like. You can also cut a design out of the large circle to create negative space on the top of your pies. Get artsy with it!

Brush some cream on top of the pies, then put them on a baking sheet with a little bit of water in the bottom. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops are brown and a little crispy.

Take them out and enjoy (carefully–those ramekins take a few minutes to cool off)!

Great is goodness;

I do not know what it is any more than I know what

health is… but I know it is great.

Great is wickedness… I find I often admire it just as

much as I admire goodness:

Do you call that a paradox? It certainly is a paradox.

The eternal equilibrium of things is great, and the eternal

overthrow of things is great,

And there is another paradox.

Great is life… and real and mystical… wherever and

whoever,

Great is death… Sure as life holds all parts together,

death holds all parts together;

Sure as the stars return again after they merge in the light,

death is great as life.

-from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass