Monday, March 19, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie with White Wine and Tarragon

My apologies, these past few weeks have been super jam-packed. My busy schedule made me think about a remaking a quick, and yet still delicious meal. As promised, I’ve finally found the time to update Chicken Pot Pie. Although still very time friendly, the recipe has been dressed up with the addition of white wine and tarragon. To shorten cooking time, I bought an already cooked rotisserie chicken from my local grocery store and used a pre-made puff pastry sheet that can be found in your local grocer’s freezer section.

Chicken Pot Pie with White Wine and Tarragon- 
Makes 8-10 Ramekins or One 8.5 x 11 Pan
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup white onions, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup  frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen corn,
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1 tablespoon tarragon, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large skillet, cook onion, celery and carrots over medium heat until onions are translucent and carrots are slightly softened (about 10 minutes). Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit.

Using the same pan, begin to melt butter to make a roux. I showed you how a make a roux when I updated macaroni cheese. However, if you are still a little confused does a simple and visually appealing job of explaining how to make a roux. After your roux is made, add the chicken stock and white wine. Bring the mixture to boil and then add the cream. Simmer until sauce thickens to desired consistency. Now it’s time to add the cooked and frozen vegetables. Stir and then add chicken. Add tarragon to the mix and then remove heated mixture from burner.

Place pot-pie mixture into desired container. If you use ramekins, you can use a round cookie cutter to make the crust. If you use a large pan, you will need to roll out the pastry sheet to fit the pan. Place puff pastry crust over mixture.  Use a knife to vent the puff pastry so the pot-pie mixture doesn’t completely bubble over. Place dish in the preheated oven until crust is brown and mixture is bubbling (15-20 minutes). Enjoy!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

little black apron: The Story Behind the Name

Sorry there's no yummy recipes this post, just a little anecdote. However later this week I'm updating Chicken Pot Pie, so stay tuned. Some readers may be wondering why I decided on the name 'little black apron' for my blog. Like many women, I have too many little black dresses to count. I always go into the store ready to try something new, but the black dress always ends up looking "too cute" for me to resist.

Also, I have had an obsession with aprons ever since I was a little girl. An apron was a necessity if I was cooking anything in the kitchen. After someone tied that apron around my waist, I always felt like a superstar chef. It didn’t matter if the cookies were a little burnt or the soup was a bit salty, I could rock an apron with the best of them. Even as an adult, I still get that same boost of cooking confidence when I put my apron on. Now it reminds me of all the women before me, that did very the same thing as they made the classic dishes I came to love. As I put my twist on childhood favorites, I can't help but think of those that will continue the tradition, just as I do now.

Best Wishes,

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Not your Grandma's Mac and Cheese

I am almost ashamed to admit I didn’t eat homemade macaroni and cheese until I was about 10 years-old. The blue box was all my picky appetite could handle, but now I certainly have a strong appreciation for the cheesy and creamy combination. My Grandma Eleanor made the best classic mac and cheese and I’m often disappointed for not trying the dish sooner.  Maybe when I’m feeling really generous, I’ll post the recipe here, but until then the secret stays in the family.

Grandma Eleanor: Queen of Mac and Cheese
This week I take my Grandma’s dish across the Atlantic and add an Italian twist. I love cavatappi pasta because its corkscrew-shape and ridges help to soak up all the cheesy goodness. In this case, the rich pasta was paired with a fresh salad tossed in a simple oil and vinegar dressing. 

For dessert, I feature another Italian cheese, mascarpone. If you haven’t tried this cheese yet, be careful. Mascarpone’s creamy texture can become addicting! The pizzas are such a beautiful, easy-to-make dessert and the colorful berries do most of the presentation work.

Italian Style Macaroni and Cheese- Makes approximately 10 ramekins
1/2 lb dry cavatappi pasta (half of a 16 ounce box)
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
Salt and Pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 Italian breadcrumbs
Extra butter for browning
Optional Toppings:
Diced Tomato with Basil
Crispy Pancetta

Prepare pasta as directed. Do not overcook, as the pasta will continue to cook in the oven. While pasta is cooking prepare the white sauce. In a saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Slowly add flour, stirring the butter and flour together for 2 minutes. This called a roux. Add milk and whisk vigorously. If necessary, use a spoon to gather all bits of roux from edges of pan. Stirring continually, bring roux to boil then remove from heat. Sauce should thicken to proper consistency.

Preheat oven to 400˚ Fahrenheit. After draining pasta, pour into a large mixing bowl. Add white sauce and stir. Add fontina and mozzarella cheese and stir. Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Pour pasta and cheese sauce mixture in greased ramekins (or one greased 8.5 x 11 x 2 inch baking dish). Top with Italian breadcrumbs, Parmesan and a little butter for nice browning. Cook macaroni and cheese dish in oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until bubbly. Remove from oven. Let cool. Add optional toppings or serve as is.

Triple Berry Dessert Pizza- Makes approximately 10 miniature pizzas
1 cup mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons honey
1 can of refrigerated pizza dough, thin crust style
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blackberries
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400˚ Fahrenheit. Grease cookie sheet. Combine mascarpone and honey. Stir until well mixed. If you want mini-pizzas, use a round cookie cutter to cut dough into circles. Place dough in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, flipping over halfway through. Remove dough from oven and let cool. When dough has cooled, spread mascarpone mixture evenly over dough. Top with berries. Before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Get your Game On: Sliders, Sweet Potatoes and Shakes

The best thing about watching sports games is the food! Or at least that's what I think. Many of us remember enjoying the game with a burger, hot dog and chips on our plate. I've updated this classic combination to create Rodeo Sliders with Sweet Potato Chips.  The weather has been so nice in Michigan, why not get some more use out of your grill? And for dessert, try one of these spiked shakes based on childhood dessert favorites. With these recipes, everyone will want to be at your house on game day!

Grilled Rodeo Sliders- Makes 10-12 Mini-Burgers
1 pound of ground turkey
1 egg
1/8 cup of Italian breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
Smoked Cheddar Cheese, Sliced
10-12 Slider Buns or Halved Dinner Rolls
1/2 cup of your favorite barbeque sauce
Caramelized Onions (See Recipe)

Blend ground turkey with egg, breadcrumbs, salt, seasoning salt and pepper until combined. Form into 10-12 small patties. Place uncooked patties on a preheated grill. Cook for 6 minutes on each side. Add smoked cheddar during last 2 minutes of cooking. Remove from grill and place on buns. Top with BBQ sauce and caramelized onions.

Fresh Idea: Instead of caramelized onions, top sliders with fried onions for an added crunch!

Caramelized Onions
Onions (Yellow or White), Butter, Olive Oil, Salt
I don’t normally follow a recipe when caramelizing onions, just a little onions, heat and patience. However, this site explains it quite well. I used a combination of butter and olive oil and did not add any sugar.

Baked Sweet Potato Chips
2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and sliced from 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon apple pie spice (cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg)

Preheat oven to 400°. Place sweet potato slices on two baking sheets. Brush slices with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake for 10-20 minutes depending on thickness of chip. Flip chips over halfway through cooking time. Remove when edges are crisp and toss in apple pie spice/sugar mixture. Serve warm.

Spiked Shakes- For Grown-Ups Only

Apple a la Mode (As seen in People Magazine)
Blend 2 cups of vanilla ice cream and 4 tbsp. apple vodka in a blender until smooth. Pour into a tall glass and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. cinnamon sugar. Garnish with apple slice if desired.

Strawberry Shortcake
Blend 2 cups of strawberry ice cream and 4 tbsp. vanilla vodka in a blender until smooth. Pour into a tall glass. Garnish with your choice of strawberry, crumbled shortbread cookies and whipped cream.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Lifetime of Memories in the Making

I adore cooking. Even more than cooking, I adore sharing my creations with the people I love.  That’s where the inspiration for ‘little black apron’ truly comes from. Some of my fondest childhood memories are those of me in the kitchen with my family. Baking cookies with my mother, making jelly rolls with my stepmother, filling deviled eggs with my Grandma Eleanor, and putting the finishing touches on my Grandma Ella’s apple pie. These are the memories that I hold close to my heart. As these memories came to mind, I often thought about putting my own spin on the dishes that feed both my heart and stomach. Rather than view it as a sign of disrespect, I now see it as putting my own stamp on the family recipe book.

My friends and family are familiar with my passion for food and cooking. Let’s face it: for one Christmas, I requested a digital meat thermometer, food magazines and another apron to add to my collection. So with this blog, I’m excited to finally share my passion with the world. My plans are to feature childhood recipes, think Macaroni and Cheese, Chicken Pot Pie, and yes even Meatloaf, with a sophisticated twist. Don’t worry! Desserts will not be left off the table. In fact, it is the sweets that I am most excited about.

On a final note, it may not be listed on the ingredients list, but please don’t forget to add a little love to every recipe you try! I truly believe it makes all the difference in the finished product.

Best Wishes, 

There's no place like home... for dinner of course.
Looking for a little black apron? I love to splurge on ones from Heavenly Hostess.