Thursday, January 31, 2013

Key Lime Coolers

It has been a great year for our citrus trees, as evidenced by my recent key lime harvest:
(Did you know that limes are actually yellow, not green, when they're fully ripe? They're green at the store because they're picked early to last longer on the shelf)

I juiced most of the limes and froze the juice (3 cups of it - which, if you've ever squeezed a tiny little key lime, you know takes a lot of limes!) for summer, when we like to make margaritas & key lime pie. But I saved a few to make key lime coolers, which are these delicious little buttery, crumbly cookies that you can just pop in your mouth for a sweet taste of summer (or one of my favorite places, Key West):

Best of all, they are very simple to make and whip up quickly - even on a work night. Here's the recipe:

Key Lime Coolers
(Makes about 2 dozen)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup confectioner's sugar, divided
zest of 4 key limes, divided
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. key lime juice

Preheat oven to 325°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cream 1/2 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar together until light and fluffy. Add 1/2 of the key lime zest, 1/2 tsp. of vanilla and 1/4 tsp. salt and mix until smooth.
Add flour and baking soda and beat on low just until combined.
Mix in key lime juice until dough comes together and looks smooth.
Using two small spoons (the dough will be too sticky to handle), shape dough into 1/2" balls and place on prepared baking sheets about 1-2" apart.
Bake at 325°F for 15 minutes, or until bottoms are slightly browned.
Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix remaining 1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar and lime zest in a small bowl.
After 5 minutes of cooling, carefully drop cookies into sugar one or two at a time and toss to coat.
Place dusted cookies back on parchment and let cool completely before storing.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Chicken Pot Pie from Scratch

While the new job has me looking for easy weeknight meals, I relish the weekends when I get some extra time in the kitchen to cook up more elaborate, from-scratch meals. This weekend has been a little chilly in Southern California (ok, not cold by New England standards - but low 50s is chilly in these parts!), so I was looking for something warming and hearty. When I remembered I had a bag of chicken bones in the freezer waiting to be made into broth, I immediately decided I had to make the ultimate from-scratch chicken pot pie.

I started yesterday by putting the bones from 2 previously roasted chickens in my crockpot, sprinkled with salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme and sage, covered with water and cooked on low for 12 hours. Then I strained out the bones and picked off any remaining meat. That gave me 2 cups of chicken and at least 8 cups of very flavorful broth! (I froze what I didn't need for this recipe.)

Today, I made my pie crusts using this recipe, but cutting the sugar to 1/2 tsp. When it was time to put it all together, I made my sauce using the previously made chicken broth(see below), added veggies and chicken and put it all between the 2 rolled out crusts. 45 minutes later, we had a super comforting, hot meal that was the perfect for this chilly evening. The flaky crust, the creamy filling - heaven!

Keep in mind, you could make this with canned chicken broth and some cooked chicken breast, too. But the next time you roast a whole chicken, save the bones and try it from scratch. So worth it!

Chicken Pot Pie from Scratch
(Makes 1 9-inch pie)

2 unbaked 9-inch pie crusts
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
4 Tbsp. butter

1 large potato, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 1/2 cups chicken broth

3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup sliced carrots

Preheat oven to 425°F. Roll out 1 pie crust and place in bottom of a pie pan.
In a medium-sized saucepan, heat 4 Tbsp. butter over medium heat until melted. Add garlic, onion powder, 1/2 of the cut up potato and 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Cook until potato is soft. Mash potato until smooth (this is going to help thicken the sauce).
Add 1 3/4 cup of broth to the sauce pan and bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile mix 3 Tbsp. cornstarch with the remaining 1/4 cup chicken broth until mixture is smooth (no clumps). Whisk cornstarch mixture into broth mixture. Cook until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Add peas, carrots and remaining potato to broth mixture. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes until vegetables begin to soften.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add chicken and pour mixture pie pan.
Roll out the remaining pie crust and lay over the top of the filling. Press and crimp edges of the pie crust to seal, cutting off any excess dough. Cut 4-5 slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
Bake at 425°F for 45 minutes or until pie crust is evenly browned. Cool at least 10 minutes before enjoying.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Quick Weeknight Dinner for 2 with Campbell's Skillet Sauces

Back in November, I changed jobs and transitioned from working about 30-35 hours a week from my home to working 40+ hours a week at an office about 1 hour away from my home. That meant that between the added commute and extra work hours, I suddenly had about 20 less hours a week for household chores, cooking and (as you've probably noticed) blogging.

As you might imagine, this also means that dinner isn't always on the table promptly at 6... or 7... or even sometimes 8! I've definitely started to look for shortcuts and simpler meals for weeknights. So when I heard about the new Campbell's® Skillet Sauces for two that promised an easy #Dinnerin15, I was eager to try them out!

Before heading to my local Albertsons, I checked out the Campbell's Kitchen website and saw that they suggest serving the skillet creation over rice or pasta. So, when I got to Albertsons, that was the first aisle I looked in. Low and behold, there they were between the rice and pasta and near other pre-packaged sauces and gravies:

You can check out my whole shopping trip on Google+.

There are 6 flavors in all - Fire Roasted Tomato, Scampi, Thai Green Curry, Creamy Chipotle, Marsala and Toasted Sesame. I was in a pasta mood, so I went with the scampi skillet sauce pouch so I could do shrimp scampi over whole wheat spaghetti. According to the directions, all you need in addition to the sauce packet is 1 tbsp. of oil, 1 lb. of protein and 15 minutes prep/cooking time. Given my excitement over the possibility of having dinner on the table in about 1/3 the time it usual takes, I also grabbed a bottle of wine so I could turn it into date night!

The cooking process for the sauce and shrimp was as simple as the 3 easy steps that were promised. Heat oil, cook protein, add sauce. And all of that could easily be accomplished in 15 minutes. Since I had to boil water for pasta, though (and don't have an induction burner), it took an official total of 24 minutes. But that was still a HUGE time saver, cutting my usual dinner making time by about half and allowing me to set up a little dinner date for 2 at the table (instead of on the couch...):

Prepared exactly according to the package directions, the scampi looked creamy and wonderful:

And it was good, but also very rich. I thought it needed a little more balance, so I added some more parsley, fresh ground pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice for Shrimp Scampi a la Valley Writer:

My husband and I both agreed it was very good--and we would definitely have it again. The portions were ample, easily feeding 2 hungry adults whose main meal is dinner. (For smaller eaters, you could probably stretch this to 3 meals.) The only thing I would (will) do differently next time is to add some marinated artichoke hearts or other veggies for a more complete meal.

If you're interested in trying out Campbell's Skillet Sauces, pop over to their Facebook page and grab a $1 off coupon by the end of January. They also have coupons on display in-store through January, but all of them were gone when I went shopping - so plan ahead!

I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a shopper insights study for Collective Bias® and Campbell's. All opinions expressed are my own. #cbias #Social Fabric