Classic Herb Chicken Pot Pie

IMG_7336Ever so often we are reminded in Los Angeles that it is still Winter.  It is not Spring, do not pass go, do not expect sunny skies and beach days just yet.  With the chilly, wet weather coming and going all across the nation, we wanted to provide some comfort of home with a soothing yet decadent thrill to your taste buds.  Our classic herb chicken pot pie will be just the trick to thaw your body and warm your spirit.  By preparing some recipe elements a day before, you can erase the idea in your mind that this is too hard to create for you and your loved ones.  So on days that gloom, pull out this recipe and set aside your favorite blanket, because within no time you will be cozied up with both, enjoying your own homemade piece of heaven.

A look into the process…

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Here is the recipe… 

YEILDS

serves 8

INGREDIENTS

Flaky Pie Dough

½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces

3 to 4 tablespoons cold water

1¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

Herb Chicken Filling

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter

1 cup diced onion

½ cup diced celery

6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

4 cups homemade chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth

½ cup peeled and diced carrot

1 tablespoon olive oil

10 ounces sliced mushrooms(I use potatoes for yours)

1 pound cooked chicken meat, diced(I roasted the chicken and diced it)

1 cup frozen peas

1 fresh bay leaf

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

1½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

1½ teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large egg yolk

2 tablespoons milk or cream

*You can make the chicken and pie crust a day ahead of time*

DIRECTIONS

To make the dough, place the butter pieces in a bowl or on a plate and freeze for at least 20 minutes. Refrigerate the water in a small measuring cup until needed.

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 10 seconds to blend the ingredients. Add the frozen butter pieces and pulse 6 to 10 times (in 1-second bursts), until the butter and flour mixture looks like crushed crackers and peas.

Immediately transfer the butter-flour mixture to the large bowl. Sprinkle a tablespoon of the cold water over the mixture and “fluff” it, then add another and another, until 3 tablespoons have been added. Continue to fluff and stir 10 to 12 times. It will not be a cohesive dough at this point but a bowl of shaggy crumbs and clumps of dough. Before bringing the dough together, test it for the correct moisture content. Take a handful and squeeze firmly. Open your hand. If the clump falls apart and looks dry, remove any large, moist clumps from the bowl; then add more water, a teaspoon at a time, sprinkling it over the top of the mixture and immediately stirring or mixing it in. Test again before adding any more water. Repeat, if needed. The dough is done when it holds together (even if a few small pieces fall off). If the butter feels soft and squishy, refrigerate before continuing. If the butter is still cold and firm, continue to the next step. (Note: Adding the liquid may also be done on low speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment-add three-quarters of the liquid, test for moistness, then add the remaining liquid if needed.)

Turn the dough onto a work surface and knead gently 3 to 6 times. If it won’t come together and looks very dry, return it to the bowl and add another teaspoon or two of water (one at a time), mixing in as above, and try again. Flatten the dough into a 6- or 7-inch disk, wrap in plastic or parchment paper, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This allows time for the dough to hydrate fully and for the butter to firm up again.

If the dough has been refrigerated for more than 30 minutes, it may be very firm and hard and will crack if you try to roll it. Let it sit on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes until it is malleable but still cold. Dust your work surface generously with flour and set the disk on the flour. Dust the top with flour. Roll, turning the dough, until you’ve got a 14- to 15-inch circle. If at any point the dough becomes warm and sticky, gently fold it into quarters, unfold it onto a baking sheet, and refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until the butter is firm again.

Transfer the circle of pie or tart to a baking sheet and chill until ready to use.

To make the filling, melt the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, until softened. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the flour. Whisk vigorously to blend the flour with the vegetables and butter. Return to the heat and cook, whisking, for 2 to 3 minutes (do not let the flour brown). Remove the pan from the heat. Add about 1 cup of the stock and whisk until the mixture is smooth and pastelike. This is your only chance to remove any lumps of flour, so whisk thoroughly. Once the paste is smooth, whisk in the remaining stock. Add the carrot. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Fill a large bowl halfway with ice and water. Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes, until deep golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the filling along with the chicken, peas, chives, parsley, and thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set the saucepan into the bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally until the filling is cool. (Chilling the filling prevents the flaky pastry from melting when it’s placed on top of the pie.) Scrape the filling into the pie pan.

Preheat the oven to 275°F and position an oven rack in the center. Brush the edge of the pie pan with a thin film of water. Transfer the dough to the pan, roll the edges to form a thick rope along the edge of the pan, then crimp or form a decorative border as desired. Any leftover pie dough can be used to make decorative designs, such as a chicken, on top of the piecrust. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk with the milk and use a pastry brush to lightly glaze the surface of the pie. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown and crisp. Transfer to a rack and let cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot, spooning the pie into wide, shallow bowls.

ENJOY!

Just Juice It: The Green Giant

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I am not sure when the obsession with juices began, but it is a worthy addiction that led us to a recent purchase of a Breville juicer for the Pleasant Pantry headquarters.  Now when we cringe at the idea of tossing out any extra produce after recipes, we have a reason to save it for our latest liquid concoctions.  Knowing that all juice isn’t the healthiest for us, we wanted to start off with an easy green elixir.  Simple to make and fun in the process; it doesn’t hurt that it is tasty and a way to get some much needed nutrients into our life. 

Before and after…

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What you will need:

2 bunches of kale

1 romaine lettuce bunch

1 bunch of celery

2 gala apples

1 lemon

1/2 cucumber

1/2 a bunch of parsley

1 stick of ginger (add in slowly, to taste)

Throw in your Breville juicer and viola, tasty green juice! Enjoy!

Hot Spinach & Artichoke Dip

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With the Super Bowl behind us, and the excuse to make ridiculously fattening foods acceptable now just a faded memory, it is difficult to get one particular snack out of our nostalgic thoughts – hot spinach & artichoke dip.  Cheesy, rich, and textured with moist bits of artichoke hearts swirled in a glorious green bed of spinach and garlic, we at the Pleasant Pantry would like to honor the memory of this party-crowd pleaser. We won’t promote eating this decadent dish regularly, but if you didn’t get a chance to make it this past weekend, we are completely okay with you breaking out the ingredients and finding out for yourself what true happiness is all about… 

I literally count down the days before every holiday because it signals the time when I can make this dip… well being honest, any particular reason to make Spinach & Artichoke dip I will willingly oblige to get in the kitchen and whip up a batch.  It reminds me of family, good friends, happy times and home. – Jenet

Here is the process…

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This is the recipe… 

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups part-skim mozzarella cheese

1 1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup Romano cheese

1/4 cup fat free sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise

8 ounce fat free cream cheese, softened

14 ounces artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

3 garlic gloves minced

10 ounce package chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 Tbs salt

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine 1 cup mozzarella and 1 cup parmesan and 1/2 cup romano cheeses with all other ingredients in a large bowl; stir until well blended. Spoon mixture into a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.

Serve with tortilla chips, crackers or celery.

Indulge and enjoy!

Deliciously Baked Mac & Cheese

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There are times when nothing sounds better than indulging in good old fashioned comfort food; something warm & gooey (odds are fattening and therefor delicious).  Since we closed out the month of January with super foods, healthy choices and awareness of smarter eating options, we thought we deserved one day of decadence. We bring you a way to pat yourself on the back – delightfully rich macaroni and cheese.  Warm up the stove, throw some good cheese together with soft elbow pasta and thank us later for the inspiration. And feel free to invite us over for the leftovers!

This is such a comforting meal and a real crowd pleaser! You can never go wrong with this dish. You can make this and keep for several days in the fridge, which is nice when you start craving it days later!  Also the possibilities are endless when it comes to experimenting with various cheeses to use. I love to try new ones that can add a different dimension to the flavor! – Amy

A look into the process… 

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Here is the recipe… 

INGREDIENTS

2 quarts water

2 tsp salt (for water)

2 cups elbow macaroni

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 tsp pepper

1/4 cup butter

1 tsp dry mustard

1 tsp salt

2 cups milk

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

2 cups grated gruyere cheese

1/4 cup chopped sweet pepper (optional)

 

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put water in a large sauce pot, add salt and bring to boil. Add macaronis all at once and stir. Return water to a boil and then simmer until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain.

In a separate saucepan, melt butter and then remove from heat. Stir in flour, salt, pepper and dry mustard. When mixture is smooth, gradually add milk, stirring until there are no lumps of flour remaining. Return saucepan to heat and cook over moderately high heat, stirring constantly until mixture comes to boil and thickens slightly. Add green pepper, if desired, and simmer for a minute longer.

Stir 1 1/2 cups of grated cheddar cheese with the drained macaroni and milk & flour mixture and place in baking dish.  Pour extra shredded cheese on top.

Place dish in oven for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Remove from oven and serve. Enjoy!

 

VARIATIONS

Use shells instead of elbow pasta.

Add breadcrumbs with rosemary to the top for extra texture.

Quinoa Crusted Herb Chicken

IMG_7149_2We all know anything breaded can be detrimental to our waistline if consumed on a regular basis. Yet just because we know it is bad for us doesn’t lessen the craving.  So on our quest to find a healthy alternative, we created this little gem of an idea: quinoa crusted chicken.  Not only do you get the nutrients of our most prized superfood, but you get a crunchy exterior that also pleasantly keeps your chicken moist.  Hooray!  Guilt-free and satisfying.  Now that is something we like!

Here is a look into the process…

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This is our recipe… 

INGREDIENTS

1 cup quinoa

3-4 chicken breasts

1/4 cup flour

1 egg

1/2 cup parsley, chopped

Salt

Pepper

DIRECTIONS

Place quinoa into pot of water (roughly 3 cups) and  let boil down until all water is evaporated and quinoa fluffs up, about 15 minutes. Chop parsley and combine with 1 cup flour. In separate bowl, beat one egg and set aside.

Once quinoa is cooked, about 15 minutes, mix together parsley-flour combination with cooled quinoa. In a glass baking dish, arrange the chicken breasts after they have been coated in the egg (dip front and back). Add dash of salt to chicken, if desired.   Sprinkle quinoa herb mixture over chicken breasts making sure to cover both top and bottom. Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until chicken breasts are cooked through and quinoa is crispy.

Serve. Enjoy!

The (Raw) Julienne Salad

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Looking for a salad with texture and crunch? You have come to the right place for inspiration. We wanted to break the mold of salads always consisting of leafy arugula, boring romaine, or those other lettuce variatels. Just take a few of your favorite veggies, combine them with a simple and well-rounded vinaigrette and you will be pleasantly surprised by this daring salad star breakout. 

Here is a look at the process… 

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Combine the following ingredients in julienne form (as best you can) or by shaving each:

Daikon

Carrot

Cucumber

Beet

Broccoli Stems

Add parsley and a squeeze of lemon.

In addition, feel free to experiment with cabbage shreds or other veggies you see fit.

For the vinaigrette, whisk together the following:

1 Tbs sherry or red wine vinegar

1/2 small shallot minced

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

3 Tbs olive oil

Pinch of sea salt

Toss together. Enjoy.

The Million Mushroom Stuffing

IMG_5644You know that moment in the grocery store when you happen upon that oddity of a gourmet item and you aren’t quite sure what it is, or how to cook with it, yet it happens to be a very intriguing shape or color.  Everyone knows what a normal mushroom looks like, but if we were to tell you to go find a “Hen of the Woods”, would you have ANY idea what we were talking about? Perhaps the poultry section?

Normal button mushrooms are more or less easy to spot, however the variations of names, sizes and shapes these fungi exist in is quite perplexing.  So we bring you this dish as an introduction to our fungus friends, the Million Mushroom Stuffing.  Curious to create a side dish that is warm and soothing that can compliment almost any protein?  This deliciously savory indulgence is worth the try! 

Here is the process…

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And here is the recipe…

INGREDIENTS 

1 package Beech Musthrooms (Bunashumeji)

1 package Hen of the Woods (Maitake)

5 Chanterelle mushrooms

1 package Swiss brown mushroom

4 Portobello mushrooms

1 leek

5 cups homemade breadcrumbs

4 garlic cloves

1/2 cup white wine

2 sprigs thyme

1 stick butter

Salt to taste

Pepper taste

VARIATION

Add porcini or other mushrooms of your liking. Remember to clean and remove stems.

RECIPE

Clean mushrooms thoroughly, removing stems. Chop in small cubes.

Melt butter in a heavy cooking pot and add all mushrooms. Sauté for a few minutes then add leeks and garlic.  Cook for 5 minutes. Add white wine, and thyme until wine almost evaporates, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Fold in breadcrumbs and let cook on low for 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Serve. Enjoy.

Crispy Mustard Chickpeas

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As we close out the end of January, it is completely normal to ask yourself if you are really keeping your promise of a healthier New Year. One way to keep in line with your svelte conscience is to replace a salty craving with these delicious chickpea darlings. Forgo the chips that are high in sodium, fat and cholesterol and fit these into that hunger void.  

Here is how we made them… 

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This is what you will need… 

Chickpeas

Dry Coleman’s Mustard

Salt

Cookie Sheet

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread chickpeas out on tinfoil and cover in salt, pepper, and coleman’s dry mustard. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the chickpeas turn golden and crisp. Remove and serve. Enjoy!

Sage & Rosemary Salmon in Parchment Paper

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It can be easy to cook with fish, it can also strike a cord of frustration when not done properly.  To bake a fantastic fillet, there needs to be a balance of moisture and flakiness, spice and texture.  This recipe is a great way to prepare salmon that breaks the mold of pan frying.  The parchment paper becomes a wonderful pouch for the fish to sit and bake happily in, while it rests next to lemon juice, garlic and fresh herbs.  Here is our idea of a perfect dish to compliment your dinner menu….

Here is the process…

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This is the simple recipe… 

INGREDIENTS

Salmon fillet

Rosemary sprig

Sage sprig

4 lemon slices

1 clove minced garlic

Baking parchment paper

Salt

Pepper

Olive oil

VARIATION:

Add 1 thinly sliced onion

DIRECTIONS

Set oven to 375 degrees.

Place salmon fillet on parchment paper and cover with lemon slices (and their juice), minced garlic, sage, and rosemary.  Salt and pepper as generously as needed and drizzle with olive oil to coat the fillet. Add thin onion slices, if desired. Fold fish in parchment paper until it forms a sealed package (it does not need to be air tight) and place on cookie sheet. Bake fish for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.

Remove fish from parchment paper gently and serve.

Enjoy.

Simply the Best Banana Bread

IMG_6804Sometimes in our quest to be healthy, there are times when shopping in a grocery store for the newest diet regimen is too much to process. All the wonderful fruits and vegetables at your fingertips, how easy it is to be persuaded to over shop; finding  yourself in an overzealous manner collecting a basket full of  produce that can feed a small army.  And after a while, items in your pantry can turn. Take our favorite potassium-rich friend, the banana — oh how quickly you ripen!  

If you find yourself in this common predicament, with browned bananas by the bunch, look no further than our simple banana bread to make use of that over-ripened fruit.  Easy to bake, this can be cut into slivers for a dessert or snack that you won’t feel too guilty about…considering nothing has gone to waste; neither the bananas nor the calories.

A look into the process… 

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INGREDIENTS

4 cups all-purpose flour (or gluten-free four)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

2 sticks unsalted, softened butter

2 cups organic cane sugar

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

8 very ripe bananas

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour two 9 x5 x3 inch pans and set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder & soda, salt, nutmeg, and cardamom in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

Cream together butter and sugar in a separate bowl with an electric mixer until well blended. Slowly add beaten eggs while continuing to mix. Next add bananas and vanilla.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until all dry ingredients are moist and blended. Do not over mix.

Pour the batter into the two pans.  Bake for an hour to hour and 20 minutes or until the bread is slight brown and cracked on the top.

Remove and let stand until cool before you remove.

Serve and enjoy!