Today is Ellie's birthday. I could go into all the dramatic details of where I was this time last year and all the chaos of the hospital, but for some reason that just didn't seem fitting. This blog is about food and crafty things, and while creating a child is probably the most epic craft I will ever create, it was food that I felt compelled to write about today. Food is such a huge part of my family, it's where we gather, where we share and where we reconnect. Often even after the table is cleared we're still there, talking and laughing and telling stories. The same stories. Over and over and over again. I think the foods I love, I love because I have many memories connected to them. I want to share that with Ellie.
Ellie is named after two people: Laurene, Nick's aunt, who passed away not long after becoming a mother, much too young. We wanted to honor her memory, her sister, Ellie's Nana, and her daughter, Ellie's Aunt Meg. Eleanor, my great-grandmother, mother of 12 children, clearly a strong woman, and a really good cook.
Today was Ellie's birthday, but it was all about a melding of all things family, in the form of dinner. I made chicken and noodles. I know, you're thinking, why did you make the stereotypical sick food for a birthday dinner? This isn't that chicken and noodles. This is my Grandma Taylor's chicken and noodles which is much more serious than a bowl of broth with a few noodles and bits of chicken floating around. Grandma Taylor's chicken and noodles is thick, creamy and warms your soul. Or at least mine. I feel like I'm in her house again whenever I eat it. But I had to up the ante.
So I made my great-grandma's noodles. I had never made pasta of any kind. I always considered it, but never did it. This was apparently one of my grandpa's favorite things to eat, but I had never eaten it. Ever since my family put together a cookbook, I've been itching to try her noodle recipe. Ellie's birthday seemed like the perfect opportunity. So Grandma Dietz's noodles went into Grandma Taylor's recipe and it was a match made in heaven.
We shared our dinner with Ellie's Nana and Papa and I had this sense that there were a lot more family members present than the five of us seated at the table. It was perfect.
Ellie has been refusing to eat meat and vegetables recently. She basically lives off yogurt, graham crackers and the occasional banana. My goal to make one meal for the whole family was thrown out the window in an effort to get her to just eat anything. I didn't care if my dinner consisted of a piece of cheese and a pickle* as long as Ellie was happy and well fed.
Today that all changed. I found a meal that I love and that Ellie will devour:
Chicken Pot Pie
Imagine a light shining from the heavens and angels singing because when she at her entire dinner tonight, that's how it felt. Now, I realize chicken pot pie isn't the healthiest thing in the world, but I'm not saying you should eat it all the time. I'm just saying you absolutely should eat it. It's awesome. It also has the misconception of being time consuming and difficult, but not my recipe. Super quick and super easy with very few ingredients.
Ellie's Chicken Pot Pie
1 chicken breast, cubed and sauteed (if you one leftover that's even better!)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 cups whole milk (or 2%, but not skim)
1/2 bag of frozen peas and carrots, or any mix of veggies
1 roll of refrigerated pie dough (you could make your own in a big batch, portion it and keep it in the frig or freezer, but that's another story)
salt and pepper, to taste
4 ramekins, or small oven safe bowls
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
1. In a sauce pan over medium heat melt the butter.
2. Whisk in the flour to create a rue.
3. Let the rue cook for a minute or two, but continue to move it around the entire time so it doesn't burn.
4. Slowly pour in the milk while whisking.
5. Continue to stir/whisk the mixture every couple minutes until it thickens. It doesn't take very long. You'll know its done when it has reached about the consistency of heavy cream. Congratulations, you just made bechamel sauce! Add cheese and pasta and you've made macaroni and cheese from scratch! (This is the stage where I added the salt and pepper, but not much because I'm feeding it to a toddler.)
6. Add the sauteed chicken and peas and carrots to the cream sauce. Stir until everybody is coated.
7. Spoon into ramekins.
8. Roll out your dough and cut into quarters.
9. Lay the dough on top of the ramekin. You could use egg wash to make the dough stick, but I just pressed down a little. It'll stick, its buttery dough.
10. Cut a little hole in the top of the dough so the filling can vent. To finish the top you could brush it with egg wash or milk and sprinkle with a little salt.
11. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and delicious.
So, store bought pie crust always has two rolls in the box. I only used one roll for the pot pies, so of course I felt compelled to use the other. I couldn't let it go to waste! Wasted pie crust, in this family, is like a felony. I had a few fresh blueberries that I was actually saving for the next morning's pancakes, but the pancakes would live. We have bananas. And I had some of Ellie's cooked apples that she was currently refusing to eat. Perfect! I had turnovers!
I started by cutting the crust into quarters, just like I had for the pot pies. For the blueberry filling I dusted the blueberries with cornstarch. This would soak up the juice when the blueberries burst and would keep the dough from getting wet. For the apples I dusted them with a little brown sugar and cinnamon. The brown sugar creates this caramel apple effect, which is super yummy. You simply place the filling in the middle and fold the dough in half. Be sure to seal the dough really well around the edges. Then brush the top with egg wash, milk or even water and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden.
You could put anything inside these. I also had marshmallows and chocolate I really wanted to use, but I didn't have anymore dough. You could even do the pot pie filling in a turnover form and have pot pies to go! You can put anything in pie dough because pie dough is the best!
*this was a regular lunch for me for about the first two months of Ellie's life
**for leftover scraps, don't throw them away! Roll them together into one flat piece, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and top with little pieces of butter. Bake at 425 degrees until golden and enjoy! My family called these "crispies" and they are the best part of pie making!