National Pie Pot Day is coming – I got ya

Turkey Pot Pie Casserole

I don’t need a day to celebrate my love affair with meat pot pies. But it you give me one, I’ll take it.

September 23rd is National Great American Pot Pie Day. Urban legend points to the pie maker and frozen food manufacturer Marie Callender’s as the source of crowning this crust filled observance.

And speaking of crust, it’s the very best part of the pot pie.

Back in the day

I remember how Mom would occasionally stock our freezer with frozen Banquet turkey and chicken pot pies. They were packaged in a gold and red box that made my taste buds weep. We would pop that aluminum pot pie tray into the oven and it seemed like it took ages for it get done. And if you took it out too soon, the crust at the bottom would be soggy. But it didn’t matter, we ate them anyway. Between that golden brown, flaky double crust delight was tender chunks of meat and vegetables mixed in a delicate gravy. They were such a treat and not to mention these little pot pies gave mom a day off from serious cooking.

Turkey pot pie remake

To this day I love pot pies. And for years I have made and served a modified version of a turkey pot pie. It’s made in a casserole dish and has a single, puff pastry crust. I’ve posted pictures of it on my social media pages. But I’ve never published the recipe – until now.

While the flaky puff pastry crust is definitely the star, the filling is deliciously satisfying and flavorful. Using turkey thigh meat makes it hearty.  And the Jersey sweet potatoes and fresh rosemary elevates the dish to something you’ll be proud to serve company.

Enjoy National Great American Pot Pie Day and enjoy this recipe any day you want that down home pot pie flavor minus the gold and red box of course.

Turkey Pot Pie Casserole

  • Servings: 6 to 8
  • Difficulty: intermediate
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It’s made in a casserole dish and has a single, puff pastry crust.

Ingredients

2 cups Jersey (white) sweet potatoes peeled and cut into cubes
1 cup carrots, peeled and sliced
½ cup chopped yellow onion
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 ½ to 2 pounds skinless, boneless turkey thighs cut in chunks
Cooking oil (Grapeseed oil used in this recipe)
1 ½   teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary
2 ½ cup chicken stock (organic used in this recipe)
1 cup frozen sweet peas
4 tablespoons flour
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed (Pepperidge Farms used in this recipe)

Directions

  1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a non-stick skillet set at medium heat. When oil is hot, add Jersey sweet potatoes and cook 5-6 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula. They will be slightly browned. Remember, color equals flavor. When done, place in a separate bowl or plate.
  2. To that same skillet, add about a teaspoon more of oil and add sliced carrots. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula.  When done, place cooked carrots in a bowl or plate with sweet potatoes.
  3. Wash and pat dry turkey thigh. Cut in 1 inch pieces/chunks. Place cut meat on waxed paper or parchment paper. Generously season with salt, pepper and garlic powder to your taste. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour over turkey meat and mix well. Add 2-3 tablespoon of oil to that same skillet set medium heat. When oil is hot, add turkey thigh meat. Cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly until done. Add the cooked meat to the sweet potatoes and carrots in your separate bowl or plate.
  4. To that same skillet, add another teaspoon of oil, onions, garlic and 1 teaspoon of rosemary. Sauté for 1 minute. Add 4 tablespoons of flour and 3 tablespoons of oil. Mix well, stirring for a minute until flour is well incorporated.
  5. Whisk or stir in 2 ½ cups of chicken stock into flour mixture and mix well.  Add 1 tablespoon of butter. Turn down the heat and simmer 2 minutes or until the mixture begins to thicken.  Make sure to stir mixture constantly while simmering. Season with additional salt and pepper to your taste.
  6. Add in cooked sweet potatoes, carrots, turkey thigh meat and 1 cup of frozen sweet peas to the thickened stock mixture. Stir well. Pour mixture into a baking dish (13 x 9 used in this recipe) sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
  7. Place one thawed puff pastry on a lightly floured, parchment paper covered surface. With a rolling pen, gently roll out pastry to fit the inside of  your baking dish. Roll puff pastry loosely around the rolling pin and ease it on top of the mixture in casserole dish.  Lightly press it into place. If pastry is too wide, just press the edges up along the sides of the dish. Lightly the brush the surface with milk or an egg wash.  Make 6 to 9 prick marks in pastry with a fork to vent the surface. Sprinkle top with the remaining ½ teaspoon of fresh chopped rosemary.
  8. Place casserole dish in oven and bake 25-30 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling.
  9. Remove from the oven and cool 20 minutes before serving. Cut into 6 squares.

    Cook Jersey sweet potatoes 5-6 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula.

    Cook sliced carrots 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula.

    Sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic powder and flour over turkey meat and mix well.

    Add turkey thigh meat to a skillet and cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly until done.

    Add flour and oil to sauteed onions and garlic.

    Whisk or stir in chicken stock into flour mixture and mix well.

    Add in cooked sweet potatoes, carrots, turkey thigh meat and frozen sweet peas.

    Pour mixture into a baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

    Gently roll out single sheet of puff pastry to fit the inside of baking dish.

    Ease puff pastry on top of the mixture in casserole dish. Lightly press it into place and brush with egg or milk wash.

    Cut into 6 or 8 serving squares.

     

Let there be potato salad

Barbecue chicken and baked beans are lonely without potato salad.

Memorial Day.  4th of July. Labor Day.  Outdoor picnics.

For these occasions,  there will be potato salad on the table.

Potato salad is just not salad.

It’s a rite of summer passage, an American tradition, the obligatory side chick, and the expected accompaniment.

And to be honest, in some circles it’s just plain sacrilegious if it’s not on the summer picnic table.

Potato salad be free

When it comes to potatoes, there are many choices.

A lot of liberty can be taken in making potato salad.

I’ve had it hot, cold, made with bacon, bleu cheese, oven roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes,  dill pickles, olive oil vinaigrette, chunky, mashed and I can go on.

The bland tators – whether white, red, russet, sweet, gold, purple, sweet or Jersey – are the perfect blank canvas to express your potato proclivities.   And frankly, there really are “no rules” when making potato salad, no matter what your Nana or Uncle Bubba might say

My potato salad

What potato salad will be on my Labor Day table?

So glad you asked.

It’s absent of eggs and pickles, because they are not my fave, and it has my beloved fresh tarragon and a lovely, smoky light dressing.

So, without any addition fanfare or narrative, the recipe is below. Thanks to the folks at Goya Foods for providing some of the ingredients used in this recipe. Have a wonderful Labor Day!

Potato Salad CGC (Collard Greens and Style)

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Difficulty: intermediate
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No eggs or pickles here, but add them if you must!


Ingredients

2 pounds red potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch cubes
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
½ cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoon chopped Katamala olives
1 ½ cups garlic flavored mayonnaise (Best Foods or Hellmann’s)
1 heaping tablespoon mustard (Dijon, brown deli, spicy, Cajun or whatever you like)
3 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon sesame seed oil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Goya Adobo All Purpose Light Seasoning
1/8 teaspoon liquid smoke flavor

Directions

  1. Place the peeled and cut potatoes and 1 tablespoon of salt in a large pot of water. Boil the potatoes in for 15 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes thoroughly, and transfer them to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
  2.  In a small bowl make the dressing by whisking together the garlic mayonnaise, mustard, olive oil, sesame seed oil, liquid smoke flavor, salt, celery seed and Goya Adobo All Purpose Light Seasoning.
  3.  Add the chopped bell pepper, red onion, chopped olives, tarragon and dill to potatoes in the mixing bowl. Add mayonnaise dressing and gently fold it in to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

A close up to make you hungry.

My croquette obsession and a recipe that celebrates it

SoCali Vegetable Croquettes made with collard greens and Jersey sweet potatoes

Oh the virtues of the croquette.

I absolutely love them.

Croquettes were a staple menu item when I was a child. I grew up eating mackerel croquettes – probably because salmon was a bit pricey. Mom often made them for Sunday breakfast before church and she served them with buttered white rice.  That is a memory I will never forget.

While most of the time mom made croquettes from canned mackerel, I learned that they could be made of anything from minced meat, rice, potatoes and vegetables. Mom would pan fry her croquettes in a little Crisco shortening or lard. Perhaps that’s the reason they tasted so good.

When I look back,  my fondest food memory is perching myself beside the stove top and anxiously waiting until Mom scooped a croquette out of her well-seasoned cast iron skillet with a dinner fork. Once she placed the tester on a paper towel to drain, I would barely let it cool before picking it up because I wanted to devour it before my siblings came into the kitchen. That first, hot, tasty bite was moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside. And for me, it was the perfect prelude to what was to come.

My Food Network Experience

Veronica Hendrix mixing up chicken croquettes on Food Network show “Clash of the Grandma’s.”

Late last year, you saw me make chicken croquettes on the Food Network show, Clash of the Grandma’s. And by the way, that recipe is featured in my latest cookbook.

The response from the viewers was amazing. A fried, crunchy, bite-size croquette made with chicken and vegetables made viewers drool. What viewers didn’t know at the time  was those croquettes were a composite of my childhood and family history. That’s why making them looked so effortless, and they were.

As a nod to my mom, my southern sensibilities and my love of croquettes, I developed a special croquette recipe that includes two of my favorite ingredients: collard greens and sweet potatoes. Just because it’s a vegan’s delight, completely dairy free doesn’t mean it isn’t packed with flavor and sheer satisfaction.

Carnivore, pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan? It doesn’t matter. This croquette is for you.

The croquette recipe

For this recipe, creamed corn and coconut flour are the perfect ingredients to bind it all together. The use of fresh tarragon enhances the warmth of the collard greens and Jersey sweet potato. This recipe is a tasty departure from traditional salmon, chicken or potato croquettes.  I call it “SoCali” to pay homage to my native Southern California roots and my Alabama family heritage. And one more thing –  these golden brown little beauties could be the talk of your next soirée.

Thanks to the great folks at Cut’N Clean Greens for providing the collard greens to make this recipe. I’ve said enough. The recipe is below. And as always in parting, cook fearlessly and eat well my foodie friends.

SoCali Vegetable Croquettes

  • Servings: makes 20-22 croquettes
  • Difficulty: intermediate
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A delicious vegan and dairy free croquette made with collard greens and Jersey sweet potatoes.


Ingredients

1~ 1 pound package Cut’N Clean collard greens
1 teaspoon garlic
1 1/2 cup chopped red onions
2 medium grated carrots
2 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon
2/3 cup cream corn
2 cups baked Jersey Sweet Potato mash (I used the microwave in this recipe)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black or cracked pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon white sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons coconut flour
Corn, canola, peanut or Grapeseed oil for deep frying
Panko bread crumbs

Directions

  1. Prick Jersey sweet potatoes with a fork and bake or microwave them (which are white inside) until soft when skin is pressed. When done, remove skin and scoop out a total of two cups of Jersey Sweet potato filling. Place filling in a bowl and lightly mash, leaving lots of texture.  Note: Microwave time can vary between 7 to 15 minutes depending on size and density. Baking time is approximately 45 minutes in a 400° F  oven.
  2. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to a large skillet set on medium heat. When oil is heated, add chopped onions and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly unit till translucent. Add garlic and Cut’N Clean collard greens. Season greens with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and sugar.  Mix well and stir constantly over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until greens are tender and bright green.
  3. Stir in chopped tarragon and carrots. Remove from heat and cover for 15 minutes.
  4. Once greens mixture is cooled, place on cutting board and give it a rough chop, just to break up the larger cuts of greens.
  5. Add chopped greens mixture to the  mixing bowl with the Jersey Sweet potatoes. Add 2 tablespoons of coconut flour and 2/3 cups of creamed corn. Blend until mixture comes together.
  6. Using a measuring table spoon, scoop up mixture and form into round balls. Coat each ball in Panko bread coating.

Frying croquettes

If you use an electric deep fryer, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how much oil to use. If using a sauce pan or small Dutch oven (as featured in this method) fill pan halfway with oil.

  1. Preheat your oil to somewhere between 350° F  to 375° F. Oil that’s ready for frying will bubble around the stick end of a wooden spoon when it’s inserted. If your oil begins to smoke, you know it’s too hot.
  2. With a slotted spoon or slotted spatula, carefully lower one test Panko coated croquette into the oil. Once it enters the hot oil, things happen fast.  Be sure to stir with the slotted spoon while cooking — this will fry your croquette more evenly. Use this single croquette as a test to see how much time it takes to achieve your desired brownness. Just 30 seconds may be enough or you may need up to 60 seconds.
  3. Remove the test croquette from pan when done and drain on a  plate or sheet pan lined with a paper towel.
  4. After your test croquette, lower no more than three Panko coated croquettes into the oil. Stir with the slotted spoon while frying.  After 30 seconds or more, remove from oil, drain and repeat until all are deep fried.
  5. Serve with your favorite ranch dressing. Or for a smoky and spicier dipping sauce, thoroughly blend a teaspoon of chipotle chili pepper or a tablespoon of hot sauce into a cup of ranch dressing.

TIP: Make sure to remove stems from Cut’N Clean Greens before cooking.

 

Baked Jersey Sweet potato, scooped out and ready for use.

 

Saute of red onions, garlic, collard greens seasoned with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and sugar.

 

Fresh tarragon and grated carrots are added to the greens mixture.

 

Greens mixture chopped and mixed with Jersey sweet potato, cream corn and coconut flour.

 

Croquettes formed and rolled in Panko bread coating.

 

Croquette frying in hot oil.

SoCali Vegetable Croquettes plated. Enjoy!

Instagram Faves – Meet Angela Brooks-Van Niel

When you get to meet one of your favorite Instagrammers in person, it’s a real treat – literally.

Angela Brooks-Van Niel and I meet for the first time in Redlands, California

I had the pleasure of meeting Instagrammer Angela Brooks-Van Niel earlier this year while on a business trip in Redlands, California. She came bearing sweet treats from her repertoire of tasty offerings she features each week at the Redlands Farmer’s Market. That bag of goodies bowled me over.

Angela has garnered many awards as a artisan baker and was voted the Best Bakery in the Inland Empire in 2015 and 2016. I can clearly see – and more importantly taste – why.

Simple Fancy Cuisine Farmer’s Market Menu

I’ve been following Angela on Instagram a few years now.  When we meet, the connection was instant. The same enthusiasm and passion that radiates from her page came to life when we met.  Yes, she’s one of my “faves.” I hope she becomes one of yours too.

Oh, and if you happen to be in Redlands, California on any given Saturday morning, stop by and see her and try  her delicious desserts and dishes.

Instragmer:        Angela Brooks-Van Niel , since 2012

Focus:                  To share culinary related information and photos, to inspire and get inspired by others, as well as to gain professional business connections and growth.

City:                      California transplant residing in the agriculturally rich community of Redlands, California in the  Inland Empire.

Business:          Simply Fancy Cuisine started in 2012 after the passage of the California AB 1616, Cottage Food Operations bill.

Instagram:       @SimplyFancyCuisine

Other social:       Website: www.SimplyFancyCuisine.com, Facebook, Pintrest, Twitter.

Online Store:     https://squareup.com/market/simply-fancy-cuisine

Books:                Simply Fancy Cuisine: International Cuisines, and Simply Fancy Cuisine: Just Desserts

Books authored by Angela Brooks-Van Niel

Recipe:           Sweet Pie Crust (featured below)

Angela’s Sweet Pie Crust, lattice style

Secret Sauce

Some may say it’s her Southern charm, her drive and determination, her love of her community and her repertoire of amazing desserts and entrees.  I say beyond all that, it’s the light that shines in her eyes, the grace with which she speaks, the sincerity in her smile and her persona of supreme thankfulness that envelops her. I experienced it firsthand when we met and have developed a friendship with her that will be long lasting.  After you read about her journey of recovery and how she arrived at where she is today, you will see how incredibly special and amazing Angela is.

Her voice, her story

The longest day prepping for the Farmers Market can’t dampen Angela’s natural glow

My culinary influences started in the south with my fabulous grandmother, Mamie Denson-Tisby of Jacksonville, Florida. She was a wife, mother, lunch lady and entrepreneur. She and my grandfather, Roscoe, opened a successful combination beauty and barber shop in their community. Her motto was,”There’s a lot of ugly out there in the world, but I’m glad what I do adds a little beauty into the mix.”

My grandmother lived during a time when there were insurmountable challenges and she lived with things that she couldn’t change. But she believed that by pampering hardworking women of color, she could make them feel beautiful so they could go out and do beautiful things.

Early culinary experience

By the age of six, I was serving as my grandmother’s sous chef for weekend meals and  special celebrations and holidays. I spent many summers next to my grandma at her stove getting an education and history lessons not taught in the classroom. She gave me a rich and sturdy culinary foundation on which to grow and build upon.

Blueberry cobbler – among the many recipes she learned as a child – is featured among Angela’s offerings at the Redlands Farmers Market each week

My mom BeLinda and I were part gypsy.  We moved frequently just for the adventure of discovering new places. My mom was raised in a predominantly black neighborhood. She often sought out new things and the unknown. We were usually the only black family in our neighborhood. So I saw this as a smaller version of a cultural exchange program. I later shared what I had learned from the stove top of my grandmother with others, and in return learned to make Mediterranean dishes from my Italian and Greek neighbors.

I went to a Jewish school and learned several different Jewish delicacies from my Jewish classmates and teachers. I lived all over Florida, so I learned several island (Cuban and Puerto Rican) cuisines and fares. All of the cultural dishes from our many neighbors, travels and jaunts have influenced and inspired me to be the foodie person I am today.

My journey

The road to becoming an culinary artist and artisan baker has not been a straight line.  I started out in the banking industry and was a bank manager for many years. My interest in finance and real estate lead me to become a California realtor, which I still am today.  After attaining a graduate degree in theater and education, I  had a opportunity to teach theater arts and dance in underserved communities.  But after my serious health scare in 2008, all those occupations took a backseat.

A life changing diagnosis

The health scare was a disease called  Paraneoplastic syndrome, and it was identified after many failed and frustrating misdiagnoses.  It’s a disease that attacks parts of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves or muscles and is the consequence of cancer in the body.  In my  case the cancer discovered in my body was ovarian, and the Paraneoplastic syndrome disease caused me to suffer a collapse and left me in a coma.

The surgery to remove the cancer was a perilous undertaking for my surgeons who said my heart stopped six times while  I was on the operation table. In addition to that, during the surgery, doctors found a second cancer, lymphoma type B.

The surgery was successfully, and the cancer was removed. I woke up from my comma 4 1\2  months later,  just in time for my son’s high school graduation. But unfortunately,  the disease had erased certain parts of my memory which I had to work hard to rebuild.

Top: Angela, son Jonathan, and husband Pieter. Bottom: Fur baby Jade.

My team of doctors and surgeons call my complete recovery a “miracle.” It was the  the love of my son Jonathan,  and my husband Pieter’s stalwart advocacy, loving support and watchful eye during my recovery that got me through.  I had to learn such basics things like how to sit up and walk again. Pieter fought vigorously for my medical care and treatment during this difficult time,  and his advocacy made all the difference in my treatment and recovery.

Her life today

Angela’s collection of journals and recipe notes

After my recovery, I wanted to challenge myself. I enrolled in graduate school and got my master’s degree in theatre.

I later taught dance and theatre classes in Compton. But though my continued practice of journaling and my passion for recipe development, it became clear that what brought me the most joy wasn’t standing ovations, but it was more about oven creations.  It was a calling I could no longer ignore.

Today running and building my culinary SFC Empire is my #1 j-o-b. It’s the one job from teaching that brings me total joy. I truly am a one woman operation handling the shopping, prepping, recipe developing, marketing, COO, CFO, CEO and the head/only baker.

Many of my offerings are made with fresh, organic and local ingredients I get from the various egg, honey and berry farms in the agricultural rich Inland Empire. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to use the best ingredients while supporting local businesses. And the support my community and customers have shown me has been amazing. I am truly blessed in so many ways.

Hobbies

My hobbies are gardening, writing (plays, poems and short stories), collecting dishes/plate settings and interior design.

Limited edition, coffee bean bag totes

I also enjoy upcycling.  It’s the process of transforming old or discarded materials into something useful.  My line is a limited edition totes of created out of repurposed coffee bean bags. These are handmade, unique items. No two totes are alike.

Click on this link for more information:  https://www.facebook.com/R3BagsandTotes/

Cookbook she cannot live without

Irma & Marion Rombauer’s American culinary bible, The Joy of Cooking. It was one of my first cookbooks that graced our bookshelves at home. I’ve read it from cover to cover like it was a Nancy Drew mystery book.

Where her recipes have been published

Press Enterprise, The Redlands Daily Facts and the Inland Empire Magazine.

Here are a few links:
http://www.pe.com/articles/niel-689417-brooks-redlands.html
http://www.redlandsdailyfacts.com/lifestyle/20150605/june-is-jumpin-series-in-redlands-to-open-next-friday

The best thing that has happened because of Instagram

Having instant contact and making a connection with my celebrity foodie idols and with my fellow foodie friends.

What’s new, what’s next

Simple Fancy Cuisine menu offerings at Farmer’s Market (the macaroons are my favorite)

I plan on rewriting my cookbooks by combining the two books into one. I’m also looking to grow my business within the next 2 years by taking the leap into a brick and mortar store.

Sweet Pie Crust

Apple pie.  Cherry pie. Blueberry pie. Fruit tarts and cobblers. Angela knows pies. The secret to her award winning pies is a decadent filing and killer pie crust.

Angela shares her recipe for her Sweet Pie Crust.  It’s flaky goodness and once you try it, chances are it will be your go-to crust recipe for all your pies. She also notes that this recipe can be made by hand, with a dough mixer, or with a food processor.

Angela's Sweet Pie Crust

  • Servings: varies
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

This will be your new go-to crust recipe.

Ingredients

2 cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon sugar
2 sticks cold butter (cubed, slice into ½ inch and then cut each slice into quarters, so each square is made of 4 little squares
½ cup water (ice cold)

Directions

  1. Place the flour, salt, sugar, and butter in a large bowl.
  2. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut the butter into the flour mixture.
  3. After the butter and flour are roughly incorporated, add the ice cold water –  one tablespoon at a time – until the dough binds together.
  4. Divide the dough in half.
  5. On a floured surface, knead each dough for 5 minutes, the form them into a ball.
  6. Flatten the dough out into a round disk.
  7. Wrap each dough in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  8. When ready to bake, remove from fridge, and then roll out the dough to desired size.