Easy Skillet Pot Pie

My mom came over for dinner and Downton Abbey this week. She believes that On Demand is a magical thing that only occurs on my TV, so she has to come to my house (with 2 dogs in tow) to watch it. We had a great time hanging out and catching up on last week’s episode.

When I have a great cook over for dinner, I automatically get nervous about what I’m going to make. And my mom is a great cook. To add insult to injury, I  haven’t been to the grocery store in weeks! I did get a box of fresh veggies from my CSA last week so I decided to start there. I also had baked some chicken breasts earlier in the week, which I wanted to use up.

I decided to make a skillet pot pie. It was a first for me. I based my version off an Epicurious recipe, but had to be creative with some ingredients based on what I had. Plus, Epicurious’ version was a little too calorie-laden, so I lightened my version up with less oil and flour. Trust me, it did not sacrifice flavor.

I have to say despite many experiments within the recipe, the dish turned out beautifully. It was easy to make, and did not take long at all. I would highly recommend it for last-minute guests or a low-key dinner with friends.

potpie

Skillet Pot Pie

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup frozen white pearl onions, thawed
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1 1/2 c. shredded brussels sprouts
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled, cut into 1/2″ pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 c. shredded chicken (I used chicken breast, but you could also use about 1/2 a rotisserie chicken as well)
1  sheet frozen puff pastry (I used Pepperidge Farm), thawed
1 egg

Place a rack in upper third of oven, and preheat to 425°F. Heat oil in an 8″ cast-iron or other heavy ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, about 4 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Add garlic and herb de Provence to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic begins to brown, about 2 minutes.

Add brussels sprouts and season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing often, until it’s a little wilted. Sprinkle flour over. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.

Stir in broth, 1/2-cupful at a time, then add squash. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until squash is just softened and broth is thickened, about 8-10 minutes. Add chicken to skillet, stir, and season with salt and pepper.

Unfold pastry and smooth out the creases. Place the pastry over the skillet, allowing corners to hang over sides. Mix the egg and 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl, and brush pastry with the egg wash. Cut four 1″ slits in top to vent before placing it in the oven.

The recipe said to bake pot pie  for about 15-20 minutes until pastry is beginning to brown. Then, reduce oven temperature to 375°F and bake for another 15-20 minutes until pastry is deep golden brown and crisp. Each oven is different, so I’d urge you to watch your puff pastry in the first 10 minutes (or so) to make sure it doesn’t brown too quickly. I ended up turning the oven down after 10 minutes and moving the pan to the bottom of the oven to cook for the rest of the time.

Let the pie cool for 10 minutes before serving with a salad on the side. Et viola!

NOTE: This is sort of a “kitchen sink” type recipe, so you can experiment with a lot of different combinations of veggies. You can also speed up the cook time by chopping the vegetables and shredding the chicken in advance. Easy peasy.

Pickled Party Favors

My brother invited me and a few others to enjoy the Superbowl at his house this past weekend. Naturally, I wanted to bring something to contribute to the festivities (preferable something that didn’t require a trip to the grocery store).

I already had all of the ingredients for Mrs. Cleland’s Sausage Balls (a curious combination of cheese, sausage, and bisquick that yields something like a sausage biscuit), and I was planning to bring that. But I decided to look for other ideas just in case. My daily Food and Wine newsletter was touting delicious and healthy Superbowl snacks. Clearly, the idea of a healthy Superbowl anything was intriguing enough to check out their suggestions. That’s when I came across this recipe for Homemade Dill Pickles.

Yes, it’s kind of an odd contribution to a party that’s mainly focused on cheese products. But frankly, if you’re looking for a salty snack that’s not going to make your pants pop off the next day, then this is a solid bet.

This was probably the easiest thing I’ve ever made. EVER. Basically, all you do is slice the cucumbers, mix them together with the rest of the ingredients in a bowl, and then let it sit in the fridge overnight. And, presto, you’re done!

Another reason this recipe was great – I owned everything, including the cucumbers, which I had gotten earlier in the week thanks to my CSA.

For you pickle enthusiasts, I’m pasting the recipe below with my notes or you can go straight to the website to get it. Either way you look at it, it’s definitely pin-worthy.

Dill Pickles (courtesy of Bobby Flay)

1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar (I forgot to add the sugar, whoops. It was still good though).
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
3/4 teaspoon dill seeds (I didn’t have any, so I used dried dill instead. It worked perfectly)
2 cups hot water
2 pounds cucumbers, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3/4 cup coarsely chopped dill
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard seeds, coriander seeds and dill seeds in a bowl (I used plastic) with the hot water and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Let the brine cool.
In a large bowl, toss the cucumbers with the dill and garlic. Pour the brine over the cucumbers and turn to coat. Place a small plate over the cucumbers to keep them submerged, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the pickles overnight, stirring once or twice. Serve cold.
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The site said they stayed good for a week in an airtight container, but I bet they would stay good longer. I always ride the line when it comes to that stuff. The pickles were delicious on their own, but I couldn’t help thinking how great they’d be on a barbecue sandwich. Perhaps this will be next year’s contribution to the annual Porktober event hosted by my friend and fellow blogger of, The Poe Log.
Food for thought.

The Great Gym Debate

vs.       

So I need some advice here. I have been a long time member of the Washington Sports Clubs, but recently I’ve developed an affinity for Barre3 classes.  I used to think that if you were spending money on exercise – be it for memberships or races or classes – it was worth it because it was good for you. However, the Discountess in me started to do the math.

My monthly membership at WSC is $73.95, which is a far cry from the $225.00 that an unlimited Barre3 membership would cost. Money aside, I find that I’m going to, and enjoying, the Barre3 classes more. I probably went to the gym twice last month, which nets out to just shy of $40 a spin class. However, I bought a one-time, two-week unlimited pass that for Barre3 last week, and I’ve gone six times and hit the little gym in my office building once. That’s a lot more bang for my body, but is it enough bang for my buck?

I will say that part of me really wants to hate WSC, so this is tainting my decision. They WAY overcharge for what you get. The good, small group classes always cost extra. At one point, I was going to a Total Body Conditioning class that was so popular I had to wake up at 6am, two days in advance of the class just to get in. And the towels, don’t EVEN get me started on the towels. You spend an hour at the gym, working like a trojan, and finally you’re done and can hit the showers. Yet, when you get there, you find that the towels are so tiny that you need about 7 of them to cover yourself up enough to keep from mooning everyone. Strippers have more coverage!  Do you think that WSC has any idea how demoralizing it is to work so hard on your body and only to feel like you’ve not accomplished anything when you get to the locker room? It is the WORST feeling. Period.

So here’s the big question. Do I quit the Washington Sports Clubs, spend the extra money on Barre3, and hit the office gym when I need it? Or do I quit the Barre3, even though I like it more, and stick with WSC to save the extra $100+ per month? I’m torn. What is the Discountess to do??

January Budget Breakdown – Progress!

Rabbit, rabbit folks! It’s the first of the month, which means it’s budget breakdown time. These rabbits are high-fiving in celebration of my successful January budgeting. Ladies and gentlemen, I done good.

So as you remember from my post at the beginning of the month, I set a monthly goal for myself, which I’m very proud to say that I met. My credit card stayed firmly in its holster all month, and my debit card got the workout. Woo hoo! It was a zero interest January. And for the record, in all of my shopping excursions I did not purchase any lip gloss, black shirts, or purses. I’m virtually a new woman!

As for my progress in January, here are the details.

I’m over in the following categories:

Auto/Transportation – 9% over (I’m calling this a wash)
Cash/ATM – 105% over (Eegad – you know it’s bad when your percentages hit triple digits!)
Gym – 120% over (this is for my gym membership and my favorite Barre3 classes. I’m going to need to figure out how to prioritize this next month –  I really can’t go on with both memberships.)
Personal Care  – 174% over (Someone should buy stock in CVS. They’re having a good month too, obvi.)
Shopping – 178% over (Perhaps the eBay splurge was a bad idea…)

I was even or I only used part of the budget (i.e. I saved) in the following categories:

Bills/Utilities (includes rent, gym, etc) – 41% used
Business/Office – 48% used
Entertainment – 32% used
Food/Drink – 79% used
Dry Cleaning – 51% used
Gifts – 0% used (January was a selfish month, I guess.)
Groceries – 88% used (This is an ALL OUT miracle.)

Despite some aggressive spending in the shopping department, I was able to save on some of my other big monthly expenditures – namely groceries, food and drink, and bills. My savings, thankfully, outweighed my spending, which meant that I was able to save 60% more than my target savings amount for the month! Yessssss.

Moving on to my February goals. February is typically my “no booze” month (well technically it’s no booze between my two favorite February holidays – the Superbowl and the Oscars. It’s a solid 3.5 weeks. It counts.). I’m doing that again this year, with one minor hiccup. I’m headed to California on Presidents day for a bachelorette party. I refuse to be the no booze girl at the wine tasting, especially since I LOVE wine. So I will do no booze from Superbowl to the Oscars with the exception of Presidents Day weekend.  I think that’s good enough. Don’t you?

Did any one else stick to their January financial goals? Let me know! We can get together and look down our noses at all of the gratuitous spenders we know.