Posted in Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Pantry Magic: Chicken Enchiladas

img_1458The request: chicken enchiladas.

The problem: no one shopped for enchiladas this week.

The pantry, fridge, and freezer produce the following:

  • frozen chicken breasts and thighs
  • frozen turkey stock from Thanksgiving
  • bag of Mexican blend shredded cheese
  • half a wheel of Mexican fresco crumbly cheese
  • an absurd number of cans of chopped chiles
  • 1 can of refried beans
  • 1 can of enchilada sauce
  • 1 can of Rotel tomatoes
  • 1 baggie of leftover soft tortilla boats and crunchy corn taco shells

And with this, I made the requested chicken enchiladas!

NOTE: while this particular collection of ingredients includes gluten and corn elements, it’s super easy to make this both corn and gluten free with homemade or Pacific stock and Harris Teeter Naturals refried beans or Natural Value organic refried beans. So far there are no flour tortillas that are both gluten free and corn free, and many contain soy. This is a great time to try your hand at making your own GF/CF flour tortillas with one of the many flour-based or cauliflower tortilla recipes available online; it’s a simple and quick process! I get around the tortilla issue by baking a small dish of the filling and eating over rice; it’s a great way to use up leftover rice from a previous meal or even takeout.

Boil the chicken for 15 minutes if boneless or a good 30 minutes if bone-in. While it’s boiling, get out a casserole baking dish and lay out the soft taco boats and the crunch taco shells so that you get the most in that you can. I was going for 8 taco boats and 6 taco shells. Since the chicken is still boiling, smear a spoonful or so of refried beans in the bottom of each boat and shell; add/repeat until you’ve used the whole can.

Should be close to time to drain and cool and shred the chicken.

Saute 1 chopped onion and 1-2 cans of green chopped chiles, no oil necessary. Yes, you can use fresh chiles, but this is about using what’s in the pantry and not having to go to the store to make dinner.

Whisk 1/4 cup all purpose flour (gluten free all purpose flour works too) with 1/4 cup of your favorite cooking oil or melted butter in a bowl and add the blend to the sauce pan on top of the onions and chiles on medium until the mixture bubbles briskly. Add 1 cup turkey stock (or chicken or vegetable stock from a can or box) and 1/2 cup of milk (unsweetened, not vanilla almond milk or soy milk will work, but not rice milk). This will make a “white sauce” or loose turkey gravy. Add about a cup of cheese and stir until completely blended; I’m using the crumbly fresco cheese.

Mix the shredded chicken into the pot.

Spoon the mixture into each boat and shell until you’ve used it all. If you’ve got some leftover, pour it into a small baking dish to serve over rice or dip with chips.

img_1459Top each boat with one or both of the enchilada sauces. I prefer the green, but we only had a small can of red enchilada sauce.

Sprinkle up to 2 cups of shredded cheese on top.

Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes to get the enchilada filling good and bubbly and all of the cheese topping lovely and melty.

Sometimes it really is that simple. Ugly, but incredibly yummy!

Posted in Cooking

Thanksgiving Leftover Turkey Pot Pie

img_1290My little family of four, we’ve never quite gotten over the old days when our families of 16 or so gathered and needed more than one turkey. So each year, even as we’ve grown smaller, we still cook two turkeys, which leaves us with a LOT of leftover turkey. We don’t seem to have a problem making smaller amounts of our sides.

This year – yesterday, to be precise – I volunteered to turn the remaining roasted turkey breast (the only whole one left) into Turkey Pot Pie. After all, we had nearly everything we’d need on hand; I only had to buy more carrots and another leek.

Notes: the two things most people do that mess up a good pot pie are

  1. prepare too much filling
  2. forget to or ignore instructions to cover the edge of the crust with foil for cooking to prevent it from burning

So let’s get to it:

Step 1: Make the pie dough

Today, I’m taking a shortcut and using store-bought pie crust, just Publix brand. But when I make pie dough for savory pies, I use the Savory Pie Crust recipe from Food to Live By. Typically I have some in the freezer made with rice flour to be gluten and corn free, but I’ve been slack.

Step 2: Prep the filling

  • img_12761 whole turkey breast from a 15lb turkey, diced
  • 1 large potato, diced medium
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced medium
  • 1 leek, white only, halved and chopped
  • 1 cup of peas, fresh preferably but canned or frozen will do
  • 1-3 cloves of garlic
  • 2T grapeseed oil (or olive or coconut oil, whatever oil you typically use for cooking)
  • salt and pepper
  • savory herbs you like (traditional are thyme and rosemary)

img_1277Put the diced potato on to boil; simmer for 5 minutes. You don’t need it cooked soft since it will finish cooking in the pie. Drain and put in large mixing bowl with diced turkey.

Heat your oil on medium in a large skillet. Drop in the carrots first; season with salt and pepper and stir gently for 5-6 minutes.

Add the onions and leeks and garlic; season with salt and pepper and any savory herbs and stir gently for 4-5 minutes. Since I brined and cooked my turkey in sage, rosemary, thyme, and sage, I added only some thyme; it’s my favorite!

img_1278Add mixture to large mixing bowl with the diced turkey and cooked potatoes. Mix gently.

Step 3: Whip up your sauce

  • 2T butter
  • 2T flour (wheat or rice)
  • 1/2 cup milk or cream (unsweetened, unflavored almond milk or soy milk works, but rice milk does not)
  • 1.5 cups turkey or chicken stock (homemade or Pacific)
  • salt and pepper

img_1284Pot pie sauce or gravy is nothing more than a basic white sauce, the same as chicken gravy you’d make after frying chicken. I actually have some giblet gravy left over from Thanksgiving that I will use for my sauce this time, but here’s how to make it when you don’t have leftovers.

In the same pan you cooked the vegetables (don’t clean it!), add the butter, still on medium heat. If the skillet is large, keep the butter in one spot rather than moving it around the skillet. When the butter is completely melted, add the flour and whisk quickly for about 1 minute. This is a roux.

img_1285Add the milk and half of the turkey/chicken stock, whisking calmly to blend the roux into the liquid smoothly.

Now is a good time to salt and pepper your sauce, stir, and taste for balance, while you’re waiting for the sauce to come to a boil. That’s when you’ll also feel the sauce get thick quickly as you stir and blend; add the remaining stock and continue stirring. This makes about 2 cups of sauce.

Pour into the large mixing bowl on top of the turkey, potatoes, and veggies. Mix gently.

A semi-homemade alternative is to use 1 can of cream of chicken soup and add 1 cup of milk or stock to thin it out.

Step 4: Assemble your pie

img_1286Roll out your store-bought or homemade dough and place in the pie dish. There’s no need to grease or butter the dish; the dough has enough butter/fat in it already to prevent sticking.

Dump your turkey-vegetable-sauce filling in the dish and smooth/squish it all in. Don’t worry if it makes a bit of a mountain in the middle; that’s ALL GOOD!

Roll out the top crust and place it on top. Pinch the edges together, folding them over towards the middle if any dough overlaps the edge of the dish. Cut some 1/2-inch slits in the top crust, maybe 8-10 slits; there’s no magic to the number or design of these, just spread them out reasonably.

img_1287Some folks like to egg-wash their crust for a glossy top; it doesn’t affect the flavor, so I don’t bother. If you like this look, scramble 1 egg and use a pastry brush to “paint” the top crust with the egg wash.

Tear a couple of 2-inch strips of aluminum foil for wrapping the pie edges during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking; this will prevent the edges from burning before the rest of the crust is cooked through and crispy.

Bake at 475°F for 20 minutes for a standard 9-inch pie dish. If you’d like the pie edges a little less dark, add foil round the pie edges at the 15-minute mark. Since all of the inside ingredients are already cooked, you just need for the crust to cook all the way through.


Posted in Cooking

Quickie Leftover Dinner–Chicken and Rice plus a bonus Refresher Course on Gravy Basics

So last week, I had made oven poached chicken and had some of the chicken thighs leftover. Some other time (is it bad that I can’t remember?) someone else had made some rice, and put the leftovers in the fridge. And then everyone but me went on a cruise to the Bahamas, and I got stuck trying to figure out what to do with the bits and pieces of meals left in the fridge for when they got back this week.

Creamy Chicken and Rice with a side of Pepper Vinegar Spicy Broccoli and Cauliflower

So…chicken…rice….hmmmm…how about chicken and rice. Duh!

So this is a refresher course in basics…and what to do when your pantry doesn’t have some of the basics.

Assumption #1: Everyone knows the ingredients for chicken and rice. Right?! It’s cooked chicken, rice, and gravy.

Ha! Bet I stumped you on the gravy. Why? Because since I was a kid, everyone has just used “canned gravy” otherwise known as cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup. What is cream soup? Flavored gravy.

Assumption #2: Everyone has the ingredients for a basic cream gravy, even during the 2011 snow or snice storm; the term “snice” was coined by my friend Sue Sneed to describe the actual precipitation result in Atlanta.

What are the ingredients for a basic cream gravy? Butter, flour (wheat or rice), milk, and water. Yes, alternatives such as heavy cream and fresh stock will make better tasting gravy, but we’re talking basics here.

How do you make soup out of cream gravy? Use mushroom stock and add mushrooms for cream of mushroom. Use chicken stock and add chicken for cream of chicken. Use vegetable stock and add cooked celery (pureed) for cream of celery. You get the idea, right?

Assumption #3: Everyone knows how to make gravy or a white sauce. Yep, that’s where I lost you. Why? Because gravy has been a “bad” food for several decades now, identified as all fat and no nutrition. Thus, gravy-making from scratch is nearly a lost art in the regular person’s house.

You can look up any gravy recipe, and if you look closely and compare, you’ll see that it’s all about ratios…yes, math. You’ve got a

  • 1:1 for thin gravy or cream soup
  • 1:1.5 for medium gravy
  • 1:2 for thick gravy
Roux…the flour and butter mixture that thickens sauces

The ratio describes the number of tablespoons of butter compared to the number of tablespoons of flour. Then you’ll add the number of cups of liquid (equal parts milk and water) to result in the number of cups of finished gravy. The liquid gets you the mass, while the butter-flour mixture (sometimes called a roux) gets you the thickness (photo from

Oh, yeah, this is also called a white sauce, which is the base for nearly every french sauce and cheese sauce out there (yes, that includes mac and cheese!!). But in a white sauce, usually only milk is used as the liquid.

And when you get good enough with the basic sauce, you can start to make gravy out of drippings: roasted turkey drippings, fried chicken or steak drippings, breakfast sausage drippings, bacon drippings, and more!

Assumption #4: Everyone has cream of something soup in the pantry. Yep, the Sandra Lee shortcut way of making gravy, which, of course, is why the soup label has recipes on it, showing you how many ways gravy can transform simple basic ingredients into a delicious, creamy casserole combining any yummy combination of meat, rice/noodle, grain, veggies…and gravy.

Okay, you’ve got all that; you don’t need me to tell you how to make chicken and rice, right?

Well, in the spirit of the refresher course, here goes:

  • dice, shred, pick off the bone 2 lbs of cooked chicken*
  • 4-5 cups of partially cooked rice (I use brown)
  • 2 cups gravy (aka 2 cans of cream soup, your pick of flavors)
  • salt, pepper, other seasonings you prefer (I’m a thyme girl)

Mix all the ingredients well in a bowl and pour it into a baking dish. Top with some grated cheese or bread crumbs or cracker crumbs or sliced almonds or fried onions (like green bean casserole), whatever you like to give it a little crunchy top. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Done!! This recipe is for a 9×13 dish and makes 8 substantial servings.

*Since Weight Watchers PointsPlus values white and dark meat chicken the same, I don’t bother separating them; and I LOVE dark meat…so rich and flavorful, and fat is essential in a healthy and balanced diet.

Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 8.25 points per serving

  • 2 lbs cooked chicken = 16 points
  • 5 cups brown rice = 20 points
  • 1 can 98% fat free cream of mushroom soup = 5 points
  • 1 can 98% fat free cream of chicken soup = 5 points
  • alternate to canned soups: 2 cups white sauce is 9 points (skim milk and water) or 11 points (whole milk and water); be sure to adjust points if you use homemade stock since it will have fat-points. NOTE: it’s the same points to use a homemade, full-fat roux as nearly fat free canned stuff…please go for homemade when possible.

Total points of casserole = 66 points = 8.25 points per serving