Good morning, friends! After a few beautiful days (weather-wise) here in Maine, and a couple of outdoor runs as a result, I'm feeling re-energized! The other day while having virtual dinner with my sister and her husband, we each went around and shared one "highlight" from this season of social distancing—trying to focus on the positives. For me, it has been cooking and baking more! Cooking, especially, has been a fun for me because I can't say it's something that I typically love to do. After coming home from work, I usually just want to throw together an easy meal and call it a night— and that's with my normal 15-minute commute. But for some reason, taking my commute down to 20 seconds from my work station to my parent's kitchen has made me feel like I have all the time in the world to actually make meals from scratch. I think it also helps that I can take a break throughout my work-day to do a little prep.
So, with all of that said, I thought it would be fun to share a few of the recipes I've made over the past three weeks. A few of these are the results of having a lot of one ingredient on-hand that we've needed to use up, and others are things that I normally would have bought already prepared (like vodka sauce) but Walmart (where we've exclusively been doing grocery pick-up for the past three weeks) didn't have it in stock. I hope yo enjoy!
Chocolate Banana Bread
I made two loaves of this chocolate banana bread to donate to an "aging in place" organization for the senior population here in my parents town. I didn't get to try it because I didn't want to cut into the nice loaves, but I can tell you it smelled heavenly. I plan to make it again for us to try once we work our way through some of the other desserts that my sister's mother-in-law generously sent us!
We've been trying to get more creative with the chicken dishes we've been making, and I had a craving for chicken piccata. I had never actually made it before, but I used to bring it home for dinner all the time when I used to work as a hostess at a restaurant in Boston during college. This was another one that we already had most of the ingredients on hand for, an it came out delicious.
Chicken Pot Pie
Speaking of chicken, I also made one of Les's favorite dishes for dinner: chicken pot pie. The road-block I ran into with this meal was that Walmart was out of the Pillsbury pie crust that I would normally use, and instead they substituted pizza dough; not ideal. So instead, I tried my hand at making my own pie crust! The other problem? We had been unable to find more flour, and the only kind that Walmart had in stock was paleo flour, made primarily from almonds and coconut. This, and my inexperience, may have contributed to my dough not quite rolling out properly after I chilled it; it was way too crumbly. Plan B: I molded the dough into large mugs and made each person their own personal chicken pot pie...such a comfort food.
We've been taking turns contributing and cooking meals, and for Les's contribution he wanted to make a Utica, NY staple (where his dad's family is from): "chicken riggies." It's a rigatoni pasta dish with cut-up breaded chicken and vodka sauce—another comfort meal! We already had rigatoni and frozen chicken patties that we could use, but Walmart didn't have any vodka sauce. So instead, I whipped up this homemade sauce for him (I say that like I'm always "whipping up" sauces from scratch— I'm not.) I have to say, it turned out perfectly. Most of the ingredients were things we already had on hand, too, except for the can of tomatoes. I'm not sure we'll ever go back to jarred vodka sauce!
My mom had a package of phyllo dough in her freezer, so I did a quick google search to explore some of the things we could make with it. Spanakopita jumped out at me right away because it's one of my favorite appetizers! Normally I buy a tray of it from the frozen section of Trader Joes, and this was my first time making it from scratch. While I was dealing with the delicate phyllo dough, I swore I would never make these again. Honestly, though, they turned out SO TASTY that I definitely will. As you can see on the platter from right to left, it took me a couple of tries to get the hang of the triangle fold! I accidentally didn't order enough feta cheese in our Walmart order for this week, so I substituted in some shredded parmesan in the spinach mixture. Les and I both agreed that these were better than TJ's, so the parm might just have been the ticket!
Apple Carrot Muffins
Another ingredient we were "long on," as my family and I like to say, was carrots. We had bought baby and large carrots and hadn't gotten around to using them all up. At first I was going to make a carrot cake, but at this point we also had a lot of whole wheat flour to use up after Les and I popped down to Beverly last weekend to check on our place, grab some more clothes, and some things from our pantry (don't worry— we literally went from my parent's door to ours without interacting with a single person in between!) So instead of a cake I opted to use the whole wheat flour in these healthy breakfast muffins. I grated up our large carrots, one of our apples, and used the Two Good Greek yogurt that I always have on hand for breakfast. I actually don't think I needed to buy a single thing for this recipe. Note, though, that I didn't have coconut oil so I just subbed in vegetable oil. We've been enjoying them in the morning with coffee, and plan to also snack on them in the afternoon during what my mom and I have been dubbing "high tea" time around 3:30. We have a cup of tea with a treat and enjoy a round of rummikub! It's the little things right now. :)
That's all for now, but hopefully I'll have another post with more culinary adventures soon!