The Luck of the Fighting Irish: Vegetable Pie

vegetarian pie

Pretty Pie

My mother is superstitious. I had read that it was the Italians who were most superstitious..but, not it our house. It was always my Irish mother who had us making wishes. We threw extra salt over our left (not right) shoulders. We looked for falling stars. We blew on lost eyelashes. All of the traditional opportunities for wishes. Of course, she took it a step further. The superstitions she carried coupled with her catholicism also meant that every time we saw a ‘new church’ we got to stop the car, get out, pray and make a wish.

I grew up believing that there must be something to the Luck of the Irish. As a fan of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, I’ve had to endure a lot of years bad luck football. But this year is different: Notre Dame is headed to Miami to vie for the National Championship on January 7.

golden dome notre dame

We Are ND

Some haters will call it luck. Others will argue that ND’s season wasn’t challenging enough – what? They defeated Stanford(8), Oklahoma(12), Michigan(19) and everyone else they played…And, one drunken Michigan State fan I met recently tells me that there’s a petition against letting them play for the title…too late, Spartan.

Call it what you want…But, since the boys have done an amazing job this year – what with the being undefeated and stuff – it’s time for me to show some Irish love. And, hopefully, infuse a little luck into the big game for the Fighting Irish.

irish flag

Luck O’…

What better way to show the love and push our luck than with a savory vegetable pie – a pie that proudly showcases the colors of the Irish – fighting or not: Green Spinach, White Cauliflower and Orange Sweet Potato.

Vegetable Pie (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • birdseye frozen spinach

    In your grocer’s freezer

    1 10oz box Birdseye Frozen Chopped Spinach

  • 2 TBSP heavy cream
  • 1-2 Cloves Chopped Garlic
  • 2 Cups Cauliflower florets
  • 1 TBSP Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 Sweet Potato sliced into thin rounds
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Sour Cream
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Ugly Pie Crust (click for recipe)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

The Green: Creamed Spinach:

birdseye frozen chopped spinach

Defrosted but not yet drained

birdseye chopped frozen spinach

Now it’s Drained and ready

1. Defrost the spinach and squeeze out the excess liquid. To defrost: remove from packaging, place in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for :06 mins stirring about halfway through.

2. In a medium pan over med heat, heat about 2 TBSP of olive oil

3. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant – about 2mins

fresh garlic saute

Saute Til Fragrant

4. Add the defrosted, drained spinach and stir until heated through

vegetarian pie spinach

Add the drained spinach

5. Add Salt and Pepper – to taste

6. Add heavy cream and stir to combine and heat through

BirdsEye frozen chopped spinach

Make it Creamy

7. Set creamed spinach aside

The White: Cauliflower

fresh cauliflower

Beauteous Cauliflower

NOTE: I bought like a giant head of cauliflower and the hardest part was protecting my fingers as I chopped out the florets….

8. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the cauliflower florets. Reduce to a Simmer and add 1 tsp of Salt

Cauliflower Softening

Holla For Cauli-Flower

9. Cook until the cauliflower is very soft – easily pierced with a fork – about :15mins

10. Drain the cauliflower and place in the bowl of a Food Processor – I heart my Cuisinart

11. Add salt and pepper, the parmesan cheese, sour cream, a little salt and pepper and 1 TBSP of olive oil and pulse until sorta but not totally smooth. Set Aside

Cauliflower florets puree

Like Mashed Potatoes – only Better For You

The Orange Super Food: Sweet Potatoes

12. Lay about 8-10 slices of sweet potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper – you know how I love the Reynold’s Wrap Pan Liner – like the mullet of Reynold’s Wrap: tinfoil on one side, parchment paper on the other

Drizzle with Olive Oil and Gently Salt

sweet potatoes roasted

It’s a Super Food

13. Roast the sweet potato slices until softened – about :15 minutes flipping them halfway through the baking process

Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees

14. Create the veggie pie:

  • vegetarian pie cauliflower

    Smooth Cauliflower Puree

    Birdseye chopped spinach

    Smooth on the Spinach

    Layer in the Cauliflower Puree

  • Top with the Creamed Spinach
  • Top spinach with the roasted Sweet Potato Slices
vegetarian pie

Top with Sweet Potatoes

15. Cover the veggie pie with tin foil and bake for :15 minutes – until completely heated through

Serve warm.

Listen, I don’t know if there’s anything to the wishing on stars or throwing salt over my shoulder. But, couldn’t we all use just a little luck? And, what’s wrong with having an appropriately colored somewhat superstitious Fighting Irish pie to support your alma mater?

If At First You Don’t Succeed: Pie Pie Again

grey goose pie crust

Vodka Infused Pie Crust

Perhaps the only thing uglier than my handwriting, is my pie crust. So, don’t expect a lot of pictures in this one…

I watch a good number of cooking programs and am always in awe of the ease with which Ina or Giada or Melissa D’Arabian rolls out a perfect pie crust. ‘How Easy Is That?’ Ina always says as she places the perfect crust into the pie pan. Each of them assured me that making my own pie crust would be a much better option than buying a store bought one in my grocer’s freezer.

Challenge really is that I don’t like pie. I’m not a baker. I’m not a sweets eater or much of a fruit eater. I do, however, enjoy a good pie crust – it’s like bread, my favorite food group. During the holidays, I’m the person who picks around the apples in the apple pie and dips pieces of crust into the gooey filling. I’m the person who sneaks into the kitchen and pulls a piece of the crust off of a cooling pie.

But, I’m up for the challenge. And, so I spent some time researching the perfect pie crust recipes.

This is a combination of a few recipes that I found online. And, it really wasn’t hard…until I had to roll it out and carefully place it into my makeshift pie pan – this is where I had to Pie Pie again.

Perfect Pie Crust (makes 2 crusts – theoretically for the top and bottom of a pie…or, in my case, one for the bottom of an open-faced pie, one for ‘practice’)

Ingredients:

  • Grey Goose Vodka infused pie crust

    Yay! Vodka!

    2 1/2 Cups Gold Medal All-Purpose Flour

  • 1/4 TSP salt
  • 2 TBSP Sugar
  • 12 TBSPs Cold Butter – cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1/2 Cup Cold Vegetable Shortening – cut into 4-6 pieces
  • 1/4 Cup Cold Vodka (Yay! Vodka! I don’t drink it anymore – that’s another story –  and it evaporates – so this is AOK for all)
  • 1/2 Cup cold water
vodka infused pie crust

Butter Makes it Better

1. Take the butter and cut it into 1/4 inch slices. Cover and put into the freezer for :10mins or into the fridge for :30 mins

2. Measure out the food shortening (I used Crisco…is there another kind?). And place into the freezer for :10mins or the fridge for :30 mins

3. In the bowl of a food processor, Pulse 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the salt and all of the sugar until combined – about two quick pulses

vodka infused pie crust

I heart my Cuisinart

4. Add the butter and shortening and process until a dough begins to form and cottage cheese looking curds appear

vodka infused pie crust

Food Shortening Kinda Grosses Me Out

5. Scrape down the bowl and add the remaining flour – pulse just until the mass of dough has been broken up

6. Empty the mixture into a bowl

7. Sprinkle the water and the vodka – I used Grey Goose, cuz that’s what someone recently brought over

vodka infused pie crust

Pie Crust Gets Drunk

8. Use a spatula to carefully fold the water and vodka into the dough until both are completely absorbed. Don’t over mix!

vodka infused pie crust

Carefully fold in the booze and water

9. It’ll be super tacky…Divide the drunken dough in two, make two balls of dough, flatten each and wrap each in plastic

10. Put the flattened balls of drunken dough into the fridge for at least an hour and up to 2 days

Baking the Pie Crust for an open faced savory pie:

Here’s where my creative abilities were truly challenged…and, I lost.

OK, I don’t like sweet pie, so decided to make an open-faced veggie filled pie for my vegetarian friends who came to dinner last night. Luckily, that meant I only needed one of the pie balls. Good news, because I failed the first time I tried the following:

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees (that part I did perfectly!)

1. Remove one of the drunken pie balls (sounds dirty, isn’t) from the fridge and allow to warm up for a few minutes – not too long, just until the dough can be safely rolled out

2. Place one ball on a large piece of Saran wrap dusted generously with flour

grey goose infused pie crust

Still Hopeful At this Point

3. Place a large piece of parchment paper on top of the pie dough

4. Roll the pie dough through the parchment paper into a circle large enough to line the pie pan. I don’t have a pie pan…and really don’t need one…so I improvised with my round glass baking dish.

5. Try to carefully place the rolled dough into the makeshift pie pan. FAIL horribly. Mold that dough back into a ball, cover in Saran Wrap and put back in the fridge

6. Pie Pie again….Remove ball #2 from the fridge and repeat steps 1 – 4: This time, carefully roll the rolled out dough onto a heavily floured rolling pin and unfurl the dough from the rolling pin gently into the makeshift baking dish – much better

7. Cover the baking dish (or pie pan) with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour

Shop online, clean the apartment…whatever

8. Remove from the fridge, cover the dough completely with parchment paper

Ceramic pie weights

I bought pie weights!

9. Place pie weights into the base of the pie dough and ‘blind bake’ for :20 minutes. You can apparently also use dried beans as pie weights…but, I don’t have a giant bag of dried beans (small apartment, remember?)

9. After :20 minutes in the oven, remove the pie weights and parchment paper, pierce the bottom of the pie crust with a fork – like a whole bunch of times to keep the pie crust from puffing – and bake for another :05 – :10 minutes until the crust is a light golden brown

reynold's wrap drunken pie crust

Not Pretty, But Delicious!

10. In the second baking, I foil wrapped the edges of the pie crust to keep them from burning

And….your drunken crust is prepared for filling!

I gotta say, the pie crust was delicious – light, flaky, no vodka taste. It provided the perfect vessel for an open-faced veggie pie. (recipe tomorrow)

Of course it wasn’t as easy as Ina had assured me. But, thank goodness for a do-over…Cuz, in this case, after a first fail, I had to Pie Pie again…

Magic Pancakes: Made With Love

pancake bisquick breakfast

Picture Perfect Pancake

When for a brief time I lived outside of the city, there was a chicken dish I made all the time – very simple, easy and because I could use the frozen Perdue chicken breasts…always available in my freezer. I referred to this very basic but delicious dish simply as ‘The Chicken’. Like ‘Hey, what’d you have for dinner last night?’…’The Chicken’.

Someone once asked me why when I made ‘The chicken’ it tasted so much better than when he made ‘The Chicken’. And, I always told him the same thing: because I make it with love.

Cooking isn’t as simple as just following the directions. I’m not saying it’s hard. I am saying that you can always taste the difference when something is made by someone who loved making it or loved the idea of eating it.

The ‘Love Ingredient’ may not always be tangible but it is always detectable. Love heats the bread in the bread basket. Love makes the perfectly runny poached egg. Love cares enough to whip up real whipped cream.

And, sometimes, the love is in the extra ingredients and care in creation. When it comes to pancakes, I like them crispy, fluffy, light and creamy. Hard to achieve this using just a simple mix…Or, God Forbid – a prefab batter…

So, I do a little love doctoring to make them magic, to create the ideal pancake. Not a lot of work…just a little bit of love.

Magic Pancakes: Made with Love (Serves 2 – 4)

Ingredients:

Perfect Pancakes

Magic Pancakes: Mise En Place

  • 1 Cup Bisquick Baking Mix
  • 1/2 Cup milk – Yes, skim or 2% or whole milk are all fine.
  • 1 TSP Sugar (Crispy Love Creator)
  • 1/3 Cup Sour Cream (Creamy Love Creator)
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 1 Egg White – Whipped to stiff peaks (Fluffy Love Creator)
  • Grade A Pure Maple Syrup
  • Butter

1. In a mixing bowl, combine the Bisquick, Milk, Egg Yolk, Sour Cream and Sugar with a whisk

light and fluffy crispy pancakes

Pancake Batter To Be Combined

cuisinart hand held mixer silver

Magic Mixer

2. In a separate bowl, whip the egg white to stiff peaks. Love separates the egg and whips the egg whites. You can do this by hand…but, it’s a little more love than you might have. I like to use my Cuisinart hand mixer.

3. Fold the whipped egg white into the Bisquick/Milk/Egg/Sour Cream/Sugar batter. Fold it in carefully so as to not deflate the fluffiness

light and fluffy pancakes

Don’t Over Mix!

4. Heat a skillet over medium and melt a just enough butter to ensure the pancake won’t stick. But, you don’t want a visible layer of butter.

5. Pour the batter into the heated skillet in 3 inch circles…Or, into a Mickey Mouse mold or freehand the shape of a car

walt disney world pancake mold

Pancake Fun Shape

bisquick pancakes

Freehand Pancake

6. Cook until the edges are dry and bubbles start to form on the top then flip

mickey mouse pancakes

Mousy-Cake

7. Cook another :30 seconds. Once the pancake fluffs up and is dry on the edges, it’s ready

8. Serve a stack with heated syrup and a little more butter. Love uses real maple syrup and heats it up.

pancakes light fluffy crispy

Heated Syrup and Just a little butter make it better…

With Christmas just around the corner, you may be having guests of all ages who would enjoy a carefully prepared pancake. Here’s just one way to show them you care: Make your pancakes with a little love.

The Other Kind of Spicy: Spicy French Onion Soup

Gindo's Hot Pepper Sauce French Onion Soup Melissa D'Arabian recipe dinner appetizer

A Twist of Spice: Spicy French Onion Soup

The other day I read an article or – ok, let’s be honest – saw something on TV – about how quickly the spice can fade out of a relationship. One very important authority – ok, it was Dr. Oz (but if it’s good enough for Oprah, it’s good enough for me) estimated that the spice is gone within three years. He went on to say that the only way to stay in a relationship is to continue to spice things up.

Dr Oz

Dr. Oz Knows Stuff

Something to think about. But, since this isn’t ‘that kind’ of blog – we’ll leave that type of spicing up and talk about the benefits of eating spices instead.

And, luckily, Dr. Oz talks food spices and herbs as well. Cayenne pepper, for example, can boost your metabolism and help you lose weight more quickly. Ginger and mustard have a similar effect.

french onion soup with thyme

Thyme

There are also herbs and spices that as per the good Doc, can help you combat aging and fight against disease and make you smarter.

One of my favorite and not too crazy of herbs, Thyme, can help you fend off MRSA and is used in mouthwash to help treat throat inflammations and in cough drops to fend off throat infections.

I’m not a huge fan of the super spicy – again, we’re talking edible spices, this is a food/food stories blog after all. I mean, I have been accused of being sassy and maybe even a little bit saucy…but no one has every called my cooking too spicy. I try to include spices and flavors that will please all my reader(s). Like, even though I don’t love garlic (and neither does Ina, btw), I will include almost the entire directed amount prescribed by a given recipe…Ok, to be honest, I usually sub out 1/2 the garlic and replace it with a sweet shallot. I’m trying.

But, it’s time…and I’ve decided to step out of my comfort zone and try to spice things up a bit.

And, as per Dr. Oz, I may be getting thinner AND healthier at the same time!

Spicy French Onion Soup (serves 2-4)

  • Gindo's Spice of Life pepper sauce

    Metabolism Speeders

    1 TBSP Butter

  • 2 Medium Sweet Onions sliced thin with the grain – so you have onion strips. I had to stare at the onion for like a long time to figure this out…
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 TSP Flour
  • 1/3 C of Red Wine
  • 1 TSP Fresh Thyme
  • 1 TBSP fresh Lemon Juice – really good add by Melissa D’Arabian who recommended just a teaspoon. So good an idea that I added more!
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1/2 TSP Gindo’s Red Pepper Sauce
  • 1 1/4 C Beef Stock – I use Kitchen Basics because it comes in the smaller sizes and I didn’t need a 33oz box
  • 1 1/2 C Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 C Grated Swiss Cheese – if you’re feeling fancy, get gruyere…but it’s pricey and the Kraft shredded swiss is also good
  • 1 – 2 TBSP Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Baguette Slice for each bowl of soup. Sliced about 1/2 inch thick and lightly toasted. I buy the petite baguettes at Food Emporium…But, really, you could just toast up any hearty bread you might have on hand…

1. In a large saucepan – I used my 4qt All-Clad soup pot with the copper core – because I love it – melt the butter over med/low heat

2. Stir in the onions, add salt and pepper and cover

Onions in butter!

Onions in butter!

3. WAIT – like forever – though get in there and stir them around every :15 mins or so

4. After about :90 mins, the onions should be a lovely brown and caramelized. If they’re not…send a tweet to Melissa D’Arabian and ask her for tips to speeding the process. She will tweet you back ‘Time :-)’. So, I gave it more time.

twitter melissa d'arabian

Thanks, Melissa D’Arabian!

5. Once the onions are caramelized, turn up the heat to medium and stir in the flour….cook for about a minute or so.

melissa d'arabian spicy french onion soup

Caramelized and Floured

6. Add in the wine to deglaze the pan. Use a wooden spoon to scrape all of the oniony-goodness from the bottom of the pan

7. Add in the thyme, lemon, a bay leaf….And, this is where I got all spicy…the Gindo’s Fresh and Spicy Pepper Sauce – I used the red one, but either the green or red will do here.

8. Add both the beef stock AND the chicken stock, stir and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer (BTB/RTS)

spicy french onion soup

BTB/RTS

9. Simmer for :10 mins

10. Ladle the soup into 2 – 4 sassy french onion soup bowls….Or, in my case, an oversized ramekin. (note, if you are thinking of Christmas gifts for me and want to try this soup..well, you know)

11. Top the soup with a single slice of the toasted baguette

12. Top each baguette with a heap of the swiss cheese and a sprinkle of the parmesan cheese

spicy french onion soup

I like cheese…

13. Put the soup bowls on a rimmed baking sheet and into the oven on Full BROIL

14. Broil just until the cheese is cheesy – bubbly and beginning to brown

Serve while piping hot…and spicy!

I’m not a big fan of the spicy foods. And, people who douse their meals in hot sauce have always baffled me…I mean, how can they really taste what’s going on when it’s overpowered by hotness?

But, it’s good to step out of your comfort zone once and maybe more than once in a while and spice things up a bit. And, listen, if it’s making me thinner AND fighting off a sore throat…I’m like totally in and willing to give the other type of spice a try.