Upscale comfort food

It is raining here in Baltimore and Keith and Samantha are at the Ravens game.  My mom is coming over for dinner and we are celebrating her birthday.  These potpies will be a nice treat for my husband after sitting in the rain at the game and festive enough for a birthday celebration.  I’m actually going to make 5 and freeze 2.  (They freeze really well – I’ve actually taken them on ski trips.)  Also checks the make ahead box as I’ll get them put together this afternoon.  May have to wait until the game is over!

Seafood Potpie

  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 leeks (white only), chopped
  • 2 TB butter
  • 8 – 10 oz cooked lobster
  • 3/4 pound shrimp (I cleaned and deveined the shrimp and then tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted for about 8 minutes and then chopped)
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas (you can use more – I’m not a huge fan of peas)
  • 1/3 cup frozen pearl onions
  • 2 more TB butter
  • 2 TB flour
  • 3/4 cup seafood stock
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 TB sherry
  • 1 tsp thyme


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 stick butter, diced
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 TB water

Saute celery, carrots, onion and leek until veggies are tender (about 8 – 10 minutes) and set aside.  Combine with lobster, shrimp, peas and frozen onions in a ceramic baking dish or smaller single serving bowls.

I used the same saute pan to make a cream sauce.  Start by combining flour and butter, then slowly stir in milk and stock, stirring so sauce is smooth.  Add sherry and stir.  Sauce should be thick and smooth.  Add thyme and pour over lobster and veggies.

Combine flour with salt and baking powder in a food processor.  Pulse in butter about 15 pulses.  Add water with the motor running until dough is just combined.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Roll dough onto a floured work surface and trim to just bigger than your dish.  Brush edges of baking container with egg wash and cover dishes with pastry pressing against the edges.  Make 3 slashes in the pastry and bake at 375 for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Cover the tops with aluminum foil so they don’t burn.

Chicken Carbonara Lasagna

I’m always interested in a fun new lasagna recipe so when I saw a recipe for carbonara lasagna in the Wall Street Journal a few months ago, I was immediately intrigued.  I showed it to Keith who liked the idea of the pancetta and the cheese but was not enthused about the fact that the recipe called for eggs to be cracked into the top of the pasta and just set.  I also thought that lasagna was decadent enough without adding heavy cream.  I decided to add chicken to it and make some other tweaks.  It was a big hit with my family and the leftovers went into the freezer.  We had leftovers from the freezer tonight with a Graul’s Caesar salad and Samantha said “This is the one I really like.”

Chicken Carbonara Lasagna

  • 1 package lasagna noodles
  • 12 oz sliced pancetta, diced
  • 1 1/2 lbs chicken boneless, skinless chicken cutlets
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb ricotta cheese
  • 4 oz Fontina cheese, shredded
  • 2 oz grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 375.  In a non-stick skillet, cook pancetta over medium heat, stirring often.  When crisp, drain on paper towels.  Saute shallots in fat from pancetta until soft.  Reserve.  Cook chicken in remaining fat from pancetta until lightly browned and cooked through.  Remove from pan and cut into pieces.  In a bowl, mix ricotta with eggs and 1/2 the Parmesan cheese.  Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.

Butter the bottom of a glass or ceramic lasagna pan.  I did a layer of noodles topped with the chicken and the ricotta/egg mixture, then another layer of noodles, then pancetta and Fontina and then another layer of noodles.

The original recipe called for infusing heavy cream with thyme and pouring that over the whole thing.  I skipped that step to make a small dent in the calories but between leaving that out and not using the eggs, the top layer of noodles was too crunchy.  We removed them and it was fine but next time I would either brush the top layer with butter or top with tomato sauce.  Here is a picture of the topless lasagna:


Chili weather

Fall is in the air.  Temperatures are dipping at night and I’m going to have to find the scraper for my windshield.  That means it is great weather for chili and soup and this one is Samantha’s favorite.  I’m hoping I made enough for frozen leftovers!

Chicken Chipotle chili

  • 3 TB canola oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into small cubes
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 TB chili powder
  • 1 TB ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 qt chicken stock
  • 28 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained of about 1/2 of liquid
  • 3 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, roughly chopped
  • 2 cans black beans

Heat oil in a heavy sauce pan and brown chicken cubes (about 5 minutes.)  Remove chicken and drain on paper towels.  Pour off fat leaving about 1 tablespoon in pan.  Add onions and brown about 4 – 5 minutes.  Return chicken to pan.

Stir together flour, chili powder, cumin and salt and sprinkle over onions and chicken.  Stir and cook about 1 minute.  Add stock, tomatoes and chipotles and simmer covered about 30 minutes.  Add black beans and cook another 10 minutes.

Let cool and then refrigerate until ready to serve.  Serve with cheddar cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips.


Meatballs and…

I’m not a big fan of meatballs but Keith and Samantha enjoy them.  When I saw a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa that served meatballs over polenta, I was intrigued.  We all love polenta.  With the extra hour in the day yesterday from “falling back”, I decided to do some cooking ahead yesterday.  That made tonight’s dinner a quick and easy one.

Rosemary polenta

  • 2 TB butter
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp minced rosemary
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 4 TB grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter and olive oil.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes and rosemary and saute for 1 minute.  Add milk and chicken stock and boil.  Add cornmeal and whisk, stirring over low heat.  Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese.


  • 2 lbs meatloaf mix (a combination of ground beef, pork and veal
  • 1 3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 TB chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • olive oil
  • Jarred marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 and line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.  (This will make cleanup much easier!)

Put the meatloaf mix in a large bowl and toss with your fingers.  Combine breadcrumbs, cheese and seasonings in a separate bowl and add to meat mixture.  Add the eggs, wine and 3/4 cup water.  Mix with your hands until well combined.

Roll into balls about 2 oz each and place on parchment.  (Samantha said mine weren’t evenly shaped and were more like meat blobs but they still tasted good.)   Brush with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes.  Let cool and then refrigerate if making ahead.  They can also be frozen.

Heat marinara sauce and add meatballs to heat through.  Serve on top of polenta.  Doesn’t it look good!  I’m now a convert.


There were a little more than 30 meatballs so I’m freezing some.

Soup and pumpkin carving

We got together with our friends on Saturday for our annual pumpkin carving event.  Keith was craving this delicious soup – we got the recipe from another friend years ago.  It really doesn’t take long to assemble and it makes a lot (use a large stock pot).  Also freezes well.  We are having leftovers tonight with a roll.

Cream of Maryland crab soup

  • 6 T butter
  • 3 large onions chopped
  • 3 T chopped garlic
  • 48 oz frozen corn
  • 2 28 oz cans chopped tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 T dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay (or more for zing)!
  • 3/4 teaspoon crumbled bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 1/2 cups bottled clam juice (6 bottles)
  • 2 1/4 cups whipping cream
  • 2 lbs fresh crab meat

Melt 6 T butter.  Add onion and garlic – sauté 8 minutes.  Add 32 oz corn and sauté 5 minutes more.  Add tomatoes and all spices listed above.  Stir 2 minutes.  Purée remaining  corn and 3 cups clam juice in blender and add to pot.  Add remaining clam juice and cream.  Simmer 20 minutes until corn is tender.  Last, add crab meat.

And in keeping with the crab theme, here is a picture of Samantha’s pumpkin!


From the freezer

I got this eggplant lasagna recipe from my sister.  It’s great for people who are trying to reduce carbs because the eggplant takes the place of the pasta.  It’s also great if you just love eggplant, Italian sausage and cheese.  It’s fantastic when you made it a few weekends ago and froze some and you come home from work on Thursday and all you have to do is heat it up!  We supplemented with a Caesar salad from Graul’s.  Perfect at the end of the week.  (Cheater picture from when I made the whole lasagna, not tonight’s portion.)

Eggplant lasagna

  • 3 large eggplant, skin removed from one side and then sliced about 1/4 ” thick
  • olive oil
  • 16 oz shredded Mozzarella
  • 1 1/2 oz grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb sweet italian turkey or chicken sausage (removed from casing)
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Preheat oven to 425.  Spread eggplant on baking sheets and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Let sit for about 30 minutes and then wipe with a paper towel.  (The salt will sweat some of the liquid out of the eggplant.)  Brush eggplant with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes until golden brown.

While eggplant is cooking, heat about 2 TB of olive oil in a heavy saucepan.  Sauce onion until translucent (about 3 – 5 minutes).  Add garlic and cook stirring for about 30 seconds.  Add red pepper flakes and sausage.  Cook over medium high heat, stirring often until sausage is cooked through.  Add tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.

Combine ricotta with 1 oz of the Parmesan cheese, the egg and basil.

Assemble lasagna in a 9 x 13 pan.  Start with a thin layer of sauce, then eggplant, ricotta, Mozzarella, sauce.  Add another layer of eggplant, ricotta, Mozzarella sauce.  Then a layer of eggplant, ricotta, Mozzarella and remaining Parmesan cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil (spray with Pam first) and bake at 375 for 15 minutes covered and 30 minutes uncovered.  img_3490

Chicken with vodka sauce

I was trying to think of something different for chicken tonight.  (I was going to fall back on my boursin chicken but I’ve made that so much recently.)  I found a recipe for chicken breasts in tomato-cream sauce and thought that it would be even better if the tomato-cream sauce was a vodka sauce.

I used bone in chicken breasts, recognizing that they would take a little longer to cook.  I used a heavy saute pan to brown the chicken in olive oil on all sides while the vodka sauce was cooking.  When I removed the vodka sauce to puree it and add the cream, I poured some over the chicken and put it back in the oven to simmer in the sauce.  (The rest of the vodka sauce will be frozen for another time.)  I served it with orzo.  The chicken needed about 30 minutes but it was awesome – very moist.  Samantha tried it and announced that she would eat it the next time I make it.  That’s a good incentive!

Vodka sauce

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion chopped
  • 1 TB minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2 28 oz cans whole peeled plum tomatoes, drained (preferably San Marzano)
  • 1 cup half and half
  • pasta of your choice (we had penne)

Preheat oven to 375.

Heat oil over medium heat in an ovenproof pan (or Dutch oven).  Add onions and garlic and cook for 4 – 6 minutes.  Add red pepper flakes and oregano.  Add vodka and simmer for about 5 minutes or until reduced.  Crush tomatoes in with pan mixture.   Add 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Cover pan and place in oven for 1 1/2 hours.   Remove from oven and puree in a blender or food processor.  Return to pan and add half and half.  Simmer for 5  -10 minutes.