Tag Archives: winter

Chicken Pot Pie…sort of…

Ah January, the time of year when everyone tries to eat better, exercise, and hit the gym. Those New Year’s resolution guilt us into at least a few weeks of behaving. While I certainly understand the need for some less decadent options for dinner, with the cold weather and hopefully threat of snow, comfort food still seems necessary. One of my favorite comfort foods on a cold night is chicken pot pie.

There is definitely a debate around chicken pot pie. Sure, there is the Marie Callender’s version that I would beg my mom to buy, which never happened by the way, with the delicious pie crust and succulent burning-hot filling. But, perhaps since I’m from Pennsylvania and not far from Amish country, there is another version that I find far superior. The Amish style chicken pot pie is more like a stew with floury, tender noodles in a rich broth, and it’s delicious.

Of course, for chicken pot pie, you need chicken. I already had a stock to use, so I roasted about 2 lbs boneless chicken breasts with just salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and some chopped rosemary. Roast at 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes until cooked through. If you don’t have a stock made, you can make stock with bone-in chicken parts then use the cooked chicken in the pot pie.chickencookwsFor this recipe, you want a rich broth. I had turkey stock from my Thanksgiving turkey, but feel free to use any chicken stock you have or make your own. You’ll need 10 cups chicken stock. To start, heat a stock pot over medium heat with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Chop 1 medium onion, 4 stalks celery, and 4 peeled carrots. Cook in the oil for about 10 minutes until they are all softened and beginning to turn brown. Add 1 cup white wine and deglaze the pan, scrapping up any cooked or browned bits from the pot. Boil for a few minutes then add the stock. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. This is what you’ll use to cook the noodles.olive oilonionscelerycarrotswinestockOn a recent trip to the grocery store, I saw these ready-made chicken pot pie squares from San Giorgio and thought I had to try. The end result was not exactly what I was hoping for, more like an egg noodle than dough, but they were easy. Next time, I’ll make the noodles instead. Either way, you’ll want to add the noodles to the boiling stock to cook. The bagged noodles I found cooked for about 10 minutes, but if you want to do it the right way, make the noodles.pot pie squaresStart with 2 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt. Add 1 tablespoon shortening or butter, cut up into pieces. Use a fork to combine so you have small pieces of shortening in the flour. Combine 1 egg and 2/3 cup water. Stir into the flour mixture and form a dough. Divide in two and roll half the dough on a floured surface until about 10 inches square. Cut into 2 inch squares. Repeat with the remaining dough. Add to the boiling stock and simmer for about 15 minutes until cooked through and tender.noodles cookedOnce the noodles are cooked, add the cubed chicken. And don’t forget to add all of the juices that are left in the pan from the chicken…delicious! Check the seasoning, and add salt or pepper if needed. Ladle this delicious mixture into big bowls and enjoy! Happy Winter!adding chickenliquid gold

Witch-Hazel for Weary Winter Weather!

Right now, the temperature is 11 degree! It’s scheduled to drop to 4 degrees tonight! Yes, 4 degrees! Today we had wind chills of -15 degrees, and we’re expecting another 4 inches of snow tomorrow. Winter just keeps chugging along. As it does, I keep dreaming about the spring, and gardens, and blooms. This is definitely the time to start planning for the spring. It’s also a great time to start ordering seeds and bulbs. But the best way to get into the gardening mood and satisfy that craving is to see beautiful blooms in your garden, coming through the snow. With witch-hazel, that is possible.

I have to admit, until this past summer, I haven’t had much exposure to witch-hazel. Sure, I’ve heard of it, but I was never inspired to plant it until I read David Culp‘s book, The Layered Garden, about extending the season and adding interest all year-long. I was inspired. This summer, when I joined David and others on a nursery tour, I decided I had to have one of these amazing plants.witch-hazelWitch-hazel is a small, deciduous tree, growing to anywhere from 9 feet to 25 feet. It has a beautiful spread, with a lot of interest. The image above is thanks to Indiana Public Media to give you a sense of what the blooms look like. Unfortunately, mine isn’t anywhere near this big yet…yet! As you can see, the best part about this great tree is the bloom. In winter, sometimes as early as January or February, they are covered with these wispy, beautiful blooms in striking colors of yellow, orange, and even red.

As the buds develop, they are just round clusters that seem to grow and grow, not very large, but full of beautiful blooms. Below are some images of the trees at my work. They are farther along than mine at home, and you can see the color starting to shine through.progressingseed podsThis summer, I found a great variety of witch-hazel at RareFind Nursery in New Jersey. The plant I bought back in June has done well this summer and fall, and the blooms are just starting to appear. I can’t wait till it’s covered in amazing bright orange color. Witch HazelThankfully, it did well in the summer!winter witch-hazelAnd it continues to do well. Now just waiting for those blooms to open!close upIf you’re looking to extend your garden season or just an interesting addition, consider witch-hazel. It’s a wonderful accompaniment to the garden, and a very interesting tree to have. It also can help take care of that gardening itch in the dead of winter. Also, with a name like witch-hazel, I’m sure it would help with any potions you’re trying to brew too! 🙂

Easy and Delicious Pot Roast for those Cold Nights!

olive oilOne of the best things about the winter months is making big, hearty meals that warm your body and your soul. Those comforting meals do wonders in the cold, dreary months. It’s been cold here, and somewhat dreary. While I’m still waiting for a big snow storm, we’ve had lots of little ones! So, this week, it was the perfect week to make a simple and delicious pot roast.

To start, you need a 3 lb chuck roast. I look for one that has good marbling but isn’t too fatty. In a dutch oven that’s heated over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sear the roast on all sides, about 5 minutes on each side until nicely browned. Then set the roast on a plate to rest while you continue with the vegetables.chuck roastseared chuck roastIn the same pot, brown 3 medium onions, chopped. I like to use sweet onions, but whatever you like, or have on hand, is fine. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until brown and soft. Next, add 4 celery stalks, chopped, 8 small carrots (4 large, although I keep getting small ones at the store), peeled and chopped, and 6 cloves garlic, minced. Cook all of the vegetables together for about 5 minutes.onionscooked onionscarrots and celerychoppedgarliccookingOnce the vegetables are ready, add the roast back to the pan, on top of the vegetables, along with 1 cup red wine, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, and 2-3 cups beef broth. You want the liquid to just cover the meat. Bring the liquid to a boil, then cover the pot, and set in a 375 degree oven for about 2 1/2-3 hours. You’ll know it’s ready when the meat can be pulled apart with a fork.tomato pasteready for ovenWhile the pot roast is cooking, quarter 24 oz button mushrooms. You’ll also need 4 tablespoons butter. Add 1 tablespoon butter to a saute pan over medium-high heat. Cook 1/4 of the mushrooms in the butter until brown. Continue with the rest of the butter and mushrooms, cooking in 4 batches.mushroomsquarteredbuttersauteing mushroomssauteed mushroomsWhen the pot roast is done, remove from the oven. Take out the meat and shred with two forks. Be careful to remove any large pieces of fat. Add the meat back to the pot along with the mushrooms.shreddingbeefIt’s warm, rich, meaty, and delicious! I hope it keeps you warm on these cold winter nights!

Indoor Gardening in the Winter Months

BegoniasI’m not sure if everyone is experiencing freezing temperatures, but here in the Philadelphia area, it’s been cold! This week, we’ve had temperatures in the single digits and wind chills in the negative numbers. Thankfully, today it’s a balmy 27 degrees F! 🙂

With the cold temperatures and the post-holiday slump, I can’t help but get excited for spring and playing in the garden. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still holding out for a big snowstorm, which I love, but with the countless plant catalogs filling my mailbox, my mind keeps wandering to the garden. Thankfully, I have some indoor plants to focus on during this time!

Peace Tree FarmYou may remember, this summer, I took a tour of several nurseries. The first one we went to was Peace Tree Farms in Kintnersville, PA. They had an amazing assortment of plants, but the one area that really caught my eye was their variety of begonias. I’ve wanted to start an indoor begonia collection for many years, and just couldn’t ever find the varieties I wanted. Well, on that beautiful day in June, I hit the jackpot. I excitedly purchased 6 varieties to add to my ever-growing houseplant collection!

Since June, I’ve been thrilled to see how the begonias have really established themselves and thrived inside. I have them all sitting on the windowsill of my picture window in my living room. They have continued to grow, ever pushing towards the sun, and have even started to send out delicate flowers. And, since we’re in the midst of winter, with snow on the ground outside, I thought it would be nice to share some recent pictures. It’s not quite a garden walk, but a little detour to remind us that spring is coming! begonia 1I love the color of this one and the big leaves. It certainly catches your eye.begonia 2The variegated purples leaves and long stems make this one a nice addition.begonia 3This one is covered in leaves.blooms 1And there was a little surprise of blooms hidden under the leaves.

begonia 4This one has great color also, with a hint of purple.blooms 2You can’t miss the blooms on this one, shooting out.begonia 5This purple and chartreuse isn’t such a hint. It’s a dramatic look.blooms 3Once again, the blooms are shooting out towards the sun, or at least until I turned the pot.begonia 6The last one, I love the purple edging on this one!

How are you getting through the cold winter months? Hopefully you’re finding some inspiration, and spring, somewhere! Stay warm!

Saving the Garden from the Snow…and Ice!

It’s been a rough week in the Philadelphia area.  We started with I think 8 or so inches of snow on Monday, then we got serious ice on Wednesday.  There have been tons of people with fallen trees, downed power lines, and no electricity.  Luckily, I’ve had power, and haven’t had to go anywhere!  But, one of the things I did need to do was brave the snow and ice to save some of my trees.

Snow Crushing TreeWhen the snow comes down like it did on Monday, wet and packable, it can be absolutely beautiful.  It sticks to the trees and makes everything look magical.  But that heavy snow can do serious damage to your trees and plants.  The weight of the snow crushes the branches, breaking, or sometimes permanently damaging, the plant.  Thankfully, you can take some steps to deal with the snow, and that’s just what I did this week, before the ice came.

Once the snow stopped, and I saw how badly the trees were crushed, I went outside with my trusty broom and tried to get as much snow off as possible.  It’s really a pretty easy job…usually.  You just start by brushing off as much as you can from the tree.  Sometimes, that’s enough for the branches to bounce back into shape.  But, with the snow we had, I had to take it a step further.  I had to shake some of the branches, pushing theClearedm around to try and get the snow to fall.  Unfortunately, the best leverage is usually under the tree, where you get rained on, or snowed on in this case, coming out soaking wet. And trust me, you won’t need to go to the gym afterwards, it’s great cardio! 🙂

Getting that snow off as quickly as possible can save the trees and plants.  The extra weight very easily breaks tender branches.  And, even if the branches aren’t broken, they can be damaged, sometimes even permanently bent one way or another.  The faster you can get the weight off so they can return to normal, the more likely you can save the shape, and also the more likely the branches won’t break.  The branches may need to be cut eventually if they are stuck a certain way, and the tree may also need a severe prune, or worse.  But save that for later, after the tree has had a chance to try and bounce back.  Then you can assess the damages.

ClearedSo the next time you get a snow storm, unfortunately you may need to venture out for a little while.  But, in the spring, when the garden looks great and you’ve forgotten about the snow, it will be all worth it.

If you experienced storms in your area, I hope you were safe this week, and this winter for that matter!  It’s been a cold and snowy one!  I love the snow, but….when is it spring?!?!?!