Rustic Skillet Pot Pie

Well, guess who has returned to the blogosphere! I sincerely did not intend to take such a long hiatus, but it seems my life got full again over the past few months. I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday and shared it with those nearest and dearest to your hearts.

My husband and I actually went out for Thanksgiving dinner, something we haven’t done in 10 years. With both of our hectic schedules, we decided to truly take the day off and let someone else do the cooking this year. Sadly, no Turkey Day leftovers, but also no big mess in the kitchen to clean up.

I still managed to bake a pumpkin pie and have cranberries patiently waiting in my fridge to be turned into homemade sauce. And I finally attempted my first skillet pot pie, which in this version I made with leftover grilled chicken, but it would also work beautifully with leftover turkey.

The pie crust comes from a recipe I received when I took a pie crust class at Nothing To It Cooking School, a local culinary center. As much as I’d like to share the recipe with you, I don’t feel that I can as it may be proprietary and I don’t have permission to publish it. But you can certainly find basic pie crust recipes online or find frozen crusts at the grocery store.

Finally, I failed to take a group photo of all of the ingredients. See what happens when you neglect your blog too long, you forget how to do things. I’ll get my act together, I swear!

Anyway, enjoy this rustic dish and my thanks to all of you who continue to follow The Skillet.

Ingredients
2 Pie Crusts
6 Tbs. Butter
1/2 cup chopped Onion
1 cup chopped Carrots
1 cup chopped Celery
1/3 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Pepper
1 3/4 cup Chicken Broth
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
2 1/2 cups cooked Chicken or Turkey, cut into bite-size pieces

If using a cast iron skillet, heat oven to 400 degrees and remove all racks, except one on the lowest rung. If using a glass, ceramic or aluminum pie pan, then heat oven to 425 degrees. One thing I learned at the pie crust class is to always cook pies on the lowest rack in your oven.

In a deep cast iron skillet or 2-quart saucepan, melt butter and saute onions, carrots and celery together until soft.

In a deep cast iron skillet or 2-quart saucepan, melt butter and saute onions, carrots and celery together until soft.

Add flour, salt and pepper.

Add flour, salt and pepper.

Combine thoroughly until dry ingredients coat vegetables.

Combine thoroughly until dry ingredients coat vegetables.

Stir in chicken broth.

Stir in chicken broth.

Add heavy cream.

Add heavy cream.

Combine thoroughly.

Combine thoroughly.

Add chicken or turkey.

Add chicken or turkey.

Combine thoroughly into creamy veggie sauce.

Combine thoroughly into creamy veggie sauce.

Place one crust in 10-inch cast iron skillet or 9-inch pie pan. Spoon filling into skillet.

Place one crust in 10-inch cast iron skillet or 9-inch pie pan. Spoon filling into skillet. Place the second crust on top, seal edges, and cut a few vents.

Bake 30-40 minutes until crust becomes golden brown.

Bake 30-40 minutes until crust becomes golden brown.

Let it rest for 5-10 minutes, then serve. I am thankful for my skillets and plentiful food.

Let it rest for 5-10 minutes, then serve. I am thankful for my skillets and plentiful food.

Pumpkin Thai Chicken

Well I hope you all enjoyed lovely holidays this past week. My Christmas day was peaceful…just what I needed. And now a new year is only a few days away. I’m not sure what 2013 has in store for me, other than taking on a new position at work, lots of dog trials, a Dutch oven competition or two, and plenty of bountiful feasts to blog about. I think that will keep me busy.

One of  my year-end traditions involves a great purge of refrigerator, pantry and closets. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing today instead of perched here in front of the computer. Yep, I’m procrastinating. Sort of. I did find a way to use some leftover canned pumpkin, part of which was used to bake my favorite Upside-Down Cranberry Rumpkin Skillet Cake for a holiday potluck. Since I overdosed on sweets over the holidays, I decided to make something savory with my pumpkin.

I love Thai food and found a way to incorporate my leftover canned pumpkin into a delicate, earthy Thai peanut sauce. This recipe is insanely simple and relatively quick, aside from the chicken marinating for an hour in the fridge. Serve it up with rice or skewer the meat and veggies over a grill for a nice satay. Give it a whirl…and here’s to 2013.

Pumpkin Thai ChickenIngredients
1 cup canned Pumpkin
2/3 cup Milk
1/3 cup Peanut Butter
1/3 cup chopped Green Onions
2 cloves Garlic
2 Tbsps. chopped Cilantro
2 Tbsps. Lime Juice
2 tsps. Granulated Sugar
1 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1/4 tsp. Salt
2 large Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 Red Bell Pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch Green Onions, cut into 1-inch pieces, include green sections
Hot cooked Rice

In a food processor or blender, combine pumpkin, milk, peanut butter, chopped green onions, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, sugar, soy sauce, salt and cayenne pepper.

In a food processor or blender, combine pumpkin, milk, peanut butter, chopped green onions, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, sugar, soy sauce, salt and cayenne pepper.

Pumpkin Thai Chicken

Blend thoroughly. Food processors are the bomb!

Pumpkin Thai Chicken

Combine the chicken pieces and pumpkin/peanut sauce in a bowl. Marinate for 1 hour in the fridge.

In a cast iron skillet, brown the chicken pieces. Add the vegetables.

In a cast iron skillet, brown the chicken pieces. Add the vegetables.

Combine and heat the vegetables through, about five minutes.

Combine and heat the vegetables through, about five minutes.

Serve with white rice and a side of pumpkin/peanut sauce.

Serve with white rice and a side of pumpkin/peanut sauce.

Choco-Pumpkin Johnnycakes

Johnnycakes are the cornmeal cousin to pancakes and date back as far as colonial America. Today, they remain popular in New England. Hoecakes are the southern variety. Both are usually cooked on a griddle or in a skillet. I decided to bake mine, making them like a dense muffin. I had a cup of canned pumpkin left over from my Upside-Down Cranberry Rumpkin Skillet Cake and a bag of devilish special dark chocolate chips, so Choco-Pumpkin Johnnycakes were born.

Johnnycakes are not very sweet, which is actually something I like about them. They can be served as a side to a savory dish or doused with warm maple syrup for breakfast with a hot cup of tea.

Ingredients
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
2 tsps. Baking Powder
1/3 cup Sugar
1/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups Milk
1 cup canned Pumpkin
3/4 cup finely ground Yellow Cornmeal
6 Tbsps. Unsalted Butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped, toasted Walnuts
1/2 cup Chocolate Chips

Toast the walnuts in a small skillet over medium-low heat until they begin to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, salt and nutmeg…

until combined.

Warm the milk in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until bubbles form around the edges. Remove from heat and reserve 1/2 cup of the milk.

Add the cornmeal to the warm milk and stir with a whisk…

until completely combined.

Cover the saucepan with a lid and let sit for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, add the eggs

and pumpkin

until combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. If the batter is too thick, add some of the reserved milk. I added about a 1/4 cup to get the consistency I wanted.

Fold in the toasted walnuts

and chocolate chips

to create a yummy batter. Let the batter rest for another 10 minutes. While it’s snoozing, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a cast iron biscuit pan or muffin pan with cooking spray.

Fill each section about 3/4 full.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes until a skewer or toothpick in the center comes clean. Cool on top of a wire rack.

Once cool, remove from the pan and enjoy!

Upside-Down Cranberry Rumpkin Skillet Cake

So here it is. My absolute favorite cake…period. This luscious cake has everything I love…cranberries, pumpkin, toasted walnuts and, the secret ingredient, rum. It provides an autumnal dance of flavors in every bite – tartness from the cranberries, sweetness from the pumpkin, and a sugary rum topping that puts a big smile on my face. It’s great as a coffee cake, holiday dessert or afternoon snack. I found the recipe years ago in Sunset magazine. During the holiday season, I stock up on bags of cranberries (which I keep in my freezer) and cans of pumpkin so I can have this yummy cake whenever the mood strikes me. (And yes, there is a bottle of Captain Morgan hiding in my pantry…but it’s only for cooking, I swear.)

I bake this in my cast iron skillet, but you can also use a 9-inch cake pan.

Ingredients
1/4 cup Butter, plus more for skillet or pan
1/2 cup firmly packed Light Brown Sugar
1 1/3 cups Cranberries (If using frozen cranberries, measure while frozen, then thaw before using.)
2/3 cup coarsely chopped Toasted Walnuts (To toast walnuts, bake in a 350-degree oven until golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes.)
1 Tbsp. Rum
2 large Eggs
1 cup canned Pumpkin
1/3 cup Canola or Vegetable Oil
1 cup Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Salt
Lightly sweetened soft Whipped Cream (recipe at end)
Parchment Paper

First, toast the walnuts as directed above. Keep the oven on at 350-degrees and butter your skillet or pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.

Whisk in brown sugar until blended.

Remove from heat and whisk in rum until a smooth sauce forms. Oooh, you can smell the rummy goodness.

Pour the mixture over the parchment-lined skillet or pan, evenly covering the bottom.

Combine the toasted walnuts and cranberries in a bowl.

Arrange them evenly over the rum sauce.

In a large bowl, add the eggs, pumpkin, oil and sugar.

Beat with a mixer until smooth.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture…

and combine into a thick, smooth batter.

Spread the batter evenly over the cranberries and walnuts…

until completely covered.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 35-45 minutes until a skewer or knife in the center comes out clean. Transfer skillet or pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.

Once cool, run a thin-bladed knife around the edges.

Invert cake onto a serving platter or plate. Remove pan and parchment, and let cool for at least 20 minutes. Serve slightly warm with whipped cream.

While your cake is in the oven, make the whipped cream. It is incredibly easy to make homemade whipped cream and you can control its sweetness and flavor. Refrigerate it once made.

Ingredients
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1/4 cup Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla

Pour the whipping cream in a bowl. With a mixer, beat it until it just starts to stiffen.

Add the sugar and vanilla.

Beat at medium speed until peaks form.

Peaky whipped cream goodness.

Spoon a dollop on top of a slice of upside-down cranberry rumpkin cake. Happy Fall! (I dare you to not eat the whole cake in one sitting.)

The Great Pumpkin Bouquet

Looking for something different to do with your pumpkin this season? Why not turn it into a bouquet?

I found this idea on the cover of All You magazine, along with instructions, so I thought I’d give it a try. It is remarkably easy to do and looks beautiful…a great centerpiece for a Halloween party, Thanksgiving dinner or simply as fall decor around the home. And it travels well, in case you are heading over the hills and through the woods to grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving. This particular arrangement joined me on a two-hour road trip over the Sierra Nevadas, virtually unscathed (although I suggest placing it in a box or tub so it won’t slide around.)

Items you’ll need
1 Pumpkin
1 Flower Vase (cylindrical or a coffee can works too), 2″ to 3″ smaller in diameter than pumpkin
Carving Knife and Spoon (I used a steak knife and rice spoon)
Flowers of your choice (I used two bunches purchased at the grocery store, which included sunflowers, mums, and foliage)
Scissors
Ribbon, 2′ long

Place your vase atop your pumpkin to trace the circle to cut.

Carve a hole in the top 1/2″ larger in diameter than the vase.

Remove the seeds and pulp from the pumpkin. I used a rice spoon from my rice cooker, because it has a nice wide surface, and this fork-a-spoon from an old camping kit. (It’s amazing what I keep in my kitchen drawers.)

Once your pumpkin is seedless and pulp free, insert the vase and add water to it.

Divide flowers and foliage into 5 bunches. Trim one bunch so they’re twice the height of the pumpkin. Trim the next bunch so it is 1″ shorter. Continue this same pattern with the remaining bunches.

Make a tight arrangement of flowers by placing the tallest in the center, then the next tallest around them, and continue through the various heights of flowers and foliage.

Wrap ribbon around the pumpkin and tie with a bow. Secure with tape, if necessary. I added some sunflower stickers that I found in the scrapbook section of a craft store. Very festive!