individual chicken pot pies

Who wouldn’t want to dive right into a bowl brimming with warm, savory filling and topped off with a flaky pie crust?

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We’re in full-blown, top-of-the-line, let’s-get-a-little-bit crazy comfort food mode her on K.K. As soon as the leaves start changing, my heart {and my tummy} crave rich, savory casseroles and dishes that may or may not require a bit of a nap afterward.

Enter this chicken pot pie. It fits the bill perfectly – a luscious white sauce, piping hot with steam when you puncture the top, and full of chicken and vegetable goodness. But it’s a bit sneaky, y’all! As you’re well aware by now, just because it’s comfort food doesn’t mean it needs to make you feel UNCOMFORTABLE after you’re done eating it. That’s right…I’ve put a bit of a twist on this traditional {and traditionally unhealthy} dish.

I combed through a good amount of recipes until I settled on one to use as my base. By making some minor substitutions, we’re able to capitalize on this dish and enjoy it without the guilt! We’re making individual servings to help with portion control, and only using a top and bottom crust – no sides here! You can make the top crust larger to hang over the dish, or a bit smaller so that the filling bubbles over; it’s whatever you like. And you can skip the bottom crust, but I would recommend leaving it : ) We are also swapping out the whole milk for 1% {if you are a 2% drinker, go ahead and use that!}. The amount of butter we’ll be using to thicken the sauce is just the right amount, and won’t overpower the taste of the chicken and vegetables/herbs. It’s perfectly velvety and smooth, the perfect backdrop for the gorgeous filling.

And don’t feel as though you have to follow the recipe down to a ‘T’! The vegetables I’ve listed out are, honestly, what I had on hand at the time. Sometimes, a girl just doesn’t want to run to the store for one or two things, am I right? So feel free to swap anything out – I could see this being absolutely magical made with an assortment of mushroom and chicken, or do a combination of root vegetables {sweet potato/parsnips/beets} with the chicken, or you could even go meatless! This is truly a dish that’s adaptable to any pantry.

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The best part about this recipe? It will make enough filling for a least 4 individual servings; perfect to serve up as two for now, and then freeze the rest for an easy weeknight meal!

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Individual Chicken Pot Pies {recipe adapted from Food Network}

makes enough for at least 4 individual servings, in bowls with about a 4″ diameter

Steaming, full of warm and hearty goodness, these will be sure to put a smile on your face. Your stomach, and soul, will thank you after enjoying one of these!

Ingredients:

1 box prepared pie crust {I like Pillsbury because it gives two 9″ rounds, enough for a top and bottom crust}

4-1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock

large handful of baby carrots {or 5 medium ones}, evenly diced

1 to 2 tsp. dried thyme

2 tsp. dried oregano

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, finely diced

4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/3 cup 1% milk

3 stalks celery, evenly diced

3 cups shredded chicken, skin removed

1 bag {about 2 to 3 cups} fresh broccoli

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

On a floured surface, lay out both pie crusts and cut out 4 circles. Two will be the same size as the bottom of your individual bowls, and the other two will be slightly larger {to fold over the top and seal in the filling}.

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Spray the dishes with non-stick cooking spray, and lay down the smaller ones in each of the bowls. Prick with a fork and bake in the oven 10 to 15 minutes, or until slightly golden and the edges begin to pull away from the bowl. Set aside.

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Bring the chicken stock, carrots, thyme and oregano to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook for 2 minutes; cover and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add in the onion and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Add in the milk and the warm broth mixture and simmer until thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the chicken, celery, and broccoli. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer filling into each of the baking dishes, and top with the remaining two pieces of dough – these are larger, so they will drape nicely over the rims, helping to seal in the filling. Make sure to press it tightly against the sides of the dishes!

Place on a baking sheet and bake until the crust is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving – the filling will be very hot!

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Let’s Discuss: did you ever have the frozen individual pot pies as a kid? What other vegetables do you like to put inside yours? 

boozy baked french toast

We all know by now that I love putting a funky twist on an old classic. This is definitely one of those recipes.

Brunch and I go way back. A favorite American past time, brunch is one of those things that we all relish and enjoy when we get to take part. Whether over a special holiday weekend, or {my favorite} a random Sunday with nothing but the promise of a leisurely day ahead, this fun meal is a great way to start the day.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve certainly found that my taste buds have changed when it comes to this particular meal. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a super sweet, stuffed French toast or classic Nutella crepes on occasion, but typically I find myself leaning more towards slightly savory dishes, with just a hint of sweetness.

Enter this delectable breakfast casserole. I’ve had this tasty nugget of a recipe in my arsenal for several years now {in fact, the first time I ever made it was when the hubs returned from a 6 week stint in Beijing, right after our honeymoon, no less!}. I first stumbled upon it on one of blogs I read on a regular basis, and I’ve never gone back. It is by far my favorite go-to recipe for feeding a crowd. 

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What makes it so special? one might ask before scrolling down to review the recipe. When I tell people the secret behind this breakfast bombshell, I typically get an audible gasp.

Are you ready?! The secret ingredient is…

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TOFU!

I get so much pleasure and enjoyment out of catching friends and family in what I like to call a “funky food situation”. Every time I’ve used tofu, whether it’s in sweet or savory dishes, no one has ever been able to figure it out. In fact, I recently made this for breakfast when friends came down for a beer festival – after inhaling his dish, I mentioned the secret ingredient and he totally did a double take :) I love it.

As I’ve mentioned, this is a great recipe to make for a large crowd, because it is so easily doubled or tripled. It can be made ahead, wrapped tightly and stored in the refrigerator, until you’re ready to set it out and bake it. And my particular favorite reason? – it’s a great, balanced way to start the day, especially if you know it’s going to be particularly indulgent…whether it’s a day for a beer festival or just lounging with friends and drinks, I promise you will not be disappointed.

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Boozy Baked French Toast {recipe adapted from this Chocolate-Covered Katie recipe}

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

8 cups cubed white bread, slightly stale {I like to use a good sourdough French bread that I make in my bread machine, but any good bakery-style bread will work great}

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

2 heaping tsp. cinnamon

6 tbsp. pure maple syrup

1-1/4 cups milk

1 pack of silken tofu

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 ounces amaretto liqueur, plus additional for drizzling {optional}

1/2 – 1 cup raisins

 

To Make:

Grease a large baking dish.

Combine all of the ingredients, except for the cubed bread and raisins, into the bowl of your food processor and puree until extremely smooth {I let it go, untouched, for at least 2-3 minutes, then give it a scrape, then let it go for another 2-3 minutes}.

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Place the cubed bread into a very large bowl, then toss in the raisins. Pour the smooth puree over the cubed bread and raisin mixture, and fold until combined, making sure to thoroughly coat each cube of bread.

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Drizzle additional amaretto over the top of the casserole to your preference {I find that a generous amount makes for a wonderful end result}. Tightly wrap the entire dish, either with saran wrap or a lid, and refrigerate overnight.

When Ready to Bake:

30 minutes before ready to set the oven, place the casserole on the countertop to help take the chill off. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes or until the top edges of the bread cubes begin to brown slightly.

Top with maple syrup or your favorite French Toast toppings – we like to set out a toppings bar with an assortment of items…chocolate chips, butter, nuts, whipped cream, etc.

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Brunch on, my dears!

chicken “noodle” casserole

This is classic comfort food right here. I don’t know about y’all, but I am a casserole freak. Ever since I was a little girl, casserole was among the top favorites for me. On our birthdays, my mom always let us pick what we wanted for dinner that night. It was always, always, a no-brainer for me.

Chicken.Noodle.Casserole.

And we’re talking old-school, Campbell’s Soup based casserole. This is not fancy, frilly food by any means. And honestly, I think that is what makes food special. It’s the memory that food evokes, not the expensive ingredients or crazy cookware.

Since I’ve gotten older, chicken noodle casserole still remains a favorite of mine. But as you all know by now, my food brain tends to work in crazy, albeit kooky ways sometimes. And I’m fully okay with that! At this point, I’m sure you all area scratching your heads, thinking “Where is Alicia going with this?” Well, let’s dive in, shall we?

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What makes this casserole so different is the ingredients that go in here. As I’ve talked about here, I discovered spaghetti squash a few years ago, and it made me rethink pasta. I absolutely love using this wondrous gourd in all sorts of “traditional” pasta dishes. And I’ll tell you what, it works fabulously! Once cooked, spaghetti squash takes on a – you guessed it – spaghetti-like texture. I love it. And in a direct comparison to pasta, it totally wins out in the nutritional sense too. Less carbs, more vitamins….what this means for me is that I can enjoy a lot more of the dish and not worry about feeling weighed down or sluggish after it. #winning

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The other star of this dish is the sauce that holds it together. Tofu! Can you believe it? Super protein packed, and it takes on the flavor of whatever you add to it. In this case, we’ll be going heavy on the herbs that pair well with the chicken. I first tried this sauce for my in-laws. When I told them the base of the sauce was tofu, they was amazed. And not to mention, they both loved it.

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This is one crazy casserole. A new, healthier twist on a classic. I promise, y’all won’t be disappointed.

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Chicken “Noodle” Casserole {original recipe, serves 2 with leftover sauce and squash}

…this can easily be doubled!

1 large spaghetti squash, pre-cooked and shredded*

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

olive oil, to drizzle in the pan
1 large onion, finely diced
2-3 large garlic cloves

1 pack (14 ounces) firm tofu
1/2 C low sodium chicken stock (I like Kitchen Basics)
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 C bread crumbs
1/2 C fresh grated Parmesan cheese

salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, with the rack in the middle of the oven.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and drizzle with olive oil. With clean hands, place chicken breasts in, coating each sides with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Cook for 30-35 minutes, or until the juices run clear. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.

While chicken is cooking, preheat a large nonstick skillet. Drizzle with olive oil, and set to medium heat. Dice the onions and mince the garlic, and add to the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook until onions are translucent. Once at that stage, cut the heat and move to a cool space on the stovetop.

Drain the excess liquid off the tofu, and cut into cubes (don’t worry about it being precise, this is just to help with the processing). Add to the food processor, along with the sauteed onions and garlic, dried basil, dried oregano, and chicken stock. Pulse until smooth, pausing to scrape down the sides. You want it to have a smooth, silky consistency – similar to a bechemel sauce.

Grease your baking dish (in this case, I used two large ramekins for individual servings. If you don’t have these, an 8×8 or 9×9 glass casserole dish works great for this amount). Spoon a small amount of sauce into the bottom, spreading to coat. Next, layer in the half the chicken (a quarter in each dish), then some of the shredded spaghetti squash. Top with the sauce. Repeat the layering process – the remaining chicken, spaghetti squash, and sauce. Mix the bread crumbs and cheese, and sprinkle evenly over the dish(es). I then like to drizzle a little olive oil on top – it makes for a good crunch!

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the casserole is golden brown on top and bubbly. Serve immediately, ideally with crusty bread for dipping and a glass of white wine.

*to cook the spaghetti squash – preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, and place in a casserole dish. Cook for 60-65 minutes, or until you can insert a fork in without resistance. Let cool, the shred with a fork…making “spaghetti” like strands…and store in the fridge in an airtight container. I like to do this the night before, to help reduce cooking time.