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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Curry Chicken Pot Pie

One thing I try to focus on as I do my weekly grocery shopping is fresh foods.  I don't like the idea of eating lots of highly-processed foods, nor do I like cooking with it.  Canned soups don't exist in our house, along with packaged cookies, instant mac & cheese, boxed mixes, powdered dressing mix, etc.  Instead, I try to buy a lot of fresh produce and good quality meats from the meat counter, and make things with real butter, olive oil, flour...you know, the good old-fashioned way.

However, as much as I would like to, I don't make everything from scratch, so when I do buy something pre-made or processed, I usually try to find the healthiest kind.  For example, Tony absolutely loves ranch dressing on his salad, which is definitely not good for you, so for times when I don't feel like making it myself, I like to get the Greek yogurt ranch dressing from the refrigerated section.

Now that I've been so busy studying, I find myself with less time to prepare dinner the way I would like to.  I've been keeping meals simple and fresh, but every now and then, I'll cave in to something that is quick and just plain good.  And so, I am introducing to you this recipe for Chicken Curry Pot Pie.

I found this recipe one afternoon when I was searching for something relatively quick and easy, and that had 5-star reviews.  I decided to search for some Trader Joe's recipes, and this one came up.  Anyone who knows me well knows that chicken pot pie is my absolute favorite food.  If I could pick my last meal, a good chicken pot pie would be it.  So, when I saw that this was a prize-winning recipe, I was sold.  The best thing about it is it uses only Trader Joe's products, which is where I happen to shop at pretty often (besides Whole Foods and Vons).

Whoops, I didn't cover the edges. 

When this pie came out of the oven, Tony and I were both so eager to dig in.  The buttery pie crust and the yellow curry sauce had created such a wonderful aroma in the house.  The crust was golden brown and flaky, the way it should be, and when we finally started eating, I think there was a good 5 minutes of complete silence!  The flavors were just so incredible.  Tony even made the statement that this was one of his top 10 favorite things I've ever made.  If that's not proof of a great recipe, I don't know what is!

So yes, this does have some pre-made ingredients, such as the TJ's frozen pie crust, and the bottled TJ's yellow curry sauce.  But...if it's this good, I think I'm willing to make the exception every once in a while.   Even though the recipe calls for specific Trader Joe's brand items, feel free to adapt it to your own taste.  I'm sure a homemade pie crust, or a different variety of vegetables, would taste just as great.  Maybe one of these days when I have a little more free time, I'll try making my own version of this...from scratch!

Curry Chicken Pot Pie
Print this recipe
Yield:  6-8 servings
Recipe slightly adapted from Trader Joe's, originally from Trader Joe's 2011 HiiP Recipe Showdown winner, Linda Wang

1 package TJ's Gourmet Pie Crust, prepared through step 2 for double crust pie
2 cups TJ's Organic (frozen) Foursome Vegetables
1 cup TJ's (frozen) Pearl Onions
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 bottle TJ's Thai Yellow Curry Sauce
1 1/2 cups TJ's Just Chicken

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Microwave Organic Foursome and pearl onions for 1 minute on high, or until defrosted.  Mix flour with curry sauce.  Add vegetables, chicken and curry sauce mixture to bottom pie crust in pan - spread evenly.  Top with pie crust.  Seal and trim off excess pie crust, and flute edge if desired.  Cut vent holes.  Bake for 40 minutes, covering edges of crust with foil halfway through baking.  Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Citrus Marinated Chicken Thighs

It's been a long time since I've actually typed out a post and shared a recipe.  I haven't taken my boards yet, but all this studying is exhausting my brain, so I think taking a break to type out a post will be somewhat therapeutic.  I already feel like I have nothing but medical terms, medication dosage ranges, and "nursing interventions" constantly in my head.  

Note:  Sorry, I'm about to ramble about the nursing program in the next few paragraphs:

I never knew exactly how difficult nursing would be and the amount of knowledge it required when I first made the decision to enter the nursing program.  Sure, I've heard the stories of how nursing is "so hard!" and how "it will change your life" but to be honest, I feel like it's impossible to understand without really going through it on your own.  If I could explain it in any way, I would say that yes, those things are true, but they only scratch the surface of how intense these last 2 years really were.  It really did test everyone's limits...it didn't matter if you started out a straight-A student, or a natural test-taker...heck, we were all star-students to have gotten through all the hurdles to get accepted into the program.  But the program pushed us all to our breaking points, broke our confidence, made us question whether we were really cut out for this.  And unfortunately, some people did give in to those doubts, changed their career goal, and decided they made the wrong decision...but right when most of us had taken all we could handle, we started to see the light and gain hope.  Things started making more sense, instructors started acknowledging an improvement in us, and we had those unforgettable special moments with patients during clinicals that reminded us why we are doing this.  

If someone asked me if I would do it all over again, honestly?  I don't know if I could handle another 2 years of that!  The stress I carried was enormous.  I probably shaved off a good year or two of my life because of the stress!  I definitely do not miss those nights staying up until 2 in the morning to finish my care plan after coming home from a 12-hour shift, only to have to be at the hospital at 6AM for another 12-hour shift.  It. was. brutal.  Not to mention those 12-hour shifts that basically consisted of your instructor breathing down your neck during every procedure.  Questioning you about your patient, about the medications, about the medical conditions, and not stopping until you finally don't know the answer, then to get chewed out about it and ordered to write up a short summary on it to present to the clinical group the following day.  Ugh. I could go on.  And on.

But I am SO proud that I finished.  It truly is one of my biggest accomplishments, and I am so happy to be looking forward to a promising career.  They say (and by "they" I mean our instructors and other experienced nurses in the field) that the worst and hardest part of nursing education is your first program to get your RN license.  Once you have that and your clinical skills, the rest is...well, not easy, but a heck of a lot less stressful.  I sure do hope that's true, because I will definitely be furthering my education in the future.

People always ask me, "what area of nursing will you be going into?"   Right now?  My head is in general...something like telemetry, med-surg, or ER, where we see a wide-variety of patients and get valuable experience.  I really feel like that's the area that will really allow me to learn, grow, and become a more "marketable" nurse in the future.  But eventually, most likely after I finish with my nursing education, I'd like to be a pediatric nurse.  I always felt most at home there in my clinical rotation, and I really feel like I could handle the emotional aspect of it as well.  But we'll see.

Now, hopefully since I've shared everything I have to say about my nursing experience, I promise I won't bore you again with anything to do with nursing...that is, until I take and pass my boards!  

So, let's move on to this recipe I'm sharing today.  These chicken thighs?  SENSATIONAL.  Really, they are so incredibly good, and one of the best recipes I've discovered in quite a while.  Of course, it helps that thighs are one of the juiciest, most flavorful part of the chicken, but the citrus marinade really is amazing.  

I found the recipe in my August 2013 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.  The citrus marinade has a combination of citrus zest and juice, along with low-sodium soy sauce, to give it a kind of teriyaki-like flavor.  That's probably the main reason why I love it so much, but it's also incredibly easy to prepare.  I cooked it exactly as the recipe reads, and it came out perfect.  The thighs were perfectly cooked and juicy, and after eating, I was pretty disappointed that I didn't double the recipe for leftovers!  

Hopefully, you all enjoy the recipe as much as we did! 

Citrus Marinated Chicken Thighs
Yield:  4 servings
Recipe from Bon Appetit magazine - Aug 2013 issue

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems only
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp finely grated lime zest
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp kosher salt
2  pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs

Set aside 1/4 cup of sliced scallions.  Pulse cilantro, garlic, citrus zests, citrus juices, soy sauce, oil, salt, and remaining scallions in a food processor or blender until a coarse puree forms.  Set aside 1/4 cup marinade; place remaining marinade in a large resealable plastic bag.  Add chicken, seal bag, and turn to coat.  Chill in refrigerator at least 20 minutes.

Preheat broiler.  Remove chicken from marinade and place, skin side down, on a foil-lined broilerproof baking sheet; discard marinade.  Broil chicken until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Turn; continue to broil until cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees F, about 12 to 15 minutes longer.  Serve chicken with reserved marinade and scallions.

Note:  Chicken can be marinated 2 hours ahead.  Keep chilled.