Category Archives: recipes

Bowls full of happy pt. 2 – My take on Alton Brown’s Curry Chicken Pot Pie




While the recipe revamp and opinions below are my own, I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias® and Tyson. #cbias #SocialFabric #MealsTogether

Earlier this week I started a series of posts about bowls full of happy. Many of our favorite dinners around my house can be consumed from a bowl. Actually, I could eat a Ruth’s Chris filet mignon from a bowl if I had to, so really, anything could be consumed from a bowl.

Today I’d like to talk about the ever so humble pot pie. I don’t remember pot pie as being a staple while growing up. At least, not in the sense that my mom’s Swiss steak or spaghetti was. I do think my dad would buy those little $.99 pot pies at the store. You know the ones that burn your poor tongue into oblivion if you don’t let it cool for at least 2 hours? Yeah, those guys. They are okay, but they aren’t outstanding and they certainly don’t make my bowl happy, at the very least, they don’t make me happy.

Sometime during my first year out of college, I saw an episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown was improving upon the church pot luck buffet. One of dishes of choice was a chicken pot pie. His pot pie included curry. I LOVE curry. It also didn’t involve a pie crust but instead puff pastry. I LOVE puff pastry. I knew this dish was about to be my new crush.

Indeed, it was.

It was the kind of crush that I loved from afar and when I finally got the chance to go on a date, one thing annoyed me.

That dang puff pastry.

It didn’t turn out like his… twice. I gave up after two attempts and brought in the ever so trusty pie crust. I also don’t stay very consistent on the type of chicken I put in (I’ve even made this with leftover Thanksgiving turkey). Sometimes I use chicken tenders leftover from another meal, or I boil some, or I bake some, or I have leftover fried chicken from a late night, “I was weak” run to Popeyes or KFC. This time I thought I would try out using frozen chicken nuggets.

Tyson Foods has a new product out called Tyson Crispy Bites. These guys are geared towards adults, but honestly, I don’t know why. My kid self would have LOVED a plate of these. They are quite delicious albeit a bit sweeter than a standard nugget, but not like honey sweet (i.e. – they still work in savory applications). I found a big bag of these at my local Sam’s Club and thought I’d try them out. I actually use leftover fried chicken in a few applications so having nuggets in my freezer on standby wouldn’t be a bad thing. Need a quick dinner? Bam. Tyson Crispy Bites and a salad. Need a semi-homemade dinner? Bam. Chicken pot pie! Really, these are going to be a versatile addition to my freezer full of “I work late and need a quick dinner” food.

WAIT, I know what you’re doing right now. You’re judging me for buying a chicken nugget from the freezer section. Hold on a minute, let me ‘splain. Tyson has completely revamped these nuggets to appeal to us adults (or those of us trying to pass as adults). They have less breading than their regular nuggets (yay, I hate when a nugget has more breading than protein). They are 100% all natural (which is good, especially if you’ve read that nasty rumor about a certain fast food joint’s nuggets melting… yes, melting – see, 100% natural sounds pretty amazing right now). They also aren’t pressed chicken in the shape of a nugget, this is the real deal. So, stop giving me that look. I know you have one of those $1.50 frozen pizzas sitting in your freezer.

Don’t deny it. If you do, I’ll say you’re fibbing.

Here’s the process. Prepare your taste buds, this one is outstanding!

Adapted from original recipe found here. Even though I use pie crust instead of the puff pastry, all other measurements and items stay the same… except the oil, you’ll see that below. My recommendation is to print off the original recipe and then follow my directions along side of it. Make sense? Good, let’s get started.

First of all, cook the Tyson Crispy Bites per the instructions on the package. If you don’t and your pot pie is terrible, I’m not to blame. I know a lot of people out there don’t follow directions, so I wanted to make that clear! Once cooked and cooled, dice it up into bite sized pieces. Maybe eat one or two nuggets in case you’re like me and cooked too many. Life is hard, chicken nuggets make a good appetizer.

Also, if you’re going to make your own pie dough, you might want to do that now. Make enough for two bits of pastry, one on bottom and one on top. I make my life easy and get a refrigerated dough. It’s easier and tastes pretty darned delicious. No need to reinvent the wheel when I’m trying to make this recipe nice and easy.

Next, I toss the frozen veggies with whatever oil I have. The recipe calls for canola oil but I stock vegetable oil and those two are so similar that I don’t notice a difference. Don’t use olive oil. You might think you’re being fancy, but this is pot pie, not coq au vin. After tossing the veggies with the oil, I spread them out on a pan (that is a well used pan in the picture, it’s proof that I cook a LOT, that kind of proof is a good thing) and stick them in the oven to do their browning.

Next I saute up my onions and celery per the instructions in the recipe and I heat up the broth and milk, also per the recipe. Is it starting to smell good in your house? It’s about to get even better. My favorite step is the curry step. YUM YUM YUM! I love this smell. LOVE it. Sometimes I sneak curry into oven fries or fried potatoes. I don’t sneak it into pancakes or anything like that (although, that sounds interesting… maybe for another post).

Here’s where I keep following the recipe to a T. Again, follow along at the link above. No need to double up on the details here.

Are you at the step where Alton pours the mixture into the baking dish? Then STOP. This is where I stray the most. Get out a pie plate (I like my standard Pyrex one and have found it works the best, but use whichever pie plate works best for you). Line the plate with one piece of your pie crust. Fill the crust with all the good stuff that makes up the filling. Use all of it, make sure it mounds in the plate, the pie is better that way. Then cover it with your other crust. You can pinch the edges or use a fork to make it pretty. Or you can just press it together. In the end, it tastes the same. Also, vent the crust. I do this by slicing 5 small vents in a star pattern on top of my pie. Do it how you like. It’s not rocket science.

Well, maybe not rocket science but don’t go all Edward Scissorhands on your pie. While Johnny Depp is totally adorbs in that movie, we all saw what happened to the waterbed, did we not? Lesson learned.

Cook it based on the temperature on the pie crust box but the time listed on the recipe (I’ll give you a hint, it’s 425 degrees for 25 minutes).

After it has baked, let it cool for about 10 minutes to set.

Put that pie in a bowl and LOVE it. It’s good. We eat it a lot. We also love it as leftovers. It’s just that good (which is saying something because we are terrible at reheating food).

Here’s a tip, it’s really good with extra sharp white cheddar cheese.

And iced tea.

Just look at it… mmmm…

Now that you have tried it, don’t you feel better knowing you can make a delicious and unique pot pie with something straight out of your freezer? No having to butcher a chicken from the back yard, I don’t even think I’d have the stomach for that. Just head up to your local Sam’s Club, head to the freezer section (the chicken freezer section, not the meat freezer section, apparently, in Sam’s world, chicken is different than meat… or maybe that’s just unique to my Sam’s Club) and snatch up a bag of these nuggets. They might cost a few dollars more than their regular nuggets but trust me, it’s worth it. These guys are good.

What’s your favorite recipe that uses something a little “non-traditional”? Do you have a favorite recipe that uses cake mix and diet soda? Favorite recipe for the use of wonton wrappers? I’d love to hear how you take something made for one purpose and turn it into something completely different. Please share in the comment section.

If you’re void of ideas, Tyson has some great ones on their Facebook page here.


Tagged , , , ,

Bowls full of happy pt. 1 – Cajun Chicken Alfredo


If I mention a bowl full of happy, more than likely I’m talking about pasta (or Lucky Charms, but for this post, I’m focusing on the pasta). It could be any kind of pasta, I don’t discriminate. It’s probably a fact that I eat more bowls full of happy than I need to, but that doesn’t stop me from continuing to have these for dinner when the sweet boy and I actually have time to do just that… sit down for dinner.

I’m facing a month of days when I’m pretty sure the only time I’ll be home is to sleep, and even then I’m skeptical. I guess that’s the life of someone in the venue management industry. I suppose I live for that, but that doesn’t mean I don’t treasure the times when things seem a bit normal. Knowing that nice, slow evenings at home are going to be scarce for a while, I took the opportunity to make a BIG ol’ bowl of carbs last night.

Enter Chicken Alfredo.

This might possibly be our favorite make at home pasta. Alfredo is stupid easy provided you can manage not to scald the cream. This sauce is good over an shape of pasta, so it’s a good recipe to use to make to empty out your pasta pantry (what, you don’t have a space specifically for your pasta? Me neither in real life, but in my dream kitchen I do). It’s also good with many different fillers. I’ve used bacon, tomato, spinach, mushrooms, chicken, peppers, shrimp – you name it, it’s probably good in this sauce.

Last night I made it cajun style with some blackened chicken and mushrooms (okay, mushrooms aren’t cajun, but they are good in this pasta) served over penne but I usually use rotini. Is your mouth watering yet? Good, grab a snack and read on.

Adapted from Emeril’s recipe here.

Start by cooking up some chicken tenders (I cut up boneless breasts that I stock up on when they are on sale, but you can use the pre-cut tenders if you’re feeling rich). I cook mine up in a pan with a bit of olive oil and season those bad boys with a generous amount of blackening seasoning (or Cajun seasoning, I think they are the same thing). Don’t add more salt to the seasoning, it’s salty enough.

Cook as much chicken as you like, but i typically do 2 – 2.5 tenders/person or 1 chicken breast for 2-3 people.

While the chicken is cooking, dice up a slice of red onion. Dice it up small. I mean SMALL. you basically want the onion to melt into the sauce. Go ahead and mince a clove of garlic while you’re at it. Go along with that small theme you started with the onion. If you have one of those garlics with GINORMOUS cloves, just use half a clove. We aren’t fending off vampires here. It’s just dinner.

Don’t forget about that chicken! I usually turn it at this point as long as it’s good and golden brown on one side.

Grab a handful of baby bella mushrooms (crimini mushrooms are their technical name) and slice them fairly thin, 1/8 of an inch should do the trick. You can slice them a bit thicker if you want, but I’m for a quick meal here and don’t have all night to cook mushrooms. Again, use as many of these as you like. I use about 3/4 of a cup of sliced mushrooms for 2 servings. We like fungus.

The Sweet Boy’s best friend does not like fungus but LOVES this dinner so he tolerates having to pick out the mushrooms later. Basically, I’m saying don’t omit this just because someone around your dinner table (or coffee table as it is on our case) decided early in life that they have a textural issue with mushrooms.

Your chicken should be done at this point. Remove it to a plate and set aside.

In a small sauce pan, melt 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Melt it slowly, don’t let it brown. Take your time with this process. Add the onions and garlic in. Again, cook these guys slowly. Burned onions and garlic do not a bowl full of happy make. I stray from the original recipe here and add a generous pinch of dried red pepper flakes or seeds here. If you’re a bit wimpy when it comes to heat, you can omit this step.

While the onions are cooking, bring a pasta sized pot of water to a boil and cook your preferred pasta for the required length to achieve the perfect al dente. Drain the pasta reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta liquid (I never use it, but I always save it just in case my sauce turns out too thick).

Cook this the onions and garlic until soft. Add a half cup of heavy cream at this point. Don’t worry about your diet. this meal is worth straying.

Mmmm. Butter.

Mmmm. Heavy cream.

Mmmm. Pasta.

You can have a salad tomorrow. Today, let’s just enjoy.

Bring cream to a simmer and grate some fresh nutmeg over the top. I probably add 1/8 teaspoon but I never measure. If you like nutmeg, you can’t go wrong with this step… unless you use that ground nutmeg from the store. Never use that. Always grate your own as needed. Allow sauce to simmer for about 5 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, add a bit of olive oil to the same pan you cooked your chicken in, and add in the mushrooms. Saute those little guys until cooked through and remove from the heat. You can add a bit of salt and pepper after they are cooked, but you don’t have to. You can dice up the chicken to desired sized bites at this point and add to the mushroom pan. The leftover heat will help reheat the chicken a bit. If your chicken doesn’t reheat, no big deal, the sauce will take care of this step later.

After the sauce has reduced a bit, add 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese and allow to melt. Return the pasta to the pasta pan, add the chicken and mushroom and then dump that delicious, calorie laden, amazing alfredo sauce all over it. If it’s a bit thick, you can start adding small amounts of the pasta water in to thin it out. I said SMALL amounts. Now is not the time to be in a hurry. Stir it up, add another 1/4 cup of grated parm to the pot and viola!

You now have a pot full of happy to portion into bowls. I top mine with diced roma tomatoes and green onion.

It’s delicious.

It’s better than the cajun chicken pasta at Chili’s.Actually, a lot of things are better than the items at Chili’s.I’m still mad that they took away my ranchero chicken tacos.I’ll take that to my grave.

I haven’t been back since I made that discovery.


Ahem, but I digress. I hope you love this pasta. Let me know if you make it and what spin you put on it. It’s very versatile. It’s not, however, very good for you. You can’t get the best of both worlds.

Disclaimer: I recommend following Emeril’s recipe first to get the hang of this. You’ll learn if you want more parm or more cream by doing this. I no longer use a recipe and just go by site. You’ll get the hang of it… it’s super simple.

Alternate version: Use italian seasoning, salt and pepper on the chicken for a mild version. It’s still good, but not AS good.

Tagged , , , ,