Chicken Pot Pie with Cheddar Cheese Crust

baked chicken pot pie

Chicken pot pie is one of those comfort foods from my childhood I always craved. A local restaurant, “Assemble”,  features one with a delicious cheddar cheese crust, which inspired this recipe. This is not your pop-in-the-oven Swanson’s pot pie; it involves a few hours of chopping and stirring. But your reward will be a fresh-tasting delicious pie that’s worth all the trouble.

This deep-dish pot pie serves 6. I only make a top crust.

veggies for pot pie

Vegetables and Chicken Filling

Chop the chicken and vegetables ahead of time. You can shell the peas while the veggies are cooking.

Place the cubed carrots, potatoes, celery and chicken in a separate bowl to cook together. Quarter the mushrooms and place in their own bowl. Place the boiled onions, cubed zucchini, the shelled peas in separate bowls as well.

2 ½ cups chicken stock. Use Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup for best results
8-10 small or 20 tiny white pearl onions

2 large boneless, skinless chicken half-breasts, cubed
3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
3 large carrots, cubed
5 outside stalks of celery, cubed
About 10-12 medium white mushrooms, quartered
2 small zucchini, cubed

½ lb English peas, shelled

Heat chicken stock to boil. Place pearl onions in boiling stock for 3 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon to cool on a plate or cutting board.

Stir cubed potatoes, carrots, celery and chicken into boiling stock. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 8 – 10 minutes. Remove from stock with a slotted spoon, into a large bowl. Add mushrooms to stock and cook for a couple of minutes. Add zucchini to mushrooms and cook for just one minute. Remove vegetables with a slotted spoon in to the bowl with the other vegetables.

Cut the root end off the onions and squeeze the onion out from its skin, and put in the bowl.
Mix all the cooked vegetables and chicken together with uncooked shelled peas in the large bowl, then set aside, Cool down the stock. You can do this part ahead of time and refrigerate until the next day. If you are making this in one day, place the pot with stock into an ice bath to cool down.

Next make the pie crust.

dough disk

Cheddar whole wheat Pie Crust
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour (white whole wheat flour)
¼ cup white all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt (I use sea salt)
1 Tb cold butter
3Tb frozen vegetable shortening (such as Crisco cubes)
2 Tb ice water. I fill up a small cup with cold water and ice cubes and let it sit a few minutes, then measure it out.
¼ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Add flours and salt to food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Add butter and shortening and pulse a few times. Add grated cheese and pulse again. Add ice water and pulse a few times until dough begins to come together. The dough will be moist. Gather it into a ball then flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Roll between two sheets of plastic wrap out to approximately 1 ½ inches beyond the edge of the casserole edge. Let it rest while you make the gravy.

pot pie without crust

1 Tb butter
3 Tb olive oil
1/3 cup flour
2 cups cold chicken stock
1 Tb white wine
½ tsp dried thyme or 1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
Several grinds black pepper
¾ to 1 tsp sea salt, to taste
In a medium saucepan, melt butter with olive oil. Whisk in flour and continue whisking over medium heat for several minutes. Add pepper and thyme and continue to whisk. Whisk in cold chicken stock and wine. Add salt to taste, starting with ½ tsp then slowly up to 1 tsp, depending on the saltiness of your broth and your taste. Cook over medium-high heat until gravy thickens, then cook a few more minutes, whisking constantly.

Assembling the pie

unbaked pot pie

Heat oven to 425◦

Pour the gravy over the mixed vegetables and chicken in the large bowl and stir until the gravy is mixed in with them. Grease or spray a 2.5 liter (10.5 cup) casserole bottom and sides with nonstick spray. If you have a pie bird, place it in the middle. Pour the chicken and vegetables into the casserole, making sure the gravy is mixed well. With a large spoon, make a mound in the middle of the filling, so that the sides are lower than the middle.

If you are using a pie bird, cut a small hole or slot for it in the middle of the crust. Carefully lift the crust so that is centered over the pie. Crimp the edges of the crust with your fingers. If you aren’t using a pie bird, cut a few slits in the crust so that the steam can escape. Place the casserole in the middle of the oven. To avoid burning the edges of the pie, place a pie shield over them or cover them with foil. (I obviously did not do this, resulting in burnt edges.) Bake for 30 -35 minutes until crust is crispy and browned. Let the pie cool a bit before cutting it. The gravy will thicken as it cools.

Chocolate Strawberry Tart with Macaroon Crust

tart slice tart

I made this rich tart for Passover, but it’s delicious all year long. If you make the pastry cream with the potato starch it is also gluten free. The coconut macaroon crust is covered with chocolate ganache, and then topped with pastry cream. I decorated the pastry cream with chocolate swirls and fresh strawberries. It’s something you’ll want to make the day before the feast, and then pop the strawberries on just before serving. It’s actually not too sweet, but it is rich! macaroom crust

Macaroon crust: 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut 4 egg whites ¼ tsp salt ½ tsp vanilla ½ tsp almond extract Coconut oil spray Preheat oven to 300◦ Mix all ingredients well. Spray a tart pan well with the coconut oil. Spread coconut mixture evenly on bottom and sides of tart pan. Cover edges with foil or a pie protector. Place in middle rack of the oven and bake for 30 minutes until it begins to lightly brown. Edges will brown more. Cool completely on a rack while you make the ganache.

Ganache: 1 cup heavy cream

½ cup each good quality semisweet and bittersweet chocolate chips

1 tsp coconut oil 1 tsp vanilla

1 Tb brandy

Heat cream in a saucepan until simmers but is not bubbling. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips and coconut oil until they are completely melted. Stir in vanilla and brandy. Once ganache is completely smooth, let it cool until it’s warm. When crust has cooled to room temperature, use a spatula to smooth the ganache over it. Reserve a few tablespoons of the ganache for decorating the top of the tart. Let the tart cool on the counter, and then put in the refrigerator to harden. Meanwhile, make the pastry cream.

Pastry Cream: This is basically the same recipe I used for Valentine’s Tart, except it’s Kosher for passover using potato starch. (If you prefer to make it with flour and cornstarch, I put the equivalents here)

1/4 cup plus 1 tsp sugar

1 1/2 Tb potato starch (OR use 2 Tb each flour and cornstarch)

4 large egg yolks

1 1/3 cup light coconut milk OR 1% milk

1 tsp vanilla

Whip sugar and egg yolks on high speed until light yellow. Add potato starch (or flour and cornstarch) and whip again. Heat milk in a medium saucepan until it just begins to simmer. With mixer on medium-low, slowly pour the milk into the egg mixture until it is well combined, and then put mixer on high speed. Pour it  back into the pot and cook over low-medium heat, whisking constantly while the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract. Strain the pastry cream into a clean glass or metal container Place parchment paper directly on the hot pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Let it cool on the counter.

When pastry cream is cool and the ganache has hardened, cover the ganache with the pastry cream, using a spatula. Place in the refrigerator to harden a bit.

Then heat the ganache again, adding a bit of cream to make it more liquid. Spoon designs onto the pastry cream, I attempted to make a swirl. Sprinkle with a little bit of the sweetened coconut. Refrigerate until solid. Cut strawberries in half and decorate the top.

Chocolate Chip-Coconut-Banana Oatmeal Cookies

oatmeal cookiesThese scrumptious oatmeal cookies are lower in sugar than conventional recipes; banana, raisins and chocolate chips add sweetness. I used a mix of coconut oil and butter. Whole wheat flour and a few spoonfuls of flax seed add to the nutritional value. Shredded coconut and walnuts provide delicious crunch and fiber. These cookies are great crumbled over your morning oatmeal or just enjoyed with a glass of milk.

Makes about 30 cookies

Preheat oven to 350◦
Have all ingredients at room temperature

½ cup white unbleached flour
½ cup finely ground whole wheat flour
¾ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
2 Tb ground flax seed

4 Tb coconut oil
4 Tb butter
½ cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 large speckled banana, smashed

½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
½ cup raisins
¼ cup semisweet and/or bittersweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 ¾ cup oatmeal
coconut oil spray

Stir in flax seed to sifted dry ingredients.
Cream coconut oil and butter. Add brown sugar and beat until light. Add eggs and vanilla. Smash a soft banana with a fork, then beat into batter. With mixer on low, stir in dry ingredients until well combined. Add coconut flakes, raisins, chocolate chips, and walnuts and stir until incorporated. Stir in oatmeal.

Spray a baking sheet with coconut oil. Drop batter by spoonfuls to make 12 cookies per sheet. Bake at 350◦ on center rack for 10 – 12 minutes, or until brown. Cool on rack. Too many cookies? These freeze well.

Tom Kha Gai ต้มข่าไก่ Thai Coconut Soup with Mushrooms


This creamy coconut milk soup, fragrant with lime, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, cilantro and galangal, and a bit of chili heat, is one of my favorite Thai foods.
I am fortunate to live within shopping distance of Berkeley Bowl and several Asian markets that carry the authentic ingredients. I used low-fat coconut milk to cut down on the calories. If you can’t find galangal you can substitute its relative, ginger. Regular lime leaves can stand in for kaffir lime leaves.

Serves 3 large bowlfuls


2 inches galangal, sliced thin
2 stalks of lemongrass
1 tomato
6 kaffir lime leaves, torn
1 Thai bird chili (bright red), finely julienned, seeds removed (unless you want more heat)
½ teaspoon salt (to taste)
2 cups of mushrooms, quartered
Juice of 1 lime
¼ cup cilantro leaves
4 cups chicken broth (I used Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup)
14-oz can of low-fat coconut milk
½ chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces or cubed leftover roasted chicken breast

Bring broth to a boil. While broth is heating, trim ends from galangal and slice thinly. Cut a couple of inches from the root end of the lemongrass and remove the dry outer leaves. Slice the main stalk diagonally into 3 inch pieces, then smash both lemongrass and galangal slices with a mortar and pestle, molcajete, or other heavy object to release their fragrance. Add these to the boiling stock along with torn kaffir lime leaves, mushrooms, julienned chili, and salt. Dip tomato in the boiling broth for a minute, and then cool. Peel the skin off, then slice tomato thickly and stir into the broth. Boil for 10 minutes.
Next, add the raw chicken and boil for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add coconut milk and gently stir for 5 minutes. When meat is thoroughly cooked, stir in lime juice. If using pre-cooked chicken, add it at this time. Discard galangal and lemongrass. Pour soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro.

Coconut Pancakes

coconut pancakes
These tender, delicious pancakes are made with coconut milk, shredded coconut and coconut oil. If you can find coconut sugar, you can use it to sweeten them.
Coconut oil is all the rage, and my son Francisco talked me into buying some. Now he says “Sounds like you’re going kookoo for coco!” While I wouldn’t fry eggs it in, (I tried – weird), it’s excellent in pancakes. Because it has a high smoke point, you can fry your pancakes in coconut oil without it burning the way butter does. To retain the coconut flavor and have the pancakes golden brown, cook them on medium heat.

Makes approximately 10 medium pancakes

coconut pancake ingredients

2 eggs, well beaten
1 cup canned coconut milk (use low fat coconut milk to cut calories)
¾ cup finely ground whole wheat flour (aka white whole wheat flour)
1 Tb baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar or coconut sugar
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 Tb coconut oil

Beat coconut milk with eggs. Sift in flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix with wooden spoon just until dry ingredients are incorporated. Stir in shredded coconut.
Heat coconut oil in heavy skillet over medium heat, just until melted. Stir oil into the batter. Pour large spoonfuls of batter onto skillet. Turn when bubbles begin to form and edges begin to dry. Add a little bit of coconut oil before frying each batch.

Serve with fresh fruit, a tad of maple syrup and a bit of coconut oil if you like.

Valentine Tart


I made this fresh berry tart for Valentine’s Day. I used lemon-rosemary tart pastry, then filled it with pastry cream. I topped it with fresh organic strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, then glazed it with apricot preserves.

I made the pastry cream the night before. I based it on the recipe from Joy of Cooking, but used less sugar and more vanilla and also used 1% milk

1/4 cup plus 1 tsp sugar

2 Tb all-purpose flour

2 Tb cornstarch

4 large egg yolks

1 1/3 cup 1% milk

1 tsp vanilla

Whip sugar, flour, cornstarch and egg yolks on high speed until light colored.

Heat milk in a medium saucepan until it just begins to simmer. With mixer on medium-low, slowly pour 1/3 of the milk into the egg mixture until it is well combined. Then pour it slowly back into the pot with rest of the milk, whisking constantly. Cook over low-medium heat and continue whisking while the mixture thickens, then whisk for another minute. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract.

Strain the pastry cream into a clean container,

Place parchment paper directly on the hot pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Let it cool on the counter then refrigerate until cold.

Spread pastry cream evenly on the cooled lemon-rosemary tart pastry

Wash berries, then pat dry with paper towels. Cut the green tops off the strawberries and slice them lengthwise

Form a heart shape in the center with raspberries. Fill in the heart with sliced strawberries. Fill in the area outside the heart with blueberries.

Heat about 1/4 cup apricot preserves and 1 Tb water in a microwave. Gently brush it over the fruit for a shiny glaze. You can glaze the strawberries, then layer them to stick them together, then glaze again.

Lemon-Rosemary blossom Tart Pastry

blossoming rosemary

baked pastry

This delicately-scented pastry is ideal for making fruit tarts. Make it when rosemary is in bloom. It tastes like lemon butter cookies. Have ingredients as cold as possible. This recipe makes pastry to fit a 10” removable bottom tart pan. It’s good to keep a ruler handy.

lemon zest and rosemary flowers


5 rosemary blossoms
Zest of one large lemon (yellow part of peel only)
¼ cup sugar
1½ tsp cold lemon juice
1¼ cups all-purpose flour, frozen for at least 30 minutes
½ tsp salt
1 stick (8 Tb) cold unsalted butter
¼ cup minus 1½ tsp ice water

Add ice to approximately ¼ cup cold water.
Pulse sugar, lemon zest and rosemary blossoms in food processor. Add flour and salt and pulse briefly to mix.
Cut butter into 8 tablespoon-size slices and add to ingredients. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.
Squeeze 1½ tsp lemon juice into a ¼ cup measuring cup. Add ice water to make ¼ cup. Pour into processor and pulse a few times.

dough in processor before forming


Although the mixture may look loose and grainy, if you can squeeze a bit of the dough into a ball with your fingers, then you don’t need to add more water.

disk of dough

Pour into a large bowl and squeeze it together into a large ball, then flatten into a fat disk. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

rolling dough between parchment

Tear out two 14-inch sheets of parchment paper. Lightly flour one sheet, place the disk of dough on it, and then cover with the other sheet. Roll the dough out to 12 inches round.

measuring parcment with pan bottom

Carefully peel off the top parchment paper. Cut it into a circle, using the removable 10-inch removable bottom of the pan as a guide, and then set aside.

fitting dough into tart pan

Gently fold the dough loosely in half. Center the dough over the tart pan, and flip it into the pan, centering it if you are a bit off. Carefully unpeel the other parchment from the dough.

tart dough covered with parchment

Press the dough into the sides of the pan so it gets that pretty fluted look. Be careful not to stretch the dough, or it will shrink when it bakes. Trim the edges. Cover with the circle of parchment paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

About 15 min before taking the pastry out of the fridge, preheat the oven to 375◦.

pie weights on tart dough

Remove the pastry from the fridge and fill with ceramic pie weights. (You can substitute beans). Bake on the middle rack for 10 minutes.

pricked pastry

Take the pan out and remove the pie weights and parchment paper. Prick the entire bottom of the pastry with a fork. Return the pastry to the oven for about 15 minutes until it is golden brown. Let it cool completely on a rack before filling.

baked pastry