Pot Pie and Caramelized Onion + Bacon Mac-n-cheese

I made my own pastry dough the other day. It was so much easier than I thought it would be. Here is the recipe I used from Gourmet. I made a chicken pot pie with it. I used leftover chicken from a roast chicken I had made a couple days earlier and added it to a mixture of cream of chicken soup (I buy the low sodium, low fat), 1 cup of chicken broth, a handful of frozen petite onions (you could use 1/2 of a medium size white onion) and about 2 handfuls of frozen mixed vegetables (you can use whatever you have on hand, frozen or not). To flavor the mixture I added a dash of balsamic vinegar, dash of Worcestershire sauce, pepper, and a couple of sprigs of thyme and let it cook down.

Then I rolled out 1/2 of the pastry dough and placed it in the bottom of the pie plate. Then filled the pie plate with the chicken mixture and cover with the rest of the dough, pressing the edges to seal. Then I brushed it with a beaten egg (actually egg substitute because that is what I had in the fridge) and then made a couple of holes for the steam to escape. I baked it for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees (adjust based on your oven) until the crust was a golden brown. What a treat on a cold day. Karina liked it too.

Mac-n-cheese update and recipe:
I unfortunately didn't even get a call from the Tillamook people about my mac-n-cheese recipe. I'm not too surprised though, I've made some much better ones since then (I sent them only my 3rd try). Here is the basic recipe I've tweaked and then I'll write some additions at the bottom:

16 oz - dried campanelle pasta (you can use any time of noodles that you like)

¼ cup - unsalted butter

¼ cup - all purpose flour

2 ½ cups - fat free half and half (or any kind of milk you like)

¼ tsp – onion powder

½ tsp – ground coriander

1 1/2 - tsp - chili powder

1/4 tsp - cumin

1 Tbsp – yellow mustard powder

1 pinch – nutmeg

1 tsp – minced fresh garlic

¼ cup – minced shallots (you can use onions as well or just add more onion powder)

1/8 tsp - ground black pepper

1/2 tsp – kosher salt (separated)

zest of 1/2 a lime

3/4 cup – canned pureed pumpkin (or 1 large sweet potato that has been baked and then mashed without the skin)

8 oz – cream cheese (room temperature + cut into cubes) (I use neufchatel cream cheese that is lower in fat but still tastes good)

2 1/2 cups - cheddar cheese shredded (you could also use colby jack or any mixture of cheeses you like) 1/2 cups - mozzarella cheese shredded

3 Tbsp – plain bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large pot bring water for pasta to a boil. Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to directions on package. Cook to the minimum time given on the package so that the noodles are al dente. Pour the noodles into a colander and drain. Set aside.

In a large deep sauce pan melt the butter over medium high heat. Once melted add the flour and whisk together. Keep whisking for about 3 minutes. Slowly add in the fat free half and half (or milk), about a ¼ cup at a time. Keep whisking and add in onion powder, coriander, chili powder, cumin, mustard powder, nutmeg, garlic, shallots, pepper, lime zest and 1/4 tsp of salt. Whisk continually for about 5 minutes. Then mix in the pumpkin. Once the pumpkin is mixed in, turn burner down to simmer. Add cream cheese and whisk until incorporated and sauce is smooth. Take the pan off of the heat and stir in the shredded cheeses. Whisk until cheeses are melted and sauce is smooth (only lumps should be the shallots).

Once sauce is smooth, taste for more salt and add the remaining ¼ tsp if needed. Pour in cooked pasta and stir. If your saucepan can go into the oven, smooth out top of casserole and sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top. If it cannot, pour into casserole dish and then sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

50 minutes to prep

20-25 minutes to cook in oven

Serves 8 people.

For some additional toppings you could caramelize onions and sprinkle them over the top before baking and then put the breadcrumbs over the onions. If you like bacon, you can cook about 4 slices of bacon (I used turkey, you can use any kind you want) in a saute pan until crispy. After you remove the bacon from the pan, add about 1 Tbsp of butter and then caramelize the onions in the butter and bacon with some thyme. Add the onions to the top of the mac-n-cheese and then crumble bacon over as well. This was amazing!

I know it seems like a long list of dry spices to include, but this is just the best mixture I've found. It still tastes great without the lime or if you don't have coriander or nutmeg, it's ok to leave them out or use your own favorite mixture of spices.

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