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By Karen Schulz

Several years ago my sister-in-law gave me chunky, forest-green glazed bowls that looked like they belonged in a cozy Vermont cabin during an epic snowstorm. She knows how much I love all things tabletop, whether an heirloom serving platter from great-grandma, or funky napkin rings to add personality. Props definitely fuel my inspiration to cook, as they can add dimension, whimsy, and glamor to any meal. When I saw these bowls, I instantly envisioned all the wintery recipes I would make for them — beef stew, chili or French onion soup.

As we sink deep into February, and each branch outside my office window is encased in ice, I find myself reaching for my green bowls. Individual chicken pot pies are the perfect wintry night dinner for these special vessels because the puff pastry hanging over the edges makes them look like delicious gifts.

The ingredient list seems lengthy, but do not be discouraged because the only real work is in dicing two carrots. Using store-bought puff pastry, frozen peas, and onions, and buying pre-cut mushrooms make this recipe weeknight-worthy. You can also poach the chicken breasts in advance.

The house will smell amazing as the pies cook and everyone will be excited to see their own pot of goodness when they come to the table. Don’t worry if you don’t have fabulous green crocks, this recipe will look great and be delicious with any oven-safe bowl you have in your cabinets.

Stay warm and happy cooking.

<<Chicken Pot Pies>>

Makes 4.

<Ingredients>

1 14- to 17-oz. puff pastry, thawed according to package instructions

1 qt. low-sodium chicken broth

1 large yellow onion, quartered

2 bay leaves

1 t. whole black peppercorns

3 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 1 T. chopped

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

3 T. unsalted butter

½ c. frozen pearl onions, thawed

2 medium diced carrots

1 c. sliced white mushrooms

1 c. fresh or thawed frozen peas

5 T. all-purpose flour

1 c. milk

1 t. kosher salt

½ t. freshly ground black pepper

1 large egg, lightly beaten

<Directions>

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry dough with a floured rolling pin. Transfer to the baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while preparing pie filling.

Combine the broth, quartered onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, and thyme sprigs in a large pot over high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the chicken breasts. Raise the heat and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is just cooked through, ten to 15 minutes.

Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside. Strain the stock and set aside 2½ cups. Reserve the remaining stock for another use. When the chicken is cool to the touch, cut it into bite-size chunks and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pearl onions and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. Add the mushrooms and peas and cook for another five minutes. Stir in the flour and cook one more minute. Add the 2½ cups stock and the milk, stirring constantly. Cook until the sauce begins to thicken, about five minutes.

Remove from the heat and add the chicken, chopped thyme, salt, and pepper.

Spoon the filling into four individual ovenproof bowls. Using the bowl as a guide cut the puff pastry into four squares and place one square on each pie, pressing around the edges to seal the pastry to the bowl. Cut a vent in the center. Using a pastry brush, brush the entire surface of each pie with egg.

Bake until the pastry is puffed and dark golden brown, about 35 minutes.

 

By Karen Schulz

On January 5, I spent $67 on The 30-Day Paleo Challenge. By January 6, I had already abandoned it. I clearly missed the mark on setting realistic goals, resolutions, and intentions for 2018. While I did not embrace the full-on challenge, I always keep my eyes out for healthy choices and absolutely adore a delicious anything, paleo or otherwise.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with what eating paleo means, think: What would a caveman eat? The answer: fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, and nuts. Like anything, when taken to the extreme, it can get overwhelming. Eating paleo means making some fundamental changes such as, substituting ghee for butter, liquid aminos for soy sauce, as well as eliminating all processed foods and sugar. While the learning curve proved to be too steep for me to go 100% paleo for 30 days, I will always continue to enjoy trying new things and adding new staples to my pantry, especially tasty, healthy alternatives.

This New Year’s detox soup recipe, courtesy of Watson’s Catering & Events, is the perfect example of a delicious recipe that utilizes two vegetables that aren’t staples in most households — turnips and parsnips. Both are excellent at adding creaminess and flavor to soups. Not only are turnips tasty, they are loaded with fiber, manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, copper, and numerous vitamins including K, A, C, and all the B’s. I was surprised to learn that they also are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein — who knew?

So, go get yourself some turnips and parsnips and set a doable resolution to enjoy delicious healthy alternatives in 2018.

 

By Karen Schulz

Whipped cream is seldom the front man of any dessert, but when I asked myself: “What foods do I think of when I think of Valentine’s Day?” Chocolate, oysters, and whipped cream immediately came to mind. I only eat oysters in the summer, on the half-shell on the beach, so I don’t have any fantastic oyster recipes to share. Whipped cream, however, definitely moves up in rank on Valentine’s Day, whether atop a desirable restaurant dessert, or sprayed out of a Reddi-whip can to add the finishing touch to a homemade cake. So, I have decided to share my new favorite, super-easy, whipped cream dessert worthy of any occasion.

Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday, probably an uneventful night of the week for many households. Well, this pink, fluffy, sweet treat is so easy you will look like a rockstar when you bust it out after dinner adding a little Valentine’s Day magic to an otherwise uneventful Wednesday evening.

I recommend whipping the cream before dinner, and putting it in the fridge until you are ready to serve it. The trick to great whipped cream is using a cold metal bowl. Whip the cream a little extra to form stiff peaks so when you fold in the raspberry sauce, it doesn’t get too runny.

You can doctor up your presentation with a heart cookie and some fresh raspberries, or maybe some chocolate shavings.

Whatever you choose will be perfect and your family will feel the Valentine’s Day love, ensuring that it is anything but just another Wednesday.

<<Raspberry Love>>

Serves 4

<Ingredients>

½ cup raspberry jam

1 ¼ cups heavy cream

1 T. granulated sugar

1 cup fresh raspberries

4 cookies and/or chocolate shavings to sprinkle on top

<Directions>

In a large cold metal bowl, beat the heavy cream with the sugar until stiff peaks form.

In a small bowl, whisk the jam until smooth.

When ready to serve, fold the smooth jam into the whipped cream leaving it swirly-looking. Spoon into bowls and garnish with raspberries, cookies, and even chocolate.

By Karen Schulz

Twenty-three years ago I attended my first cookie exchange in San Francisco, and it changed my life forever. That may sound extreme, but it is completely true. People may view a cookie party as strictly suburban, but they would be wrong. It is the perfect launch to the holidays and an excuse to drink cocktails and eat cookies with friends and strangers, no matter what your age or where you live.

I was 25, had just moved to San Francisco where I only knew two people, a friend from high school and my boyfriend, now husband, Garth. I had no job, a pittance in my pocket, and only a temporary place to lay my head. Enter Alexa!

Alexa is Garth’s friend from college and I have yet to meet a better welcome wagon. She looped me right into the mix and invited me to her cookie exchange. Of course I said yes, even though I was a little nervous about what to bake and did not know what to expect.

The party was in Alexa’s small apartment. There were probably ten girls there, all strangers to me, but by the end of the night I had ten new, wonderful friends. Alexa created the perfect stage for ushering in the holidays. She prepared a delicious dinner, gathered interesting fun people to talk to, served cocktails, and, of course, cookies. The cookies made for a great icebreaker, and we all left with samples, recipes, and new friends. It was the perfect “hen party”.

When we moved to New York City a few years later, I kept Alexa’s tradition alive. I copied her idea and started hosting my own cookie party in our tiny apartment with a hodgepodge of friends. For many years I cooked with love for everyone until it grew too big, at which point I splurged on a caterer. The party morphed and grew in new directions. One year I brought in a sushi chef, another year a friend came dressed as Santa. But some things were constant. The date was always the first Thursday of December (which ensured my house was decorated, lights were up, and I could enjoy the atmosphere all month long), and the guest list was always purposely eclectic. There were old friends, new friends, work friends, friends of friends, and my favorite category, people I bumped into now and again but always wished I saw more often. One year I even invited the girl I found myself next to in line at Starbucks each morning!

The format is everyone brings two-dozen cookies along with copies of the recipe to swap. It was hilarious to see the various approaches to the cookies. On one end of the spectrum was my friend, Nicole, who would start stressing about her recipe in August. On the other end, my friend Kim from New York City would dump a bag of Pepperidge Farm Milanos into a Tupperware with a typed-up list of ingredients for her “recipe.”

Eventually, it was officially too big, so I thought I would take the next year off. Instead, I handed it over to my sixth-grade daughter, Ainsley. That was seven years ago. She has been the keeper of the cookie party tradition, but now we are on the eve of yet another shift in cookie party evolution, as she will be graduating from high school next year.

Watching her usher in the holidays with an evolving orbit of beautiful friendships is incredibly heartwarming for me. We serve festive appetizers and a Gramma Napoli dinner with Caesar salad each year. She has added a Yankee Swap element to the night, which is always good for a few laughs. We buy and wrap small gifts in the $5 to $10 range, some are amazing and some are not.

And when it comes to the cookies, her friends are just like mine. Some are nervous, some are totally into it, and some are like Kim. Regardless, they love to swarm the cookies after dinner, fill their tins, and spread the holiday spirit.

So not only did Alexa’s party change my life, but it has changed my daughter’s life and, who knows where the chain will lead. All I know is I will soak up every moment of this year’s cookie party and will look forward to what next year will bring. Maybe new college friends will make an appearance, or maybe there will be a mother/daughter twist? It really doesn’t matter, as long as there is a room filled with people you love spreading holiday cheer, and, lots of cookies.

 

Serves 4.

<Ingredients>

1 large onion, peeled and sliced

1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed

1 turnip, peeled and chopped

1 medium parsnip, peeled and chopped

2 cups vegetable stock

2 ribs celery, chopped

2 cups fresh spinach

½ bunch flat leaf parsley

Fresh lemon juice to taste

<Directions>

Sauté onion and garlic in a large saucepan with ¼ cup stock for 4 minutes. Add turnip and parsnip, sauté for another 3 minutes. Add the rest of the stock and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in celery and spinach, simmer for 5 minutes. Add parsley at the end and simmer for 1 minute.

Pour mixture into a blender, or use an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add lemon juice to taste.

Try a drizzle of olive oil and some lemon zest when serving.

 

Makes 10 pies

<Ingredients>

For the cookies:

1½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled

1½ t. pumpkin pie spice

½ t. baking powder

½ t. baking soda

½ t. kosher salt

1 cup pure pumpkin puree

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup canola oil

1 large egg

1 t. pure vanilla extract

For the filling:

4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

4 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature

1½ cups confectioner’s sugar

½ t. pure vanilla extract

<Directions>

Preheat oven to 350°. Place racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, sugars, oil, egg, and vanilla until combined. Stir in the flour mixture until just moistened (do not over stir).

Drop mounds of the dough, approximately 2 T. each, onto baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake until golden and firm to the touch, 12-14 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

With an electric mixer, beat all filling ingredients until fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

Spread a heaping tablespoon of filling onto the flat side of half of the cookies. Top with the remaining cookies. If soft, chill for 20-25 minutes.

 

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