Thursday, October 28, 2010

Savory Pot Pie

The days are growing shorter and colder, the leaves are falling, and Charlie Brown is on his way to another disappointing Trick or Treat bag full of rocks. It’s time for some comfort food to keep you feeling warm and well. 

When I was a kid, pot pies were store bought and frozen like a brick. We had them when no one felt like cooking anything. But pot pies are actually easy to make. And you can fill them with anything you have handy.

This one is a full of mushroom gravy and goes well with mashed potatoes. It's my meat and potatoes lunch. For your crust you can make a quick shortbread, or use a puff pastry sheet. It's really your call. I tend to use the puff pastry because it's quick and crispy.   

1 puff pastry sheet (thawed)
1/2 cup of frozen peas
1/2 cup of frozen corn
1/4 cup of chopped carrots
1 or 2 veggie burgers cubed 
3 cups mushroom gravy 

Mushroom Gravy

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups diced onions
4 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cups water or vegetable stock
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water

Heat the oil and butter in a skillet.
Sauté the onions until they become translucent.  
Add the mushrooms, thyme, bay leaf, and salt.
Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are soft and aromatic.
Add the sherry, soy sauce, water or stock and bring to a simmer.
Stir the dissolved cornstarch into the gravy and cook, stirring until the gravy is clear and thickened.
Remove from heat.

Heat a sauce pan of water over medium heat and warm the corn/peas/carrots through. Set aside.
Add the gravy to a baking dish and stir in the vegetables and veggie burger cubes. 
Roll out the puff pastry sheet to suit the baking dish you are using. Cover the vegetables.

Bake at 400 - 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until the top is golden and serve.  


Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Over the years I've heard professional travelers like Johnny Jet sing the praises of Scottevest. Johnny has claimed to wear two of them when he travels, one right on top of the other.

You certainly can't fault ceo Scott Jordan for finding ways of getting the word out about his products. There was the recent brouhaha Scottevest got into with Delta over one of their ads, and the round the world challenge Scottevest sent travel writer, Rolf Potts, on. 

Scottevests feature up to 26 pockets, are lightweight, windproof and have removable hoods and sleeves. You can keep all your essential items handy: phone, passport, keys, camera, etc. They are even capable of storing an iPad, if you can believe it. They'd probably be great to go shoplifting in an as well. If you're into that sort of thing.

They're pretty pricey, but they might save you a carry-on, as well as time in the security line. If the recently rejected Delta ad is to be believed, they might well be: 'The Most Stylish Way to Beat the System.'

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mobile Boarding Passes and More from Delta's First iPhone App

As if your smartphone couldn't get any smarter, right? American, British Airways, and United all offer a mobile boarding pass feature within their iPhone apps. And now Delta is getting with the program. They aren't the only ones, of course, Lufthansa and SAS also offer mobile boarding passes. Soon it'll be something everyone offers.

Somehow I imagine this innovation is driven by cost savings, but still it's really cool. It'll be one less thing to worry about losing as you go through Security.

Mobile Boarding Passes and More from Delta's First iPhone App || Jaunted: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Friday, October 15, 2010

Two monkeys and a statue

Though travel can sometimes be a hassle, remember to have a good time.

Gripsholm Castle Mariefred Sweden

On the fourth day of our visit to Stockholm, we took a lake steamer across Lake Malaren with a group of day tripping Stockholmers. A small city by any estimation, Mariefred has a population of about 3,000 people. We spent a few hours walking the streets, climbing up the steep steps of the church, and visiting the castle.

Part royal residence, part prison, Gripsholm Castle was used by the Swedish Royal family for centuries. Now mostly a museum and a destination for tourists, it's a nice day out from Stockholm. Though lacking the bloody history of English and Continental castles, the museum does have a great collection of severe looking Swedish nobles.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Swedish Cookies

If Grandma Benson had used a cookbook she might have enjoyed the one our friend Terina gave me a few months ago. Originally published in 1955, Swedish Recipes Old & New from the American Daughters of Sweden, is a great collection traditional Swedish recipes. The recipes remind me of the ones our Lutheran Church used to publish in its cookbooks when I was a kid. Lots of butter, flour, potatoes....pork. Though I've lost the taste for pork, I haven't lost my love for cookies and sweets. Here are a couple of cookie recipes I put together for the boys today while we were watching the Bears.

( I didn't rest the dough over night as the recipes called for. I just let it sit for a few hours while I prepared some other things.)

Ginger Cookies

1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg, or egg substitute, well beaten
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1. Heat the molasses in a small saucepan to boiling. Boil for 1 minute. Add sugar and butter, stir until the butter is melted. Cool. Beat in egg.
2. Sift together flour, salt, soda, and spices. Add to first mixture and mix thoroughly.
3. Cover bowl tightly and chill overnight. Roll out a portion of the dough at a time on a lightly floured surface or floured pastry cloth. Roll out thin, a quarter inch or so. Cut into desired shapes.
4. Bake in at 350 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes.

Orange Ginger Cookies
(Apelsin Pepparkakor)

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg or egg substitute
2 Tbsp. dark corn syrup
2 tsp. soda
1 Tbsp warm water
grated rind of 1 large orange
slivered almonds, if desired

1. Sift together flour, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
2. Cream butter; add sugar and cream again. Beat in egg and syrup. Dissolve soda in warm water and add to creamed mixture. Add orange rind and sifted ingredients. Mix well.
3. Chill several hours or overnight.
4. Roll out very thin on floured work surface or slightly floured pastry cloth. Cut into desired shapes. Place a piece of almond on each cookie, if desired.
5. Arrange on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 400 degree 5 to 10 minutes.

Autumn Smoothie

When I was in college I spent two seasons working at a local orchard, trimming trees, bagging apples, making cider. It was a good job, and a hard one. What I remember more than anything are the awesome smells that came from our ever busy kitchens, spicey, autumn smells: nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla. Great stuff.

Here's a smoothie that captures some of those fall flavors. One of my coworkers brought in a whole crate of pears the other day and I was happy to take several off her hands.

1 ripe pear, peeled, cored and chopped.
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 drops pure almond extract
pinch of ground cinnamon or nutmeg