My Communal Table

Chicken with Creamy Dijon Mustard Sauce

My friend, Sarah, has been known to say, “Food is just the vehicle for the sauce.” This is one of those dishes. Twelve garlic cloves and lots of sage make this creamy mustard sauce the kind of stuff that you sop up with your bread and pour over your mashed potatoes. I was inspired by a fabulous Portuguese chef and restaurant owner, Marie Teresa Jorge. She also has a farm in Tuscany. I know, right… a farm in Tuscany. How cool is that?Her original recipe is on Food 52. I changed it up a bit, but what I still add wine and cognac and make a cream slurry in the end to give it a smooth finish. It is just so good.

I bought five amish sourced chicken thighs and legs for $3.17. Not organic, but no horomones or steroids were added. I made mashed potatoes with vegan butter and ricemilk, then topped with fried leeks. A simple salad with lemon vinaigrette compliment the creaminess of the chicken and potatoes. My friends brought the bread and wine. The lettuce and potatoes were from a local and organic source. This entire meal easily fed four adults and two children and was made up of under $8.00 of ingredients. This rustic lip smacking meal was fresh, easy to make and cheaper then feeding six people at McDonald’s. When I do the math and think about the health of my family, I can not believe that I ever go out for fast food. Oh and then I remember that I have moments of pure laziness. Oh, the guilt…

Serves 6

8 chicken thighs or 5-6 leg and thighs
12 garlic cloves with skin on
10 sage leaves
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Dijon Classic Mustard
2/3 cup White wine
1/3 cup Cognac
1 cup Chicken stock or water if you don’t have stock
1/2 cup cream
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
black and white pepper

1. In a large enough pan, add the butter and the olive oil, the sage leaves and the garlics with the skin on them. When the butter starts to sizzle add the chicken thighs skin side down and let them get golden brown over medium low heat. Turn them with a spatula without damaging the chicken and brown the other side. They will be cooking later so you just want to get the nice golden brown color now.

2. Heat the chicken stock.

3. Remove the chicken from the pan, add the white wine and the cognac and deglaze the pan, scraping any pieces of meat stuck on the bottom. Let the alcohol evaporate completely, then add the mustard and dissolve in the sauce with a whisk.

4. Place the chicken in a baking pan in a 375F oven and let it cook through and crisp up the skin a little. Approximently 30 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, add the hot chicken stock to sauce pan. Season with salt and freshly ground white and black pepper and let simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Squeeze the garlics and sage in the pan with the back of a wooden spoon or spatula to release more flavour, then discard them.

7. Sift the flour and dissolve it in 3 tablespoons of cream using a whisk. Add the remaining cream and whisk. Keep whisking so the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom. Let the sauce reduce again to the amount you need, always stirring.

8. Remove chicken from oven and place on plate or platter. Pour the hot sauce over the chicken and serve immediately with some mashed potatoes.

By the way, you should really fry up some leeks to put on the top of the mashed potatoes. Adds a whole flavor and texture element that puts it over the top. Just toss the sliced leeks in a little flour, shake off excess and drop in some oil. Brown, drain on paper towel, and salt. So good.

So, I am working on it. You know… putting myself on the list of things that I need to take care of. I know in my heart and soul it is just as fast to stay home and make dinner, then to hop in the car and go out for fast food. My family and the planet deserve the attention that I pay to preparing meals at home. It saves money, it is healthier, and I produce a lot less waste and conserve energy by cooking fresh locally sourced food. So.. l am working on it and it does seem to be getting easier. You all are keeping me honest.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth


Greens and Potato Soup for Meatless Monday

“Meatless Mondays!” An intiative with the goal to reduce meat consumption by 15% to improve personal health and the health of our planet. I just love the idea and found out that “Meatless Mondays” is not a new concept. It was first introduced to Americans during World War 1 by the US Food Adminstration, though is was reintroduced in 2003 for health, as a way to reduce the consumption of key staples to aid the war effort. “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays” were born. According to Meatless

The effect was overwhelming. Some 10 million families, 7,000 hotels and nearly 425,000 food dealers pledged to observe national meatless days. In November 1917, New York City hotels saved some 116 tons of meat over the course of just one week. According to a 1929 Saturday Evening Post article, “Americans began to look seriously into the question of what and how much they were eating. Lots of people discovered for the first time that they could eat less and feel no worse – frequently for the better”.

Now do not get me wrong, I have said often the I am unapologetic carnivore, but working towards better health and safer planet is really a no-brainer. I make an effort to know where my meat comes from and I no longer desire to have an entire side of beef at one sitting to feel satisfaction. So we, as a family, decided to start not having any meat one day a week. No beef, chicken, pork or fish, so when you have a son that is allergic to dairy and eggs its more like vegan Mondays.

Okay, I was a little scared about doing this, but it has turned out surprisingly well. I have never allowed my child to eat something different then what the adults are eating unless is has to do with his allergies. I am not a short order cook to meet his every whim when it comes to food. I also believe that this really helps with the ability to try new things in many aspects of life. Have you ever know a super picky eater that loves to travel and explore new things? Gabriel know that what is served is what he gets for dinner or he doesn’t eat that evening. That being said, I do try to find things that he will find pleasurable. Soup is my best vehicle for going meatless for my six-year-old. He loves soup.

Super fast, super tasty, super healthy is Greens and Potato Soup. My six-year-old actually ate two bowls full.

Serves 2-4

Kale, one big bunch
3 medium potatoes, peeled & cut into chucks
1 large leek, thinly sliced
2 gloves of garlic
3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 big handfuls washed spinach
fresh dill or other herbs that you have on hand.
few pinches hot pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
Finish with purple onion,olive oil, and peashoots.

1. Put a pot of salted water on to boil.

2. Remove heavy thick stems from kale and slice up.

3. Place kale in boiling water for about ten minutes. Take a test bite of the kale and make sure that it is tender. When tender, drain.

4. In second sauce pan, place potatoes, leeks, and garlic with broth. Put enough broth in to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil. Cook until tender.

5. Use a potato masher to mash-up the potatoes in the broth.

6. Add cooked kale, spinach, herbs, and seasonings.

7. Add more broth if necessary, then heat through.

8. Taste and adjust seasonings.

9. Serve and garnish as desired. Today I garnished with purple onions, a drizzle of olive oil (would have loved pumpkin seed oil, but I can not find it), and a few sweet pea shoots.

Note: a. You can make this super thick or soupy. I have made it thick like mashed potatoes as well. Just use less broth.
b. You can also mix up your greens. Use whatever ones you have on hand.
c. I have also added curry powder to this soup as well for a different flavor sensation.

Think about Meatless Mondays you and your family. When you join me and my family on Mondays at my communal table you will find us enjoying the bounty of vegetables and grains. I seem to make a new recipe every week to learn more and more about how to cook this way. I would love to hear about your favorite Meatless meals.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth

Gramma Schuler’s Pasties

My family has deep roots in Northern Michigan and its rich mining tradition. The Pasty was a traditional savory meat pie that was cooked in the morning, wrapped up and placed in a tin, so that lunch would be warm for the miners. Initials that were placed in the pies crust were to tell the difference among the different mens pasties and the thick crust edges were so the miners dirty hands had a place to grab without getting their lunch covered with soot.

I have always had it served with ketchup, but in Quebec they serve it covered with brown gravy.The blend of beef and pork with sweetness of the rutabega really make this perfect rich fall dish. This is my kind of comfort food.

I often make it in classic pie form with two crusts.Today I made it in traditional form, but I have made them the size of a twinkie as well. The possibilities are endless. It is great to take for a potluck or tailgating. I usually serve a green salad with a tart vinaigrette to compliment this savory meat pie.

My mother remembers her gramma cutting a large amount of lard into flour and placing it into a huge crockery that went in the cellar. My grandmother would walk to the cellar in the morning to gather all the things that need to cook that day and would take a bowl with her. She knew exactly how many handfuls of the lard filled flour she need for what she was making that day. In the end, there seems to nothing flakier then a lard crust and my son is allergic to dairy, so lard it is.

Serves 4
Gramma Schuler’s Pasties:

1/2 pound small diced sirloin
1/2 pound small diced pork steak
1 cup russet potato, peeled and small diced
1 cup rutabega, peeled and small diced
1 cup onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper, to taste, be generous

1.Preheat oven to 400F.

2. Prepare Gramma’s Pie Crust in the quality you desire. Cover and let rest.

*Note: see crust recipe to see the correct quantity. Depending if you make your pasty in individual pies or in traditional pie form.

3. Mix all the ingredients in mixing bowl.

4. Roll out crust. Fill with meat mixture. Dab mixture with butter. Fold over top crust. Vent.

5. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Gramma’s Pie Crust:

1/3 cup lard
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup ice cold water

1. These ingredients make one nine-inch pie shell. If you are making a traditional pie, double the ingredients. If you are making four individual pies, triple the ingredients.

2. Sift the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Cut the lard and butter into the flour using a fork or cutter until the fat pieces are the size of peas.

3. Add water gradually, gently mixing with your hands until dough hold together. Do not overmix or the crust will be tough. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill before using.

Some of my earliest memories are how much I loved my grandmothers. My Gramma Schuler just shined. She loved her friends and was a fabulous cook. I just remember how much I felt loved by her. Here is to all the food memories that remind us of beautiful moments in our life. Here is to the food memories that teach us how our ancestors lived and let us know just a little more about ourselves.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth

School Lunches…getting back into the grove.

Gabriel is only given twenty minutes for lunch in first grade. What? Imagine standing in line for hot lunch ten of those twenty minutes. On top of it, imagine that is may be the only meal that I have all day and I have to inhale it in ten minutes. Of course, at this point, why would I care about its nutritional value. I just want to feel full. This scenario plays out everyday for hundreds of thousands students in the US. Now this thought strikes terror and deep sadness straight to my foodie heart.

I pack Gabe’s lunch everyday. We pack it all in a eco-friendly lunch box called Laptop Lunches. I highly recommend it. Super durable and we are now into our second year of using it with little wear and tear. I also have a bento thermos lunch kit that we use for hot pasta dishes or soup in the winter months.

Roasted chicken from the evening before is the main part of this meal. Gabe loves crackers, so I will put them in his lunch instead of making a sandwich. Veggies and fruit round out our meal. Because of Gabe’s dairy allergy, we always pack rice milk.

Chicken and soy cheese quesdilla on a whole wheat tortilla with BBQ sauce are on his main menu today. Grated carrot with raisins, lemon juice and touch of sugar for his salad. (This is so good!) I also use lemon juice on his cut apple. Special treat that day is having two Oreo’s in his lunch. Load with chemicals, but none of them that he is allergic to.

HLT aka Ham, Lettece, and Tomato sandwich on whole wheat roll. Oh, no, we ate the last piece of fruit for breakfast. Hey, I will make air popped popcorn in the microwave. No oils and huge amount of fiber make this one of our family favorites.

Gabe calls this “mac and tease” since he can not have cheese. Cooked pasta leftover heated up with some vegan butter, garlic, peas and ham. Seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. I make this the morning of and stick it in the thermos hot, so that it is warm still at lunch time. He gets well over a cup of pasta and veggies in this thermos. An apple rounds out the meal. He will eat this for breakfast as well, if I let him.

I love the thought that Gabriel is eating food he loves the moment that he opens his lunch box. He doesn’t even need to take the time out of his short lunch break to stand in line or to throw anything away.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth

Creamy Cauliflower Sauce & Pasta

In my never ending search for the perfect comfort food that is low in fat and calories, I decided to make the much talked about whipped cauliflower. It is rumored that it would replace my cravings for the much more fat ladened mashed potatoes. I started out by roasting the cauliflower with garlic in the oven, then I blended in chicken stock with my emursion blender. There was not one sign of it even resembling my beloved mashed potatoes, but what emerged was a pasta sauce. Hey, the flavor was good… I started the pasta water to boil.

I have made this as a pasta sauce over and over again. Super creamy, super satisfying, and has become a comfort food for my son. With his allergy to dairy, I realized that Gabriel had not had much of that creamy texture pasta comfort that good plate of mac and cheese would give you. This has become his mac and cheese and I have some gratification that I have figured out a beautiful healthy comfort food that my son is going to carry with him through his life. Maybe he will tell the story of the disaster that turned into his favorite pasta recipe to his children. Okay, okay, I am a total sap. Get used to it!

Serves 6

1 head of cauliflower, seperated into florets
3-5 gloves of garlic, smashed
3-4 T. olive oil
fresh thyme sprigs, 3 or 4
3-4 cups chicken stock
2-4 T butter, I use Earth balance, which is vegan friendly
1 lb. pasta, traditional or whole wheat works great
1 15 oz can of butter beans, drained
big handful of fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place cauliflower florets on baking sheet with the smashed up cloves of garlic.

2. Coat with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Throw the sprigs of thyme on a baking sheet then toss all the ingredients together, making sure everything is coated with the oil.

3. Place in preheated oven at 400F for about twenty minutes. You will know it is done when the cauliflower is roasted a light brown and cooked through. Remember, brown adds flavor.

4. Place everything from the baking sheet into a large sauce pan or blender, except the wood of the thyme springs. Pop the garlic out of its peels, then add.

5. Add some chicken broth and start emulsion blender or stand blender slowly. Keep adding chicken broth until you get a smooth consistency. I throw in some butter to blend into the sauce to give it a nice finish.

6. If you are using a blender, put the sauce in a sauce pan to keep heated. Adjust flavors with salt and pepper. Taste, adjust. Taste always while cooking.

7. Start your pasta water boiling. Drop pasta in water when ready. Cook through.

8. Place drained beans into sauce. Heat through in pasta sauce.

9. Add drained pasta to sauce. Throw in hand fulls of fresh basil. Toss.

10. When I plate it, I drizzle some very virgin olive oil on the top.

I have made this ahead of time and put in a lightly greased baking dish, then topped with cracker crumbs and baked as a casserole. I have added tomatoes and spinach in it. I have grated cheese on it when I served it or just added it to casserole.

So for leftovers…

I love to add a few things to leftovers to make them different. I added red peppers (from a jar), chopped purple onion, peapods, capers, drained tuna, and a tablespoon of mayo to the cold pasta and you have a delicious tuna pasta salad for lunch.

By the way, I still think mashed potato is perfect comfort food and there really is no subsitute.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth

Country Meatloaf
March 14, 2010, 8:40 pm
Filed under: Main Entree | Tags: ,

This sure is not your mother’s meatloaf. This recipe has cumin and coriander from Latin America. It has allspice from Jamaica. It has pastachios from Africa. When finished it reminds me of a terrine from France, though there is not much French about it. Thus, the name… Country Meatloaf.

This version of meatloaf tastes great served piping hot served with Jamaican jerk sauce, instead of the classic ketchup. When cold, I like to treat it like a country pate’ and serve it with a baguette, raw onion, pickles,and some mustard. My one rule about meatloaf is that is must taste delicious chilled as it does coming out of the oven. In the end, it is always about the sandwich.

Pull out the bacon and for this recipe of Country Meatloaf. I made this recipe small with only a pound of meat, but it is easily doubled, and tripled for more people. One pound of meat is plenty for the two of us with leftovers. I have also made this with pork and veal. It is equally delicious and more then delicate.

February 25, 2010, 12:41 pm
Filed under: Budget Meals, Main Entree | Tags: , , ,

Who is in the mood for a little German comfort food? When my mom would make rouladen for the family it always seemed like a special treat. I still feel excited when I think about eating the tender German meat roll that has bacon and pickle inside it and gravy covering it. When an Austrian friend made rouladen for me, she put slices of hard boiled egg inside. I think there are as many versions of rouladen as there are versions of braciole in Italy.

Okay, I am going to tell you how to make it, but I am not going to give you exact amounts because it depends on how much you are going to cook. You can make just a couple or large amount for a big hungry family.

Ingredient list
round steak
yellow mustard
dill pickles
yellow onion
string or toothpicks
vegetable oil
beef stock
red wine
thyme springs
sour creme

1. I buy round steak cut about 1/4 inch thick. Your butcher would gladly slice this for you or you can cut it thin and pound it out to the right thickness.
2. I cook bacon up crispy. 1 strip of bacon per meat roll.
3. Lay meat out and spread a thin coat of classic yellow mustard on top. Brown grainy mustard works as well, but dijon does not.
4. Thinly slice dill pickles and place on top of meat.
5. Spread chopped up onion over the meat.
6. Chop up bacon and place over the meat.
7. Run up meat and secure with string or toothpick.

8. Heat up oil in a saute’ pan over medium heat.
9. Brown all sides of rouladen rolls.
10. Turned down to a simmer and add 2/3 of beef stock and 1/3 wine until it goes half way up the sides of the rolls.
11. Add thyme sprigs and cover.
12. Check in about 20 minutes. Turn meat and look for tenderness of the meat. If the rolls are super thick, it will take over an hour, but if they are somewhat tender at this point, it may only take about 15 more minutes.
13. Pull out meat when done and place on a platter.
14. Remove thyme sprig and taste. If intensity is needed, cook down a bit more.
15. Mix equal amount water and flour together, then whisk in cooking liquid.
16. Adjust seasoning as the sauce thickens. Cook long enough to cook the flour taste out of the sauce.
17. Place sour creme in a small bowl, then add some of the cooking liquid to bowl, stir.
18. Pour creme mixture in cooking liquid and whisk until totally incorporated.
19. I usually spoon a little gravy over the meat and put the rest in a serving bowl.

I roasted root vegetables and made a vinaigrette to put on top of some buttery bibb lettuce to accompany my meal. My ultimate taste tester, my young son, wanted me to pack him some in his lunch box the next day, but I had to break the bad news. No leftovers. I won’t wait so long to make rouladen again.