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I'm a runner with a baking habit.  I'm constantly on the lookout for awesome desserts, freezer friendly recipes to pack in the lunchbox, and quick dinner ideas.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Chicken Salad

Oh my goodness you guys, this was one busy summer.  My special someone and I took a special step, and on the other side of happily ever after it was time to sell the Birchwood Mansion.  I haven't decided what to do about the blog's name yet.  On one hand I didn't change my name so maybe it makes sense not to change the blog's name, but on the other hand the Birchwood Pie Project is no longer coming to you from Birchwood Street.

The Birchwood Mansion wasn't hard to sell (good market, desirable location, etc) but man it was a lot of work.  Every weekend I went out for a long run and then headed over to Birchwood to take care of maintenance and moving stuff.  Yep, just because you don't live there anymore the lawn still grows.

But it wasn't all drudgery.  Along the way, I revisited my chicken salad skills.  There's nothing wrong with the recipe that I posted back in the day, but I was in the market for something new.  I kept honing my skills until I found a worthy tried and true version that I could whip up after my runs and dig into before heading over to my other house.

The changes: I halved the recipe since chicken salad doesn't have a long shelf life, and eliminated the walnuts to free up more calories for mayo.

Yield: enough for 4-5 sandwiches
Recipe from: Smitten Kitchen

  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 tablespoon onion or shallot
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 ½ tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill
  • salt and pepper to taste

Chicken salad begins with...chicken.  Get yourself two cups of chicken meat using your method of choice.  For me, it's my go to poaching method.

While the chicken is cooking, head out to the garden and help yourself to plenty of fresh dill (these plants were transplanted from the amazing volunteer dill crop that grew year after year in the Birchwood gardens, a living link between my old home and new one).

What do you do if you don't have a garden or if it's winter?  Easy, grab a generous pinch of dried dill.  Sure, it won't have that special garden magic, but it's still pretty darn good.

 Dice up the dill.

Dice up some celery.

 Start building the salad.  Mix the celery, dill, cranberries, and vinegar.

Add the chicken.

And oh the creamy goodness of the mayo.  The days when I saved calories by using light mayo and light sour cream are long gone...these days I go for the good stuff only with full fat mayo.  But there's still a fine line between just enough and too much.  I always start with 6 tablespoons (that's half of ¾ cup from the original recipe) and add a dash more if needed.  Take a taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

Load it up on a sammie.

And eat away.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Family Lasagna

Today's post is about the first time I ever cooked for my special someone.  We had been dating a few weeks and it was Valentine's Day.  I knew that he loved lasagna, so I chose that for our menu.

And then I realized that I didn't have a go to meaty lasagna recipe.  Sure, I have an epic veggie lasagna  and another beloved white lasagna recipe tucked away, but nothing manly and meaty.  I picked out something from a well known food blog and marshaled the ingredients.  I arrived home and headed for the kitchen.  I wasn't expecting my beloved to show up for another hour, but he arrived early and pitched in a helping hand.

Folks, I don't know what happened.  Maybe it was just the spell of new love, but the lasagna was a disaster.  We ended up with twice the sauce, half the noodles, and an odd ratio of Parmesan to mozzarella.    And you know what?  We looked into each others eyes and ate to our hearts' content.  The leftovers sat in my freezer until our first anniversary.  I tried other recipes, but was never that impressed.  Then one evening I went over to his house and found this lasagna waiting for me.  We were set.

If it's just for us, I'll make the 8"x8" version, which give us a good meal and a reasonable amount of leftovers.  If we're feeding a crowd, we double the recipe and bake it up in a 9"x13" pan.  The cooking time is the same either way.

Yield: your choice.  As written for an 8"x8" pan or doubled for 9"x13"
  • 1 pound ground beef (prefer as lean as possible, 93 or 96%)
  • 4 cups tomato sauce
  • 6 no cook lasagna noodles
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese, full fat
  • cups shredded cheese, mozzarella-provolone blend
  • Parmesan cheese for topping

Cook the ground beef.  Drain if necessary.

Pour enough tomato sauce into the pan to cover the bottom.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Grab some noodles.

Line the bottom of the pan with two noodles.  If you're making the9"x13" version, the noodles won't cover the pan evenly.  Use even noodles and break a spare noodle down to get a single layer noodle covering.

Top the noodles with sauce and ⅓ of the beef.

Add of the ricotta.  I like the small chunk method, as shown, but you can also spread it out if you prefer.

  Layer on the mozzie-provolone.


To finish it off, top with a thin layer of tomato sauce and a modest coating of cheese.  Add a bit of Parmesan to the mix.

For baking, we need to cover it with something that doesn't stick to cheese.  I use parchment paper and cover it with foil (yes, you can buy a product that's parchment paper on one side and foil on the other, but I didn't happen to have that on hand).

Bake for 45 minutes and remove the foil.  Pop it back in the oven for another 10 minutes to give it a little browning.

 Let it cool.

And let the eatin' begin.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Tuna Burgers

Eat canned tuna they said.  It's delicious they said.  It's healthy they said.  It's packed with protein they said.  It's so cheap they said.  It's full of iron and potassium they said.  It's low fat they said.  It's such a mild flavor they said.

Here's what they aren't telling you: canned tuna is nasty.   I spent much of my early adult years trying to like canned tuna, trying to buy in to the hype.  One million batches of barely eaten tuna salad later, I turned my back on the whole affair and banned canned tuna from my life.

Some years ago I made a trip to NYC with friends.  On our last day, we wandered through the streets of Manhattan looking for something to eat.  We settled on the Heartland Brewery and ordered a round of backporch lemonade.  I spied an ahi tuna burger on the menu "sashimi grade tuna, sesame oil, light wasabi sauce and ginger slaw".  It was heaven and set me on the course to find something similar at home.  I don't have the bravery or the skills to serve raw fish at home, so I knew I was looking at a cooked version.  Many trials later, I stumbled on a weight watchers inspired recipe with canned tuna and decided to try it in spite of my misgivings.  I ended up with something that is of course no competition to the Heartland, but is perfectly lovely and oh so practical.

These are good fresh off the stove for dinner and reheat very well in the microwave for a brown bag lunch that will be the envy of your coworkers.  In other words, it's everything that the Birchwood Pie Project is about.

Yield: 3 burgers
Recipe from Beth's Journey
  • Two 5-oz cans of tuna in water
  •  3 green onions
  • 1 carrot
  • ½ cup panko
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
 Start with the unpleasant part.  Open the tuna cans and drain out as much liquid as possible

Grate the carrot

Chop the onions

Mix the panko, carrot, onions, soy sauce, and rice vinegar in a bowl.

Add the tuna

Add the eggs

Give everything a good mix.

Get hands on and shape the mixture into patties

Heat a lightly oiled skillet on medium until it sizzles

Cook the burgers four minutes per side

Add your desired sides and toppings.  Sweet potato fries and wasabi mayo are my go-to's.

Chomp 'em up.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Baked Chicken Chimichangas

The story goes like this: one day this recipe turned up in my Pinterest feed, and I pinned it like I've pinned a thousand other recipes.  Some time later, when planning date night, the recipe caught my eye, so I decided to make this.  I had all the ingredients ready to go, and headed home to cook.  On the way I got a call from my special someone that we had been invited out for dinner.  So I loaded everything into the fridge and went out for a night on the town.  The next night, I pondered what to have for dinner and remembered that I had everything waiting at home ready to go.  So I mixed this up and was duly impressed by how quickly and easily it came together.   I didn't want to cook up six chimis all by my lonesome, so I just made one for my feast.  The next night, I took the leftover filling over to the home of my beloved and we baked up the rest of it.  A few days later we had the chance to invite some friends over for dinner at the last minute, so we whipped up a double batch.  The week after that, we needed a quick weeknight dinner, so I prepared it up to the point of baking the night before and then threw it in the oven when we got home.  And since then it's never been far from our normal dinner rotation.

A meal is not made of chimichangas alone.  I like to serve these with cilantro lime rice and guac.

Yield: 6-7 chimichangas
Recipe from The Girl who Ate Everything
  • 2 chicken breasts or 2 cups of chicken meat
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • 1 cup cheese plus extra for topping
  • 2-3 green onions
  • 6 tortillas, 8”
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • Optional: lime and cilantro (which I usually have on hand for the rice and guac that I serve this with)
  • More salsa and sour cream for topping

Slice the green onions.  Use two in the mix and save a third for topping (the recipe as written calls for two onions, but since I never remember to set aside any for topping, I always end up going back for a third).

Add cumin

Add salsa

Season two chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and cumin.

Cook them up in a skillet.

If you have a lime on hand, drizzle a little over the cooked chicken.

Chop the chicken into small pieces and add to the salsa and onions.

Mix in the cheese.

Melt a little butter and drizzle into a 9'x13" pan.

Use your tortillas to help spread out the butter.

Add ⅓ cup of the filling to each tortilla.

Keep going.

Brush a little extra butter over the tops of the chimis.  You don't need a ton, just enough to get a light coating.

Bake them at 350° F for 20 minutes.

Top them with a little cheese and bake for a few more minutes until melted.

Top with green onions.

Serve them with salsa, guac, sour cream...and whatever else your heart desires.

And eat them up.