The Cooking Way to Say I Love You

I love Valentine’s Day! Although we should always let people know how  loved they are, it’s nice to have a special day to really focus on it, and I love seeing hearts and flowers everywhere!

The kids used to love watching Mr Roger’s Neighborhood when they were little. I remember he used to sing a song called “There are Many Ways to Say I Love You”; one of the ways he sang about was “the cooking way”. I often think about that when I cook for my family. For this reason, I prefer making a special dinner to celebrate the day rather than go out; it just makes it more personal and for me, it’s the “cooking way to say I love you! “

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I try to come up with meals that are delicious, healthy, easy for me to prepare and will be be a fun surprise, and when it’s a holiday meal, I always include a decadent dessert!

Since Valentine’s Day fell on a Wednesday this year, I chose to go with a simple menu of good old-fashioned comfort food; perfect for a weeknight when we’re only halfway through the work week.

I decided on chicken pot pie. Back when our kids were young and I was busy as a Girl Scout Leader and the kids were at the height of after school & evening activities, a large prepared chicken pot pie which I purchased was a family favorite on busy weeknights. That was many years before our diagnoses of celiac & dairy sensitivities and in addition to having gluten and dairy in it, it was certainly very processed!

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I wanted to make my own chicken pot pie which would be reminiscent of the one we used to enjoy but would of course be gluten-free and dairy-free *(Although members of my family & I have dairy sensitivities, we’re able to eat ghee, since all the milk solids have been removed & just the oil remains. There is ghee in the crust; however, I’ve included an option to make the crust completely dairy-free for those that cannot tolerate ghee)

I wanted my pie to be deep dish, creamy and flavorful, filled with fresh vegetables, chunks of freshly cooked chicken and topped with a buttery pie crust, but would be a whole lot healthier!

Since the pot pie was rich and filling, I thought a simple green salad would be a nice accompaniment. I tossed spring mix with my Rosemary Citrus Vinaigrette; and scattered pumpkin seeds over it for a nice little crunch!

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Dessert needed to be something decadent! Although I typically used less processed sweeteners in the treats I make, I decided for Valentine’s Day I’d follow the 90/10 rule and enjoy a little bite of something rich and chocolate made with traditional sweeteners. I had planned ahead and made chocolate cake pops earlier in the week, popped them in the freezer for a few days to keep them fresh, then took them out on Valentine’s Day morning! They come together quickly but look impressive and taste so good. It’s a nice way to have a small bite of something rich and delicious!

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Recipes for Valentine’s Day Dinner & Dessert

Chicken Pot Pie
Ingredients:
Filling:
Olive oil
2 Tbs chopped onion
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 small peeled potato, diced
1 cooked chicken breast, cut into bite-sized chunks
1/4 cup almond flour
2 cups chicken broth
2Tbs full fat coconut milk
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
Pepper to taste
1 Tbs arrowroot mixed with 1 Tbs water

Crust:
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup ghee, melted**
1 Tbs unsweetened almond milk
2 tsp water

**note-to make crust completely dairy-free, coconut oil may be used in place of ghee, but do not refrigerate while preparing filling.

Directions:
To make crust: in a large bowl, mix almond flour, baking powder & sea salt. Mix in melted ghee, almond milk and water. Mix until it forms a dough, gather into a ball wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate while you make the filling.

To make filling: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large pot heat about 1-2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat and sauté onions until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add carrots, potatoes & peas and cook for about 7-10 more minutes, until potatoes & carrots are tender.

Add the almond flour and toss to coat the vegetables. Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, garlic, sea salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring, then reduce heat to simmer.

Remove from heat and stir in the arrowroot/water mixture. Stir and allow to thicken. Add chicken.

Pour into a shallow casserole dish, about 9” x 2”. Set aside.

Roll out pie crust. Place dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Press down with your hand, then roll out with a rolling pin to form a thin, 1/8-1/4” thick circle, which is just larger than the 9” dish.

Remove the top sheet of paper and very carefully flip crust over onto the casserole dish. Carefully peel the remaining paper off the crust.

Decoratively pinch the dough around the edge of the pie. Press together any cracks and make 3 slits in the center of the crust with a sharp knife.

Place on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Makes 4 servings.
This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free if made with coconut oil, soy-free, Whole30 compliant
Chocolate Cake Pops
Makes 16-20 cake pops

Ingredients:
1 gluten-free/dairy free cake mix, prepared according to package directions (*note-if making vegan, substitute a “flax egg” for each egg called for in the recipe, recipe below)
If milk is called for in recipe, use unsweetened almond milk
3/4 cup of buttercream, recipe for vegan buttercream below.
1 package of Enjoy Life brand dark chocolate morsels, melted & mixed with 1 tsp coconut oil.

Directions:
In a large bowl crumble cake, stir in buttercream until mixed well.
Form into 2” balls and place on parchment lined, rimmed baking sheet.

Place a 4” long lollipop stick into each ball, almost to the bottom.

Place in freezer, until slightly firm; while you prepare the melted chocolate & coconut oil.

In a small deep bowl, melt chocolate in morsels & coconut oil & stir until smooth. Microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring after each increment until smooth.

Remove pops from the freezer, dip each pop fully in melted chocolate and place on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with decorations if desired. Continue until all pops are covered in chocolate. Place baking sheet in refrigerator or freezer until set. Store in air tight container.
This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, & may be made vegan by using a “flax egg replacement” if an egg is called for

Flax Egg Recipe Replacement
Ingredients:
1 Tbs ground flax meal
2 1/2 Tbs water

Directions:
Combine flax meal and water in a small bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes to thicken. This will replace one egg in recipes. If used in recipes for cakes or muffins, they will not rise as they would with an egg. For the cake pop recipe it will not matter.
Vegan Buttercream Recipe
Ingredients:
1/2 cup Earth Balance Soy-free Buttery Spread
1/4 cup Nutiva Shortening (red palm oil & coconut oil blend)
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 1/2-3 Tbs unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp pure almond extract

Directions:
In a large bowl whip Earth Balance & shortening until fluffy, about 1 minute
Add the sugar, almond milk and extract and whip until fluffy.
*note-there will be plenty to save for another use. It freezes very well!

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