Laura Chancey (Humble Pie Birmingham) on Cooking with Children + Mini Chicken Pot Pies Recipe
Laura is a daughter, wife, mother, and baker living in Birmingham, AL. She and her husband, Caleb, recently launched a blog to document her pie recipes (to the great celebration of her many fans—including myself!) Both she and her cooking effortlessly radiate warmth and welcome. Find and follow her at humblepiebirmingham.com.
Food is nourishing in so many ways. Yes, physically. But we can't deny the emotional and spiritual nourishment we feel through sharing a meal or even creating a meal together.
I make pies mostly because it helps me feel connected to people here in the South. My grandmother made pies constantly. There was nurturing involved with making the perfect crust and doing it alongside her children and grandchildren. She taught me how to show love to someone simply through the act of cooking. So as I approach family life with littles, these are the sweet lessons that she's instilled in me. There's a connectivity that comes with cooking with one another. We learn how to communicate as we work toward a common goal. We learn what our likes and dislikes are. We learn how to try new things. My husband, Caleb, and I love seeing our kids grow in confidence in the kitchen—using their hands, trying new food, and gaining a sense of accomplishment because they've worked toward something.
But actually applying these statutes was tricky at first. I used to get incredibly discouraged when cooking for a lot of kids who had varying preferences. Then, as my kids grew and longed to help in the kitchen, they became a lot more involved with the feeling of pride that came from helping me. They MADE something. And we were all eating it?! That's when dinnertime changed. What they wanted was some control (even if it was just an illusion of control), and if I granted them a bit during the cooking process, they were more inclined to enjoy their meal.
I've learned, through a lot failures, it's best to keep cooking simple with kids. Use what you have on hand. Don't over complicate a recipe. Don't add a lot of obscure ingredients. Let them pick certain components of the meal. Keep it simple, stupid. (I'm talking to myself here.) Our kids are still developing their taste buds, so if they like something one day, I'm not always guaranteed they'll like it the next.
Of course, it's not always convenient to have them join in—but I have to remind myself that raising children is not always about convenience at all. Sometimes it's more important for me to establish inclusion, rather than quickly finishing the task at hand.
Our two year old, Ollie, likes to hand me cooking utensils, pick herbs off the stems, or just have a towel to "clean things up". Again: the illusion. These are all small tasks that give her a sense of accomplishment. And sure, I regularly have crayons and coloring books standing by for her.
Our three year old, Coen, likes to help with the dough. Now, I'm a baker, so I usually have different flours on hand, but you can easily just use spelt flour, ground oats, wheat pastry flour, or just good ole' all purpose flour. Again, use what you have. I usually throw in a mix, but so long as you have two and a half cups of a mix of most kinds of flour, you're all set. Coen loves whisking flour together, cutting butter into the flour with a pastry knife, and later on, using the rolling pin.
If I'm making a pot pie—our way of using up the leftover or frozen ingredients at the end of the week—I'll let our pickiest child, 5-year-old Rhodes, decide which vegetables we're going to use. In our refrigerator we usually have the following: frozen packages of chicken, frozen vegetables (broccoli, peas, corn), leftover veggies (onions, carrots, peppers), and varying cheeses. Rhodes usually chooses his go-to: chicken, broccoli, carrots, and Parmesan (hence, the development of the following recipe).
I'm so thankful my MawMaw taught me that we can enjoy cooking at any age, even if it's in very small ways. I hope that I'm slowly teaching my children the same lesson.
Mini Chicken Pot Pies in a Multigrain Crust
1 lb chicken boneless skinless cutlets
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
head of broccoli, cut into small florets
2 teaspoons dried thyme
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded parmesan
Double Multigrain Pie Dough
Set a skillet on medium high heat. Pat the chicken dry and add salt and pepper to each cutlet. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the hot skillet and add the chicken. Cook for about 5-7 minutes on each side, or until the chicken is firm and cooked all the way through. Set the chicken aside to rest. Add the second tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and add the carrots and onions. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the onion starts to become translucent. Add the broccoli and cook for an additional 8 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, shred the chicken tenders- remembering to occasionally stir the vegetables so they don't stick. Add the veggies to the shredded chicken. Mix in thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper and set aside while you make the cheese sauce.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium to low heat. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and whisk to incorporate. Continue to whisk while the roux cooks for 2 minutes, then slowly whisk in the milk. Stir the milk until it starts to thicken. Stir in the cheese, making sure that all of the cheese is melted down into a cheese sauce. Add the cheese sauce to the chicken and veggies. Stir the whole filling mix together.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin extremely well. Roll out one pie dough and use a 5" circular cookie cutter and cut out 12 circles of dough. Place each dough into each cup of the muffin tin and work so that the dough reaches up the side of each cup. Prick the bottom of each cup with a fork 2-3 times. Fill each cup with the filling, about 3/4 full. Roll out the second dough and cut 12 circles of dough with a 3" cookie cutter. Prepare the egg wash by mixing the egg with a teaspoon of water. Put egg wash on the rim of each mini pot pie (I use my fingers- like Ina Garten always says, "Clean hands are a cook's best tools.") then seal each top crust to a mini pot pie. Use a fork to crimp the sides of the pies, and stab the top of the pies with a sharp knife for ventilation. Cook the pies on the middle rack for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and sturdy. Allow them to cool on a cooling rack completely before serving.
1 cup wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup rye flour
3/4 cup oats
1 tsp salt
two sticks unsalted butter
1/2 cup of greek yogurt
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 to 3/4 cup ice water
Whisk together the flours, oats, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry knife until the butter resembles small peas. With a wooden spoon, incorporate the yogurt and vinegar. Then slowly incorporate 1/2 cup of ice water. When the dough starts to come together, and come off the sides of the bowl you can divide the dough in half and wrap in cling wrap. If the dough seems dry, be sure to slowly add water about a tablespoon at a time until the dough is the right consistency. Refrigerate for 1 hour or freeze for 30 minutes. The dough will keep in the refrigerator for 2 days, and the freezer for 6 months.