My mom is a smart woman. She spent the last week in sunny Florida where she was concerned that one night it might be too chilly to sit outside on the beach to eat dinner. Meanwhile, in Chicago school was called off for us Wednesday to Friday because of dangerously cold temperatures. Fortunately, I’m not bitter. When she called on Thursday and asked if she could pretty please do a pop in after her flight landed Sunday night, of course I said yes.
Knowing my mom, a pop in doesn’t just mean that she’s going to arrive at my house on the way to the airport, say hello, give hugs, and be on her way. Instead, I planned for a fun afternoon and evening of game playing, knowing that I would also be responsible for feeding my parents. Given the cold weather still lingering (although admittedly, I did call the 30 degree temperatures earlier in the day “balmy”), none of us really wanted to go out to eat.
Weather like this calls for comfort food, and one of my favorites is pot pie. I make a mean pot pie, but it can be labor intensive, and I wanted to spend my time hanging out with my whole family and enjoying our afternoon rather than in the kitchen. Fortunately, Marie Callender makes some amazing pot pies, and I decided to serve them along with a hearts of palm salad I could make ahead of time as a perfect winter meal.
When I stopped at Walmart to pick up my Marie Callender’s pot pies, I had originally planned to get a family size pot pie. One look at the variety of pot pies available and I changed my mind. Instead, I picked up individual pot pies in a variety of flavors so that each person could choose his own favorite for dinner. It was a cute idea, and it worked perfectly.
My mom and I both chose the chicken corn chowder pot pie, while Mister Man and my dad went for the beef pot pie. My husband is the traditionalist and stuck with the chicken pot pie, which meant that everyone got to choose a favorite with no extra work for me. They thought it was cool to be able to select their flavor. Win win!
I chose to cook them all in the oven, partly because you can only cook one pot pie at a time in the microwave, so by the time that fifth pie is done, the first one is cooled off a little too much.
It’s easy to cook them all in the oven. I placed them on a cookie sheet for stability and wrapped the crust edges lightly with tin foil, just like I would do if I were baking a pie to keep the edges from burning. Because I was baking three different varieties, I used a marker to label which pie was which. As much as I promised myself that I would remember, I knew I’d be guessing.
Once I had everyone’s choices in the oven, we set up the table for the promised board games. It was the perfect diversion while we waited for our dinner to cook, and I loved that I got to participate, too. Unfortunately, I never did win in the three games of Trouble we played.
After letting the Marie Callender’s pot pies sit for a few minutes so that they would cool off just a tiny bit and the filling could set, we dug in to the pies and the hearts of palm salad I had made earlier in the day. Everyone was thrilled with their comfort food dinner, and those pies disappeared quickly! Somehow, however, everyone left room for some of the candy bar cookie brownies I’d made for my dad. The homemade gravy mixed with vegetables and all white-meat chicken, in a golden, perfectly flaky crust that’s made from scratch definitely hit the spot on this cold winter night!
The salad was a huge hit, too. It’s incredibly easy to make, and Little Miss loved it so much that she asked for another helping of it after dinner while we were playing yet another board game. And no, I didn’t win that one either.
Hearts of Palm Salad
This hearts of palm salad is incredibly easy and quick to make. It tastes best when it’s had a few hours for the flavors to meld, but I generally make it the same day I’m serving it. It tastes just as good the second day, but the lime juice has typically broken down the texture of the avocados and tomatoes a bit so that it isn’t quite as pretty.
This is a minimal prep salad with no cooking involved. It’s different from your traditional green salad, which is a plus in my book because I love things that are out of the ordinary. It’s vaguely reminiscent of guacamole but perfect as a salad without the need for chips.
I start out by slicing half a red onion into bite size pieces. I slice off the tip, leaving the root end then cut my onion in half through the root just like I’m going to dice it. Instead, I do small slices all along the onion, from the tip to the root end. I slice those longer slivers in half through the middle of the onion before cutting off the root end and having my perfect slices. Because I’m eating my onion raw (and then planning to talk to people), I soak my slices in cold water for about a half hour before mixing the onion into the rest of the salad. This helps remove the bite of the onion so you get the perfect flavor and texture without screaming onion at everyone.
The other ingredients for the hearts of palm salad are simply cut into bit size pieces. The hearts of palm get sliced into circles. The tomatoes are chunked with the majority of seeds removed as I’m cutting them. I used yellow Campari tomatoes this time around, as well as a Roma tomato, which works great. I love the variety of colors you get by using not just red tomatoes but yellow ones, as well. That said, pick your favorite flavorful tomatoes (Roma or Campari) and use them.
My English cucumber is cut in half so that I can easily access and remove the seeds. I simply run a spoon through the center, which pulls out all the seeds. I slice the cucumber in half again to give myself manageable chunks, then cut it into pieces.
The cilantro is simply chopped as you normally would. Roll it into a bundle, then slice through it. You can see how in my herb cutting tutorial. Dice your avocado, and add all the ingredients for the hearts of palm salad to a bowl.
Zest and juice your limes directly into the salad along with the olive oil, and add salt and pepper to taste. Gently stir it to get the ingredients equally mixed up, and you’re ready to serve. Ideally, you want to let this hearts of palm salad rest in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavors meld, but you can serve it immediately, if needed.
Oh. And the limes. Limes are an amazing ingredient, and I use them all the time. Check out how to get the most out of your limes in my video tutorial.
A delicious and unique salad reminiscent of guacamole. Easy to make and a quick prep, this is a great substitute for more traditional salads.
- 1/2 medium red onion, sliced
- 2 cans hearts of palm
- 3-4 Roma or Campari tomatoes
- 1 English cucumber
- 2 avocados
- 1/2 c cilantro, chopped
- 2 limes, zested
- 8 T olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Slice your onion into bite size slivers. Soak the onion slices in a bowl of cold water for a half hour or longer to mellow the flavor.
- Slice your hearts of palm. Chop your tomatoes and cucumber, after seeding. Dice your avocado, and place all into a bowl. Chop your cilantro and add that, as well.
- Zest your limes into your bowl, then juice the limes into the bowl, as well. Add the olive oil and stir gently to combine. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
- Refrigerate for 2-3 hours to left the flavors meld or serve immediately.
This is the perfect comfort meal for winter. And Marie Callender’s pot pies are a perfect way to participate in their Comforts From Home program. Just enter the code from your participating box (up to 5 per day), and Marie Callender’s will make a donation to USO2GO, a USO program that brings electronics, sports gear, books, games, and more to troops stationed in remote locations.
You can visit Marie Callender’s website to learn more about the amazing pot pie varieties and all the other options from desserts and more. Don’t forget to check out http://potpieplease.com for more great recipes! And of course, see what they’re up to on Marie Callender’s Facebook page, too.