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In honor of a great American classic jingle -- Chili's Baby-Back Ribs, I'm making barbecue baby-back pork ribs for two.  I'm sure I'll be singing "I wan't my baby back, baby back, baby-back ribs" all evening now, but it will be worth it!

The Side Dish
I'll be serving my baby-back ribs with sweet and savory sweet potatoes.  Until about a month ago I hated sweet potatoes, but suddenly I've become obsessed! Especially with this recipe. 

I get tonight's meal started with the steaming of the ribs. 

Baby-Back Pork Ribs
Total Time: 65 minutes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 60 minutes

What you'll need
1 slab baby-back pork ribs 
2 cups barbecue sauce 

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  
2. Peel off the membrane from the bottom of the ribs ( * Tip -- you can ask your butcher to do this when you purchase the ribs and often times they will).
3. Place rib slab in a roasting plan.  Fill pan with water until about half the rib cage is submerged.
4. Place ribs in the oven.  Cook for 1 hour. 
5. Remove ribs from the oven and stick a fork in the meat to check if they are done.  If fork goes in easily the ribs are done.  If not, put ribs back in the oven for another fifteen minutes.  Continue with the fork test until ribs are cooked through. 
6. Coat ribs with barbecue sauce (if you made my barbecue chicken recipe you should already have leftover sauce); serve. 

* Tip -- If you want to make the outer skin a little crispier you can also throw the ribs on the grill for about 5 minutes after you remove them from the oven. 

Funny story about ribs
The first time I made ribs it was a complete disaster.  I didn't cook them long enough nor did I remove the membrane all the way, and they were tough (tough in texture and tough to eat).  My husband was very sweet about it though, and tried to act like he liked them.  I finally spoke up and said "these are awful," and he looked at me with an 'oh thank god, does this mean I can stop eating these now' face.  Much to his relief, the ribs ended up in the garbage.

After a bit of practice, and some advice from my Dad, I finally got this recipe and cook time down, so hopefully you won't suffer the same fate. 

Ok, back to the meal.  While the ribs are steaming in the oven I make the sweet potatoes. 

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Sweet and Savory Sweet Potatoes
Total Time: 40 minutes 
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes






What you'll need
1 sweet potato
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
2 teaspoons brown sugar

*Note -- 1 sweet potato will generously serve two, which makes this side dish extremely easy on your wallet!

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Peel off the outer skin and cut sweet potato in half length wise.  One half will be used for the sweet seasoning and the other half will be used for the savory seasoning. 
3. Dice sweet potato into small cubes.
4. Tear off two 12-inch sheets of aluminum foil.  Place half of cubed sweet potatoes on each sheet of aluminum foil. 
5. Fold up foil to create a foil packet.  Add 1/2 tablespoon of butter to each packet.  
6. Sprinkle one packet with seasoned salt and the other with brown sugar.  Mix well. Close up foil to seal in potatoes.
7. Place each packet in the oven for about thirty minutes.  Remove potatoes once they are soft and cooked through. 
8. Either mix the potatoes together or serve separately. 

Once the ribs are steamed and the potatoes are cooked, dinner is served.  Enjoy!

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Please also enjoy some meal time entertainment with this "blast from the past" Chili's commercial.  It's a classic!
 
 
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As much as I'd love to say I'm about to tell you how to make homemade tortellini quickly and deliciously -- I'm not.  Buying pre-made tortellini is so much easier than trying to do it on your own, and it tastes great too.  So to me it's just not worth the fuss.  I can at least assure that the rest of the dish is freshly homemade, and you're going to love how quick and easy this dinner is.




The Main Dish
Tonight, I'll be making spinach cheese tortellini with fresh mozzarella.  The interesting part about this tortellini recipe is instead of smothering the stuffed tortellini in sauce, I'll be topping it with a little bit of olive oil, diced tomato and mozzarella.  I also add in fresh spinach for some extra nutrition.  The light sauce is the perfect compliment to the already heavy pasta.  

Spinach Cheese Tortellini with Fresh Mozzarella 
Total Time: 15-17 minutes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10-12 minutes

What you'll need 
8 ounce package of spinach cheese tortellini
3 cups baby spinach 
1 medium tomato, diced 
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 cup fresh mozzarella shredded or sliced depending on your preference
salt and pepper

Directions
1. Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain.
2. In a medium skillet add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 3 cups of spinach.  Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes.
3. Add diced tomato and continue to cook over medium heat for an additional minute. 
4. Add cooked tortellini to the tomato and spinach mixture.  Stir.  Let pasta heat on low for about 2 minutes.
5. Divide and pour into pasta bowls.  Sprinkle with fresh mozzarella cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste; serve and enjoy!

 
 
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The Main Dish
Tonight I'll be making Jamaican chicken curry.  I love this recipe because it's not your typical chicken dish.  Don't get me wrong, I love a good chicken dinner, but every once in a while I want something a bit more exciting than baked or grilled chicken.  And this dish gives me just that.

The Side Dish
There is so much flavor in the main dish that it's best to keep the side dish simple, so I'll be serving the chicken curry over brown rice.
Jamaican Chicken Curry
Total Time: 35 minutes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes

What you'll need
2 bone-in, skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder 
1 carrot, thinly sliced                                                                                                                                              
1 can (13.5 ounces) light coconut milk
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 cup white or brown rice
salt and pepper

Directions
1. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. 
2. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pot and brown chicken, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
3. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, garlic, cumin, curry, and 1/4 cup water.  Season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion has softened, approximately 3 to 5 minutes.
4. Add carrots, coconut milk, 1/4 cup water, and chicken with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover partially, and cook until chicken is cooked through and carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. 
5. While the chicken is simmering, cook rice according to package directions. 
6. Remove chicken from heat and stir in peas. Serve over rice.  Enjoy!

* Tip -- You can also use boneless chicken breasts for this recipe. 

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart's Jamaican Chicken Curry

 
 
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My husband isn't the biggest fan of salads, especially as a main meal.  However, I've found if I slap on some meat they suddenly become "manly" enough for his taste buds.

The Main Dish
With this in mind,  I'll be making a sweet pepper and steak salad.  It's light enough for a woman, but with thick cuts of beef, it's made for a man.  It's the perfect couple's dish!

Sweet Pepper and Steak Salad
Total Time: 40 minutes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes

What you'll need 
For the vinaigrette
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad
oil for brushing vegetables, plus more for grill grate
1/2 medium red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wide rings
1/2 large red, yellow or orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into quarters
1 strip steak, trimmed
 3-4 cups baby spinach 
1/2 cup diced tomato
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cubed or shredded 
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions
For the vinaigrette
1. Whisk the vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper together, in a small bowl, until the salt is dissolved. While whisking constantly, pour in the olive oil.
2. Set aside until ready to use.

For the salad
1. Heat the grill to medium (350 degrees F) and carefully rub the grate with a towel dipped in oil.
2. Brush the vegetables all over with oil and season well with salt and pepper. Grill the vegetables, turning rarely, over medium heat until soft and charred, about 10 minutes for the onions and fifteen minutes for the peppers. 
3. Remove the vegetables from the grill to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Cut the onion rings into quarters and cut the peppers into 1-inch cubes.
4. Season the steak generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill the steak until desired doneness, about 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.
5. Cut the steak against the grain into 1/2-inch slices and add to a medium bowl. Pour 1/3 of the vinaigrette over the steak and toss to coat.
6. Combine the peppers, onion, spinach, tomatoes, mozzarella and the vinaigrette in a large serving bowl, and toss well. Top salad with the steak.  Serve and enjoy!

* Tip -- I had leftover spicy corn and peppers from the night before, so I heated it up and added it to the top of the salad.  It was a great compliment to this dish.

Recipe adapted from the Food Network's Aida Mollenkamp's Sweet Pepper and Steak Salad

 
 
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The Main Dish 
Tonight I'll be making chicken on the bone with homemade barbecue sauce.  This is a dinner selection that I have enjoyed since I was a kid.  I don't think I'll ever be able to make it as good as my Dad, but I'll certainly die trying.

The Side Dish
I'll be serving the chicken with a side of spicy corn and peppers.  Yum!

I begin tonight's meal making frenzy with the barbecue sauce.

Practically Homemade Barbecue Sauce
Total Time: 32 minutes 
Prep: 2 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes

What you'll need 
1 bottle Kraft barbecue sauce
1 bottle Open Pit barbecue sauce
1 small sweet onion, chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter 

Directions
1. Add butter and onion to a medium saucepan.  Saute over medium heat until butter is melted and onion is tender.
2. Add Kraft barbecue sauce, Open Pit barbecue and brown sugar to saucepan.  Mix well.
3. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for approximately thirty minutes while stirring occasionally. 

* Note -- the sauce will make about 6 servings, so there will be leftovers.  I'm going to use some of the remaining sauce later in the week to make baby-back pork ribs.  Then, I'll freeze the rest to use at a later date.  Alternatively, here are a few other recipe ideas that the barbecue sauce can be utilized in.

Barbecue Chicken Salad
Barbecue Chicken Pizza Bagel
Barbecue Meatloaf

If you are going to freeze the sauce, try freezing it in ice-cube trays.  I saw this idea on the Today show this morning, and I absolutely love it.  By using an ice-cube tray you'll be able to easily get single servings of sauce as opposed to having to defrost everything at once.  Click here to see this idea in action.  As a special bonus you'll also see how to make Chef Giada De Laurentiis tomato basil sauce, which looks fantastic!

Ok, let's get back to tonight's main meal. 

Barbecue Chicken on the Bone
Total Time: 35 minutes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes

What you'll need
2 cups barbecue sauce
5 bone in chicken legs or 2 bone-in chicken breasts

Directions
1. Heat the grill to medium (350 degrees F).
2. Lightly coat chicken with barbecue sauce and place on grill. 
3. Grill chicken for approximately 15 minutes on each side.  Be sure to occasionally brush chicken with sauce while grilling.  
4. Remove from heat once chicken is cooked through. Add more barbecue sauce if desired. 

While the chicken in grilling I put together the spicy corn and pepper side dish. 
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Spicy Corn and Peppers
Total Time: 20 minutes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes





What you'll need
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 red or green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/8  teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 plum tomato, cored and chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels 
1/4 cup milk

Directions
1. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, cayenne pepper, chili powder and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes
2. Add corn and tomatoes; cook, stirring often, until corn is tender and tomatoes have softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in milk; remove from heat. Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart's Spicy Corn and Peppers

 
 
I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend.  I spent my weekend celebrating a good friend's wedding shower and bachelorette party in Chicago.  It was wonderful to catch up with good friends in a great city! But now it's time to get back in the kitchen.  Here's what I'll be cooking this week. 

Monday: Barbecue Chicken with Spicy Corn and Peppers • grilled chicken smothered in a sweet barbecue sauce, served alongside a spicy, lightly creamed corn and peppers

Tuesday: Sweet Pepper and Steak Salad • grilled strip steak served over fresh greens, red onion, bell peppers and tomato with a sweet vinaigrette dressing 

Wednesday: Jamaican Chicken Curry over Rice • chicken breasts cooked in light coconut milk with peas, onions and lots of bold flavors, served over white or brown rice

Thursday: Spinach Cheese Tortellini with Fresh Mozzarella • tortellini stuffed with spinach and cheese sauteed in diced tomatoes, fresh spinach and olive oil topped with fresh mozzarella cheese

Friday: Barbecue Baby-Back Ribs with Sweet and Savory Sweet Potatoes • steamed baby-back pork ribs smothered in a sweet barbecue sauce,  served alongside sweet and savory sweet potatoes

Below is a list of the groceries you'll need to make this menu a reality.  And be sure to check back each day to find out how to create each of these delicious recipes.  
 
 
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I can't say enough good things about grilled cheese sandwiches.  What's not to love about melted cheese pressed between crisp, buttery bread?  And what's even better than that, with a little creative thinking you'll find there is a lot more to a grilled cheese than, well, just cheese. 

With this in mind, I'm going to share my top 3 favorite grilled cheese recipes.  One is a bit more traditional, while the other two push the boundaries on the conventional cheesy sandwich many of us have grown up with. 

I'll start with the standard route. 

Grilled Cheese Sandwich Number 1: Classic Ham, Tomato and Cheddar Cheese
Total Time: 10 minutes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes

What you'll need
4 thick slices of fresh bread (your choice -- sourdough, french, tuscan etc.)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tomato diced
1 cup diced ham
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper

Directions
1. In a medium skillet melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter over medium heat.
2. Top bread with tomato, cheese and ham.  Season with salt and pepper.

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3. Place the top of the bread loaf over the tomato, cheese and ham.  
4. Add both sandwiches to the skillet.  Turn heat down to low and cover. 
5. After about 2-3 minutes lift the sandwiches up with a spatula and check to see if the bottom side of the bread is golden brown.  Remove sandwiches from the pan when one side of the bread appears toasted and place on a side plate.  Add 1/2 tablespoon of butter to the skillet; melt.
6. Add sandwiches back to the skillet and brown the other side.  Remove from pan when the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. 
7.  Slice and enjoy!
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Grilled Cheese Sandwich Number 2: Mexi-cheese Sandwich
Total Time: 10 minutes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes

What you'll need
4 thick slices of fresh bread (your choice -- sourdough, french, etc.)
1 avocado, diced
3-4 tablespoons salsa
jack cheese, sliced
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper

Directions:
1. In a medium skillet melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter over medium heat.
2. Top bread with avocado, jack cheese and salsa.  Season with salt and pepper.
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3. Place the top of the bread loaf over the avocado and jack cheese.  
4. Add both sandwiches to the skillet.  Turn heat down to low and cover. 
5. After about 2-3 minutes lift the sandwiches up with a spatula and check to see if the bottom side of the bread is golden brown.  Remove sandwiches from the pan when one side of the bread appears toasted and place on a side plate.  Add 1/2 tablespoon of butter to skillet; melt.
6. Add sandwiches back to the skillet and brown the other side.  Remove from pan when the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. 
7.  Slice and enjoy!
Grilled Cheese Sandwich Number 3: "Capre-chessy" Sandwich 
Total Time: 10 minutes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes

What you'll need
4 thick slices of fresh bread (your choice -- sourdough, french, etc.)
1 cup fresh mozzarella, shredded or sliced
2-3 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 tomato, diced
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper

Directions:
1. In a medium skillet melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter over medium heat.
2. Top bread with tomato, cheese and basil.  Season with salt and pepper.
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3. Place the top of the bread loaf over the tomato, cheese and basil.  
4. Add both sandwiches to the skillet.  Turn heat down to low and cover. 
5. After about 2-3 minutes lift the sandwiches up with a spatula and check to see if the bottom side of the bread is golden brown.  Remove sandwiches from the pan when one side of the bread appears toasted and place on a side plate.  Add 1/2 tablespoon of butter to skillet; melt.
6. Add sandwiches back to the skillet and brown the other side.  Remove from pan when the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. 
7.  Slice and enjoy!
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Be sure to check back on Sunday for next week's complete dinner menu plan, which will include a grocery list of everything you'll need to cook along with me.  Have a great weekend everyone! 
 
 
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to post a recipe yesterday because I had the flu -- the can't lift your head up, feel like you're going to die kind of flu.  My dinner therefore consisted of jello and crackers, and I went ahead and made the assumption that you probably wouldn't want to make the same thing. 

The good news is, I'm feeling much better today, so comfort food week is back on!
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The Main Dish
Even though I posted a meatloaf recipe last week, I felt like I couldn't have comfort food week without meatloaf and mashed potatoes, so I'm providing another great meatloaf recipe idea for two.  However, this time I'm putting a unique spin on the traditional recipe -- barbecue sauce!    

The Side Dish
I'll be serving the barbecue meatloaf with the ultimate comfort food side dish -- mashed potatoes.
Barbecue Meatloaf
Total Time: 35 minutes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes

What you'll need
1/2 pound lean ground beef
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped (optional)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 tablespoons milk
1 egg
1/3 cup crushed seasoned croutons 

Glaze 
2 additional tablespoons barbecue sauce
1 additional tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together milk and egg; add crushed croutons.  Mix well. 
3. Combine crouton mixture, ground beef, 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, salt and pepper.  Mix well. 

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4. Form mixture into 2 loaves (I love the idea of individual meatloaves.  They are perfect when cooking for two)!
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5. Place loaves on a greased baking sheet.
6. For the glaze, whisk together 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and brown sugar in a small mixing bowl.  
7. Brush glaze over each loaf. 
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8. Bake for 15 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees F.
9. Let loaves rest for about 5 minutes before serving. 

Mashed Red Potatoes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes

What you'll need
1/2 pound red potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/3 cup milk, warmed
1 tablespoon butter, softened
Garlic salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
1. Cook potatoes in a pot of boiling water until tender (about 15 minutes). 
2. Drain potatoes; return to pot, stirring over low heat for 1 minute. 
3. Mash potatoes with a hand masher until desired consistency.  Stir in milk and butter; season with garlic salt and pepper.  Serve and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Cuisine at Home Magazine
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The Main Dish
Macaroni and cheese isn't just for kids and college students nor does it always need to come from a box.  With a little extra prep work you can make a delicious macaroni and cheese for grownup taste buds.  

Unfortunately, with a dish that has cheese in the title, it's hard to find a healthy alternative.  Therefore, I'm putting this one in the indulgence category, but it will be worth every bite.

Macaroni and Cheese
Total Time: 40 minutes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes

What you'll need
1 1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 egg
6 ounces low-fat evaporated milk (about 1/2 can)
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup seasoned croutons, crushed
paprika
salt and pepper

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.
3. In a large bowl, mix together egg, evaporated milk, cooled melted butter, salt and pepper. 
4. Stir in cheese and cooked pasta. 
5. Spray a small baking pan or 2 oven safe 14-ounce bowls with nonstick spray.  Add the pasta mixture. 
6. Put croutons in a Ziploc bag and crush with your hands or a potato masher.
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7. Sprinkle the top of the dish with crushed croutons.  Dust with paprika.
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8.  Bake until the cheese is golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes.  Serve and enjoy!
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It's Comfort Food Week at Reservation For Two, which means I'll be serving up some of my favorite meals from my youth that continue to sooth my food soul today.  Of course, each meal plan is designed for two, so the meals I once shared with my family, can now be enjoyed with my husband.

The Main Dish
I'm kicking off Comfort Food Week with chicken pot pie.  This hearty dinner is the perfect remedy to a long, cold day.  

My chicken pot pie dinner is not only tailored for parties of two, but it is also a healthier take on a dish that has a bad rep for being loaded with fat and calories.  And the good news just keeps on coming, as this recipe also falls under my favorite category -- quick and easy.  

Chicken Pot Pie
Total Time: 25 minutes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes

What you'll need
1 uncooked chicken breast, cut into small cubes and seasoned with salt and pepper
1/4 small onion, diced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 large carrot, thinly sliced (about a centimeter thick otherwise they won't cook all the way through)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 can 98% fat free cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 Pillsbury crescent roll dough triangles (from a tube of Pillsbury crescent rolls)
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon pepper
cooking spray 
2 x 14 ounce oven safe bowls

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a small mixing bowl, combine cream of chicken soup, chicken stock, salt and pepper.  Mix well.  

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3. Grease your oven safe bowls with cooking spray.  Line each bowl with 2 crescent roll dough triangles (I either form the triangles around the edges, and then I leave the corners to wrap over the top of the bowl, or I create an upside-down chicken pot pie and form the dough around the bottom of the bowl).
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Option 1
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Option 2
4. Add carrot, celery, onion, peas and chicken to the bottom of each bowl.  
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5. Pour soup mixture over the vegetables until the bowl is almost full. 
6. If you chose option 1, take the edges of the crescent rolls and cover the top of the soup. 
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7. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until soup is bubbling and crescent rolls are golden brown. 
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Enjoy!

The skinny on the chicken pot pie
Chicken pot pie has often been labeled as one of the worst meals in the frozen food section.  This is unfortunate because it tastes so good!  However, with a few minor alterations, I found a way to reduce the typically 40 grams of fat and 700 calorie per serving dish to about 400 calories and 14 grams of fat.  And it still tastes just as good as I remember. 

Below is the calorie and fat breakdown for one of my chicken pot pies:
• 2 x crescent rolls: 180 calories and 8 grams of fat 
• 1/2 can cream of chicken soup: 90 calories and 3 grams of fat
• 1/4 cup chicken stock: 5 calories and 0 grams of fat
• vegetables: 50 calories and .2 grams of fat
• chicken: 82.5 calories and 1.5 grams of fat
Total: 407.5 calories and 14.2 grams of fat

I'd love to hear from you.  What are some of your favorite comfort food recipes?