No Country for Weaklings

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 41 comments
When it gets cold, get warm: Honeyed Apple & Turkey Pot Pie

"Don't pack away those winter clothes just yet: This morning, famed groundhog forecaster Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, meaning winter temperatures in 2010 will continue for six more weeks . . ."
-- National Geographic News (February 2, 2010)

Thusly did the Fat Rodent speak*.

Skeptics of the furry mage of meteorology were silenced this weekend as a mammoth blanket of snow landed with an audible 'thwump!' across the US, from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic. The groundhog's forecast certainly appears to be an accurate portent of wintry gloom, but for this Minnesota blogger, it's actually quite cheery news: only 35 more days of winter? Woo-hoo!

Despite five such seasons in the Land of 10,000 Currently Frozen Lakes, I have yet to acclimate to the climate - my genetic makeup is geared toward day shorts and beachwear, not short days and thermal underwear. Early on, I did make a sincere attempt to embrace the season by taking up cross-country skiing, until my vision of sweeping across fields of fluffy snow was dashed by the reality of icy trails and not-so-gentle slopes. After ending up on my back like a panicked, frost-bitten turtle one too many times, the skis were relegated to the Closet of Broken Fitness Dreams.

Now, when the temperature drops low enough to instantly freeze any mucous in my nostrils, I don't hesitate to don multiple layers of heavy clothes, fire up the fireplace and hunker down in the homestead until the spring thaw. Unfortunately, this semi-hibernation has serious implications on the food front as my limited outdoor excursions mean that I must rely on canned, dried and frozen ingredients to cook our meals. It's during this time of year that reading about CSA boxes or trips to the farmers' market from those of you in more temperate climes really grates my last carrot.

And yet, I have no reason to be envious. The cold, monochromatic landscape outside my window suggests that the principles of eating fresh, local and sustainable are in deep freeze during a Minnesota winter, but it's simply not the case. It turns out that I'm just a cold-weather wimp compared to the following hardy souls who don't let a few snowflakes and subzero temperatures get in the way of good food.

*Actually, groundhogs vocalize with whistles, squeals and barks (source:

Peace Coffee Be with You
"The bad thing about winter is people who think winter is a bad thing."
-- Peace Coffee Delivery Cyclist

Since 1996, Peace Coffee has been keeping the Twin Cities metro area well-caffeinated with organic and fair trade beans, which the company sources entirely from co-op farms in South America, Africa and Asia through Cooperative Coffees. But its commitment to social and ecological responsibility doesn't stop there: local distribution is done almost entirely by bicycle, year-round through rain, sleet or snow (a biodiesel van is used for suburban deliveries). Now this is dedication to beliefs and principles!

Precious cargo
(Photo courtesy of Mel Meegan/Peace Coffee)

You can read more about Peace Coffee's unique local distribution at Peace Pedaling: Biker Delivery, then check out Metro magazine's recent behind-the-scenes glimpse inside their roastery. Though we'd love to keep it all to ourselves, Peace Coffee can now be found in markets throughout the U.S. But sorry - no bike delivery available!

To Market I (Should) Go

I am literally a fairweather friend. Sure, it's all sunshine as I rave about the Minneapolis Farmers' Market during the warm months, but when the mercury drops, I'm nowhere to be found. For shame!

This past summer, I found so many new vegetables to try for the first time: pumpkin and amaranth leaves, kohlrabi and golden beets, to name a few. But MFM proves that fresh seasonal food isn't just about spring and summer produce - their Winter Schedule features local producers who provide homegrown fare of the meaty kind. Among them is Blue Gentian Farm, a 395-acre farm in New Richmond, WI, just east of St. Paul. Using sustainable practices, Renee and Darryle Powers raise hormone- and antibiotic-free heritage breeds of livestock, including Boer goats, heritage turkeys and ducks, Berkshire pigs (also known as Kurobuta pork) and the handsome, hairy Scottish Highland (Kyloe) cattle.

Who says happy cows are only in California?
(Photo courtesy of Darryle Powers/Blue Gentian Farm)

For Blue Gentian's meats and fresh eggs, and other great products from local farmers, I'm willing to bundle up and venture out to the Minneapolis Farmer's Market, which will be open this Saturday (2/13), from 9:30am until noon, and every other Saturday through April 10th.

Ice, Ice, Baby

Finally, what could possibly be more fresh, local and seasonal than fish caught in a nearby lake? In Minnesota, wherever there's a frozen body of water, there's sure to be an ice shack with a dedicated angler patiently sitting above a hole drilled through the solid surface, waiting for crappies, gills, pikes and walleyes to bite.

Ice tent on Lake Calhoun, Minneapolis
My idea of ice fishing is the wild-caught salmon 
on sale at the Whole Foods Market, just past the buildings!

For today's enthusiasts, ice fishing is a sport, a form of socialization and a state of mind, rather than a means of gathering food. But its roots reach deep into the regional Native American tradition of spearfishing, which utilizes multi-tined spears and carved wood decoys instead of rods, lines and lures. While it's unlikely that I'll ever engage in this activity, I can appreciate the mental focus and physical stamina required, as well as its history in providing a critical food source during an unforgiving season and environment.

The lesson about the winter season that these folks exemplify (and I need to learn) is simple: if you can't beat it, join it! The snow has finally stopped falling and the sun is glowing behind the lingering clouds; perhaps I should dust off the old cross-country skis and re-discover the exhilarating feel of cold air stinging my cheeks. After all, as these Minnesotans show, there's a delicious reward for making the extra effort . . .

Honeyed Apple and Turkey Pot Pie

Although I've seen the light about braving the cold air to procure local winter products, there are times when cozying up at home and making the best with what you already have is irresistible. During a recent spell of particularly frigid temperatures (when daytime highs barely climbed into the teens), I put together this warming dish for dinner, using leftover frozen puff pastry, a lonely potato, and some omnipresent carrots and celery. This pot pie was assembled with nearly all raw ingredients and no liquid - as it bakes, moisture from the turkey and vegetables will create a nice savory sauce. It wasn't a terribly original or mind-blowing meal, but it was deeply satisfying. The best part is that by using up some of my provisions, I now have good reason to pull on the boots, button up the parka and slip on the mittens for an outdoor foray! 

Makes 4 servings


10oz ground turkey, divided in half
1 medium potato, diced to 1/2" pieces
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 Granny Smith or other tart apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2" pieces
1 to 2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon butter
2 strips uncooked bacon, cut into small pieces
Salt and pepper
Ground rosemary
1 egg, beaten
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry (I used Pepperidge Farm)

To make:
Preheat oven to 325°F

1. In a small skillet or fry pan, melt butter over medium heat then add apples and honey. Stir to coat apples and cook until caramelized. Remove from heat and set aside;
2. In a small bowl, combine potato, celery, carrot and onion, and mix well;
3. Butter a small baking dish (I used a loaf pan), making sure to grease up the sides;
4. Crumble 5 oz of ground turkey on the bottom of the pan, followed by 1/2 of chopped bacon and 1/2 of vegetable mixture. Sprinkle salt, pepper and rosemary, then repeat with remaining turkey, bacon and vegetables;
5. Spread caramelized apples evenly on top of the layers;
6. Brush edges of baking dish with beaten egg to help secure the pastry, then lay puff pastry sheet over the dish, lightly pressing down on the edges to seal and cutting off excess.
7. Cut small slits/vents in the pastry and use excess to make a design, if you wish. Brush remaining beaten egg over the whole pastry.
8. Bake for approximately 50 minutes, or until pastry is a deep golden color. Remove from oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.

For next time: 
Although the moisture from the meat and vegetables created a natural sauce for the pot pie, it was more broth-like than I prefer. Next time, I will try sprinkling some all-purpose flour between the layers to provide a thickening agent. Also, I'd like to try other vegetables such as leeks and turnips, and rather than plain ground turkey, perhaps a seasoned bulk sausage to add more depth of flavor to the whole dish.

When there's a definite chill in the air, what would you prepare to warm up?


  • Jenn said...

    Nice pot pie!!! I'd love a slice of that!!

    The Peace Coffee is a pretty neat. But that's real dedication to deliver out in the chilly winter. Impressive.

  • Anonymous said...

    It's been snowing here on the East Coast all week and this pot pie is definitely a perfect meal to warm up! I love the apples and honey in it!

  • Anh said...

    I am so jealous with your cold weather. We are so deep in summer here, it’s hot! A bit too hot.

    I will remember to make your chicken pie when our weather is a bit cooler. It sounds brilliant.

  • SKIP TO MALOU said...

    well it's not snowing here in southern cali but it's been raining... and chilly too... this pot pie definitely would be so comforting to have....
    i think i like the idea of making it thicker, thanks for the tip!

  • Lori said...

    Your post made me laugh to myself because I have these visions of how sporty I could be should we ever live in a truly wintery place. I have a feeling I would take the same course as you. A fireplace sounds nice. :)

    What a great way to highlight the positives of the area. That coffee place sounds fantastic, not to mention hardcore! I also cannot get enough of seeing those furry cows.

    While I've not experienced a winter as harsh as what is regular for you all, I do love winter weather. I've always enjoyed 4 seasons, but being in Brazil made me a winter crazy person. I missed it so much! I find the beauty of it breathtaking, but do enjoy viewing it from inside on most occasions :)

  • Kate said...

    Oh dear, I have to say that I love how you spin this so positively. Yes, there is cold, and of course snow that is piling ever higher as the weeks move on, but BUT! there is so much good in the area too and ways to work through these last weeks of winter that we all need a reminder about it and you've done that beautifully. Now, can I come over for dinner??? I'll bring my XC skis and after we power around in the snow, we can indulge in some hearty good fare. With martinis, thumbing our noses at Ol Man Winter.

  • The Diva on a Diet said...

    Ya know, even though I grew up in the frigid northeast - during a time when we actually had real winters - I'm still a cold weather wimp. You're in good company, Noodle!

    That said, there is something really nice about the winter in that it affords us the opportunity to stay home and next. To curl up with a good book and a mug of tea, or make a wonderfully nourishing meal such as this ... to just stay home, without any guilt. I like that.

    And I love the looks of this pot pie! I've never made one with ground turkey - such a good idea. And, I have all the ingredient for this in my fridge. Bonus!

    Stay warm, Noodle! :)

  • Daily Spud said...

    I don't care what you say, you did your lonely potato proud :) And I laughed heartily at your Closet of Broken Fitness Dreams - I think we must all have one of those!

    As for the ability to adapt to winter (or not), I (and the rest of the Irish population, it seems) are in the 'or not' category. This current winter, which has been much worse than usual here has, at times, managed to bring the country to a standstill. So roll on spring, I say, it can't come soon enough!

  • Kitchen Butterfly said...

    Enjoy it when the first wave of wind....hits you int he face, or the loving flakes of snow caress your cheeks....I love puff pastry over veggie pies - evened out nutrition and lust for crisp, flaky pastry...all in one!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Did I say 'bright and early'? Now, the sun's gone down and it's a bit late but here goes! 8-)

    Bob -Thanks! I was really with the flavor added by the apples! I'll definitely try this again but will add a thickener for a nice sauce.

    Dawn - I aim to please! Thanks!

    Jenn - It was a good dinner! Peace Coffee certainly walks the talk. It was a brutal January but they still delivered!

    Susan - Thank you! I wasn't sure if I could deal with it this year but these guys have inspired me. Of course, it may not be until spring before I test out my resolve. . .

    ValleyWriter - It's been brutal this year but for the sake of food, I'm willing to make an effort (kind of). 8-D

    5 Star Foodie - I hope you and your family are keeping safe and warm! Thank so much!!

    doggybloggy - Thank you!! That means a lot to me!

    Anh - Thank you so much! [LOL] I'll be more than happy to swap our snow for your sun!

    Figtree - I don't know why I don't make this as often - my husband really enjoyed it. The apples worked so well that I'll keep adding them, but next time, I'll definitely try out different sausages and use a thickener for the sauce!

    Full-Timed Housefly - Thank you! The snow can certainly be magical but sometimes, even a good thing is too much! I would love to visit Singapore and experience the heat some day. 8-)

    Carolyn - Even better than USPS! I do not exaggerate when I say that Minneapolis is serious about it's extensive bike trails: they are sometimes plowed before the streets are! I read an article that one of their couriers (around 6 altogether) pedals about 5k miles a year!

    Kenny - Aren't they? I want to visit the farm some day to see them for myself!

    Krissy - Thank you! I wish I had thought to add the flour this time but then, it's a great reason to make pot pie again! 8-)

    Stacy - I haven't used leeks nearly as much as I should! It's such a wonderful flavor. As for turnips, I wonder if I could pre-roast before putting them in - love the bit of sweetness that comes from roasting root veggies! All these ideas . . . .

    Malou - You're welcome! My sisters live in SoCal and they were telling me that it's unusually chilly. But it's true that I'd gladly switch places with any of you! Thank goodness this pot pie took a bit of the chill away. 8-)

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Trissa - We had a lot of snow but it was the gentle, pretty kind (except when it came time to shovel). It certainly helps to have good food on hand!

    Lori - [LOL] If my fitness fantasies ever came through, I'd be the world's first Wimbledon champ/Olympic-gold medal figure skater/Iron Man triathlon winner! The cows are so awesome - I've promised myself I'm going to visit them soon! - and Peace Coffee is truly outstanding in both product and practice!

    When we used to live in the South, I missed snow and told others what they were missing. I'm making up for lost time! 8-)

    Kate -[LOL] I can definitely go straight to the martinis! By hibernating, I've missed so much so I really need to get out more. It was as much for my benefit to see how winter doesn't have to stop us from eating well, healthy and conscientiously!

    Elra - Thank you! It was really comforting on that cold evening!

    Gera - Eating fresh and local in the winter can be tough but I'm learning that it's not impossible, so I just need to make the effort. I bet that Peace Coffee would love to have you on their team!

    Diva - Thanks! I've definitely had my fair share of snuggling at home; but the lack of sunlight is seriously affecting my Vitamin D levels! 8-D

    Minnesota winters usually linger well into spring months so I predict I'll be making more pot pies in the near future. Hope you are keeping well with the most recent Snow of the Century event!

    Daily Spud - There are quite a few instruments of torture in that closet; best to keep it closed! It's been a wild winter all over the world so I think we're unified in wishing for the early arrival of spring. But until then, I'll honor the Minnesota spirit by making the best of it! 8-)

    Greg - [Blushing] Apples are awesome! You may want to reserve final judgment on the 'genius' part, as it may pertain to yours truly (but thank you so much!)

    Rebecca - It's great to see a company that really stick their beliefs throughout their business practices - and the coffee tastes fantastic, too! Hope you are also keeping safe and warm with all the crazy weather out East!

    Juliana - Thank you! The apples really added such a nice sweetness to the savory flavor of the vegetables and meat. As for the photos, it was a little difficult because there's no bottom crust to keep it all together. I'm happy that they turned out!

    Penny - Crazy, indeed! The snow has stopped but the cold temperatures continue. Still, I won't complain when I'm sitting in front of a warm fireplace. 8-)

    Kat - You know how much I greatly admired your canning and preserving prowess during the fall! You definitely belong among these amazing folk who celebrate the bounty of the season, no matter the temps!

    Kitchen Butterfly - Your poetic comment is a joy! Many thanks!!

    Phyllis - I want one of these cows! 8-) Hope you are keeping warm and safe. I suppose this is putting a bit of a crimp in your dining adventures - but at least you got your yum cha and Japanese food recently!

  • The Diva on a Diet said...

    Darling Noodle - I just had to pop back in to tell you I made this pot pie and its *spectacular*!!! The use of apple is truly brilliant and adds so much flavor to the dish.

    I hope you don't mind that I'm posting about your pot pie today - with links, of course - I just couldn't keep it to myself, its too good!

    Out of necessity, I made a few changes - I had no potatoes, but I did have a turnip and leek, so in they went. Delicious! I also needed to use up the rest of some beef broth, so I made a little sauce to add to the turkey before baking.

    Seriously, this is one of the best pot pies I've ever had. Thank you so much!!!

    (And by the way, if you object to my posting about it, no worries - say the word and I'll take it down.)


  • Lo said...

    OOOH. Between those adorable Scottish Highland cattle and that delicious looking potpie, I'm swooning up a storm. The honeyed apple concept sounds fabulous!

  • Ozge said...

    Truly missed reading you friend :)
    Just in case you want to know. Google chose the word "dingle" for me to type in so it verifies I'm no bot.

    Hello Tangle Ma'am!

  • zerrin said...

    We generally have hard winters in the city I live, but this year it's snowed a few times and the snow wasn't even piled up. I do love winter, I feel the life itself when a cold wind licks my face or when a heavy rain beats me on my shoulder or when snow flakes pat gently my head and hair. I understand I'm alive and I get more desirous to breathe. Does it sound crazy?

    And this pot pie sounds absolutely heart warming. It is a dish of totally new combinations for me. Sprinkling some flour between layers is a great idea to have something more like unique borek :)

    And having a cup of salep in a snowy winter to warm up is always on top of my list in winter.

  • Jewels For Hope said...

    I read Diva Cook's version of this and I just had to stop by your page. That recipe seems amazing! I'm probably going to be thinking about this dish for the rest of the time I'm stuck at work tonight :)

  • Megan Gordon said...

    Even though spring is upon us here in California, I'm still in comfort food mode with warm grain salads, pastas, soups...and soon-to-be pot pies. This looks really incredible. What a great idea with the addition of apple--never seen that before!


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