Welcome your guests with chicken pie, made with love. Shannon Lajoie

Picture it: Bowdoinham, 1983. January. We were new here and needed to meet people. I herded my four young children (ages 11 months through 9 years) into the Second Baptist Church and, within minutes, the five of us were swept up into a grandmotherly group hug by the woman who would become our adopted Maine nana.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

From that day forward, we spent many a cozy Sunday afternoon tucked up to her kitchen table, surrounded by a big serving of love and the rest of her family. It was glorious.

Yes, it was Mabel Bailey who taught me how to put together this chicken pie that I have made at least a thousand times since that first Maine winter. Now my daughters make it for their kids. That’s what recipes are for — not to show off, or to keep secreted away in a drawer – but to share.

Mabel usually served buttered corn and mashed potatoes alongside this main dish, but I thought it would be wise to add something green to the table in the form of green beans and kale.

The entrée can also be made with leftover turkey and gravy so you may want to make extra on the upcoming Big Day … and speaking of that, for those of you who can’t decide what you want to bake for Thanksgiving “afters,” how about a pumpkin pie, pecan pie and cheesecake layered into one luscious dessert?

I promised you pies for the month of November and you shall have them, dear hearts.

Just don’t forget the whipped cream.

Nana’s Chicken Pie

4 cups homemade chicken stock
4-5 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon or 2 chicken bouillon cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1/2 cup each celery and carrots, finely diced and cooked (optional)

Biscuits

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup cold milk

Sift dry ingredients together in a bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture looks like crumbs. Combine egg and milk and add to flour mixture, stirring just enough to make a soft dough that sticks together.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly 15 times. Roll to 1-inch thickness. Cut with a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Warm stock in a saucepan. Mix water and cornstarch and stir into chicken stock. Add bouillon. Bring to a simmer and stir until thickened slightly. Add chicken (and vegetables, if using), season with salt and pepper, and cook over low heat until gravy is bubbling and chicken has warmed through. Pour into a 9×13-inch baking dish. Set biscuits on top and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Yield: 8 servings with extra biscuits.

Green Beans & Kale

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1/4 pound mushrooms, cut into quarters
1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bunch kale (1/2 pound), stemmed and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add mushrooms, green beans, salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Add wine and continue cooking until green beans are almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and kale and continue cooking until the kale has wilted, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add lemon juice and the Parmesan. Toss to coat and serve immediately. Yield: 6 servings

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie

Pastry for lining a 9-inch pie plate
1 (8-ounce package) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin
1 cup evaporated milk
2 beaten eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line pie plate with pastry. Trim and crimp the edges and set aside.

In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla and 1 beaten egg with an electric mixer until smooth. Chill for 30 minutes. Spoon into pastry.

In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin, evaporated milk, 2 beaten eggs, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Carefully pour over cream cheese layer.

Cover edges of pie with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 25 more minutes.

Combine pecans, flour, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and butter. Remove pie from oven and sprinkle this mixture over the top. Bake for 10-15 more minutes more or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for at least 1 hour on a wire rack. Refrigerate within 2 hours of baking. Yield: 8 servings

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