I don’t know what it is, but there is just something about the chilly winter weather that has me craving warm, comforting things. Not only does cuddling up on the couch right now with a good “can’t put it down” book and soft fleece blanket sound like the best thing ever, sitting down to a quite meal to reminisce about my childhood sounds perfect too!
Growing up, sitting down to dinner as a family was very important to my parents… as it should be. In fact it was so important, it deeply saddens me to hear that for others this was not a common practice in their home as a child, or when I see busy schedules interrupt family dinner time for many today.
I am so thankful that, despite a few arguments to eat the tomatoes in my salad (the one food I despised as a child), and sometimes seeming annoyed when my parents asked what I learned in school that day, that family dinner time was top priority for my family. In fact, I loved every minute of it!
Dinner time for our family never lacked interesting conversation, as we poured over some of the simplest meals. If my Mom was cooking it was usually Lemon Pepper Chicken or spaghetti and if it was up to my Dad it was tomato soup or savory pot pies.
Yeah, pies, sweet or savory, are probably my Dad’s favorite food! There are stories about my Mom winning my Dad over with pies. And then when my parents got married, my great-grandmother passed her pie plates (from when she got married in 1918) down to my Mom so she could continue her pie making! 🙂
Like I said, this winter weather is sure making me feel nostalgic!
To help bring me back to those days from long ago, I decided to whip up a simple, yet comforting dinner, just like we had growing up. I headed to my local Walmart to grab a few groceries for my “homesick” dinner. In honor of my Dad, I grabbed a frozen Marie Callender’s pot pie, stuff for a Caesar salad (my favorite salad as a kid because there were no tomatoes!) and some stuff for Mini Heart Shaped Cranberry Hand Pies (in honor of my Mom’s famous fruit pies!)…. ahh… the perfect dinner to warm you up on a cold winter day!
Marie Callender’s will always remind me of my Dad because that is where he always took us for our birthday dinners and a Marie Callender’s frozen pot pie often made an appearance at our dinner table at home. Unlike back then, when there were just a few flavors, Marie Callender’s now offers pot pies with a variety of flavors (like chicken, beef and turkey) and vegetable combinations, making them perfect for picky eaters. Getting a few “mini” pot pies in different flavors makes a comforting dinner at home more fun for everyone!
Because everything is more fun in “mini” form, I whipped up these mini heart shaped (Hello! Cuteness overload!) hand pies for dessert. I loved my Mom’s pies growing up and this mini version are so festive and fun to make. They would be perfect for a comforting, family friendly Valentine’s dinner at home!
1 batch homemade or store bought pie crust (enough for two crusts)
Unbleached all-purpose flour, as needed
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (no need to thaw if frozen)
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon all-spice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 large navel orange, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons butter
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
¼ cup raw sugar (granulated sugar may be substituted)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out pie crust to approximately 1/8 to ¼-inch thick. Using a 3-inch heart or circle shaped cookie cutter, cut dough into shapes. Set dough cut outs aside. Repeat rolling and cutting process with remaining dough and any dough scraps until all dough is used and 24 to 28 heart or circle shapes are formed.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together cranberries, granulated sugar, all-spice, salt, cornstarch, orange zest and juice to form pie filling. Reduce heat to medium and let pie filling simmer for 4-5 minutes or until filling begins to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Set aside cranberry pie filling to cool for 5-10 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together egg and water to form egg wash. Using a pastry brush or your finger, brush the outer edge of half of the pie crust hearts with egg wash. Spoon approximately 1 tablespoon cranberry pie filling into the center of the heart shaped cut outs. Place a second dough heart on top of each filled heart. Using your fingers, gently press around the edge of the pie to seal. Then using a fork, crimp the edges together, fully sealing each pie. Repeat filling process with remaining ingredients.
Carefully transfer pies to prepared baking sheet. Using a toothpick cut a small “X” into the corner of each pie. Brush tops of pie with egg wash and sprinkle each pie with 1-2 teaspoons raw sugar.
Bake pies in preheated 350 degree oven for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the pies from the oven and cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Marie Callender’s would like to bring the comforts of home to the brave men and women serving in the US military. To help share a warm and flaky Marie Callender’s pot pie with U.S. servicemen and women overseas, simply look for specialty marked boxes of Marie Callender’s pies at your local Walmart and check out Marie Callendar’s Comforts From Home Program online. And click here for more comforting recipes the whole family will love!