Sunday, February 26, 2012

Easy Chicken and Dumplings

It's another lazy and beautiful Sunday! I'm one of those people who like to spend my Sundays with my family and doing things I love to do. I don't like to spend the day on drudgery. One of our favorite Sunday meals is chicken and dumplings. It's easy and it doesn't keep me standing in the kitchen all day. Once I get it started, I can do other (fun) things while it cooks.
Chicken and Dumplings is a southern tradition. Chicken and Dumplings lovers are divided into two camps: flat dumplings or round dumplings. One of my grandmothers was a flat dumpling person. She mixed them up, rolled them out flat, and cut them up into strips. My other grandmother made the round dumplings- she mixed up a basic biscuit dough, rolled it into balls, and dropped them into the broth. I confess, I am more of a round dumpling person (sorry, Granny). However, I have found a short cut in to form of canned biscuits. Would my grandmothers gasp in horror if they were alive today? Most likely not. They'd probably cheer me on for finding a way to save time while still serving up a great dish. So.. here goes:
If you happen to have a fresh, whole chicken lying around, well, good for you, sister! Get that baby into a pot! If you are like the rest of us (rummaging through the freezer thinking, "I know I had some chicken in here somewhere..." well go see what you've got. I had some frozen chicken breasts. Works for me. The fact is, our grandmothers learned to make use of all they had and waste nothing. If they didn't have a whole chicken did they give up? Heck no! Got some chicken? Go get it...
Put the chicken in a pot and cover with a good bit of water. (That's right, I said "good bit". Unless I am trying a new, difficult recipe, I rarely measure things.) I filled the pot enough to cover the chicken by a good 2 1/2 inches. My chicken was frozen, so that takes longer to cook than fresh chicken. I turned the heat to medium high and added 1 medium onion:
2 ribs of finely sliced celery:

I topped this with 1/2 stick of REAL butter, sliced:

When the chicken begins boiling away nicely I also add about 1 tsp. poultry seasoning, a chicken bouillon cube, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. (You can always adjust them later.) Some people add a bay leaf- it's really up to your personal taste. I don't usually add a bay leaf.

 Cover, turn the heat to low, and go do something interesting. Read a book, watch your kids play..... Cook until the chicken is falling off the bone. I cook mine slowly- always on low. The longer it takes, the better the flavor. When the chicken is ready to fall off the bone, remove it to a plate and let it cool (until it is cool enough to handle). You can keep your broth simmering on low while the chicken cools. Add 1 can cream of chicken soup and whisk it in. It can make friends with the broth while you work with the chicken and the dumplings.

While the chicken cools, take 2 rolls of canned biscuits from the fridge. (Use the small "cheap" kind for this- the big, fat ones don't work well at all.) Quarter each biscuit and place it ON TOP of the broth in the pan. IMPORTANT: NEVER (ever) stir the broth once the dumplings are added!! If you do, they will sink to the bottom, stick there, and burn. Cover the dumplings with the chicken pieces. The chicken presses the dumplings just underneath the broth, where they will cook, but not sink enough to scorch. on the bottom. Cover and simmer until the dumplings are cooked all the way through. Once they are done and you turn off the heat, you can stir it a little.

The final dish:
Hope you enjoy this dish as much as my family. Have a great Sunday!
Beth :-)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A cool thing for cooks

 I made a cool discovery on a recent trip to Trader Joe's ( As a working mom, I am all for anything that makes my life easier. However, I want to feed my family healthy food. I worry about chemicals, hormones, etc. in our food. (Don't even get me started on my GMO rant.) This is one reason I love TJ's- you get good, high quality food.
Last Saturday I found these-
It's crushed garlic and chopped cilantro in little frozen cubes. (How cool is that?!)
You keep them in the freezer. If you need a clove of crushed garlic- just pop one cube out!  Each cube of cilantro equals 1 tsp. (Notice I have already used one cube.)
I know this is a small thing, but any small thing that saves me time without sacrificing quality is a good thing.
Happy (FAT) Tuesday. See you on Wordless Wednesday!
Beth :o)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Guest Who Stays...and Stays

"The winter is like a guest who lingers--- Having said goodbye for days.  She squeezes our hands with icy fingers, Then sits down and stays and stays and stays."  -- Anita McLean Washington

Truer words were never spoken.  Today has been ice cold and rainy. The sun is finally beginning to peek through the clouds, but I think it will get down to about 30 degrees tonight. I could never live up north. Down here, our winters are relatively short-- but they are still too long for me.

I finally started my tomato seeds today.  It really wasn't the time, according to the moon (and the 2012 Moon Sign Book). However, the moon's calendar and my own don't always agree. I have to get up and go be a librarian tomorrow (in my other life) and the moon does not. Like I have said before, you do the best you can, when you can. Today I had time to start tomatoes. Tomorrow I have to work and take my daughter to ballet. It's this thing we call reality- it gets in the way of everything. :/

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What happened to spring?  I thought General Beauregard said it was on its way!  Here I am huddled up by the wood stove trying to keep warm, wishing for flip flop weather. I finally had all I could stand and decided to take a walk (albeit brief) around the yard and down the road through the woods in front of the house. It's amazing how a short walk can clear the mind and relieve stress. Fresh air does wonders for the soul.

This is a spot across the hollow from us that was cleared off last summer. I honestly hope no one puts a house there. I hate to sound selfish, but this is my retreat-my quiet place. The thought of seeing another house from my yard depresses me. I like other people- and I love my neighbors. However, I treasure my solitude.
 The sky was amazing today! I had to get a few pics. I love the look of winter branches agains a clear blue sky.

I found a few clumps of lillies bravely making their debut:
And some optimistic hyacinths breaking through as well:
(And yes, I do see those evil weeds peeking through, too.)

I guess everyone enjoys a winter stroll. I met this hen out going about her business:
And, below, the smiling face of my best friend:
Nothing like a winter walk.

Beth :o)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Rack for Seedlings- for under $100!

It's that time of year (FINALLY) and I've been so busy I haven't blogged in a while. I got more seeds started this past weekend: peppers, eggplant, some herbs and flowers. Hopefully they will sprout soon and move to the grow rack (seed rack, whatever you call it- I have always called them "grow racks" and, to me, that is what they will always be).
Speaking of which, my old rack that I used for my seedlings finally bit the dust. I loved it, though. It was a wooden, A-frame type rack. My husband built it like one I saw in a gardening catalog. I could unfold it and use it throughout the growing season, then take it down and store it through the winter. I used it for several years, but it is really worn out now.
If you have looked in any catalogs lately you know how expensive a these things can be- at least $200, and often twice that. My husband is working long hours now and didn't really have a great deal of time for building another. So, what to do?
 I did a little shopping and this is what I came up with.  I went to Walmart and bought a metal shelving unit for about $49. My husband put it together. I still had the lights from my old rack (also purchased at Walmart a few years ago). He attached them to the shelf with chains and- TADA!- instant grow rack!
Not gorgeous, but it works! I  know the wires are a little unsightly (they are plugged into a surge protector). I can stand to look at it for a little while- until my seedlings are ready to plant. It isn't as tall or as wide as my old rack, but I think I can make it work.
If you have to watch your money (or even if you don't but would rather spend it on something more fun than a grow rack) this is definitely an option.
Now, if only the warmer days would come soon so I could do something about those ugly, empty  planters on my deck.....