Chicken’n’Dumplings

Growing up one of my favorite meals in the fall and winter was chicken and dumplings.  My mom’s recipe was simple, delicious and filling.  She always made a huge pot of it so we could eat on it for days.  Soon after getting married I made this for my husband who was convinced he didn’t like the dish.  Much to his amazement he realized this is the kind of thing he could eat all the time and, in fact, he requests it weekly.  Since it is just the two of us this one dish lasts at least 2 days with Gray eating it for lunch and dinner.

Ingredients

Stock:

4 chicken quarters or 1 whole chicken

2 bay leaves

Salt and Pepper

Italian Herb Seasoning or your favorite dried herbs

4 cloves of garlic, diced

2 cups of chopped celery

2 cups of chopped carrots

Dumplings:

2 cups of Bisquick

1 cup of stock

1 cup of water

Directions

Put the chicken, bay leaves, salt, pepper, herbs and garlic into a pot and fill with water until chicken is completely covered leaving about an inch to the top.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add celery and carrots then continue to simmer for another 15 minutes.  Turn off the heat, remove the chicken to a separate dish and allow to cool for at least an hour.

Once cooled remove the meat from the bones.  To make this easier I spread out a large sheet of tin foil to work on and separate the bones, chicken and skin.  Any fat, skin or pieces that I prefer not to eat I save as a treat for our dogs.  Chicken and dumplings night is their favorite evening too.

At this time you can also remove the layer of fat on the stock.  Just use a spoon or ladle to remove the very top layer.

Return the chicken to the stock and bring back up to a boil.

To make the dumplings combine Bisquick with 1/2 a cup of the stock and 1/2 a cup of water.  You may need to adjust the liquid measurements until you have a wet, sticky dough.

Drop spoonfuls of dough into the boiling stock.  The easiest way to do this is to dip the spoon first into the stock, scoop up the dough, then dip the spoon back into the stock.  Continue boiling for 10 minutes.

Let the chicken’n’dumplings cool (I know it’s hard) before serving!

Tip: If you do not have Bisquick you can make a quick substitute by combining 2 cups of flour with 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt.  This makes a much firmer dumpling but it will do in a pinch.

Photographs were taken by http://mcarolinesimmons.wordpress.com

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Creamy Chicken

My husband loves chicken, I mean really loves it, but I hate dry chicken and so often that’s what happens.  I decided to make a fool-proof sauce that will ensure perfectly cooked chicken breast.  The sauce is so delicious and versatile that I have used it over meat balls or even by itself over rice.  My husband fondly calls this dish “creamy chicken” and no matter how many times we have it his face always lights up when he sees me making it.  The scale for the recipe will serve two for at least two meals and would easily serve a family of four.

Ingredients

1 package of 3 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (we prefer the ones with rib meat attached)

2 cups Flour seasoned with salt and pepper

4 tbsp Olive Oil, extra if needed

3 cloves of Garlic, diced or if in a pinch a teaspoon of minced garlic from the jar

1 cup of Sour Cream

1 can Cream of Mushroom soup

1/2 cup of Chicken Broth

Directions

Prepare flour in shallow, broad bowl seasoned with salt and pepper.  Rinse chicken breasts, place into a gallon ziplock bag, and pound flat.  To do this I use my glass measuring cup and pound out the breast to an even thickness, about 1/2 inch.

Heat large, non-stick skillet to medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Dredge chicken breasts in flour and place smooth side down into pan.

Brown both sides and cook until just done through (the juices will run clear and if you slice through a breast there will be NO pink).  Move cooked breasts into another dish and place into a warm oven.

Add diced garlic to the pan and cook until tender but before it browns.  Add cream of mushroom soup, sour cream and chicken broth.  Stir until it combines and there are no lumps.

Put chicken breasts back into the sauce, cover and simmer for 10 minutes flipping once.

Serve over rice with plenty of the delicious sauce.  It’s creamy and savory keeping the chicken breasts incredibly moist.

Croutons

On the weekends I love to get a loaf of fresh french bread from the commissary and make french toast but with it just being Gray and I we never seem to be able to finish the whole loaf.  After a few days it begins to go stale and then I have that awful decision of whether to be creative or toss it.  I prefer to be creative.  This week I made quick and easy croutons on the stovetop.

Ingredients

Stale bread, cut into cubes

Italian herb seasoning

Salt and Pepper

Olive Oil

Directions

Heat about two tablespoons of oil in skillet; exact measurements are not important here, you just want enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan in a very thin layer.  I like using my grandmother’s cast iron frying pan for this.

On medium heat add the bread cubes and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Crush a tablespoon of the herb seasoning between your palms and sprinkle over cubes.

It takes only a few minutes for the croutons to crisp up so watch closely and flip often to monitor their progress.  I have to admit, my first batch burned because I had no idea how fast they would finish.  Do NOT walk away.

These croutons are delicious and much healthier than the kind you get at the grocery store.  You get to choose how much oil and salt is used.

Enjoy!

Meringue Cookies

Meringue cookies are a deliciously light and fluffy bite of goodness.  With just a few ingredients these simple cookies take only a few minutes to prepare but do require an extended period in the oven.  I guarantee they are worth the wait!  My favorite ways to eat them are in the morning with my coffee or for dessert with fresh fruit.

Ingredients

3 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/4 cup of powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Directions

Allow eggs to come to room temperature by leaving them on the counter for a few hours (I take mine out while getting coffee in the morning) or in a pinch you can put them in slightly warm water for 10 minutes.

Clean your equipment thoroughly.  A tip here is to rinse out your mixer bowl, rubber spatula and whisk attachment with vinegar and then with water and a little soap.  The vinegar gets rid of any oily residue which can kill a meringue.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees with the rack in the center of the oven.  Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit your cookie sheet.   Have all ingredients to hand and the sugar already measured (trust me on this, it will make the whole process much easier).

Separate egg whites one at a time into a separate bowl ensuring there is absolutely no yolk as the fat in it will not allow the whites to fluff up correctly.  I happen to have one of those “baker’s secret” egg white separators but I prefer to use the egg shells themselves or my fingers.  If you have never done this before there are plenty of instructional videos on youtube.

In your mixer with the whisk attachment (or in a bowl with a hand mixer) beat the egg whites until foamy.

Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form.

Now slowly add the powdered sugar with the machine on medium high (about a tablespoon at a time) allowing a few seconds for each addition to incorporate.  Once the meringue holds stiff peaks add the vanilla extract and continue beating until incorporated.  The key is to test your meringue by rubbing a small bit between your fingers making sure it is no longer gritty from the sugar.

Place a ziplock bag (if you are like me and refuse to pay a lot of money for a pastry bag that will rarely see action) into a medium sized bowl.  I place one corner down into the very bottom and then fold the top over the sides of the bowl to make it easier to add the meringue.

Add a tiny dot of meringue to the corner of the cookie sheet before smoothing out the parchment paper on top to keep it from slipping around.

Now pipe your meringues.  I like mine to be bite sized and use a swirl motion to make them pretty.  Just place the tip onto the paper, squeeze gently and swirl around and up in a smooth motion and . . . presto, your meringues look like they were made professionally.  But if they turn out a little funny looking, no worries, they’ll still taste great.

Bake meringues for 45-50 minutes and then turn the sheet around to ensure even baking.  Bake another 45-50 minutes until they easily release from the parchment paper.  They should feel slightly crispy and firm.

Total bake time will be between 1 1/2 hours and 2 hours depending on the humidity.

Now comes the hard part, place a wooden spoon in the oven door so that it remains cracked open and wait a few hours for them to finish drying.  If you happen to sneak a bite they inside may be a little soft but is still delicious.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week (if they last long enough to even get in a container).

TIP: These can be enhanced by switching out the vanilla for peppermint extract or almond extract.  You can add cocoa powder and chocolate chips or crushed peppermint candies.

Bonus:  During one of my experimental batches I had the oven too high.  The sugar caramelized turning the meringues brownish and preventing them from crisping properly.  This is about trials and errors so I’ll admit to a big error this time.

Some days have more errors than others.

I feel that I should be honest on here; if I picked the name “mytrialsmyerrors” then I need to admit to the errors. Today I made applesauce and overcooked it, ew. I am also attempting to make pumpkin cinnamon buns but they won’t rise. I think it’s too cold in here. Anyway some days are cooking triumphs and some days are cooking failures. Today was a failure.

Tips: Always remember to turn on the timer. Think before you make dough on a cold day without having the heat on.

Just-Like Grandma’s Applesauce

While roaming my kitchen like a hungry bear I noticed the apples I had bought (with the intention of having more healthy snacks HA!) were going to go bad soon.  I remembered that my grandma used to make applesauce all the time.  My grandparents had a bunch of apple trees and as a child I can remember watching my grandma peel buckets of apples and make them into the most delicious applesauce ever.  After a few tears in their memory I decided to try my hand at homemade applesauce.  I have to admit this was the first time making it and I don’t have my grandmother’s recipe just the memories. 

  

Ingredients (specific amounts can be varied)

5 apples (I used 4 red delicious and 1 honeycrisp because I happened to have them)

1 Cinnamon stick

4 tbls of lemon juice

1/3 cup of white sugar

1/3 cup of brown sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 cup of apple cider

1/2 cup of water

 

Directions

1) Peel and dice apples

2) Combine all ingredients in large pot and bring to boil.  Stir to coat apples with juice and sugars.

3) Let simmer on medium heat until apples are cooked and soft, about 25 minutes.

4) Mash with a potato masher or put in a food processor/blender.  It really depends on how chunky you like it.

 

Tips

  • Use apples you like but the crunchier ones hold up really well to being cooked.
  • For a healthier version cut back on the sugar.  Consider honey or a little molasses.

 

Such a simple recipe for something so delicious!  You’ll never want to buy the processed kind again and you can freeze any leftovers although I’m not sure you’ll have any because this stuff is incredible!

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Fall is my favorite time of year.  I love the cooler weather and the beautiful colors.  It just seems like the perfect season to me.  The best foods, colors, smells.  Everything about this time of year makes me happy.  I woke up this morning and it was only 60 degrees outside (which is pretty low in FL).  Bella is glued to my side for warmth and the backyard is slowly being covered in fallen leaves.  All of this puts me in the mood for one thing in particular  . . . homemade chicken noodle soup.  Mmmmm.

I don’t generally use recipes for things like this and I’m just going to give you the basics of what I do so you can choose what to change to make it your own.

 

Ingredients

Chicken (I use thigh and leg quarters but you can cook a whole chicken or any part that you like)

Chicken bouillon

Salt

Carrots (cut into bite size pieces)

Celery (cut into bite size pieces)

Garlic (diced, preferably fresh)

Herbs (I like dill, bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, and basil)

Noodles (I used egg noodles)

 

Directions

1) Put a LARGE pot of water on to boil with salt and chicken bouillon (follow directions for amount of bouillon in relation to amount of water).  Add chicken parts, carrots, celery, garlic and herbs.  Simmer for at least 45 minutes but longer if you have lots of chicken or large pieces.

2) Allow chicken and broth to cool (trust me, just because you think the chicken is cool on the outside, it’s not always cool on the inside so be patient).  Once cool remove bones and skin from chicken and pull meat into chunks.  Some recipes say to strain the chicken broth but I love the vegetables and taste as is.  To make it healthier skim fat off the top once the broth has cooled.

3)  Bring broth back up to a boil and add the chicken and noodles.  Cook until noodles are tender. 

 

Tips

  • Use fresh ingredients and don’t worry about how much.  For my batch today I just used what was in my fridge and happened to have more celery than carrots.
  • If you stop after step 2 you can use the chicken stock for different things.  Today I’m using half for chicken noodle soup and saving half to make chicken and dumplings tomorrow.  I’ll just bring it back to a boil, drop in biscuit dough and boil for 10 minutes.

 

That’s it!  Delicious homemade chicken noodle soup.  You decide how much salt to add, you know what type of chicken you used, and you can add whatever veggies you want.  This is WAY better than the stuff you get from the can and it’s better for you too.