Love In A Bowl

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This past week, I was minding my own business (for once), going through the checkout with every single package of marked down chicken in the store when I was suddenly the center of attention.  The cashier, a woman in her mid 50’s, asked what I was going to do with all that chicken.  Laughing, I told her that my husband was from the South and I was stocking up to make chicken and dumplings.  (As my dear friend K would say, chicken and dumplings is his love language.)  

“Oh, do you put celery in your chicken soup?” The cashier asked.

“Yes, along with onions and carrots.”

“How do you make your dumplings?  Do you use Bisquick or biscuits in the roll?”

I stared at her dumbfounded.  Bisquick?  

“You know, to make the dumplings…” She prompted.

“Um…um…I make mine from scratch.”  I stammered, looking around in a daze. 

“How?”  This time the voice was from behind me.  I turned to see a pretty 20-something staring at me with expectation.

“With flour and eggs, baking powder…  It’s easy…”At this point, I should have just rattled off my recipe, but I was still befuddled.  I had never heard of making dumplings any way other than from scratch.  Maybe I’m behind the times (my husband does say that I cook like his great grandmother).

While intriguing in hindsight, the incounter didn’t end with me looking highly intelligent.  I think I mumbled something about “rolled dumpling, Google it.”  

Great answer smarty!  So in attempt to make the world a better place, one bowl of soup at a time, and maybe save some face I am going to share my recipe now.

Rolled Dumplings

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 TBL baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 gallon (or more) simmering broth/stock

Start by making a good flavorful broth or stock.  Get it heating on the stove and if you are using stock you made previously add any vegetables/meat you may want…don’t forget salt!

In a large bowl stir together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Clear a well in the center of the mixed ingredients and drop the eggs and milk.  Whisk slightly with a fork before incorporating into the dry ingredients.  

Once the dough is mixed, plop it out onto a floured counter top and dust with flour. Roll out into a big sheet like you would if making cookies or biscuits, the thickness depends on personal preference.  I roll mine out to 1/4 inch since hubby likes rather roubust dumplings, but thinner makes a more delicate noodle-like dumpling that some folks prefer.  

Using a butter knife, cut the dough into one inch strips then cut across the strips in two inch intervals to create individual dumplings.


One by one, drop the dumplings into the simmering broth.  As the pot begins to fill up, you will have to stir down the dumplings on top to make room for each new addition.  Luckily, these are not like fragile drop dumplings and will not fall apart and make a mess in your soup.  

When you have all the dumplings in the pot, turn the heat down slightly.  Cover and let simmer for 45 minutes or until the dumplings are tender.

There you have it easy and comforting!  It also ends up being a very budget friendly meal.  Last time I made chicken and dumplings I figured out that I fed the 5 of us 4 meals for less than $8.  

  



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Drive Through Delicious 

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My husband and I love coffee.  I mean LOVE coffee.  


Most of our pre-children dates included coffee and now our moka pot is percolating 3-4 times a day.  We don’t get a lot of one on one time, so meeting on the couch for a cupp’a is a ritual we keep atleast twice durring the day.  


Quite a bit less frequently are our trips out to buy coffee.  Our favorite drinks cost upwards of $5 each (damn inflation!) and a long drive in the country with a cup of coffee just isn’t as peaceful as it once was.  


Last week my husband came up with a plan to duplicate our favorite drink here at the house.  I was charged with making it happen and the results are amazing!  For less than $1.50 we can both have a delicious cup of specialty coffee while we snuggle on the couch.  Thus far, we’ve managed to keep the secret from the kids, so for now we can indulge in peace.

Sweetheart Coffee

  • 2 double shots espresso
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 6 Andes Mints


Unwrap and drop three Andes Mints in each of two large mugs.


Brew four shots (2 double shots) espresso while warming the sugar and milk in a heavy saucepan over med-low heat.  Keep a close eye on the milk and stir frequently.  Heat until it just begains to froth.

When the coffee is brewed, pour it over the candies in the mugs and stir briefly to melt.  Top off with the steaming milk and enjoy!


Coniferous Crackers

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A few days ago, we ran out of crackers.  

It was a cool rainy day building up to snow and we were out of crackers for the third time in a week.  The girls were in a particularly nasty rainy day mood and I desperately needed something to keep them occupied.  So, we made crackers.

The idea of making my own crackers has been floating around in my head for a few years now.  Ever since the day my step-mom and I brought this cookbook home from the thrift store.  I love collaborated cookbooks and this is one of the best I’ve ever owned.  If I’m going to use a cookbook, this is almost always the one I turn to.

Well, in this cookbook is a recipe that caught my eye the very first time I thumbed through it-REBECCA BOONE’S HOMEMADE CRACKERS.  Such a grand sounding recipe, in a very rustic backwoodsy sort of way.  I can just imagine Rebecca Boone standing over a rough plank table wearing a calico dress and apron, sleeves pushed up to the elbows, rolling out crackers.  What an industrious woman!  

So, I made crackers with the girls.  The reality was diaristicly different from my day dream.  

The ingredients were all simple and items I keep on hand.  The process it self was easy as well.  What was not straightforward was Dark Moon.  She was swinging wildly from sweet and helpful to ornery and destructive.  It was too late for a nap and too early for bed, so I just had to bite the bullet and go with it.  

I measured out the ingredients and let the girls combine them in a bowl.  Then I worked the dough by hand.  It was a bit stiffer than I expected.  Since this is was my experience with crackers, I just decided to go with it.  I took a little taste and it was pretty tasty, so I proceeded to roll it into a sheet on the table.  

Here is where I decided (between fighting with Dark Moon over rather she should be allowed to eat copious amounts of raw dough) that I had made a mistake.  I absolutely could not roll the dough thin enough to make a proper cracker.  Once again, I just keep on truckin’ and did what I could before taking a cookie cutter to the dough sheet.

Miss Busy did a great job poking holes in our pine tree shaped crackers.  The recipe said to bake them on a greased cookie sheet, but I was all out of cooking spray (add that to my shopping list with “crackers”) and used parchment instead.  It worked just fine.

By this point I was feeling stressed, so I spun some Elton John for the good vibes.  The girls and I danced in the living room while our crackers baked.

They turned out quite pretty little crackers, but not quite as cracker-ish as I would have liked.  Warm they were like small chewy biscuits with crunchy edges (not complaints here), but cold they were like munching on stones.  Overall, they ended up reminding me of the hardtack experiment I did a few years ago. 

I really want this recipe to work, so I will probably give it another go (with out my assistants) and pay careful attention to my wet/dry ratio.  With all the cooks involved, the somewhat disappointing results probably had more to do with us than the recipe.   

It’s Breakfast Time

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As a child, I hated squash.  My mother only knew how to cook it one way: baked with tons of brown sugar, a pinch of cinnamon, and topped with a mountain of marshmallows.  Talk about sweetness overload and everyone was required to partake.  Ugh!


As an adult and a momma myself, I have become a huge fan of squash.  When prepared properly they are a mouthful of nutty goodness and the options for preparation is nearly endless.  For years, I focused on only savory dishes (curries, stews, chili), but the past few years I have once again started trying squash in sweet applications.  

I must say, it is love.


Last year, it was scones and muffins, but this year I have moved on to pancakes.  Since Squash Chocolate Chip Pancakes doesn’t grab at the imagination in a nice way, lets call them Chocolate Chip Harvest Cakes.  Or just “yum”for short. 

The moisture and sweetness of the squash negate the need for any oil and greatly cuts the amount of sweetner needed in the recipe.  Plus, its a vegetable for breakfast, so it’s kinda healthy.  **Wink, Wink**

If you don’t know how to bake and prep a squash for baking/cooking I made a little how-to here.  

Chocolate Chip Harvest Cakes

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp cloves

Zest and juice of 1 orange

1/2 dark brown sugar

2 eggs

2 cups milk

2 cups mashed squash

1/4-1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips amount depend on how many you eat while cooking 


Mix flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and spices in a large bowl.  Set aside.

In another bowl whisk orange zest and juice with the eggs and milk.  Fold in the squash (I used a bright heirloom variety that I was unable to identify, but any winter squash-except spaghetti -will work).

Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix until everything is moist.  This will be thicker than typical pancake batter and will probably have a few lumps.


Warm a skillet over medium low heat and spritz with non-stick spray.  Ladle 1/2 cup of batter onto the skillet and top with 6-7 chocolate chips.

Use the tip of a knife to press the chips into the batter so they do not come into contact with the skillet when the pancake is flipped.  

Allow each cake to cook until the top begins to dry out and the skillet side is evenly browned before flipping and cooking the other side.   This takes a bit, so be patient.  

 

To serve, sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Voila!  That easy.  

Left overs make a great snack, even with out the dusting of sugar.  

It’s Nuts Around Here

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This morning, I decided that we needed a project intended for little helpers.  Something hands on and not too messy.  It also had to be more interesting than daddy’s project, since the girls were using up the last few drops of his sanity.  

A batch of Nutty Snack Mix seemed to be the answer.  It killed about twenty minutes (cooking with kids takes a lot longer than doing it yourself) and it will provide snack fodder all week.  

Nutty Snack Mix

1 tsp salt

1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp ground habanero 

1/4 tsp celery seed

2 TBL olive oil

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1 cup raw sunflower seeds

1 cup raw cashews

1 cup raw almonds

2 cups raw peanuts

Mix spices and oil in a small dish and set aside.  Add more habanero if you wish, this is the family friendly version.  

Pour the nuts and seeds into a large bowl and mix well.  The important part is 6 cups of raw nuts and seeds.  Choose varieties you enjoy the most or use what you have on hand.


Add the spice/oil mixture and stir until everything is evenly coated.


Spread on a baking sheet and put in a 250 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.  Stir every 10 minutes to prevent burning.  Cool completely before serving or storing.  







A Sip of Fall

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Fall brings a lot of warm fuzzies at our house.  It is the season my husband and I met (fun fact, our first date was on Halloween) and also the first season we enjoyed under the same roof.  It was fall when we found out we were expecting our first baby and almost exactly a year later we took our cross country adventure to move our then small family back to my home state.  We’ve done a lot of memory making in the crisp Autumn air.  

Favor is a big emotional marker for both my husband and I, so when the days start to grow cool we begin to dream of our fall favorites.  I simmer huge pots of soup on the stove all day, bake pumpkin everything, and ladle up mugs of steaming hot cider.  This past weekend, I made our first batch of cider for the year and shared it with some of the neighbors.  It was a big hit.

I have been making cider this way for years now, but apparently its gingery punch is not the norm.  If you prefer less zing, feel free to reduce the ginger.  Always use fresh spices and apple juice with as little processing as you can find.  I prefer organic and unpasteurized.  

Spiced Cider

1 gallon 100%, unsweetened apple juice 

1 cup sugar

3 cinnamon sticks

3 slices unpeeled, organic orange

3 whole cloves

3 slices fresh ginger

A pinch of salt

Place all ingredients in a large, covered pot and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 hours.  Serve hot.  


That’s all there is to it. Really, the waiting is the hardest part, but the house will smell amazing!