Saturday, December 18, 2010

mommys struggles and snuggles: Favorite Chicken and Dumplings

mommys struggles and snuggles: Favorite Chicken and Dumplings: "It's getting cooler here in Texas. There are some places in the U.S where you can eat soups and stews year round. Texas is not one of those...."

Favorite Chicken and Dumplings

It's getting cooler here in Texas. There are some places in the U.S where you can eat soups and stews year round. Texas is not one of those. The window for great warm foods is pretty small here otherwise you end up sweating the whole time you are eating. Christmas time is usually a good time to have some wonderful comfort foods, and this is one of my favorites.

One of the best parts about this recipe is that it is super easy, yet really delicious. I am going to put step by step directions along with pictures to make it even easier.

These are the ingredients. Then I will explain some different ways you can fix them.

5 cups of chicken stock
1 whole chicken or at least six breast or thighs
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/2 Tbs of baking powder
1 TBs Kosher salt
1/2 Tb freshly ground blk pepper
1 cup of heavy cream
2 stalks of celery
1/2 onion
3 carrots
thyme, fresh is best, but I usually use dried about 2Tbs

You can get your chicken several ways. If you do not like to cook whole chickens you can do parts, but the flavor is not as good and you probably really can't get good chicken stock that way. If you choose to do pieces you may have to also do chicken boullion to get all of the required stock. If you choose to do a whole chicken you also have options. The easiest quickest way is to buy a rotisserie chicken. They are already seasoned and cooked. You can bring them home, pick the meat off the bones, have no innards to get rid of, and then boil your carcass to get your stock. If you want to go the more economical route buy your own whole chicken, thaw it, get your innards out, throw in stock pot and boil for several hours under the meat is falling off the bone.
This is how your chicken should look after it has cooked and is ready to be picked off the bone.

Once it is cool enough you can start shredding the meat , being careful to look for little bones that sometimes splinter off during cooking. Also you will have some skin from your chicken, just pick off and throw away. Put all your shredded meat in a bowl and put aside. Then I strain the juice of my chicken stock to get all the filmy stuff out. Measure out your cups of stock. If you still have stock left over do not throw it out! Freeze it to use for soups or other meals. I pour some into ice trays. Once it is frozen I pop the little cubes into a freezer ziplock and can use cubes as needed.

Now you are ready to make your dumplings. Mix together your flour, baking powder,salt, and pepper in a big mixing bowl. Add your heavy cream and mix until thick and sticky. I have never made this recipe that I didn't have to add more cream. It is a really dense dough and does not stick together well.

This is a picture so you can see how it looks. I added probably a half of a cup to a cup more cream then it called for because even with kneading I can not get it to stick together without adding more. Play with it until you get it right. Once it starts sticking together really good, roll it out on a floured surface. Warning: your hands will get a work out kneading this dough, it is thick. You also will use a lot of arm muscle rolling it out. It needs to be no more than about 1/16th of an inch thick. This sounds really thin, but trust me if you roll it out thicker your dumplings will come out of your pot.
Roll them out thin and small, 1 by 1 inch squares. The dumplings are the longest part of the whole process, but also the best.

After this you are going to chop up your celery, carrots, and onion and add them and your thyme to your stock. Reheat over medium heat until boiling. Add your dumplings to boiling stock, cover and simmer for about twenty minutes. Note: if your pot is almost full before you put in your dumplings get a bigger pot. I can't say enough how much the dumplings rise. After this you add your chicken and salt and pepper until hot and then you eat!

Enlisting super heros to help out never hurts!

Your finished product!

 Another great twist on this recipe we have tried is grilling a whole chicken all day to use. It gives the meat a smoky flavor that is really nice, but it does involve more time of course. Vary it up and enjoy. Having a warm bowl of this next to a nice fire is the best way we have found.

Also we have a family of four. This recipe will usually feed all of us with a little bit left over, however you may want to double the recipe if you want left overs to feed everyone the next day or if you have a larger family. This means two whole chickens instead of one so keep in mind the size of your family or how much they eat.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

mommys struggles and snuggles: Our Homestead

mommys struggles and snuggles: Our Homestead: "So my husband has decided that we should pursue the art of being self sufficient, at least more than what we are now. So I will start coveri..."

Our Homestead

So my husband has decided that we should pursue the art of being self sufficient, at least more than what we are now. So I will start covering our attempts at farming on this blog as well because I am sure there will joys and tears with it also and as the whole family will be involved it could prove to be very interesting. We have, in the past done some little things like plant gardens and small scale canning. But, he has decided we need to start raising our own meat, vegetables, and fruit. 2011 is looking very busy!

Our first real thought came after Glenn ran into an old friend who works as a manager at a place where they store things like potatoes and apples in bulk. He told us how the potatoes you buy at the store are normally years old. They spray the potatoes with a gas that is so flamable they cannot spray at night or the fire department thinks there is a fire. They use the gas the prevent the potatoes eyes from forming roots and to make them last longer. Apparently they use this process on a lot of things. I am not a paranoid person, but this grabbed both of our attention. Hmmmm.....and they wonder where cancer comes from. I don't know what kind of gas they use or what chemicals they contain, but anything that alters food that much can't be healthy. Here I thought we could just wash an apple off an it'd be good to eat. So what do you do when they are injected with gases and chemicals to keep them from decomposing?

So this started the thoughts. Then Glenn started picking up some homesteading magazines with articles about how to grow your own meat and milk and his brain has not shut down since. Well, we have ten acres and I guess it is time to use it a little more wisely.

Last week we made our first purchase.....Wilbur.....sorry could not resist. My kids are thrilled because he is friendly. Every day Brylee wants to go out and feed the pig and boss him around......something else she is very good at. She has no idea that after the first he will be one of many animals to support her healthy little diet. We will also attempt to raise chickens for meat and eggs, and cows for milk and meat.

Nothin like a corn fed hog!

Farmers in Training

So this is just the beginning of our attempts to be more self sufficient. We will see how it goes.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

mommys struggles and snuggles: Concerning pregnancy, birth, and crankiness.

mommys struggles and snuggles: Concerning pregnancy, birth, and crankiness.: "I find myself with twenty-four days to go until my due date......yes Christmas Day. I have had an easy pregnancy so far, much like my other ..."

Concerning pregnancy, birth, and crankiness.

I find myself with twenty-four days to go until my due date......yes Christmas Day. I have had an easy pregnancy so far, much like my other two, despite keeping up with two kids, five and two. I have managed to keep up with homeschooling and my house work and most of my daily activities. However, I find myself struggling as of late. I have not slowed down and now my body is starting to protest. It comes in the form of being cranky, and mostly being cranky with my kids. I actually feel relieved when my husband is here because he is pretty good about jumping right in and helping with the kids. Sometimes that means helping me get them rounded up for the night or sometimes just having a second person keeping an eye on them so I can get some things done.

Things that would normally irritate me seem so much bigger and I know it is because I am not slowing down. Why is that so hard for me to do? Part of is because I know I have limited time left and I still feel like I have so much to do. By the time school is finished and basic house cleaning is done it still looks like a tornado has hit. My five year old is pretty good about cleaning up his own messes when you tell him to, but is not the fastest in the world. Of course with a two year old you do a lot of the cleaning and they help. Have I pointed out that bending over makes me even crankier? Then you still have dinner and baths and bedtime. I have not even gotten to anything the babies room. Today I went in the room one time to look at what else I needed to do in there. I never got the chance to even walk back there again. I started to try my hand at a rosemary wreath, and the kids got in a big fight. I had to quit. Why am I trying to arrange rosemary on a wreath while the kids are getting hungry and tired? It was a stupid plan and one that ended up with screaming all the way around.

One thing I am pleased about is that, along with help from a friend, I was able to get Brylee moved into her new room. It is not finished, I still have decorating to do, but she is in there and making the transition quite well. I was amazed that the day we got all her things moved in she wanted to take a nap in her new room, and has never looked back. Her naps have been fuss free and night time as well. I am truly blessed there, and am more convinced than ever that getting your kids into a sleep schedule early on is a major bonus later. I have two very active kids, and yet both have transitioned from crib to bed and new rooms without losing sleep or routine. I can't believe that is luck, I have to believe that is due to being one thing that I have been very dilligent and consistent about from the beginning.

I am going to try to force myself to just relax a bit, take time to play with my kids, take time to sip my hot tea or sit outside for a few minutes. I think I am getting cranky because I am not allowing myself any down time. It's not even that I don't have time to myself. Time to myself is nice, but I am not even allowing myself to relax. I go from one task to another to another. Some days I really want to get outside, but the house is a mess and I want it to get be clean and inviting when Glenn gets home. So instead of relaxing outside for thirty minutes, I spend that time folding clothes, picking things up off the floor, and on and on. What's more frustrating is that tomorrow the messes and clothes will be there again and so it feels like you do all this work and there is nothing to show for it. No wonder I am cranky! So, starting tomorrow, I am going to try to slow down, do a few more things besides work, actually play with the kids, and see if I am in a better mood.

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