Chicken and Dumplings

Winter is in full swing here in Texas. Its cold and rainy. In the middle of summer when the temperature is over 100°, I can’t wait for winter and cold, snuggly nights. Now that winter is here, I snuggle up with Theo and love making big pots of hot, thick food, like chicken and dumplings.  The following recipe is my variation of my Aunt’s chicken and dumplings that she taught me how to make in high school. Its rich, creamy and hot, perfect for cold chilly nights.

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Ingredients

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon oil
4-6 carrots
3 stalks celery
1 box chicken broth
dry minced onion
salt and pepper
1 batch biscuit dough, homemade or refrigerated can
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In a large pot, brown the outside of the chicken breast in the oil over medium-high heat until browned on both sides.

In the meantime, wash and peel the carrots and celery.

Dice the carrots and celery into 1 inch pieces.

Remove the chicken from the pot and pour in the chicken broth, making sure to get any little browned morsels of deliciousness up off the bottom of the pot and stirred into the broth.

Replace the chicken  and add as much water as needed to submerge the chicken. I usually end up with about 2 cups broth and  just under 2 cups water. Bring broth to a boil and allow the chicken to boil until cooked through.

Remove cooked chicken from the boiling broth and allow to cool slightly on a cutting board.

Add the carrots and celery to the chicken broth and cook about 10 minutes before  adding the chicken back in.

Dice up the chicken breast into 1 inch cubes and add back to the pot with about 1/2 teaspoon of dry onion(more or less to taste).  Season with salt and pepper to taste and depending on the salty-ness of the chicken broth used.

Roll out the biscuit dough and cut into squares, rectangles, triangle or strips.

Add the biscuit dough into the pot and stir. When the biscuit dough floats to the top, is it cooked through. Allow the soup/stew to continue to cook until thickened. It should be pretty quick, 5-10 minutes.

Serve piping hot is a huge bowl. Then take a nice long nap.

Buttery Dinner Rolls

For Thanksgiving I made some deliciousness. Hot buttery rolls that are light and fluffy. Perfection in carb form.  They are made from the same dough  I use to make cinnamon buns. I get three pans of rolls(6-8 rolls per pan), plenty for a few dinners and they freeze really well.

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Ingredients

2 cups milk
1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 package yeast
5 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 Tablespoon salt
1 egg
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Warm the milk, 1/2 cup butter and the sugar over low heat until luke warm.

When the butter has melted, the sugar dissolved and the whole mixture no hotter than 110°, add the yeast and stir to dissolve. Allow yeast to bloom for 10-15 minutes.

In a separate bowl, stir together 4 cups of flour, the baking powder and the salt.

Add the egg to the flour mixture.

When the milk mixture is bubbly, pour into the flour/egg mixture and stir until all combined.

Cover with a towel and allow to rise about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of flour on the counter. Place the dough on the flour and knead by hand 5-10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky, working in the flour as needed.

Divide the dough in thirds and then into sixths or eighths.

Roll each dough ball into a smooth round, pinching the bottoms.

Melt the remaining butter and dip each dough ball in butter and then arrange in a pan. If you would like to save the rolls for later, tightly cover with plastic wrap and freeze. If you are ready to bake, allow the rolls to rise in the pan until doubled in size.

When ready to bake the frozen rolls, take the rolls out of the freezer and allow to defrost overnight in the fridge. Unwrap the rolls and allow to rise on the countertop until doubled in size, about 45 minutes. You could also turn the oven on for about 5 minutes, then turn it off and stash the unwrapped rolls in the warm oven to thaw and rise.

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Before you put the rolls in the oven, make a little foil hat to cover the rolls in case they might burn. Leave the foil off to begin with but keep an eye on the roll tops, if they are getting too brown, pop the foil on top for the remaining cooking time.

Bake rolls 10-15 minutes.

These rolls are so simply light and buttery with a delicate texture. They are so great hot out of the oven.

Christmas

After eating a big Thanksgiving meal, it was time to decorate for Christmas at my grandparents. My sister and I hung up lights outside and put up the Christmas tree.

We had a lot of fun. It is always great to spend time with my sister.

The top of the tree this year includes both Mr. and Mrs. Clause and a lighted star.

Beads and flowers went on next.

Handmade ornaments that my Dad and Aunt made when they were young.

Then a collection of bells,

a crystal ballerina, my Nana’s handmade snowflakes,

beautiful angels, and everything. I mean EVERYTHING.

Even a stained glass JOY. My sister made the executive to try to put on every ornament in the box.  We tried very had and almost succeeded.

The tree is very full this year. I am very glad it is because we will be missing my cousins this year.

Even Theo got in the holiday decorating mood this year!

Croque Monsieur/Madame

We were watching Its Complicated, I don’t know why. But the point is that during Meryl Streep’s character’s date with Steve Martin’s character she makes Croque Monsieur for dinner. I didn’t hear what she called it because I was only half watching. But when I saw it as I glanced up, I had to rewind and find out what she had called it. Then I researched it. Turns out that it is a glorified ham and cheese with a béchamel sauce. I was enamored. I had to make it.

Turns out there are two main varieties: Croque Monsieur, without eggs and Croque Madame, with eggs. I made both because I had to try both. I have no will power. I should feel ashamed but I don’t.

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Ingredients

6 slices bread
9 slices ham
4-6 oz Gruyère cheese, sliced
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup Parmesan
salt and pepper
6 eggs(optional)
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Preheat oven to 400°.

On a foil lined baking sheet, lay out 6 slices of bread. Top each with a slice and a half of ham and a couple of slices of Gruyère cheese.

Bake these ham and cheese topped bread for 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted and the bread is toasted.

In the meantime, make a roux with the butter and flour.

Slowly add the milk to the roux.

Add the Parmesan cheese and any remaining Gruyère. Stir the cheese in until it has melted and incorporated into the milk. Season with salt to taste.

Let the milk and cheese mixture sit over low heat to thicken.

In a nonstick pan, fry the eggs.

When the ham and cheese comes out of the oven…

top with the egg.

On top of the egg, ham, and cheese, spoon on the cheese sauce.

Return to the oven and bake until the cheese sauce gets a browned. You could throw this under the broiler to speed things up.

Serve hot.

The Dog Sofa: Seat

Its time to get back to some content!!

So I feel guilty. If you have noticed my site has undergone some changes over the past week or so. And there have even been some big changes that you can’t see. And there are changes planned for the future. And this past week I was completely engrossed in a 4-day webinar about making my blog infinitely better.

The workshop I was fortunate enough to have enjoyed was taught by Justin Seeley, web guru and self-proclaimed designer, trainer, geek. And trust me he is all of those things and probably a lot more. The workshop was titled WordPress for Photographers and offered by creativeLIVE. If you are starting out blogging or want to revamp your site or brand, you have to check it out. The last day was actually a separate course about Designing for the Social Web, which was so jam-packed with useful information that I don’t think I took notes fast enough.

The whole experience had my attention so focused on design that I almost forgot that I needed to get back to my content. So without further delay here are the next steps on the dog sofa:

Get yourself some support. I used tow strapping. I don’t know how I ended up using this… oh wait, yes I do. I was looking for upholstery springs and could only find two places that looked legit on the web and they were EXPENSIVE and wholesale quantities. Remember this is a couch for a DOG. I love my little guy but I wasn’t going to drop over 100 bucks for more spring than I could use if I made all the upholstered furniture in my whole house.

Note about tow straps: My tow strap was not pre-stretched. You might want to stretch it before you cut it up. After me sitting on it a few times it did begin to sag just a bit. This also got me thinking, “They don’t test these things!!”

Cut off pieces the right length to stretch from the underside of the front crossbar to the underside of the rear crossbar.

Use fire(or if you are cautious, a hot plate, iron, or soldering iron) to sear the ends to keep the strapping from fraying. I am just guessing that an iron and the others would work but have not tested them and take no responsibility for your melting technique!

Mark the crossbars to evenly space the amount of straps you have cut.

Staple one end of the strapping to the front crossbar. Use a few staples for good measure.

Pull and stretch and staple the strapping to the rear crossbar. Use a helper! It would have been much easier that way.

In the same manner that the strapping is attached, attach a double thickness of fabric.

Here is the view from the bottom.

This is how the finished seat support will look for the dog sofa.

And Theo enjoying the sofa. I added his cushion and a piece of fabric(so he wouldn’t fall out of the side).

Next on the dog sofa agenda is padding.

Links: the framethe wrapping

Tortellini Fake-Bake

The weather is a little chilly so the time is right for hot, creamy, stick to your ribs food.  We had some left over cheese stuffed tortellini in the freezer that I didn’t know what to do with. This is what I came up with and I am so glad it came together better than I expected.

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Ingredients

2 chicken breasts
salt
4 slices bacon
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup water
2 cups uncooked tortellini
pinch of cayenne or chipotle pepper just for depth of flavor (optional)
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Gather the ingredients.

Cube chicken into bite sized pieces and season liberally with salt.

Cook chicken over medium high heat until cooked through. Then remove from pan and set aside.

Cook bacon in same pan.

Remove cooked bacon from the pan and set aside with chicken.

In the same pan with the bacon drippings, add the butter and allow to melt. Turn the temperature down a bit.

Add the flour to the butter and whisk to combine until smooth. Cook, whisking often until the raw taste has cooked out of the flour and there is a nutty aroma.

Slowly whisk in the milk.

Add the water to the milk mixture and turn up the heat.

When the milk mixture comes to a simmer, add the tortellini, chicken and bacon. Add the pinch of cayenne now to bring out the bacon flavor, if desired.

Cook until sauce has thickened and tortellini is cooked through.

Serve piping hot and enjoy.

Left overs can be reheated in a skillet over low heat with a splash of milk to loosen things up.

This is what I got to enjoy while eating. My baby pouting because I didn’t make an extra slice of bacon for him. He is on a diet and still trying to lose those last two pounds, so no bacon for him. How sad he looks and then he gets extra attention later because I feel guilty. His is a genius!

Sweet Potato/Potato Gratin

The holidays are upon us. I just ordered my sister’s Christmas present today and Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Today I have been cooking up a storm in the kitchen. I am in charge of all the carb heavy dishes and I am loving it. When people ask what my favorite food is my answer is CARBS. Anything from rolls to pasta, potatoes, pancakes, breads, cakes, and rice. I gotta have my carbs and I try to balance it all out with salads and fish. I moderate my carbs but I love them more than chocolate.

So I made so buttery rolls that still need perfecting(this happens when you make up your own recipes) and an old favorite adapted from The Mayo Clinic’s Two Potato Gratin.

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Ingredients

2 baking potatoes
1 sweet potato
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups milk
pinch of dry minced garlic
pinch of cinnamon
1-2 handfuls of grated cheese(variety of your choosing)
salt
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Preheat oven to 425*.

Make a roux: Melt the butter in a small sauce pan and add the flour. Cook over medium low heat until it starts to smell nutty, whisking often so the flour does not burn.

Slowly add the milk while whisking. Add the garlic and the cinnamon. I know this sounds like a disastrous flavor combo but both the garlic and cinnamon are such small amounts and the result is subtle hints of flavor in the final dish.

Let the milk mixture just kinda hang out on low heat until you need it.

Peel and slice both the potatoes and the sweet potato into approximately 1/8 inch thick disks. This is not too terribly important to be accurate but try to get everything uniformly the same thickness.

Lay half of the potato, half of the sweet potato into the bottom of a greased baking dish and sprinkle with about half of the salt. Mine dish is probably about an 8 inch square baker. Last year, when we had a full house for the holidays, I doubled the recipe and used a 9×13 inch baking dish.

Pour half of the milk mixture on top.

Sprinkle on some cheese.

Repeat the layers with the remaining potato, sweet potato, salt, milk and cheese.

Bake for 40-45 minutes.

Top cheese on top is golden and the whole kitchen will smell like pizza. I don’t know why it makes the kitchen smell like pizza but it does or at least it did today.

Maybe I was just craving pizza, you know, my love affair with carbs.

You can freeze this gratin and reheat for service that day of, as I will be doing for Thanksgiving or you can dig in immediately