Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings

photo by Dave Hester on Flickr

As I bound from each task during the day, I'm finding it more and more difficult to get dinner on the table. Here's how a conversation transpired between me and my calendar as of late:

Calendar: Haw-haw! Look how full of red dots I am!
Me: Yeah, gotcha. But I'm on it.
Calendar: Time to do away with your insistence to have family sitting around the table for dinner.
Me: Uh, is that threat?
Calendar: Not a threat, per say. Just sayin'...there are such things as drive-thrus. Get with the times.
Me: Never! As a kid, even my three wild brothers insisted we have dinner together every day. And they're down-right nutty.
Calendar: Just don't see it as a possibility, working Mom of three. Only so many hours in a day.
Me: I refuse to give up!

So for all you busy parents out there, this is a great dinner on the quick. Turned out awesome. Five thumbs up all around.

photo by makelifedelicious

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings

5 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
3 cans low fat cream of chicken soup
1 can low fat cream of celery soup (or chicken. I just like the celery)
2 tbsp. butter
1 red onion, minced
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
2 teaspoons thyme
palmful of chopped fresh dill
some chopped carrots, as much as you like
some frozen peas, as much as you like
throw in some chopped celery too, if you feel the urge
salt and pepper to taste
chicken broth; about 1-2 cups
1 tube of refrigerator biscuits

Place all ingredients in slow cooker, except biscuits. Simmer on low for 6-8 hours. In the last couple hours of cooking (it calls for 30 minutes but I find you need longer), rip pieces of dough into small chunks and throw them on top of the chicken mixture. Simmer until no longer doughy.

Now go get those kids off to their dojos / hockey rinks / music classes / youth groups!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fall Food

photo by chardeniii on flickr

My muslces ache as I lay stomach-down on the hot, interlocking brick that frames our pool. I stretch my arms out before me and survey my hands covered in hedge trimmings and dirt; a result of yardwork and garden clean up. I slip them over the pool's edge and into the water.

Despite this unseasonably hot day, the icy temperature shocks my skin as the clippings float away, down to mix with the other dead creatures of the season that rest lifelessy at the bottom. My hands are shaking due to handling multiple gas-powered lawn tools and the still water is a calming welcome.

The work of a hammer is going on in the distance. Four of them, in fact. The kids (today I'll call them SG, Stitch and Geddy) are busy helping Music Man build a shed. They're proud to sport their leather tool belts buckled at the smallest notch. I think they like wearing them more than putting them to use, but when that shed is complete, they'll take pride in all the work, I'm sure. Stitch often stands back and is amazed at how this entire structure started from just one board and one nail. Geddy is begging to have a turn climbing up to the rafters.

I enjoy this time of year when we seem to be back in project mode until the next round of summer fun befalls us.  Music Man is sad about the falling leaves. He loves summer and is trying to keep his grumpiness at a simmer for my sake.

Here is a seasonal harvest veggie dish that is a great side for any meal and a perfect compliment to this time of year. I prefer it on its own with garlic bread on the side. It's a 'make ahead' recipe. Also, there is a lot of chopping so I had the food processor help me out with the onions and carrots (my own power tool for the kitchen).
photo by kattebelletje on flickr

Roasted Veggies

8 zucchini, peeled and chopped
1 eggplant, peeled and diced
8 carrots, diced
16 cherry tomatoes
2 red onions, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves, crushed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
 salt and pepper to taste

In a large bow,l mix zucchini, eggplant, carrots, tomatoes, onions and peppers. In a smaller bowl combine oil, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, oregano, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper.

Cover and chill overnight.               
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).  In a large roasting pan, roast the vegetables, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes have split and the edges of some of the vegetables are starting to crisp.  Remove from the oven and stir before returning to the oven for another 20 minutes.  At this time reduce heat to 200 degrees F (95 degrees C) and continue cooking until vegetables are tender, turning every 20 minutes.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tammy's Famous Sour Cream Crust

This is a follow-up from the last post. Tammy's pie crust was demanded by all! So here it is. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tammy's Double-crust
Sour cream pastry

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup cold lard, cubed
1/4 cup ice water
3 tbsp sour cream

In a large bowl, whisk flour with salt. Using pastry blender, cut in butter and lard until in fine crumbs with a few larger pieces.

In a liquid measure, whisk water with sour cream. Drizzle over flour mixture, tossing briskly with fork and adding a little water if necessary, until ragged dough forms.

Divide in half, press into 2 discs. Wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes (or up to 3 days, I like to make ahead).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Apple Pie Winner friend, Tammy, needed to kick some serious ass in a Hockey Mom Apple Pie Competition. I personally hadn't tried this one out myself, but my Grandma had passed it on to me. Someone from her home town had won a $25,000 prize with this recipe. So I gladly passed it on to help Tammy gain serious bragging rights that, I'm sure, will last all winter long. Here is her story:

photo by Tammy

Well Chef-boyar-Green, you did it again!

I've been making apples pies for years and when asked to join an apple pie competition between the hockey Moms last weekend, I got a little nervous but agreed.  Now, my sour cream crusts are to die for, but I knew the apple mixture needed 'something' to kick butt.  

Who do I always turn to but the greatest Chef/Mom in the world for her advice and fantastic recipes!  This pie was a hit!  I was the hands down winner.  I was the envy of all the Moms. After the Dads were licking their plates, this created a bit of curiosity from the Moms. After they tried the pie themselves, they were soon conspiring to disqualify me for all sorts of reasons (all in good fun of course) like using caramels was cheating or I didn't tell anyone I was using cream was so much fun.

Now, I know by the looks of the pictures, I have to work on my lattice crust but it was made before a very early game and kept warm for the parents to try while at its best!

Thanks again Tracey!

$25,000 Apple Pie Winner

Filling: 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 2 tsp. lemon rind, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 6 apples. Combine in saucepan and cook until thick.

8 oz. cream cheese, 1 egg, 1/3 cup sugar. Whip together until smooth.

Caramel Sauce:
1/2 lb. caramels, 1/2 cup evaporated milk. Melt caramels with milk in double boiler. Keep on low heat to stay warm.

Line 15x10 rectangle with pie pastry on a piece of foil. Place apple filling on pastry. Drizzle with caramel sauce in wide strips over apples (thin with milk if necessary). Spread with cheese mixture between strips. Sprinkle with finely chopped walnuts and bake 375 degrees for 35 minutes.

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