Sunday, April 15, 2007

Chicken & Dumplings

I've been thinking about my great-grandmother a lot lately. Grandma Sis, as we called her, was the best cook I've ever known. I don't expect to ever find pot roast, chicken & dumplings or banana pudding that tops hers. She was a simple woman who never had much; in fact she had a very hard life, but she was the most content woman I've ever met. During the last year of her life, she lived with us for a few months. One day I made her a custard pie, her favorite dessert, and her comments on how well it turned out is still one of my best memories. I'm so glad she was able to spend that time with us.

Today I'm trying to duplicate her chicken & dumplings. The recipe is simple & the dumplings turn out light & fluffy, just like little pillows. I know she's in Heaven smiling down on me, saying, "Good Job Tonja" (as she called me).

Chicken & Dumplings
1 chicken, cut into pieces
2 additional chicken breasts
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
4 large carrots, cut into large pieces
5 celery stalks, cut into large pieces
4 bay leaves
1 cup self-rising flour (I prefer Hudson Cream brand)
1/2 cup buttermilk

Place chicken in large stock pot. Add vegetables, bay leaves & salt/pepper. Cover with water. Boil until chicken is falling off the bones, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Allow to cool. Remove chicken & vegetables from pan. Drain broth into bowl, lining colander with paper towel or cheesecloth, so only broth goes into bowl. Pour broth back into stock pan.

Discard vegetables & bayleaf. Shred chicken into pieces & return to stock pot.

For dumplings, bring stock pot to a rolling boil. Mix flour & buttermilk until moistened. Drop by tablespoon into the boiling broth. Cover tightly. Return to the boil. Reduce heat without lifting cover and simmer about 15 minutes.

Tonia's Notes - Some people reserve a little broth to make a roux to thicken the stock at the end. I don't do this because the dumplings give the same effect. Also, I use the additional chicken breasts because we prefer mostly white meat & use the dark meat only to flavor the stock.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Deviled Eggs

My sister remembers with horror the Christmas of 1977. I was 4 years old & decided to help myself to a deviled egg. I don't really remember what happened, but I've been told several times that the platter ended up on the floor & no one had deviled eggs that Christmas. Amy, 6 years old at the time, actually cried.

So deviled eggs is my other contribution to Easter dinner. Amy & I make these together, but I'm more of a helper. These eggs have actually become her specialty & they are by no means your ordinary deviled eggs. The filling consists of egg yolks, mayonaise, mustard, sweet pickle relish, radishes, green onions, & salt, giving the eggs a confetti-like appearance. There is always leftover egg mixture, but it never goes to waste at our house. My great-uncle James takes it home with him, saying it makes a great egg salad sandwich.

Deviled Eggs
Start with 18 boiled eggs. Half & set whites aside, place yolks in mixing bowl.
Finely chop 10 radishes & one bunch of green onions (greens only); set aside. Add mayonaise & mustard to egg yolks, a little at a time until to desired consistency (filling should not be too thin). Add 3 tablespoons of sweet pickle relish, radishes & green onions, mix well. Add salt to taste. Pipe or spoon filling into eggs. Enjoy!

Amish Custard

My husband & I are very lucky. Our families get along extremely well. So well that we really have become one big happy family. I realize how fortunate we are when I hear my married friends talk about the struggle of splitting time & rotating holidays between their parents. My mom always hosts the holiday dinners & me, my mother-in-law & sister all contribute to the meal.

This year I'm making two dishes for our Easter feast. For dessert I'm making a treat called Amish Custard (we'll talk about the other dish later). It's not really a custard, so I'm not sure how it got its name. Of course, I love all things Amish, so it's no surprise that I adore this dessert. It's a delicious blend of sweetened cream cheese & chocolate on a flaky pecan crust. There's never any left over, so sometimes I make two to be sure Mike has some to eat at home.

Amish Custard
1 c. flour
1 stick butter
1 c. chopped pecans
8 oz. cream cheese
1 c. powdered sugar
1 c. Cool Whip
Instant chocolate pudding

Melt butter, add flour and pecans. Spread mixture in bottom of 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden. Let cool. Make pudding according to directions on box. Mix cream cheese & powdered sugar, add Cool Whip & stir until blended well. Spread cream cheese mixture onto cooled crust, followed by chocolate pudding. Top with remaining Cool Whip and sprinkle with chopped pecans.

Happy Easter! Jesus lives & because He was victorious over sin & death, we too can be.

To jump in on the WDB, here's our beagle, Shiloh (aka Mr. Shiloh-Bob Beaglesworth), enjoying some leftover Cool Whip. Judging from the 2nd picture, he thinks it's pretty good.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Le Creuset Dreams

I'll be 34 on April 23rd, which means it's time for me to start dropping hints to my husband about possible birthday presents. This year I'm dreaming of a Le Creuset dutch oven. Williams Sonoma has the size I want on sale, so I'd actually be saving Mike some money. I sent him an email with a link & I'm hoping he will tell me to go ahead & order it. I'll add the gift-wrap option so I'll be surprised when I open it.

I've already been thinking of all the wonderful dishes I'll be creating. I love lazy Sundays with meals that practically cook themselves. Boston Chef is a great blog that I've been reading & they have lots of braising recipes which I'm anxious to try.

Happy Birthday to me...happy birthday to me...