Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Simply Amazing Dumplings

Y'all believe me when I tell you how grateful I am that I rarely get sick. For some reason, the latest tummy bug that came around decided to smack me twice in the same week, which I was not appreciating too much, ain't gonna lie.

So yesterday when I was about to starve slap to death but was scared to put anything in my angry tummy, I thought dumplings. Well, being a Southern cook I say dumplin's when I say it out loud, and y'all might as well read it how I say it. And don't be thinking I used an apostrophe to make a plural because I am not that girl. That apostrophe stands for a "g". Just making that clear from the get-go.

But anyway, I thought I'd share how I made these since honest to goodness I think these were my best yet. Probably because I needed them to be not just yummy but also healing so I don't wind up in the you-know-which-room all night. Again.

Moving on.

I started out with two chicken breast halves (I would normally use boneless chicken thighs because the broth is better, but I didn't have any, and had to make do). I simmered the chicken in half a Dutch-oven-sized pot of chicken broth (the generic kind) with some salt, pepper, chopped sweet onion (Vidalias are best, and that's no lie because I used to live near there) along with about 6 cloves of crushed garlic till the chicken was cooked through. I have to add that yes I do mean SIX cloves of garlic because didn't I tell you I needed healing?

Then I chopped up the pieces and returned them to the broth with a whole stick of butter. That's real butter. A whole stick. Just plop it right in there, but don't let it splash up on you or you'll need more healing than my dumplings will provide.

So now you've got this sweet mess of yum-smellin' brothy buttery sweet-oniony chicken dreaminess bubbling on the stove just waiting for the crowning touch. The dumplin's.

And this is the part where you might want to revoke my official Southern cooking license, but stay with me. I promise you will change your mind.

Take a big can of Grands biscuits (y'all know me, I did not use Grands, but if you can't get the Walmart generic ones like I use, you'll have to make do with Grands). And make sure they are the butter ones, with little specks of butter right in there. Yes, in addition to the whole stick of butter--I told you this is Southern cooking so hush.

Now, can y'all just permit me a minute to tell you how much I hate opening canned biscuits? I don't mean I'm a little squeamish. I mean I am sweaty-palms, heart-racing, petrified the whole time I'm peeling the paper off that can, and if I reach the end of the paper and the can is still intact, you can hear my sigh of relief down the street, ain't kidding. If that dadburn can pops while I'm a-peeling, well, I ain't describing the hullabaloo that ensues.

Anyway, back to holding the unpeeled, unpopped can. At that point, it gets fun. I whack that can so hard on the edge of the counter, feeling plum proud of myself for handling it like a pro (because it didn't pop mid-peel and make me squeal like a stuck pig). Once it pops open, you pull the biscuits out one at a time and pinch off teeny tiny little pieces (about dime-sized) and plop them into the simmering broth.

Make sure it's bubbling but not cooking too fast or your dumplin's will stick to the bottom. You'll quickly see why you make the pieces so small, because they swell up like mad and some people don't like giant, doughy dumplin's. Just letting you know that this part takes a while, so if you've got a buddy who can help you pinch, drag 'em over so you don't pass slap out standing there a-pinching all by yourself.

By the time that last biscuit is pinched off into the bubbles, you can just take a spoon and stir the whole mess so the top ones sink down into the broth, then turn the burner off, cover the pot, and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes. Pretty much the hardest part. You might want to busy yourself getting a bowl and spoon ready so you don't go stark raving mad while you wait.

And then, enjoy. Feel better. And thank the good Lord for the angels who invented dumplin's, bless their hearts.


Simply Amazing Dumplings (Dumplin's)

2-4 boneless chicken thighs (or a couple of chicken breast halves if you don't have thighs)
6-8 cups chicken broth
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 stick butter
1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
1 can large Grands-style butter biscuits (with the little butter flecks)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Crock Pot Chicken with Stuffing

I saw a similar recipe online and of course I had to mess with it. Here's my version of Crock Pot Chicken with Stuffing (and whatever else).

First, I thawed out two 1-lb. packages of boneless chicken tenders. I cooked one package of chicken to create some broth for my chicken & stuffing recipe (because I was out, and I don't recommend ever being without chicken broth). I made shredded chicken taquito filling with the half I'd cooked for a separate meal (I'll blog about that later). I placed the other half of the chicken into the crock pot, covering the bottom of the crock. I poured the chicken broth I'd created (about a cup and a half, maybe two cups--I don't measure much, and y'all already know that) over the chicken. I sprinkled all that with celery salt, black pepper, Adobo, and onion powder. In a bowl, I combined most of a large can of cream of chicken soup and a good-sized dollop of sour cream and whisked that together real good. I poured (okay, more like dumped) that into the crock and tried to spread it around a little, but it started mixing with the broth so I left it be. On top of all that, I poured a box of dry seasoned chicken stuffing mix and spread it out evenly so all the herbs weren't all clumped in one spot. I sprinkled the whole mess with sea salt, garlic powder, and black pepper. I cooked it on high for an hour, then low for about two hours, then had to turn it down to "keep warm" for the next two hours so it didn't burn. Clearly my crock pot cooks too hot, but it's the only one I've got for now so I'm dealing with it.

Here's the recipe at a glance:

1 lb. boneless chicken breasts or tenders
2 cups chicken broth
1 large or 2 small cans cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup sour cream
1-2 box(es) dry chicken seasoned stuffing mix

Your favorite seasonings. Here's mine:
Sea salt Black pepper Garlic powder Onion powder Celery salt
Adobo I confess if I'd had some cranberry sauce I might've plopped a few spoonfuls of it over the very top before serving just for funsies. Another fun thing you can do is toss a favorite veggie over this, like I did with whole green beans. I let them warm through with the other stuff for about half an hour before serving. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Crumby Epiphany

I discovered Chef in Training on Facebook a few months back and have shared many of her recipes via social media, but I have to say tonight my regard for her jumped way up the ladder.

See, what had happened was I had just shared her recipe for Baked Crispy Ranch Chicken (I just went ahead and shared it before I clicked over because I already knew it was gonna be good) when I popped over to take a closer look at the recipe. Most of the ingredients I probably could have come close to guessing, but it was actually something she threw in as a side-note that caught my eye and gave me an "apostrophe" of monumental proportions.

What was this revelation, you ask? Bread crumbs. Now, I know bread crumbs in and of themselves are no great bit of news, but she mentioned that she likes making and using her own by throwing white bread into a blender. Well, let's just say my inner creative chef went into orbit.

See, I am a saver. I just plain can't stand wasting food. I am also a big fan of making things myself rather than buying them already made. So it should be easy to see why I wanted to reach right through the monitor and hug her neck. My little Ninja chopper is one of my favorite kitchen thingies ever, and when I read the line about throwing bread into a blender, I immediately thought of 1. my beloved Ninja, and 2. all the bread I reluctantly throw away because I can't stand to eat a sandwich on bread that's more than three hours old. So my inner saver and my inner chef and my inner foodie all converged and threw a party.

My reason for posting about it here (other than to shout out to my new friend who has no clue I'm on the planet) is to share the thoughts that raced through my mind right after I had the vision of saving bread AND making my own bread crumbs. I mean, I haven't been this delighted since I had the crazy notion of making homemade croutons out of a giant loaf of sun-dried tomato bread my friend gave me that I was afraid might go bad. It's like a whole new world opened up. It's really fun when new worlds open up.

Anyway, my thought: Flavored bread crumbs.

  • Italian: Toss Italian seasonings and garlic powder right into the chopper with the bread. This would be amazing sprinkled over a salad. Just saying.
  • Basil: Toss some dried basil in and blend it with the bread crumbs, and you'll have something perfect for sprinkling over a steaming mug of tomato soup and no need for crackers.
  • Ranch: Toss dry ranch seasoning into the chopper with the bread. Ooh! This would make a fine breading for chicken wings!
  • Cereal: Toss a favorite dry cereal (like the corn flakes the above-mentioned chicken recipe calls for) and blend it right in with the bread crumbs.
  • Nuts: Nuts! Just blend 'em right in! I feel like I'm flying. And seeds! All the seeds.
  • Spicy: Toss some favorite spices or spice rubs (like Caribeque's Calypso) in and blend in with the bread crumbs.
  • Variety: Varying the breads opens up even more possibilities. I'm getting more excited even as I type this and new ideas are forming. Pumpernickel, rye, ohmyword King's Hawaiian! Not that there's usually any of that left over to pulverize, but still. 
Talk about making cooking time way simpler and tastier in a flash! And wow, the space for creativity. This is almost too much to process. I'm probably going to need some coffee.

Anyway, I'd like to thank Nikki over at Chef in Training and encourage you to check out both her website and her Facebook page. The recipes she shares are sure to make your inner chef very happy.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Reese's Oreo Peanut Butter Pie

Photo Credit: Luke Easterling

This is a family favorite for birthdays. It has effectually replaced birthday "cakes" here at Easterhouse, so I guess it's about time I shared the recipe. 

Oh, and yes, this is enough to feed a small army, which I have when everyone is here, so feel free to cut the recipe to fit the size of your brigade. I tripled it to make three huge pies because they are so good it just makes sense to make three and stick the extra in the freezer for when we get a hankerin'.

Here's what you'll need:

6 c. powdered sugar
(3) 8 oz. blocks of cream cheese
3 c. peanut butter
3 c. milk
(3) 16 oz. containers Cool Whip
Chocolate or regular graham cracker crumbs OR crushed Oreo cookies (see instructions below)
36 frozen Reese's peanut butter cups (at least)

·      Whip powdered sugar and cream cheese until creamy.
·      Add peanut butter, milk, mixing well.
·      Add Cool Whip, blending well.
·      Chop frozen Reese’s into little pieces. Stir half into pie filling.
·      Pour filling evenly into pans.
·      Sprinkle remainder of chopped Reese’s over pies.

Important Notes
·      Pie is best served frozen, or at least semi-frozen.
·      Yield: approx. 60 total servings.
·      This triple recipe will also fill a lasagna pan.
·      I like to use three disposable pans with lids so I can keep the extra ones tucked away in the freezer.
·      To make crust for 3 cake pans (9x11) or 1 lasagna pan:
1 box graham crackers, crushed fine
2 sticks butter, very soft or melted
1 cup sugar
Stir sugar and crumbs together to blend, then mix in butter until evenly distributed. Press into bottom of pan(s).
(If using Oreos, crush approx. 50 cookies in their entirety and add the butter but NOT the sugar. Divide evenly among three pans.)
(Also, use a food chopper on both the frozen Reese’s and the cracker/cookie crumbs—it will make life much easier.)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Homemade Pretzels

NOTE: I made the pretzel dough in my bread machine (dough cycle). You can use your Kitchen Aid (I will have me one of these one day, I tell you!) or other stand mixer if you prefer.
ALSO NOTE: The decimals in this font are rather obscure (you can't see 'em) so pay attention that you don't get all crazy with the amounts. I mean, who would think you're supposed to use 15 cups of water and 45 cups of flour in a batch of dough? Are you feeding a farm? Anyhow. Don't do it.

All this goes into the bread maker:
1.5 cups room-temp water
1/2 stick melted butter
1.5 tsp. salt
1 TB sugar
4.5 cups all purpose flour
1 TB yeast

Save this for after that:
6 cups water
1/3 cup baking soda
Coarse salt
1 stick melted butter (optional, but not really. but seriously.)
Cinnamon/sugar (also optional, with the same caveat).

  • After the dough cycle completes, dump the dough out onto a buttered surface (cutting board, pastry sheet, unsuspecting counter top, etc.). 
  • Press out dough and cut however your little heart desires. You can cut 10-12 equally-sized pieces and roll each one into a rope to form traditionally-shaped (large) pretzels, or you can cut into strips and then bite-sized pieces with a pizza cutter (this is what I did).
  • Leave those to rise a bit on the buttered surface while you...
  • Stir baking soda into water in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to continue a steady simmer.
  • Preheat oven to 450. I had to reduce mine to 385, but that's 'cause the dadgum repairman did some kind of voodoo on it last month when it wouldn't heat right and now it's a guessing game on what temp to actually use. Anyhow.
  • Carefully and without 'deflating' pretzels entirely (don't fret over this too much--basically just don't squish them to bits and you should be fine), submerge each one in the boiling baking soda water for about 30 seconds, then flip over for another 20-30 seconds, then remove with a large slotted spoon or spatula to a wire rack or broiler rack to drain. {You can also brush a beaten egg/water mixture over your pretzels if you feel froggy, but I didn't, at least this time. Suit yourself if you want a more yellowish, glossy finished look.)
  • Sprinkle with coarse salt.
  • Leave some unsalted if you're feeling a little wild and want to sprinkle some with cinnamon/sugar after they are baked and buttered.
  • Line a baking/cookie sheet with parchment. Gently brush it with melted or softened butter.
  • Gently place pretzels onto baking sheet (it should hold 6-8 at a time), place into preheated oven, and bake for 12-15 min. or until they reach desired golden brown.
  • I ran mine through a melted butter bath before tossing them all into a wooden bowl for serving, 'cause that's how I roll.
  • ENJOY!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Easterhouse Italian Spaghetti Sauce

I've been making red sauce my whole life, and I'm pretty sure I've never written (typed) out the recipe. Well, I was asked for my recipe today, and since that is usually the way I wind up even thinking in terms of "recipe", here we go.

I wish I had thought ahead and taken photos of each step. For this one, we'll have to settle for a shot during cooking and once during serving. I'll try to get better about that. Thanks for bearing with me and this learn-as-I-go thing.

This recipe fills my largest sauce pot about 3/4 full, so make sure you've got a hefty-sized one before you start. And make sure it has an insulated bottom; you do NOT want to scorch this to the bottom of the pot.

1 and 1/2 pods of fresh garlic, peeled.
1 TB Italian seasonings
2 TB Italian spaghetti seasonings (if available)
1 tsp. basil
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
3-5 TB olive oil
3 lbs. lean ground beef
2-3 lbs. sweet Italian sausage
1 can (105oz.) tomato sauce
1 can (105oz.) tomato puree
1 can (105oz.) crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup sugar

First, I get Steve to crush (because I like being able to use my hands for the rest of the day)  about a pod and a half of garlic (yes, that much--trust me and go with it). Put the crushed garlic into a small non-stick saucepan with the olive oil and seasonings and heat on low to blend flavors. Make sure it doesn't cook too fast--just simmer.

While the garlic stuff is simmering and smelling your house up like mad, brown the ground beef and sausage (add in a tad more olive oil if needed to keep it from sticking). I cut my Italian sausage out of the casing and smash it up with the ground beef, but you can cut it up with the casings if you prefer.

After the meat is completely done, add the garlic stuff and prepare to have your smeller assailed again. You'll be good and ravenous by the time this concoction is done. Stir it in, cover, and let it simmer on low for 10-15 minutes. If your windows are open, this will be about the time neighbors, joggers, and the feller on the other side of the river stop by to ask what smells so good. Don't be too alarmed. It's your fault for harboring a taste of Heaven on your stove top.

At this point you remove the lid, nearly pass out from the aroma, and pour in the contents of the three gargantuan cans (I get them at Sam's Club at great prices). Add the sugar (this smooths out the flavor by toning down the acidity in the tomatoes) and stir the whole lovely mess until well blended.

Simmer on low heat, stirring often to keep it from sticking, for as much of the day as you need until dinner. You could serve it after about an hour, but a few hours only blends the flavors more. Leftovers are better still.

Serve over your favorite pasta, with garlic knots or bread sticks, topped with Parmesan cheese if you like. Just make sure nobody loosened the top on the cheese like one of our sons did to the other once. To this day the boy has to put a mountain of cheese on top to duplicate the great taste that happened that day.

Share with your neighbors (I wasn't joking about that--it's a neat thing to do) and tell God how grateful you are for such a good gift.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Southwest Soup

It happens nearly every day, and I grin every time. Well, I grin as I'm scrambling to come up with a recipe like I had one all along ready to produce at a moment's notice.

Here's what happens: I post a photo of whatever I just concocted on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (because I can't help myself) and within minutes someone is asking me for "the recipe". Thing is, true to my backward form, I make up recipes from dishes I make, not the other way around.

Today's chuckle courtesy of Southwest Soup.

See, what had happened was...

Over the weekend I made Chicken Tortilla Soup.

1. Cut a big gob (I don't know, maybe 3 pounds or so?) of your favorite chicken (I used boneless, skinless chicken breast because I get it at a great price at Sam's Club and I had some on hand) into tiny chunks and boil in a giant soup pot about half full of water with a bunch of your favorite seasonings thrown in. I use cumin (a must for any southwest-style soup), sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, crushed fresh garlic (3-4 cloves, if you have it), Adobo, and about 1/2 cup (that's a HALF, not one-to-two) of powdered chicken bouillon. Oh, and a stick or two of real butter. It'll enrich the soup, so hush.

2. Add a can of seasoned black beans.

3. Stir a lot while it cooks, maybe a couple of hours of simmering on low after it comes to a good boil.

4. Serve with the following on the side for adding to individual bowls:
-egg noodles or pasta (both undercooked a little so the soup doesn't mush them)
-rice (white or yellow)
-whole kernel corn
-shredded Mexican cheeses
-tortilla chips for crushing

A couple of days later when this soup was starting to dwindle and I was hearing complaints that there wasn't much chicken left in the bottom and I wasn't about to toss it and make a whole new dinner just yet, I got the bright idea to use it as a starter for new soup. My mama would be so proud of me. Anyway.

So I browned a big bunch (I don't know, maybe 4 pounds or so?) of ground beef with sea salt, black pepper, garlic & onion powder, Adobo, you know...the stuff I put in just about everything...and 1/4 cup or so of taco seasoning mix (I get that at Sam's Club, too, in a big box) until it was good and done and had smelled up the house like Mexican Heaven.

I spooned about 3 cups or so of the ground beef into the remaining chicken tortilla soup and stirred, put the remaining taco meat away for another meal, and stood back quite happy with myself.

I found a leftover baked potato in the fridge, so I peeled it and cubed it and tossed that into the pot, too.

I'm trying to remember now...was that all? I think so.

When Jeff came home he had some, and by his behavior it appears that my stretch-this-longer soup was quite a hit. Score. Fed 8 people with it and still had enough left over for my lunch today. FOR. THE. WIN.