Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and dumplings – the great controversy. Are the dumplings supposed to be rolled or dropped?

Well, I think this is based on where you were raised, honestly. Funny enough, my family is from Ohio/Kentucky/Tennessee/Georgia and we are in the dropped camp. I’m sure this generated from the Ohio (Cincinnati to be precise) group originally – so that probably explains the dropped dumplings. In the true South, dumplings are typically rolled out, cut into strips or squares and then places in the boiling broth (think Cracker Barrel).

Funny enough, my niece and nephew refer to these as poof poofs. Why? Well, in their world, dumplings are neither dropped nor rolled. Dumplings are fillings wrapped in pieces of thin dough that are either steamed or pan-fried – well, they are half Chinese after all. As Maggie puts it, “they look like poofs, so they should be named that.” The brilliance of a teenager.

My grandmother originated this recipe (best I can remember) and my mother tweaked it over the years. The beauty of this dish, is the simplicity and how this is a great weeknight dinner. I know you are wondering how this is possible. It’s a lengthy process…right? Nope! Go to the store, buy a rotisserie chicken, bag of frozen veggies and you may have the rest in your pantry. Okay, maybe not, but the rest of the ingredients are easy to keep on hand for the future.

The hardest part of this dish is pulling the chicken from the bone. And if you buy good chicken stock, you easily get all day cooked flavor in just 30 minutes. I actually really like Swanson, whether salted, low sodium or unsalted. It tastes the meatiest and least manufactured.

15895779_10154813151552978_8130071898803528352_oYields 4 servings
From Eileen Fight Sparks and Nancy Sparks Frank

1 1/2 Cup chicken, cooked, white chopped or shredded
2 Quarts stock, chicken, low-sodium
1 Cup peas, frozen
1 Cup carrots chopped or frozen slices
1 1/2 Cup flour, all-purpose
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 Cups milk, skim

Bring broth to a boil and add chicken and frozen veggies.

For the dumplings:
Mix dry ingredients together. Make a well in center and pour in milk. Slowly incorporate milk into dry ingredients. It will look like wet biscuit dough.

Drop dumplings dough by teaspoon into boiling broth. Once you have covered the surface, use your spoon to drop the remaining dumplings below the fluffy ones on the surface.

Reduce heat so the broth is above a simmer at a low boil. Cover and stew about 12 to 15 minutes.


Slow Cooker Balsamic Pot Roast

Cold weather means comfort food. Threats of snow storms and being shut in, means large meals that will last for days. I’m going to break out my slow cooker every time. Soups, stews, roasts.

Now, in Georgia, these threats are usually just blown out of proportion and I laugh them off. But I’ll still go to the store days ahead and buy the supplies for just such a meal. I mean, why not, right? Now, I’m a fan of my mother’s pot roast and I need no excuse to make it. But I’m always on the hunt for a new one to try. This one intrigued me for many reasons, but I was sold at the thought of balsamic vinegar and red wine.

I mostly followed the recipe – but I cheated and used baby carrots and baby gold potatoes. I work from home and am pretty busy this month. So I didn’t have the time on a Friday morning to do all the prep work on the carrots and potatoes to peel and prep. Short cuts should never make you feel ashamed, especially for a slow cooker recipe. Also, the grocery never has a 1.5 pound chuck roast. So all I did was increase the amounts of veggies to match the size of the roast… and of course doubled the garlic because I’m me.

This turned out great and will probably be stew by Sunday. Also, because I’m me.


Yields 6 servings
Adapted from Delish

3 Tbls oil, extra virgin olive
2 1/2 Pounds beef, chuck roast trimmed
1 Tbls salt, Kosher
1 Tbls pepper, black, coarsely ground
10 Cloves garlic, fresh minced
1 Large onion, white cut into 1-inch dice
1/4 Cup vinegar, balsamic
3 Tbls sugar, light brown, packed
1 Pound carrots, baby
24 Small potatoes, Yukon gold creamer
5 Sprigs thyme, fresh
1 Each bay leaves
2 Cups stock, chicken, low-sodium
1 Cup wine, dry red
2 Tbls cornstarch
1/2 Cup water
2 Tbls parsley, flat-leaf chopped

Tools Needed:
KitchenAid 6-Qt. Slow Cooker with Standard Lid
Kuhn Rikon Epicurean Garlic Press
OXO Good Grips 11-Inch Balloon Whisk


Mix together your salt and pepper in a small bowl – this will prevent any cross-contamination in your normal salt and pepper containers.

Dry meat with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper all over.

Don’t forget to season the sides as well.

In a large sauté pan over high heat warm 1 tbsp olive oil. Sear on all sides until a deep golden crust forms, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Also, make sure you sear the sides because brown food tastes good!

Transfer meat to the slow cooker bowl.

Return pan to medium heat and add 1 tsp olive oil. Sauté garlic and onions for 2 minutes.

Deglaze with balsamic vinegar. Simmer on low until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Scrape bottom with a wooden spoon to remove all bits of meat. Add brown sugar and stir until dissolved.

Pour mixture over meat in slow cooker. Add carrots, potatoes, thyme, bay leaf, chicken stock and red wine. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

Remove bay leaf and thyme branches. Plate the beef and veggies on a plater.

Pour sauce into a small saucepan.

Make a slurry with the cornstarch and water, Bring sauce to a boil and slowly whisk and pour in the slurry and cook about 2 minutes on boiling until thickened.


Serve gravy on the side. Garnish with parsley, if desired, and serve immediately.

Chicken Fajita and Rice Bake

Clearly, I’ve been in a mood for Mexican this week. I think that’s a constant state of being for me. I love the spices, plus cooking everything in one pot or pan certainly makes life easy.

My Dad was not a fan of one-pot dishes. For some reason he always referred to it as “Ladies’ Luncheon food.” Not sure why, as he loved Arroz con Pollo (I need to do that one soon). But overall, he was not one to make these kinds of dishes. So when he was traveling for work (IBM for 25 years), Mom would make things like this and I was always excited for them. Maybe it was because my veggies had lots more flavor, or maybe I thought I ended up with more starch to protein ratio? Who knows. But when I’m cooking, throwing one pan into the oven, or using the slow cooker is certainly easy after a long day of work.

This recipe spoke to me for many reasons, mostly because it gave me what I love – Mexican-type flavors in the form of fajitas, without the filling tortillas. Plus, I could do it with healthier brown Jasmine rice and not feel so guilty. So if making brown rice, follow the package instructions for the proper ratio of liquid to rice before trying.

15732433_10154780241917978_5164804981003318097_oAdapted from
Yields 6 to 8 servings

1 Tbls chili powder
1 tsp cumin, ground
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp pepper, cayenne
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 Tbls salt, Kosher
1 tsp pepper, black, ground
1/2 Large onion, white sliced
1 Large bell pepper, green sliced
1 Large bell pepper, yellow sliced
1 Large bell pepper, red sliced
2 Tbls oil, olive
1 Cup rice, long grain white (I prefer Jasmine)
2 Cups broth, chicken
1 3/4 Pound chicken tenders, boneless, skinless

Optional Ingredients:
1 Medium tomato, beefsteak chopped
1 Small lime cut in wedges
1 to taste cilantro picked leaves
1/2 Cup cheese, Mexican blend shredded
1/2 cup sour cream

Tools Needed:
Pyrex Basics 3 Quart Glass Oblong Baking Dish

First, let’s slice the bell peppers and the onions and remove the tendon ends from the chicken.

Bell peppers:

Slice the end off the bell pepper. Now it will sit flat on  your cutting board.

Slice downwards toward the cutting board and slice off the first side.

Turn a quarter turn clockwise and slice off the 2nd side. Notice you are leaving behind the center and ribs of the pepper?

Turn a quarter turn again and slice off the 3rd side. The last one is the hardest one…

Carefully, while holding the top of the pepper, slice off the 4th side.

Remaining in your hand is the top of the pepper (with the stem) and the guts of the pepper. Now you can easily slice your pepper. There is a bit more waste this way, but you are less likely to slice off a finger.

Now slice your pieces into thin strips – in this case 1/4-inch strips maximum. Finish by slicing the bottom of the pepper the same way.

Now you have a beautiful pile of pepper strips.

As for the onion, start by cutting in the onion in half and peeling away the dry outer layer. Now you have a safe flat surface to anchor the onion.

Slice downward town the cutting board – again in 1/4-in slices, until you reach close to the root end. Separate the rings.

As for tenders, there is this gnarly tendon running thru them. You can’t miss it, it’s white. My Mom would have you pull it all the way out, but really that isn’t necessary. But the top end is very chewy and not pleasant to eat. Make sure you cut off the top end very close to the chicken meat for each tender.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a medium bowl, combine spices to make fajita seasoning (chili powder through black pepper).

In a large bowl, combine, onion, bell peppers, and chicken. Add oil and seasoning mix; toss until seasoning is fully incorporated.

In a casserole dish, add rice and chicken broth. Stir well.


Then lay down all veggies and chicken.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 50 to 55 minutes until rice is fully cooked.

Serve with tomatoes, cilantro, sour cream, and cheese, if desired.

Cheesy Taco Noodles

I really love cheese, so any excuse to put cheese in a dish, odds are I’m going to give it a shot. This means if the dish is French, Italian or Mexican in original or claims to be one of these ethnicities, I’m sure I will love it. Because again, cheese! If you haven’t heard me say it before, cheese is life.

Now, everything in moderation. I won’t cook a dish like this except once a month, or when on vacation. Mostly because I don’t want to clog my arteries or give my doctor a heart attack. Also, I will use the 2% milkfat cheese anytime I can find them. Why? Well, because when this cools in my fridge, and I pull some out to reheat for lunch, that oil slick on top that becomes a layer of orange congealed fat is unappetizing and I will never cook the dish again. Imagine that in your body… ewwww. Reduce the fat where you can, people. I;d also suggest ground chuck (80/20) or ground round (85/15) – again, less fat equals a better you. I feel those are meatier tasting anyway.

Now in this dish, I broke my cardinal rule… in several places. First, this recipe was a glaring advertisement for No Yolks noodles. I’m not a fan, so I bought the brand I like. Also, I couldn’t find a few things at the store – December 28th and the shelves were barren. Go figure. So I made some edits along the way and this turned out (pardon the pun), delish!

Because you’ve asked, I have a few tutorials on how to chop an onion (my way) and mince a jalapeno (also my way). Apparently, the mushroom slicing was a success.

Adapted from Delish

Yields 6 servings

1 Tbls oil, extra virgin olive
1 Medium onion, white chopped
1 Small pepper, jalapeño minced
1 to taste salt, Kosher
1 1/3 Pound beef, ground chuck
2 Tbls seasoning, taco
12 Ounce(wt)s pasta, extra-wide egg noodles
3 Cups stock, chicken, low-sodium
28 Ounce(wt)s tomatoes, diced, fire-roasted
1/2 Cup cream, heavy
3 Cups cheese, Mexican blend shredded

Tools Needed:
Simply Calphalon Nonstick 5-qt. Sauté Pan & Cover
ZYLISS Lock N’ Lift Can Opener

Chop the onion. First, cut it in half and remove the outer peel. Leave the root on the onion.

Next, cut the half in half – you should have 4 quarters. Note: Root is still in tact – this will keep the layers from falling apart as you chop.

Make slices from the root end (not quite all the way to the root) forward. Depending on the size chop you need – in this case, 1/4-inch.

Turn the onion quarter onto its other cut side and do the same thing. 1/4-inch slices from the root end forward.

Now, turn the onion 1/4 turn and slice (again 1/4-inch). Your slices will yield diced/chopped onion. Slice until you hit the end of your slices – at the root.

Repeat with the other 3 quarters of onion.

Mincing jalapenos: Jalapenos are spicy, but often are requested to be minced with the ribs and seeds removed. What does that look like?

First, remove the stem from the top and cut it in half lengthwise.

Next, remove the ribs and seeds by cutting out both using a paring knife or a spoon. Use gloves or be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards or you may burn your face or mouth (or anything you touch as the oils from the pepper will stay on your fingers)

Slice the pepper lengthwise into very thin strips with a sharp knife.

Line up the matchsticks and cut into a very small dice crosswise.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion and season with salt. Cook until tender, 5 minutes.

Add jalapeño. Cook 2 minutes more.

Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink, about 6 minutes.

Drain the fat and return the beef mix to the pan.


Add the taco seasoning.

Add noodles and stir until coated in beef mixture, then add fire-roasted tomatoes and chicken broth.

Simmer until noodles are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in heavy cream.

Remove from heat and add both cheeses and toss to coat. Add additional salt to taste and serve.

Nuts and Bolts

I know. You are looking at the title of this recipe and scratching your head. Back in the 70’s, my aunt (whom I am named for) started making this snack and it was named for the nuts (the Cheerios) and bolts (pretzel sticks) like a handyman would use to repair things.  This is ages before Chex cereal sold Chex Mix in bags in the grocery stores.

This was a long sought after recipe and begged for snack for my aunt to make. I was always thrilled because it was something I could eat (peanuts, no tree nuts) and she made it for every holiday and every party she hosted. It was a staple for Maxi (what we kids called her so as not to confuse the two Lindys…yes, this means I was Mini). This was her go-to nibble. We think this recipe originated in the Louisville, Kentucky newspaper, the Courier-Journal. The food writer’s name was Dorothy Ritz.

Try this. Trust me. This is way better than the stuff you buy in stores. It also makes a TON.

nutsandboltsFrom Lindy Sparks Ruffin
Yields 18 cups

2 Sticks butter, unsalted
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt, seasoning (like Lowry’s)
3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 Cups cereal, Cheerios
12 Ounce(wt)s pretzels, thin sticks
4 Cups cereal, Corn Chex
4 Cups cereal, Wheat Chex
4 Cups cereal, Rice Chex
2 Cups peanuts, honey-roasted

Tools Needed:
Chicago Metallic Non-Stick 3-Piece Value Pack with 2 Cookie/Jelly Roll Pans and Cooling Grid
Thunder Group Mixing Bowl, 20-Quart

Mix cereals, pretzels and nuts in a large bowl.

Melt butter and add seasonings and mix very well. Pour butter mixture over cereal mix and toss until well coated. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and separate mix between sheets.

Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour, stirring halfway through time. Let sit until cooled completely.

Store in airtight containers.

The Mushroom Melt

This may be the perfect sandwich (or sammie in my household). And no, that is not a nod to Rachael Ray, but what my niece called a grilled cheese when she was little and couldn’t get the word sandwich to fully form.

I love all things patty melt, grilled cheese and mushroom. This is just missing the beef patty…but honestly the mushrooms are so Earthy that you just don’t miss it. (At this very moment, I am thinking about trying it with a thin beef patty next time though…) The funkiness of the Fontina, the sweetness from the onions and garlic and the umami from all those mushrooms and thyme. Sweet perfection.

This was supposed to be on Challah, but a week at the beach and my loaf had spoiled. I will definitely try it on that next time. We substituted Potato bread, which was on hand and did the trick.

Never forget that cheese is life.

mushmeltsAdapted from Unknown (I’ll track it down)
Yields 2 servings

1 Tbls butter
1 Tbls oil, olive
1 Small onion, yellow sliced
8 Ounce(wt)s mushrooms, cremini sliced
3 Cloves garlic, fresh chopped
1 tsp thyme, fresh chopped
1/4 Cup broth, low-sodium chicken or dry white wine
1 to taste salt and pepper
1 Tbls parsley, flat-leaf chopped
1 Cup cheese, Fontina shredded
1/4 Cup cheese, parmesan, grated
4 Slices bread, challah
2 Tbls butter

Tools Needed:
Microplane 38002 Professional Medium-Ribbon Two-Way Grater
Calphalon Aluminum Nonstick Cookware, Square Griddle Pan
Kuhn Rikon Stainless Steel Epicurean Garlic Press
Lodge 10.25-Inch Cast Iron Skillet


How to slice mushrooms:
Remove the stems. Cut each mushroom in half, then turn the halves a quarter turn and cut into slices. This is the most efficient way to get uniform slices of mushrooms despite the random sizes of your mushrooms.

Have your mushrooms and onions sliced and ready to go before you start. Have your garlic and thyme ready in a separate bowl. Have your stock or wine measured and near the stove. This is called mise en place – everything in its place.

Melt the butter and heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and saute until fragrant, about a minute. Add the cremini mushrooms and stir. Sprinkle a little salt over the top.

Saute until the start to caramelized and turn golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. This is important! Resist the urge to touch the pan, stir more than once per 5 minutes, etc. The more you move the mushrooms, the less they will get golden brown. Walk away.

Add the wine or stock, deglaze the pan and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper, add the parsley and remove from heat and let cool a bit.

Mix the cheese into the mushrooms.

Top half your bread slices each with 1/2 of the mushroom mixture. Top with the remaining bread slices.

Heat a griddle with butter. Once the butter is melted, place the sandwiches on the heated griddle (medium-high heat). Butter the top slice of bread while the sandwich is cooking.

Grill until the cheese has melted and the bread is golden brown, about 2 to 4 minutes per side.

Healthy Turkey Chili

Cold weather means it’s time for soups, stews and most importantly, chili! I love all things chili and was thrilled when the temperature dropped enough to be able to start trying new chili recipes.

This one was good, but needed quite a bit of adjustments (all reflected below). It needed more tomatoes and less beans for the ratio of meat and spices. Also, the amount of garlic is asked for was laughable. And depending on how liquidy or chunky you like your chili, you can just add more chicken stock. Personally, it needed to cook longer. Chili needs to simmer an hour to get all those flavors to meld into the meat.

The garnishes are also optional and adjustable – so if you prefer to have cornbread with your chili, skip the chips and make some. Also, for my cilantro-haters – this is just a garnish. You can skip it, or replace with parsley!


Adapted from Ambitious Kitchen
Yields 4 servings

2 tsp oil, olive
1 Medium onion, yellow chopped
8 Cloves garlic, fresh minced
1 Medium bell pepper, red chopped
1 Pound turkey, white ground
3 or 4 Tbls chili powder (spice this to your liking)
2 tsp cumin, ground
1 tsp oregano, fresh
1/4 tsp pepper, cayenne
1/2 tsp salt, Kosher
42 Ounce(wt)s tomatoes, diced
2 1/2 Cups broth, low-sodium chicken
15 Ounce(wt)s beans, kidney, canned drained and rinsed (dark red)
15 Ounce(wt)s corn, canned drained and rinsed
1 Cup cheese, Mexican, grated
1 Large avocado chopped
1 Cup tortilla chips
1 Tbls cilantro finely chopped for garnish
1/4 Cup sour cream for garnish

Tools Needed:
Kuhn Rikon Stainless Steel Epicurean Garlic Press
Simply Calphalon Nonstick 4-Quart Saucepan
Norpro 7656 10-Inch Bamboo Spoon

Place oil in a large pot and place over medium high heat.

Add in onion, garlic and red pepper and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently.

Next add in ground turkey and break up the meat using a wooden spoon; cooking until no longer pink.

Next add in chili powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper and salt; stir for about 20 seconds.

Add in tomatoes, chicken broth, kidney beans and corn. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45  to 60 minutes or until chili thickens and flavors come together.


Taste and adjust seasonings and salt as necessary.

Garnish with cheese, avocado, cilantro (or parsley), sour cream and tortilla chips.