Chicken and Herb Dumplings

Chicken with Herb Dumplings

There are foods I will always associate with my childhood. Chicken and dumplings is one of those dishes. I can remember watching my Mom spooning the dumpling batter over the simmering pot of chicken and vegetables. She’d cover the pot and we would wait. When she uncovered it, the dumplings had puffed up, and pretty much covered the whole dish. It was magical to me. The dumplings were so tender and light. I can’t make this dish, all these years later, without thinking of her.

I know there are other ways to make dumplings, and they are good. But for me, I still like the way my Mom made them the best.

I think that is true for a lot of us. There are dishes that are as much about the memory as the flavor.

So here is my Mom’s recipe for Chicken and Dumplings.

 

  Mom’s Chicken and Dumplings

1 T. oil
1 (3 lb.) broiler, cut into pieces
salt and pepper
flour for dredging
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
3-4 potatoes, cut into chunks
2-3 c. chicken stock
1 t. each marjoram and thyme
1 c. buttermilk baking mix* I make my own, recipe follows
1/3 c. milk
2 t. fresh parsley
2 t. snipped chives or green onions

1/2 t. red pepper flakes
Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper and dredge pieces in flour. Heat oil in large skillet and brown chicken pieces on all sides. Remove chicken pieces and sauté onion until tender. Add carrots, potatoes, broth and chicken to skillet and cook, covered, 20 minutes. Sprinkle herbs over the chicken. Combine baking mix with milk, parsley, chives and red pepper flakes and spoon batter in skillet in 8 mounds. Cover and cook over low heat 20 more minutes. Serves 4.

*Here are two versions of the biscuit mix.

Chef Pastry Mix/ Biscuit Mix

8 cups sifted, all-purpose flour

1 c. powdered milk

1 c. powdered buttermilk

¼ c. baking powder

1 T. salt

2 c. shortening, coconut oil or butter- if using butter store in the fridge- coconut oil version should be stored in fridge in warm weather

Sift dry ingredients together 3 times. Cut in fat to resemble cornmeal. Keep in an airtight container.  Store in a cool dry place and use within six months.

Whole Wheat Baking Mix

5 c. flour

3 c. whole wheat pastry flour

1 c. whole wheat flour

1/3 c. baking powder

1 c. powdered milk, not non-fat

2 t. salt

3 1/2 sticks butter

 

Mix dry ingredients together well, then cut in butter. Store in fridge for up to 3 months and can be frozen for up to a year. Makes about 12 cups.

 

 

Lemon-Sour Cream Cupcakes

Lemon and Sour Cream Cupcake

I love the lemon flavor in these cupcakes. They are rich, without being too heavy, and full of zest. I had picked up a bunch of lemons recently. Since I need dessert for dinner, I thought I would bake up a batch.

Lemon zest in both the batter and the frosting, really makes them special. Cupcakes are also such a nice, easy dessert. If you try these, I am sure you will be pleased, as will your family and friends.

It makes a big batch, so you can freeze some for later.

Even though I normally frost these, you can also just combine powdered sugar with a little lemon zest and dust them with it, instead of the frosting.

Lemon and Sour Cream Cupcakes

 

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon each baking powder and salt

2 cups sour cream

Frosting:

9 tablespoons butter, softened

6 ¾ cups confectioners’ sugar

6 tablespoons lemon juice

1 T. vanilla extract

¾ teaspoon grated lemon peel

3 tablespoon milk

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add lemon peel and vanilla; mix well. Combine dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream (batter will be thick). Fill 30 greased or paper-lined muffin cups with 1/4 cup of batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. For frosting, cream butter and sugar in a small mixing bowl. Add lemon juice, vanilla, lemon peel and milk; beat until smooth. Frost cupcakes. Makes 30.

Marinated Mushrooms and Peppers

Marinated Mushrooms and Peppers

This dish combines two of my favorites- mushrooms and peppers. They are cooked together in an herb-rich brine, then allowed to chill in the brine, absorbing even more flavor.  Think of it like a fresh pickle.

Once finished, the marinated veggies will keep for several weeks in the fridge.

This is a great dish to have on hand. You can serve it as an appetizer, with cheese and crackers, or as part of an antipasto tray. I have been known to eat them right out of the container as a snack.

You can also serve it on a bed of lettuce, as a salad, using some of the brine as the dressing. I sometimes double the brine ingredients, just so I have extra “liquid” to use as a dressing.

I kept it fairly mild, but you can add hot sauce for a spicier version, if you prefer.

I know 2 pounds of mushrooms sounds like an awful lot. It really isn’t. The mushrooms cook down a lot.

 

     Marinated Mushrooms with Peppers

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup water

2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon chopped onion

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

2 lbs. fresh mushrooms, stems removed

2 sweet peppers, seeded and diced

 

Combine the vinegar, water, oil, sugar, onion, parsley, basil, garlic, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil. Stir in the mushrooms and red bell pepper; return mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until the mushrooms are tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer to a covered container and store in refrigerator at least 4 hours before serving.

Violet Jelly

Violet Jelly

I am always interested in new and different ways to use my edible flowers. A few years ago, I started making jelly with my violets. I started by making infused vinegar from some of my violets. I like the vinegar for dressing salads.

Later, I decided to use some of the violet vinegar as a base for the jelly. It worked out great. The end product had a sweet taste of violets, but the vinegar added a tartness I really liked. It also came out a stunning pink color.

Since the violets are steeped in vinegar- you can harvest over several weeks- just keep adding blossoms to the vinegar. If you don’t have a lot of blossoms at once, you can harvest a few at a time over a longer period of time. The violets in vinegar will keep, so you don’t have to make the jelly right away.

I like to have equal parts flowers and vinegar for a nice strong floral flavor, but you can get by with fewer blossoms if you need.

Start with a clean jar, and put your violets in it. Pour vinegar over to cover. White vinegar or white wine vinegar can be used. Heck you could probably use red wine vinegar, too. Cider vinegar might affect the color. You can continue to add flowers to the jar as you pick them. I picked 4 cups of violets and put them in a quart mason jar. I added vinegar to fill the jar, closed it up and let the flavors blend for a week. I could have let it sit longer if I was too busy to get to it. If you are in a hurry and want to make the jelly right away just heat up the vinegar and steep the flowers.

After a week, I strained it out then poured the mixture through a coffee filter to get it really clear. I ended up with 3 1/2 cups of violet “vinegar” to use for my violet jelly. I had a basic idea of how much sugar I would need so I went from there. It worked out great and jelled perfectly.

 

 

Violet Jelly

3 1/2 cups violet vinegar*

1/2 c. lemon juice

1 box powdered pectin

5 c. sugar

Wash and prep jars and get water bath heating up. Place violet vinegar in pan and add lemon juice and pectin. Bring mixture to a rolling boil over high heat. Add sugar and return to the boil. Stir often. Once mixture gets to a full rolling boil, boil 1 minute. Remove jelly from heat and skim off any foam. Ladle hot liquid into jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims and adjust lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes for 4 oz. and 8 oz. jars. Remove jars to cooling rack and check seals once they have cooled down. Yield: about 7 half pint jars or  13-14  (4 oz.) jars.

*For 3 1/2 cups of violet vinegar you will need 3-4 cups of blossoms and 3 1/2 cups of vinegar.

Lilac Jelly

Lilac Jelly

This time of year, I always gather lilacs and make lilac vinegar with them. It’s easy to do. You just put lilac blossoms in a jar and cover them with vinegar. I use a cup of vinegar for every cup of flowers. I let the mixture steep for a week or longer and then strain out the blossoms. Any 5% strength vinegar works fine. I kind of like apple cider vinegar.

I decided to use some of this mixture to make jelly this year. The color of the vinegar is a light pink color. The cooking process changed it somewhat and it came out a light honey color. Very pretty. By using vinegar as the base, the jelly has a nice combination of tartness with the sweet. I could see using it on toast or as a glaze for meats.

You can use the same recipe for violets and roses.

Lilac Jelly

3 1/2 cups lilac vinegar

1/2 c. lemon juice

1 package powdered pectin

5 c. sugar

Wash and prep jars and get water bath heating up. Place violet vinegar in pan and add lemon juice and pectin. Bring mixture to a rolling boil over high heat. Add sugar and return to the boil. Stir often. Once mixture gets to a full rolling boil, boil 1 minute. Remove jelly from heat and skim off any foam. Ladle hot liquid into jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims and adjust lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes for 4 oz. and 8 oz. jars. Remove jars to cooling rack and check seals once they have cooled down. Yield: about 7 half pint jars or  13-14  (4 oz.) jars.

Candied Violets

Candied Violets

This time of year, I get requests about how to make candied violets. I thought I would share the recipe again.

I make them every year. I gather violets from my yard over several weeks and make several batches each season.

Since my yard is full of violets right now, I decided to candy some today. It’s an easy way to enjoy these delicate flowers throughout the year.  I use them to decorate baked goods.

Candied violets are lovely on a cakes or on cupcakes. You can also use them to top homemade chocolates and other candies. They add charm and a festive touch anytime you use them.

Always be sure to pick violets from a location where no pesticides are used.

 

 

Candied Violets

Powdered egg whites (see note)
Water
Superfine sugar (see note)
Fresh violet flowers, rinsed and drained on paper toweling- Not African violets

Following package directions reconstitute egg whites to the equivalent of one or two egg whites. You can dilute them a little to make them easier to brush on. Place sugar in a shallow bowl. With a food-grade fine brush coat a violet with the egg white and press into the sugar. Place on wax paper and repeat with remaining flowers. Allow to dry for about a week. Store in a container with a tight fitting lid in a cool place. I like to store them in the freezer.

10 Common Plants You Can Eat

Lambsquarters

A lot of people don’t realize how many common plants they can eat. I thought it might be fun to share a few of them with you. Some of these are plants we grow as landscape/ornamental plants. Others are more often thought of as “weeds”. All have one thing in common. They are edible.

Some you may already know. I hope I might show you a few edibles you didn’t know about before.

I tried to stick to plants that were easy to identify. If you are not sure what it is – don’t eat it. Don’t eat plants where pesticides have been sprayed, either.

 

With any luck, you have at least a few of these in your yard.

 

violetViolets: Violet flowers are edible and used to decorate pastries and to make jelly. Did you know you can also eat the leaves? They are mild flavored- especially when young- and are a great addition to salads. Violet leaves are also high in vitamin C.

 

 

purslanePurslane: The thick, fleshy leaves of purslane are easy to identify. Many vegetable gardeners make every effort to keep them out of their yards. Truth is, purslane is grown as a vegetable in many parts of the world. The leaves can be eaten raw in salads, can be cooked in a stir fry or just steamed as a fresh veggie. They can also be pickled. I make a salsa out of purslane leaves. They are crunchy with a slightly citrus flavor.

 

lambsquartersLambsquarters: Lambsquarters are one of my favorites. They sprout all over my yard and in pots as soon as the weather warms up in the Spring. The leaves can be eaten raw when young or cooked as they mature. They taste just like spinach and are even better for you. Plants can get quite large and provide an easy harvest of nutritious greens.

 

dandelionDandelions: We spend so much money trying to kill them. Sad because they are really a tasty green. Dandelions were brought to America by European immigrants as a vegetable. Their bitter greens can be an acquired taste. By combining the greens with certain foods you make them taste less bitter. Starchy foods like breads or potatoes, dairy products, tomatoes and vinegars all seem to tame the bitterness.  Dandelion greens can be eaten cooked or raw. Flowers are used to make jelly and wine and can be added to baked goods.

hosta11Hosta: If you can get to them before the deer do, you will be pleasantly surprised. Hosta leaves are quite mild flavored, similar to Bibb lettuce. I add them to salads and even serve them with dips. The older leaves get tough so pick young leaves.

 

 

 

sweetpotato11Sweet Potato Leaves: A friend from Hawaii first told me about eating  sweet potato leaves. The leaves are pretty mild flavored. I normally eat them cooked although I have friends that eat them raw as well. You can eat the leaves of all sweet potatoes, including ornamental types.

 

 

lilac11Lilac: Lilac flowers are fragrant and edible. I use them every year to make lilac infused vinegar. They have a nice spicy taste that works well in the vinegar. Blossoms can be added to salads, too. This year I also made lilac jelly.

 

 

 

pigweed11Redroot/Pigweed: This member of the amaranth family is distinguished by a reddish color to its roots. It has a spinach like flavor and can be cooked and used like spinach is any recipe. The plants can get several feet tall and often show up in places where the soil has been tilled.

 

 

tulipsTulips: Tulips are more than pretty, they are also quite tasty. The petals taste like a mild flavored lettuce and can add a beautiful touch to salads. The bulbs are also edible but we rarely eat them because to do so would destroy the plant. The petals, however, can be harvested and eaten year after year without harming the plant.

 

roses11Roses:  Rose petals have been used to make fragrances for a very long time. The petals are also edible and can be added to salads and used to make jelly, syrup and of course, rose water. The hips are also quite edible. Rose hips are the round balls that are left after the bloom is spent. They are full of vitamin C and can be cooked and used to make tea and jelly.

 

This is far from a complete list. Just a few things from my yard that I thought you might have, too.

 

 

Sweet and Sour Pork

Sweet and Sour Pork

For  dinner with a friend the other night, I decided to make sweet and sour pork. It takes a bit of work- but it is worth the effort. I used a fresh pineapple, which I prefer, but canned could be used, too.

I have to admit to loving all things sweet and sour. You can buy sweet and sour sauce in most grocery stores, but I like my own better.

Make the sauce first, so you can just toss it over the pork and veggies when ready to serve.

The pork is cubed and marinated overnight in a mixture of soy sauce, cornstarch and an egg. The pork comes out very tender, when prepared this way. You could substitute cubed chicken, for the pork, if you prefer.

 

Sweet and Sour Pork

1-2 lbs. boneless pork

1 egg

1 t. cornstarch

2 t. soy sauce

Additional cornstarch for dredging

oil for frying

1 medium onion, chopped

1 sweet red or yellow pepper, seeded and chopped

2 cups peeled and cubed fresh pineapple,  or 1 can pineapple in juice, drained, reserving juice for sauce

Sweet and Sour Sauce, recipe follows

Chopped green onions

Cut meat into cubes and place in bowl. Combine egg, 1-t. cornstarch and soy sauce and pour over the meat, stirring to coat. Allow marinating at least 1 hour in fridge, but best if done the day before, or early in the day.

When ready to cook, heat  1-2 inches of oil in a medium sauce pan to 350 degrees. Dredge the pork in corn starch to coat. Set aside. Heat 1T. oil in large skillet or wok. In wok, sauté onions on high until tender. While you are cooking the onions and other vegetables, start cooking the cubed pork in the sauce pan in the 1-2 inches of hot oil. It will take several batches to cook the pork. As the pork cooks- it will take about three minutes per batch- remove the pork from the pan and drain on paper towels. Continue to cook the pork in batches while finishing the veggies and pineapple in the wok.  Add pepper to onion and sauté 3 minutes more. Add pineapple and cook until pineapple starts to brown a little. Add the cooked pork to the onion mixture. Then and some of the sweet and sour sauce and toss until coated. There is usually extra sauce for a later use. Serve over rice,  and top with some green onions. Makes 4-6 servings.

Sweet and Sour Sauce- see note

1/2 c. apple cider vinegar

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. pineapple juice

3 T. ketchup

2 T. soy sauce

2 T. cornstarch

1 t. dried minced garlic

1-t. fresh grated ginger

Hot pepper flakes to taste

In saucepan combine all ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring as mixture gets hot, until sauce begins to bubble. It will also get much clearer. Boil gently 1 minute, stirring constantly before removing  You may also want to use only some of the sauce and save the rest for another use.from heat. Makes 1 1/2 c. Keeps in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Note: If you make the sweet and sour sauce ahead of time it will get runny when reheated if made with regular cornstarch. Either use modified cornstarch (Clear Gel ) or make sauce just before using.

 

Rich and Chewy Brownies

Rich and Chewy Brownies

Brownies have been around for almost 100 years. The story about the creation of brownies, is that they  were an accident. A woman was making a chocolate cake. She couldn’t find her recipe, so she made the cake as best she could from memory. The cake didn’t rise- and brownies were invented.

What a happy accident that was for the rest of us.

There are a lot of versions of brownies around. Some are more like a chocolate cake, just a little denser. Others are moist, and so dense they are almost fudge like.

I have a lot of brownie recipes. This is one of my favorites. If you make them, you will understand why. They are soft, rich and a little chewy. They can be serves plain, dusted with powdered sugar, or frosted.

 

Rich and Chewy Brownies

 

3 sticks butter, melted and cooled

3 c. sugar

1 T. vanilla

6 large eggs

1½ c. flour

1 c. cocoa

1 t. baking powder

1 t. cinnamon

1 c. chocolate chips

 

Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13×9 inch pan. Beat together butter, sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs one at a time. Combine dry ingredients and stir into batter. Stir in chocolate chips and spread batter in prepared pan. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until brownies pull away from sides of pan. Cool brownies completely in pan, on a rack and cover with foil. Let stand 6 hours before serving. Makes 24.

To serve, you can leave them plain, dust with powdered sugar, or frost. Here is a great frosting recipe for these brownies.

 

Easy Chocolate Butter Cream

 

6 T. butter, softened

1/3 – 3/4 c. cocoa, depending on how dark you want your frosting.

2 2/3 c. powdered sugar

1/3 c. milk

1 t. vanilla

 

Cream butter. Combine cocoa and sugar. Beat cocoa mixture in alternately with the milk until frosting is spreading consistency. Beat in vanilla. You may need an additional tablespoon of milk. Makes about 2 cups.

 

Spring Sunshine Salad

Spring Sunshine Salad

When I say split peas what comes to mind? Split pea soup? GREEN split pea soup?  Years ago my dear friend, Dale Gallis, turned me on to yellow split peas.  I started making soup from them but also used them in salads.

Today’s recipe is a tasty vegetarian salad that is as satisfying as it is pretty.  The color is bright, just perfect after several days of rainy weather. The yellow split peas are combined with carrots, sweet onion, sweet peppers and fresh herbs,  then tossed with a simple combination of apple cider vinegar and olive oil. You can serve it right away, or let the flavors blend in the fridge for a bit. I served my salad over a mix of Spring greens.

Yellow  (or green) split peas cook to al dente in about 20 minutes so they are a quick option, too. Much shorter cooking times than other legumes.

 

Spring Sunshine Salad

1- 1 1/2 c. raw yellow split peas

salt

1 carrot, peeled and shredded

1/2 c. chopped sweet onion

1/2 c. chopped sweet pepper

1/2 c. chopped parsley

1/2 c. snipped chives

1/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. cider vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

6 c. mixed Spring greens

Rinse peas and place in a saucepan. Cover with water and add a little salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until peas are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Combine peas with carrots, peppers and onion and toss well. Add parsley, chives, oil, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Chill until ready to use.  Serve on greens.  Serves 3-4.

Cook in simmering water until tender

Cook in simmering water until tender

Rinse in cold water after cooking

Rinse in cold water after cooking

Combine peas with other veggies

Combine peas with other veggies

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