Sunday, September 30, 2012

CHICKEN & DUMPLINGS

If a recipe can be in your DNA then that's where this one came from. I don't remember any of my relatives ever serving soup except for Campbell's. I started creating this long before the Internet and did not have any trustworthy cookbooks available.

It might have motivated me, as a young bride, that I also didn't have much money. I wonder how many cans of soup you'd have to buy to have this much soup on hand in case of an emergency....hm-m-m.

I'm pretty sure that most everyone reading this, from anywhere in the world, has been given chicken soup in some form or another when feeling ill. My mother loved to give me Campbell's Chicken Noodle, Chicken and Rice or Tomato soup often...with a grilled cheese sandwich. If I was sick, she'd hold the sandwich. Saltines were substituted.

Anybody else out there with a similar experience?

There is something about chicken soup that is cross-cultural. It is considered health food for the body and the soul from ancient civilizations to present time. It is a survival food, and, if stored properly, can be available if someone in the family has the flu, a cold, respiratory problems, or is suffering from anxiety or insomnia.

CHICKEN SOUP IS "COMFORT SOUP"

For those of you who resist the temptation to spend hours in the kitchen and opt for the easy method of putting a meal on the table for your family, I challenge you to try this.

Personally, I receive huge benefits from going the extra distance in preparing fresh ingredients to serve to my family. It does take longer. It does require having plenty of storage available and lots of containers on hand. It requires physical stamina and lots of time. Call me crazy but it brings me contentment to know that they are well-fed.

Mexican food is like that. All fresh ingredients and it is time-consuming to prepare. But, the end result is remarkable. Mexican food...like chicken and dumplings or fresh chicken soup, with lots of fat in it, cannot be faked.

It has to be the real thing.

You’ll need to be home for two days to make the Chicken and Dumplings.
Cooking the chickens for other purposes can be accomplished in one day.

Cooking the Chicken:

Two 2-3-pound  whole organic chickens with giblets removed
5 stalks celery chopped in large chunks, leaves and all
5 carrots, quartered, not peeled
1 large yellow onion, quartered
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1/2-stick of unsalted butter
2-teaspoons salt
1-bunch of fresh parsley, minced

Remove giblets from chickens and cook them for the dogs. Ski and Oso liked them with the broth poured over their dry food.

Rinse chickens inside and out in cold water
Put one chicken in the refrigerator to cook later.
Put one chicken in a large kettle of water with all of the vegetables.
Cover with cold water and bring to a boil.
Cover pot and turn down heat.
Simmer for three hours.
After three hours, turn off stove and let sit covered for one hour.
Pour contents of the pot into a colander sitting on top of a very large glass pitcher or measuring cup.

If you use "soup socks" you don't have to worry about straining everything. Just lift the "sock" out of the broth and start cooking the second chicken in the same broth.

Set broth aside. 

Separate chicken from the bones, vegetables and yucky stuff, saving the carrots.

I give this to the dogs also…not the chicken, the leftovers after removing the chicken. It disappears instantly. If you don’t have dogs with cast-iron intestinal constitutions, then wrap it all in a newspaper, put the newspaper in a plastic vegetable bag, knotted tightly, and freeze it until the day the garbage is collected.

Place the cooked cleaned, chicken in a container and put it in the refrigerator to use later for the stew.

Pour the same broth back into the pot to cook the second chicken, adding fresh vegetables as before.

Follow the same instructions for cooking the first chicken.

It is important to cook two chickens in the same broth because it makes it richer and healthier.

Separate the cooked chicken from the bones and yucky stuff. I usually put it in a few small containers, labeled with what it is and the date, and freeze them for later.

The chicken is wonderful for tacos, casseroles, chili, chicken salad, and chicken and dumplings.

The broth is absolutely the healthiest thing you can have on hand to use as a substitute for water in rice, to make any kind of soup, or just to drink in a mug.

If you are cooking the chicken for anything other than Chicken and Dumplings AND you have a big pot that will hold two chickens, you can cook them together.

It is important to freeze or can what you aren’t going to use in the next couple of days. It is terrible to go to all that work and have it spoil. Be sure to label it well.

Chicken and dumplings:

Cook chicken as explained above. Two chickens must be cooked separately in the same broth. This is the secret. The broth is unbelievably rich and there's lots of fat in it for cooking the dumplings.
Measure enough broth into pot for six servings of stew.
Bring to a boil.
Put in dumplings and follow the directions below.

Dumplings:

1 1/3-cup sifted all-purpose flour
2-teaspoons baking powder
½-teaspoon salt
2/3-cup milk
2-tablespoons salad oil

Sift dry ingredients. Combine milk and salad oil; add to dry ingredients a little at a time until just moistened.

OR…you can use Bisquick. The dumpling recipe is on the box.
2-cups Bisquick
2/3-cup milk
Mix together with a wooden spoon until soft dough forms.
The rest of the process is the same.

Stir as little as possible. Drop by heaping tablespoons atop hot, boiling stew.

Cook uncovered over low heat for 10 minutes;

Add chicken.

Cover and cook 10 minutes longer without lifting the lid.

With a slotted spoon, remove dumplings from the stew and put on a plate.

Spoon stew into large soup bowls; top with dumplings.

Makes about 6 dumplings.

Enjoy!


Saturday, September 1, 2012

WHY SPAGHETTI SQUASH?


Because it’s easy…it’s healthy…and it’s good!

What other reasons are there?

I first tried this on the Atkins Diet. It was in the recipe section of one of the books. The low-carb choice of spaghetti squash can be used as a substitute for pasta…and it does look like spaghetti.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with pasta for years. I hate it because I always eat too much and I feel bloated afterwards. It is made out of flour and I have a “hate” relationship with flour too.

But, there’s just something about it. A big plate of spaghetti smothered in homemade spaghetti sauce sprinkled with fresh shredded Parmesan cheese is the ultimate feast. Especially at Mama Louisa’s in Tucson. Their version is “Joe’s Special” and that will keep you going back to that restaurant again and again for years and years.

My favorite way to eat spaghetti pasta is “naked” swimming in garlic butter…emphasis on the garlic.

I used to be teased for eating leftover "naked" spaghetti pasta for breakfast “the morning after” fixing spaghetti for dinner. I always seemed to make a little extra pasta so there would be just enough for my morning meal.

I’m making spaghetti squash tonight for Shrimp Scampi. 

Here’s how to cook the spaghetti squash:

Buy an organic spaghetti squash as it has a beautiful color and is nice and firm. The other ones have been looking old and yucky and dull lately.

(I wish I were organic)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

With a fork, pierce the outer skin of the squash a few times all the way around. This keeps it from blowing up in the oven.

When the oven has heated, place the whole squash into the oven, setting it on the rack in the middle of the oven.

Set your timer for one hour.

Cooking the squash whole is the easiest method. You might read that it is better to cut it in half. I don’t think so. Doing that requires a lot of muscle and you need a very sharp knife.

When the squash is done, remove it from the oven with potholders or oven mitts. It will be very hot. Set it on a plate and let it cool for about 30 minutes.

Now, slice it length-wise straight down the middle.

Put a medium-size bowl and some newspaper or paper towel next to where you are going to prepare the squash by removing the spaghetti and seeds and strings from the rind.

Use a small knife and a spoon to remove the seeds from the middle of each half. Discard these onto the newspaper.



When all of the seeds and strings are removed, with a fork, start pulling the spaghetti away from the rind and put it in the bowl.

The fork is the trick! The first time I ever did this I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get it out and how beautiful it was. It has such an appetizing color.

When you have all of the spaghetti out of both sides of the rind, put the rind on the newspaper and wrap it up or put it into your compost pile.

Put the bowl of prepared spaghetti squash in the refrigerator, covered, until you are ready to use it.

To heat it, put it in a covered saucepan on the stove, on low, for about ten minutes.

For Italian spaghetti, using a spoon and fork, put some squash into the middle of a dinner plate.

Spoon some spaghetti sauce on top.

Sprinkle with fresh shredded Parmesan cheese and some chopped green onions on top of the cheese.

If you want to serve spaghetti squash as a side dish with meat, chicken or fish, after you put it in the bowl, sprinkle some brown sugar on top and add lots of melted butter.

Serve with some fresh fruit, salad and a green vegetable.