Sunday, September 23, 2012

Chicken and Dumplings

Well, school has been in session for about a month now which means, of course, that all those little germs that your kids are bringing back from school are now making their way into your body and chances are you're feeling pretty crummy right about now.  And even if you don't have any kids (like me) you're still getting exposed to all those lovely little germies from all your coworkers who do have kids.  Basically, if you don't have "the crud" right now, you'll probably be getting it.  Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Cole and I are both not feeling great this weekend, so I decided some comfort food was in order.  If you've never had chicken and dumplings, the dumplings are basically poached biscuits in chicken noodle soup (minus the noddles).  I don't really understand how they end up getting cooked, but they do and that's all I really care about.  My mom used to make this for us in the winter growing up.  We lived in Idaho so we had a real winter, and there was nothing better than sitting down at the table with a nice steaming bowl of chicken and dumplings after playing outside in the snow all day.  She would make extra dumplings so I could take them to school for lunch the next day in a big thermos.  Let me tell you, all my friends with pb&j or bologna sandwiches were totally jealous of my lunches on chicken and dumplings days.  This recipe is just like my momma made it, and it was just as delicious as I remembered it.

Chicken and Dumplings

What you need:
4 chicken thighs (or a whole chicken, cut up; or whatever kind of chicken you prefer.  Bone in meat is preferable)
4 cups chicken stock
1-2 cups water
Celery (about 2 cups chopped)
5 medium/large carrots, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
5 tsp thyme
2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup bisquick
1/3 cup milk

What you do:

Chop up all your vegetables and put them in a large pot with a little bit of olive oil.  Cook the vegetables over medium high heat until you can smell the garlic and the vegetables have softened up a bit.  Meanwhile, season the chicken with 2 tsp thyme (approx.), garlic powder and salt and pepper.   

Put the chicken on top of the vegetables in the pot.  Add your chicken stock and water until the chicken is covered.  You may need to add extra water.  Add the remaining 3 tsp of thyme and cover the pot. 

Let the chicken simmer with the vegetables for as long as you want (at least 30 minutes).  The longer everything simmers together the better, in my opinion.  Keep an eye on it though, you may need to add some more water periodically if it looks like it's getting to low.  

When you're about ready to eat you'll want to make your dumplings.  Mix together 1 cup bisquick and 1/3 cup milk.  Roll the dough into balls roughly the size of a golf ball and drop them into the pot.  Cook them for 10 minutes with the lid on, then 10 minutes with the lid of.  Serve and enjoy.  

I like to serve this in a bowl with a lot of broth, but you can easily pull out the chicken and some of the vegetables and use the broth more as a sauce over the dumplings.  Either way, you'll probably have a lot of broth and vegetables left over.  Don't throw it away!  Keep it and make chicken noodle soup!  You can even freeze it if you're not going to use it right away and pull it out later.  

 Cole described this both as "Thanksgiving in a bowl" and one of the all time greatest things I've ever made him.  So I think it was a success.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Date Night Dinners: Mussels in a white wine cream sauce

I love making meals that look really impressive and fancy that are actually super easy (and way less expensive than going to a fancy restaurant for dinner).  Cole and I love seafood, but I wanted to make something different than our usual shrimp, salmon or tilapia for dinner a few weekends ago so I decided that I would splurge and make mussels.  For some reason I thought that mussels would be expensive, I'm not sure why. Little did I know, they are actually one of the cheapest types of seafood you can get.  I got 2 lbs from Walmart in the little frozen seafood section for a little more than $3.  That's a good deal in my book.  So, what I thought was a splurge turned out to be a really inexpensive dinner.  I love it when things like that happen.  

Anyway, the mussels I got were already cooked so I just had to boil them in water (in the little bag they came in) for about 5 minutes to warm them up.  I thought it was weird at first, but they turned out great.  

Mussels in a White Wine Cream Sauce

What you need:
2 lbs mussels (fresh or frozen)
5 shallots diced (or 1/2 a large onion)
4-5 large cloves garlic minced
3-4 tsp thyme
1 1/2 cups white wine (whatever kind you like to drink)
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup fat free half and half
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

What you do:

Saute the minced garlic and shallots in some olive oil in a large pot.  Add the wine and allow it to reduce by half then add the chicken stock, thyme, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste.  Allow the chicken stock/wine mixture to reduce down, then add the half and half.  Allow everything to simmer together for 10-15 minutes.  At this point, if you have fresh mussels you will add them to the sauce mixture and allow them to cook for 5-7 minutes.  If you're using fresh mussels don't use any that are open before you cook them because that means they are dead..  If they're only slightly open you can tap them against the counter and if they close up they are fine to eat, but if they don't please discard them.  You definitely do NOT want to eat dead mussels.

If you're using frozen mussels like I did, while your sauce is simmering boil the mussels in the bag they came in then transfer them to the sauce and mix everything around in there a little bit.  Whether you're using fresh or frozen mussels do not eat any that aren't open after cooking them.  

I served the mussels over linguini and with homemade french bread (recipe forthcoming, don't worry) and artichokes.  

Artichokes are probably my favorite vegetables.  They are delicious, interactive, and so interesting looking.  I just love, love, love them. 

I was just so pleased with this meal.  I usually am really hard on myself when it comes to judging the food I make, but I was overall very happy with this.  Of course, there are things I will tweak next time I make this, but if it comes out like this every time I make it I will be happy.  

Cole, of course, said he loved it which is not a surprise because he always says that about everything I make (even the time I made a horribly disgusting raspberry white chocolate cheesecake).  He did say that he wished the sauce was a little thicker, which I agree with.  If you use heavy cream instead of half and half that would help thicken up the sauce, but I at least attempt to eat healthy so I think next time I will mix the half and half with a little bit of flour before I add it to the sauce.  That should help thicken it up some without adding more calories and fat.  

Two pounds of mussels was plenty for Cole and I for dinner.  If you were using this as a first course or appetizer you could probably get 4-5 servings out of this amount.  And I guarantee you ladies, if you make this for your boyfriend/husband he will be SO impressed.  It looks like you put a ton of effort into it too, so you can probably negotiate yourself a massage or a trip to Yumilicious Yogurt.  Or both, who knows?


Monday, September 3, 2012

Mini Mondays Gameday Edition: Calzones

In honor of the first Mini Monday of "Football Season" (which really is a season around here) I wanted  to make something that would be perfect to snack on while watching the game.  No forks or knives required.  So I thought about it, and decided calzones (or as Cole calls them: cal-zone-ays) were the winning the idea.  Making them mini is perfect because you can make a bunch different kinds, you don't have to decide on just one kind like you do when you make pizza.

Mini Calzones

What you need:
Pizza dough (click here for a recipe)
Whatever toppings your little heart desires
Small container of ricotta cheese
1/2 cup approx. shredded mozzarella cheese
2 eggs
Marinara sauce

What you do:

Prepare pizza dough.  Preheat oven to 400*.  Chop up whatever toppings you want for you calzones.  I used sausage, bacon, jalapenos, onion, bell pepper, pineapple and ham.  I was so excited for these because I got Hawaiian calzones.  We don't really make Hawaiian pizza because Cole doesn't like it, but this way I got to make my own little mini Hawaiian calzones! 

Mix ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese and one egg together.  Take a golfball size piece of dough and roll it out pretty thin.  Put a small scoop of the cheese mixture in the middle, then add whatever toppings you want.  Fold the dough over so you have a little half circle shape.  Press the edges closed with a fork and brush eggwash over the top of the calzone.  Bake for 15 minutes, until crust is golden brown.  Serve with marinara sauce for dipping.