The Best Ever Chicken and Dumplings!

CAUTION! Maybe I should put a disclaimer here. This is by no means a dieting recipe. It is a good hearty meal that goes over well all year round.

Every time I have asked my son Chuck what he would like for his birthday he always says Chicken and Dumplings. And now it is passing down to my grandson.

This is a chicken meal I came up with years ago when trying to create a different (for me anyway) way to serve chicken. It remains to be one of the more economical meals to feed a family.

It’s funny, I didn’t realize how endearing this recipe is to me. I hesitated posting on it because I wasn’t sure I wanted to share it. But here we are!

Whereas in the beginning I would buy a whole chicken and cut it up myself, now I purchase breasts, legs, and a few thighs already cut up. These are the pieces that are the main favorites.

Now, unfortunately, the chicken needs to have the skin on. I have tried using skinless and boneless and it just isn’t the same. However, if you start out using boneless and skinless chicken your family may not notice the difference. The gravy will still get you in the calorie count though.

I trim off any excess fat that I can before frying the chicken. I fry it in a little vegetable oil until it is browned. Then I drain off any grease that I can.

The pan gets put back on the stove with medium heat and I add enough water until it reaches about a half inch from the top. I’m old fashioned in that I still use boullion cubes, adding 8-10 of them to the simmering chicken. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for a good 20 minutes, checking it to make sure it isn’t sticking and that the cubes are dissolving.

Also, at this time I add dry mustard. Now I know that may sound a little odd and I don’t remember what possessed me years ago to add it, but it works. It just punches up the flavor. I use a heaping tablespoon for a 12-14 inch pan’s worth. Salt and pepper also get added to taste. I also tend to add a little garlic powder here.

After checking the chicken for doneness I remove it and place it in a bowl nearby. Using a whisk, I stir the gravy to loosen anything stuck to the pan getting it ready to thicken. I use cornstarch but you can use whatever you like to create a good thick gravy. About a heaping tablespoon of cornstarch with a little water added to it first should thicken it properly. If not, repeat.

When it is good and thick add the chicken back to the pan, letting it simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

It can be served from the stove or put in a large dish for the table.

The dumplings? Well, the recipe I use is one handed down to me from my childrens’ grandmother. She played an important role in my life. I would need to ask her family if it would be okay to broadcast her recipe. Any good dumpling recipe will work. Or mashed potatoes. Also, something that I have begun to use for another dish is frozen egg noodles. When cooked they taste similar to dumplings and are very much like homemade noodles.

Enjoy!
D.

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Easy French Onion Soup

I can honestly say this is an original. I was inspired by a couple of other recipes and it was fun experimenting until it turned out the way I liked it. It is a good soup for these winter days. And if you are lucky enough to be having fair weather, well then, maybe you just want to go French for a change!
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French Onion Soup
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Cook 4 med/large onions (sliced thin) in 3T butter until soft.

Add 8C of water and 11 bouillon cubes. Season with pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer until onions are very soft and break apart. (Almost mushy)
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In individual bowls, put a thick slice of French bread and lavishly sprinkle it with Parmesan cheese. (I used shaved)
Pour soup over it. Make sure the soup is hot enough to melt the cheese.
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Serve immediately and enjoy!

Take time out to give someone a hug. The rewards are great.

Faux Finishing 101

Glaze

Good morning! Today I thought I would chat about water base glazes that are used for faux finishing. Maybe you have been wanting to try your hand at it, maybe you would like to understand what your professional faux painter is talking about, or maybe you are just interested in the process. Whatever your reasons are, I hope that you will find this interesting and helpful.

I specified water base glazes because there are some decorative artists still out there that prefer to work in oils. Water based paints and mediums have come a long way, therefore I prefer working with them over oil based paint. There are several different brands of glazes, the two that I prefer are:

Dutch Boy Dimensions Technique Glaze (available at Menards)
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and

Faux Effects Aqua Creme (available at most fine paint stores)
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So what is the difference? Cost and dry time. The Dutch Boy Technique Glaze is about $30.00 a gallon and the dry time is a little longer than for paint, thus giving you a little time to move and work the paint. I use it mostly for Old World Washes. BTW, the Technique Glaze is really the only Dutch Boy product that I use. The Faux Effects Aqua Creme gives about an extra hour to move paint which is quite a benefit when creating specific finishes. I use it mostly for Colorwashes and when glazing furniture. However, you pay for the extended dry time. Aqua Creme runs about $28.00 a quart. A little does go a long way though.

There is another difference. The Dutch Boy product has a bit of a sheen to it when it dries. The Faux Effects does not, it dries fairly flat. That doesn’t matter really when you are working on something that will end up varnished.

Below are a few sample boards that I have created for a client and will be delivering tomorrow. The first one is an Old World Wash…
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it has what we call “movement” to it.

The other is a colorwash done with Aqua Creme…
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It has a more even feel to the overall look.

I am also making a sample to paint their kitchen island. What I have found best is to get a piece of moulding (this one I got from Home Depot, where they sell it by the foot), and paint it as I would the piece to be finished. On this one you may be able to see how I used different strengths of glaze over it, in order to create the right look for their kitchen. I prefer to use the Aqua Creme glaze on furniture myself. I like to be able to work the glaze a little longer in order to have the correct amount staying in the grooves and corners.
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So, I hope this has been informative and maybe even inspiring. If you have any questions or concerns about a current or future project I would be happy to answer them. And, who knows, maybe you will want to try your hand at a new project during these winter months.

I hope that your day is filled with sunshine!

Sweets For The Sweet!

Good morning all!

Now that the Superbowl is over and the Seahawks have won,(big time!), and everyone has celebrated their favorite team, we are on to the next fun event of February. No, sorry, Groundhog Day was yesterday as well. I am talking about Valentines Day. The first thing I think of when I hear Valentine’s Day is not flowers it is Chocolate. Those who know me know that I am not really a lover of sweets. But, on occasion, it can be a good thing. And chocolate can usually take care of that. I came across this recipe that I haven’t made in a long time so I thought I would bake up a batch to take to Charlie, my grandson that lives here. They are not only really chocolatie and delicious, but as you can see, they look great too! The recipe is as follows:
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Rich Dark Kisses Tiger Cookies

1 1/2 C. granulated sugar
1/2 C. vegetable oil
1/2 C. Cocoa
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 C. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
About 48 Hershey’s Rich Dark Kisses, unwrapped
Powdered sugar

1.Combine granulated sugar and oil in a large bowl; add cocoa, beating until well blended. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt; gradually add to cocoa mixture, beating well.

2. Cover; refrigerate until dough is firm enough to handle, at least 6 hours.

3. Heat oven to 350 degrees. grease cookie sheet. Shape dough into 1-inch balls (dough will still be sticky); roll in powdered sugar to coat. Place about 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet. Bake 11-13 minutes or until almost no indention remains when touched lightly and tops are cracked. Immediately press Kiss into the center os each cookie. Cool slightly. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack and cool completely.

As you may be able to tell, this is really a variation of the peanut butter milk chocolate Kiss recipe. But I think it stands on its own quite well, don’t you?

One of the things that I really like about this recipe is that the only thing I had to go out and buy was the Kisses!

I am going to be working on sample boards for a client for the next few days so I thought I would go over some faux finish techniques. Sound good? Anything in particular that you have questions about?

Hope you all have a great week!

Italian Soup

Good Morning World!

I have a soup recipe for you today but I would like to give the story behind it. Now, I have to tell you that I have many really great clients and have done some interesting and fun projects for them. The one that comes to mind every time I make this soup I can’t help but think of the client and the project that went with it. And it always makes me smile.

I was hired by a client to paint a sports themed mural in their son’s room. It included a locker with a shirt hanging in it and some other things like a baseball bat and some sports shoes to name a few. It took me three days to complete. On the second day, midmorning, I was painting away upstairs when I began to smell a wonderfully fragrant recipe being made down in the kitchen. This doesn’t usually happen with me. I had to go out to my jeep to get something and when I came back in I noticed a woman at the stove. She said hello and we chatted for a minute about what I was doing. Then I couldn’t resist, I asked her what she was making. She said that she was the Grandma visiting and she was making their favorite Italian soup. She showed me what it looked like, I complimented her on it and when back to my painting. A short time later she came up and said, “Here is the recipe if you would like it.” I love to cook so I was thrilled. At the end of that day I said good bye and thanked her once again for the recipe. Anxious to make the soup I picked up the ingredients on my way home and made it that night. It was so easy I soon was sitting down to a fresh bowl of soup for my supper.

And so I would like to pass on my good fortune of receiving this delicious soup. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do.

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Italian Soup

Mild or medium Italian sausage (if using links at least 4 or about 1 lb)
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 tsp minced garlic from a jar, (I like garlic, therefore, I use more)
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 can beef broth
1 can Rotel tomatoes with green chiles
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed

Brown the sausage (if links, remove from casing) breaking it up into small pieces. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender.
Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Serve with your favorite bread.

Enjoy!

BTW, my daughter and son-in-law are vegetarians and I often think of ways to change recipes into meatless dishes. I think if you remove the sausage, switch the broth to a vegetable one, maybe increase the vegetables by 50%, and add Italian seasoning this would be delicious that way too.

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