Friday, February 27, 2015

Chicken and Dumplings

I finally realized this week that we live in a snow globe.  It's very quiet, clear and peaceful, then someone shakes us up vigorously and we blizzard and you cannot see anything but pure whiteout conditions.  Then it calms quietly again, clears up for a few days...then the globe gets shaken again. It's been one of those globe shaking weeks...(both snow and my nerves).

My dear husband has been battling shovels, rock salt and our snow blower trying so hard to keep on top of the incoming blizzards.  Just when he gets it all cleared and beautiful, we wake up to another foot of snow.

Then, the poor guy has to deal with the other!  We just finished conferences and already discussing colleges and the pressure on the kids is overwhelming, we have 5 back-to-back tournaments, including this weekend's Colorado Crossroads National Tournament.

In the midst of all this fun, I have also been diligently trying to prepare for my mom's first visit to Colorado next week with my 5 year old niece.  We have quite the schedule planned for them and of course with my obsessive ways, I have planned out every last detail and meals for their trip, wanting everything to go perfect for them.

I found this sign at one of my go-to antique this!!!
It is now perfectly positioned in my kitchen.
Yes, I would like a "double" Extra Large this week!
Since we were home bound during last weekend's blizzard, I came across this Ree Drummond recipe that just looked and sounded so perfect for a cold night...and it was perfect!!

A bowl of warmth makes everything better,
don't you agree?

Chicken and Dumplings
Courtesy of The Pioneer Woman

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces (cut-up fryer)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely diced carrots
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1 medium onion, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 heaping tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, optional
Salt, as needed

For the chicken: Melt the butter in a pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. In 2 batches, brown the chicken on both sides and remove to a clean plate.

In the same pot, add the diced carrots, celery and onions. Stir and cook for 3 to 4 minutes over medium-low heat. Stir in the ground thyme and turmeric, then pour in the chicken broth. Stir to combine, then add the browned chicken. Cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes.

For the dumplings: While the chicken is simmering, make the dough for the dumplings. Sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a bowl, then add 1 1/2 cups of the half-and-half, stirring gently to combine. Set aside.

Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside on a plate. Use 2 forks to remove the chicken from the bones. Shred the chicken, then add it back to the pot. Mix together the remaining 1/2 cup half-and-half and flour, then add it to the pot and stir to combine.

Drop tablespoons of dumpling dough into the simmering pot. Add the minced parsley if using. Cover the pot and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Check the seasoning; add salt if needed. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Purple Potion #49

Today is my birthday and in 364 days I will be half a century old...that depresses me, so I'm trying not to focus on that aspect of the day, but cherish in the fact that I am truly blessed.

My husband brought me the most glorious bouquet of roses last night that I have ever seen, bursting in red and yellow blooms.  This morning my oldest daughter walked into my room and said "Good morning gorgeous, Happy Birthday", while the other daughter said, "How does it feel to be 30?"  God love them, they are quite the charmers...

I have received the sweetest calls, cards and gifts from others far away and really do cherish them all...if any of you are reading this - thank you from my heart!

Earlier this week I was picking up a bottle of wine at our corner shop and stumbled on the most beautiful bottle.  The intense purple color caught my eye and when I picked it up, it had this galaxy swirl going on inside it.  The shimmery liquor is called Viniq and here is how they describe it...

"The irresistible shimmer is what catches your eye before it's even poured in the glass. Our shimmer is the same ingredient that gives frosting its shine on your favorite cake or the sparkle in rock candy. And, like your favorite treats, it's safe to consume! When fused with Premium Vodka, Moscato, and Natural Fruit Flavors, this pearly, edible color elevates our liqueur to the complete package."

Well, it goes without saying, since the birthstone of February is the Amethyst (purple) gemstone, of course I had to buy it to celebrate my birthday month.

So today after a full day at work, running school concession stand tonight with my girls, I will be partaking in a toast to my first half century of life and counting down the next 364 days...Cheers!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Muffuletta Pasta Salad

It's Mardi Gras Time and Fat Tuesday!!

Next to a Ruben sandwich, the classic Muffuletta is by far my husband's favorite.

Since today is Fat Tuesday and the Muffuletta is the signature sandwich of Mardi Gras, I researched and found the history of this famous delicacy.

"The muffuletta sandwich has its origins at the Central Grocery in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  According to Marie Lupo Tusa, daughter of the Central Grocery's founder, it was born when Sicilian farmers selling their produce at the nearby Farmers' Market would come into her father's grocery for lunch and order some salami, ham, cheese, olive salad, and either long braided Italian bread or a round muffuletta loaf. In typical Sicilian fashion they ate everything separately sitting on crates or barrels while precariously balancing their meals on their knees. Her father suggested cutting the bread and putting everything on it like a sandwich, even if it was not typical Sicilian fashion. The thicker braided Italian bread proved too hard to bite and the softer round muffuletta loaf won out. Shortly thereafter, farmers that came for lunch began merely asking for "muffulettas."

To change it up this week, I decided to make a Muffuletta Pasta Salad with all the great ingredients and flavors that you would enjoy in the classic sandwich.

Muffuletta Pasta Salad

(1) 16-ounce box tri-color rotini
1/4 cup finely chopped red onions
1 cup green olives, sliced

1 cup black olives, sliced
2 cups, grape tomatoes, sliced
1/4 pound ham, cut into thin strips
1/4 pound Genoa salami, cut into thin strips
1/4 pound mortadella, cut into thin strips
1 cup diced provolone cheese
1 cup Newman's Family Italian Salad Dressing

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.  Rinse under cold water, drain and set aside.  
In a large bowl, combine the cooled pasta, red onions, green olives, black olives, grape tomatoes, ham, salami, mortadella and provolone.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Toss with salad dressing.  (If possible, chill in refrigerator for 4 hours) to let the flavors fuse together.  Spoon pasta salad onto plates.  Makes 8 servings.

One Year Ago:  Chocolate Layered Pudding

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Raspberry-Lemon Dump Cake

My husband is not allowed to eat chocolate.  He especially should not eat any type of chocolate for dessert right before he goes to bed.  We have no idea why, but something in chocolate makes him have really, really strange and active dreams.

After even the smallest amount of chocolate, he will talk, yell, flail his arms, sit straight up and have the most eventful dreams.  One night he was dreaming that he was in the military, in the middle of a war and was trying to save one of his platoon by grabbing him (which of course turned out to be me) and throw them ("us") into a nearby trench for safety.  Luckily, I was able to wake him up before he threw us off the bed onto the floor.  Herein is why he is definitely not allowed to have chocolate at night...I rest my case (so I can get rest).

That being said, he will not be getting a heart shaped box of chocolates for Valentine's Day.  Instead, I will need to come up with another dessert to take the place, like the one I made last week.

Served in a martini glass with mini scoops
of ice cream, for a more fancy version.
I have become such a huge fan of dump cakes ever since I made my first one many years ago with blackberry pie filling and butter cake mix which we affectionately call "Blackberry Buckle".

This dump cake version is so light and refreshing, I think it is now one of our favorite pairings.  My husband could not stay out of it, which says a lot...and best of all, no chocolate!!!

Raspberry-Lemon Dump Cake

(2) 21 oz. cans Raspberry Pie Filling (like Comstock brand)
1 box Lemon Supreme Cake Mix (unprepared)
1 cold stick of butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with non-stick spray.

Pour both cans of raspberry pie filling in baking dish and spread evenly.

Sprinkle dry lemon cake mix and distribute evenly all over pan, covering pie filling thoroughly.

Cut butter in thin slices and place all over cake mix.

Bake in oven approximately 45-60 minutes, until butter topping has melted and crust is slightly golden brown.

Remove from oven and let set until slightly warm/room temperature.  Serve with vanilla ice cream.

One Year Ago:  Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Cross My Heart Danish

This has been one of those trying weeks that I am glad is over (I hope)...full moon, sick kids, multiple PMS cases in the house, carpool challenges, snow storms, etc...which has also given me not the best frame of mind or attitude.  I don't know what it is about the month of February, the stars are never in alignment for me.

I should apologize to those I have crossed paths with this week and to my family.  I cross my heart that I will try to be happier and nicer next week.

Cross My Heart Danish
Adapted from Chocolate Chip Danish by Pillsbury
1 can Pillsbury™ Crescent Recipe Creations™ refrigerated seamless dough sheet
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup chocolate chips (I used Hershey's red M&M's)

Heat oven at 350°F. Line 17x12-inch cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper
 or silicone nonstick baking mat.

Unroll dough onto lined cookie sheet; press dough into about 16x10-inch rectangle.

In medium bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. 

 With sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut 1 1/2-inch-long slanted cuts 1 inch apart along both long sides of rectangle, leaving center of dough uncut.
 Make sure you have the same amount of cut strips on both sides.

Spread mixture on uncut center of dough. 
Sprinkle chocolate chips (or candies) over cream cheese mixture.

Braid dough by crossing strips over filling, alternating from side to side.
At end, trim off any overhanging dough.

Bake 20 to 22 minutes or just until golden brown. 
Remove from cookie sheet to bread board, serving platter or cooling rack. Cut into slices to serve. Best served the same day.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sweet Dreams Cake

My husband was watching television last night and gasped that he saw a Valentine's Day ad for a jewelry store.  "I can't believe it", he exclaimed.  "Valentine's Day ads already?", he said in amazement.  I looked at him in shock...I told him that Valentine's ads have been running for over a month now...where have you been?

I have never been a strong component of Valentine's Day.  As a "Grown Up", I believe that you should show your love to those around you all year long...not just make the extra effort one day out of the year.

As a teen in high school, I dreaded Valentine's Day during the school week.  It felt like every other girl was getting a "candy gram", flowers, teddy bears with a heart on its belly, balloon bouquets and the ever popular Russell Stover velvet covered box of chocolates from their boyfriends.  They could barely walk down the hall as their overflowing arms are weighed down with the menagerie of gifts.  (I'm guessing that any therapist would probably tell me this is the reason I am not a fan of the annual love day).

Fast forward and now I have teenage girls in high school.  They have already expressed that they are dreading Valentine's Day this year because of all the couple's gifts exchanges that will soon be taking place in their school's halls...and that breaks my heart, because I know exactly what they are going through.

We will make a conscience effort that my husband and I have stuffed bears with hearts on them and special boxes of chocolates to give the girls this year.  I know it's not the same as a boyfriend giving it to them...but a thoughtful gift of chocolate always helps a girl feel a little better, even if it's from her daddy.

My only advice is, don't worry girls, one day your Prince Charming will walk down those halls, into your life...until then...Sweet Dreams.

Sweet Dreams Cake

Red Velvet Dry Cake Mix 
(eggs, canola oil and water, as per cake mix instructions)
(2) 3.4 oz. packages Jell-O White Chocolate  flavored Instant Pudding 
4 cups cold milk
8 oz. Cool Whip whipped topping
Hershey's mini chocolate coated candies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare cake mix according to the directions on package and bake in a 9" x 13" pan until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cake cool completely. Then using the end of a wooden or plastic spoon, poke several holes all over the cake.

Whisk together the pudding and the milk, then pour over the cake, making sure to fill the holes.

Refrigerate the cake for about 10-15 minutes, until pudding has set.

Spread the whipped topping evenly over the top and then sprinkle with the mini candies.

Store covered in refrigerator.