Chicken stew and dumplings

I make chicken soup about once a month or so and the kids have always liked it.  However, now that it’s Fall, I wanted to make something a little more hearty for dinner. This recipe turned out to be delicious and all most of the kids loved it.  It was a quick, healthy dinner, perfect for an early meal before soccer practice. It had dumplings which was a first for me, and the seasonings were great together.

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Here’s the recipe I adapted from one I found on allrecipe.com.

3 cups, or about 2 lbs of chicken cooked and cut up.  I sauteed small pieces of chicken in a little oil, and shook about 1 – 2 tsp of curry powder on them while cooking the chicken. Put aside.

Melt 5 tbsp of butter in a large dutch oven over medium heat.  Cook and stir 2 medium to large chopped onions and 3 large ribs of finely chopped celery until soft, for about 10 minutes.  Sprinkle in 5 tbsp flour and whisk continuously to make a thick roux, about 2 minutes.  Slowly pour about 40 oz or 5 cups chicken broth, whisking to remove any lumps. (I use Better than Bouillon chicken base to make my broth.) Add 1 tsp salt (unless your broth is salted), 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp dried basil, 1/2 tsp dried thyme, 2 large new potatoes cleaned and diced, 2 cups or 10 oz frozen vegetables (thawed) - I get the kind without lima beans.  Cover and cook stew over medium heat until potatoes are tender.  Stir in chicken and continue to simmer. If it seems to thick, add some more broth or a little water.

Meanwhile, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt in a large bowl.  Cut in 4 tbsp butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  I may have added a little more butter to get the crumbs.  Stir in 3/4 cup milk and 1 1/2 tbsp dried dill. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough into the simmering stew.  Cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Cover and cook until the dumplings are tender, another 8 to 1o minutes. Next time, I will form the dumplings into more of a ball so that they don’t lose pieces in the stew.  You could still use your tablespoon to do this.  Mine were too loose at first.  Also, this makes a lot of dumplings.  You could halve the recipe if you are unsure about dumplings.

Simply put, this stew is definitely being added to my recipe box.  Something different, but still accessible comfort food.

~ Lora

 

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Fall’s here!

IMG_5340Who’s excited to feel a nip in the air?  Our family just loves Fall. With cooler sunny weather (hurray for mid 70’s) and even cooler nights, I figured I could haul the Autumn decor out of the attic and change things up a bit around here. Changing the decor in my house is a little pleasure I allow myself as the seasons change. In the spring, I get rid of all references to winter, (even my red living room curtains) and then I don’t change anything till fall. I have three main areas I change up… my fireplace mantel, the top of a red cabinet in my kitchen, and on top of the “high” bar that shields my stove from view. I also have a habit of moving around pictures and other art which explains the numerous holes I have in the walls. That’s enough to give our home a new seasonal look and feel. Just to show you how I change things around, here’s a picture of my mantel this past summer:

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And here it is now:

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I like to display my Willow Tree figurines, given to me as gifts.  With Thanksgiving coming up, it reminds me how much I love my five kids and husband and what a blessing they are to me.  The oil painting is special to us since it was done by a local artist in Northern Ontario, Helen Hall, where we have been vacationing for years.  A dear sister (in-law) gave me the beautiful plate which has been hung in many different places in our home.

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The plant is obscuring two pieces of art which Scott and I picked up on a rare overnight away several years ago.  It’s made of carefully cut out paper to create a folk art design, and the words “Be joyful at all times, pray without ceasing and give thanks for all things” are written underneath.

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The round piece of carved wood was the table top of a little three legged table that had been my Oma’s table.  It then moved into my childhood home while I was growing up, and now I inherited it.  The legs were simply too broken to repair, but I’m glad I can use it in another way.  I like to decorate my home with meaningful objects.  It’s not just how things look, and whether they are “on trend”.  It’s the story behind the pretty, it’s the feeling communicated to my family, and to those who visit us.  I was so pleased to hear my kids excitedly exclaim as they burst through the door after school, “Mom, you put all the Fall stuff up!  Yay!”

Are you excited about a new season?

~ Lora

 

Posted in before and after, decorating, family, home decorating, reflection | 4 Comments

Eliza – 10 months

Where has the time flown? My little baby isn’t so little anymore. She’s ten months and now that she’s finally gotten mobile, she’s intent on exploring as much of her world as she can. I’m glad she’s still a peanut though… (17 lbs, 27 inches long). She’ll can still be my baby for awhile longer.

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Could you explain this ridiculous flower on my head?

That's better!

That’s better!

~ Lora

 

Posted in family, kids, time | 2 Comments

Best roasted potatoes and gourmet porkchops

So I discovered how to make really good roasted potatoes today. I mean, the kids called them fries… and ate them all up. High praise indeed. And.. they were not deep fried, yet crisp on the outside, a little soft inside and overall just right!
I bought fingerling potatoes the other day and wanted to cook them somehow. It was very humid and warm today so I wanted to use the grill as much as possible. I cut the potatoes up in quarters the long way, tossed them in olive oil, seasoned them with a new find, Mixed-Up Pepper and coarse sea salt, and threw them into a grill basket.

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The grill was on medium high to high (500 -550 F) with all burners on. I often grill indirectly (that is turn one burner off and grill over that burner.) This time I didn’t, and just scraped and turned the potatoes every 5 or 10 minutes. I would say I grilled them for about 30 to 35 minutes. They came out great; tasted as good as they looked. I’m pleased to have discovered this super easy method of cooking potatoes. I think it would work well with any baby potato.

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And while we’re on the topic of food… I got real gourmet-ish last week and bought a mango at the produce market thinking I wanted to do something fruit salsa-ish with it.  After poking around Allrecipes.com and a few other sites, I modified a pork chop  recipe and I am pleased to announce that it was a success – for the adults at least ;).  This isn’t to say that all my creative cooking attempts are successes…  Indeed there have been some notable failures… but they don’t get published (like the very limp zucchini fries).  I have many pictures of dishes I expectantly photographed, only to be greatly disappointed.  But I digress.  If you like grilled pork chops, and can cook them without completely drying them out this recipe is worth the effort in my humble opinion.

Grilled Porkchops topped with Tropical Salsa

1) Using a mortar and pestle (or in my case a bowl and spoon) mash the following seasoning into a paste: 1 clove garlic minced, 1 tsp chili powder, 1/8 – 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/8 -1/4 tsp cardamon. Mix up to 1/2 tsp water to help make the paste.

2)Heat 1 tsp oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in spice paste and cook till it begins to bubble, about 30 seconds.  Stir in1/4 cup white wine vinegar, cook without boiling for 2 minutes.  Stir in 1/2 cup sugar until it dissolves.  Mix in 1 mango, peeled and chopped, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 to 1 tsp chopped fresh cilantro, 2 tsp. lemon juice. If you desire to, you can add a chopped jalapeno pepper.  I found the salsa to be a mild to medium heat without it. Simmer for twenty minutes. Stir in  2 peeled and chopped peaches, 1 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce and 3 chopped pineapple rings. Simmer for ten more minutes.  Season with pepper.  Place in a bowl, cover and put aside if you are using it that evening.  Otherwise refrigerate.

3) To prepare marinade for the 4-6 pork chops (I used bone-in), mix 2/3 cup of your tropical salsa with 1/3 cup soy sauce and 1/3 white vinegar.  Place pork chops in a large resealable bag, and pour marinade on top.  Seal and refrigerate for 1 hour.

4) Prepare grill for medium-high heat.  Drain (and reserve) marinade.  If you want to baste the pork chops while  grilling, you can boil the marinade you just drained and use it.

5) Place pork chops on hot grill.  Cook about ten minutes turning once.  Cook a little longer for bone-in pork chops.  Baste occasionally if you aren’t juggling five other things.

6) If your salsa was refrigerated, heat it up to at least room temperature or warmer and serve the pork chops topped with the salsa.  Use the remainder of the salsa  to spice up some rice, or for tomorrows grilled chicken.

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As you can see, the salsa is more of a chunky sauce, but Tropical salsa sounds a lot more appealing.  However, the flavor was fruity and complex, and complemented the pork very well.  I used leftover salsa with chicken, tortilla chips (late at night once) and it never disappointed.

Well that’s my fit of culinary inspiration for the month.  Tomorrow fish sticks and fries ;)

What have you been cooking lately?

~Lora

ps did you see those green beans on the plate?  First fruits from the garden!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in cooking, menu planning, recipes | 8 Comments

Celebrations

May and June are full of birthdays and other celebrations. Jeremy’s 8th birthday came first, then Taylor’s 11th, and Katrina’s 13th birthday. I often feel like all I’m doing is making birthday cakes and cupcakes for a month. Fortunately Katrina has taken an interest in cake decorating, so she helped out with that.                                                     Anyone else share this experience:  There’s a party with their friends from school, a celebration with our own family on the actual birthday, and some years (like this one) I had an extended family birthday party. After all, Katrina turned 13 – our first teenager!  To round things up we celebrated Fathers Day with Scott on a beautiful summer Sunday afternoon!

Jeremy's party

Jeremy’s party

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Katrina and Taylor's family party

Katrina and Taylor’s family party

The babies had fun

The babies had fun

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the spread

the spread

Taylor, birthday boy

Taylor, birthday boy

Father's Day

Father’s Day

Eliza, eight months old

Eliza, eight months old

sisterly love

sisterly love

First Father's Day gift!

First Father’s Day gift!

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I am so thankful for this man :)   The kids just love their dad and he loves them right back!

~Lora

 

 

 

Posted in celebrations, family, happiness, kids, relationships | 3 Comments

Making memories

A couple weeks ago we went to Lancaster PA and met up with my parents and Irene,  Nic, Mike and Juliet, for a two day vacation. The weather was awesome, great for sightseeing and shopping, and we could even sit outside at night.  We loved our hotel. It had a nice pool, an outdoor patio and an outdoor basketball court (which made my kids very happy).  While we hung out and chatted they amused themselves and got rid of some energy.  It was nice to be able to celebrate several birthdays with yummy cupcakes (courtesy of Irene), and chocolate cake.  Great memories were made which is the point of family vacations isn’t it?

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~ Lora

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in celebrations, family, holiday, vacation | 4 Comments

Baby days

My baby is over six months already!  Imagine growing eight inches in 6 months (she’s 27 inches long) and gaining nine pounds (14 1/2 lbs now).  No wonder babies feed a lot!

We’re getting into a rythm these days, and understanding each other along the way.  She likes routine, needs her naps, not too much excitement, rather nurse than eat solids, and mommy is best, but siblings who entertain are great too.  I feel younger and older at the same time.  Younger because I’m immersed in the baby/toddler stage of life.  Older because I have an almost teenager, and I’ve got too much to do and not enough energy or time to think of getting it all done!

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I’m trying to savor this baby stage before it slips away.

~ Lora

 

Posted in family, kids, parenting, reflection | 4 Comments