Tag Archives: crock pot

Schooooooool’ssssss out…for…SUMMA!!

It totally snuck up on me.  I’ve had a lot on my mind lately & completely didn’t realize the end of school was upon us, until looking at the calendar one day & it was like “Oh, the last day of school is in 3 days.  Wait…whaaa??!”.  Anyway, now I’ve got all these random thoughts, tips & ideas floating through my head & taking up too much room.  So I figured well hell, why not blog about it?!  So here we go:
(This list may or may not evolve as I think up new crap…feel free to leave your own ideas in the comments!)

*Make ice cubes out of whatever non-carbonated drinks you have on hand, that way your drinks won’t get watered down in the summer heat yet will still be cold! For example: kool-aid cubes for kool-aid, lemonade cubes for lemonade, etc.

*Set up a lemonade stand & get your kids to “work” it.  It’ll teach them all kinds of great, valuable life lessons as well as earn them some summer spending money (plus 10% for yourself for raising them) & give them something to do to keep them out of your face for awhile. (PS: I have a great homemade recipe on this blog!)

*Water.  When it’s hot outside water is a great toy.  If you’re like us & don’t live somewhere that is flat enough for a cheap-o pool, give the kids water to play with.  Some people would worry it would run the water bill up too much but it really won’t & the few cents extra that it may cost will be worth it to keep those kids busy…trust me.  Invest in a slip & slide maybe.  Or water guns.  Or even just some water in one of those athletic type water bottles that you can squeeze & it streams out.  Hell, fill up a Rubbermaid tub & let them splash each other in the driveway.  Water amazes kids.

*Utilize your crock-pot & outdoor grill.  Grills are a summer staple but a lot of people tend to view crock-pots as being more of a winter time thing.  Not at all!  Using your crock-pot will save you time in the kitchen, therefore giving you more time with the family.  It will not turn your kitchen into a sauna, like the oven will.  Doesn’t suck a lot of electricity, which is important during the summer if you use central air & your bill is higher.

*At the risk of sounding like a Martha Stewart rip-off, try to plan 1-2 things to do with your kids every week.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be a craft, but summer is a great time to keep in tune with your kids…they’re not gone at school all day & quality time is extremely important.  Something as simple as a walk or weeding the flower bed together counts.

*Two words: MOVIE.  NIGHT.  We do movie night pretty much every Friday & Saturday during the school year, & then during summer it’s usually every night.  Sometimes we do family movie night (self-explanatory) & sometimes we send the kids off to their room(s) to do their own movie night.  A lot of times we pop popcorn (from the kernels!) & have other snacks.  It’s just a cool yet cost effective way to get the kids out of your face watch a movie.

*Go to the local library.  At the risk of sounding like a complete After School Special (remember those?!) I highly recommend the library.  It is free(!), they usually will have at least 1 free(!) summertime kids program/event, & nurturing a love of reading early on provides soooo many benefits I won’t bore you with them all here (just think on it a minute & you’ll see). 

*Invest in bug spray.  Lots of it.  I don’t know about you but bugs irritate the living shitballs out of me.  Also invest in some itch relief cream/gel, sunscreen (wear it/put it on the kids every sunny day!), sunburn relief & it wouldn’t hurt to grab one of those to-go “boo-boo” kits….places like Hellmart Wal-Mart used to have them for, like, 98¢ but they’re probably $4.99 nowadays.  You could probably just build your own from stuff you already have.

*PoPsIcLeS!!  Up until this year I was totally one of those popsicle Nazi’s that despised them because when it’s hot out (of course) they get everything within a 2 mile radius drippy & messy & sticky.  Blegh.  However I have seen the light!  You can get a box of 100 (I think) for $3.80 at Hellmart Wal-Mart, the childhood-reminiscent Pop Ice brand.  They taste great & there are lots of them & they’re basically frozen sugar water.  Sure the kids may get a little hyper but in my opinion it’s a fair trade off for a little extra mopping & a chunk of time that I don’t have to hear “I’m bored”.  I’ve even stepped my game up to letting my kids have more than 1 in a five minute period.  I mean hell…it’s not like they’re filling or something, like a T-bone.

*Cook-out time, bitches!  We love feeding people (must have 1/4 Italian in us) & having a cook-out is awesome.  It’s relaxing (well…more so then preparing a regular dinner), you can have friends/family over, you can keep the menu relatively cheap, and everyone can just hang out & enjoy summer….coated in bug spray of course.  If you don’t have a grill just grab a bag of charcoal & go to a local park & utilize one of their built in grills.  If you don’t have a lot of budget then decide on cheap stuff & split the grocery list with whoever is coming (who said you had to be the one to always provide everything?! Plus true friends/family should be more than happy to pitch in, in my opinion).  All in all it’s a good time & one of our favorite things.

*Chores.  As a stay at home Mom I keep a pretty usual, mundane schedule of daily crap to do.  The kids have one or two chores to do regularly but during the summer they get a couple extra.  Why?  Because they’re there & perfectly capable of helping out.  Because there are more dishes to wash, clothes to launder & mess to continually clean up.  Because they can earn money.  Because it teaches them responsibility.  Because they’re good kids & usually don’t mind helping out.

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**Updated** Tastes like home in my mouth. And it will yours too.

Some of my tried & true recipes have been passed down from my mom’s side of the family.  Things like potato salad, sausage gravy, green beans, chicken & dumplings.  Since my paw-paw (whom they originated from), nanny, & mom are all gone now these recipes have become even more sacred to me and I’ve made a point of keeping them in rotation so my kids will grow up remembering them.  Hey, I’m kinda crazy when it comes to food okay?

So the other day I saw 2 different pins (on Pinterest, just in case you’ve been under a rock for the past year) but I believe they’re the same link/recipe.  One says something about “crock pot chicken & dumplings”, one says something about “cracker barrel chicken & dumplings”.  It looks like the same picture on both so I said what the hell & went with the crock pot one.  However my subconscious likes to stress me out so I didn’t get the urge to make it until it was too late to do in the crock pot.  Of course.  So I put my big cook panties on & decided I’d try to convert it to a stove top recipe.  The entire time I was expecting failure.  Seriously…the whole time.  And then they get done & with the first bite I knew that it would be my new go-to chicken & dumplings recipe.  I felt a twinge of guilt towards my “family tradition” but I can’t help it…these fuckers are goooooood.  They taste like home in my mouth.  So despite the fact that I’ve already posted like 65,000 blogs today, I wanted to make a post about this one before I forgot all the steps I had to convert & tinker with.  I am one of those cooks who does “pinches” & “dashes” so I’m gonna attempt to be as clear & understandable as possible but if I cause confusion please leave a comment & I’ll try to clarify.  Obviously I’m not a raging popular blog so I’ll have plenty of time to answer you.  Now, whaddya waitin’ for–get to cookin’!!

PS: all of the pics are at the end; I didn’t want to confuse things even more by interjecting photos everywhere!

Delicious Home Tasting Chicken & Dumplings from Pinterest or Cracker Barrel but who really cares because they’re so damn good

First, the HOMEMADE CREAM OF CHICKEN SOUP.
You will need:
4 T. Butter
4 T. Flour
2 c. Liquid (broth, milk, water)

Throw all your butter into a saucepan or skillet over med-high heat; melt completely. Toss all the flour in then stir with a whisk to combine with the butter. It should end up resembling a pliable, soft, play-doh like mixture. Let this cook for a couple of minutes then begin to add your liquid. Now: this is the part that requires patience & concentration. You must add the liquid a little at a time. What type of liquid you add is up to you; the first time I made this I was low on milk so I did half milk/half water; the next time I did 3/4 chicken broth/1/4 milk. It’s totally up to you, just make sure it’s 2 cups. Anyway…I always add just a splash of liquid at first then whisk everything together; as you’re adding the liquid the “play-doh” is soaking it up & expanding. Splash, whisk, splash, whisk…you get the idea. Once your mess mixture starts to resemble a soupy liquid it’s generally pretty safe to dump the rest of your liquid in, whisk & cook for a few minutes. Variations on this are easy too: for cream of celery just toss some finely chopped celery in with your melting butter; for cream of mushroom add finely chopped mushroom to your butter; for a stronger chicken taste sprinkle some chicken bouillon in. You just made homemade cream of chicken soup-take that, Campbell’s!!

Alrighty…once you’ve made the soup just set it aside. If you’re more organized than myself, you could actually do this next step before making the soup but…eh, whatever.

The Chicken
You will need:
2-4 lbs. Boneless, skinless chicken
(You can use any type you want, I prefer breast because you don’t have to trim the fat; also a little chicken goes a loooong way in this recipe so if you don’t have much that’s a-okay)
2 T. Butter
2 c. Cream of Chicken soup (what you just made)
1 c. Chicken broth
1 onion, diced

What you do:
Place the chicken in a pot, cover with water, dump some salt in & bring to a boil. You can move on to other tasks while the chicken is boiling but don’t forget about it…you don’t want it to start falling apart. Thoroughly cook the chicken, reserve the water (which is now homemade chicken broth!), and place the chicken aside. In another large pot combine over medium heat the 2 cups of soup you made earlier, 1 cup of chicken broth (yes that’s right: get it from the reserved “boiling” water!), the onions & butter. Whisk all ingredients until thoroughly blended, then add the chicken pieces. Cook this mixture-stirring occasionally-for about 20 minutes/while preparing dumplings to blend flavors.

The Dumplings
You have 2 options here: use Bisquick, or follow the recipe listed below. You could also cut up refrigerator biscuits if you’re crunched for time or just lazy as hell. I promise you that rolling out dough is SO SO worth it & really doesn’t take long at all. You can absolutely taste the difference over fridge biscuits & you will be super glad you took the time to do it. If you opt for Bisquick they always have their biscuit recipe on the box, just follow it & jump back in here for the rolling part. If you’re going the distance for your dough you’ll need this recipe:

You will need:
2 c. Flour
3 t. Baking powder
2 T. Sugar
1 t. Salt
1/3 c. Oil (veggie, canola)
2/3 c. Milk

What you do:
Mix all the dry ingredients together. Measure out oil & milk in separate measuring cups, then gently add milk to oil. DO NOT STIR. Add oily-milk to the bowl of dry ingredients; using your hands gently mix together. Try to get it mixed up thoroughly yet in as few moves as possible. I know this is confusing but the more dough is handled the tougher it gets. After mixing pat into a giant ball; I usually stick mine in the freezer for a few minutes just to firm it up a bit. Now for the rolling:
-Sprinkle some flour on a clean, flat surface (ie: your kitchen table).
-Place your dough ball on top then knead a couple of times, sprinkling a tiny bit of flour as needed if it has stickiness.
-Sprinkle a tiny bit of flour (this should be abbreviated to S.T.B.F., lol!) over your rolling pin & start rolling out your dough. Make it as thick or as thin as you want (mainly because I never measured my dough thickness, I just always eyeball it) but keep in mind the dough will puff up once it becomes a dumpling. In other words you don’t want dumplings the same thickness as a porterhouse. Or maybe you do. Again, your call.
-Use a pizza cutter (genius, right?!) to cut horizontal & vertical lines, forming little rectangles. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can use a small cookie cutter like I did last time (a little star!). Or, you can make small strips. Your preference.
-Gather up your uncooked dumplings & place on a plate; repeat these steps until all of your dough is used.

The Final Result
Finally, you’re at the finish line! Increase the heat on the chicken/soup mixture to medium-high; remove the chicken pieces. While you’re waiting on the soup to get a little hotter shred all of your chicken & set aside. Some recipes call for you to put it back in the pot but this is my recipe & I say set it aside because it’s easier to cook your dumplings. You should be seeing the occasional heat bubble in your soup pot; when this happens start adding your dumplings one by one all around inside the pot. After you add a whole “layer” of them wait a minute then stir gently to make sure they’re not sticking. Cook for a few minutes until they’re puffed up, probably 5-6 minutes. You probably don’t have any free space to add more dumplings so remove the cooked ones (I always just dump them in with my shredded chicken) with a slotted spoon, then repeat the process until all dumplings have been cooked. Finally, gently re-add all the dumplings & chicken, stir to mix it all in with the soup, and let it cook a few minutes so the mouth watering yumminess can blend together. To be fancy like me you can sprinkle some parsley on top after dishing into serving bowls.

And wah-la, you have the best chicken & dumplings ever. After you come down from your chicken & dumpling euphoria, let me know what you think! Oh, and you’re welcome. 😉

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Fancy C&D with rectangles dumplings & parsley.
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Homemade cream of chicken soup.
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Shredded chicken.
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Dumplings as they're cooking.
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Cutesy star dumplings! They were the perfect thickness too.