The Perils of Dumplings

I live in the South. A short drive gets me to Graceland, a little longer drive gets me to the Gulf Coast, a little longer and I’m sipping margaritas in Key West. By virtue of that, I’m expected to know how to make certain dishes – among them are fried chicken, a pot of navy beans, cornbread and chicken and dumplings.

 

My chicken and dumplings is a dense stew of a whole chicken simmered about an hour, picked clean and two batches of MaMe’s biscuits cut into 1×2 inch diamonds. I learned the practice from my mother-in-law in the early 00’s. I knew how to cook. However, you know no wife can cook as good as her husband’s mother. So I tried off and on for 6 months until I finally got ‘the look’. The look on my husband’s face that says I got it just right.

 

Usually I can get them just right. The shredded chicken, the chunks of dumplings and the thick sauce holding it all together. Usually I get ‘yumms’ and ‘ahhhs’ of appreciation. This weekend, however, was a different story. I’m letting my boys, DangerBoy and Sheepro, into the kitchen and teaching them my tips and tricks in the kitchen. The chicken simmered and bubbled like it should and cooled perfectly. We worked on the biscuits together and cut them into their shapes. Dropping them in was no problem either. They went in the stock as smooth as you like. But for some reason, this time, they disintegrated like a sandcastle at high tide.

 

DangerBoy: “Mom, are these supposed to do this?”

 

Me: “A little, honey.” with my back to the stove. Then with sudden interest, “Why?”

 

DangerBoy: “Just look.”

 

I turn and the pot is about to boil over looking like boils of cotton. What a mess! No time even for pictures. I grab it and do my best to salvage it. It’s servable and tastes good. But the texture is not. Instead of ‘yumms’ and ‘ahhhs’ of appreciation it’s ‘hmms’. Now I get to figure out what I did wrong for next time.

 

How do you get your dumplings to stay whole? Let me know here.

The Memphis Farmers’ Market and Me

First of all, I’d like to thank the 160+ that took the time to read and the many shares of “Where’s The Apology” since I published it last Saturday. I’m humbled that my rant connected with so many of you. If you’ve not had the chance to look at it, I would appreciate you reading it, sharing it and letting Drake and J Cole know that using the word autistic in such a derogatory way is akin to hate speech and not acceptable.

All that to say, the post I originally wanted to post last Saturday didn’t quite get the attention – I don’t think – it deserved. It’s about the Memphis Farmers Market and that facility truly merits your time and attention, even if my post doesn’t do it justice.

mfm logoI have found a new addiction. It’s a place I’ve been to twice and plan to go to no less than once a month – at least until they close in October. It’s the Memphis Farmers Market located at Central Station, S. Front Street at GE Patterson in the Historic South Main District, Downtown Memphis.

Farmers mkt 6The Memphis Farmers Market is a wonderful place to find loads of really great, locally grown, food and flowers and locally made artisan products. They have just about everything from tomatoes and green beans, to metal art, goat milk soaps and mushroom teas. On my most recent excursion, I came home with some wonderful cherry tomatoes, seriously good granola, goat cheese, pesto and even more. I even found multiple species of fig trees, one of which I may come home with my next time there.

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The atmosphere is wonderful! Everything is so laid back, even though it’s crowded. People are shopping the stalls, or eating at one of the food trucks or even just sitting on one of the benches listening to live music and just people watching. All the vendors I have talked to have been very friendly and informative, especially on items they sell I would have no idea how to use.

But that it part of the point for the Memphis Farmers Market. Their mission is to:

  • Improve public health nutrition options by providing a vehicle to educate the community on nutrition and good health
  • Provide access to local food choices
  • Assist area farmers, producers, and artisans with sustainable business opportunities
  • Generate a sense of local pride while furthering the economic development of our community
  • Serve as a community-gathering place

And part of that is not only providing space for vendors to sell their wares; but, they also have cooking demonstrations on how to use the food sold there, Farm to Fork Dinner Tours, and Harvesting Good Health events.

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Like I said I went there a couple of weeks ago and took my mom and Danger Boy. He had been with us before mom had not. But it was nice to let them both just explore and discover something new. Mom was super and bought me a bar of goat’s milk soap from Hearts of Eden and some chevre` from Bonnie Blue Farms. I got some vegan pesto from Harvest Fresh Farms and those together on some sourdough I had at home made for a wonderful lunch. Danger Boy couldn’t keep his hands out of the cherry tomatoes I bought from Mai’s Homegrown Produce. I still have some Bok Choy I need to use; but, I have some tofu marinating for that. (Scratch that, I did a stir fry with that this week, it was my very own Genghis Grill.)

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Today,  L’Ecole Culinaire is having a cooking demonstration, Dogs 2nd Chance is going to be there with dogs available for adoption near the pet sitting area and three different local artists will be playing. And who knows, if you go by the right booth, you might meet a local news celebrity serving coffee. He served me mine and was super nice! 

That was last week, TODAY master gardeners will be answering question from 7:30-11:30. I may have to ask them about getting some reaised beds started in my back yard. WellWorx is sponsoring a “Cardio Boom” class led by Eric Cook, Street Dog Foundation is holding the pet adoptions, and there will be music from Rob Halford (not this one), Shelley Brown and Yancy and the Good’uns. But if you still stop by the right booth, you might meet a very nice local news celebrity!

Farmers mkt 5I really enjoy farmers’ markets and plan to find more. I’ve been to the one in Hernando, MS and where I live has one in the court house square Friday afternoons. More on them soon as I re-familiarize myself with them.

What’s the best thing you’ve picked up at a farmers’ market? I’d like to know so I can find new things to try.

Pinterest Pin Test March 2, 2013

So I know there are a couple of sites that do this already. (I follow pintriedit.com on Pinterest.) But I know there’s no way they can test every pin everyone wants to see when they want to see it. So, in addition to the Recipe Reviews I’ll be doing from time to time, I’ll stick a Pintrest Pin Test in whenever I finally get around to trying any of the many pins I have on my Pinterest boards. You can follow me from this link.

The first one I’ll be reviewing is a frosting I used for Ninja Cat’s cupcakes I took to school for his birthday treat. What about Danger Boy’s you ask? He decided to go the healthier route and wanted a popcorn party for his classmates. It’s healthier, but less interesting from the blog standpoint (sideways winking face). Back to the frosting! The text from the pin reads as follows:

“All you do is mix one vanilla pudding packet with half of the milk called for on the package. Whisk until it begins to thicken. Then fold in one container of Cool Whip. A great frosting spread on cakes and piped onto cupcakes, a tasty filling in crepes or on waffles along with some fruit.”

Image

(photo from Pinterest)

So that’s what I did. I used Aldi’s sugar free vanilla pudding with 1c. skim milk. After a couple of minutes it started to thicken then I folded in the equally nondescript Great Value Light Whipped Topping. It was still pretty loose once I got done and wasn’t so sure this was a good idea because I didn’t have a frosting backup. By then it was time to take them to school (I wasn’t taking the cupcakes until 2:30), so I put the bowl in the refrigerator in hopes the pudding would continue to set. When I got back 20 minutes later, sure enough, it set near perfectly. I was able to scoop it into my handy-dandy sandwich bag, snip off the corner and go to town on the luscious devil’s food cupcakes.

When I made it to the class and Ninja Cat and I handed out the cupcakes, they received with rave reviews. The frosting wasn’t nearly as sweet as the typical butter cream and I felt good knowing I wasn’t giving them quite as much sugar as I could have been.

What are some of your favorite Pinterest pins? What are some pins I just have to try? Let me know here!

Recipe Review Feb 16, 2013

Recipe Review

I want to get to a place where I can review entire cookbooks for you, hopefully consistent readers. But now with what all is on my plate, a recipe review now and then will have to suffice. Today is my first one from a blog called How Sweet It Is via ZipList.

I could go on for days on how much I love Zip List. For those that do not have it (it’s on the web and syncs for Apple and Android devices), ZipList is a grocery management/recipe box/meal planning piece of Heaven. It works with loads of blogs and places like Food Network and Epicurious to bring in recipes that people can search, place the recipe on a meal plan for the week and its ingredients in your shopping list. I’m working on the meal planning part. It’ll come. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. But ZipList is worth its price, which is free.

Anyway, back to the recipe. How Sweet It Is is a blog written by self-taught Jessica. I’ve only met her through her food. But I really think she and I could hang out because of our food preferences. Especially the recipe I’m talking about in this post – Beer Cheese Soup. My husband’s ex-boss raved about the Beer Cheese Soup at a local place called Bardog. It got Hubby’s wheels turning and he asked me if I could make one. I said sure. So I hopped on the well-loved ZipList and found this recipe in the Beer Cheese Soup search. I made it and you would have thought I had spun gold he loved it so much. So I made it again, and again – but it broke again and again. Then I figured out what I was doing wrong and this is the biggest tip I have for anyone attempting this recipe – be sure the pot isn’t too hot when you start to melt your cheese. Otherwise your soup *will* break, you will have clumps of goop in oily schmaltz and, in my case, a very disappointed husband. I don’t like having a very disappointed husband.

I’ll have the recipe here and any changes/additions/etc. I make will be in italic. OK? OK.

Beer Cheese Soup from How Sweet It Is

http://www.howsweeteats.com/2012/09/beer-cheese-soup/

Beer Cheese Soup

YIELD: SERVES 4-6       PREP TIME: 10 MINUTES          COOK TIME: 30 MINUTES
TOTAL TIME: 40 MINUTES

Ingredients:

3 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
1 sweet onion, finely diced
1/2 red pepper, finely diced (I don’t use this, Hubby hates bell pepper)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (I don’t use this, I keep the bacon grease instead of draining the bacon)
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups of your favorite beer (I find that lighter wheat beers work best)
(I have used Bud Light, Guinness and Foster’s in the blue can, my fave so far is the Foster’s)
1 cup half and half
4 ounces sharp white cheddar, freshly grated
4 ounces extra sharp yellow cheddar, freshly grated
4 ounces Colby jack, freshly grated
fresh herbs (I like cilantro) for garnish (I don’t use these either, Hubby says bacon is garnish enough)
salt and pepper to season if needed

Directions:

Heat a large stock pot (I use a cast iron dutch oven) over medium heat and add chopped bacon. Fry until crispy and fat is rendered, then remove bacon with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain. Reduce heat to low and add onions, peppers and garlic, stirring to coat. Cook for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are translucent, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high and add in butter. Once sizzling, which in flour and cook for 3-4 minutes until flour is nutty and golden. Add in beer and stirring constantly, cook for 5 minutes so they alcohol cooks out and the mixture somewhat thickens.
Add in half and half, then reduce heat to low (make sure it cools a bit!!) and gradually add cheese while stirring. Stir until smooth, then fold in bacon and serve immediately. (I put bacon over top and my brother, who I turned onto this recipe as well uses his immersion blender to smooth out the onion.) Garnish fresh chopped herbs over top if desired.

[Because any cheese soup can get “gloppy” after it sits, I suggest making this as close to serving time if possible. If the mixture gets too thick, add a bit more liquid (beer, milk, broth) and

stir over low heat. That is also how I recommend re-heating the soup

 as well.]

–End recipe—
And it’s that simple. This winter I’ve made this on average once a week and it disappears quicker that a snow in Memphis. There have even been words over the last bowl. So make this wisely. You have powerful ju-ju in your possession now. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.

What soups are you using to warm your body and soul this winter? I’m looking for more to try.