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Just thinking about chicken & dumplings takes me back to my mother’s kitchen.  This is comfort food at its finest, and is extremely cheap to make.

Now this Southern girl doesn’t like NOODLES with her chicken when it’s supposed to be dumplings.  They are totally different critters.

True Southern dumplings are like puffy pillows of biscuit goodness draped in a piping hot broth with bits of chicken.

Is your mouth watering yet?

There is an art to making good dumplings – you will get better at it the more you make them.  The broth should not be at a roiling boil or your dumplings will fall apart.

On the same token, if your broth is not hot enough, your dumplings will fall apart.

I like to use chicken breast that I have pressure canned (you ARE canning chicken when it’s on sale, right?).  The broth is flavorful and the chicken is tender.  Open a can, make your dumplings, and you’re ready for supper!

Variations instead of chicken:  squirrel or rabbit – any mild flavored meat.

For this recipe, you will need approximately 3 quarts of chicken broth.  (I use 1 quart jar of canned chicken breast/broth plus 2 additional quarts of water with about a tablespoon of chicken base.)

Put this in a large stock pot (5 or 6 quart will do) and bring to a slow boil.

This dumpling recipe can easily be halved or doubled depending on how many you need.  The below amount feeds three of us with enough left over for lunch for two.

To make your dumplings, mix the following together:

3 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Cut in 6 tablespoons butter with a fork or pastry blender.

Add 1 1/2 cups milk – you may need a little more/less depending on humidity. GENTLY stir together. Be careful not to overwork the dough – it will make your dumplings tough.

The dough should not be a sticky mess. You should be able to handle it without having gobs of it stick to your fingers.  If it’s too sticky, add a little bit of flour.

Put a piece of waxed paper on your counter – it makes clean up easier. Pat the dumpling dough out into a rough rectangle. Cut into small rectangles with a butter knife dipped in flour (they should be about 1 1/2″ long). Let the dough rest while the broth comes to a slow boil.

Drop several pieces of dough (7 or 8 ) into the broth at a time, being careful not to crowd the pot. The dumplings will expand as they cook. Cover the pot partially with a lid.

Check dumplings after 3 or 4 minutes, and gently turn them over with a slotted spoon. Cover with lid again.

Check dumplings after another 3 or 4 minutes and test for doneness. (Scoop one out into a bowl and cut it in half. If it’s still doughy, it isn’t done! Put it back into the broth and cook for a couple more minutes.)

Have a large bowl or dish ready to hold the dumplings as they are cooked. You have to do them in batches, and it will take a little while to do.

When serving, scoop out some of the chicken with a few dumplings and pour some broth over the top.  Season with salt and pepper to your liking.

Ummmmm, ummmmm, GOOD!  😀

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We have been blessed to overflowing with cucumbers this year.  I don’t know if the wet/mild summer is the reason, or if the Good Lord just saw fit to teach me how to make pickles.  😀

I’ve made pickles 4 times so far – two batches of bread & butter, 2 batches of dill.  I can’t say which is my favorite yet.  I’ve eaten a jar of both almost by myself!

The dill pickles I’ve been making are fabulous.  I found the recipe on RecipeZaar:  Blue Ribbon Dill Pickles .

Changes I made to the recipe:  I put a healthy dash of pickling spice in each wide mouth jar along with minced garlic (from a jar), dried dill weed and dried dill seed.

I also kept the brine boiling and filled jars, then put them in the canner as I went.  I followed directions listed on the website the first time and the jars didn’t seal as well (I suspect because the brine had cooled off too much).  Keeping the brine boiling worked much better for me.

Now…where’s my jar of pickles?  🙂

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Hubby’s birthday is tomorrow, so I thought I’d make him something extra special.  We all love this 7 Layer Mexican Dip – it’s easy to make and has a beautiful presentation.  I hope you enjoy it as well!

  • 1 large can bean dip (or 1 can refried beans)
  • 3 avocados, mashed & seasoned w/lemon juice, garlic salt, & Cavender’s Seasoning (or use a container of guacamole dip)
  • Mix together:
    8oz sour cream
    1 cup mayonnaise (I use Miracle Whip)
    1 package taco seasoning
  • 1 large bunch green onions, chopped fine
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped & seeded (or use cherry tomatoes – halved)
  • 1 can chopped ripe olives, drained
  • 6 oz cheddar or colby cheese, grated

On a large platter or shallow dish, spread in layers, in order given, starting with bean dip/refried beans.

Allow to sit for several hours or overnight before serving to allow flavors to blend. Serve with tortilla chips.

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If you are looking for VBS snack ideas in general, please be sure to read my other post with lots of food suggestions.   🙂

Our church is doing Rome Underground this year, and I’ve done quite a bit of searching on the internet for food to fit in with the theme.  We feed our workers beforehand, and we also offer the kids a more “substantial snack” since many of them have not had supper before coming to church.

This year I decided to incorporate some traditional VBS fare along with some Roman-inspired food.  I told all of our workers that we’ll be expanding our taste buds!  😀

First, I’ll give you a run-down of what our menu will basically look like, then provide recipes for any particular dish.

1)  Quesadillas with hummus and veggies. Quesadillas made with fajita size flour tortillas, shredded cheese and taco meat – if you have large griddles, you can do 6 or so at a time – spray griddle with non-stick spray first to make the outside crispy.  After cooking, cut each one into 6 wedges using a pizza cutter.  These can be made ahead of time and frozen, then reheated to serve.  We also do some with just cheese.  Serve with a sauce on the side made from Ranch dressing and salsa.  Yum!

2)  Little sandwiches and tabouli.   The secret is to make the sandwiches several hours ahead of time – it really does make a huge difference.  For VBS (a crowd of 100 give or take a few), I use 8 packages of hamburger buns, 4 packages each of Oscar Meyer smoked turkey breast and honey ham, a package of sliced American cheese, and some toothpicks.  For each sandwich, use one slice each of ham, turkey, and cheese.  Put four toothpicks into the top of the sandwich and slice between them cutting the sandwich into fourths (each piece like a slice of pie sort of).  Put the sandwiches on a tray, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for several hours.

3)  Chicken on a stick, Greek salad, kielbasa/cheese/crackers. The chicken on a stick is really just popcorn chicken threaded onto skewers (check Ebay or restaurant supply – we’re using the 4″ sticks, I think).  I plan on serving it with honey mustard on the side.  And lest you think I’ve lost my mind on this one, I will be buying the popcorn chicken from Wally World so I’m not standing on my feet for hours frying the little darlings up.  🙂  5 or 6 pounds of popcorn chicken goes a long way when you put 4 or 5 to a stick.   I’m not entirely sure about quantity on this yet – I plan on doing a trial run ahead of time with one pound to see how many we can make.

The kielbasa, cheese and crackers is simply Hillshire Farms kielbasa (sausage) thinly sliced with 1/4 slice of American cheese on top of a Ritz cracker.  You can make trays of this stuff very easily, and most everyone loves it.  It’s a good filler that tastes great!  Don’t make it up too far ahead of time or your crackers will go soggy.  You can chop everything and have it ready to set up assembly-line style when it’s closer to serving time.

4)  Macho Nachos with olives and pickles on the side. My version of Macho Nachos is chips with taco meat, cheese dip (made from 1 – #10 can cheese sauce and 1 can of rotel (undrained) ).  You can serve sour cream on the side if you like along with jalapeno peppers .  I cook the hamburger meat several weeks ahead of time, season with taco seasoning, and freeze until ready to use.  Crockpots work great to keep the meat and cheese dip hot.   Green and black olives along with sweet and dill pickles can be served on the side.

5)  Hot dogs plus any leftovers from the earlier part of the week.  Pan fry the hot dogs unless you want to grill them ahead of time.  Keep them warm in a crockpot as you’re serving.  Have ketchup, mustard, mayo (yes, some people like it on their dogs!) and relish handy.  Sometimes I make up another batch of sandwiches on closing night just in case we have parents who come and would like to eat too.  Sometimes we have a lot of leftovers from earlier in the week, sometimes there’s none.  Plan to have too much rather than not enough!

Desserts this year will be varied.  We’re having fig newtons, fruit salad, melon balls, pudding cups (#10 cans of pudding from Sam’s in individual serving cups and topped with whipped topping), popcorn, raisins, and possibly ice cream sundaes.

I’ve also asked any of our bread makers at church to donate homemade rolls if they’d like.  This will be part of the kids’ snacks each night.

We always have kool-aid slushies made from gallons of frozen kool-aid.  Let it sit out for a few hours ahead of time and chop up any remaining chunks of ice for an icy treat.  The kids LOVE these in the hot summer!

Iced tea is served nightly as well as water.

For the recipes:

Hummus – This is like a middle Eastern bean dip.  I use canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans), some of the liquid from the can, about 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 3 cloves minced garlic, parsley,  a good drizzle of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and a healthy dash of cumin and black pepper.  Blend all of this together and serve with chips, crackers or vegetables (carrots, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.).  Double or triple the recipe if needed.  Adjust seasoning to your taste.

Tabouli – Love this stuff!  It is a traditional middle Eastern salad which can be eaten alone or with crackers.  Below is the recipe as I received it, and I’ll tell you the modifications I made:

For a 1# bag of tabouli wheat (cracked bulgar wheat),  put it in a large bowl and run warm water over it to rinse it. Stir it around, let it sit a few minutes, stir it around again and then drain it.

Add:
1 1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup white vinegar  (I use less – just a good glug from the bottle)
2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
2 tsp sea salt

Add chopped vegetables:

1 large cucumber
3 large plus 1 med. tomato
1 bunch small red onions
1 small white onion
2 bunches parsley

Now, I will confess I cheat a little here and use dehydrated onion and parsley both.  It just makes my life easier. 🙂  I like a lot of tomato and cucumber in mine.  If you see it’s getting too dry as it soaks up the dressing, you can add some water to it.  It shouldn’t be soupy, but it shouldn’t be bone dry either – just lightly moistened.  Best if you let it sit overnight before serving.

Greek Salad

3 tomatoes, chopped
1 or 2 cucumbers, chopped
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
½ med. red onion, finely chopped
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
black pepper
dash dried oregano
dried basil
green olives

Combine tomatoes, cucumber, cheese and onion in a bowl.  Add olive oil and lemon juice, pepper, oregano, and basil.  Toss in a few olives.  Adjust seasonings to taste.   Easy to double or triple.

Fruit Salad – Just a simple mixture of sliced strawberries, grapes (red and green) cut in half length-wise, pinepple chunks, chopped apples, and mandarin oranges.  You can add a some sugar if needed (a couple of tablespoons or so).  For adults, I like to sprinkle a few chopped pecans in the mix.

Hope this helps to inspire your food ideas for VBS!  🙂

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Mix (1) 2 liter bottle or (6) 12 oz. cans of Grape, Orange, or Strawberry Crush (or other brand) and 2 cans of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk in an ice cream freezer.

If the freezer is not full, add some regular milk to the mixture.

(Note:  We like NuGrape best, but it has Red #40 in it, so we haven’t had this in years.  It’s wonderful though!  🙂  )

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Well, I finally ran out of the enchilada sauce I canned in October, and after paying $1.79 for one teeny tiny can at the store, I decided it was time for another batch.

I made spaghetti sauce yesterday and canned it today.  While I have the canner out,  it was now or never on the enchilada sauce.

I did adjust my basic recipe for the whole batch – cut back on the cumin and water.  After simmering for a couple of hours, it worked out perfectly divided between 9 pint jars.

Process at 10 pounds pressure for 15 minutes.  Voila!  😀

Here’s the mondo batch recipe:

1 – 106 oz can tomato sauce (Contadina is my favorite – Sam’s carries it)
2 to 3 onions (or one LARGE onion), chopped, sauteed in olive oil, and pureed in the blender
6 1/2 teaspoons oregano
9 Tablespoons chili powder
6 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
6 or 7 teaspoons ground cumin
several tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 tomato sauce can (#10) of water
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

You could also add cayenne pepper to taste. Adjust seasonings to your liking.

Enjoy!

We use this on chicken enchiladas, bean burritos, tacos, etc.

For easy bean burritos: take 1 pkg large flour tortillas, divide 1 can of refried beans between them – spread a hefty tablespoon (at least) down the center of each tortilla, then spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons enchilada sauce on each, and lastly top with cheddar cheese. Roll up into burritos, place in a 9×13 pan, and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes until they’re hot.

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This makes a bunch and can be frozen.  Very versatile – use whatever you have in your pantry!

2 pounds ground hamburger meat, browned and drained
1 large onion, chopped and sauteed with the meat
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 envelope dry Ranch Dressing mix
2 cans tomatoes
1 can Rotel
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can sliced mushrooms
2 cans pinto beans
2 cans shoe peg corn
1 can yellow hominy

Combine and simmer over low heat for at least 30 minutes to an hour (or longer in the crockpot). Serve over chips (Fritos are good) topped with cheese.

VARIATIONS: I have omitted the mushrooms, pinto beans, and the shoe peg corn, then added a can of Ranch style beans (undrained), can of black beans (drained), one small can of V8 juice, can of beef broth, and sliced olives. I’ve also added a pound of Velveeta to the whole mix. You can do basically anything with this – be creative! 😀

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