It is magic... looking out the window before bed there is nothing but Earth and Sky, or perhaps just a little bit of rain coming down. Then when you wake up piles of snow greet you while a soft pink sky glows above.
It is like someone came and brought a lovely present for everyone. I love living in Colorado. I love the changing weather, it is never one way for too long, not to mention the ever-present beauty of the mountains that we get to enjoy each day. Today is the first snow of the year and it came in overnight, just like magic.
When my daughter woke in the morning, I held her soft little hand and lead her over the window. We excitedly pulled back the thick velvety brown curtain and I showed her the peaceful beauty outside. She stood motionless and quiet for a few minutes. Then she asked if she could go out and play. It was still before dawn and we had to get ready for school. But who am I to say "no" to such a basic and justified request? If I had been 5 years old this morning, I would have asked the same question. So we got her all bundled up and off she went. She stepped into the yard and sunk in to just above her knees. There is a lot of snow out there today, way more than a dusting. With our dog frolicking around her plowing through drifts of white, Violet played for a good 30 minutes and was not ready to stop when she finally had to get ready for school. I know that she and her big sister will come home eager to play outside and enjoy this special snow, the first snow of the year.
I want to make something warm and healthy to support their bodies and spirits in their play. I am a big fan of homemade chicken soup because it too is like magic. There is something about it that really feeds the body, strengthening every part. Research has shown that chicken soup can be anti-inflammatory. But whatever it is, it seems to me that a nice bowl of soup made with love and intention is like having a warm hug for your insides. But, I really don't want to make chicken soup. I am thinking that chicken and dumplings would be fun. Maybe I can find a way to make it similar to chicken soup. I am sure the dumplings will not add to the health benefits, but I do think they will be fun and I know my eldest daughter has been craving this tasty dish. So off I go to search for a chicken and dumpling recipe that will help me on my way.
My favorite came from Ree's site The Pioneer Woman that is filled with lots of humor and delicious looking recipes!
Here is the recipe I complied from Ree, and about a dozen or so other places:
- Roaster Chicken(s) equal to about 1 whole chicken that you have been waiting to make soup with, I had 2 in my freezer waiting to be used up.
- 3 cups water
- handful of dried nettles
- 5 or so 2-3" pieces of astragalus
Simmer this all together until the chicken is ready to fall off the bone.
Let cool. Strain and reserve liquid. Pull chicken off the bone.
Why the nettles and astragalus you ask? What is this stuff you wonder? Nettles are a dark green highly nutrient rich plant that can be purchased dried.
Astragalus comes to us from Traditional Chinese Medicine. Astragalus builds the immune system and it great to use as a preventative during cold and flu season, though it is not to be used during acute illness. I add astragalus to anything that is cooked in liquid during the winter months to help my family, things like soup, rice and crock pot meals. You will want to remove the astragalus before eating your food. Purchase nettles and astragalus at your local herb store or natural grocery.
Next the veggies:
- 1 red onion chopped
- Lots of minced garlic, to taste
- 2 italian heirloom zucchini, chopped
- 3 stalks of celery, chopped
- 4 carrots, chopped
- Olive Oil, about 3 tablespoons
- 1/2 cup apple cider, courtesy of Ree, she says it is a great addition.
Really use any veggies you have that sound good to you. This list is just what I had on hand in the fridge. Cook this all up together until tender. Add salt, pepper and herbs like thyme, oregano and sage to taste.
Put the chicken and the stock (enough to almost cover the veggies and chicken, reserving about a cup) back in the pot and add the cider, you will have a very thick chicken soup at this point. I know that chicken and dumplings has more broth than this sometimes but I was scared. Scared to have a lot of broth because last time I made chicken and dumplings the dumplings dissolved into the broth and then I had a big pot of gravy stuff not really so very tasty! Simmer to let flavors blend.
Then for the dumplings: These are right from Ree, her dumpling recipe looked great so I had to try it, plus she says to add cornmeal to the dumplings and anything with cornmeal is a winner with my family!
- 1 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour, Ree uses all-purpose
- 1/2 cup of cornmeal
- 1 heaping tbsp of baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cup of milk, I used 2%, Ree uses half and half
- 2 tbsp minced fresh parsley, if I had only had that to add... would have been yummy!
Mix together dry ingredients then add milk or half and half. Drop this by the tablespoonful onto the top of your chicken mixture. Cook, covered for about 15 minutes.
Last, I made a gravy:
- Reserved chicken stock, I had about a cup, you might need to tweak the proportions below based on how much you have left
- tbsp or so of butter
- 2 tbsp of flour
- Add salt and granulated garlic to taste
Melt the butter into the stock and then whisk in the flour. Whisk until the gravy thickens. Serve the gravy on top or next the chicken and dumplings if you wish.
My family loved this. And it did not turn into a big gooey pot of mess.
Yummy and perfect for the end of a cold day.