Conquering My Fear Of Chicken and Dumplings

I love chicken and dumplings, but I’m afraid of them. I’ve never made them before because I’m afraid of whole chickens and making dumplings.

My Principal Who Cooks blog is a way for me to explore my passion for cooking while overcoming my fears. Isn’t that what life is about? Overcoming our fears, trying news things, taking risks, challenging ourselves, learning, and growing?

What I find amusing is what is the worst thing that can happen if my chicken and dumplings attempt goes awry? I throw it out and try again? I wanted to push beyond what was blocking me.

Kip and I love watching Top Chef on Bravo TV. This season they are in Charleston, South Carolina, exploring southern cooking. Last week’s episode focused on the cooking style of Edna Lewis, a legendary pioneering Southern chef and one of the first African American celebrity chefs. I’m sorry to say I hadn’t heard of her until that show but I was inspired to purchase her cookbook and make her chicken and dumplings.

I bought a whole chicken. Now, many of you have probably done this before, but I never have. I buy a lot of deli roasted chickens to use in various recipes and I buy chicken pieces, but today I bought a whole chicken. One advantage to buying a whole chicken is the cost. A whole chicken cut into pieces was $20, my whole chicken was $8.

Next, I Googled “cutting a whole chicken” and Martha Stewart walked me through the steps. Not bad for my first attempt. Here are the before and after photos.

After cutting the chicken, the rest of the steps were easy. Cook chicken in butter with onions, cover with broth, add celery and pepper, and simmer for two hours. The dumplings were easy to make, too. Instead of rolling the dough and cutting out dumplings, I just rolled balls of dough and flattened them in my palm.

After removing the chicken and straining the liquid to remove the onions, celery, and drippings, I dropped the dumplings into the broth to cook for twenty minutes.

While the dumplings cooked, I made Edna’s Glazed Carrots which were easy to prepare. All I needed were carrots, butter, cold water, salt, and sugar.

Kip said the chicken and dumplings and glazed carrots were delicious. He said they were the best dumplings he’s ever had, and he’s dumpling picky.

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Thank you, Edna Lewis, for your life’s work, recipes, and inspiration. I will be using her cookbook a lot in the future. And, I’m no longer afraid of a whole chicken or chicken and dumplings!

Can a Pasta and Broccoli Meal Satisfy Me?

After a busy few weeks and a hiatus from cooking, I’m back for another meatless meal challenge. The cookbook I’m using as a guide is divided into seasonal sections. I chose a recipe from the Autumn section, Penne with Broccoli, Marscapone, and Dolcelatte.

I’m learning about ingredients on this journey. This recipe taught me about marscapone, crème fraîche, and Gorgonzola dolcelatte. Marscapone is an Italian cream cheese with a creamier, sweeter texture than cream cheese we generally use. Crème fraîche is a French styled sour cream than is less sour than typical American versions. Gorgonzola dolcelatte is a slightly mild, sweeter variety of Gorgonzola cheese that was developed for the British market. I was able to find marscapone and crème fraîche at the store but not the Gorgonzola dolcelatte. Regular Gorgonzola had to do.

As I shopped at my local grocery store, it did feel odd to bypass the meat area. It’s such a habit going and selecting meats that I had to remind myself penne pasta and broccoli are going to make this meal hearty. My fingers were crossed.

The photo on the left is my creation, the one on the right is from the cookbook. The differences I observe are that they used regular, lighter colored penne, I used whole wheat. Their dish looks creamier, mine less so. Their dish has bigger pieces of hazelnuts, I chopped mine into finer pieces. The good news is Kip and I both though it was very good. The dish was hearty, filling, satisfying, nutty, cheesy, and salty (the capers). If I were to make it again, I would add more broccoli and use less penne to even out the ratio of vegetables to pasta.

Because I used such small amounts of some of the ingredients, my next challenge is to find other recipes that use crème fraîche, marscapone, and capers because those items aren’t inexpensive and I don’t want them to go to waste.

Or maybe I should make another batch of this recipe with the changes I mentioned. Hmmmmmm…stay tuned!

We Attacked This Killer Eggplant Parmigiana

I thought I hated eggplant. I wasn’t crazy about the texture or taste so I have avoided it for a long time. But, with my new cooking blog challenge, a meat free meal once a week, I saw a recipe for Eggplant Parmigiana in the Meat Free Monday Cookbook and decided to conquer my fear.

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With beautiful eggplant and basil from the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market, tomatoes canned by Kip’s mother, and mozzarella and Parmesan cheese from the grocery store, I was set with ingredients. I already had olive oil, garlic, cinnamon, sugar, salt, and pepper.

The recipe I used called for lightly brushing the eggplant slices with olive oil, seasoning them with salt and pepper, and cooking them until tender on a ridged grill pan, which I own. You can also fry them in a non-stick pan.

One of the keys to a delicious Eggplant Parmigiana is the tomato sauce. You can use any family recipe or favorite sauce, but I followed the recipe directions and combined garlic, tomatoes, cinnamon, basil, salt, pepper, and sugar. I did add tomato paste to thicken my sauce. Pay attention to your sauce, add seasonings and spices, keep tasting, and adjust to your liking.

Then, it was a matter of layering the sauce, eggplant slices, and cheeses and baking the dish for 30 minutes until bubbly and golden. My layers were sauce on the bottom, eggplant, sliced mozzarella, grated Parmesan, more sauce, more eggplant, more sliced mozzarella, more grated Parmesan, and finally topped with the remaining sauce, and sprinkled with Parmesan.

The picture on the left is before baking and the picture on the right is fresh from the oven. I would say the eggplant adventure was a success and I conquered my fear. Kip said it was delicious and I really enjoyed it. The combination of tangy sauce, gooey mozzarella, and tender eggplant was tasty. I would definitely make this again and the good news is we have more to enjoy tomorrow for dinner.

 

When Life Gives You Eggs, Make a Fritatta!

One of my teachers gave me a dozen organic eggs he got from free-range chickens he raises at his home. It was a thoughtful gift and he said he knew I was a foodie. For my first meat free meal challenge, I wanted to use those eggs so I found a recipe for a Zucchini, Potato and Dill Frittata in The Meat Free Monday Cookbook. With a quick trip to our local farmer’s market two blocks away, I was able to purchase locally grown new, red potatoes and zucchini. I couldn’t find fresh dill at the farmer’s market so I used dried dill I had at home. Olive oil, garlic, butter, Parmesean cheese, salt, and pepper were on hand so I was set with all the ingredients.

The preparation was easy; I cooked the potatoes, pan fried the zucchini, pan fried the potatoes, whisked the egg mixture, then put the ingredients together in a pan. That was then cooked on the stovetop and finished with some broiling.

Kip gave the fritatta an A+ but I think it was a B. The reason for my lower review is I wanted it to have a stronger dill taste and that might have been caused by not using fresh dill. I’d also add more Parmesean cheese to the egg mixture and on top to give it more of a punch. But, overall it was a good first meat free meal adventure.

Next up, the eggplant challenge!

I’m Back!

In 2015, I went on a blogging journey by creating the site http://www.PrincipalWhoCooks.WordPress.com. That year my goal was to use a different cookbook each week and document my adventures. I enjoyed challenging myself, trying new things, reflecting on my experiences, and making connections between cooking and being an educator. I took some time off but now I’m back. I’m reviving the Principal Who Cooks concept and will be using this site to blog. The new adventure is going to test my skill and comfort level and encourage me to adopt healthier habits and benefit the planet’s ecology.  I’m going to take the challenge of The Meat Free Monday Cookbook inspired by Paul McCartney and mix it with another new cookbook of mine, The Vegetable Butcher, and work to create one meat free meal per week. It won’t necessarily be Monday because I have more time on weekends to explore my passion for cooking but I’m aiming for one meat free meal per week. That’s going to be a challenge because I love meat. I love beef, pork, poultry, lamb, seafood, and even exotic (at least to me) meats like venison, bison, and elk. Follow my adventures and I’ll take any ideas or suggestions you have.