Friday, April 4, 2014

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings

I raise chickens and sell eggs.  My chickens free range.  They eat a mostly organic diet.  They are happy chickens.

Some of my chickens last July, excited over a new bale of straw...
I also try to practical as far as expenses.  When all of my chickens stopped laying this November, my husband and I had them butchered.  With the high costs of feed, we didn't think it was worth it to feed them all winter with no return.  

When hens are older and also when they are breeds of chickens not bred for meat, their meat is less than delectable. Rotisserie chicken, for example, is out.  Spent layers work perfectly in soup.  They work perfectly for chicken and dumplings.  I happen to love chicken soup, but I don't live in isolation.  I have a husband that is picky, and he won't eat chicken soup unless he is sick since that is the tradition he had growing up.  He is blessed by very good health, so we don't eat chicken soup very often.  (When I have tried to make chicken soup anyway, it ends up not eaten by anyone but me.)

But he will eat chicken and dumplings.  Chicken and dumplings is now our go-to for using leftover chicken or these spent layers.  I love using my crockpot to cook.  I've kind of took the best of a whole bunch of recipes and developed my own method of making Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings.  I will share this with you now. 

I start by cooking a chicken overnight in the crockpot.  I cook it for at least a good twelve hours on low.  I am using spent layers, so I probably cook it longer than you would if using a regular chicken.  If using a leftover chicken carcass, cook for about six hours.  I cook it in a few cups of water.

I pull the chicken out of the crock pot and put the crockpot up to high.  I put the chicken in a bowl in the fridge.  
I put the crockpot up to high.
I wait about an hour, give or take, depending on what else is going on.  

I start off the dumplings.  I used this recipe as a basis.  I eliminate the sugar.  Of course I don't use margarine.  My first choice for fat would be that yellow fat that floats up from chicken broth at room temperature.  My second choice is just straight up broth.  My third choice is almost melted butter.  I mix up the dumplings and put them into the crockpot.

Mixing up the dumplings... I keep the recipe on the inside of my cabinet door.  Look at the old ugly plywood cabinets. 
Plop!  There is one dumpling in the crockpot. 
Lots more dumpling dough!
I take the chicken out and debone it.  After being in the refrigerator for an hour, it is usually cool enough to handle.  At first during deboning I make two piles, one for bones and skin and one for meat.

I put half the meat into the crockpot.  I put aside the other half of the meat for another meal. 

Deboning the chicken, step one.  You can see meat in one bowl and the bones in the other.  That's actually half the meat, since I had already put the other half into the crockpot.  The bowl is dirty because I did not watch it in between mixing up the dumplings and deboning the chickens.
 I debone again, this time making three piles: one for meat I missed, one for skin and ligaments and one for bones.  I freeze these three categories separately.  I will use the skin and ligaments to make broth, the bones to make bone broth and the meat to be the chicken for another meal. 

Clockwise from top left: empty bowl, more meat, bowl of skin, bowl of bones, bag of chicken meat.
In the spoon, you can see that yellow fat that I was speaking of that's ideal to use in dumplings. 
I have an all-week project this week to make bone broth, so I will have more posts about that soon. 

It all goes into the freezer, until bone broth making time.

I cook the dumplings for an hour, or so.  Sometimes Usually I end up overcooking them.  They get too dry and I need to add extra broth. 
My chicken and dumplings got too dry, so I had to open up another can of broth.  Notice the yellow fat on top of the broth can. That is the fat to use in dumplings, by the way. 

Here is my adapted version of the dumpling recipe...
1.5 cups flour.  I use whole wheat, mixed with all purpose.  I hope that it will work out for us to grow soft wheat, which should be, well softer, and eliminate the need for all-purpose at all.
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1.5 Tablespoons of fat, see above
3/4 cup milk
I mix the dry stuff first and then add the fat and then the milk.  I drop them into the crockpot, into already hot broth.  They are ready in a little over an hour.  You may need to add more broth if you overcook them and they get too dry, like I always do.  Somewhere along the way, when I finally get my chicken deboned I drop in the cooked meat so it is hot when served. 


Chicken and dumplings, salad and broccoli make a complete meal.  

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Laura's Crock Pot Baked Beans

Cook Time: 15-24 hours
Yields: One 5 quart crockpot full of yummy baked beans
Disclaimer: Allrecipe.com's Boston Baked Beans was my inspiration. Check it out here... http://allrecipes.com/recipe/boston-baked-beans/detail.aspx

Ingredients:
2 pounds of dried beans (should be 50-100% navy beans, mix other beans in for fun, presoaked or not)
1 pound bacon
2 chopped onions
3 tablespoons molasses or honey
4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder or seeds
1 cup tomato sauce or tomato paste or "blendered" tomato
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
Water, as needed

Directions:
1. Throw all the ingredients into the the crockpot in no particular order.
2. Add water to fill the crockpot.
3. Periodically check the crockpot and add more water as needed.
4. This will take 15-24 hours to cook.

Optional Variations:
Add taco seasoning for Mexican flavor. One example of taco seasoning is here: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/taco-seasoning-i/detail.aspx