Monday, November 29, 2010

Chicken 'n Dumplings... the ULTIMATE Comfort Food

If I had ONE meal that I could not go the whole winter without... this is it! Nothing like the fluffy dumplings in that wonderful chicken stew. Mmmm, mmm, good!

I never thought of posting the recipe for my chicken 'n dumplings... mostly because I don't have an actual recipe. But... I'm finding that not everyone makes it or has even tried it before. So I want to share it with you.

Some of my family members cannot have salt and other spices so I don't add any to the recipe. It's fine for us... we just add our own salt and pepper as we serve it. (And it looks much better than in the picture.) Feel free to add your favorite spices.

Chicken 'N Dumplings

1 whole chicken, boiled and shredded
1 bunch celery, diced  (add more or less)
5-6 carrots, sliced  (add more or less)          
flour (to thicken)
Dumplings (recipe below)

Here's how I do it:

Place the chicken in a large pot (I use an 8-qt) with enough water to cover. While the chicken is cooking, slice the celery and carrots into a medium bowl, set aside. When the chicken is done... (I usually boil it until it starts to fall apart... a sure sign it's done), remove the chicken from the pot to a plate or bowl to cool.

While the chicken is cooling, I like to strain the chicken broth to remove all the bones, skin, etc. at the bottom of the pot. You don't have to run it through a strainer, a slotted spoon works great, I'm just picky.

Return the chicken broth to the stove on med-high heat. If there is an excess of fat on top of the broth, remove most of it with a ladle or the dumplings will soak it up. Add the carrots and celery and bring to a boil. After boiling, turn heat down to medium. While the vegetables are cooking, carefully remove the skin from the chicken. Shred the meat and return to the pot. Cook until the vegetables are almost tender.

At this point, you will now want to thicken the broth. Take about 2-3 tablespoons of flour and mix with cool water. If you have a 'shaker'... even better. Now slowly pour into the pot, stirring constantly so it doesn't clump together. Stir often until broth is thickened to desired consistency.

Then... turn the heat so the broth is just bubbling. Now we add the dumplings.

Easy Dumplings

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
a pinch of salt
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons cold butter

Mix all the dry ingredients together with a wire whisk. Next, rub in the butter. Using your hands is best. Then add the milk and stir with a fork until it forms a stiff dough.

Now, drop the dough carefully by teaspoonfuls onto the bubbling stew. Cook for 10 minutes covered then remove the lid and cook 10 minutes longer. They are done when they are light and fluffy in the middle.

These are pretty foolproof. Just take note... this is a stiff dough. If you add too much liquid they will be too heavy. You don't want them to sink... but float on the top of the stew.

And that's it!

I hope you like it! My family loves this recipe. So much that we usually are too quick to eat it before cooling off. After it boils the dumplings for 20 minutes it tends to be extremely hot. But we never learn... we do it every time. LOL!

Thanks for reading and God bless!
Mary Ann :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our Thanksgiving Tree

Last year, my kids and I started a new family tradition. It's our "Thanksgiving Tree".  My daughter brought home a project from school using a leaf pattern and I thought it would be a great decoration, so I make a pattern of my own. My first thought was to hang them randomly around the kitchen with things that we were thankful for written on each leaf. One of my kids suggested hanging them around our new family photos and then another one said "Hey, lets put a tree trunk on it and make it real tree!" So we did.

This is our tree from last year. We have already begun our tree for this year and I'll try to post a photo of it when we're finished. 

We each write something we are thankful for on a leaf and hang it on the tree. Everyone really enjoyed it. Most of us put up more than one leaf and everyone who came to our house made one as well. It was nice to see what we were all thankful for and it's a great reminder of what Thanksgiving is all about.

I'm sure our tree will be much bigger this year as we will have about 35 people over for dinner. All of whom I am tremendously thankful for. Family and friends, old and new. There are some who can't spend the day with us, but who are just as much a blessing to me... and I am thankful for them as well. I will be sure to put a leaf on the tree for them.

I love traditions. The old ones I can share from my childhood... and the new ones we will make together as a family. What traditions do have?

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

...and thanks for reading!
Mary Ann :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Apple Valley couple asking world: birth or abortion? -

This photo is not the baby in the article. The photo is from a public sharing site.

I have to ask myself... has it really come to this?

Has human life become so worthless that we could actually have an internet poll to decide if a child should live or die?

Is the idea of wanting a family and having children so obsolete... that we would take it so lightly... and we would ask the advice of perfect strangers who have no interest, no concern, no investment and would not be affected if the child lives or dies?

Apparently so. I just heard the story of a couple who is doing just that.

In the article Apple Valley couple asking world: birth or abortion? -, it talks about the 30-year-old couple who are undecided about giving birth to their baby boy, who is now at 17-weeks. They have posted ultrasound photos.... detailing his progress and even calling him "Wiggles". They see this precious child and yet they are still asking the public if they should let him live or abort.

I find this incredibly disgusting. Are we so far from family values that there is no longer the parental instinct to protect your child from all harm? To keep him safe and do your best for him? Have we really become so selfish that a child is no longer a blessing... but an inconvenience? So selfish that we would lay down the life of an innocent child to make our own more comfortable? God help us!

I pray for this couple and their unborn child. For salvation, wisdom, knowledge and the courage to do what is right. They may be the first to put a poll on the internet, but I doubt they are the only ones to feel and think this way. We need to pray diligently for the future generations. Will you pray with me?

God bless,
Mary Ann

Thursday, November 18, 2010

American Patriot's Almanac by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb

As a history lover, I was excited to review "The American Patriot's Almanac" by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb. I am happy to say it was more than I expected. It's actually set up in a 'devotional style' format, giving bits of American history for each day of the year. Just look up the current date and find out what happened 'on this day in history'. But it's so much more than that.

It's a fairly good sized book, very sturdy, and one that would be great for keeping on your coffee table. It has a lot of information yet it's easy to read and not too much to take in all at once. It is definately something my 11-year-old son would not hesitate to pick up. I think the daily format makes it more appealing to young readers. They can learn some interesting history in a short time. I think they will return to it often.

It has a lot of useful information included in sections, such as; Flags of the Revolutionary War, The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, State Flags, Facts, and Symbols, and much more. It's really a great tool. And while it's set up in a daily format, you may just want to read it through like any other book, or even refer back to it often as a reference. Either way, I think you'll enjoy it.

*Thomas Nelson has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.-Thanks Thomas Nelson! :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Seriously???... or 'Sorry kids, no celebration for you!'

I am soooo irked!!! I just picked up my kids from school only to find out that their Thanksgiving celebration for their classrooms has been canceled. Why? Because the Health Department said they couldn't bring in outside food. Apparently there is no way for them to check our kitchens to see if we wore hair nets.

Are you kidding me??? I can't remember the last time I saw ANY public food worker wearing a hair net! I even asked my kids when they last saw someone wear a hair net... my 7-year-old said "My lunch lady is the only one I've ever seen in a hair net." That ought to tell you something!

Taco Bell, Arbys, Burger King, Subway, etc....  why aren't they keeping up with them? You know... the ones people actually PAY to get food from? Oh... maybe that's why we can't bring in outside food. No one is making money from it! Hmmm... Instead of making the real businesses keep up with the rules, lets target the little kids who just want to have fun and enjoy the holiday!

I think the main reason this really bothers me is that we are doing a private get together. No one has to pay, no tickets are being sold, and no one outside of the students and parents are invited. All the parents agree to cook and bring in food, we give permission for our kids to share what they brought AND to eat what the others are sharing. Why is this anyone else's business... other than the few who are involved?

What's next? Is someone going to tell me that I can't have guests for Thanksgiving? I mean, you really don't know if I wore a hair net. Erggg...

Sorry for the rant... I just get so tired of more and more rules to tell us what we can and cannot do. Not only are there more rules than ever... they are only enforced on the "little people". Am I the only one bothered by this? 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry

"Almost Heaven" by Chris Fabry is the fictionalized story of a man named Billy Allman. Set in the backwoods of Dogwood, West Virginia it tells of a young man who endured many hardships beginning in his early childhood. His story is also told from the view of his guardian angel Malachi.

It was interesting to imagine what a guardian angel would think of the events that happen in a humans life, all the while knowing full well that God is at work and only He knows the reason for and the outcomes of the trials and heartaches that they endure.

Almost Heaven is a heartwarming story that gives encouragement to those who think they can't make a difference or be used by God. One of my favorite lines from the book is when young Billy's mother is trying to encourage him as they are both still in pain from a past tragedy "...I don't think God trusts just anybody with so much heartache. The world has not yet seen what God can do with a man who gives both halves of a broken heart to him. And I don't doubt that a man like that can change the world... or at least a little part of it." I just love that!

I really enjoyed this book. It was heartwarming, as well as thought provoking. It also surprised me at times... had a few twists and turns just as I thought I knew what was going to happen. It's the first I've read by Chris Fabry, but it won't be the last. I will be looking to read his other titles. I hope you give this one a try. :)

Thanks for reading and God bless!
Mary Ann :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Chelsea Clinton's Thanksgiving Sweet Potato Casserole

Thanksgiving is on the way! I was going to post this later in the month... but if you're like me, you'll need time to plan ahead. So, I'll start posting holiday recipes now in case you find one you'd like to try. I'm so excited for the holidays!

This is a recipe I found in the "Winter 2004 PEOPLE Magazine". I tried it once and have made it every Thanksgiving since. Now, I'm still a big fan of the old-fashioned sweet potatoes that I had growing up... cut up in big chunks and served with marshmallows and a brown sugar - Karo syrup sauce on top. Ok... I love them any way they come. But these are like a special treat... just try them. You'll see. :)

Chelsea Clinton's Thanksgiving Sweet Potato Casserole

5 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter -- melted
1/2 cup milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs -- well beaten

1 cup brown sugar
2 cups mini marshmallows
5 tablespoons butter -- melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease one or more baking dishes (recipe fills to top a deep 9"x13" dish) and reserve.

In a large bowl, mix together mashed sweet potatoes, melted butter, milk, granulated sugar, vanilla extract and eggs. Spread sweet potatoes in baking dish.

To make the topping: In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and marshmallows. Sprinkle mixture on top of sweet potatoes. Drizzle melted butter over marshmallow topping.

Bake until sweet potatoes are heated through and topping is puffy and browned.

*My Note: I've always made these with fresh, mashed sweet potatoes - not canned. Probably good with canned as well. I just wanted to remind you to allow time for peeling, dicing, boiling and mashing the fresh sweet potatoes if that's what you use. Holidays are hectic enough without starting a dish too late.

I hope these make your holiday just a little more special!

                                                                    Happy Thanksgiving!

God bless!
Mary Ann :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Prayer For Richie

Photo from:

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet a young man named Richie. I was sitting in my car in a parking lot, waiting for my son to finish orientation for his new job. (Thank you, Lord, for giving him a job!)

I thought I'd be waiting for about half an hour... but it quickly turned into 2 hours. I had left my cell phone at home, so when my son tried to tell me he'd be longer, I had no idea.

I did, however, go to a payphone to call home and see if he had called... someone might have answered my phone. (By the way... do you have any idea how hard it is to find a payphone these days?) Anyway, no one answered and I had to leave a message. I also had no more change and there was no way for anyone to call me back. So, I returned to the parking lot to wait for my son.

I decided to make the best of it. I could read my Bible that I leave in my car. I also happened to have a book with me that I wanted to read. And I have my iPod filled with music and podcasts. I've learned to keep things in my car for times such as these.

I read for a while... the message was about being a woman of influence. It pointed out that we influence peoples lives whether we like it or not and whether we know it or not. It talked about having a mentor or being a mentor to someone else. I got a great message from it. That's when Richie came up to me.

At first, I was a little apprehensive. Here is this young man on a bike, in a not-so-great neighborhood, approaching a woman sitting alone in a near empty parking lot. My first thought... what's gonna happen? 

He proceeded to tell me that he was homeless and the bag in his hand was all that he had to make a bed. He had come to this city following a girl. She shortly dumped him and now he has no way to get home to his family. He's 32 years old, he tells me. Seems that a 32 year old would know better, but I can't judge. I've done some pretty stupid things at many ages.

He asked me if I had any money to give him. I looked. But I knew I didn't have any. I don't usually carry cash. In that very moment... I had all these thoughts. What should I do? I don't just want to send him away. What CAN I do? All the words I had just read leaped back into my current thoughts. I can be an influence.

So... out of the ordinary for me, I said "I don't have any money, but if you're hungry, I'll go next door with you and buy you a meal." Now usually, I don't do this. Especially if I'm alone or it's just me with my kids. You just never know these days. But for some reason, I felt a peace.

So Richie said "Really? You'd really do that? Wow, you're such a blessing." And I drove next door to meet him. We walked inside and I asked him what he wanted. He said anything is fine, so I just ordered the usual fast food 'value meal'... super-sized.

He said again "You're such a blessing to me." I told him that God had blessed me so much and He wants us to pass it along. We sat down at a table and talked a bit more. I told him everything I knew about where to get help and even invited him to church. I told him to find a church. God knows his needs, loves him, and He will provide. I truly believe that.

Now... I can't say whether Richie was telling me the truth or not. I can't say he is or is not a drug addict or alcoholic. He didn't give off that impression, but I'm no expert. I don't know if he is from another state or if he's lived here all along. I have no idea.

But one thing I do know... he has a knowledge of God. Maybe he knew him as a child and has since turned away. Maybe some tragic thing has happened to turn him from God. Or maybe... like many of, he has a hard time walking with God in his everyday life.

Whatever the reason or circumstance, I'd like to ask anyone who reads this, to stop and say a prayer for Richie. Will you do that? I may never see this young man again, but I can still help him by praying for him. God's Word says in 1 John 5:14-15 that if we ask according to God's will, He hears us! Would you take the time to talk to God about this young man and help change his life? There is such power in prayer!

Thanks for reading and God bless!
Mary Ann :)


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