I did make cookies and pancakes and things of that nature as I grew up. One Christmas, Santa gave me my first ever cookbook....The Nancy Drew Cookbook. I still have it...some 30 years later. The one recipe that I remember using often was "99 Steps French Toast". When I was in Middle School (back then we called it Junior High School) my mom (she's really my stepmother but in my heart she is my "mom") went to work a few days a week. On those days I'd call her when I got home from school and she'd walk me through the process of cooking dinner. I know I made several different meals over the months but what I remember most was this tuna and green peas mixture that got served over toast. I had to make dinner for my parents and us four kids. Bless his heart, my dad never complained about anything I made.
When I moved out my grandparents gave me a huge cast iron skillet (I still have to use both hands when I pick this baby up) and a Betty Crocker cookbook. Both items are well worn, well loved and of constant use in my kitchen today. Back in the 80's there was no such thing as nationwide free calling. My grandparents and parents moved to the south, forcing me to make some expensive calls to learn how to cook while on my own. My grandmother would patiently give me the ingredients over the phone and explain how to cook it. Some of the first phone call recipes I got were Chicken and Dumplings, Chicken Divan (back then I called it Chicken and Broccoli with cheese since I had no idea there was a real recipe for it) and Potato Soup. The papers I used to write these recipes down on are in a huge folder containing my hand written recipes. Over the years I've made very few changes to them. I guess you could say that most of my cooking education was done over the phone. There's a difference between helping out in the kitchen and cooking a whole meal all by yourself. When I helped out in the kitchen at home I was put on potato peeling patrol or I had to make the salad. Boring boring stuff. Oh, and never ask grandmother what you can do in the kitchen on Thanksgiving....she'll make you slowly stir the gravy....forever.
So...here's my recipe for Chicken and Dumplings:
1 whole chicken
1 bay leaf
Garlic, salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp poultry season
Place all ingredients in a pot of water and simmer for at least an hour, or until chicken is tender. Remove chicken from pot and cool. Put broth in the fridge to cool completely. Skim fat off the top of the broth. Remove chicken from the bones and set aside.
To the broth add your choice of veggies such as:
1 -2 carrots, chopped
1 potato, pealed and diced
1/2 or so onion, chopped
1 turnip, pealed and diced
1 - 2 celery stocks, sliced
You can even add some corn, broccoli, green beans...what ever your little heart desires. Simmer until veggies are done...maybe 30 - 45 minutes. You may need to add more water and increase your seasoning during this time. Even a little bit of chicken bouillon adds some great flavor. I believe that its the flavor of the broth that makes a great soup. Sometimes I even add some italian seasoning.
Once the veggies are done or close to it, add about 2 cups chopped chicken. (save the rest of the chicken for another meal). Bring to a boil and make your dumplings. I use the recipe thats on the Bisquick box. Add some garlic or italian seasoning to the dumplings for added flavor. Be careful....its really hot. The dumplings really hold in that heat so don't burn your mouth (I do almost every time!!).