Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chicken Dumpling Stew

The first time I tasted chicken dumpling was at my in-laws, it was something new to me,
Hearty, excellent for a cold weather day.  I enjoyed the flavour; I loved the plumped dumpling floating on the surface.  It was a complete meal in one dish.  My late mother-in law prepared the dumpling using half butter and half tender flakes, something I am not used to, and I don’t like the flavour of Lard but I like the flaky texture it gives the dough.

I like warm hearty meals in the winter cold weather, and this year was no exception, we didn’t get lots of snow as the past years, but boy it is extremely cold, we did break the cold records for several weeks.

Creating a good fluffy dumpling is tricky, it needs to be prepared and mixed lightly using a wooden spoon and not kneaded by hand, to avoid over mixing, and sometimes they do get stiff

I know from my baking experience that if you warm the fat and rubbed it in the flour it turns it into flaky and crumbly dough.  One day I was watching the cook’s country program on TV and they were preparing chicken dumpling and the chef warmed the milk and butter in the microwave for one minute and then mixed it in the flour and used a wooden spoon to mix the dough.  This confirmed my theory in heating the butter and rubbed it in the flour.  The result will be firm but light fluffy dumplings which do not absorb the liquid in the stew.

Ingredients for 5-6 servings


4 pounds whole chicken or chicken pieces   
4 teaspoons vegetable oil optional
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick) optional
4 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick, double if you are making the stock 
2 ribs celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick, double if you are making the stock
1 large whole onion with some cloves inserted in it for the stock
1 large onion minced
Stick of cinnamon, lemon rind for the stock
3 x 2 bay leaves  
8 whole peppercorns for the stock
3-4 tablespoon all-purpose flour (I didn't use it as the dumpling will thicken the soup)
1/4 cup dry sherry or white wine (optional)
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth 
1/4 cup whole milk (Don't use low-fat or fat-free milk in this recipe)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves 
1 cup frozen green peas 
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves 


2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 
1 tablespoon baking powder 
1 teaspoon table salt 
1 cup whole milk 
3 tablespoons reserved chicken fat (or unsalted butter) 

You have two methods, either to follow my healthy method or follow the recipe II

Healthy preparation:
I try to avoid frying any food, and use the baking method instead.

v  Clean the chicken dry with paper towel, then rub it with couple spoons of olive oil and sprinkle sea salt and fresh black pepper, bake it in a high heat for 30 minutes till the skin starts getting gold. 

v  Let the chicken cool, save the fat dripping in a bowl.  Skin the chicken and put it in a Dutch oven or deep pot and cover it with 4 cups of homemade chicken stock, or cover the chicken with 6 cups of water, add one part of the carrots, celery, the whole onion with the cloves, a cinnamon stick, 3 bay leaves, the peppercorns, and the lemon rind or half of a lemon, cook the stock for one hour.

v  Skim any foam on top.

v  After one hour transfer the chicken to a plate and strain the stock and wash the pot.

v  Skim any fat floating on top of the stock.

v  Use two teaspoon of the chicken dripping in the Dutch oven and cook the flour then add the milk little by little, add the sherry or white wine stir, then the thyme and cook for
7-10 minutes add the chicken, the stock, bay leaves, the remaining veggies and cook for 30 minutes.

v  Transfer the chicken to a plate; continue cooking the veggies till the stock thickens.

v  Shred the chicken and return it to the pot, add the peas, chopped parsley and adjust the seasoning.  Simmer the stew on low heat.

Recipe II

 v  Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat two teaspoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven or deep pot over medium-high heat until just smoking, add half of the chicken and cook until golden on both sides. Transfer the chicken to a plate and remove the browned skin. Pour off the chicken fat and reserve. Return the pot to medium-high heat and repeat with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the remaining chicken. Pour off and reserve any chicken fat.

v  Add the butter to the Dutch oven and melt over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, and onion, add salt and pepper and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the flour. Whisk in the sherry, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the broth, milk, thyme, and bay leaves.  Nestle the chicken, with any accumulated juices, into the pot. Cover and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked and tender, about 1 hour.

v  Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Discard the bay leaves. Allow the sauce to settle for a few minutes, and then skim the fat from the surface using a wide spoon. Shred the chicken, discarding the bones, and return it to the stew.


Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Microwave the milk and fat (if using the remaining dripping or the butter) in a microwave-safe bowl on high until just warm (do not over-heat), for 1 minute.  Stir the warmed milk mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth.

 Return the stew to a simmer, stir in the peas and parsley, and season with salt and pepper.  Following the photos below, using two tablespoons drop golf-ball-sized dumplings over the top of the stew, about 1/4 inch apart (you should have about 18 dumplings). Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the dumplings have doubled in size, 18-20 minutes


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

One Recipe Two Cookies

A cookie is described as a thin, sweet small cake.  By definition; a cookie can be any of a variety of hand-held, flour-based sweet cakes, either crisp or soft , crunchy or chewy, variously shaped, filled, and cut .  Whatever is the definition a good cookie is a good cookie and the flavour and texture is the big star.

I am sharing with you a good base Oatmeal cookie which you can take it to another level,
by adding spices, fillings, even the leavening agent can make it soft and chewy or crumbly and crunchy.

Best Oatmeal Cookies


3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup raisins
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup butter softened “not melted in the microwave          
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup white sugar (if you prefer your cookie too sweet use one cup)
1 ¾ - 2 cups all-purpose flour depends on the flour and the humidity
1 ½ - 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ tsp. each freshly grated nutmeg and all spice
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 cups rolled oats

For the cranberry oatmeal cookies

1 cup cranberry
1 cup toasted chopped cashews or pistachios
1 cup dark chocolate

For the raisin oatmeal cookies

1 cup raisin
1 cup toasted chopped almond , or walnuts/pecans


 1. In two separate bowls soak the raisin and the cranberry in hot water for 1 hour then drain on paper towel.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

3. In a large bowl, cream the soft butter (do not melt the butter in the microwave the cookies will be flat) brown sugar, and white sugar together. Whip the eggs one by one into the batter to get a smooth fluffy texture.

4. Sift together the flour, spices, baking soda and the salt.  Add the oats and stir.  Add the wet ingredients and keep mixing with your hands and don’t use the machine it will over mix the ingredients. Your hands are the best Machine.

5. If you are planning to use the two kinds of cookies divide the batter in two bowls  “otherwise adjust the stuffing ingredients” in one bowl add one cup raisin, and one cup toasted chopped almond.  In the second bowl add one cup cranberry, one cup chocolate and one cup toasted chopped cashews.  Mix well to combine

7. Leave the batter in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

8- Line the baking trays with parchment papers; either use a tablespoon and drop the cookies or use an ice cream scoop , which  I used  2 inch scoop for my cranberry cookies and got large cookies, for the raisin almond cookies I rolled by hand a walnut size balls .

9.  Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 9-10 minutes depends on your oven, keep your eyes as they get dark quickly.


Cranberry, Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Raisin Almond Oatmeal Cookies 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Northern Ontario Breakfast

Hello dear friends, I hope you are not cold like me.  The weather is extremely cold, all this week the temperature was between -40C to -45C with the wind-chill, and the school buses are not running in this cold weather, this is not fun for working parents, when they get the call that the school buses are not running due to severe cold weather.

I can imagine their chaos to rush the children to drop them to school before they go to work, and the same in the afternoon, either they have to leave early to pick up the children to take an hour from their schedule to pick up the children and then go back to work… not fun at all.

For some time I was planning on inviting a dear friend for breakfast but the timing didn’t work for both of us.  Yesterday we both decided that we do need to get together and enjoy some quality time … and for that I decided to make a pancakes breakfast, to be honest I was wishing on a Lebanese breakfast, but either the weather or the convenient were working for me.

For my breakfast I decided to prepare savoury and sweet pancakes and serve them with tea and then end up with Turkish coffee and cardamom Danish Fritters.

For some years I had a Æbleskive (Danish Fritters) cast iron pan which I never used, and every time I make pancakes or waffles I plan to use my fritters pan and practice on making some , this never happened, until yesterday –which I advise don’t try it when you have company coming and you are busy doing more than one thing at one time.  I thought it’s an easy process heating the pan greasing it pouring and then turning – it is not and you need practice to be able to pour the right amount, control the heat, and be an expert in turning the fritters...  I did make two pans the first one was not good at all, the second pan were accepted but my batter was not enough to get a real round fluffed fritter.  I didn’t give up, I need to practice more.

For the savoury pancakes I added white pepper, sharp old cheddar cheese, dash of nutmeg and I sprinkled some Himalayan sea salt .  Chopped chives or green onions will complete the flavour but to be honest it was so cold to go out warm the car for at least 30 minutes to drive to the store and pick up a package of chives.  If you are trying this version do add some it will lift the flavour .

For my sweet pancakes what is better than Northern Ontario Blueberry pancakes served with amazing local maple syrup (this past summer I got some nice local blueberries from a friend who sell at the farmer’s market and I froze them, the berries you buy at the store these days don’t  the same at all, they are good for decoration only)

I served my pancakes with a local Northern Ontario maple syrup, prepared by my friend Lori who is producing amazing products from the maple sap and she won many prizes for  the good quality of her products, Lori also participate at the North Bay Farmer’s Market from May till October .  I do use her maple syrup in some savoury dishes, with salmon and in marinating meat.

Danish Fritters


Bella Hill Maple Syrup Products
Best Pancakes Recipe
1¾ cup buttermilk or 1 ½ cup milk + ¼ cup white vinegar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. sugar  -  1/4 cup if you are making sweet version
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
¼ cup melted butter plus extra for the pan or use cooking spray

In a bowl whip the eggs until fluffy add the melted butter, buttermilk and sugar and mix well.  In another bowl sift all the dry ingredients and then add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until no lumps. 

You can prepare this mix and leave it in the fridge and take it out one hour before cooking, or prepare the mix and let it rest for half an hour to rest before you start making your pancakes.  Some flour requires more liquid than others, you might need more buttermilk to adjust the recipe. 
I doubled the amount to have enough for my recipes.

I hope you give this recipe a try, honestly it’s an amazing recipe and the pancakes are fluffy with amazing flavour .

Cheese Pancakes some has cheese and blueberries


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Best Gourmet Chili

Day-after-day it seems you hear of weather records being shattered . it seems we are bombarded by records we hear on a day-to-day basis. Is there a reason for this? 
                                              """Global warming"""
Since mother nature is not mercy on us these days, especially if you live in Northern Ontario where the temperature hits -40C up to -45C with the wind-chill, and when the weather is extremely cold you often think of something warm and satisfying and tastes better the second day and freezes well in case of any leftovers.  You can prepare the chili in a slow cooker and when you come home from work, your dinner is ready to  serve, you can cook it on top of the stop, or even bake it in the oven.
Best Gourmet Chili

1/4 c olive oil
1 lb. roast meat cut into small pieces (sirloin roast)
1 lb. ground Italian sausage, ( I will share my recipe later)
2 lbs. ground beef
2 c diced onions
1 green pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 c red wine, such as Chianti, Merlot
2 cans stewed tomatoes (14.5 oz.)
1 can tomato sauce (29 oz.)
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. cumin
2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate or cocoa
1 1/2 - 2 cups water from cooking the beans
1 cup dry kidney beans and 1 cup black beans soaked and boiled
* Garnishes: Shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced green onions, sliced radishes baked tortilla strips or a piece of my corn bread.

1) Heat oil in a large pot and brown the stew meat on all sides.  Remove at set aside.  Brown the Italian sausage and ground beef.  Remove to the same bowl as the stew meat.
2) Remove excess oil leaving about 2 tbsp. and add the onions and peppers.  Sauté until tender.  Add the wine and reduce by half.
3) Return the meat and any juices that have accumulated to the pot and add all remaining ingredients (tomatoes through red pepper flakes).  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer and cook for 2 hours on medium low , stirring occasionally. the meat will shred completely.
4) Add the beans and let the chili simmer for another 1-2 hours , stirring occasionally.
Note:  in case you cannot find a good quality sausages, you can substitute one pound of good quality smoke bacon, and use the fat rendered from the bacon to fry the meat and the vegetables.
My addition to the recipe two sprigs of finely chopped celery, two finely chopped carrots, and two smoked chipotle chili from a jar with the juice. 
Buttermilk Corn Bread
1/2 cup of sweet butter
½ - 2/3 cup white sugar depends how sweet you like it
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk  
1 cup flour
1 cup coarse cornmeal
½ cup frozen or fresh corn
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. sea salt
Melt the butter and mix in all the ingredients and whip well to avoid any lumps.  Warm the oven at 375F , grease an 8x8 square pan and you can line it with a parchment , pour the mixture, smooth the top by tapping the tray on the counter, bake for 35-40 minutes or
Until golden brown and the toothpick comes clean.
I hope you give these recipes a try , and let me know what do you think .

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Amazing Pastry Dough

Hello – Marhaba to all my dear friends, amazing blogger and lovely followers, I missed you so much, missed visiting your amazing blogs, reading your mouth watering posts, also I miss my followers and reading your comments, and feedback.  

My apology for staying away for so long, sometimes Life put you through many tests, and trails and I thank God, that I am back to blogging and sharing my food and baking with you all… I hope you forgive me for being away for so long.

I need to thank you all being sincere followers, and kept visiting my blog all this time, and  checking my recipes specially the Lebanese Street Kaak  and Homemade Yogurt , which have more than 6000 visits.

I like to share my amazing dough recipe with you ,but to be honest, I don’t measure my ingredients when I am making this dough I use the basic 10 minutes sponge and add the  ingredients to make an amazing dough, sometimes I am short on yogurt I add sour cream but in less than required, sometimes all I have is 2% milk so I use that, sometimes I add olive oil instead of butter, and when I start kneading the dough by hand I can tell if it needs some of this or that... I can feel it in my hands .

I start my recipe by preparing the “10 minutes sponge dough”

For the sponge

2 cups of flour
1 1/2 cups of warm milk - you can use warm water instead
1 tablespoons of yeast (this depends on the amount of flour you are using)
2 tbsps. sugar
Mix well either by hand or in the machine until well combined and let it rest for 10-15 minutes
its okay to leave it more.

For the dough

5 cups of flour
1 cup of full fat yogurt
warm water for kneading in case it requires
2 eggs
½ cup sugar if you are making sweet dough only
1 tsp. of group mahleb (I love the smell of mahleb in the dough)
1 Tsp. – tbsp. of sea salt depends if you are using the dough for savoury or sweet
½ of butter or olive oil
The sponge


Mix all ingredients well to combine ,the dough has a sticky texture, this is how its supposed to be.  Keep kneading until it will form a nice soft dough a bit sticky, I don't recommend adding lots of flour to turn it into a dry and stiff dough, you will not get the same results, and will be hard to work with.
I don’t let it rest to rise, I put it in a freezer bag or a big Tupperware and leave it to rest in the fridge for at least 24 - 48 hours before I use it.
You can take the recipe play with it, add more flavours, spices.  Its an amazing dough for spongy fluffy /brioche texture.  I made lots of braided bread, stuffed it with savoury and sweet flavours.   I hope you will give it a try then share your experience and maybe your photos.  Here is some of the photos using the dough