Tuesday, October 14, 2014

the weather called for soup (recipe: chicken and dumplings)

The last of the small batch summer jam is gone, we finished it last night.  I realize I never shared the recipe in this space but the last few times I've made preserves it was quite spontaneous and a recipe was never jotted down.  But alas, we had to say goodbye to the fine marriage of summer's strawberries and cherries wrapped in a blueberry balsamic vinegar.  It was sublime and I will have to wait for next year's berries for its recreation.  It is fall, after all and time to move on.
The past few days have brought clouds, wind and a few rain showers.  It broke the unseasonably warm weather we've had for the past few weeks.  The weather called for soup and warm spices.  Apple Cider Pancakes with Cider Syrup in the morning, chicken and dumplings for dinner and pumpkin chocolate chip bread for dessert, snacking or any other time it seemed fit.
As the clouds pulled over the sky and the rain fell to the earth I craved for a homey, nostalgic soup like my family's chicken and dumplings.  I will not pretend to make the best Chicken and Dumplings because I don't, my grandmother, Momoo, does.  And then my parents make a wonderfully close replica, as does my sister, Shannon.  I however, have never liked my rendition of her Chicken and Dumplings recipe.
It seems simple enough, chicken simmered in chicken stock, a stick of butter, biscuit dough rolled in flour, cut and dropped into the bubbling chicken stock.  But I have never made an acceptable batch-decent yes, but I am not looking for decent.  I am looking for a dish reminiscent of childhood able to transcend through time; for love and warmth poured delicately into a bowl.

Because of my efforts lost and knowing I could never duplicate Momoo's recipe, I decided to branch off using the techniques of my family and a homemade dough from classic southern chef Art Smith. Inspired by a local cafe, I added onions, carrots, celery, parsley and a heavy grind of freshly black pepper.  It may not be my Momoo's recipe but it satisfies the soul just as well.

Chicken and Dumplings
serves 4

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approx. 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 yellow onion, medium dice
1 large carrot,sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 quart chicken stock + one cup reserved stock
3 Tablespoons butter, softened
3 Tablespoons flour
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
salt & pepper

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon water
pinch of salt
  1. Place chicken, onion, celery, carrot and chicken stock into a dutch oven or stock pot.  Add salt and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off any foam that has risen to the surface.  Reduce the heat to low and cover tightly.  Simmer, skimming off when needed, until chicken is tender, about 45 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile make the dough:  Mix flour, salt, oil, and water in a medium size bowl with a wooden spoon until a dough has come together in a ball.  Dump dough onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth.  Let the dough rest for five minutes.  Roll dough out 1/4 inch thick and cut into 1 inch strips.  Place strips onto a floured, parchment lined plate or board in a single layer.  If needed, sprinkle with flour and cover with another piece of wax paper to layer more dough strips onto the plate.  Place in freezer while chicken is cooking.
  3. Once chicken is cooked remove from pot and set aside on a cutting board or plate to cool.  Once cooled, shred chicken and reserve. 
  4. Turn the heat up under the stock pot and boil for 30 minutes, reducing stock to deepen the flavor.  In a small bowl stir together flour and softened butter until combined.  Add to the stock and boil for a few minutes.
  5. Take the dumplings out of the freezer and snap the longer strips into 2 inch pieces and drop one by one into the bubbling stock. When dropping, take care not to place dumplings on top of one another and slide them into the most active areas of the boiling stock.  Cover tightly and reduce heat to low.  Simmer until dumplings are tender, about 10 minutes.
  6. Add chicken and parsley, adjust the seasoning (a little heavy on the pepper) and add reserved stock if needed to reach desired consistency.
*Using bone-in, skin on chicken will ensure a deliciously flavorful bowl of soup.  I use boneless, skinless because that is what I typically have on hand.
**The mixture of flour and butter, known as a beurre manie, thickens the soup giving it a velvety, luxurious texture.  Once the mixture hits the boiling liquid, the butter melts dispersing the flour which then swells and thickens the soup without any lumpiness.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

a way to use beet greens

Fall is officially here and my heart is fluttering with adoration for the season.  This morning as our family walked together to school it felt like fall was surprisingly punctual this year.  There was an absence of Texas heat and no blazing sun singing our skin, just a cool breeze to carry us on our way.  I picked up a fallen maple leaf, brown and crisp, and handed it to the little one.  I wished him a happy first day of fall as he tucked it into his backpack pocket.

My lunch reflected the new season as well-a deep orange sweet potato topped with dark emerald beet greens and a smattering of goat cheese.  It was entirely satisfying, hearty, and nutritious.  When I purchase beets I either buy organic or purchase from a farmers market.  The little red beauties are still hugging tightly to there tops and rather than discarding the tops I incorporate them into my meals for added nutrients. 

The smaller, newer, more delicate beet greens are wonderful to saute.  You can add them to a scramble or frittata, place them in a quesadilla, toss them in a salad, or sneak them into a pasta.  The more mature leaves, larger and tougher are great in soups and stews.

If you purchase beets with the greens still intact, store the greens separately from the beet root once you get home.  The greens will only last a few days and it is best to eat only the healthiest leaves, vibrant green and rid of slime.  I clean my beet greens as I would any other green.  I swish them in a large amount of cold, salted water and then spin them dry.

Baked Sweet Potato with Beet Greens & Goat Cheese
A vibrant orange, earthy root vegetable paired with nutritious and hearty beet greens is delicately spiced with smoked paprika and accompanied by a creamy, tangy goat cheese.  A perfect fall lunch. Enjoy this non-recipe recipe.

yield: one

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Scrub the exterior of one sweet potato clean and rub with olive oil (if desired.)  Pierce the skin of the sweet potato several times with the tines of a fork or paring knife.  Place on a foil lined baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes.  Meanwhile, saute one handful of small, young, clean beet greens in 1 Tablespoon of olive oil.  Add two cloves of garlic, roughly chopped, salt, pepper and a pinch of smoked paprika and saute until greens have reduced and garlic is fragrant.

To assemble:  remove sweet potato from the oven and place on plate.  Make a slit down the potato and add 1 Tablespoon butter, salt and pepperTop the sweet potato with the sauteed beet greens and 1-ounce of goat cheese.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

our summer: from the mountains to the sea

Canyon sunrises.  Late spring snow.  River rushings. Hot chocolate.  Flashes of hummingbirds. Snowy hikes.  Frozen lakes.  Frigid night air.  Warmth of a cast iron stove on a chilly evening.  The scent of conifers and mountain air in the springtime.   

Summer rainstorms.  Seaweed.  Touching waves for the very first time. Feeling the warmth of the gulf while standing in the chill of the rain.  Thunder.  Darkened Waters.  Shelling.  

Sand as fine as silk.  Sapphire colored sea. Blazing Sun.  Sandblasted by the wind.  Crashes waves.  Sandcastles.  Kites.  Fun in the sun.
We had a splendid summer this year, one of the best summers we've had as a family in a very long time.  Hoping you had an enjoyable summer and looking forward to my favorite season, fall.  Goodbye summer and hello autumn!


You earned your yellow belt this past Friday!  We are so proud of you!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


You wanted to be a cartoon and this is what we came up with.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Your school hosted a Back to School Kick Off in our neighborhood park.  Dogs in the park...not that bad.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Yesterday was a big day.  Not only did you turn 6, but you also had your first day of Kindergarten.  Happy Birthday to my best boy!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Boys of Summer
On the last day of summer pre-school you and your buddies met on the playground one last time.  You've know Sailor (middle) since you were 3 and Liam (left) since you were 4.  You guys will each go your separate ways as you will begin Kindergarten at different schools.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

my summer love (recipe: zucchini bread)

I love when I find a recipe and fall completely in love with it.  This is how I feel about the Zucchini Bread from this summer's issue of Cook's Illustrated.  It is light, moist, springy and delectably delicious.  I've made it several times this summer, taking advantage of summer's bounty.  It has been my dessert, a butter slathered afternoon snack, an accompaniment to my morning tea, and may or may not have met my lips in the midnight hour.  I hope you find yourself making this lovely loaf before summer ends and maybe it will become your Summer Love as well.

Zucchini Bread
yield:  one loaf

1 1/2 pounds zucchini, shredded
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan.
  2. Place zucchini in center of dish towel or layered cheese cloth.  Gather ends together and twist tightly to drain as much liquid as possible discarding liquid .  Whisk brown sugar, oil eggs, and vanilla together in medium bowl.  Fold in zucchini.
  3. Whisk flours, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg together in large bowl.  Fold in zucchini mixture until just incorporated.  Fold in pecans, if using.  Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
  4. Bake until top bounces back when gently pressed and toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 65 to 75 minutes.  Let bread cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes.  Remove bread from pan and let cool completely on wire rack.  Serve.
source:  Cook's Illustrated No. 129

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


It may seem strange to share a photo that looks filled with such sorrow.  As I was flipping through this series of photos this one seemed to pull at my heartstrings.  The struggles of being an only child quickly turns to the guilt I feel for you being just so.  I asked you about this particular photo and you said, "I was just bored."  Right after snapping this shot your next door neighbor peaked from the blinds in his bedroom and you waved.  Five minutes later you guys were upstairs playing like wild boys do.  Chin up my son, the world must be at rest some of the time and if you are patient enough adventure will find you.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


You have a passion for the sidekick.  Robin, Luigi...you always want to be them instead of the main character.  You asked to have a "Robin:  The Boy Wonder" birthday party and we did.  It was a great party with many friends.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

that summer morning

While the little one was finishing summer's bible school I found myself perusing through the tiny little tourist hamlet that lies at the edge of the hill country.  After drop-off I hopped into the car and headed down River Road.  It was a quiet morning and the weekend tourists had not yet arrived.  The handful of weekday tourists were still asleep and finally, for once this summer I found silence within the town.
Cactus Flower at the summit of Prayer Mountain
I drove out to Prayer Mountain, a steep dome-shaped hill on the northwest side, and climbed it for my morning exercise.  Climbing steps, not actually cliffs and walls, but steps.  Prayer Mountain has a total of 220 stone steps, chiseled and made from man.  They are not perfect, some more steep than others, some needing a wider gate, needing the attention to avoid a busted knee.  And finally, once you reach the top, you can see throughout the valley-neighborhoods, the outlining of rivers and creeks,  the surprising green of the summer, haze and smoke from a few fires.  It is a lovely reward once you make the summit.  And so I took in the 360 view and headed back down, only to make a few more trips up until I was drenched by summer's humidity and my legs grew shaky and weak.
Blackfoot Daisy
I love losing myself in a drive.  No map, no GPS, just an innate sense of direction that I cherish.  I believe it is one of my valued natural skills.  I came upon a swimming hole and watched the water and families along the banks; brave and bold cliff jumping youths pressuring one another to jump from higher points, families dabbling their tiny tot's toes in the cool spring water and a group of older women soaking in their own fountain of youth perhaps.  Every milestone seemed to have congregated in that one spot that late summer morning.  And then the sun came out with a wild vengeance.
Gorgeous green waters of the swimming hole
Hungry and hot, I decided to go to my favorite little coffee shop on the square.  I found myself a corner, drank a caramel frappe, scarfed a breakfast taco, and took in some reading.  I was still thankful the tourists were still at bay and I could enjoy the slow paced town just a little bit more.  The day brought peace.  It was sublime.
Oh to be wild and free!
As the little one was climbing into the car the sky began to darken and the clouds grew heavy.  The air became unseasonably cool and it was then I knew that I had to take advantage of the break in the heat.  I drove to one of our favorite parks and watched him make quick friends.  They played soccer-volleyball, a made-up game that reminded me of how my husband used to use his soccer skills while playing sand volleyball in college.  The air chilled and in one swift moment it felt like autumn.  It was a most unusual summer moment to behold and it energized my spirit.  As I sat on a rock watching the improvisation of this newfangled game come into play it began to rain.  It was then I knew that that day, that summer morning would be my favorite this season.  May you find yours...
The stairs of Prayer Mountain


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


You finally made it to the other side.  I love your concentration in the photo.  You were so proud of yourself!  Not to mention, those monkey bars are somewhat difficult than others.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

summer orange iced tea

It felt like summer yesterday.  Not because of the heat, because the heat is always here in the hill country.  But yesterday the daylight seemed to linger longer, extending the day into extra hours. It was then, during summer's evening light, my husband and I decided to be the king and queen of the grill.  Chicken, flank steak, pecan wood, smoke and fire, it was all delicious and we were so very hot. 

As I walked into the house I poured myself a glass of orange iced tea.  The sun was settling into our kitchen window and the tea pitcher became a sun catcher, glowing in honey colored hue.  I really don't mean to speak poetically about iced tea but in that moment summer seemed perfect and the tea was even more splendid than the setting sun.

Monday, July 7, 2014


A day in the sprinkler turned into a fun time in the mud.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

jottings from a mountain cabin on a rainy morning

The river rushes
The rain taps
I open the door to the scent of pine and dewdrops
The cleansing breathe of thin air
The ponderosa's needles glimmering like diamonds in the sun. Nature's chandelier
I am thankful. Thankful for what nature has brought in its dawn.
For being wrapped in the rising sun's arms and dancing under jeweled dewdrops
A crystalline mountain morning rising with the sun.
The beginning of a beautiful day
And I am there.