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VINTAGE RECIPE: My Great Aunt Ellen’s Chicken and Dumplings- MY VERSION!!

TO SEE PART 1, CLICK HERE

My version

After I finished writing the last blog post, I started on the chicken and dumplings.

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The original version omits any thickener for sauce

right away I could tell that 2 tsp baking powder in one cup of flour was WAY too much- also, most recipes call for some form of fat, which I added.

Aunt Ellen used ‘chicken cooking water’ and canned broth. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and make my OWN broth.


CHICKEN AND BROTH:

2 packages of boneless skinless chicken breast (3 breasts per package)
a couple stalks of celery, leaves on, broken up in large chunks
a couple unpeeled carrots, broken up into large chunks
UNPEELED onion, cut in quarters.
water to cover
handful of fresh parsley (do not chop)
tablespoon of chicken bouillon

Basically, I just dumped it all in a pot on high- when it reached a full boil, I covered it and let it cook on low for an hour.

After, I plucked chicken breasts out and chopped them into small pieces.

I strained the broth and discarded the solid vegetables.

Then, I measured out about 2 to 2.5 quarts of the broth for the ‘sauce’ later.

isn’t this beautiful?

 

Aunt Ellen’s granddaughter warned me to test out the recipe before totally committing, as her grandmother had different variations of the same recipe floating around. I immediately noticed that the baking powder to flour ration was WAY too high and would have resulted in a very bitter product. I increased the flour to 2 cups and decreased the baking powder to 1 tsp. I also added 1/3 cup of lard (or crisco), as it makes for a more tender dumpling and can be found in most chicken and dumpling recipes online. When I experimented WITHOUT the fat, it didn’t taste as good.

 


DUMPLINGS:

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chicken boullion
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 c lard or crisco
1 cup milk

(instructions are underneath photos)

first I rubbed the fat into the dry ingredients until it was kind of mealy

after, I added the milk and just mixed it all up with my hands. Next time I will use my stand mixer- I then made the dough into a smooth ball.

rolled it out- we liked the thicker ones- cut them into squares using pizza cutter

 

dumplings!

 

CHICKEN ‘SAUCE’ (GRAVY):

2 quarts of reserved chicken stock from boiling the chicken breasts
1.5 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup flour
stick of butter
salt and pepper to taste
(optional: garlic powder, parsley, etc)

Melt stick of butter in pot over medium-high. Add flour and cook for a minute. Slowly add the cream and milk, a bit at a time, stirring until it becomes a white cream gravy. Add the 2 quarts of chicken stock and adjust seasoning. If you worry about lumps, use a stick blender or whisk while incorporating the broth. Return to a boil, stirring constantly.

When it begins bubbling again, add most of the dumplings and cover. Lower heat to low and cook about 12 minutes. Add rest of dumplings and cook uncovered on medium for about 20 minutes. Keep a close eye on it or it will boil over (like mine did).

Add chopped chicken and cover, set heat down to low, until warmed through.

it boiled over when I turned my back

 VERDICT:

This is definitely a keeper. I have to admit, I’ve never eaten real chicken and dumplings before. The only other exposure to it that I had was Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken Pot Pie and the stuff that comes out of a can (yuck). I was truly impressed with the delicate flavor.

I can see why my father loved it so much.

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VINTAGE RECIPE: My Great-Aunt Ellen Renfro’s Chicken and Dumplings

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Aunt Ellen Donoho Renfro and her sisters- she’s the second from left

UPDATE: TO SKIP AHEAD TO MY TWEAKED VERSION OF THE RECIPE, CLICK HERE

Aunt Ellen Renfro was my favorite great aunt. She was just the sweetest woman and best cook in our family.

My grandfather was her baby brother.

My dad is always going on about how wonderful his late Aunt Ellen’s chicken and dumplings were (and her bread and peach cobbler).

She’s been gone now for 29 years, so one would assume the recipes were lost forever- luckily, this week her granddaughter Vanessa was kind enough to send me photos of a few of her them! I am so thankful that she took the time out to scan these for me- I am also a little teary eyed (happily so) about the prospect of attempting these dishes.

Food is love, and memories, and family… this is definitely a tie to our collective pasts.

A bit about Ellen Donoho Renfro here:

http://image2.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=87300176

I have been cross referencing her dumpling recipe with others found on the Internet. It seems like her recipe omits the usual shortening and/or egg that many of the others have. Her sauce looks like a scaled down version of traditional Southern Chicken and Dumplings recipes.

I am going to attempt her ‘chicken sauce’ and dumplings today. I will test a batch of dumplings using her recipe- and make another batch using a dough that contains the usual shortening/egg and compare.

Since her sauce is a tad bland for my taste, right off the bat, I will likely doctor that a bit as well.

Will post the results later today or tomorrow- going off to cook now!

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Why the 40s are the best years of my life

Once upon a time I was an abuse survivor- 

Once upon a time I was an abuser-

Once upon a time I was a selfish cow who believed my own hype-

Once upon a time I was chronically depressed and unhappy-

None of the above is true anymore.

None of the above applies to my current life, nor has it in almost 8 yrs.

Someone once told me that the 40s were the best years of their life- way back when I was still in my early 30s and couldn’t even FATHOM being ‘that old’.

For me it is completely true.

My 30s were pretty decadent. I had a successful career that took me all over the world. I hobnobbed with the rich and famous. I was fit and in shape.

I was miserably unhappy and chronically depressed. My relationships with my family, my loved ones, myself were so unhealthy.

My 40s brought a separation from my long-suffering spouse, 2 small strokes (TIAs), the diagnosis of lupus, many deaths of people close to me, dealing with a (then) bipolar teen son with a substance problem, the diagnosis of bipolar and dementia in my mother- also, a new partner in my life, and a baby girl at 45.

The ‘bad’ things that happened weren’t so bad.

I found out that my chronic fatigue and frequent health problems I’d suffered all my life (and depression) were caused by alarmingly low vitamin D3 levels and an autoimmune disorder.

My sisters, mother, and niece all suffer from the same things. Had I not been diagnosed, neither would they have been.

My TIAs (and frequent miscarriages in the past) were genetic and due to my hypertension and Factor V Leiden which causes ‘thick blood’ and blood clots. I now take blood thinners and blood pressure meds. I was forced to change my diet and go semi (to total, depending on my whim) vegetarian/vegan.

I started juicing, working out, quit smoking after 25 yrs and started vaping.

I had to get tough with my family regarding my son’s (and mother’s) bipolar. It was a rough few years, but now at 22 (knock wood), he is on his way to becoming the person I always knew he could be. My mom’s issues will never be resolved, really. She now has dementia, so it is all downhill from here.

I had to get tough with MYSELF about my own emotional responses and PTSD from a childhood of abuse.

Therapy was a godsend for my family and me. You just take each day as it comes and live in the now.

My new-found healthy living gained me a great partner who is understanding, kind, loving- and quite a bit younger (though his maturity level probably tops mine by a TON). It also (with the help of the said person above) got me pregnant at 45.

I started growing my own heirloom veggies and went from glamma wannabe to hippie earth-mother.

I rarely travel any more and I am ok with this. My life is cozy and happy and I am catching all the bits I missed as a young mother with children.

Being happy- being content and at peace- is it’s own reward.

If someone offered me ‘the old me’ of 13 plus years ago, I’d run away.

Life is meant to be lived with the people closest to your heart.

Anything else is meaningless.

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UPDATE: recovering from my week(s) and how Maisie’s birthday bash went (condensed version)

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in a bday present princess nightie (her bday dress was removed due to cake residue)- playing a guitar art project made by my cousin’s talented daughter. My new fave pic 🙂

Had the HUGE baby Maisie birthday bash this week- over 60 people showed up to celebrate with us and stayed on until the wee hours.

Maisie was a perfect hostess- she was able to hang on til about midnight, without having any meltdowns and playing well with all the children and guests.

We had an adult cake smash fight at one point, when my cousin bet my mother a dollar to put the icing on my face… needless to say, about 6 people ended up with cake on their faces. It was hilarious. We are not a sedate, quiet bunch. My parties tend to be kind of raucous, to say the least…

We had a huge full sheet cake with bavarian cream filling- and I cooked a huge spread: 25 lb plus brisket, Persian food, collard greens, appetizers… and people also brought food and drink. Everything- EVERYTHING- was eaten. The only thing I had left after was bottles of vino, vodka, hard cider, beer, soft drinks, juices. I ended up having to cook again the next day, just so we’d have food in the house while we cleaned up.

It was more a party for adults, really… or one of the type of parties I remember attending as a kid with my folks back in the ‘old days’, with the parents having a good time and the children running about playing. Nothing fancy, just lots of people and lots of good food/drink.

My mother went back to Manila this morning, so it was also a sort of bon voyage for her- as well as my cousins’ 35th wedding anniversary.

I am completely EXHAUSTED now. We’re still cleaning up, even though the party was Saturday. I have to do what I can with my back… which feels much better. I am finally (knock wood) off the narcotic pain pills. The procedure seems to be doing what it was supposed to do.

Maisie now wants to sing “Happy Birthday” CONSTANTLY and clap her hands/say “YAY!” after. Poor thing sounds like a screech owl when she sings, so that’s pleasant… lol.

My house guest went back to Houston and now things are much more quiet. Maisie is a bit clingier now that the house is minus one more person, though. That is to be expected.

I bought a gym membership for the entire family this week, too. Hoping I am cleared to start using it soon. I also bought a Buti Yoga DVD set, which I am hoping to utilize as well. I am itching to work out and finally lose this baby weight.

My child has not been allowing me to do much. Her walking is now in full swing and you CANNOT.TAKE.YOUR.EYES.OFF.HER.FOR.EVEN.A.SECOND. If you turn your back on her, she will be climbing something or off in another room. This kid is FAST and my house is HUGE. I will have to call someone in to carpet the front stairwell soon. I swore I’d never cover the wood, but now I’ve changed my mind since this child is a climbing fiend.

I think I’ve spent the most time in years away from the internet/phone/macbook. She’ll steal my phone, my mouse, try to run off with the laptop- you name it, she’ll do it.

The ironic thing is, my house is actually CLEANER now after the party than it was BEFORE. I have no idea how that happened at all. We’re STILL cleaning up, as I said earlier. Maybe it’s all my time away from the internet- I don’t know. Maybe it was the new Dyson Animal I bought. That thing is Ahhh-MAZING. Dysons (and Shop Vacs) are a MUST if you have 3 Newfoundland dogs, like we do.

We WILL be baby proofing the hell out of this place this week. It needs it. I found her eating half of my brand new sugar scrub lip gloss this morning. The resulting farts and regurgitations were disgusting. I have no idea how she opened it- it was in a flat tin and she’s never seen me use it before. Scared the crap out of me!

One thing is for sure- the minute my head hits the pillow nowadays, all I want to do is SLEEP. That is exactly as it should be. I like the fact that I am busy from the time I wake until the time I go to bed. It feels GOOD (well, sometimes) to move. After spending most of the year moving about gingerly, I like this.

Probably not good for blogging, though.

I have an Ipsy review, 2 Birchbox reviews, a ton of food posts to get up and I have no idea how/when these will happen.

I haven’t even really opened/looked at her gifts. I also have a ton of thank you thingies to send out. They’re still (mostly) piled up on the daybed in my office.

Time for me to sleep now… *yawn*

4

Updates on my week: memories of others, more drama, back pain and procedures…

** am unable/unwilling to edit this properly, as the pain and meds I am on am making it impossible at the moment, so apologies in advance **

I am hoping things get a wee bit better here on out.

After the last post re ‘avalanche of crap’ the other day, I simply did not feel like posting again. My back pain was pretty high and I was feeling down from the drama.

My son and I ended up fighting/discussing/hashing it out until 4 am that night. The man has some issues, which breaks my heart. He says he doesn’t even remember me hugging or kissing him as a child- which is shocking. His father was there and was just as shocked as I was- anyone who knows me, KNOWS that I am pretty demonstrative with my kids and that boy never lacked for love and kisses. He said what he DID remember, when I DID show him affection, it felt ‘fake’ to him somehow.

I mentioned this to other family members and they were just as shocked as we were. We have no idea how he’d come to this conclusion. It was telling, though, when his younger brother tried to hug him and calm him down after the fight on the porch- he pushed C away twice. He eventually apologized to C, but we just simply don’t understand how/why he feels the way he does… and I am heartbroken, still.

He has come back from his time in Chicago a very changed person- a bit neurotic, more so than before. He started pushing us away as a teen, but we assumed it was a normal teenager phase and just due to the kids he ran around with. He went from being a rather shy, but close to his family type kid to acting ashamed of us and feeling jealous of me.

He said he saw me more as a sister than a mother at some point and that he did some of the things he did to me as a teen (lied to his friends and mine about me, so that I was alienated from my own friends) when he started doing theater out of jealousy and didn’t really know why he did/said the things he did back then. It was difficult for me to hear from my adult friends back then all the things my son said to them which weren’t true at all… and he apologized for what he did.

I don’t understand the jealousy part at all. I always have been silly in how supportive and proud I’ve been about my kids and their achievements. I always loved to support them and give them encouragement and just felt joy when they accomplished things. I guess he didn’t feel the same way.

To explain some of it: I’ve always been semi-in the public eye with my work and hobbies. I had no idea and am also baffled as to why my oldest son would be jealous about that. I always assumed (and been vocal) about how proud I was of him. I am very uncomfortable knowing this and my heart hurts over it.

I feel sad for him. I feel sad for us. The rest of us (brother, dad, yadda) can’t really comprehend his side of it. It’s like his perception of how life was is totally at odds with ours. Granted, we had some emotional issues when the boys were growing up. I was gone a lot abroad working. I’d come back to a house that was beyond horrific and get upset over it. My mother and middle son were going through their bipolar. It was not all roses and ice cream… but no family ever is.

At one point during the ‘discussion’, I simply removed myself from the house and went outside on the porch be alone and have a cry. I sobbed for a while, which isn’t like me. I needed the alone time, I felt overwhelmed.

He came outside after a while and demanded to know why I was doing this.

HIM: “What’s this?”

Me: “What’s what?!”

HIM: “WHY are you doing this? Crying?!”

ME: “WTF?! Why do you THINK?”

HIM: “I don’t know”

I am wondering, honestly, if he is not on the autism spectrum sometimes. He doesn’t seem to understand subtle nuances in emotion and can be extremely literal and has a lack of empathy. My youngest son, who IS on the autism spectrum, is very empathetic and ‘gets’ emotional things more-so than any person I know, tried to explain things to him- tried to diffuse the original situation- but could not get through to his brother.

I was on the verge that night of having him move out, honestly, I was. I can’t take much drama like this- not on a constant basis. It’s unhealthy. It’s not good for the baby to see people screaming and crying all the time. It upsets the rest of us and we’ve been pretty much used to a quiet, peaceful, rational calm these last 5 yrs since the 2 big boys have been grown and on their own.

He also told his father about my blog and for a moment there, they attempted to stop me from continuing this. FUCK THAT SHIT. I am blogging. It’s the only thing I have that’s mine alone and the only thing saving my sanity. I won’t hide behind secrets and pretend crap away. I can’t live like that anymore. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to read it. Period.

The next day, my oldest seemed better. Maybe the drama and discussion provided him some sort of catharsis. He actually came with me to a 1 yr old’s birthday party and played with Maisie on the playground and helped watch her. He said he had a good time. I was very grateful that he helped with Maisie so much and seems to adore her as much as he does. I think he’s warmest to her than any of the rest of us and it makes me feel good to see this.

C, on the other hand, was in a hurry to get home.

C: I need to get home, Mom, I have to mow my lawn before the city gives us a citation.

The statement above kind of illustrates the differences between the two boys. Not that it’s bad, but C is probably more mature than all of us combined in the household. He likes to keep on schedule and get stuff done. I really respect that and wish I were more like that myself.

C also came to me the night of the ‘big discussion’ and said he had to go to his room to decompress, it was way too much for him emotionally that day. I could totally concur.

It just worries me that my oldest must have been used to such emotional drama during his time living with his ex. His father keeps reminding me that he must be simply projecting the relationship stuff he had learned/lived in Chicago on me, since I am the only adult female in the house. After the exchange I had with his ex via the text, I am starting to think his dad must be right. This girl is estranged from her family for many years and apparently it wasn’t a great situation to begin with. Her mother was never supportive, nor did she care about her achievements. My son has mentioned her upbringing at great length in the past and it saddened me to hear about it. I was and am still shocked by all of this bullshit this week.

I am wondering how many of my son’s ‘memories’ are simply things he absorbed from HER.

Freaks me out a little bit, to tell you the truth.

I look and feel like shit here… but that’s to be expected lol

I had my back procedure yesterday- lasted longer than I thought it would. It was an epidural with injections to my lumbar region done under live x-ray at a hospital 40 minutes away from my home. I didn’t expect it to be as painful as it was- I am now in more pain today than I had been prior. The side effects (nausea, dizziness, sweating, lethargy, fever, pain) have been BRUTAL. I am hoping it all works- doctor said it may or may not. The tailbone procedure I had last week only worked on half of my tailbone and pain. The doctor says he hopes this procedure that I had yesterday will resolve all of it. From what I’ve read on the Internet, after looking up the side effects i was having, there’s a 50 percent chance that it won’t.

Seems like a lot of work and odds for such shitty odds that it may not work.

I also DETEST these narcotics and my need for pain relief.

I have never experienced chronic pain in my life- nor the need to take these types of medicines on a regular basis- and I am freaked out by how they make me feel emotionally.

I want to wean myself off these things. I want the pain to subside. I want my sons to feel better. I want to rid myself of this sudden depression I have been drowning in.

We also had Maisie’s 1 yr photo shoot 2 days ago, but will save that for another post.

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The Avalanche of Crap Continues… and I don’t know how much longer I can deal with this.

So, the day started out nicely. I was hoping that trend that has been happening over the last 2 weeks (Here and Here and Here) was finally subsiding.

I had to reschedule 3 doctor’s appointments and Maisie’s photoshoot was postponed due to rain.

The pain in my back and tailbone have still be plaguing me. I have to make sure to take my meds, otherwise I am felled by pain AND find myself irritable as hell. I need to speak to the doctor about the irritability- it only happens when the meds wear off.

We have a birthday party tomorrow for my friend’s little boy who turned 1 right before Maisie, so we went shopping. I also had to stop at the grocery store for gumbo ingredients. It was about 2-3 pm and I had not eaten yet, which made matters even worse… then I got a private message from the person I wrote about in my last blog concerning the money I lent and how badly I felt re them not saying thank you afterwards. They sent a photo of the text where they thanked me after I offered the money and proceeded to tell me how my post was ‘erroneous’.

I tried to tell them that I was not in a good place to discuss this… and this person kept replying. I finally said (keep in min, this paragraph is just the jist of it- I’m in pain as I type this), if they wanted to get technical- they did NOT thank me afterwards, which was common courtesy, and that my biggest bother was that I didn’t know if it had been received and only after I mentioned this to the person who delivered the money to this person was I contacted (a couple of days later). Again, person kept texting and I tried to tell them now wasn’t a good time- I was in pain and losing my patience FAST.

Someone said “Don’t reply- or if it were me, I’d tell them to lick my balls” (which I did not say).

I am prone to argue. I fully admit this. This person also seems to like having the last word as well, which is not a good situation in the state of mind I am in. I texted/called the person who delivered the monies to said person and asked them to tell them to please back the fuck off me right now.

Shit hit the FAN after that.

The person who delivered said money was an asshole to me, plain and simple. My Connor, who, after reading the text and agreeing that this was not the time nor place for this bullshit, tried to get the person who was arguing with me at home to calm the fuck down. I was really upset and said to the REAL LIFE person “I can’t discuss this right now- I need to decompress” and Connor tried to tell them- this was not the way to handle this situation at all.

The person who delivered the money to the one who texted me then says (with a smile on his face and a snarky, condescending voice) “Oh, if you were in a court of law and a lawyer had you on the stand- would this be how you’d respond? You have the presence of mind to admit you’re upset, then why can’t you discuss this?”

I LOST MY SHIT. MOTHER FUCKER. First of all, I am not a child and this person is in MY FUCKING HOUSE. This person is NOT respecting my boundaries or requests to let me calm down- nor was this person listening to C when he told them that this was not the way for them to approach me. Other things happened and after being insulted and made to feel like complete shit and not being listened to, they fell back on the “Oh, I have anxiety” card.

Well, join the fucking club.

You can’t trash talk people who help you- neither of them can- and expect it to be ok. I am so done.

This person apologized later, but now I am a little gun shy. First of all, I am not censoring my feelings on this blog just to suit their egos. You can agree or disagree, but don’t fucking disrespect me in my own house… especially if you’re one of my children.

I also had a huge problem with how Connor was treated. He is the most empathetic, wise, reasonable soul I know. He wants to be close to this person, but I honestly don’t know if this other person can or wants to be close to any of us.

If I try to be empathetic and say “Oh, we have anxiety, too”, they take it to mean I am trying to compete with them.

When I don’t talk or say I cannot talk right now, they belittle me for being unable to gather my thoughts long enough to calm down and speak.

WHEN I DO speak to them, they said ‘oh, I spent 3 hours listening to you on the porch the other day…’ and interrupt and shut me down.

ON TOP OF ALL OF THIS, my MOTHER was on the porch while this happened and she tends to side with this person (he’s her favorite) and was hollering at Connor and me both. After it calmed down, of course she forgot the entire thing. Thank God for dementia.

I am hurt and tired and in pain and have no trust at all.

They say “I love you” and “I’m so sorry”, yet they do it over and over. Talking to them isn’t easy- it’s always ‘awkward’ to them or my words are considered unacceptable. I feel judged and exhausted. I don’t know what they’re going to do from one minute to the next- so I usually keep to myself unless they need me or if I am trying to be supportive…

It went from me being upset about this other person whom I helped to a full blown mind fuck from the person who now lives in my house.

I try to be sensitive to their needs and situation, but they continue to be insensitive to me and C and others. It always ends up to be all about them- you can’t speak of ‘shared’ or common experiences without them thinking you’re trying to out-do them in some way.

They don’t know me nor do they know Connor. They make no effort whatsoever, even though they claim to, to get to know us. Everything is tears or drama or about them. They seem to live in some world of their own making and are either curt or talk down or discount anything I say- OR they cry or make excuses and hide.

I love this person, but I am tired of being hurt by them. I am too old for this shit. My blood pressure can’t handle this. I feel like we’re only of use to them when they need something. My words- or C’s- don’t register.

You can’t keep doing negative things to people and expect that a simple ‘sorry’ and some tears after will fix it- then do it AGAIN AND AGAIN.

If I use a word they dislike or they feel it is out of context (OMFG, so exhausting trying to have a simple conversation), they criticize me/what I say.

My house, for the most part, was not this stressful before… at least not in a long time.

It is starting to cause some serious problems and I am feeling depression come on for the first time in YEARS.

God help me, but I don’t know how much longer I can deal with this.