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Ringing in the New Year....

How are you spending your New Year's Eve?

As everyone else decides what party they will attend, I will decide what time I will call it a night and go to bed! Age has a sneaky way of making days and events that were once important during my younger years, not so important anymore!

I do love a great party, but on this New Year's Eve, I will be spending it at home warm and cozy!

I was definitely built for warmer weather. Give me the 70 plus degree temps, the sunshine and a rocking chair and I am one happy girl. I can spend hours on end sitting on the porch enjoying the beautiful scenery God’s hands made.

Give me cold weather, however, and I become a recluse. If I do venture outside for very short periods of time, I am donning a scarf, heavy coat, gloves and layers of clothing underneath. If the truth was told, being outside in cold temperatures for long periods of time makes me a little irritated…well, more like angry! I don’t really know what it does to my otherwise jovial personality, but being cold is not good for me! Some would argue I must stay cold a lot! :)

So, when it is chilly outside, I tend to hibernate with coffee and either read or cook... or both!

It is a typical North Carolina December here. One day it is 65 degrees and the next day it may be 20 degrees. The week before Christmas, I was wearing t-shirts and shorts. This week, I will be wearing scarves and gloves with layers of garments.

I love soups and stews, especially during the fall and winter. There is just nothing like a recliner, a plush electric blanket a good book and a pot of something hot on the stove.

Some people love chicken and dumplings that are soupy and have a watery broth. My husband is one of those folks. He likes it that way because he loves saltine crackers and he adds them to ALL soups and stews whether they need them or not. However, since I am the master chef in our house, I cook things the way I like them most of the time….unless it is a birthday…and in that case, I bite my lip and make what they want! When I go through the trouble of making dumplings, I make them the way I like them, creamy and smooth!

As a child, I remember my mama making her dumplings homemade. She made hers using flour, salt and water, but I have never been able to get the right consistency doing it that way. Years ago, I came across a recipe using flour, Crisco and milk. It was good, but inconsistent. Over the years, I have made some adjustments to that recipe and developed one that creates a velvety, creamy dumpling that turns the broth into a huge pot of deliciousness!

I opt to use buttermilk, but you can definitely substitute whole or 2% milk if you don’t have any buttermilk on hand. I also add a large can of cream of chicken soup as well as a little butter to the dumplings after they have cooked inside the broth for a while. This gives the broth a creamy texture and adds another layer of flavor to the dish.

This recipe calls for a whole chicken. If you plan to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, the end product will not be the same. As a matter of fact, it will taste bland. Believe me, I have tried. There is not enough flavor in the breasts alone to develop the richness of the broth. Also, keep the skin on the chicken while cooking. The skin can be removed when the chicken is cooked thoroughly and has been de-boned. I always salt each layer of my food, but if you are trying to decrease your salt intake, you may adjust this accordingly.

I typically add the cooked chicken back into the dumplings after it has been served in a bowl simply because I have this weird “thing” about the texture of stringy chicken. Chicken tends to become a little too stringy for me if it sits inside the broth for a while, so I just serve a few chicken pieces right on top of the dumplings. If you prefer to add the chicken back into the whole pot of dumplings, go for it!

As for condiments, you won’t really need any, but I will admit that I love Frank’s hot sauce almost as much as my husband loves saltine crackers. I put hot sauce on almost all soups and stews, so when I put a few dashes on top of these dumplings, I am in heaven! If you are not a hot sauce lover, then these dumplings will be just fine without it!

Shortcuts: Few things speak to me quite like a dish that has gone through a labor of love. These chicken and dumplings require a bit of time, but there are some things that can be done in advance, if you need to plan ahead for weeknight meals.

The chicken can be cooked in the crock pot overnight or you can cook it a day in advance, then heat the broth back up to a boil. The dumplings can be made a few days in advance and frozen on sheet pans between sheets of wax paper or freezer paper. They can be thrown into the broth frozen, but just allow a few more minutes of cooking time.

These chicken and dumplings are our family’s favorite, enjoyed by my niece and nephew and they are requested often during cold weather months. I hope y’all love them as much as we do!

Stay warm and enjoy!

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