“You have your hands full!” It’s the one comment I hear more than any other when people see me with all three kids. I hear this most at the grocery store when I am wearing one twin, have the second in the front of the grocery cart, and my four year old in the main part of the cart. As the mom of 11-month old twins and a four year old, I suppose I do have my hands full. However, I am always amused and perplexed when I hear this. What does my commentator really mean? That I am busy from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed? Yes, that’s certainly true. But in today’s over-scheduled life, don’t all moms? I don’t know of a single one that sits on the couch eating bonbons all day. One kid or five, every mom I know has almost every minute of their day spoken for. We all watch the clock for the moment when that last little lock of hair settles on a pillow for the night (and not the first time, but that second or third time, after the drink of water, the monster search and the little speech on why they couldn’t possibly go to sleep).
Why does the number of children I have deem me more deserving of the hands-full title than the career mom with one or two kids? I’ve done it both ways, and as tiring and trying as my current life is, I would take it over the stress and guilt of the working mom. In truth, I lead a charmed life. I might not admit to it when I look down to see my clothes polka-dotted in unknown substances, or try to figure out the last time I got a decent shower, but at the end of the day I know I have it good.
Did moms hear this at the grocery store fifty years ago when the average woman had four children? I do wonder how they managed at the store. How did they maneuver around the store before the days of the carts with the cars at the front or fantastic hard-to-find carts with room for two kids at the front (room for a child was introduced in shopping carts in 1947). What inventions will my children enjoy that will make it even easier for them?
We may all have our hands full these days, but that doesn’t mean that we have to rely on heavily processed convenience foods. In fact, providing healthy foods free of preservatives, coloring and additives actually makes life easier. I’m not the only mom to notice the difference in my kid’s behavior when they eat over-processed foods and when they eat meals made from scratch. Making dinner is one of the best forms of entertainment in our home. Not only can I entertain them by having them help make the meal (the twins watch from their high-chairs), but Little Guy is more willing to try foods that he helped to make.
Chicken and Dumplings is probably the one meal I make more than any other during the cold months. It is my grandmother, Martha Kornegay’s, recipe. Now nobody will deny that Martha Kornegay was truly a woman with her hands full. The mother of six, and a working mom, she had her hands full for decades! When she was raising her children, she did not have all the convenience foods available today. Meals like chicken and dumplings were her convenience foods because they provided a wholesome meal all in one pot and because it is an inexpensive meal.
I have changed her original recipe a little to improve it nutritionally but make it taste just as good as her original. I tried just adding whole-grain flour, but that didn’t work. The dumplings were heavy and tough with the bitter flavors that whole-grains can sometimes have. I used buttermilk to balance the flavors and a pinch of baking soda to help lighten the heaviness of the whole wheat. Using the correct type of whole-grain flour helps too. Like with so many other recipes, I have the best results with spelt flour, but you could also use a white whole-wheat flour here too.
Whatever flour you use, the dough will be VERY wet. There will come a point, when you are making the dumplings, when you will think there has to be a typo in the recipe, and you will think that you really need to add more flour, that there is no way this will roll out and turn into dumplings. When you do, just ignore your thoughts and follow the recipe. As long as you roll this out on a pastry mat, waxed paper or parchment, you will be fine. In the finished product, the flour you use on which to roll this out is just as important as the flour in the dumplings. It creates a thick stewy broth. If you stir it well while you put in the dumplings, it will not clump. Trust me.
It pays to use your own chicken stock in this recipe. Your finished product will only be as good as the stock you use. I usually make a roast chicken one night, then take the left-over meat off the bones and use the bones to make my slow-cooker chicken stock over-night. Then the next night I already have my broth and chicken done and only have to chop some carrots, make the dumplings and cook some peas. A little planning provides dinner for two nights plus leftovers, and even better – EVERYONE will like it. Enjoy!
Chicken and Dumplings
The dumpling dough is very wet when when it is mixed together. Adding extra flour to the dough makes the dumplings tough. You need a lot of flour when rolling out the dough, and that flour is then used to thicken the broth into a stew.
You can make this with any type of whole-grain flour or use only all-purpose flour. Traditionally this would be served very peppery. Adding the pepper several minutes before serving will allow the pepper flavor to strengthen.
8-10 cups Slow-cooker Poultry Broth (chicken) or any low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter or chicken fat
1 cup whole grain spelt flour whole-wheat flour
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 pinch baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
3 cups cooked, boned, skinned and shredded chicken – a mixture of white and dark meat (about 1/2 chicken)
1 1/2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced (about 4 medium)
salt and pepper to taste
Bring the broth and butter to a boil in a large soup pot or dutch oven. While the broth comes to a boil, make the dumplings.
In another bowl mix the egg, buttermilk and baking soda.
Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until well combined; the dough will be very wet.
On a pastry mat or waxed paper, spread 1/2 cup of flour. Scrape the dough onto the floured surface and cover the top with another 1/4 cup of flour.
Using your hands, spread the dough out to 1/3” inch thick. Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut the dough into 1”X3” pieces.
When the broth has come to a rapid boil, slide the dumplings, one at a time, and the extra flour into the broth. It is okay if some of the dumplings break while moving them into the broth. Use a pastry scraper or knife to get off any dumplings that stick. Immediately stir the mixture until the dumplings are separated and the flour has mixed into the broth. A few small lumps of flour are fine and will cook themselves out in time. Add the chicken and carrots and return to a simmer. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring frequently but gently until the dumplings and carrots are tender and the broth has thickened, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cook for another ten minutes before serving. Serve with green peas.