You know that day in the middle of the week where you aren’t sure exactly what day it is because they all smash together between Monday and Friday? Yeah…that’s the day of the week I’m on.
Living north of normal, winter day light hours are short and they are even shorter when you shuffle into work at 5:45 am, toil in an office with no windows and shuffle back out at 5:45 pm. I can go entire days without seeing a single ray of sunshine.
My heart warms on evenings when I pull into the drive, my better half opens the door to greet me on the porch and my golden retrievers, Oliver (Ollie) and Izze tumble out with such enthusiasm. Their affection and glorious energy makes those missed rays of sunshine pale in comparison.
This week the pups are particularly rambunctious as they’ve been lazing around indoors all day due to sub zero temps and even more bitter wind chill factors. Oliver greets you at the door with his beloved yellow tennis ball and follows you around relentlessly hoping to entice you into a few minutes of play. If he thinks you are ignoring him he squeaks the yellow ball until you give in and abandon whatever you were working on just to make the racket stop. Izze, in his geriatric splendor, just follows you from room to room, plops at your feet and gives you “the eyes” that let you know you are neglecting your head patting duties,
My project for this week has been to plan, shop for and execute food for a junior competitive shooting match that our local rifle club hosts annually. This is the second year I’ve been “volunteered” by my mother to provide food for 50 people over two days of shooting. The menu consists of crockpot chicken and knoephla, crudites, fruits and various pans of bars. Knoephla you ask? It’s a German dumpling thing. I live in an area that was settled predominately by Germans and Norwegians so you will see a lot of their influence in recipes I share in the near future. Most prairie inhabitants make knoephla soup, mine is more knoephla casserole. Dumplings in a creamy chicken sauce with chunks of chicken, veg and aromatics. Normally I’m a make everything from scratch kind of girl, but between you and me I intend to cheat for this project. I’ll share my short cut:
Crockpot Knoephla and Chicken Casserole
Cheater Chicken and Sauce:
- 2 to 3 chicken breasts
- 1 small onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 celery stalk
- 1/2 cup peas
- 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup (secret cheater ingredient)
Chop the onion, celery and carrot into small rough pieces. Saute in a hot pan with enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Make sure to season well with salt and pepper. I also like to add any aromatics that I happen to have on hand. Fresh rosemary or thyme are good. Ground sage is a winter time favorite. A clove or two of chopped garlic.
Once the veg has reduced down, remove from pan. Chop the chicken breasts into rough pieces and saute until you have a nice golden color.
At this point you can add the sauteed veg and the peas to the pan and cover with the can of condensed cream of chicken soup along with one or two cans of water and simmer on low OR you can add to the crock pot to continue.
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 egg, beaten
- 5 to 6 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix the above ingredients until they form a smooth, pliable dough. Cover and let rest 15 to 30 minutes.
Once rested, set a pan of water to boil with a little salt as you would for pasta.
Roll the dough into a rope and cut 1/2 inch pieces. Toss into the salted boiling water and cook until they float to the top. Don’t worry about them being under done as they will continue to cook in the chicken and sauce base.
Add boiled dumplings to your chicken and sauce base and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce thickens. I like to add a handful of fresh parsley before serving for a punch of green goodness and color. (Sneak those greens in EVERYWHERE.)
This recipe keeps wonderfully when finished in the crock pot. These dumplings are hardy little devils and don’t get mushy.
As I said this is a cheater version. The proper recipe would require boiling a chicken, making stock and using the stock and meat along with a pint of cream in place of the chicken breasts and cream of chicken soup. Not much extra work, but just enough that I didn’t want to take the time during a busy week to take the extra steps.
If you are interested in Germans from Russia cuisine I recommend starting with this cookbook from the North Dakota State University Libraries in Fargo, North Dakota.
Tonight my task is to bake the bars. I defrosted a bag of pumpkin, a bag of zucchini, along with bag of carrots and a bag of peas from my freezer. All from my 2017 garden. Pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting, zucchini bread will pair wonderfully with coffee for those spectator parents waiting on their kids to shoot. The carrots and peas will go in the crockpot with the knoephla and chicken. This makes for an easy way to sneak veg into unsuspecting diets. Most recipes for knoephla on the prairie consist of only dumplings, chicken and stock. I can’t resist packing any meal full of vegetables and carrots and peas pair well with the dish.
My kitchen is busy every night with preparing dinner. No short cuts here. You can’t order take out when you live thirty miles from the nearest area of civilization and I have a dishwasher…however it lacks an automatic cycle.
What does your work week shuffle look like this week? Do you need a short cut this week to make it through to the weekend?
Off to find Oliver and his tennis ball!