Ranch chicken firecrackers

Out of desperation comes one of my favorite new snacks! Isn’t that often the way?

My friend Traci made me some firecrackers (fire crackers? Two words?) last summer and was kind enough to scribble down the recipe for me. I made some more of them last week but was trying to talk myself into something more substantial than crackers for lunch, when it occurred to me I had a cold roasted chicken in the fridge. Enter inspiration.

I shredded the chicken, tossed it in some ranch dressing, and put that on top of the firecrackers. It’s spicy with the peppers and cool with the ranch chicken, and oh so tasty!

Ranch chicken firecrackers

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 package dry ranch seasoning
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3-4 Tbsp. crushed red pepper, depending on your spice preference
  • 3 sleeves saltine crackers
  • Cold, cooked, shredded chicken
  • Enough bottled ranch dressing to lightly coat chicken (these last two depend on how much you want to make, obviously)

Instructions

  1. Add oil, seasoning, spices, and crushed pepper into a one-gallon zip top bag; seal the top and mush it all around till everything is well combined
  2. Add in the crackers and shake them around a little to coat them with the oil and spice mixture
  3. Let it all sit in the bag for a good 12 hours or so, flipping the bag over any time you think of it, till all the mixture is absorbed into the crackers
  4. Once those are ready, just shred some cooked chicken with a fork (leftovers are your friend, here), toss it in as much ranch as you like, and put that on top of your firecrackers. So good!

Biscuit pudding

You know… like bread pudding, but biscuits? And OH MAH GAH this is amazing. This may be the ultimate comfort food. And yet another recipe that tastes a million times better than it looks. ;)

See, my fabulous sister got me these books from Cades Cove, which is my most favorite place on earth. It’s home in every sense of the word. I’ve been picnicking at Carter-Shields as long as I can remember, and The Yankee and I love taking Kiddo there now to splash around and count “water spiders” down by the mill.

ANYHOO… the books. The books are Recipes, Remedies and Rumors from the Cades Cove Preservation Association. And they’re fantastic. Poison snake bite cure for dogs? In there. Squirrel dumplings? You bet. But also pork tenderloin, chicken and dumplings, fried potato cakes, you name it.

Biscuit pudding

Ingredients

  • And my new favorite: biscuit pudding! This is criminally easy:
  • 5 cooked leftover biscuits, crumbled
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl beat 2 eggs, and add sugar, milk, nutmeg and vanilla and mix
  2. Crumble in biscuits and stir
  3. Pour into a greased 8×8 pan and bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes

See what I’m saying? So easy. And so, so good.

Chicken & dumplings

Another classic Southern comfort food dish. Ahh…. so fabulous.

I learned to make this dish when I was just out of college and had a job that was more handling customers than washing diapers. For the record, I’ll take Cheerios over conference calls any day. ;)  This was one of those “oh I use some of this and a little of that and sometimes those — should I write this down?” sort of things, so I’m doing my best to turn it into an actual recipe.

Chicken & dumplings

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts or one roasted rotisserie chicken
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, cold
  • Chicken broth — about 2 quarts
  • 2 Tbsp. or so cornstarch
  • Salt, pepper, onion powder

Instructions

The chicken
    1. Either boil or slow cook the chicken breasts, saving the water it was cooked in, or (time saver alert!) buy a lovely already-roasted rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Viola, my Grandma would wittily say, you’re halfway there. With either method, wait till the chicken is cooled and chop it into chunks; set aside for now.
The dumplings
    1. While the pot of broth is heating up, cut the butter into the flour like you’re making biscuits using either a pastry blender, a fork, or a few pulses of the food processor. Now sprinkle in some salt and pour in chicken broth, a little at a time, till the dough holds together enough to be able to roll it out — this will take somewhere around a cup or cup and a half, but it’s not a science. When the dough holds together, roll it out very thin and cut into strips about an inch wide, and two inches long. A pizza cutter is great for this! These, obviously, do not have to be anywhere near perfect.
    2. Returning to your chicken broth: get a big pot of chicken it simmering — either the water you reserved from cooking the chicken breasts, or some homemade you might have in the freezer. If you’re using quarts of chicken broth, pour in one full quart plus whatever is left after making your dumplings. Bottom line: you want plenty in there so the dumplings have room to cook.
    3. After the broth has come to a nice simmer, start carefully dropping in the dumplings; they’ll all sink to the bottom at first and that’s fine. Let them simmer gently for about half an hour, swirling the pot around every so often. You don’t want to do too much stirring because the dumplings are delicate as they’re cooking and you don’t want to make them all into a giant ball of mush; some gentle moving around with a wooden spoon is fine.
Thickening time!
    1. Whisk about 2 Tbsp. of cornstarch into 1/4 cup of cold water till it’s all dissolved and there are no lumps. Pour this mixture into the pot of dumplings and stir gently, then add in your chopped chicken.
Seasoning
  1. Sprinkle in some salt, some pepper and some onion powder, bring the whole mess back up to a simmer, then reduce heat so it’s just below simmer. Let it cook another half hour or so to give the cornstarch time to work its magic and thicken things up and for all the flavors to get to know each other properly.

Now serve! This is crazy good with green beans (cooked with bacon fat, duh) or just on its own. It also freezes like a dream so I make a giant pot once a month or so and freeze quart size bags of it.

Let’s talk leftovers

Not just reheat-and-eat night, but let’s talk getting creative with leftovers. What have you come up with? Anything great? This is my new favorite: Italian steak pasta!

Sunday night was steak night. Monday night was spaghetti. So Tuesday night I sliced up the remaining steak, mixed it in with pasta and some Italian dressing (Ken’s, specifically, because I love it) , and topped it all with parmesan cheese. This was SO good!

Your turn! What have you come up with?