Shortcut Chicken Stew with Fluffy Dumplings

This incredible comfort food dish uses rotisserie chicken meat as a shortcut. I made it even more of a shortcut by using my pre-made homemade stock, but I included the chicken stock instructions in the recipe below.

This recipe was loosely adapted from cookbook author Sheri Castle, via The Washington Post. The broth was rich and flavorful and the dumplings were the icing on the cake. Fluffy and fabulous. This is truly the perfect dish to serve on a cold winter night.

Yield: 6-8 servings

For the Stock & Stew:

  • 1 large rotisserie chicken (Costco size) or 2 small rotisserie chickens
  • 4 cups cold water (to make the stock) or 4 cups or homemade poultry stock (for a shortcut)
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken stock (store-bought or homemade) (4 cups if using pre-made homemade stock)
  • 3 large thyme sprigs (to make stock)
  • 3 tsp Kosher salt, plus more as needed, divided
  • 1 T white wine vinegar
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 medium ribs celery, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots, scrubbed well and cut into thin rounds (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 T fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed

For the Dumplings:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 6 T unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

For the Stock & Stew:

  1. Pull the meat from the chicken(s) and tear it into largish bite-size pieces; cover and refrigerate until needed.
  2. I substituted/used 4 cups of homemade turkey stock instead of making stock with the chicken carcass. *If making the chicken stock base, place the carcass and skin in a large saucepan or small pot. Add the cold water, 8 cups broth, thyme sprigs and 1 teaspoon of the salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for about an hour, until the carcass falls apart and the liquid reduces to about 8 cups and tastes like rich chicken soup. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer into a large saucepan; discard solids.*
  3. If using pre-made stock, combine the 4 cups homemade stock with 4 cups of store-bought chicken stock. Stir in the vinegar into the stock, season with salt and pepper to taste, and keep warm on the lowest heat setting.
  4. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrots, thyme leaves and a pinch of salt, stirring to coat. Cook for 8 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften, stirring often.
  5. Add the 8 cups stock and cook for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Carefully watch the heat to ensure that the stock doesn’t boil over.
  6. Season with 1 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste) and the pepper.
  7. Stir in the reserved shredded rotisserie chicken meat; reduce the heat to low.

For the Dumplings & to Finish the Dish:

  1. Whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, sugar and pepper in a medium bowl.
  2. Work in the butter and shortening with a pastry blender or your fingertips until the mixture is crumbly.
  3. Add the half-and-half and stir only until combined to form a soft, sticky dough.
  4. Bring the chicken stew to a boil over medium-high heat. Use a 1-ounce scoop (I used a large cookie scoop) or two soup spoons to drop golf-ball-size dumplings evenly over the surface of the stew. The hot liquid seals the dumplings so that they rise instead of spread.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium; cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until the dumplings are firm, fluffy and somewhat dry on top. Don’t be tempted to lift the lid- if the heat escapes, the dumplings may deflate.
  6. Uncover and let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve warm.
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Vanilla Poached Pears

This is an elegant and light dessert for a special occasion. Years ago, we were served this dish at a neighbor’s dinner party and my husband and I made it quite often for a few years. We loved it. I made this updated version to serve my family on Thanksgiving Eve this year. I thought that it was a perfect dessert for the evening before a day of indulgence. An added bonus was that the pears could be poached ahead of time and stored in the poaching liquid.

This recipe was adapted from Alton Brown via Food Network.com. I poached the pears cut in half rather than whole, and, as my neighbors did when they served this dish, added freshly whipped cream and crushed amaretti cookies as toppings. Lovely.

Yield: 8 servings
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle white wine, Riesling or Viognier (I used Pinot Grigio)
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 ounces vanilla sugar, approximately 3/4 cup
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 4 firm Bartlett, Anjou or Bosc pears, peeled, halved, and cored (preferably using a melon baller)
  • freshly whipped heavy cream, for serving
  • crushed amaretti cookies, for serving
  1. Place the white wine, water, sugar and vanilla bean and pulp into a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Peel, halve, and core the pears.
  3. Decrease the heat to medium low and place the pears into the liquid, cover and cook for 30 minutes or until the pears are tender but not falling apart. Maintain a gentle simmer. Remove the pears to a serving dish and place in the refrigerator.
  4. Remove the vanilla bean from the saucepan, increase the heat to high and reduce the syrup to approximately 1 cup of liquid, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Do not allow the syrup to turn brown.
  5. Place the syrup in a heatproof container and place in the refrigerator until cool, approximately 1 hour.
  6. Remove the pears from the refrigerator, spoon the sauce over the pears. At this point, the pears can be stored overnight.
  7. Place a pear half in a bowl and drizzle with sauce, top with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, and sprinkle with crushed amaretti cookies. Serve.

Zebra-Striped Shortbread Cookies

I made these “Art Deco” vanilla & chocolate shortbread cookies as part of my Christmas cookie assortment, but the colorful sanding sugar edge could easily be modified to suit any occasion. Pink and red would be amazing for Valentine’s Day! 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Chris Morocco. I doubled the recipe, in two separate batches, making the process even easier because I kept one batch to use for the vanilla stripes and the second batch for the chocolate stripes. I also used egg yolks to coat the cookies instead of a whole egg. Wonderful.

Yield: Makes 40-48 cookies

  • 2⅓ cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1½ tsp Kosher salt, divided
  • ⅓ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1¼ cups (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
  • 1 egg yolk or 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • ¼ cup sanding sugar (any color)
  1. Whisk 1⅓ cups flour and ¾ tsp. salt in a medium bowl. Whisk cocoa powder, remaining 1 cup flour, and remaining ¾ tsp. salt in another medium bowl. These are the bases for your chocolate and vanilla doughs.
  2. Beat butter, granulated sugar, and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. (Do in 2 separate batches if doubling the recipe, making the vanilla dough first.)
  3. Add egg yolk and vanilla to the butter and sugar mixture and beat until smooth.
  4. Divide (for 1 batch) mixture between the 2 bowls of dry ingredients (about 1 cup in each). Scrape vanilla mixture back into stand mixer bowl (save the mixing bowl) and beat on low-speed just until combined. Return to reserved bowl.
  5. Repeat process with chocolate mixture.
  6. Arrange 2 large sheets (per batch) of plastic wrap or parchment paper on a work surface. Dollop one-quarter of chocolate dough in the center of each sheet and pat into rough 6×2″ rectangles. Dollop one-quarter of vanilla dough on top of each chocolate slab and pat into rectangles the same size and shape so that you have 2 layers each. Repeat entire process so you have 4 alternating layers.
  7. Tightly press stacked dough into cylinders about 1½” wide and 8″ long, using the plastic wrap or parchment to help you.
  8. Wrap logs in plastic wrap and chill until very firm, at least 2 hours. I chilled my dough overnight.
  9. Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 350°, preferably on convection.
  10. Working one at a time, unwrap dough and brush with egg. Carefully sprinkle surface with sanding sugar and roll logs in sugar to coat well (really press dough into sugar so it sticks).
  11. Slice into rounds a generous ¼” thick, rotating after every few cuts to keep slices round.
  12. Arrange cookies on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2″ apart.
  13. Bake, rotating baking sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through, until edges are just set, 12–14 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets.

Note: Dough can be made 3 days ahead; keep chilled. Cookies can be baked 5 days ahead; store airtight at room temperature.

“Line Friends” Red Velvet Birthday Cake

My daughter absolutely loves the “Line Friends” store in Times Square. The store features adorable plush versions of the characters from a Japanese and Korean messaging app called Line. Most center around a bear named “Brown.” As a pig enthusiast, my daughter owns two “Piggy Brown” plush in her personal collection. She requested a red velvet version of “Piggy Brown” to celebrate her 12th birthday! She also requested an Oreo-cream cheese frosting filling. The results were super cute and delicious.

Both of my kids have winter birthdays. Because my son decided to celebrate his with a gold standard household favorite, a Rainbow Sprinkle Cake, I am combining their “birthday posts” by sharing their number cookie photos at the same time. For those of you who don’t know, my kids always have birthday sugar cookies to celebrate their age. 🙂 This year, my son celebrated his 14th birthday and my daughter celebrated her 12th. ❤

I thought that it was the perfect time to share this cake because a red velvet layer cake would also be a fabulous Valentine’s Day dessert. ❤ The cake recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living, the cream cheese frosting adapted from various sources. I used a single vanilla cupcake for the pig snout and bear nose, recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. The pig ears were made with reserved number cookie dough.

To Make the Red Velvet Layers:

  • unsalted butter, for cake pans
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour, not self-rising
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 tsp red gel food coloring plus 3 1/2 T water OR 1/4 cup red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Generously butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper; butter the paper. Sprinkle with flour, and tap out the excess; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk cake flour, salt, and sifted cocoa; set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and oil, and beat on medium speed until well combined.
  5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  6. Add food coloring and vanilla, and beat until well combined.
  7. Add flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  8. In a small bowl, mix baking soda and vinegar until combined. Add to batter, and beat for 10 seconds.
  9. Evenly divide batter between the prepared pans. (I use a kitchen scale to make sure that the batter is evenly distributed.)
  10. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.
  11. Transfer to a wire rack to cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Remove from the pans, and return to the rack to cool completely before frosting/decorating.

For the Vanilla Cupcake Pig Snout & Bear Nose:

  • 1 egg white
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 2 T unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 T milk
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Coat 2 wells of a muffin pan with cooking spray or line with 2 liners.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg white and sugar until combined.
  4. Stir in the vanilla, melted butter, and milk.
  5. Add flour and baking powder and mix everything together well.
  6. Divide the batter between two muffin pan wells and bake for 10-14 minutes.
  7. Let cool completely before frosting/decorating as desired.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting and to Decorate the Cake:

Yield: enough to generously frost one 9-inch layer cake (plus 1 cupcake)

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 6 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 5 Oreos, crushed in a food processor
  • pink gel food coloring
  • cocoa
  • brown m&m’s and pink tic tac’s for eyes and noses
  • 1-2 T semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
  1. Place cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat, on low-speed to combine.
  4. If too soft, chill until slightly stiff, about 10 minutes, before using.
  5. Remove and place in separate bowls: 3/4 to 1 cup of icing for the bear face, 2-3 T icing for the top of the pig snout, 2-3 T icing for the bear nose, and 1 1/4 cup of icing for the Oreo filling.
  6. Tint the remaining icing light pink with food coloring, mixing well.
  7. Incorporate the crushed Oreos in the reserved 1 1/4 cups of filling icing. Spread on one of the layers.
  8. Place the second layer on top.
  9. Insert the cookie pig ears in between the cake layers until securely in place.
  10. Tint the 3/4 to 1 cup of reserved bear face icing with 1 T sifted cocoa, or until desired color is achieved.
  11. Tint the reserved 2-3 T of bear nose icing with pinches of sifted cocoa until desired color is achieved.
  12. Tint the reserved 2-3 T of pig snout icing with pink food coloring until desired color is achieved.
  13. Make a paper or parchment template to outline the edge of the bear face on top of the cake. Place on top of the second cake layer.
  14. Spread and swirl the light pink frosting around the sides and top of the cake, outside of the bear face template.
  15. Spread and swirl the reserved chocolate-brown frosting circle to form the bear face.
  16. Remove the domed top of the vanilla cupcake and trim to form the bear nose. Coat with reserved light brown icing and place on the bear face.
  17. Invert the cupcake bottom and coat the sides with light pink icing. Spread dark pink icing over the top. Place the snout in place on top of the cake.
  18. Use the m&m’s and tic tacs to form the noses and eyes.
  19. Place melted chocolate chips in a small ziplock bag. (I melted the chocolate in the microwave.) Cut the corner of the bag and pipe the bear’s mouth onto the cake.
  20. The cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 hours. (I stored it overnight.) Bring to room temperature before serving.

I’m bringing my red velvet Piggy Brown to share at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #262, co-hosted by Angie and Jhuls @The Not so Creative Cook. Enjoy! 🙂

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Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies

The New York Times was stalking me with this recipe. I had already cut the recipe out of their Food section and bookmarked it on my computer- on separate occasions. But I also received multiple emails from The NYTimes and Bon Appétit recommending this “wildly popular” recipe. I finally made them for our Super Bowl Sunday dessert. Delicious!

This recipe was adapted from Alison Roman’s cookbook, Dining In: Highly Cookable Recipes, via The New York Times. I used Trader Joe’s Cultured Salted Butter from Brittany, France as well as Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chocolate chunks. I sprinkled the top of the cookies with Fleur de Sel prior to baking. They were big cookies- quite indulgent and chocolatey.

Yield: 20 to 24 cookies

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons/255 grams total (2¼ sticks) salted butter, cold (room temperature if you’re using a handheld mixer), cut into ½-inch pieces (I used 250 grams of room temperature Trader Joe’s Cultured Salted butter from Brittany, France)
  • ½ cup/101 grams granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup/55 grams light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups/326 grams all-purpose flour
  • 6 ounces/170 grams semi-sweet or bittersweet dark chocolate, chopped (not too fine; you want chunks, not little shards)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Demerara or Turbinado sugar, for rolling
  • flaky sea salt, such as Fleur de Sel, for sprinkling
  1. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer, beat the butter, both sugars and vanilla on medium-high till it’s super light and fluffy (3 to 5 minutes for a stand mixer; 6 to 8 for a hand mixer).
  3. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and, with the mixer on low, slowly add the flour, followed by the chocolate chunks, and mix just to blend. If necessary, knead the dough with your hands to make sure the flour is totally incorporated. At this point, the dough should be smooth and feel like Play-Doh with no pockets of flour.
  4. Divide the dough in half, placing each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Fold the plastic over so that it covers the dough to protect your hands from getting all sticky. Using your hands, form the dough into a log shape; rolling it on the counter will help you smooth it out, but don’t worry about getting it perfect. (Don’t be afraid to make them compact. Shortbread is supposed to be dense. That’s part of why it’s so good.) You can also do this using parchment paper, if you prefer, but plastic wrap is easier when it comes to shaping the log. Each half should form a 6-inch log, 2 to 2¼ inches in diameter.
  5. Chill until totally firm, about 2 hours. I positioned the dough logs upright in the refrigerator and chilled them overnight.
  6. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  7. Brush the outside of the logs with the beaten egg and roll them in the Demerara or turbinado sugar (this is for those really delicious, crisp edges).
  8. Using a serrated knife, carefully slice each log into ½-inch-thick rounds (if you hit a chocolate chunk, slowly saw back and forth through the chocolate). If the cookies break or fall apart, just press them back together — the dough is very forgiving.
  9. Place them on the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart (they won’t spread much). Sprinkle with flaky salt. Bake until the edges are just beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

Note: The cookie dough can be made ahead and stored, tightly wrapped in plastic, up to 1 week in the refrigerator, or 1 month in the freezer. Cookies can be baked and stored in plastic wrap or an airtight container for 5 days.

Pressure Cooker Spaghetti & Meatballs

This recipe is absolute GENIUS. It was a genius idea for me to make it on Super Bowl Sunday too. I am usually cooking while my family is watching the game- and commercials- in another room. This year, the meal was cooked and ready to go; it was kept warm in the pressure cooker with the lid in place while I was sitting on the sofa with everyone. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I increased the garlic and used ground turkey and whole wheat spaghetti. I also made it in my stove top pressure cooker instead of an Instant Pot.  We enjoyed it with garlic bread and Caesar salad. Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 basil sprigs, plus more thinly sliced for serving
  • 8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti (not thin spaghetti), broken in half
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1 cup ricotta (optional)

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground turkey (or substitute veal, pork or beef)
  • ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a stove top pressure cooker or Instant Pot on sauté. Stir in garlic, red pepper and black pepper, and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, salt and basil sprigs; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the meatballs: In a large bowl, mix together ground meat, bread crumbs, Parmesan, chopped basil, egg, salt and garlic. Roll into 1 1/4-inch balls. (I used a large cookie scoop and placed them on a large plate, shaping them into balls when I placed them into the pot.)
  4. Pour 1 cup water into sauce in pot, scraping up any browned bits on bottom of pot.
  5. Scatter uncooked spaghetti over the sauce.
  6. Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon oil over spaghetti, stirring gently (try to keep the spaghetti on top of the sauce), then top with meatballs.
  7. Cover and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Manually release the pressure, then remove the cover and stir to separate the spaghetti.
  8. Stir in 2 tablespoons Parmesan.
  9. At this point, the pasta will be almost but not quite cooked through. Place the top back on the pressure cooker (loosely) and let it sit for 3 to 10 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and spaghetti is al dente but not mushy.
  10. Serve dolloped with ricotta, if using, and sprinkled with thinly sliced basil and more Parmesan if you like.

Portuguese Rolls

My husband came home from work with special homemade rolls that one of his co-workers had brought in for a pot luck celebration. We couldn’t believe that any of them were leftover! They had an amazing texture and were absolutely delicious.

Thankfully, she was happy to share the recipe with me. 🙂 I’ve made them several times. Easy and perfect.

Yield: 8 rolls

  • 250g bread or all-purpose flour
  • 200g cold water
  • 10g bread yeast
  • 5g coarse salt
  • 10g granulated sugar
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. (I use a stand mixer and knead the dough on medium speed for 1-2 minutes.)
  2. Lightly oil the top surface of the dough and turn to completely coat the outside of the dough.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a proofing oven or warm spot for 1 hour.
  4. Remove dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Divide into 8 equal pieces.
  5. Roll into rounds or oval shapes.
  6. Place on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Let rest for 15-20 minutes in a proofing oven or a warm spot.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees, preferably on convection, for 15-20 minutes.

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