Saturday, October 24, 2009

Culinary Adventures: Chicken and Dumplings Slow Cookin' Edition

There is something about the fall and winter that brings two words to mind: crock pot. It's all about warm comfort food on a cold, dark day. Gina and I became obsessed with the crock pot for like 2 days late last fall. We had big plans to crock pot our winter blues away. We'd put it on in the morning and come home to some warm soothing deliciousness. I bought a slow cooker recipe book and she bought a crock pot. It was so on! And then it was off. We definitely made one thing in it, possibly two things.

This year is different. Things are gonna change...I can feel it. This year it is on! For real! Maybe? Seriously though I'm digging the crock pot even more now that I'm working nights. I can pick up what I need on the way home. Throw the ingredients in...and voila! I wake up to a delicious, hot home cooked meal. Gina comes home from work to a hot meal. We could be heroes just for one day.

Today was just that day. I was craving some serious comfort food, and one of my favorites is chicken and dumplings. I decided to go with this Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings recipe from the Allrecipes iPhone app. It has become one of my favorite iPhone apps. I highly recommend it. I also recommend the Epicurious app as a companion recipe app. They're both free so, you know, why not? But I digress...

It's the simplest recipe imaginable...until you delve into the comments. People can't help themselves when it comes to commenting on recipes. They can't just say whether it's good or bad, or why they liked or disliked it. Inevitably they rewrite the entire recipe. A typical comment looks like this...

This recipe was great! It's so simple and easy to make. My (insert significant other here) and (insert number) kids kept eating it until they're stomachs ruptured and I had to take them to the hospital! OMG! hahaha. Anyway I made a few modifications: I changed it from chicken to beef, and added cumin, oregano, seasoning salt, parsley. I used beef broth instead of water to give it more flavor. I doubled the cooking time and changed the temperature by 20 degrees. Then I served it with my own family recipe sauce that has been passed down through the generations. I could tell what it is, but I'd be disowned. I know this recipe will be on the menu for years to come! 

Wait. What? Was the recipe great? If it was so great how come your preparation has absolutely nothing to do with the original recipe? I make fun, but the comments are usually helpful for spicing up a dish. I usually look over the comments and pick out a few modifications that are simple, and add to the recipe without becoming overly complicated.

For the chicken and dumplings I ended up going with this:

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 (10 ounce) packages  refrigerated biscuit dough, torn into pieces
    with these changes from the first comment
  • pinch of parsley, salt and pepper
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup
  • 3/4 can of low sodium/low fat chicken broth
  • 2 cans of mixed vegetables
I put in everything except the biscuit dough for the first 3 1/2 hours. I then added in the dough for the dumplings for the last 2 1/2 hours as suggested by the comment.

The verdict:
Gina and Aiden really liked it! Gina only suggested adding more vegetables. There actually was a lot of vegetables in it, but they were kind of pushed to the bottom by all the dough. I think I have a fix for that in my suggested changes for next time.

Next time: 
There are a few things I will change. First, I think I'll skip the cream of mushroom soup. The taste and smell was a little overpowering. It also thickened it up a little too much. Second I will use less dough. I think 1 can will be plenty for the recipe. I will also put it in later in the cooking process. With the cooking time and the extra time before dinner the dough soaked up a lot of liquid and turned the entire thing into a very thick stew. I want actual dumplings. Next time maybe an hour at most for the dumplings. Maybe add a few different seasonings which will be able to come through without the overwhelming mushroom soup. Other than that I think it's good.   

What should I throw in the crock pot next? 

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fall and Winter Plans

After spending 3 to 4 months training for a marathon or half marathon (as I did a few weeks ago) and the race is complete there is always a period afterward that is at once a relief and a bit of a let down. It's like post marathon depression. Crazy right? Probably. After months of structured training and weekly mileage I kind of miss it. I like to have a goal. Something to look forward to and a goal to reach. After a few weeks though comes the fun part. I get to look forward to the coming months and spring training! Ow!  Too much?

As I often do after months of running I'm looking forward to doing some other things this fall and winter. I have a few more races that I'd like to run:

These will be for fun. I have no particular goals in mind, no special hopes for a pr. I just hope we have some good weather and some fun runs. The fall is going to be about building some base miles and getting in some cross training. The goal is to get into the gym once or twice a week to do some strength training along with some spinning classes and outdoor cycling when the weather is nice.

In January it's on. I've committed to run the Flying Pig Marathon Relay again with Gina and a couple of her friends. This will be the 4th Pig Relay I've done and it's super fun every time. I'd also like to do a spring marathon. I have a couple of contenders right now that I'm considering:

Here's looking forward to spring!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Ain't No Party Like a Windows 7 Launch Party!

....An incredibly awkward, uncomfortable Windows 7 Launch Party!! People have laughed, made fun of, and spoofed this incredibly weird and awkward video released by Microsoft to promote their home launch parties for Windows 7. That's right home launch parties for Windows! Ow! They've laughed and laughed...and kept right on talking about it. This may be one of the most genius marketing moves ever made by Microsoft. The original video is approaching a million views on Youtube. Watch because it's a train wreck. They still gotcha.  Who's laughing now?

Most of the spoofs don't come close to improving on the weirdness of the original. This one is pretty good though....

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Dear Runner's World

Dear Runner's World,

I have a small issue I'd like to address regarding your magazine covers. Why is it that all of your magazine covers appear to be shot at your version of an Olan Mills Photo Studio? Sorry if the reference isn't universal. Google it, you'll see. My point is month after month we get the same glowing hard bodies in the same poses on virtually the identical pristine rural setting. This was brought to my attention once again when a link to the new cover was previewed on Twitter.

How about something different? Maybe this is the ideal running physique we all should be aspiring to and the gear we all wish we could afford, but having it featured every month so unimaginatively is quite frankly boring. Why not feature some of the wonderful runners with interesting stories from the pages of your magazine? Even those Rave Run photos are fantastic!

I know I can't be the only one that loves your magazine, but is growing tired of seeing the magazine show up every month with the young white hard body on the cover in a running pose. There is a class we are required to sit through at work called Diversity Training. Maybe look into it. I see runners of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities on the road everyday...and I live in Cincinnati. You seem to gear toward runners of varying degrees of experience. You want to encorage "newbees". Maybe your covers should reflect your audience and goals.