Some of my earliest memories were of roaming the farmyard with my dog (a springer spaniel cross, named Freckles) and playing with the chickens. However, there was the rooster. He unleashed a reign of terror on me that rivaled WWII.
This rooster was a crafty devil. When the adults were around and on watch he casually scratched about, paying no attention to me. But, when they left, he lit after me and I ran screaming to the house, as fast as my short legs would carry me. Since none of the adults had witnessed the scene, they thought I was telling stories. He carried on this game for quite some time and had me terrified to venture past the front step of the house, until one fateful day.
My great aunt decided to set a trap and catch him at the crime. She sent me into the yard and kept watch from the porch. That old rooster saw an opportunity to once again scare me witless and came across the yard at a dead run. Auntie reached me first and scooped me up just as that rooster was hitting his stride. She had the proof.
Sunday dinner was chicken and dumplings. From then on, I could roam the yard without fear and life was good.
Chicken and Dumplings
1 1/2 - 2 lbs trimmed boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 lb carrots, chopped
4-6 Tbsp flour, depending on how thick you want your stew
1/4 cup dry sherry
4 cups (2 lbs) chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced (or half quantity dried)
2 bay leaves
1 lb frozen peas
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup chicken fat, skimmed from stew (alt: vegetable oil)
1+ cup milk
Saute onion and celery until the onion softens and starts to become transparent. Add liquid ingredients, thyme, bay leaves, flour, and chicken thighs. Simmer for one hour.
After an hour, add the carrots and skim as much fat off as you can. Reserve the fat, just dump it right into your measuring cup and try to get at least 1/3 of a cup. It's ok to get a little stock or thyme in there. If using chicken fat grosses you out, substitute vegetable oil. Also, start a large pot of water to boil for your dumplings.
Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir together. Add milk to your reserved fat until you have 1 1/3 cup liquid. Stir into dry ingredients, adding more milk if needed. Dough should hold together but not be wet. Roll out 1/8" thick and cut into 1" squares. Boil until they sink, about 15-20 minutes.
While the dumplings are cooking, remove chicken thighs to a plate or bowl and shred using two forks. Add back into stew. When dumplings are done, check carrots for doneness. If they're ready, add dumplings directly to stew. If not, drain them and let them hang out until the carrots are cooked and then add.
Remove from heat and add peas, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Let sit until peas have come up to temperature, then tuck in.
I’ve just returned from a weekend of art immersion at the CM Russell show and sale in Great Falls, MT. This show brings together all of the finest artists from the western end of the U.S. There is something for everyone here and it brings artists and buyers together for a star studded four days.
Though I didn’t have work in any of the auctions, I did have a representative sample of my work in the R. Tompkins display room. However, I was primarily there to observe and reconnect with artist friends. Because artists tend to be a reclusive group, this is a chance to get out, visit and let your hair down a bit.
In addition to all of the living artists at this event, there is also the opportunity to see some pretty great legendary art by Charlie Russell, Borein, Seltzer, Sharp and others. And of course, the opportunity to purchase at any of the nine auctions that are held around town.
But what this really is, is a celebration of arts and artists. We are pretty important cogs in the gears of society. We are the recorders, the inventors, the beauty and civility in civilization. Next time you have the chance to attend this event or any other like it, come out and celebrate the arts and artists.
Imagine, a social gathering where there are many new introductions made.
Polite questioner, "And what do you do?" (with a hopeful expression that this is something the polite questioner can relate to).
Me (Searching for the short answer), "I'm an artist"
Polite questioner, "Hmmmm, that's interesting (image of the stereotypical nonconformist, hard-living, paint splattered, unkempt party animal artist streaks through the thought), I myself can't draw a stick figure. And what prompted you to become an artist?"
Me (There is no short answer here, so being the rebel that my mother thinks I am, I launch into the long answer), "Well ... I can't remember a time when I wasn't creating. It is a passion born in me and undeniable. In my childhood I learned to draw, craft, crochet, knit, sew, cook and clean (and ride herd on three younger brothers). I was always engaged in critical thinking, which was a necessary part of life in a farm family.
I did go on to college and earn a degree in art, but my real credentials are life experiences. I have been a store clerk, window dresser, dental tech, cook, house cleaner, seamstress, business owner, bartender, wife and mother (most creative of all) who has lived on a shoestring while raising four kids.
Now, I have the luxury of putting my passion and experiences to paper or canvas with pencil and paint. Everything I have ever done and likely will ever do, has demanded creative thinking and that engagement of the creative in me has kept me sane."
Polite questioner is now looking for the exit.
Now you're wondering what all this has to do with banana bread, right? One of my great creative passions happens in the kitchen, or over a campfire, and I am going to share one of my all-time-best recipes with you. Consider this a thank-you for indulging me and reading my blog. This recipe comes from my hometown Lutheran church cookbook, now dogeared and food splattered. The recipes in this book are tried and true manifestations of family love and community sharing.
Banana Nut Bread (Mrs. Julian Gunlikson)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 ripe bananas (mashed)
3 T milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup nuts
Cream sugar and butter, add eggs, bananas, milk, flour, soda, salt and nuts. Bake in greased and floured loaf pan (9x5x3) at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Test with pick for doneness.
In the pre-dawn glow we walk, the dog and I. Our muffled footsteps cut a trail through a quiet blanket of new snow. Before the day begins to stir sleepy households the solitude is comforting, an interlude of peace on this Christmas morning. For this time I can imagine that all is right with the world.
Down the road we go, through pristine snow, our path marking yesterday and each footstep taking us into tomorrow. At the old cottonwood, where snow frosted branches form a pattern of lace against the snow gray sky, the hawk watches from his treetop perch. As we disturb his vigil, he takes flight, gliding on silent wing.
Across the field, a pair of crows caw a noisy greeting and circle twice announcing their presence. A small herd of whitetail deer dance a rhythmic ballet of flashing tails and delicate footsteps in their retreat. And we press on.
We have a privilege, the dog and I, to choose this new path in an unmarred future. May the New Year bring fresh blessings for all.
Creativity has been my life and I would like to share some of my thoughts, learning and fun facts with you.