About Sylvia

Sylvia is the owner of the Christian HomeKeeper Network website and ministry. She and her husband Mark live in Tennessee. They are the parents of 5 children and grandparents to two so far. They have homeschooled since 1990. Sylvia is a Christian and enjoys mentoring women, writing articles for several magazines, gardening, Bible study and creating a peaceful holy home. Follow Sylvia on Google+ or check out her 21st Century HomeKeeper podcasts on the Preparedness Radio Network.

Chicken And Dumplings

Did you know that there are at least three ways of making the dumplings for Chicken and Dumplings?  My Mother used to use biscuit dough and the dumplings she made were soft and fluffy. My husband’s grandmother made dumplings that were big and almost noodle-like. Then my own Grandmother’s take on dumplings was to make them very, very thin and even closer to being noodley.

I’ve made all three types and my favorite, also my family’s favorite, are the large, flat dumplings that aren’t thin enough to  be called a noodle.

And did you know that Chicken and Dumplings don’t make good photos?  They look kind of yuck in pictures but I’ll do my best.

To begin your chicken and dumplings you need to cook some chicken and keep the cooking water/broth to cook your dumplings in. Use the best chicken you can find and be sure to use the whole chicken not just white meat so that your broth will be as flavorful as possible. Don’t take the skin off the meat either.  Chicken and Dumplings are a high fat, high carb meal. So use good fats in it, healthy chicken.

chicken 3













Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the chicken or chicken pieces, lower the heat. Add a carrot, one stalk of celery, one small peeled onion, about 6 black peppercorns and about a teaspoon of salt. Cover the pot and allow it to cook til the chicken is falling off the bone.

Once the chicken is done and very tender, you can take the pot off the heat and the chicken out of the broth to cool. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, take all the meat off the bones. Keep the bones to make some more good bone broth.  Take all the skin and cartilage pieces off the meat as well.

Pull the meat into shreds or bite sized pieces and then add all the meat back to the broth. Remove what you can of the carrot, celery and onion. They make a good snack.

Now determine if you need more broth. It depends on how many people you want to serve. If you have enough from where you’ve cooked the chicken, that’s fine. If not, add some more good chicken stock to the pot.

Taste the broth and add salt or pepper to taste.

chicken 3












Make The Dumplings

2 cups plain flour

1 Tablespoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup buttermilk

You can easily double or triple this dumpling recipe. I usually make three recipes of it for about 4 or 5 quarts of broth.

Mix everything together into a soft dough. Once you have a ball of dough, let it rest for 10 minutes. Then cut the dough into pieces about the size of a tennis ball and roll each piece out to about 1/4 inch thick on a well-floured surface. The flour keeps the dough from sticking to your work surface but it also helps your dumpling broth to get thick.

Use a pizza cutter or a knife to cut the rolled dough into big square or rectangle shaped dumplings.

Bring your broth to a rolling boil.  Gently add dumplings one at a time to the boiling broth. Gently push the dumplings down under the broth. They’ll pop back up and that’s ok, but they need that initial dunking.

Once all the dumplings are in the broth, lower the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and allow the dumplings to cook, stirring gently every now and then.

After about 10 minutes you can take out a dumpling and test for doneness. Be careful not to burn your mouth.

HINT:  Leave lots of flour on the dumplings after you cut them out, the flour helps to thicken the broth. If your broth isn’t thick enough for you, you can thicken it up easily.  Mix together 4 tablespoons of flour and some water to make a paste about the consistency of buttermilk. Next, put some of the boiling broth in the bowl of flour and water and stir it up, then pour it into the boiling broth. Stir well.  Let it cook a little bit and it will thicken.

chicken 2







Make Your Own Noodles

There is nothing as satisfying as a homemade meal and nothing as personally satisfying as making something from scratch that you normally purchase.  Making pasta or noodles is a great way to branch out into homemade food and a great skill to add to your old-fashioned skills bank.

Its not difficult to make pasta but it can be time consuming until you learn how to do it well.


You can use all-purpose flour for pasta or for a heartier noodle, use whole wheat.  Whole wheat noodles are great in hearty soups.

Remember that the thinner you can roll your dough, the better your noodles will be when you cook them. You can dry your noodles and store them in airtight containers or in the freezer for use later.

Noodle Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour – or use whole wheat or other whole grain
1 pinch salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter

In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Add the beaten egg, milk, and butter. Knead dough until smooth, about 5 minutes. Let rest in a covered bowl for 10 minutes. If you have a Kitchen Aid or other electric machine with a dough hook, you can definitely use that to knead this dough.

Take the dough out of the bowl and cut it into manageable chunks.

On a floured surface, roll out one chunk of dough at a time  to 1/8 or 1/4 inch thickness.
Flour each sheet of rolled dough generously. Roll up each sheet and using a thin, sharp knife, slice off 1/2 inch portions.
Unroll the cut portions into long noodles. Cut the noodles into the length you desire.
Allow the noodles to air dry on the counter top for about 15 minutes before using them. Some people hang the noodles, but I only hang them to dry if they are very long.

If you have a pasta roller, as I do, use it! It can roll that pasta out paper thin if you like.

Dry the noodles completely and store in the freezer in plastic bags for later use.

One of my favorite way of drying and storing noodles is to make “nests” out of the wet, fresh noodles. I let the nests dry and then store them either in jars or plastic bags for use later. You can also use a food dehydrator to dry your noodles. Dry them at 115*F  until completely dry, then store as described above.

Homemade Strawberry Jam

Heaven in a jar.  Strawberry Jam is my favorite. I make it the old fashioned way; no powdered or liquid pectin.  I use fresh lemon juice and lemon peel for the pectin, just like my Grandma did. Its really handy not to have to go to the store for more ingredients to make this jam, I’ve usually got sugar and lemon at home all the time.

Strawberries are coming in here and my sweet sis-in-law and mother-in-law brought me a big tray. We at them til we had enough (is that even possible?) and the rest I will make into jam.








Strawberry Jam

4 cups berries, topped and cut into chunks
(or weigh them and use 2 pounds)

4 cups sugar

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 – 1 inch wide and 2 inch long piece of lemon peel. I don’t usually measure this I just use a couple big slices of peel.

You’ll need 3 or 4 pint jars, lids and rings.

You’ll need a heavy bottomed pot. The heavier the better. Don’t try to make jam using a thin aluminum pan, it will probably burn.

Combine everything in a heavy bottomed stock pot and bring to a rolling boil. Turn the heat down a little, don’t let it boil over.  Allow it to boil for about 15 minutes. Sometimes it takes longer.

Stir constantly. You can test it and see if it is setting up by putting about 1 teaspoon of the jam on a cold plate and blowing on it. If its ready, it won’t come back together when you rake your finger through it.

What I do is put a small plate in the freezer to get cold while the jam is boiling. Then I put a little jam on the cold plate and set it back in the freezer a few minutes, then check to see how thick it is. Once it is as thick as I like my jam, I know the pot has boiled long enough.

When the jam is ready, put it in hot sterilized jars, seal and water bath the jars for 15 minutes.

A Good Day

The sun is shining. Its not warm yet but its getting there.  The birds are singing.  I’ve gotten three loads of laundry done, breakfast smoothies and bacon made, Nana’s needs attended to and dishes done.  Those breakfast smoothies were delicious.  I used frozen strawberries, blueberries, a lime and coconut water.  Its more sugar than my body is used to but a small glass really hit the spot this morning.

So, I’m just resting a moment til time to get back at it.  On the weekends the whole family gathers here and it leaves my house sort of upside down no matter how much they all pick up and straighten up after themselves. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!  I love these days and I know that they can’t be replaced. I treasure every moment with these people because someday, one day, they will go their own ways and have things to do that don’t include me.

When that day comes, I will have these precious times in my memory, these good relationships built and strengthened by the Lord and all the times we spend together now will bless me and my children in the days to come.


Come On Spring


Its almost spring.

Things have been like a whirl-wind here. My husband’s mom is living with us and needs a lot of care and help.  I am very happy to do it, I have always loved her and find it very said that some people don’t get along with their in-laws.   dandelion flower

Its been rainy, wet and chilly so far this March. We had a few warm days and now we’re back to cold. No problem for me, I don’t like to really start the garden til May anyway.

Every chance I get I’m downsizing and decluttering.I went ahead and put my winter clothes up and most of the heavy blankets. If it gets down to freezing again, we might freeze along with it! So far so good though.

We’ve had all the children here and grandchildren on the weekends. I like it. Nana likes it. It sure makes for a fast and busy weekend though.

I’ll be glad when the warm returns so we can sit on the deck and enjoy the weather.

What are you doing this spring?


Is It Real Or Fake?

Have you ever wondered if a ministry or just a group of Christians who claim to be led by the Holy Spirit really is a work of the Spirit? Ever get that little niggle at the back of your mind regarding a group of people who say one thing but don’t seem to follow through? Or if someone who tells you they are led by the Spirit really is led by Him? Here is a short check list that you can use to quickly measure that group or even your own ministry.

Every one of these characteristics must be met, not just one or two or even all but one. That ministry or person must….

  1. Exalt the true Chriswolft (Jesus!)
  2. Oppose Satan’s interests
  3. Point people to the Scriptures
  4. Elevate truth
  5. Result in love for God and others

These ideas come from a sermon by Jonathan Edwards’ The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.

Be sure that any ministry you endorse in any way fulfills all of these. Its not enough to be a good person and love people. We must teach truth. Don’t be taken in by someone who speaks pretty words or appeals to your self esteem.

Homeschool Lunches

If you are a homeschooling Mom, you already know how hard it can be to prepare a good lunch every day of the school week for a group of hungry children and still be able to get your housework done and assist the children in their own work….and get supper ready!

This is our 23rd year of homeschooling and just as with curriculum choices, what to prepare and serve for lunch can sometimes be a matter of trial and error. My goal is to help you along with some of the poor choices and good choices I have made over the years and give you ideas for lunches.








Hot Lunch vs. Cold Lunch

While some people always insist on a hot lunch, I think we can find a balance here. There are some days when a cold lunch is just as nice and just as filling. The weather has a lot to do with what we eat. Cold days call for soups and stews, warm breads and muffins. Days when we are rushed for time and have errands to run may be good days for a quick, cold lunch or a lunch that can be packed and taken along.

You can also introduce Tea Time into your afternoon. As a homeschooler, you have that luxury of teaching your children how to slow down and read aloud while enjoying good food, tea and the company of others. Tea Time is a good time to offer snacks.

Here are some quick ideas for making lunch time more manageable for your homeschool:

Plan Ahead – Make up your menu at least a week ahead of time. Factor in leftovers and meals for which you can cook once, eat twice. Plan on cooking for lunch and supper at the same time, often.

Set aside Lunch Food – Don’t let your family or yourself pilfer the lunch food during the week. That way you will have what you need come lunch time.

Choose Food that Helps Children Concentrate – Avoid foods that are high in artificial/hydrogenated fats and processed sugars. Choose whole grains, lean meats, fish and vegetables, fruits and beans. Even a pizza can be a healthy choice if you make it with a whole grain crust and lean meat.

Schedule lunch for the same time every day. This helps children get into some good habits. Washing hands, cleaning up their work area and helping prepare lunch are all great ways to teach your children how to do things for themselves. Having lunch at the same time every day also teaches your children to wait and to have patience.

I usually plan on three hot meals per school week and two cold meals. Here are some lunch ideas for you to start with:
Hot Meal Ideas:

Whole wheat tortillas with cheese and/or refried beans – Check out my recipe for soft flat bread.  Its very easy to make and great with refried beans.

Chicken and Corn chowder with crackers – This is easier than it sounds. Use pre-cooked chicken, (or use sausage), chicken broth to cover, bring to a simmer, add 1 can of creamed corn and 1 can of drained kernel corn. Once its hot add some cream or milk to the thickness you like. Taste and season with black pepper and salt. Check out my homemade cracker recipe, its delicious.

Potato soup – Boil some cut up potatoes til they are tender, add milk, salt to taste and then shredded or cubed cheese to taste.

Canned chili beans and brown rice, shredded cheese – Cook your rice and season it with salt and butter., Then to the cooked rice add 1 can of chili beans. Top each serving with shredded cheese, green onion, tomato, cilantro.

Crusty bread with vegetable soup

Whole wheat toast with peanut butter

Cinnamon Apple Toast - My children like this with a scrambled egg on the side. 

Whole wheat toast with baked beans spread on top

Homemade chicken nuggets with honey mustard or ranch dressing – Cut up chicken breasts into small, bite sized pieces. Put them in a bowl and cover with buttermilk. Let the chicken sit while you get everything else ready.  Heat some oil in a big, heavy pan. I use a cast iron dutch oven. Drain the chicken then dredge the pieces in flour. After they are all dredged with flour you can sprinkle them with salt. Fry the pieces in hot oil til they are dark golden brown. Drain on paper towels and while they are draining, if you want that Chick-filet taste, drizzle the fried pieces with a tiny amount of honey.

Cold Meal Ideas:

Apple slices and nut butter for dipping

Fruit and cheese, crackers

Raw vegetables and dip

Hummus and dippers

Homemade vegetable chips and sandwiches


A Few Mixes To Have On Hand

These mixes are easy to make and store.  I prefer to buy ingredients and make things like mixes myself instead of paying someone else to make them.

spicesTaco Seasoning
2 Tsp dried minced onion – more on this later
1 Tsp Sea Salt
½ Tsp arrowroot powder
½ Tsp Garlic powder – see below
½ Tsp ground cumin
1 Tsp Chili powder
½ Tsp ground red pepper
1/4 Tsp oregano dried

Store in dry place.
To make Taco Meat: Brown 1 # ground beef or turkey. Drain. Add ½ cup water, seasoning pkt. Simmer 10 minutes. Fills 8 – 10 tacos

Garam Masala
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Combine, store in an air-tight container


Pizza Sauce Seasoning

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 to 2 teaspoons fennel seed, crushed
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

 Homemade Sloppy Joe Seasoning

Combine all of the ingredients in a small glass or plastic jar with a tight fitting lid. Label and store in your pantry shelf until needed.

2 tablespoons dried onion OR use 2 T Onion powder
2 T Paprika
1 tsp Garlic powder
1 tsp Chili powder (chipotle chili powder is good in this)
1 tsp dried Marjoram
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Black pepper
1/4 tsp celery seed

This makes one recipe of sloppy joes using 1 pound of ground meat, so increase the amount you make, double, triple or even more, to store and use. If you make a ton of it, you’ll need to use 1/3 cup of mix per pound of ground meat.