Gumbo Wasn’t Easy

This will be a long post. If you are just reading for the method and ingredients just scroll down. It’s ok, I won’t be offended.


I have been asked by Kristian (psst check his blog out for some mystery short stories that will have you scratching your head trying to figure them out before the reveal) for my Gumbo recipe and it’s a great opportunity to share my story of how I came to learn to make it. A little back history: I am a born and raised Texas girl where southern hospitality is extended in my northern home (moved here for…ok that’s another post for another time) and my pride in my upbringing is something that cannot be taken away. My children, all born in the south, still receive ridicule for accents, manners, having a strict upbringing or just being born south of the Mason-Dixon line but we all find comfort in my cooking. Southern women take pride in our cooking and it’s how we show our love and other emotions. Lost a loved one? We are showing up with a casserole and time. It’s hot outside but we want to visit? Sweet tea, some sort of cookie, and a front porch are in order. Sunday dinner? Fried chicken. It’s your turn to feed an oil field’s worth of workers? Crawfish boil. Crowd to feed, Christmas gathering (not eve or the day just during the month) or it’s cold outside? GUMBO!

Before I jump into the list of ingredients and method of cooking there is a difference between Cajun Gumbo and Creole Gumbo. I found a lovely article that explains in simple detail about the two. Now, every house has its own version of a gumbo recipe just like fried chicken (yup I have my own) but it’s not really the recipe that matters so much but rather the method in which it’s cooked. Believe it or not my grandmother didn’t teach me to make gumbo, and old Cajun woman that was friends with my grandmother taught me. We would leave Texas and drive a few hours over into Louisianna and sit and visit for a spell and this is what allowed me to learn so much in that kitchen. From here on out there was NEVER a recipe written down and passed to me. It was a method taught and a few scribbles that I managed on my hand with a horribly, ‘close to drying up pen’ decades ago that I have people ask for all the time (the recipe that is, but no one is will to sit in the kitchen with me to learn).

It was a cold fall day and I was only a 12-year-old girl that loved to be in the kitchen with the older women. That’s when I also learned what it meant to have an old soul which that’s what they told me all the time. The subject came up about how the temperature was going to drop down into the 50’s (yup, I’m cold when it’s 70° out) and the debate over what type of soup to serve everyone came about. Sissy was going to teach me how to make HER gumbo recipe. The baton is being passed and it’s a great responsibility and not to be taken lightly. My young-self thought I was going to be handed a recipe card and just watch. Boy, was I wrong! I’m not going to have you go and slaughter your own chicken or use your grandpa’s meat grinder to make your own Cajun sausage so some things are substituted. Sissy said, ‘I’m not going to give you a card.’ In a Cajun accent, I could barely understand, ‘I’m going to teach you the secrets of my gumbo. You’re not going to watch you’re going to cook. I’ll show and help you ONE time.’ I learned that it literally is about taste, sight, feels, and love.

I was amazed at all the different ingredients she had on her counter and thought, ‘This SO isn’t worth the time.’ and wanted to give up there. This is an ALL day affair too, so be prepared to become one with your kitchen. But here is my updated list of ingredients that you’ll need:

Mess and Scants of Ingredients

  • One Whole Chicken – Boil until done and pick your chicken and set aside. KEEP YOUR BROTH! You will need that and water (enough to give you about 8 cups total liquid). If you cheat this step, Sissy can tell (I tried one time and she spat it out and said she could taste the can). But if you’re on a time crunch 8 cups of good chicken stock and a rotisserie chicken picked clean will work.
  • Yellow Onions-Dice your onions. How much you ask? Sometimes I dice up 1 sometimes 2. For this, I’ll say 2 smallish to medium onions or 1 large onion.
  • Celery-diced. Sissy used an entire bunch but I’ve been known to do as little as 6 stalks. Secret time: PEEL the celery before dicing. I know it sounds weird but I’ve learned that it’s just better when peeled-IN ANYTHING really.
  • Green onions! Trust me, an entire bunch of these beauties needs to be diced for this dish.
  • 1 super large bell or 2 smallish bells-Bell peppers that is. Take out the seeds and white veiny parts. Slice and dice.
  • Garlic-Peeled and finely diced. Don’t be afraid to use this! I normally do about 5-6 cloves worth but since it’s your first time start with 4.
  • Cajun or Creole seasoning. I’m heavy handed with the seasoning but start with 1 1/2 tbsps. You can always add but you can’t take out. ‘Slap Ya Mama’ is good and so is ‘Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning’. I personally use Tony’s when I’m feeling lazy and want to cut a corner but you can follow any seasoning recipe online. I still adjust the premixed seasoning but it’s a good start. It took many years to get it how I like it but start with a basic seasoning.
  • Okra-This is where it gets a little tricky with the thickening. If you can’t get fresh okra frozen will be ok to add but will add more liquid and no thickening. If you are able to get fresh okra it will thicken nicely and not as much roux will be needed.
  • Fresh Shrimp or crab or both- If not available frozen will do but more liquid will be added. Account for this with the thickening agents. About a pound will do of the seafood.
  • Boudin Sausage-This is a cajun sausage and is hard to come by. I do order it specially when my family isn’t able to bring some from back home when visiting. If neither of those options will work, Andouille sausage is good to use and if that’s not available, another cajun spiced sausage will work. IF neither of those is available a smoked sausage such as Hillshire brand will work. Slice the sausage and brown on both sides. Trust me, the level of flavor goes up a notch and the added texture breaks through the stew. Oh, about a pound will do.
  • Roux makings-In reality this is eyeing and adding a little more of this and a little more of that. I use butter but vegetable oil will work and All Purpose flour.
    To make your roux you’re going to want to with a 1 part butter/oil to two parts flour. On a medium-low heat stir and cook until it’s a beautiful chocolate brown. This works double duty giving your gumbo a nutty flavor while thickening. Remember the tricky parts and possible extra liquid additions? This is where you are going to want to make a little extra roux to add to thicken the stew. You can make the roux in advance or the day of. I do it the day of because cooking for me is therapeutic and get’s me back to a time when things weren’t complicated or when I was…well, me.
    THIS IS WHERE I DEVIATE-SISSY PROBABLY ISN’T HAPPY
  • 1 small can of tomato sauce (this helps when you are feeding little ones or you can’t handle as much spice).

Sissy’s Method (I tried my best giving measurements but again I still cook it the way I was shown)

Imagine you’ve already slaughtered your chicken and have it boiling in a pot (add enough water to cover your chicken and boil until the chicken is done). Sissy: You ready for some chicken-pickin’? When your chicken is done just pick the meat off the bones and set both the ‘chicken water’ and meat aside. Peel and chop the veggies. Sissy: These came from the garden and the herbs from the neighbor when we are done we’ll have a mess that we can take to the neighbors. Girl, add some of that chicken water to the pan and scrape up them flavor bits and add to the pot of chicken water. You can do this OR (which I do) is saute the veggies in the sausage drippings for a little more flavor then add a little broth to deglaze the yumminess and add to my ‘chicken water.’ In the same pan add ingredients for the roux. When you have your roux at the right color and consistency (thick like frosting and a chocolate color). In the chicken water add veggies, sausage, chicken, seasoning, and roux. If you can’t get fresh okra, more roux. If you can’t get fresh seafood and need to use frozen, more roux. At this point, you’re probably wondering how much roux is needed. Always make too much roux. You can save leftovers for about a while in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. The only time I’ve thrown it away is when the oil separates. You want to obtain a thick stew consistency. I usually cook on low heat for about 4-5 hours stirring here and there. Don’t let it stick. After a while, take a taste out of the bowl of magic. Does it need more spices? Add a scant, stir, cook for a few minutes and repeat until you have faith in its healing powers. Is it too spicy? Don’t toss it. Add the tomato sauce, stir, cook and taste again. If it’s still too spicy and more tomato sauce. Still to spicy? I don’t know what to tell you other than, ‘Why did you add so much seasoning if you knew you couldn’t handle it?’ But I do have one more trick that will help. When you are satisfied with the level of spice, add the seafood and cook until the seafood is done.

When your pot of soul touching goodness is ready, serve over white rice or dump the rice on top. Whichever you choose. For the, ‘It’s still to spicy crowd,’ add some cold butter to your rice and pour the gumbo on top. The butter will help cut the spice and have some milk on hand.

It took me cooking this method of Sissy’s for 4 years until she deemed it as good as her mama’s. Every time we visited I bought the necessary ingredients and would slave over her stove (both summer and winter) for hours just for her to tell me, ‘No, close but you’re missing the soul. Where’s the love?’ I think what she really wanted was for me to have pride in my gumbo and serve it with love to the people I love. Give it a try and if you get stuck or have any questions send them my way. I won’t be harsh like Sissy but can help. Take pride in the tradition of gumbo creation and serving hospitality to strangers and loved ones.

Kristian, please let me know how it turns out or anyone else that tries for that matter. ENJOY!

Chicken Try-iaki Sliders

My daughter had a track meet last night and also a paper route to do afterward and I needed a quick dinner. My problem is that everyone is getting tired of my same old same old meals. Tell you the truth so was I. They had ground chicken on sale and so I thought I would hit the internet for some recipes. Before you think I did all of this from scratch…wrong. I had a migraine that wouldn’t let up and BSd my way through the meal prep.

I wasn’t about to cook and shred chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken to shred. Nope, I was going to use the ground. I add some stuff to fluff it a bit and Voila! We have the makings of slider patties. For the Teriyaki sauce, all I did was grab my favorite bottled brand. I’m a mom with a migraine, there isn’t time for a homemade sauce! Grabbed an Asian salad kit and some Hawiann sweet rolls and we have a dinner that my ENTIRE family was skeptical about but decided they loved it.

Here’s what I used:

  1. 2 lbs of ground chicken
  2. 1 Cup of bread crumbs (I had seasoned so that’s what went in)
  3. 1Egg
  4. 3 Carrots-grated (because this is the only acceptable vegetable for my husband)
  5. 1/2 Cup Teriyaki sauce (use whichever brand or make it yourself-make it yummy)
  6. Some lettuce or cabbage for topping (this is where I used the Asian salad kit-not dressed)
  7. La Choy Chow Mein Noodles for extra topping crunch factor.
  8. Salt to taste
  9. Pepper to taste
  10. Cayenne Pepper to taste
  11. Onion Powder (couple dashes)
  12. 2 Cloves grated garlic
  13. Non-Stick cooking spray

 Here’s what I did:

In a bowl, I mixed the bread crumbs, grated carrots, egg, seasonings, and garlic with the ground chicken. From there I flattened the mixture into my sprayed baking dish. Instead of having to form all the slider patties all I had to do was cut the one huge patty into 12 small patties. I baked the chicken for about 45 minutes in a 350° oven. Ok, I forgot about it being in the oven but it didn’t burn so YAY me! I spread the Teriyaki sauce over the top and baked for another 5 minutes. After letting my giant patty cool for a few, sliced and served on the rolls topped with the undressed Asian salad, and chow mein noodles. Let me tell you, it was moist and flavorful.


My writing is going to be a little delayed today but it will all get done. Tonight, spaghetti. I hope my husband can manage it.

Caramel Apple Dump Cake-TRY IT!

I was a little upset because I thought I ‘thought up and created’ an awesome new dump cake recipe. As usual, I was wrong but will share it anyways. Mine is a way easier version. It was so fluffy and moist that my kids and even my husband asked me to make it again (my husband doesn’t like anything with fruit cooked into it, so this was a HUGE win!) I have come to appreciate the minimal ingredient requirements for a dessert that can be thrown together and cook in the oven while everyone eats. My son and husband have come to enjoy the idea of desserts so I wanted something really different. Something that would taste like memories of growing up to the scent of my grandmother’s cooking.

While shopping at the store I had gone down the baking aisle and found Caramel Apple Pie filling. With that in hand, I wandered through the cake and cookie mixes and picked up a box of Spiced Cake mix. I decided that I wasn’t going to wash a possible fail and grabbed a disposable pan.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 Can of Caramel Apple pie filling
1 Box of Spice Cake mix
3-4 Tablespoons (or more because I really just eyeballed it) butter
8″ x 8″ pan
Non-Stick Cooking spray (I wasn’t taking any chances)

To Do:

Eyeballing was most of my method in this so good luck!

  1. Spray pan (I used disposable but spraying kind of defeated the purpose and you’ll see why) with cooking spray.
  2. In the pan, mix 3/4 of the cake mix and the entire can of pie filling until smooth (this is when I later realized that I couldn’t respray the pan but it didn’t stick so I was good with it).
  3. Sprinkle the rest of the cake mix on top of mixture.
  4. Top with pats of butter (or chunks-whatever just need butter on top to mimic a crumble topping.)
  5. Bake at 400° for about 40 minutes or until the top looks done. I did insert a toothpick and it came out clean as well.

If you try this please let me know if you liked it or did anything different.

Pampering Pimento

Worst Monday EVER. Ok,  maybe not but it’s a clear second.  I haven’t had a chance to breathe until now. After being out sick my catch up like of necessary artwork was ridiculous! Came home and wrote my short story,  my daily doodle, and that was after all the running around right after work.

I left work on a mission.  I had to get a work permit for my daughter,  then her ID at the DMV so she could get her back account. Work permit was a piece of cake. The DMV was a nightmare! 45 minutes later we made to the bank right before it closed.  Got home and wrote while boiling taters.  I felt so stressed.  So I made my dad’s favorite comfort snack, pimento cheese.  Everything melted away. One bite and I was back at the kitchen table telling my dad what a bad day I had and he listened while loading crackers.

I found a recipe and made a few tweaks adding onion powder, parsley and a dash of Tabasco. I also used a yellow extra sharp and a yellow regular cheese.  Give it a try.  What is your go to pamper snack?

Avocado Warm-Up

 

I decided that I was going to do some warm-up watercolor practice before getting completely adventurous. A fellow blogger, Kristian suggested avocado mixed in egg salad on toast. I already had a huge breakfast this morning so I substituted the toast with pretzels and it was amazing!

I was halfway through my creature painting when I decided to try this snack. My picky 8-year-old even liked it. The avocado added an extra layer of creaminess without taking away from the texture hardboiled egg. I think I found a good protein pick-me-up during the afternoons that run me down. I find that after a panic attack or overwhelmed protein helps a great deal.

If there are any culinary suggestions from near and far I look forward to hearing about them.

Cabbage to Kraut

I didn’t go out this St. Patrick’s day instead I stayed home and cooked, wrote, and painted. Being around drunken crowds and eating dry corned beef isn’t my idea of a good time. My stomach was in knots yesterday and with the pain, I wanted a dinner that reminded me of my grandmother on St. Patrick’s day.

I purposely cook too much Corned Beef on St. Patrick’s day just because I LOVE Reubens. We all know the essential ingredients to those sweet, salty, tangy sandwiches are: Corned Beef (I’ve had it with pastrami), thousand island dressing, swiss cheese and of course sauerkraut. I have been spoiled with my grandmother’s homemade kraut that I could never eat it from a can or jar. People have suggested some from the local deli but all I could think is, ‘I’m not putting another bite of that crap in my mouth!’

I really REALLY wanted a traditional Reuben but I didn’t have days on end to make it like my grandmother did so I did my go to Google search. You can bet your sweet ass that in the search terms was the word, ‘easy,’ because my daughter had a paper route and I wanted to feed everyone before they left. This gave me 30 minutes but in reality, it was more like 15. I had the bulk of the recipe completed which was the leftover beef all I really had to do was slide the cabbage and dice the onion.

With all hands on deck (kids folding papers, and me attempting a new recipe) I read the reviews quickly and discovered that it was recommended to use more salt and more vinegar. I already didn’t have celery seed but had in my possession celery salt. A great substitute when people are recommending more salt to be added. I toasted my rye bread in the oven and sandwiches were assembled in less than 30 minutes.

I was really quite pleased that I gave it a chance and the sandwiches were gone in no time. I even think my grandmother would approve. If you try the recipe that I found please add more salt and vinegar to your liking. I did halfway through the cooking process. If you have a recipe that you would like to share for me to try that would be awesome.

Bacon and Jam

It all started with a fun fact included in my daily doodle a couple of days ago.  An educational and delightful conversation ensued between myself and an excellent writer. I encourage you to wander through her words and read between the lines.

We discussed what weird food combinations we liked and how some were learned from a young age. You can follow along in the comments if you would like to try some that we listed. I chose toast smeared with jam and topped with bacon. I used white bread, smoke-cured bacon, and Smucker’s Strawberry Jelly. I know it’s probably not the type of ingredients that Liz uses but as promised, I tried.

The results: OH MY YUM!!! As I’m waiting for the masking fluid to dry (my first attempt at using that stuff) I thought it would be a perfect time. The salty smoke bacon aroma of the meat cooking woke everyone in the house. I let it cool and crumbled it. I have a weird thing about my toast needing to be cooled before the topping is added. In my impatience, I waved the toast in the air to cool faster. I smeared the jelly on and sprinkled crumbled bacon on top. My kids, ‘EWW mom what are you doing?’ My husband, ‘Umm please don’t try anything too disgusting.’ I took a bite and they all watched with bated breath. Yum sounds were all I could make.

I ended up sharing with everyone before they would make their own. So, I ask you:

What is your weirdest or oddest food mash-up that you eat?

I would enjoy the culinary adventure. If I can get enough writers, culinary adventurous cooks, and just people that love food-I would like to start a feature of these people once a week. They can include the history, images, and everything. I’m really excited about this. The reason being, you can learn more about cultures and people from food. It’s a way we show love and comfort one another.

S.O.S and Depression

Lately I have been forcing myself to cook more. Something that will keep my hands busy and the derailing of the depression train of though. On top of dealing with the aftermath of being fired from the bar and Tom slandering my name now I’m also dealing with my marriage and the lack of relationship that we have. All of this combined made the perfect recipe for horrible thoughts and the aches and pains of depression.

‘So what’s for dinner? is the question that was being asked last night. ‘What the hell do I care? Y’all are capable people that can problem solve and use BOTH hands’ is what I wanted to respond with but didn’t. I did manage to remember to take the hamburger out of the freezer but nothing else. I didn’t even go to the store after work or pick the kids up for school. I came straight home and flopped on my bed.

Gravy

S.O.S is what I was making everyone but instead of putting the hamburger gravy on toast or rice I made mashed potatoes (there was my effort for cooking dinner). So here are some tips that made it super easy.

  • Use the grease from the cooking the hamburger. Don’t even worry about taking the meat out.
  • Add enough flour to soak up most of the grease and cook with the meat to pull that raw flour flavor out.
  • Dissolve a beef bouillon cube to add more flavor

There isn’t an exact recipe just a method. Add flour to meat to make a roux and cook until flour has browned a little. Add beef water (haha from the bouillon cube) and milk until you reach the desired consistency wanted.

Mash your taters up and pour your beef gravy over and voila! S.O.S. dinner is served. It did help me feel better to have real cooked food in my system instead of chips that I eat for lunch during the week (no appetite).

No it didn’t fix any problems but I was perked up a little and interacted with the kids rather than hiding in my room.

So S.O.S did save my dinner so give it a try when you feel like crap or no motivation.

Appetizing Applesauce Chops

 

As you all may know, I have had a life changing event, well at least for me. Cooking is one thing that I can do with my hands that can be therapeutic for me. I love to cook but recently have fallen into a slump that included a LOT of take-out dinners. Depression makes it hard for me to shop for ingredients and stand to chop, stir, and cook.

I wanted to try something new, I wanted to cook. I seen an episode of the Pioneer Woman that showed applesauce being made and then Applesauce chops. I went to the store, bought apples (that my kids later ate and only left me three but it would work) and some nice thick chops. I came home from work one day forcing myself to cook and not back out to rely on the golden arch and peeled and chopped apples. I threw them in the pot with some brown sugar, cinnamon stick, and apple juice. I cooked them until soft and mashed. I let it cool in fridge for next day’s dinner.

The following day I didn’t have to force myself to cook, I was simply excited. I warmed my cast iron pan, poured in some canola oil, seasoned and seared the chops and set aside. With the pan still warm I placed in some of the applesauce and the chops back in and cooked until done.

It was surprisingly good. No, I didn’t follow her recipe…in fact I fucking winged it and it turned out awesome. Served those chops along side a 3 cheese-cheesy grits and salad and it was perfect.

Ever seen a recipe and just made it your own…without following the recipe? Try it, you might surprise yourself.

 

Cheatin’ Cajun Chicken-Pasta

With bills climbing, puppies, kids’ homework, work, and our just daily lives I’m having to pull meals together out of thin air. So, yesterday morning I found some chicken thighs and Cajun seasoned chicken breast in the freezer and thought about maybe a Cajun chicken pasta. Pulled it out to thaw for dinner. I looked up recipes that called for pretty much the same thing. I thought, ‘what can I do to make this easy on me to make and on the cheap.

Walking through the store I grabbed pasta but none of the pasta sauces looked Cajun worthy so I grabbed chicken broth and 1/2 but that didn’t feel creamy enough. So I walked towards the cheeses and snatched some ricotta, shredded Parmesan and a sharp cheddar blend. All I needed was onion, peppers, carrot, garlic but though, ‘SCREW THAT!’ Do you know how much chopping would need to happen? OH that’s when I remembered that there was already chopped onion-veggie blend. And voila! Shopping done. So here it is:

  • chicken thighs
  • pasta
  • box of chicken broth (there was some leftover)
  • small container of 1/2 and 1/2 (there was some leftover)
  • 1 small bag of frozen chopped onion mix (also had peppers, carrots, and celery)
  • 2 cups shredded Parmesan
  • 2 cups shredded
  • 1/2 container of ricotta cheese
  • 4 tbsp of A.P. flour (give or take a scant)

I chopped the chicken and dropped it in the skillet then added the frozen veggies and chopped garlic. Don’t freak out if it looks watery-it’s from the veggies. It’s fine…this is where if you don’t have Cajun seasoned chicken then start adding a little seasoning (Cajun of your choice) cook through until done. Add flour and cook for a few more minutes or until you feel the flour taste (the gummy part of flour that wasn’t cooked taste) is out then add 1/2 box of chicken broth and 1/2 container of 1/2 and 1/2. If you aren’t a coffee drinker or have no use for the leftover 1/2 and 1/2 then use milk. If it’s to thick then just add more broth. When you reach the desired consistency throw in cheese. Don’t judge me…my husband won’t eat much of anything if it’s not cheesy. When the cheese melts you may need to add more broth-up to you. Toss sauce with pasta and there you have it!  Throw some bread on the side and you got it!  Din Din!

Oven Fried Consolment

“Fried chicken just tend to make you feel better about life” ~ Minnie ‘The Help’

This couldn’t be more true or at least make you feel better about the shit day you’re having. I grew up under my grandmother’s apron and learned real quick the healing powers of a home cooked meal that involves chicken. One (in my family at least) is chicken and dumplin’s and that’s when it was cold and she had to feed a mess of men from working in the oil field but the other one was fried chicken.  Now she had two ways to fry her chicken: 1-in the oven and 2-in a frying pan. When she fried in the cast iron it was usually just for our family or just a few people. But when she had a whole lot of people to feed and only had a just enough time for chicken to get done, she did it in the oven.

Ladies-Drop the Shake N Bake!

Here it is, her secret to oven fried chicken. She actually used Crisco lard and actually fried it in the oven! I know, it sounds like a grease fire in the oven waiting to happen but it works and with less of a mess to clean up (stove top, cupboards, back splash…etc) and specially if you have a self cleaning oven. So pull out your grandmother’s coating recipe for fried chicken and try this.

You will need:

  • Deep casserole dish (the bigger the better)
  • 3-4 cups of Crisco (blue can)
  • Chicken
  • Flour and spices of your choice
  • Wash of your choice (eggs and water, water, milk, or buttermilk)
  • Chicken legs and thighs
  • Courage to try something new

Now you want to preheat your oven to 375°. While the oven is preheating set up your flour and wash station and prep your chicken (pat dry and what not). Grab your Crisco and plop in 3-4 cups of lard. It really depends on the size of your casserole dish but you want enough (melted) to come 1/2 way up the side of your chicken. Start out with your best guess but don’t worry-you can always add more or take a little out but once you use your dish you’ll know how much lard to use from here on out. Place the casserole dish in the oven to allow the lard to melt and come up to temp to fry the chicken.

While the lard is melting-coat your chicken. Another secret, if you want crispier chicken add 1/8 of a teaspoon of corn starch. It doesn’t sound like much but a little goes a long way. When the casserole dish has a pool of melted goodness add your chicken. Carefully slide out the oven rack or pull out the casserole dish and place on oven top for the next part. To test if your grease is hot enough for the sizzle just sprinkle in a little flour. IF it starts to sizzle and float around, you’re good. Add your chicken carefully so you don’t splash grease on yourself. Slide back into the oven and walk away. About 1/2 way until the chicken is done, turn. When done just pull out the chicken and place on paper towels to drain or a rack. Sprinkle with salt while it’s still hot. Another tip: With your leftover grease you can spoon a little out and add to a pot to make gravy. So much YUM and done with little effort. There is no babysitting, turning, or standing over a hot stove.

Having a bad day and need to feel better, fry chicken!

Homesick Shrimp

As I posted in my journal entry my family and I are house hunting. It’s exciting to think that one day we will be able to own our own home. Then I got to thinking about where I called home for the LONGEST time. The South! So I made the mistake at looking at houses back home and was pleasantly surprised. The houses were bigger at a better price than up here in Wisconsin. Bigger homes, more land, more space, etc…for a WHOLE lot less. Well-WTF, why are we thinking about buying here for? Oh yeah, our jobs are here. The kids are going to school here. We started building lives here. I was homesick instantly after looking at houses and decided to make something that resonated the south in my northern kitchen.

Cajun Style Shrimp Boil (without the big boiling pot)

Ok-maybe just a little boiling but I get more flavor cooking the traditional southern dish in the oven. This may also be know for others as a ‘Low Country Boil’ of someone wants to look up an ‘official’ recipe. But what I like about this is there isn’t an ‘official’ recipe, just some staple ingredients. But I have a two stick butter twist. Just follow me. I used:

  • 3 lbs bag red taters (chose the one with the smallest ones)
  • 4 ears of corn (If a gal can get a hold of fresh sweet living in Wisconsin-I’m gonna)
  • 2lbs of tail on large shrimp – thawed (I’m not in Texas so I have to use frozen but it still works)
  • A mess of Old Bay seasoning (this is for taste and color)
  • 4 cloves of garlic-chopped (I used more hehe)
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 lbs of smoked sausage

That’s it! Now to get to work. Chop the taters in quarters but for the tiny ones you can leave whole. I parboiled those until (insert slight voice and drawn out word here—>) ‘barely’ fork tender. This is so the shrimp doesn’t over cook. I shucked the corn and chopped into thirds. Chopped the garlic and set aside. I grabbed my toss-away foil pan (a girl LOVES easy clean up) and threw in two WHOLE sticks of butter. Sliced the smoked sausage and threw on top of the butter along with the corn and garlic. The taters were ready at this point and tossed those in. I sprinkled in the seasoning. OK, confession. I dumped in about 1/4 cup seasoning and maybe a little more than that on top and tossed it all together. Covered this pan of awesomeness with tin foil and placed in a 350° oven. When the taters and corn were ready to be gnawed on that’s when I pulled the pan out, threw in the shrimp, added a little more seasoning and tossed together and back in the oven until shrimp was pink! The butter-garlic-Old Bay juices tasted like cajun nectar from the Gods!

We enjoyed this with some cheddar biscuits and complained about being full 5 minutes later.

A little taste of home to help keep the homesickness away.

Compassionate Chicken Marbella

Chicken Marbella

with Roasted Potatoes & Summer Squash

This was a complete accident. I thought I cancelled all the Blue Apron deliveries for this month. For some reason in my scattered brain fog I forgot this week. Well shit. Luckily I had the money in the bank to afford this delectable dinner.

My daughter knew how exhausted I’ve been and took charge. I arrived home from running to the store and dropping kids off to their requested destinations and smelled the fragrances of dinner. She was prepping the meal and hadn’t even started cooking! Garlic, oregano, and chopped prune scents were dancing in the air. What the hell is Chicken Marbella? According to our Blue Apron angel:

Chicken marbella is an Italian-American preparation of baked chicken served with a tangy-sweet sauce featuring prunes, capers, and more.

We’ve had prunes and I have had capers but never in a million years would I think they would make an amazing sauce. Watching  her dance around, chopping, drizzling oil, and sprinkling spices was mesmerizing. I offered to help but she wasn’t having it.

The aromas in my kitchen one would think they were being introduced by a professional chef but instead performed by my daughter. She informed me that she missed having blue apron and I had to agree.  The zucchini and potatoes were roasted perfectly and complimented the chicken nicely.

 From what I was allowed to observe she diced the potatoes and zucchini and placed them on a roasting pan, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper and placed them in the oven that was already cooking the chicken. She rehydrated the prunes she cooked then with the capers, garlic, oregano, daft, pepper in the olive oil. When it was all done we enjoyed perfect bites of goodness. There was English butter, cherry vinegar, and light brown sugar added somewhere but she was so quick I couldn’t tell you where they went but I can tell you she put them exactly where they belonged.

I learned two things:

  1. Never be afraid to try new things
  2. I’m raising my daughter to have compassion.

That nah was proof that she understood my exhausting schedule limits me with time constraints but she had the compassion I needed to get through the evening.

Blue Apron is not a sponsor for me but I encourage you to step outside of your tastebud comfort zone and try something new.

Taco ‘BBQ’ Tuesday

Chicken BBQ Tacos-Who Knew

Last night, chicken tacos sounded really good. I had some pre-seasoned chicken quarters in the freezer that I thought was with a Mexican blend of seasoning. WRONG. It was BBQ. OK, so no chicken fajitas tonight but I still wanted some style of Mexican food(not going to stress just going to run with it). I ran to the store after work and and grabbed taco shells, taco seasoning, BBQ sauce (to up the flavor of the chicken), sour cream, tomatoes, avocados, red onion, lime, shredded pepper jack and sharp cheddar cheese, canned black beans and canned corn. Leaving the store all I thought, ‘How in the hell am I going to pull this all together and it still taste yummy?

I threw the chicken in the oven at 375° so it can slow bake and get tender. Then I started dicing the onion, tomatoes, and avocado and set them all aside. The avocado was in its own bowl. I sliced the lime into wedges and squeezed the juice over the avocados to keep from browning or oxidizing. I grabbed a bag of shredded lettuce to lighten my work load in the kitchen. All the topping goodies were set aside and looked so pretty…all the healthy colors that my husband wouldn’t try (sigh). I pulled the chicken out after 45 minutes and shredded with a fork and slid the rack back into the over for another 20 minutes. At this point I started a couple of boxes of good old fashion Rice and let that cook away.

So I have the chicken and the rice cooking, toppings chopped and ready to go, now it’s time to get the other side going. I needed something neutral that I could use to pull all the flavors together. I drained and rinsed to cans of black beans and one can of corn. I dumped all the canned food into a pot, added taco seasoning (4-5 good shakes) and a couple of good squirts of lime juice. Started that on low and oh my! So much goodness the side brought. It tied the rice, the chicken, and everything together that wasn’t supposed to go together.

The chicken was pullout, more sauce added and lime juice and mixed thoroughly. When it was all put together nice and neat in a shell with a dollop of sour cream and the two sides on the plate. It was BBQ chicken taco Tuesday heaven!

So, yeah. Go on in the kitchen and combine two flavors that you would never think in a million years would work together. You may be surprised. And don’t panic if it doesn’t work out. There’s always delivery (I would know, trust me. The pizza place near me knows when my kitchen recipe ideas fail).


  • 1 lb of BBQ seasoned leg quarters (if it isn’t available in your market, this is a chance to get creative with sauce and taco seasoning)
  • 1 small bottle of BBQ (I used a chipotle flavored one)
  • 2 limes
  • taco seasoning
  • 2 cans of black beans
  • 1 can of corn
  • Taco shells

Then the rice and toppings of your choice. Good Luck!

Forgetful Meatballs

Let me tell you, this has been one hell of a busy week! Even though I had Monday and Tuesday off from my day job the long drive to go pick up the newest member of our pack seemed to suck all the life energy out of me. It’s hard for me to drive long distances with my anxiety so I was tired and scared I was going to get into a major wreck with all the holiday traffic 30 minutes in. Wednesday Clover and I had our first obedience class which made it a KFC night. Last night I forgot to pull anything out of the freezer for dinner the night before and had to run do laundry and I thought while the clothes were drying I would stop by the store and restock the fridge.

I hate being around a large group of people and couldn’t think straight. I grabbed frozen meatballs and sauces but no noodles! When I got home I realized my mistake. I was upset with myself. We had canned biscuits-so I thought a bubble up bake would work. Right?


So here it is:

  • 1 bag frozen meatballs (I grabbed the cheap Walmart unflavored kind)
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce
  • 1 jar of Alfredo sauce (I had this in the cupboard)
  • 1/2 bag of itialian cheese blend (leftover from brat cookout)
  • 1/2 bag of parmesan cheese (we keep because I like it on my toast in the mornings…I know weird)
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • dried sage
  • dried basil
  • Cooking spray (becaise I knew this was going to stick)

I sprayed a casserole dish (I think it was a 9 by something. The dish was given to me) and covered the bottom with the raw chopped biscuits. I sprinkled the seasoning all over and then doused with the sauces and 1/2 of both the cheeses and stirred. Then I dumped the meatballs on top and pressed down because I wanted the biscuits to bubble up. DON’T DO WHAT I DID and covered with tinfoil! This made the cooking time longer. But I had the oven at 350°. Once I realized what was happening I uncovered and in 10 minutes it was nice and bubbly. I added the rest of the cheese and took out of the oven when it was melted. The family couldn’t wait for it to cool and dug right in! It was actually really good and filling. My son had seconds! Now today is Friday-the kids are cooking pancakes because I have to go to work after I take Dublin to the vet AFTER I get off from my day job.

Gloom and Gravy

As I wrote in my journal entry from May 12, 2017, I have been extremely depressed which was triggered by my boss at the bar. Sever flashbacks and nightmares have been preying over my mind. Anxiety runs like a heathen through my body and my rest has been nonexistent. I haven’t wanted to cook, write, paint, or do anything for almost 2 weeks now.

My husband knows what is going on and how I’m dying inside. He also knows I take pride in 3 dishes I make with one being sausage gravy. He claims it’s its own food group. I went to bed before he did Friday night and Saturday morning I woke up to a text, ‘I pulled out both bacon and sausage. Please don’t let me sleep all day and wake me when you wake up.’ So, I did. He asked me how to make my sausage gravy. And my reply was simply a blank look. He asked for the recipe. I grinned and told him that there isn’t REALLY a recipe you can follow for the gravy. I make it like my grandmother made it, by eye. I told him it was more of a method.

His planned worked. I actually left the bed. He cooked the sausage but I showed the method I used for the gravy. Scant of this, pinch of that…those are my measurements.

So here it is the Gravy Method:

Sausage
Flour
Milk
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cook your pork breakfast sausage until done. DO NOT DRAIN GREASE. Add enough flour to soak up sausage grease. Continue to cook the flour so it has a beautiful golden color. I usually warm my milk before hand but not necessary. Gradually stir in milk a little at a time with a whisk. Let cook and thicken for a couple of minutes and add more milk. Do this until you have reached your desired thickness is reached. Pour over biscuits, eggs, flip flops, it really doesn’t matter.

Good luck and hope this comfort food recipe helps you find a reason to get out of bed as it did for me.

Pigs and Blankets

Dinner? No, Blankets!

What to have for dinner? I have had to cancel our Blue Apron trying to save money and now having to figure out a dinner that isn’t going to break the bank. Cutting back sucks because our family enjoyed middle class but since my husband lost his job, we are trying to figure out what we can cut back on and what we can get rid of all together.

I was already having a bad morning yesterday when I seen that the kids didn’t do any of their chores. I then became a ‘mean bitch’ (overheard one say) when I told them they had to leave their phones at home. Well, I’m not going to pay a bill on a phone that is not being worked for. Bad parent award goes to me. With everything that has been going on this week I decided that after eating healthy, yummy food that I needed some good old processed food. Both my oldest daughter and I rolled out the croissant dough, added the 1/2 slice of cheese, placed a hot dog on the cheese and rolled. After 12 minutes we were eating a not so healthy meal. It was good. Middle class was fun but now I have to figure out how to make healthy meals out of food pantry items that my husband went a picked up today.

The anxiety is filling me up and my legs are going numb and my hands are shaky. The only thing I can do is breath and hope for the best. I hope that my therapist will help me get a handle on this new life change. My blanket and my bed will be my comfort for a while I fear.

Scrambled Eggs and Scrambled Thoughts

With money now being tight (whole scenario of why in Journal Entry May 22nd – Part 4 which isn’t going to be published just yet but keep an eye out) and my husband offered to cook dinner to help keep my anxiety at bay. He’s really good at eggs and bacon. He was going to be adventurous and cook potatoes. I quickly took over because he wasn’t cutting them small enough for them to cook quickly and I was horrified at his knife skills.

Who doesn’t like breakfast for dinner. My family loves it and it’s quick and satisfying. I would have to admit that this was a go to meal for our family because there are time when we are just to busy or I forget to pull meat out of the freezer. He paired the potatoes with pepper bacon and the eggs were smooth and had tons of flavor. The meal was courtesy of the meat raffle. I spent more than I should have but I won the T-Bone dinner and the Breakfast dinner. It was kind of like having Blue Apron delivered (which my family and I are desperately going to miss since we have to cut back) because the eggs that I purchased were farm fresh eggs from a customer. I like the idea of supporting the local farms. The eggs were amazing. The bacon was thick cut and the taters tender.

I just have to try and keep my thoughts at bay. All the worries, what ifs, and negativity. He did amazing and even though we have tough times ahead we’ll be OK.

Quinoa and Quiche -A Cue from 2 Q’s

What the FU&$ is Quinoa??

I had no idea what I was going to cook for dinner simply because yet AGAIN I forgot to pull meat out from the freezer. Blue Apron to the rescue! The only recipe that I could cook that didn’t require meat from the freezer was Black Bean and Quinoa enchiladas. I looked at the recipe card and thought what in the hell is quinoa? Ya’ll know where I’m from and I grew up under my mamaw’s apron strings cooking up meat and taters with some kind of gravy. The ONLY remotely healthy thing we would try was the vegetables we pulled from the garden. That was the extent of adventuring outside the comfort zone of our standards outside of whatever daddy bagged for dinner when money was tight.

I wasn’t going to research what these little pebbles of mystery were until AFTER we ate but I did know that it was something that people were raving about in almost every fitness post I came across. I had to rinse them like a bean, boil them like a pasta, OK I can handle that. Finished prepping the dish, even got to cook up some tomatillo for the Verde sauce and was it delicious! My husband even jumped ALL in, no questions asked and loved it. So what I learned was that Quinoa is a hardy seed and a person knows it’s cooked when it has a curly looking tail. It’s LOADED with iron and vitamins. Who knew?

Questioning Quiche

Wednesday, I had errands to run and decided that I wasn’t going to be able to cook. THEN I get a weather warning  and looked in my rear view mirror and seen how black it was getting towards the direction where I lived and decided to turn around and be there with my children if anything was to happen. Nothing pulled out (again) and a slow panic started to rise in my throat. Like having an angel land on my porch my third Blue Apron order had arrived! So I choose the quickest meal with the least work needed and it was a ricotta cheese and arugula quiche. Now, I have never made a quiche and was skeptic at first. I mean come one, how filling could one of those be? Was it filling and yummy! We ALL scarfed it down like we haven’t eaten in days. And the best part was, it took me less than 30 minutes from start to table!

These two meals were my cue to step out of my comfort zone and try new things on my own without it being delivered to my house. I have so many ideas on how to make these recipes a different way or use the ingredients to substitute a meat in another dish.

Disclaimer: These pictures aren’t mine and Blue Apron makes it look yummier than I did. Plus the family was eating before I could take a picture.

Frying Catfish Through Stormy Weather

Stormy weather is an understatement. After the week that my family experienced last week we all were looking for some comfort food that you can only get when cooking at home. As I wrote before, I am forcing my family to try Blue Apron. I had a delivery almost two weeks ago and didn’t get a chance to cook ANY of the meals but the food is holding up pretty well. I do have to replace some turnips but no problem. There’s an Amish store not to far from where I live so I will still be able to adhere to Blue Apron’s standard of food.

I left work (and if you would like to know how my day went at my job my journal entry May 15th, third to last paragraph summarizes my shit day pretty well with a small petty victory), to head to the school to pick up my children and stopped by the house and found my husband sitting outside on the porch. Pulling over and rolling down the window I asked him if he wanted to go with to fetch the kids hesitantly he agreed but asked me to see what he did. I was a bit worried. I asked him to do 2 things, one was to clean up and rearrange our room a bit because it’s getting close to putting the AC in the window (living up north, it can be hard to find central AC so we have window units), and to repair the sink. He didn’t repair the sink and is quite irritated with it right now but our room, our room looks AMAZING! I would take a picture to post but it’s my corner of the world that no one has invaded and set off any of my triggers. Let’s just say, he’s made room on my side of the bed for a painting area and a writing area. It feels wonderful to literally have my own space. And the fact that he gives me time to myself to write (even this) is so encouraging.

Dinner Time

 

Yes the picture looks yummy, but mine didn’t look like that. I didn’t have time to stage my food because I had hungry tummies running around nor did I have natural lighting because of a storm coming in. Yes, we are having a ‘Weather Aware’ evening according to our local news. I’m from the south and desperately miss the afternoon to evening thunderstorms. The smell of the sulfur in the air before the storm is in full swing, the sound of the thunder promising the relief from the humidity and heat with droplets of water. This is something that we do not get to experience all that often here in the north.

Growing up in the south allowed me to experience not all that good for your heart home cooking with trays of fried foods, gravies, sauces, cheeses, bacon (If there wasn’t any bacon on the table you can bet that there was an item cooked in bacon fat retrieved from one of the many jars in the fridge. Yes, I’m even guilty of that to this day.) and some type of starch. When the storms were moving daddy would go fishing and come back with tons of catfish. He swore that the best catfish was caught on stormy days. Now, frying catfish and crawdad boils would put ANY northern Friday fish fry to shame. Where I grew up, fish was an any day of the week meal, not just on Fridays (a concept I still can’t wrap my head around this concept here in the north). Blue Apron really came through for me with a menu of pan fried catfish, sauteed spinach with lemon, sweet tater fries and homemade tarter sauce. I didn’t screw this meal up by opening the wrong bag of ingredients, skipping a step, or not thawing meat out for the planned meal. I am happy to announce even my husband ate it without complaint and he’s not a catfish type of guy. All the stress of the dinner slipped away as I slipped the fish into the three-step breading process. Plus, I actually felt so accomplished and full, I decided to write.

Cooking dinner through the storms passing through also helped me through another storm that is definitely brewing between my mother and I. Now, understand, there is ugly history between us two. So much so, that I have gone over a decade without talking to her the first time and 5 years the second time. The reasons behind this is for another time. The storm, well, my mother and I are extremely busy with jobs and we cannot get together as much as I would like and the fact that she has a new boyfriend doesn’t help matters either. She’s the type of woman that can’t be alone (opposite of me), and just a couple of weeks after her husband and her separated (yes, separated) she was going on dates with just about anyone that would pay attention to her. That sounds bad but her now ex-husband was a real douche bag. Back on track, I asked if she wanted to go to brunch with her grandchildren, son-in-law, and myself and she said no. Bewildered, I asked why. Her new boyfriend was making her breakfast in bed. ‘Um, ok’ is all I could say because if I rattled out what I was really thinking it would probably be another decade of not talking to her. I quickly hung up and vented to my husband. She later asked if I wanted to come by but I explained that I was exhausted and we just got back from the movies and needed to figure something out for dinner. Told her I would come by on Monday (now today) but I was able to tell her I’m in the middle of cooking dinner and she said that she had homework to do. She is creating the weather and when she stands in her rain screaming it’s raining, then I’ll let her know. I just need to calm down and cooking catfish through the storm has fended off another storm for now.

Again, I’m better off not being around certain individuals, including my mother. Can’t wait to cook tomorrow.

P.S. I still have 5 free deliveries to give away from Blue Apron. If you would like to try it out, shoot me a message and I’ll send one your way.

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