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!

Elaborating View

I know that there are many writers that have quoted Hemingway,

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”

Let me elaborate my feelings about this quote. The truth is, the time that I’m truly lonely is when I can’t write. If I’m sitting here at work (like I am now but I’m protesting something as I write) and I’m forced to regurgitate an old idea in a new color (basically) my mind will wander to writing and building characters and stories in my head or which short stories should I build on and publish. Then I get lonely. I could be standing in a room full of people but without my characters and my ideas being written out I’m alone.

My writing area is in an office area that overlooks the living room and the kitchen. I can look out all the windows and see everything. The T.V. is going and the kids are asking 20 questions and even though I’m distracted as I write, I’m not lonely. If I’m sitting there watching T.V. with everyone or preparing dinner, I have company but somewhere inside I’m lonely. I need my writing and characters just as much as I need air. It helps with my C-PTSD, it helps with the depression and anxiety, it helps me communicate with others. It’s my therapy.

So, me facing eternity, or lack thereof in each day, is not being able to write.

6 Word Story: 2/13

I had so much joy last night from my many failures and final follow-through with the watercolor that I thought this was fitting. I am actually smiling. Not a, ‘I’m ok smile so please go away so I don’t have to explain CPTSD’ smile but a genuine smile. Something not done in a long time from being creative.


Prompt: Full Jar

Swish, scrape, swish; dip to rinse.

Jan. 1st, 2018-New Me Same Habits

I use to make resolutions and break them within a day or two. These are my resolutions with knowing set backs because I’m human with C-PTSD, 2 jobs, family, creative, ideas, and limited time. But I do need to get some things accomplished this year.

I went to the doctor on Friday which will be launching some of the changes that need to be made along with a therapist. Don’t judge but since my husband lost his insurance from last time I cannot get back into the facility where I was going to see a therapist. I say ‘A’ therapist because the one that I was seeing has now moved to a new facility and I’m not comfortable meeting someone else and opening up about t

hings that have happened. I started talking to an online therapist on Saturday because I was having a slight breakdown and he was able to set time aside (ASAP) to talk to me. Ok it wasn’t a slight breakdown…I was falling apart. But he is the reason I’m trying something else for new years.

The third reason that I have a resolution was writing and came across something that I have never heard of before. Now, I’m obsessed with it and can’t wait to get going on this project. But what’s great, everyone that reads about that project can participate in it with me. Now we can’t save the world but we can work together through support and idea bouncing.

So here it is, the big RESOLUTION LIST. The list that I will have failed attempts, late posts, no allotted time, or kids and life will get in the way. But here’s the thing, I accept that and in already accepting that a resolution is already done for the year.

 

RESOLUTION LIST

  • Practice Yoga Every Day
    (I’m already failing at this because I need to wait until pay day to get my mat. I’m not ready to go the gym and be in front of a lot of strangers– YAY social anxiety. But I did enroll in an online class.)
  • Lose 20-30 lbs
    (The doctor said that I need to do that and better manage my weight and eating habits)
  • Write Daily
    (I’m rocking that this first day! I actually got up, made coffee, fired up my laptop and got things organized)
  • Quit Smoking
    (I’m already failing at this one. My doctor was supposed to call in my prescription along with my other meds and the one that’s supposed to help me quit smoking wasn’t there. So this resolution will start when I get that.)
  • Spend More Time for ME on Me
    (I’m always doing things for others and giving them my time that I had originally set aside for me because they ask.)
  • Bullet Journal
    (This should fall under the write everyday but I have never bullet journaled-didn’t have the money to get everything needed so I settled for a set of cheap colored pens, and a small handheld purple spiral. My beginning bullet journal assignment to ease me intp the whole concept of this style of journaling is to write down on a scale of 1-10 how bad is my SOCIAL ANXIETY and what triggered it. This is what my therapist has asked me to do.)

So basically there’s my list and my same habits will be present. And that’s OK too.

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.

 

We’re Starting Our Adventure

This is scary for me, with my anxiety running savagely through body. I’m hoping she does good. I’m praying

she does good because I need a service dog. On June 3rd I had managed to save and scrimp enough money together to enroll my baby girl in her first set of obedience classes. On a side note, Clover LOVES her car rides and knows the difference between her harness and collar. When I pick up and show her her harness she perches on the couch with her neck out stretched to get her ready. Her harness means ‘bye bye’ time. 

I grabbed her harness and she was patiently but excitedly waiting for the final ‘click’ before heading towards the door. She raced towards the car and sat in front of the passenger side door knowing that was HER spot. She always rides shot gun. I opened the door and she sat down waiting for me to buckle her in with her special seat belt that was purchased not to long ago. The look on her face was of pure delight accompanied by a cheeky grin. We were going bye byes.  She calmly rode waiting to see where the car takes us and right when we pulled into Petco she knew without me even having to open the door. I unbuckled her as she patiently waited and hooked her leash on her harness and she went to go potty before we walked in the building. I was surprised that she remembered the routine. All I could think was how smart she was and how much I hope that she can do this. That WE can do this.

Luckily for us, the trainer was there and helped me choose which training would be best for her as she was also evaluating her behavior. ‘There is no reason for you to put her through all the adult obedience classes. She is really calm. I recommend that we blend her adult obedience 1 and 2, then tackle the AKC Good Citizen test. I think she will be wonderful at it.’ We made small talk about what was for her after she passes the good citizen test and I told her that she will go to train as my service dog. She thought Clover was a great candidate and that we will work specially close together to get her through her first 12 weeks of obedience and AKC Good Citizen training classes. Talking with the trainer I felt more confident that maybe that we can do this together and that we will reach our end goal but also saved quite a bit of money. I’m still nervous and anxious but also a bit excited. We also decided on another adventure for our other pit bull baby, he just needs a little more preparation to do and more training. That story is coming soon.

Clover’s first day of class with be July 5th at 6pm. That’s after the July 4th holiday so there will be leftover for the kids to eat.

Talents Being Used

Just Being Used

I was approached by the product manager here about repairing a photo that I had to scan in for one of our dealers. After diving into it head first, after 2 hours I said to myself, ‘My hourly doesn’t even begin to cover what I would charge doing this as a freelance job. I finished the project and feel completely used. Thank God I’m seeing my therapist today! So much going on and my depression is getting to the point I don’t even feel like going to the doctor. I just want to go home and crawl into bed. The kids and my husband can do all the chores and figure out dinner. I’m just drowning right now. I wish someone could repair me like I did for that photo.

Spaghetti and Anxiety Meatballs

I had just had another bad day at work and was going to be busy attending my daughter’s band concert.  Having a bad day, no time in the evening to do any writing, and dealing with a large crowd only made my anxiety and self doubt scream throughout my body.

I already have faced anxiety with just the thought of ‘what’s for dinner?’ and ‘shit! I have to run to the store and deal with people while trying to shop for ingredients’. This took the therapeutic unwind I needed and time with my family cooking away. Shopping and trying day at work only equaled to an anxiety filed and head down lady. I don’t like her but have come to be familiar with her. My therapist said that cooking could help with anxiety but I had to get through the shopping and planning. But there are plenty of articles that support cooking for individuals with anxiety, depression, PTSD etc…to get in the kitchen.

It’s nothing new that I’m a self proclaimed podcast junkie and I had listened to so many that promoted Blue Apron that I decided to investigate as to whether or not this would be helpful and approved as yummy by my kids and husband.  I was excited and impressed opening the box of goodies that would hopefully help with home life. But after ordering I learned some important things. FRIDAY is not a good day for my delivery to come. I work all weekend. ANY bread delivered needs to be placed in the fridge. If I place meat in freezer, REMEMBER to pull out the morning of cooking for dinner that night planned.

I wasn’t able to make the first meal until the following Tuesday. That’s when I learned that I should have pulled the meat out that morning. Fine! No meatballs for us but instead I just started cooking the beef. Other than that…WOW! My son helped cook the sauce and chop garlic, my daughter helped with the beef so I could supervise my son’s knife skills. We were laughing and having a great time cooking together in the kitchen. All of us eager to try this new delivery. It was a HIT!!! I didn’t have to rush to the store for all the ingredients needed and no leftovers to throw away after it sits a week in my fridge. 

The stress of the day disappeared and  I was able to make a connection with my family that I haven’t been able to do in a long time. Blue Apron is not giving me any monetary compensation for this advertisement whatsoever. I just want people to know that this option is out there. It can help with a lot of the pressures of cooking dinner and shopping. And if you’re anything like me, memory is often a problem. I’ll forget an ingredient and either have to go back to the store or try to make it work without. The only thing I wish they had was an option for adding another serving because my husband likes to take leftovers to work or the kids like seconds but still happy with the first meal.

NOTE: I have 5 invitations for someone who hasn’t tried Blue Apron to receive free shipping. If you would like this invitation extended to you, please just send a message through the contact form.

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