Pastalaya and friendships that last

Funny thing about how friendships transpire.  Especially friendships between mommies.  You meet so many times, over and over, again.  Usually in a rush.  Frazzled.  Looking for one kid while nursing another.  Then you factor in personalities, the time it takes to develop a friendship and it is a wonder mommies ever make friends.  We see the same people all the time, yet it seems hard to establish a good friendship.  But sometimes, you get lucky.  Even after several awkward run ins and very different personalities, you get lucky enough to get a glimpse of her.  You know who I am talking about.  The woman she is.  Actually, the girl.  That person she was before she had 1,2,3,4 kids and was exhausted.  And you really like her.  And your kids just love one another.  And because you are both displaced Central and South Louisiana girls living in Shreveport, you form a close bond and form some sort of pseudo family.   That is what happened between my very dear, probably one of my best, friends, Betsy.  I won’t go in to much more of our back story, as it is long, but what you need to know is how very much I love her and that even though they now live in South Louisiana and we don’t talk as much as we used to (every day, numerous times) she is always with me in some form or fashion.  I am so grateful for our friendship and that we still remain very much a part of one another’s lives.  One thing we bonded over  was recipes.  Betsy loves to eat.  She will tell you that.  I am pretty sure she has a hollow leg, but that chick likes good food.  Her husband is a man of several talents.  Surgeon during the week and on the weekends he becomes super dad and chef extraordinaire.  I am not sure if every surgeon knows their way around a kitchen like he does and comes with awesome recipes like he does…but this guy has it.  So of course, friend wise, I hit the double jackpot.  So one day when Betsy was preggers with her fourth baby and we worked together at a local Mother’s Day Out, she brought out two Glad containers full of something so delicous I could not even stand it.  Pastalaya.  Say what?  Yes, you heard me.  Take out the rice from jambalaya and add in pasta and you have this amazing dish.  Matt had made some and she wanted to share.  I told ya’ll she is a good friend.  I wanted this recipe.  I needed it.  I was forcefully driven to get it.  Make it.  Could I?  Did I dare?  Could I recreate the deliciousness that was Pastalaya?  Well, I was dang sure going to try.  So, I did.  And it was so good.  So now, even though we are miles apart, when I want to make this dish, I pull out the food stained sheet of paper with the recipe Matt wrote for me in his handwriting.  And I feel a little closer to them.  I miss her, them, still terribly.  It is not the same but it is still there.  Good friendships never die.  They are solidified in memories and smiles and good times and if you are lucky, some really delicious recipes.  So, today I share not only a recipe for Pastalaya with you.  I share the joy, good times, and memories that come along with it.  Even still, when our two families are able to get together (that would be 8 kids and 4 adults), we enjoy good food and more love and laughter than our hearts can hold.  It took us a while to make that connection, but thank heavens, it stuck.  I hope that you make it for some people you know really well or hope to get to know better…I can’t promise it will create an Aimee/Betsy bond, but it dang sure can’t hurt.  Special friends, like really special recipes, don’t come along that often, but when they do…you should hold on to them. ~AMB

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Two of our sweet girls on Halloween 2011

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Our boys, Halloween, same year

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Our collective bunch 2013…that’s a lot of kiddos…and a lot of love

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I love her…that is all.  She is better than pastalaya.  

Matt’s Pastalaya 

Stuff you Need:

1 pack bacon

1 pack andouille sausage

1 pack boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 cans chicken broth (I use reduced sodium)

2 cans cream of mushroom

1 onion, chopped

1-2 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet (this can be found near the condiments usually)

a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce

Tony’s seasoning, to taste

12 oz. of UNCOOKED thin spaghetti

What to do with the stuff:

Cut your bacon, sausage, and chicken thighs to bite size pieces.  Cook on medium high heat in a large pot.  Add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and a few shakes of Tony’s while the meat is cooking.  When the meats are almost cooked, stir in chopped onion.  Let this cook for a few minutes until onions are tender and meat is completely done.  Now, stir in chicken broth.  Let this sit for 5 minutes.  Stir in a teaspoon or two of Kitchen Bouquet (Matt always says a cap full of so) to darken.  Next, stir in the cream of mushroom and let this all sit for about 5 minutes.  Now, you are going to add the uncooked pasta and let this all cook on a low fire until the noodles are tender.  I give mine a few quick stirs during the cooking process to make sure nothing is sticking.  Serve with a lovely green salad and some garlic bread.  Let the inner Cajun in you rejoice!!!

*I am making this dish this weekend, so I will take a nice photo to post for ya’ll!!!

Whoopie Pie Cake aka the ugliest cake I have ever loved and focusing on what matters

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Martha Stewart I am not…and that is ok

Ok…so we had some good friends over for supper the other night.  Truth is, it would have been far easier to skip having anyone over that day.  We had gone to visit my sister and her family in South LA and got  back into town that afternoon.  But we had been planning on having Chris and Sarah and their kiddos over for a while and Christmas break was almost over.  It is so easy to put things off.  It is so easy to say “oh forget it!”  “I am too tired”  or “another time”.  But we were committed.  I had promised Chris I would make him something good and that includes dessert.  So I got on Pinterest to find the perfect dessert.  I knew what I was making for the main dish so dessert was all that was left.  I got home and got to work on prepping dinner.  I was exhausted ya’ll.  But I was looking forward to dinner with our friends.  As parents of 4 kiddos…we enjoy downtime with just our family.  Just driving down the road with all of us in a vehicle tends to be a little chaotic, so of course we savor our version of calm.  I learned long ago though, that if we were to have any social life at all, we would have to open our home to others.  Is our home clean all of the time?  No.  Is our home a showplace?  No way.  Is our home serene and always pleasant?  Negative Ghostwriter.  Is our home full of energy, laughter and noise?  You bet.  So if you are going to roll with us, know that ahead of time.  Get ready for it and embrace imperfection.  Nothing about my life is perfect.  It is by all accounts…perfectly imperfect.  And finally, finally, I am growing comfortable with this.  I no longer apologize.  We are who we are.  So come on in, feel comfortable and welcome, and grow comfortable with the chaos.  We had our friends over.  We accepted what was and knew as long as everyone ended the evening with a full belly and a happy heart, our mission was accomplished.  We were doing this!!!

So, as the evening went  on, the chicken breasts were so dang big they took too long to cook.  (that is a recipe for tomorrow)  and the cakes I made for the whoopie pie cake were all broken up and I did not cool it long enough because I was in a hurry, so lots of crumbs got into the filling.  Yet, I persisted.  I was making this cake.  Chris comes over and says “Cajun Mama, that cake does not look perfect” (he was joking) and to this I said “this is not Cajun Mama bakes and I am not Martha Stewart”.  Funny but so true.  I hope that I am every cook’s cook.  I do not want to be an example of a cook who does everything perfectly or shows you all only the perfect side of things.  I am all about the imperfect side.  The real stuff.  Because I am real.  If I set that bar so high and make it all look easy, that discourages other and they put so much pressure on themselves.  There is far too much pressure on us as a society to be perfect as it is.  Who needs that?  So…my cake did not look perfect.  BUT, as many things go in my life, it was DELICIOUS!!!  Kiddos raved.  Big Daddy raved.  Our friends raved.  That was all that mattered.  We could have waited to have them over when everything was perfect and I could have made another cake.  That is not me though.  That is not us.  I am above all a realist.  And I know I could wait forever and nothing will be perfect.  There will always be a kink.  Life is busy, mommies get tired, cakes fall apart…but things can still be sweet.  As the saying goes, dip it in chocolate and it will be fine.  This cake is amazing and not too hard and everything good about dessert and life all rolled into one.  Layers of yum!!!  I hope if you make this cake that it turns out beautifully.  Picture perfect.  But in case it doesn’t, persevere.  It is so good, it can be ugly and everyone will love you more.  It is how sweet and tasty the cake is that matters.  Enjoy!!!

Please do not be intimidated by the 3 part recipe.  Every step is easy and painless.  Don’t be deterred by the word ganache.  I almost let this turn me away, but my friend, Sarah, whisked the 2 ingredient ganache together quickly and easily.  This is a delicious, seems as if you worked for hours, special dessert that is in reality easy peasy.  Just do it!!!

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Being together is the sweetest thing of all…sweet friends making sweet memories

Whoopie Pie Cake (adapted from http://cookiesandcups.com)

Stuff you need:

1 box chocolate cake mix (I used Duncan Hines triple chocolate fudge), baked according to package direction plus add one more egg)

Filling:

2 sticks of real butter

2 cups of marshmallow fluff

3 cups of powdered sugar

Ganache topping:

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

What to do with the stuff:

In a mixing bowl, beat together the cake mix according to package directions, adding one egg.  Divide into 2 prepared (greased and floured) 9 x 13 ” pans.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cakes cool completely. (trust Cajun Mama on this one…)

Now make the filling while the cakes are cooling.  In a stand mixer, combine softened butter and marshmallow fluff until smooth.  Try to not stick your fingers in this utterly delicious concoction.  I…um…thought it looked delicious.  Ok, ok, I totally tasted it.  5 times.  MMMM!!  Ok, now add powdered sugar one cup at time, beating after each addition.  Once your cakes are cooled, spread the filling on top of one of the cake layers then place the other cake on top.

Now, make the ganache.  You can so do this.  In a small saucepan, bring the heavy whipping cream almost to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Whisk in chocolate chips until smooth.  Allow this to cool for about 10 minutes and then pour over the cake.  See?  Now matter if there is a crack or 10, pouring this over that broken up cake makes it all better.  Ain’t life sweet?

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Layers of chocolate and yummy filling…how sweet it is