Scrumptious sides

So I post a bunch of recipes for yummy main dishes on my blog and I post my share of delish desserts but today I am taking y’all in a different direction. Scrumptious sides. That’s right. Think about it…ribs, steak, roast, chicken…they are all yummy. Main dishes are nice but let’s not forget the beauty in the sides. The necessity of the sides. They are not decoration. They stretch our meals and add dimension. Usually we choose sides to enhance whatever main dish we are making. Some people look forward to the sides. I think it is high time I make a post about side dishes because it has been a while. The three, yes, three, I am posting about, are divine. Listen word of advice…if I go cookoo for a veggie dish…please know that is beyond wonderful. These dishes are show stoppers. They will make the main dish do a double take and maybe feel a little insecure. They are good. Fabulous. Wonderful. I could make a meal of just these sides dishes. And bonus…they are all vegetables!!! Think of the beautiful color they will add to your plate and the presentation of your meal. The first one is maple glazed carrots. The other is bacon wrapped asparagus with this savory sweet balsamic glaze. And finally my all time favorite…squash zucchini gratin. Oh my these 3 cover all your bases. Enjoy!!!~AMB

Maple Glazed Carrots (original post can be found here http://www.thecountrycook.net/2011/10/maple-glazed-carrots.html?m=1)

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Stuff you need~

1 pound bag of carrots, peeled and cut into chunks on the diagonal
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons brown sugar (light or dark), packed
2 tablespoons maple syrup

what to do with the stuff~
In a skillet, melt butter over medium heat along with the syrup and brown sugar. Stir in carrot chunks and give them a stir so they can get coated in all that syrupy sweetness. Now, cover and let this cook over low heat until the carrots are fork tender, stirring a few times to ensure more even cooking. About 20 minutes. Serve along side roast chicken, meatloaf, baked fish (big daddy’s fave). Enjoy!

Now, this bacon wrapped asparagus. Oh my. Wow. Yum. Yummo. Sweet Baby Jesus, that is some good stuff y’all. We went to Bayou LaGrue for Easter and my mother in law had bought some asparagus and I had just gotten Trisha Yearwood’s most recent cookbook and lo and behold…there was a recipe in there for this treat disguised as a vegetable. You heard me. Utter deliciousness. Make it. You can thank Trisha Yearwood.

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awesome cookbook y’all!!!
Bacon Wrapped Asparagus aka asparagus bundles

2 pounds fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
12 slices bacon
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup or 1 stick butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

What to do with the stuff~
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Now, divide your trimmed asparagus spears into 12 bundles. Wrap 1 piece of bacon around each bundle. Start about 1/2 inch from the bottom and wrap upward. Secure the bundles with a toothpick. Place each bundle in a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish.

Next, in a medium saucepan, whisk together brown sugar, soy sauce, butter, garlic salt, and pepper. Bring this to a boil. Pour this hot concoction over the bundles. Try not to stick your
finger in this to taste it…you will burn your finger. Ask me how I know…put dish in oven and roast (cook) for 25 minutes or until the spears are starting to wilt and the bacon looks fully cooked. Remove toothpicks and watch them disappear. So good!!!

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make them once and you will crave them. I want some now.

Squash and yellow zucchini gratin (original post can be seen herehttp://www.marthastewart.com/337701/zucchini-and-yellow-squash-gratin)

Ok y’all are in for a real treat here. The other two recipes were kind of sweet and yummy. This one is creamy and savory and kind of simply wonderful. My homegirl Joni made this for us one day last summer and I fell in love. It sealed the deal that we would be friends forever. Joni likes to say she cannot cook, but as far as I am concerned if she introduced me to this fab recipe, she is golden. Not to mention, she is one of the most loyal, precious friends a girl could have. She is a teeny little thing with dark hair and dark eyes and has sass and spunk to spare. I just love her. More than I love
this recipe actually and that is a lot! So, give it a try. It is easy and a great way to use up all that squash and zucchini that grows so well in our gardens during the summer. Better get BD to get on top of that garden.

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my beautiful friend Joni with my oldest….she is his best friend’s mom and he thinks she is pretty cool (I do too)

Stuff you need~
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon of the jarred stuff)
2 medium zucchini, sliced
2 medium yellow squash, sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons REAL butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

What to do with the stuff~
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat then add zucchini, yellow squash and minced garlic. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat until squash and zucchini are crisp tender, about 5 or 6 minutes. Stir in heavy cream and cook over medium heat until cream is thickened. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup of Panko and 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan.
Transfer this mixture to a shallow 2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle remaining panko and Parmesan. Bake until warm throughout and breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Holy yumminess this stuff is good!!!

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this pic does not do this dish justice…probably my favorite vegetable dish

I hope y’all enjoy these recipes! Getting delicious veggies in your diet is so important. And easy.

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Ben and his friend, Aidan. Or my mini me and Joni’s mini me in male form. Gotta love that!

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Nichole’s Mexican cornbread with crawfish and finding the extraordinary


I am glad to be back on the blog today.  I took a few days off and somehow just got focused on living life and a week passed me by.  I have been cooking up a storm, just doing it off the blog I guess.  Good thing is that I have quite a few recipes that I have tried out that were definite wins.  I figured I would share with ya’ll a few pics to show what we have been up to over the last week.  They say time flies when you are having fun and if that is indeed the case then we have been blowing up the fun cause a week and a few days went by like a flash. We went to Arkansas for the opening weekend of turkey season and to celebrate Easter with my in laws at Bayou LaGrue.  We took the kids on a staycation at Margaritaville, we swam, we danced, we laughed, we giggled, we took silly pictures, the kids fought, I fussed, there was laughter, tears, and all in between.  We lived life.  I just happen to take pictures of our day to day life.  I am a firm believer in photographing the day to day things the kids do or that our family does.  Those are the things we tend to forget as time goes by.  So I capture it all.  When I look back on their lives, our lives, so far, it is not the big moments that I struggle to remember.  Birthdays, first days of school, their births, I see those clearly in my mind’s eye.  The ones that I pull closer though are the ones that happened every day.  Nursing them, holding them, rocking them, the giggles, their bonding moments as siblings, our time around the dinner table, and trips to the grocery store. Those are the most precious ones to me.  So now, I make sure to photograph those too.  It is easy to get swept up in the big stuff, isn’t it?  I find that to be true with food blogging too.  I get so caught up in trying new recipes, recipes that will grab attention, that I forget to include the stand bys.  The old favorites.  The recipes that comfort us and will be talked about in years to come.  The ones my babies will make for their babies and talk about their memories associated with that recipe.  New recipes, big moments have their place.  Life would be terribly mundane without them.  But the quiet memories, the day to day drudgery, caught on camera, looks quite remarkable when caught in the right light.  When put in perspective.   Same thing goes for recipes.

For example, back in grad school a classmate from South Louisiana, Delcambre to be exact, made this absolutely delicious Mexican cornbread that crawfish can be added to for a grad school function we had.  I made it several times with the crawfish, we loved it, and filed away the recipe.  I always thought of it and thought “I need to make that” but got sidetracked, you know, with getting married, having kids, and well…LIFE.   Amazing how time can pass by in a such a flash and I have not made that awesome cornbread in over 12 years!!!  Now, with Pinterest and a new recipe to try every day if you choose, it is so easy to forget the favorites.  I ran across a recipe for crawfish cornbread the other day on Pinterest and  said I bet it is the same as Nicole’s recipe.  I will just make this one.  Cue the buzzer noise.   Bomp!!!   I was wrong.  So wrong.  There was nothing wrong with that crawfish cornbread, but it was so not as good as that one given to me by my friend.   The cornbread was made from scratch and it was just so…mealy.  Nicole’s version was made with Jiffy corn muffin mix and for any Cajun anywhere, that is like coming home.  Those little blue boxes are like beacons of light in a grocery store.  If I know nothing else, I know that little blue box.  Sometimes, I get so caught up in the new, the “special”, that I lose sight of what is really special.  So today, I will offer ya’ll a recipe that I have had tucked away for years.  It is special.  And you will enjoy it.  Any flashy recipe on Pinterest cannot touch this recipe.  Just like any of these pictures that follow, the ordinary becomes extraordinary when put in the right perspective.  Make one of your mundane weeknights this week a little something special and make this cornbread.  And celebrate the ordinary.  That is where the good stuff is, ya’ll. ~AMB

Nicole’s Mexican Crawfish Cornbread

Stuff you need~

3 boxes Jiffy corn muffin mix (as if there is another brand)

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup of canola or vegetable oil

3 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons Mexi-Cajun seasoning

3 eggs, beaten

1 (11 ounce) can mexi corn or whole kernel corn with peppers, drained

1 small onion, finely diced

1 pound Mexican Velveeta, cubed

1 pound crawfish tails, roughly chopped

2 Tablespoons diced jalapenos, or *1 small fresh jalapeno diced, optional  (*seeds removed, unless you are a glutton for punishment)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9 x 13 dish by spraying with cooking spray.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together 3 boxes of corn muffin mix, oil, milk, sugar and beaten eggs together until just combined.  Stir in  the chopped crawfish tails, onion, jalapenos if you are adding them, and velveeta. Pour into a 9 x 13 dish and bake for 35-40 minutes or until browned and completely done in the middle.  Serve with a lovely green salad or potato salad (or both!)  and you have got yourself a meal.   And a damn good one at that!!!

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This is a picture of the flashy Pinterest recipe cornbread…close but no cigar.  Flashy and fancy is not always better.  Lesson of life.  

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A friend from Alex. actually came up with this awesome seasoning.  It goes perfectly in so many recipes.  If you are not in Alex., you can buy it online…http://mexicajun.myshopify.com/

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Ready for action at sunrise on Sunday morning.  

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Its just a barn kitten, but to a 5 year (and his mama) that kitten is extra sweet

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Cloudy day conversations between Toot and Toby (such a moment could easily go unnoticed.  I am glad it did not.)

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I look over and they were wrapped up in the towel.  Sweet sisters.

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No words necessary.  

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10 year old practicing his violin.  I find this extraordinary.

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Big Daddy and I had a date morning on the boat.  The view was fab.

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My good friend Laird had her 3rd baby…women give birth everyday  and yet newborn life and the process of birthing little humans is so out of this world fantastically extraordinary.

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Left the kiddos with Granny and Papa and took a little ride on the side by side.  For parents with young kids…this is something special.

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Just another ordinary day in Arkansas.  

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Just a picture of a man headed to work to anyone else, but in the eyes of his family…he is a hero in a tie.  Ordinary.  But not.  

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To a passer by this is just a family walking down the boardwalk, but to me that’s my life.  Extraordinary.  

Southern Living Pound cake and the perfectionist super woman who lives in my head

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It used to take A’s on tests in grad school or a wonderful session for me to feel accomplished…now, when my pound cake slides out the pan and looks pretty…I feel like I climbed a mountain!  Yay!

Extra extra read all about it:  CAJUN MAMA CAN BAKE!  Like a true Southern woman.  I made my very first pound cake.  Now, I know for many of you this is not a big deal.  But for me, it is a true accomplishment.  Usually me baking equals an epic fail.  It usually does not come out nearly as lovely as what I envision in my head.  In my head lives a perfectionist wonder woman who should be able do everything.  Able to wake up rested after 3 hours of sleep and look refreshed and bright eyed.  Able to get it all done plus some and not get tired.  Able to whip up delicious desserts with nary a failure and make it all effortless.  Newsflash…that chick does not exist.  She is an accumulation of my unrealistic expectations in myself and society’s version of what a mom should be.  Guess what?  After a good night’s sleep, I am still tired and look mediocre.  I get some of it done and before leaving my house to go get in carpool line, every day without fail I say to myself “dang I need more hours in the day”.  And when I bake, well, usually it looks like a science experiment went wrong in my kitchen.  But I splurged a while back and bought a really nice bundt pan, hoping that this would solve all my baking problems and baking fails would become baking wins, wars would end, the government would get it together and we could all live in perfect harmony.  Not quite.  But this bundt pan did produce a splendidly browned bundt cake that did not stick!  Hallelujah! Perfectionist super woman got ahold of my debit card and went on Williams Sonoma online and bought this bundt pan.  Thinking of all the wonderful bundt cakes and pound cakes she was going to make (though in this case she was right). She does that sometimes.  Gets all these high falutin ideas about what’s gonna happen in Cajun Mama’s kitchen and buys stuff to make it happen.  I have to tell her to back it down sometimes because she gets out of hand.  I tell Big Daddy it is all her fault, but he reminds me that I do not have split personalities (at least he is pretty sure) and that me and her are the same people and therefore, in reality I am to blame.  humph.  Who lives in reality?  Not me.  Duh.  Lol!  So, cut to a while later, and Sunday evening I was feeling particularly domestic and I said out loud to whomever was listening (no one) “I am gonna bake a sour cream pound cake!!”.  So, I drug out some of my cookbooks (that perfectionist wonder woman bought most of those too) and set out to looking for a recipe.  I figured I had never made one so I would have to start somewhere.  And so I did.  I found a good one (I mean…Southern Living is always a good bet).  The wonderful part about cooking all the time and gaining experience as a non trained chef is that most of the time, I have almost all of the ingredients to bake whatever I fancy at the moment and whatever recipe we find that we want me to cook.  No, not we as in me and my other personality.  We, as in my family, the kids, Big Daddy…whatever we want me to cook.  Because guess what…if it is cooked, it is cooked by me.  Ya dig?  Ok.  So anyway, after some careful research (i.e. reading through cookbooks…tough job), and looking through the pantry and fridge, I was set on go.  Pound cake #1 would commence on Monday.  Well.  It was SCRUMPTIOUS!!!!!  Total win.  Between the wonderful bundt pan and a can of Baker’s Joy (Target brand of course.  I stay at home ya’ll…no money in that.  Store brands rule!!!) it turned out like a dream.  Color me shocked.  But that perfectionist Super Woman just sat there with her arms crossed, looking all smug.  She gets on my nerves.

So, if you have been looking for a good sour cream pound cake and are feeling fancy, this is a good place to start.  My sweet friend Lottie sent me her grandmother’s recipe for pound cake, so I think that will be pound cake #2.  Yes, I am the self appointed pound cake tester.  Also, I am bringing samples to some of my kids’ teachers and other staff members at the kids’ school so that I can get some feedback.  And I won’t injure myself eating an entire pound cake.  Yes, if you are employed at my kiddos’ school, you might be a pound cake guinea pig.  I have not heard any complaints yet!  So here goes friends.  Be Southern…bake a pound cake!!! ~AMB

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A few of the cookbooks I own.  I may or may not have a cookbook addiction.  

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Food blogger research.  Tough job but someone has to do it.

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Shocking that a wonderful sour cream pound cake recipe ended up here?  Nah.

Southern Living Sour Cream Pound Cake (from Southern Living: 40 Years of Our Best Recipes  cookbook)

Makes 10-12 servings

Stuff You Need~

1 1/2 cups of butter, softened (this is 3 sticks of the real stuff)

3 cups sugar

6 large eggs

3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 (8 ounce) container sour cream

1 teaspoon lemon extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract (am I the only one who loves the smell of this stuff?)

What to do with the stuff~

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare your 12 cup tube pan by spraying with Baker’s Joy or grease and flour your tube pan.

Add softened butter to the bowl of your standing mixer or a mixing bowl.  Using your standing mixer or electric mixer, beat butter at medium speed until creamy.  Gradually add sugar (I did a half cup at a time), beating after each addition at medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, 1 at at time, beating just until the yolk disappears.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking soda.  Add this to the butter mixture a little at a time, alternating with the sour cream, starting with flour mixture and ending with flour mixture. Beat batter at low speed until just blended after each addition.  Now stir in the lemon and almond extracts.  Pour into your prepared tube pan.  Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes, depending on your oven.  Or until a toothpick inserted in the center of cake comes out clean.  Mine took exactly 1 hour 20 minutes.  Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes.  Turn out onto wire rack and allow pound cake to cool completely.  Enjoy and share with those you love.  Or those you wish to impress with your amazing baking skills.  Just saying.

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Butter and sugar beat together until light and fluffy. I had to restrain myself from grabbing a spoon.  #sugaraddict #letssellitinajar 

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Chilling on the wire rack. 

 

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Heavenly Balsamic pot roast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 So this here’s a story a little pot roast that could.  It was a good little pot roast.  It had dreams of being more.  And it was.  It had dreams of being all dressed up in a balsamic sauce and being cooked in a crock pot along with his friends carrots, onions, and celery.  Ok, kidding aside, because I am pretty sure that joking around about balsamic anything is a capital crime.  Because balsamic anything is awesome and should be revered and coddled and loved and praised.  I have posted my mother in law’s excellent pot roast recipe before and that is my go to recipe.  If you have never made it, check it out here~https://cajunmamacookinblog.com/2013/06/17/tonight-is-a-roast-night/.  Making that recipe is like putting on a comfortable pair of jeans, which ironically I find rather hard to do after eating a serving of pot roast and rice and gravy.  ha ha!  But the other day, I was scanning Pinterest and came across a recipe for their balsamic pot roast and thought, “oh my.  that is a super idea.  Big Daddy would love that.”  You can see that post here~ http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2013/09/slow-cooker-balsamic-pot-roast-recipe.html.   Well, continuing to scan Pinterest (see how I do that?  I scan it.  That makes me feel like I am not wasting time and I am not on Pinterest…just scanning, ya’ll…scanning.  I can quit at anytime I want.  Wait, I think that is what addicts say…oh my.) and I saw another recipe for regular pot roast by PW about her perfect pot roast.  You can check that out here…http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2011/09/2008_the_year_of_the_pot_roast/.  I could not decide which one to make.  Pioneer Woman is always a safe bet because she knows her stuff.  But I love those six sisters too.  And, their pot roast had balsamic vinegar in theirs’, which kind of amps up the yummy a couple of notches.  Plus, theirs was made in the slow cooker.  I know you peeps love a good slow cooker recipe, so I took what I loved about both and combined them into one delightful, fantabulous, knock your socks off pot roast.  You are welcome friends.  I made a batch of mashed potatoes to go with that heavenly thick balsamic flavored gravy and also warmed up some of those Sister Schubert rolls aka they are worth it carbs.  My baby boy can eat nearly the whole pan.  I will add this…use one of those rolls to sop up that ridiculously good gravy and you will be in hog heaven.  But I don’t have to tell ya’ll that, do I?  No.  Because if you are following my blog, you know all about the good stuff in life.  Wink Wink!  See what I did there?  I gave you a compliment and me a compliment at the same.  Because let’s face it.   We both rock!!  Now, on to this pot roast that I have been yammering on and on about.  Is your mouth watering yet?  Let’s get to it baby!!

Heavenly Balsamic Pot Roast 

Stuff you need~

4-5 pound beef chuck roast

2 or 3 small onions (peeled and then cut in half from root to tip)

5 or 6 carrots, not peeled (PW says to maintain their rustic quality and I agree…damn good. Give it a try), just cut them into about 2 inch pieces, discarding the ends

3 stalks of celery, cut into 2 inch pieces

olive oil and a pat of butter

kosher salt and black pepper

2 tsp. dried rosemary

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (I used 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and  1/4 cup balsamic glaze my mother in law gave me but I also saw it at World Market aka my mothership the other day just FYI)

1 cup tomato juice

1 can beef broth (reduced sodium)

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic or 3 cloves if you are going the “I chop my own garlic here me roar!!” route

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons warm water

What to do with the stuff~

Turn the heat under a big ole skillet to medium.  Now, melt the pat of butter (about a Tablespoon if you need that measurement…you little control freak…that’s why we get along because I am one too so I get it!) and about 2 Tablespoons olive oil nice and warm.  Now, add in only your onion .  You want to get the onion lightly browned on one side and then with a pair of tongs, flip it to the other side and do the same thing…a minute or so on each side will do.  Remove them from the skillet.  Add in your carrots and give them a good toss in the olive oil/butter combo.  About a minute or so is perfection.  Good girl.  Or boy.  Now, put the little browned unpeeled, so rustic and lovely carrots in the plate with the onions and tell them to hang tight.  Wait, what?  You don’t talk to your food.  Is that weird?  Then I don’t either.  Now, back to this lovely pot roast.  Yes, yes, I am getting to that.  Now, take that hunk of meat and rub it down with olive oil.  Give it a good rub down on both sides. Now, season the mess out of that thing with good old kosher salt and black pepper on both sides. Now, I took some dried rosemary and sprinkled some of that on each side.  Ok, now if your skillet needs more olive oil, add some because we are going to brown our roast.  With a pair of tongs, place it in the still medium hot oil.  Brown it on every side, about a minute or so each side.  Flip, brown, flip, brown, got it?  Ok.  Remove that roast from the skillet and set it on a plate.  Whisk in the beef broth and make sure to remove any little brown bits from the bottom of the skillet, pan, what have you.  This is your gremille and it makes your gravy richer and just better.  Let this kind of simmer a few minutes and then whisk in the tomato juice, garlic, and balsamic vinegar.  Continue to let this luscious mixture simmer for a few minutes so the flavors can hang out and get comfortable with one another.  They can make friends.  When you are going to hang out in a crock pot for 6 or 7 hours, you want to get to know your tomato juice.  Just saying.  

Ok, now you are going to spray a 6 quart crock pot lightly with some cooking spray.  Put your lovely browned roast in there.  Toss the carrots, onions, and celery in there.  Now, using caution so you don’t burn yourself, slowly pour the balsamic magic liquid on top of the meat and veggies.  Now, cook on low for 7-8 hours.  Your slow cooker may take longer, so add time accordingly. When you can stick a fork in the roast and twist and it falls apart, you are ready.  

Now for the luscious gravy…yes you will want to do this.  Skim as much of the fat off the top of the liquid as you can.  Now, pour about 2 cups of the balsamic magic liquid into a medium sized sauce pan.  Bring it to a low boil over medium low heat.  In a bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until well combined.  Whisk this into the balsamic liquid.  Let it simmer for a few minutes until it thickens a bit.  You will have some fabulous gravy ya’ll.  Roll soppin worthy gravy.  Spoon this liberally over the meat and the mashed potatoes.  So.  Dang.  Good.  Enjoy.  Take a bow.  Enjoy your moment in the spotlight because YOU are AWESOME!!!~AMB

 

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Oh sweet little onions, I have big plans for you.

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Carrots, unpeeled…carrots gone wild.

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Sit there and look pretty my darlings

 

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Giving my roast a lovely little seasoning rubdown. 

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Remember…brown, flip, brown, flip

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Balsamic magic liquid 

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Ready to be more…ready to become a balsamic pot roast.  MMMMMM

 

 

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Ready to be covered in that lovely gravy.  Mouth watering. 

 

White chocolate popcorn and doing what we can

I found this recipe a while back on Pinterest and made it almost immediately. You find the original post at http://www.the36thavenue.com/2013/11/white-chocolate-popcorn-recipe.html. This dreamy concoction tastes like a cross between rice crispy treats and popcorn. It is the ultimate blend of sweet and salty. Oh my. So good.
As always, we had too much, so for a little treat for my kiddos’ teachers, I wrapped up a ball of this yummy popcorn in some plain ole Saran Wrap and then tied it with some pretty pink twine. It made a nice little pick me up for some pretty special ladies. I have said it before and I will say it again…I am not Martha Stewart. Martha would have had treat boxes to deliver this in and I bet her kitchen would not have looked like a bomb went off after she made this. Mine did though. And I used Saran Wrap. But ya know…I have 4 kids and 2 of them have 3 teachers each. So that is 8 teachers in all. When it comes to Christmas gifts and such, I often fall short because I can not do for 8 teachers for what I might do for one or 2. And it is not a competition. All any of us can do is what we can, with what we have, where we are. So, it was a gesture in the middle of another crazy week where I had something extra to give that took little effort but sent a big thank you to some ladies who are so important in the lives of so many kids. God gave us all gifts and it is up to us to choose how we share with the world. That is all any of us can do. Whatever your gift is, I hope you let it shine for the world to see. You are a blessing to many.~AMB

White Chocolate Popcorn
Serves: 10

stuff you need~
2 bags of microwave light butter popcorn, popped
1 1/2 cups Sixlets
1 (11.5 ounce) bag white chocolate chips
1/2 bag regular size marshmallows
3 Tablespoons butter
3/4 cup corn syrup

what to do with the stuff
Pop popcorn according to package instructions and then pour into a big mixing bowl. Set aside. Mix together corn syrup, butter, and chocolate chips together in a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, bring to a boil, stirring often. Mix in the marshmallows, stirring consistently until they are melted. Pour this mixture over th popcorn and stir to combine well. Gently stir in the Sixlets, taking care not to break them. Sprinkle some more Sixlets over the top, if desired. Set it out and watch it disappear. It’s good stuff, y’all!

*yes the candy. But I found them in the baking section at Walmart not in the candy section and in a bottle not a bag. Also, you can use the pastel colored M&M’s in place of the Sixlets.

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my oldest with one of his wonderful teachers.

Rainbow Pasta Salad and lots of the good stuff know, I learned from my friends

So I have told ya’ll about my very good friend Betsy before, right?  I will give ya’ll a little more back story here because it is relevant to the recipe…well, mostly.  Ha ha!  Ya’ll know I love to tell a good story, right?  Anyway, I met Betsy back in 2005 when my oldest started MDO at First Baptist here in Shreveport.  Her oldest, Maggie, was in class with Ben.  I had 2 kiddos, aged almost 2 and 6 months old.  We had just moved from Keithville and I was still convinced I could absolutely be the perfect mom and all the other delusions we new mommies by into.  It’s true, girls.  Betsy is what you would call, shy, when you first meet her.  Friendly, but a little aloof and seems perfect beyond words.  It is a little intimidating.  We would make a little small talk, but she worked in the MDO and was always on her way to her own class.  Lo and behold, round about April, I was pregnant with #3 and she was pregnant with #2, now known as Aubrey and Annie.  We would meet in passing and exchange hellos.  Come fall, my Kayla was old enough and I put her in MDO with Ben and Betsy was her teacher.  We were both hugely pregnant and would talk about due dates and Kayla’s progress, which coincidentally, was not good.  You know how daycares and MDO’s always say “she will stop crying as soon as you leave and be fine.  We will call you if there is a problem.” Kayla was one of those rare babies that did not stop crying.  She in fact, sat in Betsy’s barely there lap and would sob inconsolably.  So, I would come and get her early everyday.  Keep in mind, I am due any day with baby #3 and my 18 month old was a mama’s girl.  I was experiencing mommy guilt, self doubt, mommy fear at it’s most primal…whatever you want to call it.  Aubrey came along in October and then Annie at the end of November.  I eventually took Ben and Kayla out of MDO because Aubrey kept getting so sick and finally got a stomach bug at 5 months old and I said enough.  I am not going to lie or sugarcoat it.  Having 3 kids, 3 and under and a husband who worked or hunted all the time was to say the least overwhelming.  I guess I had a little postpartum depression now that I look back on it.  Baby number 3 was a blessing and also a knockdown punch I was not expecting.  She cried all the time if she was not being held and I was just at my wits end.  So, fast forward to a year and half down the road, I was expecting baby #4 and Ben would be starting kindergarten in the fall.  I decided to try MDO again.  So I went back to the only place I really knew, First Baptist.  Little did I know how glad I would be that I made that decision.  I found out Betsy was also expecting a baby boy and was due in June. I was expecting a baby boy in July.  Well…as luck (or I say, God’s plan) would have it, that summer, right before I had Lucas, I saw Betsy in the Target parking lot.  I have goose bumps as I write this as I can see just how meant to be it was.  I admired her newborn baby boy, Jack Henry and made small talk.  Well, cut to the fall, and the girls started MDO.  Aubrey and Annie were in the same class and every day Betsy was not working at MDO, I would see her in Target.  We would laugh and joke about “ha ha see you in Target every time!  How funny!”  We exchanged phone numbers, but I was still adjusting to motherhood with 4 kiddos and did not see much of a future in our friendship.  I had not made friends very easily since moving to Shreveport and I did not have high expectations.  Well, somehow, we managed to carve out a nice little friendship and we banded together with some other moms and formed a nice posse that included about 6 moms and in excess of 25 kids.  Yeah, we were a motley crew at best.  Betsy and I spent lots of time together with the kids and without.  I ended up being her teaching partner for a year before they moved.  I loved those Tuesdays and Thursdays and I frankly loved spending time with my friend.  This pasta salad recipe is only one of the many things I treasure from our time together.  For someone who says she doesn’t cook, she sure does have some flipping awesome recipes.  Ya’ll know the rest of the story…they moved to South Louisiana so her hubby could join a practice and the rest of their story could unfold.  I miss her everyday and I know she misses me, but life has moved on for both of us and we have made our way.  She is still one of my good friends and our kiddos still love each other, even if we don’t see each other often.  And a few of those friendships still remain strong and that is a gift that keeps on giving.  (I am talking to you Lexie B)  You see, some things, like our friendship, are just meant to be.  God kept putting us in one another’s path until we realized…hey, I like this girl!!!  She likes Target as much as I do and she gets me.  She just gets me.  Thank God for friends who get us, right?  Those crazy years were made much more bearable because of Bets.  In many ways, she taught me how to be a mom.  She taught me how to pack lunches for my kids…no really, she is a mastermind at packing lunches kiddos love. She taught me how to make really delicious brownies.  She taught me you can never go to Chick fil A too often and how to do really good arts and crafts.  She taught me how to get over myself and roll with it with a little grace and not worry so much.  She taught me to laugh at myself.  And she taught me to trust in friendship again and that I was lovable just as I was.  Hot mess and all.  She is the yen to my yang.  This rainbow pasta salad is a perfect example.  For years I had wondered, how in the heck do the restaurants make such deliciousness?  Well, in walks Betsy to show me.  So delicious and yet so easy.  Too good to be true.  And yet…totally true.  Just like our friendship.  Love ya Bets. ~AMB

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friendship is indeed a gift

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A good friend gives your cozy coupe a push when you need it.  

Rainbow Pasta Salad 

Stuff you need~

1 package of rotini pasta, cooked al dente and then rinsed with cold water

5 cups of chopped vegetables (you can use anything but I use cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, purple onion)

1/2 – 1 cup of cheddar cheese and/or Mozzarella cheese cubes

1/2 cup Salad Supreme seasoning

8 ounces or 1 cup of Italian dressing

What to do with the stuff~

Put your cooked, drained and cooled pasta in a big bowl.  Toss in your chopped veggies and cubes of cheese.  Stir in the seasoning blend and the Italian dressing.  Add more if you think it needs it.   Toss well so that the seasoning and dressing coats every last noodle.  You will be so happy and full of joy when you take a bite of this yumminess.  It will make you smile and want to give some to your friend.  Do it.  She might just love you for life!!

Shout to my girl Bets for this and so many other wonderful things she introduced me to!!!

*For this batch I added in some penne pasta because I needed to stretch it a little further to feed a large group.  I added a little more salad dressing and seasoning accordingly.

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The secret ingredient 

 

this is a potluck go to recipe.  It makes a ton and pleases everyone

So full of color and flavor…you will love it and so will your friends

Loaded nacho casserole

Do you like nachos?  Do you like casseroles?  Do you like the convenience of a one dish meal that serves a crowd?  If you answered yes to these questions, than this casserole recipe is for you.  Oh sorry, I think I have been listening to too much public radio.
This casserole is indeed basically one dish that feeds a crowd and has all you need for a complete meal.  I got the recipe from one of my favorite websites…http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2014/03/loaded-nacho-casserole-recipe.html. She tells you all about how she came up with the idea. Let me say…she is a genius!!! BD ate it up.  Kiddos, not so much.  Here is the deal though, if I cooked only what my kids liked there would be no Cajun mama cookin blog.  Unless ya’ll wanted me to tell ya’ll how to heat up Eggo waffles, make mac and cheese, heat up a wiener in the microwave or make a PB&J.   My kids, despite my efforts, do not eat everything that I cook.  Sure, there are the nights when there is a fingernail moon and Mercury and Venue are in sync (can you tell I am not an astrologist?) and they all eat what I make.  What I am getting at is that it is extremely rare for them all to just gobble up what I cook.  I decided a while back that I am not cooking for them.  I make what BD and I like or might like, hope that the kiddos will like it or even love it, and usually one or two of them will eat what I make.  But I by no means attest to 1) my kids eat it or starve.  I tried that approach, but I didn’t care for tucking my kids in and hearing their little bellies rumble.  For me, that was too much.  I admire parents who have that ability, but I don’t.  2) my kids gobble up whatever I put in front of them, never complain and they all have perfect table manners.  They don’t.  I don’t front ya’ll.  I tell you like it is, keep it real, show you the ugly.  For example… I got the cutest burlap place mats that have, get this, a cute little table manner written on each one.  So naturally, my kids become well mannered and perfect when they sit down to eat because their plates are on these well appointed place mats.  Negative Ghostwriter.  Half the time, I forget to put them out.  Yeah, that’s right.  Though I totally convinced myself that I would so put these out for every meal and then pick them back up again after each meal, I lied to myself.  Do you ever do that?  I do.  More than I care to mention.  But I will.  So that you don’t feel so bad about it when you do it.  I will admit to you that there are days when I might give Bree Vandecamp from Desperate Housewives a slight pause before she proceeded to kick my ass in the who is most like Martha Stewart category of Mom of the Year pageant.  Now, Roseanne (from the show Roseanne…to be clear) she might be all like “woah, smart ass comment, check this chick out…she thinks she is Martha Stewart!!” but not in a threatened or impressed way but more of a making fun of me for thinking I come close kind of way.  That’s right.  I can buy all the burlap place mats I want, but I will forget to put them out or pick them up half the time until I am so sick of looking at them that I put them back on top of the microwave until the next time I want to play like I am Madame Fancy Pants again.  So, ain’t  nothing over here in CM kitchen perfect or well appointed.  How I manage to get done what I get done escapes me and I am pretty sure I have the good folks at Keurig to thank for that since this girl runs on her coffee.  So…here we are back at where we started before I took ya’ll off on my verbal journey that gave you some insight into just how whacko I really am.  But I mean, have ya’ll missed the part where I told ya’ll I had 4 kids in less than 5 years?  If that didn’t clue ya’ll in to the whole “this chick is a little whack” than you are not real quick on the uptake. Ha ha! But real. 😳
Anyway, back to the recipe. I know, I know, it is hard to follow me at times and I appreciate you trying. I hope somewhere you are laughing at my candor rather cursing my ability to get greatly off track. Here is the recipe for this cheesy, meaty, everything in it but the kitchen sink casserole. It is pretty awesome and if you brown your ground meat ahead of time, it is a cinch to pull together. So on the days y’all have Tball or Spring soccer practice, ballet, teach a classroom full of kiddos all day (I have 2 sisters who are teachers and a bunch of friends who are…shout out to my teachers out there!) you can have supper prepared super fast. Ok ready?

Six Sisters’ Stuff Loaded Nacho Casserole

stuff you need~

1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
1 small onion, diced fine
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1-8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 small can diced green chiles
1 package reduced sodium taco seasoning
1 10 ounce bag tortilla chips
2 cups shredded cheddar

what to do with the stuff~

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Brown your ground meat if you have not done this already. Now, add in your bell pepper and onion and let them get a little tender. About 5 minutes or so should do you good. Now, just stir in the tomatoes, green chiles, corn, beans, taco seasoning and tomato sauce. Bring this saucy concoction to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. (You could this the night before so you could throw it all together the next night…just a thought). Now, layer half of the tortilla chips at the bottom of the casserole dish. As suggested, I kind of crushed them a little. Next layer half of your sauce concoction. Now, repeat this. Next sprinkle your cheese all over the top. Pop the casserole into the oven and bake until the cheese is all bubbly and the casserole is heated throughout. Let it cool a few minutes and then dish it up, baby!!
Serving suggestion…this would be divine over a bed of fresh shredded lettuce. Kind of a taco salad of sorts. Also, next time, I will use flour tortillas in place of the chips to see if I prefer it that way. It was delish like this but I think it might be awesome with the soft tortillas in there to soak up that sauce.  Oh and i might use shredded chicken in place of ground beef to change it up.  Yum!!  I will let y’all know. Very good, makes a ton and is quick and easy . Hope y’all enjoy it more than my kids did.  😉 what do they know anyway about good food, the little stinkers. Aw who am I kidding? I work for them. Sigh~AMB
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It’s cheesy, loaded with veggies, all in one dish and ready to please your hungry bunch!