Kitchen chalkboard and simple reminders

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You would think I have too much to do to decorate a chalkboard in my kitchen. And yes recently I have let myself get caught up in that line of thinking. Hurry hurry get it done. I must add, I find this sad and rather unfortunate. BD and I made this chalkboard last year and I had great fun with it for a while. Then life started getting in the way. Because I let it and well…life is busy for us all. t’s crazy how we can let the monotony, the “I have to” and “I need to” get in the ways of the fun and the “I want to”. For the most part I am a realistic gal, so don’t go painting me as some pie in the sky optimist. I am not. I have 4 kids and a husband and stuff to get done, practically speaking, none of that leaves much room for fun. I want it to. But it doesn’t. And many days it’s all to easy to let my “get it done” nature get in the way of the fun girl I know lives inside of me.
I woke up this morning as a matter of fact, watching Lucas watch a video of them slip and sliding on the homemade slip and slide BD made for them. I heard their laughter and giggles and saw all 4 kids were participating. BD is really good at getting in the moment when it arises. I admire him for that. Even though he is the primary bread winner and has so much pressure at work and so much to do, he is really good at letting them be kids and enjoying it with them. Me…well I have my moments but usually the moments I create for them are well…moments I create for them. Under my control. But as I watched that video with Lucas, I realized I had not once gone outside and watched them slip and slide. Yes, we are only a week into summer so I won’t be too hard on myself. But the pangs of “that moment is gone” sadness were all I needed to remind me to be more present with them at least once a day. Yes, I have the stuff I need to get done and I choose to do those things (read laundry, dishes, cleaning, blogging) because it is how our house runs well and functions. It’s engrained in me to be that way and I like my chaos controlled. But those pangs I felt were the reminder I needed. It’s summer time, mama! Have fun! Let them be little and enjoy it with them from time to time! I am going to give myself a break here and be realistic and say…mommy guilt will not sweep me away. But as a mom, as a person, I want to enjoy my kids. My life. And sometimes being inside doing housework is not the way to do that. So a simple reminder to myself is all this is. This chalkboard I decorated, or summer chalkboard 2014 as I call it, was my way of stopping and saying “ok Amus (my nickname from my best friend Holly and apparently what I call myself when I am coaching myself lol). It’s summer. What do y’all want to enjoy about summer?” Take a breath and shift gears. Because summer passes and then it is fall. That’s ok too…but for today, for now, the season is summer. Welcome Summer and embrace it. So I did. Aubrey and I drew pictures and took the time to make it fun. And each morning this can be a simple reminder when I wake up and walk into the kitchen, to embrace the now. Enjoy it. A much needed reminder for an all to focused and one track minded mom.

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that’s right babies…show mama how to be in the moment. Thank God for kiddos and their amazing guidance

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a 10 year old builds a Lego house, you respect that Lego house. I take pictures of it and he allows it. But I know one day it won’t be so simple. Embracing the now. It’s good.

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Garlic roasted chicken legs and veggies and my cousin Robin

I have been so blessed to have so many wonderful cooks in my life. BD always says the women in my family could cook a boot and make it taste good. My Momee always made the most simple things taste delicious. I have given y’all her cornbread dressing recipe…probably one of my favorite foods ever…link to recipe is here https://cajunmamacookinblog.com/2013/11/24/momees-cornbread-dressing/. She was the hardest working, strongest woman I have ever known, always had a bit of old Hollywood glamour about her even in the worst of times, and could cook like nobodies’ business. My daughter Aubrey has always reminded me of her. She loves baubles, hats and fancy dresses…just like Momee. Aubrey is fascinated with Princess Kate, and I know that has to be genetic. She has a flair just like Momee. That makes me so happy. Another wonderful thing that came from her is my relationship with my cousin Robin. She is about 2 years older than me and was one of those cousins who was more like a sister growing up. Definitely a good friend of mine. We ended up living together during college at Northwestern, a time I wouldn’t trade for all the money in the world. She has always been able to make me laugh harder than almost anyone. We were in each other’s weddings and she is very special to me. We share the same middle name (Marie) just like our moms do. She has always been there. Even now, I know she is just a call or text away.

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we always had so much fun together. Popee is playing his guitar, Momee is clapping and singing, we are dancing. We danced a lot. Circa 1979ish

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at my bridal shower, 2001.

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Robin and I with our daughters, Ava (her’s) and Kayla Ann (mine) at my sister Jenny’s bridal shower, 2005

So these days we mostly communicate via text and I am so glad for that. She probably isn’t because I text her whenever I hear Billy Squier’s The Stroke. Yes. Because we always danced to that song in Momee’s red room (I told y’all she was fancy…the rooms in her house each had a distinct color). She laughs at my elephant like memory and we laugh at the memories we share. She is the one friend I do not remember my life without. She has always been there. So yesterday I had an envie for Momee’s chicken and potatoes. I did not grow up in Marksville, though we were there a lot, but Robin did. So naturally she spent more time at Momee’s house than I did. So I thought she might remember how Momee made this dish. I texted her and sure enough, she had a few ideas. And every year at Thanksgiving, she will inevitably text or call or Facebook me a question about Momee’s cornbread dressing. It’s amazing how recipes can keep us connected that way. I am certainly glad for every tie I have to her. I am certainly blessed to have her presence in my life. She is still one of the funniest people I know and I can laugh just thinking about things we used to do. Even through texts she cracks me up. So between her tips and a random recipe I found, I managed to recreate Momee’s chicken and potatoes to some extent. It was delicious. And I think y’all will love it. I made a few changes, but managed to still get that awesome taste that brought me back to the good ole days in Broulliette, sitting at one of Momee’s picnic tables under the carport on a Saturday with Robin, eating this deliciously simple meal. I hope y’all enjoy this too.~AMB

Garlic roasted chicken and veggies

serves 6

Stuff you need~

1/2 stick of butter
10 chicken legs (you can use boneless thighs too)
6 red potatoes, cut into chunks
10 brussel sprouts, bottom cut off and then halved
2 carrots, peeled and then cut into pieces
10 or so cloves of garlic, (I used a big garlic pod and separated it out) peeled and then kind of smashed to release the flavor (under a knife turned sideways works well…it just flattens somewhat)
Olive oil for drizzling
Kosher salt and black pepper
Garlic powder

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chunks o’ potatoes

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big garlic pod

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separated into cloves

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mmmm melted butter soaking up that garlicky goodness

What to do with the stuff~

Preheat the oven to 350. Melt the butter in a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Momee always used a big silver pan to make hers’…that I remember. Throw peeled garlic cloves in the butter and kind of work those garlic cloves into the butter. Just give it a good toss. Now, place your chicken legs or pieces in the butter. Neither one of us could remember if Momee used legs or thighs but ended up thinking that she used both, either and probably whatever she had as she was resourceful and practical that way. God bless Beulah Mae. ūüôā
Ok now toss the veggies in there. Now sprinkle generously with salt, pepper and garlic powder. That is one thing Robin remembered…Momee used lots of garlic powder and pepper. Using your hands or a spoon if you must, work the chicken and veggies into all that seasoning and buttery garlic goodness. Sprinkle again with seasoning and toss around again to ensure everything gets seasoned well. They become a happy family. There you go. Next I gave it all a nice drizzle of olive oil and popped it in the oven. The smell is amazing as it cooks. I cooked this for about 40 minutes on the middle rack and it was perfect! Crispy, seasoned perfection. Momee would be proud of us cousin!

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we are never far apart. Thank God for technology.

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Momee would be proud I do believe!

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this picture always makes me laugh. She is so silly.

Cajun mama cleans too

So I cook. A lot. It would stand to reason that my oven gets dirty. Fast. Boy does it ever. And I hate to clean it. I shouldn’t say hate. Let’s say I strongly dislike cleaning my oven. Very strongly dislike. I also dislike my oven smoking like it is about to burst into flames any minute when I am baking something. The other day I had a kitchen full of peeps. It looked like this…
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I love my kitchen being packed with friends and laughter…but if the oven starts smoking it is a bit too much

So I had just put the last batch of Pioneer Woman’s olive cheese bread…seriously like crack…it is addictive and it draws people to it like a cheesy savory magnet. Here is the recipe I had posted a while back…https://cajunmamacookinblog.com/2013/09/30/olive-cheese-bread/. It’s good stuff y’all. But a few minutes after I put the last batch in, my oven started to smoke. When you have 20 + people in your house, in your kitchen, that is a little alarming. Yeah…I knew then it was time to clean the oven again. It’s funny now and thank heavens the smoke alarm did not go off. Ha ha!! But really. So yesterday I spent much of the day wrangling my youngest monkey (he is a cute little mess) and putting the house back together after all the fun from the night before. Cajun mama and friends can get down now. lol! I am working on a post including all the recipes from that night. Anyway, this morning I woke up and decided it was time to get ‘er done as BD and every other Southern male says from time to time. I strongly dislike oven cleaner so I don’t even have it. I am pretty sure I lose brain cells every time I use that stuff and frankly, I have lost enough during my fast track to motherhood. I will keep the ones I have thanks so much. Thanks to Pinterest, my go to cleaning ingredients are blue Dawn, vinegar and baking soda. I found a post that told me kind of how to use these ingredients to clean the oven. Here is that linkhttp://www.couponingtodisney.com/homemade-oven-cleaner/. But I just looked at ratio of ingredients and got to it. In a big plastic glad ware container I combined about 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup dawn. Those are guesstimates. Just combine and add more of one or other until you have a paste like substance. It’s not an exact science and you can do this.

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my cleaning trifecta

Now just spread the paste all over the oven door and inside the oven. Let it sit for about 30 minutes. Use a sponge to about 10 minutes in to give it a good scrub. Then just leave it for about 20. Get back in there and scrub. Rinse your sponge in between. It is a pain to rinse it completely clean but it works. After I had gotten most of the grime cleaned up, I took a dry old towel and wiped up the wetness. Then I went back with a damp old rag and rinsed again. Then dry rag again. After it dries you may see some residue. Go back over it with a damp rag. I promise you it is mostly painless and your oven will be cleaner than when you started. I am not into perfection, I am mostly cool with good enough. Three cheers for good enough!!!!~AMB

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yuck

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much better. Good enough. Happy me

Mexican casserole and making it work

I love the man I am married to. Known as Clay, Big Daddy, my man, and other not so nice names somedays. Yikes. Yeah we are very different creatures who coexist quite peacefully most days. Emphasis on most days. We have been up. We have been down. We have been in between and at who really cares. Yeah. We are married sho nuff. I always think of my mom singing a line from a song “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.” That should be the marriage theme song. Because it’s true. Now, I am not going to go on and on about marriage. We have only been doing this whole marriage thing for 13 years. I by no means claim to know what we are doing. But I do know a little about finding a happy medium. And trying to make it work. Trying people. Just trying. Doing little things that make his day that are not that big of a deal to me. Maybe they are a minor inconvenience but they make him happy. Like deer ground meat. Stay with me now. Yes, I am talking about ground meat. Made from deer. I must be honest and say…I am not a fan. I grew up with a daddy who hunted. We ate lots of game. Rather they did. I mostly refused. Maybe some chicken fried deer meat (but after a bad experience when I was pregnant with my Benny Boo, I swore off that stuff) but I didn’t do squirrel, rabbits, and lots of fish. Whether you consider me a Cajun or not, in our Avoyellian culture, it is customary to cook and eat many things that others might consider um…less than palatable. Lol. For instance, turtles. My daddy always went turtling during September. And he would come home and clean the turtle on Sunday when he got home. Our dog, Baby (yes I named her after the character on Dirty Dancing…I was 13…what can I say?) would drag the turtle shells all over the yard. It was so funny. Anyway, when daddy came home from turtling, I knew what that meant. He or my mom were gonna cook a mess of turtle. Yeah. Good times. I can still see those yellow eggs in the gravy and my parents looooved them. They were considered a delicacy. All I could say was “gag me with a major spoon.” No really. Gross. So after all the city boys I dated, I wound up marrying me a man who hunted. Though he has gone turtlin with daddy, turtles are not my problem. It’s deer ground meat people. So yesterday morning he says to me “baby I have got all this deer ground meat in the freezer that needs to be cooked. Can you work that into the menu?” Sigh. I dread those words. I admit that it is likely a mind over matter thing when it comes to eating game, but I just don’t care for it. In my mind, it does not taste the same and frankly I am not that big of a ground meat fan to begin with. So, I told him…take some of it out of the freezer and I will brown it and refreeze it. So, he did and tonight I was trying to think about what to make for supper. And I remembered I needed to brown that ground meat. Now, BD is a real trooper about trying my newfangled recipes and he gladly eats whatever I cook.
So I figured I owed him a meal with deer ground meat. It makes him happy and they all get fed. Score! And I do believe came up with a great recipe using deer ground meat (or regular ground meat) and they all LOVED IT!!! I hope y’all knew I would get around to a recipe at some point. Mexican casserole. Cheesy, filling and easy to pull together. I decided the general direction supper would take at 5:15 and it was ready by 6. All ingredients were in my pantry or fridge. Seriously a convenience recipe. My point in all of this rambling is…somehow day by day we make it work. Somedays are beautiful, somedays are ugly, and most days are just in between. Medium. Nothing fancy. Doing little kindnesses to keep each other happy. He makes my cup of coffee just like I like it or let’s me go over on the grocery budget (more often than not) without fussing because he knows it makes me happy to try these new recipes. I do things like cook (and eat) deer ground meat even though I could do without it. I am just fine with that. It’s called marriage. It’s not a perfect rose garden. It’s like a big patch of wildflowers. It’s all good…including this casserole!~AMB

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he drives me around in the side by side at the camp and I take selfies of us or just take pics and talk. He’s happy and I’m happy. It works for us.

Making it work Mexican Casserole

serves 8

Stuff you need~

10 soft taco size flour tortillas divided
1 can Ranch style beans
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 package taco seasoning
1 pound ground meat
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
*Optional–a small onion, diced
A can of corn, drained

What to do with the stuff~

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 X 13 baking dish with cooking spray.
Brown the ground meat. If you are using the diced onion, put it in as well while browning ground meat. Drain.
Stir in ranch style beans, tomatoes (juice and all), and taco seasoning. Let this mixture simmer for about 10 minutes. *Add can of corn at this point too if you are using it. Tear the tortillas into smaller pieces. It does not have to be perfect. I just gather up a few and tear them in half, then in half again, and so on. Not super tiny pieces, but more bite sized. Layer half of the tortilla pieces on bottom of prepared baking dish. Now spoon half of your ground meat mixture over the tortillas. Now repeat once. Spread the can of cheddar cheese soup over the last layer of ground meat mixture. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over this. Bake until the cheese is all bubbly and delicious looking. Yeah…about 20 minutes. Mmmmm that’s the stuff.

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easy breezy beautiful….cover girl. Dinner is served. And it is good.

Perfect Potatoes Au Gratin ala Pioneer Woman

I love potatoes. ¬†I love baked potatoes. ¬†I love boiled new potatoes. ¬†I love garlic mashed potatoes. ¬†Need I go on? ¬†No? ¬†Ok. ¬†I am pretty sure by making this statement, I lose just a little more standing in my family. Growing up we had potatoes every once in a while. ¬†My daddy liked his rice and gravy with his meat. ¬†Period. ¬†Now, when my mom fried chicken she would make “creamed” potatoes as she calls them. And of course the obligatory French fries with the fried fish on
Fridays, especially during Lent. For the most part, potatoes were a stranger at my mama’s dinner table in straight up potato form. I can distinctly remember declaring at some point in high school that I would NEVER, EVER God as my witness make rice and gravy once I left home. (It was all very dramatic and full of southern teen angst at the least). Luckily that is not true and I got some sense as I got older. Rice and gravy has its lovely place on our table because it for dang sure deserves a spot. ¬†I mean…Cajun Mama…duh. ¬†Rice and gravy. ¬†Also, it is good to remember that we ate a lot of potato salad so I guess potatoes would be redundant on the side of your meal. ¬†But when I say l love potatoes, I mean I like potatoes with my cheese. ¬†Lol!!! ¬†Cause me likes my cheese. ¬†Creamy, cheesy, decadent potatoes. ¬†Those are my favorite. ¬†This recipe I am posting today is exactly that. ¬†Oh my. ¬†Just potato perfection my friends. ¬†Equally at home along side a grilled rib eye or a plate of barbecued chicken or ribs. ¬†This au gratin potato recipe requires minimal ingredients and you probably have the majority of them in the pantry or fridge. ¬†It is super simple and quick to whip together. ¬†Versatile, easy to make, and just a few ingredients are all things that make a recipe perfect. ¬†Oh it has to be delicious. This one is it!! ¬†You and your family will absolutely love these. ¬†Trust me on this one. ¬†I found this recipe one day when reading through one of my Pioneer Woman cookbooks…it is her second one I do believe. ¬†When I read through the recipe I felt like I had won the recipe jackpot!! ¬†I made them over and over again for a few weeks. Yes they are carbs and they are worth every bit of the indulgence. I hope you feel the same when you try them. In fact, next to my special potatoes, which you can find here https://cajunmamacookinblog.com/2013/11/12/cajun-mama-special-potatoes/ ..this is probably my favorite potato side dish.

 

Potatoes Au Gratin

Serves 8

Stuff you need~

 

4 russet potatoes, scrubbed clean
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons flour
4 cloves of garlic, minced or 2 tsp. of the jarred garlic (I am not above this)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (recipe calls for sharp, but I encourage you to use what you have)

What to do with the stuff~

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Smear the softened butter all over the bottom of an 9 x 13 baking dish. Next start out by slicing the potatoes, then cutting into strips and then dicing them into cubes.

Now, in a medium size bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, milk, flour, minced garlic, salt and pepper.
Layer 1/3 at the bottom of the buttered baking dish. Next, pour about 1/3 of the milk mixture over the potatoes. Give that a good stir. Next, layer some more potatoes and then more milk, about 1/3 of each. Do this until the potatoes and milk are all used up. Cover tightly with foil. Bake in preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle shredded cheese over the piping hot potatoes. Return dish to oven, uncovered and bake until cheese is all bubbly and yummy looking. Heaven in a baking dish I tell you right now.

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this is the hardest part and it isn’t hard

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glorious shredded cheddar…get in my potatoes!

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this is what makes this dish the creamy perfection that it is

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I minced my own garlic this time

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getting ready to go into the oven

My favorite brunch dish…recreated at home

So I guess if I were to pick a place that my friends and I meet up at the most I would have to say it is Another Broken Egg. It’s a wonderful place to have brunch and they have some really unique dishes. They serve fabulous Bloody Mary’s and have Bailey’s to spike your coffee if that is your desire. As a stay at home mom, sometimes I meet my other stay at home moms (and my friends who work from home) for brunch. It’s perfect. We drop the kiddos off and then before we run our errands or go home and do our thing. It’s the perfect meal as far as I am concerned. Best of both worlds and anything goes. So crab cakes cavallo is my favorite dish on their menu. It’s a total spurge and so decadent. I adore crab cakes. As a kid my mom and dad would take me to Harry’s Hamburger Stand in Marksville when we would visit my grandparents and I always loved their crab burger. So I guess it would stand to reason that I would love crab cakes. I buy this just at random in the seafood section at Kroger’s. They have great ones. The ones I use in this recipe are just what I had bought last time. Mini crab cakes from Target. Market pantry brand. You are welcome to make your own but I will be honest…mama ain’t making homemade crab cakes at 8 a.m. on a Saturday. Thank you very much I will just use the frozen ones. But do your thing honey. This dish was really quite simple to pull together using prepackaged ingredients once I figured out my plan of action. Of course the experience was not the same as being at ABE, as we call it, but the recipe was pretty dead on. It tasted divine. I made some grits and toasted English muffins to serve along side of this scrumptious dish. A cup of coffee and we were golden. Big Daddy loved the eggs with the sauce but did not care for the crab cakes. Whatever…he is nuts!! Who is he? This makes me question who is. Lol! I am mostly kidding. He said it was too early for crab cakes. I did not know there was such a thing. Again, obviously I married a stranger. Smh. Oh another side note…this dish is usually served with poached eggs on top. But I don’t do poached eggs and I have always ordered it with scrambled eggs and it is wonderful!!! Anyway, give this recipe a try if you love brunch and you adore crab cakes!!~AMB

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some of us convened for an impromptu ornament exchange in December. We may or may not have had mimosas or Bloody Mary’s that morning. Kidding. We totally did.

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oh the deliciousness

Copycat ABE crab cakes Cavallo

serves 2″”

Stuff you need~
1 package of crab cakes (2 big ones or 8 mini ones), cooked according to package directions
1 package Hollandaise sauce mix, cooked according to package directions
1/2 cup andouille sausage, sliced and chopped
One green onion stalk, green parts only, sliced thin
6 eggs, scrambled
Cooking oil

What to do with the stuff~

Warm some cooking oil (about 1 tablespoon) in a medium size skillet. Cook andouille (say it with me an-do-we) sausage until it is nice and brown. Stir in Hollandaise sauce let this simmer on low for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sliced green onions. My best friend Lolly, taught me to use my kitchen shears to cut them straight into whatever dish you are putting them in. Where I’m from, that is nearly every dish. Her mother in law, Mrs. Fern, taught her this little trick. It works like a charm!!! Let the sauce get infused with that andouille and green onion flavor. Ooh so good. Now, plate this dish up so you can chow down.
Layer one big crab cake on a plate. Spoon some of the scrambled eggs over the top. Now, ladle some of that heavenly sauce over the top. You can add more sliced green onions to this if you wish.
Enjoy! Now that’s a brunch dish worthy of a Cajun!!! Or anyone who just wants to brunch like a Cajun. Say it with me…yummmmmmmmm!!!

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mmmmmmmmmm!!

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getting that divine sauce ready for the job it was destined for. To top crab cakes!

Fresh strawberry cake with cream cheese icing and people can change

I am usually such a chocoholic when it comes desserts that I never saw it coming when I came across a recipe for this strawberry cake on Christy Jordan’s Southern Plate Facebook page at http://www.southernplate.com/2010/04/fresh-strawberry-cake-with-cream-cheese-icing.html and was compelled to make it right away. I felt a call, an urging to make it. Yes. That’s right. Making this heavenly strawberry cake is a calling. More like a product of divine intervention. It is dreamy. It is moist. It fulfills all of my dessert needs and yet…there is no chocolate. I am in love. Who says people can’t change? This recipe has a made from scratch taste and look yet it calls for a boxed cake mix. There are fresh strawberries in the cake and in the icing and man…it is something else. I will warn you…the smell of it making in the oven will cause your family to ask “what is that delicious smell?” And say “something smells so good” every 5 minutes. If you are looking for a new dessert to bring along to a party or just to bake for your family because you love them…or you know…they cannot talk while shoving this awesome cake in their mouths (not that I do that! He he) this is the one to try!!!!! Plus strawberries are in season now and they are not so expensive. Get on it!!! ~AMB

Fresh strawberry cake with cream cheese icing

Stuff you need~

for the cake:
1 box white cake mix
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1-3 ounce package of strawberry gelatin
1 cup crushed strawberries and juice (1 regular container of fresh strawberries will do)*

for the icing

1-8 ounce block cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter (I used half a stick of the real stuff), softened
3 cups powdered sugar
Whatever is left of the crushed strawberries

*cut the green part off the berries and then slice them up. Add to a gallon size storage bag. Close the bag well once all strawberries are in. I did as Christy Jordan suggested and used a canned good to crush the berries. Just gently roll the can across the closed ziplock bag. It works like a charm.
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crushed strawberries . Easy peasy.

What to do with the stuff~

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 8 inch round cake pans or 1 9 x 13 pan with Baker’s Magic or coat with oil and then flour them.
In a mixing bowl, add cake mix, eggs, milk, oil and gelatin. Using standing mixer or hand mixer, mix until all ingredients are combined. About 2 minutes. Next add in crushed strawberries. Mix again until the berries are incorporated well into batter.
Pour into prepared baking pan (s) and cooking until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. I did the 9 x 13 and it took about 35-40 minutes.
Allow cake to cool completely before icing.

While cake it baking, go on and get your icing ready. I just washed out my standing mixer bowl and used it again. In a medium size bowl, combine the softened cream cheese and butter and powdered sugar. Mix until smooth. Resist the urge to eat with a spoon. If you desire, add in the rest of the crushed berries you did not use. I like the way it looks and the taste is out of this world. CJ suggests it is prettier without the berries, but I disagree. Each to his own, so do your thing. You can’t lose either way!!
Once cake is cooled, ice that baby and cry your happy tears that you made a cake that is so luscious and pretty. Yay you!!!!

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look at that pretty cake mix!

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the icing. Will be my undoing. S.O.S.

Luau punch just in time for summer!!!

Oh boy! What a week this has been! It has been chock full of end of school year parties, a graduation, a birthday (mine), tears of joy and tears of letting go. Of course I had my camera with me for some of it. It’s been a week full of blessings, looking back at the year we have had, and looking ahead to summer and behind that another school year with our family. That’s right. We go to school with our family. I don’t have family near by. The closest is 2 hours, which is not that far, but when it comes to day to day life, it is far enough. So we make our own family. And that includes good friends, and the teachers, staff, kiddos and their parents at our most wonderful school. My kids spend so much time there (all 4 of them) that it is just kind of natural for me to want to be a huge part of that. It’s our community. One thing about being Cajun is that you are raised to be somewhat family oriented. I have actual bonds, memories, relationships with cousins, great aunts, second cousins, third cousins twice removed. In my opinion, family is not only about who you are related to by blood, but who is there every day. And for us, that is comprised mostly of the families, teachers and staff at our school. It is a small school, so maybe that’s it. So this week has been a lot about those people. Our family. And the past week or so our Framily (thanks Bee for that term) has celebrated, grieved, said goodbye to some and transitioned. I feel blessed to be a part of it all. I have some very good friends who had kiddos graduating from 5th grade from that same school. They asked me to be there to take pictures and I am so glad I did. It was bittersweet for them, for us and like they were there on my birthday with flowers and balloons to celebrate my day, I was there on hand with my camera to capture those memories that were just a little too bittersweet for them to enjoy from behind the lens. It’s what framily does.
Now onto this fantabulous luau punch. I ran across this recipe last week here http://allrecipes.com/recipe/luau-punch/detail.aspx and it just looked so refreshing I had to make it. It only takes 3 ingredients and a little time to prep, so it makes the perfect punch for a graduation celebration, a birthday party, or just chilling around the pool. Also, with long summer days ahead with 4 kiddos in the house and probably some of our framily too, it is a great thing to have on hand. The kids can have it as is, and the mommies can spike it with rum or vodka (not that I know anything about that. Ha! Who am I kidding? Y’all know I am Cajun and I will spike it and be proud!) and make their own grown up version. It’s also great for that bridal or baby shower or a summertime Sunday brunch. It is an all around perfect summer treat!!! Cold, slushy, and refreshing…it is completely worth your time.~AMB

Luau punch

Stuff you need~

1- 2 liter bottle of sprite or any lemon lime soda (I used Sprite Zero)
1 can pineapple juice
1-12 ounce frozen orange juice concentrate (the original uses 7 ounces but I could not find that size and I did not want to waste the rest. I dumped it in and it was delish!)

What to do with the stuff~

In a large freezer safe jug or container with a lid, combine the orange juice concentrate and pineapple juice. Using a heavy duty spoon, stir well until concentrate and pineapple juice are well combined. Next, stir in the soda. It will fizz up some and that’s ok. Put lid on and stick it in the freezer overnight. The next day, remove container from fridge and using a ice pic, break through the frozen top, turning it into slush. Ladle it into glasses and enjoy! You’re welcome!

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an it’s my birthday selfie with some of my wonderful friends! My framily!

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our end of the school year pic with me feigning despair (mostly)…really we are all ecstatic!

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sweet friends graduating…they are thick as thieves and precious as the day is long

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my babies and our wonderful principal. She takes time to pose with her students…she leads a great team

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even Toby cannot resist the punch

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just in time for summer ‚ėÄÔłŹ

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an outsider may look at this picture and just see a librarian, a custodian, cafeteria manager, a security guard, and so on….I look at them, my kids look at them and see the people who are in our lives everyday. They comfort us, hug us, greet us with a smile, protect us, keep us in line…they are our framily. Proud to be a part of that.

Shrimp Quesadillas, chopping down trees, and a google search

So a week or so ago, I had some “rat killing” (as Clay’s Pappaw used to call it) to do around town after I dropped the kiddos off at school. Knowing my days flying solo are numbered with summer coming, I am trying to pack it all in. He had a meeting in town and we were able to meet up for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants that we rarely get to frequent because of the kids always have somewhere they want to go when we do treat ourselves to dinner at a restaurant (a rare treat since it is expensive with 4 kids and frankly, I prefer to cook). We both love Superior Grille (who doesn’t?). It is a Shreveport landmark as far as I am concerned with it’s laid back yet fun vibe not to mention the food is spectacular. We will not discuss the margaritas that will knock you on your behind after you drink half of it. They are so good. So, when he called me and told me he was near by where I was, I said meet me at Superior. I didn’t have to ask him twice. We were hungry but not starving so we decided to split an order of something. I suggested the shrimp quesadillas. I usually order the crawfish enchiladas (shocking right? Ha ha ha) and they are delicious, but I didn’t want something that heavy. On a side note, if you have never had their crawfish enchiladas, you are missing out. Anyway, he was game for whatever and let me say…we were not disappointed. Those shrimp quesadillas were full of melty, savory goodness. They were a hit!!

So cut to today, BD took the boys to our rent house to trim some bushes and start the process of cutting down a tree (yes, that’s what you get when you marry a country boy. He cuts down trees in his spare time, if he decides that needs to be done. At 8:30 in morning no less. Sigh) so the girls and I kind of hung around the house chilling. Bare with me, I am getting somewhere here. The girls have been wanting to see Legends of Oz:Dorothy’s Return. Ben said he was not interested because he had read the reviews and it was a total rip off (yes, my 10 year reads movie reviews, restaurant reviews, etc.). So I am in the movies with my girls and I will admit, I was a little bored. They loved it (which is what counts) but my mind started to wander. “What am I going to cook for supper? What is a good meal to bring to a grieving family? Red beans and rice are always good but what if they don’t like red beans?” There was no one behind us, so I will admit that I turned my phone on and immediately googled a recipe for shrimp quesadillas. Second one was PW’s quesadillas de camerones! I have her cookbooks and the recipe is in one of them (first one) but the link to the post I found via Google is here~ http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2011/01/quesadillas-de-camarones/. Bingo!!! So after the movie, the girls and I stopped at the store to get the few ingredients we needed for what I hoped were the shrimp quesadillas of my dreams. Shrimp quesadillas that were close to the fabulous Superior ones. Maybe. Did I dare hope? Oh I dared. BD was so excited when I texted him this. Ok actually, he didn’t care that much. He was still high from his tree trimming and plotting tomorrow’s “operation river burch down” with the boys to really care. BUT…when I decided to execute my make shrimp quesadilla mission…and he came inside and smelled the aroma that came very close to that coming from the kitchens in Mexican restaurants…oh he cared then. And I quote “mama. It smells like superior in here. Dang it smells GOOD!!” Yeah…that’s the stuff. Y’all. They were so good! Full of creamy, melty cheese and those savory shrimp with just a hint of spice. Sweet baby Jesus, they were divine. BD is still talking about them this morning.

So if you love shrimp, you love Mexican food, you love cheese, you adore quesadillas…these are for you. Try them. I promise. Oh I promise you…you will love them.

PW’s quesadillas de camerones or shrimp quesadillas
Makes 6 quesadillas
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oh the deliciousness of it all

Stuff you need~

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
12 medium size flour tortillas
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack (I used a mixture of shredded Monterey Jack and these new Velveeta Queso Blanco shreds….this was perfect!!!)
12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
7 ounces of Mexican tomato sauce or red enchilada sauce
1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 green bell pepper, ditto
1 onion, cut in half and then sliced
Butter
Kosher salt and black pepper

What to do with the stuff~

In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add your little shrimpies once you have some heat. Cook them until they are opaque and pinkish. Sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper. Stir in the Mexican tomato sauce or enchilada sauce, reduce heat and let the shrimp simmer in that yummy sauce for about 2 to 3 minutes. Yeah that’s the stuff. Now, using a slotted spoon, remove the shrimp from the skillet. Once they have cooled some, chop them up with a sharp knife. Let them alone for now (this is the hard part…BD came in a snuck several as I was in the throws of cooking, but they are scrumptious little shrimpies I cannot blame him.)
Ok in a separate skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the bell peppers and onion and saut√© until they are tender and have a slight brown around the edges. When the veggies are done, remove them from the skillet, place them on a plate, and set aside. Now, take about 1/2 teaspoon of butter and plop it into the skillet. Melt it over medium low heat. Add one tortilla to the skillet. Take a handful of cheese and layer it on top of the tortilla. Now, add some of the saut√©ed veggies on top of the cheese. Take some of the chopped up shrimp and put them on top of the veggies. Take another tortilla and lay it in top of the whole shebang. Ok…this is the hardest part (other than not eating all the shrimp)…take a big spatula and flip the whole quesadilla over once the bottom tortilla is nice and brown. Don’t panic and just do it. If some stuff falls out, just stuff it back in. You’ve got it. Let that tortilla brown and then remove and cut into 4 pieces. Keep repeating the process until they are all cooked. Just add another 1/2 teaspoon of butter, add your bottom tortilla and go. Enjoy!!! Serve with sour cream, guacamole and some pico de gallo if you want, but to be honest…you won’t miss it. These babies are built to stand alone.

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olive oil getting ready to cook those shrimp to delicious doneness

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this is my favorite red enchilada sauce…found it at Brookshires

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sweet babies peeled and deveined…you have been chosen to be a part of something greater than yourself

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this what the shrimp look like when they are opaque and pinkish aka ready

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veggies ready to be chopped

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so pretty and soon to be tasty

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and the tree comes down. Ben watches it. I have pics of him growing up by that tree. I choose to not think of that now. It needed to come down as the roots caused lots of plumbing issues. Still…

Happy Mother’s Day…here is your chicken ranch soft taco

So I debated on whether to post a recipe today…I mean, it has been a week since I last posted a recipe so why today? ¬†I feel guilty when I don’t post a few recipes a week and I admit that I struggle with finding balance between being a mom and a blogger. ¬†Last week I had two strings concerts to attend for my oldest, a field trip to the mall and the skating rink with him. ¬†I helped with the kindergarten gradation pictures since the office asked and my baby was one of them. ¬†Not to mention, he lost his first tooth and then swallowed it all within the same minute. ¬†Oh the drama. ¬†He was scared, disappointed, worried, and elated all at once. ¬†There has been Top Readers Club parties for my 9 year old lovely girl to photograph, bring cupcakes and drinks for, pizzas to pick up…yeah…it has been a little busy. ¬†And frankly, this school year just needs to come to an end because mamas (and dads…but it is mother’s day so ya’ll get over it. ¬†:-)) everywhere are just worn slap out. ¬†I know many of you work full time jobs, coach their kids t ball teams, run kids back and forth to gymnastics, ballet recital practice and pics, therapy sessions and so much more. ¬†So today I decided that I would give ya’ll a Mother’s Day gift. ¬†A recipe that is just so satisfying, delicious, and so easy that it cooks itself. ¬†No really. So, as we are on the countdown to the end of the school year and my subsequent inevitable nervous breakdown (i am kidding! ¬†Mostly) ¬†I thought this would be a wonderful recipe to post. ¬†I hope ya’ll enjoy it as much as my whole family has. ¬†It was a hit even with my pickiest violin player. ¬†So happy Mother’s Day to the moms, grandmothers, aunts who act like moms, stepmoms, Godmothers, and all the ladies out there who may not ever have given birth but play the role of mama to so many. ¬†Here is your chicken soft taco!!! ¬†Much love on this day ladies!! ¬†I sincerely am glad to be able to share these recipes with you. ¬†Drop me a line and tell me a little about yourself in the comment section so I can get to know you better. ¬†I would love that!! ¬†Hugs to you. ¬†Hope your day is just as lovely as you are.~AMB

Super easy Crockpot chicken ranch soft tacos (original post can be seen here: http://myfindsonline.com/4-ingredient-crockpot-chicken-ranch-taco-recipe/)

Stuff you need~

1 cup chicken broth (I used the entire can)

1 packet ranch dressing packet

1 packet taco seasoning mix (I use mild to ensure the kiddos will find it palatable)

2-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

tortillas

shredded cheese, sliced avocados, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, sour cream for topping

What to do with the stuff~

Lay your chicken breasts at the bottom of your crockpot ( I used Big Read…a 4.5 quart one). ¬†In a bowl, whisk together the chicken broth, ranch dressing mix and taco seasoning mix. ¬†Pour this mixture over the chicken bosoms (my friend Kylie used to call them this and it always cracks me up. ¬†Shout out to Kylie!) and cook on low for 4-6 hours. ¬†Big red tends to cook a little faster, so mine were ready in about 4 1/2 hours. ¬†Shred the cooked chicken breasts and warm the tortillas. ¬†Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from the crockpot and put it in a serving bowl (if you wish or you can serve the chicken straight from the slow cooker. ¬†You are the mama! ¬†Do your thing!) Put out the optional toppings and serve those bad boys up. ¬†And watch them disappear!

Easy as…

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1…

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2…

 

 

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3!!!! Hard part is done!!  Turn the slow cooker on and they will be ready when you are!  Pretty great.

 

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Yeah…this was us this morning. ¬†The plan was to take a sweet picture of them all around me in our pool…happy and laughing. ¬†That was the picture I had in my head. ¬†Oh what a pipe dream. ¬†This is my reality. ¬†The boys got into a fight, the girls trying to make mama happy, and me trying to contain the little one. ¬†Ahhh…motherhood. ¬†I need a drink!!