Million dollar spaghetti and at the center of it all

So when I was growing up, spaghetti was an event. Spaghetti and meatballs that is. My mom’s spaghetti and meatballs. Took all day to cook and it was worth the wait. It almost always was a meal on a weekend and we would have leftovers during the week. That meal to this day is very special and still very much an event. I do enjoy cooking up a pot of spaghetti and meatballs from time to time, but my family loves and I mean LOVES spaghetti. And as much as I love them, I do not have time to make a pot of spaghetti and meatballs as often as they would like it. So I often turn to spaghetti and meat sauce. My oldest prefers meatballs (mix of pork and ground chuck mom, STAT) but he will endure meat sauce if he has to.
Of course, as much as I adore tradition, I am always looking for good variations on our favorite meals. I like to shake it up sometimes, keep it fresh, and make some noise (ha! Like I have to do that…these cookoo loos over here make enough noise for 3 households) but you get what I am saying. I like to stay out of the dinner time rut. So when I came across this recipe on Pinterest for million dollar spaghetti a while back http://ashleykaitlin.blogspot.com/2011/01/million-dollar-spaghetti.html?m=1, I knew I had to try it.
Well this week has been, um, interesting to say the least. It started off that way and it continues to be so. For different reasons. Swimming pool calamities, sick kids, sick hubby and it’s only Thursday, so I figured let’s just blow it out and doing something crazy! Let’s make million dollar spaghetti!!! Or it went something like that. I have said it before and I will say it again, when things are stressful on the home front and I have an inkling of that feeling that I just want to bury my head under the covers and cry, I shift into crazy homemaker mode. I know that few things are in my control, but what I cook and how I feel in my home, is all me. So I cook something traditional and comforting or I try something new. I try a cleaning tip and do some laundry. I guess my home is my center and I find comfort there. I guess it’s the Narcille and Beulah Mae coming out in me and every other Cajun mama I come from.

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the two sick dudes laid up, everyone else around them (getting infected I can only imagine)…but that’s my chaos and my heart and soul

This million dollar spaghetti was a wonderful alternative to our regular spaghetti and meat sauce. Big Daddy said he could do with less creamy stuff, but the kids LOVED it. Even my BHB (picky man) ate it with gusto. It’s kind of like my lazy girl’s lasagna https://cajunmamacookinblog.com/2013/12/13/lazy-girls-lasagna/, only with angel hair pasta. It really was very easy and delicious. I recommend you give it a go the next time you are feeling stressed to the limit and not quite certain you do this whole being a grown thing another day. It may not change the world, it may not make things 100% better, but it will surely change your outlook. You can look around the table at your family enjoying a meal that you made and think, ” I cannot do it all, but I can make a meal my family enjoys” and “I can bring my family together.” And let’s not forget, that is kind of the point of this whole cooking for these people we live with anyway. Enjoy!!~AMB

Million dollar spaghetti
Stuff you need~

8 ounces angel hair pasta, cooked al dente
2 lb. container Cottage cheese (that’s the taller one)
1/4 cup sour cream
8 ounces cream cheese
1 small jar spaghetti sauce (I am a Ragu girl)
1 pound ground chuck
1 stick of butter (I used about 3/4 of the stick)
2 cups shredded mild cheddar

What to do with the stuff~

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook your pasta according to package directions. Brown ground beef until no longer pink. Drain well.
Stir spaghetti sauce into the drained ground beef. Heat until warmed throughout.
In a mixing bowl, mix together the softened cream cheese, sour cream, and cottage cheese. (I used my standing mixer to do this, as she suggested)
Put half of the butter (sliced into pats) at the bottom of a 9 x 13 dish. Layer half of the noodles on top of this. Now layer all of the creamy mixture on top of this.
Next, layer the rest of the noodles on top of the creamy mixture. Lay the rest of the butter pats on top of the noodles.
Now spread the spaghetti sauce and meat all over the top.
Cook at 350 for 30 minutes.
Finally, sprinkle the cheddar all over the top of the whole shebang.
Cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is all bubbly and irresistible looking.

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noodles on top of creamy mixture

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more butter pats on top of the noodles

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my handsome boy helping me cook and telling me all about his latest google research. He amazes me.

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layers and layers of yummm

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Berry picking and a dang good cobbler

So this past weekend a local blueberry farm, Hillcrest Blueberry Farm, ran a special on blackberries. A gallon for $10!! We have always wanted to take the kids to pick berries and every summer it is on our list but somehow we get busy and it just never happens. Until this past Saturday. What a wonderful time we all had picking berries! It didn’t take a full hour for us to fill two gallon buckets with those huge, juicy berries. They were the most perfect looking things I had personally ever seen. The kids were in awe over the size as they plucked one big one after another from the vine. Frankly, BD and I were pretty dang impressed too!
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Here is a link to their website if you want to check it out and maybe take a trip to a great local farm so your family can get the whole experience too. http://www.hillcrestblueberryfarm.com/. Plus they have some super yummy berries, syrups, jams, and a bunch of other too delicious to mention goodies. They also have some out of this world Tahitian Vanilla soft serve that is out of this world. I say this and I am not an ice cream lover and certainly not vanilla and this stuff was ah-mazing. Just saying!! The kids were stoked…berry picking AND soft serve. Yes please! My little one saw that they had blackberries and blueberries to add to the top of your soft serve and he was all “don’t mind if I do!” My baby is smart like that. It was a great experience for them, for us, for our whole family and I highly recommend it.

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soft serve on a hot day=perfection
So now we arrive to the portion of this blog post where I give up the goods. I tell y’all, my friends, peeps, partners in cooking crimes, what I made with some of these ginormous berries. Well, I have some other creative ideas that I plan to execute, but on that first day, I made cobbler. Blackberry cobbler. Big Daddy adores blackberry cobbler and has always been fine with I have served him those frozen Mrs. Smith’s cobblers from our grocery store’s freezer section. Yes I said that. Yes I did that. I have told y’all about me being the anti baker. Until recently, my baking projects read mostly like a Pinterest “nailed it!” Roster. I am getting better with each attempt though I realize it is a process. So yes I have fed my man a frozen cobbler that I oh so generously cooked in the oven first. I am a loving caring wife who does that stuff. But buoyed by our authentic berry picking extravaganza and my recent successes in the baking department, I said I am gonna give it a go! I am gonna bake a cobbler from scratch! No wait, I think I said “I am going to attempt to bake a cobbler from scratch!!!” And my oven groaned. Ha ha!!! So I googled blackberry cobbler recipes and what do you think pops up?! Yes that’s right! Pioneer Woman’s blackberry cobbler recipe! It was a sign from the cooking gods and I ran with it! Here is a link http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/08/the_great_cobbl/. This is a basic cobbler recipe and it is easy as…well…pie.~AMB

Blackberry Cobbler

Stuff you need~

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 1/4 cup sugar, divided
1 cup self rising flour
1 cup milk
2 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen

What to do with the stuff~

First off, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Next melt the butter in a microwaveable safe dish
In a large mixing bowl, add self rising flour and 1 cup of sugar. Whisk in the milk. Then stir in the melted butter. Oh my. It’s getting good now.
Ok…now you will butter your baking dish. I used a round shallow one and it worked well but use what you have. Don’t be afraid to butter it well. Really work that butter. Yeah that’s right. Ok now, pour in the milk flour mixture. Now, add in the blackberries. Now, you want to sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar all over the top. Pop that bad boy (really that sweet thing) into the oven. Bake for about 55-60 minutes until lightly browned on top and set in the middle.
Serve with a dollop of vanilla ice cream (Tahitian soft serve anyone? Anyone?) or some Cool Whip. It is good. It is divine. It is blackberry cobbler that you made yourself from scratch with berries that you picked! You are amazing!!! Take a bow. Just not in front of the oven or you might hit your head. ūüėČ

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fresh berries in the cobbler! Go you and me and all of us. Blackberry cobbler for all!

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all for one, one for all…berries!

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a few more pics from our very excellent berry picking adventure

Weeknight wonder #2!! Crockpot brown sugar pork loin with balsamic glaze

So for today’s weeknight wonder I have a recipe sure to be the talk of the town, the bell the ball, the cat’s meow. Maybe I am exaggerating a tad but it will definitely be a hit in your house! This is a knockout pork loin with a sweet tangy glaze. My kids all devoured it. They could not get enough. It was the easiest thing to make too. I made this before this whole Cajun Mama thing, when it was everywhere on Pinterest, but not since and I have always wanted to blog this recipe to share with y’all. This is the link I found the recipe on this time http://brooklynactivemama.com/03/2014/slow-cooker-pork-tenderloin-recipe.html. I wondered if it was as good as I remembered it being. The answer to that question is yes. It may have been better than what I remember. Not sure if it is the simplicity that makes it so terrific or if it is the sweet, thick tangy glaze. Maybe it is those two things combined. One thing is for certain, this a pork loin for all seasons. It’s cooked in the crockpot so it is perfect for summer time. It’s delicious and hearty, so it is great for winter time, out of the house all day, come home to a great smelling dinner. Anyway you go, it is all good.

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though he is never hard to please, my baby really ate this roast up!

Crockpot brown sugar pork loin with Balsamic glaze

Stuff you need~

2 pound pork tenderloin
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 clove garlic, smashed (I used minced garlic because that is what I had. Worked fine)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch

What to do with the stuff~

In a small bowl, mix together the sage, garlic, salt and pepper. Put your tenderloin in the crockpot. Rub that seasoning all over that roast. Now add the first 1/2 cup of water to the crockpot. Put the lid on. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Mine took 6 hours and it was fork tender.

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easy enough? Yes it is! Ok good!

Ok at some point before the hour 6, whisk together in a small saucepan the water, cornstarch, soy sauce, Balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat and continue to whisk the mixture until it is thickened. About 4 minutes or so. Remove from heat. For the last hour, brush the sticky sweet glaze over the roast 3 or times as it continues to cook. When done, transfer the roast to a large serving plate. Drizzle the remainder of the glaze all over that tender roast. It will make you drool. It is absolutely as yummy as it looks.

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there you go. You are welcome. Enjoy!!

Weeknight wonder #1! Southern Living creamy chicken and noodles

First of all, dispel any notion of any previous recipes for chicken and noodles. Even if you love chicken and noodles, this is a different recipe. It’s like sassy, saucy chicken and noodles. They are like traditional chicken and noodle’s sassy older sister with a mysterious air. Yes. The familiarity of chicken noodles yet with an added something. My mother in law, Deb, makes what my father in law calls dead man noodles. They call them this because she makes them when someone passes away and brings them to the grieving family. They are very delicious and a recipe she has made often. They are comforting and make a ton. I enjoy them. So when I came across this recipe several years ago in Southern Living magazine, I would have passed it by except, this recipe was in a section about meals with rotisserie chicken. I stopped short (that’s a nod to Seinfeld, yes. I love rerun comedies. So said like Frank Cosfanza…”I stopped short!” Lol!) and did a double take. What? No boiling a chicken all day? Well sign me up! At that time I distinctly remember having 3 little bitty kiddos under foot all day long and getting any meal on the table was a struggle most evenings. So when I found this and BD really loved it and the kiddos kind of ate it, I thought score!
This week, I decided to post recipes I consider weeknight wonders. Meals you can either prep ahead of time or throw together quickly using shortcuts. Who does not love that? I like to cook, but I love a good shortcut! AND the list of ingredients is so small, I can recall it easily. After 4 kids and lots of sleep deprivation, that is saying so much. This meal definitely comes together quickly and you can change it up a bit to suit your families tastes.~AMB

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not so long ago, there were 3 instead of 4. Home all day and I cherish every crazy moment. They were 3, 2, and about 7 months…2007

Southern Living Creamy chicken and noodles

Stuff you need~

8 ounces of wide egg noodles
3 cups cooked chicken, cut into small pieces (insert ROTISSERIE chicken here…just pick it up at the store and debone it! Done and done!)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning packet mix (yes the Good Seasons stuff…or store brand)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Fresh parsley (the dried stuff will do in a pinch. Promise)

What to do with the stuff~

Boil your noodles and drain them. Put the noodles back in the pot. Add the butter and toss noodles to coat. It gets hard now so pay attention.
I am totally kidding it’s so easy that it should be wrong. Ok sorry for my little foray into pranking y’all.
Anyway, noodles are coated in butter. It’s all good. Throw in that cut up chicken. Stir. So now, you toss in your 1 tablespoon of Italian dressing mix. NOT THE WHOLE PACKAGE OF IT!!! Next, throw in the grated Parm. And then the parsley. You are gently tossing to coat this whole time. Now, pour in that good ole heavy whipping cream. Stir it in. Oh yeah. It looks good right? Yes so now, over a medium to low heat, heat this up until it thickens a bit. It is so fabulous. Feels like you really did it up, and yet that wasn’t bad at all. Your family gets fed and you are all awesome mom. Or dad. Check you being all awesome!

*If you want to get real fancy like, you can toss in a cup of frozen peas and pieces of ham instead of the cut up chicken.

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these ain’t your grandmother’s chicken and noodles!

Thai noodle salad

I am not sure if I have shared with my blog readers the depth of my obsession with Thai food. I love it. Like obsessed with it. If I could marry Thai food I would. But then I would eat it and be sad and alone again. So I will stick with Big Daddy. My love of Thai started with the Thai chicken pizza at Schlotzsky’s. Oh so delicious. When I was pregnant with Ben, I craved those. And then many years later, one of my dear friends, Betsy (yes we have discussed her before) introduced me to a local place called Dahn’s noodle house. It is one of those hole in the wall places that might be easy to overlook. I had seen it and wondered about, but one day Betsy’s husband went to eat there and brought her back some. And later that week we had this conversation when she told me about it…”yes that kind of shady looking place past the liquor store. Yes the one we always wonder about. Yes it is awesome. Matt said it was packed for lunch on Saturday.” So she and I hit up Dahn’s noodle house the next and it was as they say…on. Oh so on. Pad Thai. Peanut chicken. Spicy lemongrass chicken. Yes, yes, and yesss. “I need a t-25 sir, and make it snappy!!!” Mommy likes. Mommy loves. It was love at first bite. We went again and again. We brought friends. “Yes come with us. Yes that kind of shady looking place past the liquor store. Yes the food is awesome.” It is like a little secret in Shreveport that is not so secret anymore. It is usually packed and I went in there the other day to pick up some pad Thai because I had to have some and the waiters were wearing fancy vests. They used to just wear jeans or what have you. That is a true indication that the secret is out. It is a great restaurant in Shreveport. When Betsy and I used to go on a weekly, I mean monthly, basis there was a hammock off to the side where their baby would nap. It was the cutest thing and just so quaint. Certainly a conversation starter. Lol.

So back to the business hand, Thai noodle salad. The original recipe is called Thai chicken pasta salad but y’all. I just could not put the chicken in it. I wanted straight noodles. Just cool, creamy noodle perfection with a hint of crunch coming from the veggies. And some siracha sauce to give it a kick. Mmmm. Oh yeah, Cajun mama likey her Thai noodles, however odd that may sound. I should be an ambassador. I promote all cultures on my blog. I love foods from all ethnicities and if I can cook it, I will. The ambassador thing was a joke ok. Just in case anyone thinks I am going all Gwyneth Paltrow over here, making stupid statements that have no basis in reality. Anyway, apparently I pinned this recipe a while back and I was scrolling the other day and thought “oh my yes. I need to make that stuff.”
The link to that is here…http://www.bhg.com/blogs/delish-dish/2014/03/26/thai-chicken-pasta-salad-recipe/. And so make it I did. And it was good. Cold, creamy, peanutty, with just enough crunch. Yes. I did not add the chicken. Check out the original post if you want to do that. I am telling you how I did it. It was Dahn’s noodle garden perfect. If you are Thai loving fool like me, it would be a safe bet to say you will enjoy this recipe. ~AMB

Thai noodle salad

Stuff you need~

2-3 ounces packages Ramen noodles
3/4 peanut butter
3/4 cup lite coconut milk
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (the fresher the better)
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper OR red pepper flakes (this is another obsession Betsy started for me)
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
1 small seedless cucumber, peeled and finely diced*
6 green onions, finely sliced

*if you cannot find seedless, just seed it. Slice horizontally once you have peeled it. Take a spoon and scape all the seeds out. It’s pretty easy.

What to do with the stuff~

Bring 4 cups or so of water to a boil in a medium size pot. Break the dry ramen noodles up and toss them into the boiling water. Discard the seasoning packets or save for another use. After you add the broken up noodles, remove the pot from the heat. Just let the noodles sit there.
Now, in a large bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, coconut milk, lime juice, sugar and the seasonings. Now add the carrot , green onion and cucumber to the peanut butter sauce. Stir to coat.
Drain your noodles, rinse well with cold water. Add the drained noodles to the sauce and stir gently. Spoon into some bowls. Sprinkle with some extra crushed red pepper flakes if you want. Take liberty with the Siracha sauce. I love that stuff. Almost as much as I love this noodle salad.

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even the bottle just makes me glad to be alive

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oh for the love of Thai!

Old friends and new recipes in honor of Megan

So, on May 14, 2014, a friend of mine lost her sweet daughter in a tragic car accident. ¬†Megan was 19 years old and had just returned from LSU after a busy semester at LSU. ¬†She went to a party to reconnect with her friends also in from school for the summer. ¬†It’s what those college kiddos do. ¬†She left the party with a close friend and at some point, they hit a tree and the truck burst into flames. ¬†Neither Megan or Blake survived the crash. Two lives cut short. Two families left to grieve. Megan leaves behind her precious mother, Crissy, her dad and two brothers. ¬†Not to mention countless family members and good friends she made during her all too brief journey on this Earth. ¬†I met Crissy when she was a teacher at the school my kids attend. ¬†She had been there since my oldest started and she was always so kind and welcoming to me. ¬†She is the kind of lady who has never met a stranger. ¬†Her blue eyes are always bright and she has smile is on her face. ¬†Much like the pictures I have seen of Megan recently. ¬†Both the kind of girls who never met a stranger. ¬†Loved by all who meet them. ¬†So, when I heard of Megan’s passing, I immediately texted Crissy to lend my support. ¬†It does not matter how close you are to someone or how long it has been since you have seen them, when someone loses their child, it is almost instinctual to run to them and protect them. Be there. I have always been a big believer in do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Well, naturally I made up a pot of red beans and brought them over. Crissy being the kind of lady she is, invited me and the kiddos right in. She had family visiting and I did not want to intrude, but she would not have it. She wanted to visit and see the kids. This is just the kind of lady that she is. So we went on her back porch and visited. I was so glad to spend some time with such a lovely lady that I had only really had a chance to interact with in passing at the school. The first thing she said was “I have peace. I know my baby girl lived right. She is ok.” It broke my heart and made me smile at the same time. And I knew then, I wanted to do more. I could do more. When someone is grieving, they will either want to turn into themselves and be alone (understandable) or reach out to others. Crissy being the social butterfly that she is, I wanted to make sure she had plenty of people to reach out to. Sometimes, there are no friends like old friends, and at our school, we are like family. Chrissy has been a teacher for almost 30 years and many of those were spent at our school. So I thought, why not invite some of the parents and teachers who knew her well and would like to offer their support to her in one place. So I did.

It wasn’t hard at all and everyone was eager to surround their dear friend during a hard time. The evening started about 3 in the afternoon and did not end completely until 9:30 that night. Many people brought some stuff and I provided some goodies as well. Crissy got to see some friends she had not seen in a while or at the least had not visited with in a while. It was a lovely thing to behold. The food was delicious but the friendship was the sweetest thing of all. Some of her former students came out and even though we were gathered together to grieve with our friend, there was much more laughter through the tears than anything. (As Truvy says “laughter through tears, it’s my favorite emotion!) There were bittersweet
memories of days gone by, fun stories about Megan, whose spirit was as much alive in my home as any one’s. By the end of the evening, I felt like I got to know that sweet girl and her mama just a little better. Not to sound cheesy but the whole evening was like a big hug. I am glad I took a chance and put forth the effort.

Though I did it for her, in many ways, I gained most of all. I got to be a part of something that was there before me, the bonds that were established long before I even had my first baby, much less had any in school. And I got to experience first hand, the power of female friendships and the almost healing qualities the presence of a good old friend can have. It was a blessing and I am better for it. I am glad I took the risk, rather than thinking about it and then letting the moment pass. Or being afraid of making her uncomfortable by suggesting it. Sometimes, it is best to take the risk.

Here is an article that one of Megan’s friends wrote about her…a lovely tribute to an even lovelier girl.
http://theodysseyonline.com/lsu/up-up-and-away-tragedy/42052

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these ladies have weathered many storms together

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that’s a lot of love in one room

Now, of course this Cajun mama is not going to have a get together without making up a few yummy treats and this time was no exception. I am posting all of the recipes that I prepared that evening in this post. The best part is that you can do many of the steps ahead of time (read-the day before) so the day of the party or get together is not so stressful. It definitely made my life easier, especially since the kids had just gotten out of school for the summer. Take a minute and check out these recipes. Here are the recipes…they were all a big hit!!!

Party punch

Here is the link to the original
post I came across~ http://m.allrecipes.com/recipe/19163/luscious-slush-punch?crlt.pid=camp.ZlETKOGDC2KC

Stuff you need~
Original recipe yields 50 servings 
2 1/2 cups white sugar 
6 cups of water
2 (3 ounce) packages strawberry jello mix
1 (46 fluid ounce) can pineapple juice
2/3 cup of lemon juice (bottled is fine)
1 quart of orange juice 
2 (2 liter) bottles of lemon lime soda 
What to do with the stuff~
In a large saucepan, bring water, sugar and jello mix to a boil. Allow to boil for about 3 minutes. Stir in the pineapple juice, lemon juice and orange juice. Allow to cool somewhat. Pour into two separate containers and freeze. When ready to use, defrost one container somewhat (I soaked mine in a lukewarm water bath for a few minutes and then took an ice pick to it to break it up and make it easier to pour) Pour into a punch bowl, followed by one of the 2 liter bottles of lemon lime soda. When ready, do the same thing with the other container and 2 liter of soda. It will go fast. This stuff is amazing!!! Spiked or served as is, this is one heck of a party punch!!

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Cherry cheesecake dip
http://aspottedpony.com/recipies/cherry-cheesecake-dip-fun-family-valentines-day-dessert/4959/

Stuff you need~
1-8 ounce block cream cheese, softened
1-7 ounce jar marshmallow fluff
2-8 ounce containers Cool Whip
2-21 ounce cans cherry pie filling
Package or 2 of graham crackers

What to do with the stuff~
In the bowl of your standing mixer or a mixing bowl, beat softened cream cheese and marshmallow fluff together until smooth. Next fold in one container of Cool Whip at a time. Pour this mixture into a large pie plate.
Cover this with the cherry pie filling. Chill until ready to serve. Serve with graham crackers for dipping. Scrumptious!

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Texas trash dip
Stuff you need~

1-8 ounce block cream cheese, softened
1-8 ounce container sour cream
2-16 ounce cans of refried beans
1 package taco seasoning*
2 cups shredded cheddar jack cheese, divided

*or you can make your own…https://cajunmamacookinblog.com/2014/06/10/homemade-tacoburrito-seasoning-and-an-awesome-chocolate-chip-cookie-recipe-and-low-expectations/

what to do with the stuff
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, mix sour cream and cream cheese until smooth and well…creamy. LOL. Next, stir in both cans of refried beans until well combined. Finally, stir in taco seasoning until blended well. Pour mixture into a 9 X 13 inch dish. Sprinkle with shredded cheese and bake in oven until cheese is all melted and bubbly and mixture is heated through, about 25-30 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips. Muy delicioso!

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Seriously this stuff is addictive

Thick fudge brownies
Excellent recipe from~
http://www.mandysrecipeboxblog.com/2014/03/thick-fudge-brownies.html?m=1

Stuff you need~

for brownies:
1 family size box milk chocolate brownie mix
1 family size box dark chocolate brownie mix
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted (12 tablespoons)
1/2 cup buttermilk
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

for frosting:
1 1/2 sticks butter or 12 tablespoons
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (the Hershey’s stuff)
1/2 cup milk
5 cups powdered sugar

What to do with the stuff~
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 inch brownie pan or plain old baking dish with foil (trust me).
In a large mixing bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the brownies together with a WOODEN spoon until completely mixed together. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes or until edges pull away from the pan and/or a wooden toothpick stuck in the middle comes out with no batter. Allow to cool while you whip up the frosting.
To prepare the frosting…melt the butter in a saucepan on medium low heat. Whisk in cocoa powder and milk. Cook until mixture begins to thicken a bit and just comes to a boil, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Pour the frosting onto the brownies and working quickly, smooth over the brownies. It will be fairly thick. That’s good. Refrigerate the pan of iced brownies to allow the frosting to set.
*Mandy (original blogger) makes sure to note that these are thick brownies and a little goes a long way. Cut into smaller squares. Absolutely sinful!!

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you will be glad to share these babies. They go fast and it’s a good thing. Because you will want to eat them all!

Southern Living Tangy Tzatziki pasta salad

http://www.myrecipes.com/m/recipe/tangy-tzatziki-pasta-salad-50400000121663/

This makes a very light pasta salad with a deliciously tangy twist. It is a great vegetarian option at an potluck or party. You need to start this the night before the party.

Stuff you need~

1-16 ounce container plain non fat Greek yogurt
1/4 olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves minced, or 1 1/2 teaspoon of the jarred minced garlic
1-16 ounce package penne pasta, cooked al dente, drained and rinsed with cool water
1 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced
3 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
3/4 sun dried tomatoes, in oil, drained and roughly chopped*
1-9.9 ounce, marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese

*I found these in Target, near the jarred minced garlic.

What to do with the stuff~

In a food processor, pulse first 7 ingredients for about 30 seconds or until well blended. Put in a bowl and cover. Chill overnight. (Minimum 1 hour but longer overnight to let flavors blend together).
The next day, place cooled pasta in a large bowl. Add chopped olives, diced cucumbers, chopped artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes to the pasta. I used to my (clean) hands to toss this pasta with the veggies. It was awkward using a spoon, if that makes sense. Next, pour yogurt mixture over the pasta and blend well. Gently stir in feta cheese.
Chill for at least one hour. Serve. I served mine in a trifle bowl and it worked great! Added something extra to my party table. ūüôā

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so cool, light and creamy…a nice addition to any summertime potluck or party.

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Megan and her sweet mama, Crissy

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me and my sweet friend

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Crawfish stew, cheesy potatoes and my sister is awesome

I believe I have told y’all before that I have 3 sisters. I am the oldest of 4 girls. It is something about me that defines me as much as I am Catholic, I am Cajun, my name is Aimee Marie. Their names are Jenny, Lisa, and Claire. They are all beautiful, spectacular, smart women. It’s crazy for me say that. My little sisters are now grown women. Jenny is 5 years younger than me and has always been my partner in crime. She is beyond gorgeous and has always been wiser than me in the ways of the world. Even though she is younger, she takes care of me sometimes. She is so much fun and loves to laugh. She can be my challenger, my support, my sounding board, my soft place to land and my protector. I really cannot go into how much our relationship means to me for fear of bawling like a baby. I have not had enough coffee for all that. I will say now that she has kids it is even better, because it is like she has multiplied. She is a teacher now, has 3 kiddos, is married to a man from Bazille (my precious brother in law Matt) and has a wonderful family by marriage. They are hardcore coonass, just like our family. In fact her sister in law once told me that I may as well be from Texas living all the way up in Shreveport. Yeah, they wear their Cajun with pride.

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our daughters look so much alike it is crazy business. It makes me smile. Big. And they love each other a ton.

Jenny’s mother in law, Mrs. Georgie, gave Jenny an awesome recipe for crawfish stew at her bridal shower several years ago. I was not made aware of this or somehow missed this fact because I had a baby with me who cried during most of the shower. But truthfully, it would not have done me much good until recently because I was up to my ears in baby until a few years ago. All in God’s timing and that includes recipes too I suppose. But thankfully, a few months ago I put a picture of Tony’s instant roux in the can. Several people commented that no way would they use that (Jennifer and Amanda I am looking at you both. Ha ha!!) but here comes my sister saying she uses it in her crawfish stew. I am all what is this crawfish stew you speak of sister? She sends me the handwritten recipe in Mrs. Georgie’s handwriting (that’s her mother in law). She also tells me to make these devilish sounding cheesy potatoes to go with it.

Jenny has always had a knack for knowing what would taste good. I think it is her adventurous nature that allows for this. She is not afraid to try things. She is as adventurous as I am cautious. She turned me on to baked sweet potatoes with butter, cinnamon and Tony’s. Oh yes and don’t knock it till you have tried it. When we have boiled crawfish she makes the best dipping sauces, hands down. She also has a knack for doing fantastic hair. She has this long beautiful hair that I cannot even imagine dealing with having 3 kids much less making it look lovely and glamorous. (Hush jenny you know it’s true!) Jenny used to give her best friend hair trims when they were probably 11 or 12 and I tell you she did a good job!! She is very special to me as you can tell and I am so proud she shared this recipe with me.

I cannot say I have always been the best sister in the world. I have often times been caught up in being a mom or had my head so far up my butt I could not see anything else but sick kids, dirty diapers, and breast milk. I think mostly she understands. I am definitely grateful for the connection we will always have. And recipes are just one of the many things that connect us. Our memories and stuff we laugh hysterically about that no one else would get as well. Even though she is 5 years younger, she teaches me so much. Like leftover crawfish stew can be served over grilled steaks the next night and that these cheesy potatoes are amazing with crawfish stew. Also, that laughter and tears have a place on the same page. And that most importantly, a sister is forever, no matter what. Your sister is someone who you can always come home too, no matter what has happened or what has been said. I hope she feels the same. Home is wherever your sister is.

I hope you will give Mrs. Georgie’s crawfish stew a try and whip up a batch of these cheesy potatoes. Don’t let this recipe intimidate you. Cajun cooking for the most part is not fancy. If you has ever hung with a Cajun gal, or cajun folks, you know that there is no room for pretense. Just fun. And laid back chats. We just want you to eat and enjoy yourself. Anyone can make this meal. So do it! For now, I have to be going, I need to call my sister. Cause she is sort of awesome and I miss her.~AMB

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back before we were Mrs. Or mommy. Getting a good picture was quick and easy

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now it is difficult to take a picture without some sort of circus drama ha ha

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isn’t she just beautiful?

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our whole circus, I mean crew.

Mrs. Georgie’s crawfish stew

Stuff you need~

1 stick butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
3 heaping teaspoons of Tony’s instant roux
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 can of chicken broth
1/2 can of water
1 pound crawfish tails

What to do with the stuff

In a Dutch oven or medium size sauce pan, Sauté onions and celery in butter until almost tender. Add the garlic and continue to sauté for about 2
minutes letting the garlic flavor work itself through the onions and celery mixture. Add the crawfish tails, cook for about 5 minutes. Add the instant roux, stirring continuously. Whisk the broth and water into the roux mixture. Let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until it thickens a bit. Sprinkle in some Tony’s seasoning to taste. Serve over rice. You can garnish with sliced green onions (my fave!) and some chopped parsley if you want. Serve with some of the cheesy potatoes on the side (recipe to follow), a nice green salad and some garlic bread and you have yourself a nice meal fit coonass royalty!!
*Jenn’s side note-always double this recipe because it is amazing and people cannot get enough of it. Also any leftovers are delicious over a grilled steak the next night. Don’t argue…my sister is always (almost) right.

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this is what the can of instant roux looks like (warning…some
People make take offense to you using this. Ignore them. Momou is all about a shortcut. I think all smart cajun women are!!

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Oh yes! My sister is the smartest woman alive!!

Jenn’s cheesy potatoes

Stuff you need~

1 small bag of red potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 8 ounce block of Velveeta
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)
6 slices of bacon, cooked until crispy and then crumbled
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Sliced Green onion for garnish

what to do wit h the stuff~

In a large pot, boil your potatoes (or as voice text puts when I say it “ball your potatoes.” Seriously) in some salted water. Boil until they are tender and you can easily stick a fork in them. Drain and set aside. In a large pot, saut√© the onion in the butter. Add the cubed up Velveeta and stir frequently as it melts. Add bacon and green onions (if you love them like I do). Now stir the tender potatoes into the cheesy golden sauce. Stir gently until those potatoes are coated with that luscious cheesy bacony (is that a word?) sauce. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. So damn delicious. Enjoy!!!

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the picture does not do them justice

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No words. So good.

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Jenn and Mrs. Georgie at Jenny’s bridal shower. May 2005. That baby is my sweet Kayla Ann.

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the actual handwritten recipe. Awesome

Homemade taco/burrito seasoning, the perfect chocolate chip cookie, and low expectations

Today has been one of those days where I woke up tired and cranky. I talked to one of best friends and my cousin. Via text, but still, we connected, so you think that it would have been a great day. Especially considering that I try really hard to keep my expectations low. Or at least reasonable. Sometimes, it is so easy for me to get caught up in how things should be. The picture in my head of how things SHOULD go takes over every practical thought I have. Do you ever do that? Yeah well I do despite my best efforts to not do it! I have had this discussion before with y’all but I think it warrants revisiting. Because I think so many of us get caught up in what we think SHOULD be. Dr. Vicki Bowman, my beloved graduate school professor who was a wise gal beyond her years would call this “shoulding all over yourself.” And friends, it is easy to do. It can ruin the best of moments. That one word…should. Should is a lot like “fair” or the phrase “it’s not fair”. As a therapist I would be all over that phrase if a client said it. I would have to ask “what is fair?” Because let’s just face it. Life is not always fair. Somedays it seems it is not fair at all. As my friend Teresa says, the fair comes in October and they show pigs there. Oh so true. And yet, today, I got caught up in that evil word…should. Anyway, none of my plans for the day worked out. And ya know, I really don’t question that stuff. If it is part of God’s plan, I can roll with it. But sometimes it is the little stuff getting messed up that gets us. And that is where we find me today. My column for Red River Moms was due today. I got my stuff sent in to my editor and I wanted a new picture for my column. Most of the ones I have used have been fun spontaneous selfies of the kids and I. Like this one
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Cute enough but geez I have been doing this for a year, maybe it is time to get a real picture taken. No not professional, but a step up from selfie maybe? Yeah. So I get it in my head that we are going to get this done. BD was home for a little while and he was up for the task. I knew better than to get any high browed ideas about what kind of pictures I wanted. Just keep it simple, Aimee. Just get the kids in there and snap a few. No big deal. Oh yeah right. Once again, I shoulded all over myself. Dr. Vicki, God rest her soul, is somewhere shaking her head at me. I just know it. So I won’t go into any details, but needless to say, I set myself up for disappointment. I got all cocky and thought, we will do some staged pictures. We will have some fun with it. It will be so perfect. Wait. What? I have 4 kids and nothing is ever going to be perfect again. With so many people to factor in, perfection is even harder to attain then when I was childless. Curse me and my stupid high expectations. Cut to later, there was flour everywhere (don’t ask…I was making cookies and thought oh how fun…we will all bake cookies and he can capture that…yeah…), there were tears (mostly mine) and we had no useable pictures. Why? Because of the picture in my head of how things SHOULD have been. So we just said mission abort and everyone washed the flour off of themselves (again…don’t ask) and we were chilling. I was not dressed cute anymore. Makeup was gone. The kids were laying in our bed with me. I gave BD my phone and said “I have an idea. Go with it.” And low and behold…after all that, my original non complicated plan to get a picture worked just fine. Life lessons 1, Cajun mama 0. I will show y’all the pictures below. And I ended up getting those cookies baked and none of it is on camera. Just some delicious chocolate chip cookies. And expanding on the whole keeping it simple, not getting caught up in expectations, I made some nice simple burritos tonight. I had the ground meat defrosted but no seasoning. No problem. I found a recipe and made my own…original post is here…http://www.food.com/recipe/taco-seasoning-budget-friendly-seasoning-for-tacos-burritos-166030. Take that life lessons. I made cookies and my own taco/burrito seasoning and it just was. No expectations of what should be. It is what it is. It was what it was. We all survived. We got the pictures and had supper and dessert and maybe I took the long way home, but I did make it. I guess that is what counts. Now if only I can remember this lesson of letting go of what SHOULD be and letting it be what it will be, I will be a much happier mama all the time and world peace will be achieved. Well…I will settle for peace in our home. So, today, I have a recipe for the best chocolate chip cookies in the world (in my opinion) …link herehttp://m.allrecipes.com/recipe/10813/best-chocolate-chip-cookies and homemade taco/burrito seasoning. No matter what you start thinking life should be, having these two recipes in your arsenal will make what is so much easier to accept. Peace, love, and low expectations…AMB

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see simple can be beautiful

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me and my joy, my circus, my reason for living and losing my mind

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my favorite picture from today

Homemade taco/burrito seasoning</strong

makes enough for several batches

2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
1 1/2-2 tablespoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1 1/2 tablespoons minced onion flakes or 1 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder (feel free to omit this)
Kosher salt (I added about 1 teaspoon but add more or less to your taste)

Mix all these spices together in a bowl. 7 teaspoons equals once of those store bought taco seasoning packets. So 7 teaspoons to one pound ground beef. Stir it into browned and drained ground meat and then add 3/4 cup water per pound of ground beef. Simmer over low heat until the liquid has evaporated. It is really perfect y’all!
Store the rest in an air tight storage container. This is how I did mine…

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airtight glad ware thank you so much!

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Mixing all of those spices together made me feel like a scientist

Perfect chocolate chip cookies (says me)

makes about 3 dozen cookies

Stuff you need
1 cup of butter, softened (that’s 2 sticks of the real stuff y’all)
1 cup of sugar (the white stuff)
1 cup of packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons HOT water
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups of flour
2 cups chocolate chips

What to do with the stuff~

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix hot water and baking soda together and set aside.
In a standing mixer, add softened butter, sugar and brown sugar. Cream together until well combined and smooth. Stir in vanilla. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add baking soda water mixture and salt. Beat until combined. Now, add flour one cup at a time. Next, add chocolate chips. Beat until combined.
Line a large baking sheet or cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat (they are awesome and totally worth the purchase. Amazon has great prices on them.)
Using a medium cookie scoop, place a scoops of cookie dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes or until slightly golden on top. I bake mine in batches of 12 because that is how many my baking sheet fits. Let cool if your family will allow it and then set them out with some glasses of ice cold milk. Sure to make the stinkiest of days better!

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consistently delicious cookies every time! Enjoy!

Easy strawberry shortcake trifle and keeping it simple

Ok so the other day Big Daddy goes to see one of his customers and he had some strawberries. Correction a bunch of berries. Beautiful, ripe, red Louisiana berries. The kind that represent exactly what a strawberry should be. And make you feel a little sad for those poser berries (that I buy because my kids love strawberries in their lunch boxes) that are in the stores when berries are out of season. And BD being the sweetie that he is, brought home a flat of those babies to me.

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See what I mean? Just so beautiful and juicy and perfect. Yum. So my dilemma was…what do I do with these berries? I mean, sure we could just nibble on them but that’s a bunch of berries. Now, as I have said before, I get some notions sometimes to go above and beyond and pull out all the stops when I am cooking. And in life in general. But when I do, I tend to set myself up for disappointment because I pour my heart and soul into something and the effort does not equal the reward. Know what I mean? There are things in life that are worth the hard work. Growing my babies and giving birth, raising them right, my marriage, my relationship with God. But really, day to day, I do not have the where with all to put forth 100% effort into any meal I make. Come on, I am too practical for that. So I think of recipes along those lines most of the time. What is the fastest, easiest route to use up these berries in a delicious and quick to put together dessert. Then the kiddos and BD decide they want to take the boat out. Yeah, that lit a fire under me to get the berries put away. Mama needs some time on the water, cruising along the Red River. So I made the executive decision to remove the hulls and slice the berries up. Poured some sugar all over those babies (cue the Def Leppard–my band du jour) and a little Grand Marnier that I had on hand. I would cover them and let them sit in the fridge during our boat outing. Tomorrow I would turn those sugar drenched, liquored up berries into a strawberry shortcake. I had some Sara Lee pound cake and some cool whip…yes that would all work just fine. Sure I could have put forth that extra effort and made a homemade poundcake like the one I posted a recipe for a while back…the link is here
Southern Living Pound cake and the perfectionist super woman who lives in my head | cajunmamacookin’s Blog
https://cajunmamacookinblog.com/2014/04/17/southern-living-pound-cake-and-the-perfectionist-wonder-woman-who-lives-in-my-head/. Yes that would certainly have been noble of me. Definitely industrious. Dignified even. Luckily, I don’t aspire to be those things. I am just me. And just so Martha Stewart. All due respect to Martha, but I don’t have any assistants to help me and I wanted to get my butt on that boat. So store bought pound cake it is. I could have made my own whipped cream. I mean, I know how. But would the extra effort made that big a difference? I had a boss (who is still a friend…hey Terry!) whose mantra was KISS…keep it simple silly. At that time I was not married yet and had no kids…I could not imagine why simple was so necessary. Oh but I see it all so clearly now. So, I did. I am sure I am not impressing y’all with my supreme practicality, but if you are a busy mom or busy grandma or busy in general individual with so many other things to do but you still want something tasty for dessert…maybe you appreciate this just a little!! So for you I have this super simple, stupid easy strawberry shortcake trifle. I hope you pull it together and get out there and live your life. Life waits for no one and no berry! Oh and sidenote…or maybe most importantly of all…this was awesome dessert and it was hard to believe it was such a cinch to pull together!!~AMB

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Get those berries soaking in that sugar mama and let’s get on the boat!! Fun is waiting!!

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totally worth keeping it simple.

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posing on the sandbar…cutie

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seriously who cares about showboating in the kitchen? We are making memories mama!

Super easy strawberry shortcake trifle
serves 10-12

Stuff you need~

6 cups (or more) of ripe luscious strawberries, hulls removed and then sliced up
2 cups of sugar
3 teaspoons of Grand Marnier (optional)
2 small Sara Lee pound cakes (freezer section of the grocery store), cut into slices and then cubes
2 -8 ounce containers of Cool Whip

What to do with the stuff~

Remove the hulls from the berries. Slice up the berries and add them to a nice size bowl. Stir in the sugar and give it a good toss. Resist the urge to eat the berries. They are scrumptious. Drizzle in that Grand Marnier now if you are using it. Stir the berries gently.

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just like that. So good. Mama likey

Now slice your poundcake and then cut into chunks.

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In a trifle bowl or a punch bowl (or really y’all any bowl that you have that is big and not super wide but pretty deep) , make a layer of one pound cake chunked up.

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just like that. Yep.

Now, layer half of those insanely delicious berries over the layer of pound cake chunks.

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yessss

Now smooth one of the containers of Cool Whip over the berries.

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resist the impulse to eat it now. It’s not ready

Now repeat the whole process one more time. Pound cake layer, berry layer, Cool Whip layer. Oh yes. It’s good.

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oh sweet layers of perfection

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totally worth some shortcuts in the kitchen

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what a view for a Friday night

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shortcut perfection

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love this one

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sunset on the Red River. Perfect.

Keep calm and make macaroni salad

So I like to fancy myself a Southern girl at heart. Everything looks better with a monogram on it, I love my hydrangeas, and Gone with the Wind is a wonderful movie. None of that may truly make me Southern (though I am by birth and I am proud of it!) but there is such a thing as being Southern at heart. Which I imagine if you follow my blog or Facebook page, you are Southern at heart simply because the majority of recipes I serve up on here are good ole fashioned Southern delights and you probably like to eat some good food!!)
Well, the lovely recipe I have for y’all today is a true Southern dish. Macaroni salad! Oh yes. But friends, not your grandmama’s macaroni salad. No siree Bob. This is macaroni salad for today’s sophisticated Southern palates. It is sweet, creamy and has a little kick. I have always wanted to like macaroni salad. Something about it just draws me in. It is just so…Southern….sitting there in the grocery store deli case alongside the fried chicken (we love the fried chicken at our local Brookshires…it’s fab). It is simply perfect at a potluck and is just always a great summertime side dish. I have to admit I have bought some macaroni salad from our local grocery store. Now, it was not horrible but it just always left me wanting…more. That I can recall, macaroni salad is not a dish my family made often, if ever at all, so I really have no way to gauge what really good macaroni salad is. But I knew that there had to be a great recipe for it somewhere. I have tried several recipes for it, but again, they just left me wanting more. Well friends, I do believe I have found…more. I googled best macaroni salad and first result was a macaroni salad recipe from none other than the lovely Pioneer Woman…y’all know it’s good. Here is a link to that post http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2012/06/the-best-macaroni-salad-ever/. Of course, it was crucial to me that I share it with my peeps, my homies, my friends on my blog. So that is what I am doing today. I hope you will give it a go. Keep calm and make good macaroni salad. Ha ha!!! I need a Tshirt that says that! ~AMB

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that’s all I’m saying lol!

Be all end all Macaroni Salad (my name for it…)

serves a bunch of folks

4 cups of macaroni noodles, cooked al dente
1/2 cup diced sweet and spicy pickles *
4 roasted red bell peppers (the jarred kind)
Black olives, chopped fine**
3 green onions, sliced (green parts)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (Duke’s…always, at least in my kitchen)
1 tablespoon Red wine vinegar
3 teaspoons sugar
1/4 Milk
Plenty of black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
Pickle juice (secret ingredient!)
aside.
*(you can buy some or make my recipe for them https://cajunmamacookinblog.com/2013/10/23/cajun-mamas-candied-pickles/) I bought some from target because I was trying to make this last night but I will be making a fresh batch of those babies soon!)
** (to save time, I bought a small can of the chopped black olives and it worked great! Excellent time saver!)

What to do with the stuff

Boil your macaroni noodles. Drain them in a colander and then run cold water over them. You want them cool when you add the rest of this stuff.
Chop the roasted bell peppers, green onion, olives (if you didn’t buy the already chopped ones, show off! :)), and pickles. Set aside.
To a medium size bowl, add your mayo. Whisk in the red wine vinegar, sugar and a sprinkle of kosher salt. Add a little black pepper for good measure. Now add a little milk and whisk. Ok now, add a healthy splash of pickle juice to this mixture. Mmmmm. Whisk it good. When a problem comes along, you must whisk it. Oh sorry I got lost in my 80’s music.
Now, add your cold macaroni noodles to a large bowl. Now stir in 3/4 of that sweet and tangy mayo mixture. Give it a nice stir to coat those darling noodles with that sauce. Mmmmm. You can add the rest later if you desire.
Now stir in the chopped olives, red peppers, green onions, and pickles. Give it a good stir. Now splash in a little more pickle juice if you are so inclined (and I was) and stir gently until well combined. Make adjustments according to your taste. Now, naturally this is better if you let it sit in fridge covered overnight but feel free to have some almost immediately. It’s all good. Literally…all so good!! We served this with some magnificent grilled chicken breasts (that recipe will be coming up soon) and grilled corn on the cob. Oh and baked beans. Because my kids and BD are southern too and they likes them some baked beans. It was yum-my!!!!! Enjoy!!!

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ready for that macaroni salad

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I found these Wickles at Target. Quite tasty!