Category Archives: Appetizers and party foods

Creamy artichoke bruschetta and Louisiana Friday night around here

First off…TGIF ya’ll. Thank God it’s Friday!!! It seems each week I am increasingly eager to get to Friday. There is just something about Friday. Today has been a tad bit gloomy and overcast. It has rained some with a little bit of sunshine mixed in. It’s been a busy week for us and I am just ready for whatever downtime I can get. Trust me, my expectations are low. I am nothing if not realistic. But the weekends have to bring some relief from the harried pace our weeks seem to take on, right? Just nod and back away slowly friends. There is something about Friday, isn’t there? Makes you want to party, celebrate, bow to the weekend Gods. And celebrate we shall. Today, I picked up 7 kids in the carpool line. Yeah…7. It was like trying to fit clowns into a clown car. My life is literally comparable to a circus and I am the ringmaster. It’s an incredibly funny and fitting comparison. So I loaded up my mini van aka swagger wagon with kiddos and backpacks and I toted them home. And then I decided since it was a Friday during Lent, it was overcast and we had a house full of kids that I needed to whip up something creamy and meatless and uber fantastic. That makes total sense, right? Exactly. This creamy artichoke bruschetta recipe that I found on http://www.thecookierookie.com fit that bill. Not only was it a cinch to whip up, it was a hit amongst my fellow circus people. They enjoyed it. The flavors just explode in your mouth. The creamy texture of the topping mixed with the crispness of the bread is simply heaven. It’s a perfect Friday night treat that lets you know the weekend has arrived…pop the top on that Angry Orchard Apple ginger beer or you know…whatever beverage you want.(clears throat) I just chose a beverage at random. Lol. This appetizer, that can totally hold its own as a meal in my book, is a perfect little treat to celebrate the weekend. It’s good to savor that. Hold on to the weekend and make it count ya’ll.

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party like its Mardi Gras ya’ll!! That is how we roll in our circus.

Creamy Artichoke Bruschetta

serves about 10

stuff you need~

1 load French bread, cut into slices
Olive oil
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 (14 ounce) can marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (aka what we call shaky cheese…idk)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon parsley flakes

what to do with the stuff~

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place your bread slices on a foil lined baking sheet. Brush with olive oil.

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Bake in the preheated oven for about 8-10 minutes or until bread is nice and crispy.

Meanwhile, mix together all of the ingredients except the mozzarella in your standing mixer or with an electric mixer.

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Spread a generous amount of this mixture over each piece of toasted bread.

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Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over each piece of toast. Pop it into the oven for about 15- 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and has little browned spots on it. So seriously devilishly delicious. It’s a party for your mouth ya’ll.

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my lovely taste testers approve and rate it totes delish.

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you want a piece don’t you?

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Boudin dip and the truth of it all

So many many years ago, more than I care to count, I was in graduate school at Northwestern State University (fork ’em Demons!!). I had a graduate supervisor named Laurie Ann. Aka Lolly. I absolutely thought she was the cat’s meow. She was a special person who I longed to get to know better. She was beautiful, an amazing counselor, smart, and just had this way about her that set me at ease. No easy feat for my over anxious self I tell you. So one night she invites BD and I over for dinner. We met her husband Marc, she made the BEST quesadillas and we all just hit it off big time. The rest as they say is history. I usually leave it up to God to keep the people who need to be in my life and the people who are not meant to be there forever, well he takes care of that too. Well, thankfully, the good Lord and I agree that Marc and Lolly are lifers. They now have 4 kids, 2 who are right around two of my kids’ ages, but for all of them, they have just always been a part of one another’s lives. Lolly is still beautiful and smart and always sets me at ease. She and Marcus are probably our best couple friends and if we have a chance to hang out with someone, it will be them. Our kids rejoice when it is time for Marc and Lolly, Nigel and Finn to come over. It’s just an amazing partnership and it just works. We have spent every New Year’s Eve and or day together since I cannot remember when. Lolly is an amazing cook and brings all sorts of treats and goodies with her. It looks like she is moving in and I am always hopeful that she will. Marcus, or MR, as Lolly calls him, is from Eunice and is an amazing cook as well. The man can do things to a roast and rice and gravy that make it taste like the best thing you have ever put in your mouth. He is a wonderful husband, father and cook. He is also my Tootie girl’s Godfather as well. Can’t beat that! If you can’t tell, I love him just a little. I love them all so much. They are more than friends. They are our family. And I am so lucky that God has made sure they stayed in our lives. Some things are meant to be, and our friendship is definitely one of those things I am blessed to be a part of. Sealing that deal, solidifying what is already in cement, making me just a little extra grateful for my best friend and her precious coonass husband and family. Boudin dip. Boudin dip yes. Boudin. Dip. Say it with me. Let it roll around on your tongue. Bou-din dip. It is as an amazing concoction as it sounds. I just finished the rest of what was left at my house and I am a little sad now. But it was so good while it lasted.

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me and my lolly.

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MR aka uncle Marc with 2 of our boys

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Marc and Lolly

I am going to take a guess and say there is someone out there reading this who does not know what boudin is…I will spare those who do know what it is (and those who don’t) the extended version. I wish I was able to say I had no clues of the ins and outs of the making of boudin…but I would be lying. I know too much. Have seen things my eyes cannot ever unsee. The short and sweet version is that boudin is a seasoned blend of ground pork meat and rice stuffed inside of casing. It is some delicious stuff and can vary in spiciness and flavor, depending on who makes it. It can be bought in supermarkets (around here at least) but the best stuff comes from cajun supermarkets down in south Louisiana. Well, wait. The best stuff is found at actual boucheries that you attend at people’s homes.
Growing up that was pretty common place for me. During the months of February and March, we attended several of them at my grandparents’ houses or the homes of other family members. I did not appreciate how privileged I was to grow up with that sort of experience but I really was. My kids have attended a few boucheries but they are not nearly as common place for them. At a boucherie the pig that has been raised for this specific reason is slaughtered and from the pig, cracklins, boudin, grillades and hog head cheese are made. I won’t get into any more of the specifics but a boucherie is the real deal and if you ever have the opportunity to attend one, you should. You will never eat better boudin, I promise you. But for the purpose of this recipe, we will say you will use store bought boudin. It can be ordered online and my favorite place to get boudin from is Borques in Port Barre, LA. This is their website if you want to check it out and maybe order some boudin or their amazing jalapeño cheese bread…http://www.bourquespecialties.com. Funny story, when I was pregnant with my youngest I could not get enough of this boudin. BD would go down to Baton Rouge for a Farm Bureau meeting and bring me home a few pounds. I would eat it all and he was left to fear this beast I was growing inside of me. Lol! Sure enough, my little LMB is a cajun force to be reckoned with. Anyway, this is some serious good boudin. But you will find every cajun has their favorite and they feel strongly about it. Marc has his favorite boudin spot (actually he has his top 3) with Don’s Speciality Meats at the top of his list. Now, store bought wise, Richards is not bad. I really like it best grilled. Try a few brands If you are so inclined, best research of your life. So that is kind of the low down on boudin. I am being rather long winded because well…I freaking LOVE boudin and because well, you need boudin for this dip. So let’s get down to business here and get this boudin dip recipe on the books…or blog. I know ya’ll are not wanting to listen to me go on and on about the wonder that is boudin.

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me and one of my favorite Cajuns. MR in the flesh (well…in the picture)

Boudin Dip

Stuff you need~

4-5 pounds of boudin
1 container whipped cream cheese (or 1 (8 ounce) block cream cheese, whipped
1 (16 ounce) container sour cream
4 tablespoons mayonnaise (ya’ll know I use Duke’s)
1 (8 ounce) package shredded Colby and Monterey Jack cheese
Lots of cayenne pepper (red pepper….same thing)

*recipe notes say that this recipe makes 3 8 x 8″ pans of this dip. So you can cut it in half easily. also the recipe says shredded pepper jack can be used in place of the Colby Monterey Jack cheese to amp up the heat. They did not put much cayenne in the dip they brought so that it would be more kid friendly. So just add according to you and your family’s personal preference.

What to do with the stuff~

Remove boudin from casing. Recipe notes say to use cold boudin as it mixes better. Add the boudin to a standing mixer. Add in other ingredients, reserving some of the shredded cheese for topping and mix until well combined. Like so…

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photo courtesy of Marc and Laurie Richard

If you are making the full recipe, divide the mixture among your prepared dishes. Top with remaining cheese and bake at 350 until cheese is melted and bubbly and you seriously cannot wait to have some. It’s done then. Serve with chips or crackers. We made some garlic bread on NYE and proceeded to pile that hot yummy dip on top of slices of that warmed garlic bread and I wanted to pass out from how good it is. So, warmed garlic bread obviously works well. Consider whatever you use simply a vessel to get that amazing dip into your mouth. Repeat. Cest si Bon ma cher. Now ya’ll ready for the Mardi Gras season. Ooooo weeee you gonna be the hit of the party ma petite. Enjoy my friends!

**special thanks to our besties Marc and Lolly for this dip recipe and the many years of precious friendship, past, present and future. Love ya’ll more than this dip. ❤️❤️❤️

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Madame Toot and her godfather and special godmother

The Great Goetz cheeseball and our wonderful beach friends

So last summer we went to the beach. It was a wonderful vacation and we made so many great memories. We also made some good friends. Yeah, you heard me. We went to Florida and made friends with a family from Kentucky. Naturally we spent most of our days on the beach. My youngest is a friendly fellow and he started playing with a kid who was around his age. Big Daddy and I started talking to his parents who were sitting nearby and it just snowballed from the there.

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our sweet boys

They were actually staying in the condos next door to us but we managed to meet up at the beach every day. L and N became fast friends and the rest of our families followed suit. Sometimes in life, I believe, some things are just meant to be. Us meeting the Goetz family is one of those predestined meetings that is just a blessing. The mama, Kari, is the sweetest woman with the prettiest smile and we instantly hit it off. Their other son, J, and their daddy, Marty also followed suit with the rest of the family. We just really hit it off. My sweet baby turned 6 while we were there and the Goetz family came to our condo for cake.

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I usually would not just take to people like that, but something about them just drew us to them. Seriously the sweetest family we have come across in a long time. So Kari and I became friends on Facebook and she started following my Cajun Mama Cooks Facebook page. It’s so nice that we are able to be a part of one another’s life and share day to day stuff when we can. Kari, being the sweet lady she is, was kind enough to send me a few of her favorite recipes and this cheeseball was one of them.

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me and my sweet friend

Last night while I was in Kroger picking up sliced mushrooms for the other cheeseball, I decided to go on and get the fixins for the Great Goetz cheeseball and boy am I glad. It is 10 kind of delicious and though I already had many reasons to be glad to be friends with Kari, that cheeseball just seals the deal. It is sweet and tangy and oh so easy to prepare. It really such a yummy treat!!! I cannot wait to bring it to the Christmas Eve soiree we are going to tonight (with another friend who God blessed me with).

So thank you, sweet friend, for blessing me with your friendship and for this recipe. Our meeting at the beach was no accident and I am so blessed to call you my friend.

To all of my readers out there, you reading this post is a blessing as well. Wherever you are, you continue to bless me by tuning in to read what I write. I look forward to getting to know each of you better in the coming year and sharing more recipes with you. I don’t believe in accidents and most situations are predestined for all of us, there is a reason for it all. I hope your Christmas is magical, filled with happy memories, beautiful friends, and delicious treats. Merry Christmas from my family to yours.

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one of our recent family pictures. Photo courtesy of Heather Wilkinson photography. http://www.heatherwilkinsonphotography.com

The Great Goetz cheeseball recipe

makes 2 cheeseballs

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Stuff you need~

4 cups finely shredded cheese
2 cups mayo (Recipe called for Hellman’s but I am a Duke’s girl)
1 bunch of green onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 jar of Major Grey’s chutney *
1 pound bacon, fried until crispy and then broken up into smaller pieces

*the chutney is usually found on the top shelf in the condiments aisle. Now the major grey kind was in that section of Kroger’s. They also had another brand on the jelly aisle. Just a little FYI.

what to do with the stuff~

THE DAY BEFORE YOU WILL SERVE IT, mix together in a large mixing bowl, the shredded cheese, mayo, salt and green onion.

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Divide the mixture into two balls. What I did was just shape it into a ball as best I could (it held its shape fairly well)

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Now I just spread the chutney over the top and sides of the cheeseballs. Next, just sprinkle the crispy fried bacon all over the balls. Let it sit overnight. I am sure you could wait until right before you are serving the cheeseballs to do that last part. I went on and did it so I could get a photo. Serve with Ritz crackers.

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have cheeseball, will travel

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beach friends are some of the best friends

Top secret, super yummy cheeseball recipe aka your mama’s cheeseball

Don’t ya’ll love my fancy name for tonight’s recipe? It’s super creative. Ha ha! But really, I am a straightforward gal who calls it like it is…and this cheeseball IS super yummy. I have, more often than not, had an ornament exchange in some form or fashion since I got married. The guests have changed some what and some have stayed the same, but it has been around in some form. It’s always fun, it’s always a potluck, and we always have a great time. Back when the kiddos were really little, one of BD’s secretaries brought a cheeseball that everyone absolutely went crazy over. I had frankly, not had much experience with the cheeseball. Crazy, right? But it is true. Sigh. Anyway, that cheeseball was always the hit of the potluck and everyone wanted the recipe. She gave it to me once and I quickly scribbled it down between breast feedings and bath times in a little notebook I had back then. She was always reluctant to share the recipe (hence the top secret part), and I have been respectful of that. Then I searched for it on google because I could not find my paper scrap the recipe was written on and well…it is everywhere. So the cat is out of the bag and recipes are meant for sharing. So share I shall. It’s very delicious and will be a major hit at any party you bring it to. We are going to a friend’s house for Christmas Eve and I am bringing cheeseballs. That’s right. Multiple. I will give you this one tonight and then the other tomorrow.
This recipe came together really quickly and the ingredients are not complicate. Just make it the night before so the ball has a chance to form and the flavors can really mix and mingle (in a jingling beat…that’s the jingle bell rock…oops sorry. I love Christmas does that to me.)

Top secret super yummy cheeseball

Stuff you need~

4 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 jar dried beef
2 bunches green onions, chopped
2 teaspoons Accent (yes good ole MSG)
1 can mushrooms, stems and pieces

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I never thought I would be photographing a jar of dried beef…

What to do with the stuff~

Add your softened cream cheese to a mixing bowl or bowl of your standing mixer. Give your dried beef a good nice chop.

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Toss that into your mixing bowl. Drain the mushrooms and then give them a what the Pioneer Woman calls a rough chop.

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Add those babies to the mixing bowl. Turn the mixer on and give it a few quick spins. Just let the ingredients in there mix in. Now add in your chopped green onions. Sprinkle in the Accent. Yes this stuff is pure MSG. I don’t often say hey let’s just add some straight up msg to our recipe, but this cheeseball is so good, I will allow it.
Now, mix at low speed for a minute or two then kick it up to high. Mix well.

Now lay a nice size piece of Saran Wrap on your countertop. Take half of the cheeseball mixture and put it in the middle of the plastic wrap. Like this…

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Ok now roll the cheeseball mixture up in the plastic wrap. Try to shape it into a ball as well as you can .

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excuse my countertops…it’s a hot mess. Clutter is my enemy!!

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nice ball-ish shape

Do the same thing with the other half of the cheese mixture. Allow both cheeseballs to refrigerate overnight. Serve with wheat thins or wheat townhouse crackers. Yum!

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you never know who is going to show up in the kitchen at Christmas time…my sweet Rudolph

Marinated cheese appetizer and feeling a bit overwhelmed

So I was going to write this whole blog post on a party some friends and I had given, with pics and funny quips from the party. I was going to post recipes for all the recipes I prepared. And every time I started the post, I got overwhelmed and deleted it. It seemed like so much. It’s been a busy week over here and showing no signs of letting up and there is just not that much of me to go around. I went on a field trip to the Red River Revel with my youngest and his class. Big daddy offered to go get them from school so I could come home and “relax”. For me, this is hard to do. I don’t relax well. Sure that means I am productive and get stuff done, but that also means I wear my own self out. Always buzzing around like a bee. You would think as much as I move, I would be thin, but not so. lol. Anyway, while he went to run carpool for me, I tried to catch up on housework because I will be helping at the school’s book fair tomorrow. So, I am doing the dishes, thinking about how I really need to write a blog post and how I felt overwhelmed by the thought of it and it hit me…write a blog post where you share a recipe from the party (a really good one!) and also maybe own up to feeling overwhelmed. Surely I am not the only person who feels overwhelmed by a task and has to break it down to get it done. Am I? So that is what I am going to do. My grand plan of a big ole grand party post just won’t happen today. And that is ok.
So…today I have a recipe for marinated cheese. My good friend Betsy swears by the recipe for a great appetizer to bring to a party. And y’all…as usual…she is not wrong. In fact, this stuff is addictive and you will dream about it. With the holiday season upon us, I figured y’all could use a wonderful, new appetizer recipe to bring along to make you the star of the show. This marinated cheese is truly a dream. It can be made ahead of time and prepped when needed. It has flavor that is out is this world and looks just beautiful on any table. Y’all (we) are so lucky Bets shared this recipe with us!! Sending a big ole cajun mama shout out to my friend Betsy!! I hope y’all will try this appetizer recipe out soon. You don’t know what you are missing! ~ AMB

so this is a little glimpse of what’s been going on around here….

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jersey day at school…all my babies

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slumber party for my 8 year old birthday girl

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the birthday girl

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reunited with an elementary school friend who is now a Stella and Dot stylist (she came for the party)

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she styled me…she can style you too…the link for the party is http://www.stelladot.com/ts/ui916 and it’s open until October 26

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my oldest lost 2 teeth in one night…tooth fairy is busy!

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my baby at the Revel…sporting his face painting

Ok! Now for the marinated cheese recipe! What?! Did y’all think I had forgotten? 😜

Marinated cheese appetizer

stuff you need~

1/2 cup white wine balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 (2 ounce) jar diced pimientos
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons minced green onions
3 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon dried whole basil *
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1 (8 ounce) package of sharp cheddar (I used Kraft as suggested on original recipe)
Club crackers for serving

*I used that basil in a tube. It worked great!! You find it in the produce section by the other kinds of herbs. Option 2 would have been to chop up fresh basil because that is all I had. Did not have any dried basil.

What to do with the stuff~
Ok…the night before (or morning off an evening event) add all the ingredients but the cheese to a bowl or jar. Whisk together or if in a jar, make sure it is tightly closed and shake it all up.
Slice the cheese lengthwise and then cut into 1/4″ pieces. Stack them in alternating pattern (cream cheese, cheddar, on and on) like this…

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Now, pour some of the marinade over the cheese. Use a deeper dish for marinating so the marinade does not leak (ask how I know…) . Cover and allow to sit for several hours or overnight. Transfer to a serving dish and pour remaining marinade over the cheese before serving. Serve with Keebler Club Crackers (recommended in original recipe and I have to say they are mighty tasty).

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Bon Appetit!!

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!

Fairfield Grocery Chicken salad and Blooming where you are planted

Blooming where you are planted.  That is easier said than done.  When I moved to Shreveport and got married after I graduated from my Master’s program, I got a job.  I met some wonderful ladies, many of whom I still treasure a close relationship with many years later.  It wasn’t hard to make friends because I went to work everyday and I had lots of adult conversation.  The real test of blooming where I was planted came after I had a few kids.  I was a new mom with a 10 month old and pregnant with baby number 2 and we lived in the country with very few houses anywhere near us.  A precious lady we called Mama Kate lived next door to us and she took me under her wing.  Her granddaughter in law and I had babies a few months apart and we became friends.  It was very nice and I look back on those times with so much fondness.  Still though, something was missing.  After baby number 2, now referred to as Kayla Ann, came along, my feelings of wanting something more (not instead mind you because that is not how I roll.  I don’t replace, I just add on) grew.  We bought our first house in Shreveport in the middle of a great little neighborhood.  I would push Ben and Kayla in the double stroller through that neighborhood several times a day.  I was lonely and longed for adult interaction.  I met a few ladies on the street and of course we ended up getting to know one another.  Days became weeks and weeks turned into months, time passed as it tends to do and I had baby number 3.  Aka Madame Toot aka Aubrey Dianne.  So now I was the woman with 3 kids, 3 and under.  I was tired.  I was overwhelmed.  I was still lonely.  Now a few posts ago, I told ya’ll about my precious baby sitters and their mom.  Those relationships are a product of me walking up and down our street, getting to know the neighbors.  Their grandmother lived on that street and she encouraged them to come down and offer to babysit.  For that, I will always be grateful.  That small gesture changed my life.  Well…after we had a good stride going and I felt like I was handling 3 babies…Madame Toot turned one and I had stopped nursing her and felt like I could leave her more.  So Big Daddy and I went out to dinner and had a few drinks.  Well…a few weeks later we found out that we were expecting baby number 4!  Wow!  My mind was blown.  Say what?  I was going to have 4 kids under 4?!  Holy cow?!  How would I do that?  I wasn’t prepared for such a feat, as happy as I was with the news.  But my sister Lisa would remind me, God does not called the equipped..he equips the called.  And he did.  So here comes baby number 4…my precious Lucas Mayeux.  My little caboose.  I was overjoyed.  I had my sitters and their mom and a few other friends…but now I was the mom with 4 kids.  4 and under.  I felt like a 2 headed circus freak everywhere I went.  I was, to say the least, overwhelmed.  My oldest started kindergarten at our wonderful gem of a neighborhood school and the girls were in MDO at a local church.  One day, in early December, things started to change.  I met a fellow circus freak named Alexis who I refer to as Lexie B…she had 4 kids too (she has 6 now ya’ll!)  And I got to know other moms with several kids and we banded together like a pack of circus freaks and started to have girls’ nights.  Collectively we had close to 30 kids.  This bonding with fellow mommies of a bunch of kids did something for me.  I felt my roots starting to get comfortable in the soil I was in.  Maybe just maybe, the transplant shock was wearing off and my roots were growing.  Again, time passed.  Because of my friends, my awesome mommy friends who understood me and helped me see the beauty and humor in all of the chaos and liked me just as I was, I felt less isolated.  I began to find my footing as a mommy of 4.  There was no shame…it was pretty dang great come to think of it.  I was made for this life.  It only got better from there.  Sometimes when we can’t see ourselves in an accurate light and when we see ourselves through the eyes of our friends who love us and cherish us…we catch a glimpse of how they see us.  It changes everything.  We start to reach out…we start to feel worthy of those friendships and give back.  That little flower that was weary and withered has blossomed into a lovely bloom…fitting in quite nicely in its own special way.  Now, today, all 4 of my kids go to that wonderful neighborhood school.  I am no longer the overwhelmed mom of one kindergartner and 3 little ones who has no time to join in and get involved.  I am no longer isolated.  In fact, some days I wish to be able to hide and be isolated.  Then I remember how I hated feeling invisible and I smile.  I have come full circle.  It puts in perspective and I am perfectly content to be just where I am.    The teachers, parents and staff at that school are family.  You know on how on the Cheers theme song it says “sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…and there always glad you came?”  That is how I feel when I am there.  And many other places in this town that once never felt like it could be home.  A place where I could hardly find my way around and felt so foreign.  Where I stood out like a sore thumb.  Somehow, some way, through some God given miracle…that has all changed.  And when I see another mom looking like she may feel like a foreigner…I am always happy to learn her name and bring her in.  Because I never want someone else to feel the way I used to if I can help it.

Now we come to the chicken salad…I was getting there all along.  Ya’ll know I like to talk.  Today as I was processing how I would give discuss this chicken salad in a way that you all would understand the significance, I was able to see how it all fit together.  Hence the above story.  So, in my son’s class, there was this precious little red headed girl.  Sweet as can be and would always give me a big hug when she saw me.  I had never met her mama…I had seen her around some but we had never met.  Well last year that all changed.  I met her.  She was a precious as her little girl and I knew we were meant to be friends.  Her family has a restaurant in Shreveport called Fairfield Grocery.  I never knew she had a connection with it, but I LOVE that restaurant.  I love their chicken salad.  I owned their cookbook.  This place is fantabulous ya’ll.  If you are not from here, don’t live here and come to visit…you need to eat there.  The blondies are to die for.  The grown up grilled cheese is ah-mazing.  The chicken and dumplings will make you want to cry they are so good.  It is wonderful.  The restaurant is so quaint and cozy and it has a very family like atmosphere.  The other day, I decided I needed to make up a batch of Fairfield Grocery chicken salad.  Big Daddy and 2 of my kiddos absolutely LOVE it.  I wondered as I made it…could I blog this recipe?  I needed permission as I would never just post a treasured recipe without permission.  So I called my precious friend and asked.  She gave me her blessing.  So I am sharing it here today.  The cookbook is awesome and you should order a copy if you love cookbooks full of delicious recipes.  It also gives some back history on a wonderful Shreveport establishment.  When you are in the area, you should definitely stop by.  It is off of Youree Drive in the Shoppes at Bellmead.  Here is a link to the Mr. Menu site which tells you a little about it and the menu http://mrmenu.biz/bossier-shreveport/menu/fairfield-grocery-market-cafe/.  Anyway, with the holidays coming up, this chicken salad is great to have around.  It makes a ton so it is really good to make if you will have a house full of hungry visitors.  You can eat it as a sandwich, with crackers or as Aubs like to do it…with a spoon.  It really is wonderful.  It is amazing how so many wonderful things can transpire in just a few great years.  Lifelong friends are made, kiddos grow up, life gets a lot busier but in many ways a tad easier, mommies find their footing (only to lose it again later…but let’s not get into that), and life moves right along.  There is beauty in that.  Friends become family and what once was unfamiliar becomes home.  New recipes that once seemed daunting become family favorites you could make with your eyes closed.  I am grateful for all of those things.  And I am so glad to be able to share this recipe with all of you.

  

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This picture does not do this chicken salad sandwich justice…me oh my. 

Fairfield Grocery chicken salad 

Ingredients

5 pounds of chicken breasts

1 cup celery

1/4 cup red bell peppers

1/2 cup water chesnuts

6 tablespoons purple onions

1 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

1 1/2 teaspoon white pepper or to tsste

1 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste

1 quart mayonnaise, give or take some…they suggest Hellmann’s and I use that or Duke’s

Instructions

Cook and shred chicken.  I boil mine until no longer pink and then remove from water.  I then run them through the food processor. I think it gives it the same texture as Fairfield’s but you can shred with a fork.  Whatever works for you.  Dice the celery bell pepper, water chesnuts and purple onions.  Add this to the chicken in a big bowl.  Mix all ingredients with mayo until very moist.  I just add half the quart of mayo and stir.  I add more as necessary.  This time I used about 3/4 of a quart jar of mayo.  Season to taste.

Stop salivating and fix yourself a sandwich.  Make a few more and get ready for the ambush.  Send a container of this to a good friend to make their day.  When my friend Stacie had surgery, this is the only thing that she wanted to eat.  I was really glad that this recipe makes such a big batch then.  There is plenty to share.  When you are trying to bloom where you are planted, feeding the flowers around delicious food is a GREAT place to start.  Make this chicken salad and make good friends.  Circle of life my friends.

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Some beautiful friends of mine…part of my village…we are a tribe of mommies…Good heavens I love these girls.

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Me and my fellow circus freak…my precious Lexie B!  That girl made my blooming so much easier.  I love her to pieces. 

Naughty brownies

Now the original name of these brownies is “slutty” brownies and “lady of the night” brownies.  I am really not sure where that name comes from unless it is the fact that you feel downright bad about yourself for making them let alone eating one.  I didn’t not let such a notion stop me.  I mean…chocolate chip cookie dough, double Stuf oreos and brownies?  Umm…sounds like a dream come true to me. But truthfully, these things are sinful so I can kind of see why such a name.  But for the sake of any aunts, uncles, friends’ parents from elementary school who might follow my blog I am going to call them Naughty brownies.  Also, my 10 year old gets on my Cajun Mama facebook page from time to time and also reads my blog, and I really not ready to answer questions about that name.  And they are naughty, so this name is appropriate.  Anyway, Big Daddy was going to the store this morning to get some stuff for his boat and he asked if I needed anything.  I said yes, 2 packs of double stuf oreos.  He immediately got a worried look on his face and asked if i was ok. He knows that Oreos are my weakness and a bad day could send me into the position.  Hunched over a glass of milk dunking oreo after oreo.  I told him I was fine.  I am making brownies.  He didn’t ask any more questions.  He just went and then came home with a pack of double stuf Oreos and then…gasp a package of Mega stuf Oreos.  Seriously?  Who knew they made those.  Luckily my kids love oreos too, so between putting them in the brownies and my kids’ attacking them like a pack of starved gorillas…no worries about having them around the house.  Ok…I made these brownies once before when I first found them on Pinterest.  I don’t think I cooked them long enough and the batch was too small so I kind of felt meh about them.  That was before Cajun Mama.  I felt like it was my responsibility to try them again and report the results to you all.  So…it was tough but I muddled through.  I took one for the team.  ha ha ha! 🙂  Much better results this time with a few changes to the recipe.

Also, this is NOT my brainchild.  I wish I could claim ownership of such a devilish concoction, but I am not a genius.  i do not know where this originated from but I will give you my take on it and i made some changes so to whomever came up with this recipe…my hat is off to you!!

Naughty Brownies

Ingredients

One recipe of Nestle Toll House cookie dough (off the back of the nestle toll house semi sweet chocolate chips package)

one package of Double Stuf Oreos

One family size package of Betty Crocker chewy brownie mix

Directions

LIne one 13 x 9 baking pan with parchment paper.  Leave some sticking out on each side so you can use it for handles to lift the brownies out the pan later.  Trust me.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Make cookie dough according to Nestle Tollhouse directions.  Press cookie dough into pan.  Lay enough Oreos on top of cookie dough to amply cover the cookie dough.  Like this…

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Next, make your brownie batter according to package directions.  Pour brownie batter on top of Oreos.  Make sure you spread it evenly over the Oreos and cookie dough.  Pop your pan in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes.  Check them for doneness and continue to cook in 10 minute increments until done.  You will know they are done when the brownies start to separate from the parchment paper and you don’t see any gooey brownie dough when you look at them.  Mine took about 50 minutes to be done.  I made a bigger batch than what the original called for and they cut much better and more evenly.  Plus more to share.  Win!  This batch turned out perfectly.  I let them cool for about 30 minutes and then I took each end of parchment paper and put that on a cutting board.  I then used my beloved Pampered Chef spatula and cut them into squares while simultaneously shooing little hands away until I was done.  Seriously…little people and big men come out of the woodwork when these are done.  Proceed with caution.  So. devilishly good.  Also these would be precious with the seasonal oreos (thought they will not be double stuf) for a little added color.  Hope you enjoy them.

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Aren’t they lovely?  These taste even better than they look.  Promise 

Cajun MAMA side note…So I woke up too early this morning.  Big Daddy had woken up and then my little bull followed suit.  Little Bull wanted a pot pie from the freezer of all things for breakfast.  So BD heated it up for them.  He had no way of knowing that Cookie loves potpies and i had bought that one for her.  She of course woke up this morning and decided she HAD to have it for breakfast.  That is how I ended up at Walmart at 7 a.m. in the frozen food aisle buying another potpie.  So naturally, me being the talkative Cajun I am even without coffee, I share this with the sweet checkout lady.  She gives me a knowing look and tells me “honey.  stop spoiling them children.  They gonna always expect you to do this stuff for them.” I took her words to heart.  She went on to tell me she knows what she is talking about as a 53 year old experienced mom.  I have no doubt she does.  I also have no doubt I probably go too far to please my kids sometimes.  I find it hard to see the line sometimes.  I often wonder if I am the only one.  Am I too self indulgent?  Then I see someone else doing something for their kids and I realize no…I am a mom.  Moms do those things.  Do our kids take us for granted?  Sure.  They are too young to understand why we do it…they just know we do it.  Was going to WM at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning to replace that potpie too much effort for my child who is already struggling to find her place and identity?  I don’t think so.  I want her to know she is worthwhile.  I want her to feel valued.  It is the same reason we moms and dads do any of the stuff we do.  Because we are laying the foundation for their tomorrow.  Does it ensure their love for the long haul?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  All I know is that I cannot give her everything.  I won’t. I cannot give her a pony.  I cannot order everything she wants from the PB Teen catalog.  Even if we could afford it, I would not.  That is not realistic.  I am limiting what Santa brings this year because all that excess is unnecessary and eventually setting me up for having to give more and more.  But I CAN go replace a potpie that was her’s and that I bought because she loves them that got eaten.  I can do that.  I try hard to live my life doing what I can with what I have where I am.  That is all I can do.  Same reason on Saturday when I am too tired to really care, I make trashy brownies, cajun bean and ham soup, a cheese dip for the game.  If it is the small things that become the big things, then I think I am going to make it.   We all will.  Those things I can do.  ~AMB

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Cajun Mama’s Candied Pickles

If someone had told me a few months ago that I would be writing about the awesomeness of pickles…I would have called them crazy.  I mean, what kind of loon writes about pickles?  A pickle freak?  This weekend we went up to my inlaw’s lodge for a little R&R.  Much needed I can say that.  It was wonderful as always with an added twist.  Pickles my friends.  Yes, pickles.  Not just any pickles.  Sweet candied pickles with just enough heat to make them interesting.  Like me.  ha ha ha!!  Apparently all friends and family and lodgers know about these pickles except me.  Not sure what the deal was or if I have been purposely left out of the pickle loop (I am looking at you Debby!!  :)) or maybe because in the past I was pregnant so much I ignored pickles for everyone’s sake??  I really don’t know.  What matters is that I know now.  And they have been coined Cajun Mama’s Candied Pickles.  And a star is born.  I thought about keeping this recipe to myself.  But my sweet mother in law was so kind to share with me and I know the right thing is to share with my friends.  Now this recipe makes a huge batch of pickles but remember my mother in law runs a lodge and part of that is cooking meals and she serves these bad boys with supper every night.  I made the big batch recipe because I plan on sending samples to different friends just to get feedback.  And to get people hooked.  Mwahhahahahaha! (that’s my evil laugh if you don’t know).  I am sure you can cut the recipe in half if you want to, but truthfully the pickles last for a long time in the fridge so just make the whole batch.  Trust me, these pickles will be your new addiction.  We had them last night with our chicken and dumplings, purple hulls and cornbread.  Went just fine believe me.  

Cajun Mama’s Candied Pickles

Ingredients

1 gallon jug of hamburger slices (pickles)

6 tsp. garlic powder with parsley flakes

6 ounces of Louisiana hot sauce

4 pounds of sugar (yes, 4 pounds. Hence the name candied…)

Directions

Drain the pickles in a big colander.  No need to save the juice, but you do need to save the jar.  In a huge bowl, add your sugar (all 4 pounds…go on.  Just do it.  Yes, its so bad but so good), hot sauce,  and garlic powder.  My mother in law (aka Deb as I will refer to her from here on out) said to just stir it all up by hand.  I will warn you that it gets very sticky.  Push through this.  Just get it the sugar mixture mixed up a little.  Add in some pickles and  then mix by hand.  Add more pickles and continue to mix by hand until all of the pickles are mixed in.  Get those pickles in that juice friends.  Try to not lick your hands…but you will want to.  The juice is addictive.  

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Now what I did was just cover my big silver bowl well with saran wrap and store them in our outside fridge over night.  I had a rough evening last night and ended up being kind of bossy to Big Daddy and made him stir the pickles a few times in the evening. Then this morning, I transferred the pickles and that yummy juice back to the big jar.  

 Ok, ok…truth…I was more than a little bossy.  I would have given Hitler a run for his money.  As a Cajun MAMA side note let me give ya’ll a good piece of advice.  Don’t try to do it all.  You can not be it all to everyone.  You cannot push yourself until there is no more.  I mean you can, but you will eventually be setting yourself up for disaster.  As a stay at home mom, you would think I would have plenty of time to get everything done…you would be wrong.  As moms and dads, there is only so much of us to go around.  Heck as friends, daughters, sons, cousins, siblings…whatever your role…there is only so much of you to go around.  I know better and still yesterday I fell prey to the “just a little more”  mentally.  Everyone in my household lost with me in that state of mind.  I never sat down, did not enjoy my family, turned into a screaming frustrated banshee by 6 p.m. and was just in general ticked off.  That is no way to live.  Sure, life with kids, 4 kids, however many you have, 2 dogs and a cat and a husband…homework, suppertime, bath time (aka the Shamu halftime show in our house…geez Louise they make a mess), life is chaotic and overwhelming.  But when I try to throw in a bunch of extra stuff…I start to backslide.  Maybe it is just me.  I don’t know.  I just know that I should have just left it at making supper and making pickles.  The pickles turned out fabulous.  I am eating some as I type.  These computer keys are getting sticky.  🙂

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Love these pickles!!!!