Category Archives: healthy options

Pasta with fresh tomato sauce and a glorious spring day 

Oh today has been a beautiful day in my world.  First of all, when I woke up, the sun was already out.  That in and of itself is a huge statement for any mom.  I got to sleep past 5:30 a.m. AND the sun was out.  Score one for this girl!!  So the kids and I loaded up and went out to breakfast and did a little shopping.  There were minimal shenanigans or hissy fits.  And the kids were  pretty well behaved too. 

  

 Hahaha!!  But really now…we came home and the kids unearthed last year’s stash of plastic Easter eggs and they had some Easter egg hunts.  We love us a good egg Hunt now and they can get down.  It really felt good for us to spend some time out doors in the bright sunshine beating down on our skin and breathing in the fresh air of Springtime. And then it got really hard core. We broke out the water hose. See Big Daddy is against opening the pool until April but the kids feel that if the sun is shining, the pool should be open. Then I could not find the sprinkler and Big Daddy was off in hot pursuit of that ever elusive Tom (turkey) so we all compromised…Mom could hold the hose while the kiddos pranced through the spray from the hose in their bathing suits. Fair enough. 

simple and pure…sunshine, their shadows and the spray from the hose.

this sums up everything I feel about it finally being Spring

 

Big brother mans the hose

 

So then my little water logged darlings  decided they were hungry and took a vote…burgers for dinner. Get on that mom! But I was not in a burger mood. And here comes the good part.  There has been a recipe for pasta with fresh tomato sauce from http://www.marthstewart.com that I have been wanting to try. I also happened to have some gorgoues tomatoes begging to be used.  I love it when a plan comes together that way. A fresh tomato purée with garlic and basil and olive oil just screams….spring is here and summer is not far at all!  So much to my delight, this pasta sauce was all that I hoped it would be and I slurped up (don’t tell anyone) every last noodle. It truly was so fresh and perfect and full of flavor. It’s not a fussy high maintenance pasta sauce that needs you to coddle her and tell her she’s pretty.  This pasta sauce is  her super cool laid back gal pal who is just a breeze to be around Next time I make this recipe, I hope it will be made with Big Daddy’s home grown tomatoes and fresh basil from my container garden.  I hope you will enjoy it as much as we all enjoyed this perfect spring day.  More of those please Mother Nature…if you don’t mind!! 

 

the stars of my show
 


Pasta with fresh tomato sauce 

Stuff you need~

2 1/2 pounds fresh (unrefrigerated) tomatoes 

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves (I used the Basil in a tube that you find in the produce section….about 3 tablespoons of it) 

1 tablespoon minced garlic 

Kosher salt and black pepper 

1/4 cup olive oil (plus more for drizzling) 

1 pound of cooked angel hair pasta 

1 tablespoon of reserved pasta water 

Fresh grated Parmesan (trust me)

What to do with stuff~

Cook pasta according to package directions. Chop tomatoes until they are very fine or toss all ingredients into your food processor.  

 

   Next give the ingredients a few light pulses….

  

Then I spooned some of that reserved pasta water into the fresh tomato sauce…just a dash. Now grate some Parmesan…

 

And then prepare yourself for your pasta dreams to come true. 

as spectacular as a warm Spring day

Enjoy this pasta sauce and enjoy Spring…it’s a must!!!! 

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skinny shrimp scampi and for the love of noodles…give me some

I noticed that I have only blogged twice this month and it kinda sorta bothers me. I cook all the time and the majority of what I cook is new recipes and my camera has a ton of food pics on it. It has just been slap packed to the gills busy. And no sign of it stopping. So I am sitting in carpool line right now blogging. There has been some sick kiddos (yes again. New virus. Good times.)

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no sickness can match Roy’s love

Sick kids who got better and had their game faces on which means a nice basketball game for me (he plays rough not fair)

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There’s been some movies (50 shades of spongebob anyone?)

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There’s been some brotherly love

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And there’s been some slap silliness…

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hey silly is good

So when just comes to living life and taking care of the is family God blessed me with…sometimes blogging has to take the back burner. It’s hard for me to concede to this but it is what it is. For instance, I started this post a few days ago and I am finally posting.
This recipe today is a no brainer. It is prepared in a way that you don’t have to feel guilty, but the taste is right in your face. It is restaurant quality delicious but made at home. It’s definitely got of lovely qualities but my favorite is the FLAVOR!! This is real food made with love by you. I actually used this recipe in the January Red River Mom’s issue and I loved it so much I decided to share it on my blog as well. You will turn to this recipe time and time again and it will never disappoint.

Skinny shrimp scampi

Serves 4

Stuff you need~

1 pound shrimp, peeled, leaving tail intact
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons white wine
Juice of lemon
Lemon zest
Crushed chili pepper flakes
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Whole wheat linguine, cooked al dente
Freshly grated Parmesan (optional)

What to do with the stuff~

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add shallots and cook about 2 minutes or until they are fragrant. Add shrimp and immediately sprinkle with red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper. Sauté shrimp with the garlic until shrimp is pink and no longer opaque, about 3-4 minutes. Add chicken broth, lemon juice, zest, and wine. Bring to a boil and let it continue to let the broth cook down a bit. Remove from heat. Serve over cooked pasta. Grate fresh parmesan over each serving if that is what your precious little heart desires. It’s all up to you darlin.

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for the love of noodles…give me some

Chicken and cabbage stir fry and the family that gets sick together…drives each other crazy

So we have been sick in the cajun mama household. Looking around, I know it could be so much worse, but I will straight up say, 4 sick kids and a sick mama es no bueno. My youngest started running fever on Christmas Day and it just sort of spiraled from there. We fell like neatly placed dominoes. Christmas 2015…the Christmas of the fonk. But truthfully it was so much more than that. Even in the hazy eyes of the after illness, in my cough syrup induced haze, I know it’s not all that bad. And bad moments don’t make a bad life. Having some time together (albeit time where everyone is coughing and a little cranky) has not been so bad. There has been some cabin fever, lots of eye rolling, some “get out of my face!” And “mama he Is coughing on me!!” But we have also had lots of family time to take naps…

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Dress the dog up in scarves…

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Play games…and pose for selfies…

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Have group discussions…

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Choreograph dances…

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And get lots of puppy kisses…

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So all in all, we have been pretty lucky. We have all been together and we have laughed a lot. I can honestly say one thing that has not happened a lot is cooking. Whatever we had left us with little appetite. It’s been lots of cereal and sandwiches around here. But the other day, my best friend posted a link to a recipe for cabbage and chicken stir fry and I had to make it. Nearly everyone in our family loves cabbage and it is super cheap, so that makes it a great option! The recipe came from http://www.pomanmeals.com and I really like this blog. This cabbage and chicken stir fry was absolutely lip smacking de-licious! Now, I kind of added a few things and I will give you the recipe the way I made it, but I wanted to make sure ya’ll got the original website, because I must always give credit where credit is due. If you love cabbage and you love stir fry, try this recipe. I am telling you…you will be so happy you did. I ate it for breakfast this morning ya’ll. It’s that good!!

Cabbage and chicken stir fry

Stuff you need~

2 tablespoons canola oil
3 chicken breasts, cut up into cubes
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 head of cabbage, cut up into chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large onion, cut into large chunks
1 carrot, peeled and cut diagonally into large chunks
Chicken stock
Cornstarch OR Tony’s instant roux*

*If you don’t have this stuff…get some! My daddy swears by it at the camp and BD came home after a stay at the camp and said “must have this stuff! Your daddy loves it!!”

What to do with the stuff~

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken to the warmed up oil. Now sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Just let the chicken brown on one side. don’t disturb it for a few minutes. This gives it that nice stir fried effect. After one side is done, I flipped it with a spatula and Cooked the other side. I did not mess with it much.

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Ok, now you may need to work in batches as to not overfill the skillet. The chicken cooks quickly So it’s not a big deal. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.

Next add the butter to your skillet. Let it melt. Toss in the garlic, the carrots and onion. Let them cook a few minutes, and then add in the cabbage. Don’t stir much so the cabbage stays crisp and does not turn to mush. Using a spoon and spatula I kind of tossed the cabbage around, making sure it all gets in that butter. Just cook for about 5-10 minutes as cabbage becomes tender crisp. You can add a little salt and pepper here as well. Be judicious with your salt addition though (I am sensitive to salty flavors and don’t use a bunch so maybe you need or like more. Do your thing. You are your own boss!)
Next, I removed the veggies from the pot. I just placed them in a bowl and set aside. I added in my chicken stock. Now what I used was Knorr concentrated stock. I keep this stuff on hand all the time. I diluted with a cup of water. Let it come to a boil and then sprinkle in about 1 tablespoon of Tony’s instant roux. Cook over medium high heat and whisk well. Let the sauce cook down for a few minutes or until it is thickened up some. Add veggies and chicken to this yummy sauce. Serve over hot cooked brown or white rice. Plum larapin’ as my daddy would say.

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as delicious as I imagined it would be

Since this is New Year’s Eve, I want to take a moment, on my last post of 2014, to say I wish you and yours an abundance of blessings in the coming year. I look forward to sharing plenty of tales from the trenches and the kitchen. So much inspiration for tastier food and an abundant life, right where we are. No need to go to a restaurant to eat good every night. We can keep it simple, keep it real and eat good (and for less!!) at home. Not every night because that is no fun (and completely unrealistic) but more often than not. There are so many recipes for us to share…so enjoy your New Year’s Eve and I will see ya’ll back here sooner than later in cajun mama’s kitchen for some more inspiration. Thank you for reading along and letting me be a part of your life and for being a part of mine. More of that in 2015 please. Happy new year.

Loretta’s corn salad

So Big Daddy is a Farm Bureau insurance agent. They are an amazing company with a reputation for excellent personal customer service. The people who work for FB are mostly just good people. Good ole folks. From the secretaries, to the managers, to the agents and the adjusters. They are family people who are hardworking and sincerely just want to help. Naturally, the secretaries there need to be extra hard working and amazing because they deal with the public and are the right hands of the agents. When BD started working there many years ago, he had an amazing secretary who is so amazing and still such a big part of our lives, it would be wrong not to mention Renee. She is an amazing cook and I imagine I have several of her recipes to share. She moved and took another job with a different agency, but still Farm Bureau. Love us some Renee and no one can replace her. She delivers a big sack of Christmas goodies to BD every year and he cannot wait to tear into them. In fact the other morning as he was brewing his coffee, he asks me if I could make some cinnamon bread (coffee cake) and I was all like “um…who do I look like? Renee?” I am not sure even if I had her exact recipe (Renee? Can I have it?) I could make mine as good as her’s. She is a great cook, baker, friend, mom and grandmother and I am not sure I qualify. So when she left, we wondered if they would ever get another amazing secretary. There have been some good ones in between but one day, Loretta walks in and BD knew. She was going to be great. And she is. Now there are 2 great secretaries. Big shout out to my girl Tanya…the Desoto Parish FB cake baker!!

Boy is Loretta ever amazing. Our kids adore her. She babysits them and they push us out the door. She is hilarious, big hearted and has a big laugh that makes you smile when you hear it. She keeps a tree in her house that she decorates even in the summer. She is one of a kind. We love us some Loretta. So one year, they had an agency Thanksgiving feast (pretty sure Loretta made that happen) and she made chicken and dressing (omg so good…recipe to be shared later) and a corn salad that made me want to do a happy dance. So so so so good. She emailed me the recipe in time for Christmas that year and I made a batch. It is perfect. I made so much though that we had a ton leftover. So BD took the rest to Bayou LaGrue and it was gone that night after dinner.
So cut to last week and BD tells me he signed me up to make Loretta’s corn salad for their upcoming agency feast. I was a little annoyed to be honest. Like “who do I look like, Loretta?! That is her signature dish!! I cannot do it justice!” I mean, I am supposed to make her dish for her?! What!? But then I remembered I am a food blogger, dang it and my readers might love this recipe. So I will make it and blog the recipe and it will be ok. And it was. And now we have corn salad for their office feast and some for our family dinner. Score! This recipe is a winner. It is fresh and tangy but sweet. It’s just a great fresh side for any meal. It provides some lovely colors for your plate (my mama taught me that was important so I try to make sure our plate is colorful). I think you will love it and I am pretty sure it will be a mainstay for your Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter dinners and many meals in between. Loretta is not great at giving exact measurements in her recipes (none of the great cooks are) so I am having to improvise. You can half the recipe or you can add to it depending on how many folks you are feeding (I am channeling my inner Loretta here). You will love this recipe and if you know Loretta or ever meet her, you will love her too. Thank God for Loretta (and her corn salad recipe). Love you Lolo!

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Loretta and her hubby, Ken

Loretta’s corn salad

serves a bunch of folks…like 12

stuff you need

2 cans Mexican corn, drained
2 cans shoe peg corn, drained
4 carrots, peeled, halved and chopped 2 stalks celery, sliced
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped (I used green because that is what I had but the red adds color)
1 can petite diced tomatoes, drained (optional)
1 zucchini, halved and then chopped
1 small purple onion, diced
1 cup grape seed oil
1 cup vinegar
2 cups sugar
Kosher salt and black pepper

what to do with the stuff

Ok, add all the veggies into a big bowl. Simple enough. Cover and put in fridge until the dressing is cooled.

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love all the colors!

Now, In a small saucepan, bring grape seed oil, vinegar and sugar to a boil. Once boiling, whisk fairly consistently
while the mixture boils for about 4-5 minutes. The sugar should be completely dissolved or almost anyway. Like this…

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keep whisking if the sugar is still stuck at the bottom.

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ah whisk it, whisk it real good! Chi chi chi chi chi chi chi

Allow the mixture to cool. Pour over corn salad and stir in between pours. Add as much of the mixture as you think is good. Those fresh veggies should be good and evenly covered with that sweet dressing. Yum. Sprinkle with some kosher salt and black pepper for some kick and there you have it!!!

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Sweet corn salad full of fresh veggie goodness…you are so perfect

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, my awesome readers. I don’t claim to know much, but I do know how important you reading what I write means to me. I appreciate your support, your comments, your encouragement and you just being along for the ride with me. I am grateful for all of you. And so much more. Hope your turkey day is wonderful and full of joy and blessings. When I count my blessings, I count you twice. Much love from my family to yours. ~AMB

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a few of my top blessings at the tree farm yesterday. If local, check out http://www.weaverschristmastreefarm.com. It’s a great experience that you will want to make a family tradition.

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My handsome Farm Bureau agent helping get our tree at the tree farm. I am grateful for such a strong sweet husband. Love that man.

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so grateful for this fur baby. He has the big job of healing hurts and bringing joy…and he does fine. We love him so.

Mom’s creamy chicken broccoli and rice casserole

I suppose after the craziness and overwhelming nature of the past few weeks, it is possible I have been in need of some comfort. A bunch of comfort to be honest. I have found it in prayer, hugs from my kids and Big Daddy, and long talks with friends. Sometimes though, there is nothing like a comforting casserole straight from the oven, piping hot covered with ooey gooey melty cheese. Of course Pinterest is full of such concoctions and it can be hard to separate the hype from the truth. Well y’all, this casserole is the real deal. No hype. It is so fantastically creamy and just perfect. I made it yesterday for lunch and my oh my, I was a happy girl. Now, I am all about delicious, but when a casserole combines super foods like broccoli and mushrooms and convenience items like frozen broccoli and rotisserie chicken, that makes it tops in my (cook) book. I would make a few changes the next time I make it, like, more broccoli and less mushrooms and cut the mushrooms up smaller but that’s a matter of personal preference. Another beautiful thing about this recipe is that it is lightened up version that is so tasty and creamy that you will never even miss what might be left out. Delicious!!! Obviously, I loved it and I hope y’all do too! ~AMB

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a bowl of comfort

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T-Roy lays on my feet as I cook. Comforting for both of us I suppose

Mom’s broccoli and chicken casserole

serves 8

stuff you need~

1 (12 ounce) package frozen broccoli (Next find I am doubling this)
2 packages of pre-sliced mushrooms (I will use just one next time and slice them up smaller)
1 small onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cup milk (I used a mixture of half and half and 2 % milk and it was creamy perfection)
About 3 cups of rotisserie chicken breast, chopped up (I just used all the breast meat)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2% Fage)
1/4 cup mayo
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar

what to do with the stuff~

Cook your broccoli according to package directions.
In a oven safe skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in diced onion and mushrooms, cook until mushrooms are browned and liquid has cooked out.
Sprinkle the flour over the mushroom mixture. Stir for about 1 minute. Pour in the milk. Bring to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes or until the mixture is creamy and thickens somewhat. Stir in the chopped chicken and broccoli. Remove from heat. Stir in mayo and Greek yogurt and shredded Parmesan. Season to taste. Sprinkle with shredded cheddar. Place under broiler until cheese is melted. I crushed up about 10 Ritz crackers and sprinkled the crumbs all over the casserole for some added crunch. You could also added slivered almonds on top for some added texture.

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full of good stuff and topped with melted cheese…yes please!

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oh the comfort a good casserole and a sweet puppy can bring

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happy sigh

Crave worthy chicken noodle soup

So here is the deal with the chicken noodle soup. Madame Toot (my 7 year old) was not feeling well. I took her to the doctor and indeed, she has strep throat. I have always read chicken noodle soup is the Jewish Penicillin and that studies have shown that the components of chicken noodle soup are very good for sick people. Something about the salt and warmth and some other stuff I forget because I am tired and lots of stuff happens that overrides the results of a study I read 2 years ago. None the less, I am going to be real honest and say, I have always just opened chicken noodle soup from the can when my kids were sick. Not the fancy Progresso kind, but the good old Campbell’s kind. That is what BBM (Bernie aka mama) did for me when I was sick and it was perfectly fine. But yesterday after we left the doctor, we ran by Target to get her prescription filled and I decided I would make a big pot of chicken noodle soup. Without an old family recipe to turn to, I turned to google. And google brought up quite a few and I chose the one that looked the tastiest and hoped for the best. This is one of Paula Deen’s Lady and Sons recipes. It is the best chicken noodle soup I have eva had y’all. It was so good I cannot even stand it. It is so good that it is real early in the morning and I want to have a bowl right now. It is chock full of veggies, chicken and has a flavor that you cannot beat. You will likely love it. I bought a loaf of crusty French bread and it just completed this meal. I am putting some in freezer safe containers and freezing some so I will have some of this on hand the next time I need a fix or one of us gets sick. We are not Jewish, but we will gladly take a dose of their Penicillin. Good thing because I am allergic to the regular Penicillin. Hope you enjoy this chicken noodle soup! You absolutely do not have to be sick to enjoy a bowl of this luscious concoction.

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that’s a sick baby girl

Chicken Noodle Soup (adapted from Lady and Sons)
serves 8-10

Stuff you need~

for the stock:

1 (2 1/2-3 pound) whole fryer (or equal amount chicken parts)
3 1/2 quarts water
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic minced (1 1/2 teaspoons of the jarred stuff)
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons italian seasoning
3 chicken bouillon cubes
4 bay leaves
Kosher salt and black pepper

for the soup

2 cups celery, diced, including leafy green parts
2 cups carrots, sliced
8 ounce package mushrooms, sliced
2 1/2 cups uncooked egg noodles (I used the medium size and really liked them. The wide ones just freak me out…not sure why)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/3 cup cooking sherry
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Seasoned salt to taste (optional)
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

What to do with the stuff~
First off, let’s get this stock going. You will feel very much like Martha Stewart or a pioneer woman as you do this. I enjoyed it and really felt like I needed to be in the creek rinsing our laundry. Except I was super glad to just wash it in our washing machine. You know what I mean…something about making a stock just feels…homey.
Ok, now add 3 1/2 quarts water to your stock pot. Thoroughly clean your chicken or chicken parts. Cut up your chicken if you want to. I do not cut up chickens. I have issues and something prevents me from being able to carry out that task. (Not so pioneer like right? Whatever I gloss over that stuff. 😜) add your chicken or chicken parts to the stock pot. Add in remaining ingredients for the stock and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Allow to cook until the chicken is cooked thoroughly. I let mine cook on super low heat for 2 hours or so. But I had a whole fryer in that pot. It will take about an hour with chicken parts. My chicken meat was falling off the bone.

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you done made you some stock Cher!

Remove the chicken from a pot to a large plate. Allow to cool. Using a slotted spoon, remove onions and bay leaves and discard. They are no longer necessary. Debone your chicken and discard the bones. Don’t need them either. Set aside deboned chicken meat.
for the soup

Bring your stock back to a boil. Add in your carrots and let them cook for about 5 minutes. Now stir in the celery and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Stir in your noodles and allow them to cook al dente. This means they are done but not mushy. Now stir in mushrooms, parsley, rosemary and sherry. If you are using the heavy cream and Parm (which I suggest) add those in. Stir in your chicken meat and seasonings. Give it a taste before you add anything and then add accordingly. I allowed mine to simmer on low heat for another 30
Minutes to let those flavors hang out and come together to bring us chicken noodle soup perfection.

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carrots, mushrooms and noodles…oh my!

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delicious perfection

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

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

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friendship is indeed a gift

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

Rainbow Pasta Salad 

Stuff you need~

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

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

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

1/2 cup Salad Supreme seasoning

8 ounces or 1 cup of Italian dressing

What to do with the stuff~

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

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

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

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The secret ingredient 

 

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

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

Chicken Parmesan and embracing the past

So lately I have been having the envie (said “ah-vee”) or as some say, craving, for chicken Parmesan.  MMMM…I love chicken parm.   Growing up in a double Cajun household, both parents from Marksville, Blue Town and Broulliette respectively, that is a phrase I heard frequently.  My dad would say “Hey Bern, I’ve got an envie for pork stew”….or it might have been “a mess of grillades”.  Funny how those phrases sound so familiar to me but to someone else, it sounds strange.  In the house I grew up in, I was never lucky enough for one of my parents to crave chicken parmesan.  Ha ha!  That would have been too normal.  Red beans and rice or spaghetti and meatballs was about as normal as it got.  When I was younger, I was never embarrassed of our Cajun roots, but I did not cling to them like I do now.  Maybe it is being a Cajun Catholic transplant among all these North Louisianians or as they call them in Alex. or below…rednecks.  (sorry guys, but it is true…and I am one now and it is all good.  My dad calls my kids little coon necks.  Mix between coonass and rednecks.  He is a clever guy, my dad.)   The things that I cling to and recall now with extreme pride now are things that were commonplace growing up.  They didn’t seem strange until someone else said it was.  For instance, when I was probably in 2nd grade, my family was going to a boucherie at my grandparents’ house.  That was a normal occurrence in our family.  My parents got really excited about it.  For those who do not know, this is the event where they kill a pig that has been raised specifically for this purpose and then have a big get together and make boudin, cracklins, grillades, hog head cheese, and so on.  A friend from school had spent the night with me and she came along.  We walk in my grandfather’s shop, where they were making the boudin, and she screams.  Loudly.  I am pretty sure she mentioned something about the movie Carrie…I can’t be sure.  7 year old girls can be brutal. Both of my grandmother’s, Momou and Momee, were in there making boudin.  Now, I apologize for being graphic and this may gross some of ya’ll out, but both of their hands were elbow deep in a bowl of pig blood.  That is what they do to make the red boudin.  That’s right.  It has blood in it.  I only eat the white, but many of my family members love the red.  It is considered a delicacy.  Now, see, had I had a set of grandparents that did not live in Avoyelles or were not so similar in ways to the other set, I might have realized this was different.  But that was all I knew.  It was completely normal to me.  I found that little incident a little embarrassing at that time, but it did not take long for me to embrace my Cajun roots with pride.  I love everything about it.  Even the not so pretty.  Another story…I distinctly remember Momou making chicken fricassee  or smothered chicken with the chicken feet in the pot.  I remember it striking me as kind of off, but not really, and I never asked.  That is just what we do.  I didn’t always  appreciate all that I was privvy to growing up in a double Cajun household, but now, oh now, I feel lucky.  I feel those traditions and nuances steeped deep into my bones and find so much joy in being different.  It is what makes us who we are.  I named my youngest baby Lucas Mayeux…his middle name is my maiden name.  Of course, people name their kids after their maiden names all the time, but for me, it about more than a name.  It is what that name represents.  What it carries on.  I am no longer Aimee Marie Mayeux.  I am Aimee Mayeux Bowlin…I say it with pride.

So, maybe I was never lucky enough to have my parents crave Chicken Parm and cook it for me.  That is something I do now for myself.  What I crave even more is making sure that as many of those traditions and strange little things, words, details, that I grew up taking for granted are things that my children will come to know as second nature.  It may not happen in Avoyelles very often, but I determine if it is kept alive.  So around here, I get an envie for chicken Parm.  My kids don’t even ask what that means.  They know.  So it goes…bringing the past into the present and shaping it into something brand new to form what will be the future.  I better call my mama to see if she can cook me a mess of grillades when we go to Alex. I have an envie.  But for now, in case any of you get a craving for Chicken Parmesan, really good, not hard, not awfully bad for you, chicken Parm I have a great recipe right here for you.  Note:  I did not pick the recipe because it is a “skinny” version..it isn’t that skinny when you eat 2 helpings…lol!  I picked it because it looked like what I wanted.  Though…nothing wrong with a healthy version whenever possible, especially when it tastes AWESOME!!!  My kids…well 3 out of 4…loved it!  My oldest is a hard sell, tried it and said no thanks..he is not a big fan of cheese topped meals…with the exception of a burger or pizza.  But 3 out of 4 Cajun Kiddos cannot be wrong.

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Baked Chicken Parmesan to satisfy the strongest of envies

Baked Chicken Parmesan (adapted from http://www.skinnytaste.com)

Stuff you need~

4 chicken breasts, cut in half long ways (into strips or you can use 8 tenderloins)

3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs (I used Progresso garlic and herb breadcrumbs)

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 Tablespoons butter, melted (or olive oil…I used the butter this time)

3/4 Mozzarella cheese (I used the Kraft Italian 5 cheese blend with a touch of Philadelphia cream cheese in it…it is good stuff ya’ll)

1 cup marinara sauce (ya’ll…I used Ragu. That is what I had on hand.  My family does love Robert Newman’s marinara though)

Cooking spray

What to do with the stuff~

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.  Combine breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan in a plate together.  Using a basting brush, spread melted butter lightly over each side of the chicken pieces.  Now, press each chicken piece into the plate of breadcrumbs and flip it over to do the other side.  Do this with each piece individually.  When you are done, place each piece in greased baking dish.  Lightly spray a little more oil on top of the chicken and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.  Turn chicken over and bake for another 5 minutes.  Remove the baking dish from the oven.  Spoon the marinara or spaghetti sauce over the chicken.  Top with shredded cheese.  Return this to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes or so until cheese is nice and bubbly.  I served this on the side of some boiled angel hair pasta topped with some of the Ragu (this way my oldest pickier kid would not starve.  He was down with that.  A nice salad goes well on the side as does some garlic bread, if you really want to do it up!)  Enjoy!!

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Having a Cajun grandmother literally rocks 

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Momee and Momou (aka Beulah Mae and Narcille) were good friends.  How cool is that?