Category Archives: Party foods, feed a crowd, crowd favorites

Christmas cookie baking for lazy chicks

So it seems everywhere I go, the stores, around town, on Facebook…signs of Christmas coming are everywhere. Just last week, Big Daddy and I took the kiddos to the lighting of the Louisiana Boardwalk Christmas tree. It marks the beginning of the holiday season for us and the weather made it that much more festive. It’s been a wee bit chilly around here…will all over the country. Mother Nature is showing her powers off in a major way lately. Go for it sister. But all of this cold and Christmas everywhere (not to mention always being a month ahead cooking wise due to writing the food column for Red River Moms) puts a gal in a Christmas cookie baking mood a little
earlier than normal.
I have told ya’ll before that I am a cook, but not so much a baker. So when my editor for RRM asked me for Christmas cookie recipes for the December column, my first instinct was to panic! Then I recalled these recipes that I had pulled off in the past with rave reviews and I calmed down. Of course these are no Martha Stewart recipes but that is one of their main selling points. I have no time for fancy cookie baking ya’ll. If I actually get to attend a cookie exchange (BD is out of town a good bit this time of year) I certainly don’t have time to bake complicated cookie recipes. These are fun, easy, and come out delicious!! I hope you will be inspired to branch out and try these if you have not already. They will be a hit with your family, at the next cookie exchange and especially with the big man dressed in red on Christmas Eve. If I can bake these, you definitely can!! ~AMB

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all bundled up

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even T-Roy is getting in the spirit (ha ha!)

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never gets old

Andes mint cookies

Makes about 15-20 cookies

stuff you need~
1 box devil’s food cake mix
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 package Andes mints (1 per cookie)

What to do with the stuff~
Add cake mix, egg, and oil to a large mixing bowl. Stir until combined. Roll dough into walnut sized balls. Place on a silicone lined or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for about 8-9 minutes. Do not over bake. Take a large cooking spoon and gently smash the cooked balls down. It will just flatten them. Place an unwrapped Andes mint on each cookie. Kind of swirl it around with the back of a table spoon as it melts to sort of ice each cookie. Allow to cool completely before transferring.

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don’t they look delectable?

Rollo stuffed snickerdoodles

Makes about 24 cookies

Stuff you need~

1 package snickerdoodle precut dough (break and bake) or 1 recipe of your favorite snickerdoodle dough (show off!!)
1 package rollos (need one for each piece of dough)

What to do with the stuff~

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Break dough into individual squares. On a floured surface, flatten a square of dough until it is about 2 inches wide. Place an unwrapped rollo in the center. Fold the snickerdoodle dough around the rollo. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Do this with each square. Work quickly because once you flatten the dough it gets hard to work with quickly. Place in preheated oven and bake about 8-10 minutes.
TIP–allow the cookies to cool completely before you transfer them. Once cool, carefully transfer from the baking sheet to a plate. I turn them over where the bottom is facing up because the caramel is melted and ooey gooey and can make a hole in the bottom of the cookie.

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that’s some cookie perfection right there

Peanut butter blossoms

Stuff you need~

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups baking mix
Sugar
Package of milk chocolate Hershey kisses

What to do with the stuff~

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl combine the sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter and mix until well combined. Stir in vanilla extract. Add in baking mix and blend well. Using a medium cookie scoop or a spoon, roll dough into 1 inch balls. Add some sugar to a plate and roll each ball of dough in the sugar. Place on silicone mat or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Using your thumb (or your kiddos can do this part), make an indention in the dough. Bake for about 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Once you remove the cookies from the oven, place an unwrapped Hershey kiss in the indention.

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old school but so easy and delicious

Mrs. Mona’s taco salad and really good slumber parties

So I went to a Catholic school in Alex. (For those who don’t know that Alex is slang for Alexandria aka Elic aka A town.) called St. Francis Cabrini. If I must say, it is likely one of the best elementary schools that ever existed. When I was there it went to 8th grade but now I am pretty sure it is only 6th. Anyway, every class was small. So that made each grade relatively small. So mostly everyone knew everyone, every parent knew the kids and parents. It was just awesome. I cherish every moment at that school. And now, thanks to Facebook, I get to be in touch with my friends from Cabrini still. And thanks to the tight bonds we formed there, we are pretty close for people who rarely see one another, if ever. So naturally we had slumber parties as all little girls do. Mrs. Mona is my friend Staci’s mom. She was always the nicest, most even keeled mama and always kept her cool. She is also an excellent cook. For one of Staci’s slumber parties…5th grade I think? Mrs. Mona made this taco salad. I fell in love. I can still remember thinking what a delicious treat that taco salad was. She introduced me to taco salad, monkey bread, and 7 layer dip. I have told y’all my daddy is a rice and gravy man, my mama aims to please and that’s what she made. Now a days, she makes a much wider variety of stuff and ole Steven (my daddy) is just glad to have something to eat. I imagine he would tear up this taco salad! Mrs. Mona was certainly influential to me as a cook, if I look back at it. She is a great lady and I am so blessed to know her and her precious daughter Staci. We went to school together from 2nd grade until high school. One of those friends. Always and forever somewhere in my existence and I am so grateful. Now, when I was in college , BBM (my mama) gave me an heirloom recipe cookbook that allows you to add recipes and special stories to it. I thought of all the recipes that were my favorites, Momee’s cornbread dressing, Shrimp mold, Nana’s Neiman Marcus bars…and mrs. Mona’s taco salad. So I called her up and she gave it to me. Right then and there. Little did either one of us know that one say I would have a blog and add this recipe to it. I guess it many ways, this blog is a super fabulous version of my heirloom cookbook. This is the actual page from the cookbook..
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pretty cool…

So now, I will give you the recipe and you can have it. Straight from Mrs. Mona Roy’s kitchen…to mine…and to yours. Now, I just need to get mrs. Mona to agree to host another slumber party. Staci, you think she is up for it? Can we bring the kids? Thank you Mrs. Mona for the awesome hospitality, the delicious food, and the recipes. Oh and giving birth to a lifelong friend of mine. ~AMB

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a picture from one slumber party at Staci’s in high school. So much fun. Also so much hair. Love you girls!

Mrs. Mona’s taco salad

serves about 8

stuff you need~

1 pound ground beef (I used lean)
1 (8 ounce) jar taco sauce (I used Taco Bell brand and bought 2 jars so I would have extra)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 head of lettuce, shredded
3 tomatoes, chopped
1/4 pound shredded cheddar (about 1-2 cups)
1 can kidney beans, drained (optional, this is my addition)
2 cups crushed corn chips

What to do with the stuff~

Chop up your lettuce. I just put it on a cutting board and just sliced and chopped. There’s no exact science to it. I would say freestyle works. You want bite sized pieces…not huge chunks.

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Rinse the chopped lettuce well in the colander.
Now slice and dice your tomatoes.
Ok now, in a large skillet, brown ground meat. Drain. Stir in taco sauce. Now, give it a taste and then add some salt and pepper. I also added some MexiCajun seasoning (a friend of mine from Alex. Actually created it and it is amazing!

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love some MexiCajun seasoning!
Here is a link to purchase if you are interested. It is really delish! http://mexicajun.myshopify.com/) as well as a little cumin. Just add and then taste. You might want more kick! Ok, next I drained my beans well in a colander. Then added to the beef mixture. Like so…

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Ok, now at this point, your lettuce should be rinsed and drained. So pile that lettuce in a big ole serving bowl. Throw your beef and bean mixture on top of that. You are amazing. You are doing great! Ok, now add the tomatoes on top. Sprinkle all that shredded cheddar on top of it all. Yes. Like that. Now crushed corn chips have arrived at the party. It is their time. I just crush and sprinkle. Crush and sprinkle. Add more or add less. Mrs. Mona won’t mind. She is cool that way.
Then it will look like this…

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Now, I poured some more taco sauce all over the whole thang to just kick it up a notch. It’s all good. Toss it well and then serve. Next time I will add some black olives to mine. Madame Toot insisted on a dollop of sour cream. She was not wrong. It was yum!!!
*Mrs. Mona said serve immediately. She was right. It serves a crowd so make it for a crowd. Leftovers do not do well with this dish. If you have a big slumber party of gals or guys, pretty sure you won’t have to worry about that. Enjoy!! Hugs and kisses to Mrs. Mona and Staci from Shreveport!

Golden Oreo dirt cake

At some point in my childhood Momou discovered dirt cake. Such a novel idea at the time and she was the queen of the dirt cake. It’s funny because now dirt cake is far from a novel or creative idea. Since the invention of Pinterest, it’s hard these days to really come up with inventive ideas since it seems as if everything has been done. But back in 1990, when Momou discovered dirt cake, it was the bomb. I can recall either her or one of my aunts making it for a family gathering and serving the dirt cake in a clean flower pot with gummy worms sticking out of the top. Talk about impressive. I bet money that Momou would be a Pinterest queen if she was shown how to use it. And I bet if given the chance, she would whip up a mean dirt cake for her fellow nursing home residents. Sister can work it!! So this dirt cake is just a slight variation on the typical dirt cake. It uses golden Oreos instead of regular ones. With the recent introduction of caramel apple Oreos and pumpkin spice Oreos (which I still can’t find)…you could make this a Halloween dirt cake and really take it over the top. I am thinking food coloring, tiny tomb stones and little skeleton heads all over the top. The possibilities are endless!! This dirt cake is an excellent birthday cake alternative for my friends who have kiddos who don’t do regular cake/chocolate (I am still not sure that is at all normal…lol. But I have several friends whose kids do not eat cake or chocolate.) One of my kiddos is a real vanilla lover so I figured she would enjoy it. She did. It is such a smooth dessert with a good crunch from those cookies. It tastes better after it sits for a few hours in the fridge. So if you have never made dirt cake, here is your chance. It is a breeze to whip up and it makes a good bit! You can serve a bunch of party goers when this dessert. Whip up a batch today!!

Golden Oreo dirt cake adapted from http://www.thecardswedrew.com

Stuff you need~

2 (8 ounce) small tubs cool whip
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese , softened
2 (5.9 ounce) packages of instant vanilla pudding
4 cups milk
2 packages of golden Oreos

What to do with the stuff~

In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of your standing mixer, add your softened cream cheese and cool whip. Mix until well combined. Now add the pudding mix and a little of the milk at the time, mixing after each addition (trust me it will slosh all over the place if you add it all at once). Mix until smooth and well blended.
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Ok now for the fun part! We are gonna crush some Oreos! It’s a mini arm workout and an aggression reliever at the same time. Not that I have any er aggression. No, not me. I have 4 kids between the ages of 6 and 11 but I am as a calm as can be. If you know me well you know I am lying, but if you believe me then let’s just continue that for now. 😜
Add a package of Oreos to a gallon size ziploc. Close tightly. Take a rolling pin or a hammer and get after crushing those Oreos. It’s good fun! Flip the bag over and crush some more. Do the same thing for the second package.
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Now, I made this in a trifle bowl. If you don’t have one, you can buy one as they are pretty cheap and you will get some good use out of it, or you can use a plain ole big bowl. Whatever you want. Do your thing.
Add half of the first bag of crushed Oreos (or 1/4 of the crushed Oreos) to the bottom of your serving bowl. Now, smooth 1/4 of the pudding mixture over the top of the Oreos. Now, sprinkle the other half of the first package of the crushed Oreos over this. Then another 1/4 of the pudding. Continue 2 more times. Oreos then pudding. You should end with crushed Oreos on the top. It should look like this…

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ain’t it perty?! Yum!!

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

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

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

Crockpot brown sugar pork loin with Balsamic glaze

Stuff you need~

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

What to do with the stuff~

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

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easy enough? Yes it is! Ok good!

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

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there you go. You are welcome. Enjoy!!

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. 

Slowcooker Caramel Apple Cider

Holy cow friends, this is one delicious recipe.  I have had this one for a while, just waiting for semi fall like weather to get here.  I needed to get my recipes turned into my editor for my Red River Moms column and since we are working on the November issue, I figured it was a perfect time to try it to test it out for my column.  Well I was not disappointed.  So. dang. good.  While it is cooking, it makes the whole house smell so inviting and tastes like Fall in a mug.  It is a copy cat Starbucks ecipe that I came across on Pinterest and I thought it sounded yummy.  I have never ordered it at Starbucks and actually  just noticed it for the first time on the menu the other day.  First sip and I was hooked!!  It warms in the crock pot making it fuss free to boot!!

You will need a small crock pot for this.  I used my 4.5 quart and it was a little too big.  It still worked fine though so if that is what you have you can use it and if you are making it for Halloween night or for guests arriving on a (hopefully) chilly Thanksgiving morning, this could and should be doubled and the 4.5 quart size would actually be perfect.

Slowcooker Caramel Apple Cider (adapted from crockpot 365 blog) 

Serves 4 but can easily be doubled

4 cups apple cider

3 Tablespoons caramel syrup (the ice cream topping…like Smuckers)

1/2 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

whipped cream in the can for topping and extra caramel syrup for drizzling

Directions

In a 2 quart slow cooker, combine all ingredients except whipped cream.  Whisk all ingredients together until good and combined.  “Cook” on low for around 4 hours.  Ladle into mugs and top with a good dollop of whipped cream and drizzle a little caramel syrup on top for good measure.  Now…call me crazy…but next time I am going to sprinkle a little fleur de sel (flaky salt) on top.  Because I am a sucker for salted caramel anything.

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Fall in a mug my friends!!!