Category Archives: quick and easy

King ranch chicken casserole and going full circle with Mama Kate

I have told y’all the back story about how I came to be a displaced coonass in the middle of Shreveport. When I first came around Shreveport for the first time at 19 and started dating BD, I was about to start my semester at LSU. I had attended LSU-A for my first year at my parents’ encouragement and the plan was for me to move to Baton Rouge to start my life. I was engaged to my high school sweetheart and he moved there too. I had it all set. It was laid out. How it was going to be. Then we got the call that BD’s mom, was very ill and we needed to come and see her. (Remember we used to live across the street from one another for a while as children and our moms were friends too). I was 19 and was LSU bound and I decided I needed to go and say my goodbyes to a lovely woman who had influenced me and had been another mom to me growing up. And I wanted to see BD. Well…he was known as Clay back then…my childhood friend…clay. He harassed me. Ripped my dolls head off, and so on. Lol. On to Shreveport we went. She passed away a few days later and my family naturally went to the funeral. I will not go into all of the emotions that came about during this time or all that transpired…just know that I was in a relationship and it was not a great one. No offense to the guy I was with, but we just weren’t meant to be, though we tried. I certainly had a plan of how things would work out and falling in love with my best friend from childhood really was not part of my plan. And yet….I guess it was part of God’s plan. That is pretty plain to see now. So, cut to a few months later and I had broken my engagement (I am truly not a flaky person and take commitment seriously but the heart wants what it wants and I wanted Clay. It was just right) and left LSU behind and moved to Natchitoches to attend Northwestern. Now maybe I did not give LSU a chance, but looking back in retrospect it wasn’t the place for me. And I fell in love with clay and NSU all at once. When I first came around Keithville, where BD’s daddy ran the Farmer’s Supply Co-op and everyone knew everyone and I knew no one. I was an outsider. Cajun catholic chick from Alex. That was me. And though people were friendly enough to me, there were some people who embraced me right away. They were happy to know me and pulled me right in. Mama Kate was one of those people. Mama Kate was a Southern gentile lady if there ever was one. She wanted to know you and wanted you to be comfortable. She reminded me of my Momou and I was down with that. So I was going to Northwestern and had my new redneck man (ha ha!!!) and I was living with my cousin, Robin and y’all life was good. I felt at home. And for a homebody like me, that is true happiness. I will never forget one evening in January I guess, there was a knock on the door. It was John, a friend of big daddy’s and mama Kate’s grandson. He had something for me. Sure enough, 2 cookbooks that mama Kate wanted me to have and she had marked a few that clay might like and had written her thoughts in the margins. Y’all. I was blown away by this lady’s kindness. Her thoughtfulness. Remember, BD’s mom was no longer with us so that guidance that would be there was no longer and Deb (his stepmom and my wonderful mother in law and grandmother extraordinaire was not in the picture yet). This lovely lady wanted to make sure when he was around, that I fed him well. And I am sure at some point she and I had talked recipes and she knew I liked to cook. Remember now, I was 19. It pleases me so to think back and realize she knew I had it in me to get in there and cook or that I wanted to. Because let me say, Mama Kate was kind, thoughtful and she could cook circles around most.
As fate would have it, she moved next door to bd and I before we became new parents. And after I had Ben, my oldest, John’s wife, Kylie, had a baby a few months later. Kylie is a lot like mama Kate and we had lots in common. We became friends. It made those lonely days in the country more bearable as BD worked a lot trying to build his Farm Bureau business. Ben and I would walk next door and visit mama Kate. He would play on the floor and she would tell me stories and we would just chat. Kylie and I would go over together. And sometimes, she would invite BD and I over to have Sunday dinner with them. I am big on framily (friends who are family) and I guess Mama Kate and Kylie were the ones who taught me the importance of framily. Oh my. It was such a treat when you got to eat anything Mama Kate cooked. I would not trade those memories for anything. Though we moved “to town” and life got in the way, I would talk to mama Kate from time to time. I probably did not give her the time she deserved and I cannot make excuses for that. Other than to say I was having babies and just stayed busy. We stayed in touch though and would talk from time to time. She passed away about 2 years ago and nothing will ever be the same for any of us. I am grateful for the memories I have with her. And that at a time or several times in my life as a new girl in town, a new mom, a lonely mom, she was there. I hope one day I will be able return that favor to someone else who is in need. I still have that cookbook where I found several go to recipes that we still love. King ranch chicken casserole is one of those. First time I made it in college, we fell in love. No matter where you have your roots or where you are, it is a dish worth making. It is a comfort food that you will never forget. And when I told Big Daddy I was making it tonight, he replied via text “yes!!!” Lol! That is the appropriate response to knowing this meal is on the menu. It is easy enough that you can pull it together and it is memorable enough that you will be asked to make it over and over. It is a dish you will crave. It is a meal that unites us, country peeps and Cajuns, young and old, newcomers to town and town regulars…kind of like mama Kate did for me and I am sure many others over the year. It is a dish that brings you full circle and makes you glad you took the time to make it. And got to know the person who introduced you to such a simple, fantastic recipe. Hope y’all love it too.~AMB

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one of the treasured cookbooks she gave me all those years ago

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Mama Kate and a newborn Benny Boo

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A very pregnant and swollen me and Mama Kate at a shower some friends gave me holding a blanket she had made for the baby who would be named Ben.

King Ranch chicken casserole

Serves 6

Stuff you need~

12 flour tortillas, soft taco size
3 pounds chicken breasts, cooked and shredded or a rotisserie chicken works too
1 small onion, diced fine (optional)
2 cans Rotel (I use mild)
2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese
1 can cream of chicken
1 can cream of mushroom
2 cans chicken broth or 1 of those cartons (it’s the same amount)

What to do with the stuff~

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a large casserole dish (3 quart) with cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together the tomatoes, soups, and the broth together. Set aside. Tear 6 of the tortillas up into bite sized pieces. Layer them at the bottom of the casserole dish. Layer half of the shredded chicken and the diced onion on top of the tortillas. Now, sprinkle half of the shredded cheese over the top of this. Next, pour 1/2 of the soup tomato mixture all over the top of this. Repeat the whole process, starting with tortillas and ending with pouring the rest of the soup tomato mixture over the top. Pop that baby into the oven and cook for about 60 minutes. It will be a little soupy when you pull it out, that’s good. You don’t want it dried out. Let it sit for about 10 minutes and that will allow the rest of the liquid to absorb into the tortillas (creating a dumpling like texture…making this casserole the delicious dish it is!). Serve it up with a nice green salad and you are golden!

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Big daddy and I back when we were Clay and Aimee and just best friends. Circa 1979ish

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layer of tortillas

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soup mixture all whisked up and ready

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and a layer of shredded cheese

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pouring the soup over the bottom layer

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piping hot from the oven

Mexican casserole and making it work

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

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

Making it work Mexican Casserole

serves 8

Stuff you need~

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

What to do with the stuff~

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

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

Nichole’s Mexican cornbread with crawfish and finding the extraordinary


I am glad to be back on the blog today.  I took a few days off and somehow just got focused on living life and a week passed me by.  I have been cooking up a storm, just doing it off the blog I guess.  Good thing is that I have quite a few recipes that I have tried out that were definite wins.  I figured I would share with ya’ll a few pics to show what we have been up to over the last week.  They say time flies when you are having fun and if that is indeed the case then we have been blowing up the fun cause a week and a few days went by like a flash. We went to Arkansas for the opening weekend of turkey season and to celebrate Easter with my in laws at Bayou LaGrue.  We took the kids on a staycation at Margaritaville, we swam, we danced, we laughed, we giggled, we took silly pictures, the kids fought, I fussed, there was laughter, tears, and all in between.  We lived life.  I just happen to take pictures of our day to day life.  I am a firm believer in photographing the day to day things the kids do or that our family does.  Those are the things we tend to forget as time goes by.  So I capture it all.  When I look back on their lives, our lives, so far, it is not the big moments that I struggle to remember.  Birthdays, first days of school, their births, I see those clearly in my mind’s eye.  The ones that I pull closer though are the ones that happened every day.  Nursing them, holding them, rocking them, the giggles, their bonding moments as siblings, our time around the dinner table, and trips to the grocery store. Those are the most precious ones to me.  So now, I make sure to photograph those too.  It is easy to get swept up in the big stuff, isn’t it?  I find that to be true with food blogging too.  I get so caught up in trying new recipes, recipes that will grab attention, that I forget to include the stand bys.  The old favorites.  The recipes that comfort us and will be talked about in years to come.  The ones my babies will make for their babies and talk about their memories associated with that recipe.  New recipes, big moments have their place.  Life would be terribly mundane without them.  But the quiet memories, the day to day drudgery, caught on camera, looks quite remarkable when caught in the right light.  When put in perspective.   Same thing goes for recipes.

For example, back in grad school a classmate from South Louisiana, Delcambre to be exact, made this absolutely delicious Mexican cornbread that crawfish can be added to for a grad school function we had.  I made it several times with the crawfish, we loved it, and filed away the recipe.  I always thought of it and thought “I need to make that” but got sidetracked, you know, with getting married, having kids, and well…LIFE.   Amazing how time can pass by in a such a flash and I have not made that awesome cornbread in over 12 years!!!  Now, with Pinterest and a new recipe to try every day if you choose, it is so easy to forget the favorites.  I ran across a recipe for crawfish cornbread the other day on Pinterest and  said I bet it is the same as Nicole’s recipe.  I will just make this one.  Cue the buzzer noise.   Bomp!!!   I was wrong.  So wrong.  There was nothing wrong with that crawfish cornbread, but it was so not as good as that one given to me by my friend.   The cornbread was made from scratch and it was just so…mealy.  Nicole’s version was made with Jiffy corn muffin mix and for any Cajun anywhere, that is like coming home.  Those little blue boxes are like beacons of light in a grocery store.  If I know nothing else, I know that little blue box.  Sometimes, I get so caught up in the new, the “special”, that I lose sight of what is really special.  So today, I will offer ya’ll a recipe that I have had tucked away for years.  It is special.  And you will enjoy it.  Any flashy recipe on Pinterest cannot touch this recipe.  Just like any of these pictures that follow, the ordinary becomes extraordinary when put in the right perspective.  Make one of your mundane weeknights this week a little something special and make this cornbread.  And celebrate the ordinary.  That is where the good stuff is, ya’ll. ~AMB

Nicole’s Mexican Crawfish Cornbread

Stuff you need~

3 boxes Jiffy corn muffin mix (as if there is another brand)

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup of canola or vegetable oil

3 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons Mexi-Cajun seasoning

3 eggs, beaten

1 (11 ounce) can mexi corn or whole kernel corn with peppers, drained

1 small onion, finely diced

1 pound Mexican Velveeta, cubed

1 pound crawfish tails, roughly chopped

2 Tablespoons diced jalapenos, or *1 small fresh jalapeno diced, optional  (*seeds removed, unless you are a glutton for punishment)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9 x 13 dish by spraying with cooking spray.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together 3 boxes of corn muffin mix, oil, milk, sugar and beaten eggs together until just combined.  Stir in  the chopped crawfish tails, onion, jalapenos if you are adding them, and velveeta. Pour into a 9 x 13 dish and bake for 35-40 minutes or until browned and completely done in the middle.  Serve with a lovely green salad or potato salad (or both!)  and you have got yourself a meal.   And a damn good one at that!!!

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This is a picture of the flashy Pinterest recipe cornbread…close but no cigar.  Flashy and fancy is not always better.  Lesson of life.  

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A friend from Alex. actually came up with this awesome seasoning.  It goes perfectly in so many recipes.  If you are not in Alex., you can buy it online…http://mexicajun.myshopify.com/

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Ready for action at sunrise on Sunday morning.  

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Its just a barn kitten, but to a 5 year (and his mama) that kitten is extra sweet

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Cloudy day conversations between Toot and Toby (such a moment could easily go unnoticed.  I am glad it did not.)

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I look over and they were wrapped up in the towel.  Sweet sisters.

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No words necessary.  

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10 year old practicing his violin.  I find this extraordinary.

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Big Daddy and I had a date morning on the boat.  The view was fab.

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My good friend Laird had her 3rd baby…women give birth everyday  and yet newborn life and the process of birthing little humans is so out of this world fantastically extraordinary.

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Left the kiddos with Granny and Papa and took a little ride on the side by side.  For parents with young kids…this is something special.

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Just another ordinary day in Arkansas.  

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Just a picture of a man headed to work to anyone else, but in the eyes of his family…he is a hero in a tie.  Ordinary.  But not.  

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To a passer by this is just a family walking down the boardwalk, but to me that’s my life.  Extraordinary.  

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

Loaded nacho casserole

Do you like nachos?  Do you like casseroles?  Do you like the convenience of a one dish meal that serves a crowd?  If you answered yes to these questions, than this casserole recipe is for you.  Oh sorry, I think I have been listening to too much public radio.
This casserole is indeed basically one dish that feeds a crowd and has all you need for a complete meal.  I got the recipe from one of my favorite websites…http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2014/03/loaded-nacho-casserole-recipe.html. She tells you all about how she came up with the idea. Let me say…she is a genius!!! BD ate it up.  Kiddos, not so much.  Here is the deal though, if I cooked only what my kids liked there would be no Cajun mama cookin blog.  Unless ya’ll wanted me to tell ya’ll how to heat up Eggo waffles, make mac and cheese, heat up a wiener in the microwave or make a PB&J.   My kids, despite my efforts, do not eat everything that I cook.  Sure, there are the nights when there is a fingernail moon and Mercury and Venue are in sync (can you tell I am not an astrologist?) and they all eat what I make.  What I am getting at is that it is extremely rare for them all to just gobble up what I cook.  I decided a while back that I am not cooking for them.  I make what BD and I like or might like, hope that the kiddos will like it or even love it, and usually one or two of them will eat what I make.  But I by no means attest to 1) my kids eat it or starve.  I tried that approach, but I didn’t care for tucking my kids in and hearing their little bellies rumble.  For me, that was too much.  I admire parents who have that ability, but I don’t.  2) my kids gobble up whatever I put in front of them, never complain and they all have perfect table manners.  They don’t.  I don’t front ya’ll.  I tell you like it is, keep it real, show you the ugly.  For example… I got the cutest burlap place mats that have, get this, a cute little table manner written on each one.  So naturally, my kids become well mannered and perfect when they sit down to eat because their plates are on these well appointed place mats.  Negative Ghostwriter.  Half the time, I forget to put them out.  Yeah, that’s right.  Though I totally convinced myself that I would so put these out for every meal and then pick them back up again after each meal, I lied to myself.  Do you ever do that?  I do.  More than I care to mention.  But I will.  So that you don’t feel so bad about it when you do it.  I will admit to you that there are days when I might give Bree Vandecamp from Desperate Housewives a slight pause before she proceeded to kick my ass in the who is most like Martha Stewart category of Mom of the Year pageant.  Now, Roseanne (from the show Roseanne…to be clear) she might be all like “woah, smart ass comment, check this chick out…she thinks she is Martha Stewart!!” but not in a threatened or impressed way but more of a making fun of me for thinking I come close kind of way.  That’s right.  I can buy all the burlap place mats I want, but I will forget to put them out or pick them up half the time until I am so sick of looking at them that I put them back on top of the microwave until the next time I want to play like I am Madame Fancy Pants again.  So, ain’t  nothing over here in CM kitchen perfect or well appointed.  How I manage to get done what I get done escapes me and I am pretty sure I have the good folks at Keurig to thank for that since this girl runs on her coffee.  So…here we are back at where we started before I took ya’ll off on my verbal journey that gave you some insight into just how whacko I really am.  But I mean, have ya’ll missed the part where I told ya’ll I had 4 kids in less than 5 years?  If that didn’t clue ya’ll in to the whole “this chick is a little whack” than you are not real quick on the uptake. Ha ha! But real. 😳
Anyway, back to the recipe. I know, I know, it is hard to follow me at times and I appreciate you trying. I hope somewhere you are laughing at my candor rather cursing my ability to get greatly off track. Here is the recipe for this cheesy, meaty, everything in it but the kitchen sink casserole. It is pretty awesome and if you brown your ground meat ahead of time, it is a cinch to pull together. So on the days y’all have Tball or Spring soccer practice, ballet, teach a classroom full of kiddos all day (I have 2 sisters who are teachers and a bunch of friends who are…shout out to my teachers out there!) you can have supper prepared super fast. Ok ready?

Six Sisters’ Stuff Loaded Nacho Casserole

stuff you need~

1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
1 small onion, diced fine
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1-8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 small can diced green chiles
1 package reduced sodium taco seasoning
1 10 ounce bag tortilla chips
2 cups shredded cheddar

what to do with the stuff~

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Brown your ground meat if you have not done this already. Now, add in your bell pepper and onion and let them get a little tender. About 5 minutes or so should do you good. Now, just stir in the tomatoes, green chiles, corn, beans, taco seasoning and tomato sauce. Bring this saucy concoction to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. (You could this the night before so you could throw it all together the next night…just a thought). Now, layer half of the tortilla chips at the bottom of the casserole dish. As suggested, I kind of crushed them a little. Next layer half of your sauce concoction. Now, repeat this. Next sprinkle your cheese all over the top. Pop the casserole into the oven and bake until the cheese is all bubbly and the casserole is heated throughout. Let it cool a few minutes and then dish it up, baby!!
Serving suggestion…this would be divine over a bed of fresh shredded lettuce. Kind of a taco salad of sorts. Also, next time, I will use flour tortillas in place of the chips to see if I prefer it that way. It was delish like this but I think it might be awesome with the soft tortillas in there to soak up that sauce.  Oh and i might use shredded chicken in place of ground beef to change it up.  Yum!!  I will let y’all know. Very good, makes a ton and is quick and easy . Hope y’all enjoy it more than my kids did.  😉 what do they know anyway about good food, the little stinkers. Aw who am I kidding? I work for them. Sigh~AMB
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It’s cheesy, loaded with veggies, all in one dish and ready to please your hungry bunch!

Cracker Barrel chicken and dumplings

So I am not from North Louisiana.  I have made that pretty well known.  I am from “central Louisiana” (and dang proud of it) with strong roots in Avoyelles Parish…Marksville to be exact.  I love that about me.  I love that I had never eaten biscuits and gravy before I came to Shreveport.   Or real chicken and dumplings.  Now…let me back it up.  I lived in Natchitoches for 6 years and I loved every single minute of it.  Shreveport is my home now.  I love it.  I love living here and truly cannot imagine living anywhere else.  I have blossomed where I have been planted.  There are some wonderful things about living here.  Real, proper chicken dumplings are at the top of the list.  Now…I am NOT saying that people in central LA or in Avoyelles don’t make chicken and dumplings.  I am sure there are some.  I did not know any of them growing up.  But when you have the wonderfulness that is chicken fricassee…why would you even care?  Exactly.  But now that I live here, I kind of felt like I should learn.  So I tried a few recipes here and there.  I started out doing what my mama did the one time I can recall her making chicken and dumplings.  I used Bisquick.  And they were alright. They sufficed.  But when one of my friends from “up here” made them, I knew I had not hit the mark.  And all respect due to my mama, neither had she.  (But I don’t know anyone “up here” who can smother chicken like my mama, my Momee, or my cousin Robin)…so tit for a tat, so to speak.  Anyway, I found a recipe here and there for chicken and dumplings.  I tried different recipes for dumplings.  I tried the frozen dumplings.  They all just left me wanting another recipe.  I used biscuits…and that was a good one.  But still…my search continued.  Call it being a Cajun mama married to a country boy and the drive to assimilate.  Call it being a chicken and dumpling addict and trying to feed my habit (excuse the pun)…I don’t know.  I do know that the day this very chicken and dumplings recipe came across my Facebook feed, my days of searching for the perfect recipe ended.  Angels sang.  The seas parted.  My kids were perfectly behaved.  Ok ok…I am being overly dramatic…but I do have a good recipe now.  AND I learned to make my own dumplings!!  Yes…me!!!  Baking impaired Cajun mama can make her own dumplings!   And guess what my friends?  I am going to tell you how to do it too!!  Friends share, friends care.  Friends don’t let friends make bad dumplings.  🙂  You can do this.  My oh so country hubby aka Big Daddy, LOVES this dish.  His yummy noises are all the validation I need.  So, I really hope you will give this recipe a try.  It is really so good and very easy.  

Cracker Barrel chicken and dumplings

Ingredients

1 lb. chicken breasts or 3 cups cooked chicken

2 quarts chicken broth * (have a 14.5 ounce can on hand and some chicken bouillon base is what I recommend)

OR 2 quarts of canned chicken broth

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

a pinch of Kosher salt

a little less than 1 cup of milk 

2 tablespoons of butter

Directions

Now…boil your chicken breasts in about 2 quarts of water.  Add a little salt and pepper to the water.  Boil them until they are cooked through and really just falling apart.  Remove them from the water and set aside.  Keep the broth.  Once the chicken is cooled, shred it and then set aside.  Ok…now what I do is keep the broth I have and add some chicken bouillon base.  *I bring the broth to a boil and then whisk in chicken base (found in most supermarkets on the soup aisle.  It is in a jar and usually on the top shelf near the cans of broth.  It is a must have product and really adds authenticity to your soups, stews and gravy.)  I usually whisk in about 2 Tablespoons for about 1 1/2 quarts of stock.  Then I add a can of chicken broth.   You can also just use straight canned chicken broth if you want.  That’s cool too.  If you do that, you will need quite a few cans or at least 2 of the boxes of broth.  Either way is fine.  Ok once you kind of have your broth simmering, start making your dumplings.

In a large bowl, mix your flour, baking powder, and salt.  Then using a fork or a pastry cutter, blend in your butter.  I cut it into pats into the flour and then blend.  Now you want to cut the butter into the flour until it is well mixed in.  Now add in your milk (today I used evaporated milk and it worked out great but whole or 2 % works well too).  Stir until a nice  ball of dough forms.  Then you want to turn the ball of dough onto a floured surface.  I have one of those old school Tupperware rolling mats like mu mama has and that is what I use.  Now take your  well floured rolling pin and just roll it until the dough until it is uniform in thickness.  Really it is a preference thing, but if I had to eyeball it I would say about 1/4 ” thickness is about right.  And then I use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 2 x 2 squares.  You are not really looking for perfection here.  Now I use a floured brownie spatula to remove them from the work mat and then place them on a heavily floured plate in layers, with plenty of flour between layers.

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 Now at this point your broth should be simmering, so add the dumplings one by one into the simmering broth, stirring frequently.  Cook on low for about 15-20 minutes.  Add your shredded chicken.  You are ready to ladle it into some bowls and dive in.  So. dang. delicious.  Now usually I make some cornbread and some purple hull peas to go with this.  As Big Daddy says, “watch out!!!” 

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