Tag Archives: Cajun mama

Smothered chicken recipe and other things my mama gave me

My mama has given me many things in my life. My roots, my wings, sometimes a pain in my butt (you know it’s true Mama),  so much love and maybe best of all…smothered chicken. I have said before that my mama is an excellent cook. And that Big Daddy is fond of saying “Bernie could cook a boot and make it taste good!” He is not wrong. 

 I will be honest here and say, in the past 10 years, my family of origin has undergone many changes.  I am pretty certain that is a statement that can be made for most families, as change is the only thing that is constant in this world.  You can count on things changing in this world.  But you know one thing that has not changed in all of the changing that has remained the same?  My mama’s smothered chicken.  She has had her ups and she has weathered her downs, we have been high and low, but her love for her kids and her excellent smothered chicken are two things that have remained the same.  If I ever had to equate food to love, I would say her smothered chicken, her rice and gravy and honey carrots (pea and asparagus casserole if we are lucky)  would be a plate of love. Big Daddy, the kids, the dogs and I recently piled into the mini van to go spend the night at my mama and daddy’s house in Alex. and she asked me what I wanted her to fix for supper.  Of course, I say smothered chicken.  She already knew before she asked.  When I had all of my babies, my mama would come and stay a few nights and smothered chicken was always on the menu.  I really did not even try to attempt to make it for the longest time because I was convinced it was too hard and that no matter what, it would not be as a good as her’s.  She always picks on me and says since I am such a good cook now, there is hardly anything she can make me that I cannot make myself.  I can happily say that my smothered chicken cannot hold a candle to her’s.  I am so glad to have her here on this Earth to make it for me.  Now, don’t get me wrong, my smothered chicken is passable.  It is ok.  It might be pretty good.  But Bernie has the magic touch and I am just fine with that.  Maybe its because it is one way I still need her, one way she can be there for me like always, but she makes the smothered chicken of my dreams and when I am at her house or she is at mine, and she prepares my favorite meal, all is right with the world.  Its funny how something so simple can do that, isn’t it?  None the less, I had the envie for some smothered chicken yesterday afternoon and I decided to make it.  I feel inadequate every time I set out, but the more I prepare it, the easier it gets.  Its just a lot to live up to, you know?  My mama is tiny, but she has some fairly big feet and her shoes are hard to fill.  Especially when it comes to smothered chicken.

I was at a loss about how to tell ya’ll how to make a dish that I am only just now learning how to make really well.  I held off until now because while it’s not hard per se, it is a little bit of an involved process.  I have been gone so long though, not blogging, and so many have stuck with me while I took my little blogging hiatus, I figured I owed it to you to show you how to make one of my favorites or at least attempt to.  So bare with me as I fumble through this.  This is not baked chicken.  This is not fried chicken.  This is chicken that has been cut up and smothered in its own delicious juices.  And it’s fantastic. (If you are a Jim Gaffigan fan, you will get that reference.  If not, you should check out Jim Gaffigan so you will understand.  He is hilarious.)

I will stop story telling for now.  Though when it comes to mothers and daughters, the story never really ends.  I certainly need to work on my smothered chicken technique and I do not claim to be an expert, but if I waited until I was an expert at making smothered chicken, we might be waiting a long time for this post.  Plus, for now, I really enjoy that my mama’s smothered chicken is better than mine.  I am not ready to be top dog in that category.

 

me and the queen of smothered chicken aka my mama. I love her.

Ok ya’ll ready? Let’s do this!! 

My mama’s smothered chicken  
Stuff you need

One fryer chicken, cut up 

Cooking oil 

Salt and pepper 

Sugar 

Water 

What to do with the stuff

Wash and pat dry your chicken pieces.  Drizzle some cooking  oil all over the bottom of a large skillet. Bernie is pretty particular about the size pot she smothers her chicken in. And Stephen (my daddy) says you don’t want to use a pot too big when smothering your meat, that the meat fitting snugly in the pot makes for a darker  gravy. I don’t argue. I use a magnalite deep skillet that is perfect for smothering chicken. For those who don’t know, Magnalite pots and pans are the holy grail for Cajuns. The BEST!!! I inherited one from BD’s Pappaw and I love it. 

Now salt and pepper your chicken on both sides. Turn the heat on your pot/skillet with the oil in it. 

Once the oil is warmed up, add your chicken pieces. 

  
Allow the chicken pieces to brown one side. Mama says that adding a little sugar to your pan aids in the browning process, so I do what she says. Just a spoonful or so is good. And You don’t want your fire too hot or your chicken will stick. So medium to low heat is best. 

  
Once chicken is pretty and browned one side, like so….flip your chicken pieces using some tongs. 

 

That’s some pretty brown chicken, my baby.
 
Now allow your chicken pieces to brown on the other side.  I add a little more sugar to the pot at this point as well. Just a spoonful will do.  Remember to mind your heat so chicken does not stick. I also wiggle the pieces around here and there as I brown the chicken. It makes me feel like a chef. And also, it prevents the chicken from sticking. 

Once chicken is nice and browned on both sides (thank you sugar!!!), you want to add some water to your pot. This begins the smothering part of the process. 

I add enough water to half way cover the chicken pieces. It’s ok if you add too much since you are going to cook out most of the water. Lower your heat until the water is simmering. Cover your pot and allow the water to cook out. This is the first step in making that delectable gravy. Oh my yes. Rice and gravy. Staple on so many Cajun tables. *

Let the water almost cook completely out but not quite. Do NOT allow all of the water to cook out. No!!! You are going to add more water to the little bit that is left after the first round. So add more water and continue the process of making that gravy and simultaneously tenderizing that chicken. Hence the smothering. I hope I am explaining this correctly. You basically will see your water the chicken is cooking in turn to gravy. It’s magic!! It will begin to look like this…

  

See how it is getting thicker and darker and looking like gravy? Ok now do the same thing over again until you get the gravy a dark as you want and have enough gravy (is there such a thing?) and all pieces of chicken are cooked through and tender. I say fork tender, meaning you can stick a fork in the meat and it easily turns. 

 

fork tender and check out that gravy…this is after cornstarch had been added
 
Smothered chicken makes the most fabulous gravy. If you need to thicken the gravy at the end, just add some cornstarch and whisk it around really good. My gravy making skills are a work in progress, it’s not an exact process and just had to be learned. I am still learning. You will want to remove your smaller pieces of chicken like the legs and wings so they don’t fall apart while the other pieces finish getting tender. Just remove them and put them on a plate and set aside. Sha small pieces of chicken being removed from the party, but they can come back later!!! 

*Fun fact, when I was growing up, I would swear when I moved out I would never make rice again. That I would serve only mashed potatoes. My daddy would laugh to himself and basically say “don’t invite me then, my baby.” Ha ha! I am literally eating those words. My Momou gave me a rice pot as my first wedding gift. It’s a must have! 

We recently got a huge bag of rice from some good friends who have a rice farm. The rice is so fabulous and smells so good cooking, it is absolutely worth getting some if you can. Their website is http://www.bakerfarms.net and you can actually order a bag of rice if you want to. I have eaten a lot of rice my days, my thighs and rear end can attest to that, but this rice is unique. It’s aromatic and it cooks up perfectly every time!!!

That’s my little rice side note. But it’s important because what good is that gravy if there is no cooked rice?!! Exactly!!! 

  

thank you Mama for many things…for roots, wings, lots of love and smothered chicken
 
I want to say thank you to all of my loyal readers. For your encouragement and sticking with me when I was not sure if I needed or wanted to continue blogging. Thanks for inspiring me. I am glad to know the words I write mean something to so many of you. I am back now and we are only just beginning. Your loyalty means the world to me!!! Thanks for reading! -Aimee 

Sundried tomato basil chicken pasta and the recipes that hold us together 

It has occurred to me in the past few weeks that I have numerous friendships that many wonderful recipes have come from.  I make friends with these lovely, beautiful inside and out people, and because we share a love of cooking, and yes food, we end up sharing our favorites. They are not the reason we are friends, but the recipes become these tentpoles of our friendships.  We know their family through these recipes, even if we have never met their family.  These recipes become part of our story. The food that feeds our kids during parties, the meals that we bond over, reveal secrets over (along with a glass of wine). It’s just what friends do!! 

For example, the other day, I wanted to make my favorite quiche recipe which comes from my friend Alayna. I adore quiche and this recipe is the real deal. It comes out perfectly every time and I always feel like a brilliant chef when I am serving it up for a brunch. She wrote the recipe down for me long ago and I have sense lost it (I know!!) and has texted it to me several times as well. I texted her AGAIN to get the recipe. She texts back with one of her witty responses, followed by the recipe and then “I swear we just use one another for recipes!” Though I knew she was kidding, it gave me pause for a minute. I am a sensitive person and don’t take most things as lightly as they are intended. We go back and forth with the witty banter that makes us good friends and it is decided that we don’t see one another often enough and this is likely due to us being busy cooking. So then a few days later, she texts me about what to do with leftover cornbread and I say cornbread salad! And the circle continues. 

A week or so ago, I texted Betsy for a the recipe for her mama’s sundried tomato basil chicken pasta recipe. Again, with 8 kids and super busy schedules between us, not to mention the 3 1/2 hour travel between us, we don’t talk to or see one another nearly as often as we would like. But that doesn’t make us any less of a friend to one another. Good friends don’t need daily interaction to stay good friends. A good, quality friendship is always there, unchanging and unaffected. Sure it’s a good idea to do something to nourish those relationships and keep up best you can but a good friend is for life. Just last week, as I was about to board a flight to Honolulu (yes Honolulu…cajun mama travels albeit reluctantly) I get a text from Betsy encouraging me to have fun and not worry. Why? Because she knows me, has experienced first hand how hard it is for me to leave my kids, and break away.  And in many ways her text put me at ease. It reminded me what I am made of and also what a good friend I have in Betsy. My point here is, maybe our texts do revolve around forgotten recipes but it keeps us connected. Despite the miles, the kids, the exhalation and the busy schedules, we remain close somehow. And Alayna and Betsy are just examples. I experience this with different friends. Recipes have a way of doing that. They bond us, draw us together, and keep us connected. 
Now the recipe for Alayna’s quiche went in my column in the May issue of Red River Moms (and I will share it here soon) but today I am sharing the recipe for the Mrs. Sharon’s sundried tomato basil chicken pasta. And you will see just how insanely delicious one recipe can be after you make it. One bite and you will be SOLD!!! This is a filling pasta dish that is so flavorful and hearty, even the manliest man will appreciate it. But it is also perfectly at home on the menu for a ladies’ luncheon. 
Sundried tomato basil chicken pasta 
Stuff you need~

1 8 ounce jar sundried tomatoes, in oil (drained and reserve the oil) 
1 onion, sliced 
1 green bell pepper, sliced 
1 teaspoon garlic 
1 8 ounce package sliced mushrooms 
1 teaspoon basil (I used the stuff in the tube)
4 chicken breasts, sliced thin
1 cup whipping cream 
8 ounces bow tie pasta (about 1/2 box), cooked al dente 

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

*Betsy’s additions~Parmesan and red pepper flakes (I have told ya’ll before about her red pepper flakes addiction and she passed it on to me) 

What to do with the stuff~

Drain oil from tomatoes and reserve. Give the sundried tomatoes what PW calls a “hard chop”. Does not have to be perfect or uniform just chop them up some. 

  
Now, add some of the reserved oil to a large skillet and warm it over medium heat. Add slices of onion and bell pepper to the pot. Sauté them for a minute or two and then add garlic and mushrooms.

  
Sauté until the pepper are tender. Remove from pot and Set aside. Now, sprinkle your sliced chicken with a little kosher salt and black pepper and add to the skillet. I added a little more of the reserved oil before doing this. Cook the chicken for a few minutes on one side and then flip over and cook for a minute or two on the other side. Cook in two batches if needed to make sure the chicken gets a nice sizzle to it. If you add to much chicken at once, it takes too long for the pot to heat up and no browning goes on. And that nice lovely brown on the the chicken adds such a lovely depth to the flavor in this dish. (That is the foodiest statement I have ever made…excuse me).   Once your chicken is cooked, stir the veggies and your other batch of cooked chicken back into the pot. Now stir in the chopped sundried tomatoes and basil to this and give it a stir. Yes. That’s right. Smells good, doesn’t it? Yes. Mrs. Sharon is a wise wise woman with excellent taste. (Ask how I know? She raised a daughter who is the same way! I am not comparing one of my dearest friends to this pasta dish…but if I was, it would be a compliment!)

Ok! Now, pour in that luscious cream. Oh yeah…it’s good to be you.  

mmmmmm….good things are happening

Stir in cooked pasta and season with some good ole sal

Family pleasing Italian meatloaf

So last week I ran across this link someone shared on Facebook. There was a picture of this delicious meatloaf that I could not resist. It was Italian meatloaf. I have always been a meatloaf gal and of course as far as I am concerned, bring on the variation! Topped with bacon…yes! Stuffed with cheese (like my mama used to)…for sure!!  Sweet ketchup topping…why not? Barbecue sauce in it…hello?! Yes!! (Of course not all at once…I am not a total freak.) See what I am getting at here? Me likely my meatloaf. And I certainly do love me a leftover meatloaf sandwich. Oh yes!! When I am forced to go to Golden Corral by the tiny people I birthed (yes they request this sometimes and after 10 no’s, I will throw them a yes)…I eat the meatloaf. Most people do because they always are sold out. So loaf o’ meat…sign this gal up!   And I get it…you either are team meatloaf or you aren’t. I understand. I have met people who would not touch meatloaf with a 10 foot pole. Just the name conjures up bad 1970’s style memories. To you I say…I hate it for you! I really hope that previous bad run ins with meatloaf won’t stop you from giving this tasty dish a go. Now my family loves meatloaf. Even my P.O. (picky oldest) will gobble up meatloaf. He is hesitant though at times to try variations on his favorites. He is like his Poppy (my daddy) and he likes what he likes and consistency is key. BUT, Mr. P.O. does fancy a bowl of  spaghetti and  meatballs, so I took a chance and figured he would at least try Italian meatloaf. And try he did. He tried himself a whole plateful. We had some friends over hanging out and I was dawdling on getting supper going and P.O. graces us with his presence and asks at what point would this Italian meatloaf be ready (and the second time his tone was a wee bit snappy. My boy was hangry…a state of being so hungry that one becomes angry. Hangry.) 

So, I moved my friend and my conversation into the kitchen where I could fire up the old stove (well not really that old) and get that meatloaf going. Far be it from me to stand between a preteen boy and his food. I had that sucker made and in the oven in no time and it was a HIT!!! My daughter had a friend over and the child went nuts over this meatloaf. Everyone loved it and wanted more. P.O. even ate the leftovers for supper tonight. Yep. It was that good. I served it with either pasta topped with the leftover marinara sauce or Alfredo sauce. We have two different kinds of palates here and sometimes I indulge both. It is spring break after all. I also picked up loaf of French bread to slice up and serve warmed along side it with a nice green salad. It was perfect and will be made again soon. It really is delicious and worth taking a chance on. 

Let me tell you how to do it. You are gonna blow your family away!! 

Italian meatloaf (adapted from http://www.topcookingguide.ga

Stuff you need~

1 pound lean ground beef 

1/2 pound MILD Italian sausage 

Olive oil 

1 small onion, finely diced 

1/2 chopped bell pepper 

1 teaspoon minced garlic 

1 tablespoon milk

1 egg, slightly beaten 

1 teaspoon Worchestchire sauce 

1/2-1 teaspoon Italian seasoning 

1 teaspoon basil (I used the stuff in the tube) 

2 slices white bread, crumbled (I gave them a few pulses in the food processor instead) 

3/4 Italian breadcrumbs (I used garlic and herb because that’s what I had) 

1 1/2 cups Mozzarella cheese, divided into 1/2 cup and 1 cup (for topping) 

1 cup Marinara sauce (I usually use Newman’s Own but this time Emeril’s caught my eye so I used that) 

What to do with the stuff~

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Sauté onion and bell pepper in some olive oil until tender. Add garlic and sauté another minute or two. Add the your ground beef and Italian sausage to a large mixing bowl. Add in sautéed veggies and other ingredients, except the Marinara sauce.

  

 Reserve one cup of the cheese for topping but add in the rest. Now, roll up your sleeves or use a wooden spoon, but mix it up good until all the ingredients are combined. Don’t be skeered of that meat! Shape the meat into a loaf and add to a loaf pan or a pan of your choice. I use a 9 X 13 glass dish and it works beautifully. 

  

Spread the marinara all over the top of that meatloaf. 

  

 Bake in a preheated oven for 40 minutes. The original recipe called for 50 minutes but mine was done in 40. Adjust accordingly for your oven’s cook time. Add the reserved cheese to the top and bake another 5 minutes or so, until the cheese is bubbling and melted and irresistible. 

  

Allow to cool a few minutes, slice and serve. 

allow me to channel my inner Mr. Food and say “ooh its so good!”

 

Enjoy my friends!!! You don’t have to make a fancy meal that takes tons of time and money to prepare. What matters is serving up something (mostly) homemade and the smiling (usually) faces gathered around the table. Time to talk, come together and nourish our spirits and bodies. That is what we are going for. This recipe can do it for you. Let me know what you think!! 

Slow cooker chicken quesadillas and the gift of another Monday morning

Happy Monday!!  Ever feel like this about Mondays? 

  
Yeah me too!!  It’s been an interesting weekend and I am actually posting from our beloved pediatrician’s office. So I think that automatically makes it an extra fun Monday!!! My daughter fell during our water hose fun the other day and hurt her tailbone. The pitiful thing laid on the couch most of Saturday and all day yesterday and she is typically a blur of motion.   Just to be sure it’s not broken and for her (and my) peace of mind we are at pediatrician’s office to get an x-ray. 

my poor baby

Some days it’s hard to get real jazzed up about much and Mondays are sometimes that day for me. My cup of coffee with my oldest and Roozie in my lap are both things I treasure but still Mondays are a stretch. I wanted to maybe enter a little excitement into your lives (assuming a great recipe can do such a thing for you as it does for me). It’s my Monday morning gift so to speak. Which is really a gift itself. To get up this morning and have a whole new week full of possibility stretched out before me. All the opportunities, the blessings, the joy.

  
 Even another visit to the doctor’s office where we are among friends is a blessing. Thank God for insurance and a great staff full of awesome people to take care of my kiddos even if this is the 3rd visit here in a week. 

don’t ask me why my little one is with us

Now for my Monday morning gift to you…a really easy tasty recipe!! So last week I had a hankering for chicken quesadillas. But I was not in the mood to stand over the stove and do what one has to do to get the filling prepared. You know…because I was feeling particularly lazy. Yet I was feeling adventurous. Try new things but not have to work too hard for it. Only way to go my friends! My kids are getting to where they all enjoy Mexican food, even my picky oldest aka PO. He is aware that I call him that FYI and he owns the name. I found this recipe on http://www.getcrocked.com. 

Anyway, I was very impressed with the creamy texture of this quesadilla filling and also how tasty they were. I will completely admit that my quesadilla making technique needs some work but I am a work in progress and that’s ok. I used my smaller round slow cooker and next time I will use my bigger oblong one. Also I washed the chicken breasts but in my haste to get them going I did not pat them dry and I think that made the filling a little watery. So lesson learned and they were still pretty awesome. I think these will work well for anyone who loves quesadillas without all the fuss and will be perfect for baseball families as I know this is the time of year for that. As the days get warmer, it is also a great recipe to have on hand to avoid heating the house up with the oven or sweat over a stove. I got you covered my baseball mom friends, hot natured friends, friends in the doctor’s office with no idea what to do for supper, friends who dislike having to cook…I have got you covered. Ain’t it grand? It’s the little things friends…never forget to give thanks for the little things and another Monday morning. 

Slow cooker chicken quesadillas 

Stuff you need~

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 

4 ounce can diced green chiles 

1 can Rotel undrained (I used the kind cilantro and it was awesome) 

8 ounce package cream cheese 

Shredded cheese of your choice (cheddar, Monterey Jack) 

Tortillas 

Optional: pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole 

What to do with the stuff~

Add (washed and patted dried) chicken breasts to the slow cooker. Add all other ingredients to the slow cooker.

  
 Cook on low for about 6 hours or high for 4 hours. Remove chicken and shred. Add back to slow cooker and stir into other ingredients. 

Now, heat a little butter in a skillet or on a griddle. Place tortilla on griddle and on one side add some of the chicken mixture and on the other half add some shredded cheese. Allow cheese to melt a little and then use a spatula to fold filled tortilla in half, like so…

  
Allow cheese to melt completely and give and few presses with spatula for good measure. Repeat with each tortilla to make as many as you need. Cut in half and serve along side sour cream, pico de gallo, and guacamole for an authentic Mexican restaurant experience!! Margaritas are optional…or are they? Ole! 

Tengo hambre? (4 years of spanish baby!!)

Olive Garden chicken gnocchi soup And my soup obsession continues 

This is one of my favorite things on the menu at the OG. Yes I know it’s a soup recipe. Yes another one. Because there are so many soup recipes that just beg me to make them. Anytime I go to the OG this is a must. This and breadsticks and I am happy as a clam.  There are many recipes out there for this but chose this one seemed the most authentic.  I found this recipe on http://www.carriesexperimentalkitchen.com.     Now it does use boullion cubes and I am fine with that. I know some are appalled at such practices but let me say….if boullion cubes are gonna be the death of me…well so be it. 6 of one half dozen the other.  Also, I can make it during Lent as long as I don’t add the chicken. I did not add it this time and I probably will not ever because it is so perfect without it. The gnocchi is filling in its own right and I never missed the chicken.  The gnocchi is not hard to find in most stores. You can find it on the packaged pasta aisle. It is truly so easy to recreate this soup at home at a fraction of the cost. I know we are hedging upon warmer weather but that does not deter me to make my favorite soup recipes. I just may not make them as often. But when a soup is this filling and not labor intensive at all…I cannot find any reason not to make it during any weather. Of course, this comes from a soupahomic and that may just be my soup addiction talking.  Also, nothing pairs better with this chicken based soup like a nice refreshing glass of white wine…which makes it a win in my book!!!  Whatever your pleasure, if you love OG’s chicken gnocchi soup, feel free to indulge during the warmer months…I surely won’t tell anyone. Now…where are the breadsticks? 

Copycat OG chicken gnocchi soup 

Makes  16 1 cup servings (so can serve 16 but it’s so good I would say about 10) 

Stuff you need~

2 tablespoons butter 

1/3 cup thinly sliced celery 

1/4 cup minced onion (it’s says shredded but that did not work so well for me…yikes!!)

1/4 cup grated carrot 

1 tablespoon minced garlic 

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg 

1/4 teaspoon ground thyme 

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

8 cups water 

6 chicken boullion cubes (I use the knorr extra large and only use 4) 

2 cups heavy whipping cream 

2 cups cooked chicken (grilled, roasted, or rotisserie…again I don’t use it at all)

4 cups fresh, washed baby spinach 

16 ounce package gnocchi 

What to do with the stuff~

Melt butter in a large heavy bottom pot over medium heat and sauté onions, celery, carrots and garlic.  Sauté a few minutes or until celery is tender.  

   

 Now whisk in the flour until it is mixed in with sautéed veggies. Next, stir in water and the bouillon cubes. Add in the ground nutmeg and ground thyme and the chicken If you are using it. Bring this just to a boil and then reduce heat to allow mixture to simmer for 15 minutes. While simmering the soup, heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan.  Then add this to the soup along with the spinach and the gnocchi. 

 

Let the soup simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes. Ladle into individual bowls and prepare to be amazed. 

  

mangia!!

   

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!!!! 

The dirty truth about real, Cajun, deliciously dirty rice…and other truths my mama told me

Sit down my friends.  I am about to tell you the real truth about dirty rice.  I am going to say some things that might both thrill and shock you.  I am not talking about some prepackaged dirty rice, mop tit.  I am talking about the real stuff.  Hard core, down and dirty, dirty rice.  One of my favorite meals is roast pig, dirty rice, potato salad and a green salad dressed only with vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper.  Its a simple meal for sure, but not simple to recreate.  Not every day do you come across a cuchon delait.  Won’t be long though until I start asking Big Daddy to make me a pig roasting area in the backyard…though not sure how our Homeowner’s Association would feel about that?  Maybe if I do it and then feed them a big divided Styrofoam plate full of roast pig and all the trimmings, they would overlook it?  Note to self.  Ha ha!!  But when I do want to at least get a taste of that meal, I can make this dirty rice.  It puts me there…I am at Momee’s house and everyone is there.

I am so blessed to have those memories and I am so lucky my mama taught me how to make this dirty rice.  She has never been afraid to tell me the truth about many things in life and what is really in the dirty rice. I remember saying to my mama, after she told me the truth, “say what?  You put what in there?” and she replied “well yeah baby, that’s what makes it tastes so good.”  Simple enough truth there Bern.  Simple enough.  Let me say, at that point I had been eating dirty rice for a long time and I frankly did not care what was in it.  When I had my first baby, my mama came and stayed for us for a few weeks.  She cooked and cleaned and took care of us.  She (tried) to wait on me hand and foot.  She tried to tell me some truth (every time I had a baby) by telling  me to rest.  Don’t over do it.  I was pretty stubborn and did not always listen.  As I sit here 11 years and 4 kids later…I kind of wish I had listened to her.  Looking back on that time, I cherish those memories.  I will never forget the amazing meals she made for us.  Big Daddy was in hog heaven.  He loves my mama’s cooking and frankly I am not sure if that not one of the reasons he married me.  If so, oh well.  She always knew the way to endear him to me was to feed him well.  More truths from my mama’s book.  She helped me rope in my man.  Thanks Mama!!  Anyway, one night she made us stuffed bell peppers with this dirty rice and holy cow…they were scrumptious.  I am quite certain this was about the time I learned the dirty truth about my family’s dirty rice.  And I was not deterred one bit.  I suppose she thought, well she gave birth, she can handle the truth about what is in dirty rice too. We lapped it up with gusto!!  Now, let me go on and spill the beans.  True, Cajun dirty rice is made with ground meat, chicken livers and beef liver.  Oh and Savoie’s real cajun dressing mix.  Not sure what all is in that and I really don’t care.  Now, I have shared that secret and I feel so much better. It is not that awful but some of you may have a hard time with such information.  Please know, if you have never eaten real dirty rice, you owe it to yourself, your children, your loved ones…to make it and try it.  Most of these ingredients will be nearby one another in the grocery store.  In Kroger, its all in a freezer case off to the side of the meat section. 

  I will be honest and say cutting up the livers is not my favorite thing to do but when they  are somewhat frozen still, its a lot easier and less bothersome.  Just a thought.  Also, this recipe makes a good bit.  My mom tells me to freeze the rest of the stuff that is not used.  After Benny Boo was born, she made Big Daddy a mess of  liver and onions  with the leftover beef liver and encourages me to do the same…because she is wise and knows the truth.  A well fed Big Daddy is a happy Big Daddy.  Because I love the man, I do this, and it is absolutely a labor of love, because I truly cannot stand liver and onions.   He is always really appreciative, so I guess that is good enough.  But if you want to just double the recipe, then use all of the liver and the dressing mix.

The dirty 3
The dirty 3
Real Cajun Dirty Rice

Stuff you need~

1 pound ground meat

1 medium onion, chopped fine

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped fine

1/2 container chicken livers, roughly chopped

1 piece of beef liver, roughly chopped

1/2 container Savoie’s real dressing mix

water

2-3 cups of  cooked white rice

bell peppers, blanched and cooled if you intend to make stuffed bell peppers

What to do with the stuff~

Start out by browning ground meat in a large, heavy bottom skillet.  After a few minutes, toss in the chopped onions, celery, and bell pepper to the ground meat.  Cook this over medium heat.

IMG_0002

Now, add in your chopped up livers.  Stir in the dressing mix.

IMG_0005

Just keep cooking over medium heat until its all nice and brown.  Add in some water, maybe 1/2 cup at a time.  You are going to do what my mom calls “smother” this mixture.  That means add in water and allow it to continue to cook until water cooks down.  Then add more.  I cover my skillet after each water addition.  Make sure you check it to make sure you know when it needs more water.  Next, you will start to add your cooked rice.

Ah the white rice...the perfect backdrop to every good Cajun meal.
Ah the white rice…the perfect backdrop to every good Cajun meal.
I just eyeball it.  I make 3 cups of rice and used about 2 cups of it.  But you might want to add more or less to get the consistency you want.

So deliciously dirty…
My mama and baby Ben...she spent her days doing this and cooking us awesome meals.  Thanks Mama!
My mama and baby Ben…she knew the truth…he would not stay little very  long.
You are never too old or big for BB (or mama) to hold you.
Scan 4
Most of what I know…it all goes by in the blink of an eye, dirty rice is awesome, and my mama is often right. Thanks for the truths Mama.

Old fashioned creamy grits 

Here comes another story about the woes of being a Cajun gal transplanted into redneck territory. Yep. I did not grow up eating grits. I mean, my mama bought the box of Quaker grits now and then, pretty sure at my request, and I would eat them. But as far as cooking grits that would make people swoon and keel over from utter delight…negative. Big Daddy grew up on the Quaker grits as well. We went on with life, eating grits from the package and all was well. Nothing was missing. Or was it? I attempted to make real grits a few times, made grits to go with shrimp and grits (working on my favorite recipe that for those who have asked) but they were not life changing, where have you been all my life grits…until a few months ago I had never experienced such a thing. I came across a recipe from Saveur magazine on Pinterest for the best grits. I thought…challenge accepted. Let’s just see. Holy schnikes Batman…true to its word, that recipe delivered the creamiest, most wonderful, mannah from Heaven grits. I started out by taking advice and getting stone ground grits. Those are not easy to come by here in Shreveport. I am sure they are carried somewhere around here or near you…but it is just as easy to order them from Amazon. The ones I found were perfect and I have had to reorder them already. Here is the link https://www.amazon.com/dp/B009HHNUUE/ref=cm_sw_r_awd_FxTcvb1YMQAHR. A bag of these makes about 6 batches of the grits I am about to give you the recipe for. They are well worth the $12, especially if you have Amazon prime.  



 Every Sunday morning, I try really hard to make my family a big breakfast. Big daddy is a breakfast lover from way back and my kids love it too. We make fried eggs, bacon, sausage, toast and these grits. My picky child (my Benny Boo) absolutely requests these grits on a weekly basis. He had not eaten grits since was 2 (and those were the Quaker instant grits), but one day he saw the bag of grits I had ordered and he decided to try them out. Man, he fell hard. That boy has good taste I tell you. No matter which side of the grits fence you fall on, I strongly recommend you branching out and trying this recipe. They are unlike any grits you have ever had. Big Daddy’s pappaw, had a bowl of grits just about every morning for the last 20 years of his life. Deb would pick up the big variety box from Sam’s and he would be a happy camper. I only wish he could try the utter delight that are these grits. I know it would put a smile on his always pleasant face. I am quite certain whatever beef he ever had with me (mouthy, sassy, Catholic)…much of that has been forgiven since I am passing on a love of grits to his great grands. There is power in the grits my friends. You will not be disappointed!!!



my favorite grits lover that ever lived



Old fashioned creamy grits 

Serves 6 

Stuff you need~ 

2 cups water 

2 cups milk 

1 cup stone ground grits 

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

1/4 cup heavy cream 

2 tablespoons real butter

What to do with the stuff~

Heat the water and milk in a heavy bottomed saucepan until just simmering. 

While the water milk mixture is heating up, add the grits to a large mixing bowl. Cover with water. 



Stir vigorously until the chaff  floats to the top.  Strain the chaff from the grits with a spoon. 



Drain the grits with a fine strainer.



Now please don’t be deterred by such a step. I am not sure why we do this, but the result is so wonderful that I stopped questioning it. It’s easy peasy once you get used to it.  

Stir grits into the simmering liquid.  Cook in the liquid until grits are tender.  The recipe says it takes about an hour but I have not found it to take this long. I sprinkle in some kosher salt when they are close to being done.



Then when they are tender but still simmering, I slowly pour in the half and half. 

Then stir, stir, stir…but gently though. Take care with such perfection. They should be the perfect consistency at this point but if not stir in a little more cream. Add more kosher salt to taste and then the butter.  You are so close to grits perfection. 



Spoon the grits into a bowl and prepare yourself for delight. I mean it people…these are life changing grits. They separate true Southerners from people who simply live in the South. Even if you live in New York and have never stepped foot in the South, you are a southerner at heart when you eat these grits.  Welcome to Dixie my friends. 



add a little black pepper for good measure, Pappaw would approve


Chicken fricassee and sweet tomato gravy and a Saturday with great friends

Growing up, we would go to Momou and Grandpa’s for Sunday lunch at least once a month.  And so many times she would fix chicken fricasse, sweet tomato gravy, rice and gravy, potato salad, her macaroni and cheese, petite pois and the ever present brown and serve rolls. When I got older, I was responsible for buttering the rolls before they went in the oven. I always knew when I was called to butter those rolls, lunch was getting close. I can still see the huge bowl of potato salad all gussied up with its sprinkling of Tony’s, sitting there on the white Formica bar right next to the glass pitcher of the BEST sweet tea I have ever had, even to this day. There were so many people packed into that house on those days usually, so many that we had to set up the card table to make room and yet looking back, it never seemed that full. It just seemed homey. 

Now, I will admit that I was not a chicken fricasse fan until I got older. This had a whole lot to do with the fact that when I went to take a peek at was for lunch, there were chicken feet. In the pot. Chicken feet in the pot, ya’ll. I just could not even handle it. You see they had chickens at the time and Momou would just toss the whole bird in the pot. I guess even back then, homey did not play. By homey I mean me.  But by the time I was in high school, she had stopped all that homegrown chicken business and was buying chickens from the store. Sans feet and much more my speed, thank you very much. I am really glad I came around because this meal so something to behold. It is likely on my list of favorites. 



best meal ever



A few weeks ago, our best friends since grad school, Marc and Lolly and  two of their kiddos  came for a visit. My sweet girl turned 10 and they came to celebrate her and also just to visit. It was a good time with excellent company and some pretty excellent food, if I must say so myself. As I have told ya’ll before, Marc is from Eunice and is a dang good cook. Lolly is amazing in the kitchen as well. Anytime we go over there, it is a smorgasbord of food, so when they come here, I like to do it up right. And I think I managed to cook a meal that everyone enjoyed. Momou’s classic fricasse meal pleases another mass of hungry peeps. I cannot wait to see her again and tell her all about it. She took the time a few years ago to write down some requested recipes and I am so glad. It is the easiest recipe to follow and is not hard to make at all. Just like most recipes from the good ole days, this one does not require any exotic ingredients. It’s a feast for your senses and I am telling you, it never disappoints. We followed it up with a red velvet cake for Cookie’s birthday and we were all stuffed to the gills. What a day!!! If every Saturday could be that good, what a wonderful world this would be. It’s a meal to share with beloved friends and family and it is satisfying simplicity at its very finest. 



celebrations are best with our best friends !!!

Using the self timer to take selfies…we are hip and with it! Ha! 



two of our beautiful girls



Now I am including the recipe for sweet tomato gravy because one goes with the other and it is wrong to serve chicken fricasse without sweet tomato gravy. Says me. But of course, it’s not a law or anything so do what you will. If this is your first time to have fricasse then I would absolutely make the sweet tomato gravy as well. You can have the full experience. Go big of go home is what I say. 

Chicken fricasse (French stew) 

Serves about 8 

Stuff you need~

1 fryer, cut up 

About 3/4 jar of Savoie’s roux (1 pint jar)

1 medium onion, chopped 

1/2 bell pepper, chopped 

Ground red pepper,  to taste 

Salt to taste (Momou says NO black pepper in her recipe) 

1/4 cup green onion tops, chopped (or cut with kitchen shears as Mrs. Fern, Marc’s mama, does) 

Chopped parsley (optional) 



da roux!


What to do with the stuff~

Bring about 2 quart of water to a boil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Once boiling, add in roux and stir well until it is completely dissolved.  



let’s get the party started



Add the chopped onion and bell pepper and then lower your fire. Allow this to simmer to low heat for about 1 hour. Add in your chicken once it starts to thicken.



bubbling pot o’ heaven


 Cook until the chicken is good and tender…falling off the bone is more like it). Add in your seasoning to taste.



 Serve over rice, my baby. It’s good. 

Sweet Tomato Gravy

Stuff you need~

1 1/2 cups of water

2 tablespoons Savoie’s roux 

1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce 

Sugar to taste (as Momou says…it takes a good bit)

In a small, heavy bottomed sauce pan, bring water to a boil.  After it comes to a boil, stir in roux. 



the roux ba-bay!

Whisk or stir until it dissolves. Whisk in the tomato sauce. Stir until smooth. 



tomato sauce …what makes sweet tomato gravy what it is!
 

Lower the heat and stir in sugar to taste. Simmer over low heat until mixture thickens a bit. Sweet tomato gravy…fricasse’s best friend. 



Madame Toot and Momou, the fricasse queen



Frozen hot chocolate 

I know! It’s in the 40’s here and my crazy behind is making frozen hot chocolate. Yep that’s me. I am breaking away from the fray, I am stepping out , I am my own woman. I like my hot chocolate frozen. Really, I have always been intrigued by the idea of a frozen hot chocolate since the movie Serendipity with one Mr. John Cusack and one Mrs. Kate Beckinsdale. 



Yeah that movie. I love it. Probably one of my favorites. And I love New York. I despise travel but I would go to New York in a…well…New York minute. I love it there. When we visited a few years ago, Serendipity (the restaurant) was on my list of places to visit but my list was really long. So we never made it. I have pinned numerous recipes for this and never tried a one. Not sure why. But since we are  still iced in and I have some time and I have the ingredients in my over crowded pantry, I figured why not? So I did. I used this recipe I found on Pinterest on http://www.wishesndishes.com for Mexican Frozen hot chocolate and it did not disappoint. I assume what makes it a Mexican variation is the cinnamon and vanilla? Either way…awesome sauce. I added a little Godiva chocolate liqueur to sass it up for me but left it plain so the kiddos could indulge. If there was any left. And I felt like sharing. I did share..for the record. Because I love em. And they are my babies. And the state mandates I have to feed them. And mostly because a little of this goes a long way and I needed to leave room in my liquid diet for a Bloody Mary later. Can you tell the lack of adult contact and outside interaction with others is making me a little nuts? Ok…so though it did not look like this when we drank our frozen hot chocolates…





Nor did I expect us to look like that (I mean we have 4 kids all home and ice everywhere…it’s mayhem people. Mayhem. I drank my frozen hot chocolate standing and hoping none of my little beasts would come and jank it from my hands…that’s how we roll. Fast and in fear…ha ha ha!!! So now for the recipe you have been waiting for…here we go. Make it today. Thank me later.  You’re welcome. 

Mexican frozen hot chocolate 

Stuff you need ~

Serves about 3 

1/2 cup chocolate syrup (like Hershey’s)

1 cup sweetened condensed milk (that is almost a standard size can) 

1/2-1 teaspoon vanilla (I had some Mexican vanilla and used that…regular old vanilla will do)

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 

3 cups of ice

What to do with the stuff~

Ok for a lovely asthetic effect, squirt some chocolate sauce into a clear glass. Swirl it around. 



Next, add the ingredients to a blender. 



Next blend it, grind it, or pulse it until the luscious concoction is smooth and creamy and free of all ice chunks (blech!! 😝). 





Next pour into your prepared glasses. 



Stir in some chocolate liqueur if you are serving to adults. Add a lovely dollop of whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup and it’s time to indulge, baby. You gonna love me for this. Happy iced in day to all my homies! And you people in lovely warm climates…you too. Even if I am jealous of you. Hugs, warmth and chocolate~AMB 



chocolate heaven




my girl KAB approves…that’s my baby