Tag Archives: cheesy

Cheesy Spaghetti Pie (this recipe has it all) 

So from time to time Momou would make spaghetti pie. And I always loved it when she did. Her spaghetti and meatballs were always legendary and the spaghetti pie kind of seemed like a step down. But then I took a bite of that spagbetti pie and it was all better. Not a step down at all. Just a step to the side. Now that I have a family of my own, I realize the beauty in spaghetti pie. It’s spaghetti and meatball’s creamy cheesy, low maintenance older sister. It satisfies those spaghetti cravings and goes a step further. Now spaghetti and meatballs have their place. We are not in any way saying that spaghetti pie replaces spaghetti and meatballs…no, no baby. We are just saying spaghetti pie is a nice low key, cheesy  alternative. Did I mention spaghetti pie is cheesy? Because it is…so…cheesy. Now as stated in the original blog post from http://www.centercutcook.com, what makes this spaghetti pie recipe unique is that the noodles are mixed with the sauce ahead of time and the noodles are perfect, not all dry like in other recipes I have tried. Also a nice twist is the Monterrey jack and cheddar cheese instead of same ole, same ole mozzarella. And it has sliced green onions in it. There is a special place in my heart for sliced green onions. So this spaghetti pie has it all!! Just like this Cajun mama does! 

Cheesy spaghetti pie 

Stuff you need~

1 pound of angel hair pasta (that’s one box), cooked and drained 

5 cups spaghetti sauce, divided (I used Prego)

1 pound Italian sausage, browned and drained *

1 tablespoon olive oil 

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 teaspoon oregano 

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 

3/4 teaspoon garlic powder 

8 ounce block cream cheese

3/4 cup sour cream 

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning 

3 green onions, green parts only, sliced 

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese 

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese 

*I buy one package of Italian sausage links and then I slice open the casing and just dump the meat into my skillet. I do that for each one. And voila! 

What to do with the stuff ~

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the cooked and drained pasta with 2 cups of the spaghetti sauce. Set aside.

 

In a skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Sauté  diced yellow onion until tender. Add Italian sausage and brown over medium heat until done. Drain. Sprinkle in the oregano, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder. Stir in the remaining 3 cups of spaghetti sauce and simmer for about 10 minutes. 


Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with cooking spray. Layer the pasta tossed with sauce in the bottom of the dish. 

Now, add the block of softened cream cheese, the sour cream, the sliced green onions and Italian seasoning to a mixing bowl. Mix all together. 


Layer this on top of the noodles. What I did was put several dollops of the cream cheese mixture on top of the noodles and then I smoothed it out with a plastic spatula  where it made a layer. Now layer the meat sauce on top of the cream cheese layer. Next sprinkle the cheeses all over that meat sauce. And then I added some more green onions for good measure. 


Bake in your preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until that cheese is melted to an irrisitbly ooey gooey level. Spaghetti pie perfection. I used my favorite Pampered Chef flat metal spatula to dish it up. 

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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.

Perfect Potatoes Au Gratin ala Pioneer Woman

I love potatoes.  I love baked potatoes.  I love boiled new potatoes.  I love garlic mashed potatoes.  Need I go on?  No?  Ok.  I am pretty sure by making this statement, I lose just a little more standing in my family. Growing up we had potatoes every once in a while.  My daddy liked his rice and gravy with his meat.  Period.  Now, when my mom fried chicken she would make “creamed” potatoes as she calls them. And of course the obligatory French fries with the fried fish on
Fridays, especially during Lent. For the most part, potatoes were a stranger at my mama’s dinner table in straight up potato form. I can distinctly remember declaring at some point in high school that I would NEVER, EVER God as my witness make rice and gravy once I left home. (It was all very dramatic and full of southern teen angst at the least). Luckily that is not true and I got some sense as I got older. Rice and gravy has its lovely place on our table because it for dang sure deserves a spot.  I mean…Cajun Mama…duh.  Rice and gravy.  Also, it is good to remember that we ate a lot of potato salad so I guess potatoes would be redundant on the side of your meal.  But when I say l love potatoes, I mean I like potatoes with my cheese.  Lol!!!  Cause me likes my cheese.  Creamy, cheesy, decadent potatoes.  Those are my favorite.  This recipe I am posting today is exactly that.  Oh my.  Just potato perfection my friends.  Equally at home along side a grilled rib eye or a plate of barbecued chicken or ribs.  This au gratin potato recipe requires minimal ingredients and you probably have the majority of them in the pantry or fridge.  It is super simple and quick to whip together.  Versatile, easy to make, and just a few ingredients are all things that make a recipe perfect.  Oh it has to be delicious. This one is it!!  You and your family will absolutely love these.  Trust me on this one.  I found this recipe one day when reading through one of my Pioneer Woman cookbooks…it is her second one I do believe.  When I read through the recipe I felt like I had won the recipe jackpot!!  I made them over and over again for a few weeks. Yes they are carbs and they are worth every bit of the indulgence. I hope you feel the same when you try them. In fact, next to my special potatoes, which you can find here https://cajunmamacookinblog.com/2013/11/12/cajun-mama-special-potatoes/ ..this is probably my favorite potato side dish.

 

Potatoes Au Gratin

Serves 8

Stuff you need~

 

4 russet potatoes, scrubbed clean
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons flour
4 cloves of garlic, minced or 2 tsp. of the jarred garlic (I am not above this)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (recipe calls for sharp, but I encourage you to use what you have)

What to do with the stuff~

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Smear the softened butter all over the bottom of an 9 x 13 baking dish. Next start out by slicing the potatoes, then cutting into strips and then dicing them into cubes.

Now, in a medium size bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, milk, flour, minced garlic, salt and pepper.
Layer 1/3 at the bottom of the buttered baking dish. Next, pour about 1/3 of the milk mixture over the potatoes. Give that a good stir. Next, layer some more potatoes and then more milk, about 1/3 of each. Do this until the potatoes and milk are all used up. Cover tightly with foil. Bake in preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle shredded cheese over the piping hot potatoes. Return dish to oven, uncovered and bake until cheese is all bubbly and yummy looking. Heaven in a baking dish I tell you right now.

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this is the hardest part and it isn’t hard

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glorious shredded cheddar…get in my potatoes!

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this is what makes this dish the creamy perfection that it is

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I minced my own garlic this time

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getting ready to go into the oven

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!

Chicken Parmesan and embracing the past

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

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

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Baked Chicken Parmesan to satisfy the strongest of envies

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

Stuff you need~

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

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

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

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

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

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

Cooking spray

What to do with the stuff~

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

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Having a Cajun grandmother literally rocks 

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

Linguine Casserole…

I love a nice comforting casserole.  Know what I love even more?  A comforting casserole that comes together in about an hour…from start to finish.  This one DEFINITELY falls into both categories.  I made duck gumbo for Big Daddy the other night and it was delicious.  Yesterday, I knew it was time for a lovely low maintenance casserole.  I was on Pinterest yesterday morning and came across this little beauty and knew I had found our supper for the night.  I bought the few extra ingredients I needed to make this and was all set and ready to go.  Then I went to get my hair done (not lady of leisure here my friends…it had to happen.  I had a unibrow and my hair looked insane.  I looked like I was kin to cousin It.) and rushed to do a few more errands and then to pick up my kiddos.  Of course, some days, okay more often than not, when they get in the car it is like getting a bunch of ping pong balls in a mini van that all bounce of each other and the windows.  Well you get the point.  Everyone wants to talk at once (which is a good thing, but it overwhelms me) and they have done their best to do well in school all day and be nice so they unleash their beast upon one another (and or me) and some days, honestly, I want to turn around and bring them back to school.  So I get the hungry, tired, cranky fussy things home and feed them a snack.  And oversee homework x 4.  I was ready to be done already.  I know, I know…it is wrong to feel this way.  I had missed them all day and was so happy to see their faces and hear about their day.  But those are real feelings and I did not feel like making supper.  But the little people and their daddy wanted to eat.  Somehow this keeps happening every night around 5:30.  Ha ha!!!  So, I rose to the challenge and forged ahead with making this casserole.  Even after all of that, it was so easy to put together.  And then the smell of this casserole filled the air and it drew everyone to the kitchen in anticipation of something warm to put in their bellies.  Peace was restored.  My kids were perfectly behaved and ate this with gusto.  Then I woke up from my dream.  What?  It isn’t a magic casserole people. Yeah, not exactly, but this was one heck of a wonderful meal.  My baby boy at two plates of it, but he truly will eat almost anything  Now, the others were not interested.  But Big Daddy (who is not really a cheesy pasta person) LOVED IT!!!   This is like a souped up, extra decadent mac and cheese with some ham thrown in for good measure.  Seriously guys, it is yummy all up in your tummy.  It calls for very few ingredients, but the result is rich and delicious.

Comforting Creamy Linguine Casserole (adapted from Julie’s Eats and Treats at http://www.julieseatsandtreats.com/2011/03/linguine-casserole/)

Prep Time:  15 minutes

Cook Time:  45 minutes

Serves: 6

Stuff You Need:

8 oz. of linguine, cooked (linguine is the perfect pasta for this dish and this is half of a box/package…just a little FYI)

3 cloves of garlic, minced (that is 1 1/2 tsp. of the minced garlic in a jar)

2 cups cubed, fully cooked lean ham

1 3/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese, divided

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup onion, finely chopped

What to do with the Stuff:

Prepare a 9 x 13 dish by spraying it with some cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook linguine according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.  In a bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups of the Swiss Cheese, and all other remaining ingredients together.  Stir in cooked pasta and stir to coat.   Pour into prepared casserole dish and cover with foil.  Cook for 35 minutes.  Remove from oven, remove foil and sprinkle with remaining shredded Swiss.  Return casserole to the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and the casserole is all bubbly and you just want to grab a fork and eat it straight from the dish.  It is done.

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Comforting casserole indeed.  You will LOVE it!!! 

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Me…without the unibrow and cousin It hair…thank heavens.

Crawfish Casserole

Boy do I have a treat for ya’ll today!!!  My sister came across this little gem several years ago and it has been tucked away in my favorites box for a while.  You know how you find a new favorite and you cook it for everyone you know and then forget about it?  That is what happened with this recipe.  It is absolutely delicious and very simple to prepare, but I forgot about and since it is Festival Season in Louisiana, I decided it was time it made a comeback.  I write the food column for a local magazine, Red River Moms, it is called Cajun Mama Cooks and this is one of the recipes I put in the February issue.  It will quickly become one of your family favorites.  The results are so lip smacking, a mouthful of flavor and a taste that is pure Louisiana.  If you don’t live in our wonderful state, you can make this casserole and make do like you are here.  I really hope you will give this one a try, it is truly a favorite in my household and it should not be tucked away in a recipe box.  It should be shared and enjoyed and celebrated…so I hope you do just that! ~ AMB

 

Crawfish casserole 
Serves 6-8Ingredients 

1/2 cup butter
2 (12 oz.) bags of seasoning blend (frozen vegetables aisle)
1 tsp. or two cloves minced garlic 
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1 lb. crawfish tails with fat
1 1/2 cooked rice 
1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs 
4 tablespoons dried parsley 
1/4-1/2 cup shredded cheddar 

Directions 

-Cook rice and set aside. 
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees 
-In a large skillet, melt butter and sauté seasoning blend until tender. Add garlic a few minutes before the other veggies are completely tender. Stir in soups and crawfish tails, fat and all.  Let this simmer a few minutes. Stir in cooked rice, breadcrumbs and parsley. Feel free to add a little more rice if you feel it needs it. Transfer to an oven safe 9 x 13 dish. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top. Bake for about 25 minutes or until bubbly. 
-season with Tony’s or salt and pepper to taste 

 

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You should make this…you really, really should.  

Lazy Girl’s Lasagna

This lasagna recipe…oh this lasagna recipe…there are few words I can use to describe how much I LOVE this lasagna recipe.  Cajun mama cooking Italian food, you say?  What?!  Ok, well I admit you will probably never go to Italy and find a piece of this lasagna on your plate.  Authentic Italian this is not, but after one bite, you will not care.  Growing up, when lasagna was on the menu, it was a happy day in the Mayeux household.  You knew right away walking through the door that we were having lasagna for supper.  One whiff of the delicious aroma and my mouth immediately watered.  Oh the wonderful smells of coming home, right?  It had been a while since I had made this lasagna.  I have had so many recipes to try out and it just sort of fell by the wayside.  Never again.  As Big Daddy is fond of saying, “this has been missing from my life!!!!” (he says this any time it has been a while since we have had something he really likes…lol!)  I made a pan of this lasagna for the office staff at my kids’ school the other day for their Christmas gift.  That’s right, I gave the gift of lasagna.  They all loved it!  While I was at it, I made a second pan for my husband and his coworkers.  It was lunch time when I brought them their pan, so I had a piece myself.  Oh. my. heavenly stars.  You know how food tastes so much better when you are starving?  This lasagna was so good already and I was so hungry, I just about blew my own mind.  So. flipping. good I tell you!!  I decided to name it lazy girl’s lasagna because it comes together super quick, with minimal ingredients, and while you are at it, you can easily make another pan for a friend.

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You are welcome!!!

Lazy Girl’s Lasagna

Ingredients

1 1/2 pound ground chuck

1 jar Ragu spaghetti sauce

1/2 box oven ready lasagna noodles (6 noodles per lasagna)

1 large container of cottage cheese

2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

1 cup Italian 5 cheese blend (I used the kind with the Philadelphia cream cheese in it for both)

Kraft Parmesan cheese (yes the kind in the shaker)

Directions

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

Brown ground chuck in a large skillet until no longer pink and drain.  Stir in jar of Ragu into the cooked ground chuck.  Bring it to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer.  Let the meat sauce simmer for about 10 minutes.  Lay 3 of the lasagna noodles on the bottom of the prepared dish.  Spoon half of meat sauce evenly over the noodles.  Spoon half of the cottage cheese over the meat sauce.  Sprinkle one cup of the Mozzarella and 1/2 cup of the five cheese blend over the cottage cheese.  Generously sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over all of this.  Repeat the layer, starting with 3 noodles and ending with Parmesan.  Pop into oven for about 45 minutes-1 hour or until cheese is slightly browned and all bubbly on top.  Let it cool a bit and then cut into squares.  Eat it up!!

Crock-Pot Creamy Cheesy Potato Soup

Well the crock pot frenzy continues over here in Cajun Mama’s kitchen.  Fall is in the air, the windows are open, breeze is flowing in, I have a sinus headache and the circle of life in the South continues.  I am hoping that you read my post from yesterday about it being crockpot week on cajun mama.  If not, just scroll on down and read that post.  Now, I don’t have a picture of this already prepared as it is currently in the process of cooking, so I apologize.  On the flip side, I am ahead of the game which is a good feeling!  Also, this is my first time to try this recipe but really…how bad can it be?  No, it is not the ultimate potato soup.  I found quite a few potato soup recipes that I would have rather tried but this one definitely caught my eye and the reviews were great.  The difference between this one and the others is that this one is made in the slow cooker and requires almost no prep work.  This week is about convenience and saving time.  This one qualifies.  I hope we all just love it and it becomes a keeper.  Only time will tell or approximately 6 hours on low.  Ha ha!!!  As a side note~today has been what I call a shady Tuesday.  You think Tuesday would be great because Monday has the rep for being “the bad day”.  Shady Tuesdays are like that.  Bad Tuesdays.  Tuesdays are given far too much credit as far as I am concerned.  One thing that has given me a little smile and sense of comfort as I clean bright yellow laffy taffy out of the carpet is that I have something yummy (I hope) in the slow cooker.  One less thing to worry about.  Now I will get the rolls rising and I will be smiling big time. (um…no not from scratch?  don’t ya’ll know me at ALL?  I mean that frozen dough.  Defrost and then rise.) Take that Tuesday!!!

Crock-Pot Creamy Cheesy Potato Soup ( slightly adapted from Sprinkle Joy blog)

1 bag  of Ore-Ida southern style diced potatoes (hasbrowns)

32 oz. (one box) of chicken broth (reduced sodium is what I use)

1 can of cream of chicken soup

1/2 cup of onion, chopped

1/4 tsp. group black peper

1 8 oz package of cream cheese (1/3 less fat kind or the regular because they melt better than fat free)

optional toppings:  crumbled bacon, shredded cheddar, sour cream, green onions

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This is at the beginning of the cooking process!

Very Uncomplicated Directions:

Dump all of the ingredients except for the cream cheese into your slow cooker.  Crock Pot.  What have you.  Give it a good stir and then put the lid on.  Let it cook for 6-7 hours.  Add the cream cheese and stir.  Put lid back on and let it cook for another hour or until cream cheese is melted and then stir to combine.  Now, I have a crock pot with a timer function.  I set it for 6 hours and let it go.  This is wonderful feature because you don’t have to worry about getting home to shut it off on time.  A great idea for my friends with jobs outside of the home!!  Check the seasoning if you desire and add salt and pepper to your liking.  Ladle soup into bowls and then add optional toppings if you want them.  Enjoy!!!  And relish in the fact that you are so AWESOME that you are able to prepare supper while you are not even in the kitchen.  That is multi-tasking at its very finest.  I am woman (or man)!  Hear me ROAR!!!

Of course once my family and I try this soup, I will come back and add some additional comments depending on how we like it and what may need a little tweaking.  Thanks for reading.  Drop me some comments if you want.  I would love to hear from ya’ll!!!!

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Heaven in a bowl ya’ll!  mmmmmmmm (that is my final verdict. mmmmm)