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Welcome to Our Blog

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Closed Door and Dijon-Braised Brussels Sprouts

My last post was over a week ago. I have been wanting to write but my thoughts haven't come together enough in my mind to form a post. Sigh! Like I said previously, I cannot chose when to write a post. The post chooses me. One would think, that a one day trip to Chicago for work, on a Tuesday, that even included a solo lunch break visit to Navy Pier would make for an interesting story. Alas, not for me. So I patiently waited for the moment to come to me when I could write again.
    I began today, Thanksgiving Day 2013, with a 5K run. What a great way to begin a day and what a great story for a blogpost. One would think, anyway! As I was driving back home from the run, I willed my mind to think, to form words that I could put on paper. Should be easy right? Not for me. But I didn't have too much time to dwell on whether I would blog or not. I had to get Thanksgiving dinner ready.           
Once I had put my apron on, turned on the music and popped the turkey into the oven, I started working on the sides. The first side I made was Dijon braised Brussels sprouts. I began by slicing the sprouts. This act of slicing the sprouts put me in a zen state of mind. It is when my mind is in such a state that a post is usually born. I could feel my mind going into blogpost writing mode. I started thinking back to the last time I had made this dish. In my mind's eye, the season when I had last made this dish looked like Spring. Or was it last Fall? I could not decide which. So I decide to focus on the bigger picture and think of what was significant about the last time I made this dish. I could feel myself walking through the halls of my memories and trying to push open the door to the room which held memories from that evening for me. But alas, that door would not open. As I moved on to browning the sprouts on the cut side, I forced myself to push harder against the door to open it. But I had family visiting and a six year old niece to chat with, so an unopened door would just have to wait. Sometimes it may be best to leave a closed door just stay so anyway!
            Turkey coma must have gotten the better of me on Thanksgiving day as I was typing this post, because here I am two days later trying to wrap up this post. In case you are curious, I did not sleep two days straight. While I am capable of it, it is just that I am finding time this evening to write again. We just finished decorating the house for Christmas. That always leaves me feeling so warm and happy. A perfect time to write. And in order to just maintain this happy state of mind, I am not going to try to force open any closed memory doors.
             I began today with a 5 mile walk along Katy trail. I have so much to share on that but those thoughts do not belong in this post. They need a post of their own. I will conclude this post by saying just how thankful I am for everything in my life. I hope you are having a wonderful and blessed holiday season as well. My hugs and good wishes go out to those having a rough time this holiday season or those who are away from home.

Dijon-Braised Brussels Sprouts
Recipe Source: Smitten Kitchen

Dijon-Braised Brussels Sprouts
Serves 4 as a side dish
1 pound brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
2 to 3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon smooth dijon mustard (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
Trim sprouts and halve lengthwise. In a large, heavy 12-inch skillet heat butter and oil over moderate heat. Arrange halved sprouts in skillet, cut sides down, in one layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook sprouts, without turning until undersides are golden brown, about 5 minutes. [Updated to note: If your sprouts don't fit in one layer, don't fret! Brown them in batches, then add them all back to the pan, spreading them as flat as possible, before continuing with the shallots, wine, etc.]
Add the shallots, wine and stock and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, reduce the heat to medium-low (for a gentle simmer), cover the pot with a lid (foil works too, if your skillet lacks a lid) and cook the sprouts until they are tender can be pierced easily with the tip of a paring knife, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove the lid, and scoop out brussels (leaving the sauce behind). Add cream and simmer for two to three minutes, until slightly thickened. Whisk in mustard. Taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary with more salt, pepper or Dijon. Pour sauce over brussels, sprinkle with parsley, if using, and serve immediately.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Soup to Warm Your Tummy

Poor Man's Stew

I am watching snowflakes dance in the wind!  It is the Monday before Thanksgiving and I am working from home today.  Kids our off for break and I volunteered to work from home to make sure the house doesn't burn down!  I am an excellent multi tasker; hosting conference calls, writing emails, yelling at kids and cooking a pot of soup for tonight's dinner!  Let's see my husband do that without missing a beat!  LOL!

This soup was a favorite when I was a kid.  There were two dishes named Poor Man when I was growing up.  There was the Poor Man's Steak (hamburger helper type dish but homemade over rice) and Poor Man's Stew, which I am going to show you how to make now!  This one was my favorite!

Poor Man's Stew

The above picture shows nearly all you will need for this recipe...
  • 2 lbs hamburger (I use 85/15 blend)
  • 48 ounces beef broth
  • 2 cans of cheddar cheese soup
  • bag of baby dutch potatoes sliced to a 1/4 inch
  • 4 carrots sliced to a 1/4 inch
  • 1 rib of celery (not shown yet) chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion (not shown yet) chopped
  • slosh of olive oil
  • salt, pepper and garlic powder

There's my onions and celery browning with the slosh of olive oil!  Remember to chop them small so they are not identifiable for picky kids!  Brown nicely till you can smell them cooking.

Next add your hamburger and sprinkle your salt, pepper and garlic powder on the beef as it browns.  I like to season the beef as it brings out more flavors of the meat. And the seasoning seems to stick around and not get watered down later.

Once the meat is cooked and is crumbly add your carrots and mix and let cook for another minute or two.

Add your broth and both cans of cheddar cheese soup.  Stir well and then add the potatoes. Cook on medium high heat till your potatoes are done (roughly 15-20 minutes).  Let the soup stand and skim off any fat that rises to the top.  Don't get too caught up in skimming... fat = flavor.

And there you go!  We are having this tonight with some garlic bread and hopefully eat by the fireplace!  It is pretty chilly here in Chicagoland and Soup/Stew and a roaring fire will make it all better!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Post Chooses me and Risotto

I have realized that I cannot write a blog post whenever I choose to. It chooses me. Random occurrences of a day come together in my mind and form a post. Does not happen every day though. Just on some days. Take today yesterday for instance. I went to the library during my lunch break with the intention of writing. The library with its books and the quiet atmosphere seemed like the perfect place to begin my novel. I sat in front the computer and started the blank screen for a few minutes before a conversation going on close by distracted me. A grandma was being taught how to use her iPad, Kindle and iPhone by a gentleman who works at the library. It was heartwarming to watch her take so much interest to learn technology so that she could keep in touch with her kids and read. I wanted to document what I saw in some way. And here I am! It became the beginning for a post. Hopefully I will find similar inspiration to begin my novel. 
           After an uneventful rest of the afternoon at work, I came home and decided to make risotto for dinner. As I was chopping the onions for the risotto, I started thinking back to the first time I made risotto. It was two years or so ago and I had just met Lisa online. A common love of cooking is what first got us talking to each other but Lisa and I are long lost sisters. I am sure of it. We share so much more in common than cooking.
          But the one thing she does that I don't, is morel mushroom hunting. She goes morel hunting during its growing season. The year I met her she had managed to find a bounty and had celebrated that with morel asparagus risotto. She had described the mushroom as having a distinct nutty flavor and said that the creaminess of the risotto was a perfect backdrop for the morels. Never having heard of tasted morels or risotto, I knew right away that I had to make it.
         Morel mushrooms are really expensive and a luxury unless you go hunting for them and get lucky. I am so glad I decided to spend all that money on them back then. I haven't done it since and not sure if I will do it again. I am older and wiser with money, you see. My husband may disagree on the money old part, but I digress. The memory of having made the risotto and the taste of the morels however stay with me to this day. And I fully agree with Lisa. Morels and risotto are a match made in heaven. The best part of it all is that my parents were visiting from India then and I had been fortunate enough to share the meal with them. Sigh! Good times. It is always the little things in life that stay with you.
         Since talking to Lisa about mushroom hunting two years ago, I have wanted to do it myself. But haven't ventured out yet. I may go morel hunting this upcoming season. It am sure it will be a cold, wet, dreary great experience. The best part will be the morels or maybe the memories!? It may even inspire me to write another post. Like tonight's last night's risotto did. It gave me the middle and end for my current post.
         I have tried various versions since that first time. Creamy arugula risotto is definitely a version to make. I had cauliflower and mushrooms in my fridge. So I made risotto with them.
       I hope you make risotto. Make it suit your own taste and share it with your family and friends. And let it become a little piece in the memories that make up your life.

Lisa's risotto recipe
Lisa's image of the morel risotto. Mouth watering!
Morel, Asparagus Risotto with Baby Peas!
3T butter
2-3 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz morels (sauteed in butter, reserve any liquid)
1/2 c. white wine
2 1/2 c chicken stock
1 1/2 c aborio rice
1 c (or more) asparagus chopped
1c frozen baby peas
3T freshly grated parmesean cheese

Sautee morels in 1T of butter, reserve any liquid they offer up!
Add 2T butter to skillet along with the garlic and green onion.  Sautee for a few minutes, add asparagus and sautee a few minutes more.  Add the rice and stir until all the fat is absorbed by the rice.  When the rice is somewhat golden, add in wine, mushroom liquid, peas and chicken stock.  When the mixture comes to the boil, reduce heat to medium and place a lid on the pot.  Cook for 25 minutes.  Add Parmesan cheese, salt to taste. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Homemade Holiday Dinner Rolls

Have you ever made rolls from scratch?  The old school way, like our grandmothers did?  

Well if you haven't, you're missing out.  While they're not something I make weekly, I do like to include this recipe in my holiday meal planning.   

I find the most important step in all bread making is to accurately follow the directions.  Be precise -- measure twice.  Oh, I really have become my mother.

Also, using a thermometer will help you get your liquid temperatures correct.  You don't want the milk or water in this recipe to be too cool or too hot. 

And my final suggestion is to use Butter Flavored Crisco for the shortening.  It gives an unmistakably rich, buttery flavor to the rolls.  This may be why I don't find it necessary to brush the tops with butter before baking, but if you have a few minutes to spare, the butter does gives the rolls a more golden brown appearance. 

I predict that with their soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture, these rolls are sure to be a huge hit at your next gathering.  
Give them a trial run with this week's Sunday dinner and see if you're not putting them on the menu for Thanksgiving.
Good luck and happy roll making.  

Holiday Dinner Rolls

2 (.25 ounce each) packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F to 115 degrees F)
1 1/2 cups warm milk (110 to 115 degrees )
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup butter flavored shortening (Crisco)
2 teaspoons salt
5-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

*melted butter to brush on top, optional

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in water.  Just two of the packages.  

Beat in milk, sugar, egg, shortening and salt and 2 cups of flour until smooth. 
Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. 
Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. 
Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. 
Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down.
Roll into 90 balls; place three balls each in greased muffin cups.
Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. 

If desired, gently brush with melted butter.*
Bake at 375 degrees F for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. 
Cool on wire racks.

Makes 30 rolls.

* I used to always do the "brush with butter" thing because my mom did, but at least twice now I've skipped that step and they're really just as good.   

Saturday, November 9, 2013

For the Love of Sushi and a Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Image Source - Wikipedia
I recently watched a documentary film on Netflix called 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi'. It follows Jiro Ono, a master Sushi chef, who at 85 years of age, still strives for perfection in the art of Sushi making.
           It gives us a glimpse of the discipline and dedication with which Jiro works in his world famous restaurant. He expects the same high standards from his sons and his apprentices. His mild yet determined mannerisms made me forget that this is not the story of an underdog but of a world famous chef. As I watched the film, I found myself cheering him on thinking "you can do this, you can achieve your dreams". I guess that is the secret of his success. He believes he has a long way to go before he can achieve perfection in the art of sushi making. So he keeps working at it. Passion like that is so inspirational to me.
           I dream of being an author but I am struggling to turn my dream into a reality. It is definitely not because of lack of support though. I have a cheering squad of three between my husband and two sons who believe in me and want me to have a book published. I have tried blogging a couple times before and even started working on a children's book but gave up after a while. But after watching Jiro, I have a renewed sense of  determination to keep writing.
         Part of my struggle with writing, is to put my thoughts on paper without doubting myself. So to improve myself, I now look to the books I read to be my mentors for my writing. I pay attention to the style in which the author describes the characters and situations in the book and try to apply the same when I write. But the key in doing this is to learn to write from the authors but to maintain my own voice through it all.
         I also follow a few blogs whose authors inspire me to be a better writer. When I read posts by these authors, I want to sit down and write a blogpost right away. 
         I follow a lot of these blog and book authors on Facebook and Twitter as well. Their posts give me a glimpse of their day to day struggle with writing meaningful, relevant words. Watching this has made me develop a lot of respect for the effort they consistently put in on a daily basis. It is a Herculean task to create a book from start to finish. I am not sure which is harder, a cookbook or a novel. So I am now acutely aware of what it is going to take for me to fulfill my dream.    
        Like the authors I follow, Jiro too believes that to be successful at something, you have to be focused, committed and consistent. But hearing him say that made me accept something I have long known but not really accepted. The reason I don't have a published book yet is that I want to try it all and do it all. I want to be a blogger, author, chef, baker, runner, gardener and artist. Did I mention I would like to be a reader of all good books out there too? I wish I could just pick one thing, work on it and get better at it. But I cannot decide what I like best.
  I cannot blame my lack of a book deal just on my ADD though. I blame it on my amazing friends and family who inspire me with their daily lives to want to do it all and do it well. Two such people who started it all for me are my mom and dad. I hope to be half as amazing as they are. In honor of them, I share the recipe for the world's best chocolate chip cookies. With their buttery goodness of these cookies, I am sure they make every other cookie want to be like them.
         And I promise, that you guys will be the first to know when I make it big as a blogger-author-chef-baker-runner-gardener-artist! And maybe become a renowned sushi chef like Jiro, while I am a it. And while you are at it, make these cookies guys! You won't regret it.


Recipe Source: http://allrecipes.com

Recipe makes 1 1/2 dozen

    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
    1 cup packed brown sugar
    1/2 cup white sugar
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    1 egg
    1 egg yolk
    2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

    Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
    Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
    In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.
    Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Mickey Mouse's Famous Monte Cristo Sandwich - from The Blue Bayou

For many years my family had annual passes to Disneyland & California Adventure Park.  We live close by, so we took advantage of being able to go at least once a week.  It was great fun.  Often times we'd just zip in, ride a few of our favorite rides and then head home to hit the homework.  But other times, we'd spend several hours there, enjoying dinner at one of the wonderful eateries in the parks.
My personal preference has always been  The Blue Bayou, located in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  

Not only is Pirates one of the coolest rides ever, the ambiance of the restaurant shares in the coolness.
It's dark, and cavernous, lit by hanging lanterns and serves a top notch menu whether it's lunch or dinner.

Ohhhhh, the Monte Cristo is simply amazing.  It's a sandwich, full of shaved turkey and ham, stuffed with gooey Swiss cheese and quickly deep fried in a French Toast type batter.  Refer back to 'it's simply amazing.'  
As the kids grew up and school & sports became more demanding, we stopped renewing our annual passes, and I found myself missing my beloved Monte Cristo.  
Then one day I was gifted with an old Disneyland Kitchens Cookbook, and lo' and behold...there was MY SANDWICH.  Thank you Jesus, and Mary(Sullivan).  

Here's the real low down on the Monte Cristo and how it goes together.  It may not be the fastest sandwich to assemble, but trust me when I tell you, it's worth the effort--and the recipe makes 4, so feed the family or treat three of your best girlfriends to a fantastic lunch.   

And PS, we renewed our park passes last month and we're loving visiting once again.  
...Here I come Blue Bayou.... until then...

Mickey's Famous Monte Cristo Sandwiches

Prepare batter:

  • 2/3 cup water

  • 1 egg

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

  • 1/8 teaspoon yellow food coloring (yes, do it!)

  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1-3/4 teaspoons Baking Powder

Put water, egg, salt, pepper & food coloring in a large bowl. Use a mixer and mix well at low speed.

Add flour & baking powder and mix until batter is smooth.

Chill batter while you make the sandwiches. This is enough batter for 4 sandwiches.

Make sandwiches:

    (pictured below is one sandwich--quartered--recipe makes 16 of these "quarters") 

  • 8 slices fresh white bread- (I've used Potato Bread and Egg Bread, both were great.)

  • 8 oz. deli shredded turkey breast

  • 8 oz. deli shredded ham

  • 4 slices Swiss cheese

Make 4 sandwiches, or as many as desired. Cut into 1/4's and put a toothpick through each quarter.

Heat 6 inches of oil in a fryer to 340 degrees or do it in a large saucepan until very hot, but not smoking. Dip sandwiches into chilled batter covering all surfaces.

Deep fry sandwiches until golden brown, turning as needed and watching always. Remove from oil, take out toothpicks, sprinkle sandwiches with powdered sugar and serve with blueberry syrup for dipping.

* I use a small, heavy saucepan and fry my sandwich quarters individually.  I personally find they cook very quickly and it seems easier to deal with them one at a time.


Welcome LOW CARB Caroline to the blog~!

Low Carbin' It
I'm a mom on a journey. My story is a little less "Lord of the Rings" and more like "Meat and Veggie Tales". If you've ever ventured onto the wild side of Atkins or a similar low carb diet plan, you know exactly what I'm talkin' about. Meat and veggies are my life, aside from the manly, hairy guy I'm married to and the twelve year old son we homeschool. A little over two weeks ago, I embarked on this journey after two previous attempts (thwarted the first time by my grandmother's passing and the next time by the major discomfort of the first several days suffering the "Atkins flu"). This time, I've lost 13 pounds in 15 days. In the eternal words of Kool and the Gang, "Cellll-e-brate good times...C'mon!"
The benefits of a low carb lifestyle are many including a real energy boost, loss of cravings, decreased joint pain as well as hunger, much less or even a total disappearance of indigestion and of course, weight loss. Some folks tend to wrongly think Atkins is all about steak, butter and bacon. Some find this way of eating too limiting. Some want to have their cake and eat it, too, but you just can't do that on Atkins. Not and be successful, anyway. Atkins is all about eating foods that my ancestors would have...all types of meat including poultry, fish and wild game while consuming fairly generous amounts of low carb vegetables on a daily basis along with certain cheeses and yes, even butter. There are really many options and meal combinations. (As you move along through the Atkins phases, the options become even wider and more varied. We'll get to that at a later date, though.) I don't feel deprived whatsoever. I'm satisfied for hours and my physical cravings are gone. Currently, what I can't eat is pasta, rice, potatoes, bread of any kind, beans (except for green beans), most dairy products, certain high carb vegetables or fruit. For now, I'm good with all that because this part of Atkins isn't forever. You might have gathered from that list that cinnamon rolls and sweet tea are off limits. That last one's a real bummer for a Southern girl, lemme tell ya and although I don't typically feast on sugar-laden foods, they are a slight temptation.
I'm just at the beginning of this adventure but I'm more dedicated than both teams at the Super Bowl put together! I'm afraid my posts won't be terribly exciting for some of you (especially you beautiful "gimme donuts or gimme death" sorts) so you may want to gloss over them and check out the posts from these other talented cooks. Or...if you're a former cheerleader, you might just consider breaking out the pom poms and cheering me on. I'd really appreciate that. I might even be compelled to blow kisses your way and send you virtual hugs. I can see all sorts of cheerleaders lining up right now. Y'all look good!
Without further adieu...because this is what you're here for, right? We dined on our enclosed porch today since the weather in the Ozarks is still pretty nice. My low carb meal at lunch consisted of a pork chop fried in butter (which I split with my son), home-canned green beans and a simple spinach salad with sliced mushrooms, cute little tomatoes (if you don't find these tomatoes absolutely adorable, I don't know what to tell ya), a little shredded Cheddar cheese, some real bacon bits and a drizzle of dressing. I'm crazy about this Blue Cheese Vinaigrette by La Martinique! If you're looking for a delightful, tangy, zero carb salad dressing made in the fine state of Louisiana, run to your store and hunt this up. You'll also notice a Mason jar in my picture. That's because I'm a country girl and obviously a thirsty one because that's a quart-sized jar. My Mason jar is filled with ice water. I like to pretend it's the house wine of the South. It's refreshing and it's good for me so it is ever-present throughout my days. That's it for now, y'all. If you enjoyed this little introduction, let me know in the comment section. Ya know...down there. I'm pointing but somethin' tells me you've got this.
Love from the Ozarks, Caroline


Monday, November 4, 2013

Oh Please... Just Call Me the Queen of Gumbo!
I am smiling today... that is because I had leftovers for lunch today.  Not just any leftovers.  No sir, not just any leftovers... what I had was leftovers fit for a Queen.  Yes that is a capital Q on that Queen; its capital because I am talking about ME!  I have dubbed myself Queen, Queen of Gumbo. 
I have never made a gumbo before.  I had never wanted to take the time necessary to make this AMAZING dish of Cajun stew.  It is a labor of love and a labor that is totally worth the hours to make this dish. 
And one of the best parts was My Maddy and My Connie's daughter, My Emma, had returned home mid-cooking and My Emma walked in and said, "It smells amazing in here!"  Maddy echoed that comment and I knew I had hooked them.  That is my secret you see, reel them in with the smell!  If it smells good, I always tell them, then it tastes good!   I told them it was dinner... we were having gumbo!  They looked at each other and said, "Gumball?? Sounds awesome!  When do we eat?!?" HA HA!
I found this recipe in my FoodTV magazine.  I preread it and decided I had to make changes!  For starters the salt looked too high in their recipe, their cayenne was WAY too much for kids to eat (at least kids north of the Louisiana border) and I really wanted to make sure my gumbo was thicker than a soup and a bit thinner than a stew. 
Here is my take on this recipe!

  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (whole wheat)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion, plus 2 cups roughly chopped
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound smoked sausage, sliced
  • 8 ounces smoked ham or Andouille sausage, diced
  • 1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 to 4 scallions, chopped
  • Cooked white rice, for serving (optional)

Make the roux round 1: Heat the canola oil in a skillet over medium heat until hot, about 5 minutes. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the roux is dark brown, this could take up to 20 minutes. But it is so important to make sure it turns dark brown or it will not have the depth of flavor that you will want!  Remove from the heat and let stand 10 minutes, and then stir in the finely chopped onion.

Meanwhile, bring the broth and 17 cups water to a boil in a large pot. Add the roughly chopped onion, the celery and bell pepper; cook over medium-high heat, 15 minutes. Stir in the roux in 3 batches and whisk as you add to avoid lumps.  Cook gumbo, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Add the cayenne, garlic powder, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Stir in the smoked sausage and smoked ham or Andouille sausage. Reduce the heat to low; simmer uncovered 1 hour.

If your gumbo is not thickening nicely, make a second batch of your roux.  This batch will NOT have the addition of the chopped onions as your first round did.  This time use a ½ cup of canola oil and ¾ cup of flour and cook it to a nice dark brown color whisking it constantly so you do NOT burn it.  Put the roux in your gumbo pot a spoon at a time and whisk as you are adding it to the gumbo.  
Return the mixture to a boil.  Add the chicken and cook for an additional 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and skim off any fat. 

The slice of cornbread pictured looks really pretty with the butter and honey dripping all over it.  Well it only looked pretty.  It was not as special as the gumbo!  I am going to work on that for another day! 

Our dinner was finished in record time with My Emma finishing just after My Husband.  It was not a race but rather they couldn't put their spoons down.  Was this spicy?  Yes and the kids commented on the spice.  It was hot enough to notice but not hot enough to leave a burn.  Just right for this family!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Kitchen Garden and a Recipe for Pear Crisp

Image - Google Images
I hosted my sister's baby shower this past weekend. What a fun, busy weekend. I am so glad I had the opportunity to host the shower and join friends and family in welcoming the new baby. There was fun, food and laughter - lots of it.
               As I sit here on the couch in my cozy living room that is lit up only by the string lights we have decorated it with for Fall, I have a deep sense of joy and satisfaction that warms me up. It almost makes me forget my swollen, achy feet (cooking marathon and hardwood floors).
               One of the topics that came up during the evening was gardening and having a kitchen garden. A friend mentioned that she had finally given up on hers. After trying various ways to keep the deer, rabbit and birds away, she had finally accepted defeat and just planted Japanese Maple trees in the spot where her kitchen garden used to be. As she told us about her losing battle, I could not help but agree.
          That conversation left me wondering if I would plant vegetables again. I mean, take this past season for instance. I planted my kitchen garden, handed the watering and care to my husband and left on vacation to India. He did a great job of caring for the plants because they were grown plants by the time I got back and no longer the little saplings I had left them as.
          But I was alarmed to find that tomato plants had overtaken my little vegetable patch. And to think that I hadn't even planted tomatoes! They had grown from the seeds of last year's tomato plants because we had enjoyed a mild winter. My eggplants, peppers, potatoes and every other plant was overshadowed by the tomatoes. And boy, do the rabbits, ants, squirrels and birds love tomatoes!  The net result was that I ended up with some tomatoes, a couple eggplants and few kohlrabi.
            Was it worth the effort? Probably not, if I look at just what I harvested. But that little patch of garden along with my other plants truly give me so much more than just the vegetable, fruit or flower. They offer me comfort, joy, peace and beauty. When I walk into the garden and get my hands dirty in the soil I feel my worries melt away. And seeing them fighting, surviving and thriving despite the bugs, the heat, the critters, the storms or any thing else nature can throw against them fills me with hope that maybe it will all be okay. So for now, the positives for me, outweigh the negatives.
             I am sure it will come to the point where I will no longer have the desire to put in the effort. But until then I will continue to fight the good fight and get out into my garden and give it my best.
I am sharing the pear crisp recipe tonight because, for one it is amazing recipe and for another I am hoping to plant a fruit tree in my garden come next Spring. In my fantasy, my tree will be bursting with fruit and I will be baking pies, and crisps with them and sharing the fruits with all my neighbors and they will all love me. But in reality, I will probably write another post about how the I never got to enjoy a single fruit because some critter got to it first.
       I have made this crisp twice so far and both times I have had no leftovers. Make it, share it and enjoy it. Until next time!

Pear Crisp (courtesy of The Pioneer Woman)


  • 4 whole (to 5) Large Pears (Bosc Work Well)
  • 2/3 cups Sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • _____
  • Topping Ingredients
  • 1-1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup Sugar
  • 1/3 cup Firmly Packed Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup Pecans, Very Finely Chopped
  • 1 stick Butter, Melted

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Peel, core, and dice pears. Place into a bowl and stir together with 2/3 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans. Stir together. Drizzle melted butter gradually, stirring with a fork as you go until all combined.
Pour pears into a baking dish; top with crumb topping.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Place pan on top rack of oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until topping is golden brown.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream