Easy Chicken Gumbo

Next Tuesday, March 4, 2014,  is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras.  I think most of us usually associate Mardi Gras with the rowdy celebrations on Bourbon Street.  However, it actually began as a Christian holiday thousands of years ago in Europe and the first celebrations in the US were in Mobile, Alabama.   It is the day of feasting before Lent begins.  I do not typically fast during Lent, but I do take the opportunity during Mardi Gras to cook some scrumptious Cajun food.  If you have visited Louisiana you know first hand that their food, and their way of cooking, is spectacular!

I was not exposed to a wide variety of Cajun food until I moved to the Gulf coast.  However, while living there we ate our way across Louisiana and I fell in love with their cuisine!  I now have several recipes that I cook often.  Most of those recipes take hours to prepare and cook.  This recipe, on the other hand, is fast and delicious!  This is made possible, in part, because of the 5-minute roux.   When making the 5-minute roux the peanut oil withstands the high heat without burning, vegetable oil with not work.  For super fast preparation pick up a rotisserie chicken and don’t forget the beads while you’re out!

 

Easy Chicken Gumbo
 
Author:
 
Ingredients
  • ½ lb. andouille sausage, cut into ¼-inch slices
  • Peanut oil
  • ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. coarsely chopped onion
  • 1 c. chopped celery
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1½ to 3 tsp. Cajun seasoning
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 3 (14-oz.) cans chicken broth
  • 4 c. chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 c. frozen cut okra
  • Hot cooked jasmine rice
  • 1 loaf French bread, sliced
Instructions
  1. In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook sausage for about 3 minutes, stirring often. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon; drain and set aside.
  2. Add enough oil to drippings in Dutch oven to equal ½ cup. Whisk in flour and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, or until flour is chocolate-colored, whisking constantly. (Do not burn mixture!)
  3. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in onion, celery, bell pepper, and Cajun seasoning. Cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in chicken broth, bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add cooked sausage, chicken, and okra; simmer, covered 5 minutes. Serve with hot cooked rice and French bread.
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Brown Sugar and Pecan Rum Cake

I hope the weather is as perfect in your neck of the woods as it is here today!  It is so beautiful that I’m not going to spend a lot of type posting today.  I know that by mid July, maybe before, I’ll be tired of the hot weather and will not want to go outside.  That isn’t the case today though.  I want to go outside and play in the dirt.  Is it being cooped up in the house all winter that causes this?  I don’t know, but I really have spring fever!

Today I am preparing for Mardi Gras!  This year it will be Tuesday, March 4, 2014.  I thought this cake would be the perfect addition to Fat Tuesday with the Praline Glaze.  I found this recipe in The Complete Southern Cookbook by Tammy Algood and made this cake for the first time during the holidays.  I took it to a family dinner and came home with an empty cake plate. That doesn’t happen often so I took it as a sign that everyone really liked it!

Brown Sugar and Pecan Rum Cake
 
Author:
 
Ingredients
  • ¾ lb. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 (16-oz.) pkg. light brown sugar
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 5 lg. eggs
  • ¾ c. milk
  • ¼ c. rum
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 c. chopped pecans, toasted
  • Praline Glaze recipe below
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan and set aside.
  2. Beat the butter for 2 minutes at medium speed of an electric mixer. Gradually add the brown sugar and granulated sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the milk, rum, and extract. Set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the butter mixture alternately with milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Fold in the pecans.
  4. Pour the batter into prepared pan. Bake 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

Praline Glaze
 
Author:
 
Ingredients
  • 1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
  • ⅓ c. whipping cream
  • ¼ c. butter
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Combine brown sugar, whipping cream, and butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Boil, stirring occasionally, 1 minute; remove from heat. Gradually whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Let stand for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally. Pour over cake immediately.

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Mango Tango Smoothies

 

After the last blast of winter weather I am ready for spring!  I have spent days with no power and cleaning up loads of limbs that fell in the yard.  I know that with warmer weather we’ll also have gnats, mosquitoes, and snakes, but my toes really need to thaw.
Today I am sharing a recipe that reminds me of spring and summer, when my menu is a little lighter.  This Mango Tango Smoothie is a breeze to prepare.  With milk and yogurt this smoothie is high in calcium and a great portable breakfast for people on the go.  It’s nice to have a “smoothie” straw if you can find them.  They are slightly bigger and make sipping of a smoothie much easier.
I’m sure that we will have cold days ahead this winter.  For today, I think I’ll close my eyes, have my smoothie, and imagine I’m on a beach!
Mango Tango Smoothies
 
Author:
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 1 c. frozen mango chunks
  • 1 medium ripe banana, peeled, sliced, and frozen
  • 1 c. fat-free milk
  • ½ c. vanilla yogurt
  • ½ c. unsweetened pineapple juice
Instructions
  1. In a blender, combine all ingredients; cover and process until smooth. Pour into glasses; serve immediately.
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Tiramisu Brownie Bites

No, you aren’t imagining things.  This should have posted last week.  However, after the ice storm I had no power for 5 LONG days!  I had this typed up and ready but had not scheduled it to post.  Here is my Valentine’s Day post.  It’s a little late, but still worth a try…these little bites are delicious!

Perhaps you would like to show your loved one just how much they mean to you buy preparing a home-cooked meal.  Even if you have reservations for a nice meal out, sometimes you just can’t hold dessert at the restaurant.  These cute little Tiramisu Brownie Bites are just the ticket for an easy, lip smacking Valentine’s Day dessert at home.

They start with a box of brownie mix, you really can’t start easier than that.  They are then baked in a mini muffin pan and brushed with coffee liqueur (or liqueur substitute), filled with a velvety tiramisu filling and topped with whipped topping.  Finish them off with a sprinkling of cocoa powder or a chocolate covered coffee bean on top.

 

Tiramisu Brownie Bites
 
Author:
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pkg. (18 to 21-oz.) Fudge Brownie mix (plus ingredients to make cake-like brownies)
  • 2 tbsp. instant espresso powder
  • coffee liqueur or coffee liqueur substitute (recipe below)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • ½ c. powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 2 c. whipped topping, divided
  • cocoa Powder
  • chocolate covered coffee bean, optional for garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Spray cups of mini-muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray with flour. Prepare brownie mix according to package directions for cake-like brownies. Fill wells of pan two-thirds full. Bake 8 to 12 minutes or until edges are set. (Do not over bake.) Remove pan from oven; immediately press tops of brownies with a mini tart shaper to make indentions. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Remove brownies from pan and brush with coffee liqueur or substitute. Cool completely on wire rack. Wash pan and repeat with remaining batter.
  2. Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar with an electric mixer. Mix instant espresso powder into vanilla extract and add to cream cheese mixture, beat until smooth. Fold in 1 c. whipped topping.
  3. Pipe cream cheese mixture into brownie cups. Pipe additional whipped topping over the cream cheese mixture. Dust with cocoa powder and top with a chocolate covered coffee bean. Refrigerate 1 to 3 hours before serving.
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Dinner and a Movie (Pizza Crust)

A few weeks ago my brother-in-law, David, sent me a recipe for a Cast Iron Skillet Pizza.  I have made it a few times since…with one exception, I am using a pizza crust recipe that I have used many times.  When we lived in Florida I made homemade pizza quite often, even though I could have had  pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less any day of the week.  Now, we live in the boondocks, where pizza isn’t delivered, and I don’t think I’ve made pizza at home in over 4 years…until now.  Thanks David!

This pizza crust is another great recipe by Marci Goldman.  (You know she’s my hero!)  Start the dough before going to bed.  Then the next morning mix in the remaining ingredients.  Let it rise all day on the counter and it’s ready when you get home from work.  How easy is that?  Over the years I have made pizza with this crust using my pizza stone but you can also use a large baking sheet (this is how my kids like it), as well as a cast iron skillet.  If using a skillet or baking sheet make sure to coat the pan with a little olive oil first.  I like to put sesame seeds along the edge of the crust whether I’m making a thin or a thick crust.  When they kids were smaller I would set up a pizza bar and have pieces or dough for individual pizzas and different toppings.  The kids would roll out their own dough and then top it as they liked.  It was a fun way to get them involved in the kitchen.

 

Dinner and a Movie (Pizza Crust)
 
Author:
 
Ingredients
  • Sponge:
  • 1 c. warm water
  • ¾ tsp. instant yeast
  • 1¼ c. all-purpose flour
  • Dough:
  • Sponge, above
  • ½ c. warm water
  • 1¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1½ to 2½ c. bread flour
  • Topping the pizza dough:
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • 1½ c. pizza sauce
  • Toppings of your choice
Instructions
  1. For the sponge, stir the water and yeast together in the bowl of an electric mixer. let stand for 2 to 3 minutes to dissolve the yeast. Stir in the flour to make a thick batter.
  2. Place the bowl in a large plastic bag, close the bag loosely, and let stand at room temperature overnight. (I have a 6 qt. Kitchen Aid Professional Mixer. For this step I have Hefty 2.5 gallon Jumbo bags. I snip the zipper part of the bag as far as I need to and slip the bag over the top of the bowl. It fits pretty snug.)
  3. For the dough, stir down the sponge and add the water, salt, sugar, oil, cornmeal, and 1½ c. of the bread flour. Mix to make a soft mass. Knead with the dough hook on the lowest speed of the mixer for 8 to 10 minutes, gradually adding more flour as required to form a soft mass. Knead with the dough hook on the lowest speed of the mixer for 8 to 10 minutes, gradually adding more flour as required to form a soft, elastic dough. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Spray the dough with nonstick cooking spray and place the bowl in a plastic bag. Let rise at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours, or until doubled in size. (I use the same Jumbo bag that I mentioned above.)
  4. Preheat the oven to 450 °F. Coat three 9-inch pizza paned with olive oil. Set aside.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 3 portions. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Press or roll the dough out to fit the prepared pizza pans. If the dough resists or otherwise retracts, let it rest for a few minutes, then gently coax it to fit the pans. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top of the dough. Spread on the sauce and add the toppings of your choice.
  6. Bake the pizzas for 8 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Bake 30 to 35 minutes longer, or until the crust is lightly browned.
Notes
(Makes three 9-inch pizzas)
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