Monday, March 10, 2014


Laissez les bon temps roulez.

Avery has been going through a big Princess and the Frog phase, and there's a scene with delicious gumbo and Tabasco within the first 10-15 minutes of it.  Since we rarely make it past the 20-minute mark before something happens to make us stop the movie (potty break, snack time, mailman comes, whatever), I've seen this scene probably at least once a day, every day, for the past two weeks.  

I needed some gumbo.

I derived this recipe from Emeril at the Food Network.  

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup vegetable oil (NOT OLIVE OIL)
1 pound smoked sausage, such as andouille or kielbasa, cut crosswise (I used Country Pleasin') into 1/2-inch thick pieces
4 pounds chicken thighs, skin removed (I just used 2 pounds boneless skinless thighs, then added a pound crawfish tails and a jar of crab when I put the browned chicken back in)
1 tablespoon Essence or Creole seasoning (I just used Tony's)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped bell peppers
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3 bay leaves
9 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth (I just used 2 32-ounce boxes)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
1 tablespoon file powder
White Rice
Hot sauce

In a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven or large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. 
Add the sausage and cook until well browned, about 8 minutes. 
Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside.
Season the chicken with the Essence and add in batches to the fat remaining in the pan. 
Cook over medium-high heat until well browned, 5 to 6 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the pan, let cool, and then refrigerate until ready to use.
Combine the remaining 1/2 cup oil and the flour in the same Dutch oven over medium heat. 
Cook, stirring slowly and constantly for 20 to 25 minutes, to make a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate.
Add the onions, celery, and bell peppers and cook, stirring, until wilted, 4 to 5 minutes. 

Add the reserved sausage, salt, cayenne, and bay leaves, stir, and cook for 2 minutes. 
Stirring, slowly add the chicken stock, and cook, stirring, until well combined. 
Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.
Add the reserved chicken (and crawfish tails and crab) to the pot and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, skimming off any fat that rises to the surface.
Remove the pot from the heat. 

(If you did boneless skinless thighs, you can skip this part!)Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken thighs from the gumbo and place on a cutting board to cool slightly. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Pull the chicken meat from the bones and shred, discarding the bones and skin. Return the meat to the gumbo.
Stir in the green onions, parsley, and file powder.
Spoon rice into the bottom of deep bowls or large cups and ladle the gumbo on top. Serve, passing hot sauce on the side.

A note about the oil: olive oil, though perhaps more healthy, has a lower smoke (burning) point than vegetable oil does.  So when making a roux with it, you're much more apt to burn your roux than if you use vegetable or canola oil.

Also, when it comes to crab, be sure you pick up the real thing at the grocery store.  I was distracted and picked up Krab with a K.  Wasn't aware of it till I went to stir the pot and was greeted with a horror show of unraveled pollock in what looked like creepy crab noodles. I picked that out and called it a lesson in kitchen presence.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Crock Pot Party & My New Favorite Chili

My cousin Edie had the BEST idea for a winter party - everybody bring your crock pot with your favorite wintery soup, chili, chowder, whatever in it AND BRING YOUR TUPPERWARE.  After everybody eats, divy up the dishes to take home, so you never eat the same leftover twice. And it tastes even better because somebody else made it!


Not only did we have a great time, we're still enjoying the spoils!  Enhancements to this party might be to assign desserts or side dishes like oyster crackers of just plain Saltines, or Fritos.  OR a crock-off contest and a vote to see whose recipe is the best. I really hope to have one of these in the future.  All the hostess might need is some paper bowls & spoons, shredded cheese, and chopped up green onions.

And Tabasco.

Though all the soups were delicious, my personal favorite was venison chili prepared by my cousin Trotter from his wife Laine's recipe.  I adored the new twist to chili, the different textures and colors contained in the same pot, and the fact that it's really good for you.  Though I never actually asked for the recipe, I went home and did like my grandmother Cha-Cha would - improvised until I came up with it!

Chili Chowder
Olive oil
1 head celery, chopped
2 onions, chopped
1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 13-16 ounce bigass sausage (beef or turkey), cut into bite-sized pieces
Chili powder to taste
1 large can crushed tomatoes
2 16 ounce cans diced tomatoes with chili seasoning
1 can light red beans, rinsed
1 can kernel corn, rinsed
Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

In a large pot, sautee the celery and onions in the olive oil.
Add the ground beef and sausage until browned and cooked through.
Add chili powder to taste.
Dump in the tomatoes, beans, corn, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Simmer as long as you want.

BAM.  Dinner.  Garnish with green onions, cheese, sour cream, Fritos, saltines, oyster crackers.....

And Tabasco.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Praline Yams (Sweet Potatoes) with Orange Sauce

The night before I was to prepare our Thanksgiving meal this week, I cuddled in bed with Mike and listed out the dishes for the next day: turkey in the doufeu, dressing, gravy, spinach madeline, cranberry sauce, yeast rolls, and pumpkin pie.  Then this happened:
Me: What was your favorite Thanksgiving dish growing up?
Mike:  Sweet potatoes.
SWEET POTATOES.  The one dish I didn't even THINK to include.  Of course.  It just so happens that Riggs is on a big sweet potato kick, so I had the ingredients for this dish in the kitchen.  I rattled around and found the recipe in one of my old standbys: Best of the Best from Mississippi Cookbook.  I also happened to have the ingredients for the orange sauce, and let me just say.....that stuff is FINE.  It has completely revolutionized the way I think about sweet potatoes, and I'll never again be able to make this casserole without the orange sauce.

4-5 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered (I chopped into 1/2 inch cubes)
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar, divided
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted, divided
1 teaspoon salt
pecan halves

Cook potatoes in water to cover until tender (about 25-30 minutes).
Add 1/4 cup brown sugar to hot potatoes.
Add eggs, 3 T butter, and salt.
Beat until smooth.
Pour into a greased 1 1/2 quart casserole dish.
Lay pecan halves end to end, covering the entire casserole. (I just roughly chopped pecans and sprinkled liberally on top.)
Sprinkle with remaining brown sugar.
Drizzle remaining melted butter over top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
Ladle Orange Sauce over individual servings.

Orange Sauce

1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup orange juice
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons butter
3 dashes Angostura bitters

In saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, orange rind, orange juice, and lemon juice.
Bring to a boil over medium heat.
Cook until thickened.
Remove from heat.
Stir in butter and bitters.
Serves 8-10.

Great Performances Cookbook

Photo courtesy of Bakers Royale.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Chocolate Chess Pie

So the other day Riggs and I were playing as Avery was at Mother's Day Out.  I was craving something but didn't know what.  Then it hit me..... like a bolt from the blue....  CHOCOLATE CHESS PIE.  I absolutely HAD to have it.  And I was willing to risk being a teensy bit late to pick up Avery so I could bake it.  Fortunately from start to finish, this pie only took a little more than an hour and a half, and that's with a 60 minute baking time, so I was able to finish it AND go pick up our little monster.

I think has my favorite recipe:

1 1/2 cups sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 partially 9-inch baked pie crust

1  Preheat oven to 325F degrees.
2  Combine sugar, cocoa, flour, and salt.
3  Blend in milk.
4  Beat in eggs 1 at a time.
5  Add butter and vanilla, beat until smooth.
6  Pour into prebaked pie shell.
7  Bake in 325* oven for 55-60 minutes.

I whipped up my new pie crust recipe and baked it for ten minutes at 375 while I mixed the pie filling in the same bowl in which I prepared the crust dough.  So easy, so delicious.  Don't even try to taste this stuff without some whipped cream on top.  And it's even better the next day.  

Thank you to Food-in-Mouth for the above photo.

New Pie Crust Recipe

It's a rainy, rainy Monday afternoon.  Both babies are napping, as should I be, but I wanted to jot down my new go-to for a pie crust before I forget:

Makes 1 pie
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

With your fingers, crumble the shortening into the flour and salt until it resembles coarse cornmeal.
Do not overwork.
Add water - it works better very cold, but that's not necessary - until desired consistency.
Roll out onto floured surface.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

First Tooth and Toddler Bed

Wow, it's been a big night at the Peacock Coop.  I don't know why, but for some reason I absolutely HAD TO set up Avery's big girl bed.  Maybe I figured it would be like ripping off a Band Aid - do it quickly and don't make a big deal of it, and it won't be a big deal to her.  She loves it and took to it great, particularly enjoying jumping in it and climbing in and out, in and out, in and out.... and repeat.  She hadn't taken a nap in three days straight, and I thought perhaps the nap era was over, but now that it's a big girl bed, she puts herself to bed.... and my heart breaks a little, missing that sweet weight of our little girl in my lap as I read her bedtime stories.  Surely my snuggling days with her aren't yet completely over.

Meanwhile, Riggs has been having a sleep regression, waking up every two to four hours.  Last night was an every other hour night, and when he woke at 3:30, I told Mike, "Either this is a huge brain blast or teething."  Sure enough, this morning his first tooth has popped out, bottom front left, AND he's pulling up on the coffee table.  Two birds with one stone!  Maybe with the help of a little Motrin, we'll all sleep better tonight.

First tooth and first night in a toddler bed.  I sure know how to pack in the milestones.  

These babies are SO much fun right now.  It's exhausting, hard, heartrending work, but incredible.  Avery is really talking and telling us the most interesting things.  Her vocabulary is huge, and she doesn't bat an eye at four-syllable..... and -letter..... words. Riggs is crawling all over the place, particularly to electrical cords and Dante's food dish.  

 Gosh.  I'm blessed.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Just a few here and theres

I don't even know where to begin, so I'll just start typing.  Right now both babies are napping and Mike's sleeping off the midnight shift.  There's a Diet Coke on the table next to me, surrounded by crumbs from the last brownie.  The washer and dryer are performing their usual hum and tumble in the utility room, and all is right with the world.

We went blueberry picking the other day.  Riggs snoozed in the sling while Avery picked every green blueberry she could find.  

 And Avery adores the zoo.  It was such a hit we decided to buy a family year membership.  Maybe once the kiddos wake up we'll take everybody to the splash pad.  The tiger slide is a big favorite, as was the train.  When we went through the tunnel, Avery insists she wasn't scared, but her eyes became so big you could see white all around the iris.

As I sit holding one or both babies, I hope to have developed the habit of jotting down funny, sweet, good memories (there are so many it's hard to remember them all) on my cell phone to write in more detail.  Here are a few of the latest goings-on:

 - Riggs giggles when we suck out his nose or wipe his face.  He thinks it's hysterical and belly laughs so hard it's difficult to accomplish the task.  Maybe that's all part of his plan.

 - When I ask Avery for a kiss, she always plants a big happy smiling one right square on my lips.  I guess it's because she sees Daddy and me kissing like that, and I don't mind.  My heart melts into a puddle when she then turns to Riggs and says, "Riggs kiss," planting one gently on his head.

 - I have to bathe both kids together.  I could just bathe Avery, but if Riggs is in the bathtub, so must she be. After a few moments of sheer panic on my part, she's proven to be very soft with her brother, and I always let her help me bathe him.  I'll sit him up and hold him while she scrubs his back, and he comes out squeaky clean every time.

 - Avery has an impressive grasp on the English language, but sometimes her enunciation could use a little work.  A few months ago she and I were in the Kroger.  I turned around to find her standing in the seat of the buggy and immediately said, "Avery!  Sit sit sit!" which of course she repeated enthusiastically and loudly... only from her mouth it sounded like "Shit shit shit!"  And of course one of my DAR sisters was right around the corner.  You should hear her say, "fork."

 - She counts too: "One, two, fee, six!"

 - Her favorite songs to sing are Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, the ABC song, Jesus Muvs Me, and the Itsy Bitsy Speyter.  She loves "speyters" so much she often asks me to draw one.  There's a worn-out cardboard box in the living room right now with a spider army drawn all over it.

 - And to my surprise, she has memorized several of her board books already, including Alice in Wonderland, Snow White, I'm a Big Sister, I am a Bunny,  Happy Birthday Little Pookie, and Goodnight Moon.

 - The other day Mike was in his underwear, looking for his pajama bottoms.  He leaned over, and Avery's patted his butt with her little hand and in her sweet 2-year-old voice proudly said, "Daddy panties."

 - Riggs contentedly hangs out in my lap or his Moses basket and takes note.


Made by Lena