Monday, July 28, 2014

Gumbo is my superpower.

I have never claimed to be a chef or super hero in the kitchen.   When the words "invent-a-meal" are kids scatter like marbles across the floor.  They quickly find other  plans for the evening.   Yea, it quickly gives me much needed alone time.

However, when the word "GUMBO" is muttered....... magically they alter any plans for the evening and are available for family dinner and family lunch leftovers the next day.

Gumbo isn't as hard as one might think.  There are just a few rules.  First of all, an enameled cast iron stock pot is a must.  It needs to be able to withstand heat without burning for several hours.  My pot of choice is a Le Creuset stockpot.   I found it at Costco for a song a few years ago in an after Christmas sale.   But there are other less expensive brands.  Most likely, they all cook the same.

The second rule is you gotta stir......and often.   This is when I make kitchen rules about if you wanna eat...... you gotta stir.    The kids won't complain after they taste the awesomeness of this shrimp gumbo.  I promise.

Usually the evening before I will pre-chop my vegetables & sausage.  It just makes the afternoon easier.

Grab a stool...  you are going to be here a while.


The scariest part is making the roux.  It takes about 30 minutes of stirring and takes on the color of peanut butter at the end.   It even kinda smells nutty.   Just stir.  If by chance this is yucky.   Throw it away & start over.

After that, add those chopped veggies and sauté until they are clear and soft.

Pour in all that stock, juices & seasonings.

Keep stirring occasionally............  after about 2 hours or so you get this!!

Every bowl of gumbo needs some dirty rice served beside it.  This box is my favorite.  I like to make two boxes.  You gotta have rice for the leftovers!   It is Delish!

Shrimp Gumbo!!!

1 cup + 1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup flour

Melt the butter.  Add the flour and stir for what seems like forever and
the color is a rich peanut butter color.

1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup green bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 finely chopped jalapeño 
a  handful of chopped green onions if you have it.

Saute until all of the above veggies are clear-like and soft.

3 cups shrimp or chicken stock
2 cups clam juice
1 can petite diced tomatoes w/juice
3 bay leaves
1 TBS parsley
1 TBS cajun seasoning
1 tsp basil
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp pepper

Stir....  Stir...  Stir....
It now just needs to cook down and get thicker.

1 cup of diced okra ( I buy a bag of frozen)

Add an extra can of broth here if it looks too thick.
(I will use whatever kind of broth at hand I have at this point.)

Keep cooking & stirring occasionally......!

2 pounds shrimp - cooked
1 1/2 cups of smoked sausage (I like Hillshire Beef)

Have I mentioned stirring yet?  Well, stir some more.
I typically add the okra about an hour before it is done.  
The shrimp & sausage about 30 minutes later.
They pretty much just need to heat up.

You will know when it is done.  I say that because I am pretty sure that by now you have been doing some sampling...........

So tell me what's your superpower?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Really Really Good Muffins

Remember a few posts ago I wrote about carrot cake?   Did I mention that I shredded too many carrots?   This is what I do when that happens.   First of all I measure it out in 1/2 cup increments.  I either cook straight away into these lovelies, throw some of them into soup or smoothies, or just freeze.   Today, I made these delicious guys.

I have made them for years and they are worth the time to shred a couple of apples.  Some restaurants call them "Morning Glory" muffins or "Golden Harvest" muffins.   Call them whatever you want......just call them, maybe?

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups shredded & peeled apples
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup coconut flakes
3/4 cup oil
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional...nuts in baked goods, yuck!....NO THANK YOU!)

*Heat oven to 350*.  Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.

*Combine everything that is dry.
*Combine all the wet ingredients.
*Combine them all together.
*If by chance this looks a little dry...just crack another egg and stir it in.

*Bake for about 25 minutes.

*Serve Warm. Serve Cold.  Just Serve Them.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Thrifty-ness, the lovely JG, & Vanilla-Bean-Oreo Ice-Cream.

As most of my friends know....  I like to save a buck or two.   My current job allows me to save even more than that.    I can't name location simply because there is a confidentiality clause  I am bound to.  I can, however, claim bragging rights.   Someone needs to do it.

Some recent  finds include........

Juicy Couture Charm Bracelet....  1.49   (EBAY is listing at $50.00)

Brighton Bangle........  1.49        (original price   25.00)

Brighton Votive Candle......  .99       ($24.00 in store)

Kate Spade Sunglasses...   .99     (original price...about 150.00)

Michael W Smith NEW CD......  .99     (original  price...  10.00)

Calphanon NEW non-stick omelet pan....  9.99 (originally $50?)

Super Cute Large Basket...  1.99

Cuisinart Ice-Cream Maker.........    about 1.99   (I had a $20 off coupon)   It was NEW and in the box.
(original price..  79.00 at Williams Sonoma)

Scentsy Christmas plug-in thing...   7.99       (EBAY lists it at $29.00)

Santa Claus  stand-up        3.99        (Kirklands @ $19.00)

Reebok's    12.99 .........  more that $50.
                                                    Cute CZ bangle bracelet.........  .75

                                                    Cute gold & blue long necklace........  1.50

Total Spent........   Less than $50.00

Total Saved.......       I could have spent about $400 on all this stuff.   I wouldn't have.

Now, about that Ice-Cream Maker.......   After using it several times this month, I believe that 
I would consider paying the full retail price.    It came with 2 freezer tubs......totally needed.    I just keep them in the freezer.   That way they are ready to go when the urge to make ice-cream hits. hits my dear husband weekly.     This is a fun kitchen toy.  And it isn't loud like the predecessors are.   NO CRANKING NEEDED!

I was bragging to JG this morning about my new gig.  She was immediately envious of the low stress filled environment and of the sweet things I can find.    We were talking what I have been making with my toy.    Apparently her dear husband, KG, loves cookies & cream ice cream.....  He needs this.

Vanilla-Bean Ice-Cream

2 cups sugar
3 cups half & half
1 vanilla bean scraped  (I have also used plain vanilla.)
1/8 tsp cinnamon

Heat the first 4 together.   Stir a lot.  Have  8  (mixed up) egg yolks handy & at room temp.
Slowly temper a ladle or two of milk stuff into the yolks.   Slowly add them to the milk stuff.

Continue heating until it is thickened.  I use a wooden spoon.  It seems to show the thickening better.
It has been taking about 6-8 minutes.  STIR CONSTANTLY!

Throw out the vanilla bean at this point & pour all that goodness through a fine wire mesh sieve.
Add  3 cups heavy whipping cream and stir gently.  Cool down for a few hours in the refrigerator.

(I thought the sieving was a little weird at first....  just do it.  TRUST ME)

After I ran it through the machine I crushed up a sleeve of Oreos and stirred it together before refreezing.   Wait a couple of hours before eating.  It needs to mesh together in the freezer.   Eat a spoonful..... just for tasting and research.  Hide it from the kids.  Hide it from your husband.  Good luck  JG!

My dear husband also likes it with 3 mushed up bananas stirred into it before refreezing.

***  A friend of mine, MB, found  these super cute quart-sized ice-cream containers at Marshalls & TJ MAXX.  They were 5.99 and made of a really good hard plastic with silicone lid.   ADORABLE!      They were seriously needed and if you are going to make fabulous gourmet ice-cream......  Shouldn't it be served in a fabulous container?   ABSOLUTELY!