Tag Archive 'recipes'

Jun 16 2012

Jambalaya cha-cha-cha!

Published by under In The Kitchen,Recipes

Hey, we haven’t done a recipe in a long time, huh? How about a recipe? I made this for dinner last night. I’ve been really into Louisiana cooking lately, what with the red beans and rice and all that. I’ve been looking for a good gumbo recipe, but it’s hard to find one that doesn’t utilize shellfish in some form. The Man will not eat seafood, no way, no how. So, in the meantime, I went hunting for a jambalaya recipe, and wouldn’t you know? It’s pretty hard to find one of those that doesn’t contain shrimp. However, finally, I got one!

This recipe comes to us from the Food Network web site, and is credited on that site to Chef Jason Girard. I do a couple little tweaks to it, but nothing too major. Basically, my tweaks amount to adding 1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground black pepper and a couple of extra shakes of Tabasco to up the spice a bit, and also throwing in about 1 tsp of Old Bay, just because damn, I love Old Bay. I also omit the file powder, because it’s not an easy thing to find around here (as in, I can’t find it at the huge grocery store I shop at, and I’m not going to go looking at the few specialty stores in town because I’m lazy).  I read online that file powder can act as a thickening agent, but I don’t think a teaspoon of it would make much of a difference in a dish this large. This recipe as written on Food Network comes out soupier than I like, so I do thicken it slightly with a corn starch slurry (1 Tbsp corn starch + 1/8 cup cold water). I’m going to add these tweaks into the ingredient list and the directions, but you can feel free to delete them if you want.


  • 2 Tbsp peanut oil
  • 12 ounces smoked andouille or kielbasa sausage, sliced (I use kielbasa, because andouille is not readily available)
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (I use a red one, just because I like the red ones. Any color will do)
  • 1 28 ounce can peeled diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce + 2-3 extra shakes if desired (I use regular Tobasco)
  • 1 tsp. file powder (if you can find it, if not, no big whoop)
  • 1 Tbsp Cajun spice blend (sold in the spice section, pre-blended)
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp Old Bay
  • corn starch slurry to thicken, if desired (1 Tbsp corn starch + 1/8 c cold water)
  • Cooked rice, for serving


Heat a heavy, dry stockpot or Dutch oven (mine is a 5 qt. size) over high heat. Add 1 Tbsp peanut oil, then brown the sausage. Remove the sausage from the pan, but leave the drippings. Add another Tbsp peanut oil, and then brown the chicken. Add more peanut oil if necessary. Remember, you’re just browning at this point.

Return the sausage to the pot with the chicken, and add the onion, celery, garlic, and bell pepper. Saute until the meats and veggies are cooked through. Add the tomatoes and the hot sauce, stir to combine. Add the file powder (if using), black pepper, Old Bay, and Cajun spice, reduce heat to low, and simmer for at least one hour. After 30 minutes, add corn starch slurry, if desired. Serve over rice.

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Jan 19 2010

Fire starters.

Published by under Recipes

OK, so this isn’t REALLY a recipe, but it was kind of like cooking and I didn’t want to make a whole new category for one post.  So, it’s a recipe for the purposes of my categorizing.

Every week in the winter, I have to start a fire in the wood stove in our garage, so that The Man and his friends won’t freeze to death while they play D&D.  As anyone who’s ever tried will agree, building a fire is not easy work if you don’t have lots of tiny twigs and wood chips or something to use as kindling.  You can’t just throw a bunch of paper in there and put a log on top of it and expect it to burn.  However, we don’t keep a lot of tiny twigs or wood chips around.  Those that I do find get consumed pretty quickly.

Dr. Mom and Moll heat with wood, exclusively.  This means they need to have a reliable way to get the fire started.  So, they make their own fire starters.  After my most recent wrestle with the fire (this afternoon), I decided to try to follow their lead and make my own.

Step one:  Gather pine cones.  If you don’t have twenty pine trees in your yard (like me), go to the park or take a walk or something.  You are looking for smaller pine cones, nothing over 1.5 inches in height.  If you do have your own trees, it’s best if you gather pine cones while your neighbor is walking his dogs, so that the dogs will notice you and bark wildly, and the neighbor can wonder why you are squatting under a pine tree with a basket, looking suspicious.


Suspicious neighbors are a small price to pay for pine cones.

Step two:  Sort your pine cones into “dry” and “not dry”.  Dry pine cones are open.  Pine cones in need of drying are shut tightly.

Step three:  Dry the pine cones that need it.  Grab a junk sheet pan with a lip, line it with foil or parchment paper, and put the pine cones on it.  Stick them in a 200 degree (Fahrenheit) oven for an hour or so, until they open up.


These pine cones need to be more open. Put them in the oven and teach them a lesson!

Step four:  Melt your wax.  This is where all those jar candles that only have an inch of wax left in the bottom will come in handy.  Take one of those jar candles, and stick it in a pot of simmering water.  The wax will melt slowly, and as a bonus, if it’s a scented candle, your house will smell great.  My house smells like ginger and tangerine right this instant.


Watching wax melt is second only to watching paint dry.

Step five:  Coat the cones.  This is done in batches.  I put a handful of pine cones in a disposable plastic bowl.  Then I put on a pair of stretch gloves and grabbed the jar full of now melted wax.  Then, I poured some of the wax over the pine cones.  How much?  I don’t know.  I poured until it looked like there was enough wax to coat the pine cones.


My Hello Kitty stretchy glove never dreamed that it could be a hot pad!

Then, I grabbed a junk fork (seeing a theme, here?) and stirred the pine cones around until the wax began to harden and stick.  This took a couple of minutes, but if you don’t stir, all the wax will just pool at the bottom, and that’s no good.


Looks appetizing, eh?

Step six:  Cool.  Once the wax was stuck well to the cones, I placed them on a paper bag that had a sheet of wax paper on it.


It's not granola, no matter what your hippie aunt tries to tell you.

Repeat steps five and six until all the cones are coated.

Step seven:  Really cool.  Your pine cones are probably still somewhat warm, and the wax is probably still soft.  At this point, I moved the cones (still on the wax paper) to the junk sheet pan that I dried the cones on, and set it on the porch for a half hour.  Of course, it’s 30 degrees on my porch right now.  If it’s not nice and chill outside, stash them in the fridge or freezer for a half hour.

Step eight:  Store.  I stuck my cones in a lidded jar.  They’ll live near the wood stove to be easily accessible.


It's a jar full of witch! Burn it!

Step nine:  Use.  I’m not going to go into detail about how to build a fire, sorry.

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Dec 24 2008

Christmas (or anytime) Fudge

Published by under Recipes

Yesterday, I ventured into the world of candy making for the very first time.  I decided to make fudge.  However, I didn’t have a candy thermometer, which most fudge recipes in my books seem to require.  Lucky for me, the Better Homes and Gardens NEW Cook Book came through with a recipe that didn’t require precise temperature monitoring.  It’s a fudge recipe tailor-made for someone like me, who can’t read thermometers.

Sorry for the lack of pictures, but, as you’ll soon see, I was stirring for a long time, and besides, I didn’t know if this was actually going to work.  This recipe makes about four pounds of fudge.


  • a 13x9x2 pan, lined with aluminum foil.  Make sure the foil goes up and over the sides for easy extraction later.
  • a heavy, 3 qt. saucepan.  I used a ceramic glazed cast-iron dutch oven, because I didn’t have a 3 qt. saucepan.
  • a stirrin’ spoon.  I used a wooden one, for that authentic, candy-making feel.


  • 4 cups of sugar
  • 2 5-ounce cans evaporated milk
  • 1 cup butter (plus some extra for buttering your foil and saucepan)
  • 1 12-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 7-ounce dark or milk chocolate candy bar, cut up.  This is totally optional, but why not add more chocolate if you have an opportunity?  I went to the World Foods aisle of my grocery store and grabbed two 3.5-ounce Milka bars from Germany.  I figured if I was adding a candy bar, I wanted a good quality one.
  • 1 7-ounce jar of marshmallow creme.  It’s sticky!
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts.  Also optional.  I hate nuts in my fudge, so I left them out.
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Line your 13x9x2 baking pan with foil.  Butter the foil (make sure you get the sides, too) and set aside.

Butter the sides of your saucepan (or in my case, glazed dutch oven). In the saucepan, combine sugar, evaporated milk, and butter.  Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils.  This is going to take awhile, so bring a book or something.  Once mixture boils, reduce heat to medium.  Continue cooking and stirring for 10 minutes.  When it’s boiling, it will look like the dense head of a good beer.

Remove pan from the heat.  Add chocolate pieces, cut up candy bar (if you’re using it), marshmallow creme, walnuts (if you’re using them), and vanilla.  Stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is combined.  I kept stirring it until the streaks of marshmallow were gone and everything looked uniform.

Now for the hard part:  Beat by hand for one minute.  This means, take that spoon and stir the crap out of that thick, gooey, chocolate mixture, as hard and as fast as you can, for one whole minute.  One minute isn’t really that long…unless you happen to be beating fudge by hand.  Ow.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Allow to cool at room temperature; DO NOT COOL IN THE REFRIGERATOR.   If you put it in the fridge at this point, condensation will form and ruin your candy.  While the fudge is still warm (about 1.5 – 2 hours into cooling) you can score it into 1-inch squares.  I would only do this if you plan on serving it all at once in bite-sized pieces.  If you are making it to freeze and eat later, wait until the fudge is totally cooled, lift it out of the pan (using the handy foil that you made sure went up and over the sides), and cut it into blocks for freezing.  It will store better in larger chunks than in bite-sized pieces.

If you’re going to eat all this within a week, you can store on the counter in an air-tight container.  Just put wax paper between layers of fudge.  For longer storage (2 – 3 weeks), store in the fridge in an air-tight container, again with wax paper between layers.

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Nov 20 2008

Chicken and Rice

Published by under Recipes

This is a very traditional, easy, tasty dish that I’ve been eating since I was just a little kid.  It’s so easy and traditional that most of you are probably going “Chicken and Rice? Does anyone NOT know how to make that?”  OK, this post is not for you, then.  It’s for the poor person out there who knows diddly-poo about cooking and is desperately looking for some hard-to-ruin recipes.  Dear Desperate Person: this post is for you.

The recipe is found once again in my trusty church cookbook, and there’s not much to it.  One nice thing about this is that it is pretty easy to substitute healthier ingredients, if you’re a health-conscious kind of person.

You will need:

  • 1 package of chicken.  I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts – my local grocery sells them 3-4 in a pack.  My mother and grandmother both use a selection of bone-in, skin-on pieces.  It’s a matter of personal preference.
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup.  I use the store brand.  You can sub in the low-sodium version.
  • 1 package dry onion soup mix.  Again, I use the store brand.
  • 3/4 cup dry, uncooked, long-grained white rice.

The recipe says to lightly grease a 13×9 casserole dish, but I don’t like using one that big, since I never make this using a whole chicken, which is what the recipe calls for.  Consequently, if I use a 13×9, the chicken pieces in my dish never get fully submerged and some of the outsides get dry.  I like to use one of my dutch ovens, but mine are ceramic coated.  I’m not sure how it would work in regular cast iron – I imagine it would be fine as long as the iron is seasoned properly.  A smaller casserole would work as well.

Anyway, get your vessel of choice, lightly grease it up with shortening, and arrange the chicken in it. Because I use such a (comparatively) small vessel, my chicken is all crammed together on the bottom.  This is fine – you just probably don’t want the pieces stacked on top of each other.

In a medium bowl, combine the cream of chicken soup, two soup cans of water, the onion soup, and the rice.  Mix together.  Now, here’s another step added that my recipe book doesn’t have:  one you have all this stuff mixed, let it sit in its bowl for about 30 minutes.  I never used to do this, and my rice would end up all crunchy and not as good as I remembered.  I asked my Grandma, and she told me to let the mix sit so the rice would soak up some liquid.  I did, and the next time it was perfect!  This is also a good time to turn on your oven and preheat it to 350°F (176°C), and get your chicken out of the fridge so it can lose some of its “just out of the refrigerator” chill.

Once you’ve let your mix sit, pour it over the chicken.  Place the uncovered dish in the oven and cook for about two hours.

That’s it!  You have your main dish and a side dish all in one pan.  Serve and enjoy.  Stores very well, and the leftovers heat up nicely.

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Jul 01 2008

Quick Chili.

Published by under Recipes

This post has been lingering in my Drafts folder for months, so I decided to bring it out into the daylight, especially since I plan on cooking up and freezing a batch of chili this week.

Here’s another recipe from my Grandma.

I love chili on a cold day. It is guaranteed to both warm me up and fill my stomach quickly. I always try to serve chili with fresh bread so that I can sop up every last bit of goodness. This recipe is easy, quick, and doesn’t require a lot of different ingredients. Perfect for those who don’t like to fuss too much with their dinner (that would be me). This chili heats up very well. We always end up eating it for lunch for the next couple of days.

You will need:

  • 1 pound ground beef (I use an 83/17 Chuck, but you can use whatever you like)
  • 3 cans condensed tomato soup
  • 2-3 cans of water
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 cans of dark red kidney beans, UNDRAINED (I use the Bush’s Seasoned Recipe)
  • Chili powder
  • Salt and pepper

Prep time is about 15 minutes. Cook time is 30 minutes.

First you’ll need to dice your onion. Then, put it and the meat into a large, high-sided pan or a large pot, depending on what you’ve got available. I use a 12″ pan with 2.5″ high sides and everything fits nicely. Brown the meat and onion on high, then drain. Set your heat to medium.

Next, add in your “wet” ingredients. Plop in the tomato soup, and add in 2 can-fulls of water. You can add the third later if you decide you want a soupier texture. Add in the kidney beans as well – make sure you don’t drain them. The beans and their packing juice go into the pot. Stir everything around. You want to bring this to a slow bubble, then back the heat off ’til you’re at a simmer. You’ll simmer for 30 minutes, total.

It looks kind of anemic, I know, but it will thicken up as you cook. Mine gets darker as well, I’m not sure if that’s from cooking or from the chili powder. Speaking of . . .

While your chili is simmering, you’re going to start to add your chili powder. This is entirely a matter of taste, so the first time you make this, add slowly and keep tasting until you find a heat level you like. You can take this recipe from very bland to spicy, depending on how much chili powder you add. Remember to allow the chili to cook for a couple of minutes between adds to give the powder a chance to incorporate. I usually end up adding about 1/3 a bottle of powder (my bottle size is 4.5 oz).  If I eyeball it, it looks like 1/4c of powder, give or take a bit.

Remember to give your chili a stir every now and then after you’ve added the chili powder.  You want to make sure everything is mixing well.

See?  Darker.  This is what it looks like after it’s cooked for about 25 minutes.  All the chunky stuff is hiding at the bottom.
I like to leave the salt and pepper until the end. A few minutes before I’m ready to serve, I’ll give it a taste and decide if it needs any additional seasoning. I usually end up throwing in 1 tsp. of kosher salt and a bunch of grinds of black pepper, just because I believe everything benefits from salt and pepper.

The really nice thing about this recipe is that it’s good as-is, or makes a nice “base” if you’re looking to get creative. Add some herbs, add more veggies, try different meats (venison chili, anyone?), whatever you like. If you have fresh cilantro, throw it in the pot! If you have leftover ground turkey, throw it in the pot! If you like corn in your chili (why you would, I don’t know, but some do), throw it in the pot! Give it a few shakes of Tobasco, or maybe add a little Worcestershire. Chili is pretty versatile, so do some experimenting.

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