I tend to forget about Cajun food. It’s pretty simple and straight-forward and always totally delicious, yet for some reason, I never think about making it. However, every time I do, I always think to myself, “I really should make this more often!”.  Just one of those things, I guess. But not anymore! I promise, dear Cajun food, that I won’t neglect you anymore!

Now, I know I already have a recipe for okra gumbo posted, but this one is a teensy bit more involved and more complex than the other. Plus, it’s pretty much an entirely different recipe, and I thought you should have both! This isn’t a real, honest-to-goodness ‘Nawlins style gumbo that starts with a roux. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of that “deep” (*cough* burnt) flavor it gives, so I started mine with some good ‘ol bacon grease (to all my gumbo aficionados out there, please don’t hate me). I sort of just threw some things together and ended up with one fantastic tasting gumbo! The great news is, this made a giant pot, so we had enough for 2 meals!

Sausage and Okra Gumbo

3 or 4 strips bacon
1 small onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 15-oz. can chopped tomatoes
1 bag frozen okra (I don’t actually know the size- it’s probably around 4-6 cups), thawed
1 package fully cooked turkey sausage (14 oz.), cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup rice
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon Tony Chachere’s seasoning
4 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste (you won’t need much salt at all since Tony C. has salt in it)

Cook rice according to instructions on packaging. In a large dutch oven or stock pot, heat the bacon over medium heat and render fat. Remove the bacon and set aside. Add onion, pepper and celery and cook for 7-10 minutes, or until onions are slightly translucent. Add tomatoes (with their juice), okra, seasonings and chicken broth. Add the bacon back to the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Add sausage and rice. Cook for 10-15 more minutes (if it gets too thick for your liking, feel free to add a little more chicken broth or even a little water). Remove the bacon and bay leaves and serve.

*The okra can be a little “slimy” sometimes; adding a splash of white vinegar at the end helps to cut through the sliminess, and you’ll never know it’s there.


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A Mardi Gras Feast!

This weekend, in honor of Mardi Gras in New Orleans (laissez les bon temps rouler!), I decided to make a whole Mardi Gras-themed meal to celebrate. We both loooove Cajun food and love the city of New Orleans, so we really enjoyed the whole ordeal! I started off with grilled shrimp Po’ Boys with a spicy remoulade and ended the meal with…wait for it……..a King Cake! Yep, that’s right, I made a King Cake, but more on that later! I found the recipe for the Po’ Boys on Closet Cooking, who found it on Ezra Pound Cake. Now, normally, you’d see a Po’ Boy sandwich with some form of fried seafood, but this recipe looked so good with the grilled shrimp that I had to give it a try. Plus, I’m not big on frying. I can’t tell you how simple and fast this whole process was – it takes mere minutes to grill your shrimp and the remoulade comes together equally as fast. Although I would (naturally) prefer mine with fried oysters, these were SO good – we literally devoured them in no time! Give these a try….you absolutely won’t be sorry!

Grilled Shrimp Po’ Boys
Makes 2

1 pound shrimp, shelled and deviened (I only used a 1/2 pound and it was perfect)
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon creole seasoning (see below)
1 baguette
1 cup lettuce, shredded
2 large tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup remoulade sauce (see below)

Toss the shrimp in the oil and creole seasoning to coat.
Grill the shrimp until cooked, about 2-3 minutes per side.
Assemble sandwich.

Remoulade Sauce
makes 1/2 cup

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon creole mustard
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon horseradish
1 small clove garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon capers
1 green onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
hot sauce to taste

Blend everything in a food processor until smooth.

Creole Spice Blend (I actually didn’t use this- I just used my Tony Chachere’s Cajun Spice)
makes 4 tablespoons

2 1/2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano
1 teaspoon dried leaf thyme

And now…on to the King Cake!! Ok, for those of you who don’t know what a King Cake is, HERE is a little history. As far as the actual taste – the dough is almost identical to cinnamon roll dough – very light and chewy (yum). There is a layer of cinnamon and brown sugar in the center and it’s topped with a lemony glaze and colored sugars. Perfect for breakfast, really. The dough contains yeast, therefore it’s a total pain in the butt to make, especially for someone who has chronic problems with yeast. You let it rise, then punch it down…then let it sit for 2 hours, then punch it down…then roll out the dough and braid it…then let it rise again….*sigh*. Anyway, it’s completely delicious and worth every bit of the trouble. I mean, just look at it…

Yum. Isn’t that beautiful??  Only thing is….that isn’t mine. This….

….is mine. Yes, it’s in the trash. Yes, it’s completely disgusting-looking. Yes, it was a total and complete DIS-AS-TER. Welcome to my world. A world in which baked goods with yeast just don’t stand a chance. My kitchen is where yeasted treats go to die.

Now, I realize I could’ve just shown you the picture above (the beautiful, pristine store-bought version) and taken 100% of the credit – Lord knows I worked hard enough! – BUT, that’s what having this food blog is all about. My adventures and misadventures. Therefore, I choose to be honest and tell you that although I worked my rear end off on this stupid dough, and followed the instructions to a TEE, it just didn’t turn out (the dough didn’t rise. At all. It came out tasting like a really dense, hard biscuit). That happens. Especially to me. Of course I’ll keep trying, and eventually I’m sure I’ll make a darn beautiful King Cake…just not for a while. For now, that beautiful store-bought version is still in my kitchen, and it’ll do just fine for the time being. *sigh*……… Here is the recipe, for those of you who don’t have my problem.


Lemon-Glazed King Cake

seen on Peanut Butter and Julie

Makes 1 cake
For the dough
1/2 cup whole milk
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
6 ounces butter, softened
4 large eggs
Zest from one orange
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the filling
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 whole almond or large dried bean

For the glaze
2 large egg whites
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Green, yellow/gold, and purple decorative sugars

Prepare the dough: In a small saucepan, heat the milk to about 110F degrees.  Pour the milk into a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast over the surface.  Add 1 teaspoon of the sugar and stir to combine.  Set the mixture aside until the yeast is foamy, 10 minutes.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the remaining sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.  Add the yeast mixture and mix for 1 minute.  Add an egg and mix thoroughly; follow with a third of the flour.  Repeat with the remaining eggs and flour.  Add the orange zest, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt, and continue to mix on low speed for 7-8 minutes, until the dough is smooth, shiny, and elastic, and it starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.  If the dough is too soft, add up to 1/2 cup of flour.
Scrape the dough from the bowl and lightly knead to form into a ball.  Butter or oil the inside of a medium size bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, turning to coat with the butter.  Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.
When the dough has risen, turn it out of the bowl, punch it down, and knead it lightly to form a ball.  Put the dough back in the bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Form the cake:  Flour a clean work surface.  Roll the dough into a 10 by 20-inch rectangle, keeping the thickness consistent throughout.  Cut the dough lengthwise into 3 strips.  Paint each strip of the dough with the melted butter, leaving a 1/2-inch border clean along the length of each strip.  Reserve any leftover butter.  Sprinkle the strips with the brown sugar and cinnamon.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Fold each strip over lengthwise toward the clean edges to enclose the cinnamon sugar, and pinch the seam to seal the dough closed.  Snugly braid the three pieces together.  Transfer the braid to the baking sheet and form the braid into a wreath, pressing the ends together.  Cover the wreath with a clean towel and set aside to rise for 40 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.
Brush the cake with the reserved melted butter and bake for 18 minutes, until golden brown.  Cover the cake loosely with foil and continue to bake for 20-25 minutes more, until baked through.  Keep the cake on the baking sheet and allow to cool completely.  After the cake has cooled, carefully tuck the almond into the underside of the cake.
Prepare the glaze:  Place the egg whites and the confectioner’s sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed until combined.  Add the corn syrup, vanilla, and lemon juice, and continue to mix until smooth, adding more lemon juice if necessary to achieve your desired glaze consistency.
Drizzle the glaze over the cake, spreading with an offset spatula to coat.  Cover with alternating colored sugars, and allow to set before serving.

Don’t be afraid to try this recipe after what happened to me. Really. I’m sure it will turn out just fine for you. Whatever you’re celebrating this week, be it Mardi Gras, the Olympics, or whatever – enjoy it! :-)

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Happy Anniversary to Us!

I totally would’ve posted this 5 days ago (when it actually was our anniversary), but a few unexpected things have happened this week and I haven’t had a chance to even get to my computer! Anyway, our 3 year anniversary was this past Wednesday – sometimes I can’t get over that we’ve been married 3 years. It seems like it wasn’t that long ago that we were on our honeymoon! On top of having our anniversary to celebrate, my hubby just accepted a new job (yay!), so we decided to go out for a fancy dinner a couple of days early, then on our actual anniversary have a nice quiet dinner at home. I was trying to think of something different that we haven’t had at home a lot, and jambalaya kept coming to mind. Since we both looooove Cajun food, I decided jambalaya would perfect (with a glass or two of champagne, of course!)!

jambalaya

And oh my gosh, it was SO good! I kinda-sorta followed a recipe, but mostly just threw stuff in. We absolutely loved it- I’ll definitely be making this over and over again. We had a wonderful, relaxing evening and this was a perfect meal to go with it! Who knows, maybe 50 years from now I’ll be serving this same jambalaya to my sweet hubby for our anniversary dinner!

Jambalaya
-(very loosely) adapted from Allrecipes.com

1 pound smoked sausage, sliced (I like to use turkey sausage)
1/2 pound peeled, deveined shrimp
2 bell peppers, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 ounce) can peeled and diced tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Cajun seasoning to taste
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
2 cups white rice

In a medium pot, bring 2 cups of the chicken broth to a boil and cook the rice as directed.  In a large pot over medium heat, cook bell pepper, onion and garlic in the oil until onion is translucent.
Stir in tomatoes, pepper sauce, cayenne, Worcestershire, Cajun seasoning and bay leaves; reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
Stir the shrimp and sausage into the spiced vegetables. Continue to simmer until flavor is as spicy as you like, adding the leftover chicken broth as needed to thin. Add the cooked rice and continue to cook for 10 minutes more.

*You may not need the entire amount of leftover chicken broth – just use as much as you need to get the jambalaya the consistency you want.

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Big Sister’s Cookin’….

My sister is one of those hard working women – with a job, a husband, a kid, a house and everything else to take care of, I don’t know how she manages to find time to cook (and sometimes she doesn’t – but a pizza night every now and then never hurt anybody, right?). Sometimes she’ll stumble across a recipe that was extra yummy and kindly pass it on to me (woo hoo!). The latest recipe she’s given me was this Okra Gumbo. Surprisingly easy and super fast, but really really tasty at the same time! Its one of those dinners that you can have on the table in no time on a busy night , yet it tastes like its been cooking all day! Hubby really enjoyed it, as did I! Thanks, big sis!! Keep the recipes comin’!

Lindsay’s Okra Gumbo

1-16 oz. package frozen cut okra, unthawed
1 onion, chopped (I used half)
1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes (don’t drain them)
2-3 slices bacon
salt & pepper and cajun seasoning (lots) to taste
(I added 1 1/2 chicken breasts cut up into small pieces for a little extra flavor)

In a large pot over medium-high heat, cook bacon, reserve grease. Remove the bacon from the pan and add the onion, cooking until translucent, then add the chicken (season it with a little s&p before tossing in) and sautee until cooked through. Add the frozen okra and tomatoes; season with plenty of salt and pepper and lots of Cajun seasoning (yum!), then add the bacon back in and cook over medium to low heat for 15 -20 minutes until heated through.

Serve over white rice.  *Here’s a little tip: throw in a splash of white vinegar – it helps to cut the okra’s “sliminess” and you don’t taste it a bit!

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