Back of the Stove Chicken {and cooking from the heart}

Back of the Stove Chicken {and cooking from the heart}

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HAPPY SUNDAY! I hope you are all having a great, long Memorial Day weekend. I know I am. Instead of going out of town like many of our friends, we decided on a “staycation” right here at home, and it has been relaxing. We slept as late as the toddler would allow, cooked some good food, did a little swimming, and took naps. I love weekends like this!

This blog post is devoted to YOU, the reader! One thing I would love to teach and empower my readers to do is to find a recipe, let it inspire you, and make it your own. That is something I did last week, and it has created so many smiles in my home! There are so many incredible recipes out there on blogs, Pinterest, facebook, etc. I LOVE watching videos on my Facebook newsfeed from Tasty and websites likes that, because they show, in a quick clip, how to cook really creative things that keep me inspired in the kitchen. While these recipes are great, most of the time, they are not Cajun!! So, being the resourceful Cajun woman that I am, I watch these videos and read these recipes, but I take my own notes and create my own version of the dish. Basically, I add a little Cajun Queen flair—my husband says that this is when I create magic in the kitchen.

It all starts like this. If I am in the grocery store and I see something on sale, or just particularly interesting that I rarely use to cook with, I grab it and figure out the details later. In this case, I picked up some seasoned bone-in skin-on chicken thighs from our local grocer, Robie’s in Abbeville. I am a regular at Robies, I’m there at least 3 times a week, and all the cashiers know Shelby and I (we are probably known as the girl in scrubs who’s buying wine and chicken salad on the reg, with the blond toddler screaming for Cheetos). Anyway, Robie’s recently changed things up in the store, both aesthetically as well as with the merchandise they are carrying. Lately, I have been trying new foods like a great new coffee creamer, kombucha, delicious artisan cheeses, and do not forget about their chicken salad. Robie’s sells the best chicken salad in America. Robie’s chicken salad is this country’s backbone. Ok so we really love their chicken salad. They have 3 different versions: regular, jalapeno, and spicy. Our favorite is the spicy chicken salad. We pair it with fresh cut veggies or spicy pita chips, and let me tell you, we never fail to consume an entire container in one evening.

Another great thing about my local grocer, is their meat market. I LOVE the way they season their meat. They sell incredible chicken patties, beef patties, bacon wrapped jalapenos, spinach stuffed chicken breast, and delicious Steen’s sausage! When my mom comes to town for a visit, she always has to stop at Robie’s for her “Robie’s Fix”, which is all of the above. I have always purchased these things at Robie’s, but recently I branched out and bought their raw chicken. Their chicken is seasoned with a simple combination of cayenne, black pepper, salt and garlic powder. Chicken is actually out of my comfort zone, because I rarely cook it. Honestly, in my experience, chicken is dry and boring. However, Robie’s has a great way to present foods, because they have a cooler full of seasoned chicken that was calling my name. So, when I got home with the chicken, I began my research.

I must have spent hours on Pinterest, searching for recipes using bone-in skin-on chicken thighs. That’s when I came across this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, SkinnyTaste. SkinnyTaste food blog is one of my favorites because she cooks exciting, flavorful foods that are healthy, too! She includes calories, weight watchers points, etc so her readers are able to try fun things in the kitchen while making their health a priority. I LOVE that! Anyway, I recently came across her recipe for Spanish Chicken and Rice. I make her recipes all the time, but this one was extra impressive. Of course, I made several variations to the recipe, but her method for cooking the chicken and rice together in one pot is what inspired me to do so. Here is the link for her recipe for Spanish chicken and rice.

http://www.skinnytaste.com/spanish-chicken-and-rice-5-ww-pts/

So, how did I change it up? For starters, I used those bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs from Robie’s I told yall about. (The recipe calls for boneless skinless thighs that she cuts up before cooking.) I also added a few Cajun-necessary items such as Cajun Power Spicy Garlic sauce, Worcestershire and bay leaves. I also changed up the technique, as I didn’t put the onions and bell peppers in a food processor, I just chopped them. Oh, and I definitely left out the olives because my husband hates olives (I think it would be delicious with olives, however).

So with the changes I made to the recipe, what did I find? A Spanish/Cajun chicken and rice concoction that my husband and I could NOT get enough of!!!! This meal was so delicious, spicy, satisfying, and the leftovers were better than the first time I cooked it, which is a huge win for a Sunday dinner, because you can heat it up and enjoy it all week. I named my version of this dish “Back of the stove chicken” because you can really just put it to the back of your stove and not worry about it for a little while while you do housework and other Sunday activities. I cooked my “back of the stove chicken” in a large Calphalon pot, and let it simmer away during a lazy Sunday afternoon. I’ve made it twice since then. It’s quick and easy enough to make it during the week, too.

I really hope yall try this one and enjoy it as much as we did. But, most of all, I hope that you go grocery hunting and find things you’ve never cooked before. Being resourceful and learning more about food is what makes us Cajun after all. So get out there and buy something new at the store. Find recipes you like and combine them, change them up. You never know what you’ll create!

Here we go!

Music Pairing: Gregg Allman or the Allman Brothers. RIP Gregg Allman

Wine Pairing: Old Soul Pinot Noir, or Ava Grace Chardonnay

Ingredients:

  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium bell pepper, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 4 cups water
  • 3/4 cups light beer
  • 2 oz tomato sauce
  • 2 chipotle in adobo peppers, chopped with sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire 
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Sauce 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • Black pepper 
  • Cayenne pepper 
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 1 packet Badia sazon (find in a packet in the Mexican section of your grocery store)
  • 6 oz frozen mixed vegetables (I used combo of peas and carrots)
  • 2 1/4 cups uncooked jasmine rice

In a large heavy pot with a good fitting lid such as a Dutch oven; heat 1 tsp of oil and cook chicken, skin side down first, until brown…about 10 minutes on each side. Remove chicken and set aside.

Do not drain fat. Add onions, peppers, garlic and cilantro. Sauté, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add water, beer, tomato sauce, chicken stock, sazon, and chicken. Cook 30-45 minutes on medium heat.

Add frozen mixed vegetables and rice. Stir and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until water boils down and barely skims the top. Once the water level reaches the top of the rice, cover with a tight fitting lid so no steam escapes and cook 25-30 minutes.

When you take the lid off, fluff rice with a fork and serve. The chicken may be falling off the bone, and the skin may be falling off as well…which is good! That means all the flavor from the skin and the bone was released into the food! C’est Bon!

I hope you try this recipe and love it as much as we do. It’s definitely on our weekly dinner rotation now.

God bless our troops. God bless those who have fought for our freedom. And God bless YOU! Eat something good, drink a cold one, and be thankful for this American life.

Xoxo- Cajun Queen

“Gotta let your soul shine, it’s better than sun shine. Better than moon shine. Damn sure better than the rain” – Gregg Allman

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Granny’s White Beans {and living your best life}

Granny’s White Beans {and living your best life}

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Weekends. We all have different reasons we love the weekend. All week long, we work hard, counting down the days until Friday. I love my job as a hospice social worker, so much so that it doesn’t feel like work. However, nothing compares to being at home with my family on the weekends. What do I love most about weekends? The familiar sounds and delicious smells of Saturday mornings make up my weekend dreams. I love waking up, hearing the music playing in the kitchen, smelling the bacon cooking, and hearing little footsteps and laughter in my house. When I walk into the kitchen, my husband greets me with a kiss, a cup of coffee, and a dance. It’s so simple, but it is truly my happy place. I walk into the living room, hear the Saturday morning cartoons, and am greeted by beautiful children, still sleepy, messy hair, wrapped up in blankets, asking for pancakes. Being a wife and mother is hard, but so rewarding, especially in little moments like these. Life has been extra sweet lately, and I am soaking it all in.

So, my life has been through so many changes the last couple months! I accepted a new job, working as a social worker for Acadian Hospice and Palliative Care. My heart is so full every day when I get home from work, knowing I helped someone die with dignity and grace. I bought a new car, and almost bought a new house. I am a Taurus, and Taurus’ hate change, by the way. But, all these changes taught me something. We all need to find our garden. No matter where you are, go find happiness. If you are around people who are hurtful, stop spending time with them. If your job isn’t fulfilling, make a move. If you aren’t healthy, join a gym and eat some veggies. Basically, find your garden, means to find a beautiful life, and spend time with people who will water your garden, not destroy it. Life is short, and must be spent only in happiness, or else, what is this all for? So, put your phones down, look up, and smile at others. You never know what they may be going through. Take time to enjoy your Saturday mornings with music and breakfast. Tell your spouse you are thankful for them, tell them something that they do really well. Life is a precious, precious gift. Don’t waste it.

Now, to the point of this post… we are going to talk about a woman who always lived for the moment. That woman is my paternal grandmother, my Granny. Granny was born Ivy Mae Talbot, but EVERYONE knew her as “Toot”, pronounced “Tuht”. Granny was born and raised in Labadieville, LA, where her family owned a local grocery mercantile store. She married my grandfather, Sterling Percle from Plaquemine, LA. Sterling (Paw Paw to me) was a quiet, kind man who allowed his bride to be herself. And boy, was she something else. My Granny was such a beautiful woman, inside and out. She had a larger than life personality, loved filling her wine glass to the brim, and celebrated Mardi Gras like it was Christmas. Maybe my apple didn’t fall far from her tree? Anyway, she was a great inspiration to me and I am so excited to share my story of her.

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Pictured: Granny and I at Mardi Gras in Thibodaux

My way of sharing her story is to share her recipe for white beans with you. These white beans….well…they’re kind of famous. Everyone all over Thibodaux sought after this recipe for years. It was, however, kept a secret. After she passed away, we finally got our hands on it, and it is my go-to comfort food recipe ever since. Something about the smell, the taste, it brings me back to her kitchen, where I loved spending time with her. Anyone who knows my Granny (aka “Toot) knows about her white beans. I love making them with leftover ham meat and the ham bone. If you have a leftover ham from Easter you are about to throw away, don’t! Instead, use it to make these white beans! They are inexpensive and simple to make. My favorite part of making this dish? I have her handwritten copy of the recipe. A little piece of her is always with me when I cook it. Our family always tells “Toot stories” at every gathering. We laugh about how she methodically organized Mardi Gras beads, labeling the boxes “Long Pearl Beads” and “Very Long Pearl Beads” and “Very, Very long, nice, pearl beads”. Her house was always spotless. She taught me how to peel crawfish. She knew EVERYONE in Thibodaux, Napoleonville, Labadieville, and she would tell you stories about her “good friends” as if you knew exactly who she was talking about. She had beautiful, silver hair. She wore sassy little matching pantsuits. She was Southern. She was Cajun. She was beautiful, inside and out. Family was most important to her. My parents worked at the restaurant most holidays, so she would drive from Thibodaux to Plaquemine to pick up my brother and I, just so she could take us to the annual Easter crawfish boil at Aunt Joyce and Uncle Ray’s house in Napoleonville. When she cooked her white beans, she would reserve them in tiny little containers, and she’d hand them out to visitors. Such a delicacy, her white beans, guests were lucky if they went home with just a taste.

There is something so nostalgic about the recipe. I so enjoy cooking it, taking a step back in time, when things were simple. Before social media, cell phones, Kardashians and Wal-Mart, people were forced to live a slower life, where they took pleasure in the small things. I find myself drawn to these recipes and memories when things are tough, and I’m going through changes. Food and music has this effect on me….to transform me into who I once was, and embrace who I’ve become. Fact: there is nothing more soothing to the soul than a pot of white beans on the stove, good music playing in the background, and wine being poured. Everything around you just stops, nothing else matters. Granny loved calling friends over by saying “If you’d like to stop by I have some white beans on the stove”. No one turned down that invitation.

Here we go:

Music pairing: Cajun/Zydeco

Wine Pairing: Old Soul chardonnay

Tip: serve with jambalaya. My dad always served jambalaya with white beans and mixed them together. Refer back to previous post for jambalaya recipe

Granny Toot’s White Beans:

Ingredients:

2 lbs white beans

1 lb salt meat (I use leftover ham and hambone, if I have it.)

2 onions, chopped

1 cup vegetable oil

½ teaspoon cayenne (I put more, like 1 teaspoon)

Instructions:

Soak beans overnight. In the morning, drain the beans. Put them in a pot in hot, clear water and bring to a boil. Boil until tender, when you can smash the beans to the side of the pot. Boil salt meat until tender and cut in to pieces (if using a leftover ham, skip this step. Simply cut the meat into small, bite-sized pieces. Reserve meat with the ham bone).

In another pot on medium high heat, put cut meat (if using leftover ham, add the bone)and chopped onions and cook until onions are cooked, translucent. Add this to the beans when they are tender. Cook everything for a while on low heat.

This recipe is simple, and it’s straight from Granny. I typed it from her actual recipe card. I love reading it, it makes me think of her. I miss her everyday.

Have a great week! Love you guys

Xoxo-Cajun Queen