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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Essentials {Desserts and Cocktails- and special traditions}

Christmas Essentials {Desserts and Cocktails- and special traditions}

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It’s here! Christmas is here! We will soon be borderline diabetic, constantly drunk, and surrounded by people we love, or those we love to hate. What a glorious time of year. I have finished shopping, completed all food preparations, and am even getting things arranged for Shelby’s birthday party- her birthday is 12/26. Whew! What a busy time.

Christmas Eve Dessert. It is necessary, essential, important, mandatory. You get the picture. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post about cookies, I am not much of a baker. I can follow a recipe, but I don’t like to. Cooking comes from my heart and measuring is such a challenge for me. And the tedious aspect of cookie decorating- I’ll leave that to my friend, Sara. But, I love to bring desserts to family gatherings because it is something sweet that everyone loves. So, through the years, I have found a few fool-proof dessert recipes that are always a sure thing, and that even I cannot screw up.

This recipe for almond torte is courtesy of my mom. My mom made this sweet treat for Christmas one year and my husband has been obsessed ever since! He’s not even a dessert eater! He asks for it for every family function. This recipe is VERY simple. Coming from me, that means a lot. Everything mixes in one bowl and it doesn’t make a mess. The ingredients are probably things you have on hand. All I had to go out and buy were the almond slices and the almond extract. Oh, and by the way, it is so delicious. It would be great to serve after dinner with coffee, champagne, red wine, or a glass of Frangelico on the rocks.

Almond Torte

1 1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup melted butter

2 eggs

1 tsp almond extract

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt ( optional)

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour

3 Tb sliced almonds (for topping)

1 Tb sugar ( for topping)

Preheat oven 350*  Grease & flour 9″ round cake pan.  In bowl whisk sugar & melted butter together .  Beat in eggs.  Stir in almond & vanilla extracts.  Add salt & flour.  Stir well.  Spread batter in prepared pan.  Sprinkle almonds & sugar over the top.  Bake in 350* oven for 30-35 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

Cole slightly on wire rack.  Carefully run a knife around edges to loosen and turn out onto rack.  Invert onto serving plate almond side up.

NOTE: Ok so before, I said that this recipe was something I could not screw up. Well, I found a way!! Despite how much I cook, I don’t have fancy cook wear. I used an old cake pan and the torte stuck to the bottom of the pan. When I tried to take it out, it was stuck and crumbled. Hot mess. And typical of me when baking. So, I made another torte, and lined the pan with aluminum foil, going up the sides. That way, I was able to pop the torte out by pulling the foil.

Now, let’s talk cocktails. Last post we talked about hot grog- a festive, delicious beverage that can simmer on the stove for your Christmas open house. In addition to this, I always recommend having the following items on hand for a Christmas gathering:

Wine:

1 red and 1 white. I always buy 1 cab and 1 chardonnay, but occasionally add a pinot grigio for other white wine drinkers who like something lighter and more crisp than chardonnay. Also, chilled champagne is a must. Buy a brut champagne- I love Korbel. Recommendations for cab are Josh, 19 Crimes, True Myth, and La Crema. Suggestions for chardonnay are La Crema, Chateau St. Michelle, Edna Valley, True Myth. In addition to wine, a fun beer assortment is good- my husband loves the Abita Christmas Ale.

Liquor wise, I think a good vodka (Tito’s) is good and bloody mary accouterment. A bloody mary bar would be great for Christmas Day! I’d also consider buying Crown, soda, ginger ale, etc so people can have a few options.

My favorite liquor during the holidays is Frangelico. It is a hazelnut liquor and it is just heavenly! It tastes great straight, on the rocks, and is also delicious when adding a splash to champagne. Frangelico makes a great hostess gift, too!

Growing up, Christmas Eve was always a night where my dad would cook gumbo and my mom hosted open house. She’d prepare drinks and snacks and people come come and go as they pleased. We always went to mass on Christmas Eve. One year, we went to mass and came home to find that Santa passed early and brought a huge entertainment center complete with a big screen TV, a Nintendo 64 (it was the 90’s after all), a 6 CD changer, a VHS player, and tons of movies. My brother and I were SO pumped!!! We stayed up all night playing video games and watching movies. My brother and I slept in the den on the sofa bed that night. Those childhood memories are what make me love Christmas so much. Parents go above and beyond to make it special for their kids, and I love being able to pass down traditions of my own to my kids.

For Christmas Eve, it is tradition that my inlaws all go to Paw Paw Russell’s house. Every year, after 4:00 mass, everyone shows up to eat Paw Paw’s delicious food, open presents, and hang out. Well, this year the tradition has been moved to Terrent’s Uncle Shane’s house. I am so looking forward to being with my inlaws. I am so blessed to have a second family.

Cocktails are fun. Know what else is fun? Being SAFE! Don’t drink and drive, people!

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas Eve full of food, dessert, drinks, and family. Don’t let Christmas stress you out. Christmas is about peace, family, presents, food, and Jesus! Spread the love of Christmas, and Jesus, everywhere you go!!

God bless

xoxo- Cajun Queen

 

 

Christmas Essentials {Plantation hot grog and Chicken Scratch goodies}

Christmas Essentials {Plantation hot grog and Chicken Scratch goodies}

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Hey everyone!! It has truly been a great weekend. I have spent lots of time in my kitchen creating new things and that is what makes a great weekend for me. I love being in the kitchen with my family all year round, but around Christmastime it is extra special. I love playing Christmas music, drinking wine out of my Santa wineglass, and enjoying all the smells of whatever is cooking. It’s my happy place.

My mom made the suggestion to make Plantation Hot Grog for the blog, and I am so glad I took her advice! Moms are always right. When my parents worked at Nottoway Plantation, they would serve this hot grog to guests as they arrived for their candlelight tours of the beautiful antebellum home. My mom said guests loved being greeted with this warm, festive drink, but, the best part was the smell! Cinnamon, oranges and cloves….the whole place smelled like Christmas. Now that I’ve made this hot grog, I can account for that.

Plantation Hot Grog is like a warm, Christmas sangria. But white wine- nothing expensive. I used Woodbridge Sauvignon Blanc. Any white wine will do, my mom says she used to buy Franzia boxed wine for this. Just don’t buy a sweet wine, use something dry like Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, or Chardonnay. Second, you will need apple juice or apply cider. I used “Simply Apple” apple juice. Next, my mom said to add a little sugar. I added 1/4 of a cup and I found it a little too sweet. So, add sugar according to your likeness. I probably could have not used sugar and been fine with the added sweetness from the apple juice. You will need oranges and lemons, as well. Freshly squeezed lemon juice will go in, as well as orange slices. Then, you add the spices- cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. Let this lovely mixture simmer for about 20 minutes and get ready for your house to smell like a Southern Plantation home during Christmastime! This hot grog is perfect for a Christmas open house, or Christmas Eve get-together. Even if some people don’t drink, it creates an amazing aroma that will put a smile on all of your guests faces.

Recipe:

2 parts dry white wine

1 part apple juice or apple cider

sugar to taste

Fresh juice of 3 lemons

Spices: cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, dash of grated nutmeg

Garnish: sliced oranges

Pour the wine, juice in pot. Simmer 10 minutes. Stir in sugar, lemon juice. Simmer until sugar is dissolved into mixture.

Add spices (3-6 cinnamon sticks, 6-10 whole cloves, dash nutmeg). Add 4-6 orange slices. stir and simmer 15-25 minutes. Serve in clear mug with cinnamon stick.

While making the hot grog, I needed something to snack on. So, I pulled out a few goodies from my pantry by Chicken Scratch, LLC. My friend Casey Cheramie is the owner, and he is a caterer out of Galliano, LA. Every time my mom visits me she brings me some of his goodies because she knows I love them. I always keep a few things on hand because you can whip up something delicious and quick to bring with you to family gatherings, or just to snack on at home. He makes dip mixes, pepper jellies, desserts, tarts, custom cakes and desserts and SO much more. He sets up a booth at Reindeer Rowe, a shopping event in Thibodaux, every year right across from my mom’s Queeny’s booth. His booth is always the most hopping booth in the room! Everyone loves sampling his treats and buying them for the holidays. img_1115

I would say these goodies are a Christmas staple in my house. I used his Dill Dip Mix every year for Shelby’s birthday party- I plate it with smoked salmon. I haven’t tried to BBQ shrimp mix yet but I cannot wait! my Mom brought a walnut tart last weekend when she came to visit and it didn’t last 10 minutes. It was so delicious. The dip mixes either call for sour cream or mayonnaise, and the pepper jelly is delicious over cream cheese. So, just keep your fridge stocked with those things so when guests come over you can whip this up in no time. I love getting veggies to dip in the dip mixes. I use carrots, cherry tomatoes, and fresh broccoli. These nibbles are the perfect accompaniment to Plantation Hot Grog.

Pictured: Bacon Dip (mixes with sour cream), Sundried tomato basil dip (mixes with sour cream and mayo), fresh veggies

Here’s the website for more info on Chicken Scratch, LLC

http://www.chickenscratchllc.com

Cream cheese with Crawfish Pepper jelly and crackers

I hope you guys try the Plantation Hot Grog. It is inexpensive and delicious and really made my home smell amazing. I loved hearing my mom tell the story of how they served it there. I grew up at Nottoway because my parents worked there my whole life, and I can’t explain the magical aura that is there during Christmastime. It is so beautifully decorated and truly feels like something out of a movie. Making this hot grog brought me back there. If you ever have the opportunity to visit there during Christmas- GO!

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I hope everyone is having a wonderful Christmas season. I know it can be stressful. But put the stress aside and spend time with loved ones in the kitchen. I promise it’s good for your soul.

xoxo- Cajun Queen

Christmas Essentials {Christmas cookies and kiddos}

Christmas Essentials {Christmas cookies and kiddos}

Hey y’all. Today is part 3 of my “Christmas Essentials” series! I am truly feeling the holiday spirit this year and I’m pretty excited about it. It has been exactly 1 year since I created this blog, and it is approaching my sweet Shelby’s 2nd birthday. She was born the day after Christmas! This year I’ve enjoyed getting gifts together as well as preparing food for the festivities.

This post is very special to me because there are 3 little people in my life who mean the world to me- my kids. I have a 9 year old stepdaughter, Andrea, a 7 year old step-son, Jai, and my 2 year old baby, Shelby. These 3 little humans really taught me so much about life. Andrea and Jai were 4 and 2 when I came into their lives and they changed me from that day forward. I had never spent time with kids before that, and I remember really enjoying being around them and helping care for them. I still enjoy that and enjoy watching them grow. Andrea LOVES to cook with me and Jai has started enjoying it, too. Shelby is 2 and is the light of my world. She is in the kitchen with me when I cook, and we often dance together in the kitchen which is so much fun. Shelby idolizes Andrea and loves to boss Jai around. My house is constantly a mess and a bit chaotic- and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I remember years ago, before meeting my step kids, I used to say “It doesn’t feel like Christmas this year”. I soon learned it was because 1. I wasn’t a kid anymore and 2. I didn’t have kids in my life. Once I met them and took them to Christmas events like Acadian Village and the Christmas Stroll, I realized what Christmas is all about: kids. I’ll never forget the first year I spent Christmas with them, when we geared up for Santa Clause. We put out reindeer food, baked Christmas cookies for Santa, and they slept on a pallet in our room because they were THAT excited. It was so magical and since that time, I have a new love for Christmas. Now that sweet Shelby is here, it’s even more special! 2 years ago, I went to the hospital on Christmas day to deliver my sweet girl. She came the next day, on 12/26, and I will never forget it. The hospital was decorated with Christmas everything, the nurses wore Santa hats, and I received the best Christmas gift of my life: my first born.

This year I decided to start a Christmas tradition with my kids-to bake Santa’s cookies together. Andrea loves to bake and bakes often with my mother in law. I, however, am not much of a baker. Measuring is tough for me–I am Johnny Jam’s daughter and we create food by throwing things together! It really is so hard for me to be exact when I’m cooking. But, I have 1 blog that is my go-to for all things baking. Sally’s Baking Addiction! I learned of this blog when listening to a podcast about food blogging and have been hooked ever since. Sally turned a passion into a career, which I find so inspiring! She is very creative when baking and she creates simple recipes that I can follow. I go to her every year for Christmas cookie recipes and she never disappoints. My kids and I made some brown butter sugar cookies from her site and man-they were delicious! Even Shelby was able to help with the sprinkles. It was so much fun.

The recipe for these cookies is below along with the link to Sally’s site.

http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2016/12/07/brown-butter-sugar-cookies/

Ingredients:

    • 1 cup (16 Tbsp; 230g) unsalted butter
    • 2 cups + 2 Tablespoons (265g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated suagr
    • 3/4 cup (150g) packed light brown sugar
    • 1 large egg, at room temperature
    • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    • optional: sprinkles and/or nonpareils for topping

Directions:

  1. Brown the butter: Have a large heat proof bowl handy. Slice the butter into pieces and place in a light-colored skillet. (Light colored helps you determine when the butter begins browning.) Melt the butter over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Once melted, the butter will begin to foam. Keep whisking occasionally. After 5-8 minutes, the butter will begin browning– you’ll notice lightly browned specks begin to form at the bottom of the pan and it will have a nutty aroma. See photo above for a visual. Once browned, remove from heat immediately, pour into bowl. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar to the brown butter. Using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat together on medium-high speed until relatively combined, about 1 minute. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.
  4. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and begin beating together on low speed, slowly working up to high speed until everything is combined. The dough will be thick and a little greasy. That’s ok! Just roll into balls as best you can in the next step.
  5. Roll the dough into balls, about 1 Tablespoon of dough each, and dip the tops into sprinkles. Place dough balls tightly together on a lined baking sheet (or a couple large plates). Loosely cover with plastic wrap and  place in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. (Always recommended for cookies.)
  7. Line chilled dough balls onto baking sheets about 3 inches apart. Bake for 12-13 minutes or until lightly browned on the sides. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.

Make ahead tip: Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 1 week. You can make the cookie dough, roll into balls as directed in step 5 and chill it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Allow to come to room temperature then continue with step 6. Baked cookies freeze well for up to 3 months. Unbaked cookie dough balls freeze well for up to 3 months. Bake frozen cookie dough balls for an extra minute, no need to thaw. Click here for my tips and tricks on freezing cookie dough.

Cajun Queen thoughts:
This is the perfect holiday cookie recipe because you can make them ahead of time and are perfect if guests come by! They are also cute and festive and perfect to bring to your family holiday Christmas event. The kids really helped make these, so when you bring them to people they will love hearing how your kids helped. Sally explains how browning the butter first gives the cookies a deep, nutty flavor and aroma, and I definitely agree!
Know what my favorite part about this post was? All the nonsense and BS in the world was non existent while I baked with my kids. Kids are so innocent and sweet, and being around them during Christmastime reminds me what Christmas is all about. It’s about magic. It’s about Santa. It’s about that time in our lives where we innocently believed. I encourage you to spend time baking cookies with the special little people in your lives. You won’t be disappointed in the nostalgia it provides. Oh, and don’t worry about the mess. I had flour and sprinkles all over my kitchen. But, I promise, ttrfgnnfc ccccccccccccccv     bvn,//kdfcccfdczcccccccccccccccccccccccccccz vdcche laughs and memories outweigh the mess.
xoxo- Cajun Queen
Christmas Essentials {being festive with the Cajun Queen}

Christmas Essentials {being festive with the Cajun Queen}

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Hey y’all! well, it’s almost the 1 year anniversary of the blog. I started this blog around Christmastime last year, and this year, I’m reminded why. Because Christmastime leaves me feeling happy, inspired, and creative. I love all the decorations everywhere, the good moods people are in, and the Advent season in the church. It’s a special time of year to be around friends, family, and coworkers.

While I love this time of year, it can also be a bit stressful. My family lives in different areas, so the planning, traveling, shopping and cooking can be a bit tiresome. Not to mention, now that I am married, I have TWO families to be with during the holidays. While I feel blessed to have a second family adopt me, I like to feel prepared for everything the holidays throw at me. Not to mention, we have 3 kids that everyone wants to see. So, like every normal person with anxiety who’s mind runs when they lay down at night (you know you do that too), I thought last night to write up a few blog posts sharing some of my Christmas essentials that I keep on hand at all time in order to celebrate the holidays with grace, style, and hospitality. So my next few posts will be mini blog posts of my must-haves during this time of year!

My mom, being the good, Southern woman that she is, always taught me to have a few staples in my home at all times. She was always ready for visitors and enjoyed being hospitable to anyone who came to her home, especially during the holidays. The holidays is a time of year where people bring gifts to each other, visit family, and we all have more visitors than usual. So, it is of utmost importance that a Southerner’s kitchen maintains certain important culinary delights to share with our guests who visit. So, put on some Christmas music, light a Christmas tree candle, plug in your tree and let’s be jolly dammit!

My first post is simple, and all about one of my favorite things in the world…. a cheese tray! Every time I visit my mom’s house, I swear by the time I go to my room to put down my bag, she is greeting me with a beautiful tray of cheese, fruit, crackers, and cured meat. It makes me feel so loved and like I am back home again. My sister in law, Blair, is the master of a charcuterie, where she displays many different kinds of cured meats, cheeses, and fruits. Blair has an eye for how to make a charcuterie look perfect because of her talented, artistic design styles she displays in pretty much everything she does. She brings a charcuterie to every family function and it’s always a hit. Anyone can make this…buy the things you like, plate them up on a pretty cheese plate, pour some wine or champagne for your guests, and enjoy. Christmas guests will feel special, welcomed and loved whilst nibbling on yummy bites and sipping a glass of cab. Also, if you get invited to a last minute Christmas soiree, this is super impressive to bring there.

Heres what I did to create my cheese tray. Here we go!

Music: Christmas music, duh. I’ve been listening to Michael Buble’ Christmas Pandora Station. So many good classics as well as newer Christmas hits.

Wine pairing: During the holidays it’s important to have several options for guests. My mom always taught me to have 1 white wine, 1 red wine, and a champagne cocktail option in my home at all times. I will do another post later specific to this. But for now, make sure you have 1 good red, and 1 good white.

Purchase:

Grapes

Strawberries

Crackers (my mom swears you have to buy “upscale crackers” or “Boujie crackers”…basically Ritz are unacceptable here. find something that is grainy, flavorful and substantial enough to withhold all the meat and cheese.

Cheese of your choice- I went to Rouses and chose a Havarti with Dill as well as a Henning Mango Fire cheddar cheese. Other good options are Brie, Goat cheese, or Boursin. If you go to Whole Foods they let you sample the cheese which is amazing, kind, and gives me hope in humanity.

Nuts of any kind, but preferably a good mix of nuts that are candied. Many areas have fantastic local businesses that sell these kinds of treats- find them and buy them! Today I found some almonds and put those out but plan to sugar my own nuts during the holidays, because…festive.

For the cured meat I chose Crespone. It is described as country-style salami with a buttery finish. The meat looked well seasoned and I liked the bite-size slices. It is yummy and tastes great folded around the cheese.

Other good additions to the cheese tray are smoked salmon, boudin (because yes) or any other cured meats you may enjoy (prosciutto, salmi, pepperoni, etc. Try something new!)

Place the items on your tray, pour your wine, and enjoy those around you. Christmas=love.

Any un-eaten cheese, meat, or fruits can be re-refrigerated and prepared again for your next guests, or holiday soiree. Or, maybe just for you. Because sometimes we are alone but want to be festive, eat good food, drink good wine, and enjoy life dammit. I mean, I’ve heard other people say they do this. (not me)

Next posts will be fun and will include my choices for wine, cocktails, sweets, and overall atmosphere setting in the home during the holidays. Ahh I love this time of year!!

be merry. don’t be an asshole. simple right?

xoxo-Cajun Queen

 

Grown-Up Growth Spurts {and Johnny Jam’s Famous Jambalaya}

Grown-Up Growth Spurts {and Johnny Jam’s Famous Jambalaya}

So. Here we are. I haven’t written a blog post in awhile…and I know for certain I have missed writing, cooking, and story telling. I’ve also heard from a few people that they’ve missed my posts, and they hoped I’d be back soon. Well, here I am. Still the same, but different.

The last few months have been….well….busy. Life is unpredictable, nonstop, and exciting…to say the least. Work took me to Pittsburgh, Christ took me to Cursillo, marriage brought me to celebrate my 3 year wedding anniversary, and parenting got me to watch Frozen 132423989 times. It has been quite the wild ride, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Do you remember when you were little, and your pediatrician had a measuring tape on the wall? Perhaps you had one in your home? Wasn’t it exciting to see how much you were growing? Taller and taller each month, your parents may have said “wow! You really hit a growth spurt!” …..after lots of reflecting, I’ve been thinking. In addition to those physical growth spurts as kids, maybe we go through growth spurts as adults. Even though emotional growth cannot be measured on a measuring tape at our pediatricians office, perhaps we have some internal growth that we feel. Perhaps this growth teaches us new ideals and guides us in this complicated world. And maybe, just maybe, this growth can guide us internally, and help us become who we were created to be.

As some of you know, I am a social worker who works for Amedisys Hospice as a Clinical Hospice Liaison. I have an MSW, or a Master’s Degree in Social Work, and I have experience dealing with end of life issues, particularly hospice and the benefit it provides to patients and families every day. Amedisys is a fantastic company and believes in training us regularly. Back in September, Amedisys sent me to Pittsburgh to work alongside my peers to discuss end of life issues and concerns. But, most importantly, we learned how to make an impact in our medical communities by educating those around us about the hospice benefit and the incredible blessings that come from empowering patients and families to know more about terminal illness and treating symptoms of these patients. I met new friends, learned a ton, and had a lot of fun. It was good for my soul and helped me come home with a fresh heart, ready to help others. Most importantly, my time with my colleagues in Pittsburgh tapped into my social work heart and reminded me to search for my “WHY”. My “WHY” is simply that I have a bleeding heart and want to help others. This gave me a re-start and helped me beyond belief in regards to my job and daily encounters with people as they encounter end of life issues.

Soon following my travels to Pittsburgh, I found myself in Opelousas, LA making my Cursillo. Cursillo is a weekend event that is similar to a retreat and is often referred to as “spiritual bootcamp”. What goes on during Cursillo weekend is top secret, as the weekend is perceived differently through the eyes of all attendees, so we do not want to tarnish the experience for anyone. All I can say is: it is intense. It is life changing. And I will never be the same. My relationship with Christ has strengthened beyond belief as has my faith in the Catholic Church. I’ve become a better wife, mother, friend, and human. What a blessing, and what a spiritual awakening.

In addition to these events, I’ve spent the last few months doing a little bit of soul searching on my own. It’s during this time that I have dubbed the term “Grown-up Growth Spurts” because…well.. there’s no other way I can explain it. Becoming an “adult” has been challenging to say the least. And I often think “Am I doing this right?”. I now laugh at my self-doubt. Because now I am in a place of clarity where I am aware….NO ONE KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE DOING!!

In the last few months I’ve learned some lessons I’d like to share.

  1. When things get rough, push harder. Don’t quit.
  2. The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them
  3. Family first.
  4. You will not always be everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s ok
  5. Guard your heart

This is just a small snippet of what I’ve been going through and thinking of the last few months. I won’t bore you with the specific details. However, I share this with you to encourage YOU to spend some time reflecting on your own “Grown-Up Growth Spurts”. I truly believe that it is up to each of us to be the BEST that we can be. Spend the time doing the things that make you happy. Be with the people you love, and who love you back. Go to the places where you feel happy. Let these positive environments mold you into who you are supposed to be.

Another piece of where I’ve been the last few months is the month of September. September 10 made the 3 year anniversary of my dad’s death. I thought for sure that I would create a fabulous blog post displaying his best stories and most special recipes in order to celebrate his life during this month. But, no matter how hard I tried to be positive, September brought me a great deal of pain and the need to withdraw from most people and spend time alone. During that time, I put focus on work and family. I spent time alone and focused on prayer—particularly intimate conversations with my dad. It was just what I needed, and I am happy I listened to my needs and took care of myself.

I will wrap up this emotionally tumultuous post with this quote: “Be who God created you to be, and you will set the world on fire”. – St. Catherine of Siena

I share this quote with you to encourage you, despite you religious beliefs, to work towards becoming your best self. We were all created for a purpose…what is yours? Be who God created you to be….and you will set the world on fire. Won’t you try to set the world on fire with me?

Ok. Mushiness over. Now, I’d like to share my dad’s famous recipe for jambalaya. As many of you know, my dad was known as Johnny “Jambalaya”, due to his legendary jambalaya recipe. My dad’s jambalaya was not your average jambalaya. Some jambalaya can be mushy, have a brown color to it, and be quite flavorless, if I’m being honest. Not my dad’s jambalaya. My dad uses his creole style of cooking when making jambalaya and adds tomato and tomato sauce to it, making it rich, flavorful, spicy and just downright delicious. My dad never wrote down recipes. Like ever. But, he cooked this jambalaya on the Food Network with Bobby Flay and the recipe remains on the food network website to this day, so I follow that. Bobby Flay traveled down to South Louisiana and spent the day with my dad at Nottoway Plantation and learned how to cook jambalaya from the best. My dad was so excited to share his love with Bobby- they had an instant connection. My dad has cooked jambalaya for many celebrities, but, growing up, my dad cooked for friends and family in Plaquemine and I know for certain that those people were his favorite guests of all. He so enjoyed making this for everyone and also enjoyed the music, friendship, and love that ensued around the table as everyone ate. Jambalaya is good. Jambalaya is simple. And, in my language, jambalaya means love. Try it and let me know what you think. Every time I cook it, I swear my dad is in the kitchen with me.


NOTE: I followed his recipe but used more chicken stock- about 4 cups instead of 3. I also used 3 roma tomatoes instead of the 2 it calls for in the recipe. And, to shorten things up a bit, I used Guidry’s seasoning for the onion, bell pepper and celery. For Cajun seasoning, I used red pepper, black pepper, a little salt, and garlic powder. I also seasoned with dry parsley flakes. Season it how you like it.

Here we go!

Music pairing: The Revitalists- our new obsession! Going see them in concert in New Orleans New Year’s Eve. Try them out!

Wine pairing: Sterling Cabernet

Ingredients

1 pound smoked sausage

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped bell pepper

1/4 cup chopped celery

Creole seasoning

2 tomatoes, diced (I used 3 roma tomatoes)

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

2 cups de-boned turkey or chicken

3 cups rice

4 cups chicken or turkey stock

Directions

Cut the sausage and brown in it in a heavy pot over medium heat, stirring regularly. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, and Creole seasoning, to taste; saute until vegetables are soft. Add tomatoes, sauce, and the turkey or chicken. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add rice and stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off and let stand for 15 minutes. Fluff before serving. Garnish with green onion.

in case you’re interested for the recipe that is on the food network, here it is!!

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/jambalaya-recipe3.html

I am so happy to be back. Please send me any topic or recipe you’d like to see on the blog

xoxo

cajun queen