Stew

Cajun Pasta’laya

I’ve been in a Cajun influenced state of craving lately and was REALLY wanting a New Orleans staple…jambalaya!  My only problem (ok it’s not quite a “problem” but an annoyance of mine) is that I have two toddlers and when they eat rice, well it’s not a pretty sight.  I’d say they get 1 grain of rice in their tiny mouths for every 53 pieces on my floor.  

So hey!  Let’s substitute pasta noodles (MUCH easier for them to use a fork with or even fingers) and have ourselves some dinner!  It worked out great, wasn’t too spicy, wasn’t too mild.  The boys and hubby enjoyed it alike and guess what??  There was no damn rice all over my floor when dinner was over!  Happy momma!

The Starting Lineup

  • 1/2 lb chicken (Breasts or tenders), cut into pieces
  • 1 pckg large/extra large shrimp 
  • 1 pckg andouille sausage, cut into 1/2″ slices
  • 12oz penne pasta noodles
  • 1 15oz can of diced tomatoes (undrained)…I like one with cajun flavors of celery, onion, bell pepper
  • 1 each green & red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp+ of cajun seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Green onions, sliced (garnish)
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese (garnish)
  • Crystal, Louisiana or Tabasco sauce (garnish)  

Start this feast with a ‘kick’ by prepping all of your meats, shrimp and veggies.  In two large seperate bowls (1 for chicken & 1 for shrimp), add a hefty teaspoon of Cajun seasoning to each and toss to coat.  Set aside.  Mince, dice and chop up veggies and get the EVOO heated up over medium heat in a large pan.  Also bring water to boil in a large pot for the noodles. 

     Once the oil is up to temp, add in the seasoned chicken and begin to cook.  Once just starting to brown, add in the onion, bell peppers, garlic and sliced andouille sausage.  Cook till chicken is no longer pink and the vegetables are starting to sweat/soften.  Remove the cooked chicken, sausage & veggies and set aside. 

 Next, in the same large pan, (add in a bit of butter or oil if needed) add the seasoned shrimp.  Cook just a couple minutes on each side (don’t let them curl up completely up on you.  You want the appearance of the letter ‘C’, not an ‘O’ for perfectly cooked shrimp).  Remove from pot and set aside with the other cooked goodies. 

   *By now your pasta should be al dente (boil 1-2 minutes under package directions)!  Drain and set aside. 

 Back in that same large pan, add in the butter and flour while whisking away to form a rue.  While still whisking, incorporate the heavy cream until it’s creamy and smooth. 

       Next, add in the entire can of diced tomatoes (juice & all) and stir to combine.  Here you can taste for heat level and add in either/or another tsp or two of Cajun seasoning or a couple dashes of southern style hot sauce.  Once that is perfected, add back in all of the cooked veggies, meats and shrimp and toss in the cooked penne pasta noodles! *Add more milk/cream if it becomes too thick.

     Spoon into serving bowls and top with the freshly grated Parmesan and green onions!  Enjoy!!!  *You can also add the cheese and green onion to pan at the end if serving buffet style. 

 

Chili Blanco

I’ve never met a chili I didn’t like, seriously.  With beans, without beans (‘Bowl of Red’), smoked chipotle, turkey, mol√© style…I could go on and on and on..and I will.

Contrary to its pale appearance, the recipe below for Chili Blanco (blanco means white ūüėČ) is hardly pale in flavor.  The roasted peppers add depth with a touch of heat, the Monterey Jack cheese and white beans add creaminess and the cumin, oregano, cayenne and garlic round out that south-of-the-border flavor.  This one here is a winner when you’re looking to branch out on your chili culinary adventure!

The Starting Lineup

  • 1lb white beans (Great White Northern), soaked overnight & rinsed OR 3 cans, drained & rinsed
  • 3 cups cooked shredded & chopped chicken (you can use a rotisserie chicken if needed)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 (4oz) cans of chopped green chilis
  • 1 roasted poblano, skinned, seeded & chopped
  • 1 roasted jalape√Īo, skinned, seeded & chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 48oz chicken broth
  • 1 cup Jack cheese, shredded
  • EVOO 

Garnish Ideas

  • Avocado slices
  • Cilantro
  • Sour cream
  • Lime wedges
  • Jack cheese, shredded  

Assuming your chicken is cooked, beans are soaked and rinsed (if using dried) and your poblano & Jalapeno have been roasted, etc…let’s begin!! Whew!… 

 In a large dutch oven over medium heat, add in about 2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Once heated, toss in the onions and cook till translucent (about 10 minutes). 

 To the sweated down onions, add in the green chilis, poblano, jalape√Īo, garlic, cumin, mexican oregano & cayenne. Stir together for 1 minute. 
   Next add in the beans, chicken broth and the shredded & chopped chicken and bring to a low boil. 
 Once the bubbles start rolling, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Stir about every hour or so for 2-3 hours (1 hour if using canned beans…but the longer the better either way really).
Finally, about 30 minutes before you plan to eat, mix in that cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Re-cover and allow to melt in! 
 Serve this complex flavored chili with a dollop of sour cream, fresh cilantro, avocado slices and a lime wedge…oh and don’t forget more cheese and a fresh tortilla for dunking!! Enjoy! xo 
 

Creole Gulf Shrimp

What do you make when you have an extra bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer and a few pantry staples?  Well let me happily tell you, because this creole seafood dish is a winner!  Another plus of this meal is that it’s ready in mere minutes and you can have a gourmet dinner for your family without even leaving your home!

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 1/2 lb large/extra large shrimp, peeled & deveined 
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 stick butter, unsalted & softened
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp cajun/creole seasoning
  • Dash of Tabasco sauce 
  • Pinch each of ground pepper & kosher salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Garnish

  • Rice
  • Parsley
  • Lemon wedges
  • Crusty Bread (for dipping)  

Start this fun and delicious meal by peeling the shell off of the shrimp *I personally like to leave the tail on, looks ‘pretty’, but up to you. 

 In a large bowl, combine the minced garlic, cajun seasoning and the salt & pepper.  Add the shrimp to the seasoning blend and toss to coat. 

   In a large saut√© pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil to medium-high heat.  Add the seasoned shrimp to the hot oil and cook till pink *about 2 minutes.  Remove the shrimp to a plate and set aside. 

   In that same saut√© pan, add in the diced onion along the white wine, worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and tabasco sauce and cook till the onions are translucent. 

   Follow that with the softened butter and stir till combined.  

 

 Finally, add the shrimp back to pan and coat in the sauce. This creamy cajun inspired sauce would be good on a shoe…but luckily I had a baguette ready to go! Tear off a nice hunk and sop up that garlicky, buttery flavor! 

  

Before baking, I brushed a bit of melted butter overtop and sprinkled with some creole seasoning!

 
I like to serve ours spooned over rice with a bit of extra sauce to dip that warm baguette into!  Enjoy this cajun delight! 
 

Loaded Beer, Kielbasa & Potato Soup

It’s a beautiful October weekend…and by beautiful I mean it will not stop raining, the windows are open in my home with temps being in the 60’s and my Fall candles are burning. ¬† Yes, these are the things that bring me pure happiness. ¬† Well…that and a big pot of comforting soup of course. ¬† I decided to make this dish so it can last us a couple of days..more time to enjoy doing nothing. ¬†Bliss.

There are all sorts of potato soup recipes out there, and they are all delicious. ¬†However, my husband will not eat a ‘meal’ without some sort of meat in it. ¬†Now while I found some yummy soups with loads of cheese, broccoli, asparagus, pumpkin, etc in them, I just knew that wouldn’t cut it in my carnivore household. ¬†Soooo…what does my man like more than meat, beer and potatoes?? ¬†Not much. ¬†Hopefully me…but even that could be pushing it ūüėČ

Well after trial with no error, I can assure you that this is a winner!  Please enjoy with your family on a chilly day with a few slices of crusty bread for dipping!

The Starting Lineup

  • 3 lbs russet potatoes, baked
  • 1/2 lb bacon (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 pckg kielbasa sausage, sliced
  • 1 onion, yellow or sweet, chopped
  • 3Tbsp flour
  • 1 12oz beer, I prefer Texas’ own Shiner Bock
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Garnish

  • Green onions, sliced
  • Bacon, cooked & crumbled
  • Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • Jalapeno, thinly sliced
  • Sour Cream¬†

Well start with getting a few of the ingredients prepped! ¬†Now you can absolutely bake your potatoes in the oven as you normally may, but if you’re in more of a time crunch, then just “bake” them in your microwave till soft. ¬†While the potatoes are becoming fork tender, you can slice up the kielbasa sausage and chop up the onion.

 In a large pot/dutch oven, lay in the bacon and cook till crisp (medium heat).  Transfer to a plate and set aside.  Now in that glorious bacon grease (do not drain), add in the cut up sausage and the chopped onion.  Cook till the onion becomes translucent, stirring occasionally.  After about 5 minutes the onions and sausage will be good to go.  With a slotted spoon transfer them to a bowl and set aside, while keeping the grease in the dutch oven.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†*While these above ingredients have been cooking, your potatoes should be ready. ¬†IF you do not like potato “skin”, youre more than welcome to remove. ¬†In our home and in this recipe we actually prefer it. ¬†It adds great color, flavor and texture to the meal. ¬†So, anyway, just roughly cut up the baked potato, skin or no skin.

 Back to the dutch oven!  Sprinkle the flour into the bacon and sausage renderings and whisk till a rue is formed (thick and clumpy basically).  Next pour in the entire beer while continuously whisking followed by the chicken broth till smooth.

   Now add in those cut up baked potatoes and mash up in the liquid.  I like to leave a bit of chunks in my soup, so I just use a good, old-fashioned, hand-held potato masher till I like what I see.

   Next, stir in the cups of shredded cheddar cheese until melted, followed by the milk.  Bring up to a boil and then down to a simmer and stir back in the bacon (crumbled) and the sausage and onions.  Let sit and thicken up for about 10-15 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and top with the garnishes of your choice and a hunk of fresh, warm bread….this tastes best with a cold brew on a cold day with the ones you love..

Homemade Chicken & Dumplings

With Fall right around the corner and Texas already having a few chilly days this late summer, I am getting in the mood for some cold weather goodness.  The best way to kick that off is with a bowl of warm, pillowy chicken & dumplings.   This recipe from start to finish can easily be done in an hour or less, and if you use pre-cooked chicken (i.e. rotisserie) cut the time down yet again!

The Starting Lineup

  • 3 chicken breasts, uncooked *if this method, poach as directed OR if using a rotisserie chicken proceed to the dumpling stage
  • 2 quarts chicken broth/stock*if poaching your chicken you can use that liquid instead of store bought

Poaching Ingredients

  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • Bay Leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1 tsp whole peppercorn

Dumpling Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp butter, cubed
  • Pinch of salt   

We’ll start this off by poaching our chicken.  This method is fantastic for cooking and infusing flavor into your chicken.  Once cooked the poultry will shred easily, so this is great for chicken salad, stuffing into enchiladas, soups, etc.

In a large stockpot or dutch oven combine 8-10 cups of water (once your chicken breasts are in, the water should come about 1″ over them) along with all of the above poaching ingredients and the chicken. 

 Bring to boil and keep on a low boil for about 20 minutes, till chicken is cooked through. 

While the chicken is poaching, now is time to start those dumpings!  In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Next add in your butter and mix in using either a pastry cutter, two knives or even your fingers. Break up that butter into the flour mixture till it almost resembles coarse crumbs. 

   

After the butter is evenly distributed, pour in the milk and stir with a fork or wooden spoon till a dough ball starts to form.  *This dough WILL be very sticky!  On a HEAVILY floured surface plop that dough ball down. 

 

Coat the dough ball in more flour along with your rolling pin.  *All of this extra flour helps for non-sticking AND helps to thicken up the broth.  With your floured rolling pin, roll out the dough till fairly thin.  Then using a pastry cutter, pizza cutter or even a knife cut into squares, rectangles or diamonds.  They do not need to be perfect as I assure you it will be gobbled up to fast to notice. 

  

You can either transfer these to a floured plate or leave where theyre at before you cook them.  Its not a worry if they dry out too much.

By this time your chicken is likely cooked so remove from the boiling broth and set aside to cool slighty.  *Now this is where Ill do my best to type out directions depending on if you bought precooked chicken & broth or poached and made your own.

Take that same water & spices your chicken cooked in and strain into a large bowl (your trying to catch any large chunks of onion, lemon & peppercorns).  Once strained, pour back into the dutch oven.

OR IF YOU BOUGHT BROTH OR STOCK, SIMPLY POUR INTO A LARGE DUTCH OVEN

Bring the broth to a low boil and one by one gently drop your dumplings into the pot, stir with a wooden spoon at the same time.  You’ll immediately start to see the dumplings puff up and gain that ‘pillowy’ appearance.  Keep this going till all the dumplings have been added and cook for 15-20 minutes stirring often.  This allows for that floury taste to cook down and out.  

 

While the dumplings are doing there thing  (remember to stir  so they do not stick), shred your chicken with two forks or your fingers.  I always chose my hands over utensils when I can, just remember it’s hot!  *If you bought a rotisserie chicken, do the same..start tearing that apart into bite size pieces.

Add the chicken into the dumplings and broth and its ready!  You can of course let this sit for a bit…but I dont think thats ever happened at my house, so you’ll have to let me know how that goes ūüėČ    

  
Ladle into bowls and serve with a crisp salad, some warm rolls & butter and a large glass of sweet tea! 

  
 

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