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Archive for May 27th, 2010

There must be some rule against a Northern girl cooking Creole or Cajun, but if there is I have been breaking it for years as I have attempted my hardest to learn how to make the foods of the city I fell in love with several years ago.  My first  trip to New Orleans before Katrina hit was wonderful. The culinary delights and cultural simulations are forever are seeped into my memory.  It broke my heart to see it after Katrina and how much devastation was done to the city that I came to love.

I will be first to admit Cajun and Creole cooking along with some southern dishes have been a huge struggle for me.  No matter how much I tried I always made them to “northern” for tastes.  It was not until I was blessed with care giving of a elderly gentleman from Louisiana that I was finally taught what I was doing wrong  His advise? It didn’t matter what I put in it, it was how what I put in it tasted that mattered.

Shrimp Creole Recipe

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

1 cup diced green onions

1 cup diced onions

1 green bell pepper, diced

1/2 cup celery, diced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

8 oz can tomato sauce

1 cup dry white wine

8 oz clam juice

1/4 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp dried basil

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp pepper

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 tsp hot sauce (Tabasco style)

1 tsp fresh grated lemon zest

1 tbsp fresh squeeze lemon juice

1 1/2 lbs fresh shrimp or frozen (peeled and deveined)

Place a large pot on burner and place butter inside to melt over medium high heat, once melted stir in flour and cook stirring until bubbly.  Stir in green onions, onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, bay leaf, basil and thyme and lower heat to low letting it cook uncovered for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

Increase heat once more to high and add tomato sauce, wine, clam juice, water, pepper, hot sauce and Worcestershire.  Bring to a boil stirring constantly.

Reduce heat once more to low and let simmer stirring occasionally for the next 45 minutes or until it is thickened and reduced.

Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley and shrimp.  Simmer approximately 5 to 10 minutes to cook shrimp.

Remove from heat and serve over hot cooked rice and garnish with chopped green onion tops and fresh parsley.

**Side note, if you want this to be a Etouffee,  eliminate the tomato sauce and begin with a dark Rue, otherwise, the recipe is exactly the same.**

This is a lot of stirring to get it right, thick and keep it from burning to sides during reductionstages.  I am lucky enough to have a very valuable kitchen helper who loves to cook with her mother while chatting, singing or just enjoying each others company.  I enjoy the time spent with her as I am able to teach her recipes passed down to me from generations past, tell her stories of my childhood and generations before me passed down through the ages. She is at the “Little House” stage right now, so a lot of our talks involve how things were in the “old days”, which to her are when Mommy was  little girl.

I also believe this time offers her the ability to learn of healthy food choices and that not everything comes from drive-thru windows.  Be sure to use logic and safely with your children in the kitchen. Parents supervision is a must.  Yes this for me might be more time consuming then it would take to just be alone in kitchen myself, but those moments she takes of time are impossible to recover, and to priceless to miss.

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Anyone remember the old fashion way of making popcorn in a pot on the stove? There is truly no better taste or smell to popcorn then that and with microwave popcorn being known to cause popcorn lung (yes that is an actual medical condition that can be gotten simply from smelling microwave popcorn) it is the only means of making popcorn I will use.

Popping popcorn on the stove is extremely easy, and with the shaking required maybe a bit of a exercise program as well.  You need three ingredients…

Popcorn and a pan or kettle with a cover with oil source poured in.  In this case I used olive oil but vegetable or butter flavored popcorn oil will work as well.

Heat oil until cold water flicked in it sizzles, add popcorn and shake to coat well.  Cover pot with lid and wait until you hear a few pops.  Pick kettle or pot off burner but hold close enough to still get heat and shake, then replace back on burner until a few more pops occur, pick up and shake again, put back on burner and continue the down, up, shake method until popcorn no longer pops.  Be careful to not burn it.

The end result, a kettle full of fluffy kernels of goodness.  You may salt if you desire or season but not required.

Seasoning Options:

At times I just like to change up popcorn a bit with herbs and spices.  Here are some mix recipes I personal have tried and enjoy using.

Herb Popcorn Seasoning

1 tsp each dried fennel, sage, rosemary, savory, basil, thyme and garlic powder.

Lemon-Dill Popcorn Seasoning

2 tbsp lemon zest and 1 tsp dill weed

Pizza Popcorn Seasoning

2 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp Italian seasoning, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp pepper, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Cajun Popcorn Seasoning

2 tsp paprika, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1 pinch cayenne pepper, 2 tbsp salt (optional)

Italian Popcorn Seasoning

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese,1/2 cup dried oregano,1/4 tsp black pepper,1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Nacho Popcorn Seasoning

4 tsp taco seasoning, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1/2 tsp onion salt

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There a lot of wild blackberry vines that dot the property.  While they are smaller then cultured blackberries their taste is far superior. The berries here at the house are just beginning to ripen and still myself and the kids managed to pick five pints worth.  These being our first true picking will be used for fresh eating, others will be turned into jams, cobblers, pies and flash frozen for freezer storage.  Provided we get enough harvest this year I might even can up some to be used in pastries out of season.

As they could have been allowed to grow naturally throughout the woods region, and many still are, the thorn vines and brambles down here which grow in huge solid clumps make cultivating those near to impossible.  I opted for letting them remain for the birds and wild animals to enjoy while taking just a small amount for my own food preparation purposes.

How I made my own wild blackberry rooting from mother stems was fairly easy. I merely looked for the largest and longest of vines from the mother bush.  I took this vine and brought it down and using metal bent into a U shape attached it in a relaxed state to the ground.  From this point with the vine laying against the ground I then covered it with soil about three inches deep.  Water it well and cover with straw, old leaves or whatever you have easy access to to help hold moisture in.  Water frequently to keep the area moist for two to three months of time.  new plants will sprout up through the soil.  Sever this plant or plants about 12 inches from the main mother plant, and then separate each of the new plants from each other leaving about 6 inches or more of original stem in place.  Dig up the new plant with roots and move to it’s new location.  As I will be doing some new propagating this fall of more mother plants to replace some old I will try to take pictures of the process.

Be sure after your new plants do their first fruiting to prune off the canes that produced fruit in fall or early spring.  This will allow for the bush to produce new canes and bear richer and more abundant fruit supply in the coming year.

Wild Blackberry Freezer Jam (8 – 1/2 pint jars)

5 cups wild blackberries (or store bought if you can’t find wild)

7 cups sugar

1 (1 3/4 oz) pkg fruit jell pectin

Place berries in large pot and add pectin, stir well and constantly as you raise the heat to high and bring to full boil.  Add sugar and bring back to hard boil continuing to stir constantly to keep from scalding.  Boil for 1 minute before removing from heat.  Ladle into cans and put on lids and rings.  Process cans in hot water bath for 10 minutes before removing and allowing to cool and seal.

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I love hummus, okay maybe love is to light of a word for the pure delight I find digging into the cream colored goodness that could only have been created by the gods, or the tantalizing dance the smoky, little red chunks like fairies upon rose pedals offer my tongue from first delectable bite to last.  Yeah, I love hummus.

The true pity is in that so many shy away from it, either due to finding it to expensive or unflavorful.  Hummus need be none of those.  It is a versatile food that is stocked with nutrients.  Hummus has no cholesterol, is low in sugar, contains no saturated fats, is high in manganese, protein, daily fiber and vitamin B6, vitamin C,  Iron and Calcium.

I have to say I also really like the little containers you can get bulk olives, candy like gummy worms and such in. They make for excellent storage in refrigerator, freezer and pantry not to mention you can always see what is inside them. Mine never end up in the garbage lots if I can avoid it, they are used for food storage and if they end up wearing out, getting crack in edge or lid missing they become a starter bed for seeds, a storage for buttons, sewing supplies, craft supplies, containers for bath salts, or little odds and ends catch-all’s. It is a guarantee at least a few will end up also on posts in  yard with nails in bottom to hold bird or squirrel food as well when seeds are scarce in winter.  I’m certain a good number also became craft projects for kids  by cutting the bottom carefully out, then cutting that into desired shape and letting them painting it or flocking/glittering  it.  I have also punched holes around edges to let the children learn how to sew, lace and tie.  So next time you consider throwing one of these out, consider what other uses it might have yet rather then filling up a already overflowing refuge.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (2 cups)

1 can garbanzo beans, drained (keep the juice)

2 cloves garlic

1/3 cup tahini (Sesame butter – recipe follows)

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup roasted red pepper, chopped  (canned, fresh or dried)

1/4 tsp dried basil

Food processor or blender.

Combine beans, tahini, garlic and lemon juice in blender until smooth. If it holds lumps add back in some of the beans reserved juices until smooth like a peanut butter in texture.  Add the roasted red pepper and process again until peppers are finely chopped.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and tranfer to storage bowl.  Cover and chill until ready to serve, keep refrigerated or freeze if desired.   To unfreeze pull from freezer 24 hours before use and dethaw in refrigerator, if needing thinning place back in blender with a little water to soften.

Tahini Recipe

(Tahini is expensive bought in stores for how simple it is to make. Here is how to do it yourself.)

1 cup sesame seeds

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Food processor or blender and cookie sheet.

Preheat oven to 340 degrees (F) or 170 degrees (C).

Place seeds on cookie sheet and toast in oven for 15 minutes stirring regularly to keep them toasting evenly.  They should not be allowed to burn so keep close watch.

Remove and let cool slightly before placing them in food processor or blender with metal blades.  Add 1/2 the oil to this at this time and process on high for approximately one minute.  You will need to clean the processors side from time to time.

Add rest of oil and continue to process until it turns into a paste resembling smooth peanut butter. Transfer to storage container and keep refrigerated, it will store many weeks if well sealed.

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