Monday, October 31, 2011

C'est si bon! (Red Beans & Rice)

photo credit:  gardner48197
October had not been kind to me this year.  On the first day of this month I found myself at the graveside of my Papa, saying goodbye.  As I walked through the cemetery my feet became wet from the morning dew and a sadness hung over me as bag pipes were playing in the distance.  I hate those bag pipes, I thought to myself, they add even more sorrow.

As the bagpipes faded to taps gently playing in the background, I couldn't help but to wonder if the trumpet was a silver Stradivarius.  I listened to my cousin softly cry behind me.  I wondered why I couldn't focus, why were my senses heightened, why was I not paying attention.  So I made myself listen, cleared my head and watched as our nation's flag was presented to my Nanny.

As the sermon came to a close, a gust of wind lifted and golden leaves caught the morning light and drifted to the ground.  He had said goodbye.

Upon my return home, I showed my husband a tattered, worn cookbook held together by a band.  My Papa had offered it to me when I visited them in June, but my mom told him to keep it.  He may have moved back to Nebraska after his retirement, but his love for Southern Cuisine (Cajun cuisine in particular) remained.

Tucked inside the book, C'est Si Bon!, were even more recipes torn from magazines, newspapers and printed from websites.  We counted a dozen different gumbo recipes filled with notes, several different meatball recipes, and a myriad of other Cajun delights.  I found this ironic as I featured Cajun Chicken Pasta the day of his passing.  I almost took it down from the site, but it seemed fitting as an homage to him.

C'est Si Bon translates to it is so good! I believe that is what he strived for in the kitchen, in his life, in his family and hope that I can carry his love of the kitchen with me.  I wish I had told him that his passion for food had been an influence to me back in June, but now I can only hope he just knew.

Papa's Red Bean & Rice

1/2 lb. andoille sausage, diced and sauteed and set aside to drain
1 lb. dried red beans (soaked overnight)
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
3/4 cup olive oil
3-4 cups water
2 tablespoons ham broth (I browned my sausage in a pan, set the sausage on a plate to drain &    deglazed the pan to create a "sausage broth")
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
2-3 cups cooked rice
  1. Drain beans, discarding water, and set them aside in a pot.
  2. Place onion, celery, garlic, sausage and bay leaves in a medium mixing bowl.  Drizzle the olive oil over them and let the mixture sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Pour olive oil/vegetable mixture over the beans and let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Add enough of the water to cover the beans and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer, add the salt, pepper and all of the flavorings to the pot and cook until the beans are tender, about 3-4 hours.  Remove the bay leaves and serve the hot beans over the rice.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Beer & Onion Braised Chicken Carbonnade

I miss this view around this time of year.  One day I'll be back, one day...
My poor baby is sick again.  This year seems to be a cake walk compared to last years bi-monthly doctor visits.  The poor little guy is missing his school's book fair today and most likely will miss his Halloween costume parade and party tomorrow.  It breaks my heart, mainly because I lived for those days as a kid and want him to experience and enjoy them as much as I did.

As rumor has it, tomorrow is supposed to bring us a cool front with promises of rain.  I hope it is not an empty promise.  Our trees surely need it.  Our neighborhood is such a sad sight, with what little vegetation our climate grants us, those few trees and bushes are struggling.

On our evening walk yesterday, I noticed what had been the changing of the leaves in the past is now a sad, drooping, green leaf with burnt, browned edges.  Poor leaves.  At least the green gives me hope.

I hope for the wind to pick up and for it to be a drizzly, grey day.  Perfect comfort food weather.  Perfect braising weather.  Perfect stew weather.  We shall see.

Regardless of what the weather brings, I do plan on making my Beer & Onion Braised Chicken Carbonnade.  My neighbor had given us a six pack of beer and rather than drinking it, we cooked with it.  This is a rendition of a Belgian beef stew made with onions, brown sugar and beer.  We use Shiner Bock and serve it over egg noodles.
Beer & Onion Braised Chicken Carbonnade
4 servings 
Print Me!
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
  • salt & pepper
  • 3/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Tablespoon flour
  • 3 teaspoons (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 4 small bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup dark beer
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  1. Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken well with salt, pepper, and allspice. Add chicken to skillet and sauté until brown, about 6 minutes per side; transfer to plate.
  2. Add onions and brown sugar to skillet; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and sauté until deep golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add in flour, cook for 1 more minute.
  3. Mix in bay leaves, mustard. Add chicken, then beer, broth, and 1 teaspoon vinegar. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer, covered, 10 minutes. 
  4. Uncover skillet and simmer until chicken is cooked through and sauce thickens, turning chicken occasionally, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and more vinegar and sugar, if desired. 
***Note:  The sauce is a thinner sauce, which I love, but know some prefer thicker.  The thinner sauce accompanies mashed potatoes really well

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sometimes it just doesn't work out (Chocolate Chip Cookie Tart)

A few Saturdays ago I was so excited to go to our neighborhood festival.  For a neighborhood sponsored event, it is actually very well put on.  I had envisioned us walking to the park, The Baking Tot enjoying the petting zoo, jumping in the bounce houses, and riding the kiddy train made from old oil drums.  I was excited to have the chance to listen to the live bands and watch the silly pet competitions but alas, we were only there for two minutes.  Just two minutes!

I had asked off from work so we could have this glorious day as a family but The Baking Toddler decided to throw a tantrum instead.  Unfortunately the hubs and I had to make the decision to turn around, because that type of behavior was not deserving of a good time.

So reluctantly and sadly we walked home, as our child was screaming in the stroller.  I cried.  Once we arrived home, the hubs put The Baking Tot in his room and we cuddled on the couch and watch one of our recorded sitcoms in peace.

So yes, my day didn't turn out to be the one I had hoped, but it did have a sweet ending.  Much like the photos for this recipe.  The Baking Tot had been stalking the kitchen upon hearing the word "cookie."  As you could see, my photo session with the tart didn't work out as I had planned either.  But I think the photo above captures the anticipation and excitement any chocolate chip cookie (large or small) brings to a child-and I love it.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Tart
yield: Makes one 9-inch tart or pie plus about 1 dozen cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (plus more for the pan)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (plus more for the pan)
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and coat it with granulated sugar; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  2. Press 3 cups of this dough into prepared pan. Bake until edges are golden and center is almost set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes, and remove from pan. Freeze or bake remaining dough as cookies at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Trying To Make An Entrance (Homemade Granola)

My husband came home a little excited, "It almost feels like fall", he exclaimed as he walked through the door.   The temperature has thankfully (and finally) taken a break from the triple digits.  There is light rain and cooler weather and all I can do is hope for a change in pattern.

It seems as if I've been suffering from SAD (seasonal affective disorder), except there are no grey skies and months worth of snow on the ground, only a bright sun, dried up grass and dead trees.  It has been months of dry, hot weather and I am done with it.
Today though, seemed different.  On my drive to the Baking Tot's school it was still a little dark and the ceiling was low, almost giving the effect of fog.  The sun had not peeked over the horizon but the light available made everything blue.  I could see the layers of the hill country and I kicked myself for not having a camera.

When fall arrives it seems like I crave cinnamon and cranberries.  The Baking Tot and I are both obsessed with Homemade Granola.  Its spiced with cinnamon, sweetened with brown sugar and honey and tossed with almonds.  We usually eat it right out of the jar-plain, but I do enjoy it with milk in the morning-it is so addicting I find myself making at least one batch a week.
Easy Homemade Granola

from: Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
¼  cup honey
¼  cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3  cup whole almonds
1/3 cup whole hazelnuts (in a pinch when hazelnuts are unavailable, I substitute with more almonds)
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup dried cherries
1.     Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.     In a large bowl, toss the oats with the cinnamon and salt.
3.     In a medium bowl, stir together the oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until completely combined.  Pour the honey mixture over the oats mixture and use your hands to combine them: Gather up some of the mixture in each hand and make a fist. Repeat until all of the oats are coated with the honey mixture.
4.     Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread it out evenly, but leave a few clumps here and there for texture.
5.     Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the granola. Sprinkle the almonds over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.
6.     Bake for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the granola. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.
7.     Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. Let cool completely. Sprinkle the raisins and cherries over the granola and toss with hands
8.     Store in an airtight container, granola will keep for 1 week…if it even sticks around that long! :)