Friday, September 11, 2015

Tomato friday

I'm getting excited.   I have tomatoes about ready, cucumbers ripening and maybe enough lettuce to make a 100% home grown salad!   

These are on my windowsill, allowing  them to ripen in the house..... YUM!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Labor day 2015 - Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!!

What did you do for Labor Day?  Did you go camping, BBQ, visit family & friends, shop, sleep in, or even just kick back and watch movies?  Did you celebrate by at least thanking an American Worker?  Did you thank a Union Member?  As you may or may not know, under my white collar, lays some deep blue collar roots, which are Union true.  My parents were both Union members (ma still is) and my husband is a union member and I have untold amounts of cousins, uncles, aunts and close family friends who are all skilled workers apart of one union or another.

I believe in the American Worker.  I believe in fairness and workers rights.  I believe that life is a balance and no system is without it's own flaws and corruption alongside the good that it can accomplish. I know that the union system is only as good as it's members and elected leaders. But without unions, without representation, the American worker would not have the standards we have today.   So no matter of your opinions today, Unions have fought for workers rights for the last 100 + years, and continue to do so today.  

So how does this Union Wife celebrate Labor Day?   By making good food for great Union friends!

Riverside Gumbo, Mixed Greens with Bacon, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Upriver Punch!

Note:  This Menu will feed 6-10 people.  You can half it if you want to serve a smaller group.

Riverside Gumbo
Roux: 1.5 cups Oil & 1.5 cups Flour
3 whole onions, diced
3 green peppers, diced
10 stalks celery, chopped
10 cloves garlic, chopped
Stock, 2.5 Gallons comprising of:  Chicken**, Seafood** & Vegetable.
1 Tsp Cayenne
1 Tsp Salt
3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Bay Leaf**
2 lbs Sausage, browned, sliced into 1" pieces ( I used half Hot and half Sweet Italian)
2 lbs Prawns, raw, tails on
1 cup Green Onions, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped**
White Rice
French Bread

Mixed Greens with Bacon
1 bunch each:  Collard Greens, Kale, Swiss Chard
1 lb thick cut bacon, cut into 2" pieces **
1 Red onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock **

Fried Green Tomatoes
6 Green Heirloom tomatoes**, at least 3 inches in diameter, sliced to 1/4- 1/2 inch thick
Flour for dusting
3 large Eggs
1/4 cup milk
Breading Mixture, equal parts Flour, Panko, Cornmeal (medium grind)
Sea Salt
Oil for Frying

Upriver Punch!
1 750 ml Bottle of Sailor Jerry's Rum
2 pints of Malibu Rum
1 quart of Lemon Vodka (made from scratch**)
1 can of Guava Passion Paradise Punch
Mixer:   Sprite & Squirt


The day before you want to cook the gumbo, do the following:
* Make sure you have all the ingredients, head to store if you need more!
* Wash, chop and portion out all vegetables for gumbo
* Mix the Spice Mixture for the Gumbo
* Cook the Sausages in the oven, turning halfway according to package instructions, cool, cut into 1 - 2" pieces.
*Cook the rice.  I usually prepare 1/2 cup rice per person, so make enough!
*Prep the Greens by removing ribs and chopping into 1" strips.   Wash and let dry.
*Chop onions, garlic and store together
* cut bacon into 2" strips (okay to leave extra fat)
*Wash and slice tomatoes.  
*Place tomatoes in a gallon sized plastic bag, sprinkle with sea salt, add enough flour to toss to coat all pieces.
*Mix the breading mixture in a bag.
*Chill the liquors
* Rinse the prawns, remove shells if any (leave the tails on) and place into bag with a dash of salt.

Which leads us to Cooking Day.    I had a great backdrop of which to create our menu.

Skagit River Sept 6 2015

  • First, determine what time you want to SERVE the gumbo.  Then count backwards 3.5 hours, then another 30 minutes for setup.  this will be your start time (4 hours total)  
  • Once you have your start time, don the apron, and setup the first hour of cooking.
  • Get out the Gumbo pot, wash and set on the stove.  This recipe uses an approximate 3 gallon stock pot
  • Set up the counter assembly line:   Flour & Oil, Onions, Peppers, Celery, Garlic, Stock, Spice Mixture
  • Make the Roux by adding oil, then Flour. Stir, continuously for 30 minutes or until the roux is the color of peanut butter and the flour gives off a nutty smell.  Make you you are using a flat bottom wooden spoon, scraping the bottom so it doesn't burn.  If it burns, you'll need to start all over
  • Once the Roux is the "color of the bayou after it rains", or just muddy to all us Pacific North-Westerners you'll want to add the onions and stir 
  • After a few minutes, add the green peppers and celery, cook for a few more minutes
  • Add the garlic and then continue to cook vegetables to desired crunchiness (about 5 minutes).
  • Slowly add the stock
  • Add the spice mixture and bay leaf
  • Add the browned sausage to the pot
  • Gumbo before the simmer....
  • Let simmer for 2 + hours, with a taste test every 30 minutes.  
  • Stir to prevent any sticking on the bottom of the pot every 15 minutes.  
Cocktail time while the Gumbo simmers!
    Have another!

  • Make the Upriver Punch Cocktail by combining the liquors and the punch mix.
  • Fill the pitcher with soda to give it the fizzy taste!  
  • Pour over ice in short glasses, top with squirt to your liking.
  • At hour 1, do another taste test on the gumbo and add any additional water, hot sauce, stock, or whatever else may be needed
  • Have another COCKTAIL!!
  • After your taste test, in a cast iron pot with a lid ( I have a 5 qt lodge cast iron pot), render the fat out of the bacon over medium heat, getting it crispy, about 15-20 minutes
  • Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside
  • Caramelize the onions and garlic in the bacon fat, about 5-10 minutes
  • Add the Greens and then the chicken stock, sprinkle with salt and pepper
  • Cover the pot, allow greens to braise in the liquid for 15-20 minutes on low heat 
  • Check after 15 minutes for green tenderness, cook for an additional 5 minutes if needed, then turn off add the bacon back to the pot and re-cover until time to serve
  • Taste Test the Gumbo again... having others around helps too!
When you hear "mmm, mmmmm" that means the gumbo is tasting good
  • Remove rice from refrigerator to warm up to room temp
  • This should take you into Hour 1.5
  • Do another taste test on the Gumbo.  It should be rolling pretty well and really intensifying the flavor!
  • Which means it's time to fry up those green tomatoes!
  • Mix the Eggs and milk until well combined
  • Pour half of the breading mixture in a bowl, adding more as needed (that way you can save any extra for another time)
  • Put an inch of oil in a cast iron skillet and heat to medium
  • IMPORTANT!!!  Drop the Prawns into the Gumbo Pot.  They will only need 10 minutes to cook, then you can turn the pot off.  Set a timer so you don't overcook the prawns!
  • Wrap the French Bread up in foil, put into oven to warm at 200 degrees
  • By this time, the oil should be hot enough, so time to fry!
  • Take the dusted tomatoes and using tongs, dip into egg mixture, then roll into breading mixture
  • Fry the green tomatoes  on each side for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown
  • Place on a paper towel to drain any excess grease
  • If you follow the directions given, you should have 3-4 slices per tomato used, and it should take at least 4 batches to fry up all the tomatoes. 
  • Take bread out of oven and slice up into 2 inch slices
  • So now it's time to assemble the gumbo!

I serve my gumbo by placing at least a cup or two of hot gumbo in a bowl, add 1/4 cup of rice, then top with green onions, sprinkle with parsley and serve the warm bread on the side with a pat of butter.  I usually place the fried green tomatoes on a platter, and the greens are served up separately.

When it's all ready, holler out, "It's Gumbo Time!  Everybody Gumbo!!"

Gumbo and Upriver Punch!

Greens with bacon and Bread  (hot sauce in the background for added heat!)

Fried Green Tomatoes.   YUM!

We didn't make a remoulade sauce for the green tomatoes, but it turns out it wasn't needed as they were that good! 

*Warnings* - Using the seafood stock may upset sensitive stomachs (it's very rich).  So if anyone has issues with seafood, you can use all chicken and vegetable stock.  If you have someone who cannot tolerate spicy food, then half the cayenne and use only mild or sweet sausages and / or add a dollop of sour cream to their gumbo.  

**Items marked with a ** are homemade and/or grown at my home.   
The Lemon Vodka is basically my limoncello recipe made by taking the peel (no pith) of 12 lemons in a quart jar, fill with vodka, store in a dark, dry place, shake each day for 12-14 days, then strained from the solids and store in the fridge.  Once you add a simple syrup to this, it becomes Limoncello.

I also make all of my own stocks using vegetable scraps and bones.  The seafood stock was made from crab and shrimp, infused with carrot, celery, peppers, and onions.  I didn't have any plain veggie on hand so I purchased a container that was in the organic section of the grocery store. 

Gumbo is like chili in that every family recipe is different.   The basics though remain the same, the roux, the holy trinity (onion, peppers, celery), flavored water (stock), and spices, seasonings and meat.   This recipe was adapted by the recipes found in the cookbook,Tastes, Tails, & Tales with the High Priestess of the Bayou.  You can order a copy online at!

And of course, while making gumbo, have some good Zydeco blaring... it just gets you in the mood!

 Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!!
Let the Good Times Roll!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Chocolate Irish Beer Cakes

So St. Pat's day has come and gone and if you are like me, you have leftover Guinness in the cupboard.  What do you do with it?  I don't like to drink it usually, and it's too warm for stews.   There is one thing I love to make that uses this stout beer, and it is an all season item!  
Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes!  
Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes, made back in 2013

For St. Pat's day, the boozy Irish Car bomb cupcakes really hit the spot! But this summer it's really hot and dry and and I wanted a cake that didn't have booze in it, and small enough I could actually eat it all myself.   I had recently purchased four 4" spring form pans, so I made a few modifications to the recipe from Smitten Kitchen and BrownEyedBaker  ( to fit my needs:

Chocolate Irish Beer Cake
1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Chocolate ganache “frosting”
8-10 oz of Chocolate chunks / chips, semi sweet or bittersweet, or dark chocolate
1 tbsp Honey
2 tbsp Butter
2/3 cup Heavy Cream
Powdered Sugar

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Line the 4” springform pan bottoms with parchment paper.
  • Spray the inside to prevent sticking.
  • Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth.  Set aside.
  • Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend.
  • Beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl, about 2 minutes or until blended.
  • Slowly add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine.
  • Add flour mixture and beat briefly on low speed.
  • Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.
  • Fill springform pans to ¾ full.   Any amount leftover, cover and set aside, or use for Cupcakes!
  • Place pans on another tray, in case of leakage.   J
  • Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 15-20 minutes.
  • Remove from oven, and cool on a rack.
  • Once cool, remove from pan, and chill in fridge for 30 minutes while making the chocolate “frosting”.

The “frosting”.
Okay, so this is not really frosting.   I did not want to hollow these out and use the whiskey, so I made a ganache type frosting and covered the cake in melted chocolate.  (are you drooling yet?). 
  • Chop up any chocolate chunks and transfer to a heatproof bowl, adding in the chocolate chips.  
  • Pour Honey over chocolate.
  • Heat the cream until simmering and then pour over the chocolate.
  • Let the hot cream melt the chocolate and then add the butter and stir until smooth.
  • Add more cream to thin or more chocolate to thicken.   
  • Remove the cakes from the refrigerator.
  • Place them on a rack and put something underneath to catch any dribbled chocolate (parchment paper works great).
  • Pour the chocolate over the cakes, from the center, allowing it to drip down the sides until the entire cake is covered..
  • Let the chocolate ‘frosting’ cool and harden.
  • **anything that drops below can be scraped up and rewarmed and reused for another ‘layer 
Once cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

 Keep chilled until til to serve. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Triple lemon bars with raspberries

These bars have Lemon Cake, Lemon Curd with fresh raspberries, and Lemon Cheesecake layers.  They are scrumptious and really hit the lemon spot!  Enjoy!

1 Box Lemon Cake Mix
5 large eggs, room temp
1/2 cup butter, melted
Tube of Lemon pie filling (you won't use the entire amount)
1/4 C Sweet condensed milk
1/2 TBSP Cornstarch
12 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup lemon juice, room temp
1 tsp Vanilla
2 cups Powdered sugar
1 cup Raspberries, frozen whole
1 TBSP Raspberry Juice**
Lemon Zest
Extra powdered sugar for dusting

Freeze your berries!
·         Freezing your berries makes them easier to work with and hold up a little bit better while baking.
·         Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place them so that they don't touch.
·         Freeze for at least 2 hours, up to overnight.
When the berries are frozen and ready for use….
·         Grease13*9 glass pan
·         Preheat oven to 325
·         Combine cake mix with 1 large egg & melted butter.
·         Press cake mix evenly into bottom of pan
·         Drop the raspberries evenly onto the cake mix
·         Make the Lemon curd.  In a large bowl, add Lemon pie filling (1.5 - 2 cups), 1 egg,  sweet condensed milk, 1 / tbsp corn starch, splash of lemon juice.   Beat until combined, about 2 minutes. 
·         Spoon the mix over the raspberries, carefully smoothing over, but not squishing them (this is why frozen berries work really good)
·         Place the dish in the freezer to set while making the last layer.
·         In another large bowl, beat 3 large eggs, cream cheese, powdered sugar, remaining lemon juice, and  vanilla until well blended.  Spoon and smooth over the lemon pie layer.
·         Carefully drop teaspoon size amounts of the remaining lemon pie filling.  Dot with raspberry juice (if you have it).
·         Sprinkle a little bit of Lemon Zest over the top for some fantastic aroma (I skipped this step in mine because I did not have any lemons, but it would be amazing here!!)
·         Bake at 325 for 45-60 minutes or until the center is set (Do the Jiggle Test to determine as the time will depend on your oven)
·         Let cool and then chill for at least 4 hours.
·         Cut into squares when cool, and dust with powdered sugar.
·         Share with Co-workers, Family, and Friends!
**Raspberry juice can be made by pressing 1/4 cup of fresh raspberries through a fine mesh strainer.  Stored in the fridge this juice can be used to add color or flavor, or pretty dots on the top of your bars!