Monday, July 30, 2018

What's Age Got to Do with It? Everything!

Recently I found 2 birthday cards that were perfect for the intended birthday gal and guy. I bought them well in advance and put them in a very special and protected place. Then I showed TheHub where I had put them, just in case I forgot about the hiding place.

I have been looking for these stupid cards since my friend's birthday in early July. The ironic thing was her card was about getting older and memory loss. Yep, karma is indeed a bitch.

Tomorrow is Son2's birthday and his most perfect card had still not turned up, so I called in the heavy artillery, TheHub, and had to "fess" up that I could not remember where I had hidden them. Sadly neither could he and after about an hours hunt they are still hidden. I can only think one thing __ we have some invisible, evil imps living in our house who move and re-hide our hidden things. Yes, that has to be it. There is no way we are old enough to be forgetting things. Our minds are tarp as a shack!

p.s. My kitchen cabinets and drawers are cleaned now. Strange side effect of looking for the blasted cards.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Dropping the Ball

Today is supposed to be Friday and all that Jazz, but I am headed to the lake. Rather than creating a post I am cleaning the kitchen and vacuuming the den, then packing up and heading out! Call me a slacker but the day is beautiful and the lake place is calling my name!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Lame Excuse for Friday and All That Jazz

I am slacking dreadfully on the Friday Jazz post and once again had not thought of it until today. Since I did not have anyone lined up for this week and have been thinking about the recipes I made this week I thought, why not stay in New Orleans just one more week.

I had several boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the fridge that had to be cooked immediately. I did not mind cooking a few of them for some quick and easy  chicken salad or a chicken and rice meal, but I needed to do something to a few of them other than a traditional poach, because I am trying to maintain my keto way of eating without having the same thing over and over.

New Orleans is a remarkable food city, with everything from traditional French cuisine to street hotdogs. For tonight's dinner I found 3 or 4 recipes, took bits and pieces from each one and came up with this fusion of the three. Improvisation like edible jazz maybe?

Cajun Chicken in Cream Sauce? (Feel free to rename it)

2 boneless  skinless chicken thighs cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon cajun seasoning (I use Badia's. It's cheap and it tastes fine)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 orange sweet pepper, cut into thin strips
1 red sweet pepper, cut into thin strips
1 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
3 ribs celery thinly sliced (half moon slices)
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms ( I had these sliced and forgot to put them in)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 more tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
pinch of cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon paprika, smoked or regular
salt to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)
1 1/2 cup cream (I use heavy cream)
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 servings of pasta (your choice) cooked and drained

I know this looks like a lot of ingredients but if you really look at the recipe a lot of it is just herbs and spices.

Sprinkle the cajun seasoning over the chicken pieces, heat the oil in a large saute pan and cook the chicken about halfway through. Remove from the pan add the other 2 tablespoons olive oil, throw in all the veggies except the garlic and cook until they are almost done. Add the garlic and stir it around for about a minute. Add the chicken back into the pan and add the remaining seasonings then add the cream. Cook until it is reduced by about half, add the parmesan cheese and stir until it is melted. Stir again and serve over cooked pasta.

I had mine over zucchini spirals so the picture is of TheHub's meal. I had about a quarter of a box of penne pasta so that is what I used. If you make this use whatever is left at your house, because it will work perfectly well over just about everything except tiny pastas.

This is delicious! Son2 and GF2 came to the house and they fixed the leftovers and love it too. This made enough for 3 ample servings, or 4 slightly smaller servings. They had both eaten a late lunch and were not terribly hungry but they ate all they wanted and I still had enough left over for lunch along with a substantial green salad. Win! Delicious win!

                               And for your Jazz moment enjoy a little Pete Fountain medley

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A Party in the Mouth

OK, y'all.

Say you fancy a little treat and after the roux-less gumbo recipe you (I)  might be thinking a New Orleans type of treat. What could possibly be more gratifying than whipping up a small batch of beignets that you don't have to share with anyone. Dessert for one? Mid-morning snack? Late night munchies? This are really easy to make but it does require an hour resting/rising time. You are two bowls and a fork type of prep, a quick swim in some hot oil  and a confectioner's sugar shower from your mouth. Easy peasy!

Beignets for One (or two if you are feeling generous)

1 tablespoons warm water (105°ish)
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 pinch sugar
1 teaspoon vegetable shortening
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons milk
1/2 large egg white (separate the egg, whisk the white a little then just eyeball half of it)
1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoon  boiling water
1/2  cup plus 2 tablespoons flour (you will need a little extra when you roll the dough))
1 cups oil for frying  (I used about a cup of coconut oil in a smallish deep sauce pot)
powdered sugar ? depends on your sugar habit.

Put the warm water in a small bowl and immediately add the yeast and a pinch of sugar. Stir well and let it sit. Make sure it is foamy (indicates the yeast is active)

In another bowl mix the shortening, sugar, milk and egg white. Stir well to combine and add the boiling water and stir like crazy. When the temperature of the mixture  is about 105 degrees add the yeast to it. Combine well , cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in a  warmish place for about an hour.
Grab your trusty culling board if you are simple like me, or a pastry cloth if you are a fancy Nancy , flour it, and roll the dough out about 1/4 inch thick. I use a pizza cutter to cut it into squareish pieces.2x2 (ish) because I wanted lots of pieces.

Heat the oil in a small sauce pot, to about 350. I do not ever check the temp, I just put a small tidbit of dough in the oil and if it puffs immediately it is ready. If not, I wait a minute then try again. Take the cut pieces and gently place them in the oil . Fry a few pieces at a time. They cook quickly so stand there with them. As soon as they puff and turn brown on one side, flip them over and cook the other side. They are done in a little less than a minute. Drain on a paper towel.

You have two options for the powdered sugar. You can roll them in powdered sugar like I did or put some a sieve and sprinkle/sift it over the tops.

Now comes the truth time. I am still doing Keto so I did not have even a taste. I really tried this just to see if I could do it. Son2 was here and I got him to be my guinea pig. He is not eating sugar much at all so he only ate one, but gave them a big thumbs up. He has eaten them many times at Cafe Du Monde in new Orleans, and said the only thing missing was cafe au lait made with chicory coffee.

So go ahead and throw a little indulgence on! Life is uncertain after all!

                                 Here is a little tune by Clifton Chenier for your enjoyment!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Friday and All That Jazz

********************* I forgot to hit publish yesterday, Sorry *********************
Today we are going to do a little bit about the birthplace of Jazz, New Orleans, Louisiana. I don't know how many of you have been to New Orleans before, but I think it is probably America's most unique city.  Even from its early days it was more like a Mediterranean city in it's attitude. While segregation was alive and well in the city, the races mixed more than most other cities and it was not unusual for blacks, whites, and Creoles to live within just a block of each other.

Take a look at the late 1800's into the early 20th century. New Orleans was a melting pot of cultural diversity. You had the the plantation culture, slave culture, creole culture, cajun culture along with the Yugoslavian fishing community, the native American communities, and all the other temporary people from all over the globe working on the many ships that docked in the port. It was a relatively small geographic area housing thousands, with abundant  differences

Most of the South seemingly tried to keep the African American population on the fringes of the city, but New Orleans was a little different. Though it was technically a segregated city, each society had its own  area for music, and local recreation. The African American people had a place, just north of the French Quarter  called Congo Square for their gatherings, music, and other entertainment.  Many of the community were acquainted with or proficient in playing traditional European orchestral music,  Ragtime with was the craze at the time along with spirituals passed down from slavery days, marches, and traditional African rhythms  . I can't even say over time, because a new music genre developed quickly, fusing  all of these into a new sound and rhythm, unique to the music world.

In the late 1800's Buddy Boldon (AKA King Bolden), a coronet player, formed a dance band that played, taking their music to another level with a beat unheard of at the time. And that was the beginning of jass, which went on to become jazz.

Another of the early jazz artists was Jelly Roll Morton. When the music started to spread in the city, the venues for listening were not exactly where members of New Orleans' social elite cared to be seen, but the music aficionados were drawn to the new sound and wanted to hear it. Jelly Roll became a staple at private parties providing them with the jazz they craved. I am not sure they knew the man they hired to provide music for their lavish parties, was the same guy who was the house pianist at one of the brothels in Storyville, the city government sanctioned Red Light District of New Orleans.

And somewhat like the diaspora in ancient times, instead of people, this new music spread through the south into Chicago, Kansas City, New York, and to the west coast, with each region tweaking the sound a bit.

Louis Armstrong is probably the most recognizable name of jazz musicians who hail from New Orleans, but the list is substantial: Ellis Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Delfeayo Marsalis, Jason Marsalis,  Pete Fountain, Louis Prima, King Oliver, Sidney Becht, Professor Longhair, Trombone Shorty, and Jon Batiste (if you watch Stephen Colbert you see Jon regularly) and this is just the tip of the N.O.musical iceberg.

If you happen to be in or are going to New Orleans take a side trip outside of the French Quarter and make sure you plan an evening on Frenchmen Street. It is almost door to door bars and clubs featuring live music, most of it jazz.

For today's tune I chose Louie Armstrong's Basin Street Blues. Basin Street was a street just a block or two west of Congo Park (now Louis Armstrong Park) Though I don't know for sure I imagine this was written reflecting life on that street.

For the recipe today I am including a quick and easy gumbo recipe for the crock pot. Since it does not have a roux I will admit it is not a true and authentic gumbo, but I am living grain free right now and I am not making anything for dinner that I can't eat. Plus this is so darn easy to make! (No stirring for an hour to get the perfect roux)

1/2 lb shrimp , shelled and de-veined
1 boneless chicken thigh, chopped in bite size pieces
1/2 lb  smoked sausage, cut into coins
1/2 lb andouille sausage , cut into coins
1 bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
3 celery stalks, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup okra, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil or melted lard
15 ounces diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon file powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
2 cups broth

Put everything but the shrimp, the okra and oil or fat in the crock pot.
In a large skillet add the oil/lard and get it popping hot (lard has a higher smoking point than olive oil) , Toss in the okra and cook it quickly stirring until it quits making a slapping sound. I understand this is not a technical cooking term but it is truly accurate. I suppose you could just add the okra to the crock pot, but cut okra, heat plus liquid equals too much slime for me. Cooking in advance negates the slime. Now you can throw it into the crock pot  Cover and cook on low heat for about 4 hours. At the end of the cooking time turn the heat up to high, add the shrimp and cook until it is done. This will only take a few minutes. Serve over a bowl of rice.

I have this in the crockpot right now and do not have a finished photo. We are not eating it for a couple of days, because like a lot of one pot spicy foods, it improves with age.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

So, While You Were Sleeping

While all of you (except those of you who live on the other side of this orb) were sleeping last night, I summoned my inner kindergartner and played with paper, scissors and paste. I was up until nearly 3 this morning practicing my skills making bridal bouquets. GF2 is wanting a specific look for her arrangement and needs a specific color.

I had none of the supplies needed nor any knowledge about how to make a bouquet since this is the first I have ever attempted. I have an area in the laundry room with all kinds of craft and art supplies and I figured I could find something in there that would work to make a dummy arrangement. The calla lilies are made with junk paper from another project, held together with paste and tape. They are attached to  number two pencils "stems" which were wrapped with sisal. Then I bound the "stems" with tulle from my Christmas wrapping stash, and added a bow.  Ok, several bows and a ton of tulle later something resembling a bouquet happened.

I am pretty sure no florists in the world are threatened by my creation, but it will be something she can hold next her dress and decide is any of these off whites work, of if it is back to the drawing board. When she decides on a color then the hunt for that color can begin. In the meantime I have found how to do something I never knew I could do. However, I am not sure I ever wanted to know how to do it before. It seems my skill set of things I will never use again keeps growing, while skills I could develop to actually use in my day to day living are quite stagnant.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Guilt Free Pancakes

I have mentioned before I am currently doing the Keto diet. It has meant changing how I am eating while still preparing meals for the non-Keto people I cook for everyday. (TheHub) So far it has been pretty easy because he loves rice, or a baked potato, or pasta in any shape or form, and I can add any of those with minimal prep. Also he is perfectly happy to eat whatever protein and vegetable I am eating. Shoot if I were him I would be happy too, I mean, how often do we have lobster (Thank you Sprouts for the super sale on lobster) or steak when I am not doing this?

The weekends are the hardest on me, because I am not eating breakfast, and he loves a big Saturday morning meal. Last weekend he mentioned pancakes, which are totally off the table for me. At least traditional pancakes are a no-go. Since we had waited so late in the morning (almost 11) I was fine with that because I could technically call it brunch, plus I really wanted to try something I had not been eating. (See note below about variety)

I was searching the internet for recipes to help with variety (it's the spice of life, you know)  on this eating plan and had copied and pasted a recipe for pancakes. The blogger claimed they were as tasty as the pancakes her family's restaurant served when she was growing up/working along side her folks. I thought I would give them a try, knowing the true test would be how well they were received by TheHub.

Incredibly Close to the Real Thing Pancakes

2 large eggs, separated
1/8 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsp erythritol granulated (I imagine Splenda would work as well)
pinch  salt
2 oz almond flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp butter

In a large mixing bowl mix the egg yolks, cream, fake sweetener, and salt until smooth.

Combine almond flour with baking powder; whisk it into the egg mixture until it is completely blended. (Honestly, to me this means pour the almond flour on top of the yolk mixture, add the baking powder and give it a couple of quick tosses before totally incorporating it into the mix.

In a separate bowl beat the egg white until soft peaks. form  Gently fold the beaten whites into the batter. Gentle fold is the operative word here.

Melt butter in a large heated non-stick pan (I use a non stick griddle) over medium heat. Swirl or wipe the pan with a paper towel to make sure all the surface is coated. Spoon in the batter  on to the warmed pan to make your pancakes  slightly larger than silver dollar size. (I have a mini muffin scoop so I used that)

Cook for 3 minutes, or until lightly browned, and then flip each pancake and cook for another couple of minutes. Do not try to flip them too early or world chaos will follow! The recipe cautioned against turning them to quickly, but did I pay attention? Learn from my mistake.  Dish them up with butter and no sugar syrup or crushed berries or whatever your taste buds demand.

TheHub thought they were great and had no idea they were flourless and keto approved until after meal. I thought they were pretty spectacular too!

Friday we were out running some errands when he asked if I would make him pancakes like I did last week!  Pancake recipe, for the win!!! I made them for him this morning and he ate the entire recipe by himself. I can see this becoming a regular feature on the very occasional weekend brunch.

And just in case any of you think I am doing the June Cleaver, wake up to wait on my family thing, the answer is no.  Generally TheHub gets up on the weekends and makes a small pot of grits. He has very limited food prep skills,  grits, fried eggs and grilled cheese. (He is excellent with take-out though, and can procure food in a heartbeat.)  So on the rare occasion I plan to eat breakfast or the even rarer occasion he asks me to make him something special, I try to oblige. Well at least if I am in the mood to cook, or it doesn't take too long, or make too big of a mess, or I have already had a couple of cups of coffee, or all the stars are aligned, or. . .

p.s. As soon as I can find where I found this recipe I will post a link to that site. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Friday and All That Jazz

It is Friday, but because of the 4th holiday was mid-week, I personally had 2 Mondays during the week.  It feels like Tuesday and I totally forgot to prepare this post. Guess I am not too jazzed about doing one on the fly either, and instead I am sharing a few of my favorite jazz tunes.

I love Braggin' in Brass. The tempo is extreme in places and is a very difficult piece for the musicians, plus it is a cooperative effort with musicians swapping the lead back and forth.

Bemsha Swing has traces of a Dixieland Jazz beat and always makes me happy.

I had to throw in a little Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappeli.  Danjo was the forefather of early Gypsy jazz  type street music. I really do like just about anything they play

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy by Cannonball Adderley is on my daily playlist. This live recording is the best.

Sophisticated Lady is a favorite on a more personal note. My parents would go dancing as part of their regular entertainment from their courtship until shortly before Dad died. One of the places they went regularly for dinner and dancing was a local place called The Club. It overlooks the city, has beautiful views, a dance floor and regular band. At the end of the evening Dad would always slip the band some cash with his request so he could dance to last dance with his Sophisticated Lady.

There are so many more songs I love but to share any more would be weary. Since we listen to jazz every night with dinner we hear quite a lot from many artists. If you want any suggestions of other fantastic songs just ask and I will be happy to share.

We have a small lake place and sometimes when we are on the porch we hear the boats go by blasting us with Country Western music. I keep threatening to hire a jazz ensemble and ride around the lake returning the blast favor with jazz. I am pretty sure the other lake residents would appreciate that about as much as I do their C/W. (Yeah, I won't really do it, but I do love imagining it. Feel free to call me Walter Mitty)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

No Regrets Chocolate Cake

Last Friday Helena mentioned she would love creamy chocolate cake with no calories so there would be no regrets. Try as I may there is just no way to create something like that, so instead we are doing the next best thing and making a cake that is simply one serving made from healthier ingredients. While it is still cake, since there is not a whole cake, it can be made, eaten without leftovers to tempt you. (Be honest here, How many of you are like me and will intentionally cut a slice on a slight angle just so you can go back and have a nibble more "just to even up the cake"? There is nothing left to even here which can be either a blessing or a curse

Better For You Chocolate Mug Cake

2 tablespoons coconut flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon agave
1/4 cup almond milk
1 egg
1/2 to 1 tablespoon chocolate chips (who am I kidding use the whole tablespoon full)

In a small bowl mix the cocoa powder, coconut flour, and baking powder until it is well blended. Add the agave and almond milk and stir with a fork until the lumps are gone. Put the egg in a small bowl and beat lightly with that same fork. Add it to the batter and stir until it is blended.  Fold in the chocolate chips reserving a few to put on the top of the baked cake.

Spray a mug with non stick spray and pour the batter into it. Bake on high in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. I strongly suggest you do the touch test after 2 minutes and 10 seconds. I cooked mine 2 minutes and 30 seconds and it was cooked through. You really want it a tiny bit on the underdone side,

Take it out of the microwave and let it cool for a few minutes. Be careful because the mug bottom will get hot.

Our taste tester was the lovely GF2.  Neither TheHub, Son2, nor I are eating any sugars. Fortunately for us she is and seemed to be pretty happy to give it a try.  I had a can of Reddi Whip Real Cream inthe fridge so I squirted a dollop on the top and sprinkled the chocolate bits over the cream.  I used mini chocolate chips because they were the only chocolate chips I had on hand and they worked fine.

This is after the first bite, and there were more bites after it. She really did like the cake and declared it was sweet enough without being overly sweet. It was chocolaty  without being too chocolaty, but her favorite bites were the ones that included the chocolate chips. I think since they were so small they did not have the heft to add any real melted goodness to the cake, so use the regular sized chips. The melt flavor will be bigger and bolder. She also thought it made more than one person can eat in one sitting. Too bad I am doing no sugars because I am pretty sure I could prove her wrong!

So here is a more guilt inducing chocolate cake for those of you who  don't keep all this weird junk on hand all the time like I do:

First omit the egg entirely. Substitute 1/4 cup AP flour instead of the coconut flour, 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder instead of 1, 2 tablespoons white sugar rather than the agave, 1/4 cup  plus 1 tablespoon milk instead of 1/4 cup almond milk. Additionally add 2 tablespoons veggie oil or 2 tablespoons melted butter.  The tablespoon of chocolate chips and the baking powder remain the same.

Mix all the dry ingredients together, add the milk and oil, stir until there are no few tiny lumps. Fold in the chocolate chips, pour into the prepared mug and bake 1 minute and 19 seconds to 1 minute and 30 seconds on high power. Things change with a change in flour, sweetener and milk don't they?

Hope you enjoy some guilt free chocolate. I am going to go eat a dill pickle because all this thinking about chocolate cake is killing me. If I won't give my mouth chocolate I am going to punish it with acidic and sour flavors.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

'Nuf Said!

I thought I might share this with those of you unfamiliar with living in the southern part of the U.S. plus, it just make me laugh, 'cause it is pretty much spot on.