Sunday, October 20, 2013

Homemade Sausage and Seafood Gumbo

This is the real thing, y'all- real Creole gumbo, straight from New Orleans.  Did you know that the word "gumbo" traces its root back across the Atlantic, where it derived from an African word meaning "okra"... Okra is what makes this soup thick.  It is the combination of African, French and Spanish cuisine that makes Creole food so delicious, sometimes a bit spicy, and always unique.
My mother-in-law, a Creole food master, passed her recipe on to me and I'm going to share it with you today.  She learned it from her mother-in-law, who grew up in the French quarter- the heart of New Orleans.  This soup is usually served with rice and French bread (great for sopping up the remaining broth), but as you can see from the picture I am nixing the rice and bread because I am trying to eat fewer grains.  It is fantastic as is!
What you'll need for a little bit of Creole heaven:
1.5 lbs raw shrimp, shelled and de-veined
12 oz lump crab meat, flaked
6 oz oysters (optional)
1 lb smoked sausage or andouille, sliced in disks
1/2 lb okra, cut in disks (discard the tops)
1 med. onion (chopped)
2 ribs celery (chopped)
1 green bell pepper (chopped)
2 large garlic cloves (pressed)
3 bay leaves
1/4 t dried thyme
1 T Cajun seasoning ( I like Tony Chachere's)
1/4 t red pepper
1/2 t black pepper
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, with juice
7 cups water
2 t dried parsley
rice and French bread (optional)

Brown sausage in a large pot, then remove.  In the sausage drippings, saute the okra for about 5 minutes (add butter if too dry).  Add the other vegetables to the pot and saute for another 3 minutes.  Add meat, tomatoes, water and other seasonings to the pot (except parsley and seafood).  Simmer over med. heat for 30 minutes.  If you want a thicker soup, simmer uncovered- if you like broth, cover while simmering.  Finally, add seafood and parsley to pot and simmer another 10 minutes. 

Serve with a scoop of rice on top of the gumbo (That's the New Orleans way) and a large slice of French bread on the side.  You may want to put a bottle of Tabasco on the table for those who like to spice it up!  Enjoy!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Homemade Chicken Chowder

Ok, so I'm on a soup kick!  I LOVE soup... and it is so comforting  to sip on a cool fall evening :)  This time, I am making a soup that I have enjoyed for years but thought I could only get out of a can:  Chicken Chowder!  Yum.  And, this dish can be made from leftover roast chicken and just a few more ingredients that are always in our pantry :)

This is a recipe I just came up with a couple days ago, but I've already made it twice!  Here's what you'll need for this creamy, delicious soup:

Chicken Chowder

1 chicken breast (or about 1-1/2 cups left-over roast chicken pieces), chopped and browned in butter
1 medium organic yellow onion, chopped
2 medium or 3 small organic potatoes, chopped in cubes
1 c frozen, organic corn
about 1.5 quarts chicken stock
1/2 c organic heavy cream
3/4 c  whole-fat milk

to thicken, make a roux with 2 T butter and 1 heaping T unbleached flour- heat in skillet until combined.
For those who are gluten intolerant, use corn starch mixed with a little water.

Melt 1 T butter in a 2-qt saucepan and saute onions, potatoes and corn for about 5 minutes.
Add chicken stock, cream,milk and cooked chicken.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are done.  Thicken (optional) with either method, as described above.

This is a quick way to make a wholesome, delicious dinner for your family!  Enjoy!

Homemade Borscht With Beef Stock

When I was pregnant with my third child, we lived in an apartment building with many wonderful neighbors... one was from Lithuania.  We spent one afternoon play date at our foreign friend's home when she offered me some of the borscht she had made that day.  Never having had it before, I was naturally very curious!  Cold beet soup (with lots of sour cream) sounded delightful, and being pregnant gave me a good excuse to eat four meals that day :)
I have always loved beets, mostly the pickled beets my mother used to can, but this soup was amazing!  So, as homage to my generous Lithuanian neighbor, I have made borscht for my family.  It is gorgeous (just look at the picture!) and chock full of nutrients.  I made it with my homemade beef stock to make it even more digestible...
Here's the recipe I tweaked;  It comes from the Most for Your Money Cookbook, published in 1938:
4 medium beets, peeled (and chopped)
1 onion, grated on medium grater
juice of two lemons
3 Tablespoons sugar ( I used organic evaporated cane juice)
salt and pepper to fancy
2 eggs
1 pint sour cream
Put beets and onion in a 2-quart saucepan and boil 20 minutes. (I boiled them in half beef stock and half water)  Add lemon juice, sugar and seasonings and boil 5 more minutes.  Beat eggs with cream; stir in slowly. Take off the fire and allow to chill.  Makes 6 to 8 portions.  
This a great lunch, since there is no heating involved!  Just take out of the fridge and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tonight We're Gonna Eat Like It's 1899 (Clam Soup Recipe!)

Are you tired of all the new recipes out there that call for processed, boxed, chemical-laden, fake food?  I sure am.  Thankfully, I have the Internet :)  It is my friend when it comes to finding wholesome, nutritious, easy recipes that are good for my family.  My latest obsession is vintage cookbooks!  If you haven't looked for them online, you probably don't know that there are literally thousands of free cookbooks online that date from before 1900 and onward.  My favorites are the pre-1900's cookbooks because they use real food ingredients- nothing fake, nothing processed, all dripping in real butter and animal fats!
Speaking of animal fats and butter, did you know that the first heart attack in the U.S. wasn't until 1920?  That was a few years after the invention of Crisco in 1911.  I think I'll stick with the God-given natural fats that people have used for thousands of years.  Obesity and clogged arteries weren't a problem back in our great-great-grandparents' day.
As I said before, I have been obsessed with vintage cookbooks lately.  Here is one link that takes you to thousands of fantastic books that have expired copyrights- FREE to everyone who has a need or interest in them :)
The recipe I am going to share with you comes from the Church of the Good Shepherd Cookbook of 1896. 
As pictured above, I made the delicious Clam Soup, submitted by Mrs. P.W. Talbott:
Clam Soup
One pint water, one pint of sliced peeled potatoes and one onion.
Boil until potatoes and onion are thoroughly cooked then mash. (I didn't mash)
One dozen clams chopped, one quart of rich milk, seasoned with butter, pepper, salt and celery to taste.
Most of the recipes in these books are just as simple!  If you have never cooked from scratch, this is a great place to start.  There are also household tips at the end of a few cookbooks :)  It is really interesting to read about herbal remedies and clothes washing in the 1800's! 
So, put on your apron and try to get back to your roots...  and enjoy the fruits of your labor!