I have created this site to help people have fun in the kitchen. I write about enjoying life both in and out of my kitchen. Life is short! Make the most of it and enjoy!
I have worked in the restaurant and catering industry for 35 years. I attended 2 culinary schools in Southern California, and have a degree in culinary arts from the Southern California School of Culinary Arts, as well as a few other degrees in other areas. I love to cook and I love to feed people.
I am still in a Cajun/Creole state of mind. It’s funny how I go through phases and I do a lot of cooking in a specific type or cultural style and then, move on to the next one. I guess Larry has been hungry for jambalaya for awhile, though he never mentioned it until just now. He is actually the one that suggested this dish for my latest video. So jambalaya it is. You know when I bring out the big pot that there is going to be a lot of it, no matter what “it” is. And true to form, we do have a lot of jambalaya. Any takers?
Southern cooking, especially when cooking the “poor man’s food” is about cooking with whatever ingredients you have on hand at the time. This also allows for a lot of variations and subtle differences from each time you prepare a dish. That makes it fun and a bit more exciting too. Here are the ingredients I used this time. Who knows, next time I make jambalaya, it may be different again, but the basics are the same, and the techniques and cooking methods are the same.
And here it is … Video #11. Can you believe I’ve done 11 already? Time sure does fly by when you’re having fun. As always, if you like it, please subscribe to my YouTube page, and if you really like it, please share it with your friends and families too. 🙂
Laissez le bontemps roulez! Let the good times roll.
It was a good fried chicken kind of night. Fried chicken is good Southern comfort food, at least it is for me. I did not make the fried chicken. I certainly can, but why when Safeway already does such a good job of it and they make it very affordable too. I needed some good Southern side dishes to go along with our fried chicken. So I made some Creole zucchini and tomatoes and some Creole sweet potatoes with bacon and onions.
Creole and Cajon foods are native foods from Louisiana, and were born in the Spanish colonial period. They are cooking styles that are influenced from many different cultures from around the world, such as African, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Caribbean and Native American, just to name a few. These started out as the poor man’s food, and were a combination of whatever was around at the time of cooking, meaning every time you cooked a dish, it might be a little different than it was before. That’s perfectly OK. That’s just called Southern cooking. Creole cooking uses tomatoes and tomato bases in their recipes, whereas Cajun cooking does not. Cajun seasoning relies on the use of many peppers, such as white and black pepper, bell peppers and cayenne peppers. This cuisine also incorporates paprika and garlic. Creole seasoning primarily relies on herbs like oregano, bay leaf, basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley and paprika. But today, the two styles are intertwined and it is hard to tell the difference between the two. Some say the difference between Cajun food and Creole food is that Cajun is more rural and less, “upbrow” whereas Creole is more city food, and is a little fancier.
Fried chicken is about as simple and downhome as you can get. Both my Creole zucchini and tomatoes and sweet potatoes with bacon and onions were very simple too. But don’t downplay simple. Simple is still delicious!
The common seasoning used for both my Creole zucchini and my sweet potatoes was the Cajun/Creole seasoning blend. This can be used to spice anything up and give it a little Southern flavoring. I very rarely add garlic powder or dried onions though, because I prefer fresh garlic and onions and use them both for almost everything I cook.
Cajun/Creole Seasoning Blend
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried onions
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper
Mix everything together and use for whatever you want to kick things up a bit.
Creole Zucchini and Tomatoes
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 TBSP garlic
1 zucchini, sliced
1 yellow squash or a couple of sunburst squash, sliced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 TBSP Cajun/Creole seasoning
1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
olive oil and/or butter
Sautee the shallot, garlic, squash and seasonings together in the olive oil and/or butter for about 5 minutes. I like to use both, especially when cooking vegetables.
Add the Worcestershire sauce and combine thoroughly. Then add the tomatoes. Cover and steam for about 20 minutes or until the squash is tender.
I grew up cooking vegetables this way. This is just how I always made them. Little did I know there was actually a name for this style of vegetables. It just goes to show, there is always something new to learn. 🙂
Today, I give you the vegetables. Tomorrow I will present the sweet potatoes. Hang tight. Don’t go away. I’ll be be back. I promise. 🙂
Have I mentioned how much I just love Fall? It is truly my favorite season. I love all the unpredictability. I love all the warm rich colors, and seeing them change. I love the warmer days and cooler nights. And I certainly love all the Fall flavors.
Today’s walk was a quiet walk around the lakes, but the Fall colors were in all their glory.
I think this is a crab apple tree, but I am not sure. Whatever it is, I like it, and it was full of fruit.
The tall grasses were dancing in the breeze.
The trees were proudly displaying their Fall colors.
The last of the willows.
Ducks and birds out enjoying their day.
And there was a friendly squirrel who was posing for the camera. I was willing to take as many pictures of him as he would allow. He was having so much fun, and so was I.
We are fair weather salad eaters. In the spring and summer, we eat a lot of salads as our main meal. But during the cooler months, we tend to eat them only as a side dish, although there are some very good fall salads that could easily transition to being a complete meal in and of themselves too. For our recent Fall Feast, I made a salad with roasted butternut squash and a pomegranate dressing that could easily be a meal. All I would need to do to make this warm comforting salad into a meal would be to add chicken or turkey to it, and voila, a meal is made.
I guess I was distracted when I made this salad though, because I forgot to take pictures as I was making it. Silly, silly me. This picture will have to do. It is the picture from the cookbook that I got the recipe from. Doesn’t it look delicious? Believe me, it really was as good as it looks too.
Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Dressing
3-4 cups mixed salad greens or mustard greens
1 large acorn squash, sliced with the skin kept on
salt & pepper to taste
3/4 cup olive oil, divided
1/2-3/4 cup pitted dates, cut in 1/2
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup pomemgranate juice
2 TBSP honey
1 tsp garam masala
Preheat the oven to 425* F.
Coat the squash in salt, pepper and olive oil and roast for about 20 minutes or until it is soft.
Mix the remainder of the olive oil, honey, pomegranate juice and garam masala together to make the dressing. Add more black pepper if needed.
Combine the salad greens, dates, butternut squash and pomegranate seeds and toss with just enough dressing to coat the salad, right before serving. Top with more pomegranate seeds.
This salad is filled with warm, sweet goodness that will most definitely satisfy your taste buds.
I am also attaching the link for Julia’s sourdough crackers. Those were oh so good, and went very well with this salad as well. Thank you Julia for introducing us to these fabulous crackers. YUM! Not only is Julia my friend, but she is a blogger as well. You can check out her recipes what is going on in her world at Retirement RV Dream. Here is the link to her sourdough discard crackers.
We have all heard the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. I think this is so true. Beauty is all around us, everywhere we go. We just have to open our eyes and maybe our minds to truly see it.
Today, I decided to walk yet another new path, that is also just a hop, skip and a jump away from my house. I have to admit, it was not my favorite walk, but there were still beautiful things to see. As always, I had my camera at the ready, not knowing what we were going to capture or if we going to capture anything at all today. But lo and behold, there was still lots of beautiful things to see. There were lots of things that caught my eye.
There was a colorful piece of art representing our mountains running along the creek.
There were blooming cacti.
Moths resting on the flowers.
And lots of delicate little yellow and white flowers dotting the pathways.
The combination of pork and apples is a very popular combination that has been around for centuries. Not only is this a great flavor combination, but the acidity in the apples helps break down the proteins in the pork, making it more tender. And because pork is often a fattier meat than a lot of other meats, the acidity of the apples helps to make the fats more digestible too. Most savory foods that are cooked with fruit, or specifically apples, are older foods with a Northern or Central European history. Fruits were used as sweeteners for foods before sugar was readily available.
I did my own rendition of pork with apples when we had our Fall feast. I actually cook pork with apples quite often, but the sauce I made this time was a creamy apple-mustard sauce and just went perfectly with the pork loin. It was a big hit and received rave reviews from everyone. For the main entrees, I made a salad with roasted butternut squash and dates with a pomegranate dressing, roasted potatoes and the pork loin with the cream apply mustard sauce. I also made the crostini with the squash butter Crostini with Squash Butter and Ricotta Cheese and Caramelized Shallots and the roasted nut and pepitas. It’s a Bit Nutty We were all very full and very satisfied with our combined meal. It was festive feast filled with good food and good conversations.
Pork Loin with Creamy Apple-Mustard Sauce
1 3-4 lb pork loin or pork chops
salt & pepper to taste
Completely coat the pork with the salt, pepper and olive oil and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours before cooking. When ready to roast the pork, set the oven hot at 450* F or about 225* C. Roast uncovered fat side up for about 30 minutes, or until the pork starts to form a crust and browns. Then reduce the heat to about 375* F and continue to cook until the pork reaches an internal temperature of about 160* F and the juices run clear.
While the pork is cooking make the sauce
Creamy Apple-Mustard Sauce
3-4 firm cooking apples, sliced thin
2 TBSP butter
2 shallots, chopped fine
1 1/2-2 TBSP garlic
4 fresh sage sprigs, shredded + more for decoration
2 TBSP sherry vinegar
1 cup apple cider or applesauce
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1-1 1/2 TBSP Dijon mustard
Cook the apple slices in the butter and salt for about 5-7 minutes.
Remove the apples from the skillet and add the shallots and garlic and cook for about 1-2 minutes, then add the vinegar. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the sage and seasonings and mix everything together thoroughly.
Add either the apple cider or the apple sauce and the cream. This time I used apple sauce. I thought I had apple cider, but it turned out I did not, though I did have apple sauce. Once again, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Whisk in the mustard and the cream and combine well. Bring to a boil, then once again, reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for an additional 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Adjust the seasonings as needed.
Re add the apples back into the sauce and mix together thoroughly. I like to add a bit more butter to the sauce right at the end to finish it as well.
The sauce is now ready. Slice the pork and spoon this delicious sauce over your pork and enjoy. This sauce is also very good over chicken too. My friend Laura does not eat pork, so I served her chicken instead, and topped it with the sauce as well. This sauce is a winner with both chicken or pork.
You can dress up any dish at any time, and turn a simple meal into a feast. All you have to do is use your imagination and have fun with it.
Life on the lakes is pretty quiet these days. In the Spring and Summer, our lakes were full of life. We had so many beautiful and colorful flowers and so many animal friends all around. But now Fall is coming and everything is preparing to settle down and settle in, for Winter is on its way. The colors are changing from greens to yellow, and from yellows to orange and red. There are still even a few flowers left as well, but it won’t be for too much longer, for soon they too will all be gone.
There are still a few ducks left on the lakes. They are holding on as long as they can before flying off to warmer waters.
There is one lone blue heron who is refusing to leave as well.
Squirrels are still playing on the roof and in the trees.
And if you look up high, there are still a few sparrows singing from the treetops.
But soon, all of these will be gone for the season, and will be returning once again in the Spring. Every season brings gifts to share. Enjoy them all while you can, for soon they will be gone.
To me, the terms bruschetta and crostini are kind of synonymous to each other, although they do actually have slightly different meanings. Bruschetta comes from the Italian word bruscare, which means to roast over coals. Originally whole breads were roasted this way. They were heavy, hearty breads, such as an Italian rustic bread or a sourdough type bread. Crostini are the smaller, finer cousins to bruschetta, and are usually made with finer breads, like a baguette that has been sliced into thin rounds. Both are coated in olive oil and toasted. They can be used as croutons, or topped with a wide variety of toppings and can be eaten on their own or as a side dish to a salad or soup.
Bruschetta has been around since the days of the Ancient Romans. This roasted bread was used as a way to taste and test the freshly pressed olive oil from when the olive growers would bring in their olives to the local presses. Crostini, which translates to little toasts, is thought to have originated in the Middle Ages. The Italian peasants did not have plates to eat off of, so instead they used bread. Often times the bread was stale, so it needed to be soaked in some kind of liquid, often times it was wine, in order to become edible. Today, crostini are most often coated in olive oil and roasted.
Today, both bruschetta and crostini are topped with so many types of toppings. The possibilities are endless. They are always a big hit, no matter what topping is used. I tried something a little different this time, and it was a huge, delicious success, just as expected. I made a squash butter and used that as my topping, along with some ricotta cheese and caramelized shallots.
The recipe called for delicata squash, and I looked high and low for it, but could not find it anywhere, so I used butternut squash and a cue ball squash instead. Ironically, when I wasn’t looking for it, I was able to find the delicata squash with no problems. Both the butternut and the cue ball squash were very good substitutes for the delicata squash. As I have always said, recipes are NOT set in stone. Feel free to substitute things and change things around if need be, or even just because. That just gives you another delicious twist to any recipe. That is one of the things that makes cooking so much fun. Play with your food. 🙂
Crostini with Squash Butter, Ricotta Cheese and Caramelized Shallots
I baguette, sliced at an angle
2 lbs squash of your choice, peelled and sliced
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
salt & pepper to taste
1 TBSP garlic
2 TBSP fresh sage
2 tsp lemon juice
1 TBSP lemon zest
1 cup shallots, sliced very thin
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
dash of sugar
Preheat the oven to 425* F or about 200* C.
Toss the squash with olive oil and salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet. Place in the hot oven and roast for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
Brush both sides of the bread slices with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Roast for about 15-20 minutes per side before flipping them. You want the bread to be lightly golden and crusty. You can either make this ahead of time and store them in an airtight container, or you can roast them up at the same time as the vegetables.
When the vegetables are tender, place them in a food processor, along with the lemon juice, lemon zest, sage, and more olive oil and/or salt and pepper as needed and process until you have a smooth, creamy puree and everything is well incorporated.
Use the remainder of the olive oil to cook the shallots. Add the balsamic vinegar and the sugar and cook the shallots for about 5-10 minutes, or until they are browned and crisp.
Once everything is cooked, top the crostini with a spread of the squash butter, a spread of the ricotta cheese, and then sprinkle with the caramelized shallots. There will be a fusion of all kinds of delicious flavors and textures going on with every bite. Don’t spread the toppings onto the crostini until right before eating, otherwise the crostini will get soggy and will loose their crunch.
These were a huge hit. Everyone loved them. !Mangia!
It has been exactly one week since my beautiful big girl Lucie gained her angel wings and her halo, although she has always been an angel in my eyes. It has been a very emotional week for us as well. But despite the pain of our loss, there has also been so much love coming from all of you. The love and support we have received from everyone has been so healing for us. You are all helping us through this very difficult time. Many, many thanks to all of you. Your kind words, thoughts and prayers, and all the kind gestures and beautiful gifts have helped more than you know. You are all greatly appreciated.
My friend Shelly gave us a pumpkin in Lucie’s name, also in awareness for our everyday heroes. Our friends Julia and Bruce donated to a local animal shelter in Lucie’s name. Priscilla and Jonathan gave us a beautiful plant. Scott, Tracie and their daughter Taryn sent us a beautiful customized ornament for our Christmas tree. My friend Kayla, who is also a very talented artist, sent us a stuffed Saint Bernard as well as a hand-drawn picture of Lucie. (Kayla also drew me a beautiful portrait of our Malamute, Kodiak, when he crossed over the rainbow bridge a few years ago. That picture proudly hangs on our doggie wall.)
Lucie, with her signed picture from her “boyfriend” Bernie, the mascot for the Colorado Avalanche, our favorite hockey team. Her final pawprint, though she left her pawprint on our hearts a long time ago.
I will always remember the love in her heart and her big smile.
We had a fun get together with friends last night. It was a gathering of both old friends and new, and everyone had a great time. I love to entertain, and have people over for dinner. It gives me a chance to try out a whole bunch of new recipes all at one time. I also love potlucks. I love to see and experience all the different foods others make. It always gives me new ideas. I learn something new all the time.
Julia brought some delicious appetizers, including two types of stuffed mushrooms, and a vegetable crudite with a dip and her amazing sourdough crackers. Her homemade crackers were a big hit. They were so different and unique. I made the main meal and Priscilla brought an apple crisp for dessert, that we topped with a dab of ice cream. The theme for the evening was ” A Fall Feast”, and a feast it was too. Everything went together very well, and we all had a fun, fabulous time. And of course, we all ate way too much.
One of the things I made were some spiced peanuts and pepitas. (Have no fear. You will see the whole meal. Just be patient.) We all really liked them and some of us decided to put them on our salad too, which was another tasty way to enjoy them. These were so simple and easy to make and oh so good. These are most definitely a “do-over”.
Spiced Peanuts and Pepitas
1 cup Spanish style peanuts
1 cup pepita seeds
2 TBSP melted butter
1 TBSP packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Preheat oven to 350* F or 180* C.
Toss everything together well and spread evenly in a single layer onto a baking pan.
Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until the nuts are lightly toasted.
These nuts are definitely good on their own, and you can just eat them one handful at a time, or as we discovered, they are also very good as a salad topper too. I love all kinds of textures in my food, and I love to mix crunchies with my salads, so for me, this just really made the salad come to life.