Laissez le Bontemps Roullez

Dinner tonight was a typical Cajun, meal cooked in the traditional Lousianne way.  We had jambalaya with jalapeno cornbread and honey butter.  Y’all are goin’ to love this, I gar-ron-tee it.  All that was missing was some Cajun zydeco music.

Long before jambalaya was trendy, it was the poor man’s food from down in the bayous of Louisiana.  It is a spicy rice dish made with little bits of this and little bits of that and basically whatever was leftover.   Jambalaya is very similar to the Spanish Paella.  It almost always has a variety of meats, like shrimp, Andouille sausage, and chicken, along with Cajun spices, red beans, bell peppers, garlic, jalapenos, onions, tomatoes and Tobasco sauce.  Mine is made in the traditional way, with all those delicious items, and the most important ingredient, a lot of love.  My mother was from Port Arthur Texas, and I had an aunt was was Cajun, raised in the bayous of Lousianne.   Cajun food is a staple in the South, particularly in South East Texas and Louisiana, so I was raised on this.  A Cajun cook never measures anything and my aunt was a huge influence on my love for cooking, so this is probably why I rarely measure anything when I cook.  I learned from a true Cajun.

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Jambalaya

shrimp, cooked

cooked Andouille sausage, sliced

cooked chicken, cubed

garlic

onions, medium chopped

red bell & green bell pepper, medium chop

jalapeno, diced fine

1 can kidney beans, using the juice as well

tomatoes, chopped medium

3 cups chicken broth

Tobasco to taste

salt & pepper to taste

oregano

cumin

marjoram

Cajun spices

I 1/2 cups rice

olive oil

Cook all your meats separately then set aside.

Saute all your vegetables in olive oil for about 7 minutes or until soft.  Make sure you are using a large skillet, cause this is going to make a lot.  Add your rice and stir, coating it well in the oil.  Add the rest of your ingredients, adding enough chicken broth to cover the top of all your ingredients.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until all the liquid is gone and the rice is cooked, which should be about 40 minutes or so.  Make it as spicy as you like.  This dish is supposed to have a major kick.   So grab a plate and fix it up.  Laissez le bontemps roullez or let the good times roll.

 

Chocolate + Zucchini= Gold

There are so many reasons to fall in love with and leave your heart in the city of San Francisco; the beautiful romance of the city; the mysterious Golden Gate Bridge; Fisherman’s Wharf; the beautiful view of the California coastline; all the wonderful food and wine; and of course, Ghirardelli Chocolate.   Ghirardelli Chocolate was established in San Francisco in the 1840’s, during the time of the California gold rush, by Domingo Ghirardelli, who came from Rapallo, Italy.  By the 1880’s the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company was one of the largest chocolate companies on the West, selling over 50,000 lbs of chocolate a year.  The ground chocolate was the product that was the staple of the Ghirardelli business.  The process of grinding the cocoa was a process Mr. Ghirardelli invented and patented himself.  Ghirardelli Chocolate was headquartered right in the heart of the city, overlooking the beautiful San Francisco Bay down below until 1966.  Today, this is one of the main tourist attractions when visiting the city.  The Ghirardelli corporate headquarters are now located in nearby San Leandro, CA.  Ghirardelli is one of the only premiere chocolates made in America.  Most of the other premiere chocolates hail from Europe.

I lived up in San Francisco many moons ago and I worked at a large Public Relations firm while there.  Ghirardelli Chocolate was one of the many food clients that we represented.  There were many perks associated with that job, one of which was I got to be amongst the first to try some of their new products and recipes that our firm created in our own test kitchen.  I think it was while working at this job that my love affair with cookbooks really started to blossom.  I have a very old, but well loved cookbook from Ghirardelli Chocolate and my Gold Rush Chocolate Zucchini cake was inspired from this old treasure.

 

Making the chocolate gold.

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The rich, luscious chocolate zucchini Gold Rush Cake.

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Chocolate Zucchini Gold Rush Cake

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

1 2/3 cups sugar

4 eggs

1/3 cup Ghirardelli cocoa powder

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

3 cups shredded zucchini (you can also substitute shredded carrots if you prefer)

3/4 cups Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips

Chopped nuts are optional if you like.  I did not put nuts in my cake though.

 

Mix the oil and sugar together until well blended.  Add the eggs, one at a time and blend well.  Mix all the dry ingredients together and add 1/2 at a time to the egg and sugar mixture and mix well. Gently fold in the zucchini and chocolate chips and nuts if you are using them, and incorporate well into the batter.  Pour into a prepared baking pan with a little cooking spray and flour.  I used a bundt pan, which is going to having a slightly longer cooking time, but you can also use a 9×13 baking dish if you prefer.  For a bundt, bake at 350*F for about 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the cake.  If you are using a 9×13 baking dish, the cooking time will be about 50 minutes.  Cool and remove from the pan.  Once the cake is cooled, you can frost and decorate it.

 

Chocolate Frosting

3 cups powdered sugar

3 oz of either mascarpone cheese or cream cheese, softened.  (I used mascarpone this time).

3 TBSP heavy whipping cream

2 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp salt

2/3 cup Ghirardelli cocoa powder

2 TBSP butter

Mix everything together in a mixer and spread over the cake.  You might need to use a little warm water to dip the spreader in while spreading the frosting on the cake.  Decorate as you desire.  The result will be chocolate zucchini gold.  There is gold in them thar cakes from San Francisco.

*** If you are making a carrot cake instead of a zucchini cake, use the same frosting only eliminate using the cocoa powder.

 

 

 

 

 

Eat Your Purple

We have all heard how important it is to eat our greens and vegetables.  In general, the more vegetables a person eats, the healthier they will be.  No questions or disputes about that.  But did you know that eating purple is really good for you too?  Well, it is.   There are many health benefits found in the purple pigmentation or anthocyanin, found in purple fruits, vegetables and purple potatoes.  The American Chemical Society found that eating purple potatoes may lower your blood pressure; may prevent blood clots; can reduce inflammation; can help with liver dysfunction; can help reduce the risks of eye diseases and infections; and can help eliminate constipation and irregularity.  And for athletes, particularly those preparing for a big race by loading up on carbs, eating potatoes, especially the purple potatoes, actually provides more carbs and nutrients than eating pasta, without as many negative side effects, while also being easier to digest.  Potatoes in general are full of potassium, but apparently the purple pigmentation allows for the purple ones to store and produce even more potassium than other potatoes.  They are the most nutrient dense of all the different varieties of potatoes.

Purple potatoes are found mostly in Peru and Bolivia, and have been around since at least 1817.  They are part of the nightshade vegetables, also known as the Solanaceae family, along with tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. Purple potatoes have many names, including purple majesty, purple viking, and the purple Peruvian.  So in summary, yes, definitely eat your greens, but eat your purple too.

Preparing everything for purple and red potatoes lyonnaise.

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Potatoes Lyonnaise

Note to self … if using purple potatoes, cook them separately from other potatoes, since their cooking time is a little different.  You do not want them to become mushy by over cooking them.

2 lbs potatoes – your choice of variety, or mix and match as I did

vegetable or canola oil for frying

1 TBSP olive oil

1-2 large shallots, sliced very thin

2 TBSP butter

1-2 heaping TBSP garlic

salt and pepper to taste

chopped parsley

Saute the shallots and garlic with the olive oil and butter, stirring frequently.  You want the shallots and garlic to be a light golden brown and crispy.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Rinse and clean the potatoes and put in a large pan.  Cover with water and bring to a boil  and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Drain the water and let cool slightly.  Heat the cooking oil in a large skillet.  Once the oil is hot, add the potatoes, in batches.  Let them pan fry for about 10 minutes or until crisp.  Toss together with the cooked shallots and garlic, along with salt & pepper to taste and fresh chopped parsley.  You can also add cooked ham or bacon as well, if you want, to make them a little hardier.

 

 

 

 

 

A Rainbow Dinner

It’s been said many times by the health experts that one of the healthiest ways to eat, particularly when it comes to fruits and vegetables, is to have a wide variety of colors and textures be a part of the meal.  Tonight’s dinner certainly had a range of colors and textures.  Our vegetables covered the spectrum of the rainbow, from purple to yellow.  I did a medley of sauteed vegetables with sauteed zucchini, yellow squash, red onions, sweet grape tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic and kobiashi squash (orange on the inside), which was accompanied by purple lyonnaise potatoes and marinated steak.

Yes, purple potatoes.  They are a beautiful deep purple and hail from Peru.  They are a little sweeter than most potatoes, though not sweet like sweet potatoes, and have a little more starch, but otherwise taste much the same as any other regular potato.  They are just so cool because of their beautiful, vibrant color.  I was experimenting with them and mixed them with red potatoes.  The cooking time is a little different, so next time I might cook them separately, but they still came out very tasty and delicious.

A dear friend of mine had asked me about rubs and marinades for meats and seafood.   A rub is a mixture of dry ingredients that you rub on the meat and a marinade is more of a liquid that your soak the meat in.  I use all kinds of things.  I usually make my own, but there are some great rubs and marinades on the market, coming in all flavors and styles.  Just find something that tickles your fancy and try it out.  There really are no rules when it comes to rubs and marinades, but anything with an acidic base, like lemon juice or vinegar, is going to also act as a meat tenderizer because it will break down the proteins of the meats.  Heavier meats, like steak can marinate for up to about 24 hours.  Lighter meats, like chicken can’t take being in the marinade for more than 3-4 hours, or it will come out really mushy.  And seafood  really should not be marinated for more than about 30 minutes to 1 hour max.  If you are using a dry rub, then time does not matter too much.  For our steak, since we had potatoes from Peru, I thought I would somewhat stick to the South American theme, and made a rub/marinade consisting of dried lime peel, crushed aleppo chilies, chili lime powder, cayenne pepper, as well a little lime juice.  The steak was very flavorful and very tender.  I marinated it for about 7 hours.  The wine choice for the evening was a very smooth, red French Regnie that paired very nicely with the meal.  Desfruitas y Bon Appetite!

Tonight’s ingredients for the meal.   The Lime Peel and Crushed Aleppo Chilies are from Savory Spice Shopa local company based here in the Denver Metro area.  If you have never been, you should definitely check it out.  It is a spice lover’s dream.

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The vegetables, potatoes and shallots for the potatoes.

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Our rainbow dinner.

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Time for Green Chili

Colorado is known for it’s green chili.  You can find many different varieties everywhere  all throughout the state.  Some people like it thin and some people like it thick, but everyone has their own unique style and recipe.   I like mine thick and spicy, with a lot of pork.  Just like when I make soups, I make a big pot and freeze a lot of it, so I can use it again later, especially when the temperature drops and we need something to warm us up from the inside out.   We like it served just about anyway you can serve it, but our favorite way is to serve it over tamales.  This time, however, we are not going to get too much of it, since my husband volunteered me to make it for his co-workers.  Darn, I’ll just have to make some more just for us sometime soon.   If you don’t like pork, you can substitute chicken, or to make it vegetarian or vegan, you can use the vegan sausages.

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Cooking both the pork and the vegetables.

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It’s almost done. The pork and the vegetables are added together.  It’s in the simmering stage.  Let it simmer for at least about 1 1/2 hours, stirring frequently to make sure it doesn’t stick or burn.

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Served over tamales with a margarita especial.

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Jeanne’s Green Chili

I cook everything to taste.  When cooking, I rarely measure anything,hence the reason you don’t see a lot of amounts in my recipes.  About the only time I really measure anything is when I am baking, since baking is more of an exact science and cooking is more like the artist’s perception.

3-4 lbs pork loin, cubed

flour to coat the pork, if using to thicken

tomatillos, peeled and diced

onions, diced

jalapenos, diced fine (use as many as you need to spice it up depending on your level of spiciness)

roasted hatch chili peppers, skinned and seeded, diced (we get both the green and the red mixed together because we like it spicy)

green bell peppers, diced (I also use pasilla or Anaheim chilies a lot as well)

garlic

cumin

oregano

thyme

marjoram

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil

chicken broth

cilantro

top with sour cream, cheese, cilantro (optional.  Sometimes we even like to top it with Fritos as well.)

Cut all your vegetables, except the roasted peppers, and saute them all together, in olive oil until tender, for about 10 minutes.  As your vegetables are cooking, in a separate pot, cook your pork.  Since I like my green chili thick, I coat my pork pieces in flour and saute in hot oil until cooked thoroughly.  Add the cooked pork, making sure to get all the flour coatings and drippings, to the vegetables along with your chicken broth, roasted peppers and spices.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, and continue cooking for at least 1 1/2 hours, stirring frequently.  If you do not like your green chili thick, don’t add the flour, or add less of it to make it to your desired thickness.  Once it’s all done, make yourself a nice margarita or two, and enjoy.

Margarita Especial

Tequila

Sweet & Sour mix

Grand Marnier

a splash of lime juice

a splash of sprite

 

I like mine on the rocks with no salt, but if you like them blended, just pour everything into a blender over ice and blend until it becomes slushy,

 

 

 

 

 

Southwestern Scallops in a Creamy Tomato Sauce

This Southwestern dish has two of my favorite ingredients; sea scallops and a spicy cream sauce.  As I have mentioned, I love all kinds of foods, from all over the place, and all different ethnicities, but anything Southwestern is typically going to be one of my favorites.   And there is nothing better than something rich and creamy when the temperature decides to drop a few degrees to warm you up.  Normally I serve this over pasta, but tonight I served it over rice and lentils instead, which was very tasty as well.  In fact, it actually lightened it up a bit and it was not such a heavy meal.  I also served the potato bread and completed everything with a cool, crisp chardonnay.

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Southwestern Scallops in a Creamy Tomato Sauce

1 1/2 lbs sea scallops, cleaned and rinsed

bacon, cooked and chopped

vegetables (I used the left over zucchini and yellow squash from the other day, but use what you like)

1 large shallot, sliced thin

chipotle peppers and sauce to taste, chopped fine

1 heaping TBSP garlic

olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2/3 cup dry white wine

cilantro, chopped

Cook the bacon first, then remove and set aside when done.  Cook the scallops, shallot and garlic in the bacon grease.  Add more olive oil if needed.  Cook the scallops only for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until browned on all sides.  You want them to be nice and soft.  Remove and set aside.  Saute your vegetables.  Add the white wine and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the wine is reduced and most of the liquid is gone.  Add the whipping cream, chipotle peppes and sauce, salt & pepper to taste.  Add the scallop mixture and bacon and chopped cilantro and incorporate into the mixture, just enough to heat them up.   Serve over pasta, rice, or even mashed potatoes.

If you don’t like sea scallops, you can substitute shrimp or chicken, or tofu to make it vegetarian.

I think They Liked It

We started making the wet food for Lucie and Vinnie about 2 years ago.  While we were on vacation, at some point, all the meat in the freezer defrosted and we did not know how long it had been that way.  We came home to a freezer door that was wide open.   None of the meat smelled or looked bad, but we could not take a chance on it for us, and dogs have a much higher tolerance level to foodborne illnesses than we do, so they were treated to a wide variety of meats, mixed with different vegetables and fruits, as well as potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, lentils, etc.  We’ve been doing it this way ever since.  It costs about the same or even slightly less, but most importantly, we know exactly what is going into their food, and it is very healthy for them.  We want them to eat and be healthy.  They always seem to know when Mommy is making their food too, although they are always ready to help out in the kitchen no matter what I am cooking.   By looking at the way they chow down their food, I am going to go out on a limb and say they liked it.

 

Fritzie, my assistant, is helping to prepare everything.  The kids are eating pork loin, rice, lentils, zucchini and yellow squash cooked in canola oil, and finished with yogurt.  No spices for the kids.  They may be able to handle foodborne illness better than we do, but spices are a big no-no.  This mixed, with their dry food, will last about 1 week.IMG_0744

 

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My testers, Lucie on the left and Vinnie on the right.  I’m not sure, but I think they liked it!

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