Sunday, September 30, 2012

Diane's Seafood Gumbo

I am so proud of myself and so appreciative to my friend, Diane.  Many, many years ago, I attempted to make gumbo.  It was just awful.  And as much as Jim and I both like gumbo, I have been too afraid to try it again.  And then, several months again, John and Diane had us over for dinner and she was gracious enough to share her recipe.

I will tell you, we eat a lot of shrimp around here and I always keep to shells to make a shrimp stock.  I had alot of shells, so my stock is going to be much heartier than if you just use the shells from the shrimp in this recipe.  Plus, if you save shells, you can make the stock ahead of time and really cut your time in half.

Also, Diane's directions under the ingredients listed using 1/2 pound of gumbo crabs (about 2) or soft-shell crabs (their home is near the gulf so they are readily available to them).  But not in Chattanooga.  So I substituted an 8 oz container of crab claw meat (available in the seafood section in Publix).  Also, her recipe calls for a 12 oz bottle of amber beer (an ale or full-bodied beer).  I'm not very familiar with beer and really didn't know what that means.   But she had found in this area the "Yeungling" brand of beer worked well.

This makes about 3 quarts and will serve about 10-12 people.  She says you can double the recipe but recommends not decreasing it.  The rest will freeze well, so now I have a couple of containers in the freezer that I'm already eyeing!

We used to eat gumbo from a restaurant in Beaumont, TX which, I swear, was the best we'd ever had.  When Diane made this for us, we both thought that her's was even better.  I think I came pretty close.  Thank you, Diane!

Boil shrimp shells and heads (if you have them) in about 6 1/2-7 quarts of water with a couple of ribs of celery, some onion, and a pot or two of garlic and S&).  You can throw in a bell pepper, too if you want.  Cook until stock is done.  You will be able to tell by the look of the stock and the taste when it is done.  Again, you can make the stock well ahead of time and freeze.  NOTE:  You will need 6 cups for the gumbo.

DIANE'S SEAFOOD GUMBO  (Serves 10-12)  Cook Time: about 1 3/4 hour

1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups sweet onions (chopped fine)
3/4 cup green bell pepper (chopped fine)
3/4 cup celery (chopped fine)
2 Tbsp minced garlic
12 oz bottle of amber beer
6 cups shrimp stock
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 pound crab meat
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste (I used 1/4 tsp)
1 pound medium to large shrimp, headed, peeled, and deveined
1 pound white meat fish filets (catfish, grouper, snapper, any white meat fish), but into bite-sized pieces
1 Tbsp seasoned salt
24 oz oysters with their liquid (also available in the seafood section.  Here, at Publix)
1/4 chopped fresh parsley, optional
1/2 cup chopped green onion tops, optional
Cooked rice, white, brown, and a white & wild blend mix

Put the oil in an 8 quart stockpot over medium heat.  Heat the oil for about 5 minutes and add the flour.  Stir the oil and flour with a wooden spoon to make your roux.  Continue to stir the roux for 20-25 minutes (mine took 30 minutes) until it is milk chocolate colored.  

When the roux is done, add the onions, bell pepper, and celery to the roux and stir to blend.  Stir for 5 minutes and then add the garlic.  Cook the garlic for 30 seconds before adding the beer and shrimp stock to the pot.  Add the thyme, bay leaves, Worcestershire, salt, and cayenne.  Bring the gumbo to a boil and lower the heat to simmer.  Continue to simmer the gumbo for one hour, skimming the foam and any oil that rises to the top during that hour.

Bring the gumbo back to a high heat, but not boiling (or roux will break down).  Season the shrimp and fish with 1 1/2 tsp each of seasoned salt.  Stir the shrimp and fish into the gumbo and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the oysters and crabmeat to the pot and cook, stirring often, for an additional 5 minutes.  Taste the gumbo and season, if necessary, to your taste.

Serve the gumbo in a bowl over the rice.  Garnish with parsley and green onions, if desired.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Carrabba's Tomato Basil Soup

Thank goodness I found this recipe!  I am constantly trying different tomato soup recipes.  Some are definitely better than others, and let me tell you!  This is absolutely in the Top Three.  I believe it is just like Carrabba's, but it I had them several days apart so I can't state that with 100% assurance.  I know the texture is just like the cup we had there.  It is delicious, so much so that I ate all of the leftovers for breakfast the next day.  And although the recipe doesn't call for it, I did sprinkle some with a bit of Parmesan which just sent this delicious soup over the edge.  I think I'll have to double the recipe next time.


2 (14 oz) cans of fire-roasted tomatoes
5 minced garlic cloves (5 tsp), divided
1 yellow onion, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
15-20 fresh basil leaves, rolled and cut into a chiffonade
S&P to taste
Crushed red pepper to taste
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Heat oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook until translucent.

Add four cloves (4 tsp) of minced garlic to the pan with onion.  Saute the garlic and onion for about five minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning.

Add both cans of tomatoes, including juice, to the pot and stir.  Cover and allow to cook for 15 minutes, stirring the contents every few minutes.

Add the chicken broth and cream to the pot and simmer for about 10 minutes.  The soup should thicken as it reduces.  If, after 10 minutes, the soup is still too think, allow it to reduce further until it reaches the desired consistency.  Stir occasionally to keep the soup from sticking.

Add the fresh basil, S&P.  Add crushed red pepper to taste.  Cook on medium heat for 5-7 minutes longer.

Pour or ladle carefully into the blender.  Add the reserved (1 clove or 1 tsp) minced garlic and puree until smooth.  Pour back into the pot and serve.

NOTE:  I made the soup up until the last direction to let it come to room temperature and then pureed it.  Safer for someone like me!  You can easily made this soup even the day or two before, blend it, and then reheat the amount you're going to be using.

Recipe Source:

Friday, September 28, 2012

Carrabba's Chicken Bryan

We ate at Carrabba's the other night.  I had eyed this entree once before, but had picked something else.  But it has ingredients which I just love: goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes!  I found this recipe at and it claims this is the true recipe, not a copycat.  Sure tasted that way!

I did find a copycat recipe of their tomato-basil soup which was absolutely delicious.  Hope I can find the recipe again to share with you!  I also served this with garlic mashed potatoes.


2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
kosher salt, to taste
fresh ground pepper, to taste
olive oil
4 oz goat cheese
6 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2-4 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
4 tsp onions, minced
4 tsp garlic, minced
8 Tbsp butter, divided
6 Tbsp white wine
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon's worth)

Brush chicken on both sides with olive oil, season to taste with S&P.

Grill chicken until done (internal temp of 165F), prepare lemon butter sauce while chicken is grilling.

Saute onion and garlic in 2 Tbsp butter until soft and fragrant.

Add white wine and lemon juice, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 100 minutes to reduce.

Add remaining 6 Tbsp butter, a little at a time, until it melts and mixture is emulsified.

Add chopped sun-dried tomatoes and basil, heat until hot (but do not overheat or sauce may break).

Top nearly-done chicken breasts with 2 oz each of the goat cheese until cheese warms and softens.

To serve, spoon lemon butter sauce over chicken breasts.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Parmesan Crusted Grilled Cheese

OK....who doesn't love a grilled-cheese sandwich?  Any grilled-cheese sandwich?  I love 'em.  Love 'em all.  BRING THEM ON!!!  Here's a new variation.  Guaranteed to please.  Even Jim mumbled an "YUMMMMM" between bites.  The ultimate comfort food, with a twist.


2 oz Parmesan
8 slices white sandwich bread
1/2 c olive oil
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
8 tsp apricot jam
1 1/2 cups grated fontina cheese (6 oz)
2 cups baby arugula

With a rasp grater, finely grate Parmesan cheese onto a plate (you should have 1 cup).  Brush one side of bread slices with oil and press into Parmesan, coating completely.  Place bread, cheese side down, on a work surface.  Spread half the slices with mustard and the other half with jam.  Assemble sandwiches with bread, fontina, and arugula.  In batches, in a nonstick skillet, cook sandwiches over medium until bread is crisp and golden and fontina is melted, 2-3 minutes per side.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ginger Cookies

My ode to autumn!!!!  Oh, and isn't it wonderful???  Our high here today is about 75, mornings and evenings require a jacket.  The leaves here in Chattanooga are just beginning to turn.  It is my favorite time of the year and I only make these cookies in the fall.  Poor Jim, these are his favorites.

The recipe came from a restaurant I worked at in Red Wing, MN.  I've pared down the recipe just a bit (3/4 of the original recipe) because all of the dough just wouldn't fit in my KitchenAid!  Also, their cookies were about twice the size of the ones I make.  I make these for Jim's office, so I need quantity.   Several of the ingredients are listed in weights, so you'll need a scale (preferably digital).  And I weigh each ball of dough so they all bake at the pace.  For the restaurant-sized cookies, I weigh out 60 grams of dough.  For office cookies, I weigh out 34 grams.  Obviously whichever you choose, you'll need to test-bake a batch to get the timing just right.

GINGER COOKIES (makes approximately 7 dozen cookies)

1 pound Crisco
1 pound 6.5 oz granulated sugar
3/4 cup molasses
3 eggs
2 pounds 9 oz AP flour
5 3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3 1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 1/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground cloves

In a KitchenAid mixer, cream the Crisco and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the molasses and eggs.  Mix well.  Add flour, baking soda, and spices and mix until well blended.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Roll the dough into balls (34 gram for home-sized cookies, 60 grams for restaurant-sized cookies).  Roll in raw sugar.  Place 12 balls on a baking sheet lined with Silpat or parchment paper.  Using two fingers, very gently tamp down the balls, just a bit.  Bake for about 8 minutes then rotate the pan and bake another 4 minutes (adjust timing for larger cookies).  Let cookies cool on a wire rack.

For medium-sized cookies, weigh out 50 grams.  Put 9 cookies on cookie sheet.  Bake 10 minutes, rotate pan and cook another 6 minutes.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Succulent Grilled Pork Tenderloin

I don't tend to do much pork.  It usually dries out on me so quickly.  But this  recipe was moist and tender, even the next day.  Start this the day before and all you'll need to worry about are your side dishes.


2-3 pound pork tenderloin
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup pineapple juice
2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger (I finely mince mine)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced (about 2 tsp)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, orange juice, pineapple juice, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic.  Place the pork tenderloins in a ziplock bag and pour the marinade over the pork.  Seal the bag and refrigerate the pork for 8-12 hours (perfect to prepare overnight for grilling the next day).  

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium heat.  Grill the tenderloin for 8-12 minutes per side, until the pork is cooked through (145 degrees for a whole tenderloin, temperature taken through the thickest park of the cut).  Tent the pork with aluminum foil, let it rest 5-10 minutes before cutting into slices and serving warm.  

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Alice Springs Chicken

Several weeks ago we ate at Outback Steakhouse.  I had always heard of "Alice Springs Chicken" but had never tried it.  It's a great entree and very easy to duplicate at home.  Perfect for a busy weeknight dinner, especially if you start marinating the night before.


1 cup Dijon mustard
1 cup honey
2 Tbsp canola oil, divided
1 tsp lemon juice
4-6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
12 slices cooked bacon
3 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
2 tsp chopped fresh parsley

Combine the mustard honey and 1 Tbsp of the oil along with the lemon juice and mix vigorously.

Place the chicken in a 1 gallon Ziploc bag and pour half of the mixture on top.  Refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.

Save and chill the remaining marinade to serve later with the chicken.

After the chicken has marinated:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place the remaining 1 Tbsp oil in a frying pan, heat and sear chicken on both sides.

Put the chicken in an oven-safe dish and brush liberally with the marinade.

In the same frying pan add the butter and saute the mushrooms.

Season chicken breasts with S&P.

Place bacon strips across each breast, spoon mushrooms on top, and then add approximately 1/3 to 1/2 cup of cheese on each breast.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake 7-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve with honey mustard marinade.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cheesy Zucchini Quinoa

This is a twist on the traditional broccoli/rice/cheese dish.  I love is my favorite grain.  This is a very simple side dish to make and a great way to use some of the zucchini you may grow in your garden.


1 cup quinoa
1 3/4 cups vegetable or chicken broth, or water
1 medium zucchini, grated
1 cup cheddar, shredded
S&P to taste

Bring the quinoa and broth to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat and simmer covered until  the broth has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Remove from heat and mix in the zucchini, cheese, S&P.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Easy Olive Martini Chicken

This is a fun recipe for chicken in a gin and vermouth sauce with green olives.  I served it with Cheesy Zucchini Quinoa (recipe to follow) and a green salad with oranges, sugared almonds, and an orange vinaigrette.


2 Tbsp EVOO
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp butter
3 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup gin
1 Tbsp dry vermouth
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Season the chicken breasts with S&P.  Place chicken in the skillet, and cook until browned on each side, about 5 minutes per side.

Reduce heat to medium, and add the butter and garlic.  Saute for about 3 minutes.  Pour in the gin, vermouth, lemon juice, and olives; simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the sauce thickens and chicken juices run clear.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thai Chicken (or Shrimp) Noodle Salad

I recently ordered a salad at PF Chang's which was right up my alley.  I've made several very close this one, this just had a few extras which I hadn't used before.  I made egg-drop soup to go along with this, but egg rolls would be another great idea.


8 oz shredded iceberg lettuce
4 oz rice noodles, cooked
8 oz cooked chicken or shrimp (marinated in the dressing)
1-2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 green onions, sliced, white and green parts
1/4 to 1/2 fresh mango, diced
3-4 radishes, thinly sliced
4 baby carrots, sliced into matchsticks
cilantro, to taste
chopped peanuts, to taste

Dressing: (I only used about half of this)
6 Tbsp soy sauce
6 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
6 tsp chili garlic sauce
3 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp oil 

Whisk all of the ingredients together for the dressing.  Mix all of the salad ingredients and dress with the dressing. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Chicken Ponzu w/Carrots and Sugar Snap Peas

This is another Publix "Apron's" recipe.  Always fast, easy, and delicious.  A few notes:  this recipe calls for "Ponzu Sauce" which I had never heard of.  At least at Publix stores, you can find this in the Asian is a citrusy-soy sauce.  You  can find a recipe for Ponzu Sauce by looking on-line.  It would also be a great substitute for soy sauce in other recipes.

Also, the recipe listed below calls for "2 (10 oz) bags frozen pre-cooked white rice with vegetables."  When demo-ing this recipe, Publix used a Byrd's Eye Steam Fresh package of rice with vegetables.  I couldn't find it, so I just used some leftover jasmine rice I had in my freezer.

Complete your meal with egg rolls, if you like.


Chicken Ponzu over Rice:
1/2 green bell pepper
1 3/4# boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp roasted garlic (I used a microwave recipe....look on-line, it's much faster without heating up your kitchen)
1/2 cup sliced green onions
8 oz fresh pre-sliced mushrooms
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
4 oz sliced water chestnuts (drained)
1/3 cup Ponzu sauce
2 Tbsp molasses
2 (10 oz) bags frozen pre-cooked white rice with vegetables

Preheat large saute pan on medium-high 2-3 minutes.  Place oil in pan, then add garlic, green onions, and mushrooms.  Cover, then cook and stir 3-4 minutes or until mushrooms are browned.

Season chicken with S&P.  Move mushrooms to one side of pan; add chicken, bell peppers, and water chestnuts.  Cook and stir 4 minutes or until chicken is browned.

Stir in Ponzu sauce and molasses, cook 3-4 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Microwave rice on high 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 minutes or until steaming.  Serve chicken over rice.

Carrots and Sugar Snap Peas

8 oz fresh sugar snap peas
8 oz fresh baby carrots
1 Tbsp garlic butter (I just sauteed a bit of minced, fresh garlic in a Tbsp garlic)
1/2 tsp seasoned salt 

Place carrots in microwave-safe bowl; cover and microwave on high 5 minutes.

Stir in remaining ingredients.  Cover and microwave on high 3-4 more minutes or until tender.  Stir and serve.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Honey Mustard Chicken

I found this recipe the other day on-line and I'm so glad I did!  It is succulent, tender, and so full of flavor.  And you can add just about any side dish to accompany it, vegetables, salad, potatoes, or any grain.

If you don't want to eat skin-on chicken, still cook the dish with the skin on, even if you don't eat it.  The skin will protect the meat from drying.


1/4 to 1/3 cup smooth Dijon mustard
1/4 to 1/3 cup honey
1 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 pounds chicken thighs (or legs)
several sprigs of fresh rosemary (or a generous sprinkling of dried rosemary)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix mustard with the honey, and olive oil.  Add a pinch of salt and taste.  Add more salt and mustard until you get the flavor where you want it.

Salt the chicken lightly and lay the pieces skin-side up in a shallow casserole dish.  Spoon the honey mustard sauce over the chicken.  Place the rosemary sprigs in between the pieces of chicken.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until the thighs reach 175 on a meat thermometer, or the juices run clear when the meat is pieced with a knife.  Remove the casserole pan from the oven, use a spoon to spoon off any excess chicken fat that has rendered during the cooking.

Sprinkle some freshly ground black pepper over the chicken before you serve.

Recipe Source:  


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Nellie Does the Dishes

Taking a cue from her big sister, Spot, Nellie has discovered how to help with the dishwashing!  It's a hoot to watch!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Honey Mustard Salmon w/Green Beans

This is a great, easy weeknight meal which comes together quickly, thanks to a vinaigrette used on both the salmon and the green beans.  I just added some roasted red potatoes and dinner was on the table (prep included) in less than 30 minutes.


2 tsp honey
4 tsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp champagne or white-wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced lengthwise (I only use sweet onions)
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I use Panko)
1 pound boneless, skinless salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
1 pound green beans, trimmed

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Whisk together honey, mustard, vinegar, and oi; season with S&P.  On a rimmed baking sheet, toss onion with 2 Tbsp vinaigrette and bake 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, stir 1 Tbsp vinaigrette into breadcrumbs.  Coat fish with 1 Tbsp vinaigrette and season with S&P; top with breadcrumb mixture and add to sheet.  Bake until fish is cooked through, 7-10 mintues.

In boiling salted water, cook green beans until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes; drain and toss with onion and 1 Tbsp vinagrette.  

Recipe Source:  Everyday Food Magazine, September 2012  

Monday, September 3, 2012

Shrimp and Roasted Corn Chowder do I not oversell this chowder?  OK, I can't.  This is the BEST corn chowder I have ever had IN MY LIFE.  All courtesy of a new food blog I ran across,  This guy has a plethora of incredible recipes and I can hardly wait to start in on some of them, given the extraordinary flavor of this recipe.

In my mind, several things makes this a stellar chowder.  One:  fresh corn cut off of the cob.  Two:  Smoked paprika.....another one of my favorite seasonings.  Three:  The shrimp/chicken/corn cob broth.  The recipe notes that the broth step is optional, but adds a ton a of flavor.  SO right.

I served this with a garden salad and a warmed baguette.  This didn't need the salad.  This is an incredible meal in and of itself.


4 ears of corn, kernels cut from the cobs with the cob reserved
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, with the shells reserved
4 cups broth (I used chicken)
4 slices smoked bacon, cut into 1" pieces
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
2 cloves (2 tsp) minced garlic
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsp flour
1 large russet potato, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup cream
salt (or fish sauce), pepper, and cayenne (or sriracha) to taste (I missed this entire step, and this chowder was still over the top.....I'll add a bit to some of my leftovers)

Bring the broth, corn cobs, and shrimp shells to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the liquid becomes cloudy, about 20-30 minutes, strain and discard the solids and set the broth aside (this set is optional, but adds a ton of flavor to the chowder).

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large heavy bottom sauce pan over medium heat and set aside on paper towels to drain.

Raise the heat to medium-high, add the corn and let it sit in place until it chars a bit, about 8 minutes, mix it, repeat and set aside.

Reduce the heat back down to medium, add the onion, celery, and pepper and saute until tender, about 7-10 minutes.

Add the garlic, thyme, and smoked paprika and saute until fragrant, about one minute.

Sprinkle on the flour and cook for another two minutes.

Add the broth, corn, and potato and simmer until the potato is tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the cream and shrimp and simmer until the shrimp is cooked, about 2-3 minutes.

Season to taste and serve garnished with the reserved bacon.