Saturday, February 11, 2012

SHE 'SOUPS' TO CONQUER

Well, it's mid-February in New Orleans and Winter has finally decided to pay a visit.

We did Trick Or Treat in shirt sleeves, Christmas in flip-flops but now it looks like Valentine's Day will be great 'snuggle' weather.  Finally.  Don't blink y'all.  Winter lasts about one weekend down here.

And with Mardi Gras a little over a week or so away, you can hear the glue guns buzzing across the city.  Like some mega-episode of "Project Runway," self-proclaimed costumers are busy at work designing - and re-designing - their works of art for the big day.  With the arrival of Old Man Winter, I'm thinking some folks are going back to the drawing board.  So much for that Lady Godiva look!

Anywho, when the weather turns nippy, I think 'sippy' - as in cup 'o soup.  That brings us to why we're here.

My dear husband, the brilliant actor, has been starring in a production of "Hairspray" down here.  Kids' future therapy bills aside, it's been a great experience for the whole family.  A great experience, that is, except for the nasty sinus infection which He picked up backstage and then shared with the rest of us.

So, with the weather getting colder - and everyone feeling decidedly lousy, I was inspired to make something to warm us up from the inside out.  Thus, today's recipe:  Lump Crab and Butternut Squash Bisque.  Seriously, y'all this is heaven by the spoonful!  Good for what ails you - or just plain good.  And, as is always my goal, it's a velvety-smooth way to sneak a bowl full of beta-carotene-rich veggies into my unsuspecting offspring. (Cue evil laugh.)

LUMP CRAB & BUTTERNUT SQUASH BISQUE 

Olive oil
1 stick of butter
1 large, sweet onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 1bs of butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups of chicken stock
3 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 cup of cream
1 cup of lump crab meat
crab for garnish

Get a heavy, thick pot with a lid and coat the bottom with olive oil.  Place the stick of butter in and let it melt over low heat.  Chop the onion. Peel and slice (not chop) garlic. Add both to the pot and let them saute over medium heat until translucent - do not burn the garlic!  Stir periodically as this cooks for around 5 minutes.  Now, add the squash.  Stir.  Should be bubbling and smelling good by now. With heat on medium, cover the pot to smother the squash.  Check and stir every 5 minutes.  After about 20 minutes - when the squash cubes are starting to soften, add the white wine.  Cook, uncovered for 10 minutes to burn off the alcohol.  Smells good, right?  Now add the chicken stock, herbs and seasoning.  Cover and let the whole thing simmer until the squash is really tender - about 15 minutes.  Now, remove the bay leaves and process the soup till smooth.  I use a wand blender right in the pot.  Add salt now - to taste - or just let folks add salt at the table if they choose.  Now add the cream and stir to incorporate.  Keep the flame low so as not to curdle the cream. Carefully clean the shells from a cup of lump crab meat - trying not to break up the lumps.  Gently fold that into the bisque.  Serve with lump crab garnish on top each bowl.  YUM!!!!

WOW!  It is so gratifying to watch my kids enjoying this bowl of golden goodness.  Hey, you think I could EVER get them to eat a bowl of buttered squash?  NEVER.  But THIS stuff?  They will polish off the whole pot if I let them.  Sometimes, you must 'soup' to conquer, my friend!

So, welcome Mardi Gras and welcome Winter.  Time to drag out my nutria coat and sip a cup of solid gold!  Enjoy, y'all!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

PEAS TO PLEASE

OK, I have been remiss.  I haven't visited this blog lately because LIFE keeps getting the the way. 

Just got an email from someone who said my dear husband is on the radio right now telling people to visit my blog for Thanksgiving recipes.  That's fine.  In fact, that's awesome.  Enjoy!  Only problem is, the recipe that started all this interest isn't yet on my blog.  Shame on me.

So, for everyone who asked, here's my recipe for PEAS ROCKEFELLER.  They are simple and simply divine!  Mine are already made and in the fridge to be heated up tomorrow.  You can seriously throw this together in minutes and your family will RAVE! 

PEAS ROCKEFELLER

1 stick of butter
1 tbsp of olive oil
2 tbsp chopped garlic
4 cans of petit pois peas (reserve 1 can's liquid)
herbs de provence
Peychaud bitters
Italian breadcrumbs

Melt the butter with the olive oil.  Add the garlice and saute till you can smell the nutty garlic flavor.  DON'T BROWN THE GARLIC - it will turn bitter.  Now add all the peas at once.  Add herbs de provence - app. a tblsp.  Stir them around.  When they start to simmer, add several (your taste) dashes of Peychaud bitters. Add breadcrumbs and pea liquid.  Stir.  Allow it all to simmer to thicken the sauce. Done!

My kids call these 'fancy peas.' I call them 'easy peasy.'

Enjoy!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Clafouti Patootie!

OK, so that headline means absolutely nothing.  I just couldn't resist the rhyme!  (What a goober, right?)

Anywho, I've been soooo busy, y'all!  Been shooting a TV pilot, getting kids in school, rehearsing a play.  In short, I've been burning the candle at three different ends!  All good stuff, however, but I've missed blogging! 

Well, this morning the planets have all aligned and I actually have a minute to touch base.  How've YOU been?  Missed me?  Come on, lie.

Anyway, the great thing about this play I'm doing is that it motivated me to research and try a new recipe!  Great, huh?  You KNEW I'd find a way to work some stove time into the mix, yes?

The play is a wonderful, funny, violent play called "GOD OF CARNAGE," which I'm doing with my husband, Spud McConnell (my favorite actor) and two other wonderful thespians: Lara Grice and Gary Rucker.  We've been having a swell time rehearsing and the crew at Southern Rep Theatre in New Orleans is amazing!  Our director, Ricky Graham, is a comic genius.  The play, by Yasmin Riza, swept the Tony Awards when it debuted on Broadway in 2009.  Now I know why!  It's a great show.

The thing about this play is that CLAFOUTI (one of France's national treasures) figures prominently into the storyline.  What is clafouti?  Yeah, that's what WE said.  So, we went on a quest to find locally-available items that might 'stand in' for clafouti:  cheesecake, apple pie, pudding in a crust.  Nothing seemed right.  But, then again, we weren't 100% sure what clafouti even looked like.

Finally, I said, "That's it!"  I dragged out my cookbooks and did my homework.  And here is the result of my quest.  Enjoy!


GINGER/PEAR CLAFOUTI

2 ripe pears (not mushy), peeled and sliced thinly
2 tsp fresh minced ginger
1 cup gingerbread cookies, crumbled
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp pear brandy
3/4 all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups whole milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract


Heat oven to 375 and spray a 9 x 12 glass casserole or equivalent round pie plate.  Arrange the pears on the bottom of the pan - they look nice fanned out, but they taste good no matter what!  Sprinkle the pears with the 2 tbsp sugar, the ginger and the pear brandy.  Let that sit a minute to release some juices while you work on the batter.  Now, whisk the flour, salt, and 1/2 cup sugar until all the dry ingredients are blended. You may even add a little nutmeg or cinnamon at this point, if you like.  Add the eggs, milk and vanilla and mix till the lumps are gone.  Pour slowly (so as not to mess up your pretty pear 'fans') over the pears to distribute evenly.  Sprinkle the top with the ginger cookie crumbles.  Now, bake for 40-45 minutes until the whole thing 'poufs' up like a souffle and loses its 'jiggle.'  Leave it to the French to come up with a 'poufy' and 'jiggly' dessert.  Let it get slightly golden but don't overcook it or it will be chewy.  Nothing worse that chewy caflouti (well, it almost rhymes).  As it cools, the pouf will settle down.

Voila! (Couldn't resist!)  Serve this, preferably, warm either dusted with confectioner's sugar or topped with a 'bouffant' of spiced whipped cream.  C'est magnifique!

Bonjour! Bon apetit!

Friday, July 15, 2011

USING THE OLE BEAN!

First off, I swear, y'all, 'Gawd' don't want me to blog!  Since I wrote last, I've had two computers go totally dead and I dropped my new 'smart' phone into the toilet.  Not too 'smart' of me.  But, enough about that, I'm back...again!

It's one of those days when I started off on the computer looking up all things that start with "all" and wound up at "pancreatitis."  Don't ask.  Anyway, next thing you know, one of the kids comes up and says, "Mom, what's for supper?"  How about, "Panic, with a side of No-Idea and You-Got-Me for dessert." Yeah, you've been there too.

BLUE RUNNER BEANS TO THE RESCUE!

Here it is, down and dirty and sure to please:
2 cans Blue Runner White Beans
1.5 lb smoked ham, cut in cubes
1 cup trinity
2 tbsp bacon fat
3 bay leaves
steamed rice

Get a heavy pot. Turn on medium heat. Add bacon fat. Add trinity and ham. Stir till veggies wilt and ham gets a little brown on edges. Add the beans. Add the bay leaves. Season to taste. Let simmer for around five minutes. Stir to prevent sticking.  Steam some rice (read the package).  YUM!  And all this happens in, like, 10 minutes.

Serve with a green salad and french bread with lots of butter.

Dear Mr. BlueRunner,

I love you.

Sincerely,
Mo


AN ODE TO BLUE RUNNER BEANS
by Maureen Brennan McConnell
Beloved legume
Oh, Bean sublime -
Thou savest me
Beacoups of time.

Into a pot
From can you flip,
And Entree make
In just a 'zip.'

Oh, creamy Bean,
'Food Art' thou am-
Especially with
Thy pickled ham.

So "Mom" can feed
Her "Jills and Jacks"
Whilst on her 'duff'
She doth relax!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must check the oven.  I think my You-Got-Me is almost done. ;o)
Hope y'all are having a great Summer!  Have fun with beans! http://youtu.be/4moPhSeDWFI

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I FOUND MY THRILL

I always wondered what ole Fats Domino found up there on that hill.  Now I think I know.  Well, one of the things, anyway!

See, in my world, thrills come pretty cheap.  I can have three people, standing in line, waiting to smother my face in kisses by simply yelling one word across the house:  "PAAAAN-CAAAAAKES!"  That word, "pancakes" can produce a stampede like only a new episode of (fill in the name of whatever kid show drives you nuts) can.

Now, our area of the world is known for many wonderful things: jazz, riverboats, gumbo, art, movies, coffee - you name it.  But one of my favorite unsung heroes of this land of plenty is the blueberry.  And right now, they're fat and juicy.  Our good friend, Mr. Jay, brings us some from his farm on the northshore and we promptly put them to good use!

And so, on day 12(?) of CAMP MOMMY, we're having Blueberry Pancakes with real maple syrup for breakfast.  For those of you 'spoiled' by instant pancake mixes like Bisquick, prepare to be amazed at what you can do with stuff that was hanging around your house anyway.  I like to teach my kids the 'real' way to do things (i.e. without marketing budgets attached) so that they can always enjoy life - even at times when they might find themselves so broke that they can't even pay attention. [rimshot]

BLUEBERRY THRILL PANCAKES
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
scant teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2.5 cups of milk
dash of maple flavoring
1/4 cup melted butter
Put first 4 ingredients in bowl and stir to incorporate.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir and stir until the mixture is creamy.  A mixmaster makes this job much easier, if you have one.  Heat a flat pan to almost smoking.  Lightly coat with cooking spray.  Pour batter on by spoonsful.  When the side facing you starts to "bubble," turn the pancake.  Leave it cook for 30 more seconds and it's done.  If you see any 'shiny' areas on the sides, let them cook a little longer.

If you are lucky enough to have blueberries, rinse them well and place them in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with any sweetener - if you choose to.  I also splash a bit of vanilla on mine and mix them thoroughly.  And if you are lucky enough to be in Louisiana right now (the old joke says, "Well, then you're lucky enough!") look on line for the many blueberry farms that are open for picking your own bucket.

To serve, pile a few pancakes on the plate.  Cut them into pieces (this way the syrup gets more soaked in).  Cover with a mess of berries and maple syrup.  WOW!!

Everybody sing....."I found my thrill, on Blueberry Hill....."
Comments? aintjuliachild@gmail

Monday, June 13, 2011

IF IT'S MONDAY IN NEW ORLEANS.....

I'll never forget one time when I read an article where 'red beans and rice' was described as 'gourmet food.'  Gourmet??  What a laugh!  Can't remember where I read that.

In New Orleans, red beans and rice is convenience food, digestible culture, staff of life, maybe, but gourmet? No.  And no other day of the week evokes this staple dish more than Monday.  Monday, the day we spend digging out from the excess of the weekend.  It is a day filled with laundry, mopping, toilet scrubbing - everything BUT cooking.  A pot of beans on the stove - or in the crock pot - frees the Domestic Czar (read: mom) to more pressing business.  Free?  Well, let's say "available."  But then, it could be worse:

YIKES!!

In my mom's day, beans were a two day process.  On day one, you'd rinse the beans picking out bits of mud or rock.  Then they'd sit in a pot of water and soak to soften them. On the second day, the beans would cook slowly with mom tethered to the kitchen for repeated stirring and monitoring.  I (and I'm sure legions of other modern moms) have devised a more streamlined approach that condenses the whole shebang into one day and requires a minimum of supervision.

"QUICK" RED BEANS ala crockpot
1 pound of dry red beans
1.5 pounds of smoked sausage
1 cup of trinity
several bay leaves
your favorite dry seasoning
Pour dry beans into your crock.  Rinse the beans (twice) and pull out any weird bits.  Now, slice the smoked sausage and add to the crock. (You can also use any other type of seasoning meat - or none at all.) Add the trinity, bay leaves and your favorite dry seasoning.  Now, cover the whole mess with BOILING water (or stock if you really want to layer some flavors!).  Adding the liquid already boiling confuses the beans and makes them think they've been cooking two hours already.  Cool, huh? Speeds up the whole process. And you'll still have plenty of time to undo the weekend 'kiddie bomb.'   Set the crock pot to 'high' and the beans will be ready in around 5 hours.  Set it to 'low' and add another 3 hours to that.  Just depends on how much of a hurry you're in  (or how dirty your house is!)

Check your beans about half way through to give them a stir and add a little more liquid if needed.

About 25 minutes before you're ready to eat, put some rice to steam and toss a salad.  Add some french bread and butter and a pitcher of mint sweet tea.  Gourmet? Gourmaybe....  But that's a stretch when you're eating them on the patio under a umbrella.

Now, you know there will be leftover beans.  Here's what I like to do the next day.  Throw the leftovers in a pot.  Add half the amount of bean volume in cream.  Stir over low heat.  Now, get out your wand immersion blender and whip up the whole pot into a smooth, cream of bean soup.

I have a picky teenager so, at our house, we call this Chili Soup.  Add some ground cumin to taste, top the bowl with sour cream and cheese.  She's none the wiser that she's really eating red beans ("Ewwww, mom").

That's our little secret......k?  Now, if you'll excuse me, my mop is calling.....

Questions? Comments? Please email me at aintjuliachild@gmail.com.  And share my web address:  www.thisaintjuliachild.com 
Please keep the tornado victims in your prayers and do whatever little thing you can to help them recover.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM

Well, it had to happen.  Summer is here.  We made it through the last-minute flurry of final exams, piano recitals and field day.  And so the question begs, "Now what?"

As Camp Mommy kicks into high gear, I consider myself fully-prepared.  Memberships are updated to the Zoo, Aquarium, Children's Museum and City Park amusement area.  I've located the fishing rods in the shed. Bike tires are pumped up.  The blazing southern sun hasn't made the pool feel like bath water yet...YET.  Wii is online.  Library cards stand at the ready.  I should be cool, right?  RIGHT?!?

And then it starts, "Mo-o-o-m, she's hogging the remo-o-ote!"  BING!  Round One of the summer battles begins. I SCREAM. YOU SCREAM. Just wait till they get really bored.  That, my friends, is when I pull out my secret weapons. 
There is no amount of summertime angst that cannot be soothed over with something cold and sweet.  For a $6 investment at the local dollar store, I have bought myself ALOT of sanity with a few little FREEZY POP trays.  I figure each pop I make will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 cents.  Have you priced the ice cream truck lately???  Three dollars for a nasty pop that looks like a demented Spongebob (Redundant? Discuss.) and tastes like nothing that exists in nature?  $3 each???  Really???? 

And my pops won't have a drop of high fructose corn syrup.  In fact, they'll have fruit, vitamins, milk and fiber! All summer long, we'll have fun coming up with new concoctions to tickle our taste buds (and soothe the savage beasts).  Here is our first set of recipes.

BrrrrNANA POPS
2 ripe bananas
1/3 cup of milk (I used canned pet milk)
1/2 cup of fresh, ripe pineapple chunks (you can use canned)
1/3 cup sweetner (sugar, Splenda...up to you)
1 tbsp honey
pinch of cinnamon
I am always looking for ways to use up ripe bananas.  In the winter, I make bread but this is a great idea for summer.  Just blend everything together and pour into a freezy pop tray.  You can also use small cups with wooden sticks that you can get at the store.  This batch makes 8 pops.  If you have leftover, throw some ice cubes into the blender and enjoy a quick smoothie.


PEANUT BUTTER CUP POPS
1 ripe banana
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tbsp condensed milk
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
Blend all ingredients except the chips.  Stir in the chips.  Freeze in your pop tray.  This batch makes 4 pops.


I had lots of the second batch left so I whipped it up with ice in the blender. Put it in a fancy milkshake glass, added a large marshmallow, some chips for garnish and a sprinkle of cinnamon for color.  VOILA! 

Summer Bliss.  Summer Blessing!  And then the teenager said, "This is awesome.  My mouth's havin' a party!"  A happy teen - and no one is in the car or spending a fortune?  That, my friends....Summer Miracle!

Shhhh......hear that??  It's the sound of PEACE IN A POP TRAY.  Amen. Can I get a witness????
Thanks to my friend Pam for inspiration and taste testing!
Please pray for the victims of the tornadoes and do what you can to help them.
Questions? Comments? aintjuliachild@gmail.com