Caponata

Though caponata is a Sicilian eggplant appetizer, a dip to serve with crackers, I automatically think of hurricane season when I think of it.  Why?  My family has always canned it, making it an easy snack when power is out during a hurricane!  I guess another reason is that summer is when eggplant are plentiful, making this the best time to cook this fabulous concoction.

Though we can and process this dip into jars, you certainly do not have to.  It does make a lot, much more than you would typically use for a regular party so I’d suggest either canning some, or being the best neighbor ever with some little summertime “thinking of you, neighbor” gifts!  Bonus perk – this is a microwave recipe (except for the processing of jars if canning).

 

EEE8A066-344A-4734-B6FC-EE306E522546

Eggplant Capanata

Capanata
Makes 2 Quarts
Recipe slightly modified from Tout de Suite a la Microwave

Ingredients:
3 cups onion, chopped
1.5 cups green bell pepper, chopped
1.5 cups celery, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into cubes (I like them on the smaller size, .5″) – soak in salt water 20 minutes then drain
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (6 oz) can pitted black olives, sliced
1/2 cup pitted green olives, sliced or halved
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
1.5 tsp. oregano
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. pepper

Method:

In a 4 quart microwave-safe bowl or casserole, mix together onion, bell pepper, and celery with olive oil.  Cover with wax paper and cook on HIGH 30 minutes.  Stir halfway through.

Stir in eggplant, cover and cook on HIGH 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.  Add tomato sauce and tomato paste, mix well, and cook on HIGH 10 minutes.

Stir in garlic, olives, vinegar, sugar, oregano, salt, and pepper.  Cook on HIGH 5 minutes.  Serve chilled.

Note:  if canning, start with hot caponata.  Boil glass jars in large canning pot, with the lids in a small pot of water on simmer.  One at a time, remove a jar from the water, drain, set on counter with the canning funnel in the opening.  Fill till about halfway up into the opening of the jar, tap or use a butter knife to ensure no air pockets.  Carefully remove funnel, be CERTAIN that the top is CLEAN, then carefully apply one of the lids that was in the simmering water.  Close with the jar’s ring until just tight, but not super tight.  Once all jars are filled, place back in boiling water in canning pot, be sure that water is covering all jars,  Boil for 15 minutes.  Remove jars and set on a cutting board or towel and allow them to cool off.  You’ll hear a “pop” noise as they set, showing that they have processed correctly.  Store in the pantry until ready to serve.

9F177573-2665-4F5E-BBFC-04184BE75A0B

I made 7 half pint jars, with some extra for snacking!

Muffuletta Pasta Salad

Muffuletta or Muffaletta?  Central Grocery in New Orleans goes with the U so that’s what I’ll do too.  Anyway, this isn’t about that amazing, gigantic sandwich that they created.  While I’ll eat a sandwich, it’s not my favorite type of food.  I’m all about the pasta.  So when my family was coming spend the weekend, I thought a cold muffuletta pasta salad would go perfectly with the simple sandwiches we had planned.

My dad and brother REALLY enjoyed the pasta salad, so really this post is for them, so I don’t forget what I did and can make it again.  It was really simple and easy to throw together.  Cook the tortellini in advance (it only takes 3 minutes) so it can chill before mixing the rest of the ingredients.  Perfect for a hot summer gathering!  I used sliced salami and pepperoni, I think a link that you could dice would work better, but use what you have on hand!

IMG_6027

Muffuletta Pasta Salad
A Christen Original

Ingredients:

2 packages frozen cheese tortellini, cooked and chilled
1/2 jar olive salad mix
Italian dressing
fresh mozzarella balls, quartered
pepperoni, diced
salami, diced
Optional:  grated parmesan cheese

Method:

In a large bowl, toss together the tortellini and a little Italian dressing, until just coated.  There’s no measurement for this, just eyeball it.  Once coated, add the olive salad mix, mozzarella, pepperoni and salami.  Toss to mix well.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

Christen’s Mojitos

If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Louisiana in the summer, I’ll let you in on a not so secret fact:  it’s hot.  So hot.  Recently I attended a little get-together that was outdoors.  Despite the outdoor temps, the heat wasn’t so bad because there were some fans blowing on us as we drank mojitos poolside.

Have you ever had a mojito?  Well this was my first time indulging in this delight and delightful it was!  It’s got a fresh flavor without being overpowering in the mint taste or the sweetness.  A few weeks later I looked up some recipes online and started practicing to create what I think it a pretty darned good mojito!  Whip some of these up next time you are celebrating with friends, cooling off after yard work, or enjoying a Thursday evening!

IMG_5980

Christen’s Mojitos
Serves 2

Ingredients:

10-15 mint leaves
1.5 oz. simple syrup
1 oz. lime juice
4 ounces white coconut flavored rum (Malibu)
3 oz. club soda (1.5 oz. for each glass after pouring)
ice
fresh fruit for garnish (I used blueberries and raspberries just because they are pretty)

Method:

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the mint leaves well.  I find they muddle best if you add just a splash of rum in with them.  It doesn’t count towards your four ounces!  After mint is well-muddled, add the simple syrup, lime juice, rum, and ice.  Cover and shake well.

Pour (unstrained) into glasses over ice.  Add 1.5 ounces of club soda to each glass, stir, and garnish with fresh fruit.  Enjoy.

Note:  You can multiply this recipe by however many servings you need and put in a pitcher.

Instant Pot Chicken, Shrimp, and Andouille Gumbo

Let me start off by saying if you are still following me – thanks!  Over the last couple of years I went back to school for a degree in Early Childhood Education.  I graduated in the spring and began teaching third grade this past fall.  It has been a whirlwind!  I often find myself trying to figure out where I found recipes that I tried and liked – and I haven’t been blogging so they weren’t here!  The travesty!  Therefore, my new years resolution is to return to blogging recipes I try.

If you have a connection to the internet, then you know about the gadget that is sweeping the nation – the Instant Pot.  I’d been hearing about these for the last year or so but just got one for myself during the holidays (I got the CrockPot brand and I love it!).  I’ve only made a few things in it, but last night’s recipe was the one that I wanted to use as my return to you guys.  We had our second snow day in a little over a month, and when we have cold weather I feel like I have three options:  soup, chili, or gumbo.

This recipe for Instant Pot gumbo sounded pretty tasty so I gave it a try.  It was delicious!  I did find it to be a bit salty so my modified recipe will reflect changes for that.  I was not sure if it was because I used andouille sausage from a meat market (it looked very seasoned) or that it just called for too much Creole seasoning.  I’m going to cut the amount of Creole seasoning in half – you can always add more but cannot take it out once it’s done!  This recipe cooked very quickly and was delicious!

Chicken, Shrimp, and Andouille Gumbo

Instant Pot Chicken, Shrimp, and Andouille Gumbo
Modified from Stay Snatched

Ingredients:
6 oz. chicken breasts (I used half of a deboned, shredded rotisserie chicken from Sam’s)
1 lb. medium to large raw shrimp, peeled
1 link andouille sausage, cut into bite size rounds
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 pkg. frozen chopped okra, thawed
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp Better Than Bouillon chicken base
1 can chicken broth
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups water
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
a few drops of Liquid Smoke
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 – 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
1.5 tsp Tony’s Creole Seasoning
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and Pepper, to taste

White Rice for serving

Method:

With the Instant Pot on the Saute’ setting, brown the andouille sausage for two to three minutes, until browning.  Remove and set aside.  Add the butter and 1 tbsp olive oil.  Once the butter has melted, slowly stir in the 4 tbsp of flour.  Stir constantly, being sure to get the corners of the pot.  This is your roux and it should be around the color of a brown paper bag.

Once browned, switch to the Keep Warm setting and add your onions, bell peppers, and celery.  Stir well, cooking until the vegetables are tender.  Next, add all of the seasonings (not the liquid smoke), the minced garlic, and the Worcestershire sauce.  Stir well to incorporate. Add the chicken broth, okra, Better Than Bouillon, and 1 cup of water, stir well.  Return the sausage and the shredded chicken (or raw chicken breasts) to the pot and top with the diced tomatoes.  DO NOT STIR.  The tomatoes should always be at the top.

Close the pot and seal, cook on the Soup setting at High Pressure for 15 minutes.  Allow the pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure and carefully opening.  If your chicken was raw, shred it.  Otherwise stir well and add the shrimp.  Set the pot setting back to Saute’ and cook for a few minutes until shrimp are pink.  Put a few drops of liquid smoke and add remaining two cups of water to thin it out some, if desired.  Switch back over to Keep Warm.  Taste for seasonings and serve hot over rice.

 

Crawfish Etouffee’

If you grew up in southern Louisiana as I did, crawfish etouffee is a traditional dish that is prepared fairly often – especially during crawfish season (which generally runs from January through May or June).  Any Cajun cookbook you come across will have some version of the recipe and I’m sure people would love to debate what makes a true etouffee.

I spotted this recipe on Facebook a while back and have made it several times.  I have to say, it’s my favorite etouffee recipe I’ve come across.  It is creamy and the flavors are just on point.  It uses some unusual ingredients but it comes together to create pure magic.  In the recipe I will post, I’ve scaled back on some of the seasonings because we generally use crawfish leftover from a boil, which are already pretty well seasoned.  My husband made this once using those crawfish and the full seasonings and whew!  I was “glistening” while eating it!  So just give it a taste test and if you feel like it needs more seasoning, just add a little more of the steak seasoning or some cayenne powder (which it calls for but I leave out).

**A couple of notes:  It seems strange to put steak seasoning in but trust me, it makes a great flavor profile!  Also do not use a straight cast iron pot as it will discolor the crawfish.  Enameled cast iron is what I use.

crawfish etouffee

Crawfish Etouffee
Recipe adapted from Lou Wanna Parra on Facebook

Ingredients:

2 lbs Peeled Crawfish (Do not rinse crawfish, leave fat on)
1 stick Butter
1 Onion (Minced)
1 tsp Minced Garlic
2 stalks Celery (Chopped)
1/2 Bell Pepper (Chopped) (Optional)
3/4 Capful Liquid Crab Boil (small bottle size)
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1.5 Tbsp Texjoy Steak Seasoning (this sounds strange but trust me!)
Dash of Salt, Black Pepper
1 Can (10.5 oz) Golden Mushroom Soup
1 Can (10.5 oz) Cream of Celery Soup
1 Capful of Kitchen Bouquet (small bottle size)
Parsley Flakes
1/2 to 1 Soup Can of Water

Method:

In a 5 qt. pot, place your stick of butter, then on top add the onions, garlic, celery, and bell pepper.  Top with the peeled crawfish (you’re supposed to make a pyramid but that doesn’t seem to work for me so don’t sweat it).  Add the liquid crab boil, garlic powder, TexJoy seasoning, salt and black pepper on top of the “pyramid”.  Don’t stir it yet.  Place the lid on top and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are soft.  Once they are softened, stir well, then add the mushroom soup and celery soup, plus the water.  Stir well to incorporate ingredients.  Add the Kitchen Bouquet and stir in well until evenly blended.

Cover and simmer over low heat at least ten minutes.  Serve warm over rice.

Chicken and Vegetable ‘Lo Mein’ Fake Out

Calm down, your eyes are not deceiving you.  This really is a blog post!  I know it has been a while but life has been chaotic.  But hey, you’re not here to read about what I’ve been busy with are you?  You’re here for the food!  Ahh food…I’ve been dieting so I’ve been having this love-hate relationship with food lately.  I’m genuinely trying to make healthier choices, which can be hard, but necessary.

Today’s recipe is a kind of take-out fake-out that takes the fake-out to the next level.  It’s a lo-mein stir fry recipe but instead of using noodles we are going to use shredded cabbage.  I know, it’s not quite the same thing but trust me, once you get used to these substitutions you actually start to enjoy them!  This recipe came together really quickly (cooking in the wok scares me because things cook SO quickly).  I actually used some leftover cooked chicken breasts that I just diced and didn’t cook as long as the recipe said.  It was good enough to bring me back to blogging after six months, the very night I made it.  Check it out!

Chicken Vegetable Lo Mein

Chicken and Vegetable ‘Lo Mein’
Recipe slightly adapted from:  Primal Palate

Ingredients:
Chicken, diced into bite-sized pieces1/4 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup water chesnuts
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
1 pkg shiitake mushrooms
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 cups broccoli (I used a ready to cook package and just used it all)
2 cups shredded cabbage (coleslaw mix works great – minus the dressing of course)
Sesame oil
Braggs Coconut aminos (a lower sodium natural choice instead of soy sauce – often found in the organic section or sometimes with the oriental food.  If you can’t find it then use a low-sodium soy sauce)
Toasted Sesame Seeds to top

Method:

Heat wok over high heat, add sesame oil and coat the pan.  Add the meat and cook for a few minutes, until mostly cooked (mine was already cooked so I didn’t cook as long).  Add the broccoli, water chestnuts, celery and shiitake mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes.  Next add in the almonds, cabbage, ginger, green onions and garlic, along with 4 tbsp coconut aminos.  Mix well and cook for a few minutes, until the cabbage is tender but not TOO soft.  Remove from heat and top with sesame seeds.

Corn and Shrimp Chowder

Usually when I make corn and shrimp soup, I make my grandma’s recipe.  It’s what I grew up eating and it’s comfort in a bowl.  However, while at my parents’ house recently, my dad made some corn and shrimp soup, though I found it to be more of a chowder so that’s what I’ll call it.

I’m not sure where the recipe came from, I think it might be from my parents’ friend Tracy.  Whoever created it needs a round of applause though because it is fantastic.  It comes together really easily, making it a perfect weeknight dinner on a cold rainy (or dare I say, snowy?) night.  The amount of shrimp added can be to your tastes, and your budget – though I will say the more the merrier!

Corn and Shrimp Chowder

Corn and Shrimp Chowder

Corn and Shrimp Chowder

Ingredients:
1 stick butter
2 onions, diced
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
4 ribs celery, chopped
chicken broth or stock (one to two cans, depending on desired thickness)
1 can Rotel original tomatoes, drained
1 can cream-style corn2 cans whole kernel corn, drained
2 cans cream of potato soup
1 bunch of green onions, tops and bottoms, sliced separately
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 (8 oz.) block Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
1-2 lbs. shrimp, peeled and deveined
salt, pepper and Tony’s Creole seasoning, to taste

Method:

In a large pot, melt the stick of butter, then saute’ the onions, bell pepper, celery, garlic, and green onion bottoms until soft.  Add all of the canned ingredients, cooking over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, stirring often (very important – cream style corn will stick and BURN!).  Add cream cheese and whisk until melted through, stir in the shrimp, green onion tops (reserve some for garnish) and seasonings and let cook for 10 more minutes.  Remove from heat and serve garnished with additional green onions.