Saturday, March 31, 2018

One last Jam - weekend recipe

I was sorting recipes and found this great version of jambalaya that they serve at the House of Blues here in Chicago.  I thought what a perfect way to bring our month of Jambalaya to an end with something that originates here where I live instead of the usual places the recipe originates.

And this version is fast too!


Jambalaya ala House of Blues

Recipe courtesy of Chef Robert Childers
House of Blues. Chicago, Illinois

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1--inch cubes 
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes 1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 rib celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
8 ounces Andouille or Kielbasa sausage, sliced
1 teaspoon Cajun spice
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1 1 /2 cups converted rice
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 pound small raw shrimp, peeled, cleaned and deveined 
Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions:
In a large heavy dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the oil and brown the chicken breasts and thighs for 5 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, and parsley and cook for 5 minutes longer. Add the sausage, Cajun spice, thyme, cayenne, bay leaf, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the rice, chicken stock, and tomato sauce, and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. Gently nestle the shrimp into the rice 5 minutes before the jambalaya is finished.


When ready to serve, fluff the rice with a fork. Garnish each serving with chopped parsley.

To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: JambMar
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:
   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)
   February - Beef Stew (StewFeb)
   March - Jambalaya (JambMar)
   April - Ham & Shrimp Dishes
   May - Bread recipes
   June - Garden Delights
   July - Grilling
   August - Salsa, Corn and Jelly
   September - Squash Dishes
   October - Pumpkin Recipes
   November - Chili
   December - Herbal Cocktails

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Jambalaya for the middle of the week

You don't have to sacrifice the traditional smoky punch of this Cajun favorite just because you're short on time. All you need is some purchased sausage and quick-cooking brown rice to create a rich, satisfying dinner on any weeknight.


Fast Sausage and Seafood Jambalaya
1 teaspoon canola oil
8 ounces andouille sausage or low-fat kielbasa, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices 
1 16-ounce bag frozen bell pepper and onion mix
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp parsley
2 tsp basil
2 cups instant brown rice
8 ounces raw shrimp (26-30 per pound), peeled and deveined

Ingredient Note: Andouille sausage is a smoky, mildly spicy pork sausage commonly used in Cajun cooking. Look for it near other smoked sausages in large supermarkets or specialty food stores.

Directions
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sausage and pepper-onion mix; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Add rice, stir once, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add herbs, then add shrimp and stir to incorporate. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered until the shrimp are opaque and cooked through 5 to 6 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.


To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: JambMar
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:
   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)
   February - Beef Stew (StewFeb)
   March - Jambalaya (JambMar)
   April - Ham & Shrimp Dishes
   May - Bread recipes
   June - Garden Delights
   July - Grilling
   August - Salsa, Corn and Jelly
   September - Squash Dishes
   October - Pumpkin Recipes
   November - Chili
   December - Herbal Cocktails

Friday, March 23, 2018

Slow Cooker Creole Chicken


Not quite a Jambalaya, but this have the same flavors and is pretty warming.


2.5 lb. chicken thighs
Drizzles of olive oil 
1-2 Tbsp BYP N'Orleans Spirit Herb Mix
1 bag vegetable soup frozen vegetables or gumbo soup mix 
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes 
1 cup brown rice 

Directions


Add the chicken thighs to the slow cooker. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top. Season with the N'Orlean Spirit seasoning. Add the vegetables over top of the chicken. (Adding them while still frozen is fine!) Sprinkle a little more seasoning over top. Add a few dashes of salt and pepper as well.

Set the slow cooker on low and cook for 8 hours. 
About 1 hour before dinner time, start cooking the brown rice. Cook according to package instructions. (If using instant brown rice, you only need a few minutes adjust start time accordingly!)

Serve Slow Cooker Creole Chicken and veggies over brown rice.


To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: JambMar
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:
   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)
   February - Beef Stew (StewFeb)
   March - Jambalaya (JambMar)
   April - Ham & Shrimp Dishes
   May - Bread recipes
   June - Garden Delights
   July - Grilling
   August - Salsa, Corn and Jelly
   September - Squash Dishes
   October - Pumpkin Recipes
   November - Chili

   December - Herbal Cocktails


Monday, March 19, 2018

Egg Decorating with Herbs - Natural Egg Dyes

Many herbs and spices also contain fun colors, so you can create lovely shades with items you probably already have on hand. Below is a list of possibilities. Feel free to branch out, and try any other herbs you have in your pantry.
·         Turmeric (brownish orange)
·         Coffee
·         Nettle or mints (tan green)
·         Calendula (tan yellow)
·         Hibiscus (makes blue gray dye)
·         Onion skins (purple)
·         Black tea
·         Elderberries (purple)


Try a tablespoon of herb/spice material, a teaspoon of vinegar (which works as a fixative to help the eggshells take color) and enough hot water to fill a pint jar. I heat the water in a tea kettle and pour it into the jars. Use caution when pouring hot water if children are nearby, and allow it to cool slightly before allowing children to work with the dyes.
I put it all in wide mouth canning jars which gave room for the egg scooper to be used to life the eggs out of the dye.
Let eggs soak in the dye mixture for 10 minutes or longer, even several hours, depending on desired shade (and patience). Natural dyes often give softer, earthier hues than conventional dyes.

Hibiscus creating blue gray dye on three different eggs three different ways

Do not leave them in overnight or the vinegar will soften the egg shell - yes I did do that!
There are a variety of ways you can decorate your eggs beyond simply dyeing them solid colors. Try these ideas for adding more variation and creativity to the eggs!
1. Wrap eggs in rubber bands - everywhere the band hugs the egg, there will be no dye, giving cool patterns.
2. Use a white crayon or a corner of a slab of paraffin wax to make a design.  Where the is wax there is no dye. (You can see my "L" in the large picture above.)

3. Wipe the color off the egg when it is wet and you get a painted farmhouse style egg (see hibiscus dye above)
light leaf pattern
4. My fave use a nylon to hold a plant leaf against the egg and when you remove the nylon the leaf pattern will be undyed.
The texture of the leaf is visible in the right egg, so cool! These were dyed with rose petals giving a pinkish brown.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Jambalaya via Burt Wolf - Recipe of the month

I had a couple of Burt Wolf versions of Jambalaya but I liked this one.  All the great ingredients and a bit of heat to warm up these not so spring-like days in March.

Jambalaya
Adapted from Burt Wolf’s Menu Cookbook


1 3/4 quarts chicken broth, or four 13 3/4-ounce cans
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled, shells reserved
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound andouille, Cajun, or other spicy sausage
1 cup chopped celery
2 cups chopped green bell peppers
2 cups chopped onions
1 serrano or 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato juice
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ to 1 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
Chives for garnish

Directions:

In a large stockpot, bring the chicken broth and reserved shrimp shells to a simmer. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Then strain and set the broth aside until ready to use in step three.

In a second large stockpot, heat the vegetable oil, then slice the sausage into 1/4-inch rounds, and cook it until lightly browned. Add the celery, bell peppers, and onions. Cook for about 10 minutes. Add the chilies and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes more. Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato paste, and bay leaves.

Add the strained shellfish-flavored chicken broth and the crushed red chili flakes. Season the mixture with a little salt and pepper, stir in the basil. Add the long-grain rice, cover the pot, and simmer for 15 to 18 minutes.

Finally, stir in the basil and add the shrimp. Cook for 5 minutes longer with the cover off. Be sure that the rice is almost cooked before you add the shrimp, so the shrimp won't overcook.

Serve in bowls and garnish with chives.


To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: JambMar
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:
   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)
   February - Beef Stew (StewFeb)
   March - Jambalaya (JambMar)
   April - Ham & Shrimp Dishes
   May - Bread recipes
   June - Garden Delights
   July - Grilling
   August - Salsa, Corn and Jelly
   September - Squash Dishes
   October - Pumpkin Recipes
   November - Chili


   December - Herbal Cocktails

Monday, March 12, 2018

Not all Herbs are created Equal

When choosing herbs to go into your garden or herb garden you must recognize that not all herbs are the same.  They need different growing conditions, they have different habits, they even come in different colors.  For the most part all herbs need full sun which is defined as 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day, they enjoy a well-drained soil with a moderate amount of water.  Herb as weed-like so they can survive less than perfect conditions by growing more slowly or producing less leaves and flowers.  However, some actually thrive in different conditions, so it helps you know your plants a bit better.  I am going to present few terms you might find in books or on seed packets and what that means to growing certain herbs.

Annuals

Some herbs are annuals, these herbs are not cold hardy and have a single season growing habit that produces flowers and seeds for next year.  Many, like dill, have seed you can use to cook with as well as the leaves.  However, these plants are always trying to make seed so harvesting and cutting flowers off will increase their size and deter their natural habit.  Chervil, summer savory, any basil, cilantro, and dill are all annuals, but are easily grown from seed sown directly into the garden patch.



Dill – sow seeds bi-weekly for a continuous crop of this annual, giving you leaves and seeds to use in cooking.


Fennel - bronze Fennel is pretty with darker leaves than it green cousin and it is an annual you can grow easily from seed. Here it looks great flanked by Swiss Chard

Hardy Perennials

Some are hardy perennials, these will come back year after year producing many branches to be cut and used or dried.  They sprout early and sometimes depending on the weather you can actually get a hefty harvest in April even in the colder north. Mints, lavender, catnip, lemon balm, oregano, all are hardy perennials.

Apple Mint

Pineapple Mint
Mints – you can enjoy the many sub species to get different flavors, like Orange Mint, Mojito Mint, Chocolate Mint or Lemon Mint.


Tender Perennial

Tender perennials can come back year after year, but generally are not hardy below 32 degrees so if you live in the north you treat them as an annual or bring them in for winter, but in the south you may, with protection, be able to winter them over. Examples of a tender perennial include, rosemary, scented geraniums, pineapple sage, bay laurel and marjoram.

Marjoram -- is a tender perennial and many people grow it as an annual and harvest it to the ground before the first frost in the fall.




Biennial

parsley
Between tender and hardy perennials are the biennials.  These are herbs that come up a second year, but in that second year they are planning to flower and produce seed and not much else.  Many, like parsley and angelica, become less tasty during the second year and are often grown as annuals.

Parsley - this leafy plant grows in whorls close to the ground, but sprouts into a stock in the second year when producing seed.



Woody Shrub

Woody shrubs are herbs with a strong woody stem and can be grown in the landscape as a shrub or in the herb garden as a perennial.  These would include sage, winter savory and even the tender perennial lemon verbena. Some people consider lavender a woody shrub because it is often grown as a hedge, but the stems rarely get woody.

Common Garden Sage

Sage is attractive and comes in several varieties including purple and tri color, however the colored varieties are not as hardy as the original.

Tri-color Sage

Other Textures and Conditions

Some familiar herbs come different colors or textures, like tri-color sage, bronze fennel, golden oregano, variegated lemon balm.
Golden Lemon Balm
Some herbs love a dry area, like thyme which works great in a path or a rock garden.  

thyme in a stone walkway

You can also enjoy some great varieties here, with creeping thyme that has a great pink/purple flower; or variegated lemon thyme that adds color and other thyme varieties with different shades of green or white highlights like silver thyme, or Wedgewood thyme.
Golden Thyme
variegated lemon thyme
A few herbs even like wetter conditions, like Marsh Mallow or Meadowsweet.

Marsh Mallow - This bog dweller sends up tall spikes of lovely pink flowers and stately foliage. Reaching up to 6 feet in height, marsh mallow prefers full sun. Its seeds, flowers and leaves are edible, and yes its root is used to make marshmallows


Meadowsweet - Meadowsweet’s frothy cream-colored flowers and fragrant leaves are very useful. The plants grows 2 to 6 feet tall and is happy in moist or wet soil, in sun or part shade.






Friday, March 9, 2018

Weekend Recipe - Best Ever Jambalaya

This month the recipe theme is Jambalaya so here is another Jambalaya recipes.  What I find is that which sausage you want to use, what seafoods you add, and if you add pork and/or chicken is regional due to availability or culture.  This recipes I found in Taste of Home Magazine several years back, but I no longer have the date of the magazine, as I only saved the clipping.  I'm not sure I think it is the best ever, but you can be the judge.

Best Ever Jambalaya from Taste of Home

2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 pound fully cooked Spanish chorizo links, sliced
2 cups cubed fully cooked ham
3/4 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
3 cups chicken broth
2 large green peppers, chopped
1 large onion, chopped

1 Tbls N’Orlean Spirit by Backyard Patch Herbs or any other Cajun seasoning
2 tsp pepper sauce (like Tabasco)
3 cups instant brown rice
1/2 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Directions

In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chorizo and ham; cook and stir 3-4 minutes or until browned. Add chicken to pan; cook 5-7 minutes or until no longer pink. Stir in tomatoes, broth, peppers, onion, BYP N'Orleans Spirit and pepper sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 8-10 minutes or until peppers are crisp-tender. Return to a boil; stir in rice and shrimp. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 7-9 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Remove from heat; let stand, covered, 5 minutes or until rice is tender. Yield: 10 servings

To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: JambMar
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:
   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)
   February - Beef Stew (StewFeb)
   March - Jambalaya (JambMar)
   April - Ham & Shrimp Dishes
   May - Bread recipes
   June - Garden Delights
   July - Grilling
   August - Salsa, Corn and Jelly
   September - Squash Dishes
   October - Pumpkin Recipes
   November - Chili
   December - Herbal Cocktails

Monday, March 5, 2018

Seed Swap and Seed Saving

Seed Keeper Company www.seedkeepercompany.com is coming to the Garden Club meeting in March – check out the Garden Club website for more details.  That got me thinking about my collection of seeds which is not organized at all.  I do keep them in a cool dark place (bottom drawer of a filing cabinet and in a recycled plastic cat litter container.)  But, as you can see, they are in envelopes, tins, plastic bags, seed packets, my own handmade seed packets, and my favorite -- paper bags.  Lots of paper bags, most with a single scrolled half name of the original plant on them. And I would not call them organized.


Many of these seeds are three years old or more and I felt it was time to either use them or give them away.  We are having a mini seed swap at the March Garden Club Meeting where members and guests can bring seed to share or just pick up seed.  I am going to provide paper bags and coin envelopes and people can pick up a few seeds and then at the meeting learn about the history of seeds and some seed starting and preserving tips from Carol and Kerrie of Seed Keeper Company.  They will also have Seed Keepers and other garden accessories available for purchase, so you can get organized too.  They have a soil thermometer that I absolutely covet!

How did I organize my seeds?

Gather
First I took them all out of the drawer and the plastic storage container and spread them on the table.  I placed those I thought were quite old to the far left so I could check the germination. 

Sort
The rest I sorted loosely into vegetables, herbs and flowers.  And then subdivided into species as needed. At this point I check seed for germination.  I placed 10 seeds on a damp piece of paper towel, folded it over onto the seed and placed them in a warm area (on top of my refrigerator and in my upstairs bathroom) and waited to see of they would germinate.  I get a loose percentage of germination rate by how many of the 10 seeds actually germinate and can give people a loose idea of how well the seed will do for them.  Since all seeds have different lengths of time they can be kept before they lose vitality this is an easy home method to check to see if you save that seed a bit too long.

Research
Then I grabbed a few reference books.  If I was going to place these in bags to take to the meeting I needed to include information about the soil needs, growing habit and germination periods for the plants so others not as familiar with them as I am can enjoy them.  I chose to put this information on an Index sized card, rather than writing it on the bag or container, then I can transfer the seeds to different containers and never lose the information.  Now only a name needs to go on the bag, box or envelope.  I used the Park’s Success with Herbs by Gertrude Foster as my main source for info.  Nobody knew seeds like Park’s back in the day!

If you want a copy of that seed info card - download this PDF!

Package
For the Swap I decided I would put a large amount into envelopes or bags and people could just pick up one small package with 10 to 20 seeds in try out at home.  For those with a larger garden I also kept some seed that I had in larger amounts, in paper bags.  Then they can scoop out some seed to grow.


Share
These are the finished collections of seed.  I have kept a manageable amount for myself to plant both indoors and outside (back into the drawer they go.) And have two containers of seed to go to the Garden Club meeting.  These are well labeled and can be used by visitors to the March Garden Club meeting to enhance their own gardens or start a new one.

UPDATE AS OF 3/7/2018: Our Meeting has changed!  We will now have a talk on seed starting as Seed Keepers has had to reschedule, but we will still be enjoying the seed swap beginning at 7:00 pm

If you live anywhere near Villa Park, Illinois (that is a direct west suburb of Chicago) then please feel free to stop by, our meetings are free and open to members of the public, even if you are not a member of the Garden Club of Villa Park.  The March Meeting will be held Tuesday March 27, 2018 7:00 PM for the seed swap, 7:30 PM for the informational meeting featuring Seed Starting at 320 E Wildwood Ave Villa Park, IL  (Lion’s Recreation Center.)


I would not say my seeds are organized yet, but at least they are in manageable groupings.  I will get a Seed Keeper at the Garden Club Meeting and then I can file them with the information on my seed cards!  Wow aren't I organized!
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