Jambalaya Skewers with “Quick & Dirty” Rice

Last week, my husband and I attended American Mensa’s Annual Gathering. It was actually our first one since 2006, and it was great to see so many friends – some that we hadn’t seen since that last AG, others that we’d only known online. A great time was had by all!

They say that if you’re able to function after an AG, you didn’t do it right. Well, I’m pleased (?) to report that apparently we “did it right”. After a week of walking from one end of our hotel complex (Reno) to the other constantly, crap food, late nights, and repeated attempts to beat our livers (and brain cells!) into submission, we returned home on Monday… almost completely nonfunctional. I’m sure that either of us could very happily sleep for a week. IT WAS GREAT!

That said, even after such an insane time, at the end of a long day of travel… I couldn’t wait to get back in my kitchen. We needed REAL food, and I needed to be in control of it again. That first night back, I only really had the wherewithal to come up with a cheese pesto gluten free mac n cheese.

… but I was already brewing ideas for the coming days. This recipe is one that I was particularly excited to see through to fruition.

I love Cajun food. I love the flavors, the heat, I love using “the holy trinity” (peppers, onions, celery) to start pretty much anything I can… love it. It’s also pretty much the ideal comfort food, IMHO… which was a good part of why – when it came time to DO something for others in the tornado zone, I had to make a massive batch of my Jambalaya. Yum!

So, as I did some quick grocery shopping for grillables and came upon “Andouille” sausages (really just brats with Cajun seasoning), the wheels started turning. What if I made skewers from the base ingredients of jambalaya – chicken, sausage, peppers, celery, and onions (skipping shrimp, as I was feeling poor after the trip!) – and a marinade based on the seasonings I use in my jambalaya? I could serve it on a bed of… well, not actual dirty rice, that’s too involved for a “quick” meal … but a “quick” dirty rice? YES!

Oh, this really hit the spot. It was quick and easy, and came together fabulously! The marinade was perfect, and grilled celery – a first for us – was sweet and delicious.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

PS: While I was threading everything onto skewers, I realized that this could be considered “deconstructed jambalaya”. Uuugh. Not my intent, so I want to profess my innocence! I was NOT aiming for “ridiculous and trendy” when I created this recipe! LOL!

Skewers:

2 lbs chicken breast, trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes
1-2 lbs Andouille sausage (we used raw “brat” style, not the real thing!), boiled til cooked through.
2 green peppers, cut into 1″ squares
1 onion, sliced
3 ribs of celery, sliced into 1- 1.5″ lengths

Marinade:

1/3 c. olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp each oregano, sage, thyme, salt

“Quick & Dirty” Rice:

1 link “andouille” brat/sausage, shredded
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 small bell pepper, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, pressed
4 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp each cayenne pepper, black pepper, oregano, and sage
2 cups rice

Place prepared skewer ingredients into a large bowl.

Whisk together all marinade ingredients. Pour over skewer ingredients, toss to coat everything. Cover with plastic wrap, chill in the fridge for 1+ hours (up to a day).

Stir together all “quick and dirty rice” ingredients well, making sure to break up raw sausage into very,very small pieces. (The boiling will cook them, spreading the flavor throughout the rice). Cook in a rice cooker until done.

While rice is cooking, heat the grill and thread skewer ingredients onto metal grill skewers.

Grill skewers until done – the time will vary depending on your grill. We grilled over medium heat, about 4-5 minutes per side.

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How to Make Fresh Mozzarella, Quick & Easy!

I feel a little bad for always talking about the tornado, but… man, it’s really taken over our lives. In 2 days, it’ll be 9 months, and the repairs are still pretty far from over.

This, however, has been a great weekend! As my husband churned out new shelves for the cabinetry, I was able to start unpacking the kitchen stuff. Everything just sort of got thrown into the boxes after we surveyed the damage, so we could demolish the kitchen. 9 months of plastic cutlery and paper plates later… progress is wonderful. I swear I heard the hallelujah chorus when I unearthed the cutlery set at the bottom of one of the boxes!

As is usually the case when I’m in a great mood, we had some fun in the kitchen yesterday. Homemade, fresh cheese for breakfast. Yes!

A couple weeks after the tornado, we attended a cheese workshop at a local brewing supply store, which is where we learned this basic technique. It was a weird thing to spend our time on, at the time.. But we needed to just get away from it all. We socked the knowledge away til now, and yes – it was worth the wait!

This method takes less than an hour to do, start to finish. (About 30 minutes of “active” time), and doesn’t take much in the way of ingredients. You will need rennet and citric acid, which are available at specialty cooking stores, or home brewing / cheese making supply shops – and only cost a couple of dollars each.

Buy a fair amount of the citric acid – not only will you find this recipe becoming an easy “go-to”, I’ll be posting more recipes using citric acid. (For instance, Homemade Wine Slush Mix!)

I’ll be honest – I’d barely had my finished, still warm braid of cheese on the plate, before we ravenously tore into it. It was like a scene straight out of Jurassic Park or something – and I’m pretty sure at least one of us made raptor -like noises at each other while tearing away at our cheese with our bare hands.

Oh, and yes – the cheese was squeeky. SO good! You should definitely give this a try sometime!

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“Rum Runner” Trifle Recipe

I am a big fan of Rum Runners. They’re definitely up there among my favorite cocktails ever*.

As the weather gets cold enough to require jackets and gloves, I realize that this summer was sorely lacking in the Rum Runner department. Though it seems sort of out-of-season now, it’s something we’ll definitely have to correct NEXT summer. You know, as we lounge around on our deck and patio, NOT busting our backs all summer doing tornado cleanup and repairs!

While it may be too cold to pour up a fancy, tropical rum runner cocktail, it’s NOT too cold to whip up a dessert inspired by its flavors!

This was one of the first recipes slated for “The Spirited Baker“. In the course of multiple re-hashes of the layout, format, and groupings… I managed to forget to include it. Whoops! You’ll have to buy the book for the other 160+ awesome recipes!

This recipe seems involved, but it comes together quite easily! The cake should be made at least a day before serving, but can be made even further ahead than that! Feel free to tightly wrap the slab of cake in plastic wrap and freeze for a couple of weeks, allowing it to defrost for an hour or two before cutting it up.

While I like to make up my trifles fresh RIGHT before serving them, many people find that they get better by aging a day or two in the fridge – making them an excellent dessert for entertaining!
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Creamy Blueberry Amaretto Pie Recipe

Today is the 3rd “monthiversary” of the North Minneapolis Tornado.

I don’t know why this one is harder to deal with than the past two, but I’ve been really down and sort of morbid today. I actually looked at my tweets from the day of the tornado – the first time since tweeting them. If that wasn’t bad enough, I actually called up the alarm company and asked about getting the audio of the calls they made to us that day, which they’ll be emailing to me within 48 hours. I was on the phone with them as we drove into the area, and started seeing the damage. I’m sure it was nothing but a bunch of incoherent screaming … but curiosity has taken over.

I’ve just been in a really weird place all day, my apologies if you’ve been putting up with my tornado nonsense on Twitter and Facebook (and now here!) today!

So, trying to brighten the day a little, I’d like to share a new recipe: Creamy blueberry amaretto pie. This is the recipe that I worked out in a dream, as mentioned in my recipe for Southern Comfort Peach Pie. Lucid dreaming comes in handy sometimes! I tend to do a lot of problem solving and creative prep work while fast asleep.

This isn’t a traditional blueberry pie for two reasons:

– The introduction of amaretto adds a new level of complexity to the filling.

– The addition of cream cheese makes the filling almost a cross between a blueberry pie and a cheesecake.

The creaminess works well with the amaretto and blueberries, and this results in a well-structured pie that doesn’t ooze all over the plate. (Once cooled, anyway!) It’s delicious warm or cold, and is easy to make.

As always, if you like dessert recipes that gain a little extra something by flavoring with liqueurs… check out my first cookbook, The Spirited Baker.

Enjoy!

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Bananas Foster Upside Down Cake

Woo! This entry makes two days in a row! Maybe I am not actually the laziest, lamest blogger ever?

Ok… it’s probably too early to claim that. Whatever… I’ll distract you from my inability to blog consistently with one of the best upside down cake recipes ever. (Best goes to my “Mango Mojito Upside Down Cake”!)

This cake received the cutest compliment ever. After presenting it at a Mensa convention in Chicago, the following was posted to my Facebook page:

“When I saw your list of wedding cake flavors, I wanted to get married just so I could have one of your cakes, and I wasn’t even dating anyone. And after I tasted the bananas foster cake, I went looking for someone.”

This recipe made its debut in our first cookbook, The Spirited Baker, and was also featured in the February issue of Plymouth Magazine. Its popularity is the reason that we also included it – along with many other awesome recipes – in Evil Cake Overlord, coming out on April 30th! (The mango mojito one is also included, for that matter!)

Bananas Foster Upside Down Cake

1/3 cup Butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp Flour
1/2 cup Brown sugar
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
2 Tbsp Amber rum
1 Tbsp Creme de banane

2-3 cups Bananas, sliced
2 cups Cake flour
1 1/2 cups Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
4 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Salt
3 1/2 oz packet Instant vanilla pudding mix
4 Large eggs
1/2 cup Water
1/2 cup Amber rum

3/4 cup Butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Liberally grease a 10″ round pan with vegetable shortening. Cut out a 10″ round of parchment paper, using bottom of pan as a template. Place inside pan, smoothing it out to cling securely to the shortening.

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Craft: Shower / Reception Heart Arrangements

When I got married, I was a seasoned and highly efficient event floral designer. Of course I was going to do my own arrangements! Hiring out wasn’t even a consideration – I’m very Type A, I knew exactly what I wanted, etc.

Even with my experience… if I had my time back, I definitely would have hired out, just to minimize that bit of extra stress the day of/day before. Would have liked to be enjoying time with the girls the morning of, not running a hot shower in the hotel room to coax some stubborn lilies open! I always recommend to hire a professional floral designer for your wedding.

Sometimes though, it’s just not in the budget, or not what the bride wants to do, for whatever reason. That’s fine.. but definitely requires some planning ahead! Try to design arrangements that will last several days, and pick sturdy flowers that don’t require a lot of special care.

Here is a cute, cost efficient floral arrangement that can be made several days ahead of your wedding! You can use these on each table (and the individual arrangements can double as guest favors!), or just on “special” tables.. the guest book table, etc. The instructions are for the arrangement as pictured – you can use less containers, and do a smaller heart if you’d like!

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