Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Almost forgot the Cajun Peanut Brittle Recipe!

Cajun (or not) Peanut Brittle

Adding the cayenne is totally up to you and your tastes, but it really gives a nice finish to the sweetness of the brittle and the saltiness of the peanuts. It also really sets it apart from the typical store-bought kind.

2 cups peanuts
1/2 cup light Karo Corn Syrup
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp vanilla

This is a quick dish so have a buttered cookie sheet ready to go to pour mixture on.
Heat the corn syrup, water, sugar and nuts over medium heat until the mixture is melted and "stringy" when the spoon is lifted out of the mixture. Remove the mixture from the heat and immediately stir in the baking soda, pepper and vanilla. Stir briskly until the mixture is clear and then immediately spread thinly onto the buttered cookie sheet and set aside to cool completely. When completely cool, break into pieces and put into airtight containers for gift giving or to save for parties. Tip: don't over stir before pouring or there will be too many air bubbles in the finished brittle.

Cajun Gifts for the Neighbors....Spiced Pecans and Peanut Brittle

This is the time of year when I usually start some holiday baking and making sweets to box up for the neighbors, mail carriers, etc. The only problem is that it happens to be 80 degrees this week and the last thing I feel like doing is baking! However, I will work on some nutty sweets because they're easy and I don't have to turn on the oven. They also bag or box up well for gift-giving and stay fresh for mailing.

Cajun Spiced Pecans Recipe

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
optional: 1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups pecans (can also use walnuts, peanuts, etc)

Place all ingredients into heavy skillet stirring constantly over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Reduce heat and continue cooking, still stirring constantly until mixture is in a fluid state. Remove from heat and immediately pour the nut mixture onto a large ungreased baking sheet. Separate carefully before they harden. Cool thoroughly and place in a decorative tin, jar or bag for gift giving (if you haven't eaten them all!)

Leaving out the cayenne gives you that traditional cinnamon-sweet ones, but with the cayenne you get that extra cajun "bite" with the sweet/spicy combination.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Bathroom Renovation Bad Timing...

What did I do 2 days before Thanksgiving when I came home to find my guest bath ripped out? I freaked out, of course. We were having Thanksgiving dinner at our house for about 25 guests and my bathroom was ripped apart!

My dearest husband thought this would be a great surprise and a great time to do a renovation. We had talked about doing it over the holidays and I did have all of the materials (well, most), but I assumed we were on the same page of doing it after the big day. Wrong!

1 day before party

Well, it all worked out after a few dozen trips to Lowe's and Home Depot (even begging them to let us in at closing the night before t-day to just get "one little thing") to get things that he just happened to need even after I thought he had everything. There are a few detail things that still have to be done, but it was up and running for the big day and it looked great! Now, after the fact, after my blood pressure has returned to normal, after a major "freak out" session, I am soooo happy with the outcome.
I am also so thankful that my dear hubby worked such long hours (past midnight) even after working all day. And, I'm so thankful that my neighbors didn't call the cops when he was using the tile saw at 8 am on Thanksgiving morning! All in all, I have much to be thankful for...
Here's the results:

the day of the party:

Monday, November 26, 2007

Recovering from Thanksgiving and Cyber-Monday

I think it will take a week to recover from last week! lots of family, lots of cooking and lots of shopping and crowds! I think today I'll join the growing trend of Cyber Monday shopping. I am not a big crowded mall person and will gladly finish my Christmas list from my desk chair.

I did try to get a few Black Friday deals, but after getting up and out at 5 am I was in no mood to wait in a block-long line to get into Toys-R-us. My brother did though and after 35 min. in line he got in only to find that they were out of everything he went for...

I gave up at around 8 am and went home to put up the tree with the kiddos. I always say "never again", but somehow my memory lapses each year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pralines and pecans...

It's always a great day for pralines! Check out the recipe here

Living through a kitchen renovation....some uncalculated costs

We recently did a full kitchen renovation with new flooring, cabinets, granite,
copper sink, etc. I should have been prepared, but when you're working on your own home you see things a little differently. Besides removing the old and installing the new stuff, we also moved a wall to make the kitchen open to a family room and extended a doorway to make a larger opening to the dining room. These two things sound simple on paper, but made an already long process take even longer. I didn't realize moving a wall meant reinforcing the beams in the attic, moving electrical, patching and retexturing the ceiling and reframing behind the cabinets. Also, widening a doorway means repainting the other side, reframing the door, repairing moulding, etc. Another thing to be prepared for is that things will often come damaged, scratched, need to be modified and generally make you pull your hair out!

This reno took about 3 months total and we more or less stayed within budget. However, some things we forgot to consider are the inconvenience of living with drywall dust (having plastic from ceiling to floor did little to help), wasting so many paper cups/plates/utensils because there was no kitchen sink hooked up, and eating out for almost every meal for 3 months! The latter of which added a hefty amount that was not in the budget.

In the end, it was definitely worth it, but I don't want to renovate anything for quite awhile! I love my copper sink and the extra counter space. My kids also hate eating out now so I guess it's a good thing we have our new kitchen...
kitchen renovation before
before/during renovation

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veteran's Day Salute

Hats off to all of our Veterans and many thanks for your courage and love for our country!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Thoughts of food...today is a shrimp etouffee recipe kind of day

When the weather gets cooler, I really get in the mood for richer foods and soups. Luckily, living in the New Orleans area has its advantages. There are great restaurants everywhere! Today is a stay-inside kind of day so I'll do my own shrimp etouffee and rice. You can use frozen shrimp for this recipe and I do if I don't feel like running to the store to get fresh ones, but you really need the head fat (I know, gross) to make the full flavor. Here's a copy of the recipe if anyone feels adventurous...

shrimp etouffee recipe

Shrimp or Crawfish Etouffee
1 POUND peeled shrimp tails(FRESH OR FROZEN)(can also use crawfish tails instead of shrimp)
reserve 2tbls head fat (totally optional)
3 TABLESPOONS all-purpose flour
ONE container diced mixed seasoning or 1 stalk finely chopped celery, 1 medium onion finely chopped, 1 clove garlic finely chopped and 3 green onion stalks finely chopped
3 TABLESPOONS chopped fresh parsley or 1 tbls dried parsley for garnish
1 1/2 CUPS water, seafood or veggi stock
2 1/2 TEASPOONS lemon juice
1/2 TEASPOON salt
1/4 TEASPOON fresh ground pepper or cajun seasoning
3 DASHES hot red pepper sauce
3 CUPS cooked white rice
Using a 3 qt saucepan, heat the butter over medium-high heat until butter is melted and bubbly. Reduce heat to medium and add the flour. Make sure to STIR constantly or the roux will burn. Keep stirring and cook this flour/butter combination for about 6-8 minutes until it is thick and caramel in color. Next, add the mixed seasoning or onion/green onion/celery/garlic and stir constantly for about 6 more minutes or until they become soft and opaque. Stir in the shrimp tails, head fat(optional), salt, pepper, pepper sauce, lemon juice, water or stock and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered stirring frequently until the shrimp tails are bright pink and white and fully cooked. Garnish with parsley and serve over rice. Serve with crusty french bread for dipping and spicy bread and butter pickles or pickled okra. This makes such a great "welcome to fall" treat!

I'm looking for a great minestrone recipe so if you know of one and you'd like to pass it along I'd be really grateful!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thoughts on becoming greener or going green confusion

I've been trying lately (as many people have been) to make a few changes that are more eco-friendly. It seems today that you see companies greening up everywhere, but it gets a little overwhelming trying to find info.

Let's see, I switched all of my light bulbs to fluorescent (saved 45.00 on my subsequent bill), went with bamboo flooring, energy star appliances, buy organic food, and low voc paints. I know it's baby steps, but even "greenish" helps, right?

The problem I'm having with trying to further my green experience is either the item I want to change to is hard to come by (denim eco-friendly insulation) or the cost is way out of the ballpark for normal consumers (organic mattress, bedding, etc). Why is the cost still so high on this stuff when people have been into organics for years? I guess that's one good thing about all of the mainstreaming of "going green"; maybe it will bring the supply of reasonably priced eco-friendly goods down to prices that normal humans can pay. I think a big opportunity was missed down here in New Orleans because we all want to rebuild smarter and greener but either the availability wasn't there or the cost astronomical.

I'm all for less chemicals around my family, less carbon emissions and more natural goods, but where is the outcry from us demanding companies go green en mass so that everyday joes can afford to join the club? Like I said, it's very confusing and for now I'm just "greenish".