Wednesdays in a Southern Kitchen – Crab Cakes

Okay – it’s not Wednesday, but this week has been quite busy and I couldn’t get the post ready on time.

photo 1My highly anticipated and waited for Crab Cake Recipe. Trawling season opened here in Southern Louisiana a couple of weeks ago and fresh shrimp have been abundant at our home – the same with fresh crab. I’ve made this recipe with fresh crabmeat and with fresh chopped boiled shrimp. Both are scrumptous. I hope you enjoy.

This is a simple recipe that I tweaked and if you are adventurous, add additional seasonings such as bell pepper or onions. I like to keep it simple in order to “savor the flavor” of the seafood.

Whisk together in a medium size bowl:

1/2 cup of Hellman’s mayonnaise

1 large egg

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

Gently fold in 1 pound of lump crab meat (or 1 pound of boiled shrimp, coarsely chopped)

Fold in 1 cup of crushed crackers (I use Townhouse because us of the flavor – use Townhouse, Saltines, Ritz – your preference)

I use a large cookie scoop to form the crab cakes the same size. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper and place the scooped balls on it, flattening slightly. If necessary, use a second sheet of wax paper for another layer. Place the covered cookie sheet in the freezer for about a half an hour to an hour.

Heat approximately 1/4 to 1/3 inch of oil in the bottom of a skillet (I do not deep fry my crab cakes). Place the crab cakes in the hot oil and cook 4-5 minutes on either side until lightly browned and crispy. It doesn’t take long as the ingredients are mostly cooked to begin with.

Serve as entre’ with a salad or on a bun.

I have never baked them, although I’m sure they would be good that way.

I’ve also been enjoying fresh shrimp salads for the past two weeks. I’m not very adventurous when it comes to veggies and to be honest – I’m being blamed for the deluge of rain we’ve been experiencing as of late – it must be because I’m actually eating veggies!

My salads are very simple to assemble and are quite delicious.

photo 1 (1)Chopped Hearts of Romaine lettuce

Fresh boiled and peeled shrimp

Chopped tomatoes

Chopped cucumber

Craisens (wonderful sweet and chewy – adds texture)

Shredded cheese

Chopped boiled egg

Salad dressing of your choice

I have picked up Hubby’s habit of chopping salad ingredients into bite-sized pieces and eating my salad with a spoon. I know – sounds weird, but I assure you, much more enjoyable! And, besides being a picky eater, I also have a texture thing going on; this allows me to eat a salad, and that’s a good thing (especially when we need rain).

I couldn’t leave you without just a few pictures of Ryka and Calypso, so without further adieu, here they are this week.

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Ryka enjoying the sun. Calypso chasing her tail.
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Calypso after the chase. Ryka grateful she wasn’t trampled during the chase as no one is safe when Calypso winds up.
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Calypso likes to put her ball in her bowl like my last shepherd (Sentry). Just doesn’t want anyone else to get it. (Like that’s gonna happen.)
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Ryka likes to lay down to eat. She’s getting very lazy, especially with the Southern Louisiana heat.
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Ryka decided she liked dryer balls. And, then I couldn’t find them. After seeking help on Facebook, we found more on Amazon.
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Porch time. Safe from Calypso’s tail-chasing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those of you not in a fishing state, this is a trawl boat on opening day off of Grand Island, Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico.
For those of you not in a fishing state, this is a trawl boat on opening day off of Grand Island, Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe and if you decide to fix it, please let me know what you thought.

 

 

 

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Tribute to my Mother’s Strength – repost from Coming of Faith

This was too touching a story not to share. I hope you enjoy.

SabinaKhanIbarra

When she took my dying son from my arms, I let her.  I held my breath until I felt myself leave my body, only coming back because my baby needed me. I ignored the chemical smell of the hospital and instead focused on how much my son’s hair curled like his father’s. I watched my mother whisper prayers to him and adjust his newborn hospital hat making him look presentable, as if he were getting ready for a special meeting.  She took a tissue from her purse, wet it with her spit and wiped the blood from the punctures in his little hands and arms.  When she was done, she swaddled him and told him that she loved him.  She kissed him on the forehead before placing him back in my lap.  She tucked my too long bangs out of my face and leaned over me.  I kissed my child goodbye and prayed over him until he took his last breath.  My mom held me as I held my son, and as I felt his energy leave me, I felt hers heal me. 

In the small social group my parents were a part of, my mother’s independence and self-reliance were the butt of many jokes.  But she didn’t care.  She just did what she had to do.  She came from a village where she was the only girl who left to pursue higher education.  She married at the ripe, old age of 23 instead of marrying the most eligible bachelor in the area when she was 17.  She ignored the whispers when she left the home of her in-laws to live with her husband.  She worked while my father went to school for his Masters.  She drove to run errands while the rest of my aunts waited for their husbands to come home, or if my mom was available, for her to take them.  She took care of the finances and it was her we turned to when making major life decisions.  Mama’s practical ways and strong presence kept our family together.

I was constantly embarrassed for having the only mother in the family who spoke up when things were unfair. Some uncles frowned in dismay but my mom held her head high and stuck to her beliefs.  She also didn’t let anyone tell her that she shouldn’t be taking care of the household finances.  It was a running joke, amongst the very same uncles, that my mother had my father controlled by a leash.  But Baba smiled and squeezed Mama’s hand in front of everyone, only offending the conservative uncles further.  

Once, as she cleaned the dried, caked blood out of my hair she told me to stand up for myself and hit Junior, our neighbor, back, for striking me with the rock. I cringed and said, “No.”  The next morning, when I asked her to walk me to school so that she could protect me, she gave me my lunch and kissed me good bye before shutting the door.  I walked with my sister to school, terrified.  I made a silent promise that if he hit me again, I would kick him in his knee, just like I learned from my second grade teacher Mrs. White, a karate black belt who taught us self-defense.

Another time, while shopping, Mama told me to ask where the ice cream cones were located in Lucky’s.  I shook my head and shrank behind the shopping cart.  She shrugged and told me she liked her ice cream in a bowl, anyway.  She walked away looking for the next item on her list.  In a panic, I hunted down an employee and found the cones.  Mama was in the detergent aisle by then.  I proudly showed the cones to Mama, who placed it in the cart and asked me to help her look in her purse for coupons to use on Tide.

In the sixth grade, she decided that she would make shalwar kameez for my sister Saira and me to wear to school, instead of buying us clothes from Mervyn’s like we usually did.  I cried in protest.  She told me to be proud of my roots, that being different was beautiful, but I dreaded facing the kids at school.   I ended up getting in a fight on the first day of school because James called me a Camel Jockey.  The Principal was sympathetic; he told my mom that I was only defending myself.   I expected a lecture when I got home, but instead Mama asked me to change my clothes, pray Zuhr, and do my homework. 

I married young the first time and became the servant my husband’s family wanted.  Spending most of time in solitude, I only came out to do housework.  I cleaned, cooked, and ironed myself away to a shadow of what I used to be. It was my mother who recognized me and my pain by looking into the dimmed light of my eyes.  Like when I was seven years old, she held my chin, and once more told me to stand up for myself.   Terrified of my unknown, dark future, I left my life of hell, the only life I thought I knew.

When my son died in my arms, I didn’t scream or wail.   I urged him to go peacefully and not fight.  I couldn’t bear his pain anymore, I knew his little body was tired and couldn’t take anymore.  It hurt to say good-bye, but I was ready to accept the pain so my son wouldn’t have to. When he finally left, I cried until the tears dried and I succumbed to exhaustion, my shirt soaked and mouth dry.  Mama watched me.  She walked over to me, held me and told me that God would fill my barren lap once more and that I would meet my son in heaven where he waited for me at the gates.  But new, hot tears fell from my eyes into my open palms.  I wished he were in my arms, alive instead of in a cold morgue preparing to go to his tiny, dark grave. 

 I knew I needed to be strong, like Mama.  She squeezed me against her bosom, where I felt at home – where so many times I went when I was lost or hurt.  When she let me go, she looked at me and said no more.  I looked at my hospital wristband, the only physical proof on me that I was a mother to a child.  My husband walked me out of the waiting room.  As I turned the corner to leave, I looked back into the room and saw my mother with her shoulders slumped, face towards the sky, and tears streaming down her face, into her hair. 

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Sabina Khan-Ibarra is a freelance writer and editor.  She regularly contributes to her blog, Ibrahim’s Tree, which she created after the loss of her infant son in 2011, and I Am the Poppy Flower, where she writes about little things that go on in her life. She created Muslimah Montage as a platform for women to share their stories and inspire others.

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The Predator Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story by Abby Kelly (Media Blitz)

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I want. I want you to want me. I want you to think I am the smartest, the thinnest, the most beautiful. I want you to want to be me. I want to be enviable. I want to be impervious. I want to need nothing. I want you to know that I am strong. I want to think I am better than everyone else. I want.

I’m willing to give up everything. I will give up mind and future. I will give up health, happiness and peace. I will give up family, friends and fun. I will give up rest and comfort. I will give up food. But please, just let me keep faith.

Photo on 10-2-13 at 1.44 PM 2Abby Kelly is a nomadic, military spouse writing from wherever she momentarily finds herself with her husband, their wonderful dog, Brave, and two tolerable cats.

Abby began writing in the process of recovering from a more-than-decade long eating disorder. She credits Jesus Christ for her full recovery and for filling her with a passion to encourage others to seek freedom from their own addictions and struggles.
Now, Abby writes for numerous Christian publications as well as maintains her personal blog, Predatory-Lies. In her free time, she and Brave enjoy volunteering in hospitals and schools as a pet therapy team through Pet Partners.

Buy The Book
The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story

Add to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1c9tzZ7

Email Address: abbykelly1980@gmail.com

Website http://www.predatory-lies.com

Twitter link @benjity

Facebook Link: https://www.facebook.com/benjity

“The Flight

“You will never see me again!” I screamed. I knew I was running out of time as we approached the airport. “I’ll die there! I’m never coming home.”

“Abby, stop. You are getting yourself all worked up and we have to go inside now.” My father parked the car in the dismal parking garage. Ignoring my residual choking on tears, he got out of the car and began to extract the suitcases, careful not to get any dirt on his jeans.

Daddy always looked sharp, one more thing I hated about myself. In the last several years I had become more of a skeleton freak show than an attractive daughter he could be proud of. My face was gaunt and haggard and wore the look of an aging smoker. My breasts were flat and my waist curve-less, like a prepubescent boy. I wore sea-foam green sweat pants with the word “SPIRIT” in block letters down my right leg. The sweats hung around my thighs like a tent missing poles, but I liked them because I felt small inside them. A sloppy white t-shirt blaring “SPIRIT” as well, topped the ensemble.

“Abby, get out of the car.”

I debated for a moment, but knew that I’d never win. The wildest of my tantrums were no match for Dad’s strength, but until now, at least in the battle of wills, I had triumphed. Two days prior my parents played their trump card.

“We’ve tried everything.” My parents had me cornered in their bedroom. Mom spoke because I listened more calmly to her. “We’ve been patient while you’ve promised over and over to try. We are really, really worried about you.”

Mom’s voice broke there. Dad turned and glared at my little sisters eavesdropping from the bedroom doorway. Two sets of chocolate brown eyes and one blue pair ducked back into the hallway. Then he shut the door and stepped forward.

“You promised to gain ten pounds in two months.” Dad’s voice was taut. The six-foot-four man that I once thought invincible slouched beneath a heavy burden. “Over a month ago, you agreed to the ultimatum that you would gain eight pounds. You’re nowhere near that. You need help and this is not a discussion. Remuda Ranch agreed to admit you, and we need to be there the day after tomorrow.” Daddy turned and left the room.

I slumped to my knees on the floor. “Please, please, please, Mom! Don’t send me away. I can’t be gone for two months. You might as well disown me. I’ll die there!”

Tour Hosted by Write Now Literary Virtual Book Tour

In this raw telling of her long struggle with anorexia, Abby Kelly reveals the predatory lies that ran rampant in her disordered mind. She will lead readers through the fight to her final victory.
Readers will find empathy, compassion and insight in these pages. Most of all, they will find hope for recovery and a life beyond the battle.

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Why I didn’t get flowers for Valentine’s Day

WHAT!? You say? No. I didn’t get flowers. I didn’t get candy. Those are all items easily picked up at the market while frantically trying to get home in time for a romantic dinner before Valentine’s Day goes to hell in a hand basket.

What I did get for Valentine’s Day is love. And why is that enough? I’ve had the fake flowers and the fake candy – the items grabbed in a rush because it is what you’re supposed to do. I’ll take true love any day.

Hubby likes to say that everyday is Valentine’s Day because we live in Valentine. We really do – Valentine, Louisiana, a little settlement along a lazy bayou. And, it is Valentine’s Day everyday – except for when it’s not, we all have those days.

Hubby got up bright and early to go fishing this morning. He has been so busy building a house (he’s in construction) that he hasn’t had the time to just relax and let his mind wander a bit. So, he loaded up the boat and went fishing. Why does it not bother me that instead of spending today with me, his wife, he is out in a boat? Because it makes me happy to know he’s finally relaxing a little. That is what love is about. That is what Valentine’s Day is about.

I’d rather have a Husband, who when the water lilies are in full bloom and floating by the wharf, leans precariously over the water and snags a few of the beautiful purple blooms – because he knows how much I love them rather than one that grabs a bouquet at the market at the last second. Being thought of is Valentine’s Day.

IMG_4038I’d rather have a Husband, who when it is very cold outside, lets my two German Shepherds into the garage for a warm night’s sleep because he knows how much it would mean to me (without being begged to.)

I’d rather have a Husband that takes the time during running errands and says let’s stop for burgers at the Goal Post (a little drive-in) than one who takes me to a crowded restaurant just because it’s February 14th.

I’d rather have a Husband who takes a look at my dirty truck (yes, I have a truck) and sneaks out to wash it to surprise me.

I’d rather have a Husband, who just this morning, grabbed a plain sheet of writing paper, and left me a beautiful note saying how much I mean to him, rather than grabbing the first acceptable card from a rack.

I’d rather have a Husband who comes and sits on the porch swing in the evenings with me, rather than watching Gilligan’s Island.

Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day and I didn’t get flowers. What I do get is Valentine’s Day – every day – in Valentine, Louisiana.

Happy Valentine’s Day – every day – to my Husband. Love you to the moon and back!

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It’s been a busy week afterall!

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On Monday I instituted a brand new time management schedule and then life outside came to a standstill. Southern Louisiana saw snow and sleet! Hubby was even forced to sit this one out at home. And, when that happens, any schedule I have seems to fly out the window. After a short recess, I got back on schedule and I have to say, my week was a lot less stressful when I followed my schedule.

I am an organizer and when I say my favorite saying is everything should have a place and everything in its place, you can be sure I mean it – even time. Yes, time! That’s where my schedule came in. Everything had a place and everything in its place. Exercise and tidying up the house had a place. Sitting down and writing had a place. See where I’m going with this? I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but if you tend to have a zero attention span the way I do, it works.

I didn’t even feel stressful today when I deviated from my schedule and used my work and writing time to grocery shop. I even found a little time to play. I have become obsessed with every card or sticky note in my planner being something other than what it is – and that is straight lined! I came up with the idea of using one of my many Martha Stewart punches and making eyelet tracks down the sides of my sticky tablets. As you can see in the photo, I haven’t quite mastered matching the sides. I’ve tried upside down and right side up and turning it over while punching the second side, but for some reason it isn’t working. It’s not that important, but sooner or later, I’ll figure it out. Meanwhile, aren’t they cute? Also, you can see by my planner, the week ended up being quite busy despite the adverse weather conditions.

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Other than working on three book reviews that I’ll have up before the weekend ends, that was my week. Hope you’ve had a great week as well.

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Planner Organization – Making dividers

The last few posts I’ve written have had to do with setting up a paper planner that works with your brain and organizational style rather than against it. As you set up your planner, you will want to eventually decide on the different categories you want in your planner – calendar, financial, todo lists, grocery lists, etc. Unless you happen to find one of the many sites that sell homemade dividers, the market doesn’t offer much in the way of “pretty”. I solved that problem by making my own.

In response to requests to demonstrate how I made dividers for my planners, I will attempt to explain with the aid of many photos. It is a fairly simple technique and hopefully I can explain without making it seem more difficult than it is.

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My supplies

For the following two dividers, I used a double-sided card stock. Normally, I would not laminate a card stock, but for the purpose of demonstrating the laminating technique, I will laminate these two dividers. I also use a paper-cutter, tab punch and tabs, Martha Stewart single hole punch, a round-edge punch, and Avery self-laminating sheets.

Use one of the pages from your planner to determine the size of the divider. A page width is normally sufficient because you will be adding the tab, which will stick out beyond the page for easy viewing. If you are not using a paper cutter, use this page to trace the divider on the card stock.

A note before trimming your dividers. If you are not using one of the tab punches, you will need to trace a tab on your divider before trimming it and laminating. If you do not have confidence in your ability to free-hand a tab, grab a file folder and trace the tab and cut it out with scissors. If you do not have a cutting board (and the variety and price of the many on the market range from very cheap to expensive) just use a good pair of scissors (one that cuts) and cut along your trace lines.

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Trimming to size
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Trimmed edge
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Avery Self-laminating sheets

Once the card stock (or decorative paper) is cut to size, lay one sheet of the laminating sheet paper side up on the table. I use laminating sheets and have found that these serve my purpose quite nicely. There are a number (loads) of laminating machines on the market, both hot and cold. I do not laminate many things and have not felt the need to purchase one.

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Paper backing – will be removed

Peel the backing slowly working from the top left-hand corner. Be careful not to touch the sticky side unnecessarily because it is very sticky. The sheet will lie flat on the work surface. Once it is exposed, lay each piece of card stock (one sheet of decorative paper if making large dividers) down on the laminate. This size card stock allowed for two to a page of laminate. I placed them side by side.

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Peeling backing

Next, pick the sheet of laminate with the two pieces of card stock up and lay it to the side.

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Place a second sheet paper side up on the work surface. Peel the backing off as before. Place the sheet containing the card stock on top sandwiching the card stock between the two sheets of laminate matching the white strip at the end. Smooth out all wrinkles by running hands over the card stock. Matching up the two paper edges that remain on the end after removing the paper backing make this task very easy. Match the paper edging and hold with one hand while you roll the dividers down until the papers are stuck together.

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Sandwiching – use these paper strips to align
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Trimming to size

After smoothing the laminate and making sure the bubbles are worked out, the next step is to cut the extra laminate away.

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Trimming laminate

After trimming the excess laminate, set the pages aside to work on the tabs. If you do not have a tab maker, you should trace a tab on the divider before cutting and laminating so it will be one piece (see above). I use a tab maker and the laminating tabs that come with it.

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Tab punch

I punch the tabs looking at the bottom of the punch to cut as close to the edge as possible to avoid waste. This leaves the rest of the page for another project.

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Place the cut tab onto the tab laminating sheet and stick to one side of the divider page.

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Adhering tab to tab laminate

Fold over the top of the tab and adhere to the top of the divider page. Press to seal.

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Folding top over

This is a little messy, but you can unstick and redo. It was a little difficult trying to do the project and photograph it at the same time.

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Completed tab

After the tabs are done, use the edge rounder or scissors and round off the inner corners. Then using another divider as a guide, punch the holes in the new divider and place in planner. I really like this particular single hole punch. The hole in the bottom allows you to line up holes when punching. It is a Martha Steward tool and can be found anywhere her products are sold. It is also heavy duty and easy to grip for those of you, who like me (I have arthritis) need that extra help. Using a labeler or felt-tip pen write the name of the category you have chosen.

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Punching

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I hope this tutorial has helped solved the mystery of making dividers with tabs for your planner. It is fun and easy and now you, too, can make your planner match your personality. There is no limit to the different papers and decorations available and for those of you who also scrapbook, this should be a really fun project. I am thinking of doing a set of seasonal dividers next…

If you have any questions, please leave a comment. As always, thank you for visiting my blog. And, if you are looking for a planner group in which to plant yourself, check out Southern Charm Planners on Face book! https://www.facebook.com/groups/LouisianaPlannerGirls/

All products used were found on Amazon or at Michael’s.

Tab Punch (comes with a set of tabs): We R Memory Keepers Tab Paper Punch, Bracket

Tab brackets: Tab Stickers-Bracket

Martha Stewart heavy duty punch: Martha Stewart Crafts Heavy Duty Paper Punch

Martha Stewart rounded corner punch: Martha Stewart Crafts Corner Punch, Rounder

Avery: Avery Self-Adhesive Laminating Sheets, 9 x 12 Inches, Box of 50 (73601)

Fiskar’s cutting board: Fiskars 196920-1001 Portable Paper Trimmer, 12-Inch

Day-Timer Malibu Planner: http://www.daytimer.com/daytimerstore/mwv/product/Malibu-Leather-Snap-Tab-1%22-Portable-Size-Planner-Cover/8177?searchClickId=0159137938%2C861&catId=&prodId=8177

Wednesdays – A Little Down-home Southern Cooking

Jambalaya, Crawfish PieGumbo file‘ Son-of-gun we’re gonna have great fun, down on the bayou …(you can find the lyrics here: http://www.lyrics.com/jambalaya-on-the-bayou-lyrics-hank-williams.html ) 

         Goodness! I’ve had an exhausting week and I think my house is going to permanently harbor the stench of cooking onions.

          I cooked a huge batch of jambalaya mix to freeze. While the idea of sitting down to a wonderful plate of “instant” jambalaya sounds enticing, getting it to that point isn’t so great.

          One day I am going to learn to chop and cook the onions in the outside kitchen, then move the process indoors to my kitchen. Seems I have this revelation every time I cook onions. It has obviously yet to stick. I spent the better part of a day chopping many (lots and lots) onions in preparation for cooking. Once I finished up with the onions, I cubed two slabs of honey ham, chopped two packages each of Hillshire Little Smokies and Smoked Sausage. With this huge pile of chopped ingredients taking up residence on my counter, I was ready to begin cooking.

          I tossed the onions into a huge pot and cranked up the fire (I think faster is always better – not so). So, with the candles burning and the windows opened to allow fresh air to penetrate the onion odor infested kitchen, I stirred and stirred and then stared at those onions willing them to brown and caramelize (oh me of little patience). Well, needless to say, no onion will caramelize before its time; and believe when I say – that onion had its own time table!

          The onions finally caramelized and it was time to toss in the chopped meats. Gosh! Once the meat starts browning and blending with the onions, it is slap yo’ mama good let’s have a party time. Oh! My Goodness! You want to just grab a bowl and start dishing it up to eat! After the meat and onions were cooked and a little gravy was forming, I threw in the peeled shrimp. A little more cooking and stirring and then it was “grab a bowl” time.

         I put the rice to cook and sat down to enjoy my bowl of jambalaya mix thinking all is right with the world (and it sure is great to be from the South!)

 Ingredients:

 10 onions, chopped; 2 packages of Little Smokies and Smoked Sausage, chopped; 2-1/2” slabs of honey ham, 4 cups peeled small shrimp, ½-teaspoon Zatarain’s Liquid Crab Boil

 How To:

From the Heart - A Southern Staple - Jambalaya!Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the bottom of a heavy pan, add onions and cook until brown and caramelized. (I always sprinkle a little sugar over onions to help in the caramelization.)


Add chopped meat and stir. (See picture – sausage is sliced down center and down center again forming four links – slice – this will give you quarter pieces) Cook down. Drain any grease that has accumulated (sausage has lots of grease.)

From the Heart - A Southern Staple - Jambalaya!Add peeled shrimp and ½ teaspoon liquid crab boil. Stir. Lower fire and let simmer. Add a little water if necessary.

I do not normally add any additional seasoning because the meat helps to season the dish as well as the liquid crab boil.

From the Heart - A Southern Staple - Jambalaya!

From the Heart - A Southern Staple - Jambalaya!From the Heart - A Southern Staple - Jambalaya!From the Heart - A Southern Staple - Jambalaya!

From the Heart - A Southern Staple - Jambalaya!To Do:

 At this point, you can either cool mixture and freeze or mix in cooked rice and enjoy. The mixture is also great on French bread as a sandwich mix. Enjoy!

From the Heart - A Southern Staple - Jambalaya!*If you have any questions about the recipe, please leave me a comment and I’ll try to clarify.

How to host a successful Cookie Swap

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     Every year for the past eight years, I have hosted a Cookie Swap. This year was no exception.

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     I thought I’d write about it in the event that someone else may wish to host one, but the mere thought overwhelms them. I am telling you right now – do not let the thought even enter your mind. As long as you have a plan and stick to it, things will work out – or you wing it like I’ve been known to do (or maybe my friends have never caught on! lol)

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My sister & I were following each other’s progress

 

     I always try to send out a “Save-the-date” the first week of October. This, I send my email since everyone who is invited has email. If some of your guests do not have email, then send a little note in the mail or give them a call.

      I also have a spreadsheet that I use each year. It consists of four columns with the headings of: No., Name (which includes name, address, phone, email), Yes/No (attending) and last, Cookie (or treat bringing).

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     I use the number column, because at a quick glance, I can keep track of how many people are on my list. This way, if someone has been added/taken off, I know I can add someone and still keep the number within reason for the size of my house.

      Then, I try to mail out the invitation the first week of November with the RSVP date. Sometimes I write something cute and rhyming, and sometimes I use one I have found on the internet. Some years are more of a theme than others are.

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     In 2011, I did a Candy land theme where I scattered the board pieces around the table and used the matching plates and napkins. It was really cute. That takes care of the invitation portion.

     With Pinterest, it is so easy to find new appetizers to serve. I started a board named Cookie Swap Ideas so I could quickly pin cookie ideas and appetizer ideas so I could come back later and explore. I also use Evernote. This app proved to be invaluable in many ways. Once I finalized the appetizer list, I clipped the recipes, complete with pictures to Evernote. Evernote syncs the recipes to my phone and Kindle Fire. It made grocery shopping and cooking a breeze. I pulled up the recipe at the market and quickly scanned the ingredients and added those items to my cart.

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    Throughout the year, I am always scouting for new cookie recipes and appetizer recipes so with Pinterest and Evernote, it makes finding these recipes a snap. I am already clipping and pinning for next year! It’s never too soon!

      The week before my Cookie Swap, I sit down with the recipes and figure out what can be assembled ahead of time and my baking time frame. It seems that no matter how carefully I organize and schedule, I am still last-minute, and the first guests there generally help with setting everything out. For me, especially this year, it was enjoyable. Judging from the remarks, I think this year was everyone’s favorite so far and I think it was because everyone was helping to get things on the buffet and it made the party – literally – everyone’s party. My sisters and a friend from high school that I was so fortunate to reconnect with last year – were the willing participants in the last-minute rush this year. It was so much fun laughing and talking and rushing around.

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A dear friend gave me a cupcake teapot.

     So, you can see that in my case, not having everything ready and waiting on guest is part of the fun – for everyone. So don’t stress out. Cookie Swap is all about fun.

 

     Let’s talk cookies now. I have read that many cookie swaps have a lot of rules and it works for them. I came up with my own set of “rules” based on my guests. I have friends who cannot bake, and some who make candy. My only die-hard rule is the treat MUST be homemade. Each year, we have a mix of candy, no-bake (for those non-bakers) and baked cookies. No one ever feels left out because everyone puts a lot of effort into their products (we are quite the competitive bunch!)

      After the RSVPs come in, I then email everyone with the number of treats to bring. I keep the number of participants down to a reasonable number and we bake and package six treats for each person coming. I have noticed that many cookie swaps ask that the person bake x amount of cookies and bring them on a platter and then they are distributed among those attending. I wasn’t particularly crazy about that idea (nor my guests) so we package our treats for each individual person. My friends are very creative and the packaging is one of the highlights. We also have the option of using our six cookies for the taste testing contest (more on that later.)

     I provide a huge Christmas gift bag for each guest, which I set up in the living room. As each guest arrives, she distributes the treats among the bags first, and then places their treats on the platters on the table for tasting. Since each guest may leave at a different time, she can just grab her bag on the way out. I find that this method of distribution works great for my cookie swap.

      Let’s see. So far, we have discussed invites, food prep, and cookie distribution. Next on the list is entertainment!

      It has become a tradition (because Hubby loves to be involved) that we have a story. The stories have ranged from Christmas to Candyland to baking, etc. Everyone looks forward each year to see what Jeffery has in store. This year, he did a story that contained Christmas songs and lyrics from Christmas songs. I’ll include it as an example. I am the one who gets to read the story and I must say that trying to establish a speed is difficult. I want to give everyone an equal chance to pick out all of the information, but not too much time – how else would we have a winner. But, it does work each year and it’s a lot of fun.

 

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Word Game Story 2012

(It is easier to view the parts on my other blog. I have it done in different colors – My Life. One Story at a Time.: How to host a successful Cookie Swap

It came upon a midnight clear, when away in a manger a child was born. There were no jingle bellsfrosty the snowman, or Rudolph. But it was a silent night and even more, a holy night.

 The people of that era were deep in despair and had very little hope. They cried out” o come o come Emanuel”. And He did. He came as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes to silence the cry of the poor, to build a city of God, and to bring joy to the world.

 Although He was not born in a beautiful setting like a winter wonderland, He did bring the first white Christmas to the little town of Bethlehem. This was brought about by His birth and sacrificing His life for ours, to free all humankind from sin and e’re pinning. So hark the herald angels singglory to the newborn kingChrist is born in Bethlehem, and the world has never been the same. May God wish ye merry gentlemen a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

      We always have a best tasting treat contest. It is based NOT on how the treat looks, but how it tastes to the palate. This can get pretty intense at times. This year a chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookie won the honor. It provoked childhood memories for many of us, a taste of nostalgia. Do you remember as a child, the day the school cafeteria served those scrumptious chocolate oatmeal no-bake treats? I do, and so did many others. It was deserving of a prize this year.

      We have enjoyed many games throughout the years and enjoyed every one. Our last game this year was a new addition. A friend told me of a game that she had played at another cookie swap and it sounded like loads of fun so I added it this year. I asked everyone to bring a wrapped cookie cutter for a “Swap and Steal” game.

      I have to admit at this point, it was kind of a make it up as you go game and it ended up being so much fun that I am going to include it next year. The first round of the game, each person pulled a gift out of the basket as I called her name. The second round was where the fun began.

     As each name was called, you had the chance to keep your chosen gift or “Swap and Steal” someone else’s gift. There was a lot of cheering and yelling of “steal” going on because there was one gift everyone seemed to want – it was a beautiful gift bag! After much hooting and hollering, everyone had a gift of a new cookie cutter.

Games are another place to add loads of fun to the party. Let your imagination go wild: Prettiest Christmas outfit (or hat or shirt, etc.), craziest Christmas outfit, first to RSVP, # of gum balls in the jar (or jelly beans, etc.), best cookie packaging. The ideas are endless!

      Food – what can I say about food? I (and my friends – especially book club friends) DO NOT subscribe to the old adage that you do not try out new recipes for the first time on company. That is EXACTLY when we do it. In the food department – I say do what is comfortable for you. Either stick to tried and true recipes and maybe be adventurous and throw in one new recipe for a thrill.

      Up until this year, I always tried to do a new soup of the year, but not being much of a soup person, I have to admit, that got old. I did, however, discover that the ladies all love my chicken potpie. That has led me to use it several years in a row, but with a new twist each year.

      One year, I used my shell maker (I love gadgets) and made biscuit shells for the sauce (chicken potpie filling). The next year, I used little individual pie shells and last year I used Pepperidge Farms puff pastry shells (my all time fav). This year I used biscuits again, but used an idea I saw on-line. I lined muffin tins with rolled out biscuits. I then filled each one with the sauce and then folded the dough over the top and baked. Have I mentioned how wonderful they tasted? AND, what a hit!

      Also on the menu were little sausages in a cranberry sauce, the old standby of cheese and sausage balls, along with a pizza muffin/dipping sauce (again – on-line), a fantastic warm Caramelized onion and Gruyère cheese dip, an oriental salad, and can’t forget the Shrimp Dip (this is Southern Louisiana after all!)

      For beverages, I have a great Pineapple Punch that is additive – no kidding, cannot have just one glass – ask all who dare! And, this year, I found a Jingle Juice. I just loved the name and the taste wasn’t bad either! It made more than one lady a little too happy! lol (Did not let anyone leave tipsy.)

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     Now – for question time. Do you host a Cookie Swap or have you attended one? Have you blogged about it? AND, do you have any questions that I can help with? I invite you to share your experiences, questions, and of course – your FAVORITE treat for the rest of us (cookies, candy…)!

 Leave  a link and I’ll add it to the end of my story for others to read.

Gracie takes a turn on the treadmill


Yes
. I’ve been walking on the treadmill.
treadmill

AND, hanging on for dear life I might add.
       Since the heat down here in the South is so hot it’s makes you want to just sit on the porch with the fan going with a tall glass of iced tea, and nothing much else; I came to the conclusion that this Southern gal wasn’t going to be doing much walking.
       Then, on a trek through the garage, I looked over my shoulder and spotted the treadmill. I began thinking that walking might not be so bad if I turned on the air conditionerand walked in the sweet coolness rather than 1000+ degrees outside.
       Having never used the contraption, it took me a while to figure out that you need a key to turn it on; and you have to plug it in. After I managed to turn the treadmill on, I began to walk, slowly, VERY SLOWLY. Then, I thought, this isn’t so bad, but it sure is boring – and I hate being bored! The first time I used it, I walked a whole ten minutes before I just couldn’t stand theboredom anymore. Then, my mind started to wander and I remembered seeing people on television using their headphones. The light bulb went off and I thought, “Yes! Music!” should help keep me from being bored.
       Yesterday, I managed a whole sixteen minutes – 3 songs on the iPod. AND, I graduated from 2 to 2.5 -that is very slow to slow- in my speed. Today, I walked for twenty minutes at 2.7! And, if that wasn’t enough to brag about, I actually walked with no hands today instead of hanging onto the bars for dear life! It was a little iffy a couple of times as I envisioned myself being hauled off the end as I missed a step.
        I have a habit of hitting random play on the iPod, so it is always a surprise what song comes on next – sort of like having your own radio station. It is amazing that the last song I end up listening to is a Gospel Song, no matter how long I walk. What a way to end my workout and start my day!
       Then, when I got off and started up the steps to the house, I had to back down the steps and get my land legs back. I may never walk outside again. Who ever invented the treadmill, I thank you!
Don’t forget to follow my blog. You never
know what I’ll be up to next!
Donna

All Things Southern – Simply put – washing the house

    I know that everyone washes their house, or at the very least hires someone to wash it for them.

    Well, in this Southern household where equality reigns supreme (giggling here), Hubby is the house washer. I had a visit earlier in the day from my very first best friend, who I had not seen in several years, and, after she left, he asked me to help him finish washing the house.

Of course, I said yes with a huge smile on face, but that wasn’t really what I had in mind for an afternoon activity. So, like the good little Southern wife that I claim to be, I went grudgingly out to help.

This is what happened. Hubby did not want me spraying the mixture that he had concocted onto the house…because he wanted it done right.

Hubby did not let me use the scrub brush to make sure all the nooks and crannies were suds properly…because he wanted it done right.

Hubby did not let me rinse the house…because he wanted to make sure that all of the concoction was rinsed off – the right way.

So what was I doing all this time? I was helping, of course! I was sitting on a bench (which I kept moving so I didn’t get wet) watching Hubby wash the house. Pardon me – watching Hubby wash the house “the right way.”

Then, he informed me that he didn’t have to take a bath tonight because he had already been wet, cloroxed, and rinsed. Ummmm

I suppose if I had to guess what my part in “washing the house” was, it was simply to keep Hubby company, at which I excelled.

Has anyone else had this experience?

From the Heart – A Southern Staple – Jambalaya!


Goodness! I’ve had an exhausting week and I think my house is going to permanently harbor the stench of cooking onions.

         I cooked a huge batch of jambalaya mix to freeze. While the idea of sitting down to a wonderful plate of “instant” jambalaya sounds enticing, getting it to that point isn’t so great.

         One day I am going to learn to chop and cook the onions in the outside kitchen, then move the process indoors to my kitchen. Seems I have this revelation every time I cook onions. It has obviously yet to stick. I spent the better part of a day chopping many (lots and lots) onions in preparation for cooking. Once I finished up with the onions, I cubed two slabs of honey ham, chopped two packages each of Hillshire Little Smokies and Smoked Sausage. With this huge pile of chopped ingredients taking up residence on my counter, I was ready to begin cooking.

         I tossed the onions into a huge pot and cranked up the fire (I think faster is always better – not so). So, with the candles burning and the windows opened to allow fresh air to penetrate the onion odor infested kitchen, I stirred and stirred and then stared at those onions willing them to brown and caramelize (oh me of little patience). Well, needless to say, no onion will caramelize before its time; and believe when I say – that onion had its own time table!

         The onions finally caramelized and it was time to toss in the chopped meats. Gosh! Once the meat starts browning and blending with the onions, it is slap yo’ mama good let’s have a party time. Oh! My Goodness! You want to just grab a bowl and start dishing it up to eat! After the meat and onions were cooked and a little gravy was forming, I threw in the peeled shrimp. A little more cooking and stirring and then it was “grab a bowl” time.

         I put the rice to cook and sat down to enjoy my bowl of jambalaya mix thinking all is right with the world (and it sure is great to be from the South!)

Ingredients:

10 onions, chopped; 2 packages of Little Smokies and Smoked Sausage, chopped; 2-1/2” slabs of honey ham, 4 cups peeled small shrimp, ½-teaspoon Zatarain’s Liquid Crab Boil

How To:

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the bottom of a heavy pan, add onions and cook until brown and caramelized. (I always sprinkle a little sugar over onions to help in the caramelization.)


Add chopped meat and stir. (See picture – sausage is sliced down center and down center again forming four links – slice – this will give you quarter pieces) Cook down. Drain any grease that has accumulated (sausage has lots of grease.)



Add peeled shrimp and ½ teaspoon liquid crab boil. Stir. Lower fire and let simmer. Add a little water if necessary.

 I do not normally add any additional seasoning because the meat helps to season the dish as well as the liquid crab boil.

To Do:


At this point, you can either cool mixture and freeze or mix in cooked rice and enjoy. The mixture is also great on French bread as a sandwich mix. Enjoy!

*If you have any questions about the recipe, please leave me a comment and I’ll try to clarify.

 

You might also enjoy Hubby’s Southern Pecan Pralines! Nielsen-Massey Madagasgar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste

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A Rose in Bloom

            My earliest memories of childhood are of my sister’s funeral. Debbie died of Leukemia at age seven; I was only five. We were born two years and one day apart, and each year I celebrate her birthday in my heart the day before mine.

            My world fell apart when she died. Grief counseling was virtually unheard of when I was a child. The adults in my life grappled with their own angst, as my grief slipped by unnoticed.

            I learned from an early age to guard my heart. I wandered through life, detached and lonely. Self-preservation meant tucking the hurt I experienced deep inside, so deep that many of my memories are forever lost to me.

            I did not feel love, perhaps because my heart was closed off, frozen in time. Hurt could not penetrate the walls of ice, but neither could love. I married as a young woman, still questioning the meaning of love. It was not until my daughter had taken root in the depths of my body, safe and sound from the world, did my heart slowly open; and, the vestiges of emotion began to emerge, like a bud opening up to the sun.

            As each month passed, and her little body grew, I enjoyed talking to her. I would rub the hump where she lay nestled inside my body. It was the two of us against the world. I couldn’t wait to meet this little being and at the same time, I wanted to keep her safe inside of me forever.

            She was such a tiny little angel when she was born, only five pounds twelve ounces. I loved my little baby and wanted to protect her. As I watched this wonderful little girl grow, I realized I could not protect her from love or from the hurt that accompanies love. It is what life is all about.

            She was the nourishment for which my heart had been starving. It is times like these that I look back on, and think of when I held my daughter in my arms for the first time, the bud that was once my heart spread its petals as though it were a rose in bloom, opening to the morning sun. My baby daughter, Ashley, just a newborn, taught me about love.

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