Meet the Freezalator

We have an appliance in our house called a Freezalator. You can’t order one online. You can’t find one in stores. Freezalators are just born. They appear (at the most inconvenient times) in your kitchen and they really never leave.

Several years ago when we bought our wonderful home, a very nice, almost new refrigerator came with it.

Awesome.

We lived happily with this fridge for about 3 weeks until one dreadful day it announced its transformation to freezalator by spraying copious amounts of water out from underneath its closed doors, flooding the kitchen floor and messing with the mind of the Geek Squad guy who was here working on our TV.

“Uh, lady?”

“Lady!” We got a problem here.”

By which he obviously meant that I had a problem, not him.

From that day forward this “refrigerator” no longer had a designated upper refrigerator section and lower freezer drawer. No, now it froze everything, everywhere, all the time.

It was now The Freezalator.

After the initial incident (and clean-up) we got over our shock and decided to just go with the flow, man, and live with it as it was-only instead of living in the kitchen, it would now reside in our laundry room and act as a kind of freezer, while we would fill its spot in the kitchen with a lovely new fridge that knew its proper place and didn’t suffer from weird personality issues.

For the most part this has worked well, especially since the very top part of the Freezalator keeps things just barely frozen, and anything stored near the bottom becomes akin to an iceberg.

I can pick and choose from various levels of frozen.

Very fancy.

There have been a couple of times that it decided to not be the Freezalator anymore and instead to be the No-More-Work-alator, but oddly, and I suppose with some humility, it has quickly repented and returned to its semi-freezer state.. Overall though, it’s behaved itself and been a big help when we entertain and need lots of extra kind-of-frozen space.

I would suggest you get your own, but evidently they choose you, not the other way around.

You should be so lucky.

Next up in kitchen fun- G!

Lu

Hey Hey Etouffee

One thing I learned while living in South Louisiana is that those folks know how to have fun! If it’s not a crab boil, an oyster feast or a crawfish festival, your next door neighbor has made a gumbo and insists that you and the kids come over “right now while the rice is still hot”. And “just come like you are, don’t put your shoes on,- we’re all a mess anyway”.

I could go on and on about Cajun and Creole food and what I learned about them when I was there, but today I’ll concentrate on one of the most fabulous E’s I could think of, and that’s delicious Etouffee.

Etoufee is typically made with some shellfish (mine pictured above is crawfish- tis the season!) and is served with white rice. Don’t even think of trying to substitute something like brown rice, quinoa, or heaven forbid, cauliflower rice. That’s a smack in the face to any good Louisiana cook!

The first step is to make a light roux which just consists of very slow-cooked flour and oil (or butter if you prefer). To the roux you add flavorings- onion, celery, garlic, seasonings, etc… then the stock, and finally the main ingredient, the crawfish. The whole dish is then smothered (cooked on pretty low heat with the lid on)(and, by the way, where the word etouffee comes from).

Unlike gumbo and some other tasty Cajun dishes, etouffee is pretty quick to prepare and lends itself to a lot of variations. I can actually get an Etouffee on the table in 45 minutes or less if I’m in a pinch, but it’s good to know that like a gumbo, an etouffee tastes even better the next day after the flavors have a chance to “marry”.

Y’all. I can’t tell you how good this is. And easy!!

Here’s my recipe:

Crawfish Etouffee

Ingredients

1/2 c. flour

1/2 c. oil

3/4 c. chopped onion

1/2 c. chopped celery

1/2 c. chopped (any color) bell pepper

2 cloves garlic (minced)

2 bay leaves

2-2 1/2 c. fish, shrimp, or chicken stock

1 T. Better than Bouillon (low sodium chicken flavor)

2-3 T. tomato paste

1 T. Cajun seasoning (such as Tony Chacherie)

2-3 t. Worcestershire sauce

1 lb. frozen crawfish tails (thawed)- or you can certainly use fresh is you’re lucky enough to have them!

chopped parsley and green onion (about 1/3 c. each)

Directions

  1. In a large heavy saucepan heat the oil and whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly (!) until the roux is about the color of peanut butter.
  2. Add the onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic, bay leaves and cook until veggies are soft (about 10 minutes. Add chicken or shrimp stock (consistency is key! your etouffee should be pretty thick-more the consistency of a gravy), Better than Bouillon, tomato paste, Cajun seasoning and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a boil.
  3. Cook for about 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
  4. Add crawfish tails, parsley, and green onions and cook with lid on for about 20 more minutes.
  5. At this point you can add about 1/4 cup of butter (for richness)
  6. To serve, (and for a pretty presentation) fill a bowl about 1/2 full with etouffee and then carefully place a round scoop (I use my ice cream scoop!) of rice in the center. Sprinkle with a few more green onions and a bit of parsley for flair!!

I hope you enjoy- it’s one of my very favorites!

Lu

The Devil’s in the Details

We’re talking fun and entertaining and all things food-related, and we’ve made it on the alphabet train to D.

It’s already April and we’ve been basking in the warmer/milder weather that precedes the almost unbearable heat of summer. Outdoor get-togethers with family and friends are here at last.

If you’ve ever attended a family reunion in the South, you’ve been offered a Deviled Egg. It was likely served up on an egg plate (those nifty little trays with special indentations for each egg half), and was probably made with love by your Great Aunt Ethel who rode over 50 miles to attend the reunion holding those precious plastic-wrapped eggs in her lap the whole way.

Heaven forbid Uncle Aulsie gets a little too aggressive with his driving.

Deviled Eggs have been around forever and there are as many versions as there are chickens to lay those eggs, but have you ever wondered how the Devil got involved? Back in the 19th century the term “deviled” was often used to describe foods, many times egg dishes, that were spicy or zesty (remember the mustard and vinegar?)There are other names- stuffed eggs, salad eggs, dressed eggs, and even angel eggs.

But whatever you call them, only one thing matters:

Every family believes their recipe is the hands-down best, and everyone else’s recipe is frankly “just awful”.

The basic recipe calls for hard-cooked eggs which are first split, then to the yolks are added an array of ingredients, the most typical of which are mustard, mayo, vinegar, salt and pepper.

You can add a whole slew of other things too- herbs, sour cream bacon, onion, chives, cheese- you name it, it can go in!

For me, the tangy-ness of the mustard and the addition of vinegar are key. Mine are pretty simple and require little thought or measuring (and also no particular cooking talent)

  1. I gently drop the eggs into boiling water to cover and then boil for 10 minutes, then remove from heat.
  2. Let the eggs sit in the hot water for a couple of minutes, then plunge into cold water.
  3. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, roll each one on the counter with enought pressure to gradually break the shell all over, then just peel it off.

There is NOTHING more frustrating than trying to remove the shell from an egg that just absolutely won’t let it go.

4. Cut each egg in half, remove the yolks and to them add mustard, mayo, vinegar, salt and pepper (and whatever else you want!)

5. Then re-fill the egg halves with the yolk mixture with a spoon (or you can be fancy and pipe it in with a piping bag or a plastic bag with a corner clipped off). Top with your choice of garnishes.

Because you may be making just a couple of eggs or 50, add the mustard, etc… in small amounts, tasting along the way, until you get it just like you like it.

There’s really nothing for me that says Spring has arrived like a platter of Deviled Eggs.

I’d be so interested to know- do you love or hate them? What’s the secret to your own recipe?

And also, can you help a sister out with “E”? I’d be so grateful.

Lu

Say Shar-coo-tree. Now don’t you feel French?

C, naturally, is for charcuterie.

Don’t be disturbed if you can’t pronounce it, much less know what it is.

The French pronunciation is shar-coo-tree, and well, sometimes it pays to sound French.

But even if you’re just Texan like me and say this with all four syllables and lots of long r’s, it’s still the same- charcuterie is the culinary art of preparing meat products such as bacon, salami, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, ballotines, pates and confits.

We’ll save a talk about those last five for when we’re all feeling particularly studious (you’re welcome) , but in the strictest sense, charcuterie just deals with the age-old treatment of cured and prepared meats.

Simple.

Charcuterie boards, on the other hand, are a more modern iteration and have taken on a life of their own. You can find examples everywhere of this updated twist on your Grandma’s holiday meat and cheese tray.

In fact, current variations (like a pancake board? baked potato board?) have veered so far away from what traditional charcuterie is all about (the meat, remember) that they are really just boards, and that’s OK. They make a lovely centerpiece and are a fun food presentation for a crowd.

If you want to get on board (ha) the keys to making one are:

color (lots- remember that “we eat first with our eyes” thing)

variation (meats, cheeses, crackers, veggies, dips, sweet bites of dried fruits and nuts are staples) and

quantity (no one likes an anemic looking skinny board, so stuff that thing full to overflowing!)

Any way you load it up, a charcuterie board spells fun.

(Just with a lot of letters and a confusing pronunciation)

Lu

So many B’s, but let’s do Brunch.

The kitchen/cooking world is filled with all things B. Baking and broiling and breakfast. Broccoli, banana and burnt. You can enjoy bisque, borscht, and Bordeaux, but nothing says fun more than brunch.

I think you’ll agree, just the idea of brunch conjures up a picture of tasty food and a relaxed time with friends. Blessedly brunch is traditionally served at 10 am or after, so non-early birds (like me) can enthusiastially jump on the brunch-love wagon. And just think- all you early bird get the worm-ers can just think of it as a welcome snack between your way too early breakfast and lunch.

Brunch is everyone’s best friend.

After the last year of few to zero family/friend gatherings, perhaps a brunch is the perfect way to break out of the isolation routine..

What’s your idea of the perfect brunch?

Mine would include a variety of savory and sweet, breakfast-y and lunch-y type things:

Candied Bacon (help me)

Fresh Fruit Salad

French Breakfast Puffs (a must-have for me)

An egg dish or omelet bar

Maybe something with a little spice- like a cheese dish with jalapenos

A make it yourself Champagne, Mimosa or other fun punch bar.

The idea, of course, is to serve delicious food in a relaxed setting to people you love (or even just like!)

Who’s with me?

Lu

Fun is Not a Four Letter Word

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

At a time in our history which seems to reek of contention, whether you lean right or left, mask or no mask, or how you turn your toilet paper roll, I think we can all agree that 2020 was pretty darn hard. Perhaps we could at least join hands in accord on that one point? (Sanitizer available immediately thereafter, of course) I mean I know some great things happened in 2020 for a lot of people- grandbabies were born, people got married etc… but what seemed to be missing most though, from 2020, was fun. And without spending much more time bemoaning the last year, I’m here to say that I need some fun and I’m going to use this little nondescript corner of the internet to make some fun for myself if not necessarily anyone else.

You’re welcome to join me if you’d like. In fact I’d love that.

In sticking with a topic that I find fun (and for the life of me I just won’t understand someone who doesn’t agree) we’re talking FOOD and all things that go with it. And while we’re at it let’s hold hands again and agree that putting things in alphabetical order is fun and also orderly, so:

In the category of things commonly misunderstood/little used/confusing/or just plain interesting in the kitchen, we’ll begin with

A is for Apertif.

I’ll be honest, I’ve probably actually spoken the word apertif maybe two or three times in my entire life. I did not grow up fancy. I drank Tang and considered a TV dinner with some Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and 2 teaspoons of applesauce for dessert something wildly swanky simply because it wasn’t homemade. My Mom was the best cook ever, but kids are weird and don’t appreciate that kind of thing when all their friends are getting to eat Swansons out of aluminum foil trays.

So there were typically no apertifs at my house.

Many times confused with appetizer or maybe even asparagus, an apertif is just an alcoholic beverage served before a meal and is meant to stimulate the appetite. Years ago it started out as a sneaky conduit to deliver quinine to patients fighting malaria but the quinine is typically not included these days.

Hmm. To each his own I suppose.

The concept of the apertif basically made its way from Europe to the US in the 1970’s starting the phenomenon we know today as Happy Hour. I’m pretty sure though, with pitchers of beer and other super sweet and otherwise overdone umbrella-laced concoctions that we’ve strayed a bit from the original intent.

Because it’s purpose is to stimulate the appetite rather than satisfy and certainly not to intoxicate, a true apertif is typically just a taste of champagne, liqueur, or wine that is quite dry rather than sweet.

And clearly not served in a pitcher.

So for 2021 I say we all embrace the spirit of the apertif, or at the very least use the word in a sentence now and again.

Here’s a handy example:

I’ll take my apertif sans the quinine, thank you.

Lu

It’s The Ending That Counts


So the next generation would know, and all the generations to come—
Know the truth and tell the stories, so their children can trust in God

Psalm 78:6-7

Did you know there’s a book named after you?

It’s kind of a hoot, isn’t it, to imagine the pastor starting his sermon with “Please turn to the book of Jennifer and let’s look at chapter 3, verse 5″.

Or “Today brothers and sisters we’ll, be reading from the Book of Jim Bob.”

But still.

Your story, rife with fault or full of faith, will live on forever in the hearts and souls of your children, your grandchildren and countless others who learn the ins and outs of how you’ve navigated this earthly journey.

And quite frankly, your little story, as opposed to the more familiar ones of Noah, Saul or Moses, may more likely be the one that guides someone else to discover the treasures in the divinely inspired stories of the Bible. Just imagine a group of 6 yr. olds in Sunday School hearing not about the story of Ruth, but the story of Rhonda.

Or Bob, Kevin, or MaryJo.

And while admittedly, I’m taking a bit of creative license here, let’s go ahead and glance at our legacy in just that way.

Will yours be one of drama, intrigue and betrayal like Saul and David? Or more of a suspenseful thriller like Rahab’s? Will your tale be full of sibling rivalry, romance and deception like Joseph’s, or more of a strong female lead production like Deborah’s?

Whether yours includes colossal failure, frequent relapses, or is just chock full of mess-ups, make no mistake- your story matters.

Despite the flawed characters, the plot twists or the years you’d rather erase, nothing about your story will ever dilute the beauty of the gospel if it ends with Jesus.

May all our stories end with Him.

Lu

Chili Lime Pork with Corn Salad

Sometimes making dinner is hard.

I’ll just throw this out there – sometimes I decide what to cook based almost solely on the number of dishes/utensils/cutting boards/etc that I will have to clean up when it’s all over.

There. I said it.

Never mind what my people want to eat, sometimes my tired self just thinks: “But will it make a mess??”

Someone tell me I’m not alone.

Last night I pulled out this recipe (originally from a Pampered Chef cookbook) for Chili Lime Pork, and while it looks and tastes great, the greatest blessing from above is that clean-up is a breeze- all done in one pan.

All the praise hands.

Try it if you, like me, have ever considered feigning an illness when it’s time to do the dishes.

The truth shall set you free.

Lu

Chili Lime Pork with Corn Salad

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4   boneless pork chops
  • 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp Chili Lime seasoning, divided
  • 2   ears corn, husks removed
  • 1 medium red bell pepper
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 cup  grape tomatoes
  • 2   garlic cloves
  • ½ cup  queso fresco, crumbled (see cook’s tip)
  • ½ cup  fresh cilantro leaves

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat for 6 minutes.
  2. Season the pork with 1 tbsp of the rub. Remove the kernels from the cob. Chop the pepper and onion in a medium dice.
  3. Place the pork in the skillet. Sear the pork, undisturbed, for 4 minutes. Flip and cook for about 4–6 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 140°F (60°C) for medium doneness. Remove the pork from the skillet.
  4. Add the corn and cook, undisturbed, for 4 minutes.
  5. Slice the zucchini into half-moons with the and halve the tomatoes with the.
  6. Add the onion and bell pepper to the skillet and cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add the zucchini and finely diced garlic to the skillet; cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  8. Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the remaining rub, tomatoes, queso fresco, and chopped cilantro. Serve with the pork chops.

On Waiting

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.   James 4:14

We spend a lot of time waiting.

Waiting on babies to be born and Amazon packages to be delivered. We wait for lab results and we wait in line at the grocery store. We wait to get in some places and to get out of others. We wait at traffic lights, at sporting events, and we wait on hold… a lot.

We wait for colder weather to arrive and for our hair to grow out from a bad cut. We wait for our kids to be potty-trained, then for them to get a job. We wait for Pumpkin Spice whatever to come out at Starbucks and we wait for the election to finally be over.

Much of our waiting is necessary and simply a consequence of being human and wanting and needing the same things that a bunch of other humans want or need at the same time.

But wait a minute. 😉

What about all our self-imposed waiting? The waiting that we choose?

The waiting until we get our swimsuit body to hop in the pool? The waiting until we get a bigger, nicer house to invite friends over for dinner. We leave our good dishes in the hutch, waiting until we have “people” over while we serve our families on paper plates. We wait to remodel our homes until we’re ready to sell them, and we turn down that dinner invitation from the new people at church because we’re waiting for someone “more like us” to become friends with.

We wait until we’re older, until the kids have graduated, until we have more money or a better house, then we wait until we retire.

So much waiting.

And day by day and moment by moment in all the waiting, our earthly stories are still be written. The stories that for some of us are deep into the storyline and maybe even close to the conclusion. Entire chapters hollow with nothing but waiting.

And while we’ll always wait on the UPS guy or for our self-cut bangs to grow out, let’s fill the chapters we can with living and doing and loving and celebrating!

Let’s feed our family hotdogs on the best china we have and rip out that gray carpet in the master bathroom so we can relish the feel of new tile on our bare feet instead of saving that pleasure for the buyers. Let’s squeeze our permanently non-summer bodies into the cutest swimsuit we can find and challenge the grandkids to a race across the pool. Let’s invite the neighbors over and entertain them on the patio furniture we’ve had for 27 years and laugh about the two cushions that the dog chewed up.

We have but one opportunity to co-author our earthly story- let’s give it all we’ve got.

Yours might just be a real page-turner.

Happy Food

I’ll say up front that I was never a huge fan of cherry flavor. Perhaps it’s because I never tasted fresh cherries growing up, and for most of my life I associated the taste with the cloying smell of cherry flavored Kool-Aid that seemed to be the drink of choice at every kid birthday party, Vacation Bible School, and school lunch thermos bottle.

Eewwww.

Granted I also put potato chips and Cheetos on my ham sandwiches and liked twinkies a lot, so you probably wouldn’t have called my palate particularly sophisticated at the time.

Anyway, things change (twinkies excluded according to research) and I became a fan of fresh cherries and can even appreciate the value of strategically used canned Cherry Pie Filling.

Please don’t alert the Hip Foodie Police.

These Cherry Pie bars are just the thing to brighten up any rather gloomy day- no mixes involved, just simple pound cake-type ingredients and a super fast and easy preparation.

And to top it off they taste great!

Cherry Pie Bars

(From Rustic Joyful Food)

Ingredients

(Makes one 9-by 13-inch pan -about 18 servings)

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

One 21-ounce can cherry pie filling

Confectioners’ sugar, for glazing (optional; see note)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until just combined. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix to combine. Spread a little over half the cake batter into the pan. Evenly spread the cherries over top, then spoon the rest of the cake batter over the cherries. (It’s fine if the cherries show through.)

3. Bake until the top has turned slightly golden, 30 to 35 minutes. (Do not overbake.) Cool before slicing into squares.