Friday, December 21, 2012

Cajun Cocotte: The Dish, not the "woman"

After searching high and low to find something new to bring to the kitchen table, I located several recipes that were interesting. My exploration into the worldwide web began with casseroles, which took me into a groundmeat collation, which took me to tomato based territory, which took me to goulash, where I ended with tacos. While all of the recipes sounded delicious, each of them were missing something. So much time had passed. I didn't even realize I was 2 hours into my pursuit for revamping our menu for the evening! It was at that time, I decided that I had spent too much time on the computer and was now limited on time to prepare any dish. Does that ever happen to you?

So I did what any chef would do. I headed to the pantry to see what ingredients I had on hand, threw them in a pot, and voila'! In an hour, I had created heaven! Okay, so maybe 'Professional Chefs' really don't do that. Maybe they have a plan from the start. Maybe they prepare a little better than I did. Maybe they go to the grocers and gather specific ingredients to form the perfect flavors. And maybe, just maybe, they precisely measure all ingredients. Well, this I did. Only to share with you if this dish actually came out good. And it did! In fact, it came out better than good. It was heaven! Just check out the remarkable glare at the bottom of the dish. This is by no way thanks to me. Honestly, I don't even know how to accentuate photos. There is no better explanation than that this dish is truly heaven sent!

2 ½- 2 ¾ lbs. lean ground beef
10-12 ounces cooked elbow macaroni noodles
2 cups shredded cheese (I used an assorted Mexican blend that included Monterey Jack, Cheddar, etc.)
2- 10oz. cans of Rotel
1- 10oz. can nacho cheese
1- 10oz. can cheddar cheese soup
1 ½ cups milk
1 medium/large onion, diced
2 tbsp. garlic, minced
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. taco seasoning
2 tbsp. Mr. Pete's Cajun Seasoning
salt to taste
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup crushed tortilla chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Begin cooking the macaroni noodles per package directions in salted, boiling water. Drain and set aside. In a large pot on medium/high setting, add the olive oil, onions, and 1 tbsp. of Mr. Pete's Cajun Seasoning. Cook until onions are translucent.

Add the ground beef and cook until browned. Add your garlic, lemon juice, taco seasoning, and remaining tbsp. of Mr. Pete's Cajun Seasoning to the pot. Stir and let cook for 3 minutes on high. Add the Rotel and milk and stir. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed.

Add the nacho cheese and cheddar cheese soup to the pot, and stir until the cheeses have melted into the groundmeat mixture. Remove from heat.

As I created this dish, I began wondering what I would tell my family they were eating. What do I call this? And then the questions began to emerge. "Mom, what's for dinner?" "Mom, whatcha cookin'?" "Mom, that smells good. What we're having?" All the while, I led them to believe I actually had an answer; but they'd have to wait to find out. I responded to them, "You'll just have to wait and see." "This will be your new favorite." "We are having an extra special dinner tonight."

Add in the cooked macaroni noodles and 1 cup of shredded cheese to your groundmeat mixture. Mix well. Pour mixture into a non-stick baking dish.

Top with crushed tortilla chips and the remaining cheese.

Bake in preheated oven 35-40 minutes or until bubbly.

Even after I placed the dish in the oven, I was contemplating what to call it. Should I call this a casserole? Should I call this a goulash? Should I call this heaven?

It was finally time to sit down as a family and eat. As the family looked down at their plates, they were quick to grab a fork and dig in. I don't think they were truly worried about what it was called anymore. They knew it smelled and looked delicious! However, at each bite, I would consider different titles for this dish and none seemed to fit.

It wasn't until the next day, as I was writing up this blog post that it came to me. This is definitely my spin on a casserole. A casserole that I, of course, Cajunified with Mr. Pete's Cajun Seasoning. And Cajun to me is French. Therefore, I will create a French name for this dish. I recalled back when I was growing up, my grandmother would call all casseroles by the same name, cocottes (kô-kôt). That is a French term for a fireproof dish, or a casserole dish. So I began researching the spelling and history of the word before prematurely introducing y'all to something I wasn't knowledgeable on. After much tedious research, I discovered some new things about this particular term. Not only does the word mean 'casserole dish', it means 'prostitute'. You heard right! How can one word have two entirely different meanings? I mean, did they ever really refer to a lady of the night as a cocotte? Never in a million years would I have expected that this would be the case. As you can imagine, I was a bit apprehensive to "set this title in stone". However, I had finally found the perfect name for my newfound recipe, and this little contention wasn't going to deter me from sharing this fabulous recipe with you all. So we hope you all will enjoy our Cajun Cocotte: The Dish, not the "woman"!

~Mrs. Pete

Thursday, December 13, 2012

2 for 1! Fried Beef Tips turns Country Fried Steak!

FACT: I do the grocery shopping. Me. Mrs. Pete.

FACT: Mr. Pete will make an appearance at the local grocers from time to time; when he doesn't have the ingredients on hand to make something that he is concocting in his head at the very last minute, just before he turns the stove on.

Which leads me to the story. Just a couple days ago, we posted a blog for a delicious beef stew. Because we have a large family, and we are all big eaters, I purchase our meats in bulk. With that being said, I had some leftover beef stew meat in the refrigerator, and Mr. Pete began concocting again. Luckily this time, he needed very little ingredients and I had them all on hand.

I was at the back of the house washing clothes, while I thought Mr. Pete was watching TV in the living area. All of a sudden, I started hearing extremely loud banging noises coming from the front of the house. I thought for sure my kids were tearing up something. After running to the front to correct my children, I noticed it wasn't the kids at all. It was Mr. Pete! Here is what I found.

Mr. Pete was beating the beef stew meat with this meat hammer.
And so began his feat to discover another wonderful meal you can create with Mr. Pete's Seasoned Cajun Fish Fry!

Meal #1

4 lbs. beef stew meat (You will have leftovers! That's the purpose. You'll use them the 2nd night!)
1- 16 oz. bag of Mr. Pete's Seasoned Cajun Fish Fry (Get yours here.)
cooking oil
meat hammer
hard flat surface

Beat each piece of meat on a hard surface with a meat tenderizer until thin, approximately 1/8 inch thick. Soak the beef meat in water as they're awaiting their turn for a beating. Afterwards, return the meat to the water to soak their bruises.

One at a time, dip each piece of beef meat into Mr. Pete's Seasoned Cajun Fish Fry and coat thoroughly both sides.

In a platter, pour batter. Press batter firmly into both sides of meat.
Once you have battered several pieces of meat, place them in cooking oil heated to 350 degrees. You may have to repeat this step, as you don't want the battered pieces to touch one another in the grease bath. Mr. Pete uses peanut oil and deep fries his beef stew meat. You can use any type of oil you prefer in a deep fryer or in a pan on a stove top. Cook until golden brown. Remove meat from oil and place on absorbent paper towels.

Results: Yummy, Golden Brown, Crispy Fried Beef Tips!
Serve them up with your favorite veggies or french fries for your whole family to enjoy!

Easy Right? Well, the second night was just as easy, and even more delicious!

Meal #2

Leftover Fried Beef Tips
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
2 tblsp. Mr. Pete's Cajun Seasoning (Get yours here.)
salt to taste

Mr. Pete's Cajun Seasoning definitely gives this creamy gravy the kick it's been waiting for!

Gravy Directions:
In a sauce pot, heat oil to 350 degrees. Sprinkle flour into heated oil while whisking. Combine completely. Continue stirring and cooking until you achieve a light brown roux.

Add about a cup of milk and stir, keeping your heat setting at medium to high heat. Add 1 tbspn. Mr. Pete's Cajun Seasoning and stir. Allow mixture to simmer. Be careful during this stage of the process to avoid sticking and seizing. Be ready with the remaining milk.

Add 1/2 cup milk in intervals as the gravy thickens. Add the remaining Mr. Pete's Cajun Seasoning and salt to taste. Once the gravy has thickened, remove from fire.

Note the gravy beginning to settle on whisk. That's when you can tell that your gravy is just about done.

While you are preparing the gravy, heat oven to 250 degrees. In a baking pan, place your leftover fried beef tips into oven for 15-20 minutes.

Spoon gravy over beef tips. Serve with mashed potatoes and a lovely green side for more fantastic results! Voila'!

Fried Beef Tips turned Country Fried Steak with warm while gravy!
There you have it! You can enoy two meals in one with little time involved! So next time you hear loud obnoxious noises coming from the kitchen, you may want to think twice about blaming the kids. Instead, Mr. Pete may just be to blame!
~Mrs. Pete

Monday, December 10, 2012

Not all Rouxs are created equally- Beef Stew w/ Potatoes

The Roux

'Roux' is a French term meaning "reddish brown". However, not all rouxs are created equally. A roux is a mixture of flour and fat, which can be butter, lard, oil, or other forms used to thicken sauces. Depending upon the ingredients used and the length of time in which it is cooked, different flavors can be created.

A butter and flour roux cooked lightly will make a roux with a lighter taste and lighter color for dishes with lighter sauces such as a potato soup or other creamy sauces. These are referred to as "white" rouxs. On the flip side, a roux made from flour and oil and cooked for an hour or so will provide a darker sauce for darker dishes and will give you a richer flavor. Most Cajuns particularly like this method for creating their stews and gumbos.

These darker rouxs can be created in two different ways. A "blond" or "chocolate" roux is cooked until a brown color appears, normally about 15 to 20 minutes. Cooking your roux longer, up to an hour, will create a more reddish appearance; hence the term "brick" roux. The longer a roux is cooked, the more flavors are added to your dish. However, the longer it is cooked, the less thickening power it has. Over time, chefs have experimented with different ingredients to create the same effects of rouxs. Some opt to use wheat flour, while others toast flour to eliminate the high fat content in their dishes.

Mr. Pete's Preferred Roux

Mr. Pete has always created what is known as the "brick" roux, bringing out more flavors in his dishes. He likes to create his darker "reddish" roux with flour and cooking oil and cook down until almost the burning point. He uses this method, because of the higher smoking point with cooking oil.  It allows for a chef to cook the roux longer without reaching the burning point and notice the darker colors and flavors. When Mr. Pete wants to thicken further, a bit of corn starch can assist him with his desired texture.

Roux Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1 cup cooking oil

Roux Directions:
Heat stove to highest setting. Add oil to a thick, heavy pot. Once oil has reached a temperature of 350 degrees, turn fire to medium heat and add flour slowly stirring. Continue stirring the mixture constantly. Mr. Pete finds that stirring in a figure 8 motion allows him to mix together the mixture better. The mixture will start out as a white color. As you continue mixing the ingredients, the color will darken. Cook roux for a minimum of 20 minutes. Cooking the roux longer achieves an even darker color. Continue stirring until you have reached the desired color.

Stew Ingredients:
3 lbs. beef stew meat, cut in 1/2" cubes
1 large onion, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
1/4 cup bellpeppers, diced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 cup potatoes, cut in small bite-size pieces
2-3 tablespoons Mr. Pete's Cajun Seasoning
salt to taste
2 teaspoons preferred hot sauce
1 cup green onions, diced

Stew Directions:
Once your roux has been made, immediately add the onions to stop the roux from cooking. Soften onions for about 3 minutes, then add celery, bellpeppers, garlic, and 1 tablespoon of Mr. Pete's Cajun Seasoning to the pot. Stir vegetables and seasoning together for another 3 minutes. Add beef stew meat and another 1 tablespoon of Mr. Pete's Seasoning to the pot, stir, and cook until browned.

Add 4 cups of water to your pot, cover, and cook on medium for an hour and a half to tenderize the meat. Continue adding more water as needed during this stage of cooking and stirring occasionally.

At this point, your meat should be just about tender, and the veggies and seasoning has been cooking together. Taste your sauce to determine whether you will need more seasoning or salt. Add the final tablespoon of Mr. Pete's Cajun Seasoning, hot sauce, and salt if needed. Taste your sauce again to make sure you have the right flavor balance. Add the potatoes. Cover and cook for 13 minutes or until potatoes have softened. Turn off fire, remove pot from heat, and stir in green onions. Let sit for about 5-10 minutes for sauce to thicken. Serve over rice.

Make sure to visit Mr. Pete's Kitchen to order your Cajun Seasoning; and find his other great blends while you're there! Get Hooked On It!!!

Thank you for reading! Please do share with us how you make your roux! And we'd love to hear about your cooking experiences if you create this flavorful dish!

~Mrs. Pete

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Smothered, Covered, and Slathered! Just like Wafflehouse, minus the waffles!

When I go to the Wafflehouse (which isn't often enough), I love my hashbrowns smothered, covered, and scattered. If you've never been, it is a coffee/breakfast house that serves hashbrowns many different ways. In this particular case, they come smothered with onions, covered with cheese, and scattered on your plate. Of course, there are many other options to choose. This is just my favorite way of enjoying them.

As I began preparing dinner last night, the kids were asking me as always what I was cooking. Having children with different pallets, of course I am always going to have one that isn't too intrigued by the menu. However, I have learned to rename the dishes I create to peak their interests. It's funny how if you call a meal one thing, they don't like it; but call it something fun, and they are all over it! lol

So back to the story. I was smothering down some bone-in pork chops covered with onions and slathered with Mr. Pete's Cajun Seasoning. But you know as well as I do, when most children hear onions they run! So instead, I simply told them the first thing that came to mind "Smothered, Covered, and Slathered Chops." Boy did that catch their attention!

So basically, here's all you'll need:

4 bone-in pork chops, thin cut 1/2" thick
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 tbsp. garlic, minced
2 tbsp. Mr. Pete's Cajun Seasoning
1-2 cups water


In a large skillet, heat oil and add onions. Cook until they are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute. Season pork chops with Mr. Pete's Cajun Seasoning, and place in skillet on top of onions. Brown each side of pork chops approximately 8 minutes. Add water covering the chops. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until water is cooked out and meat becomes tender. You may need to add more water, depending upon the thickness of your meat.

Serve pork chops with smothered onions over the tops (or leave them off of the children's plates). You can place these over a bed or rice for wonderful results, or pair it with beautiful sides as we have done.

There you have it! Smothered, Covered, and Slathered Chops with a semi-stuffed roasted potato half and a fresh ceasar salad. And for all of you parents out there, DO NOT... I repeat, DO NOT ever tell the children what they are truly having after they eat; because they will eventually catch on! Here's to tricking your kids!

Follow us to our kitchen to get your Mr. Pete's Cajun Seasoning to make up this delicious meal! -->

Monday, December 3, 2012

Friendship Amish Bread: Pass on the flavor!

Social media has been a wonderful avenue that allows us all to connect with family and friends and also meet many new people and share in all our interests, whether it be food, crafts, shopping, family, or whatever our great minds can think up. Because we are all creative in our own ways, we each think uniquely. Sharing can not only broaden our minds, but allow us to experience things we may not have otherwise; and that is why I am so thankful to have Tina in my life.

Tina, or "Gramma" as she is known, is a fellow friend on our facebook page. Well, until...

Until I seen one of her posts about Friendship Amish Bread. I've never heard of the bread before, but the "friendship" part, the vanilla pudding part, and the fact that it was made with cinnamon was all I needed to begin this project. I call it a project, because baking to me usually means purchasing an already portioned amount of ingredients and adding eggs, milk, or water, mixing, and in 15-30 minutes I'm done. I do not normally take my time in creating homemade breads, desserts, or anything of the sort, let alone 10 days! However, it is totally worth it!

Starter Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
3 cups sugar

Starter directions:
Day 1 - make your starter with 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of sugar. Add this to a gallon size Ziplock bag.
Day 2, 3, 4, and 5 - mush bag 1 or 2 times a day.
Day 6 - Add 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup of milk and 1 cup sugar. Mush to mix well. May be lumpy.
Day 7, 8, and 9 - mush bag 1 or 2 times a day.
Day 10 - Add 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of sugar. Mush bag to mix.
Hints: Make sure to seal your zip-loc bag well, or you do risk the possibility of the bag busting open. DO NOT USE METAL UTENSILS WHEN MAKING THIS BREAD! It will change the process of the dough!
Also, your starter will collect air during the process. You will want to make a small opening in the bag and burp the air out. When you do, do not be alarmed. The smell should be almost like a homemade beer brew. It is not the most pleasant smell, but I promise that it does not tell what's to come.

Once your starter is complete on the 10th day, pour 3 cups of mixture into 3 separate bags...1 cup in each. (Keep a bag for yourself and give the other 2 to two friends, with a copy of the recipe).
*Pour the rest of your mixture in to a medium size mixing bowl.
At this point, you will have different options for flavor. The first time making this bread, I opted to follow the recipe as provided. Thereafter, I have managed to create different flavors that each turned out deliciously wonderful!

Original flavor: Add 1 cup oil (or 1 cup applesauce); 1/2 cup milk; 3 eggs; 1 tsp vanilla; and Mix well. Add 2 cups all-purpose flour; 1 cup sugar; 1 1/2 tsp baking powder; 2 tsp cinnamon; 1/2 tsp salt; 1/2 tsp baking soda; 1 cup nuts (optional); 1 large pkg instant vanilla pudding; and Mix thoroughly. Batter will be thick.

Grease 2 large or 4 small loaf pans. Sprinkle all around pan with cinnamon sugar. Pour batter in to pans. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar. Bake on 350* for 1 hour (or less if you use 4 smaller pans) or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool on wire rack for approx 15 minutes. Run knife around inside edges of loaf pans and remove from pan and continue to cool on wire racks. (I hold the pan, with a pot holder in one hand, and turn out loaf on other hand, then place bottom side down on cooling rack.)

***I baked two large loaves. For the first loaf, I used cooking oil and followed the recipe precisely without nuts. The second loaf, I substituted the cooking oil for apple sauce just to see the variance in flavor and added nuts. I did not notice much of a difference, if any, between the use of oil or apple sauce. Although, the family preferred the loaf with nuts saying it was sweeter.

Front loaf: Cooking oil, without nuts
Back loaf: Apple sauce, with nuts

After enjoying the wonderful flavors from both loaves of bread and hearing about the delicious ways Tina's friends were altering the flavors, I knew I had to give my hand a try. After all, I had many starters left over in the freezer. Just a few ideas from Tina's friends included substituting the vanilla pudding with pumpkin spice pudding, pistachio pudding, and chocolate pudding. Well, I love chocolate and just knew this would be my next flavor choice.

Following the same recipe, I substituted the instant vanilla pudding for chocolate pudding; and instead of the nuts, I added chocolate chips!

This one was really sweet, even for my liking. But the kids seemed to enjoy it!
You can never get enough of this bread! We have it for dessert, we eat a slice for breakfast with our coffee. It is always satisfying anytime of the day. So once again, I went on to experiment. Banana Nut Bread! Yum!

Following the recipe to the 'T', I just added 1 1/2 ripened bananas and crushed walnuts. I had to mush the ingredients by hand for this recipe to make sure and mix up the bananas evenly.

 I told you at the beginning, I used to follow "Gramma's in the kitchen" on the ever dreaded facebook. Now I can enjoy all of Tina's recipes and you can too on Pinterest and Blogger!