Saturday, January 14, 2012

Recipe #100 - Reservations


For my 100th (and final) recipe, 
I'm going to make....

(Can you blame me? It's my birthday!)

A year ago today, I set out on this crazy cooking journey. I really didn't know what to expect and I really didn't know what I was getting in to. I can honestly say that with every recipe I've not only learned something new about cooking, but I've also learned something new about myself. Whether it was a new ability that I didn't know that I possessed (like chopping vegetables quickly and efficiently) or a new emotion I didn't know I was capable of (like feeling immensely sad for deveining a shrimp... poor little guys).

My Year of 25 has led me to new friendships. I found myself having something to talk to almost anyone about. It took me by surprise each time. I had really never been able to converse with anyone on a more intellectual level about cooking. My favorite memory was a week before Thanksgiving, I was trying on shoes at Kohls. A lady was trying on a pair next to me and the next thing I knew, we are switching recipes and exchange contact information! And that is just one of the many.

I've created irreplaceable memories. I couldn't, and by couldn't - I mean I won't, tell you how absolutely entertaining it is to watch me in the kitchen (though I'm sure my father would love to share a few stories!) I don't think I made it through a single recipe flawlessly. We all laughed and teased and joked the whole year. When we were all in the kitchen preparing a meal, we were always happy.

Now my final task will be to pick my Top 25 recipes and create a small recipe book for my friends, family and followers. If you would like to request a copy, you may do so by emailing me at I will also make a last post listing the lucky recipes that make it on the list!


I would like to thank everyone that sent in recipes, spent hours helping research recipes, commented and gave me advice along the way. I have become a more rounded and better cook because of you.

A special thanks to my wonderful parents (aka my sous chefs!) My father, for cutting 97% of all onions that appear in this blog (so that I didn't have to) and choosing some of the more challenging recipes (though I could have choked him at the time). My mother, for her patience (especially when I turned her kitchen upside down with practically every recipe) and for teaching me a lot of our traditional family recipes, so that I can pass them down to my kids one day. 

Without them, My Year of 25 would not have been possible.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Recipe #99 - Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo


Sprinkle the chicken evenly with 2 tablespoons of the Poultry Magic (or 1 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon of Meat Magic) and rub it in well. Let stand at room temperature while you dice the vegetables.

Note: Adjust the seasoning if desired with additional Poultry Magic or Meat Magic.

But, be warned, this is what happens when you shake the chicken in the baggie without sealing it all of the way. Yea, it was a mess!

Combine the onions, bell peppers and celery in a bowl and set aside.

Combine the remaining Poultry Magic (or Meat Magic) with the flour in a paper or plastic pag. Add the seasoned chicken pieces and shake until the chicken is well coated. Reserve 1/2 cup of the seasoned flour.

Heat 1 1/2 inches of oil in a large, heavy skillet over high  until very hot (375-400 degrees F), about 6 to 7 minutes. Fry the chicken until the crust is brown on both sides and the meat is cooked, about 5 to 8 minutes per side. You may have to fry the chicken in batches. Drain on paper towels. Carefully pour the hot oil into a heatproof glass measuring cup, leaving some of the brown bits in the pan, then return 1/2 cup of hot oil to the pan.

Return the pan to high heat and gradually whisk in the reserved 1/2 cup seasoned flour. Cook, whisking constantly, until the roux is dark red-brown, about 3 1/2-4 minutes, begin careful not to let it scorch or splash on you skin. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the vegetables, stirring constantly and scraping the pan bottom well until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil in a 5 1/2-quart saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the vegetables mixture by spoonfuls to the boiling stock, stirring between each addition until the roux is dissolved. Return to a boil, stirring and scraping the pan bottom often. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the Andouille and garlic, and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring often toward the end of the cooking time.

While the gumbo has cooked for 45 minutes, stir in the chicken.

Serve immediately. To serve as a main course, mound 1/3 cup cooked rice in the center of a low soup bowl, and ladle about 1 1/4 cups gumbo around the rice. For an appetizer, place 2 heaping tablespoons cooked rice in a cup and ladle about 3/4 cup gumbo on top.

This seriously was the best roux I've ever made. It was perfect! If I changed one thing, it would be to cut the chicken up into smaller pieces. Other than that - like I said - perfect!

Rating: 10 (easy)
Time: 2 hours (easy)
Serves: 6 main dish servings or 10 appetizer servings
1 pound boneless chicken (breast or thighs or both)
2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons Chef Paul Prudhomme's Poultry Magic or 2 tablespoons Chef Paul Prudhomme's Meat Magic (see note)
1 cup onions, finely diced
1 cup green bell peppers, finely diced
3/4 cup celery, finely diced
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil for frying
7 cups chicken stock
1/2 pound Andouille smoked sausage, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
2 cups hot cooked white rice

Monday, January 9, 2012

Recipe #98 - Quick Cajun Shrimp


When my brother, Brian, came into town from Houston for Christmas this year, he brought ten pounds of fresh shrimp. We boiled most of them after Christmas and needed something to do with the rest.  

I've been wanting to try this Cajun Shrimp recipe my Aunt Jennifer made over the 4th of July. It was the inspiration for these three cajun recipes. 

Remove the shells, devein and rinse the shrimp. I butterflied mine, but that's optional. Sprinkle with the creole

Heat oil and butter in a skillet and fry the shrimp until cook cooked through on medium heat. About 5-7 minutes.

Simply. But yummy.

Rating: 8
Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 6
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
Vegetable oil
About 1/2 tablespoon butter 
Tony's Creole Seasoning, to taste

Recipe #97 - Cajun Cornbread Stuffing


I found this recipe on the Disney channel website, oddly enough. It was originally a corn bread recipe but I butchered it so much that it ended up not setting and being more of a stuffing. Which isn't a bad thing! We actually enjoyed the hell out of it. 

Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl. Pour into a greased pan (or cast iron skillet).

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The center won't set like normal corn bread, instead it will be moist like stuffing.

It was very cheesy! But that's never really a fault. I think I added to much salt and not enough Creole, so I adjusted the recipe to compensate.

Rating: 9
Time: 1 hour
Serves: 10-12
4 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 stick margarine
1 tablespoon salt
1 15-ounce can creamed corn
1 small onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, chopped
2 jalapeno pepper, chopped
5 eggs
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons Tony's Creole Seasoning
8 stems green onions, chopped
2 8 1/2-ounce package cornbread mix

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Recipe #95 - Chocolate Truffle Cookies with Sea Salt


In a heatproof bowl over a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter until smooth. Turn off the stove and let chocolate sit over warm heat. This was my first using a double boiler!

Combine flour, baking powder and salt and mix to combine. In another bowl, mix together sugar and eggs, combine thoroughly with a whisk and slowly add the warm mixture. Stir to combine. Add vanilla extract and mix. Stir in flour mixture. Cool for a few minutes (if batter is warm, chocolate chips will melt). Stir in chocolate chips. Chill for 10-15 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop rounded tablespoons of batter and place on baking tray. Sprinkle each cookie lightly with a pinch of sea salt.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 7-8 minutes until the outside looks slightly cracked. Be very careful no to over bake cookies because they will continue to bake as they cool once removed from the oven. Cookies should be soft and gooey in the center.

Side note: For a chunky and different twist add one of the following:

  • 3/4 cup toasted pecans or pistachios
  • 1/4 cup chopped candid ginger
  • 1/3 cup sweetened coconut

Rating: 9
Time: 42 minutes
Yields: 24 cookies
Nutritional Information per serving: Calories 102 | Total Fat: 6.4g | Cholesterol: 20mg
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Baking Chips, for melting into the prepared cookie dough
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/3 cups Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Baking Chips, for mixing into the prepared cookie dough
2 tablespoons coarse sea salt, or as needed

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Recipe #94 - Pesto Chicken Thighs with Italian Creme Sauce Over Parmesan Couscous


I can't believe I found this website at the very end of my Year of 25. It's called Original Family Style Recipes for Even Your Pickest Eaters.

Place chicken and pesto into a large ziplock bag, seal and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place chicken thighs onto a large baking sheet that has been greased. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Place cooked couscous, olive oil and parmesan cheese into a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low.

Warm Philadelphia Italian Cheese and Herb Cooking Creme into a small saucepan over medium-low heat until warmed. Reduce heat to low.

To serve, place couscous onto a serving plate and top with chicken. Drizzle with warm cooking cream.

Now me, I prefer to have all the extra veggies, but my picky father and siblings loved this dish!

Rating: 7
Time: 2 hours
Serves: 4
1 pound boneless chicken thighs, fat removed
1/2 cup prepared pesto sauce
2 cups cooked couscous
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cups freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup Philadelphia Italian Cheese and Herb Cooking Creme (can be found in the cream cheese section at your local grocery)

Recipe #93 - Artichoke Brochette


My first brochette!

Pretty simply. In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients.

Cut baguette into 30 or so slices; top with artichoke mixture. Drizzle with a little pesto to finish (optional).

Place on ungreased backing sheet. Broil 3-4 inches from the heat for 3-4 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

Rating: 8
Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 2 1/2 dozen
1 jar (6-1/2 ounces) marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
1 plum tomato (like a Roma), chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
5 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 loaf (10-1/2 French bread baguette
Pesto for drizzling (optional)