So I bought myself an Instant Pot for Christmas during the Black Friday sales... I even wrapped it, put it under the tree and acted surprised on Christmas morning.
And while I was genuinely excited to get one, I had no idea any kitchen gadget could be this AMAZING ..... I mean, I'm in ❤️. I've cooked several meals in it now and it's consistently 30 minutes from prep to table. And it creates flavor depth that usually takes all day to develop.
But I'll admit, I was a little nervous about any take on a pressure cooker. I've seen scary internet videos of pressure cookers gone wrong. But now that I've got the hang of the seal/vent valve.... I'm feeling pretty confident I won't blow my face off.
So tonight I made vegetarian Cheesy Southwestern Lentils & Brown Rice from Platings and Pairings. Her recipe is easy, fast and delicious. I love the spices and the crunch of the brown rice and that all of my boys ate it happily. Even my picky 6 year old made a point to give me a hug and say, "Thank you for making a good dinner" ..... I'm going to take that as a compliment for tonight's dinner and not as a knock against my other dinner offerings.....
I also served it with homemade guacamole and Louisiana's Hola Nola tortilla chips. And if you want to amp up your Louisiana-local game, grab Camellia Brand lentils, Cajun Boy brown rice and Hola Nola taco seasoning.
Next up: steel cut oats on delay start to be ready when I roll out of bed at the last minute.
This weather calls for soup! I love it that we've gotten a taste (though I'm about done with it) of winter.... coats, sweaters, cauliflower...
But seriously, this vegan cauliflower soup has a creamy depth of flavor that is hard to find in dairy-less soups. And, other than spewing it all over my kitchen because I didn't hold down the blender lid securely, it's easy enough.
And I figure this recipe from bon appétit magazine using the French cooking technique à l'étouffée should be used in Cajun South Louisiana on an all-vegetable meal. And while my boys tolerated it - my good friends who are foodies loved it. So hop to Rienzi Market .... or anywhere right now, really.... and grab the in-season cauliflower. I'm stocking up ... not just for roasting this year... but for SOUP!
Cauliflower-Cashew Soup With Crispy Buckwheat
- ½ cup olive oil, divided
- 4 large shallots, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- Kosher salt
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 large head of cauliflower, cored, cut into small florets, stem chopped, divided
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp. cashews
- 6 cups (or more) vegetable stock, preferably homemade
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons buckwheat groats
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- Heat ¼ cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium. Add shallots, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme; season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are translucent, 6–8 minutes.
- Add wine, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Set ¾ cup cauliflower aside; add the rest to pot along with cayenne and ¾ cup cashews; season with salt.
- Cover pot, reduce heat to low, and cook, shaking pot occasionally, until cauliflower is fork-tender and vegetables have released all their water, 20–25 minutes (check occasionally to make sure vegetables are not browning; reduce heat if they are).
- Add stock and season with salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, until cauliflower is falling apart, 20–25 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, finely chop reserved ¾ cup cauliflower and remaining 2 Tbsp. cashews. Heat remaining ¼ cup oil in a small skillet over medium. Add cauliflower, cashews, and buckwheat; season with salt. Cook, stirring often, until cauliflower and cashews are golden brown and buckwheat is browned and crisp, 5–8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and paprika. Let cool slightly.
- Working in batches if needed, purée soup in a blender until very smooth. Return to pot and reheat over medium-low, stirring and adding more stock to thin if needed (soup should be the consistency of heavy cream). Taste and season soup again if needed.
- Serve soup topped with toasted cauliflower-buckwheat mixture.
- Do Ahead: Soup can be made 2 days ahead (or 1 month if frozen). Let cool; transfer to airtight containers and chill.
Finding Fresh http://finding-fresh.com/wordpress/
My 11 year old is into all the sports... And I've gotten really tired of fueling him with prepackaged sports bars with preservatives and so. much. sugar.
Also, I've tried a few commercial brands and flavors and I really don't think they taste good either...kinda chemically. So, together, we've looked for some easy and portable protein snacks that actually taste good... and are made with whole foods.
The only thing they aren’t is prepackaged, which makes them a little less pack and go. But to that, I say plastic baggie.
The first protein ball, peanut butter oat balls, is the easiest. Four ingredients and only dirties 1 bowl and 1 spoon... the first time I made them I did pull out my scale and measured the ingredients, but now, I just eyeball it. Dump and mix. Since it's so forgiving, this is a great one to have the kids make for themselves.
Peanut Butter Oat Balls
Each ball has 4.5 grams protein
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1/3 cup natural peanut butter (or any nut or seed butter)
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- 1 tablespoon+ dark chocolate chips (optional)
- pinch of sea salt
- Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix well
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes
- Roll into balls
Finding Fresh http://finding-fresh.com/wordpress/
The second protein ball, a peanut butter brownie ball from Fit Foodie Finds, requires a few more ingredients (6), but is still a super easy food processor recipe.
And these can be frozen for up to 2 months, which I love since the school year can get a little crazy and I like to be able to make things ahead of time. So check out her awesome recipe with videos and commentary on her blog.... or here's a duplicate of her recipe for convenience.
Peanut Butter Brownie Balls
- 2 cups raw almonds
- 20 medjool dates, pitted
- 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (I like dark cocoa powder)
- 1/2 cup all-natural peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/3 teaspoon sea salt
- Place almonds into a food processor and process on high until you’ve created a fine almond meal.
- Next, pit 20 medjool dates. Then, add those into the food processor along with the cocoa powder, peanut butter, maple syrup, and sea salt. Process on high until everything is pulverized. You may need to add a few teaspoons of water to the mixture depending on how sticky your dates are.
- Scoop a heaping tablespoon of dough into your hands and roll into a ball. Repeat.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Finding Fresh http://finding-fresh.com/wordpress/
And these are totally not just for kids. It's a great quick bite for me in a busy day or before working out too. And whenever I'm craving something sweet... these satisfy my mind and body. Something to feel good about. 😊
I don’t want to be one of those people who self diagnoses using Google . . . but I did discover this summer that there is a direct correlation between how much dairy I eat and how much my skin decides to overreact.
So, without an official diagnosis, I've been playing mostly vegan lately. And with that and the fact that school — for both my boys and me — is starting, I’ve been testing quick breakfast options that can be pre-made and pulled out on those early mornings.
A quick word about any untraditional/alternative foods…. and I feel the need to say this because of my 11 year old, who is my favorite taste tester since he helps represent the kid contingent, tried these muffins. When he tried these muffins he said, “they feel like puke in my mouth.” 🙄Hmmmmm. . . yes, the texture is not like a regular, flour-based muffin. And while they have the name muffin — I mean we seem to crave familiar labels for things — they really aren’t supposed to be just like muffins. These are shaped like muffins but they are more like a super moist banana bread.... solid pudding? Maybe I should stop trying to describe them.
Saucy Kitchen's easy blender recipe is a fast, dump > blend > pour > bake. And I think the flavor of these is great and, to help the texture for those who need some variation, my boy and I think this recipe needs the addition of some course chopped almonds or walnuts.
My mom is Canadian. So I grew up with Maple syrup — over pancakes, on oatmeal, poured over snow and in sugar candy. South Louisianans have cane syrup.
I was first introduced to cane syrup by one of my students. Her family makes cane syrup the old fashioned way . . . cutting it by hand, grinding it, boiling it down and bottling it in small batches in Gray.
She also taught me about how Cajuns use cane syrup in everything from pecan pie, to cakes and cookies and even savory dishes — anything that needs a little sweet. And theirs, Baudoin Creations' Sweet Memories Old-Fashioned Cane Syrup, is super smooth and light . . . and local and lacking the chemicals of mass production.
The Thibodaux-based Donner-Peltier Distillers uses Sweet Memories in their products and you can find it in drinks at several New Orleans' restaurants and bars. Or you can buy your own at the Laurel Valley Plantation Store.
I personally just like it over biscuits . . . like my mother-in-law taught me . . . like she learned from her French grandfather from Port Allen. She said she'll crave biscuits with cane syrup, just like he would always eat — I think it's the taste . . . but mostly I think it's a way to connect to someone she loves that is long gone.
So I really am mostly a vegetarian . . . but if I'm going to eat meat, it'll be chicken and it'll be good, happy chicken — not those scraggily ones you see piled on top of each other in little cages on the stinky chicken trucks screaming down the interstate.
Those actually make me really sad and barf a little in my mouth.
But moving on to something exciting . . . Today I picked up my first order from Mossy Ridge Farm, a happy, pasture-raised chicken farm in Houma.
It's new and small and the couple that raises the chickens have a great vision — supply our area with local, happy, healthy chicken. And at a great price . . . . can you see the price in the picture?? I bought two packages of tenders and a package of breasts for $11.08. The last time I bought organic chicken at the grocery store it was about $13 for two breasts. And, let's be honest, while getting to use the label USDA certified organic does mean something, I really have no idea where that chicken came from.
Ordering is also super easy. You can go to their website and order. And for Thibodaux people, ask to pick up at the Saint Francis Vegetable Garden at their weekly drop on Thursdays evenings from 5-6. Or you can find them at Anela's in Houma, Verdun's Meat Market in Raceland or at the Lafourche Central Market on Saturdays from 8-noon.
Right now the farm is just doing chickens, but they are looking to expand and offer mushrooms, artichokes and rabbit.
And I can't say there's anything better than getting to pick up my food from the people who raised it while our kids pick green beans and zucchini together in the Saint Francis Vegetable Garden. Theirs was the super cute little girl that my 3-year-old was trying to impress. . . . hope they'll still sell me chicken . . .
Ok, so I was just going to be lazy and post this picture to Finding Fresh's social media accounts* . . . I mean, I try so many different local products and sometimes they aren't good or just mediocre at best.
But this "Red Gravy" from Tony Mandina's in Gretna that I picked up on a whim today at Rouses in Thibodaux was a really great surprise. I mean,
I think this is the best store bought pasta sauce I've ever had . . .
I actually enjoyed it a lot. And I'm a slow-cook-your-homemade-sauce-all-day girl. But this is a great option for a lazy or crazy busy day . . .
Well done. Worth the $8. And, I saw that you can even buy it at nolacajun.com if you can't make it this far south.
*so take note . . . just because I'm too lazy [insert too busy] to post to the actual blog sometimes . . . I'm always posting pictures to my social media . . . so follow me over there ->
It's been a while. I mean, I've still been eating (and even posting some of the pics to Instagram), but I've been really distracted by other stuff. . . . like distracted going on 4 months now.
I've had food things to talk about… we grilled veggies marinated with the Baton Rouge-based Hooked on RE: on Labor Day and it was awesome on everything it touched … my husband took me to The Little Village in Baton Rouge last week and then to La Thai in New Orlean's uptown this weekend . . . and both were fabulous . . .
. . . but then something else comes up and I forget… or, more likely, I decide that actual eating and keeping everyone alive takes precedence over writing about it. I feel like the waterspout of parenthood, career, volunteerism and [fill in the blank]… has sucked me up and all I see is the blur as everything shoots by.
So I've decided… either I need to win the lottery (I totally don't play) and hire a personal chef, trade husbands for a true Cajun one that likes to cook (yes not-from-Louisiana ladies, Cajun men cook . . . like well . . . . I'm still trying to get my jambalaya to taste as good as one of our good friend's . . . of course that may be because I don't use all the meat stuff . . .), or, I suppose I'm just going to have to simplify and, just like it dawned on me to bring my kids' school lunches back to basics, I need to bring my life back to basics.
Now, there are a few new things in Thibodaux that can help with a crazy life and eating well.
- Elizabeth Cotter's community-supported 12th Street Bakery is back from a summer break with organic, I'm-not-really-even-a-bread-person deliciousness available for pickup every week.
- And then the new Momentum Fitness has worked with a local chef to offer healthy and good-tasting (because we all know those two things don't always go together) meals you can buy each week.
- And then another resource for organic foods . . . especially stuff you can't find at local markets or farms . . . is Azure Standard, an Oregon-based company that delivers to local drops (the closest for us is Gonzales).
That's a few . . . I'm trying out some others and I'll let you know about them soon.
So anyway, what did I do last night? I ate pistachios for dinner while I watched The LSU game with my family … completely ignoring the freelance projects that keep trying to suck me up.