Gumbo-esque stew for the sickly

Hello all!  It's been awhile - I hope everyone had a lovely holiday season and that you are all enjoying 2011 so far.  I'm sure it probably seems (based on all of my previous posts) that I only cook things loaded with butter and sugar...but today I have something that contains neither of those ingredients.

I love, love, love okra.  My grandma used to grow it in her gardens in Tennessee and we would fry or stew it.  It wasn't until I was a little older that I first had gumbo, and found my favorite okra dish.  I'm recovering from a cold, and gumbo, with all of its heat and spice (and okra) is what I was craving yesterday.  I am calling what I made a "gumbo-esque stew" because I can't claim to be an expert in gumbo and I needed to make do with what I had in my pantry, refrigerator, and freezer.  I based my stew on this recipe from EatingWell.com.  It turned out beautifully and was just what I needed.  I only wish I would have remembered to take a picture before we ate it!

Gumbo-esque stew for the sickly

  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 cups no-salt added chicken stock
  • 1 15 ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped okra (I used frozen)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup brown rice (I used short grain)
  • About 8 ounces shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
  • 6 ounces chicken andouille sausage, sliced very thinly
  1. Toast flour in a heavy pan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until golden brown (it took mine about 5 minutes).  Set aside.
  2. Sauté onion, celery, and garlic in olive oil in a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium heat until onion and celery are softened (about 5 minutes).
  3. Stir in toasted flour until vegetables are coated.
  4. Add chicken stock, tomatoes, okra, and spices (through salt) and bring to a simmer.  
  5. Add rice and cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes or until rice is cooked.
  6. Add shrimp and sausage, return to a simmer, and cook until shrimp is cooked through.  
Serves 6

Notes on Gumbo-esque stew:

  • This recipe is very forgiving.  Use the vegetables you have on hand and adjust the amount you use according to what you like.  The original recipe called for green bell pepper, but I didn't have any so I left it out and it was still delicious.
  • If you don't have no-salt added chicken stock, you can use regular chicken broth or stock, just leave out the added salt until right before serving and then salt to taste.
  • This was great served with cornbread.  It's probably more traditional to serve it with French bread, but I like cornbread better.  


Christmas Cookies for Dawn

These cookies are for my friend Dawn.  Dawn loves coconut, and I've been promising her some sort of cookie that incorporates coconut.  She really enjoyed the chocolate cranberry oatmeal spice cookies I made last week, so I decided to do a riff on that recipe, using whole grain flour, less sugar, butter, and of course, coconut.   They really turned into a completely different type of cookie.  The edges are still crispy, but these are chewy and soft and delightfully coconut-y.


My Grandma's Toffee Bars

This is my all time favorite Christmas cookie.  My Grandma has made these since I was little, and there is nothing that evokes the feeling of Christmas more for me.  One taste of these cookies and I am overcome by a wave of nostalgia...I can smell the Christmas tree and see all of the ornaments that have always been there, hear the laughter of my family all around me, see us all gathered around the large table that is still at my Grandparent's house, and feel my sister's hand in mine as we would sneak out of our beds to open our stockings before anyone else in the house awoke on Christmas morning.  I don't see all of my family on Christmas anymore since we're all spread out around the country, but I will always have these memories  and a sense of tradition that they each helped to instill in me.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

My Grandma's Toffee Bars
Toffee barsToffee bars with pecans


Chocolate and Peppermint

Chocolate and peppermint may be my favorite flavor combination year round, but I can't think of any other flavors that are more Christmas-y.  Here are two of my favorite recipes that combine chocolate and peppermint and are great additions to a holiday baking session.  Erica and I made both of these during our Cookie Marathon last weekend, and they have both been a hit with everyone.

Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies (aka Brad's favorite Christmas cookie)
based on a recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookie Book
Chocolate peppermint cookiesChocolate peppermint cookies


Cookie Marathon!

Welcome to the blog I've been meaning to start for the past two years!  In honor of the season, I'm going to kick things off with a holiday baking post. 

This past weekend, I got together with my lovely friend Erica, and we made nine different varieties of cookies and candy.

Cacao nib shortbread from Orangette

Cacao nib shortbread
Cacao nib shortbread

Notes on cacao nib shortbread:
  • We used whole wheat pastry flour and they turned out beautifully.
  • These are hardy cookies - they would be great for shipping.