Cock-​​A-​​Leekie Soup

a99114_0102_chickenbowl_xlRooster In The Hen House

We have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the first eggs from our chickens since they are now of age. It has been fun to watch them grow from chicks to hens, and to get to know their personalities…and they do have per­son­al­i­ties. Some of the biggest char­ac­ters have been given names.

There’s Trouble, who got her name because if the chickens are found doing any­thing naughty, chances are she’s at the head of the pack egging the others on. She is also the one who likes to come and peck at our back door to see what we are doing.

Then there’s Turtle and Seagull. They were the eas­iest to name because Seagull looks like one and Turtle is short for Turtle­neck. She has a ruff of feathers around her neck that makes her look like a Shake­spearean reject.

The kids named one of the Rhode Island Reds Huevo—short for Huevos Rancheros. Appar­ently, sar­casm and irony are genetic.

And then, there’s Sparkle who got her name because she’s just not that bright. Now, I realize it’s rel­a­tive. They are chickens after all, but she is excep­tion­ally tragic. I watched her con­tin­u­ously run into the wire fence the other day, because she couldn’t figure out that she needed to fly back over it, which is the way she got out in the first place. I took pity on her and picked her up to give her a hand. Sigh.

We missed the mark on one of the chickens. As we watched the chicks grow bigger and bigger we noticed that one of the Rhode Island Reds was really tall. We fig­ured she was part of the blessed 1% of poultry who could be referred to as Super Model Chickens. We named her Cindy for Cindy Craw­ford. The problem is Cindy is actu­ally a rooster. So we changed his name to RuPaul.

Ru has become a problem, as you can imagine any ado­les­cent rooster would. The girls want nothing to do with him, and unfor­tu­nately he’s the guy at the bar who just won’t take the hint. There­fore, we were com­pelled to find him a new home. This weekend he will be going to a nice farm where he can speed date with other chickens who might be more accepting of his nature. It’s a way better fate than the soup pot.

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Crab and Corn Pies with Corn Crab Sauce

Crab and Corn Pies Kickin’ It Up A Notch
I have been a fan of Cajun food from the first time I tried it. I was intro­duced to Cajun cui­sine during the 80s when it was con­sid­ered some­thing new and exciting—though the food and fla­vors had been around for quite some time. Cajun cui­sine soon became wildly pop­ular, and it seemed like everyone had a black­ened ver­sion of something.

I dis­tinctly remember watching Paul Prud­homme and The Great Chefs of New Orleans repeat­edly on PBS, while my mouth watered at the lib­eral use of butter, sausage and cayenne. It was during this time (at least in my mind. It could have been ear­lier.) that my mother started making din­ners that had a decid­edly “Nawlins” flavor to them like her Bar­be­qued Shrimp.

I was dying to eat the foods that I saw being cre­ated on the TV screen in their native habitat, and had visions of eating my way through the lauded restau­rants and cafes of New Orleans. Still do. Alas, that one remains an entry on my bucket list. It will happen.

In those days, Paul Prud­homme was “The Man”. He made a name for him­self while cooking at Commander’s Palace. But it was his series of cook­books and TV shows that intro­duced sig­na­ture dishes like black­ened red­fish and turtle soup to people out­side Louisiana, and started a craving for all things Cajun . As pop­ular as Prud­homme was, the undis­puted cham­pion of Cajun cui­sine has to be Emeril Legasse.

Before “kicking it up a notch” and throwing a little “Bam” into things on the Food Net­work, Emeril was making some really great food at Commander’s Palace, and even­tu­ally moved on to  his own restau­rant, Emeril’s. His first cook­book The New New Orleans Cooking intro­duced cooks to a con­tem­po­rary ver­sion of classic Cajun cui­sine and launched an empire.

This weekend my cook­book club is having our cook­book dinner and we’ve been cooking from The New New Orleans. The food in the book is great but for me, it has been more fun to go back and see, taste, and remember the recipes that I wanted to try as a kid.

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Amy’s Hummus

Amy's HummusHummus Among Us

School has been back in ses­sion for a week, at least at my house. (It only took 4 days for two of my kids to get sick. Yay, school!) I am back in lunch making mode. The boys’ lunches are easy, albeit boring: turkey sand­wich on wheat, yogurt, fruit, gra­nola bar and a drink. Every day. All Year. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

My daughter is the dif­fi­cult one. She’s not a sand­wich kind of gal. When she does have a sand­wich, she prefers a PB&J but the PB in it is prob­lem­atic when there are peanut aller­gies in your class. Any other options that I have given her are short lived. Egg salad is a favorite but I don’t want her to eat that everyday. She’ll eat any left­overs from dinner. There’s always crackers, cheese and salami, but some­times this feels like cheating, and it’s not the greatest nutritionally.

The most recent solu­tion is per­haps one of the best. She loves Hummus. I have started making my own, and sending it in her lunch with var­ious veg­gies. It’s been great. Plus it’s cheap when you make it yourself.

Hummus is so easy to make, and frankly tastes way better when you make it fresh. I adapted my recipe from a couple from my col­lec­tion. It’s fast. I made a batch in 5 min­utes yes­terday. It’s a great go-​​to after­noon snack, and keeps in the fridge for about 5 days—if it lasts that long. Play around with this recipe. I some­times add harissa if I want it spicy.
Amy’s Hummus

2 14 oz. cans gar­banzo beans (chick­peas) or 1 ¼ C dried gar­banzo beans, soaked in water overnight, and cooked.
¼ c tahini
Juice of two Lemons, or to taste
3 garlic cloves
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cumin (optional)
¼ c olive oil

Drain the canned gar­banzo beans in a colander over a bowl to retain the liquid.

Put the drained beans into a food processor. Add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt and cumin if using.

Process the ingre­di­ents until a thick paste forms. While the processor is run­ning, add the olive oil. Add some of the reserved liquid until the pre­ferred con­sis­tency is achieved. Enjoy!

Mixed Vegetable Coconut Curry

Mixed Vegetable Coconut CurryHouston, we have a problem.

Lately I have been feeling rather out of sorts. Some­thing just didn’t seem right, and for the longest time I couldn’t figure out what is was. But the other day it came to me…I haven’t been canning.

Nor­mally at this time of year, I would have made, or would be in the process of making, gal­lons of pickles, jams, salsas and tomato sauces. I would have been putting up peaches, pep­pers, beans and toma­toes for use later in the year. Not this year.

This year’s crop was a ghost crop caused by a number of fac­tors. The first factor? Varmints ate the fruit from my trees. It was looking like we were actu­ally going to have a legit­i­mate crop of nec­tarines, peaches and cher­ries until the four-​​legged ban­dits came through.

The second factor? Water. I felt guilty about using the water so I was per­haps less vig­i­lant than normal about keeping things well hydrated.

The third and by far the most destruc­tive: Chickens. They ate every­thing. Well, almost every­thing.  I was able to save the but­ternut squash, but had to har­vest it all at once instead of keeping some on the vines. Need­less to say, I have a glut of but­ternut squash, so I am trying to use it anyway I can.

The really good news is that the chickens should start laying eggs soon, and we will have a glut of eggs. It may not make up for the lack of canned summer toma­toes come Jan­uary, but it does lessen the sting a little. Read more…