Friday, February 23, 2018

Soapy Friday: Time Waits For No One

Happy Friday everyone! There hasn't been much excitement in the soap-making department lately, as I am STILL narrowing down my "master recipe". So, you know that takes time for newly made soaps to cure and sample. Right now, I'm trying to decide if I want to include mango butter into my recipe or not.

I have; however, been having a huge LOVE affair with a fragrance oil I'm using called "Burmese Woods" from Wholesale Supplies Plus. It smells like sandalwood, cedarwood, patchouli, tobacco, and all things exotic. It initially smells like it would be a masculine scent, but no...it's definitely unisex.

I can't WAIT for this to finish curing so I can use it. This soap design reminds me of a kitteh cat...maybe I should name it "Tabby" ?!

RAWR! "Burmese Woods"
Other than that, I'm STILL making and testing bath bombs several times a week. I'm soooo close to getting that to exactly where I want it.

All of this boils down to tweaking just one or two ingredients.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Zydeco Gumbo

Laissez les bon temps rouler everyone!

Happy Fat Tuesday! I have my Cajun Zydeco music playing right now and I have a big ol' pot of gumbo simmering away on the stove. Hurricanes later? Maybe.

Photo courtesy Chowhound.com
 Not too many people know this about me, but I adore anything Cajun or Zydeco. I have ever since I first I saw "The Big Easy" when I was 17 and then bought the soundtrack ON CASSETTE TAPE. That was shoot...30 years ago. Dang!

There's a part of me that still want's to learn how to play Zydeco music on an accordion, and I just might someday! I fantasize about moving to New Orleans; I just might do that someday too.

Anyway, if you are going to pass a good time today, you gotta have some gumbo! This is my most favorite recipe and it's a little of this, and a little of that I've gathered along the way.

So gather up your holy trinity Cher, make some roux, and fais-do-do till this delicious gumbo is ready!

Photo courtesy Cook's Country
Kathy's Zydeco Gumbo
Recipe inspiration: Cook's Country

Roux:
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Gumbo:
1 onion, chopped fine
1 green bell pepper, chopped fine
1 celery stalk, minced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 T Cajun seasoning (I love Penzey's)
1 T flour
1, 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (undrained)
3 3/4 cups chicken broth
2 T fish sauce
2 pounds, bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
Pepper
6 oz. andouille sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 cups frozen slice okra
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled & deveined (fresh or frozen)

To make the roux: Preheat the oven to 350°. In a heavy, cast-iron pot (Le Creuset or similar), start toasting the flour over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until the flour starts to turn dark blond. Take the pot off the heat and add the vegetable oil to the flour, whisk until smooth. Cover the pot and place in the oven to cook for 45 minutes. The roux should be the color of peanut butter, or even a little darker.

To make the gumbo: Transfer pot to the stove (careful, it is HOT!) and over medium-high heat, add the onion, pepper, and celery. Cook, stirring frequently 8-10 minutes until the softened. Add the garlic, thyme, cayenne, Cajun seasoning, flour and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their liquid and cook until dry, about 1 minute. Stir in the chicken broth and fish sauce. Season chicken thighs with pepper and add to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and let simmer for 30-35 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Remove chicken and cut meat off the bones into small, bite-sized pieces. Return chicken meat to pot & throw away the bones. Stir in sausage and okra and simmer 5 minutes. Add shrimp and simmer till cooked through and bright pink (frozen shrimp may take longer). If gumbo is too thick, add about 1/4 cup water. Season with salt or pepper. Serve with cooked, white rice.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)

I’ve been having a love affair with “Cooking at Home with Bridget & Julia” lately. At Christmas-time while shopping for gifts, I happened to pick this book-up just for me. Let me tell you…WOW WOW WOW!

My new favorite cookbook!
Everything I’ve made so far, which is about 8 different recipes, have been nothing short of amazeballs. Last night, I made the Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas) and man-oh-man it was sooooo good. I could have eaten at least 2-servings. In fact I ate it leftover for breakfast today.

I was originally inspired to buy this book based on a video I watched of Bridget & Julia making “Korean Fried Chicken Wings”. I thought to myself, “I need to make these.” And when I spotted this book and the recipe was in it, BOOM! Best decision.

In fact I DID make the “Korean Fried Chicken Wings” and both me and my husband have declared them to be the best chicken wings we’ve ever eaten in our lives! I even ordered a large, electric deep fryer just for this occasion, as I hate frying anything indoors. I can make these out on the porch with an electric fryer now!

But back to the Pasta e Ceci (pronounced PASTA CHEECH). Again we’ve been pointing ourselves away from carbs this year, but man…sometimes you just gotta have it! I could not have asked for something more perfect as pasta cravings go.

Pasta e Ceci - Photo courtesy of America's Test Kitchen
Even better, this is pretty easy to throw together and quick to make. Sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese on top with a drizzle of olive oil = Heaven!

Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)
Recipe Source: "Cooking at Home with Bridget & Julia"

2 oz. pancetta, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 small celery rib, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 medium onion, halved and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 (14.5 oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 anchovy fillet, rinsed and minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsps minced fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried)
2 (15 oz.) cans chickpeas (do not drain) - I only used one
2 cups water
Salt and pepper
8 oz. (1 1/2 cups) ditalini pasta
1 T lemon juice
1 T minced fresh parsley
1 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated

Process pancetta in a food processor until ground to a paste, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add carrot, celery, garlic, and onion to pancetta and process until ground into a paste, scraping down processor sides as needed. Preheat Dutch oven over medium/high heat with olive oil, add pancetta mixture, and cook, stirring frequently, until fond starts to form on bottom of the pot. 

In the meantime, process tomatoes in food processor until coarsely chopped, set aside. Add anchovy, pepper flakes, and rosemary to pancetta mixture, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Be sure to mash the anchovy while cooking. Stir in tomatoes, chickpeas (and their liquid), water, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, scraping any browned bits, then lower to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

Add pasta and cook, stirring frequently, for 10-12 minutes, until pasta is cooked al dente. Stir in lemon juice and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil on top. 

Friday, February 02, 2018

Soapy Friday - Messing-Up and Oddities

Boy, things have been laugh-out-loud funny around here lately. For example, check out my broken heart bath bomb:

My heart is broken!
I was playing around with my recipe and felt my mixture was a "tad" too moist. This is what I had the next morning. LOL!

This morning, I went to unmold and cut my "Honey Soap" (version #10) and realized that I accidentally did not put the bubble wrap on with the bubble part facing DOWN!

LOL...insert sad trombone sound. The bubble wrap gives my honey soap that cool, honeycomb look, but it doesn't work if I put it on my raw soap the wrong way!!!

#sadtrombone

What's wrong with this picture?
The gel ring from my "Ravishing Citrus" soap mysteriously disappeared. I don't know why, but I'll take it!

Where did that gel ring go?


My "Rosemary Mint" soap smells AMAZING, but the minute you take it in the shower, the smell goes away. I don't know why this is either. Even my husband commented on this...hmmm.

Disappearing scent...why?
BUT, on a good note, I was experimenting with a tropical-beachy-type scent and made these cutie patootie Sea Shell Soaps. Love. The only thing I would differently next time is to have the bottom part blue instead of white in order to make it look more like water.

She sells sea shell soaps by the seashore...

Take me to the beach!

Beachy beauties

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