Saturday, October 23, 2010

In honor of hard work - crock pot jambalaya

Living in a converted barn really leaves a lot of room for improvement. There is always something that can been updated, fixed or remodeled. Always.

Unfortunately, my husband and I don't exactly have the motivation to bust all of the projects out in a timely manner. Both of us have been struck by a terrible case of project ADHD, easily distracted by more exciting endeavors, for him beach volleyball usually and for me cooking or baking. On rare occasions we get crazy and start working on the barn again. This time around we were lucky enough to get a helping hand from a good friend who is the ideal project cheerleader and hard, intelligent worker. Let the fire pit and paver project begin.

It's busy days like this that scream for an easy crock pot recipe. Jambalaya is an easy to make, delicious and hearty meal, a perfect way to full empty hungry bellies after working outside all day.

Jambalaya is a Louisiana Creole dish consisting of essentially, meat, veggies, rice, seasonings and stock. For this jambalaya, I used some key Creole ingredients including the holy trinity of celery, peppers and onions, andouille sausage, rice, tomatoes, shrimp and chicken. And the best part is that it takes about 10 minutes to throw it all together at the beginning of the day and ready by dinner time with no fuss. Love it! Oh and did I mention that your house will smell fabulous?!

Crock Pot Jambalaya

Serves 4 generous portions

Adapted from Robin Miller, Food Network


1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes

8 ounces andouille sausages, diced

1 28-ounce can tomatoes

1 medium to large onion diced

1 red pepper, 1 yellow pepper seeded and chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

1 jalapeno, diced

6 gloves of garlic, smashed and chopped

1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade

2 teaspoons oregano

2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning

Several shakes of hot sauce

3 bay leaves

1 teaspoon thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

1 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp (here's a video on how to devein shrimp)

2 cups brown rice, cooked


In a crock pot, combine chicken, sausage, tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, celery and chicken broth. Stir in hot sauce, spices and seasonings, cover and cook on low for eight hours. At the eight hour mark, stir in the shrimp and cook until pink and cooked through, about five minutes. Discard bay leaves and ladle mixture over cooked rice. Enjoy!

Sorry, no finished product picture, we were too hungry and the jambalaya smelled way too good to stop for a photo session!

Friday, October 22, 2010


When I was a kid I went on a school field trip to a marshmallow factory. My memory is a little fuzzy but I do remember we drove a long way in a big yellow bus and we got to eat fresh marshmallows in many colors. Who knew marshmallows came in that many pretty pastel colors? At five, I sure didn't. The fluffy fabulousness that came from that factory had me on cloud nine and started a life long marshmallow obsession.

A few tools are essential to marshmallow making including a candy thermometer and stand mixer. I have needed a reason to get a candy thermometer for a while now. What have I been thinking parading around the kitchen without one for so long? Thank you marshmallows for again exposing me to cool stuff.

Marshmallow making seemed like it should be such a complicated endeavor. Maybe because my only experience in making them involved an industrial factory. Fortunately, it's not scary or difficult at all. In fact, it's quite easy. So easy I wondered why I don't make them all of the time. The fresh marshmallows are heads and shoulders above the store-bought variety. Try it out, you'll be hooked too.



1 cup confectioners sugar

3 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin

1/2 cup cold water

2 cups granulated sugar (plus extra for optional dusting)

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup hot water (about 115 F)

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla (click here to see my favorite vanilla)


Oil bottom and sides of a 13x9x2 inch rectangular baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners sugar.

Preping the dish.

In a bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large mixing bowl sprinkle gelatin over cold water and let stand to soften.

In a large, heavy saucepan with a candy thermometer attached, cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, hot water and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture without stirring until the candy thermometer hits 240 F, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

With standing or a hand-held mixer, beat mixture on high speed until white and thick and nearly three times in volume, about six minutes. The mixture will start looking like marshmallow fluff.


In a large bowl using clean beaters (I used my hand held) beat egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla into sugar mix until just combined. Don't over mix here. Pour mix into baking pan and sift 1/4 confectioners sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallows uncovered until firm at least three hours and up to one day. For me, the marshmallows were plenty firm at the three hour mark.

Egg whites and vanilla mixture

Take a butter knife to the sides of the baking pan to loosen the marshmallows, they should easily come out of the pan. Slice with a knife or cookie cutter into the desired size and shape. For extra sparkle the marshmallows can be rolled in granulated sugar. For fun, I put a few on a candy sticks to make marshmallow pops.

Ready for the fridge

Let your imagination run wild and have fun! I'm thinking some orange pumpkin marshmallows are in order next.

Marshmallows, pillowy, dreamy goodness!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm baaacckkk! Gringo-style crock pot pozole

It's been way too long. For those of you wondering what rock I was hiding under it's called "10 year high school reunion." Oy vey, just hurts thinking about it doesn't it? Now that it's over and went better than I thought, (never mind those extremely low expectations I had) it is about darn time I get back into the swing of things. The recipes are stacking up next to me so look for more to come real soon.

Here in San Diego fall is in the air. Shocking to hear there is a season other than perfect here, right? It's been raining here (okay misting too) for a few days now. The gloominess really put me in a soup mood. This week pork butt roast was on sale at Stater Bros. for $1.29 per pound making dreams of pork pozole dance through my head.

Pozole is a Mexican soup, which comes in many forms - this is a recipe for red pozole. Essentially, pozole is a soup consisting of hominy, a meat, chili peppers and seasonings. Learn more about the history of pozole here - kinda interesting. Hominy, one of the main ingredients in pozole is corn minus the germ and hull. Here in the U.S. you can find hominy hiding amongst the canned veggies. It's a pretty cheap item, I paid $.99 for a 30 ounce can. My favorite part about pozole are the garnishes, cilantro, radishes, cabbage and lime. Yum!

In researching how to make red pozole, almost every recipe looked a little different. One person even said that it's impossible to mess up a pozole. Things like that only stress me out more, I mean, what if I mess up? I'd never be able to show my face at Sur La Table again. To make things even more stressful, I decided to try it out in the crock pot. Leaving all of those ingredients with no cook-supervision all day, who knows what could happen. The onions could have easily got into a fight with the hominy and I wouldn't know it until I got home.

Paranoia aside, the dish turned out great. Here's what I did:

Gringo-Style Crock Pot Pork Pozole

Serves 4 generous entree sized portions


2 lbs. pork butt cut into 1-inch cubes

6 cups homemade chicken stock (you can use canned, I'll let you.)

1 small can diced green chilies

12.5 ounces of enchilada sauce (this is where the gringo comes into play)

1 diced onion

1 teaspoon New Mexican chili powder

1 teaspoon pasilla chili powder

6-8 cloves garlic smashed and chopped

1 tablespoon Mexican oregano (yes it's different from other oregano)

1 teaspoon cumin

30 ounce can of hominy


1/2 head of shredded cabbage

1 sliced avocado

2 limes quartered

1/2 bunch chopped cilantro

4-5 sliced radishes

Plate of garnishes - pre avocado. My husband doesn't like radishes, those are all mine!


In a crock pot combine all ingredients and mix together so they get to know each other better. I promise, the onions and hominy won't get into a fight, they're friends. Cook on low in crock pot for 8 hours. Skim the top of the soup to remove some of the fat and prepare garnishes. Ladle into bowls and top with garnishes. If your crock pot is anything like mine, the soup will be really, really hot so be careful and then dig in! The soup works great as an entree, no starter soup here!

The finished product. A bowl full of yum.