4.23.2015

Cajun-Style Gluten-Free DELICIOUS Southern Fried Chicken

There I stood in the kitchen staring at a bowl of highly seasoned chicken legs and thighs wondering what I was gonna do with them.  As I looked around for inspiration I spied in the cabinet a box of "Zatarain's Wonderful Fish-Fri".  Since it was sitting next to a jug of vegetable oil, I dragged them both out of the cabinet, a plan already in mind.  Every once in awhile I like treating my beloved "Celiac" to some good ol' traditional Cajun southern fried  chicken.  Lucky for Peggy, us Cajuns have been frying stuff in cornflour and cornmeal forever.  The fine folks at Zatarain's have been making a naturally gluten free fish fry for like 150 years or so.  Many country folks use it to fry everything.
  As the oil heated in one of our black iron pots, I beat up 3 eggs in a bowl with a splash of milk and a squirt of yellow mustard.  The chicken got drenched in this egg wash, then dropped into a bag of the Zatarain's mixed with some of our own Cajun spice, to coat it.  As the oil began to heat, I threw in a raw onion ring. Some folks use a potato wedge. We do that to judge how hot the oil is, so we know when it's ready to put the chicken in. When the onion is frying nicely, the grease it hot enough.
   I fried a couple of batches of chicken, keeping them at a steady fry. 
I fry the chicken for about 10 minutes then flip for another 10 minutes; depends on whether it's a thicker piece, like a breast piece or a drumstick.  All ya gotta do is watch the chicken fryin'; if it fries slower than what is shown here, turn the fire up.  If it fries much faster or begins to smoke, turn the fire down or even off 'til it slows down a little.  As long as it is bubbling kinda hard, but not burning, it will not be greasy.  If it just sits there slowly warming, it will be greasy, that's why I use the onion to tell when the oil is at a good frying temp.  Thicker things like chicken breast and some thick fish fillets need to fry longer, to make sure it's cooked in the center.  A thicker piece therefore, needs to fry at a lower temperature so the outside doesn't burn before the inside is fully cooked.
One thing I need to emphasize...do NOT pack the pan with too many pieces at a time because if you do, it will lower the temperature of the oil, and the chicken won't cook as quickly, and when it does finally, it will be soggy with oil and not be crispy...which is what ya want. 
 Thin things like shellfish or thin cut fish can fry at much hotter temp. for only a few minutes, but that's another post.  I do not use a thermometer when frying chicken, but I can tell you that it was fried at 325 to 350 F  (the onion told me so)  If it had dropped below 300 for a few minutes, the chicken would have been greasy,  and it wasn't, so it didn't.  300F is the magic number at which steam escapes from the meat fast enough to keep the oil out. 
When the chicken was done we took it out and parked it in a warm 200 degree oven for a few minutes.
We always put fried food on brown paper bags.  Do not use paper towels, as they trap moisture and take the crunch out of what you just took the trouble to fry to a crispy, crunchy goodness.
Peggy took the leftover egg wash, dumped in the unused spicy cornflour, added a pinch of baking powder and a splash more milk and made a batter in which we dipped onion rings that our friend Sam had given us from his garden. (The onions, not the rings...but you already knew that) That's where my "test onion" came from.  They fried up in a short few minutes and were wonderful! We like them best when they retain a lil crunch, and with our Cajun spices, oh Mommy!
 The finished product, coupled with some 'smothered' yellow squash from last year's garden and a few fresh things from the yard this year, it was a feast indeed.
Whether you are gluten free or not, you really should try frying chicken in "Zatarain's Wonderful Fish-Fri"; it truly is wonderful.  This is one thing the whole family can enjoy and will ask for again.
What we like about doing it ourselves, is that it's not briny salty and overly MSG'd like ya get at fast food chicken places. This way you can make it as salty as ya like.
Peggy loves the experience of sitting down to a big meal with friends and being able to eat anything with no worries about getting 'glutened' and sick, and have everyone else not even know that what they are eating is a "special" gluten free meal.  At the risk of bragging, my fried chicken is often requested and very popular with my friends I don't even tell them it's gluten free; I just tell 'em its fried in Zatairan's Wonderful Fish-Fri.
  Now, if all this wasn't good enough, after it was already all on the plate and the production shut down, my now spoiled 'Celiac' had the audacity to ask , "Where's the fried pickles?"
 

4.14.2015

Easter Sunday 2015

  Easter dawned sunny and warm and just wonderful in our little camper sitting in our driveway.  When our older snowbirds from western NY visit us, we let them have our room and we take it as an opportunity for Peg and me to "camp out".  (We sleep so well in our camper, that sometimes we just up and go take an afternoon nap in it.)
   Peggy and I crept into the house to start making coffee and preparing for our day with our friends, "Mr. Ed", "Miss Jean", and Sam and Louise, who were coming for dinner. 
  We took time to enjoy breakfast visiting with our "Yankee" friends, knowing that they were heading back home to the Rochester, New York area the next morning. On their circuitous route from their winter place in Florida, to their regular home, they stopped by to spend Easter weekend with us.  As we paraded around in the house in our jammies, sipping coffee out on the patio, the kitties were doing their morning stretching exercises on Peg's ab lounger.  

I agree with the kitties; that thing is great for "lounging".
After breakfast, Miss Jean and Peggy got busy in the kitchen and our good friends from here in town, Sam and Louise came by. Below is Miss Jean working on her asparagus.

Louise and the girls worked on the dinner and got everything ready. Miss Jean, below, working her magic, making everything look beautiful.


 Us guys sat out by the firepit and visited, whilst unbeknown to us, at the time, BeauxBear was enjoying the kitty bowls. We've been feeding the kittens and their Mom on the little table, to help keep the birds from consuming the baby grapes. And so far, it's working. Apparently keeping the dawgs from consuming the kitty's food is not working.
Once it was all ready, us fellas wandered into the kitchen and loaded up some Fine Chinets for the fest.

The gals had really done a bangup job creating the wonderful meal.  Miss Jean used her catering skills to pretty everything up nice and "Easterly looking".
I made my Cajun "angel eggs" (Peg calls 'em). Mr. Ed and Miss Jean brought a couple of hams, one for most of us, and a small gluten-free one for Peggy. For these hams, she made two sauces. A cherry sauce and a pineapple sauce. They both were great slathered over slices of the ham. She also did amazing oven roasted asparagus, a fruit salad, sliced cuke salad. Peg made "her grandmother and mom's" creamy scalloped potatoes. Sam and Louise brought the most delicious smoked chicken with his own Cajun spices, which was then finished in the oven with apple juice. Peg about made herself sick on this chicken; she couldn't get enough of it. Everything was wonderful.



It sure made for a beautiful plate. Somehow the tiramisu that Peg made for dessert didn't make the photo op. (Neither did Peg, because she was behind the camera) She made a healthy key lime pie with Sam and me in mind because it was sweetened with raw dates and a little raw honey. The crust was a pecan date sweetened concoction. She only put a little Cool Whip to top it.  I have to say that for being healthy, it was pretty darned good. It's gone.
Everyone had a wonderful time laughing, eating and enjoying the very good company.
 Even the boys, MarkyBear and BeauxBear, got a good meal outa da deal. This Resurrection Day celebration made for one very happy Cappy and friends. God Bless, and we hope yours was as wonderful, as well.

3.28.2015

Amaryllis By Morning, Amaryllis From Where

A couple of years ago Peggy and I went over to Cape Canaveral to visit with her beloved Uncle Bill and Aunt Fran.
  At the time they were still "snowbirding" between Sanborn, NY (near Niagara Falls) and Florida.  Uncle Bill is a retired rocket scientist who worked for NASA during the "Right Stuff" era.  When he retired, they decided to spend winters down on the Florida coast where he could be closer to where all the 'space action' was located. Picture below is a view of Cape Canaveral near their home.
We had a wonderful time with them and they drove us around showing us the town and Atlantic seashore near their home. visiting the Cape.
Uncle Bill is a highly intelligent, very interesting man to visit with and Aunt Fran has a wonderful personality, with a quick wit and we enjoyed laughing with them both.  We had a ball visiting with them as they gave us the local tour.  
 While we were there, Peggy couldn't help but admire their Amaryllis blooms, which ya can see in the first picture just to the right of Uncle Bill.  Aunt Fran insisted we take some home with us and we are thrilled that this year they are doing great and blooming up a storm.
When I stepped out the door this morning, I couldn't help but think of the wonderful couple I have come to love, who live up in New York State. They gifted us these beautiful flowers from Cape Canaveral Florida, and we think they are out of this world. 
   These gorgeous flowers have been blooming for a week now and this is not the only batch; there are about four more in the flower bed. We are thoroughly enjoying them, as they remind us of Uncle Bill and Aunt Fran each time we look at them. They are every bit as bright and colorful as our favorite western NY couple. We don't know when these blooms will give up for the season, but for now we are enjoying Amaryllis morning by morning.

3.20.2015

A Gardening Note To Ourselves

After plotting and planning for a few days, last weekend Peggy and I headed to town to pick up some stuff from Lowes to stick in the ground.  Since the weather was nice for now, but a rainy week was forecasted,  it seemed like a good time to hurry and plant our garden.  It's a gamble to plant this early and our 'main weather prognosticator' (our 20 year old pecan tree) hadn't even began to bud. No matter how sunny and warm the Spring season here in South Louisiana, if the old pecan tree refuses to bud,  you can bet 'he' knows what he's 'talking' about; for sure another heavy frost is lurking around nearby.  It always happens. Last year, for instance. It had been warm for about a month and kept getting warmer as the days went on. 'Everybody else' in our yard was blooming and flowering. We ignored the old pecan tree's wisdom for a change and planted our gardens. Sure enough, a week or so later, along sneaked that very frost one night and wiped out our whole garden,  the baby plums hanging so plump and full of promise, and most of our citrus crops. This year we are kinda worried, because there he stands, arms folded, silently holding back his buds, with not even a hint of them. Still...it's getting late in the season, so with one eye on him, we figure this year maybe the odds are in our favor.  Sunday, when we walked outside it was 70 degrees and sunny.  The yard is full of clovers, and the birdies were singing and it was a great day to play outside.  The plum trees are dark green and loaded with little fruit.
Upon close inspection I noticed a few branches on the North side had been hit by a recent frost, but the majority of the tree was fine and the plums were looking good.


If all goes well, we will have a big crop and we cant wait to pick and can and share them.  Our big naval orange tree still has half a dozen or so oranges on it, and is covered with flower buds for this Fall's crop. Oh, and they were abundant and sweet-sweet-sweet.
The flowers on our lemon tree are beginning to open and when the breeze is right, the whole neighborhood can smell their amazing fragrance.  While Peg and I were 'playin' in the yard, an occasional breeze would carry the smell of Spring to us, over and over. We were hoping the ol' pecan tree would take a whiff.
 
One happy surprise was our little Yum Yum nectarine tree.  Overnight it got the big idea to that to start blooming. The contrast between its bright pink flowers and the dead banana fronds is somehow, in our minds, lovely.
Each year the train of frosts kill the tall, lush green banana palm leaves, so we trim them back and almost immediately, barring any other freezes, they quickly replace themselves with even more vigor. So, right now the 'nanners need some TLC, but we are waiting for a few weeks, then we plan to use the dried fronds for mulch around our trees, etc.
The only unusual thing about this picture of Peggy planting stuff in her new bed is that she had no four legged helpers. (Two of the kittens have never returned, but the two who remain, along with their Mama cat, are usually somewhere around, putting their little paws into the holes Peg digs to put in new plants, or they are doing cartwheels over the worms she unearths. Strange not to find them in any of these photos.) 
This last picture is the purpose of this post.  It's here to remind us that, for better or worse, we planted our small garden March the eighth.

Our beloved little 4' by 12' garden box is planted for the 14th year.  This Spring we put sweet peas and cucumbers on the ends by the trellises, and left to right bush beans, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.   Nearest us in the center front are 4 bell pepper plants partaking in our new "Great Epsom Salt Experiment".  (more about that later)
Having gotten our garden all planted, we pray for good returns for all our efforts.  We will post the results come what may, so now, the yearly gamble is ON,  and now we know exactly when it was we planted it, and all the while, across the yard, the wise old pecan tree looks on.

3.10.2015

Rotating Our Green Onions (...or the 'something-something of the Traveling Plants')

 Back in November, when we "worked" our main garden box, we decided to give it the winter off.  We 'worked the bed' by adding some compost and "triple 13 " from the Ag center, then covered it with straw and the only thing we put growing for the winter was some green onion bulbs. (the 'before' picture)
Well, the last week in February (a week or so ago)  we harvested these same green onions, below. (the 'after' picture)
I pulled them up and shook the dirt off as best I could.
Then I fixed the bed back so you would never know they were there.
I sat on the patio enjoying a warm sunny afternoon cleaning the onions, then separating them. I left out this bunch for replanting, after I cut off the nice greens, finely sliced them and stuck them in the freezer for any dish that figures they need a handful of nice onion greens.

We like to move our onion patch around to different locations every time we harvest them, so after separating and trimming, I stuck the ones I saved to replant, in Peggy's herb/salad bed. (The parsley and cilantro wouldn't get out of the way, so some of the onions kind of got planted away from their family, but not by a whole lot.)
The ones I didn't replant, I carried into the house and Peggy rinsed them all off in our big kitchen sink.

She separated the whites from the green parts and went to whacking on them, putting any odd parts into her beloved compost pail. 
By the time she sliced all the greens, her 'chopper' was tired, so I did the white parts.
For some reason I can't find the picture of the 3 fat bags of onion white parts, but they went in the freezer, too, and are wonderful additions to just about anything. 
    Our friend, Sam, gave us the original handful of these onions for us to plant, and we use the greens in almost every meal we make, like salads or our Cajun dishes, and we haven't had to buy green onions in years. This is what a few square feet of onion bulbs/roots/plants...whatever you wanna call them, results in when they are planted and replanted all year round, except for our South Louisiana heat of  Summer. 
  In a few more months, in June, when I pull them up again, after we harvest the main parts, their bottoms will spend the hottest months in a sack in our closet until September, when we'll put them back in another different spot to spend a happy winter in our yard.  

3.04.2015

Turning Heads in the South

  Well, as yall know, we have been enjoying a lot of cabbage this winter. These two beautiful specimens were what our friend Sam grew. Notice how they dwarf our large cutting knife. Sam said each of these cabbages weighed in at nine pounds!! We don't know how he grows them, but they are very dense and sweet. Perfect for anything you've got in mind to fix for supper.  
  We make a variety of slaws, or use the cabbage in soups and stews. We made a wonderful cabbage roll casserole, but didn't make them into rolls; just added all the ingredients and chopped the cabbage, then added it to the mix. We've smothered them and steamed them,...did I mention smothered and boiled etc. Cabbage is so good and so healthy. Almost forgot to mention that along with four huge cabbages, he sent along some packages of his Andouille and smoked turkey necks that either found, or will find their way into a dish that's loaded with the bounty of these wonderful cabbages. God has blest Sam with some really great talents and also a very giving nature. We are truly grateful for his friendship...and a lot of the time, it's around supper time that we are especially thankful. 
   The other day we were surprised to receive a bag of brussel sprouts, along with another 2 heads of cabbage from our neighbor, Jean aka "TurkeyNeck". 
I am not sure why, but I have never known anyone who has grown them and didn't even know we could grow them right here in our neighborhood.  It just aint a veggie that my Cajun family or friends, to my knowledge, ever grew.
   I like brussel sprouts and have on occasion bought them to cook here at home, or whenever I've found them in a cafeteria or buffet, I put them on my plate. I just honestly never thought about growing them. 
   When our young neighbor, Jean, dropped them off , I just hadda walk back with him, 'cause I had never seen them growing or had a clue what they looked like when they did.  Looking at his garden, I immediately knew that they would be a great addition to our small garden, since they grow straight up and don't need much room, and the ones he had were bearing like crazy.  He only had 4 plants, but they were each over 3 feet tall and covered with growing sprouts. 
 I barely got them in the door before Peggy started peeling them and getting them ready for the oven. (Ya gotta take off the tough outer layers or they'll be bitter...and she trims off more of the stem.)

As she processed them, she tossed them in a pan of olive oil.
She lightly salted them, sprinkled with some black pepper and granulated garlic powder, tossed them around in the pan 'til shiny (evenly coated) and ready for the oven. (Notice her compost bucket...more news about that later on another post.)
You may note the pan fresh from the oven looks a little sparse?? Not to worry; this will not happen to you.
That's because after smelling them cooking for about an hour at 350 degrees, as soon as they came out the oven we started snacking on them until we remembered the fracking camera; too late, AGAIN. So, like the adage about, when life hands you lemons...well, down here in Sunny South Louisiana, we've been handed huge heads of cabbage and tiny heads of cabbage. Ya think we are gonna make lemonade? Oh heck no!