8.18.2016

Old-Fashioned (Greasy) "Sticky Chicken"

  To some folks it's "sticky chicken", some call it "grease gravy" and others call it "smothered chicken".  It's a dish I remember from my youth that I go for years between cooking, but I really enjoy it when I do. The topic came up on our local Facebook group and once I heard about it, the ol' "envie" got ahold of me. (envie pronounced through the nose "au-VEE". It means a CRAVING.) Since it was rainy, I thought that seemed like a good time to indulge in this old dish. (actually, even if it hadda been sunny and hot, instead of rainy and hot...I'da done the same.)
  I called the local grocery to make sure they were not flooded, grabbed my "shramp" boots (what we Cajuns call shrimp boots...what the shrimper fishermen wear...and regular Cajuns, too.) and jumped in Tinker Bail (my Jeep) and drove to da "Pig". (Piggly Wiggly...gosh, I've gotta explain everything to some of yall, don't I?)  
   When I got home from making the groceries (buying the groceries) and "saved" 'em. (put 'em away...come ON...I gotta tole ya everything??)
   I seasoned up a family pack of chicken thighs in our own Cajun spice blend and put 'em in a black iron pot. No water no oil...no nothin', jes' chicken.
I put the lid on and let it go over medium heat while I whacked up a 3 lb. sack of onions.

The chicken pieces were fat and juicy so they made their own gravy. I cooked 'em for 15 minutes, then flipped 'em over to let 'em brown on the other side.
Once the chicken was cooked, I took it out of the pot...just the chicken and left the drippin's still in the pot. Store bought fryers are so tender that I have to remove them while I build the gravy or they'll fall apart. I dumped in the onions and seasoned them lightly with some more of our own spice. The salt in our spice blend helps break down the onions faster; pulls the moisture out of 'em, and such. (We're all on the same page now, right? I gotta watch some of these Yankees, callin' gravy, "sauce"...stuff like that.)
While the onions cooked, I cut up a big bell pepper and some garlic from our yard.
Once the onions cooked down, 
I added the chicken back to it, and the bell pepper and garlic, then turned it down to simmer for a half hour or so.
Tah-Dah!!
Once cooked (and no grease drained off, but a nice juicy, tasty gravy) and served with a side of veggies and some of Peg's homemade bread and butter pickles, I don't care what ya call this chicken dish, it became old-fashioned Cajun comfort food at its finest.
These days we try to eat healthy and remove as much fat as possible from our diet, but once in a great while we indulge in this heart warming meal (Cappy's guilty pleasure, ya got that? :-)

8.07.2016

What I Planted in the HEAT of Summer

 
This July went down as the hottest on record here in South Louisiana. Combine that with above average rainfall and you end up with unbearable humidity that makes you want to hibernate all Summer inside the house with the A/C cranked enough to make ya shivver. Even our heat resistant garden plants gave up, but wouldn't you just know it...the only thing out there that won't give up is the weeds. Oh sure...just like 'em, too...they use the time when we just can't bear to be outside to go and take over the yard!
  It's about all I can do just to push mow the lawn...maybe not as frequently as the neighbors might appreciate, but I manage to get it done. Hot and miserable work where your sweat won't even evaporate off ya. I have to take plenty of breaks.
   To tell the truth, we've even given up on our wooden garden boxes. We need to get more lumber and build a few new ones anyhow, because they are getting old and rotted, especially in this sweltering, wet weather. I'm beginning to know how they feel.
   Witheringly oppressive steaming heat or not, I decided it was time to plant something I've been dreaming about for years, and it's something that has been needing to be planted for over 20 years. With that in mind, I went to Lowe's and brought home some lumber. Praying the thing I was planting would be a success,  I dug an oblong hole in the yard and placed a 4"x 4" post in the hole. I did this twice.
video
Once it was in place, I watered and fertilized with 80 lbs. of quick crete and mulched with our rich yard soil.
 
After a couple days the poles sprouted eye bolts!
And the next day the S-hooks!??
The S-hooks put forth chains...
On both ends.
Then a monumental thing happened that has taken over 20 years in the making...
My Father's old hammock got strung up between the two posts I had planted! My Dad had this ol' hammock that swung  'tween two trees at his favorite state park for a month at a time. It's a well-traveled ol' thing. When he died, I got it but didn't have the heart to hang it. It was sometimes forgotten, but still, often thought of as it spent time under my bed, or in the shed and later up in the attic. 
Finally, a couple of weeks ago I got it out, cleaned it up and stretched it out. Sadly, it didn't hold up. I tested it out and fell through the webbing. I was spilt unceremoniously onto to the grass. The poor old thing was just too old to hold chubby old me. I actually shed a few tears as I cut the old cords from the spreader bars. I decided to whack up these wooden spreader bars and set them beside my brick fire pit. This Fall, when it's cool enough to sit outside again, we will light the pit send 'em off in style, lifting a few cold ones to my Dad and his old hammock that he loved so much.
So meanwhile, here we were with two perfectly good posts 'growing' in the ground and no hammock. Peggy went online and found a new one exactly like Dad's. I kept waiting for the FedUps truck every day and when it finally got here, I ripped the box off and headed out to the yard to try it out.
Being it's brand new, when I got onto it, it immediately stretched way down 'til  my butt was on the ground. I tole Peggy to stop laughing. She said she wasn't, but I could hear her over there. She had the camera and asked if she could video me. I said, "NO!" 
I tried crawling up out of the thing...and there she was taking a video anyhow!!  I dragged my body out onto the grass and tried standing up and  told Peg explicitly...I said, "I forbid...FORBID you to post this video...stop laughing! It's for your eyes only, ya hear?!" (I thank God she can't find that video now; she musta taken pity on me and deleted it.)
So then, once I got upright again, I tightened the thing several times until I finally got it tight enough to try laying in it again... 
it was Heaven...at long last, a hammock just like Daddy's. As I lay there thinking I was 'the King of the yard!' I noticed something that made me mad: one of those posts I planted was beginning to lean in; bowing in, even after the concrete had set days and days ago, and now my butt was flirting with the grass again!  Grrrrrrrrr!!
 I dug an even bigger hole, added 100 more lbs. of quick crete and dared it to move again. I threatened it with "dead men marsh anchors", "stiff legs" and a number of other ways us crafty Cajuns have to deal with our soggy ground.
Well, after a month of trying one thing and another, I have something I have often dreamed about which I have GROAN to love. I planted myself in my hammock in my yard and have a loving wife to enjoy it with me. I hope Daddy looks down with a smile when he sees us keeping a family tradition. If he's indeed watching, I'm sure he enjoyed watching his son's trials and errors of trying to fill his hammock.

That's the only thing I could plant in this record heat. Hopefully, it will give us joy for years. Nestled in our "courtyard-in-progress", shaded by the bananas palms and citrus trees, it's a great place for relaxing...or will be. I started to say it's a great place to chill, but that's still months away.
 
Psst...Peggy here. Too bad he made me get rid of the other video of him climbing out of it. At least we have this one. Sorry, Cappy, I just couldn't resist.

6.25.2016

The Beginning of Fig Picking Season

   I've been watching our li'l fig tree closely in anticipation of the of our 'fig picking time'!
  You may recall the terrible tribulations from previous posts of this little tree.  It has been frozen to the ground at least twice.  The poor guy had all its leaves blown off on several occasions during various storms.  Once, during hurricane season, it had even been blown over onto its side, totally uprooted, but this tenacious little tree put out a feeler on one of it's fallen branches along the ground several feet from it's original position and sprouted itself again!  It refuses to give up, so how could we? 
  We continue to give it its annual 13-13-13 feeding and while doing so, we ask God to bless it and it keep growing between all the disasters it has to contend with. 
   Today, I went out and did the 'fig tree dance', sticking my head inside the wide thicket of huge leaves and going round and round the tree several times giving the prospective-looking figs the pinch test.  There were several big and brown and ripening,
but I found only five that were soft to the touch and willing to easily come off the tree, so they passed my pinch test. That's how ya know your figs are at peak ripeness and very sweet.  If they still feel hard and you have to tug on them to pick them, they aren't ready, so leave then for a day, then try again. You will be amazed at the difference.
These five here will be parked in the freezer in a big zip lock bag, awaiting company from the rest of the ripened fruit, which looks to be a lot, since the tree is loaded with baby "figlets".  When the bag is full we will can them, and I can hardly wait!  Since this is the start of the season, I thought I'd post links to our basic fig recipes for you, to let you know what "Figgy's" 'babies' are in for.
This is the recipe for fig preserves:

This is our strawberry figs recipe:

      We hope you enjoy these old family recipes and wish you, too, a happy fig season.
   And as for our tenacious little fig tree, if nothing else assails him, we will be able to say with much affection that this year he is having sweet success. 






6.18.2016

Blooming Tigers

 
   This year Father's Day comes three days after my daddy's birthday. He has been gone now for twenty one years, but his birthday is still always a sad time. At least one consolation, one source of joy for me has now come to accompany his birthday every year, and that is that we have tiger lilies blooming in our yard. Real tiger lilies were one of daddy's favorite flowers, but were elusive to him. He had heard about them, but had never actually seen one. He had seen photos and paintings, and of course there were tons of the usual orange lilies growing most everywhere, but none had the dark spots he so desired to see.  
  As a young boy growing up, I remember daddy searching for years for this beautiful Lily. 
  At long last, one of his friends told him about seeing a group of them growing way out in one of the swamps. He could hardly believe it! He made his way through the swamp, eyes scanning the edges of the bayou and behind every tree and thicket, fearing every moment that his friend may have been mistaken and that he was on a hot and sweaty fool's errand. Finally, spying the bright orange patch, he quickly made his way toward the flowers, just knowing the orange lilies were going to be beautiful, but unspotted again.
   Getting close, his jaw dropped as the bright orange flowers joyfully displayed their dark polka dots...just as he'd always had imagined and seen in pictures. He just sat and admired them for awhile before he realized he was on the horns of a dilemma. He was an avid gardener, but he was a man of faith and a strong conscience...could he? Would he? While he did not want to uproot them and destroy the beauty of the natural habitat in which they were thriving, he pacified his conscience by reasoning that if he very carefully took one bulb, he "might could" propagate more of them, then perhaps bring back more to plant in the swamp besides in his yard. 
   He lovingly planted the bulb he had brought back from the swamp and it grew and bloomed, much to his joy. When it finally gave up it's flower and wilted, he dutifully cut it back as is prescribed, and smiling, anticipated it's growth the next Spring. It was not to be. A late blast of freezing weather killed the plant, but he held out hope that the bulb would still survive and come up in his garden along with all his usual lilies come Spring. Can you imagine his sorrow? He didn't have the heart to go back and find the lilies in the swamp, and if he did go, he never found them. He never got to see a Tiger Lily again in his whole life. 
  About four years ago I told Peggy this story and much to my joy,  awhile later a few bulbs showed up, delivered by FedEx, that she had found online for me! 
  I prayed as we planted them and said, "Here, Raymond, we plant them here for you." Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined they would be this beautiful...and on my daddy's birthday!

These amazing double blossom lilies now grow in several places in our yard; some almost finished blooming, while others are still budding.



           They are the stars of our yard this time of year and remind me of Daddy and how much he loved them and how much he would have loved to see them.  Maybe from Heaven he does see them. If so, Happy Birthday, Daddy.
That's my daddy on the right. Next to him is his daddy, who is my Grandpa Cocky. The fella in the white tie is my Uncle Bird, who we lost not that long ago. That's me standing there in the red shirt. I cant wait to stand in that group again and tell Daddy that his daughter-in-law found us some real Tiger lilies. 
   I am the only one left here from that picture (besides the little kid) the rest are waiting for me. 
 If your father is alive remember to tell him you love him every time you talk to him. The one thing that's been any comfort to me over all the years since I lost him is the fact that the last sentence I ever said to my father over the phone that last Christmas morning was, "Merry Christmas, Dad I love you."
 
 
 




6.15.2016

Our First Garlic Bed: from Planting to Harvest.

  You may remember that back in September we planted our first ever patch of garlic. (In case ya forgot, here's the link to our post about our Stinking Experiment...Muahaha!!:  http://cappyandpegody.blogspot.com/2015/08/2015-fallwinter-garden-experiment.html )

  We planted it into one of our 4'x4' raised beds according to a grid system.

  After consulting several gardening sites online we decided to take the advice of more experienced garlic planters who recommended planting lots more than ya think you'll need. With that in mind, we put five more pods in the spaces between the original five holes in our cardboard grid then sat back and watched. They grew all winter and come Spring, they were lush and beautiful. When we left for our 5 week road trip they looked great, so we worried about them while we were gone.
 When we got home we were worried about them some more... now, because they had wilted and the tops were all laying down (we were so rushed when we got home, we forgot to take pictures of them), but we said a li'l prayer and yanked one up... and sure enough we had garlic!
   One of the online garlic growers also recommends braiding them, so this is my first attempt ever at braiding garlic.  I know this don't look professional, but to us its beautiful. 
   Since it is so incredibly hot and humid this time of year down here in South Louisiana, if we had hung them outside in our shed, they would have molded and rotted, so instead, we decided to hang our braids in a kitchen cabinet to dry.   
       I made six braids and counted 99 garlic heads; some small, some quite large. We plan on sharing some of them and enjoying them in lots of our Cajun dishes. Mmm, Mmm, Not bad for a first try. Ahhh, the sweet(??) smell of success!!!
 
 
 
 

5.07.2016

Where the Easter Ham Wound Up

  After all the hubbub of Easter was over, I had taken all the leftover ham off the bone and froze it for future plans.
  Well, it wasn't all that long before the future arrived, so I took it back outa the freezer, thawed it out and cut it into chunks, and all the while, da dawgs were on high alert for any goodies that might happen to fall in the short distance from the cutting board, to the stock pot.
(...and a'course a small chunk or two mighta accidentally dropped, makin' it worth their while.)
Then, I coarse chopped a couple yellow onions,
and threw them in the pot,
then added our own homemade Cajun Spice,
and some Crystal Hot Sauce.
I ferreted out a bag of dried white beans out of the cabinet.
Once I sorted through them and rinsed them, I covered the whole shebang with water and put it to simmering all afternoon.
Once they reached the point of being almost done,
Peggy went out in her herb garden and grabbed some parsley off of her big beloved parsley root.
Once she took the leaves off the stems and chopped them,
it went into the pot along with some of our chopped bell peppers from the freezer. Just like most everything I cook, I let this simmer along while the rice pot worked, doin' it's thing. When both were done, we put them together. Not too bad for a supper of leftovers.
Our frozen larder holds plenty of possibilities starring leftovers, so stay tuned for more future coming attractions featuring "Back to the Freezer". 

4.29.2016

My Old Homemade Backyard Firepit

  A few years ago I scrounged up some cinder blocks from one of our neighbors, and some rebar and angle iron that I scored from my good friend, Sam and used it to build our fire pit. Having the rustic ol' thing to go sit and relax around, especially when friends join, has given me much joy.
Over the years we've burned stacks of wood in it, and to be honest, if I'm in a hurry or just being lazy, I might just start it up with a pile of charcoal briquettes and some lighter fluid. 
Using that quick method, once I got a li'l pile of briquettes going, I throw on some wood and voila! have a blaze in no time.   Peggy, on the other hand, is a start-a-fire-from-scratch gal, gathering up dry bits of things, creating 'stages' of tinder and graduating to heavy wood: a pile of light dry leaves, then dry twigs, then larger twigs and branches and finally logs or hunks of wood 'strategically placed' according to her, then she lights it. I'm not that patient to wait for it to catch and spring to life.
  While I don't mind pokin' the fire once it gets lit, Peggy enjoys tending to it, adjusting the wood, bringing the un-burnt ends back into the coals and moving logs around so they get enough air; stuff like that. I let her do all that. I even made her a hook on the end of a long rebar that she likes to use.
   She picks at me for 'cheating' at lightin' fires, so I decided I'd show her that I could start a fire from scratch, too...and fast. So, here is a li'l video of what I did. 
  I am a lucky man indeed. This is just one of the many reasons Peggy and I make a great team; she loves fire poking and I prefer fire sittin', sippin' and, like the last line in the video says, she does make my rocking world go round. Ya might say, 'she lights my fire'.