Creole Okra with Chicken and Tomatoes

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 23

I don’t really know that much about southern food except that I like it a lot, and whenever I’m down south (I’m talking the southern US states here) I eat as much of it as I can. This dish started because I found okra at a good price at the grocery store and is more Creole-inspired than actually authentic (because again I don’t know much). It is adapted from something I found on The Kitchn. I doubled the amounts, prepared half this recipe in the pan and then chucked half of it in the freezer for later, like the clever person that I am†. Not that this recipe isn’t dead simple. I’m just lazy.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 1

I accompanied this one-dish meal with another dish: steamed beet greens.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 4

Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Zest 1 lemon.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 3

Gather your spices. Creole spice blends tend to run to mixtures of the following, so make one to suit your own taste (this one is about 1 teaspoon of each): onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, parsley, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne. The recipe I was looking at didn’t use creole spices; instead it called for a bit of cumin and coriander. So I just used everything. Set that aside for a few minutes.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 2

Start with your okra, about 1lb, and slice the tops off before cutting it in half lengthwise. Apparently people either love or hate okra, because it’s a bit slimy. I am ambivalent so far.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 5

Lay that on your baking sheet and sprinkle with about 1 cup (canned/drained/rinsed) black-eyed peas.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 7

Next, slice up a small white onion.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 8

Sprinkle that onto the pan, together with a few cloves crushed or minced garlic.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 11

Give that a good drizzle with some nice olive oil.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 12

Now here’s where I kind of diverged from the recipe. This dish is a good meal all in itself as a vegetarian option, but I feed boys (boys who are not vegetarians) so I had to chuck some meat in here somehow. In a large bowl, I threw 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs together with a 14oz can of diced tomatoes and your lemon zest.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 14

Then I chucked in all those lovely spices and gave it a good mixing.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 16

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 17

Spread the chicken and tomatoes evenly across the top of your peas and okra and shove it in the oven for about an hour. Give it a stir once or twice to make sure everything is browning evenly.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 18

We served ours over rice with the beet greens and it was pretty good. The Pie thought the okra was a little slimy (#1 reason why many people dislike it) but I thought it was pretty good!

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 20

If you plan to freeze this recipe for later, I would recommend freezing it in two parts: in one bag goes the okra, peas, garlic, rice, and oil, and in the second bag goes the tomatoes, chicken, and spices. It just seems like a logical thing to do to tenderize the meat and prevent the peas and okra from getting too soggy.

Sponge Paint Shirt Making

Sponge Painted Onesies 21

It’s baby season again. I know at least five expectant mothers, and it inspired me to try a different type of fabric printing. As much as I love the effect of screen printing, it’s not a feasible method for one-off productions – you really need to be working in bulk for it to be worth it. But thanks to our Silhouette Cameo cutter, I’m able to create a detailed design for much smaller projects.

First, I began with the cutter and some adhesive vinyl, and I cut out my designs.

Sponge Painted Onesies 1

I am using the vinyl as a stencil, so the design itself becomes the negative space.

Sponge Painted Onesies 2

I repurposed a few letters from a rainbow baby design to decorate the raptor pen.

Sponge Painted Onesies 3

Next, I used transfer paper to cover the design, and a squeegee to make sure it was firmly attached.

Sponge Painted Onesies 4

Now I could remove the backing to the vinyl and stick it onto the pre-washed onesie. I used a fondant smoother as a squeegee here.

Sponge Painted Onesies 5

I very carefully peeled off the transfer paper and made sure all the vinyl was stuck down well. Because my designs were close together on the vinyl so as not to waste space, some of the designs came pretty close to the edge. I added some hockey tape as a protective border to ensure that I didn’t colour outside of the lines too much.

Sponge Painted Onesies 6

Remember of course that fabric is porous, so if you’re pushing ink onto it, you have to protect the back side of the shirt. I cut little rectangles out of a plastic bag and shoved one inside each onesie.

Sponge Painted Onesies 7

Now for the application! I am using regular cellulose kitchen sponges, which are very soft and have large holes in them. This will produce something of a vintage, faded effect on the onesie, because you’re not producing as much pressure as you would while screen printing. If you wanted something a little sharper, use a finer sponge, like a cosmetic sponge. They also make sponges specifically to apply paint and ink so you could use one of those as well.

Sponge Painted Onesies 8

I’m using my Speedball fabric screen printing ink, because that’s what I had on hand, but you could use any form of fabric ink or paint and you’d probably have a similar result.

Sponge Painted Onesies 9

Dabbing a little bit of ink on the sponge – don’t want too much all at once.

Sponge Painted Onesies 12

Deep breath – ready?

Sponge Painted Onesies 13

Here I gently dabbed the ink into the negative space on my stencil, dabbing a few times to ensure I got everything covered.

Sponge Painted Onesies 14

Sponge Painted Onesies 15

Then I started experimenting with blending colours.

Sponge Painted Onesies 16

It got a little tricky when all the cut-outs were so close together.

Sponge Painted Onesies 18

Now I had to force myself to wait overnight for these to dry properly before I could see what they looked like.

Sponge Painted Onesies 17

Okay I cheated: I pulled them off about four hours later. So this is the dried ink just after removal of the stencil. Everything is pretty sharp, but you have to wash this AGAIN to get any loose ink off.

Sponge Painted Onesies 19

Here are my designs after another wash and run through the dryer. You can see that the ink is sort of faded in the corners, like a vintage t-shirt. TADA!

Sponge Painted Onesies 20

Sponge Painted Onesies 22

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 13

Do you hate beans but like chili? Do you like beans but also like chili that’s a little different? Do you like chili? If you answered yes to any of the previous questions then this chili is for you. It’s beanless and beefy and incredibly satisfying, which is good because though it may be spring SOMEWHERE, in Ottawa we’ve had some major flooding and on Monday it stopped raining enough to SNOW. ALL. DAY. So we kind of need something cockle-warming. This chili is adapted from one my parents found on the internet and printed out and that I stole off their fridge in Florida and smuggled across the border.

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 1

Start with 2lbs cubed beef chuck or stewing beef, and huck that in a non-stick skillet on high to sear all the sides. Chuck the browned beef into a large slow-cooker pot.

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 4

Next, add in 2 tablespoons Worcestershire (“wooster”) sauce, 1 cup beef broth, a 28oz can of diced tomatoes, and 2 tablespoons tomato paste. Now, the recipe did not say to drain the tomatoes so I didn’t and I found my chili ended up a bit on the watery side (I also added twice as many tomatoes as the recipe asked for). I thickened the sauce with some cornstarch later on and it turned out super awesome, but I’ll leave it to your discretion to either drain the tomatoes or use a smaller can.

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 7

Dice up the following: 1 white onion, 2 red bell peppers, 2 large carrots, 2 celery stalks, and a couple large green chilis. I used Anaheim chilis because they are huge and not too hot and I wanted to be able to feed this to LongJohn. Gather as well 1 tablespoon chili powder, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika (ours is smoked), 1 teaspoon onion powder, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. Chuck all that in the slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 5

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 8

Don’t forget to give it a bit of a stir.

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 9

Cook that sucker on low for 8-12 hours, or on high for about 6.

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 11

Before serving, juice 1 lime and add the juice to the mix.

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 16

Serve garnished with either grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, or chopped cilantro (or all of the above, who are we kidding?).

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 15

Challenge Accepted: IMPOSSIBLE PIE

Impossible Pie 18

I found this recipe in the newspaper a little while back and thought it looked tempting enough to try. It’s easy peasy and totally delectable but it looks complicated and fancy when you serve it, and it is not a totally overpowering dessert, so you can always have seconds!

Impossible Pie 16

The impossible part of this pie is that you mix everything together all at once and pour the very liquidy batter into your pan for baking, and what comes out ends up having three layers: a sweet fudgy layer at the bottom, a custardy layer in the middle, and the chewy coconut layer on top. Full disclosure: I never achieved the fudgy bottom layer, but I suspect it’s because I used a huge heavy pie pan (because that was the only one I had that was deep enough). Perhaps if you use a thinner pie pan you might have better luck – if not, the pie is still pretty effing good.

Heat your oven to 325°F and spray a 10″ wide and 2″ deep pie pan.

Melt 1/2 cup butter, and let that come to room temperature. Pro tip: if you only melt the butter halfway, then give it a stir, the melted butter will melt the non-melted butter and the non-melted butter will bring the temperature of the melted butter down faster and you don’t have to wait as long for your super molten burn-y melted butter to cool down. It’s like MAGIC. Or thermodynamics. Either or.

Impossible Pie 3

Grab 4 large eggs out of the fridge and bring them to room temperature by plopping them in a bowl of warm water. While you’re at it, leave 2 cups whole milk (or a combo of milk and cream) out on the counter to warm up too. HEY PRESTO!

Impossible Pie 1

Take 1 lemon and zest it and then juice it. Nothing super magic about that. It’s a lemon for crying out loud.

Impossible Pie 2

Grab yourself a perfectly ordinary food processor (or is it?). Or a blender. Or do this by hand. I prefer the magic of electricity. Plop in your 4 eggs, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

Impossible Pie 4

Then tip in (or do this first, the order doesn’t matter – this is just how I took the photos) 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder.

Impossible Pie 5

THEN tip in (or do this second, or whatever) your 1/2 cup butter, 2 cups whole milk, and lemon juice and zest.

Impossible Pie 6

Give that a good whaz, THEN tip in (and this time it DOES matter the order because this has to happen after the whazzing) 1 1/4 cups shredded sweetened dried coconut (I used unsweetened. It was fine.). Stir that around.

Impossible Pie 7

Pour the batter into your prepared pan. There it is, all perfectly ordinary and homogeneous-ish.

Impossible Pie 8

Shove that in your prepared oven (I used my convection toaster oven) and bake for 55-60 minutes, until the top is a golden brown around the edges and you can shove a toothpick in the centre and it comes out clean (LIKE IT WAS NEVER DIRTY! AMAZING!).

Impossible Pie 9

Impossible Pie 11

Pop that on a wire rack to cool. You can serve this warm but it cuts best if it’s been chilled first, so I recommend that. Keep any leftovers (HA) in the fridge, covered up.

Impossible Pie 15

Even without that fudgy layer, this thing was still ballin’.

Impossible Pie 17

Baby Butt Butter (hahaha, BUTTS)

Sorry, I got another baby post for you. I promise that magic pie is next.

Latergram: Mr. Jaunty. #alidoesit

A post shared by Alison Bell (@alidoesit.herself) on

LongJohn is going to daycare (NEXT WEEK OMG OMG OMG) and I gotta make sure I send everything with him that he needs over the course of the day. One of those things is diaper cream (or butt butter, which is a much better term). I’ve been making my own for a while and I’ve tweaked it to a point where I’m pretty happy with it. My recipe also allows for substitutions when you run out of things, which is handy. Because I run out of things OFTEN. The secret to a good oil-based lotion consistency is to use the correct ratio of solid oils to liquid oils, and everything after that is golden.

Butt Butter 17

As long as you use a 3:1 ratio of solids:liquids, you can do pretty much whatever you want, in any quantity. So let’s get started, shall we?

Gather yourself 1 tablespoon beeswax1/4 cup cocoa butter,

Butt Butter 1

1/4 cup mango butter (or shea butter),

Butt Butter 3

1/4 cup coconut oil,

Butt Butter 4

and 1/4 cup grapeseed oil (or sweet almond oil, or extra virgin olive oil).

Butt Butter 5

Tip all those things into a double boiler and let them melt.

Butt Butter 6

When the mixture is uniform, remove it from the heat and add in 2 tablespoons vitamin E oil – you can get this in the pharmacy, either in a bottle or in capsule form.

Butt Butter 2

You’ll also want to tip in some essential oils, about 15-20 drops (in total, not each). I used a combination here of calendula, chamomile, lavender, and a bit of tea tree oil.

Butt Butter 7

Next, stir in 1-2 tablespoons zinc oxide powder (I ordered this from Amazon). I find this is the magic amount to avoid leaving too much white crap everywhere, and I’ve also never had any issues using this amount with cloth diapers. If you’re not a fan you can leave it out altogether. As I said, this is a flexible recipe.

Butt Butter 8

Now leave this oily goo to cool. You don’t want it to cool so much that it solidifies, because you want the finished product to be scoopable with a finger.

Butt Butter 9

I find that putting it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes is a good start. Then you get this solid bit around the edge but it’s still thick and liquid-y in the centre.

Butt Butter 10

Next, grab your hand mixer or immersion blender and a strong spatula (because the butter tends to solidify hard on the sides of a cold bowl) and give it a good beating, scraping down the sides as much as you can. Whip it until it looks like cream cheese icing. Now you’re done! Alternatively, you can pour the totally liquid butter into a mould for a stick-shaped solid, and use it kind of like deodorant on your baby’s butt, but(t) you will find that it melts on your hands quite a bit when you’re doing that.

Butt Butter 11

You can see how a few seconds on my arm and the butter just melts, which makes it easy to spread around and it sinks in nicely – I’m not a fan of gooey baby butt crap.

Butt Butter 12

But(t) even though it sinks in nicely it still forms a very nice moisture barrier, as you can see from my hands after I started to clean up my post-butter-making mess.

Butt Butter 18

I tried to pipe the butter into this tiny container in the hopes that I would make less of a mess doing so than I normally do, but I failed. So I ended up making just as much of a mess and now the butter looks super weird.

Butt Butter 14

Weird looking or not, it still does the job!

Butt Butter 13

Happy Easter

I had a last minute DIY for you folks but then it failed so I got nuthin’. So happy Easter from these two yahoos. Enjoy your weekend! 

Avocado Chocolate Mousse

Avocado Chocolate Pudding 13

The other thing I made while we were in Florida was this amazingly simple (and kinda sorta almost healthy?) dessert. It was truly one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while. Now, here’s a caveat: I made it again once we got home to Ottawa and it was NOT as good.

Avocado Chocolate Pudding 3

The avocados up here just aren’t as sweet as they were down south. So make sure you’re making this with the sweetest, ripest avocados you can find.

Avocado Chocolate Pudding 10

But before that, rustle up some chocolate. I have here 7oz dark chocolate. This stuff has a touch of sea salt in it. If you don’t use salty chocolate I’d recommend adding a pinch of the stuff to the recipe. Bust up that chocolate and melt it in a double boiler. Set it aside for a few minutes to cool a bit.

Avocado Chocolate Pudding 2

Grab yourself 4 ripe avocados.

Avocado Chocolate Pudding 1

Scoop ’em out of the skin and plop them in a food processor. I had to use the baby food processor because that was all I had so I did everything in batches. If you have a normal-sized one then you can do everything in the one container. Tip in a couple tablespoons honey, to your taste. This was lavender flavoured honey and it was quite good.

Avocado Chocolate Pudding 4

Add in as well a teaspoon or two of vanilla, just for flavour (people who think that chocolate and vanilla are binaries and can’t go together are crazypants). BLEND THE CRAPOLA OUT OF IT until you have green smooth lovely goodness.

Avocado Chocolate Pudding 5

Now if you have a regular sized food processor, you can pour the melted chocolate into the avocados and blend, blend, blend. I only had a weenie baby food processor and I ran out of room.

Avocado Chocolate Pudding 6

So here I am folding and whisking all that green and brown amazingness together. NBD.

Avocado Chocolate Pudding 7

If you’re feeling fancy, before you serve the stuff, you can chill it and then whip it with a hand mixer to make it fluffy and moussey. And pipe it into cold pudding dishes.

Avocado Chocolate Pudding 8
That missing spoonful was my uncle doing some Quality Control.

If you’re me you’ll dump giant spoons of it into room temperature dishes, top with whatever berries were in the fridge, and chill until dessert. You can see that my wee baby food processor didn’t do a super amazing job of making the pudding really smooth, but you can do better, right?

Avocado Chocolate Pudding 12

This recipe serves four GENEROUSLY. Like, if you really like rich pudding you’ll eat your serving and love every second of it but kind of want to die afterwards. So maybe make it for six? Also keep in mind that this is best served the same day – we found that the next day the avocado flavour came through too strongly, but that was with the less-sweet avocados so what do I know?

Avocado Chocolate Pudding 14