Creole Okra with Chicken and Tomatoes

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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Next, slice up a small white onion.

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

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Give that a good drizzle with some nice olive oil.

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Challenge Accepted: IMPOSSIBLE PIE

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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!

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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!).

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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.

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

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Creamsicle Pudding

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RUSTY!

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I adapted this recipe from Food52 when I had three oranges and two lemons and I didn’t know what to do with them (other than simply eat them, but that’s not very exciting).

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Start by zesting and juicing your 3 oranges and 2 lemons.

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You should end up with just over 1 cup juice (like a cup plus a couple tablespoons, which is good).

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Set a medium-sized pot on the stove with a couple inches of water in it and set it to simmer.

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Then grab a metal or heatproof glass bowl and crack in 6 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks. Give those a thorough beating-up. They probably deserve it, the jerks.

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Whisk in 1 1/2 cups sugar.

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Then toss in your zest and your juice.

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What a lovely colour.

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Set that on top of the simmering water and make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir pretty much constantly. If you leave egg yolks and granulated sugar alone for more than a minute they get a bit grainy and we don’t want that. Keep stirring!

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After about 10 or so minutes, the foam will disappear and you’ll have this lovely thick stuff that leaves a trace when you move the whisk. If you test this with a thermometer it should read around 180°F.

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Remove the bowl from the heat and let it cool a bit, stirring occasionally to release more heat. You want it somewhere around 140°F before you put your butter in. My butter was actually frozen so I started adding it in at around the 150°F mark.

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Tip all your lovely citrusy goo into a blender (you can use an immersion blender if you have a deep enough bowl) and add in 2 cups of unsalted butter, a few cubes at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition, until your concoction is pale and very thick. I may have overfilled my blender here. Oops. All the more reason to make sure the lid stays on.

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The finished product is more or less a curd, so you can use it to fill tarts, spread it on scones or toast (I have some panettone that is simply itching to be slathered), or eat it as a pudding. I’m also tempted to whip up some cream and fold them together to make a frozen fool (though the weather outside is too cold to make me crave cold treats). Just keep it covered and in the fridge if you don’t eat it all right away.

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St. Clement’s Cake

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I made this Jamie Oliver recipe for Mrs. Nice’s birthday cake and it was a real hit. If you’re not super into the huge layer cakes with tons of icing then I think this will be right up your alley. It’s a nice moist cake as well so it keeps for quite a few days if you wrap it up well.

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Measurements for this recipe are mostly in metric, so if you have a scale handy I would recommend using it. Start by greasing a springform cake pan with butter, and then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

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Next, grab yourself a large orange and take all the zest off. Juice it as well while you’re at it. Set that aside for a bit.

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In the bowl of your mixer, beat together 125g softened butter with 125g sugar until it’s soft and fluffy and amazing.

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Next, crack in 4 large eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition until everything is foamy and smooth.

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Tip in *most* of your orange zest. Keep some aside for the syrup and topping.

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Next, fold in 100g self-rising flour (see here for a DIY substitute) and 200g ground almonds.

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Smooth that loveliness into your cake pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until fully risen and lightly golden.

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Let that cool in the pan for a few minutes and make some syrup.

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In a small saucepan, tip in 100g sugar and the juice from that orange you smooshed earlier. Add in a pinch of the remaining zest as well for extra flavour if you like. Stir over medium heat until the sugar is totally dissolved.

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Next, take a skewer and poke a ton of holes all over your still-hot cake. Go all the way to the bottom.

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Drizzle the syrup all over the top of the cake and leave it for a few minutes to soak in before popping off the edges of the pan.

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Let the cake cool completely.

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Now I want you to zest and juice 1 lemon. Add a pinch of the lemon zest to your remaining orange zest, but stir the rest of it into 225g icing sugar.

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Drizzle in your lemon juice, stirring the whole time, until you have a glaze that is a nice consistency for pouring.

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Pour your glaze slowly over the entire cooled cake, allowing it to drip off the sides. It’s best to put a sheet of waxed paper under your rack BEFORE you do this.

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Sprinkle that remaining zest on top and leave it to harden a bit. Once it’s set you can transfer it to a plate for serving.

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Enjoy!

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Fancy Pants Sammiches

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For my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary party I made a large number of cocktail sandwiches – those are the ones where you cut all the crusts off the bread, or you buy the long, already crustless tramezzini (which is what I did). I’m going to give you all my sandwich filling recipes in one post, and I’ll leave it up to you to do with them what you will!

Fancy Sammiches 181: Smokey Egg Salad Fancy Sammiches 6 Start with about a dozen hard-boiled eggs. Smush them up good. Fancy Sammiches 2 Mince up some chives and tip that into the eggs, together with some salt and pepper, a scoop of Hungarian smoked paprika, and a dollop of mayonnaise. Stir to combine. Fancy Sammiches 52: Lemon-Dill Tuna

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Mince up some celery.

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Grab some herbs as well, like sage, and of course dill. Mince those too.

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Add them in a bowl with your canned flaked tuna, and the juice and zest of 1 lemon.

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Add in just a wee bit of yogurt or mayonnaise for cohesion.

3: Classic Cucumber and Herb

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Grab a small handful each of fresh mint and chives. Mince those up.

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Beat those into softened plain cream cheese and season with salt and pepper. Serve with sliced cucumbers.

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4: Curried “Coronation” Chicken

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Dismantle and shred a small roasted chicken from the grocery store. Mix in a large amount of fresh chopped pineapple sage, as well as a little bit of onion powder, cumin, yellow curry, and a pinch of cardamom. Tip in plain yogurt or mayonnaise for cohesion.

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5: Peanut Butter & Jelly “Sushi”

Fancy Sammiches 24Smear your bread with the peanut butter of your choice (the all-natural stuff is a mite runny, be warned).

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Top with jelly.

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Roll the whole thing up and slice into discs.

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Baked Oatmeal

Baked Oatmeal 9I modified this recipe from Babble and made a great easy breakfast that can easily be played with and served in many ways. If you like the idea of an easy hot breakfast these little baked oatmeal squares are going to be a new staple for you. Plus you can reheat the squares later on for breakfast on the go. Feel free to play with the sugar amount if you want to take this dish from a breakfast to a nice dessert with ice cream! Start by preheating your oven to 375°F and butter up an 8″ x 8″ baking dish. In a bowl, mix together 3 cups rolled oats (not instant), 1/2 cup sugar1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, and the zest of 1 lemon. Baked Oatmeal 1

In another bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons melted cooled butter, 2 cups milk, and 2 eggs.

Baked Oatmeal 2Spread half the oat mixture into the bottom of your dish. Spread 1 cup berries or fruit of your choice, fresh or frozen (I used 1 cup frozen service berries) over the oat mixture. Baked Oatmeal 4

Spread on the other half of the oat mixture, and then an additional 1 cup berries. Press the berries into the mix a little.

Baked Oatmeal 5Pour the milk mixture over the oats and berries and pop it in the oven for 35-45 minutes, until the centre is set and everything is starting to get lovely and golden. Baked Oatmeal 6

Let it rest for about ten minutes before you scoop out a piece and eat it because it will be molten.

Baked Oatmeal 7I bet these would be good with butter and maple syrup … Baked Oatmeal 8

Cheater Lemon Tarts

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Ever have those social obligations where you promised to bring dessert and then totally forgot about it until the last minute and now you are stuck? Do I have a solution for you! Next time you’re at the grocery store, grab a package of frozen tart shells and chuck it in the freezer and forget about it. Then, when you’re in a bind, haul it out and make some tarts!

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For this, you’ll want to preheat your oven to 375°F and set out 12 frozen tart shells to thaw for about 10 minutes.

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Normally with lemon tarts you’d carefully create a lemon curd-like custard that you’d cook slowly and then strain. Not today! We’re going to cheat. Melt yourself 1 tablespoon butter. Let it cool while you mix up the other stuff.

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In a bowl, beat up 2 eggs. Zest 1 lemon and add that in as well.

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Juice the lemon until you get about 1/4 cup lemon juice (I ended up with a wee bit extra). Add that in too.

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Now you need some sweet for this tart – dump in 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Stir all that up.

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Finally, add in your cooled butter and stir it around.

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I mixed my tart mixture in a measuring cup so I could use the spout to pour and make my life easier. Evenly distribute the tart mixture amongst the shells.

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Bake the tarts for 15 minutes, until the shells are starting to brown and the filling is puffed up and solid. Allow them to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar immediately before serving.

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Wanna see something crazy? While the tarts were baking, I noticed that a few of them were – well, they were DANCING. And they didn’t stop!

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