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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Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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Wingin’ It Wednesday: Tomato Mint Salad

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LongJohn’s Nana, Mrs. Nice, has been coming into town to spend some time with him once a week so that I can do things that necessitate the use of both hands (in fact, she’s here right now so that I can use both hands to type this post – yay for Mrs. Nice, and grandparents everywhere!).

When she was here last I whipped up this salad of things that were in my fridge: normally when I make a tomato salad with feta I use balsamic vinegar and fresh basil but I didn’t have either of those so I went with a little twist, and I hope you like it.

Start with some tomatoes, naturally. I’m using grape tomatoes here but you can use whatever you have.

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Then, finely chop up an onion. This is a shallot. A red onion would also be nice.

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Nice and small. We want the IDEA of onion rather than holy-wow-there’s-a-lotta-onion-in-this.

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Grab some mint. I grew this monstrosity from three stalks I got out of a box at the grocery store.

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Crumble up some nice firm feta cheese.

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Assemble!

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I made a dressing out of grapeseed oil, honey, and a bit of lemon juice, and drizzled it over the whole shebang.

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It was lovely!

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Slow Cooker Black Bean Enchiladas

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This recipe from the kitchn came with so many caveats about how these are not your ordinary baked enchiladas, and how they end up being a gooey mess but they’re still good, that it was almost worth making them just to see if they lived up to all the anti-hype. They’re easy, they’re tasty – they’re messy and not crispy at all. And still good. So give them a try.

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They are a great way to use up weird leftover bits of things. This is what tofu does when you freeze it. People like to freeze it because it goes crumbly, so we tried it as an experiment after making stir fry one night.

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Start by chopping up 1 small onion. Dice up 1 red bell pepper. Drain and rinse 1 16oz can of black beans. Divvy out 1 cup frozen corn. Mix all those together in a bowl. Grate up 1-2 cups good melting cheese, and add in 1/2 cup of that cheese to the bowl.

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Mix together as well some spices: 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. I find often that this sort of food genre is benefitted by adding in 1 teaspoon cinnamon as well.

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Tip that into the mixed veg.

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Add in any leftover ground meat or chicken you have, if you have any, or this weird crumbled spongy thawed tofu. I really felt like I was breaking up a sponge. Later, I felt like I was EATING a sponge.

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In the bottom of a 4-6 quart slow cooker, spread enough of a 30oz jar of salsa to coat the bottom. You’ll note here that we have a very bowl-shaped slow-cooker. This probably works a bit better in a more flat-bottomed version.

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Ker-SPLAT.

Grab a package of flour tortillas (ours were the small size, pack of 10). Scoop about 1/3 cup of that vegetable filling into each tortilla, roll it up, and lay it seam-side-down in the slow cooker.

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Once you’ve got a layer (with our shape of bowl, that didn’t take long), sprinkle with more salsa and some more of the cheese.

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You should probably end up with only two layers but because of the shape of our bowl we had three, so it was a good thing I grated more cheese. Any extra filling can be piled on top.

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Then add in the rest of the jar of salsa. Resist adding on the rest of the cheese – keep about 1/2 cup of it back for the end bit.

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Cook on high for 2-4 hours (or on low for 8 hours if you’re prepared for extra mushy enchiladas). In the last 15 minutes of cooking, take the last 1/2 cup of cheese and sprinkle that over top, close the lid, and let it melt.

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Serve with sour cream, guacamole, and cilantro, or whatever else floats your enchilada boat!

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Purple Rice and Beef-ish Stew

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I know what you’re thinking: holy moly this woman makes a lot of beef stew. You don’t know the half of it. But each one is different, because I make them up as I go along. So I hope in posting as many of them as occur to me to photograph, you can draw some inspiration for flavour combinations!

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It started with this package of frozen stewing meat I inherited from Atlas’ freezer. It likely came from her parents’ organic hobby farm in BC, or from one of the people with whom her dad has a trade deal. And, given the nature of some of the other things I’ve inherited from Atlas, it could very well be goat, and not beef. In fact it’s probably goat. So I tried to adjust the spices such that it would work for goat, or beef. But what do I know.

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I grabbed my big stock pot and chopped up an onion, which I chucked in the pot with some butter and olive oil and sautéed until it was soft and smelled amazing.

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Then I pitched in the beef/goat/mystery meat, together with some salt and pepper, and cooked that until it was browned on all the edges.

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While that was going on I prepped everything else. Seeing as I had some on hand from my recent Krupnikas-fest, I decided to grate some fresh turmeric into the mix, to give the broth a nice earth-flavour. If you like the earth flavour, then you could probably add some fresh beets to the stew. They’ll definitely give the stew some colour.

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In fact, the turmeric would, under normal circumstances, have dyed my stew a lovely yellow colour, save that I’m putting purple rice in it, and purple rice dyes everything, too. The turmeric did, however, dye my fingers yellow.

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And some of the counter. I miss our all-black counter from Elizabeth.

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Fact, though: if you spray bleach on a turmeric stain, like this one:

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It will turn from yellow to orange, and then just wipe away.

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I added some freshly grated ginger to the pile as well, because I had a whole bunch of it in the fridge.

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Then I chopped up a medium-sized rutabaga. While not as absorbent as potatoes in stew, rutabagas and turnips hold their shape well while also providing some of the mushiness you expect from other root vegetables and tubers.

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And a giant (GIANT) carrot.

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And some cauliflower.

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And my purple rice. It’s kind of obscene how purple it makes everything else, but I love it.

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And a head of roasted garlic. Because everything is better with garlic. I popped the cloves out and roughly chopped them.

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I chucked all that in the pot, together with some concentrated vegetable and beef broth and a whole lot of water. Remember when you’re putting uncooked rice or pasta into a soup or stew to add extra water as it will be absorbed.

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I also sprinkled in some ground cumin and yellow curry powder.

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Bring that whole thing to simmer for about an hour, until the meat is cooked through and the vegetables are squishable with a spoon.

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Serve hot (because it’s a stew, silly). Sooooo satisfying and purple!

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When in doubt, make soup!

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My parents are down in Florida and I’m looking after the house while they’re gone. This entailed cleaning out the fridge after they left, and so I arrived home with this oddment of groceries: 1 small zucchini, 4 wilted green onions, 2 baby bok choi, 9 multicoloured carrots, half a large sweet onion, half a large rutabaga, and half a large Savoy cabbage.

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Welp, that looks like a soup to me. Fortunately I had some stewing beef in the freezer which I chucked in the sink to defrost. Then I got to chopping.

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I also chopped up 1 head of garlic, and sautéed it with the onions in a large stockpot with a drop of olive oil until they were soft and sweet.

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Remember when cutting up rutabagas to be very careful. Slice off the top and bottom first so you have a flat surface to work on before you go after the skin, as it will be tough, especially if it’s been waxed.

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I added all the other chopped veg to the pot. I only scrubbed the carrots, didn’t peel them. All that vitamin-y goodness is in the skin and these are such tender carrots it seemed like a waste to remove the skin.

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Make sure to dry your beef before you brown it. It will make browning way quicker.

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I also like to dredge it in flour for a nice crust, and the flour will help thicken the stew as it cooks. You can use rice flour for a gluten-free option.

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Brown the meat until it has a nice seared edge all the way around.

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Then you can chuck that in the pot, too. I added about 8 cups water and two mini cups of concentrated beef bouillon, but go with whatever floats your boat.

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Give it a stir and set it to simmer for about 30-45 minutes, until the rutabagas are soft when you smush them with a spoon.

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I added in a pinch of ground nutmeg and cloves, as well as a few teaspoons of dried oregano. Add salt and pepper as well, if you like.

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To combat the bitterness of the cabbage I also added in a few tablespoons each of maple syrup and rice vinegar (it sounds weird, I know, but it works). You can also use cider vinegar.

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My scrumptious savoury stew!

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I shoved it into large freezer bags that I froze flat for easy storage. I can’t wait to haul one of these babies out in the dead of winter for some comfort food!

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Roasted Chicken and Red Pepper Alfredo

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This was a bit of comfort food I kind of winged and kind of cheated on (who has time to make Alfredo sauce from scratch?). It was also a great recipe for what I like to call “cooking in spurts” – when I only have a few minutes here and there in the kitchen so I do little tasks throughout the day.

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First I roasted 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. I set them in a glass baking dish and stuffed fresh sage and thyme under the skin. I dusted the tops with salt and pepper. Then I baked them at 350°F for about 45 minutes, until the skin was crispy and the juices ran clear.

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Then I turned on the broiler and roasted 2 whole red peppers, turning them every 5 minutes or so, for about 20 minutes, until the skin was blackened. I let that cool for a while.

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Then I came back and pulled the skin off and discarded the seeds and stem. Then I went away again.

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Coming back in, I sliced up half a package of white mushrooms and sautéed them in butter and olive oil on medium heat until brown and starting to crisp. I removed them from the heat and went away again. I’m a busy person.

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Then I decided to actually get on with the business of cooking dinner. So I diced up a sweet onion and chucked that in a large frying pan with some butter and olive oil.

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I sautéed that on medium heat until the little onion pieces turned translucent, then I chucked in a few teaspoons minced garlic, as well as some salt and pepper.

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While that was going on, I pulled apart the chicken thighs and shredded the meat with a fork. I saved some of the nice fatty juices that came out of them, to add flavour to the sauce. I also saved the little bits of herb I’d roasted under the skin.

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As well, I diced the roasted peppers.

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And brought a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. I used a four-cheese tortellini here, because I like how filling it is.

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While the water was starting to get its boil on, I chucked the chicken (and reserved juices/herbs), peppers, and mushrooms into the pan with the onions and garlic.

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Then I dumped in a jar of pre-made alfredo sauce. I always add a little bit of water to the empty jar and give it a swish to get everything left.

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I stirred that for about 5 minutes at medium heat until everything started to bubble and smell amazing.

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I reduced the heat to low while I cooked the pasta according to the package directions. I drained the pasta and dumped it into the pan with the sauce.

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And then we ATE THE WHOLE THING. That’s a lie. We didn’t. Not all in one sitting, are you crazy? But I had seconds.

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