A Night of Gumbo and Dancing ~ Chicken Gumbo

Chicken GumboThis week, my hubby and I went out dancing on a beautiful summer night in downtown Seattle as a part of the Dancing Til Dusk series. For 15 nights, different parks around the city host live music and dancing. There is everything from waltz to swing to tango. The night we went happened to have a Cajun-style band, so I made chicken gumbo to get us into the mood before we went out!

I started with a recipe from Southern Living magazine, which was quick and easy compared to many other gumbo recipes. To make it a little healthier, I used half of the amount of oil that the recipe called for, and I only used one link of andouille sausage for the whole stew. If you can, use homemade chicken stock, since it is one of the stars of the dish.Chicken GumboChicken Gumbo

Based on a recipe from Southern Living magazine

1/4 cup high heat oil, such as safflower

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

2 teaspoons blended Cajun seasoning

2 garlic cloves, minced

5 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1 link chicken andouille sausage, cut into thin slices

1/2 precooked rotisserie chicken, shredded

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, whisk the flour slowly into the pot. While constantly whisking, cook until the flour is the color of dark caramel. Watch very closely, so the mixture doesn’t get too dark.

Once the flour is a dark shade of caramel, reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the onion, bell pepper, celery, and Cajun seasoning. Cook until the vegetables are softened. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock and sausage. Increase the heat again to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir the chicken into the pot, and continue cooking until warmed through.Chicken Gumbo

Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day!) ~ Mini English Pancakes

PancakesMardi Gras came on the heels of Valentine’s Day this year, and since I was still in a British mood after our Downton Abbey themed Valentine dinner, I decided to celebrate this day as the British do…with pancakes! In England, what we call Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is known as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day. They celebrate by eating pancakes, and they even have pancake races! This video of the yearly Parliamentary pancake race from a couple of years ago made me giggle. It gets quite competitive, as the video shows! Ha! This year’s race video featured a pancake-cam, which is also quite hilarious. 😉

In honor of this fun tradition, I made mini pancakes to celebrate Pancake Day. English-style pancakes are much thinner than American pancakes. They are almost like French crêpes. The cakes are traditionally served with a little caster/fine sugar and lemon rather than maple syrup.

I chose to make a basic recipe from BBC Good Food. I replaced the plain flour with whole-wheat pastry flour, and I used fully skim milk rather than partly-skimmed milk as the recipe called for. I also made my cakes mini for an afternoon tea snack, but otherwise followed the recipe fairly closely.

PancakesEnglish Pancakes

Based on a recipe from BBC Good Food

100g whole-wheat pastry flour

2 eggs

300ml skim milk, plus more if needed

1 tbsp light oil such as sunflower or safflower, plus extra for frying

Pinch of salt

Lemon slices, for serving

Caster/fine sugar, for serving

Blending in the flour: Put the flour and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Crack the eggs into the middle, and then pour in about 50ml milk and 1 tbsp oil. Start whisking from the center, gradually drawing the flour into the eggs, milk and oil. Once all the flour is incorporated, beat until you have a smooth, thick paste. Add a little more milk if it is too stiff to beat.

Finishing the batter: Add a good splash of milk and whisk to loosen the thick batter. While still whisking, pour in a steady stream of the remaining milk. Continue pouring and whisking until you have a batter that is the consistency of slightly thick single cream.

Getting the right thickness: Heat the pan over a moderate heat, and then wipe it with oiled paper towel. Ladle some batter into the pan, tilting the pan to move the mixture around for a thin and even layer. Leave to cook, undisturbed, for about 30 seconds, or until you see the edges getting a bit dry and golden. If the pan is the right temperature, the pancake should turn golden underneath after about 30 seconds and will be ready to turn.

Flipping pancakes: Hold the pan handle, ease a fish spatula under the pancake, then quickly lift and flip it over. Make sure the pancake is lying flat against the base of the pan with no folds, and then cook for another 30 seconds before turning out onto a warm plate. Continue with the rest of the batter, serving them as you cook or stack onto a plate.

PancakesThe little flag was generated from the Keep Calm-O-Matic website. You can make your own personalized signs based on the classic British “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster. So fun!


Mardi Gras ~ King Cake

Happy Mardi Gras!

I couldn’t think of anything better to celebrate the holiday than king cake. I love the story and history surrounding the cake. In Louisiana, they decorate the top with the colors of Mardi Gras – purple, yellow, and green. They also hide a small plastic baby or a trinket inside. I made mini cakes this year based on a recipe from AllRecipes.com. I substituted all of the butter with Earth Balance, and replaced half of the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour. The result was nutty and delicious! With the glaze, they make a nice dessert, but without the glaze, they are perfect for breakfast. 🙂

Mardi Gras King Cake

Based on a recipe from AllRecipes.com


½ cup + 2 tablespoons non-fat milk

2 tablespoons Earth Balance

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast

1/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45

degrees C)

1/4 cup white sugar

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 ¼ cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 ¼ cups + 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour


1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/3 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup melted Earth Balance


1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons water (approximately…add a little more or less to get the consistency you desire)

To make the pastry: Combine warmed milk and melted Earth Balance. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1/2 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until frothy, about 10 minutes.

When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the egg. Stir in the remaining white sugar, and nutmeg. Stir both flours into the milk/egg mixture a little at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes.

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 to 2 hours. When risen, punch down.

To make the filling: Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, and flour. Pour 1/4 cup melted Earth Balance over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rectangle (approximately 6 by 8 inches or so). Sprinkle 1/8th of the filling evenly over each piece of the dough. Roll up each piece tightly like a little jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 8 oval shaped rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. If you wish, make cuts with scissors 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until golden. If you are partaking in the tradition of adding a baby or trinket, place it in the bottom of one of the cakes after it is baked. Whisk together the glaze ingredients. Frost the cakes with the glaze and purple, green, and yellow sprinkles if you wish.

I decorated with some cute Mardi Gras printables from MardiGrasOutlet.com. They are free, so help yourself! 🙂 I also found some pretty little edible beads in purple, yellow, and green. They looked like Mardi Gras beads to me, so they seemed perfect for the cake! We don’t plan to eat them, but they were too cute for me to pass up for decoration. 🙂

I hope you enjoy your Fat Tuesday!

Happy Mardi Gras! ~ Red Jambalaya with Chicken, Shrimp and Lobster and Chandon Sidecars

This year, we had red jambalaya with chicken, shrimp and lobster for our Mardi Gras celebration. I’ve been working my way through the recipes on the Domaine Chandon website, and this one caught my eye awhile back. It seemed perfect for tonight, so I saved it until now. I must say, it was worth the wait!  I would recommend it highly. I did make a handful of changes to make it a little healthier. I used brown rice instead of white, I only used 2 andouille sausage links (chicken or turkey preferred to pork) instead of a pound, I omitted the bacon grease or butter and replaced it with grapeseed oil and I used skinless chicken with the bone in. Other than those differences, I followed the recipe closely. We thought it was a delicious gourmet spin on traditional jambalaya.

Red Jambalaya with Chicken, Shrimp and Lobster

3 lbs chicken breasts and thighs with the bone in but skin removed

3-4 tbsp grape seed oil, or any other oil with a high smoke point

2 medium-sized onions, chopped

1 green pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 tbsp flour

2 links of sliced chicken or turkey andouille (about ½ lb) (if you would like less heat, you might want to use only one link)

3 cups tomato plus one extra medium tomato, chopped

½ tsp thyme

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp Tabasco sauce
(if you don’t like things very spicy, use a little less)

1 cup water

1 cup tomato juice

¾ cup uncooked long grain brown rice

½ lb jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined

2 small lobster tails, shelled and cut into small pieces (may substitute 12 oz small shrimp, shelled and deveined)

½ cup scallions, diced (discard green stalks)

¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped


Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tbsp oil and sauté until just browned and remove from pan. (It will not be cooked through.) Do not discard oil.

In the same pan, sauté onions, green pepper and garlic until onions are translucent. Remove from skillet.

Add remaining oil and gradually add flour, stirring often. Simmer until the color turns light brown.

In the same pan, stir in sausage, chicken, onion, pepper and garlic mixture and tomatoes (except for the extra medium tomato). Cook 10 minutes on medium high, stirring continuously.

Add thyme, ½ tsp pepper, Tabasco sauce, water, tomato juice and rice. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

Stir in shrimp, lobster, scallions, remaining tomato and parsley. Cook an additional 5 minutes until the seafood is just cooked through.

Makes 8–10 servings.

We also had my take on a Chandon Sidecar cocktail to go with our dinner. We were first introduced to sidecars at one of our favorite nightspots in Seattle called the New Orleans Creole Restaurant, so I always associate them with Creole cooking. For our drinks, I used ¾ oz of Grand Marnier, ½ oz Meyer lemon juice (its a little sweeter than regular lemon juice, so we didn’t need any simple syrup to balance it) and ¾ oz of Cognac. Then top it with dry sparkling wine to your liking.

I hope you have a festive Mardi Gras! 🙂