Shrimp Gumbo

You don’t have to be in Louisiana to enjoy a good shrimp gumbo, especially if you grow onions, green peppers and okra in your garden.

7-gumboThat’s just what we had the other night after I made a trip to both of my gardens and gathered  a nice green bell, some carrots and tomatoes, a few onions and a couple of handfuls of okra.

Just about every gardener in this neck of the wood has all of the aforementioned vegetables in their garden with maybe the exception of okra. Many probably haven’t even sampled that staple of Cajun-Creole cooking much less grown the slender green pods.

I started growing okra a couple of years ago and have found it to be a nice addition to my garden. Not only do I use it in gumbos, it’s great in jambalaya (another New Orleans delicacy) and some stir-fries.

The recipe that follows called for chicken, but I substituted some nice shrimp and white rice instead of brown rice, and the result was fantastic.

Shrimp Gumbo
3 pounds shrimp
3 cups chicken broth
¼ teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup brown rice
¼ cup chopped parsley
10 ounces frozen sliced okra
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
½ green bell pepper, chopped
1½ cups frozen corn kernels
1 14½-ounce can diced tomatoes
Place all of the ingredients in the broth except the shrimp. Cover and simmer until rice is cooked and vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Then add the shrimp. (If desired, thicken broth with a smooth paste made from 3 tablespoons cold water mixed with 2 tablespoons cornstarch or flour. Serve with hot cornbread.

Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken

It’s no fun preparing meals in the oven when temperatures are in the 90s and the relative humidity is near the century mark, especially if you don’t have air conditioning.

seschickenLuckily, we have central air, but I still refrain from using the oven when the weather outside is more suited for lobsters ready to go into the boiling pot.

In fact, I’m not one for cooking at all except if it’s something like BLTs, which we’re having tonight with some fresh tomatoes from the garden.

Another option when it’s too hot for the oven is the slow cooker. Here’s one such recipe from a friend of mine, Nancy Carriere of Plymouth, Minn. It’s one of those dishes that always looks so good at Chinese buffets. I might just have to try it tomorrow night, using pheasant instead of chicken and served with a side of fresh broccoli.

Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken
1½ pound boneless/skinless chicken breasts
½ cup honey
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons dried onion
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon oil
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 Tablespoons water
Sesame seeds
Put chicken into slow cooker pot. Combine honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup, oil and garlic. Pour over chicken. Cook on low for 3 to 4 hours or on high 1½ to 2½ hours, or just until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from slow cooker, leave sauce. Dissolve 2 teaspoons of cornstarch in 3 tablespoons of water and pour into slow cooker. Stir to combine with sauce. Replace lid and cook sauce on high for 10 more minutes or until slightly thickened. Cut chicken into bite size-pieces and return to slow cooker. Simmer on low or serve. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve over rice.

Italian Style Goulash

The type of goulash that originated in Eastern European countries such as Hungary bear little resemblance to the kind a person would find in American kitchens. About the only similarities are that they both contain paprika and beef.

greatgoulashAmerican goulash is more like a casserole or hotdish, while versions that originated in Hungary are more like a stew or soup.

I’ve tried my hand at a Hungarian goulash a few times. My favorite recipe is one that former co-worker Brad Schlossman shared with me several years ago. He said it was his Grandman Jennie Nartnik’s recipe and was one of his favorites. (Jennie was of Slovenian descent.)

Here’s another goulash recipe I came across recently that appears to have its roots in Italy. It contains tomatoes, garlic, Parmesan cheese and other things that one might find in a hearty pasta dish from the country located on the Mediterranean.

Italian Style Goulash
Grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
2 cups cooked pasta of your choice
1 6-ounce can mushrooms, drained
1 15-ounce can kidney beans
1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 large onions
2 green peppers, cut up
1½ pounds ground beef or 1½ pounds turkey
¼ cup bacon
Fry bacon and cut into bite-size pieces. Set aside. Brown ground beef/turkey, onions, and green peppers in a large skillet. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans, mushrooms, Italian Seasoning, and garlic. Cover and cook at medium heat for 15 minutes. Stir in bacon and cooked macaroni. Place in lightly greased 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Crunchy Honey Garlic Pork Chops

Summertime is conducive to grilling, but people shouldn’t forget about their stove and oven just because all of their friends are cooking outdoors.

choppersPork chops are one of those foods that are equally good cooked indoors or outdoors. But if you’re looking for the quickest way, the friendly confines of your kitchen is the place to be.

Here’s a pork chop recipe that a friend recently posted on Facebook that looks awfully good to me. It has some sweetness (honey and brown sugar) as well as a little snap (cayenne pepper).

Crunchy Honey Garlic Pork Chops

6 to 9 pork chops (not too thick, you can use boneless pork loin)
2 eggs
4 tablespoons water
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Canola or vegetable oil for frying chops
1½ cups honey
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon ginger
Dash of cayenne pepper (to your taste)
½ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons butter
Whisk the eggs and 4 tablespoons water together in a shallow dish. Mix the flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in another shallow dish. Dip the chops in the flour, then over into the egg. Then back over into the flour mixture once again.
Be sure to get plenty of flour on in this last coating, then shake them a little and place in a pan with about a half inch of oil. Be sure the oil is hot, but not too hot or the chops will cook too fast. You need to get it good and hot and then turn to about medium.
Cook for about 6 minutes on each side. Try not to turn more than twice or your breading will come off.
Remove from the pan to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Saute the garlic a little in the butter. Add the honey, soy sauce, brown sugar, cayenne, and ginger. Bring to a boil then reduce to low and simmer for about 5 minutes. Watch this carefully because it will foam and might boil over.
Pour ½ of the glaze over the pork chops. Flip them over and pour the other ½ over the other side. Place uncovered in a preheated 350 degree-oven for about 20 to 25 minutes. This sets the glaze and finishes them to be sure they are cooked through.

Skillet Vegetable Medley

Skillet meals are quick and easy and are perfect for on-the-go families. And fresh garden vegetables can’t be beat for this type of dish.

vegskilletRatatouille comes to mind when many people think of something like this. Ratatouille is usually served as a side dish, but like other vegetable skillet dish also may be served as a meal on its own, accompanied by pasta, rice or bread.

We recently had a tasty meal of fresh veggies from the garden that I prepared in our large cast-iron skillet. It contained tomatoes, peppers, onions, cabbage, Swiss chard, spinach, zucchini and okra as well as a couple of slices of side pork, a little garlic and some Mediterranean seasoning salt.

The meal, which came together in less than a half-hour, was delicious.

Skillet Vegetable Medley
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 slices side pork, diced
12 small tomatoes, skinned removed
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 medium zucchini, sliced
6 to 8 small okra, sliced
½ cup cabbage, chopped
2 cups Swiss chard, chopped
2 cup spinach, chopped
½ bell pepper, chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper, diced (optional)
1 tablespoon Mediterranean seasoning salt
Pepper to taste
Saute side pork with onion, garlic and celery. Add remaining ingredients and simmer to ½ to 1 hour.
Yield: Serves 2 to 4.