Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

I’ve made jambalaya, and I guess I assumed I had made gumbo…but nope. This was a first. I don’t even know if I’ve eaten it before. So, this is not the place to come for confirming authenticity. In fact, I’m pretty sure this should be spicy. I omitted the cayenne pepper because we are weaklings here. I also added more vegetables because I wanted it to be more of a one-pot meal (1 bell pepper and 2 ribs of celery to serve 6?). I also could barely find kielbasa at my local grocery store, so andouille was out of the question. We enjoyed this, and I liked the mix of chicken with sausage.

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Overnight Yeasted Waffles

Last year, my friends and I went to a big Mom/Baby Halloween party. This year, most of us weren’t attending the party because it was so crazy last year (lots of people, overheating babies in their costumes, meltdowns galore…). As it turned out, the Fudgelet ended up taking an epic nap (for him) that day, so we would have missed most of it anyway. Besides, K’s work had a trick-or-treating event the same afternoon, so we went to that one instead. (Had to show off the matching family costumes, after all.)

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Cream Cheese Brownies

I have been making cream cheese brownies for a long time, but never the same recipe. I have tried many different ones trying to get what I feel is the ideal one. I don’t know if this one is “it” yet…it was good, but I think I would want to make it again slightly differently, or at least remain open to new recipes. I feel like this type of brownie should be on the thinner side. You want the usual chocolatiness, but you also want a decent ratio of the cream cheese to the chocolate. This recipe came close, but maybe using a bit less in the base, or changing the amounts a bit to use a larger pan (for a thinner base)? Like I said, I’m not sure. I did like some of the technique, and the suggestion of letting the brownies sit at room temperature before you want to eat them (obviously you need to keep them for long periods in the refrigerator due to the cream cheese). And if you’re impatient, or working on limited snacking time with a toddler who still doesn’t sleep long stretches? (ahem) You can totally microwave the brownies for 10-20 seconds to get the freshly baked taste, without it being too melty.

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French Onion, Bacon, and Mozzarella Tart

For me, having a baby means trying to find the right balance of being “me” and being “Mommy.” Obviously “me” = “Mommy” in many contexts, and I also have very little non-“Mommy” time to be just “me.” My husband K tries to help, and offers to take the Fudgelet at different points on the weekends. Usually this gets me a shower without a baby watching me (only weird when he gets older–haha) and a workout (mostly) free from worrying about the Fudgelet waking from his nap early. As far as my old hobbies, like reading books, watching tv, listening to music, etc….these things seem less important, and I have put almost all of those on hold. A few hobbies I have kept (for now), and these include exercising and cooking. Both are necessary. I have exercised regularly for over ten years now, and it has definitely helped with my stress and mental health. Cooking is also necessary since we need food to survive.

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Now, I could just make really basic meals. I could also make the same old food over and over. Nothing wrong with those options, but for me, cooking gives me a chance to do something I loved before I created the Fudgelet. K sometimes thinks I should tone things down, but it makes me feel more “me” by cooking fancier dishes on occasion. This was one of those occasions. Just like with the cake, this was something I made fairly early on. In fact, you can see how long ago by checking out this picture I took while making this tart:

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So small! And now he won’t sleep in my baby-carrier unless I cover up his head so he can’t see as well. Sigh. Anyway, I still decided to streamline this dish for cooking. Being a mom to an infant gives me a few naps during the day to get things done. I was able to use one nap to prep the tart shell and another nap to prep the filling. When it was dinner time, it was easy to throw it together. Obviously you could also do it all at once, but not everyone has that luxury, so I give you some options below.

One step that is not optional is how you cut the onions. The directions explicitly stated to slice the onions this way:

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Before cutting crosswise like you see below. Supposedly this is key to how they cook, with the textures and all for the tart. I didn’t try the other way because I chose to believe them. 🙂

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Directions for French Onion, Bacon, and Mozzarella Tart

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book 

Crust

  • 1.25 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 Tablespoons butter, cut into ½-inch pieces and chilled
  • Ice water

Spray a 9-inch tart pan with baking spray, then set aside. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Scatter butter on top of the mixture, then pulse until it looks like coarse sand (about 15 pulses).

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Add 2 Tablespoons ice water (and more if necessary), pulsing until large clumps form and no powdery bits remain.

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Pat the dough into the pan, starting in the middle, and working out to the edges.

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Put plastic wrap on top, then flatten and smooth the dough. Freeze it for 30 minutes.

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Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the tart on a baking sheet. Remove the plastic wrap and place a sheet of aluminum foil on top (sprayed with baking spray), pressing against the dough. Fill with pie weights and bake for about 30 minutes.

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The dough should just start to brown. Remove the foil and pie weights, then bake for 10 more minutes. Set it aside. You can cover it and chill it for a few hours if necessary before continuing.

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Filling

  • 4 slices bacon, cut into ¼ inch pieces
  • 1.5 pounds onions (not sweet onions), halved through the root end and cut crosswise into ¼-inch slices
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup half-and-half
  • Ground pepper

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp.

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Remove from the pan.

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Leave 2 Tablespoons bacon fat in the pan. Add the onions, salt, and thyme.

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Cover and cook until the onions release liquid and start to wilt (about 10 minutes). Reduce heat to low and cook with the lid slightly ajar until the onions are very soft and lightly brown (about 20 minutes). Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. You can chill them at this point and continue the remaining steps when ready to eat.

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Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, and some pepper. Add the onions.

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Pour into the tart shell, then sprinkle the bacon and mozzarella evenly over the top.

Bake the tart until the center feels firm to the touch (about 25-35 minutes). Let cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the tart pan.

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Directions for French Onion, Bacon, and Mozzarella Tart (without pictures)

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book 

Crust

  • 1.25 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 Tablespoons butter, cut into ½-inch pieces and chilled
  • Ice water

Spray a 9-inch tart pan with baking spray, then set aside. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Scatter butter on top of the mixture, then pulse until it looks like coarse sand (about 15 pulses). Add 2 Tablespoons ice water (and more if necessary), pulsing until large clumps form and no powdery bits remain. Pat the dough into the pan, starting in the middle, and working out to the edges. Put plastic wrap on top, then flatten and smooth the dough. Freeze it for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the tart on a baking sheet. Remove the plastic wrap and place a sheet of aluminum foil on top (sprayed with baking spray), pressing against the dough. Fill with pie weights and bake for about 30 minutes. The dough should just start to brown. Remove the foil and pie weights, then bake for 10 more minutes. Set it aside. You can cover it and chill it for a few hours if necessary before continuing.

Filling

  • 4 slices bacon, cut into ¼ inch pieces
  • 1.5 pounds onions (not sweet onions), halved through the root end and cut crosswise into ¼-inch slices
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup half-and-half
  • Ground pepper

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Remove from the pan. Leave 2 Tablespoons bacon fat in the pan. Add the onions, salt, and thyme. Cover and cook until the onions release liquid and start to wilt (about 10 minutes). Reduce heat to low and cook with the lid slightly ajar until the onions are very soft and lightly brown (about 20 minutes). Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. You can chill them at this point and continue the remaining steps when ready to eat.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, and some pepper. Add the onions. Pour into the tart shell, then sprinkle the bacon and mozzarella evenly over the top.

Bake the tart until the center feels firm to the touch (about 25-35 minutes). Let cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the tart pan.

Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies

I make lots of cookies. In fact, I have made tons of cookies in the last couple months. To the point that K commented on it. I apologized that I can’t make some of my fancier desserts anymore. Or at least at the moment. Or so I thought…but then I made a cake and all was right with my baking world again. 🙂 But, there is nothing wrong with cookies. I figure it helps to have a few dozen good cookie recipes by the time the Fudgelet reaches elementary school and bake sales are all the rage. I want to be that mom with the awesome desserts. The one the other moms are slightly jealous of, but only slightly because they realize I am definitely not the coolest mom. I am aiming for sweetest, I suppose. Even in school, I was never the coolest. Back in Maryland, many of my students thought I used to be a cheerleader. I made sure to tell them that I was far too into my studies to have had time to be popular. I was the orchestra/drama/math/writing/bookworm nerd. And I am quite proud of it!

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Molasses Spice Cookies

My dear friend Lisa left for New York City to explore the culinary worlds out there. We knew for a while, but it didn’t quite hit home until a few days before she left. We made different plans for last get-togethers: a potluck at her house, a Sunday brunch, and finally a dinner at one of her favorite places. The dinner was a group event with many of her former coworkers from two jobs ago. That’s the group my husband falls into, and how we first met! Well, I made a series of collages for her to remember us. I picked out the pictures I wanted to use, had K print them, then I cut them and layed them out. As I did the final step I really started crying. She asked me if it was hard leaving different friends when I moved here from Maryland, and I said that it was different. Basically, I was just one big sad mess because I was leaving all of my friends at once. There wasn’t time to think about each friend individually and what I would miss for each one. (That would have been really hard, so I’m glad my brain didn’t process that fully.) Of course, there was also the whole “I chose to come here for my husband” idea. That helped!

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Pizza with Ricotta and Bacon or Mushrooms and Sausage

Are you a pizza lover? We love pizza. It was our first date, after all! So, it is even a reason for romance with us to celebrate anniversaries. This is a great recipe for a thinner crust, although it is not the thinnest crust I have ever had. It is crunchy and suitable for many toppings. You can double the recipe, but generally one pizza is enough for us, and we still have leftovers.

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For pizza sauce, I generally just use the food processor and pulse together a jar of tomatoes with some seasoning (garlic powder, red pepper flakes, basil, etc.). Sometimes I keep the chunks. To thicken the sauce, cooking it on low in a saucepan for about 5-10 minutes helps. You can also stir in some tomato paste for extra flavor. I linked to a tomato sauce recipe I use, but you can feel free to use store-bought or make something else.

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