My Cake Decorating Gallery

Sunday, March 30, 2014

My First Gumbo

This was my first time making gumbo, last September. I was really excited to try it - I am not sure if I've had it before so I'm obviously not a gumbo expert, BUT, I kept getting okra from my CSA and I wanted to put the fresh farm okra to good use. This is a great recipe to do that!

I found out that there is pretty much one recipe for gumbo for every family from Louisiana, so I sifted through tons of recipes online. The gumbo purists seem to agree that there are no tomatoes in gumbo and that you must use file powder (ground sassafras leaves), so I decided to give both of those a "go." I used tidbits from recipes here and there and was really happy with the results overall. I might try it with tomatoes sometime, and definitely will use more creole seasoning to kick it up! I used more oil vs flour than listed below, but it was too oily - I ended up spooning some extra oil (also probably from the sausages) off the top of the soup towards the end of cooking. I adjusted the amount of flour to 1 cup below, which should help, I think.

Kitchen Bliss Gumbo
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup flour
1 large onion
4 stalks celery
1 large or 2 small green bell peppers
5 cloves garlic
1.5 large cartons of chicken stock (2 full cartons is probably fine)
4 bay leaves
1 lb andouille style sausage, such as Dearborn brand, cut lengthways and then sliced
2 - 3 Tablespoons creole seasoning, such as Tony Chachere's
1 Tablespoon cajun seasoning (I found one without salt, just spices - McCormick brand)
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
3-4 teaspoons file powder
2 cups sliced okra
1 rotisserie or whole cooked chicken, shredded
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails cut off
1/2 bunch green onions

rice, for serving

Cook the vegetable oil and flour in the bottom of a heavy sauce pot to make a roux:  slowly whisking pretty much constantly (every time I left it, I rushed back to find little bits but the little bits kind of blended in later so it was OK), over medium low heat until mahogany in color. This takes 20 min or so. Meanwhile, in a food processor, coarsely chop onions, celery, garlic, green bell peppers. Scrape into roux and start adding other ingredients: chicken stock, sausage, bay leaves, creole and cajun seasoning, thyme.

Bring to a boil and then turn down and simmer for 30 or 40 minutes. Add shredded chicken, file powder, and sliced okra. Simmer for 20-30 minutes more, adjust for seasonings - add more creole, cajun, file, or salt and pepper to taste. I noticed some extra oil on top at this point, perhaps from my sausages, so I skimmed it off the top and it was fine.

When ready to serve, put shrimp into simmering gumbo and then turn it off and the residual heat will cook the shrimp within a few minutes. Serve in a large pot and ladle over rice and top with chopped green onions, more file powder or creole/cajun seasoning to taste.

I really enjoyed this and we all had seconds. I liked mine with a little more cajun/hot seasonings. We had a bunch of leftovers and I scraped the leftover rice into the gumbo and it really thickened up nicely and made great leftovers. I think this is one of those recipes that you can adjust and make it to your family's liking, I hope you try gumbo soon and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Kitchen Bliss Favorite: Delicious Shortbread Cutout Cookies

I am often looking for simple recipes with natural ingredients and no nuts so that I can feel good about sending in a home baked treat with my young children to school. For Son #1's birthday, I know he doesn't care for cake and besides his obligatory birthday cake and ice cream for his party, which he didn't touch, I wanted to make him something he loves - cookies. I ordered some cute dinosaur cookie cutters from Amazon and it matched a few other dino-themed things I had going on for the party. I quickly made up a basic icing out of powder sugar and milk with some fun colors and sent a big batch of iced dinosaur cut outs for his class in pre-school and served the rest at the party. These cookies were soo good. I liked them way better than cake and ice cream, too. You could spend a lot more time decorating them than I did (I spared you the close up photo of the sloppy dino decor), and they were a bit delicate but dinosaur cookies have a lot of small body parts sticking out which easily break off. The taste and quality were worth it. I would possibly roll them out thicker so they would hold up better next time, like I did with the hearts below.

When Valentine's Day rolled around, I wanted to make this recipe again and create simple cut out hearts for Son #2's potluck lunch at school. Since the kids are only 1 year old, just simple sprinkles on top were a fitting decoration and made this a doable recipe on a busy weeknight.

I found this recipe by googling "bakery style cut out cookies" and eventually finding a recommendation to this shortbread Joy of Baking recipe. I love it, I will definitely only use this recipe for cut out cookies going forward.

See Recipe Below, originally from: Joy of Baking

Shortbread Cookies:

2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
1 cup (2 sticks) (226 grams) unsaltedbutter, room temperature
1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar
1 teaspoon (4 grams) pure vanilla extract

In a separate bowl whisk the flour with the salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes).  Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated.  Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill the dough for at least an hour or until firm.  (I found the less it chilled, the easier to roll and cut - and then just make sure to chill it again after cutting out shapes, before baking - shapes held up great!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) with the rack in the middle of the oven.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into a 1/4 inch (.6 cm) thick circle.  Cut into rounds or other shapes using a lightly floured cookie cutter.  Place on the prepared baking sheets and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. (This will firm up the dough so the cookies will maintain their shape when baked.) Bake for 8 - 10 minutes, or until cookies are very lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.