What’s Cooking? Okra Gumbo

Okra Gumbo

Gumbo is Cajun comfort food that is usually cooked during the cooler days of fall and winter, or in our family, whenever there is a forecast for stormy weather.  On my last post, I said that since the forecast here did not show any signs of cooler weather any time soon, I was going to turn the thermostat colder and make okra gumbo.   That is what I did.  However, I cooked it not only because it had been months since the last time I ate gumbo, but also because of the comfort it would bring after hearing about the stormy forecast for our area.  Many parts of Louisiana received record breaking rain.  Our area received over 22 inches of rain.  I thank God our home was spared from flooding and I ask you to please pray for all those in the flood damaged areas.
Flood
As the first raindrops began to fall, I placed my enamel coated cast iron pot on the stove, turned the heat to high, and drizzled olive oil into the bottom of the pot.  I added 12 ounces of smoked andouille sausage that I had cut into ¼ inch slices.  I allowed this to brown lightly and then removed them from the pot.  Then I added 2 large boneless chicken breast that I had cut into small cubes and seasoned with 1 teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon garlic powder and ¼ teaspoon of red pepper.  When the chicken was browned and thoroughly cooked, I removed it from the pot also.

Next, I added 2 cups of onion, 1 ½  cups of celery, ¾ cup of bell peppers and ¾ cup of banana peppers  (you can use 1 ½ cups of bell peppers if you don’t have banana peppers).  The combination of chopped onions, celery, and bell peppers is known as the Cajun Trinity. You can use fresh ingredients, however mine came from my freezer.  The bell peppers, celery, and some of the onions were grown in my garden.  Over the next few posts I will bring you back into the garden to show you how I have been harvesting and freezing my peppers and the recipes I use them in.

I cooked the veggies until they became soft.  I added ¼ cup of water, as needed, to keep the veggies from sticking and burning.  Once the veggies were softened, I added the 4 cups of smothered okra from my quart bag and 7 cups of water.  My okra was defrosted, however you can add it in frozen.  If you add it frozen, it will add to your cooking time.

Once the gumbo gets to a soft boil, I reduce the heat to medium/low and add in the chicken, sausage, and salt and pepper to taste.  I also like to add 1 tablespoon of gumbo file at this time, although some Cajun cooks only add it to the finished gumbo.

chicken in gumbo

I let my gumbo cook for an hour or more, enjoying the comforting aroma that fills my home.  Then I filled a bowl with the gumbo, added a large spoonful of rice and a sprinkle of gumbo file on top.

gumbo in bowl

When finished, I peeked out the kitchen door, to my now flooded walkway of my garden and was thankful that I had raised beds in my garden.

–Penny

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Our Favorite Summer Snack

The one plant we have always been successful with is basil.  We love it and find it easy to grow.  While we mostly use the basil to make pesto, or to add a few leaves to our spaghetti sauce, we also love to use fresh basil in this summer snack.

The best thing about it is that the “recipe” is that all you need to do is stack everything on a cracker.

What you’ll need:
Roma Tomatoes (regular tomatoes work too, but we prefer the milder flavor of the roma)
Fresh Mozzerella
Fresh Basil Leaves
Triscuits (other crackers can be substituted, but these are our favorites for this snack)

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1. Place as many Triscuits on a plate as you want snacks.
2. Cut the mozzarella into slices about the size of the crackers and place one piece on each cracker.
3. Cut your tomato into fairly thin slices and place one piece on each piece of mozzarella.  If it’s a small tomato, I use one slice for each Triscuit cracker.  If it’s a larger tomato, I cut each slice into halves or fourths.
4. Pick enough basil leaves from your plant, rinse, and then place each leaf on top of the mozerella slices (if the leaves are really big, tear them in half instead).

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Here’s the final product:

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Enjoy! We have used this snack as an appetizer for dinner parties during the summer too, and it’s always been a hit!

Did you try it? How was it? Anyone have another recipe that calls for basil or mozzerella? Tell me about it below in the comments. 🙂

–Brandi

What’s in the Crockpot?

Cooking Smothered Okra

I cook smothered okra each time I finish filling my gallon freezer bag with sliced okra.  (refer to this post on how to cut and freeze okra.)

My easy way to cook smothered okra is to drizzle a thin layer of olive oil into the bottom of my crock pot and add the frozen okra from the gallon bag (you can also make it using fresh okra).  Plug in the crock pot, place the cover on top and turn the setting to high.  I usually don’t season my okra.  Instead, I choose to wait until I use it in a recipe and then choose the appropriate seasonings.   I stir every half hour to keep the okra from sticking.  When the okra has reduced by about half, I turn the setting to low and allow  it to simmer for twelve to eighteen hours.  If I am going to be away for a few hours or it is time for bed, I add about half a cup of water to the okra to keep it from sticking.  You will know the okra is cooked when it is no longer stringy or slimy and usually has turned a dark green to light brown color.

When the okra is the desired color and texture, turn the crock pot off and allow the okra to cool.  Once cool, I place the smothered okra into a quart freezer bag, label it, seal it, and place it into the freezer for future recipes.

During the hot days of summer, while picking and freezing okra, I begin to look forward to “Gumbo weather” as we call the cooler fall days here in Cajun country.

Sometimes waiting for that “Gumbo weather” can take too long so we have Our Little Way of dealing with that too.  We turn the thermostat lower on the air conditioner, take the okra out the freezer and before long it’s gumbo time.   The forecast here does not show any signs of cooler weather any time soon.  So… you guessed it…. my next post will be how to make okra gumbo.

–Penny

My Young Living August Essential Reward Order

August ER Order

I became a Young Living Distributor in May of this year, and since then I’ve joined their Essential Rewards program in order to earn rewards points on all of my orders as I build up my essential oil collection.  This is the first month I receive my essential reward order since we have started the blog, so I made a video of the items I ordered this month.  It’s also my first you tube video! 🙂

August 2016 Young Living Essential Rewards Order

In case you are not able to watch the video, here’s what I ordered this month:

(1) Cedarwood Essential Oil – 15 ml
(1) Clary Sage Essential Oil – 15 ml
(1) Deep Relief Roll On – 10 ml
(1) Vetiver Essential Oil – 5 ml
(1) Thieves Household Cleaner – 64 oz

Since I met a certain PV amount, I also got these oils FREE!!!:

(1) Clarity Essential Oil – 15 ml
(1) Bergamot Vitality Essential Oil – 5 ml

Finally, since I met a certain PV amount AND my order was an essential rewards order, I also got this oil FREE!!:

(1) Lime Essential Oil – 15 ml

Can you tell that I’m excited to get free oils?!? I discuss why I ordered each product in the video.  If you are interested in essential oils or more natural products for your home (like the Thieves cleaner!), feel free to click here, email me, or comment below and I’ll give you more information about getting your own Young Living products.

–Brandi

 

What’s in the Garden?

It’s hot and humid outside – not a place I want to spend much time.  And by the look of my garden, neither do many of my plants.  One plant however is actively producing.  Okra.

Now, I don’t have a huge garden of okra, but I do have enough to supply our needs.  As you can see from the picture, I grow my veggies in rectangular beds that my husband made for me.  Keep following and when he makes my next bed I will post the DIY photos and info.

This year I planted one four foot by four foot garden bed of okra.  I planted 49 seeds.  I would guess that about 35 to 40 plants grew.  If you are wanting to pick enough okra in one day for a meal, this probably isn’t going to be enough plants.  However, this amount is working fine for us.  Everyday with a pair of scissors  in hand, I walk around the patch of okra looking for pods that are two to four inches long.  In the beginning I only found a couple a day.  Today, in less than 5 minutes, I harvested about twenty.

okra cutting plant

After gathering the okra, I rinse them under cold water and drain.  Using a sharp knife,  I cut the cap off and cut the okra into about ¼ inch slices.  I don’t throw the caps away, they go into my compost.  (That will be another post.)  I place the sliced okra into a gallon freezer bag that I keep in my freezer.  When the freezer bag is full, I cook them.

Wondering why my bag is empty?  Today’s harvest was all I needed to finish filling my bag.  So…  my next post will be about how I cooked the okra.

–Penny

Upgrade Your Garage Sale Find

Sometime during our first year or two of marriage, my husband and I became regular garage sale shoppers.  We began to recognize many of the same people each Saturday morning as we traveled from one sale to the next looking for the best deals.  At the time, we were slowly remodeling our first home and also trying to furnish it within our budget.  We don’t frequent garage sales as often these days since we now have two small children that aren’t keen to being toted around bright and early on a Saturday morning, but we still appreciate the benefit of finding a diamond in the rough at garage sales.

Some of our best finds had “good bones” but needed a facelift or some slight repair.  We weren’t afraid of a little work, and it always paid off.  In future posts, I’ll revisit some of our earlier finds as well as more recent projects.  Hopefully these posts will provide you with lots of inspiration!  So, without further ado, here’s my latest garage sale repurposing project…

I recently have become a distributor with Young Living Essential Oils.  While the use of the oils is a whole other post, I will say that once I started to collect a few oils, I began combing the internet (mostly Pinterest, Amazon, eBay) for ideas on how I could store and display them at the same time.  However, after looking for a few days, I quickly realized that most of the organizers I liked were upwards of $100.  I am currently a stay at home mom, so we live off of one income and I just couldn’t justify spending that much on a decorative organizer for my oils when I could just store them in a kitchen or bathroom cabinet.  There were cheaper options on Amazon or overstock, but they either weren’t quite my style, or they didn’t seem like they would hold up well.  Most of the organizers for sale online were actually spice racks or nail polish holders that could be used as oil organizers.  This gave me the idea to look for an old spice rack at a garage sale.  I used to see them all the time when we went to garage sales regularly, but I had never bought one because I didn’t have a use for one (or so I thought).

One Saturday a few weeks ago, I found the time to check out a garage sale in town and low and behold, a small cabinet with lots of trinkets in it was for sale for $4!!! Score!  I left the trinkets behind so they could be sold to someone that actually wanted them and bought the cabinet.  While it wasn’t exactly my style as it was, I could see the potential.  All I needed was a little bit of paint.

I was looking forward to having my oils out where I could access them for daily use, so I got started right away.  Every naptime or small amount of free time I had, I worked on the cabinet little by little.  First I roughed it up with some sandpaper.  I didn’t sand it down completely, just enough to get the paint to stick.  Then I painted one coat with a light gray paint I had a sample tub of (I hadn’t chosen that color as my final choice in a bedroom, but it would work great as a primer for this project).  Once that dried, I came back with a coat of the white paint I had used to paint our kitchen cabinets and all the trim and baseboards throughout our house.  Finally, I painted the inside back of the cabinet the light gray that I had chosen to paint our daughter’s bedroom since I loved the color.  It took me a few days to complete the project since I was working only during nap times and such, and I had to allow for drying time, but overall it didn’t take very long and it only cost $4 since I had the paint leftover from other projects around our house.

My husband hung the cabinet up for me in the kitchen and I absolutely love how it looks!  I use my oils daily, so now I have easy access to them and I think they look beautiful on the wall.  I may someday upgrade to a more expensive shelving unit, but I love that this one is personalized to my tastes.

essential oil holder on wall
Stay tuned for more before and after posts of great garage sale finds!  Do you have an awesome repurposing project that you’ve completed on an item from a garage sale? I’m always looking for new ideas, so let me know in the comments below.

–Brandi