Monday, May 30, 2011

Nikki Joe's Lasagna

I recently had a very good friend in town.  She was my High school sweetheart and after 12 years plus we have remained in contact and been there for each other.  It is a complicated relationship that most people don't understand.  It is hard to find friends who will drop the world for you.  Who will tell you that your messing up, and will be there to help pick up the pieces instead of saying "I told you so." 

We had both been in a real hard place in our lives and decided the if there was ever a time to see each other it was now.  No need to go into detail but we have both been dealing with lots of change and emotional struggles.  Her visit was the fresh breath of life I was in need of.  I tend to live in my head WAY to much.  And she was friend enough to point it out.

One of my favorite memories of our time together was the day I made her dinner.  We were young and it was a first for the both of us.  She had never been cooked for and I had never cooked for someone special.  She wanted a lasagna which was perfect because my friend Leo had just showed me how he made his family's sauce.  His family was Italian and took lots of pride in their recipes.

Nikki Joe's Lasagna

Here is what you'll need:

1/2 pound vine ripened tomato
1/2 can fire roasted tomatoes
1/2 can tomato sauce
1 small can tomato paste
2 links spicy Italian sausage
fresh grated garlic to taste
sea salt to taste
red peeper flake to taste
1 onion finely diced
lasagna pasta
Parmesan cheese to taste
mozzarella cheese to taste
ricotta cheese to taste

Brown your Italian sausage.  I removed the casing and browned mine to make a meat sauce.  You can add the browned whole sausage and remove it at the end of cooking if you want the flavor but not the meat its self. Use a food processor to liquefy tomatoes and the 1/2 can of fire roasted tomatoes.  Add all the remaining ingredients except for the pasta and simmer for at least two hours.  Be sure to taste as it cooks and adjust the seasoning to meet your needs.  It is a recipe not a code of law, make it your own and have fun.

I found a no boil lasagna noodle and it was fantabulous!!!  It really made the whole thing quite easy. 

When your sauce is done use a small amount of olive oil to grease a 6x9 baking dish.  Add a small amount of sauce and then start to layer your lasagna.  I did ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella and sauce and did three layers.  Top with cheese and bake at 375 for about an hour.  The sauce should be bubbling nicely and the cheese will start to brown.

I served it with Ramsay's baby carrots and an Italian veggie medley of squash and zucchini. Very simple yet impressive.  The time spent cooking says you care and what girl doesn't like a man who will cook for her?  When was the last time you made a candle lit dinner for her???

A true friend is there for you
A friend "says" they are there for you
A true friend drops the world when you call
A friend "misses" your call
A true friend lends a shoulder to cry on, but will let you know when you are wrong
A friend provides a judgmental shoulder and says "you can do no wrong"
A true friend deals with the change in your life
A friend ignores the change in your life
A true friend will be there for all the rough years
A friend is only there for the good years
A true friend will be there at the end because they were there from the start
A friend will just let it end regardless of the start

What kind of friend are you????

Nikki Joe I am a true friend and feel you are one too :)
I wish you much joy, love, and compassion in life!

Love Food, Live Life! 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wichita Falls Fourth Annual Cajun Festival

The Fourth Annual Wichita Falls Cajun Festival was a few weeks ago!  I had company in town from California so my life has been like a whirl wind this month. Sorry it took so long to get this posted but better late than never!

I remember last year I was still new at work and did not want to ask for a day off so I missed the Cajun Fest.  This year as I mentioned I had a visitor coming into town and needed to make as much $$$ as possible, and as a server that meant putting in more floor time.  I was able to go and check it out before work though. 

The Festival also featured a car show.  Locals showed up with their best rides, polished and gleaming.  They popped open the hoods and the chrome was blinding.  The pride these people have is very obvious.  I believe the pride is well placed.  In the day and age of computerized engines they are preserving a major piece of American history.  I'm a Ford Fan so these were my favorite two...

As cool as that was I was here for another reason.  The Food! :-0  The first thing that hits you is the smell.  I was there early so I was able to take it all in.  Vendors were hard at work, an army of foodies preparing to wage the culinary war of outdoor service.  If you have any experience with this then you know how easy something can go wrong and how much more difficult it can be to fix the problem.  But that is what makes it fun and exciting.
The first thing on my list was Alligator.  I have been wanting to taste Alligator for quite some time now.  I had been watching Swamp People on the History channel and they made it sound so good.  I grabbed and order and took a seat at one of several super long picnic tables.  They had several Louisiana style hot sauce brands to choose from set out on the tables.  My favorite was Fiery Flame Louisiana Hot Sauce.  The Gator was battered in cornmeal and deep fried.  The texture was a cross between pork and chicken and the flavor to me was somewhat the same combo.  I was surprised that there was no fishy flavor at all.  I was admittedly nervous but I wolfed those delightful tid bits down!!!

The next on my list was Gumbo.  I loved it.  It had a very earthy and hearty flavor.  Not to mention it wanted to bite back with a spicy kick. 

Next was the Craw fish Etouffee.  I am very picky when it comes to seafood so I was leery going in.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Etouffee is a french style of cooking that smothers the food in a thick roux.  Much like a gravy and served over white rice the flavors and richness of the dish were balanced well.  Of course it was spicy as well, a plus for me!

Last on my list was the most intimidating food I have eaten in a long while.  Boiled Craw fish.  I grew up playing with these things.  They were the scum of the creek as far as we were concerned.  Boy was I missing out!  As I sat down and looked my Craw fish in the eye, yea I looked him in the eye, I thought what have I gotten myself into?  They are scary looking.  You cannot deny it!  They are so good though.  It's almost like eating mini lobsters.  The meat is slightly sweet and there is a very light fish flavor.  The seasoning they used to boil them in was superb and had me licking my fingers.

There was also a Gumbo Cook Off.  I missed it :-(  I also missed the sampling.  I was there too early and had to leave before they were in full swing.  I was able to talk to a few of the teams and they ranged from four year veterans to first year newbies. 

The guy with the big beads won last years cook off.  I was not able to find out who won this year though.

There was also a line up of live music I was able to see the fist set which was Matt Castille.  I love live music so I enjoyed it.  So did these kids who danced through his whole set!
 Powered largely by volunteers it is truly a local event.  I hope to be a part of it next year and wish to give thanks to all those who put time, effort, and compassion into this years Cajun Festival!  Thanks Wichita Falls!  I will see you next year! 

Love Food, Live Life!


Monday, May 9, 2011

Alabama White Sauce Grilled Chicken

The call has been heard and the itch has been felt.  I have set out to add more original recipes to my repertoire.  The creative bug has got me good!  Endless combinations of flavors and techniques to choose from and at my disposal.  It will be a learning process to be sure.

My first original was the Spring Spinach Salad.  That one was fun and prefect for the weather we have been having here in Wichita Falls.  Keeping with the seasonal theme, I wanted to do some grilled chicken.  I knew right away the recipe I was going to use.  My Aunt Janet used to make the best grilled chicken with an Alabama White Sauce.  I found some chipotle mayonnaise so I did two versions of the sauce.  I am aware that this is not "Original", I am sure it has been done before.  For me it is a Family recipe I adapted to my own taste. 

serve's about eight
Here's What You'll Need:

1 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cups apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
2teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablesoons onion soup mix


1 cup chipotle mayonnaise
2/3 cups apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Tony Chachere's creole seasoning
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons onion soup mix

Just add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix.  Let set for a couple hours if you have the time.  Get your chicken grilling and apply sauce at the end.  I grilled some corn with mine.  Just put the cob on the grill, it adds that smoky flavor that I love.  I also use Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning on my corn instead of salt and pepper.

I thought it was going to be a nice day to grill but a storm rolled in...
I was not going to give up though.  I had been daydreaming about this all day long.  

 The storm pressed on, but so did I!  The rain began to fall heavily, beating a steady rythm on the ground.  Lightning flashed and thunder crashed!  Hail began to pummel me just when I thought the worst had passed.  The sun had peeked through the clouds leading me to believe it would soon be over.  No!  The sun had merely peeked through the curtain of clouds for some comic relief!

 When all was said and done, I was victorious!  I had a great meal.  The Alabama Sauce is tangy but the act of cooking it mellows the vinegar.  The chipotle version was my favorite, as I am fond of spicy foods.  If you are looking for something new to try this grilling season, give it a try.  It was a family favorite when I was growing up and am happy to share it with you.  If you try it let me know what you think.  Until next time...

Love Food, Live Life!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pride of Texas Carnival

The pride of Texas Carnival was in town a week or so ago!  Now growing up in very rural areas for the greater part of my childhood I became fond of carnivals.  There was no chance of making it to a theme park from New Pine Creek Oregon!  So needless to say it was an alternative, not comparable but an alternative none the less.

As an adrenaline junkie I enjoy roller coasters and the like but I am getting to old for carnival rides.  They just spin in every direction possible and I get nauseous just watching them.  In fact the fist thing I saw as I was walking up was some poor kid puking his guts out over a trash can!  Ahhhh the memories of the trash cans I've leaned over, though those where mainly in Tijuana but that is a story for some other time!

I LOVE street food.  I wonder why in the western half of America it is not so popular?  I enjoyed going Mexico and eating at the taco stands.  They had the best bacon wrapped hot dogs at some of the stands.  When I visited Guadalajara we ate at the street food stands as often as at the house if not more.  Who doesn't have a favorite "Fair" food?  You know when the County Fair rolls into town one of your first thoughts is about that fried something or other you crave all year!

Well I headed out to The Pride of Texas Carnival to see what street grub I could muster up.  It was smaller than I had anticipated.  It was held in the parking lot of The MPEC, the local event center.  It did have my favorite ride though, "The Zipper".

I made my way through the carnival checking all the vendor's for the most unique item I could find.  It was and easy search.  All but one of the vendors,"The Big Easy", sold hot dogs, corn dogs, french fries, and popcorn.  The Big Easy offered a New Orleans Dog.  It was a sausage with grilled onions and peppers with Tony Chachere's creole seasoning, bacon bits, and mustard.  It was delicious!  It was spicy and a refreshing take on one of my favorite street foods.  I tend to like my food spicy so I was very pleased.

My Mom had just a plain New Orleans Dog.  Boring.  She said she wasn't feeling well.  Well that did not stop her from trying my funnel cake more than once!  The funnel cake is a fair/carnival staple.  It was also long overdue for me to have one!

I had a good time and it was cheap at 20$ for a day pass for all the rides.  Next time they roll into town make sure to hit them up for a good family outing.  And don't forget to stop by The Big Easy for a good dog!

Love Food, Live Life!