IMG_6175I found this iron dragon at an estate sale.  Supposedly it was a gift from an ambassador, although I suspect it may have been the ambassador of Nowhereville.  It’s so fierce, isn’t it? IMG_6176The dragon sits atop a fence in my backyard, and it’s so intimidating that even the birds won’t poop on it, and they pretty much poop on everything.

It’s the end of yet another school year, and I have to admit, this one was a tough one.  If anyone thinks raising kids gets easier as they get older, I have news for you — it does not.  Sure, you don’t have to tote around all that stuff and deal with all the equipment (diapers, stroller, swing, breast pump, high chair, monitor, blankies, binkies, tilt-a-whirls, etc.).  But the issues you may find yourself confronted with as your kids enter their teen years become so much more important and life-affecting than they didn’t get invited to so-and-so’s birthday party.  The issues that can go along with teenagers are the ones that keep you up at night, make you wonder if you’ve been a good parent, require you to take blood pressure medicine, and cause gray hairs to multiply exponentially.  But gosh, I love those kids.

Anyway, like every May, I am draggin’ (groan).  It’s hot, I’m tired, and keeping my son focused on studying for finals can be a job in and of itself.  Picking up my daughter and her dorm room full of stuff (she HAD to live on the third floor) in 90 degree heat and 90% humidity was exhausting, although we are thrilled to have her back home for the summer.  When it comes to cooking dinner, I am riding on fumes.  Inspired by my awesome dragon, I dragged my draggin’ butt in the kitchen and made Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli, a family favorite that doesn’t take a lot of time or effort.  I’ve sent it as part of a compassion meal on several occasions, and it’s always well-received.  We like to make it with cavatappi or rotini, but you can use any pasta you like.  Here’s to the end of the school year, and may the dragon of life only roast your hot dogs and never burn your buns.

Recipe type: Pasta
  • 1 lb. cavatappi or rotini
  • 2 heads broccoli, cut into florets
  • 2-3 links Italian sausage, hot or sweet
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook according to package directions until just al dente. Add broccoli florets to pot and cook for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes longer, until broccoli is bright green and begins to soften. Drain pasta and broccoli well in a colander, then transfer to a large bowl.
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Remove sausage from casings and cook until browned, breaking up with a spoon. Remove sausage to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Add sausage to pasta.
  3. Add olive oil to pasta and stir to combine all ingredients. Stir in Parmesan cheese, reserving 2 tablespoons to sprinkle on top. Add crushed red pepper as desired, and season to taste with salt and pepper, stirring to combine. Sprinkle with reserved Parmesan cheese and serve.



Slap happy over cavatappi


Rotini works too, but it’s not as much fun to say as cavatappi


My son’s school is having a carnival this weekend, and all of the funds raised go towards the scholarship fund, which helps out about 100 students annually.  One of the booths is a frozen casserole booth — frozen meals are donated and sold for $25.  What’s that?  An opportunity to cook?  Well sign me up!

With Fat Tuesday just a few days away, I thought something Cajun might be popular.  (It’s really embarassing to have your item not sell, and wind up buying it yourself to spare yourself the shame.)  (UPDATE:  My dish went quickly, and I didn’t have to buy it myself.)  The recipe is slightly adapted from this one from Town Hall restaurant in San Francisco (yes, I know, it’s not in Louisiana).  I’ve never made jambalaya before, and I have to say, it was a lot of work. Not hard, but definitely time-consuming.  And definitely tasty.  This version has a lot of spice, but the heat was not overwhelming.  I hope whoever buys it (and I’m hoping it’s not me) will think it was as delicious as I did.

Recipe type: Main Course
For the spice mix:
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground mustard
  • Pinch of celery salt
For the jambalaya:
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large onion, medium dice
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, medium dice
  • 4 ounces smoked ham, medium dice
  • 1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and medium dice
  • 3 celery stalks, medium dice
  • 1 jalapeno, cored, seed, and minced
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 14.5-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced, for optional garnish
  1. To prepare spice mix, place all of the ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine; set aside. Preheat oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven (need to have enough room for a large stockpot).
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed, ovenproof, 7-quart stockpot over medium-high heat. Add half of the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, about 5-6 minutes. Remove to a medium bowl and brown the remaining chicken. Remove to bowl and set aside.
  3. Add the butter and melt over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions just begin to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the sausage, ham, and half of the reserved spice mix. Stir to coat everything with the spice mix and cook, scraping the bottom of the pot occasionally, until the meat is browned and the onions are very tender, about 10 minutes. Add the bell peppers, celery, jalapeño, garlic, salt, and remaining spice mix. Cook, scraping the bottom of the pot occasionally, until the bell peppers have softened, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Stir to combine and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the rice, broth, and bay leaves, and stir to combine. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, transfer to oven, and bake until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, about 30 minutes. Remove the pot to a wire rack and let it sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Stir to evenly combine the jambalaya. Taste, and season with salt as needed. Just before serving, sprinkle with scallions, if using, and serve.


Ready for the oven (do you like the bay leaf sharks?) IMG_3640

 Laissez les bons temps rouler!