Cajun Shrimp & Grits


Talk about a quick and easy, yet tasty dinner. I paired with a nice salad and a good Pinot Noir.

For the Grits:

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup uncooked quick-cooking or regular grits not instant
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese, about 2 ounces ( I used about 4 oz)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, about 1 ounce, plus additional for serving
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions white and green parts, plus additional for serving

For the Shrimp:

  • 2 teaspoons EVOO
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, 25 count, peeled and deveined, with tails on

Instructions 

  • In a 3 quart saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the salt, then slowly add the grits in a thin stream, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the grits thicken, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, then stir in the butter, black pepper, cheeses, and green onions.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • In a large bowl, stir together the olive oil, garlic, paprika, thyme, oregano, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Add the shrimp and toss gently to coat. Spread the shrimp in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Roast the shrimp for 5 to 6 minutes, until just pink and cooked through.
  • Serve a top the grits, sprinkled with additional Parmesan cheese and green onions.
Cajun Shrimp & Grits

Tomato Basil Soup

For the roasted tomatoes

Homemade Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

I believe the best homemade roasted tomato basil soup made with fresh basil, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, caramelized onions and optional add-ins for extra creaminess. This easy tomato basil soup recipe is full of flavor and the best way to use up garden tomatoes! You’ll never go back to the canned stuff after you try this.

Prep Time 15 minutes

Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes

Servings 4 servings

Calories 275 

Ingredients

  • For the roasted tomatoes
  • 3 pounds roma or plum tomatoes, cut in half
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper
  • For the caramelized onions: ( I did not caramelized the onions, but cooked till tender)
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • Possible additions to :
  • ½ cup packed basil leaves
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano ( I added fresh from my garden)
  • 1-2 cups water or vegetarian broth, depending on how thick you want the soup
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional add ins:
  • Light/Regular coconut milk for a creamy vegan soup
  • Whole dairy milk/heavy cream for a creamy texture
  • Parmesan cheese, for a tangy, flavor enhancing flavor
  • A tablespoon or two of butter, for richer flavor

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place halved tomatoes and garlic cloves on the baking sheet and drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Generously season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes.
  2. While the tomatoes are roasting, you can make the caramelized onions: Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to a large pot and place over medium heat. Add the onion slices and stir to coat the onions with olive oil. Cook, stirring occasionally. Check onions every 5-10 minutes until they have completely caramelized and turned golden in color. This ususally takes 20 minutes.
  3. Once tomatoes and garlic are done roasting, allow them to cool for 10 minutes, then add them to a food processor or high powered blender and blend until smooth. Next add basil and caramelized onions and blend again. Alternatively you can add the tomatoes to the large pot and use an immersion blender. It’s really just about what you have available to you.
  4. After blending, transfer back to pot, turn to medium low heat and add in oregano, vegetarian broth and salt and pepper to taste. From there you can add in any additional add-ons you want (as listed in the ingredients). Allow tomato soup to simmer 10 minutes before serving. To serve, garnish with parmesan cheese and serve with grilled cheese, if desired. Serves 4.

Recipe Notes

I do not usually strain the seeds, but you can with a fine mesh strainer if that’s what you prefer. I just used an immersion blender after I cut up the tomatoes with a baker’s knife.

Tomato Basil Soup

Potato Leek Soup

Potato Leek Soup

In the winter months, there seems nothing better than making soup, and of course then having it for lunch or dinner. It is so fast and easy. I often make a couple in one day, so we have several meals from it. I freeze what we don’t eat, so we have something I can defrost on a busier day. Right now days are not too busy with the pandemic.

A French classic, this creamy potato leek soup is quick, easy, and delicious! And always good with a nice red wine! But then I think most anything is good with a nice red wine.

Servings: 6

Prep Time: 25

Minutes

Cook Time: 40 Minutes

Total Time: 1 Hour 5 Minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large leeks, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped (about 5 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 7 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream ( I did not have any, so used 1/2 cup of sour cream)
  • Chives, finely chopped, for serving

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the leeks and garlic and cook, stirring regularly, until soft and wilted, about 10 minutes. Do not to brown.
  2. Add the potatoes, broth, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are very soft.
  3. Remove the thyme sprig and bay leaves, and purée the soup with a hand-held immersion blender until smooth, or use a standard blender to purée the soup in batches. Add the heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. If soup is too thin, simmer until thickened. If it’s too thick, add water or stock to thin it out. Garnish with fresh herbs if desired.
  1. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The soup can be frozen, without the cream, for up to 3 months. Defrost the soup in the refrigerator for 12 hours and then reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat until hot. Once heated through, add the cream and bring to a simmer before serving.

Note: I added some slice ham, so make it a bit hardier. It was wonderful.

Potato Leek Soup

Lemon Cake Roll with Candied Lemon Slices





Lemon in every bite! Lemon cake and lemon whipped cream filling make this the perfect cake roll for any occasio

INGREDIENTS

CAKE:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Lemon Juice about 1 medium or ½ large
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • Powdered sugar to aid in rolling

FILLING:

  • 1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon curd or pie filling would work too
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a jelly roll (10×15”) pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. (Use the spray with flour or actually grease and flour the foil to avoid sticking.)
  • Beat eggs at high speed for 2 minutes, until frothy and dark yellow. Beat in sugar, lemon juice, and zest.
  • Whisk together salt, baking powder, and flour. Stir into wet ingredients just until blended.
  • Spread in prepared pan. Batter will be in a very thin layer and you will need to use a wooden spoon or spatula to spread it to all the corners of the pan. Bake for 9-11 minutes (mine took 10).
  • While the cake is baking, set a clean kitchen towel out on a large work surface. Sprinkle liberally with powdered sugar (about ¼ cup). As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, turn it over on the kitchen towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Remove foil carefully.
  • Working at the short end, fold the edge of the towel over the cake. Roll tightly, rolling up the cake into the towel. Let cool completely while rolled, at least one hour.
  • While the cake is chilling, make the filling. Beat the heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.
  • Gently fold in the lemon curd. Chill until ready to use.
  • When cake is cool, carefully unroll the towel. Spread the lemon whipped cream over the cake. (You might have some whipped cream left over.) Gently but tightly, re-roll the cake and wrap it in plastic wrap. Chill until it firms up a bit, at least one hour or overnight. Slice and serve. Cake will last covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Candied Lemon Slices

Candied lemon slices are an easy to make garnish to dress up your favorite desserts. Use candied lemons for decorating cakes, pies, cupcakes, and more. 

Candied lemon slices are lemon slices that have been cooked in sugar and dried out. You can eat them as a delicious snack or use them to garnish a plate. It’s simple to make once you know a few basic things.

How To Make Candied Lemon Slices:

First, you will want to cut your lemon slices as thin as possible. Use a mandoline or a sharp knife. I’m lazy about taking out my mandoline so I just use a knife. I prefer a serrated knife because it gives me the most control when cutting.

Second, some recipes say that you have to blanch the citrus before cooking them in sugar water. Blanching softens the rinds and removes the bitterness.

Next, it’s important to simmer the lemon slices in the sugar water using a WIDE bottom pot so the lemon slices do not over lap. This way each slice is more exposed to the syrup. Let the slices simmer away until they turn translucent.

Finally, you have to let them dry out using one of these options. The first is to dry them overnight by letting them sit out on parchment paper. The second option is to put them in the oven at a low temperature for about and hour.

I prefer using the oven because it’s quicker and results in a less sticky lemon slice. You do need to be careful not to over heat them in the oven so keep an eye on them.

Lemon Cake Roll with Candied Lemon Slices

Time for Changes

This 30″ x 40″ painting was done for my now ex-husband. He insisted he have it when he moved out, but after a bit sent it back to me. I decided I must have been a little depressed when I painted it.

There are musical notes added in the background with the use of collage, which is not my normal style of artwork. I decided best to paint over it, to remove the memory of bad times.

This one makes me smile a little more. The colors are lighter and the addition of more gold leaf add a little lightness to the piece

Time for Changes

Red Meets Black!

In addition to sketching and doing a relatively impressionistic type paint, I love doing big abstracts. This one did not take much time, but just made me happy painting. I usually put on some great music and just enjoy the energy. Stacey Kent is my newest artist of choice. I was introduced to her music when staying a friend’s house. With all the fires going on in Washington, Oregon and California the idea struck me that the all the fury of the fires leaves behind the sadness of the blackened trees and lost homes.

This is fairly large at 48″ wide x 24″ tall.

Red Meets Black!

Back in the Studio at last

It has taken quite a while to sort through everything and organize it, but I am there and was able to paint this week. My friend, Reed and I went on a drive last week to Brinnon where we took a very short hike to find the Rocky Brook Falls. I will admit we drove more back and forth trying to find the falls, than we did hiking, but it was worth the trip.

This is the photo that I used for the painting. As you can see I took a little “artists license” with the painting.

I’m not sure if I will attempt to paint this, but it surely was breathtaking.

Back in the Studio at last

Love sketching

I was in Vacaville, California when the pandemic began and it was a time, when the big excitement of the day was going for a drive or sitting on the front porch having a glass of wine. I don’t sit still well, so got some pens and started sketching the neighborhood. My oil paints were still in Washington, so could not paint. (Won’t do that again). Here are some of the in house and neighborhood sketches done at that time.

I started with simple sketches around the house.

Beautiful roses in a vase. Probably should have added color. (Oh well)

Drew the house on the corner.

And the house across the street.

Then added color to the house on the corner across the street.

Another house right across the street

And added color

Drew a tree rose in the front garden

Drove back to Bainbridge where I drew my girlfriend’s flower pot. I moved to my little Port Ludlow Cottage and spent the next couple of months trying to organize and move in to the house.

My friend and I were out and about and stopped in Port Gamble in a newly opened wine bar for a glass and a charcuterie plate and I like the house so I took a photo on the way out and drew the house below. I had an extra frame, so I framed the house and dropped by as a gift to the owners.

Once in a while it is just fun to do a nice and unexpected gift!

Love sketching

 Champ de Noël

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Here is my version.  Not as perfectly neat, but it tastes amazing. IMG_2536.jpg

Have fun making this to impress family and friends with this modern twist on a classic bûche de Noël stolen from Fine Cooking Magazine.

This delightful looking cake was featured in the December edition of Fine Cooking, one of my favorite magazines.  I stole the photo from the article but will post mine tomorrow when it is decorated.

The layers are vertical rather than horizontal, making for a very dramatic reveal. It is an “all-day” project or one you can do over several days.

[Get a PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION HERE with all step-by-step photos.]

This version looks cool, but all the classic elements and flavor pairings are here, so it’s guaranteed to be delicious. The vanilla sponge cake has a delicate texture, yet it’s sturdy enough to “literally” stand on end. The layers are doused with a boozy soaking syrup before they’re coated with a smooth-as-silk, espresso-spiked white chocolate ganache filling and coated with a dreamy, creamy and eggless double-chocolate buttercream.

Like the traditional bûche, the garnishes for this cake can be rustic, whimsical, or elegant. I like to use the tines of a fork to create a barklike design in the buttercream around the side of the cake. Just before serving, I may top the cake with a cluster or two of small meringue mushrooms along with chocolate shavings for bark. You can add silver or white dragées for ice crystals, sugar-coated cranberries for a pop of color, a mint sprig or two for signs of spring, chopped pistachios for lichen, and a dusting of confectioners’ sugar for snow. Extra meringue mushrooms look great arranged around the base of the cake.

Vertical variation

While the garnishes make the cake look spectacular, what people really want to know is how I make those magical vertical layers.
All in all, it’s a straightforward process: You use what could be called a “wrapping” technique to assemble the cake. After baking the sponge cake in a large rimmed baking sheet, cut it into five strips. To train the shape of the innermost strip of cake and avoid cracking in the final product, I roll up one strip in paper towels while it’s still warm, just as you would when you’re making a jelly roll. I then roll the remaining strips up in a tight spiral together to train them. The ends of these strips are cut on an angle to create beveled edges; this step helps the strips to lie flat as the cake is assembled.

Start building the cake by brushing the innermost strip with soaking syrup then coating it with white chocolate espresso ganache. After this centerpiece is rolled and positioned on a plate, brush, fill, and wrap the remaining four beveled cake strips one at a time around it. The technique sounds complicated, but as you’ll see, it’s an easy-to-follow
process.

 Champ de Noël

Explosion Cake

 

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My granddaughter and I saw this in a magazine, not knowing how “famous” it was and decided to make one.   If you have a collection of sprinkles you might like to use, it is a great way to use them all, or at least most of them.   It is a really fun cake to make, with all the different colors and layers.  It looks like a regular cake (with lots of sprinkles) till you cut the first piece.

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It is a very simple recipe and easy to make, but you do need six six-inch cake pans.  I actually only had five but had a springform, the right size for the sixth.  The only thing I did notice is that the springform, which was dark took about 2-3 minutes longer to cook, so that is something to aware of if you are using different colored pans.  I may just buy a sixth six-inch pan today.

The basic recipe is a simple white cake and if you are not a “baker”, you could use a boxed white cake.  I baked the cakes two at a time, so I did not crowd the cakes.  Luckily I have two ovens, so it did not take long.

FROSTING

8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature

16 ounces cream cheese, cold

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

32 ounces powdered sugar

CAKE

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon table salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1½ cups granulated white sugar

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1⅓ cups milk

Food coloring

Nonstick cooking spray

 

Preparation

Cake:

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F and put the oven rack in the middle of the oven (if you are using a convection oven, set it to 325°F).

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until they are really mixed together. You have to mix all the dry ingredients together first so that there are no clumps in your batter, which will create white spots. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer on medium speed to blend the butter and sugar together, until they become fluffy. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula so it’s all mixed in from the sides.  Be sure all the butter is blended, so there are no lumps of butter.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter-sugar mixture, with the mixer on medium speed.  Scrape the sides of the bowl.

5. Add the vanilla to the milk and set it aside.

6. Mix about 1/3 of your dry ingredients into the butter-sugar-egg mixture, then blend in half of the milk, always mixing on medium speed.

7. Mix in the second third of the dry ingredients, then the remaining milk mixture.

8. Stop the mixer for a few seconds and use a spatula to push down anything sticking to the sides of the bowl as you go, then mix in the last of the flour mixture. Make sure it’s all mixed in from the sides and everything is smooth. You don’t want any lumps, but don’t overmix it so stop the mixer as soon as the batter is smooth.

9. Divide the batter evenly into six portions. They don’t have to be exactly identical, but you want them to be close: You can use any small bowls that are all the same size: Just slowly pour the batter into each of the bowls a little at a time until they are all at the same height (it’s about 1 cup of batter per bowl).

10. Color the batter individually in rainbow colors: I used purple, turquoise, green, yellow, orange, and pink for our six-layer cakes. Start with a tiny drop of food coloring, stir it in completely, then add more until it is your desired color (the baked cake will come out pretty close to what you see the outside will be a little brown, but that gets covered with frosting).

11. Spray six 6-inch round baking pans with cooking spray, then pour the colored batter into the greased pans.

12. Bake the cakes two at a time for 8 minutes without opening the oven door. Then rotate each pan so the front faces the back. Bake for another 8 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when you insert it into the middle of the cake (cakes are very sensitive. The less you open your oven, the better your cake will come out! I don’t know exactly why, but I know it).

13. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes (when they’re warm, they’re really fragile, and that’s when they tend to break.) Then flip them over onto a baking sheet or cooling rack and let them cool completely before you frost them.

Frosting:

Use an electric mixer on medium speed to blend the butter until it is smooth. Add the cream cheese and blend it together until there are no lumps. Then add the vanilla. Stop the mixer and use a spatula to push down anything sticking to the sides of the bowl, making sure it’s all mixed in from the sides and everything is smooth.

Mix in the powdered sugar a little bit at a time on the lowest speed otherwise, it will fly everywhere! Use the spatula to push down anything sticking to the sides of the bowl, making sure it’s all mixed in from the sides and everything is smooth.

Be sure it is all perfectly blended or you may lumps when you go to frost the cake.  It is a fun project.  We used the cutouts in the middle to make what I called the “The Leaning Tower of Caka.”

Assembling:

This is the fun part:  Cut a circle using a 2 inch or so biscuit cutter on five of the six layers.  Put a little frosting on the plate, so the first layer will adhere.  I use commercial cake cardboard available at Walmart, Joanns or Michaels.  Add the first layer, then frost it with nothing in the middle.  Continue to the top layer.  I do a thin coat of frosting over the entire cake, then put in the refrigerator till it is hard.  That makes it easier to put on the final layer of frosting.  There are several YouTubes online that walk you through how to do it.

The outside is a little tricky.  I put the entire cake in a big bowl in my kitchen sink and handful by handful, from the bottom up, added the sprinkles.  It was amazingly easy this way and quick.  Add a little touch-up and you are done.  The fun part is cutting the first piece of this cake.

Be ready as it can make a mess!  I think I am still cleaning up sprinkles!   I put ours in a tray with higher edges, so it would not go all over the floor. We photographed and delivered it to our local Fire Department.

Explosion Cake