Chicken Jambalaya – Guest post (kind of) by my two daughters.

My goodness! It’s been few months since I last posted! It’s been a busy Summer and now we’re facing another school year to start.  We had a wonderful opportunity to visit Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Italy this Summer (we walked a lot, ate delicious food, saw many beautiful sites/sceneries which were true eye candies, and came home satisfied); and we recently came back from our annual South Carolina beach trip (we have grown quite fond of Litchfield Beach near Pawley’s Island and hope to maybe retire there in 20 years?!).  However, the biggest event in between these trips was my hysterectomy surgery; I will not go into details since this is a food blog, but I’ve had this massive fibroid for few years and I finally parted with it.  I am in my 3rd week of recovery and I do have to say it’s been a smooth, but slow recovery.  So many people assume the recovery is the same as C-sec, and many people have different recovery process, but aside from the incision I don’t see anything similar.  With hysterectomy you are taking out organ(s) and re-attaching so many parts (ligaments, muscle, other organ parts) with hundreds and thousands of staple/sutures internally, things are shifting inside of you to adjust themselves, and … ok, let me stop here, this is a food blog!!

For the past 3 weeks my family has been supportive and helpful; my 2 daughters (A – age 14 and J – age 13) have truly risen to this occasion and have been cleaning the house, doing laundry, being my home nurse, giving me pedicures and cooking.  They’ve actually cooked quite a few dishes so far, but I wanted to show case last night’s dinner.  They cooked Chicken Jambalaya and it was de-li-cious!!  They still give me lots of grief, but I am very proud of how they are taking ownership and responsibility so therefore, in my book they are pretty good 🙂  I asked each of them to write a short paragraph of their experiences so far with cooking:

AI began cooking more because my mum couldn’t. It first started from necessity but as I continued throughout the summer, everything from choosing recipes to actually cooking became more enjoyable. Thus, I have had fun experimenting with different recipes and learning new techniques in the kitchen. I stumbled across this recipe for chicken jambalaya and decided to try it because I am allergic to shrimp and other shellfish, yet have always wanted to taste jambalaya. And it was worth it! The seasoning married well with the chicken and rice and I couldn’t resist second helpings. Although this dish isn’t my all-time favorite, I will most likely make it again.

JAbout three weeks ago, my mother had a major surgery, causing her to stay in bed for about a week after. She became dependent on my sister and me to cook for her. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend anybody even letting me into the kitchen, but I didn’t really have a choice at that point. At first I just cooked anything simple that would feed the family and wouldn’t result in the house burning down, but as the weeks passed I still had to take care of my mother, who can now walk around a bit but still can’t stand in one place for too long, meaning she still can’t cook or clean. As I became more comfortable in the kitchen, as well as more willing to cook for my mother, my sister and I began to look through different recipes that looked interesting to us. My sister found the recipe for chicken jambalaya, and we instantly decided that we wanted to try this one out. Because my sister is allergic to shrimp, I’ve never actually tried jambalaya before. (Sad, I know.) By making this chicken version (which tasted lovely, by the way), I was able to both cook and taste jambalaya while I knew that it was safe for everybody to eat. My sister isn’t a big fan of spicy food, while I, on the other hand, love it. This was good for the both of us because it had a bit of a kick to it without being overwhelming. (Bonus points for Mum and Dad enjoying it too!) Overall, I think we did a pretty good job on this one and I would definitely make it again sometime!

Well, considering they are 14 and 13 I think they did a good job voicing their experiences on their mother’s blog pretty well 🙂  I would have been so embarrassed at their age!  Well, I’ve enjoyed everything my girls cooked for me so far and they have few more days to cook before their lives will become busy again with school and after school activities.  This Chicken Jambalaya was so flavorful and it truly hit the spot for me!  They found the recipe from a cookbook “The Slow Cook Book” by Heather Whinney, and the beauty of this book is Whinney gives both the slow cooker and traditional ways of cooking her recipes.  My daughters chose the traditional style.

Serves: 4-6

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 boneless chicken pieces (thigh and breast), cut into large chunky pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 red  onion, finely chopped
  • 3  garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1  green pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1  red pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 7 oz thick slices pre-cooked ham, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups hot  chicken stock for the  slow cooker (3 cups for the traditional method), plus extra if necessary
  • 1 3/4 cups quick-cooking long-grain rice
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh  peas
  • Small handful of cilantro, finely chopped (optional)

**Instead of ham, my daughters used half chorizo and half mild sausages.

Heat half the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high-heat. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, toss in the oregano and cayenne pepper, then add to the pot (in batches, if necessary) and cook for 6-10 minutes until golden brown. Remove and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in the pot over medium heat, add the onion, garlic, and peppers, and cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring. Return the chicken to the pot and stir in the ham. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, season well, partially cover with the lid, and cook gently for about 40 minutes. Check occasionally that it’s not drying out, topping up with a little hot water if needed. Stir in the rice, turning so it absorbs all the stock, and cook for about 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked, topping up with more stock if necessary. Add the peas for the last 5 minutes.

Taste and add seasoning, if needed, and stir in the cilantro, if using. Try serving with a green salad, green beans, plain yogurt or sour cream, and some crusty bread.

Chicken Jambalaya

Chicken Jambalaya2

As much as I am looking forward for my full recovery ( I heard it takes about a year for everything to heal, esp. internally) I will be sad for all this pampering to be gone 😦

Pasta with Pumpkin, Sausage, and Cavolo Nero

We are having a very unusual weather nowadays, it actually feels like Fall!!!  In the past years, it felt like we somehow bypassed Fall and went straight from Summer to Winter.  It’s nice just wearing my light sweater and going out, rather than wearing jackets or coats.  

Anyway, a little while ago my cousin gave me a squash (looked like a cross between a butternut squash and a pumpkin) and I found this recipe from Fine Cooking (yes, again).  I made this for our dinner last night,  this such a delicious meal and Fall-like you have to try it!! 

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Kosher salt
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed if using links
1 Tbs. olive oil (optional)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cups 3/4-inch-diced peeled, seeded pumpkin
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1-1/2 cups lower-salt chicken broth
10 oz. cavolo nero kale (aka Lacinato, black, or dinosaur kale), trimmed, ribs removed, leaves cut into 1-inch pieces
8 oz. dried campanelle pasta
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.
In a heavy-duty 12-inch skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until mostly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Push the sausage towards the edge of the skillet and add the olive oil if the center of the pan is dry (this will depend on the amount of fat in the sausage). Add the onion and cook until golden and the sausage is well browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin, wine, garlic, and marjoram and cook until the wine evaporates, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 3/4 cup of the broth and cook until the pumpkin is almost tender, about 8 minutes. Add the kale and the remaining 3/4 cup broth, cover, and cook until the pumpkin and kale are tender, about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water and then drain well. Add the pasta to the skillet with enough of the pasta water to coat the pasta and vegetables generously. Stir in the Parmigiano and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with additional Parmigiano.

My opinion: If you had noticed in my opinion section, in many places I mention how I enjoy various textures and multi-layered flavors.  This is one of them: you can imagine from the textures of squash, kale and pasta (all soft after cooking, but so different).  Even the flavors are diverse, but they all come together as one. No one flavor is dominant, but you can taste them.    This is pretty simple to make, and I bet everyone will love this dish.  My youngest daughter was a bit apprehensive at first so she asked for a smaller serving, after finishing her bowl of pasta she went back for a 2nd serving!