Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Collin Street Bakery

There was one more thing I was reminded of in Texas that I'd totally forgotten about, and will happily remember now next Christmas: Collin Street Bakery.

Okay, I know that fruitcake is kind of an acquired taste. And I know that the fact that I don't hate it makes me an anomaly. Granted, most fruitcakes are ... meh ... at best, and if I go through an entire Christmas season (or eight) without one, I don't miss it. I don't, really, even remember it.

Collin Street is different. They honestly have the best fruitcakes I've ever had - moist, spicy and not liquored-up. They also do a pecan cake that's downright ridiculous. Everyone in my parents' area that I know orders one and has it shipped for the holidays (their original store was in Corsicana, Texas). My mom had one this year, and holy cow. I ate it for breakfast on Christmas morning, and it pretty much is the taste of Christmas.

I plan to order one next year, and if you don't despise fruitcake - and even if you do - you may want to consider it yourself.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Wrapup: What I ate

My daddy's beautiful pond, which he dug himself.

So, I'm sorry I vanished. Christmas really grabbed me by the throat this year, and it seemed like I had no opportunity to think, much less sit down and write something coherent. Now, here we are, umpteen days since my last post, and I'm finally able to breathe.


You see, for the first time in ages and ages, I went home for the holidays, where home = Texas. It was awesome, actually; everything was pretty much right where I left it. Even the feed store (do they have feed stores in California?) was in the exact same place. The unchangeability of small town Texas is deeply impressive.

My family, too, was quite awesome, with my dad and mom still playfully bickering about pretty much everything. My sisters are beautiful, strong, amazing women, and my two baby nephews take adorableness to whole new levels. I am not allowed to post pictures of them, because the cute would kill you. For serious.

And I don't have that many readers.

Anyway, one of the best things about going home is eating food you never get to eat normally. I didn't get any pictures, sorry; too busy stuffing my face. But I thought I'd take you through some of what home tastes like for me.

Cracker Barrel - Okay, if you've never eaten at a Cracker Barrel, you so seriously don't know what you're missing. Or maybe you hate Southern food - and freedom - and you don't care. But I had dreams of this place before I left for Texas. I think the farthest west I've found them was in Arizona, so it's been...what...six or seven years since I've eaten here? A long time.

I ate at Cracker Barrel every single day I was there except Christmas day, and then only because they weren't open. There's nothing healthy on the menu: the hash brown casserole is dripping with cheese and sour cream, the carrots are glazed in sugar, the chicken is deep fried and everything's smothered in sweet milk gravy. (Sweet milk is the opposite of buttermilk - it's what the rest of you heathens call "milk".)

Heaven. Particularly because they have ...

Sweet Tea - Ah, yes. The nectar of the South. This is iced tea (plain old Lipton tea) with lots and lots of sugar in it, but that doesn't do it justice. In California, they always serve iced tea (and it's not nearly as ubiquitous here as in the South) unsweetened. You can add sugar to it, but a.) people look at you askance and b.) it never seems to really dissolve once the tea's cold and leaves a big puddle in the bottom of the glass. You have to put the sugar in the pitcher when the tea's still warm.

Besides, as I told my mother, it's not really about putting sugar in your tea; it's about putting tea in your sugar.

Basically, I drank it like it was laced with heroin. The Cracker Barrel waitress finally just offered to leave the pitcher on the table.

Boudin - My parents live in Southeast Texas, which is close enough to the Southwest Louisiana border that it's still marginally Cajun Country. There are plenty of Guilbeaus and Thibodeauxs there, at least. (People there call Cajuns "coonasses", which is really rude and still makes me laugh.)

I preface this that way because Boudin is a strictly Cajun thing, and outside of Cajun Country, it's pretty much unheard of. Actually, according to wikipedia, what they serve there is actually "boudin blanc". It looks like sausage; at least, it's stuffed in a pork casing like sausage. But it's really a rice dressing - pork sausage, parsley and herbs, mixed with white rice. This is then stuffed in the casing, and either baked or steamed until hot.

You split open the casing, scrape out the dressing and spread it on Saltine crackers. If you're not deathly allergic to cayenne pepper like me, you then douse it with Tabasco. It's a staple appetizer at home, and we actually had it as a part of our Christmas day dinner buffet. I didn't realize how much I missed it until then, and suddenly paying $40 just to have it shipped to me actually seems doable.

I'm hoping I get over that.

Wolf Brand Chili - Yes, it's canned chili. And yes, I should be embarrassed. But I'm not, because it's better than any stupid canned chili in California. Stupid California chili.

So, I bought a bunch of it and stuffed it in every spare nook and cranny in my suitcase. My parents noticed, but said nothing, bless them.

Of course, it's not as good as...

My Mama's Chili - Or her homemade cookies, for that matter. She makes spicy chili with big chunks of ground beef, and serves it over rice with lots of butter. She had some made the last day, when I stopped by before leaving for the airport.

She also made lots of cookies for Christmas: oatmeal chocolate chip, sugar cookies with colored icing and these cherry cookies that were to die for (also, pink). When I was driving to the airport, I opened my bag to find a ziploc baggie full of cookies for the road.

There really is no place like home.

And finally, to make up for this nearly picture-less trip, here's a picture of me, taken by my three-year-old nephew.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

TWD/Holiday Cookies: Volcano Cookies

So, I didn't do anything right with this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. First of all, as you might notice, this is not Tuesday.

But yesterday was a long day and I couldn't find my camera USB cord and I couldn't think of a good way to start a post, and basically, I couldn't be bothered. So, this week, it's "Wednesdays with Dorie". Deal.

Also, the actual recipe is for "Cafe Volcano Cookies" - where the main flavor is espresso. I'm not a huge fan of espresso in baked goods, so I turned these into Cocoa Volcano Cookies with the addition of cocoa and cinnamon.

And holy crap are they good! Granted, as you can see from my awe-inspiring photography, they don't look like much. And, essentially, they aren't much. The totality of the recipe is 2 cups of nuts (half walnuts/half almonds), egg whites, sugar and the flavorings. (Again, the recipe calls for espresso powder - I replaced this with 2 tablespoons of cocoa and a generous pinch of cinnamon.)

After toasting the nuts, you warm all the ingredients in a saucepan on the stovetop, then drop it by teaspoonfuls onto a Silpat-lined baking sheet. I have to say that while I was doing this, I kept thinking that this didn't look like a cookie at all and maybe this Dorie person is crazy.

Turns out she's not, and they bake into crackly, crunchy, yummy little meringues of goodness.

Now, two things on these. One, I would have taken them out of the oven just a minute or two sooner than I did this time (I left them about as long as the recipe said). The bottoms were not quite to burned, but were getting there.

Also, one of the other TWD bakers mentioned on the site to only bake these on Silpat, not on parchment paper. I forgot about this tip and baked one on each. The Silpat batch came up from the baking sheet without a problem. However, the parchment ones stuck horribly, and they got darker on the bottom, too. So, I'd say a Silpat is a requirement for these.

Otherwise, I absolutely loved these, and they were popular with my coworkers, too. They're also gluten-free, which is a plus.

As always, I can't post the recipe, but if you want it online, it's on this week's chooser MacDuff's blog, The Lonely Sidecar.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Five Things

So, there's still a little buying time left before what my friend Bella calls "Giftmas." Therefore (ergo), I thought I'd channel Oprah and do a post about five things I love and think you should buy for someone. Anyone, really. Including you.

And no, I get paid by none of these people. And I don't know anything about any of them other than I like them. Oh, and if you have stuff you like, consider doing your own "five things" post on your blog, because I always need new stuff.

Without further ado, here are my five things, with absolutely no common thread between them and in no particular order.

1. Roku - Oh, how I love my little Roku box. It plugs into your teevee, and then connects wirelessly to the internet. From there, the main draw is that you can watch unlimited movies instantly on Netflix if you have a subscription. Mine's only $15 a month. Granted, they're still building their movie and TV show collection, but I was surprised at what I could find on Watch Instantly; I have 63 titles in my queue, and many of those are full, multi-episode tv seasons.

But there's more! You can also download movies and TV shows from Amazon's Video on Demand, and therefore rent newer movies on a pay-per-view basis. Plus, Pandora streams their internet radio service onto your Roku; I'm listening to my "holiday" station through my teevee's speakers as we speak. They're also adding more channels - like Major League Baseball - so there's no telling where the service will go in the future.

I know there are other services like this, but I liked that it gave me access to things I was already using, all in one place. Plus, it's a fairly inexpensive option - just $79-99. It also took me no time to hook up, and I usually suck at things like that.

So, yes, Roku is currently one of my favorite things.

2. Erase Paste - I guess you know that you're of "a certain age" when number two on your favorite things list is concealer.

And yet I love it.

Erase Paste is from Benefit, and a little spendy, at about $26. But it's the best concealer I've found in ages. It's really light, but the coverage is great and a little bit goes a long way. It also tends to lighten everything up, but not in a noticeable way. It is, as I told my friend, like a real-life Photoshop.

And we could all use a little of that.

3. "Come to Me" by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab - I can, and should, do a whole post on BPAL. Let's just say that they're the best, most unique fragrance purveyor on the Interwebs. I can't really do their site justice, you have to go there yourself.

No seriously, go there. I'll wait.

See? Their whole store is devoted to utterly unique fragrances. But they don't just throw together a bunch of oils. They take myths, legends, deities and characters from stories (Lucy Westenra, anyone?). Then, they create oil blends to match the stories. Some of them are truly unique. One of my favorites is called Zombi, which is a blend of Spanish moss, grave dirt and dried roses. Kick ass, no?

So, currently, my Favorite Thing from BPAL is a scent called "Come to Me". I wear it obsessively. It's supposed to be an old voodoo recipe for drawing the male attention, and I do have to admit that it seems to work in that respect. But mostly it's just clean-smelling and sexy and awesome. I love it.

4. Dragon Age - Okay, I've talked about Dragon Age before, but come on! Seriously one of the best video games I've ever played, hands down.

It's "dark fantasy" and yes, okay, a little bloody. (I do love me a good beheading.) But the story! The story is as good as any I've ever seen, and I actually got emotionally attached to my "friends" in my party. The game isn't hard to learn, but it is hard to stop playing - every person I know who's started it has had a hard time putting it down.

If you're a gamer and even if you're not, it's really worth trying it - especially if you like good storytelling. There's nothing like a really good story, except when you're the hero. That's really awesome.

5. Cuisinart Pure Indulgence 2-Quart Ice Cream Maker - You know I had to get at least one kitchen appliance in this list, and this is both one of my favorite appliances and one of my favorite gifts.

I know a lot of people get one of these, make ice cream once or twice, and then never use it again, but I've made dozens of batches. I just keep the inner container in the freezer at all times, and am always ready to make ice cream.

It's super easy to use. You make the custard on the stove, then let it chill (I usually put mine in the fridge overnight). Then, you place the frozen container inside the ice cream maker, put the paddle in and the top on, and turn it on. Pour in the custard and a 20 minutes later, voila. (The ice cream's soft right from the maker, though; you have to freeze it a bit to harden it up.)

I actually have a hard time eating store-bought ice cream now. There's just nothing like the real thing.

It's also less than $75 on Amazon.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Holiday Cookies: Brown Sugar Shortbread

Okay, there's no picture for this, because I suck. You see, I made these for a Christmas party, and there was tequila, and well, yeah. No pictures.

This has to be one of my favorite recipes now, though. I love it first because nearly everything you need is already in the pantry. You don't have to make a special trip to the store or buy fancy spices. I also love it because it's pretty much a snap to make. Except for the scoring, there's nothing complicated about this recipe at all.

And the taste! These aren't "true" shortbreads, but the rich, cinnamon-brown sugar taste will make up for any lack of shortbread purity. They are soft and chewy at first, and even once they cool and crisp up, they're still rather toothsome.

Altogether, just an awesome cookie, and I recommend trying it this holiday season.

One note: the original recipe recommended cutting these into 12 wedges. I found those cookies a little too big (it's actually a very rich and buttery cookie), so I recommend cutting 16 wedges. I also find it's easier to score and cut that way.

Brown Sugar Shortbread

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325. Lightly spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray and set it on a baking sheet.

In bowl of stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter on medium until light and pale yellow, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add brown sugar and mix on medium until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add flour and salt and mix on low until just incorporated. Empty mixture into prepared pan, and use your hand or the bottom of a ramekin or measuring cup to press it evenly into the pan.

Combine the granulated sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, and sprinkle evenly over the surface of the shortbread. Using a sharp knife, score the shortbread into 16 even wedges.

Bake until shortbread is golden brown and firm at the edges, but slightly soft in the center, around 55-60 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, remove springform sides, and cool for 10 minutes. Slide shortbread onto cutting board and recut wedges along existing lines.

Cool completely before serving, about 3 hours. Shortbread can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Important: Do not skip the scoring, or wait until the shortbreads cool before trying to cut them. It will be impossible. Cut them immediately once they're baked. Also, don't try and bake these in a regular cake pan; they will be very difficult to get out.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holiday Sugar Cookies

Traditional holiday cut-out sugar cookies are tough.

No, seriously. They're tough. As in dry and crunchy, instead of soft and tender like I fantasize they should be. I think half the recipes I've seen must be designed to hang on the tree and not to eat. Or they should have been.

They also suck to roll out.

I went looking for the perfect Holiday cookie recipe: one that had a tender crumb, was easy to roll out, took a glaze well and was, above all, yummy.

I think I found it with this one.

These cookies are a little thin, and as with all cookie cutter cookies, they're a bit of a project. But very worth it. I was surprised to find the cookies actually tasted better the next day, even after being glazed. I have no idea how they are on the third day; none of ours lasted that long.

The glaze freaked me out a bit, because there was no egg or the usual royal icing-type ingredients. And who puts cream cheese in cookie glaze?

But it really works.

Oh, and did you know that cookie cutters have two sides, and you cut out cookies with the thick one? I didn't.

Here's the recipe:

Holiday Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup superfine (or baker's) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and softened
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together into your mixer bowl. In an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat the butter into the flour mixture, one piece at a time. Continue to beat the flour-butter mixture until it looks crumbly and slightly wet, 1 to 2 minutes.

Beat in the cream cheese and vanilla until the dough just begins to form large clumps, about 30 seconds. Knead the dough by hand in the bowl a few times until it forms a large, cohesive mass.

Transfer the dough to a clean counter and divide it into 2 even pieces. Press each piece into a 4-inch disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until the dough is firm yet malleable, about 30 minutes.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll it out between 2 large sheets of parchment to an even 1/8 inch thickness. With the dough sandwiched between the parchment, slide it onto a baking sheet, and refrigerate until firm, about 10 minutes.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle, and heat the oven to 375. Line two more baking sheets with parchment.

Working with one sheet of dough at a time, remove the top parchment and stamp out cookies with cookie cutters. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet with a thin metal spatula, spaced about 1 inch apart.

Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until light golden brown, about 10 minutes, rotating halfway. Let cool in the baking sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.

Holiday Cookie Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons softened cream cheese

Whisk all of the ingredients together until smooth. Color with food coloring, if you'd like.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TWD: The World's Ugliest Sables

Okay, that's not the name of this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. It's just plain "Sables". And it's certainly not Dorie Greenspan's fault that they're ugly. It's mine.

See what I mean?

Poor little sable. He's supposed to be all round and crisp and sugar-coated. Instead he just kind of looks ... eh. Sad.

Fortunately for him (or unfortunately, I guess, as long as I'm anthropomorphizing), he was delicious.

Sables, for those who don't know, are a French butter cookie, similar in many ways to shortbread. Except better. The dough is mixed up, rolled into a log and chilled, and then rolled in sugar, sliced and baked. The big issue is that you can't overmix sables if you want to get that sandy texture they're famous for.

And therein lay my downfall.

I was so freaked out about not overmixing that I undermixed. It can happen to the best of us, I guess. I didn't realize how badly I'd undermixed until I spied lumps of flour in the dough as I was rolling it into a log. At that point, it was a little too late, so I soldiered on. Unfortunately, the dough was so crumbly that, even after chilling, it fell apart. There was no hope of coating it in raw sugar, like I'd planned. I managed to get a few nice slices (which baked up looking close to real sables), but the rest...oy. I just smashed them together and hoped for the best.

But boy, were they tasty. And their texture was perfect. So, I'm pretty sure if I didn't do the freak-out undermixing thing, they would be great.

I just didn't get to test that theory before it was time to post for TWD. So, you get ugly sables. Sorry.

If you want to see what real sables look like (and get the recipe), head to Bungalow Barbara's blog.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Holiday Appetizer: Sausage Balls

Pretty much any party you go to in the South, you find sausage balls. These little balls of awesomeness (or breakfast sausage, cheese and biscuit mix - same thing) were the first "grownup" appetizer I ever had. Granted, lots of things that seem all sophisticated and fancy when you're young don't have that same appeal when you actually are a grownup.

These sausage balls are an exception. I've never made them when they weren't just snapped right off the tray.

The recipe is pretty much as basic as they come: Bisquik, bulk sausage and shredded cheese. You can change the flavor of sausage (maple vs. hot, for instance) or the type of cheese (cheddar is traditional), but at the end of the day, it's just those three things, mixed up, rolled into balls and plopped in the oven.

Now, two hints on sausage balls:

1.) Mix them by hand. Yes, I know it's gross. But trust me on this one. Take off your rings and mix the "dough" by hand. A spoon or spatula just makes a huge mess, so dig in.

2.) Serve them hot. This is where I differ from a lot of Southern cooks, and also why everyone says my sausage balls are the best. Because a lot of Southern cooks make these up ahead of time and serve them at room temperature. I like to make the dough ahead (even putting the balls on a baking sheet, if I have space in the fridge), and then put them in the oven once guests arrive. That way, the cheese is still melty and everything's hot when you bite into them. Much better. Plus, the whole kitchen smells of sausage.

(Granted, you can totally make these ahead and serve them at room temperature. Yours just won't be as good as mine. So there.)

Southern Sausage Balls

1 1-pound package ground breakfast sausage (plain or flavored - I personally like Maple)
3 cups Bisquik baking mix
4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

Heat the oven to 375, and spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. Using your hands, mix all ingredients together in a (really) large bowl. You'll have to work it, but understand that it will still be pretty crumbly. Form the mixture into 1-inch balls and place on your baking sheets. Bake until golden brown, 18-20 minutes. To keep them from sticking, you may want to move them a bit with a spatula about halfway through cooking.

Note: The dough can be made ahead and refrigerated, tightly covered. When you're ready to make the sausage balls, let it sit for a few minutes, then form the balls like you would normally.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Blind Side

Everyone who knows me knows I'm not into chick flicks. I don't like silly comedies. I'm not into schmoopy tearjerkers, and I laughed all the way through The Notebook. (Gawd, people. Seriously?)

Anyway, basically, if a movie doesn't contain blood, monsters, soldiers, action, swords or zombies - or some combination thereof - I'm not usually interested.

Except when I am.

You see, there are times in life where what you need is really not legions of zombies bent on destroying humanity, or a creature from space running amok in New York City (as awesome that is.)

What you need is inspiration. What you need is hope - to feel that maybe humanity isn't completely worthless after all.

Fortunately, possibly because of the economy, Hollywood seems to have gotten that message, and they're offering several feel-good movies this holiday season. Since most of them revolve around sports, I feel better about my need to soothe my psyche with them.

First up was The Blind Side.

This is based on the true story of Michael Oher, who has just been signed as a rookie with the Baltimore Ravens. He was a homeless teen in Tennessee who was taken in by a wealthy white family who helped him succeed in school and football, and eventually became his legal guardians.

Sandra Bullock plays the mom in this story, and she's absolutely pitch perfect. First of all, she has the accent down (I think she's actually Southern) and she definitely has the look for it. (Lord, she's pretty.) But it's more than that...

How easy would it have been for this story to become about white guilt? How hard is it to show a mother and a family who have a lot of money, and who are still healthy and whole and like to be together? Think about it - most of the time, white, well-t0-do people are one-dimensional and shallow. Her Leigh Anne Touhey is certainly bold and a little brash, but she is so deep. She takes Michael in not because she feels some obligation to, or maybe she does at first - but she asks him to stay because she truly grows to love him.

Michael, also, is deep and multi-dimensional. The teachers at the exclusive Christian school he attends at first treat him like he's retarded. He's not; not at all. He's very smart, he just has never learned to learn. Watching him open up as he warms up to his new family is truly touching.

In a way, the movie's almost too perfect. It's a little hard to believe that everything fell into place just so for this young man, and that he just happened to find a family who truly loves him and sees him as a part of their family.

And yet that's exactly what happened.

And that's why it's so inspiring. Because you know what? Sometimes good things do happen. A lot of times they don't, but they can. They really can.

And at Christmastime, especially this year, that's a good lesson to be reminded of.

See The Blind Side. I don't think you'll regret it.

Note: Please note that this movie opens with a replay of Washington Redskins' quarterback Joe Theismann breaking his leg. This is one of the worst, most painful-to-watch injuries in all of sports. It makes total sense why they did it in context of the movie (and they actually tie back to it at the very end in a great way), but just be prepared.

Next up in the inspirational holiday sports-movie lineup: Invictus.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Yule Goat!

Behold my favorite Christmas decoration ever: the Yule Goat!

I picked him up a couple of years ago at IKEA, which is appropriate, since the Yule Goat (or Yule Buck, or "Julbok") is a distinctly Nordic tradition. Being Swiss means I'm not actually Nordic, but when it comes to being able to stick a big straw goat on my table and call it Christmas, I make an exception.

The Yule Buck originated in pagan times, presumably tied to the god Thor, whose chariot was pulled by two strong goats. There are lots of "Yule bucking" traditions that involve blackface, pretending to slaughter one of your neighbors, and cake. I'm not real clear on how they all fit together, but you can look at this Wikipedia entry for more info.

In many towns in Sweden, they erect a giant Yule goat in the town square, and see if it can survive until Christmas before vandals burn it down. (Pretty sure that wasn't the original intention of the tradition, but that's how it's turned out.) The vandals get REALLY creative, and so do the towns in trying to prevent the torching.

The most famous of these is the city of Gavle, which has had a goat for years, and has about a 50% record of reaching Christmas versus early firey death. One of Gavle's fire-prevention methods has turned into one of my absolute favorite personal Christmas traditions. I bring you...


Yes, the Gavle Goat has its very own webcam! (Plus, the word "bockenkamera" is right up there with "wunderbar" as the coolest non-English words EVAR.)
He's also got his own blog, written in his own voice. It's not as cool as his goofy webcam, though.

It's one of those 1998-style ones, too, where it refreshes every few seconds. ("Look, the blue car moved!") I don't know what it is about this thing, but I am mesmerized by it every year. I keep it on my screen at work and keep refreshing the page - because, of course, the more we watch the better the Goat's chances of making it to Christmas sans arson.

We're watching you, goat burners...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Chicken Bog

Despite the goofy name, Chicken Bog is one of the most solid recipes in my repertoire. It's the dish I make when I need something warm, comforting, and a lot of it.

Chicken Bog is a southeastern, lowlands dish, from what I can tell. At its heart, it's just chicken, rice and sausage. I love it for two main reasons:

A.) It's super easy. You don't even have to brown anything, just throw it all in a pot and let it simmer away.

B.) It makes enough to, as we say back home, "feed General Lee's army". In other words - it makes a lot. A whole lot. The main recipe basically fills my dutch oven. Bailey and I can eat off a pot of Chicken Bog for a week.

And sure, you can halve the recipe, but it keeps really well in the fridge. It's one of those things I make when I have a lot of people to feed, or when I need to have something easy and quick at hand. (It sure beats pizza when I'm busy prepping for a big meal like Thanksgiving.)

Here's the recipe:

Chicken Bog

3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 pound smoked link sausage (I use kielbasa), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup chopped onion
1 stick butter
Seasonings to taste - black pepper, seasoned salt, Cajun spices, etc.
3 bay leaves
8 cups water
3 cups rice

Put chicken, sausage, onion, butter, seasonings and bay leaves into a stock pot or dutch oven. Add the water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat until the water is at a low boil. Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through and tender, about 40 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot; when cool enough to handle, shred into bite size pieces.

Note: I like to test the cooking liquid at this point for seasoning, before I put in the rice. Remember that you're seasoning a pot full of rice, so don't be timid here.

Add the rice to the pot and bring to a boil, then boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until rice is done (remembering to give it an occasional stir) - about 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and return the chicken to the pot.