With dinner fast approaching, one hot summer day spent in the dairy farm garden, I needed to think fast to have an evening meal ready for my family. I could sensibly do what most other busy mom do, throw something in a slow cooker in the morning so dinner will be ready at the end of a busy day, which I understand that those who work outside of their homes must do to get their families fed, but I have liked very little that I’ve ever tasted that has come out of a slow cooker that has been sitting for hours “cooking”. This is also why you won’t find a microwave in my kitchen these days. I’d rather rush around trying to get something tasty and fresh made for my family than to just let everything melt together in a Crock Pot or kill it in a microwave.
I found Andouille sausage in the freezer, which I thought should lead to a big pot of something cajun or “low country”, so I was relieved to see, after an inspection of the rest of my freezer and refrigerator, that it was possible that I could actually make that happen, which was shocking since I couldn’t remember the last time I’d done a “real” grocery shopping trip, with frequent trips between the farms that we occupy. I pulled out everything I would need to throw a low carb pot of gumbo/rice-less jambalaya together, which included leftover roast pork and grilled chicken from other meals I’d cooked earlier in the week, and onions and shallots from the garden.
We were sitting down to spicy bowls of steaming gumbo within the hour and no one even suspected that our dinner, which certainly didn’t taste like it, had been rushed and literally thrown together at the last minute. But thank goodness for those leftover meats and cooked up ahead chicken broth or I’d never have been able to pull it off! Shh….don’t tell anyone…like my sweet husband doesn’t faithfully read every single recipe I post and won’t find out what a slacker I am as soon as I click “publish”. 😉
3 T extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. shallots, minced
3/4 c. onions with green tops, small dice
1 whole red bell pepper (about a cup), medium dice
1/2 c. fresh Italian parsley, chopped
3 T almond flour
3 c. chicken broth
4 links (12 oz. total) cooked andouille sausage, sliced into thick rounds
4 oz. cooked pork loin roast, cubed
3 grilled chicken breasts
1 c. grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cumin
Salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the oil in a large small stock pot. Add the garlic and sweat.
Toss in the shallots and onions, peppers and parsley. Sauté.
Sprinkle in the almond flour and cook, stirring, for one minute, to make a low carb variation of a roux.
Gradually add in the chicken broth, while stirring, and bring to a simmer to thicken.
Add the spices, tomato halves, sausage, chicken, and pork.
Simmer for for 45 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For a more authentic gumbo than my low carb version, use all-purpose flour in place of the almond flour and add in fresh okra and rice at the same time the meat and tomatoes and spices are added to the liquid. You can also throw in fresh shrimp about five minutes before the pot of gumbo is finished simmering.
Yield: 8 servings
The last Lisa Jewell book I read, The House We Grew Up In, had me squirming in my seat as I turned the pages, so I wasn’t surprised when The Girls in the Garden did, also, right from the start. It’s dark and uncomfortable to read, even while warm and comforting scenes of family life and the most sincere mothering are woven throughout the intense plot that centers around summer in a community park in the midst of a circle of homes and apartments in the U.K.
I was able to relate to the character Adele because I am a homeschool mom and have always fed my children home-cooked, natural and organic meals, as she did. But I had a hard time imagining myself in the shoes of either Clare, the mother of the preteen daughters the book revolves around, or Adele, with a rabble of mostly teen daughters between them. I’m sure I would have been an even bigger basket case worrying over girls than I was worrying over raising two boys to adulthood, safely and with a certain degree of morals. The Girls in the Garden certainly made me feel even more angst at the idea of bringing up females in the wild world we live in and had me thanking my lucky stars that I will never have to experience that for myself.
When I was trying to decide what recipe to create to go along with this book, I was inspired by the contents of the shopping cart that belonged to Clare when she ran into the husband of the seemingly perfect Adele, homeschool mom extraordinaire. His cart, Clare was embarrassed to see, was filled with only healthful contents, things Adele would use to make nutritious meals for her family, while Clare’s only contained convenience foods and a package of sugary orange Kit Kat bars. I had never heard of an orange Kit Kat, had never seen a package of them in an American grocery store. Intrigued, I did a little research and learned that there are at least three kinds of orange Kit Kat bars, one made with a blood orange flavor and dark chocolate, another made with an orange coating and chocolate filling, and one made the usual way, with milk chocolate, but with orange flavor added.
I decided to make a copycat version of the dark chocolate orange Kit Kat using high quality chocolates and the homemade orange extract that I bottled last fall.
I happened to have Lindt and Taza chocolate in my pantry, but I’m sure dark chocolate baking morsels would have worked just fine.
Crispy rice cereal was the obvious ingredient to give my “brittle” its crunch. The only problem is, since I’ve never had an orange Kit Kat, and am not able to run to the corner store to buy one to sample, I have no idea if my sweet treat tasted anything like the original. I did, however, think the flavor and texture were reminiscent of a regular milk chocolate Kit Kat, but with a dark chocolate orange twist, so I can imagine that I came pretty close. Make a batch of them to nibble while you read The Girls in the Garden and see if you agree.
3 c. crispy rice cereal
6 squares of Lindt 90% cacao dark chocolate
1.3 ounces Dark Vanilla Taza chocolate
1.3 ounces 70% Dark Taza Chocolate
Pinch pink Himalayan salt
1 T. turbinado sugar
1 tsp. orange extract
Cover a 9X9 inch baking pan in foil or waxed paper.
Spread the cereal over the lined pan.
Melt the chocolate.
QUICK CHOCOLATE MELTING TIP: For small recipes, place chocolate squares or morsels in a small baking ramekin. Turn on your coffee maker to allow the warming pad to heat up. Place the ramekin of chocolate on the burner and let it gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally for larger batches. It only takes a few minutes, and I’ve yet to scorch a batch of chocolate this way. And I DO NOT miss heating up a double boiler and stirring and stirring to melt my chocolate any time I need melted chocolate.
Stir together the sugar, salt, and orange extract until the sugar dissolves.
When the chocolate is melted, stir in the sugar mixture.
Drizzle over the cereal.
Using a non-stick rubber or silicone spatula, combine and spread the mixture into the bottom of the pan, working quickly before the chocolate hardens.
Break apart like you would cooled peanut brittle.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings