Vegan Dirty Rice in the Crock Pot

I had a bunch of folks over for a party the same evening as an all day conference. Michelle was kind enough to chop all the veggies the night before, so all I had to do in the morning was a little work on the stove before putting it all the crock pot and heading out the door.

Traditional dirty rice uses chopped up chicken liver and gizzards to give it the distinctive color of the name. For this dish, I used portobello mushrooms and I left the gills on half of them, chopping those mushrooms into smaller pieces than the ones I did scrape the gills off.

dirty rice

Vegan Dirty Rice

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups yellow onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb portobello mushrooms, divide in half – leave gills and chop one half fine and the other half clean and cut into larger hunks
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cups long-grain white rice/wild rice blend
2 cups mushroom or vegetable stock
2 cups water
1 teaspoon Cajun/Creole seasoning

Heat the oil in a large, cast iron skillet, over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat for about 10 minutes or until golden and translucent. Add the garlic and once you can smell it, put the mushrooms in the pan and allow to cook down for about 5 minutes. Toss in the celery and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add in the bell pepper. Sauté, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the rice in the slow cooker and put it on low. After about 5 minutes, add the stock and water. Sprinkle in the Cajun/Creole seasoning and stir. Add the entire mushroom mixture to the crock pot and let it cook on low for 3 hours to 4 hours. It is done with the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.


Ignatius Eatery

The Golden Crown Literary Society is holding its annual literary conference in New Orleans this year. It is like home week with all my favorite authors and many dear friends in one place. One of my friends, who runs a women and book centric radio program, came into town early, so we went out for dinner.

We went to Ignatius Eatery on Magazine Street. Named for the lead character (and quite a character he was) in the Confederacy of Dunces, it has many quotes from the books along the walls. One of which was, “I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”

We started with cocktails. I had the Bee’s Knees (gin, honey, lemon). Very refreshing. You can see one of the quotes and pictures of Ignatius J Reilly on the wall behind the glass.

bees knees

We then had a selection of appetizers. The fried green tomatoes with remoulade sauce are definitely worth coming back for a second plate. Crisp with a delicious coating and the tang of the green tomatoes mellowed by the sauce. Yum!

fried green tomatoes

The Ignatius Mac n Cheese could stand to be a little a creamier but the bacon and provolone made it quite delicious.

mac and cheese

The shrimp and grits were also excellent. Just enough heat to the sauce, perfectly cooked shrimp and delicious stone ground grits.

shrimp grits

I was less impressed with the Bayou Sampler – the large peperoncini dripped juice all over the food as I was removing it. The red beans are done well enough but the creole jambalaya and crawfish étouffée were a little disappointing. The flavors weren’t particularly strong or memorable.

bayou sampler

I would like to go back and try their po-boys, as Tom Fitzmorris puts their roast beef po-boy in the upper 5% of the city.

Service was very good with the waiter only needing one reminder about refilling water before keeping the glasses full for the rest of the meal.

Spooky Homemade Root Beer

We needed some dry ice for the cooler and broke off a few pieces to use for carbonating and spookifying some homemade root beer.


1 Quart Spooky Homemade Root Beer

1 quart cold water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 ounce root beer extract
1/2 lb dry ice

Root beer extract is found in the baking/spice area of the grocery store.

Pour water into a large container (or plastic cauldron), followed by the sugar. Stir or shake the container to dissolve the sugar. Add the root beer extract and mix well. Add the dry ice that has been broken into small pieces. The bubbling mixture will become carbonated and will be ready to serve when all the dry ice has fully vaporized. Do not close or cover the container until the fog has completely dissipated.

Add ice cream for a special root beer float that kids of all ages will love.


The Big Cheezy

I was inspired by Kim Ranjbar‘s post on NOLA Foodporn for today from the Big Cheezy. Yes, this is a restaurant for all those grilled cheese lovers (and, really who isn’t?). Yes, that image is of the Cheezy B.E.T (bacon, fried egg, tomato) and yes, it is as good as it looks.

Here the pic I took after my niece and I went there for lunch:


It was awesome – the fried egg was perfect so the yolk was running into the cheese. Add the bacon and tomato (with no yucky lettuce!) and it made for incredible mouth feel and one delicious sandwich.

We also got the Mac & Cheezy:


Who knew there was a way to improve mac and cheese? The genius’ behind the Big Cheezy is who! The how is by putting a huge scoop of 4 cheese mac and cheese between layers of cheddar on grilled bread. Very rich and very good.


For dessert, we went for the PB&B – Peanut butter and banana on a beignet with mascarpone and a drizzle of chocolate syrup. We were both doing the happy dance.

There are enough other items on the menu (plus you can create your own) for me to be making this a regular place to visit.

Super yummy!

Fresh Corn Cornbread with Sweet Tea Brined BBQ Chicken

bbq chickenI was able to get a great deal on a 10 lb bag of chicken leg quarters at the grocery store, so I brined them last night and grilled them today. I slightly altered my Sweet Tea Brine by adding the zest and juice of two lemons and using Lemon Lift black tea instead of the usual 1 lemon and orange pekoe tea. The lemon flavor is faint but quite delicious.

After the meat was off the grill, it was time to experiment with corn bread. I have a tried and true corn bread recipe from my Mom that has never failed me. Sometimes, though I want a little more corn flavor. Yes, I suppose I could spend more on stone ground cornmeal but I had an even better idea. I have several packages of corn that we cut right off the cob when it was fresh from the field. Of course, if you don’t have fresh corn, you can use frozen.

Fresh Corn Cornbread

1 1/3 cups cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Kernels cut from about 3 cobs of corn (2 1/4 cups)
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put two tablespoons of butter into a well seasoned, 10-inch cast iron skillet and place it in the oven while it is coming up to temperature.

Whisk cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.

Process corn kernels in blender until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer puree to medium saucepan. Cook puree over medium heat, stirring regularly, until very thick and reduced by half, about 10 minutes.

Remove pan from heat. Add the rest of the butter, one pat at a time and whisk until melted and incorporated. Scramble eggs into the  buttermilk and whisk into the corn until incorporated. Transfer corn mixture to bowl with cornmeal mixture and, using rubber spatula, fold together until just combined.

Scrape batter into prepared skillet and spread into even layer. Bake until top is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 28 minutes. Let cool on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove cornbread from skillet and let cool for 20 minutes before serving.


Bill’s By the Beach – Gulf Shores

Panorama of Gulf Shores beach on July 5th, 2015. Photo by Marie Castle

Panorama of Gulf Shores beach on July 5th, 2015. Photo by Marie Castle

After a sunrise walk along the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama from rain into sunshine and back into rain, we decided to go to a nearby restaurant. Bill’s By the Beach was our choice, mainly because it opened at 7am but also because it had a lovely view of the just traversed beach.

We started with drinks. I had a Bloody Mary which came with a huge stalk of celery, a green bean, olives and a lime wedge. They rimmed the glass with cayenne and something else (maybe paprika) so I drank from the straw but it was a nice pick me up to begin the meal.

bloody mary bills


My sister, Kathy, had the Florentine Benedict – spinach, beefsteak tomato, poached egg, english muffin. Her egg was just slightly over done (not very runny) but the Hollandaise sauce was very good.


Her husband, Wayne, had the Hash on the Beach – sausage, onion and a sunny side egg over a huge bowl of their breakfast potato.


Michelle had the traditional Eggs Benedict. It was her first time having the dish and she did enjoy it. The cheese grits were a bit thick but had a good flavor.


I went for the chicken and waffles. I was a little disappointed in the waffles (they were pretty tasteless) but the chicken tenders were fine.


The prices are typical of a beachfront restaurant but the server was friendly and kept us plied with drinks, so we were happy to pay (and leave a generous tip) by the end.

Brownie Mix Crackle Cookies

I’m at my parents’ home and we’ll be heading to an Independence Day neighborhood potluck for lunch. They were already bringing a side dish but I thought I should bring a dessert, considering my appetite for July 4th fare. There wasn’t much as far as necessary ingredients went in their pantry but they did have a box of brownie mix, a half a package of bittersweet morsels and some powdered sugar.

This is one of those cheat recipes that take box mixes and make something completely different. I also use a combination of powdered sugar and cocoa for the coating to push up the chocolately-ness even further.

brownie cookies

Brownie Mix Crackle Cookies

  • 1 package fudge brownie mix (13-in. x 9-inch pan size)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate morsels
  • 1/2 cup powdered/confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa

In a large bowl, beat the brownie mix, flour, egg, water and oil until well blended. Stir in chocolate morsels.

Place powdered sugar and cocoa in a shallow dish and stir to combine. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls into sugar; roll to coat. Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets.

Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until set, rotating pans midway through baking. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

Shrimp Scampi

I’m at my parents’ for July 4th and we pulled the shrimp trawl this morning. We were stalked by seagulls and a couple of dolphins but we pulled enough for a terrific lunch.


My Dad and the dolphin

This Scampi recipe comes from Earl Peyroux, a chef who had a program on WSRE TV 23 in Pennacola, Florida for many, many years.

Scampi - Sauteed Shrimp

2 lbs of shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons of butter
3/4 cup of olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons of parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons of oregano
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Melt butter in large cast iron skillet. Add olive oil. Add garlic and bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and saute until pink. Add cayenne, parsley, oregano, lemon juice, salt and pepper and stir well to combine. Remove shrimp from skillet. Boil sauce for 5 minutes. Return shrimp to skillet and serve with French bread for dipping.