Chef Ryan

Cajun Chef Ryan

Feeling & sharing a world of cooking ~ more than your average Cajun



 



Cultivating Your Life!

May 12th, 2011 · 21 Comments

“I’m your biggest fan; I’ll follow you until you love me!” – Lady Gaga

Okay…I know what you are thinking…what does this lyric, a line from the pop song Paparazzi have to do with this blog post?

Obsession, Passion, Excitement

How many ways can you say it?

Off The Grid

What does it mean?

A. A salad in your front yard!
B. Fresh organic best tasting vegetables beyond imagination!
C. Saving money on your grocery budget!
D. Controlling exactly what feeds your family!
E. From front yard to table!
F. Cooking and eating exotic vegetables at a reasonable cost!
G. All of the above!

WARNING: Get yourself a cup of coffee or a nice hot tea and scones with Devonshire cream. This is going to be a rather long post!

I could break it up into several smaller posts, and take advantage of getting more clicks, page views, Stumbles, Facebook views, etc, etc…but that is not my real intent with the CCR blog anymore.  If I can influence just one more person in the world, then I feel my online efforts are worthy!

Set the Wayback Machine to Date: April 18, 2010

Standing outside sporting an old baseball cap, safety sunglasses protecting my eyes, my old Corona beach turned gardening shirt, workout shorts, gardening gloves and cross-training hiking boots on, I stare at the front yard, the green lawn, and consider how all of these tiny blades of grass need so much attention, water, fertilizer, food, mowing, trimming, but in the end, yield no real rewards. I cannot eat the grass, what does it really do for me?

The south facing front yard gets most of the sunlight during the day, over six hours of “soleil” in the shaded areas, and up to eight and ten hours in some areas, enough for just about any vegetable to thrive.

With metal can in hand and tilted over, the cap off and tank empty, filled up the tiller with some 87 octane, set the choke to full and pulled the cord starting up the two-stroke engine. Reset the tine level to lowest setting, ambled the tiller to the marked location and began mixing up the sod and soil until the ten foot by ten foot grassy area was transformed into a new garden plot. This was in the spring of 2010.

Breaking new ground! Ryan sweating and tilling!
Breaking new ground! Ryan sweating and tilling!
Front yard plot tilled
Measuring out the raised bed locations on the new tilled plot.

The new front yard garden in 2010 doubled our growing capacity from the container gardens of previous years growing three varieties of heirloom tomatoes with twelve plants on average. In 2010 our expanded garden included eight tomato plants, two yellow squash, two zucchini, two arugula, one cucumber, two Japanese eggplant, two Anaheim pepper plants, and two green bell pepper plants. Last year we harvested over fifty pounds of cucumbers from the one plant, at least 100 pounds of tomatoes from four Super Sweet 100 and four Roma plants, two heads of lettuce, at least 20 pounds of eggplant, and possibly 10 pounds of peppers.

Front Yard Garden June 2010
Front Yard Garden June 2010

Fast forward to late winter 2011…

During the cold winter months of January and February of this year, I started cracking open and reading several gardening books in my library, and online in preparation for the expansion in 2011. Using the seed starting chart  from Organic Gardening online, I devised my plan!

Grow your own seed starting trays
Grow your own seed starting trays

Date: February 13, 2011

Started seeds indoors in soil blocks using recycled milk containers and a seed starting tray used from previous years, all set on a riser below a south facing window.

  • Beets
  • Swish Chard
  • Peas
  • Hot Pepper Mix
  • Artichokes
  • Green Bell Pepper
  • Jalapeno Pepper
  • Leeks
  • Simpson Lettuce (Two varieties)
  • Carrots

Germination times vary, but within seven to ten days sprouts started to appear in several of the blocks. And after a month all of the seedling’s were taking on great form.

Within seven to ten days sprouts started to appear in several of the block
Within seven to ten days sprouts started to appear in several of the block
One month later seedings are maturing
One month later seeding’s are maturing

Date: March 13, 2011

One month after starting seeds indoors the seedlings are grabbing the available light.

Also added other seed starts and transplants including:

  • Beefsteak tomato
  • Super Sweet 100 Cherry Tomato
  • Roma Tomato
  • Green Onions
  • Spearmint

Finally found and learned a great new technique for making homemade newspaper pots for starting seeds, and is an improvement from the soil blocks when it comes time to transplant the seedlings to larger pots.

Transplanted seedling starters into larger pots and recycled 16-oz plastic drinking cups, allowing roots to expand and plants to continue growing indoors with limited sun exposure for hardening off before going outdoors full time.

Lessons learned from the first set of transplants are to fit eight of the soil filled newspaper pots into each milk carton tray in lieu of making soil blocks. The seedlings are harder to transplant from soil block to larger individual pots.

Transplanted seedling starters into larger pots
Transplanted seedling starters into larger pots.

In case you are not keeping up, we are not just doubling our garden size this year; it is more like a fifteen fold increase in our square footage and total growing capacity when adding in the new back yard project (more on that later). This might explain why you don’t see me online the Internet as much the past few months.

Did I also mention that other benefits of gardening include the great exercise you get from humping loads of dirt and mulch with shovel and wheel barrow?

Six yards blended soil and eight yards mulch
Six yards blended soil and eight yards mulch.

Notice the steam coming off the top of the mulch, this stuff is alive! Six yards of blended garden soil mix, and eight yards of triple blended mulch.  We got a second load of the triple blended mulch, six yards in the repeat delivery to extend paths around the yards.

The front yard garden today!

Front yard expanded raised beds
Front yard expanded raised beds

Transformed the original four-inch raised beds to eight inches using 8”x2”x10’ dimensional lumber utilizing a simple plan from the book The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible.

Planted 5 artichokes, 22 hot pepper mix, 6 patty pan squash and 7 eggplants so far in the two raised beds, and there is still room for several other plants on the side of the eggplants.

Artichoke and Hot Pepper Mix plants
Artichoke and Hot Pepper Mix plants

Doubling the Front Yard Growing Area The best is yet to come…

Removing the shrubs March 2011
Removing the shrubs March 2011

I called my tree service professional Roberto the owner of Yukon Tree Service and asked if he could remove my shrubs from the front area of our yard and he said for $200 it could happen. So we lined it up and on Tuesday, March 15 he and the crew came out with the Bobcat and forty-five minutes later we had a new plot in the front yard. This area measures 10”x20”, and creates three separate growing areas, more than doubling the raised bed space from last year’s beds.

Shrubs are all gone
Shrubs are all gone

All the shrubs are removed and an empty bed remains. Like the artists empty canvas, this newly emptied plot of previously unproductive landscaping will be transformed into a beautiful work of edible art.

Here is how the new front area looks today!

Now that is one transformation!
Now that is one transformation!
Carrots and Simpson Green Leaf Lettuce
Carrots and Simpson Green Leaf Lettuce
Leeks and Beets in front and Swiss Chard in the back
Leeks and Beets in front and Swiss Chard in the back
Peas
Peas

The Marigolds not only add beauty, but they keep the bugs away from all the nice vegetables in training.

We have already harvested several heads of lettuce and fresh peas for amazing salads.

Stayed tuned as I fill you in on our back yard garden projects! They include a 40’x20’ wildflower garden plot with a fire pit in the center, two peach trees, two fig trees, and more raised vegetable beds with tomatoes, corn, okra, Kentucky Blue Beans, Arugula, Wild mix lettuce, sunflowers, cucumbers, and more.


Bon appétit!
CCR
=:~)
©2011 CCR

→ 21 CommentsTags: Sustainability

Happy Cinco de Mayo

May 5th, 2011 · 17 Comments

Cinco de Mayo 2011 is today and it seems to be a holiday that is growing in popularity every year, especially among foodie blogger’s, they are now jumping on the band wagon as well. Recently in the past week I have seen several of them creating some very interesting "Mexican" dishes.

Having worked in a management role for a Mexican theme restaurant company in Louisiana and Mississippi during the time period from 1995 to 1998, Cinco de Mayo was always one of our busiest days of the year, and we made every effort to capitalize on that fact. Typically we would hire a band, offer dollar margarita specials, dollar Coronita specials, and dollar taco specials. We would have activities such as tortilla tossing contests, pinatas for the children, and many more fun things for our patrons to do as a way of keeping them in the establishment longer, and of course to spend more money, and make us all rich! Actually, the only people getting richer were the servers and bartenders with the extra tips earned, and the owners. The managers worked extra hours that week and still got their same pay, no change there, just lack of sleep and long hours on the feet! Ouch!

Happy Cinco de Mayo

Here in Wake Forest our favorite Mexican restaurant is Las Margaritas, they offer a great setting with wonderful Mexican fare, and some of the best margaritas. One of our cousins from Houston visited several years ago and said that Las Margaritas was just as good as some of the best Mexican restaurants in her area, and that really means something coming from an area that has some of the best southwest and Mexican fare in the US of A.

No new recipes here, just my list of thirteen recipes that have been added to the "Mexican" category over the three years that CCR has been on the web.

Saturday, May 7, 2011 marks the three year anniversary of the CCR blog!

You can see where it all started by reading my very first post Welcome to Cajun Chef Ryan and my Blog!

To celebrate both Cinco de Mayo and the CCR third birthday I put together this list of thirteen Mexican and southwest influenced dishes that have been shared over the years! Ole!


Three Bean and Corn Turkey Chili

Three Bean and Corn Turkey Chili

This is another crock pot slow cooker recipe that is sure to please any chili fan! Quick and easy to prepare, just add the ingredients to the crock pot and in about six to eight hours on medium heat you are ready to eat. I used a pint of my Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce for this recipe, and if you have the time or have some on hand this is a great sauce, if not, then 2 cups of other tomato sauce will suffice…I guess!


Slow Cooker Chili Beans

Slow Cooker Chili Beans

Each week I have taken on a new slow cooker bean dish and this time around we used two pounds of pinto beans to create a vegetarian chili, and loosely based on one inspired from the the book American Whole foods Cuisine, by Nikkie & David Goldbeck, and found on page 43 from the short-order cooking chapter in the hardcover, 1983 edition, this chili recipe also fits in with the Eat To Live dietary guidelines with no oil, fat, or sugar added.


Guacamole

Guacamole

Guacamole is one of those base master type recipes that can have endless variations, and indeed I was able to create one that fits in with the Eat To Live diet. Meaning, no added fats or oils, and no added salt. In fact, we all agreed that this batch was one of the best tasting guacamole’s I had ever made.


Bean and Corn Enchiladas

Bean and Corn Enchiladas

Lately I have been on a trend of making my own breads, snacks, and now with this recipe I made my own tortillas for this enchilada recipe. Eventually when the jar of store bought mayonnaise runs out I will start making my own mayo in small 2-cup batches, besides saving a lot on the grocery bill, I also know what ingredients are in my preparations. No more partially hydrogenated fat for us! The pan of baked enchiladas shown on the left are some of the extra that did not fit in our other baking dish, these looked great on their own!


Chipotle Chicken Kabobs with Spicy Grilled Pineapple

Chipotle Chicken Kabobs with Spicy Grilled Pineapple

This recipe has chipotle peppers in adobo sauce as part of the marinade with the yogurt, giving it a southwest flavor, but the addition of yogurt also gives this chicken an Indian and middle-eastern flair as well. Each kabob served with a bed of basmati rice and a couple grilled pineapple rings.


Salsa Recipe

Salsa Recipe

This salsa recipe is actually more like a cross between pico de gallo and salsa in that it is quite thicker than your normal salsa, but wetter than your typical pico. I love chunky salsa and the addition of the green chilies adds a small touch of mild heat that otherwise was not there before. Still, my favorite part of the recipe is the cilantro; I can never seem to get enough cilantro.


Layered Taco Dip

Layered Taco Dip

This version of taco dip includes Frito Lay brand bean dip, mayonnaise, sour cream, taco or Southwest seasoning (I used my own Finger Lickin’ Rub spice), guacamole, shredded Mexican four-cheese mix, diced tomatoes, sliced black olives, and fresh chopped chives. Therefore, if all the ingredients were considered a separate layer then you could call this a twelve-layer dip, but I will keep the numbers out on this one. What I would call physical layers in this dip is actually much less than that and more like half that amount. Enough on the layer debate, lets get to the recipe now.


Southwest Scramble

Southwest Scramble

No matter the time of day, eggs have an appeal that transcends all meals and just about every occasion. We enjoyed a batch of salsa and avocado laden scrambled eggs with shredded cheddar cheese, quartered new red potatoes, and a sprinkling of chopped green onions.


Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Another slow cooker recipe and this version is a broth variety of the ubiquitous chicken tortilla soup. Boneless skinless chicken thighs, chicken stock diced tomatoes, green chilies, cumin and onions start the recipe off on the low setting for 6 to 8 hours. Then the seasoning adjusted with salt and pepper. Once ladled into bowls the soup ends up garnished with thin corn tortilla strips, diced avocado, shredded Monterey jack cheese and fresh chopped cilantro to finish.


Jalapeno Poppers

Jalapeno Poppers

While I cut and de-seeded the jalapeno’s Ben peeled the shrimp and I let the cream cheese soften up a bit. Once the shrimp were done I tossed a little of my “Finger Lickin’ Rub” spice mix on them and let em sit for a bit to marinate. What follows is a very close version of the poppers that Julius made on that fantastic day, and recreated just one day later in our kitchen.


Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas

The recipe has become a family favorite since we first made it in 2001 when Monique bought a copy of the Weight Watchers Magazine Six O’Clock Solutions cookbook. Found on page 49, this recipe for chicken enchiladas is quick, easy and for those who follow the Weight Watchers points system each one is only 6 points. The original recipe calls for 8 servings; however, with doubling it I was able to actually yield 20 enchiladas, so the points per enchilada will actually be a bit less than stated. Essentially this changes the recipe from 2.5 ounces of chicken per enchilada to just 2 ounces each.


Chiles Rellenos

Chiles Rellenos

One of my all time favorite American Southwest dishes is the sublime chilies stuffed with jack cheese surrounded by the light and fluffy batter then fried and typically served with a cheese or tomato sauce. My variation is an easy casserole and served with a warm Salsa Verde, or a green tomatillo sauce.


Vegetable Quesadilla’s

Vegetable Quesadilla’s

We really wanted something quick and easy last night so I whipped up some of these Vegetable Quesadilla’s for the three of us. Only about 30 minutes from prep to sitting at the dinner table too, this is a really quick and easy way to enjoy the southwest favorite. I stuffed some extra vegetable filling into these three that I made, but the recipe is written to yield 4 servings.


Bon appétit!
CCR
=:~)
©2011 CCR

→ 17 CommentsTags: Mexican

Paulette of Cooking up a Storm All over the World

April 8th, 2011 · 8 Comments

Guest Blog Post: Paulette of ”Cooking up a Storm All over the World”

Goto Cooking up a Storm All over the World HereCooking up a Storm All over the World logo

Cooking up a Storm All over the World is the creation of Paulette Motzko, and her site offers her own recipes, members recipes, photos of her favorite and members favorite creations, it has a cooking discussion forum, videos that teach how to cook, kids in the kitchen, quotes and prose, and much more! I encourage you to check out her wonderful foodie community web site!

Paulette of ”Cooking up a Storm All over the World”Paulette of ”Cooking up a Storm All over the World”

About Paulette

Paulette was a piano teacher for 20 years when she was married to her rocket scientist husband. Several years ago she made a career change into the journalism field as a writer/editor and marketing consultant with her company called My Totally Inspired PC ©. When she isn’t writing resumes, web content for website’s, editing a document or researching something, she is working on her blog called Cooking up a Storm All over the World!” http://CookingUpAStorminCa.ning.com

Follow me on Twitter & Facebook: Search “Polly Motzko”

The Guest Post and Recipe

I really hope that you enjoy this article as much as I was honored to write it!

If you have not joined my blog you just go here and fill out the few questions I created so you can meet others who love cooking and entertaining and making others smile with food!

Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Nutella & Cream Cheese Filling
Created by Polly Motzko, Valentine’s Day, 2/14/2011

1 Betty Crocker Super Moist Devil’s Food Cake Mix

Icing of your choice: Vanilla, Cream Cheese or Chocolate Frosting or Betty Crocker White or Cream Cheese Frosting

2 teaspoons high quality almond extract like Savory Spices or other pure almond extract
(Almond and chocolate go together like a really good marriage and this intensifies the chocolate flavor.)
1-1/3 cups Water
3 Eggs
½ cup vegetable oil

Filling:
8 oz cream cheese
4 tablespoons Nutella Hazelnut Spread

The concept for these luscious cupcakes was created when I bought the pan for them that is made by Nordic Ware-at Target. I could picture the filling and how it would be done etc…and was only a matter of time to make them for Valentine’s Day. You can make these for your Valentine and those you love ANY day of the week though and any time of the year.

NOTE: There will be more filling left over for more than these 24 cup cakes. You can save it in the fridge and make others in other flavors if you like. I rarely buy cream cheese and had no other use for it other than making this very rich but GOOD filling. You could make another kind of cup cake like vanilla or white cake and fill with this too, and it would be really lovely.
If you want to use your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe in place of the cake mix, you are more than welcome. This doubles well and you can make them and freeze them if you like. If you loved this recipe, by all means join my blog called “Cooking up a Storm All Over The world!” at:http://CookingUpAStorminCa.ning.com and tell me where you heard about my blog. If you made this recipe, then post your pictures of it there too.

METHOD 1 – You can add a melon ball full of the filling to each cupcake before baking, just fill the cupcakes slightly less full and add a dollop of the filling then cover with more batter. (If you make cupcakes and bake all the time, you might want to invest in one of these Nordic Ware Batter dispensers like I got. I love it and it works really great, without spilling batter all over the place!

METHOD 2 – Put the cream cheese Nutella filling in your fridge for a few hours until not quite solid. On thoroughly cooled cupcakes take about a melon ball full of the filling and put it in between the cup cake halves. I used a special mold by Nordic Ware that had room to put fillings-an indentation and then they are put together like sandwiches. You can half a large cupcake and do the same thing with it though. J
Yield: about 24 cupcakes

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until done at 350 degrees

Cool and ice with whatever frosting you like. I used Betty Crocker Cream Cheese Icing but you could use a fluffy white or even a chocolate ganache.

Devil’s Food Cupcakes  with Nutella & Cream Cheese FillingDevil’s Food Cupcakes with Nutella & Cream Cheese Filling

Thank you so much Paulette for sharing with us this wonderful cupcake recipe with Nutella and cream cheese filling!

Bon appetite!
CCR
=:~)
©2011 CCR

→ 8 CommentsTags: Guest Blog Post

Spicy Green Curry Thai Chicken

April 6th, 2011 · 14 Comments

Green Curry Thai Chicken
Green Curry Thai Chicken

Sometimes we like to take a little trip, take a little trip in our kitchen to foreign lands of flavor induced mind altering tastes; these absolute sensations are right there, yes, right over there, on your next grocery list.  Got Green Curry!

Thai is one of those cuisines that will always have a special place in my heart!

The first time my parents exposed me, yes I say exposed, uncovered, open to the elements, out in the open, because we were always trying out different foods in my family. Yes, that’s me, stripped of any and all pedestrian in me, Thai food was sitting in front of me as a young lad of about 12 or so, and I ordered the spicy stuffed squid, no chicken nuggets for me! I have always had a fascination for the exotic and unusual. Can you see your 12 year old ordering stuffed spicy squid today? I thought so!

Green Curry Thai Chicken

The creamy coconut milk and spicy green curry paste in this sauce creates an exotic Thai induced culmination that just screams the body electric! Pow! Zing! Tasty! Trembling flavor madness!

Green Curry Thai Chicken

With a fresh batch of jasmine rice pilaf and a side of cucumber, pineapple, and mint salad this light dish is sure to please your traveling bon vivant in you!

Green Curry Thai Chicken

Happy tasty travels!

Serves four hungry foodie travelers! The salad and rice should be made ahead.

Ingredients
For the chicken curry sauce
    Cooking spray
1 Cup Onion, julienne
1 Tbsp Green curry paste
1 Cup Chicken stock
1 Cup Light coconut milk
2 Cups Roasted chicken breast, thinly sliced
¼ Cup Cilantro, fresh, chopped
4 Slices Lime or lemon wedges
4 Sprigs Cilantro
 
For the salad
2 Cups Seeded cucumber, chopped
1 Cup Pineapple, chunks
½ Cup Green onions, sliced
3 Tbsp Mint, fresh, chopped
1 Tbsp Rice vinegar
1 Tbsp Oyster sauce
 
For the rice
2 Cups Water
1 Each Bay leaf
½ Tsp Salt
1 Cup Jasmine rice
¼ Cup Red peppers, diced
 

 

Procedure Steps:
For the chicken sauce
1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, then coat with cooking spray. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, then add and stir in the curry paste.
2. Add the chicken stock and coconut milk and bring to a simmer.
3. Add in the roasted chicken breast and heat through, or about 3 minutes.
4. Portion out evenly into four bowls and garnish with the lime or lemon wedges and the chopped cilantro.
 
For the salad
1. Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl and chill until ready to serve.
   
 
For the jasmine rice
1. Bring water, bay leaf and salt to a boil. Add the rice and reduce heat to a low simmer for 20 minutes. Turn of heat and allow to rest five minutes. Stir in red peppers and serve.
 

 

Green Curry Thai Chicken

Bon appétit!
CCR
=:~)
©2011 CCR

→ 14 CommentsTags: Recipes

Alexia Sweet Potato Fries

March 23rd, 2011 · 10 Comments

Alexia Sweet Potato Fries

On January 22, 2011 I received a package from Foodbuzz to promote the Alexia products as part of the Tastemaker program. The package included a coupon for one free bag of their frozen vegetable product, along with a nice apron and a well drafted letter.

Alexia Foodbuzz Tastemaker letterAlexia Foodbuzz Tastemaker letter

With my Alexia coupon gently nestled into the “Freezer” section of my coupon binder we made several attempts to find any Alexia products in our local grocer freezer sections, we tried Harris Teeter, Lowe’s, Kroger, and Wal-Mart, to no avail. About a month after getting the coupon, we finally stumbled upon some Alexia frozen products at our local Super Target. I selected the “Spicy Sweet Potato” Julienne Fries with Chipotle Seasoning”.

Alexia Sweet Potato Fries BagAlexia Sweet Potato Fries bag

Several days later we baked them in the oven per the package directions and served them as a side to our hot dogs. These are some really good tasting sweet potato fries; the seasoning is just right, not too spicy, and not bland like you find some sweet potato fries on the market today.  I would recommend these to anyone who likes to buy frozen sweet potato fries.

Baked Alexia Sweet Potato FriesBaked Alexia Sweet Potato Fries
Alexia Sweet Potato Fries Hot Dogs PlateAlexia Sweet Potato Fries and Hot Dogs Plated
Lunch time with Alexia Sweet Potato Fries and Hot DogsLunch time with Alexia Sweet Potato Fries and Hot Dogs

Thank you Foodbuzz and Alexia for the coupon and the apron!

Bon appétit!
CCR
=:~)
©2011 CCR

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→ 10 CommentsTags: Food