You’ve heard happy wife = happy life, right? Well, I’ve got the real secret to marital bliss and family harmony.
Marry a pizza guy.
When I met Daddy, he was a pizza delivery driver. Shortly thereafter, he regularly wooed me with perfectly placed toppings brought straight to my door.
And he’s still got skills — they especially come in handy on dreary nights when it’s too cold to go out.
I mean, really. Look at this beauty (or what’s left of it, anyway):
No one turns this dinner down. Especially when they get to help make their own. (Cheese only, obviously.)
Last but not least, this.
It’s pure love. Family pizza night rocks.
If you haven’t yet read the post by Heidi, aka Margarita Mama, on our recent Saturday afternoon at Cajun’s Wharf Christmas Camp 2014, please check it out here. As she said, we and about 2 dozen Arkansas Women Bloggers spent the afternoon with the Cajun’s Wharf crew, eating, drinking and having a grand ole’ time.
First up was a wine tasting with Dan, the manager at Cajun’s Wharf.
Dan let us sample A to Z 2013 Oregon Riesling, Yali Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, Adelsheim Pinot Noir, also from Oregon, and St. Francis Merlot from California’s Sonoma Valley. My favorites were the Riesling, which was very refreshing and not nearly as sweet as many Rieslings are, and the Merlot, which was rich and lush — everything a Merlot ought to be.
Next up was lunch. Just in case you didn’t know it, Cajun’s Wharf is now open for lunch Monday through Friday. And their lunch menu is quite varied — think seafood, salads, soup, sandwiches and burgers, plus appetizers and desert.
First up were the appetizers. The table I was at couldn’t decide what appetizers to try, so our awesome server brought a little bit of everything. It was all so good, especially the Oysters Bienville, which Heidi had to convince me to try by promising it would be as good as the last oyster she talked me into eating in Gulf Shores! It was! I think I’ll definitely order the Oysters Bienville again.
As far as the other appetizers, the artichoke dip at Cajun’s Wharf has long been a favorite of mine. Oh, and I can’t leave out the shrimp and crawfish cakes with the slightly spicy cream sauce — I could have eaten the entire plate of those!
After the appetizers, it was a wonder I had room for lunch. Ha, who am I kidding — of course I had room for lunch! My pick was the Shrimp Enchiladas, a dish that combined shrimp, cheese and sour cream. It’s like they wrote that recipe just for me!
Somehow I failed to get any good pictures of desert (sorry!) but we sampled chocolate ganache Key lime pie, coconut cream pie, white chocolate bread pudding and chocolate creme brulee and a pumpkin pie. Everything was good, but my heart will always belong to chocolate creme brulee.
After all of this deliciousness, it was time to get cooking, err, cooking tips, that is!
Mary Beth Ringgold, the co-owner of Cajun’s Wharf, Capers and Copper Grill restaurants, was our teacher for the afternoon. I was thrilled to see that the recipe she was cooking for us was Mussels and Clams in Tomato Broth. Mussels are a dish that my husband makes for us occasionally, so I was excited to take him home a recipe that adds in clams!
Mussels and Claims in Tomato Broth
- 2 lbs. Mussels
- 30 each Little Neck Clams
- 2 TBS Olive Oil
- 2 TBS Butter
- 1 Shallot, minced
- 1 each Red, yellow and green bell pepper
- 1/2 Medium yellow onion — you can use leeks instead
- 4 each Garlic cloves
- 6 sprigs Fresh Thyme
- 1 cup White Wine***
- 1 each Lemon juiced
- 2 cups Chicken broth
- 2 TBS Clam juice
- 1 can Rotel
- Pinch of Red pepper flakes
- 1 Fresh tomato
- 1/2 cup Rough chopped parsley
- 2 TBS Butter for finishing
- Salt and pepper to taste
*** Don’t cook with any wine you wouldn’t drink. — Mary Beth Ringgold
1. Rinse and scrub the mussels and clams.
2. Discard any that have opened or have broken shells.
TIP: If a shell is just partially opened, gently tap it on the side of the stock pot or counter. If it closes back on its own, it is still alive and fine to cook. If it does not, it is dead and you need to toss it!
3. Heat oil and then butter in a stock pot.
4. Saute the onion, shallot, garlic and thyme — do them in this order, especially the onion first.
5. Add the wine, chicken stock, lemon juice and red pepper flakes.
6. Add the clam juice and the Rotel.
7. Bring to a light boil.
8. Add the Clams, bring back to a boil and cook for 3-4 minutes.
9. Add the mussels and cook until the shells start to open.
10. Add the reserved butter, parsley and fresh tomatoes.
TIP: Discard any mussels and clams if their shells do not open!
11. Serve with plenty of garlic bread or toasts.
Next on the agenda was a whiskey tasting. Now I know what you’re thinking — You don’t like whiskey. I admit, I’ve often been sitting right there next to you on the “It tastes Yucky” bench. But apparently, we haven’t been drinking the right kind of whiskey!
What we tried were four types of sipping whiskey. All four were made in Nashville in small batch distilleries. And I liked three of the four, especially when I diluted them slightly.
Both the Collier & McKeel Tennessee Whiskey and the Belle Meade Bourbon Whiskey had a little bit of a sweetness to them, which really surprised me. I’ve NEVER thought that whiskey could have vanilla and maple syrup notes in it, but the Collier & McKeel did.
And being born in Kentucky, I’m glad to say I can now drink at least one type of bourbon, even if it is made in Tennessee.
I can’t quite describe the Rye Whiskey, other than to say it was very smooth and I liked it. Did you know that Ryes are considered an Old World whiskey, while the Tennessee Whiskey and Bourbon are New World ones — largely because the latter two are made with corn, which was plentiful in the United States, but not Europe.
Sadly, the one I wasn’t a fan of is Corsair Artisan’s Triple Smoke Single Malt, which was named Whiskey Advocate‘s “Artisan Whiskey of the Year.” The grains in the Triple Smoke had been smoked over three kinds of wood or fuel, including peat, which is pretty cool. Unfortunately, all my novice palate tasted in the whiskey was smoke.
Our last whiskey treat was a Tennessee sipping cream by Whisper Creek. Oh my word, it was good! If you like Bailey’s, you would like this. I think this would make an excellent treat on a cold winter’s night!
Many thanks to Cajun’s Wharf for inviting us to spend the afternoon with you. I had a blast!
In preparation for the holidays, a group of us from Arkansas Women Bloggers were treated to an amazing day filled with fresh food, drinks and even a few cooking lessons at Cajun’s Wharf Christmas Camp.
I’d never once before strayed from having Cajun’s dinnertime-only Boston casserole, which features shrimp, King crabmeat, lobster and scallops, linguine, broccoli and water chestnuts bathed in newburg sauce and topped with mozzarella. It’s so ridiculously good. (My husband always gets the Six and Six — bacon-wrapped shrimps paired with grilled sea scallops. We’re predictable people.)
But now Cajun’s is open for lunch, too, giving me a chance to cheat on my Cajun’s favorite with something else.
After sampling a few wines and an amazing array of appetizers with my fellow bloggers, I settled on a classic for lunch — the Cajun Po’Boy with shrimp. As much as I loved the sandwich, I could have eaten a whole vat of the loaded hashbrown casserole. I’ll most definitely be returning for that.
After stuffing us to the brim, co-owner Mary Beth Ringgold presented us with a cooking demonstration that included an elegant mussels and clams dish, tips on how to make a great turkey and a new take on sweet potato casserole.
Ringgold suggests brining and later stuffing a turkey with leeks, lemons, pears and honeycrisp or Granny Smith apples. Another pro tactic she shared was crisping the turkey skin to a golden brown first at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes. Afterward, turn down the oven to about 340 degrees and foil tent your turkey for the remaining cook time, without opening the door again to get a juicy yet perfectly done breast.
She also shared her mom’s sweet potato casserole recipe. It’s sneakily similar to one on the Gourmet-to-Go menu at Cajun’s sister restaurant, Capers, so you know it’s a winner.
- 4 lbs. sweet potatoes, sliced and oven roasted ahead of time
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Topping (can be made ahead and frozen):
- 1 cup coconut
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/3 cup melted butter
Mix main ingredients and spread in a casserole dish, then evenly spread the topping. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. If the topping browns too quickly, cover with foil until finished. (Or, heck, pick one up at Capers!)
Another thing Cajun’s Wharf is famous for is its Play-De-Do drink, a delicious pink concoction served in mason jars that never fails to please. Its seasonal twist on the classic is a Holly-De-HoHo — and I can attest that it will make you just as happy.
If you want to try making your own version, here’s the recipe:
- one bottle of red wine (use the kind that you like!)
- 2 cups pomegranate juice
- 1/2 cup brandy
- 1/2 cup triple sec
- 1/4 cup simple syrup
Cajun’s suggestions for adding holiday flair are to garnish with pomegranate seeds, orange slices, green apple slices and grapes.
While the rest of us are dreading the SNOW PANIC of the season, at least someone was genuinely thrilled to wake up to see the extremely light dusting of white powder on trees, decks and cars this morning.
Among the morning howling for oatmeal to warm their bellies and dogs scratching at the door to get out, I realized what had happened and yelled out, “Snow!”
Kendall was immediately overcome with the sense of excitement and yelled out in return, “Christmas!” (Ava quickly explained to her that, sadly, it’s not Christmas every time it snows.)
It’s looking like we may get another shot at this snow thing this weekend. So everyone, do as we do in Arkansas and run out to claim all the milk and bread you can find at the store. Meanwhile, I’m feeling well stocked already. I’m about to fill up the crockpot, as nature instructs you to do on a frozen day.
Stay warm out there.
We’ve reached what is officially the busiest time of year. It’s full steam ahead from now until January, when the holidays are over. But a little advance planning can help take the edge off from the stress of seasonal meals — along with stocking up for unexpected party invitations and guests of your own.
While you’re out shopping, eating or running errands, a quick stop into Strippaggio’s at The Promenade at Chenal can help you gather up a few supplies to carry you through.
One of my in-laws’ favorite appetizers is a zippy jelly or sauce over cream cheese with crackers or Triscuits. It’s a tasty snack to put out with a fruit or veggie tray while you’re cooking, and it’s something easy to stash away for one of those times when an event pops up with little notice.
The best part is that you’ll nearly always have some sauce left over for another use. I’d pick the raspberry chipotle sauce to recycle as part of a guest-worthy lunch panini, featuring turkey, brie and spinach.
The Peach Jezebel sauce would be fabulous to glaze your holiday ham. I’m a simple gal when it comes to cooking — just pour it over when it’s got about 15-20 minutes left to bake, and you’re done. (You could chance it earlier, but sweet sauces may tend to overcarmelize sometimes.) If you don’t want to mess with the traditional “big meal,” you can hold onto it instead to jazz up leftovers.
As I’ve noted before, I’m in a squash period right now. Can’t get enough. It’s both in season and easy to cook. And if you’ve got any guests who are going gluten-free, it’s a good option for them. My favorite pairing with it is Strippaggio’s Milanese Gremolata oil, plus a little salt and pepper.
After it’s prepped, pop it in the oven at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes or more, depending on the size of the squash. Once it’s done, scoop out the tasty strands and perhaps re-season a bit, if needed.
You most definitely can’t forget dessert. I’m a little bit in love with sweets featuring sea salt, so my heart skipped a beat when I saw this on the shelves:
I can think of so many things to do with this sauce. Ice cream. Brownies. Frozen carmel bananas on sticks. Topping an apple pie. Whatever treat your crowd is into, this would surely add a touch of luxuriousness appropriate for the holidays.
Enjoy the season, everyone! It’s a beautiful time to celebrate food and family.
Note: This is a compensated post. Of course, all opinions/thoughts/feelings are my own, however.
Apparently, my kids are behind the times and haven’t figured out yet that it’s trendy to dig in and eat every veggie in sight.
I’ve tried engaging them in meal planning, with limited success. Each Saturday, when I sit down with my menu board, coupons and grocery store flier, I plot out the week’s dinners. As I fill in each section, I’ll often ask the girls what they want for dinner and get crazy replies or none at all. But over time, I’ve honed in on them a bit. I’ll sometimes ask each of them directly to just pick one vegetable to go with a certain dinner, and it can’t be one that another child has already picked — otherwise we’d explode in a mountain of corn each week. Then, when their veggie lies on the plate, there’s at least some ownership of that choice.
Another way to go about it is at the actual grocery store, where they can ogle over all the choices in the produce section. This will often lead me to some random things that are harder to put together, like purple cauliflower and eggplant. And somehow less guarantee that the kids will actually give them a try, although you’d think the opposite. I suppose that they’re just like the rest of us, who are spontaneously tempted to buy jicama once in awhile and then have no idea what to do with it when it’s actually sitting in front of them.
This week, we fell down to flat-out trickery.
I’m in what you’d call a squash period right now. Last week, I roasted butternut squash in chunks with oil and grill seasoning. And it was delicious! I figured the would take better to it, given that it’s almost like sweet potato. But no dice. So I knew this week’s acorn squash selection was going to be even more difficult.
I prepared it ahead of time, so they wouldn’t see it in its original state. And there was nary a peep about squash. Instead, chef Daddy presented “brown sugar flowers” at the dinner table, with a wonderful pairing of salmon (also known as “Barbie chicken” for a more palatable presentation), asparagus and multigrain bread.
Alas, Ava moved too quickly and bit into the blechy rind of the flower, which was still intact. Sometimes, one bite is all you get — especially with picky kids like her. However, I’m willing to call that a win, because at least it’s trying something new.
Other tricks up my sleeve include :
- adding spinach to smoothies, particularly with apple juice or pineapple masking the flavor
- Capri Sun’s Super V pouches, a gateway toward straight-up veggie juice — someday!
- veggie soups, which tend to go over easier in our house for some reason, especially blended up
- dips for raw veggies, or warm spinach and artichoke dip over chicken or pasta
- zucchini bread, most delicious served warm
If there’s something I haven’t thought of, please share. We could all use the help!
Fall’s biggest trends in Little Rock shops are on display at The Promenade at Chenal tonight as part of the Lights, Music, Fashion event held in conjunction with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and The Pointe Brodie Creek.
If you have a few minutes to get over there before 7 p.m., you have a chance to win one of these great outfits — which are all about $200. Just take your picture with the model and post it to Instagram using #LightsMusicFashion and tagging @ChenalPromenade and the store you’re in.
But if you’re on the hunt for a new game day outfit or something to wear on a night out with your girls, these outfits will all be available at the featured Promenade stores for longer. Bold colors and Aztec-looking prints are clearly winners in this lineup, along with everything red. (Go Razorbacks!)
Here’s the picks:
My family, especially my husband, loves to eat soup. My husband could eat it all year long — but I’m not a fan of soup when it is 100 degrees outside, so I generally pass on it in the summer.
So on the first day the weather turned chilly this month, my husband was making soup. In this case it was his veggie soup, which is one of my absolute favorites!
I highly recommend serving this with your favorite bread — we lean toward crescent rolls, but a good crusty bread works well too.
Matt’s Veggie Soup
3 tbsp olive oil
2 lbs red potatoes chopped into bite size
1 lb carrots chopped to bite size
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp. garlic, minced
4-6 stalks celery, chopped
1 bag frozen green beans
One can kidney beans, rinsed
* 2 tbsp Old Bay Seasoning — it may not seem like it, but this a KEY ingredient!
1 32 oz package of Vegetable broth
One can stewed tomatoes
In large pot, heat olive oil. (1) Add potatoes, carrots, onion, celery, salt and pepper and ½ Old Bay Seasoning to the pot. Saute until onions are clear, about 5-6 minutes, adding more oil if needed.
(2) Add broth, kidney beans, stewed tomatoes, and rest of Old Bay Seasoning, adding a bit more Old Bay if needed. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
(3) Add frozen green beans and stir well. Cook for 30-45 minutes until potatoes and carrots are tender.
Voila! Dinner is served!
UPDATE: Congratulations to Becky Layes! She is the winner of two tickets to Talk With Your Mouth Full!
Note: This is a sponsored post; however, all opinions expressed are my own.
The Promenade at Chenal is hosting “Talk With Your Mouth Full,” in conjunction with the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Sept. 25 from 5-7 p.m.
The “Talk With Your Mouth Full” event offers a perfect time to network and nosh on some delicious food from 8 restaurants at The Promenade. Tickets are $5 in advance and $10 at the door — pretty reasonable for all of the yummy bites you get a chance to sample! Food and conversation — what could be better?
And Little Rock Mamas has two tickets to give away! Keep reading for the details.
But first, how about a sneak peak at the menu?
A.W. Lin’s Asian Cuisine — Red curry chicken, vegetable fried rice and spicy scallion chicken
Big Orange Burger — Tzatziki, chicken salad, pimento cheese with veggies to dip and Kennebec potato chips with dip
Bravo! Cucina Italiana — Crab cakes, Pasta BRAVO and Insalata Fresca
Café Brunelle — Assorted crostini bites, mini savory rolls and cinnamon rolls, mini desserts (think cookies and bars) and coffee and tea shots to sample
Local Lime — Various appetizers including Queso dip, salsas (red and zucchini), guacamole and market corn
Maggie Moo’s Ice Cream & Treatery — Ice cream in sweet cream and dark chocolate flavors, low-fat yogurt in vanilla and chocolate, and sorbet in mango and raspberry
The Tavern Sports Grill — Award-winning smoked buffalo wings and a strawberry salad
YaYa’s Euro Bistro — Hummus and pita, Spanish meatballs with saffron tomato sauce, and phyllo dough cups with lemon curd and blueberries
Is your mouth watering yet? Mine definitely is!
Now back to the giveaway: to win the two tickets, leave a comment on this post telling me which of the menu items you would most like to try. I will choose a winner in a random drawing on Monday morning, so get those entries in!
Also, the tickets will be left for you at Will Call, so you will be able to pick up the tickets at the event.
I cobbled this together using several recipes. Very easy!
Four boneless chicken breasts
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of chicken & herbs soup
1 stick of butter
small container of sour cream
2 15-oz cans of chicken broth
1 package of egg noodles
Salt and pepper chicken breasts and place in crockpot. Combine soups and broth and add to pot. Slice butter into smaller pieces and add to pot. You can cook on low for 6 to 7 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours. Remove and shred chicken. If the crockpot isn’t already on high, turn it to high. When liquid begins to boil, add noodles and stir in sour cream to desired taste and thickness.