Big Mamou for Jeanne!

A while back, Jeanne asked me for J’s “Big Mamou over Pasta” recipe. I asked J to cough it up, and she lent me her battered copy of Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen. In true Southern Girl fashion, I didn’t need to check the index; I simply opened the book to the most stained, wrinkly page, and there it was. The recipe is somewhat long and involved, but the flavor is absolutely amazing and authentic. Here ya go Jeanne:

Big Mamou


6 qt Hot water
3 T Salt
1/4 c Vegetable oil
1 1/2 lb Fresh spaghetti (1 lb dry)
2 t Dried thyme leaves
3/4 t Black pepper
1 1/4 t Ground cayenne pepper
1/2 t Dried sweet basil leaves
1 t White pepper
1 lb Unsalted butter plus
2 T Worcestershire sauce
4 T Unsalted butter
1 T Tabasco sauce + 1 teaspoon
1 c Onions, chopped very fine
2 cans Tomato sauce (16 oz)
4 Med. garlic cloves, peeled
2 T Sugar
2 t Minced garlic
2 c Green onions, chopped very fine
3 1/4 c RICH chicken stock (this is basic chicken stock simmered until its' volume is reduced by half)
1 1/2 T salt
1 t Black pepper
1 1/2 t White pepper
1 t Cumin (optional)
1 1/2 t Garlic powder
1/2 t Dried sweet basil leaves
1 1/4 t Ground cayenne pepper
2 lb Boneless chicken, light and dark meat, cut into ½-inch cubes
Bring hot water, oil and salt in a large pot to a boil. Add spaghetti to the pot, Return to boiling and cook to al dente stage. Do not
overcook. Drain spaghetti into a colander; run cold water over strands. (If you used dry spaghetti, first rinse with hot water to wash off starch.) After the pasta has cooled pour a liberal amount of vegetable oil in your hands and toss spaghetti. Set aside. Meanwhile, combine the seasoning mix ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
In a 4-quart saucepan, combine 1-1/2 sticks of the butter, onions and garlic cloves; sauté over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the minced garlic and seasoning mix; continue cooking over medium heat until onions are dark brown, but not burned, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often. Add 2-1/2 cups of the stock, the Worcestershire and Tabasco; bring to a fast simmer and cook about 8 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the tomato sauce and bring mixture to a boil. Then stir in the sugar and 1 cup of the green onions; gently simmer uncovered about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Heat the serving plates in a 250F oven. Combine the ingredients of the chicken seasoning mix in a small bowl; mix well. Sprinkle over the chicken, rubbing it in with your hands. In a large skillet melt 1-1/2 sticks of the butter over medium heat. Add the remaining 1 cup green onions and sauté over high heat about 3 minutes. Add the chicken and continue cooking 10 minutes, stirring frequently. When the tomato sauce has simmered about 40 minutes, stir in the chicken
mixture and heat through.
To finish the dish, for each serving melt 2 T butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add one-sixth of the cooked spaghetti (a bit less than a 2 cup measure); heat spaghetti 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 1-1/4 c chicken and sauce and 2 T of remaining stock; heat thoroughly, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Place spaghetti onto a heated serving plate. Repeat process for remaining servings.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

200 Eggs Later…

Despite the broken oven fiasco, Easter still was an absolutely blast. Somehow, the Easter Bunny (and her cohorts) managed to hide four dozen dyed eggs and 150 or so plastic eggs, all after downing a substantial cocktail…or three…broken ovens require copious medicinal beverages, ya know. The point is, hiding that many eggs at midnight deserves an Easter merit badge or something.

As with any activity in our home that involves male participation, our egg hunt was a well-strategized competition, with plenty of running, sneaking and gloating.


We may actually plan ahead next year and try something more elaborate, with prizes, but I just didn’t quite have time to consult with the Easter Bunny on much of anything this month. In fact, I think my whole brood better be satisfied with clean underwear, because even that is being counted as a major accomplishment in my book right now.

The boys ended up with lots of chocolate, candy and Pokémon cards, though they seemed skeptical about sharing their stash with their poor, deprived mother:

However, the Easter Bunny must be a genius, because it delivered plenty of high-end chocolate to me and a bottle of Belvidere to my husband. Gotta love that bunny…

Even though this was supposed to be a fairly informal, kind of last-minute get-together, I still decided to break out the fancy china:

Something about setting the table makes my OCD happy, even if my change-of-plans raised a few eyebrows. For an impromptu centerpiece, I bought a bundle of mixed flowers at Sam’s Club, then arranged them myself in a container with a little leftover floral foam from J and I’s Thanksgiving adventures. J also ran out and bought some egg-shaped salt and pepper shakers, because she has secret table OCD too, even if she won’t admit it. I did not feel even remotely silly by eating such a casual meal on my grandmother’s wedding china…I just chalked it up to southern eccentricity, and poured everyone more wine.

Now, if I can just get a new oven picked out and installed anytime this century, I think life will be just about back on track.

Where am I?

Oven Shopping…that’s where. My less-than-two-year-old oven died…right about the time I was cooking Easter Lunch for twelve. The repair man wants all my money and maybe even my first-born to fix it. After Googling the problem extensively, I’ve learned that it’s probably not worth fixing the oven, because it has a bad rep for being a lemon.

So, stay tuned, because all my free time is being sucked up by desperate oven shopping.

Any advice before I go drop a painful chunk of change?

Well, Isn’t That Nice?

Because Easter falls ridiculously late this year, my kids’ school has already had Spring Break. However, they were supposed to get a smaller Easter break this weekend, which made me a happy girl. It’s hard to plan a nice, big family Easter get-together if you’re worried about getting organized for school the next day. I was so looking forward to a little break with the kids, some time with my family and a weekend of nothing to do but relax and enjoy.

But then came yesterday. My oldest child came home with a bucketful of homework and projects that are due, you guessed it, the day after Easter break. He has two major tests with study guides to complete, a clay model of a planet to build and an accompanying report to write.


Why, oh why do teachers assign big projects during holiday breaks? That annoyed me as a kid, and it’s annoying me even more as a mom. I am sure they have a good reason…I think…but every mom knows that, if your child gets stuck with a holiday-break project, the entire family is stuck with a holiday-break project too. Talk about sucking the vacation out of our vacation.

Guess we know what I’ll be doing on Saturday…

Geeking Out

Being the wife of a closet computer geek, as well as the mother of two boys, video games are ever-present at my house. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up playing Nintendo in its’ various forms, and have been known to play the Legend of Zelda for an hour…or five…but whatever. However, my guys take to video gaming the way other boys do to sports. They play video games, they talk about video games and they reference video games so often it’s like we have our own secret language.

As for me, my video game time has certainly declined over the years. I’m a working mom, and I have more important things to do…like cooking, cleaning, brushing my teeth and finding time to beat back my sentient laundry pile.

But then came the iPhone…oh, how I love my iPhone. It has all kind of nifty games, and they are great for waiting in line, which is something I’ve never been very good at. My handy-dandy iPhone has saved me from going batty at the doctor’s office and the dreaded DMV. After chastising my husband for a year that he needed to put the dang phone down, I have now become just as attached to my phone as he was…a fact about which he loves to remind me…the booger. Ok, not really, because he definitely has a point, and turn-about is fair play.

If having my addiction-inducing iPhone was not enough, my kids introduced me to the most ridiculous game ever: Plants Versus Zombies.

This entire game is based on the premise that cartoon plants must defend your house against cartoon zombies. It’s cute…in a must-be-laced-with-crack-because-it’s-so-addicting kind of way. I confess that, after watching my kids and husband cackle like loons over this computer game, I had to try it. I just hated being left out, and I wanted to know what all the dang fuss was about. But, alas, I didn’t have time to sit in front of the computer…I get enough of that at the office. Then, my boys informed me that I could play it on my iPhone…and that was all she wrote.

If you need me, I’ll be under my desk with a Diet Coke and my phone. Just don’t tell anyone I told you.

Stress Relief

Yesterday was the perfect, Louisiana day. The weather was gorgeous, and the temperature was just warm enough to toss on a pair of shorts, but cool enough to spend the entire day outside without breaking a sweat. Also, the Jurassic mosquitoes have not returned en mass yet. Definitely a recipe for the ideal weekend, especially when we know the blistering, bug-filled heat of summer is just around the corner.

My husband and I had already enjoyed a wonderful date on Friday night, and we stayed up way too late drinking cocktails on the porch with my aunt. Despite the fact that we were dragging from our 2 a.m. bedtime, we were determined to make the most of our Saturday. With all of the work-related stress we’ve experienced in recent weeks, not to mention testing at the kids’ school, our whole family has been a little frayed around the edges. So, we rounded up the kids, grabbed the ice chest and headed for the lake. Let me tell ya, a day of unplugged, meandering family-time in the spring sunshine was exactly what we all needed.

At first, we tried to fish:

And I believe try is the operative word here. Not that I minded…I love hanging out on the dock…something about the warm cypress planks on my bare feet makes me a happy girl:

After about thirty minutes of zero luck, we abandoned the fishing idea, and spent the rest of the afternoon walking, exploring and generally meandering along with no set goal.

The boys walked along the lakeshore, and found shells, sticks and rocks…which of course let to a contest of who could find the coolest shell:

They also found flowers, bugs and a bird’s nest:

We stumbled across the nest by accident, and though we kept a careful perimeter, a mama-bird still gave us a good squawking, ruffled feathers and all. We also got to see some unusual wildlife:

And that was hilarious! Every time the boys would laugh, the turkey would let out a resounding “gobble,” which, of course, only resulted in more laughter.

After walking the shoreline for hours, I considered letting them explore the woods:

But sandals plus woods would probably equal a bad idea, so we passed on that notion.

By the time we made it home, we were tired and sandy, but I think everyone felt better than we have in weeks. I am always surprised how days that are unplugged, unstructured and unplanned can be the best days of all.

Now, if I could just bottle that effect for those Tuesdays-from-hell…


It’s Friday, my husband and I have a babysitter for tonight and the weather looks perfect.

You know what that is? That is my personal trifecta of happiness.

A nice romantic date…and glass of wine or two….and a whole weekend of relaxing ahead of us…We may even hit the lake tomorrow.

Me and Friday are BFF’s.

Breakfast for Dinner…or a Shameless Play for Positive Reinforcement

Every once in a while, I need a break from the constant dinnertime battle with my picky eaters. I can only bribe, cajole, and bargain for so long before my urge to run screaming from the kitchen becomes less fantasy and more reality. When that time comes, I break out the big guns and make French toast. Since my picky eaters are by definition, picky about everything, I went through quite a period of trial and error to find a method that did not leave the toast too soggy, too toasty, or too egg-y (and yes, I know egg-y is not a word). Here’s how I do it:

First, the ingredients. You’ll need:

  • 2 loaves of French Bread
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (the good stuff…imitation is for sissies)
  • 2 cups milk
  • Vegetable oil AND butter/margarine for cooking

When making French toast, it’s best to use bread that is slightly stale and dry; fresh, soft bread will turn into a soggy mess of mush. Mushy bread = long-suffering sighs that will only land someone in a timeout. The easiest way to get your bread to evenly stale/dry is to slice it into ¾ to 1-inch slices, and leave it out and uncovered for several hours:

Or, if you are a poor-planning, last-minute mess like me, you can always cheat! Mwa-ha-ha! To quickly stale up that pesky fresh bread, toss the slices into a 200 degree oven for 10 minutes, turning once halfway through (during which time you may or may not fix yourself a cocktail):

Ta da! Just remember, you don’t want your bread to be hockey pucks, just kind of dry. Now it’s time to focus on batter. In a medium bowl, crack the eggs:

And beat them into submission with a whisk, while picturing whoever-ticked-you-off-today’s face:

Feel better? I know I sure do. Anyway, add the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla:

And whisk until thoroughly blended:

Finally, whisk in the milk until well-combined:

Now that both the bread and batter are ready to go, let’s focus on the cooking process. To get started, heat up your largest nonstick skillet or pan on medium-high heat. To cook the French toast, you are going to pan-fry it in a combination of vegetable oil and butter. Why? Well, ideally you want the happy flavor that butter gives, but the heat in the pan will be high enough to burn both the butter and the bread before the toast gets cooked through; if you try to lower the heat too much to accommodate the finicky butter, the bread will not cook properly, and end up greasy and soggy. By using a combination of oil and butter, you’ll get the taste and browning you want, because the added oil raises the temperature that the butter can be heated to without burning. I don’t have exact measurements for this part, because you just have to eyeball it based on the size of your pan. When I cook French toast, I look at my non-stick skillet, and estimate that a couple of tablespoons of oil will just about coat the bottom of the skillet if I were to swish it around:

(That picture is pre-swish, by the way). Next, I add about a tablespoon or so of butter:

Bear in mind that the oil/butter measurements are based on the size of my pan. You only want enough so that the bottom of your pan will be well-coated; you don’t want a half-inch deep pool! Once you add the butter to the hot pan, it will probably start to bubble and spit violently, as seen below. Just lift the pan off the heat for a second, swish it around till the butter melts into the oil, and return the pan to the heat…basically, you’re telling it to take a chill-pill:

Now, it’s officially time to cook. Working quickly, dip each slice of bread into the batter mixture and immediately plop it in the skillet. Only dip as much bread as will fit into the skillet for this batch. The key here is a quick dip! Don’t send the bread scuba-diving in the batter, or it will end up being too soggy to cook through. A quick dunk and drop will do, one piece at a time:

After a couple of minutes, check the underside to see how things are going. Even with the butter/oil trick, the toast can burn easily if ignored too long. It’s no big deal…it just means that you probably do not want to try this recipe and give yourself a pedicure at the same time. Once the toast is browned to your liking, give it a flip:

Continue to cook until the other side is satisfactorily browned as well, anywhere from two to five minutes. Transfer the cooked French toast to a baking sheet, and pop it into a 200 degree oven to keep warm while you finish cooking the rest of the bread slices. Remember, that between each batch, you will have to add more oil and butter to the pan as described above. The two loaves of bread I used required about five to six batches in order to get all the slices cooked:

Serve this up with some warm syrup, a dusting of powdered sugar if you really want to be excessive, and maybe some bacon or sausage if you are extra ambitious.

And that’s how I get a “You’re the BEST MOM EVER,” on a Tuesday night. Positively Machiavellian, I know.

How ‘Bout No?

With heat and humidity creeping back into our weather, I had hoped to do a little something with my hair that didn’t involve cutting or perpetual ponytails.

My poor hair is a freak-show. Up until I had kids, it was super-straight, and could not hold a curl to save its’ life. Back in the 80’s, my mom even had my hair permed, only to have the curl fall out not three days later. However, after I had the heathens, a few sections of my hair developed these bizarre, errant waves that can’t even truly be classified as waves…I’d describe them more as a spastic bend here and there. As a result, I have to style my hair (when I’m ambitious enough to do so) with either a flat iron or a large-barrel curling iron. Otherwise, I look like a scruffy, wreck of a woman.

I saw this product at my local Target and snatched it up:

And let’s just say, DANG!! I wish I had read the reviews on Amazon first!!!!! Not only does this stuff smell like the worst chemical spill you could ever imagine, that gosh-awful smell stuck around for days. Every time my hair got wet, I smelled noxious, and our poor bathroom still seems toxic. I swear, people around me probably thought I had fallen into a tub of flea-dip. Even using this product, I still (as per the instructions) had to flat-iron my hair, which made me wonder why I suffered through a chemical nightmare if I was still stuck with all the work of styling anyway. If anything, my hair felt drier, messier and more unruly than ever. It certainly was not smoother, shinier or faster to style, as the product advertised.

So, in my humble opinion, avoid Garnier’s Blow Dry Perfector. Unless you are really ready for a drastic hair-cut, that is.