Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Gumbo in the Summer? Yes please!

So ya'll know I am from Louisiana and I love to cook, so I was so happy to find this new gumbo recipe from Lucy Buffet! How you enjoy it
Lucy's Signature Summer Seafood Gumbo_credit Angie Mosier.jpg
Recipe image credit: Angie Mosier


Recipe text: Excerpted from the book GUMBO LOVE by Lucy Buffett. Copyright © 2017 by Lucy Buffett. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Life & Style. All rights reserved.
It takes courage to make a gumbo, and you’ve got to rustle up plenty more qualities along the way to achieve a successful end result. But like any character-building exercise, your experience and wisdom deepens with every step, until you reach a profound sense of satisfaction by the end of the process. A simmering pot of contentment is your reward, and the knowledge that you made this nurturing goodness from the humblest of ingredients and your own ability. It is literally and figuratively a pot full of flavor that can feed your loved ones for days and that’s just brimming with all the courage, mindfulness, and love you put into it.
It all starts with preparation—you must gather all the ingredients and prep them: chop the vegetables, clean the seafood, and sauté the meats and sausages. When done in an orderly fashion, this preparation simplifies the steps to come. It eliminates the chaos and fear. With practice and focus, you quickly learn you were more afraid of the fear itself than the task at hand.
Next is the queen bee—the roux! Making a roux simply requires a little focus and paying attention, seasoned with faith—you have to shake off the doubt and believe in yourself before diving headfirst into the perseverance part, which keeps you doing what you have to do, stirring long after your arm has gone numb from pain. Then there’s the listening, where you tune in to your wisdom and experience to take the roux just to the edge of burning before you toss in the vegetables. Next is the easy follow-directions part, where you do what you’re told to do: you add the stock, along with the rest of the ingredients and seasonings, and mix it all together. Then comes the hard part for lots of us: you let it go. You leave it alone, letting it simmer, with an occasional stir. You get out of the way. You trust the age-old cooking process and let the magic happen.
Gumbo Love.jpg

OVER THE YEARS, this is the recipe that I’ve cooked the most and that has remained a featured specialty at my restaurants. As far as the seafood goes, I use shrimp and crab, but if it’s cool enough for oysters and there are some sweet and pretty ones available, or it’s crawfish season, I will toss those in, too. And though I usually use only sausage in my winter gumbo, it’s no crime to add a little andouille to the pot as well.

3 pounds medium wild-caught Gulf shrimp, heads on
2 pounds cooked blue crab claw meat, picked through for shells, handled carefully to keep the meat in big chunks
4 large ripe tomatoes, or 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes with their juices
¾ cup vegetable oil or bacon grease
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
1 bunch celery, coarsely chopped, including leaves
2 green bell peppers, coarsely chopped
8 cups shrimp or seafood stock (recipe follows), heated
2 to 3 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons dried thyme
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 tablespoons LuLu’s Crazy Creola Seasoning (recipe follows), or other Creole seasoning
¼ cup hot sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 blue crab bodies, if available (optional)
2½ pounds fresh okra, chopped into ¼-inch pieces, or thawed frozen cut okra
2 cups finely chopped green onions
½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
½ cup fresh lemon juice
Cooked white rice, for serving
French bread and butter, for serving
1. Peel and devein the shrimp. (If you’re making your own stock, reserve the heads and shells to make the stock.) Refrigerate the shrimp and crabmeat until ready to use.
2. If using fresh tomatoes, fill a medium saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Carefully drop the tomatoes into the boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and let them cool. The skins will slip off easily. Remove the cores and coarsely chop the tomatoes over a bowl to retain as much juice as possible. Set aside. (If using canned tomatoes, chop each tomato into eighths and return them to the juice in the can.)
3. To make the roux, in a large stockpot (about 10 quarts), heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, gradually add the flour, whisking continuously, and cook, stirring and adjusting the heat as necessary to keep it from burning, until the roux is a dark mahogany color, 25 to 35 minutes. Be careful: if the roux burns, you will have to start all over again!
4. Carefully add the onion to the roux and stir with a large wooden spoon for 2 to 3 minutes. (The onion will sizzle and steam when it hits the hot roux, so caution is advised. All seasoned gumbo cooks have roux battle scars on one or both arms.)
5. Add the celery and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 to 3 minutes.
6. Add the bell pepper and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 to 3 minutes more. The mixture should resemble a pot of black beans in color and texture.
7. Add the heated stock and the tomatoes with their juices. Stir in the salt, black pepper, cayenne, thyme, bay leaves, oregano, basil, Creole seasoning, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well. Bring the gumbo to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to maintain a slow simmer. Add the crab bodies (if using) and simmer, uncovered, for about 1 hour.
8. Add the okra and bring the gumbo to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to maintain a slow simmer and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until the okra has lost its bright green color and cooked down like the other vegetables. If the gumbo gets too thick, add a little water. If it is too thin, continue to simmer it, uncovered.
9. Gumbo is always better the day after it has been cooked, although I’ve never had a complaint when I served it the day I made it. At this point, you can cool the gumbo. Turn off the heat and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Then place the pot, uncovered, in an empty sink. Fill the sink with cold water and ice around the stockpot (try not to get any in the stockpot itself). Stir every 15 minutes to facilitate cooling. (The gumbo will spoil if improperly cooled—see page xxx for tips on cooling the gumbo.) When completely cool, refrigerate the gumbo in the stockpot, uncovered.
10. When ready to serve, slowly bring the gumbo to a simmer over medium-low
heat. Thirty minutes before serving, add the green onion, parsley, and lemon juice to the gumbo. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Add the shrimp and crabmeat, mix well, and cook for 2 minutes. Cover and turn off the heat. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes more to cook the seafood. The gumbo will stay hot for a long time. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Taste and adjust the seasonings; serve over cooked white rice with French bread and butter.


If you are lucky enough to get shrimp with the heads on, rejoice. Shrimp heads make the stock even richer and more flavorful. When making stock, I fill an empty liter Coke bottle (label removed) with water and freeze it ahead of time. When the stock has cooled down a bit, about 30 minutes or so, I plunge the frozen bottle into the middle to help cool the stock from the inside out. This is also how I cool down a pot of gumbo before refrigerating it.
Heads, tails, and shells from about 5 pounds peeled wild-caught Gulf shrimp
6 quarts water
2 lemons, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
2 bay leaves
3 onions, coarsely chopped
6 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 bunch green onions, coarsely chopped
Handful of fresh parsley with stems, washed thoroughly
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 whole garlic clove
White wine
1. At least several hours before you plan to make the stock, fill a clean, empty 1-liter soda bottle with water to about 2 inches from the top, seal, and freeze it.
2. Run cold water over the shrimp shells to rinse. Place all the ingredients in a medium stockpot. Bring to a boil over high heat.
3. Reduce the heat to medium, or until the stock is simmering. Skim off the foam that rises to the top. Cook for a couple of hours, skimming again about every 15 minutes.
4. Place the stockpot in an empty sink. Fill the sink with water and ice around the stockpot. Let the stock cool completely, uncovered. When the stock has cooled down a bit, about 30 minutes or so, put the frozen soda bottle in the middle to cool the stock from the inside out. Strain the stock, discarding the solids, transfer to storage containers, and refrigerate or freeze immediately.


1 tablespoon sea salt
2 tablespoons granulated garlic or garlic powder
4 teaspoons granulated onion or onion powder
¼ cup paprika
1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons white pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Combine all the ingredients and store in an airtight container.


Monday, July 03, 2017

Preparing for July 4th Weekend: Treats, Outfits and Decor

For some reason, I am really "in" to July 4th this year. 

A couple of days ago, I went to Pinterest to print out July 4th water bottle wrappers. I then ran to Target and JoAnn Fabrics for a few other items (straws, plates, napkins, banners, etc). I put all the fun supplies on my dining room table to give the main living area a festive vibe.

Speaking of Pinterest, I found this great recipe for Strawberry Shortcake (simple and quick!). It made for a nice brunch and we even had leftovers. The kids loved the shortcake, as it is sweeter than many recipes.

The kids wanted to "make" something as well, so I let them dip pretzel rods in white chocolate and decorate with candy and sprinkles.

It's no secret that my family loves cupcakes! We baked our cupcakes inside ice cream cones for an extra touch of summer!

Here is another treat that kids love. Using Gimbal’s Fine Candies’ Gourmet Jelly Beans, Sprite and a popsicle mold, you can make some sweet popsicles that are festive and fun!

With all this great food, I SHOULD be worried about my weight (ha)...but I can concentrate on that after the long weekend!!  So, what am I wearing this weekend? I purchased a pair of red Chino shorts last year and let me tell you, I wear them all the time! In fact, I got a second pair this year! (My favorite shorts, by the way are Liz Claiborne shorts from JCPenney.).  Here are a few outfits I put together:

Old Navy Tank and Liz Claiborne Chino shorts
Old Navy striped tunic, Liz Claiborne shorts, Converse sneakers 
Mickey Shirt from Etsy/The Magical Feather. Bracelets from Charming Charlie. Phone case by Kate Spade NY.
This last outfit is a little bit more basic, but still very festive for an outside barbecue at the lake.
Navy tee with ruffle shoulders from TJMaxx and yet again (ha!) my Red shorts.
One last thing I must mention, my family loves Tervis tumblers. I was pleased to find two USA/Disney themed tervis cups at Epcot this past week. The perfect accessory, in my opinion!
So, how are you celebrating this July 4th weekend!?
--God Bless the USA--

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Coffee Lovers...

I love Community Coffee (but truth be told, I am from Louisiana and this is the coffee I grew up having in the house).

Well...Just in time for spring entertaining, Community Coffee Company’s NEW Amber Sunrise Blend is perfect for coffee drinkers who prefer a lighter roast with a smooth finish.

Plus, for every dollar redeemed on specially-marked coupons, Community will donate a matching dollar to land preservation efforts along the gulf coast, one of the largest threatened ecosystems in the world.

Community® Amber Sunrise™ Blend coffee is now available at Albertson’s, Brookshire’s, Brookshire Brothers, Randall’s, Rouse’s, Spring Market, Super 1, Tom Thumb and Winn-Dixie across the Southeastern United States.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Spring Break is Coming! Four Tips for Spring Break Travel for Families  

Four Tips for Spring Break Travel for Families

Spring break is right around the corner and families everywhere are escaping their daily routine to have some family-fun. Packing for an entire family can be challenging, but check out these easy tips to make your trip go much smoother!

1.      Pack Smart and Soon! Spring weather can be tricky, so make sure to pack layers for everyone in the family! Light sweaters and cardigans are the perfect items to pack, as they do not take up a lot of space.

Another pro-tip for packing is do not wait until last minute! Make sure everyone is packed ahead of time to avoid rushing and forgetting important items, like sunscreen, hand sanitizers, etc. Don’t forget to order your TravelOn Hand Soap Sheets ($10.00). These pocket-sized biodegradable sheets are a must-have when traveling with children, and help everyone avoid touching germ-filled surfaces. Easier to carry than a bar of soap, these paper-thin soap sheets dissolve almost instantly in water, giving you a handful of cleansing suds anywhere. TSA compliant and biodegradable, the palm-size container holds 50 sheets.

2.      Boredom Busters- No matter how many activities you have planned, kids get bored at some point. To avoid whining bring coloring books, travel games or download new apps!

3.      Plan ahead-Whether enjoying a staycation or traveling to a new destination, create a rough itinerary including things to do in the area, restaurants to try, etc. A great app for parents is GetBeen! Rather than trusting on an unreliable restaurant reviews in unfamiliar cities, GetBeen allows users to see friend’s restaurant, hotel, and amusement kid-friendly suggestions on all of your travels! By planning ahead, you can stick to your budget and avoid unplanned expenses.

4.      Don’t forget to have fun! Remember, this is your vacation too! Sit back and relax, you deserve it!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Menopause? Stress? Brain Tumor? My recent health scare...

For the past three or four months, I have been getting light headed & dizzy.  I originally thought allergies or stress.  I took anxiety medication (Xanax) and motion sickness meds (like Dramamine or Bonine) to help on these “off” days.  In November, my doctor performed the “epley maneuver” thinking it was vertigo.  I felt better for a few days, I think. I wasn’t really sure if it helped or not.

Another weird symptom I have been having is odd tingling.  I remember one night telling my hubby that I felt like a human voodoo doll.  I felt as if someone was pricking me all over with a needle.  It didn’t hurt but was uncomfortable.  The prick would hit my head, then my arm, then my foot then my back…and it lasted all day long.  I also noticed my hips and legs would “go to sleep” often, but chalked it up to the (uncomfortable) chair I use at my desk.

I also noticed “brain fog”.  I have had lots of trouble concentrating on my work as well as making stupid little mistakes.  Also, my husband was getting annoyed with me as he said I was forgetting things often (conversations we had or where I put things).

I also have been making little speech mistakes.  I go to say a word but something different comes out. (For example, I told my son to go “flush” his teeth one night instead of “floss” his teeth.  Another morning, I told my daughter to “go brush your makeup” instead of “go brush your hair”).  

Another off moment was at the kids’ school.  I went into the school office to deliver something.  I then returned to my van, sat down in the driver’s seat, and I then realized I was not in my own van! I had sat down in someone else’s min van -- oops! (My van is dark green and the van I sat in was navy blue.)  I laughed all this off to peri-menopause or stress. 

One incident in early February scared me most.  While approaching a traffic light, I felt very dizzy, and was sure I was going to faint.  Fortunately, the light turned red. I was able to put my vehicle into “park” and gain composure before the light turned green.  I immediately pulled into a Walgreens parking lot to recover.  For the next 20 minutes, my feet tingled and itched (and by tingling, I mean painful.  It felt like someone was poking my feet with needles.)   I immediately called my primary care doctor’s office and made an appointment to see him the next day.

At that appointment, my primary care doctor and I discussed my symptoms and debated if I should see an ENT or a Neurologist.  The next day, I met with the Neurologist, and two days later I had a Brain MRI and a blood test to check for B-12 deficiencies.

I talked to a handful of people about this.  A close friend figured it was my allergies; another said it was side effects from medication; and a third was thinking anxiety & stress.  But I confided in my dad that I was afraid I had a brain tumor.

Well, I am happy to say my brain scan was normal.  However, the real shocker is that my B-12 levelsare low! All these weird symptoms are due to a vitamin deficiency! I feel so relieved that there is an easy fix.  I can take B-12 supplements or injections.  I’m sharing this personal story with you all in hopes that it may help someone else down the road.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Poolside at Hyatt Grand Cypress in Orlando

Minutes from Disney World in Orlando
is a fantastic resort, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress!  For years it has been voted "best hotel pool" in Orlando. 

We took advantage of the cheaper Florida resident rates offered in the summer. (And we will be back!!)

Fantastic service at the pool for drinks and food:

Lakeside too! (Great free activities!!) 

And S'mores at dusk!!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Wellie Wishers - new American Girl Doll series

American Girl Doll released a new series, Wellie Wishers last week. They are smaller than the regular dolls and are made for girls ages 5+. I had not heard of these until we arrived at the Orlando store today. They retail at $60 (versus $100+ for the original dolls.)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Neon-themed Sleepover for Preteens

My daughter is having a sleepover with three school girls.  Two days before the sleepover, I decided to go to the store to buy a few items. 

I actually did not have a theme in mind… But that changed once I walked into Target. I found these cute plastic neon colored popcorn containers at Target in the dollar bins and thus the "party planner" inside of me kicked in.  (So my four colors are yellow, pink, purple, and lime.)

I then moved into the Girls Dept and found black T-shirts, and black/white/neon colored socks.

Of course glow-in-the-dark/neon accessories are needed. (Also in the dollars bins!)

Neon drinking straws! (I think I found these at Wal-Mart--I actually already had them in the pantry. Amazon has them too.)

And at the very last minute, my daughter begged me to go to Party City to pick up coordinating neon gloves for the girls.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Longboat Key: Dry Dock Waterfront Grill

This past weekend we went over to the Longboat Key area. Since it was Mother's Day, I wanted a nice(r) dinner, but I also wanted it comfortable for the kids. I read great reviews about Dry Dock Waterfront Grill on Trip Advisor, and I'm really glad that we pick this restaurant!

We went on a Saturday night, and many of the reviews said to get there early.  We arrived at 4:30 PM, and by 5 PM there were no tables left. (And by 6 PM the bar area was full of guests waiting for tables.)

We had a choice of seating upstairs/inside or below/outdoors. I'm very happy that we sat outside.  The weather was beautiful. 

Here are my kids relaxing well hubby and I enjoyed a cocktail. 

I chose the scallop pasta in a wine and garlic sauce. It was outstanding! The scallops were fresh and the pasta was cooked perfectly.

My husband chose the grouper sandwich, and decided to try a blackened. He said it was excellent and I'm sad I did not get a picture. He also enjoyed this local craft beer, Circa 1926. 

Favorite New Store: Naples Soap Company

While shipping in Sarasota this weekend, I came across this store and it's my new favorite! 

I love bath bombs! And my daughter bought some shampoo and conditioner bars. 

There are several locations around Florida, including Naples, Key West, Sarasota, Sanabell and more!  You can read more on their website:

A return visit to Fanta Sea

I was excited to return to Fanta Sea in Sarasota today! It's my favorite store for coastal decor!