My family and I just returned from an impromptu week tucked away in rural northern Michigan. A mile away from the sandy (and nearly deserted) shores of Lake Michigan and right on Little Traverse Lake, we spent time together, just the four of us, before we jump headlong into the chaos that consumes August and the return of classes, homework, dance classes, and meetings. These sorts of vacations are my favorite, ones where there is no agenda but plenty to keep me mildly busy in between cat naps and meals. I was able to read not one, but TWO whole books that have been staring at me longingly from my bookshelves for a year now, and stock up on the much needed quiet time before all of my time is devoted to things most decidedly less quiet.We played board games, talked on the porch by tiki light, and played Euchre until we were all rubbing our eyes fighting against the Sand Man. Needless to say it was a wonderful area to visit, plenty of adorable little towns with the most unique shopping, dining, and natural attractions, and I highly recommend it. Just make sure you fully commit to the wonder that is relaxing. Aahhhhhh...
And now planted firmly back into the reality of August, I spent today wading through the 71 emails that had accumulated in my Inbox, finishing up some lose ends that I had put off until "after vacation," and doing laundry and refolding EVERYTHING so it can go back into a suitcase to be taken back to school tomorrow. Which just leads me to the inevitable question that surfaces every August: Where did this summer go? I think through the months between "then" and "now" and make a face of mixed disgust and disappointment. Sad how fast time flies by when you don't keep an eye on it. Though admittedly there are too many things for me to be keeping my eyes on nowadays. So I make the renewed promise to myself to take each day as it comes, reveling in the work and the fun that may come. This year even more so because it's my last year at my university, and thus my last time to make the promise to myself to make this year wonderful. The real world is looming, with real bills and real jobs and real chores and real adult stuff like buying a house and, dare I say, starting a retirement account? Insert another slightly disgusted face here.
I guess the wrapping up of summer has me slightly thoughtful, and I know for many of you our there you are thinking "What the heck is this chick talking about?! It's only August 4th! Summer ain't over until the school bells ring." I agree. So let's relish in the beauty of summertime food yet again!
What do we have here? New recipes!? Why yes, yes we do. I wanted to do something different and was craving some good, old fashioned soul food, which is very different for me. Usually I'm the one who steers clear of fat and calories and absolutely adores summer time because of the abundance of fresh vegetables and lean protein. But today called for gumbo. With the cooked roux and everything. (I also wanted to use my mom's new dutch oven... I really need to get me one of these.) Simply start the gumbo with your butter and oil (the oil raises the scorching temperature of the butter, which allows the fats to be heated to higher temperatures without tasting burnt) and melt, then add flour to create the roux. You need to cook this until it is golden brown, then add your protein. I used Spanish style chorizo and bacon, but ham, chicken, and pork tenderloin could also work.
Roux with flour...
Cooked roux with browned meat (some of that wonderful meat fat can act as your butter/oil combo)
You now want to prepare your vegetables, and in New Orleans they have the Holy Trinity - onions, celery, and bell peppers. No carrots like the traditional French mirepoix. When you process you bell peppers, however, you want to take the membrane out of the inside of them so they more easily release their natural sweetness.
Simply run your knife along the inside of the quartered peppers to remove the membrane.
Toss the veggies around in your roux and meat mixture, add some broth (beef, veggie, chicken, whatever floats your boat,) bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook until thick and bubbly. Serve over rice.
And of course I had to have something sweet to end the meal.... key lime pie (the healthy way) for everyone!