Monday, September 19, 2011

a taste of home

If you've ever been to New Orleans, you don't need me to tell you that the food there is AMAZING.  There's some food that's unique to New Orleans- like beignets and crawfish- but other food that they just do better than I've ever had before- like paella, garlic shrimp, and sangria at Lola's or chicken schwarma at Babylons or the shrimp and steak and twice baked potatoes at Mulates or the fish at Jacque-Imo's...  I could go on and on.  We're heading to New Orleans this weekend for a wedding, and I've already started thinking through where I want to eat so I don't come back and realize I made a terrible mistake, like not eating a shrimp poboy.*  When we realized we were moving to Florida, I mourned the loss of all these great restaurants that were just right around the corner, but determined that I would bring New Orleans with me.

*For the record, while the food will be yummy, we are by far the most excited to catch up with some of our best friends and see my sweet relief team buddy Steph walk down the aisle.  If we had to choose between the food or the friends, we'd choose the friends every time. :)

I joked with Cori that we would make friends by having people over for a Cajun/Creole meal.  Surely, they would be so amazed by the food that they'd be our best friends for life, right? ;)

So far we've succeeded on several fronts.  We made sure to buy a big ol' bottle of Tony's seasoning before we left, and we incorporate that in a lot of our meals.  We also stocked up on some of Zatarains mixes, like shrimp etouffee and jumbalaya.  When we had our neighbors over for dinner last weekend, we made jumbalaya and not only was it easy to make (thanks, Zats!) it was a definite hit.

My other big flavor-of-New Orleans-in-Florida hit has come in the form of a little dish we call Shrimp Roban.  One of my favorite restaurants in New Orleans is Semolina's, and while I was forced to travel out to Metaire to eat there after their Magazine Street Bistro closed, it was ALWAYS worth it to go.  No need for a menu, just bring me a diet coke and some Shrimp Roban.  

Now, my sweet roommate Laura, knowing my slightly obsessive love for this dish, found a recipe for shrimp roban and made it for the bridal shower she and my other roommate, Kim, threw for me back in May.  So when we moved to Tampa, I had hope; maybe I too, could make shrimp roban.

I did a little online-searching and found the recipe here.  I got the ingredients, printed out the recipe, and was about to start cooking it when I realized something funny.  The recipe says that it yields 1 serving, yet it calls for using quantities like 1 gallon of Alfredo Sauce, a 1/2 pound of butter, and 4 cups of green onion.  Say what?!  I'm thinking their '1 serving' meant '1 serving for a party of 50' or something along those lines.  So, my sweet husband kindly did the math and reduced the portions to a more do able size.  It depends on how much you eat (i.e., my skinny but never gains a pound husband could easily eat about 4 servings), but I'd guess this probably makes enough for about 6.  Which works great, because I love leftovers!

So here it is:

Roban Sauce
1 pint or 16 fl oz or 2 cups of Alfredo Sauce
1/2 pint or 8 fl oz or 1 cup of heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped green onion, white and green
4 teaspoons blackened red fish seasoning (I found some made by Emeril's)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic

Just a few notes- I usually use a little less cayenne pepper; while I can handle some spiciness, I prefer to not drink 6 cups of water with my meal.  But if you love spice, go for it!  I also tend to go heavier on the garlic, because I LOVE garlic.  I think the few times I've made this, I've used more like 2 tablespoons of garlic, and it was wonderful.  Also, while obviously fresh minced garlic is better, I've gone the lazier easier way before and just used a bottle of minced garlic.

I will also say that you could just as easily substitute chicken for shrimp.  I use shrimp just because I adore shrimp and end up cooking lots of other dishes with chicken.  Honestly, it's the sauce that makes this meal such a winner... I think I could drizzle roban sauce on anything and I would love it.

So there you have it!  One of my all-time favorite meals.  I was thrilled when I realized I was able to make this- it's delicious, and honestly doesn't take long to prepare!  I made it last week for my Bible study and got compliments, which I think officially affirmed for me that this meal is a winner.

Monday, September 12, 2011

a house, a cat, a job, and a church.

I figured it was time for a little life update on how things are going here in Tampa.  We're pretty settled in and are loving our little house.  It definitely took us a little while to get everything we needed, (since a desk, 2 chairs, a twin sized bed, and a night stand were literally the only pieces of furniture we owned when we got married) but we've pretty much got everything we need now and are loving sharing this home together.  We love our neighborhood too; it's full of cute little unique houses that reminds us a little of New Orleans.  We're also loving our next door neighbors.  They're just a few years older than us and have two adorable little boys, ages 3 and 6.  We went to the beach with them on Labor Day and I'm pretty sure Cori is hoping we'll have boys someday (not for a while though, folks!) because he loved playing with them- they were way more fun than his 'I just want to lay out!' wife. :)

We also got a cat!  It was completely unexpected; while we'd talked about getting a kitten sometime down the road, we certainly weren't thinking that it'd be after just a month of living here and 2 months of marriage.  But apparently God had different plans. ;)  Our across-the-street neighbors knocked on our door last weeked, saying they had to get rid of their cat, and did we want it?  Before I knew it, Cori was saying yes, and this adorable black, white, and orange calico cat was being brought across the street.  I have to say, she is the sweetest cat ever!  She came with the name Tabitha, but after some thinking, we changed it to Willow, after the street I lived on for 3 years in New Orleans.  She's 2 or 3 years old, so while she's definitely not a kitten anymore, she's still got a lot of playfulness in her.  She LOVES to be held, a quality I've never experienced in a cat before, and she's a good cuddler- when she wants to be. ;)  Our next door neighbors came over for dinner on Saturday, and we were so impressed by how well Willow did with the kids.  For 45 minutes, these little boys played with her... and being that they're 3 and 6, by played, I mean, chased around the house.  The 3 year old was so proud that he could pick her up- he walked around the house carrying her, and each time he'd say, "I'm strong!"  It was adorable.  And while Willow was more than happy to have some alone time when the boys got busy with dinner and the playing the Wii, she didn't once hiss or bite or scratch or snap at them.  Good news, since she should be around when we have kids of our own someday.

Cori is enjoying his job and has been getting familiar with the infectious diseases of Tampa by looking at DNA and blood cultures from chicken and geese around the city.  At least, that's my perception of what he's doing... my non-science oriented brain tends to dumb down his explanations a bit...

And- drumroll please!- I have a job!  I'll be the lead teacher in a 3 year olds classroom at a daycare here in Tampa, and will start later this week or the beginning of next, depending on when my background check clears.  I'm excited to get back to work and am looking forward to being with even littler ones than before.  Although I gotta say, after 3.5 months of not working, it's going to be hard to get back into the routine!

We've also been so blessed by our church here.  When I was in college, I went to a church called aletheia, and was reminded before we moved by a good friend that aletheia planted a church here in Tampa.  We went our first Sunday here- literally about 8 hours after our 3am arrival- and have been hooked.  It's been wonderful to reconnect with some JMU friends that are part of the church plant here, and also to slowly but surely make some new friends.  We've really loved the way they make it clear that this life is about Jesus and the salvation He brought us, and have been reminded by how much we need Him.

Phew, that's all for now!  It's time for this girl to do a little Bible reading and then look at her to-do list and make sure life is in order before work starts up... and maybe take a shower, too. ;)