We had an interesting start to a wonderful weekend. With both my birthday and Valentines so close together, I decided to surprise my family by renting a large cabin in the Smoky Mountains. I invited my brother and sister in law, their two children, and my mother and father in law for a big old Southern family getaway.
To make it even more special, we kept it a secret from the kids and I spent weeks imagining their surprised faces at finding out where we were going and being greeted by their cousins and grandparents upon arrival. I’d been looking forward to the weekend for quite some time and was thrilled when I was finally able to pack us up. As soon as Ricky got off work Friday we loaded up the car (dog and all) to head towards Gatlinburg, not telling Brady and Katy Rose until we were well on our way.
About two hours into our drive we realized that this winter storm was something we weren’t going to be able to ignore. Long story short (how often do I do THAT on southern plate?) we had to turn around and come back home. Although Ricky’s parents had managed to reach the cabin, the road leading to it’s perch atop the mountain had since become covered in snow and ice and they were relying on hope and sun to be able to get down the following day. Ricky’s brother and his family had to turn back and go home as well.
The kids were heartbroken and we made the ride home in silence and tears from the peanut gallery in the back seat.
The bright sides of this situation were obvious: We were lucky we weren’t stuck on the mountain and we were fortunate we weren’t on roads we could easily have a wreck on.
Still, I have to admit, I’d much rather have been in that cabin on a mountain top looking out over the snow. I hid my disappointment as the kids vented theirs and one thought kept reverberating through my mind: our little weekend getaway wasn’t going to happen and there were no refunds.
We would never get those three days back. Then a question came to me, how were those three days any different from any other three days? No matter where we were, at home or in a cabin on a mountain, there were still no refunds on this weekend.
The next day I woke up with renewed determination. While we didn’t get to spend time together in a cabin, we still got to spend it together. We took the kids to Birmingham for the day and spent our time at home helping Brady earn a new boy scout badge. We made brownies and shopped for groceries as a family. In between, the kids petted the dog so much it’s a wonder she doesn’t have bald spots, and we had a nice little time in our warm little house.
As a result of our weekend I awakened to the first hand realization that whether you’re at home or on vacation, each day is a one shot deal. Instead of pining for a view from someone else’s window, take a moment to appreciate the view from your own. We may not be in a rented cabin, but that doesn’t mean we can’t spend just as much quality time with our children in our own living room.
Make the most of today. Use it up, wear it out, squeeze every last ounce of “good” out of it. Even if you aren’t financially vested, There are still no refunds.
Yesterday we talked to the cabin owner and she graciously offered to let us schedule two more nights to replace the ones we were unable to use. Ricky’s parents also made it down off the mountain in one piece thanks to a patch of rain that temporarily cleared the roads, and I came out of this with a priceless bit of wisdom. That’s money well spent either way you look at it.
Today begins my week of meals planned by Brady as part of a Boy Scout project. When I asked him to write down five things that he would like for supper this week, someone on twitter said “Ten year old boy planning meals? Get ready for pizza all week!”. I was expecting that as well but have to say I am very impressed with Brady’s choices and really looking forward to supper each night.
Some things he chose are already on SouthernPlate.com but I’ll be posting tutorials for the recipes we use that aren’t as the week goes on.
His very first choice is one of my dear favorites from Cajun country, another beloved style of Southern cooking, Dirty Rice. There are two ways that I make dirty rice…
The first way is to simply add ground beef to this:
BUT hang in there, I’m bringing you the SECOND Way in this post!
Hey, it’s quick, easy, and delicious. Ain’t no shame in my game!
The second way is the one I am bringing you today, from scratch. Now this recipe has a wee bit of heat to it. Brady and I enjoy it immensely just as is but Katy Rose won’t touch it. She only eats the dirty rice made from boxed mix. If you’re feeding this to younger kids or those who don’t care for the spice, you can cut down a bit on the seasoning and use ground beef instead of sausage.
When I say “heat” I’m not talking about “oh my goodness this is so hot” I just mean it leaves a little zing in your mouth and is divine served with iced tea.
Note to all Texans: I realize these references to heat will be laughable to you and you’d likely have to spice this up with jalapenos just to get your newborns to touch it. I’m just laying it out for folks not from your parts.
Note to all Cajuns: If you’re reading this post, just stop now and tell me what time dinner will be ready. I’m on my way…
You’re going to need: Cooked rice, Creole seasoning, parsley (fresh or dried), onion, bell pepper, sausage, celery, and some chopped or minced garlic.
I like to use Tennessee Pride sausage just so Brady and I can sing this song…
Now y’all gotta sing with me.
Of course, the Tennessee Pride folks don’t know me from Adam so if y’all know anyone who works there, tell ‘em I said “Hidy”.
Chop up all of your green stuff, the white stuff too
This photo shows chopped bell pepper, celery, parsley, and onion.
What we’re seeing here is known as “The Cajun Trinity”- three essential ingredients in seasoning a variety of Cajun dishes: Onion, Bell pepper, and Celery.
Parsley and garlic are perfect accompaniments to the trinity.
You can use dried parsley which would have been my first choice if Wally World hadn’t of been out of it.
They were also out of Chili Powder and a few other things on my list. ~blinks~ Whats up with that?
Place your sausage and vegetable type thingies (I’m gonna use that term to encompass veggies, herbs, whatever) in a large skillet.
Pictured here: Garlic, onion, bell pepper, celery, and parsley.
Chop up your sausage a bit and cook that over medium to medium high heat.
I use medium high because I’m impatient.
Folks always talk about how patience is a virtue, well I think impatience is every bit the virtue patience is and more, because impatience gets supper on the table a whole heap faster.
It’s gonna look kinda like this when it’s almost done but we need to keep cooking until all of our veggies are tender.
Celery tends to be a bit stubborn at times but heat and your determination will eventually triumph.
Add your creole seasoning. I use two and a half tablespoons and LAWDY is it ever good.
You might want to cut back for starters though.
Toss in your rice.
Stir that up good and make sure your rice is heated through.
Sit down with a glass of iced tea and a proud ten year old.
Thank the good Lord for Cajun cooking!
*If you’d like to make your own Creole or Cajun seasoning, click here for a great recipe from Tipnut.com (scroll down towards the bottom)
No one cares what you know until they know that you care.
~Submitted by Berta. Join the rest of the family and submit your quote here.