Da Cajn Critter:The Lifestyles The Rules and Makin' Groceri
by Pamela D Lyles
||FRP Press / Lyles Ventures LLC
“Da Cajn Critter” cookbook, a 2008 USA Book News award winner, is a “gumbo” of old family, friends, and personal recipes from New Orleans, Louisiana, all over the US, and even Italy. These are easy, simple recipes that use ingredients that can be found at any grocery store. It is a way of life for someone who wants to eat good food, be with real people and make cooking simple and easy so you actually WANT to cook! It’s about breaking the rules and making cooking fun again. It’s your ticket to creating a great restaurant meal in the comfort of your own home.
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Da Cajn Critter
Da Cajn Critter
Da Cajn Critter
This cookbook isn’t just favorite recipes with a catchy title. It is actually a way of life for someone who wants to eat good food, be with real people and make cooking simple and easy so you actually WANT to cook! It’s about breaking the rules and making cooking fun again. The lifestyle of “Da Cajn Critter” is filled with celebrations and ways of bringing people together without a lot of fuss and bother. Complicated recipes with too many steps and procedures intimidate us all. In addition to gathering favorite recipes for every occasion that can please any crowd, there are also some fabulous tips and time-saving measures that your mother and grandmother probably knew. Here in Louisiana, we call that “lagniappe” which means a little something extra. Lagniappe is what makes “DaCajn Critter” so special to my family and friends, and hopefully will be why you’ll find this cookbook very helpful and a lot of fun! So, what exactly is “DaCajn Critter”? Well, it is a long story, and stories are what keep the South and Southerners alive. So sit back…. relax… and this tale will unfold.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved to cook. Bringing people together to enjoy wonderful food was a way of life in my family. The magic of the kitchen and its potential to create offered me a freedom of expression and a creative outlet that I still enjoy today. I was born into a typical southern family in Uptown New Orleans that was proud of its family history and heritage. Like all “good little girls,” I was expected to dress in the “proper attire” which usually consisted of frilly dresses with bows and polished party shoes. Much to my mother’s horror, I had no desire to conform to such niceties. I was not allowed to be outside playing football with my brothers, or to freely wander and climb and play, or to wear “red shoes.” Nice little girls did not wear red shoes, only “floozies” did. (Can you imagine?) So, the first pair of shoes I bought when I went to college was, guess what color….red!!! In Uptown New Orleans in the 60’s, this was simply not what young girls did. So, I had to find another outlet for my creativity and self-expression. Most of all, I wanted to have some fun!
Since football wasn’t an option (Even though , today, I am a HUGE football fan), I spent many afternoons in our kitchen with our cook, surrounded by the most colorful sights of Creole red tomatoes, rich brown rouxs, as well as the delicious aromas of coffee and cake that would fill our house. I would sit for hours and watch meals being prepared, and, slowly but surely, I became a part of this wonderful world of food and cooking. I call it osmosis. It was here that I developed my now famous habit of “the finger” or using my right hand first finger and dipping it into some fabulous batter or sauce and familiarizing myself with its secret ingredient. Even today when I cook with my husband and two children, I am renowned for my finger tasting. There is a great magic and creativity that can be expressed in cooking that fueled me as a child. It was a world that was acceptable for girls to play in, and I found great freedom and fun in helping in the kitchen. It created powerful and lasting bonds with my grandmother and aunts, who over the years observed my appreciation of their talents, and began to share their secret recipes and traditions with me, and only me.
As I grew older, I began to realize the importance of these childhood memories and how they shaped my life and my personality. About 15 years ago, while out to dinner one evening with my husband and friends and after quite a few bottles of delicious red wine, the subject of my cooking arose. My husband said that I ought to organize all of my recipes, get them out of my head, and write a cookbook. All of my friends chimed in and said this was a great idea, but what would I call it? A few minutes later, “Da Cajn Critter” was born. This is how I would preserve these memories and gathered all of the recipes and their stories together.
Good things always come from bad. When one door closes, another one opens. When Hurricane Katrina struck and we evacuated to Houston, I really needed something to occupy my time. Our daughter was in school and we were living in a 2 bedroom apartment with our 4 pets, and trying to cope with the everyday horrific stories of our lives, our family’s lives, and friend’s lives, traumas, and gruesome realities. “Da Cajn Critter” was my therapy and kept me distracted. I was able to “trip” back to slower, simpler times. I had time to write the recipes down that had been in my head for years, collect the stories, organize and direct myself towards a goal that was both productive and therapeutic.
We all have such a fast-paced, hectic way of life, and cooking is one way of bringing our family together. Now that I am married with two children of my own, I see how important cooking has become in our family life. I can relax, be creative and connect with my kids and husband. Some of my greatest moments of joy and laughter with my kids have been in the kitchen as they helped me prepare their favorite recipes like Aunt Pam’s Chocolate Chip Cookies or, my husband Jack’s favorites, Mama Bea’s Cheese Cookies . I even taught my kids how to count by snapping “greenie beanies.” Often when I am cooking, my children will pop into the kitchen with some topics for discussion. They seem to sense that I am my happiest and most relaxed when I am in the kitchen being creative. Everyone puts on an apron, helps me get all of the ingredients ready on the table, and then someone goes to get our old family friend, the mix master. That’s when the magic begins.
I think cooking is about so much more than preparing food, it’s about people relaxing, having fun, and connecting with one another. Every one of our lives is like an old family recipe. It is filled with different ingredients and experiences that over time create a unique and distinctive flavor. Each recipe gathers all the things that we love and seek to share with others. Quite a few recipes that I have collected are named after family members or friends, and carry with them a stories or particular traditions. Many are named after relatives who have passed away, but remain connected to us through the recipes they have left behind. My children love Aunt Norma’s Buttermilk Pound Cake. It is a way I have been able to pass on their family history and heritage, and connect them with their past.
Our house is always the central gathering place for friends and family. For every holiday, it is filled with guests and festivities and food is the central theme. There is always something to celebrate in our family, and our friends often refer to our home as Hotel Lyles. Hotel Lyles was born in 1999 during our first Mardi Gras on St. Charles Avenue. Our dining room table seats 20 comfortably and we love to have dinner parties that last for hours.
“Da Cajn Critter” is a melting pot of all the recipes, stories, and forgotten information that I gathered from my family’s kitchen as a child as well as our family’s stories and stories with friends. My son, Jeff, at age 6, drew me his representation of “Da Cajn Critter,” and slowly the ideas for this cookbook began to take shape. Compiled in these pages are more than recipes and stories. It is also filled with fabulous “lagniappe” that a seasoned cook would know, but you may not have been taught. The information in “Da Cajn Critter” can make cooking so much more fun and easy. For instance, do you know the difference between Cajun and Creole cooking? Have you ever heard the real history of the King Cake and why it is part of Mardi Gras? Would you like to know how to fold napkins? When you are having a party, do you know how to figure out how much food to buy? “Da Cajn Critter” has all sorts of wonderful roasting tables and proportions that your Mother and Grandmother probably knew, but this information has been lost with the older cookbooks. Haven’t you ever wondered what that is all about?
Creating in the kitchen has always been very freeing for me. I love that there are no rules and no one tells you what to do or how to do it. There are so many possibilities and I can create so many different variations of special dishes that I am always exploring new ideas and flavors. My recipes have been streamlined so that they are easy and fun, and anyone can make them. Cooking shouldn’t be stressful or a chore, but an experience that is fun, creative, relaxing, and most of all tastes good! So many of us feel so rushed and busy, that cooking has begun to feel like too much of a bother. We have so much fast food, it just seems easier to pick something up to go. In New Orleans, there is a new restaurant beckoning you on every corner, so it’s easy to eat out a lot. But even with the best restaurants in the world, all of us know how incredibly nurturing it feels to eat a home-cooked meal in the comfort of your own home.
The recipes I have compiled over the years have come from all over the US and the world. There are many different influences and so there is a wide range of ethnic diversity. These recipes are from family members, friends, and favorite restaurants and wineries. It’s a cookbook for anyone who wants to cook anything from crawfish, pasta, salad, stuffing or chocolate chip cookies. Some of my recipes have become so popular I have had requests to ship my cooking all over the country. “Da Cajn Critter” will provide you with recipes for every occasion, whether you want to cook one course or a full menu. I have included my family’s holiday favorites, like Grandma Bea’s Christmas Tipsy Puddingand my famous Dirty Rice Dressingfor Thanksgiving.
So, jump right in and become the “Critter” in your home. Enjoy !!!!!!!!!!!!
Three RULES every Critter LIVES BY
The first rule of cooking with Da Cajn Critter is that there are no rules. It’s all about having fun and enjoying whatever you are making. However, there are three suggested guidelines that make cooking so much easier and efficient.
Here in New Orleans, we call it “Makin’ Groceries” and it’s a process of preparing a list of everything you need to buy before you start cooking. So, the first step is to make a list of everything you will need. But don’t make a list of ingredients on a ratty piece of paper or on the back of whatever you find to write on at the time. One day when you are out doing errands, stop by your favorite stationery store and buy a great note pad that you love that you will use for makin’ groceries.
Makin’ groceries is part of the fun and should be like a scavenger hunt. You may not know what you will find, but there are clues along the way. Remember, there are people along the trail who you can stop to ask for directions or assistance.
Once you have written down the list of what you need, head out for the grocery store with a sense of adventure. Bring the kids along – they can actually be helpful in fanning out and finding what you need. It also teaches them to “make groceries” at an early age and will ensure a future generation of Cajn Critters. It is time to make friends with your butcher, your produce manager, and the customer service department at your local grocery store. You will be amazed at how much they actually enjoy assisting you – it makes their job more interesting and over time you will have some friends to look for when you go shopping.
After you have made groceries, the second step is to line up all the ingredients that each recipe calls for. It’s kind of like a second line in Nawlins… put everything on the counter so it’s easy to reach including a dish towel and you don’t have to stop and look for that one missing ingredient.
The third step is very important and should never be skipped. Before you begin to mix your ingredients pour yourself a glass of wine or your favorite drink, and turn on some music that you love (My favorite is Jimmy Buffet as he is “da man.” Wouldn’t you like to wear shorts and a t-shirt everyday, sing about life in crazy ways, play guitar in beautiful places like Key West, eat Cheeseburger’s in Paradise, and end your day with a margarita?
Now you are ready to get started. Enjoy!
Several weeks ago, I won the cookbook, da cajn critter, The Lifestyles, The Rules, and Makin' Groceries, from Dave at My Year on the Grill. Dave did a great review of this cookbook and made several recipes which you can read about here. Dave and his wife have now moved to the Vigin Islands, and I'm so jealous! But I was excited to add another cookbook to my collection and I eagerly read it when it arrived. This is a fun cookbook to sit down and go through. Written by Pamela D. Lyles, it is a wonderful book for any home cook that enjoys Southern food. At first, I was disappointed because there are no photos, but the recipes in this book have plenty of directions and are easy to make. This is a collection of her families recipes through the years, and I found some that my family also claims.
There are recipes with the relatives name attached to the dish, such as Aunt Pitty Pat's Blinz Casserole, and Pablo Miller's Caesar Be With You salad. I love it! There are a number of grilling recipes, as well as favorites like Sally Rue's Tuna Casserole. Of course there's also Jambalaya, Boiled Shrimp and Crayfish Boil and lots of other Southern favorites. And there's many great sounding desserts, such as Fruity Coconut Pecan Bread Pudding, and Mom Hinnant's Red Velvet Cake. I started with Creole Pork chops and Spicy Rice, as I need a fairly quick meal for my husband and I one hectic day. This was a delicious meal. The pork chops were very moist and wonderfully seasoned from cooking in the spicy rice. I only made half a recipe, since there was just my husband and I. I will be making it again in a couple of days. The chops are browned in a skillet, and then the rice and rest of the ingredients are added. While it is supposed to cook for 45 minutes or so, mine was done in 30. But that could be because I made half of the recipe. I used less oil than called for, and used cayenne pepper in place of hot red pepper sauce. Also, I used canned tomatoes instead of fresh, because tomatoes right now aren't that great. I hope you'll give this dish a try!
CREOLE PORK CHOPS and SPICY RICE
from da cajn critter, The Lifestyles, The Rules, and The Makin Groceries
4 tablespoons oil, divided - recipe calls for 1/2 cup oil
1 cup uncooked white rice
3 cups canned diced tomatoes - recipe calls for fresh tomatoes
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fleshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper- recipe uses 1/2-1 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce.
6 pork chops, cur 1 inch thick- make sure you use thick ones!
salt and pepper for seasoning the pork chops
1/4 cup water- I used more water, about 3/4 cup
Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the rice and reduce heat to medium. Saute rice for a minute or so, till golden. Stir constantly. Remove rice to large bowl and stir in the tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and the hot sauce. Return skillet to burner over high heat. Season pork chops with salt and pepper; add 2 tables oil to skillet. Brown chops in hot skillet about 3 minutes per side, until brown. Spoon the rice mixture over and around the pork chops. Add the water. Cover pan and simmer for 45-55 minutes until rice is tender. I served this with green beans and rolls. Enjoy this tasty skillet meal!
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Posted by Lynda at 10:08 PM
Labels: main dish, pork, rice, skillet meals
Sounds great and looks delicious! I just had pork chops yesterday :)
March 24, 2010 11:16 AM
Looks like a super cookbook, the only negative being no photos, which I always like. Lucky you to have won it.
And this recipe looks great! You have photos! ;)
March 24, 2010 12:16 PM
although i mourn when a cookbook is photo-less, the title of this one is enough to draw me in. :)
this sounds like a great meal--i'm always in the mood for a chop!
March 25, 2010 5:26 AM
Carla and Michael said...
This looks maaavelous. A quick and tasty week night dinner. I think if a cookbook has well explained recipes, photo-less is not a problem. I do so enjoy it more if there are photo's to drool over.
March 25, 2010 7:05 AM
It's a shame the book has no photos, only because books that have none tend to be overlooked. The pork chops and Cajun rice you prepared looks wonderful.
March 25, 2010 10:01 AM
Photos are great in a cookbook but, if it's well written, it's OK. The dish looks excellent! Love Creole cooking!
March 25, 2010 10:47 AM
What a tasty and comforting meal.
March 25, 2010 1:19 PM
I love a good one-pot meal and this one looks delish. I'm one of those who tends to make the recipes with the good photos. I wonder how many fantastic recipes I've overlooked.
March 25, 2010 5:56 PM
5 Star Foodie said...
Creole pork chops sound fantastic, excellent flavors!
March 25, 2010 9:22 PM
Mandy's Life After 30 said...
This looks right up my alley, especially since I'm a Cajun Critter from Louisiana and have "made groceries" many times~! I will try this one out. And guess what, I made your stuffed pepper recipe, AGAIN, tonight for dinner and it came out great, once again. Thanks for sharing the great recipes.
March 25, 2010 10:42 PM
Katy ~ said...
My mouth is watering for this! Boy does it ever sound good.
March 26, 2010 1:09 PM
Mmmm, this sounds like a meal my family would love to dig into, er claim too!
March 27, 2010 11:08 AM
Hi Lynda, thanks for your visit.The rice recepi is very good, we make something similar.
March 27, 2010 9:21 PM
Lynda, Thanks for the wonderful review of my cookbook. Glad you are enjoying it ! Wanted to let your readers know that I am running a 25% off special for Easter and Passover. All they need to do is go to www.dacajncritter.com ; click on "Got a Coupon"; enter username "crittercoupons" and password "save25." I'll get it shipped to them immediately. Many thanks again for the glorious review !!!
March 28, 2010 11:25 AM
This is very similar to one I make called Fiesta Pork Chops. Same technique but different flavor profile, so I KNOW I will be making this very soon. Congrats on winning the book from Dave. I might have to take Pam up on her offer.
March 28, 2010 1:16 PM
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Year on the Grill.com :
My review of the cookbook, Da Cajn Critter - The Lifestyles, the Rules and Makin Groceries continues. Take a look at my post from a few days ago, HEAVENLY HASH CAKE - A Chocolate Pecan Cake with Fudge Icing. For the details on the books TERRIFIC recipe for this cake. And I also posted a review of CRAB MEAT MASSON ala the Cajn Critter - A Salad or an Appetizer; another great recipe from the book.
So, with an appetizer and a dessert VERY successfully made from the book, it is now time to move to a main course... A meat course!
This recipe is called, ED LEVY's CHIPOTLE PORK. I do wish I knew who Ed Levy is, as the book does not say. A Google search came up with nothing spectacular, so I have no guess. BUT, Ed must have really liked spiced foods. The marinade is among the hottest spiced accent to a food I have made. The pork cooked great, just the right amount of spice for me, but when I topped with the reserve marinade, it became really hot.
BUT, I am ahead of myself. Here's the recipe...
Mise en Place (assemble the ingredients)
1 cup Honey Dijon Mustard
2/3rds cup chopped fresh Cilantro
1/2 cup fresh Lime Juice
3 TBS (or less) Canned minced
Chipotle Chiles in Adobe Sauce
4 Garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp Cumin
3/4 tsp Salt
3/4 tsp Cinnamon
2 (12 ounce) Pork Tenderloins
1/4 cup Water
Combine Everything except the tenderloin and water.
Whisk to blend.
Reserve 1 cup of the marinade, set aside to make a sauce.
Combine the remaining Marinade and the Pork tenderloin in a resealable plastic bag. Marinade in the refrigerator for 2 hours, turning occasionally.
Remove the tenderloin and discard the marinade.
Grill covered over medium high heat (350-400 degrees) for 8-9 minutes or when an instant rad meat thermometer reads 150 degrees.
Let stand for 10 minutes, Cut into slices.
meanwhile, combine the reserve 1 cup marinade and the water in a saucepan. Bring to boil; reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Serve with the pork.
I made a bit of a change. First, I believe that the author meant to make pork chops with this recipe, as cooking a tenderloin for only 8-9 minutes is much too brief a time. I made a pork tenderloin, so the cooking time was almost 30 minutes. I monitored the temperature and the pork was no where near ready after 8-9 minutes. Also, I baked these in an oven at 350 degrees. Go ahead, call me a wimp, but it is just too cold to grill.
And the verdict... I LOVED THE MEAT! Just the right amount of spice.
However, my wife cut the edges off. It was just too hot for her.
Now, the marinade was was too much. I certainly would not make the marinade again. But, if you like to challenge your uvula and feel the burn coming out as well as going in... this is the recipe for you.
So, if you plan to make this, select your audience carefully. Should be people who are not afraid of spices, not afraid of heat. The sauce should be served on the side and warn people before they jump on it. With the right crowd, this is a wonderful recipe. But may not be right for everyone.
I give this recipe (without the extra sauce) a huge thumbs up. I loved it. If my wife were writing this post, she would give it a huge thumbs down. But, i am writing this, so i am going to declare this a success.
But, I made a second tenderloin with a different recipe from the book... Come back tomorrow to see the best recipe from the book yet!
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Posted by A Year on the Grill at 6:37 AM
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New Orleans Cookbook Author Introduces Her 'Saintsational Super Bowl Menu'
NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 1
NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 1 /PRNewswire/ — In celebration of the New Orleans Saints' first trip to the Super Bowl, Pamela D. Lyles, New Orleans native and author of Da Cajn Critter: The Lifestyles, the Rules and Makin' Groceries has announced her official "Saintsational Super Bowl Menu."
Lyles' Super Bowl menu includes delectable appetizers such as Brees' Famous Pesto Brie, Vilma's Veggie Dip, Black and Gold Bean Soup, scrumptious entrees like Jabari's Jambalaya, wonderful libations like Spicy Cajun Martinis, and more. The full menu can be found at https://www.dacajncritter.com/Critter_Menus___Recipes.php and all of the recipes are featured in her book, Da Cajn Critter.
This easy-to-use cookbook contains 185 recipes that Pamela developed with a little help from family and friends. Da Cajn Critter has won a USA Book News "Best Books" award, been called the "go to cookbook for all of your tailgating needs" by the Times-Picayune, and is a "Certified Product of Louisiana".
The book was born when the author was forced to relocate her family from New Orleans to Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Collecting and cooking the recipes found in this book became a way to help bring her family together during this difficult time. All of the recipes are easy to make in a household kitchen and help bring the flare of Louisiana flavor to any home.
Pamela Lyles has been cooking and creating in the kitchen since she was a little girl. Growing up in New Orleans, she observed the magic in her own family's kitchen. She will be in attendance supporting her New Orleans Saints at the Super Bowl in Miami. and is currently available for interviews on Da Cajn Critter, family cooking, Cajun cuisine, tailgating, and Super Bowl parties. The book is available through Ingram Book Distributors, Amazon, and at http://www.dacajncritter.com.
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