Gluten-free Candied Yams – aka. Sweet Potato Casserole

Candied Yams (also known as Sweet Potato Casserole) is staple on my holiday menu. The crunchy, caramelized topping and creamy mashed sweet potatoes taste more like a dessert than a side dish.

So much sugar! I added a good amount of salt and cinnamon to keep it from being overly sweet.

This recipe is one of my family’s favorites, but Little Miss Bayou could never enjoy more than a taste. Now that I’ve created this gluten-free version, everyone can partake. The Bayou Bunch even prefers this one. Read on for how I adapted a family favorite to make it gluten-free.

I would not call this a healthy recipe because of all the added sugars, but it’s great for special occasions. We double the batch when serving a large group.

Believe it or not, I actually reduced the sugar A LOT from the original recipe!

Ingredients

  • 40 oz can sweet
  • potatoes (or yams),
  • drained well, and mashed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup melted salted butter, divided
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350. Drain the sweet potatoes very well. This is important, or the casserole will be runny. Mash the potatoes and combine them with the sugar, egg, milk, vanilla, and 1/4 cup melted butter.

Next, combine the toppings in a separate bowl: 1/4 cup melted butter, chopped pecans, almond flour, cinnamon, and salt.

Spoon the mixture into a shallow baking dish, and smooth until level. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is hardened and the sugar is caramelized. It will be a nice, rich brown color. Don’t let the pecan topping burn.

Download the Recipe

Below is a printable PDF version of this recipe:

I hope you and your family have an amazing holiday. Let me know if you try this recipe! I love hearing from you.

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Cajun Chicken & Andouille Sausage Gumbo

Gumbo is a staple here in south Louisiana. As the temperatures drop, this dish is on everyone’s mind. There’s chicken and sausage, seafood, duck and andouille, and everyone has an opinion about which is best. Tomatoes? Okra? What color roux? It can get complicated.

This recipe is how I make it. It’s a little easier, healthy-ish, with plenty of spice. You will want to double this recipe if you have a big gumbo pot. The Bayou Boys loved it, and I didn’t even have enough for leftovers! I didn’t get a picture of the finished pot before they started dishing out bowls. It’s a crowd-pleaser and great for entertaining, but be prepared to spend some time in the kitchen — it’s not a quick process!

There’s nothing like gumbo when the weather cools!

I like to start my gumbo with a rotisserie chicken. Before the gumbo police comes after me, hear me out! It adds a ton of flavor to your broth and cuts down on the total time. Just try it!

Starting with rotisserie chicken is a great timesaver!

To start, separate the meat from the rotisserie chicken, breaking up large pieces. Keep the bones, and throw them in a large stock pot with about 1.5 quarts of water. Add a bay leaf or two. Let that baby boil for at least an hour. Longer is ok too. 

While that cooks, start chopping. You’ll need a pound of sausage. I prefer andouille, but regular smoked sausage is also good. Slice that sausage into very thin pieces. This is my personal preference, but I think it is so much better than thick chunks of sausage.

Andouille sausage is popular in Cajun cooking and adds a distinct, smokey flavor to dishes.

Brown the sausage in a large dutch oven or cast iron pot over medium heat. You want the sausage to get some brown on it, because those bits in the bottom of your pot add a ton of flavor.

This is what you want. All that brown stuff in the pan is going to make your gumbo taste amazing.

While that is cooking, dice one yellow onion, a bell pepper (any color), and 3-4 ribs of celery. This is the Cajun trinity, and it’s included in almost every Louisiana recipe.

Typically, you would use red or green bell pepper, but this is what I had on hand.

Once your sausage is cooked, remove it from the pot, and add your veggies. Allow them to cook, adding a little oil if needed. I make my roux with the veggies in the pot, adding 1/2 cup of olive oil and 1/2 cup of flour to the pot. Turn the heat down to medium low. Some people prefer to make the roux before adding veggies, but this is how my grandma makes it.

TIP: To make this recipe gluten-free, try using cassava flour. Be careful not to burn the cassava; it cooks much faster than regular flour.

This is the color you’re working toward. This is a medium-dark roux.

Give those veggies, flour and oil a little sprinkle of Tony’s seasoning. 

Do not leave the room! You can do a few dishes or check Instagram, but don’t go too far. Keeping the heat low, scrape the bottom with a flat wooden spoon. Stir the roux every few minutes until it gets a rich chocolatey brown color. This takes time, so don’t worry if it’s not getting dark enough. Do not let it burn.

Once the roux is finished, strain the broth in your stock pot, and slowly add it the broth to the gumbo pot, scraping the bottom of the pan as you go. Add the sausage and chicken to the pot, and let it simmer on low for another 30 minutes.

Add Tony’s seasoning to taste, but be careful not to make it too salty. 

This is seriously so good!

I serve this over brown rice and garish with a little chopped parsley. I don’t like filet in chicken and sausage gumbo, but I love it in seafood.

Mr. Bayou prefers his gumbo with okra. If you want to add okra, buy it frozen and chopped already. Boil the okra in a separate pot according to the package directions, and add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice. This cuts the sliminess. Spoon the okra out with a slotted spoon after it’s cooked, and add it to the gumbo. This keeps the gumbo from getting slimy.

Now go make yourself a big pot of gumbo like a true Cajun!

Below is a printable PDF version of this recipe:

Let me know if you try making this! I’d love to know how it turns out. I’m sharing the whole process in a reel on Instagram! Definitely check it out.

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Entertaining Must-Have: Shrimp Stuffed Jalapeño Peppers with Bacon

What’s a keto-friendly, gluten-free appetizer that everyone will love? These Shrimp Stuffed Peppers with Bacon. If you’re having people over for dinner, look no further for an appetizer that is sure to impress your guests.

Full disclosure here — this is actually a Mr. Bayou recipe. He’s usually the one in charge of the grill, and he perfected this dish. You can buy these already prepared at many grocery stores, but they’re pricey. This recipe is a much more affordable option, albeit somewhat labor intensive.

Maybe it’s my Louisiana roots, but I can’t get enough of spicy food. Not everyone in the Bayou home agrees, however, so feel free to substitute jalapeños with a milder pepper, such as banana peppers or poblanos.

I found this useful graphic on the Taste of Home website, here. They also went into detail about each type of pepper, if you’re looking for more information.

Information About Jalapeños

Jalapeños range in heat a lot, from 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units. The Scoville Heat Index is used to measure the chemical capsaicin—more capsaicin means a hotter pepper (source). While jalapeños are certainly spicy, they don’t come close to other peppers like the ones on the top of the chart above. Interestingly, most of the heat in a jalapeño is found in the membrane, so by removing it, your peppers will be much milder. Even so, the spiciness varies greatly from pepper to pepper. Finally, consider this your warning: peppers at the end of the growing season tend to be the spiciest, so taste with caution if you’re sensitive to a little extra heat.

Preparing the Peppers

No matter what peppers you decide to use, you’ll need to prep them first. If you have an abundance of peppers on hand like we did, you can prepare a large batch of slice peppers in advance and freeze them to use later. I recommend wearing gloves when handling them to prevent transferring the spice to other things. The simplest method is to rinse the peppers, cut off the stem, cut in half, and use your finger to scoop the membranes and seeds.

Recipe Instructions

Once your peppers are ready to go, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy cleanup. Preheat the oven to 425 if you’re planning to bake them, or you can heat the grill to medium heat (about 375).

Cut the pepper jack cheese into slices about 1/8”x1/8”x2”, or about the size of a French fry. For larger peppers, you may need a little more cheese.

We used a variety of peppers for this batch, thanks to my in-laws garden.

Set the cheese inside the peppers. We used pepper jack, but cheddar or Colby jack would also taste great. Next, add peeled, deveined 30-40 count shrimp. For smaller peppers, cut the shrimp to fit.

Cut the shrimp if needed to fit in the peppers.

Finally, wrap each pepper with thin-sliced bacon. For smaller peppers cut the bacon in half, making sure there is enough bacon to wrap around it fully.

Ready to cook! You can stop here if you’re preparing them in advance.

Either grill them on medium until the bacon is crispy, or bake them at 425 for about 17 mins. I like to set them on a few paper towels to absorb some of the extra bacon grease.

If you have teen boys running around, I suggest hiding these until the guests arrive, or else your delicious appetizer might disappear!

This recipe can easily be prepared a day in advance until you’re ready to cook them. I served these with Parmesan Chicken Wings (recipe coming soon!), roasted asparagus spears (coming soon), and sweet potatoes for a delicious meal.

Below is a printable PDF version of this recipe:

Let me know if you try making this! I’d love to know how it turns out.

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Balsamic Brussels Sprouts – The Perfect Side Dish

If you had told me a few years ago that I’d like brussels sprouts, I would have thought you were crazy! Now I crave them.

This recipe is keto, Whole 30, gluten-free…. all the things because it’s so simple and only has a few ingredients. By slicing the sprouts thin, you avoid the common issues with cooking brussels sprouts: mushy or undercooked centers. Also, the balsamic vinegar cuts the bitter taste and makes them slightly sweet.

One caveat: your kitchen will smell like cabbage. Trust me– you won’t care once you taste them.

FYI, I did some research before writing this post. The brussels sprout earned its name from being popular in Brussels, France. They are a member of the brassica family, closely related to kale, cauliflower, and mustard greens. In addition, brussels sprouts are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. (source)

I usually buy brussels sprouts at Costco, and this recipe uses about half a bag (about 1 pound). To begin, slice the sprouts about into thirds or fourths, discarding the hard stems.

This part is a little time consuming, but I think it’s well worth it. Just put on some good music!

Heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium high heat, and add the brussels sprouts. Add 1 teaspoon of sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Bayou Blonde Tip: I never measure olive oil. I have dispenser on my glass jar, and I just eyeball it.

Allow the sprouts to cook for about five minutes until they are starting to brown on the bottom. Give them a stir, and spread them out again in an even layer. Let them cook for about five more minutes, or until they are browned slightly (see the picture below).

See those brown parts… that’s what you want.

Now, remove the brussels sprouts from the heat, and add two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Stir it all together, and serve.

This is a great side dish with steaks, burgers, chicken, pork, etc. It pretty much goes with any protein. For the easiest meal ever, pick up a rotisserie chicken, and roast some baby potatoes in the oven while you make this. A small glass of red wine is optional.

Here’s a printable PDF version of this recipe:

Let me know if you try these! I’d love to know how they turned out.

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6 Steps for a Picture-Perfect Charcuterie Board

Charcuterie boards are all the rage right now, and it’s easy to see why. These rustic presentations of meats, cheese, fruits, nuts, and other finger foods reflects the casual yet luxurious style that is popular in both decor and fashion. It makes sense to bring the aesthetic to food.

As someone who loves to entertain, I was eager to learn the secret to how to create one of these beautiful boards. With minimal cooking and preparation, charcuterie (pronounced shar-coo-tar-ree) boards are ideal to throw together when you need something easy and elegant.

A friend of mine, Marissa, posts many of her gorgeous creations on Instagram, so I reached out to her and asked for help in creating a beautiful Mother’s Day-inspired charcuterie. She graciously agreed, and helped me create the beauty below.

The theme for this board was Mother’s Day, but I looked for ingredients that would compliment our favorite wines.

The wonderful thing about this style is that the ideas work for just about any event. Marissa recently did one for her son’s birthday party that featured all of his favorite snacks. You could also focus on fruits and veggies, or make one that fits into your diet.

Not exactly healthy, but seriously, what kid wouldn’t want this for his birthday party?

For our Mother’s Day board, we used a variety of cheese, crackers, meat, fruit, veggies, and spreads to create a vibrant display. I focused on rich colors and flavors that would pair well with the wine I planned to serve.

Since there are so many options when you make a charcuterie board, this recipe looks a little different. I hope that you will look at the basics and branch out to create your own. Make sure to tag me on social media if you do!

6 Steps for a Picture-Perfect Charcuterie Board:

STEP 1// Choose ingredients with at least three different colors.

Most food is brown, so to create a visually appealing board, incorporate color. For this board, I used the following:

  • purples – grapes, blackberries, fig preserves, flowers
  • reds – strawberries, pepperoni, hard salami
  • greens – olives, spinach dip, cotton candy grapes (so delish by the way), celery sticks, pears, roasted pistachios, and sliced cucumbers
  • browns/creams – three types of crackers, several cheeses, honey roasted pecans, deluxe mixed nuts, dark chocolate squares and honey to spread on top
Rich colors and textures work together to create a luxurious display.

STEP 2// Choose ingredients with a variety of textures.

In this case, there are smooth olives and grapes, rough crackers and nuts, slices of fruits and veggies, and creamy cheeses.

STEP 3// Add flavors that complement one another.

For our board, I combined sweet and savory. We used a fig preserve that worked with nearly all of the cheeses, and the simple flavors of the cucumber and celery balanced the rich spinach dip and other flavors. With the variety of flavors going on already, I kept the flavors in the crackers simple, using Almond thins (gluten-free option), triscuits, and a pretty, ruffled rosemary-flavored cracker.

STEP 4// Incorporate dips and spreads.

Dips and spreads are easy to add to the other flavors and allow guests to customize their plates. We used honey (with a cute honeycomb for drizzling), fig preserves, spinach and artichoke dip (see the recipe in this post), and a soft honey-flavored goat cheese. Soft cheeses work really well on charcuterie boards, but if you are trying to limit dairy, you could go with a pepper jelly, preserve, or even hummus.

STEP 5// Arrange your board using diagonals, placing larger items first.

When you arrange your board, place larger bowls and items first. For example, if you make salami or pepperoni roses, place them diagonally from one another to create an interesting display. Also consider balancing colors, placing greens, purples, and reds in diagonals.

Once you have the large items in place, fill in with crackers, fruit and smaller bowls of olives, pickles, and veggies.

Finally, fill in the gaps with small groups of grapes, nuts, and berries, varying where you place colors.

STEP 6// Add the garnishes.

This is an elegant meal, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to play it up with luxurious garnishes. We used flowers and rosemary from my garden to embellish the goat cheese log and add a feminine feeling to the display.

How to make a Salami or Pepperoni Rose

These are deceptively simple. I was so intimidated at first, but Marissa showed me how to to it. You’ll be surprised.

First, determine if you want a large or small rose. I used both for my display. To make a large rose, use a wineglass. For a small rose, use a champagne flute.

This is a small rose in using a champagne flute and large salami slices.

To begin, layer salami or pepperoni slices around the glass, overlapping them by about 1/2 to 2/3. As you go, press them down and crease the meat, so that it stays in place. Keep going until you are satisfied with the amount, or until the center is almost covered.

The finished rose!

Finally, put the glass upside down wherever you want the rose to go. It’s really that simple! For the pepperoni, we created small ruffles by bunching the meat on a toothpick.

Formula for a Gorgeous Charcuterie

Remember, you can make it your own, so branch out and get creative!

Jam, Jellies, Spreads, Preserves – choose at least 1

Fresh Fruit or Vegetables – choose at least 4

Crackers – choose at least 2

Cheese and Meat – choose 1 soft cheese, 1 hard cheese, 1 meat

Dried Fruit and Nuts – choose at least 1

Olives, Pickles, Peppers – choose at least 1

Garnish – choose at least 1

Here is the recipe to recreate my board and the printable PDF.

What goes better with a charcuterie board than a good wine? Here are a few of our more affordable favorites. We love a good cabernet, but we appreciate others as well.

Menage a Trois Red Blend | Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon | Meiomi Pinot Noir | Kono of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

I’d love to hear from you if you try your hand at a charcuterie board. Comment below or tag me on social media (Instagram or Facebook). I can’t wait to make another one. They really are fun to create.

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Spinach & Artichoke Dip – An Entertaining Must-Have

Spinach and Artichoke Dip is versatile and goes well with vegetables, crackers, or tortilla chips. I wouldn’t call this healthy, but it is keto-friendly if you skip the chips.

This rich dip is a favorite in my family for it’s creamy texture and rich flavors. Even if you don’t like spinach, you will love this cheesy dip.

It also freezes well. I will usually divide the recipe once it cools, and freeze half of it. To make it last longer in the freezer, line the storage container with plastic wrap, and wrap the dip in plastic before freezing.

To begin, microwave two boxes of frozen spinach according to the directions on the package. Allow it to cool, and squeeze out the excess liquid. The best way to do this is to wrap the spinach in several layers of paper towels, and strain the liquid over the sink. The picture isn’t pretty, but hopefully you get the idea.

Next, drain the liquid from the marinated artichoke hearts, and give them a quick chop. If you see any hard parts, throw those away. You can use the artichoke hearts in water, but I like the extra flavor they get when marinating.

In a large pot, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil on medium head. Once the onions are clear, add chopped artichokes, and allow them to heat up.

Next, add the cream cheese blocks and stir to melt.

Finally, stir in the sour cream and cooked spinach, allowing to warm and melt together. Turn off the heat, and stir in the Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.

Here’s the recipe, as well as the printable PDF.

I’d love to hear your feedback if you try it! Comment below or tag me on social media (Instagram or Facebook).

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

This recipe is one of my greatest culinary accomplishments. That may be an overstatement, but I really am proud of this one.

Whole grain muffin perfection.

Here’s why:

  1. It’s incredibly versatile and easy to change up.
  2. It requires one bowl and no mixer.
  3. It’s gluten-free, but tasty.
  4. It’s relatively healthy and full of good-for-you grains, protein, and Omegas.

Before I jump into the recipe, here are a few notes about the dietary restrictions. I almost always make this with gluten-free flour. It tastes better with regular flour, but Little Miss is gluten intolerant. Even the Bayou Boys eat the gluten-free version, so I opt for the easier choice. If you have a family member with Celiac or extreme sensitivity to gluten, make sure to use a gluten-free oatmeal.

This recipe is not Whole 30 or keto compliant. However, the grains in these muffins are incredibly good for you. They’re packed with fiber, protein, and a ton of vitamins in these, including:

  • Omega-3
  • Vitamin E
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Manganese
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Copper
  • Biotin
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • Vitamin B6

This recipe is also rich in antioxidants soluble and insoluble fiber. The ingredients can help lower cholesterol and protect LDL cholesterol, improve blood sugar, and help with weight loss. Another plus — these are amazing for nursing mothers. The oats help boost milk production.

Are you convinced yet that the benefits in these more than make up for the added sugar? I hope so.

I always start with three overripe bananas mashed in a large mixing bowl. I will even use frozen bananas that I’ve thawed, just make sure to drain the liquid first. Mash the bananas, and add the next five ingredients, ending with the sugar to that same bowl.

Then, I add in my dry ingredients to the same bowl. Only having to wash one bowl is a huge win for me.

Pretty grains.

I mix it well, and add in the nuts and chocolate chips (optional). I use a large scoop so the muffins are all the same size.

A scoop like this one makes filling the muffin tin so much easier.

Bayou Blonde Tip: These muffins do not do well with cupcake liners. I prefer to spray the pan with an avocado cooking spray.

This is the oil spray I use. It’s from Costco.

If you don’t want to use chocolate chips, add cinnamon for a twist.

Here is the recipe. Please let me know if you make these!

Here’s a Printable PDF of the recipe.

Let me know if you try these! This recipe is a staple in my home and works great for breakfast or an afternoon snack.

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