Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cajun Red Beans and Rice

Cajun Red Beans and Rice are a south Louisiana staple particularly in the winter months when you need something filling and warm. I never liked Red Beans and Rice because, growing up, my mother didn't pay much attention to them so they were always burned on the bottom and raw on top! Yuk. Then, as an adult, I came across this recipe and it is to die for! Yummmmm Yummmm! I can positively inhale these!

1 pound fresh red kidney beans, dry
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
5 ribs celery, chopped
5 or 6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large smoked ham hock or 3/4 lb. smoked ham, diced, for seasoning
1 to 1-1/2 pounds mild or hot smoked sausage or andouille, sliced
1/2 to 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves, crushed
1 or 2 bay leaves
Hot sauce to taste, I use Tabasco
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Creole seasoning, I use Tony's (see Tips and Information)
Salt to taste
Parboiled Rice, (see Tips and Information)

Soak the beans overnight, or at least 3-4 hours. Drain the water and cover the beans with a double volume of fresh water in the pot. (This helps reduce the, um, flatulence factor.) Bring the beans to a rolling boil. Make sure the beans are always covered by water, or they will discolor and get hard. Boil the beans approximately one hour, until the beans are tender but not falling apart. Drain.

While the beans are boiling, sauté the Trinity (onions, celery, bell pepper) in oil until the onions turn translucent. Add garlic and saute for 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally. After the beans are boiled and drained, add the sautéed vegetables to the beans, then add the ham hock or ham, smoked sausage, seasonings, and just enough water to cover.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for 2-3 hours until the beans are nice and creamy, add water if necessary and crush some beans until it is creamy. You want this dish to be somewhat soupy. Adjust seasonings as you go along. Stir occasionally, to ensure the beans don't burn or stick to the bottom of the pot.

Cool and refrigerate overnight. This brings out the flavor. I clear room in the refrigerator and put the whole pot in there! The next day, add a little water and reheat.

Serve over hot parboiled rice with some buttered cornbread and some cooked greens. I like to serve some smoked sausage on the side that I've baked in the oven. Enjoy!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Madeline’s Spinach

You know, it's funny how things come full circle, one day, just out of the blue. I was perusing the internet earlier this week and came across this article on . There it was! The origins of Spinach Madeline, a beloved South Louisiana recipe that I posted here on the blog last year for Thanksgiving and again last Christmas. I never knew the exact origin of the recipe or who made it up but here it is! I found it very interesting especially since I've been making it for the last 25 years!

Madeline’s Spinach

By Maggie Heyn Richardson

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Local retiree Madeline Wright caused a sensation and a renowned regional dish with her creation of Spinach Madeleine in 1956.

In 1956, St. Francisville native Madeline Wright was mulling over what to prepare for a bridge luncheon for friends when she spotted a six-ounce roll of Kraft jalapeño cheese in her refrigerator. She had picked up the new product from the supermarket a few days earlier with no specific plans for using it.

Maybe it would enhance creamed spinach, she thought. Despite her lack of cooking experience, she proceeded to toss together what seemed right: chopped spinach, diced onion, butter, flour, vegetable liquor, a few shakes of celery salt and garlic salt, chunks of the jalapeño cheese roll and Worcestershire sauce. Wright stirred the concoction until it was thick and creamy, placed it in a casserole and topped it with breadcrumbs. She plated it on good china and served it to her friends.

It was creamy, salty and spiked with unexpected spiciness. Her friends’ rave reviews inspired her to keep serving the dish at dinner parties and family events. Two years later, the Junior League of Baton Rouge asked its members to submit recipes for its first cookbook, and Wright handed over instructions for her go-to spicy creamed spinach.

She named it Spinach Madeleine, using the French spelling of her first name for extra flourish.

River Road Recipes was published in 1959 and quickly became a regional hit. Its success led to three subsequent volumes, which together form the best-selling community cookbook series in the nation. Generations of readers have discovered and cooked Wright’s recipe, and it has long been a standard item on local holiday tables. Spinach Madeleine became so popular regionally that when Kraft Foods discontinued its jalapeño cheese roll in 1999, fans of the dish showered the company with complaints. Kraft maintained its decision, forcing local cooks to turn to other jalapeño cheeses for the recipe.

Today, Wright still marvels at the unexpected attention earned by her bout of kitchen spontaneity.

“It’s really sort of funny and a little bit embarrassing, but it’s nice to be known for something,” says Wright, now 82 and still living in St. Francisville.

Cooking had not been one of Wright’s favorite activities. When many of her peers were learning to cook, she was earning dual bachelor’s degrees from LSU in psychology and sociology. As she approached her marriage to William Reymond shortly after graduation, her mother had a suggestion.

“She told me I ought to take a home economics class to learn how to cook,” Wright says. “My mother-in-law was also a well-known cook and hostess, so I had a lot of standards to measure up to.”

Wright and her first husband and their children eventually moved to Houston. She later created a company that leased plants to corporate offices.

She returned home to St. Francisville years later, and in 1992, she opened a bed and breakfast on family property called the Green Springs Inn. She closed it in 2005 to spend more time with family.

As for her famed dish, Wright says she has made it occasionally over the years, but not as often as its fans might think.

“Our B&B guests expected me to serve it for breakfast,” she says. “I’d do it only periodically. Usually we’d do a typical Southern breakfast of scrambled eggs, grits, biscuits and fresh fruit.”

Wright also laments the loss of the cornerstone ingredient, the jalapeño cheese log.

“It’s been a pain in the neck ever since,” she admits. “Now the dish has an entirely different texture. I’ve tried various things, but I find Velveeta too soupy. None of it is really satisfactory.”

Wright says she never benefitted financially from the recipe, and she says she still marvels at the enthusiasm with which people have embraced it.

“It was just a set of circumstances that fell together,” she says. “It’s been a lot of fun, and nobody is more surprised about it than I am.”

Friday, December 9, 2011

New Orleans Beignets

Beignet (pronounced "ben-yay" in French) literally means "bump". Beignets were brought to Louisiana by the Acadians from Canada who arrived there from France. These were fried fritters, sometimes filled with fruit. Today, they are a pastry made from deep-fried dough like a doughnut only square and sprinkled with confectioner's sugar.

Shhhhhh! I'll share a little secret with you. Shhhhhh! You don't need beignet mix or make a dough from scratch to make beignets! All you need is a can of basic biscuits, nothing fancy just plain old generic biscuits.

You can leave them round, cut them to form squares or into rectangular "fingers" which are easier to eat. Using the leftover dough, form another square or finger biscuit; then deep fry them in hot oil. Remove from the oil and place on a plate covered with paper towels to absorb the excess oil, then sprinkle confectioner's sugar over them. That's it!!! Now you can have your own Cafe du Monde experience at home!

Serve them with ice cold milk or cafe au Lait (which is coffee with lots of milk in it). Community Coffee can be found in most grocery stores around the nation. The New Orleans Blend with Chickory is what is served at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. My favorite is the Cafe Special.

Turn on some New Orleans jazz, make some Cafe au Lait and Beignets, transport yourself back to New Orleans and have a nice relaxing breakfast! Enjoy and you're welcome!!!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cream Of Crab And Brie Soup

One of my favorite restaurants in Louisiana has a Cream of Crab and Brie Soup that is out of this world. Another of my favorite restaurants has a Cream of Crab and Asparagus Soup that I also love. Of course (you know me!), I went home and poured through all my cookbooks looking for something comparable. I ended up taking several recipes, modifying them and came up with this one. You can make it with the brie, or not, and you can make it with the asparagus, or not! It's up to you. Either way you decide to go, this is a soup that is absolutely wonderful. Serve it as the main dish with some buttered french bread and a salad or as a side to a different main course like crab cakes. It's heaven in a bowl!

4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup brandy, optional(increase the wine to 1 cup)
6 cups seafood stock
2 cups cream
8 ounces Brie cheese, rind removed and cubed
1 pound crabmeat (backfin or lump, NOT She-Crab)
1 bunch asparagus spears, tipped to 1-1/2” (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Salt and/or Tony’s to taste

Melt butter in a dutch oven/pot over medium heat. Sprinkle in flour, stirring constantly, until a blond roux is achieved, about 6-8 minutes. Add onions, garlic and optional asparagus tips. Sauté 5-10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Carefully add the white wine and brandy. Stir constantly, scraping the bottom of the pan. Gradually blend in seafood stock. Add cream and blend.

Bring to a gentle boil. Be careful not to scorch. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 30 minutes until reduced to a thick, velvety texture. Add brie; stir constantly until cheese melts. Gently fold in crabmeat. Cook an additional 5 minutes. Add cayenne, black and white pepper. Season to taste with salt and/or Tony’s.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Michael Angelo's Chicken Piccata

Because school has me studying hard and running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I have not been cooking (or blogging) like I want to. As a result, I've been buying frozen dinners fairly frequently. Lately, I was craving Italian anything, so I went to the grocery store and perused the frozen dinner section. I stuck with the usual (rhymes with Topher with an "S" in front) meals but a meat lagnasa by Michael Angelo's caught my eye so I bought one. It was great! Much better than the other brand.

I went back a few days later and decided to try several of the other Michael Angelo's products. Oh. My. God! The Chicken Piccata is to die for! I don't think I could make it from scratch any better than theirs! YUM! YUM! YUM!

I searched for a recipe like it but have come up empty handed as they add a few more ingredients than the recipes I've found. So, as soon as I have some time, I'm going to modify a recipe and make it. I'll let you know how it comes out and will post the recipe if it's as good as Michael Angelo's is! Otherwise, I'll be purchasing the family size Michael Angelo's Piccata!

At any rate, if you are in a hurry and don't have time to cook, the Michael Angelo's products, particularly the Piccata, are wonderful. Besides the Piccata I liked the Meat Lagnasa and the Baked Ziti with Meatballs. Back to studying now. Ciao!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Shrimp Bisque

It's that time of the year again! Today, it didn't get above 64 degrees, Whoo Hoo! Winter is on the way. Time to make all those wonderful soups I love so much. One of my favorite cream soups is an old Louisiana recipe, Shrimp Bisque. I prefer this recipe as it doesn't have tomato sauce or paste in it which gives it a lighter taste and doesn't overpower the delicate shrimp flavor. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! C'est Ce Bon!

1 pound shrimp, peeled and chopped
4 cups Half & Half
1/2 stick butter
2 tablespoons of celery, chopped
2 tablespoons of onion, chopped
2 tablespoons of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
Tony’s to taste

Saute onion and celery in butter until tender. Add the shrimp, sauté until done. Blend in the flour, salt, paprika and pepper. Add Half & Half gradually and cook until thick, stirring frequently. Check seasonings and add Tony’s to taste. Serve.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Only In South Louisiana....

From the US National Weather Service New Orleans Louisiana website:

This picture was taken down in St. Bernard yesterday following the deluge from Tropical Storm Lee. You gotta love South Louisiana, the only place where sometimes you have to swim to get to the swimming pool!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

One of the tried and true comfort foods is Chicken Pot Pie. It doesn't matter if it's summer or winter, if you're sick or well, going through a bad time or just stressed out, a really good chicken pot pie seems to help make it all better.

My mother never made homemade pot pies but always bought the frozen ones from the store; as a result, I never really cared for them. However, a few years ago while visiting a friend for the weekend, I had the great fortune of eating a pot pie made by a woman who was very well known for her recipe.

Oh. My. God. It was to die for! I called begging her to give me her recipe but she refused. So, I picked that silly thing apart until I pretty much knew what was in it (but not entirely, not the "secret" ingredient) and certainly not the quantities. I've searched high and low for a recipe that might be close to hers and I think I've finally found it. I've made it and if this isn't the exact recipe, it is darn close. Let me know what YOU think!

1 box Pillsbury Pie Crusts
1 ½ - 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup heavy cream
4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
3 small red potatoes, cut in 1-in chunks
1-1/2 sticks butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
¾ cup frozen green peas
5 Tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth
¼ cup cognac or dry white wine
1 Tbsp dried tarragon
2 tsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
4 boiled eggs, sliced

Preheat the oven to 350. Salt and pepper the chicken and place it in a baking dish in a single layer. Pour the cream over the chicken and bake for 25-40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts. Remove the chicken from the cream, reserving the cream for the sauce. Once the chicken has cooled, cut it into 1 inch pieces.

Boil potatoes for 10 minutes, then add the carrots and cook until both the potatoes and carrots are fork tender. Drain and set aside.

Sauté onions and celery in butter. Sprinkle in the flour; stir and cook 5 minutes, but do not brown. Remove yolks from egg slices. Slowly add the broth to the onion mixture, whisking until the sauce smoothes out and thickens. Add the egg yolks, cream, cognac, tarragon, thyme, salt and pepper. Mix well and cook 5 more minutes. Add the chicken, potatoes, carrots, egg whites and frozen peas to this sauce and mix gently.

Preheat the oven to 425. Place one pie crust in a round pie pan and pour in the chicken mixture. Place the second crust over the dish and press down the pastry edges, folding if necessary. Brush the top of the pastry with a little melted butter. Cut a few steam vents in the pastry and bake for 25 minutes until golden brown

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lava Lamps

School is over for the summer, I just completed the semester on Wednesday. Now that I've had a few days to rest, I thought I'd post something that I plan to enjoy over the next week or two. Lava Lamps! Have fun!

1 chilled Martini glass
Fill it up with ice cold vodka, of your choice
Add 1 jello shot, flavor of your choice

Relax and enjoy!

For jello shots, follow the directions on the package, but add 1 part vodka and 1 part water...or stronger if you like. Just don't use all vodka or they won't set. Pour into empty plastic egg cartons, or small paper or plastic cups and refrigerate.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Banana Split Pie

Today is my birthday! Happy Birthday to me! Yep, it's the big 5-0! But, it won't be official until 1:55pm, my actual birth time. Thank you, Thank you! I am a half century today.

When I make a birthday cake or dessert for myself or when asked what I would like for my birthday, my two favorite choices are Red Velvet Cake and Banana Split Pie. Because it's so hot at this time in July, the Banana Split Pie usually wins hands down! Here is the recipe. I hope you love it as much as I do!

1 stick butter, melted
1 box graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter, softened
2 eggs
2 cups confectioners' sugar
5 bananas, sliced
1 (15 ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 (16 ounce) container Cool-Whip, thawed
1 (4 ounce) jar maraschino cherries, stemmed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
Chocolate Syrup, optional

In a 9x13 glass or porcelain dish, combine 1 stick of melted butter and graham cracker crumbs. With a fork, incorporate the butter until the crumbs are coated. Firmly press into a crust in the bottom of the pan.

In a medium bowl, cream together the other stick of softened butter, eggs and confectioners' sugar; beat for 15 minutes. Spread evenly on the graham cracker crust. Layer banana slices evenly on top of butter/sugar mixture; layer pineapple on top of the bananas. Evenly spread the Cool-Whip and garnish with cherries and pecans. Drizzle optional chocolate syrup over the top. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Keeps well refrigerated for about a week.

Note: we prefer this without the chocolate syrup

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chicken Soup In A Pinch

I have a sick one at home today and didn't have time or the ingredients to make a pot of chicken soup. So, I improvised with what I had thus making Chicken Soup In A Pinch! It came out really great and only took about 7 minutes to make. Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do!

2 cans chicken broth
1 heaping tbls green onion, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup frozen mixed vegetables
1 heaping tbls canned chicken (optional)
Salt to taste

In a 2 quart bowl (or measuring cup) add all the vegetables, broth and salt. Heat in microwave for 6 minutes or until frozen vegetables are cooked. Add chicken, stir well and serve. Makes 2 servings.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Atchafalaya: Way of Life Swamped

The historic flooding by the Mississippi River of my beloved South Louisiana Cajun Country and Atchafalaya Basin is truly breaking my heart. The scenes on the internet and TV are just wrenching. I found this article on The Weather Channel website that so eloquently describes our way of life and the impact this flooding will have on my fellow cajuns. It was written by Becky Kellogg. The comments are worth reading. Here is the link:

"There's something real down here. People are more in touch with the earth and more in touch with each other," says Cajun and lifelong Louisiana resident Elaine Clement.

Louisiana's Atchafalaya Swamp is at the heart of the Great Flood Disaster of 2011. As homes become flooded and the Mississippi River swells to levels that haven't been observed in decades, all attention turns to the so-called Cajun Country.

Cajun Country is an area steeped in mystery and magic. Mornings dawn in the swamp with a thick coating of mist on the water. The only sounds you can hear are fish jumping and the occasional hum of a boat engine. It's one of the ultimate places you can reach for isolation and closeness with nature. But now, due to rising flood waters, this way of life could disappear.

"It's just ... different than the rest of the United States," says Clement. Clement, who grew up in Morgan City and now lives in Lafayette, would know. She has spent most of her life studying the Cajun culture and educating people about it. To her, the survival of the culture comes down to the astounding resiliency of its people. They live every day with the powerful forces of nature and weather. "We've had hurricanes the past 5 or 6 years, the oil spill last year, now this. There are some places people are starting to leave, but still... it's our home."

Last week, the Army Corps of Engineers was faced with a heart-wrenching decision. It either could save Louisiana's biggest cities or sacrifice one of its greatest treasures: the swamp. In the end, the cities won.
Few know much about the Atchafalaya, which sustains a life cycle both unique and necessary.
-Largest swamp in U.S.
-Includes 8 parishes
-Largest city is Morgan City
-30,000 people threatened by ongoing flood
-11,000 homes, buildings could be flooded

For those who've visited, and certainly for those who live there, the Atchafalaya is mystical. "I fell in love with the area and people right away. They make you feel instantly at home and like family," said Howard Sappington of The Weather Channel. Sappington traveled to the Atchafalaya Swamp with Jim Cantore to film an episode of "Cantore Stories."

"There’s something magical about being out on the Atchafalaya with the sun setting through those magnificent cypress trees," says Sappington.

Some people live deep in the swamp on houseboats or camps set up on stilts. Others live in the small cities and communities that have popped up on the dry land. They're in a constant battle with the water: building levees, filling sandbags, and hoping to hold back the water.

The Atchafalaya is the heartbeat of Cajun society in America. Many people still speak French and they have a patois all of their own. "They are warm, funny, outdoorsy people that love life and welcome strangers like family," says Sappington. "They are proud of their heritage, food and culture. Almost all of these Cajuns 45 years or older speak fluent French. They like to tell jokes and love for visitors to experience their culture, including their lovable alligators."

Still others head to the Atchafalaya to drop out of society, preferring the mist-covered waters to the daily interaction with people. "You've got the world here in some ways," says Elaine Clement. "We share each other's cultures. Cajun, French, Quebecois, African, Belgian. It's unique from the rest of America."

It's because of weather, and floods in particular, that the Atchafalaya Swamp and Cajun culture have been able to grow and thrive. "The reason South Louisiana exists is because of the flooding of the Mississippi River," says Clement. "The levees were put there because of the flooding. That deposited silt and eventually created land that people built their homes and cities on. The flooding essentially built this area. Now with the levees, the oil drilling, the hurricanes, it's hard."

Now, as the floodwaters continue to filter downstream at record levels, residents are really concerned about the strength of the levees. Many of these levees were built by cities, subdivisions and neighbors who are simply trying to fight the powerful force of nature. The only thing keeping the Mississippi River from invading their homes is a dirt dam. "That's the biggest problem right now. Will the levees hold? It's kind of a test. This is supposedly an historic flood," says Clement.

As the relentless onslaught of the floods continues, it's more than just a swamp that's threatened. One of the many unique cultures that make America a melting pot is in danger. "We are people that are very conditioned to picking up and moving on," explains Clement. "We thrive in a crisis. It struck me, too, that even during the hurricanes, nobody stayed in the shelters. That's because we took people in. We take of each other."

Why do they stay there when the constant battle with nature seems, ultimately, a losing fight? "It's home. We love where we live. Does it make it easy? No. But we keep on."

Hello, It's Me!

Hello, it's me. Is it me you're looking for? (conjuring up the Lionel Richie song)

I'm sorry that I've been incognito for the past month. My bad! In July of last year, I started this blog as a stress reliever; several people were asking me to share my recipes while others were asking about life in Louisiana. However, in January, I returned to school for the first time in over 22 years to pursue a second degree. I'm in pre-nursing and once I have fulfilled the prerequisites, I will apply to and, hopefully, be accepted to nursing school. Upon completion I will be a registered nurse! Whoo Hoo!

The coursework is brutal; it's been hard going back after all these years, hence the lack of posts. I'm taking two classes this summer so I'll have more time and hope to post more regularly but the following two semesters (fall and spring) will be difficult, so posting will be sporatic then.

Anyway, I'm still here and have several recipes and stories to share with you. I've been taking some much needed R&R to recharge my batteries so I'll see you in a few days!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Crabmeat Stuffing

Per request, here is a versatile crabmeat stuffing recipe that can be used in a wide variety of dishes. I use it to stuff vegetables like baked tomatoes and mushrooms as well as for stuffed crab, shrimp and even stuffed chicken! It can also be formed into patties and pan fried in butter.

It's more economical to use the claw crabmeat unless you are making crab cakes or something special and want to use jumbo lump crabmeat in your recipe. If you want more crabmeat in your stuffing than what this recipe calls for, just add another pound. Additionally, you can add chopped shrimp as well as chopped crawfish for a different flavor. This recipe makes a large batch but you can either cut it in half or freeze the rest in an airtight container.

1 1/2 sticks butter or margarine
2 medium bell peppers - chopped
3 large onions - chopped
3 stalks celery - chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups bread crumbs
1 tbsp. Flour
3 eggs
1 handfull chapped parsley
1 lb. claw crabmeat, shells and cartiledge picked out

Melt butter in a sauce pan and saute onion, celery and bell peppers on medium heat until translucent - approximately 15 minutes. Season with salt and cayenne pepper.In a separate bowl, mix all other ingredients except the crabmeat. Add the sauted vegetables and mix well. Gently fold in the crabmeat.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana is the Crawfish Capital of the world and is home of the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival which takes place annually on the first weekend of May.

For those of you who have never been, this is an event to experience! It's full of Cajun traditions, music, dancing, food, fun and an opportunity to submerge yourself in the Cajun culture. If you have a opportunity to get away, you should make plans to attend.

Not only can you enjoy Cajun music and dancing but you can try crawfish prepared every way imaginable and by the best cooks! Also, you can get to know the locals, hear their wonderful cajun accents, become enthralled by the stories they tell and listen to some hilarious cajun jokes! It's truly an experience that you'll never forget. Just another snapshot into Life In South Louisiana! Laissez les bon temps rouler, Cher!