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Monthly Archives: June 2019

Plan Christmas cookies in advance

Christmas time is quickly approaching. The hustle and bustle of the season is to be enjoyed by all. It is most people’s favorite time of the year. The celebration of Jesus’s birth, the gathering of family and friends, and the sights and sounds of the season makes adults and children alike warm and giddy.

One thing that many people do around this time a year is to participate in a cookie exchange. You gather a group of people and you make a dozen cookies for each of the people in the group. It is a wonderful way to show your Christmas spirit. So I thought I would share with you a few different cookie recipes.

I will start you off with Praline cookies. Everywhere you turn in New Orleans, you see praline flavor. Be it in ice cream, sno-balls, cheesecake, etc., praline flavor is ever present. So, it is natural to make a cookie with this flavor.

Praline Cookies

1 Egg, beaten
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Butter, melted
1 1/4 cups light Brown Sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 1/3 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 cup Pecan Halves

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Combine the egg, butter, sugar and vanilla, stirring well. Add the flour and salt and stir to mix well. Add the pecans. Drop by tablespoons onto un-greased baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

The next cookie is a Ginger cookie. Most people would call this a spice cookie. The different spices combine to give these cookies a worldly favor. The use of the cane syrup in place of granulated sugar makes this a typical Louisiana recipe.

Ginger Cookies

2 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon ground Ginger
1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground Clove
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 cup light Brown Sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup Shortening
1/2 cup Cane Syrup
1 Egg
Granulated or Powdered Sugar for topping, optional

Preheat oven to 375℉.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt.

In a large bowl, cream together brown sugar and shortening. Beat in cane syrup and egg. Add the dry ingredients, a little at a time, beating thoroughly between additions. The mixture will be very thick.

Form 1-inch balls and roll in granulated or powdered sugar, if desired. Place cookies 2 inches apart on an un-greased baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.

I wanted to give you some nontraditional recipes. This one does not fall into that category. But I must included it because it is near and dear to me.

This is the very first recipe that I made by myself at 8 years old. My mom allowed me to go solo on a batch of cookies for the holidays. After making them, I was proud of what I accomplished. When everyone tasted them and told me how good they were, I was hooked. Thus began my life in the kitchen.

The recipe may look familiar. It is right of the back of the Toll House Chocolate Chip bag. Not too original, but still a crowning achievement.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Butter, softened
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 cup Brown Sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 large Eggs
2 cups Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 375℉.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one t a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Stir in chips. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto un-greased baking sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Optional ingredient: 1 cups chopped Nuts, added when you add the chocolate chips.

To continue with my Christmas theme, next week I will share with you some appetizers. My family tradition is to have finger food to nibble on while opening presents.

Making most of Leftovers

It’s after Thanksgiving. Black Friday shopping has been done. What to cook for dinner. Hopefully, you have turkey leftover from the big day. The easiest thing to do would be to put the leftovers on a plate, and warm them up in the microwave.But there is so much more that can be done with the leftovers, especially the turkey.

Here are two of my favorite turkey recipes that are great for around the holidays. One is from the best cook whose food I wish I was still eating, my mom. The other is a way to dress up the lefter turkey into a dish that would be welcome on many restaurant menus. Either way, you will be eating the turkey in a more favorable way than just reheating it.

This recipe is one of my mothers. It’s one that she would make to bring to covered dish or pot luck dinners. It is a twist on Thanksgiving dinner, with the turkey, stuffing and green beans. The only thing that is missing is the French Fried Onions that usually go on top Green bean casserole.It’s funny that I never seem to get my mother’s recipes to taste like they did when she cooked them. I guess she used a different kind of love when cooking them than I use.

Mona’s Turkey Casserole

2 cups Pepperidge Stuffing
1 small can French Style Green Beans
1 small can Cream of Mushroom Soup
2 cups Turkey, diced
1/2 cup Milk
2 teaspoons Butter
1/4 cup Hot Water
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Arrange in a casserole dish 2/3 cup dry stuffing, green beans, diced turkey, mushroom soup and milk. Mix together. Dot with butter. Add hot water, salt and pepper. Top with the remaining 1 1/3 cups of stuffing. Bake for 25 minutes.

This dish puts a fancy twist on leftover turkey. Although the finished dish looks like you have been cooking all day, it is an easy dish to prepare. You can use white or dark meat turkey. The important part of the dish is the bacon. You want to make sure that it is crispy before you place in the oven. It adds a different texture to the dish that I think is crucial. It just does not taste as good if the bacon is less than crispy.

Turkey Poulet

8 slices of Bread, lightly toasted
24 sliced Bacon, cooked crispy
24 ounces Turkey, sliced
Double recipe of Béchamel Sauce (recipe to follow)
Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 350℉.

For each serving, place two pieces of toast side by side on an oven proof plate. Place 3 slices of bacon and 3 ounces of turkey on each piece of toast. Cover with sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cook for 15 minutes.

This is one of the five, if not the most important, mother sauces. It is also the easiest to make.Béchamel is the basic for many different sauces. You add cheese to Béchamel to make a Mornay sauce, which is used to make Macaroni and Cheese. Adding different herbs and seasonings makes this sauce a must know how to make.

Béchamel Sauce

2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoon Flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
Dash of White Pepper
Dash of Nutmeg
1 1/2 cups Milk

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cook until evenly combined. After the mixture is combined with no lumps, slowly add the milk, stirring constantly with a whisk until evenly blended. Stir the sauce over medium heat until the mixture bubbles across the entire surface. Cook and stir for a couple more minutes to completely cook the flour into the sauce.

These last few articles have been a tribute to Thanksgiving. I hope you had an enjoyable day and I look forward to sharing more holiday recipes with you in the coming weeks.

Don’t forget desserts for Thanksgiving

Every Thanksgiving feast is not complete without dessert. Often people eat seconds and thirds on Thanksgiving, making the dessert course often saved until later. I personally like to have something sweet after this large meal.

With these two desserts, I am featuring two prominent Louisiana ingredients, Pecans and Sweet Potatoes. While both of these ingredients are often found in other Thanksgiving dishes, I feel that they really shine when included in a dessert. Pecan pies are a staple in Southern homes. Often, sweet potatoes are also made into pies for the holidays, but I wanted to share two different types of desserts. Here are my suggestions for this year’s dessert table.

Pecan pie is a perfect dessert any time of the year. If I could, I would have Chef Frank Brigtsen, in New Orleans, ship me one of his pecan pies. Since he does not ship, I make my own. One year, I was looking to put a twist this classic. Since chocolate tends to dominate dessert menus, I thought I would add some to my pecan pie. The results were well received. Now, I get as many request for a chocolate pecan pie as a do a regular one.

Chocolate Pecan Pie

3 cups Sugar
Pinch of Salt
7 tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa
4 Large Eggs
1 tablespoon Vanilla
1 (12 ounce can) Evaporated Milk
1 stick Butter, melted
1 cup Pecan Halves
2 unbaked Deep Dish Pie Shells

Preheat oven to 350℉.

In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, salt and cocoa together. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and milk. Stir into the dry ingredients. Add the melted butter and stir until well blended. Sprinkle pecan halves into the pie shell, about 1/2 cup per shell. Pour the filling over the pecans. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes.

Creme Brûlée is often thought of as a fancy dessert. While it does lend itself to upscale dinners, Creme Brûlée is a great dessert anytime. This recipe is great for the holidays. Most Creme Brûlées are served individually. This one is served in a large dish, so you can eat as much or as little as you want. Since you have just eaten a large Thanksgiving meal, a small portion of dessert is a great way to end your meal.

Sweet Potato Creme Brulée

1 very large Sweet Potato, baked, peeled and mashed (1 1/4 cups)
1/4 cup packed Light Brown Sugar
1 tablespoon fresh Lemon Juice
2 cups Whipping Cream
3/4 cups Granulated Sugar
7 Egg Yolks, slightly beaten
3 teaspoons Vanilla
1/3 cup Turbinado Sugar (Sugar in the Raw)

Preheat oven to 325℉.

Butter a 10-inch quiche dish.

In a medium bowl, mix mashed sweet potatoes, brown sugar and lemon juice. Spoon mixture into quiche dish.

In a 2-quart sauce pan, stir together the whipping cream, granulated sugar, egg yolks and vanilla. Cook over medium-low heat about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until hot (do not boil). Pour over sweet potato mixture. Place dish in shallow pan. Place pan in oven. Pour enough boiling water into pan to depth of 3/4 inch (about halfway up the side of the dish). Bake 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out almost clean. Carefully remove the dish from the water. Cool on cooling rack. Cover; refrigerate at least 8 hours.

When ready to serve, set oven control to broil. Sprinkle custard with raw sugar. Place dish on a sheet pan. Broil with top 4 to 6 inches from heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until the sugar is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Now that we have ended our Thanksgiving feast with something sweet, time to clean up the kitchen and put away the leftovers. My mind starts thinking what to do with the leftover turkey. Next time, I will share with you a couple of my favorite turkey recipes.

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

The holidays are quickly approaching. Thanksgiving is a few weeks away with Christmas right around the corner. These are the two largest cooking holidays on the calendar. In my family, everyone brings a couple of dishes. As large as my family is, the number of different dishes often number in the twenties.

The majority of the dishes are the sides. From Dirty Rice to Green Bean Casserole, the possibilities are endless. While there is always a new dish or two to try, a few dishes appear at every gathering. Today, I am sharing with you two recipes that are near and dear to my heart. A holiday gathering without either of these two dishes to me would be incomplete. Oyster Dressing and Dirty Rice are recipes that bring back memories of two very important ladies in my life, my mother Mona and my mother-in-law Lorraine. I cannot make these dishes without a happy thought coming to my mind and a smile being put on my face.

This recipe is a mainstay on New Orleans holiday tables. Oysters are a perfect fit to winter holiday menus. With their versatility, the sky is the limit in the ways oysters are used.

This recipe was a favorite of my mother-in-law. She used to make Oyster Dressing every Christmas. The only issue was that not many of the family ate the dish. As she got older, she stopped making it, with many other dishes to make. My second Christmas in the family, my wife asked me if I would make Oyster Dressing for her mother. Of course, I was more than happy to. Here is the recipe that I cooked that Christmas.

Oyster Dressing

2 teaspoons Butter
1 pint Oysters, reserving the liquor they come in
2 tablespoons Canola Oil
2 cups Onions, chopped
1 cup Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1 cup Celery, chopped
2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning
2 Bay Leaves
1 tablespoon Garlic, minced
1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, minced
1 cup Seafood Stock
1/4 cup Green Onions, chopped
4 cups French Bread cut into 1-inch cubes
1/3 cup Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 375℉.

Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish with the butter. Drain the oysters, reserving the oyster liquor. In a large skillet oven medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the onions, bell pepper, celery and Creole seasoning and sauté for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the bay leaves, garlic and parsley, and sauté for 1 minute. Add the stock and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the green onions, oyster liquor and the bread cubes. Stir to mix well and remove from the heat. In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread mixture with the oysters and cheese. Stir to mix thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and bake for 1 hour or until bubbly and golden brown. Remove the bay leaves before serving.

This recipe is a family favorite. I make it for every holiday get together. A few years ago, my brother Ken presented me with the skillet that my mother used to make Dirty Rice among many other recipes. To this day, I will not make this dish in anything other than my mother’s skillet. For some reason, it taste better.

Dirty Rice

1 pound Ground Chuck
6 cups Cooked Rice
1/2 cup Green Onions, chopped
2 tablespoons Garlic, minced
3 tablespoons Creole Seasoning
2 cups Chicken Stock

Brown ground chuck over medium heat. Drain the fat. Add the green onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add the rice and mix well. Add the creole seasoning and mix well. Add stock and cook until it is all absorbed. Taste and adjust the seasonings before serving.

These traditional side dishes are perfect on any menu, not just for holidays. Next week, I will offer some ideas to end a Thanksgiving meal, Desserts.