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Desserts do not need to be Complex

Everyone loves dessert. Whether it is chocolate, fruits, pie, cake or ice cream, most people has a sweet tooth. Many would like to eat their dessert before dinner. Sometimes, I think that is a good idea.

Dessert can come in many forms. The very first dish I cooked by my self at 8 years old were Chocolate Chip Cookies. I did not follow this path becoming a pastry chef. I love to make desserts as long as they don’t require too much precision. A lot of baking require precise measurements and adjusting to the weather around you. With the following recipes, you don’t have to be exact on your measurements just close. It won’t make a drastic difference in the finished product.

This is my mother’s cheesecake recipe. However, it is not your traditional cheesecake. It has the consistency of a pie. To me, it is the best cheesecake I have ever eaten, but I may be bias. This recipe is very adaptable. I have added White Chocolate and Key Lime to change up the flavor. I have also made a King Cake Cheesecake out of it. The best version will always be the original.

My Mom’s Cheesecake

Preheat oven to 375℉

For the Crust

2 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
1 stick Margarine, melted
1/2 cup Sugar

Mix graham cracker crumbs, margarine and sugar. Press into a 9-inch pie pan.

For the Filling

16 ounces Cream Cheese
2 Eggs
2/3 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Blend all ingredients for filling in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into pie crust Bake for 20 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes.

Raise oven temperature to 425℉.

For the Topping

8 ounces Sour Cream
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 tablespoons Sugar

Mix topping a small bowl and smooth over cooled cheesecake. Bake again at 425℉ for 10 minutes. Cool before putting in refrigerator. This dish is best served cold.

This fancy dessert is easy to make. When translated Creme Brûlée means Burnt Cream. The burnt aspect is the thin coat of caramelized sugar on the top of the dessert. It is a great contrast to the creaminess of the custard. It is easy to add different flavors to the custard, giving you many different variations.

White Chocolate Creme Brûlée

4 ounces White Chocolate Chips
4 large Egg Yolks, at room temperature
1/3 cup Sugar
2 cups Heavy Cream
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Additional Sugar for caramelizing

Preheat oven to 300℉.

In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar until smooth. IN a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, bring heavy cream to a simmer. Add white chocolate to simmering heavy cream. Turn off heat and whisk until white chocolate is completely melted. Add white chocolate mixture to egg yolk mixture whisking continuously to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Whisk until smooth. Add vanilla and whisk in. Pour into 4 ramekins. Place ramekins in a 13×9-inch baking pan. Add enough waters cups sit in 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water. Bake until set, about 45 minutes. These can be served either cold or at room temperature.

Before serving, sprinkle additional sugar on top. Broil for 4-5 minutes to melt the sugar or until desired level of caramelization. If you have one, it is fun to use a small torch to melt the sugar.

While not a classic Louisiana dessert, this recipe has special meaning to me. Everyone in my family likes peanut butter. My brother Lyle, who passed away in 2015, would eat peanut butter directly from the jar with a spoon. As a high school state wrestling champ, he was always to eat foods to keep his weight. He would eat the peanut butter as his dessert. I guess that is where I get it from. I also eat peanut butter from the jar.

Peanut Butter Ice Box Pie

12 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
16 ounces Creamy Peanut Butter
1 1/4 cups Sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
8 ounces tub Whipped Topping, divided
1 prepared Chocolate Graham Cracker Pie Crust

In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar, butter, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Fold in half of the whipped topping. Mound filling into pie crust and then smooth the top. Freeze for 10 minutes and then top with remaining whipped topping. Chill for at least 4 hours or freeze for at least 1 hour before serving.

Add a little flavoring to the cheesecake and Creme Brûlée. You will be amazed at the results and your new creation.

Quick Kabobs for Father’s Day

June 18th is Father’s Day. I would love to honor my father with some of his great recipes. However, he did very little of the cooking in my family. The day of the week that my father, Larry, cooked was Saturday. For breakfast, we would have pancakes. For dinner, he would cook hamburgers on the Barbecue pit. These are still traditions in my family.

I thought the best way to honor him and all fathers by featuring recipes from the one cooking device that tends to be used more by males than females, the grill. Everyone knows how to cook burgers and steaks on the grill. The following recipes are two different Kabobs and a great South Louisiana grilled fish recipe.

These Shrimp and Garlic Kabobs are addicting. The key to this dish is the boiling of the garlic. Failure to do that will result in the garlic not softening up enough to eat.

Shrimp and Garlic Kabobs

12-16 large Garlic Cloves, peeled
1/3 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh Basil, chopped
2 teaspoons Garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground Black pepper
Pinch of Sugar
2 pounds large Shrimp, peeled and deveined with tail left on

Drop the whole garlic cloves into boiling water and boil for about 3 minutes. Drain and set aside. In a large bowl combine olive oil, tomato sauce, vinegar, basil, minced garlic, salt, cayenne, black pepper, and sugar and stir to mix. Add shrimp and toss to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Remove shrimp from marinade and reserve any of the marinade left in the bowl.

Thread the shrimp and whole garlic alternately on skewers. Put the skewers on a heated grill over medium heat. Grill, turning skewers several times and brushing them with the reserved marinade for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink.

Here is a vegetarian Kabob. It is great as an appetizer or side dish at a barbecue. The dressing gives it a wonderful flavor.

Vegetable Kabobs

3 small Zucchinis, each about 6 inches long, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces
4 small Yellow Squash, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
1 large Red Onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large Red Bell Peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large Green Bell Peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bottle ( 12 ounces) Italian Salad Dressing
2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning

Thread the vegetables alternately on skewers. Put the kabobs in a large shallow bowl and pour in the salad dressing. Let sit, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Turn severel times.

When ready to grill, drain off the marinade and sprinkle the skewers with Creole seasoning. Put the kabobs on a preheated grill, close the lid of your pit and cook 8 to 10 minutes over medium heat. Turn the kabobs, close the lid and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the vegetables are just slightly soft.

Redfish are abundant in South Louisiana. By leaving the skin and scales on the fish, there is no preparation to the meat that needs to be done. This recipe also works well with Red Snapper, Drum and Grouper.

Grilled Redfish on the Half Shell

6 (7 ounce) fillets of Redfish, skin and scales on, with pin bones removed
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning
4 cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Sea Salt
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 large Lemons, halved

Rinse the fish fillets and pat them dry with paper towels. Place the fillets on a baking sheet, season with the Creole seasoning. Top the fillets with the sliced garlic and drizzle with half of the olive oil. Use your fingers to distribute the oil and seasoning evenly over the fish, then set the fish aside to marinate while you heat up the grill.

Fire up the grill to a medium-high setting. ( If you use charcoal, the coals should be mostly white.) Place the fillets skin side down the hot grill. Cover the grill and cook the fish without moving for 7 to 10 minutes, until it is cooked through; it will flake easily when tested with a paring knife. ( You can also cook the fish on an oiled baking sheet in a 475℉ oven for 6 to 8 minutes.

Using a metal spatula, transfer the fillets to serving plates and top with the sea salt and parsley, a little extra olive oil and lemon juice.

Just one question, why are mother’s taken out to eat on Mother’s Day but men usually grill on Father’s Day. Happy Father’s Day!

Focusing on Tomato Sauce

In the late 1800’s, large number of immigrants from Sicily began to settle in south Louisiana. Many stayed in New Orleans to establish businesses. With the arrival of the Italians, a new dimension was added to Creole food. From the Italians, the Creoles cultivated a love of garlic. It’s sensuous, sultry presence is encountered just beneath the surface in many classic Creole dishes.

The most unique feature of Creole-Italian cuisine is its tomato sauce, commonly referred to as “red gravy” or “tomato gravy.” This rich sauce, used over meats and pasta, has dozens of variations from family to family. Some red gravies are based on a brown roux. Some contain eggplant. Others contain anchovies, whole boiled eggs or meat. One consistent thread in red gravy is the addition of sugar to sweeten the sauce. Creole-Italian cooking also incorporate local fish and shellfish in their cooking with delicious results in dishes such as Crabmeat au Gratin, Shrimp Pasta and many more.

I have Italian blood from both sides of my family. My father was from Boston and my mother, New Orleans. I have the best of both Italian worlds. When my mother made Red Beans, she would have to cook Italian Sausage for my father. Her tomato sauce was often served with meatballs.

The following recipe is the basis for most Creole Italian cooking. Most Italian restaurants are judged by their red sauce. Many people cook their sauce for hours. I created this recipe for when I want a sauce that is much better than opening a jar. The addition of the sugar cuts the acidity of the tomatoes.

Italian Red Sauce or Gravy

1 tablespoon Butter
1 tablespoon Garlic, minced
1/4 cup Onions, minced
1 can (29 ounces) Tomato Sauce
1 can (6 ounces) Tomato Paste
1 tablespoon Italian Seasonings
1 tablespoon fresh Oregano, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh Basil, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh Parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons Sugar

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Sauté onions and garlic in butter until the onions are soft, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and paste; mixing well, making sure the paste does not remain in lumps. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust seasonings to taste. Cook for 10 minutes over low heat.

Chicken Parmigiana is more often referred to as Chicken Parmesan. While there is Parmesan cheese in the dish, the melted cheese aspect that most people associate with Chicken parmesan is from Mozzarella cheese. This cliché Italian dish is easy to make and taste delicious.

Chicken Parmigiana

4 4-ounce Chicken Breast, pounded thin
3 Eggs, beaten
3/4 cup Seasoned Breadcrumbs
3/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1 stick Butter, melted
Italian Red Sauce
4 sliced Mozzarella Cheese
Cooked Pasta

Preheat oven to 400℉. Put the melted butter in a 13×9-inch baking dish. In a shallow bowl, combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese and mix well. Dip chicken in egg then coat with breadcrumb mixture. Repeat the last step double breading the chicken. Put in baking dish and cook 5-6 minutes on each side. Pour Italian Red Sauce around chicken and cook for 5 minutes more. Cover each piece of chicken with a slice of Mozzarella cheese. Cook until cheese is melted. Serve with pasta topped with Italian Red Sauce from the pan.

It you were to translate the dish Shrimp Scampi to English from Italian, you would get Shrimp Shrimp. This dish does not use a red sauce. It is made with butter and garlic and is best served over pasta. Make sure you have bread nearby. You will want to eat every drop of the sauce.

Shrimp Scampi

1 1/2 pounds medium Shrimp, peeled and deveined
Creole Seasoning
1/3 cup Butter
4 tablespoons Garlic, minced
1/4 cup Green Onions, sliced
1/4 cup Seafood Stock
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 tablespoons fresh Parsley, chopped
Cooked Pasta

Coat shrimp with Creole Seasoning. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt butter. cook garlic in butter for 1 to 2 minutes or until softened but not browned. Add shrimp, green onions, stock and lemon juice; cook until shrimp are pink and firm, about 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Do not overcook. Add parsley and serve over pasta.

I have eaten so many Creole Italian dishes that I almost bleed Red Sauce when I cut myself. Or maybe, it just seems that way. That’s a good thing.

New Orleans is melting pot of culture

I grew up on the West Bank of the Mississippi River in New Orleans. There are many great restaurants that non locals don’t know about located there. My favorite restaurant on my side of the river is Mosca’s.

Mosca’s is located in the small town of Westwego, located 20 minutes from the French Quarter. You want to use a GPS to find this gem. It is housed in a white shack that many people pass by the first time they try to find it. Once inside, you will find the best Creole Italian food in the city.

All of the dishes are served family style, in large platters. Plates are placed on the table so you can taste each dish. Unless you are hungry, do not order one dish per person. The entrees are large enough to share. For a table of four, I would recommend the following three dishes, Shrimp Mosca, Chicken a la Grande and Oysters Mosca, with a side of Spaghetti Bordelaise ( Olive Oil, Butter and Garlic). This will fill up even the hungriest teenagers.

These recipes are made with wine. You can find cooking wine at your local grocery stores. When using a cooking wine, reduce the salt in the dish. The cooking wine contains a good amount of sodium. You may also substitute Chicken or Seafood stock for the wine in these dishes.

Most people think that Shrimp Mosca and BBQ shrimp are the same dish. They are two very different flavors. While they both use large shell-on shrimp, the seasonings are quite different. Just make sure that you have enough bread to sop up the sauce in the dish. Some people think that the bread dipped in the sauce is the best part of the dish.

Shrimp Mosca

2 pounds large, headless Shrimp
3/4 cup Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1 tablespoon Dried Oregano
1 tablespoon Dries Rosemary
3 Dried Bay Leaves
6-10 cloves Garlic, pounded
1/2 cup Dry White Wine

Place all ingredients except wine into a large skillet. Cook over medium-high heat for fifteen to twenty minutes or until the shrimp are pink and the liquid produced by the shrimp has almost completely disappeared, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat, remove from stove, and add the wine. Return to stove and cook at a low simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about five to seven minutes.

The next dish is Chicken a la Grande. This is a great way to cook chicken without having to turn on the oven. Prepared entirely on the stove, your kitchen will stay cool. It is also a light dish, making it a great summertime dinner.

Chicken a la Grande

3 pound Whole Chicken, cut into 8 pieces
3/4 cup Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Salt
1 tablespoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
6-10 cloves Garlic, pounded
1 tablespoon Dried Rosemary
1 tablespoon Dried Oregano
1/2 cup Dry White Wine

Place chicken pieces in a large skillet pan. Pour the olive oil all over the chicken, making certain the pieces are well coated. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, making sure the seasonings are evenly spread. Turn the burner on medium-high. Brown chicken on all sides, turning as needed. This should take about 25 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary and oregano, making certain to distribute them evenly on the chicken. Remove the skillet from the stove. Pour the white wine over the chicken. Reduce heat medium-low. Simmer uncovered until the wine is reduced by half, about 10 to 15 minutes.

My favorite dish at Mosca’s is the Oysters Mosca. There are many variations of this dish around New Orleans. In fact, I have my own twist on it. To me, this is the best way to eat a cooked oyster. It is a perfect as an appetizer or an entrée. It is also a dish that can be assembled ahead of time and cooked before being served.

Oysters Mosca

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) Butter
1/4 cup Olive Oil
2/3 cup Italian Bread Crumbs
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Dried Tarragon
1/2 teaspoon Dried Oregano
2 tablespoons Parsley, minced
2 teaspoons Garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Green Onions, finely chopped
2 – 2/12 Dozen Oysters

Preheat oven to 450℉.

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add olive oil and heat slightly. Remove pan from heat and add all remaining ingredients except oysters. Mix well.

Place well drained oysters in au gratin dishes. Spoon equal portions of sauce over each. Bake for about 15 minutes or until browned. Serve immediately.

You can place all oysters and sauce in one dish to cook if preferred.

As you can see, not all of New Orleans food is Cajun. It is a melting pot of Creole, Cajun, Italian, Vietnamese, and many other cultures.

Cooking with Shrimp in the Kitchen

Shrimp is the most popular seafood. It is a seafood that freezes well, so you don’t have to have a fresh supply locally to eat quality shrimp. When I was growing up, my mother would buy a large amount of fresh shrimp and freeze them for later use.

One of the biggest questions when buying shrimp is how they are sized. In recipes, shrimp are either listed by their size, i.e. medium, large, or by their numerical size, 31-35. I will explain what those designations mean. Shrimp are sized by the number of shrimp it takes to make a pound. The smaller the number, the larger the shrimp are. Here is the breakdown on the most common sizing. Extra Colossal U-10 ( ten and fewer), Colossal 11-15, Extra Jumbo 16-20, Jumbo 21-25, Extra Large 26-30, Large 31-35, Medium Large 36-40, Medium 41-50, Small 51-60, Extra Small 61-70. When buying shrimp, this size refers to headless with the shell on. Peeled shrimp are often one size smaller. Often, you will see a recipe calling for peeled and deveined shrimp. This refers to the black line that runs along the back ridge of the shrimp. To remove this, take a small knife and shallowly slice along the back of the shrimp. Pull the vein out of the shrimp. Now for some recipes.

BBQ Shrimp is a misnomer. It is not cooked on a grill. It was created at Pascal’s Manale restaurant. A customer had come in to the restaurant and described a dish to the chef that he had eaten in Chicago. Although it was not a match to the Chicago dish, BBQ shrimp was a hit. It is one of the most copied dishes in New Orleans. Here is my take on it.

BBQ Shrimp

3 pounds 15-20 or larger Shrimp Heads & Tails on
1 1/2 pounds (6 sticks) Butter
1 1/2 cups Olive Oil
8 tablespoons Garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons dry Basil
4 teaspoons Salt
3 teaspoons Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
4 tablespoons ground Black Pepper
2 teaspoons dry Oregano
2 teaspoons dry Thyme
2 teaspoons BBQ Seasoning
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning

Over medium heat, melt butter in olive oil in a large pot. Combine all other ingredients, except the shrimp. Add the shrimp and cook over medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Serve in bowls with plenty of French bread to soak up the sauce.

This dish is named for my mother-in-law. It started out as Shrimp Alfredo but I wanted to add more flavor to it. I reached for a few fresh herbs and added them. The dish was such a hit, it seems like it was the only meal that she requested. So I named the dish after her. I hope you enjoy the dish as much as my mother-in-law did.

Shrimp Pasta Lorraine

2 pounds medium Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 pound and 3 tablespoons Butter divided
2 tablespoons Creole Seasoning
1 tablespoon Garlic, chopped
2 cups Milk
2 Cups Heavy Cream
2 1/4 cups grated Parmesan Cheese
3 tablespoons Fresh Basil, chopped
3 tablespoons Fresh Oregano, chopped
2 tablespoons Fresh Parsley
8 ounces Cooked Spaghetti cooked al dente

Sprinkle shrimp with Creole seasoning and sauté over medium heat in 3 tablespoons butter until the shrimp start to turn pink 3-5 minutes. In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté garlic in 1/2 pound of butter for 3 minutes or golden brown. Add the milk and heavy cream. Heat until the edges start to bubble. Slowly add the Parmesan cheese and mix until well blended. Add the basil, oregano and parsley to the sauce. Cook for 10 minutes. Add shrimp and cook until shrimp are warm about 3 minutes. Serve over spaghetti.

Shrimp are a wonderful way to enjoy seafood. Just be careful not to overcook shrimp as they become rubbery.

Pork Dishes sure to be a favorite

New Orleans is not known for their pork dishes. Barbecue restaurants are just starting to make their mark. This past March, I was part of my brother’s team for the Memphis in May-like cooking competition Hogs for the Cause. Hogs for the Cause is a great charity event, benefiting Pediatric Brain Cancer research. It was a great experience that I can’t wait to next year’s event to arrive.

The most popular pork dish in Louisiana is Cochon du Lait. This is a suckling pig that is roasted whole. This slow cooked meat just melts in your mouth. It is often found in the Cajun Country at large get togethers. This was my brother’s first year entering the whole hog competition. We placed 20th out of 89 teams.

I am sharing with you some more traditional cuts of pork, the pork roast and pork loin. The pork roast is a cut usually taken from the shoulder, also known as the butt. The loin is often cut into boneless pork chops.

Here is a great use of the Cajun trinity. This recipe also shows the usage of three different peppers, Black, White, and Red or Cayenne. Black pepper is used mostly for flavor. White pepper is used to add bite to the seasoning. Red pepper is used to control the heat of the dish.

Cajun Pork Roast

1 cup Onions, Chopped
1 cup Bell Pepper, chopped
1/4 cup Celery, chopped
1 tablespoon ground Thyme
1 tablespoon ground Basil
1/4 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground White Pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground Cayenne Pepper
1 teaspoon Salt
1/4 cup fresh Parsley, chopped
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 4 pound Pork Roast
1/4 cup Olive Oil
2 cups Pork or Beef Stock

Preheat oven to 325℉.

In a small bowl, combine the vegetables, spices, herbs and garlic and blend very well. Make several slits in the roast and stuff the vegetable/herb mixture into them. Once you have filled several slits in the roast, rub the remaining vegetable/herb mixture on the outside of the roast. In a large heavy pot big enough to hold the roast, heat the olive oil and brown the roast on all sides very quickly. Next, add the pork stock, cover the pot, and bake in the oven for about 3 hours, basting the meat every 30 minutes. Cook until the roast is tender and done inside.

Coffee can be used for more than just brewing everyone’s favorite morning beverage. It makes a great crust for most meats. A pork loin benefits greatly from the added flavor of this coffee rub.

Coffee-Crusted Pork Loin

Coffee Rub

1 cup ground Coffee
1/2 cup firmly packed Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground White Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder
1/4 teaspoon ground Cayenne Pepper

In a medium bowl, stir together all of the ingredients and mix well. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 6 months.

Coffee-Crusted Pork Loin

1 (6 pound) Boneless Pork Loin
Coffee Spice Rub
Up to 2 tablespoons Canola Oil
2 Shallots, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry White Wine
1 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
4 tablespoons Butter
1/4 teaspoon ground Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 350℉. Rub pork on all sides with Coffee Rub. Place in a large roasting pan; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Roast pork until a meat thermometer reads 145 degrees, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and place pork on a cutting board. Loosely cover with aluminum foil, and let stand for 15 minutes. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the roasting pan ( add canola oil as needed to measure 2 tablespoons). Place roasting pan on stove over medium heat. Add shallots, and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in wine, and cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Add stock, and bring to a boil. Using a wooden spoon, scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the liquid is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat and keep warm. Thinly slice pork, and place on a serving platter. Pour any accumulated juices from the cutting board into the roasting pan with the sauce. Return sauce to a simmer, and whisk in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, along with the pepper. Serve sauce over sliced pork.

Honor Mom with meal on Mother’s Day

My first weekend that I was no longer working in the restaurant business was the weekend of Mother’s Day. This was intentional. Mother’s Day is the busiest day for restaurants. All staff members work and it is a long day.

It also can be one of the worst experiences in a restaurant. Many places present an abbreviated menu and rush you through your meal so that they can seat as many customers as they possible can. If you are looking for a great relaxing meal, my suggestion is to cook at home.

That first weekend free, I was able to cook a Mother’s Day meal for my mom and family. Believe it or not, it was an easier day than if I was still working in the restaurant. It was also more enjoyable to be able to do for my mom what I was unable to do before.

So, to honor my mother, here are a few of her recipes. Two of them are appetizers and one is for dessert. All of them are recipes that I cherish.

My mother loved to cook with artichokes as an ingredient. She has numerous that use canned artichoke hearts. If you have fresh artichokes, you can substitute the same amount of cooked fresh hearts in place of the canned variety. Below was one of her go to recipes for gatherings.

Artichoke Squares

1 can Artichoke Hearts
1 cup Italian Bread Crumbs
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1 Egg
Garlic to taste

Preheat oven to 350℉. Drain hearts and set juice aside in a bowl. Mash hearts and add bread crumbs, cheese, garlic and olive oil. Add egg and juice and beat. Add this to mixture and stir until well blended. Pour into a buttered casserole dish. Bake in oven for 30 minutes. Let cool, then refrigerate. Cut into squares before serving.

This artichoke dish is the one that received the most request for the recipe as well as most request to be prepared. The key to this dish is the boiling of the artichokes. If you over boil them, the leaves will not stay attached. If you under cook them, the leaves will be hard and you don’t get the full artichoke flavor.

Stuffed Artichokes

2 Artichokes
1 cup Italian Bread Crumbs
1 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 teaspoon Dried Parsley
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
4 cloves Garlic, chopped
1/3 cup Olive Oil

Boil artichokes for 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350℉. Mix the dry ingredients. Saturate the dry mixture with olive oil. Stuff the leaves of the artichoke with the mixture. Bake, covered with foil for 1 1/2 hours in a large dish with 1 inch of water in it, to keep the stuffing from drying out. Serve warm.

This is a recipe that I did not know about until after my mother passed. One of her friends made it and brought it to the house for the guest after my mothers funeral. My older siblings remembered my mom making this dish. However, the younger group were not aware of it. It is one of the moistest cakes I have eaten. In this day of cake mixes that line the grocery store shelves, this cake is as easy to make as a mix.

Sour Cream Cake

1/2 cup Butter
2 cups Sugar
4 tablespoons Cocoa
1 cup Boiling Water
2 Eggs
1/2 cup Sour Cream
2 cups Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Cream butter and sugar. Add cocoa and mix well. Add unbeaten eggs and blend. Add sour cream, then flour gradually. In a separate bowl, pour water over baking soda and add to the above mixture and mix well. Add vanilla and mix. Bake in a greased and floured pan for 30 to 35 minutes. For a 2 layer cake, divide batter equally between two pans. When cake has cooled, top with your favorite icing.

I hope that you enjoy my mother’s recipes as much as I have over the years. Her recipes are ones that I never change. I enjoy them and the memories just the way they are.

Down Home Favorites

New Orleans is known as a city with great restaurants. However, not all of the great cooks are found in restaurants. You can find a great cook just by knocking on most neighborhood doors.

From Gumbo to Jambalaya to Red Beans and Rice, these one pot dishes are staples in kitchens across Louisiana. They can also be found in the finer restaurants in town. In the home kitchen, these dishes are as easy to prepare as they are to clean up after.

Another down home dish that can be found around Louisiana is the Natchitoches Meat Pie. Mrs. Wheat’s pies can be found in many grocery store freezer sections. However, they are not difficult to make and taste much better when they are home made.

The traditional Monday meal in New Orleans is Red Beans and Rice. Monday was wash day. Wives needed a dish that would cook long and slow. Red Beans is the perfect dish. Women would have used whatever meat was leftover from Sunday’s meal, usually pork. Traditionally, Red Beans are served with sausage, either smoked or Andouille. But many neighborhood restaurants offer them with other meats, like fried Pork Chops. Try it one Monday or whichever day you do laundry. Just remember to put the beans on to soak on the night before.

Red Beans and Rice

1 pound dried Red (Kidney) Beans, I prefer Camellia Brand
3 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup Tasso or Ham, chopped
1 1/2 cups Onions, chopped
3/4 cup Celery, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 Bay Leaves
2 tablespoons Fresh Parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon Dried Thyme
1 1/2 pounds Smoked Sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons Garlic, minced
10 cups Chicken Stock
4 cups Cooked White Rice

Place the beans in a large bowl or pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Let soak for at least 8 hours. Drain and set aside. In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the Tasso and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the onions and celery to the pot. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the beans and stock, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and start to thicken, about two hours. (Should the beans become too thick and dry, add more stock, about 1/4 cup at a time). Remove from heat and with the back of a heavy spoon, mash about 1/4 of the beans against the side of the pot. Continue to cook until the beans are tender and creamy, 15-20 minutes. Remove Bay Leaves before serving over rice.

The Natchitoches Meat Pie is Louisiana’s answer to the Central American Empanadas. Natchitoches is located in the North Central part of Louisiana. It was made famous in the movie Steel Magnolias. But I think that the Meat Pie is their real claim to fame. A soft flaky dough filled with seasoned meat, deep fried to perfection.

Natchitoches Meat Pies

1 pound Ground Beef
1/2 pound Ground Pork
1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
1 tablespoon Flour
1/2 cup Onions, minced
1/4 cup Celery, minced
1/4 cup Green Bell Pepper, minced
1 clove Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Creole Seasoning
1 15oz package refrigerated Pie Dough at room temperature

Preheat Deep Fryer to 375℉.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until it is a nutty brown color, 2-3 minutes. Stir in vegetables and cook until soft and onions are transparent, about 5 minutes. Add meats and brown until they are no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Stir in the Creole Seasoning and drain the fat. Cool to room temperature. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4-inch. Use a 5-inch cookie cutter to cut circles in the dough. Place a heaping tablespoon of the meat mixture and put it in the center of the dough round. Fold the dough over and seal the edges using a fork. You may need to combine and reroll the dough scraps to make 15 meat pies. Deep fry pies in small batches until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve while hot.

Red Beans and Rice was a favorite of New Orleanian Louis Armstrong. He would sign any correspondence with Red Beans and Ricely Yours. One day I will share with y’all his family recipe.

Crabmeat versatile in the Kitchen

One of the easiest ways to elevate a dish is to top it with crabmeat. In New Orleans, many dishes that are topped with crabmeat are given the name Pontchartrain, after the lake on the edge of the city where Blue Crabs are plentiful. But crabmeat is also a great main ingredient.

You can go into almost any grocery store and find crabmeat. I am not talking about the imitation crabmeat which you find in sealed plastic. This product actually contains no crab at all. It is fish with a little crab flavoring added.

Crabmeat is usually found in round containers made out of hard plastic or in a can. Most places offer two types of crabmeat, Lump and Claw. Lump crabmeat is found in the body and is white. Claw meat is obviously from the claws and is darker. However, the claw meat has more of a crab flavor than the lump. Claw meat is used is dishes where the flavor is more important than the appearance, as in Stuffed Crabs. Both of these are interchangeable in any recipe.

The third type of crabmeat is the Jumbo Lump. This is the most expensive crabmeat and are found in finer restaurants. There are 2 of these Jumbo Lumps in each crab. While it taste the same as regular lump crabmeat, it makes for a more appealing visual. Many Crab Cakes are made with Jumbo Lumps and not much else.

The most important step in all crabmeat recipes is the cleaning of the crabmeat. You must pick thru your crabmeat for any shells that may have made it thru the packaging process. The last thing you want is to have a guest take a bite of your dish and get a small piece of shell.

The following recipe is one of my earlier blog post. I had posted a recipe for a hot crawfish dip. One of my readers asked if I had a hot crab dip recipe. She had said that she already had one, but thought others may be interestedqww. I had been posting my recipes for 3 months and realized that people are actually reading what I was posting. It was around that time that I started thinking about writing a cookbook.

This dip is great for any gathering. Cocktail parties, Pot Luck dinners, family gatherings are just a few opportunities to make this dish. It also works well with a sit down dinner. You can serve individual portions as an appetizer.

Hot Crab Dip

16 ounces Cream Cheese
8 ounces Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cup Green Onions, chopped
1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
1 pound Lump Crabmeat, picked thru for shells
1/2 cup Half and Half
Creole Seasoning to taste

Combine cheeses, Worcestershire sauce, green onions, parsley and half and half in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat until the dip reaches desired consistency. Add crabmeat and creole seasoning. Cook for 3 minutes. Serve with crackers, bagel chips, tortilla chips or anything you can dip with.

Here is one of my top three Crabmeat recipes. It is also one of the most versatile. You can use any cheese that you like in preparing this dish, although Bleu Cheese would probably overpower the crabmeat flavor. A traditional Crabmeat au Gratin tends to be on the bland side, allowing the crabmeat to shine. However, you may add whatever herbs and spices you like.

Crabmeat au Gratin

2 Egg Yolks
12 ounces Heavy Cream
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) Butter
1 large Onion, minced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon White Pepper
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning
1/4 cup Flour
1/2 cup Mild Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
1 pound Lump Crabmeat, picked thru for shells
1 cup Seasoned Bread Crumbs
1 cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400℉.

Lightly spray a 9×9 inch baking pan with butter flavored pan spray. In a medium bowl, whip together egg yolks and heavy cream. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic about 3 minutes. Season with salt, white pepper and the creole seasoning. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Stirring occasionally, until very tender. Mix the flour into the saucepan, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Mix in egg yolk mixture. Stir in the mild Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses until melted. Remove from heat and fold in crabmeat. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top with breadcrumbs and sharp Cheddar cheese. Bake 20 minutes or until bubbling lightly.

There is no need to be afraid to cook with crabmeat. It is almost impossible to over cook. Your guest will be amazed by your use of this exotic ingredient.

There’s more than one type of sausage

As you have noticed by now, I love to cook and eat Andouille sausage. There is another Louisiana sausage that I love to use and eat, Boudin. It is not, however, a traditional sausage.

Boudin is a sausage made with pork or seafood and rice. Since it is mostly made of rice, it is a great way for Cajuns to feed a large family with little meat. Boudin can be found in grocery stores across the nation. It seems that the stores in Searcy each carry a different variety. I have tried them all and they are all good. Try them all and I am sure you will find one you like.

The first two recipes are appetizers. You can find them on many menus in Cajun Country. Fried Boudin Balls also can be found in many convenience stores. It is a take on the Italian Arancini, which is stuffed rice balls, often using a sauce and cheese with the rice.

Fried Boudin Balls

1 package Boudin
2 cups Corn Flour
1/8 teaspoon dried Thyme
1/8 teaspoon dried Basil
1/8 teaspoon dried Marjoram
Creole Seasoning

Preheat Deep Fryer to 375℉. Season corn flour with thyme, basil and marjoram. Cut the Boudin into 2-inch pieces and roll them in a ball. Roll in corn flour mixture, shaking off the excess. Fry for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with Creole Seasoning before serving.

Serve with Creole Mustard or Remoulade Sauce for dipping.

The first time I ate a Boudin Egg Roll was at the Main Street Food Truck Festival in Little Rock. I was in line waiting to order some Boudin Balls. When I arrived at the window to order, they were sold out. They suggested the Egg Rolls. Skeptical but always willing to try new things, I ordered them. I was glad that I did. The flakiness of the egg roll wrapper gave a different taste to the Boudin. The Egg Roll did not have the heaviness of Boudin dredged in flour then fried. I eat them more that Boudin Balls now.

Boudin Egg Rolls

Boudin cooked then cooled
10 Egg Roll Wrappers

Preheat Deep Fryer to 350℉.

Place 2 tablespoons of Boudin in the egg roll wrapper. Fry until all sides are golden brown.
To roll the egg roll
1) Place the wrapper in a diamond position
2) Put Boudin in wrapper
3) Roll the bottom point oven the Boudin
4) Fold over each of the sides over the Boudin
5) Wet the top point of the wrapper and finish rolling the egg roll.

Serve with Creole Mustard or Remoulade Sauce for dipping.

Of course, Boudin makes a great stuffing. It is also the easiest one to make. All you have to do is remove the casing and stuff whatever item you are cooking. Boudin Stuffing adds a “Cajun Gourmet” twist to you meal.

Boudin Stuffed Pork Loin

4 boneless pork butterfly loins
1/2 to 1 pound pork boudin for stuffing
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
Creole Seasoning to taste
1/8 cup cooking oil

Preheat oven to 350℉.
Pound pork loins between wax paper to about 3/8″ thick and season with Creole Seasoning.
Lay the pork loins end to end overlapping each one about 1/3 onto the other. Remove boudin from casing and spread down the center of the loins. Layer green onions on top of the boudin. Bring one side of loins up and over boudin then bring up other side of loin and pin with toothpicks to form a roll. Bring up sides and pin to seal in boudin.
Pour oil into dish and place the rolled up loin into the glass baking dish and bake for 60 to 75 minutes. Let the meat rest 10 minutes, slice in one inch slices and serve.
For a simple Au Jus add a small amount of water to the drippings and cook for 5 minutes on top of stove.

Boudin does not need an ingredient in a recipe. It taste great as a meal or as a side dish. My only wish is that I could find Crawfish Boudin locally. Fortunately, Boudin freezes well so I bring some back from New Orleans when I visit.