Paella Party!

While many people travel the world to sample its distinctive cuisine; several of us need only travel as far as our own kitchens to taste the different flavors of far off lands. Because we don’t have any trips to Spain booked, we made our own take on Spanish paella that was fit for company and our Louisiana-born taste buds. 

Paella originated in the early 1800s in the Valencia region of Spain. Traditionally, paella is saffron-infused rice cooked with a variety of meats, seafood and vegetables. The most traditional recipe is paella valenciana, which is made with chicken, rabbit, snails, broad green beans, white beans and tomatoes. But much like Louisiana jambalaya, countess variations to this dish exist. You can make an all-seafood paella, one with chorizo sausage or a vegetarian version – the possibilities are endless!

Read more in our March/April issue at or pick up a free copy on stands around town.

VegPaellaVegetable Paella
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 cups paella (Bomba) rice or Arborio rice
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 can artichoke hearts, quartered & drained
1 cup kale, roughly chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Bring water to a boil in small saucepan. Add saffron, cover and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes. Heat olive oil in heavy large skillet or flat-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add bell pepper, onion and garlic. Sauté until onion is clear and peppers are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in rice until coated with oil. Stir in saffron water, artichokes, stock, kale, tomatoes and seasoning. Bring to boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook 20 minutes until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes and serve.

Louisiana Seafood PaellaSeafoodPaella
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound andouille sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup rice
1 1/2 cups seafood stock
1 pound large Gulf shrimp, peeled
1 pound Gulf oysters
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon seafood blend

Bring water to a boil in small saucepan. Add saffron, cover and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes. In a large skillet with a lid, brown the onion, pepper, garlic and sausage in the oil until the onions are clear, about 10 minutes. Add the rice and saffron water and stir to coat. Stir in the broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Fold in the shrimp, oysters and seasonings. Cover and continue cooking until the shrimp are pink, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve warm in the pot or pan.

SangriaDouble Sangria
1 lemon
1 lime
1 ruby red grapefruit
1 orange
1 cup blackberries
1 cup rum
1/2 cup sugar
1 bottle Yellow Tail Sangria
1 cup ruby red grapefruit juice


Slice the lemon, lime, grapefruit and orange into thin rounds. Place the slices and blackberries in a large glass pitcher. Pour in the rum and sugar. Stir in the wine and grapefruit juice. Chill in refrigerator for 2 hours to develop the flavors. When ready to serve, crush the fruit lightly with a wooden spoon. Adjust sweetness to taste.

Bonus Recipe: Classic Crawfish Bisque

Happy Crawfish Season! These delectable little creatures are fit for backyard boils to fancy feasts. On Christmas day, we served crawfish bisque for lunch. I had saved the heads from the last boil of the spring season in the freezer. I stuffed them and let them swim a rich velvety dark roux in my grandmother’s china. It was a meal fit for a king (see what I did there?). Because another glorious crawfish season is upon us, here’s my recipe for crawfish bisque (as best I can recall it from the holidays.) Enjoy!

IMGP2657Classic Crawfish Bisque
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 large onion, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
5 ribs of celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried parsley leaves
Salt and pepper
Cayenne pepper to taste
Seafood seasoning to taste
1 bay leaf
12 cups seafood stock
5 pounds crawfish tails, cooked

Stuffed Crawfish Heads
1 loaf day-old French bread
1 large cornbread crumbled
2 eggs, beaten
2 bunches green onions, chopped
1 onion, chopped
5 ribs of celery, diced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon dried parsley leaves
1 pound crawfish tails, cooked
1 – 2 cups seafood stock
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2+ dozen crawfish heads, hollowed out
1/2 cup flour

For the Stuffed Heads:
Do this a day or two ahead. Crumble or blend the bread to coarse crumbs and place in a very large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add the eggs. Fold in the onions, celery, bell pepper and parsley. Fold in the crawfish. Slowly pour in the stock until the mixture is moist and sticky, but not soupy. Stir in seasonings and Worcestershire. Stuff the heads with the bread mixture until nearly full; dressing will expand as it bakes. Roll each head in flour and store refrigerated until ready to put in the bisque.

For the Bisque:
Combine the oil and flour in a large cast iron or enameled cast iron Dutch oven over medium heat. Stirring slowly and constantly for 20 to 25 minutes. It will make a medium brown roux, the color of peanut butter. Add onions, bell peppers and celery. Add seasonings and bay leaf. Cook, stirring often, for 6 to 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Whisk in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for about 1 hour. Add the crawfish tails and stuffed heads. Cook for 15-20 minutes more until heads are warmed through. Serve as is or over rice.

Outdoor-themed Wedding Shower

If you know a couple of engaged lovebirds who love spending time in the great outdoors, throw them an outdoor-themed wedding shower. It’s a simple theme that lends itself to all sorts of creative menu and decorating ideas, which are all fairly easy to execute. One main point of being outdoors – camping specifically – is to reconnect with nature and get back to the basics of life. So look to natural decorations and hearty foods you guests can enjoy without much hassle.

Read more at or pick up a free copy of the Jan/Feb issue around town!

Asparagus Prosciutto-wrapped Asparagus
1 bunch fresh asparagus
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 ounces prosciutto
1/2 block cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons fig preserves

Preheat oven to 375. Sprinkle asparagus with sea salt then roast for 8 minutes. Let cool. Mix the cream cheese and fix preserves until well blended. Cut prosciutto slices in half to make two strips each. Spread cream cheese mixture on each strip. Lay each asparagus spear on a cutting board. Place a prosciutto strip at a 45 degree angle to the asparagus and tightly roll each spear across the board, wrapping it in prosciutto. Repeat with each asparagus spear. Place the asparagus back in the oven for another 6 to 8 minutes. Serve warm.


Snack Pizzas (Recipe courtesy of Joy Nell Griffin)
2 lbs. ground chuck
2 lbs. Owen’s hot sausage
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon celery salt
Salt and pepper to taste
2 bunches green onion, chopped finely
2 lbs. Velveeta, cubed
Wheat rolls or honey wheat bread or cocktail rye bread (2 loaves)

Brown both meats in a heavy skillet, blending well. Season with garlic and celery salt and add black pepper and salt if desired. Drain well. Chop green onions and cube cheese while meat is draining. Add onion and cheese to drained meat and stir well. Place over medium to low heat, stirring occasionally, until all cheese is melted. Set aside to cool. Slice rolls into 3/8-inch slices or cut honey wheat bread slices into 4 rounds.

Mound about a tablespoon of meat on top of each slice of bread. Place on cookie sheets lined with wax paper and place in freezer until firm. Remove from the tray and place in large plastic bags and keep frozen until ready to use. When ready to eat, heat in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes if thawed, or 15 minutes if frozen or until browned. Yields 150 snacks (May halve recipe successfully).

SmoreShake1Frozen Hot Chocolate S’more Shakes
4 sheets graham crackers, divided
2 Tbsp chocolate syrup
6 large marshmallows
1/4 cup Kahlua liqueur
4 large scoops vanilla bean ice cream
1 packet of hot chocolate mix
6 mini marshmallows

In food processor, grind up the ½ sheet the graham crackers into fine crumbs and add to a shallow bowl. Pour the chocolate syrup into another shallow bowl. Dip the rims of two drink glasses into syrup. Be sure to coat the rim well then dip in the graham cracker crumbs. Set glasses aside.

Meanwhile, preheat broiler, lay large marshmallows on small baking pan lined with parchment paper. Broil the marshmallows just until toasted; about 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside.

In a blender, combine the liqueur, ice cream, hot chocolate mix, the remaining graham cracker crumbs and the small marshmallows. Blend until smooth. Pour milkshake into the two glasses, top with toasted marshmallows and drizzle with additional chocolate syrup, if desired. Serve immediately. Makes two, half pint servings.

Santa’s Tired, What’s for Breakfast?

We all have our traditions on Christmas mornings. But mostly, we just want to relax, reflect and enjoy being with our little families. Despite all the distractions of presents, mom and dad want coffee – or something stronger – and the kids are hungry. Our traditional breakfasts have become customary because they allow us to munch while watching each other tear open gifts and dig deep into stockings. Some of us are off to other places after the gift opening frenzy takes place, which makes squeezing breakfast in along with presents a challenge. These traditional make-ahead breakfasts are fitting for the celebration and can keep up with any Christmas morning schedule.

Read the full article and more at or pick up a copy around town!

Sausage ballsSausage Cheese Balls
3 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons shortening
1 pound sage pork sausage
4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with foil and butter or spay with non-stick spray. In large bowl, mix together all ingredients using your hands. Roll the meat and cheese mixture into 1-inch balls. Place on the pan and bake 25 minutes or until brown. Serve warm. Make these the night before and bake them the next morning; or bake them the night before and reheat in the toaster oven in small batches.

*Hint: You can substitute Original Bisquick™ for the first four ingredients or use these ingredients to make your own.

Pancetta Bacon Breakfast CasseroleCasserole
1 half yellow onion
1 cup chopped mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped pancetta
1 cup chopped bacon
10 eggs, beaten
3 cups milk
12 slices of wheat bread
1 block smoked cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 325 Fahrenheit. In large skillet, sauté onion and mushrooms in butter over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until tender. Add pancetta and bacon and cook until browned. Drain. In large mixing bowl, beat together eggs.

Buttered a 9 x 13 x 2 inch casserole dish. Lay 6 slices of bread on the bottom. Spread 2 cups cheese and half the meat/mushroom mixture. Repeat with remaining 6 slices of bread, cheese and meat/mushroom mixture. Pour egg and milk mixture evenly over casserole. Bake uncovered for 1 hour or until eggs are set. This can be made the night before and refrigerated until ready to bake.

Bourbon Milk PunchSpiced Bourbon Milk Punch
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 cups milk
1/2 cup bourbon
1 ounce vanilla extract
1 pint Creole Cream Cheese ice cream
Dash of nutmeg

Make a simple syrup with brown sugar, water and pumpkin pie spice: Heat water to boiling, stir in brown sugar until it dissolves. Remove from heat. Stir in pumpkin pie spice. Set aside to cool completely. Combine all other ingredients in a blender, including cooled simple syrup. Blend for less than 10 seconds. Pour into small cups. Garnish with nutmeg. Yields about 4 cups. For a frosty treat, you can make this the night before and freeze it. When you get up, set it out to thaw a few minutes before pouring.

An Apple Primer

With the air getting lighter and the temperatures getting cooler, the cravings for all things apple and cinnamon slowly fill the void left in blueberry and strawberry season’s wakes. Thanks to some farming friends, we’ve been getting some sweet, fresh apples from a farm in the north eastern part of Louisiana.

We had too many apples to snack on one a day, so I set about finding a way to use them all while they were still at their freshest. I spent one afternoon in my kitchen filling the house with fragrant fall smells of warm apples, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. At the end of the day, I had stocked the fridge with small servings of fresh apple sauce perfect for school lunches; jars of velvety apple butter to share with the neighbors; and a pitcher of sweet and tangy apple cider to sip on while watching the game. You’ll want to cut these out and save them in your repertoire of things to make instead of buy. All of the following recipes are easy to prepare and can be doubled as needed.

Read more at or pick up a copy for free at stands around town soon!

All of these recipes can be doubled to make good use of a whole bushel of apples. You can also keep the cider and apple butter longer, up to three weeks or more, if you process each in a boiling water bath. A quick note about peeling: Apple peel contains many nutrients, so keep it on whenever possible.

appleciderApple Cider
5 apples, quartered
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup brandy (optional)

Core and quarter apples; you don’t have to peel them. Place apples in a large stockpot and add enough water cover by at least 2 inches. Stir in sugar, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Bring to a boil. Boil uncovered for 1 hour. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours more. Strain apple mixture though a fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth, pressing out all the liquid, while not allowing too many solids through. Discard solids or cook for 15 to 30 minutes to make apple cider butter.

Despite the all the draining, fresh cider will be cloudy because it is not processed with commercial equipment. Add the brandy before storing, if desired. Cider must be refrigerated, but it can be served warm or chilled.

This recipe makes about 1 pint of cider. It takes about 36 apples to make 1 gallon of apple cider. If you refrigerate it in an airtight container, your cider should keep for about seven days.

4 medium cooking apples (don’t peel) cut into fourths and cored
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar

Core and cut apples into fourths. Don’t peel. In 2-quart saucepan, heat apples and water to boiling over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally for 15 to 20 minutes, or until apples are very tender. Drain the apples and reserve the juices to use in other recipes like apple butter. Add sugar then puree the apples a few spins in the food processor. Add more sugar, cinnamon or other spices if desired. Store covered in refrigerator.

applebutterApple Butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla puree
5 medium apples

Cut apples into large chunks. They can be peeled or left unpeeled, cook’s preference. Combine all ingredients in a Dutch oven. Cover and cook over medium-low heat 30 minutes or until apples are very tender, stirring occasionally. Strain through a sieve or cheese cloth. Blend in the food processor. Return mixture to pan. Cook apples uncovered over medium-low heat 15 to 30 minutes more or until thick, stirring frequently. Let cool and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Serve over warm toast or biscuits, pancakes or even savory pork.

Gourmet Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese has been a favorite among children since it was first made in the 1920’s. Later, during the Depression era, it became a household staple when sliced bread and processed cheese were introduced as more affordable grocery items. Since the beginning, grilled cheese has been considered one of America’s most popular comfort foods.

In more recent years, the basic preparation of a grilled cheese has evolved to include more than just the original American cheese. You can grill everything from brie to feta on your sandwich. You can also throw on a whole host of toppings that perfectly complement your choice of cheese. Endless experiments in grilled cheese are being served in restaurants and homes all across the country today.

Whether you remember enjoying a grilled cheese sandwich as a child or maybe it was the first thing you learned to cook, there’s no mistaking the comforting power of warm toasted bread and smooth melting cheese. No matter what fancy fixings are being added to it today, there’s still nothing like a simple grilled cheese sandwich.

Read more at or pick up a free copy coming soon to stands near you!

Mac&Cheese Grilled Chipotle Mac and Cheese
12 ounces elbow macaroni pasta
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 block of cream cheese
1 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 to 2 chipotle peppers (2 if you like it spicy)
1 teaspoon adobo sauce from the peppers
1 tablespoon butter
8 slices Texas toast
4 avocados, sliced

Boil the pasta for about 5 minutes, or until al dente, then drain. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy sauce pan or Dutch oven. Melt in the cream cheese and stir in the cream. Then melt in the shredded cheddar. Stir in the seasonings, pepper and adobo. Fold in the pasta and keep warm.

Heat a large griddle or flat top to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter four slices of toast and place on the griddle, butter side down. Spoon macaroni on top of each slice until covered. Top with slices of avocado. Butter the remaining slices of toast and place them on the sandwiches butter side up. Gently turn the sandwiches to brown. Heat just until the bread is lightly toasted and golden brown on both sides. Serve warm. Makes four sandwiches.

Grilled Goat Cheese, Strawberry and Basil with Balsamic GlazeStrawberry
1/2 cup goat cheese crumbles
1/2 cup strawberries, diced
1 tablespoon butter
2 croissants
2 tablespoons balsamic glaze
3 to 4 large basil leaves

Heat a large skillet or griddle to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the goat cheese and diced strawberries together in a small bowl. Butter the bottom of both croissants. Place the croissants down on the heated surface. Spoon half the strawberry and cheese mixture onto each bottom half of the croissant. Drizzle the balsamic glaze over each sandwich. Roll the basil leaves together, cut the basil into ribbons with kitchen shears then sprinkle on top of the sandwiches. Butter the top half of the croissants and place them onto of the cheese, butter side up. Gently flip the sandwiches to brown the top side. Heat just until the bread is lightly toasted and golden brown and until the cheese starts to soften. Serve warm. Makes two sandwiches.

MuensterGrilled Muenster, Spinach and Apple Bourbon Chutney with Bacon
4 slices of bacon
1 garlic clove, diced
2 teaspoons bourbon
2 teaspoons apple jelly
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon butter
2 Kaiser or onion rolls
1 block of Muenster cheese, sliced thinly
1/2 cup fresh baby spinach


Heat a griddle to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the bacon into small pieces and start browning with the garlic in a small skillet. Stir in the bourbon, jelly, brown sugar and vinegar. Cook together until the bacon is done. Butter the bottom of the roll and place it on the griddle, butter side down. Cover each bun with cheese slices. Wilt the spinach on the griddle and place on top of the cheese. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the bacon chutney over the spinach. Butter the top of the bun and place it over the bacon, butter side up. Gently flip the sandwich over to brown the top. Heat just until the bread is lightly toasted and the cheese starts to melt. Serve warm. Makes two sandwiches.


Grilled Brie with Caramelized Onion, Pecans and Fig Jam
Brie2 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
2 whole wheat rolls
1 brie cheese
2 tablespoons fig jam

Sautee the onions and pecans in 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat for 15 minutes or until the onions are brown and start to smell sweet. Remove from heat. Heat a large skillet, griddle or flat top to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter the bottom of the wheat rolls with half the remaining butter. Remove the rind from the brie and slice it. Pile the brie onto the bottom rolls. Spoon the onion and pecan mixture over the cheese on each sandwich. Spread one tablespoon of fig jam over each of the insides of the top buns. Place the top bun onto the sandwiches and butter the outside of the top bun. Turn gently to toast the top side of the sandwich and heat just until the bread is golden brown and until the cheese softens. Serve warm. Makes two sandwiches.

Festive and Fresh Fourth of July Desserts

It’s time to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day! We certainly have no trouble finding plenty of red, white and blue decorations for our picnics and barbeques. Why not decorate with what’s on the menu, too? During the summer there are so many fresh berries and fruit that almost beg to be part of your table on the Fourth of July.

These recipes shared here are not only festive in color, they’re fresh and even refreshing! Take advantage of all the delicious fruit we have available to us this season.

Read the full article and so much more in our upcoming July issue. Look for it soon on stands around town!

Raspberry Sherbet with Blueberry Compote
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon freshly chopped mint leaves

For the compote:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 or 3 mint leaves
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon zest

Wash the raspberries then place them in a blender or food processor. Puree the raspberries then press through a fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth over a large clean bowl to remove the seeds. Discard the seeds. You should have about a cup of raspberry puree left. Whisk in the sugar, milk, half and half and mint until blended.

If you have an ice cream machine, pour the raspberry, sugar and cream mixture into the machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Depending on your machine, you may need to freeze the sherbet awhile longer in the freezer. If you do not have an ice cream machine, you can freeze the sherbet in a metal loaf pan, covered with plastic wrap, for about 5 or 6 hours or until firm. Stir the mixture occasionally, if needed. Makes about 3 cups sherbet.

While the sherbet is freezing, rinse the blueberries. In a medium sauce pan, heat water, sugar and lemon juice to boiling and sugar is dissolved. Carefully add blueberries and mint leaves. Return to boiling and simmer stirring often for 10 minutes to 15 minutes or until berries break down. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest. Chill for 2 to 3 hours then pour over raspberry sherbet just before serving. Makes about 1 and 1/2 cups compote.

Fresh Berry TartsBerryTart1
1 sheet frozen puff pastry or shells
1 cup light sour cream
8 ounces light (Neufchatel) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup apple jelly
2 cups fresh mixed berries

Allow the puff pastry to come to room temperature then cut into nine even squares. Butter the bottom of a muffin tin. Invert the pan so that it is facing down; place each square of dough over the outside of a cup. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on the pan completely.

Beat the sour cream, cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice just until incorporated. Too much will curdle the cheese. Place each pastry onto a plate and press down gently so that it sits evenly. Spoon a tablespoon or two of the cream mixture into the well of each. Pile on the fresh berries of your choosing. Whisk the apple jelly until smooth. Brush the jelly over the berries to brighten their color and sweeten them slightly. Serve immediately. You can make each component ahead of time and assemble before serving. Makes nine desserts.

WaterMelonDrinkWatermelon Bourbon-ade Punch
3 pounds watermelon chunks, seeded
1/2 cup bourbon
1 cup Sprite
1 can frozen pink lemonade concentrate
Pinch of salt

Puree watermelon a blender. Add bourbon, Sprite, lemonade and salt. Pulse just once or twice more. Pour over ice, or pour into a freezer safe pitcher and freeze for 3 hours. Take the punch out of the freezer a half hour before serving or just long enough for it to be slushy. Serve in Mason jars or jelly jar glasses garnished with festive paper straws or fresh berries.

Top 10 Recipes

I’ve been fortunate enough to write the Stirring It Up column for ten years now. Over those years, I’ve found the following recipes are popular with my family and guests. This month, we’ll look back at the top ten recipes we’ve shared in the column. (Our newest favorite is the roasted carrots recipe.) Thanks so much for reading and cooking with me for the past decade. Here’s to many more! Cheers!

Read more in the May issue of City Social Magazine online or pick up your free copy in stores all over town!

BrisketSmoked Brisket with Pepper Crust
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoon chipotle powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon cumin
1, 3- to 5-pound brisket

Mix spices in a small mixing bowl. Rub all over brisket. Coat the smoker rack with vegetable oil. Wrap brisket in foil. Smoke for 4 to 5 hours or until 160 degrees Fahrenheit in the center. Serves six to eight.

Pain Perdu Stuffed with Apricot CreamFrench Toast
1 French bread loaf
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup apricot preserves
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter

Cut bread into 1-inch slices. Cut a slit in the top crust of each bread slice to make a pocket. Mix cream cheese and preserves in a small bowl. Spoon some cheese mixture into each bread pocket. Whisk eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon in a pie plate. Melt one tablespoon butter on a non-stick griddle or skillet over medium heat. Dip stuffed bread slices into the egg mixture, coating completely. Add dipped bread to the skillet. Cook until golden, about one minutes per side. Serve with syrup and dusted with powdered sugar.

MushroomsCrabmeat Stuffed Mushrooms with Horseradish & Dijon
1 egg
1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound crabmeat
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
24 large mushrooms (each about 2 inches across), stems removed

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons half and half
1 teaspoon horseradish
1 teaspoon liquid crab boil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter 10×15-inch baking pan. Whisk egg, mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt and
pepper in medium bowl. In another medium bowl, combine crabmeat and breadcrumbs. Pour egg mixture over crab mixture and mix gently. Stuff mushroom caps with crab mixture, mounding in center. Arrange mushrooms in baking pan. Bake 18 minutes.

Whisk together all sauce ingredients and chill. Serve mushrooms topped with sauce or on the side.

Baked Grits with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and AndouilleGrits
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 cup quick-cooking hominy grits
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup diced, sun-dried tomatoes
8 ounces andouille, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/8 cup chopped chives

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously butter a small casserole dish. Bring broth, butter and garlic to boil in medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in grits and return to boil, whisking occasionally. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 8 minutes until grits are thick and almost all broth is absorbed. Whisk in cream; simmer until very thick, about 8 minutes. Sauté sausage over medium-high heat until brown. Add sausage, tomatoes, thyme, 1/4 cup goat cheese and chives to grits. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining goat cheese on top. Bake 15 minutes. Serve warm.

ColeslawSweet and Spicy Coleslaw
1/2 cup sweet pepper jelly
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 small head of cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrots, shredded
1/3 cup green onions, finely chopped
1 cup crispy chow mein noodles

Wisk together the jelly and vinegar, then add fresh ginger. Toss together cabbage, carrots, green onions and noodles. Pour in dressing and toss to lightly coat. Serve topped with more noodles.

Easy Black Bean SoupBlack Bean Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 10-ounce can diced Rotel tomatoes and green chilies
1 or 2, 8-ounce cans of MexiCorn, drained
3, 15-ounce cans black beans, drain one.
2 cups chicken broth
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon ground cumin

Heat oil in heavy stock pot over medium-high heat. Saute onion and garlic. Stir in Rotel, corn and cumin. Add beans and broth. Bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium; cover and simmer about 15 minutes. Stir in cilantro. Season to taste with salt, pepper and cumin. Ladle soup into bowls. Top with sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro or jalapenos. Serves eight or freeze for later.

MoussePumpkin Mousse
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 package low fat cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh pumpkin puree

In a chilled bowl, beat whipping cream with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Cover and refrigerate. In medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, spices and salt on medium until smooth and creamy. Turn the mixer down to low and mix in pumpkin until blended.

Gently fold most of the whipped cream (reserve some for topping) into pumpkin until evenly distributed. Serve or store in an airtight container up to two days. Before serving, top each with whipped cream and a little nutmeg. Serves eight.

Southern AmbrosiaAmbrosia
8 fresh navel oranges
1 fresh pineapple
1/3 cup shredded coconut
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup brandy
1 small jar maraschino cherries

Peel, section and cut the oranges and pineapple into chunks. Squeeze out juice with the back of a spoon and reserve. In a large mixing bowl, toss the fruit chunks with
cherries and shredded coconut. In a small bowl, whisk together the juice with the sugar and brandy. Pour over the fruit and serve.

SangriaWhite Peach Sangria (Courtesy of Brenton Day, house bartender and brewmaster)
1 bottle peach schnapps
1 large bottle Moscato wine
4 ounces vodka or white rum
8 ounces peach nectar
2 or 3 cans Sprite
Frozen peaches

Pour all ingredients into a pitcher and stir until blended. Serve in wine glasses with peach slices or in a dispenser.

Chipotle Pulled Pork SlidersPulled Pork
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon ground mustard
1 tablespoon cumin
1, 5- to 6-pound pork shoulder
1 onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves
2 chipotle chiles in adobo
1 cup barbeque sauce
20 to 32 split dinner rolls

In small bowl, whisk together brown sugar and seasonings. Rub over pork. Place pork in slow cooker and sprinkle sliced onion. Cover; cook on low 7 to 8 hours. Remove pork; place on cutting board. Skim fat and reserve liquid. Shred pork and return to cooker. Mince garlic with chipotles and 1 teaspoon adobo in a food processor; whisk into barbeque sauce, then pour over pork. Stir in some of the reserved cooking liquid for desired moistness. Serve warm on rolls.

CarrotsRoasted Carrots
2 pounds baby carrots, peeled
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Romano cheese & parsley, garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place carrots on a baking pan. Whisk together all other ingredients and pour over carrots. Toss gently to coat. Roast 15 to 20 minutes, stirring midway. Garnish and serve warm.

10 Years of Stirring It Up!


Testing/Picture taking day…what a mess!

Wow, all I can say is that I cannot believe I’ve been writing the Stirring It Up cooking and entertaining column in City Social Magazine for 10 whole years. Where does the time go? I know, it went into some vacuum called life. In those 10 years I’ve done a lot of cooking and a lot of learning. My style of cooking has certainly evolved from a packed pantry to a packed fridge. My kitchen gadgets have dwindled and my camera equipment has doubled, er, tripled. In short, I cook more like my grandmothers did 50 or 60 years ago, before cake mixes and pop tarts. (I’m not picking on anyone here, carry on.) On occasion, I get to preserve what I made in the form of a naturally lit photograph that I hope shows the beauty in food.

Here’s a brief rundown of the last 10 years writing Stirring It Up:

  • At least 360 recipes tested.
    (I’m not counting the botched ones – I’m a home cook, not a chef, thank you.)
  • 120 deadlines…100 of which have been narrowly missed.
    (Sorry editors, one day I’ll learn)
  • A minimum of 90,000 words from 3 computers.
    (Viruses are the devil)
  • 7 neighbors who have seen me on one of myfront porches taking pictures of food in my pajamas.
    (Doesn’t everyone?)
  • 2 point-and-shoot cameras. 1 digital SLR camera. 2 lenses. 1 external flash.
    (Bye old friend Kodak, hello Pentax)
  • Roughly 7,200 pictures taken.
    (Still wish I really knew what I was doing)
  • 1 pie safe full of mismatched dishes from antique and thrift shops
    (I’m sure my grandchildren will wonder what the heck those were for one day)
  • 3 guinea pigs: Brenton, Emily and Anna
    (without whom, I’d have nothing)

I’d like to offer a special “thank you” to Janell O’Halloran for giving me the opportunity to combine my two loves of cooking and writing into a creative outlet that has flourished over this decade. Much thanks to you and the City Social staff for putting up with me for all these years. I hope spend many more as a contributor to this beautiful publication.

I’ve done this little gig, quietly plugging away, for half my time as a Baton Rouge citizen. I know there is more to come. I hope there have been a lot of you out there reading, trying recipes and making them your own, just as I have. Oh right, recipes! Tune in tomorrow for the top 10 recipes from the past 10 years!

Enough rambling….I’m off to see what’s left of July’s test dishes in the fridge.

All the best,

Happy Derby Day

Here’s a little sweet and saucy treat for you!

Bacon Bourbon Pecan Tarts with Bourbon Cream Cheese
1 refrigerated pie crust or use your favorite recipe
4 slices of bacon
2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup light or dark corn syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup bourbon
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
2 cups pecan halves, toasted, very coarsely chopped
1 cup chilled whipping cream
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat the bacon with the 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, then bake the strips on a wire rack in a baking pan until crispy. Use a biscuit cutter to cut out rounds of the pie dough. Place the rounds in mini muffin tins. Brown the tart crusts, along with the bacon if you want, until they are slightly golden.

Whisk eggs in large bowl. Whisk in both sugars, then next four ingredients. Stir in pecans. Crumble bacon and gently fold into the filling. Spoon the filling into the mini crusts. Bake tarts until filling is puffed and just set in center, about 20 to 30 minutes. Cool completely on racks.

Using electric mixer, beat all ingredients until it holds peaks. Spoon a dollop over each tart. Serve tarts at room temperature. You can also make these in tartlet pans.