My Favorite Things Party

For the past few years, I’ve found holiday gift giving among friends increasing difficult. We all have what we need, many of us just pick up what we want and we’re all accumulating things before we even realize it. The stress of finding something my friends could use and don’t already have led me look for some kind of get-together that helped us all unwind and included gift ideas that were out of the norm. That’s when I came across a “my favorite things” party.

A my favorite things party, no matter what theme you choose, is a fun way to celebrate the season with friends. It’s also a great way to get to know your fiends even more. The things they share will show a lot about them and what makes them happy. Above all this season, try to relax, laugh and enjoy the company of the friends and family you love. Happy holidays!

Read the full article on or pick up a free copy on stands around town! 

LettuceWrap3Thai Peanut Lettuce Wraps
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound chicken tenderloins, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup carrot, shredded
1 cup cabbage, shredded
1/4 cup Thai peanut sauce
1/4 cup crushed peanuts, lightly salted
8 ounces thin rice noodles, soak if directed on the package
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 head butter lettuce
Green onions

Sautee chicken in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium, add carrot and cabbage and sautee for about 5 minutes. Stir in peanut sauce and crushed peanuts. Remove from heat. In a skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 teaspoons rice vinegar. Heat rice noodles until tender and clear. On each leaf of butter lettuce, spoon noodles then meat and vegetable mixture. Garish with green onion tops and serve.

CucumberDip3Cucumber Dill Dip
2 cucumbers
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon dill

Cut one cucumber in half lengthwise and remove the seeds, then shred and place in a medium mixing bowl. Mix in cream cheese, sour cream and seasonings. Stir in dill. Chill for at least one hour up to overnight before serving. Slice the second cucumber. Serve as a dip with cucumber slices and crackers or as canapes or finger sandwiches.

Cooking with Craft Beer

Cooking with beer is a unique culinary experience and one easily mastered with a few guiding ground rules.

Beer provides similar cooking properties as wine, but with an even larger variety of flavors. Cooking with craft beer will lend a slightly different result than mainstream beers. You’ll need to consider carbonation and yeast levels when choosing your cooking beer. Usually brewed in small batches, craft beers have more concentrated flavor profiles and sometime higher yeast content. Beer is a natural tenderizer for meats, which makes it perfect for braising or slow cooking large cuts of meat. And, beer is great leavening agent for baking fluffy breads, rolls and biscuits.

Wheat beers and pale ales with their crisp, almost fruity flavors, pair well with breads, cheeses and seafood. While porters, a mellow combination of pale ale and stout, add an earthy flavor soups, stews and meats. Stouts are smooth in flavor and texture, lending them to fit in best with dessert dishes. As a general guide, use light for light, such as pale ales in fish or chicken dishes, and dark for dark, such as porters with red meat. Avoid lower calorie and high hop beers because low calorie beers have lower levels of flavor and hops become even more bitter throughout the cooking process.

A word or two of caution…cooking with alcohol also has effects on your dish outside of just the beer flavor. Depending on cooking method, temperature, time, amount added and other factors, some of the original alcohol in beer can linger in the dish. Also, the alcohol in beer could kick spicy foods up a notch. So, you may want to dial down the usual level of spice you add to your recipes when cooking with beer.

I used Tin Roof Brewing Company’s Voodoo Bengal pale ale in the biscuit recipe that follows. Their Parade Ground porter is available in the winter, in the meantime Founder’s Porter worked well for the chili. Of course, you can use any brand you can find and there are quite a few to choose from in grocery stores around town.

Read the full article at or pick up a free copy of the magazine around town!

BeerChili1Beer Brisket Chili
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
5 pound brisket
2 onions, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 chipotle pepper, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon adobo sauce
1 12-ounce bottle of porter or stout

Combine cumin, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Shake the spices over the brisket and rub into the meat. Place the brisket into a slow cooker. Top with onions, bell peppers, garlic cloves and tomatoes. Add the chipotle pepper and teaspoon of adobo sauce from the can or jar with the peppers. Pour the porter or stout over everything. Cook covered over low heat for 8 to 10 hours. Shred the beef and stir to incorporate. Serve the chili topped with sour cream, chopped green onions and grated cheddar cheese.

Garlic Cheddar Beer BiscuitsBeerBiscuit2
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 cup coconut oil or shortening
3/4 cup pale ale
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheeses

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk in flour, baking powder, salt and garlic powder. Cut in shortening until mixture is crumbly. Stir in beer into the flour mixture until fulling incorporated and the dough is sticky. Fold in shredded cheese until fully incorporated. Grease a cast iron skillet or baking pan. Pull off palm-sized pieces of dough and roll it into a rough ball. Place each ball in the skillet with a half inch or gap in between. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and baked through. Serve warm and buttered with chili or soup or in place of dinner rolls.

Fabulous Figs

Figs in all shapes colors and sizes will be ripening in trees all over the South this June and July. I can remember crawling under the canopy of my grandmother’s enormous fig tree and pretending I was hidden away from the world. I also remember her firing off a whole pack of Black Cat firecrackers to shoo the birds away so they could not eat her figs before they were ripe enough to pick. Thankfully I was inside watching the show from the window, fig preserves and biscuit in hand, of course.

While she has yet to employ the firecracker method against the birds, my mother has managed to grown an impressive Brown Turkey-type fig tree of her own. I always look forward to fresh figs in the summer and her jarred figs with lemon to tide me move till the next season. I hope you get your hands on some of these plump delicious fruits this summer and find new ways to cook them in your own kitchen.

IMGP3415Fig, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Flatbread
2 store-bought flatbreads, about 7 by 10 inches (or use your own recipe if you have time)
1 small onion
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup fig preserves, divided
1 3-ounce package prosciutto
1 cup arugula
1/2 cup goat cheese crumbles

Cut the onion into thin strips and cook it in the butter until dark brown and slightly sweet. Remove from heat and set aside. Toast the flatbreads on a griddle or grill over medium heat for 8 minutes. You can also do this on an oven rack at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread half the preserves over each flatbread, then sprinkle with onions. Top with strips of prosciutto and arugula. Finally, sprinkle with goat cheese crumbles. Place the flatbreads back on the heat for another 8 to 10 minutes to melt the cheese and slightly wilt the arugula. Slice and serve.


IMGP3571Baked Brie with Fig and Bourbon Pecan Sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons bourbon
8-10 whole preserved or dried figs, halved
1/2 cup pecans, chopped coarsely
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounce double cream brie

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt butter and brown sugar in a small skillet or saucepan over medium heat at a simmer, add bourbon, figs and pecans. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Stir in the vanilla. Skim the white rind off the Brie with a cheese plane. Place the brie in a small round baking dish. Pour the fig and bourbon mixture on top, mounding it if needed. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until softened but not melted. Serve with water crackers.


IMGP3440Fresh Fig and Lemon Mascarpone Tart
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup mascarpone cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup fresh figs, sliced
1/2 package Biscoff ginger cookies, finely ground
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a mixer on low speed, mix together sour cream, mascarpone, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice in a mixer with a paddle attachment. Chill covered while you make the crusts. Grind the cookies finely with a food processor then pulse in the melted butter and salt. The consistency should resemble damp sand, if not add one more tablespoon of melted butter. Grease individual tartlets or one large tart pan. Press the crumb crust into the pan. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool the tarts in the pan for about 10 to 15 minutes. Then carefully remove from the pan onto dessert plates. Fill with mascarpone mixture and top with slices of figs. Drizzle with honey and serve or chill to serve later.

Eat More of This – Healthy Foods for Women

Eating the right combination of fresh produce, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy will give a woman the energy she needs to not only keep up with a hectic lifestyle, but also to protect herself from chronic diseases. Eating a variety of these foods will help reduce your risk of everything from heart disease to Alzheimer’s. Thankfully, the list of foods that keep us healthy is long and full of great tasting ingredients you can cook with at home without a lot of time and fuss.

The recipes included with this article are quick and easy to make and include several healthy ingredients women need. Try them on the go for breakfast, lunch or an afternoon snack. Perfect for us busy girls!

Read more at or pick up a free copy of our May/June issue around town!

PS – I’ve been lucky enough to contribute to this magazine for 11 years now. The publishers are giving us all a voice in how the magazine can better serve Baton Rouge. City Social Magazine has partnered with LSU Research Lab to conduct a readership survey; and to show appreciation for your feedback, all participants are eligible to win a $500 Shopper’s Choice gift card. Please click on the link below to take the brief 10-minute survey. Thank you for your time and we appreciate your opinion!

OatmealBrkfastBarOatmeal Flaxseed Honey Bars
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup flaxseed, finely ground
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup local honey
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line one 13 x 9-inch baking pan with lightly greased parchment paper. Whisk the flour, oats, flaxseed, baking soda and salt in a large bowl then set aside. Beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until fluffy. Beat in the honey and vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce the mixer speed to low, Using the paddle attachment or a spatula, stir in the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time. Stir until just combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Spoon the batter into the baking pan and spread evenly. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Let the bars cool a few minutes in the pan then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Cut into squares or bars and serve warm or room temperature. Store in a sealed container.

Smoked Salmon Salad with Creamy Lemon Caper DressingSalmonSalad
1 cup baby spinach
1 smoked salmon filet
3-4 stalks fresh asparagus
1 boiled egg
1 thin slice red onion
1 medium lemon
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons drained capers, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste

Place the spinach on a salad plate. Lay the smoked salmon over the greens then top with asparagus, wedges of boiled egg and onion. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a small mixing bowl. Whisk in the remaining dressing ingredients and drizzle over smoked salmon and spinach. Top salad with lemon zest. Season with fresh cracked salt and pepper to taste and serve.

TrailMixWalnut Super Trail Mix
1 cup walnuts
1 cup almonds
1/4 cup pepitas
1/2 cup raisins
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to coat with olive oil. Store in an air tight container or portion into 1-cup servings in bags or containers to go.

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.