Saturday, December 25, 2010

Cajun 12 Days of Christmas, Un and Deux

"Cajun 12 Days of Christmas - by Tee Jules"

Monday, December 20, 2010

History of Christmas in South Louisiana

Louisiana has long tradition of unique holiday celebrations
Advocate staff writer
Published: Dec 20, 2010

Louisiana celebrates three Christmases

That was the shocking tidbit State Archivist Florent Hardy shared with those attending the YWCA Connections luncheon earlier this month at Juban’s Restaurant. He discovered this interesting fact while researching Louisiana Christmas traditions for his presentation.

There’s the traditional December 25 Christmas celebration, then there's St. Nicholas Day on December 5th and the Trappers Christmas on February 25th.

Hardy also discovered that the first Christmas in Louisiana was celebrated in “La Nouvelle (New) Orleans” in 1718. In fact, according to, Louisiana was among the first states, all in the South, to make Christmas a legal holiday: Alabama in 1836, Louisiana in 1837 (by Gov. Edward Douglass White Sr.) and Arkansas in 1838. Louisiana first decorated its capitol in 1944, when Jimmie Davis was governor.

Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870. Prior to then, many Northerners thought celebrating Christmas was a sin. Celebrating Thanksgiving, they thought, was more appropriate. Not so in the South, where Christmas was an important part of the social season.

In New Orleans, the original Christmas celebrations included attending midnight Mass, “La messe de minuit,” on Christmas Eve.

“At that time, Christmas was a very religious experience,” said Hardy. “After Mass was la Reveillon, a big feast that featured a menu of wild game (duck, venison and turkey), daube glacé (a jellied meat), eggs, oyster dressing, chuck roast, homemade raisin bread and cakes.”

While everyone was at Mass, Papa Noël paid a visit and filled the stockings of the children with a trinket and some fruit and sweets.

“On Christmas day, you visited la crèche — the manger scene. Gifts were exchanged on New Year’s Day,” added Hardy.

While most of Louisiana celebrated on Dec. 25, families of German descent living in Robert’s Cove in Acadia Parish celebrated St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 5. For many generations, extended families have gathered at homes in the cove to await Kris Kringle (St. Nicholas) and Black Peter to bring treats for the good children.

According to the website, people were afraid of this impressive bearded figure in white robes with a shepherd’s staff, who was said to punish children who had not been good since last Christmas.

Around World War II, the St. Nicholas Day celebration was suspended, but has seen a revival in recent years. Today a choir accompanied by St. Nicholas, Black Peter and Santa Claus visits homes in the cove. All the children are given treats, the choir sings German Christmas carols, and sweets and beverages are served.

And then there is the Trappers’ Christmas in Barataria. Because Christmas was a very busy time of year for the fur trappers, the celebration was postponed until Feb. 25.

The jolly old elf today referred to as Santa Claus was known by several other names depending on what part of Louisiana a person called home. To those of French heritage he was Papa Noël, to those of German heritage he was Kris Kringle or St. Nicholas and to the Cajuns he was always a she called La Christianne.

“Along the River Road plantations, St. Nicholas arrived on a donkey and left goodies in the shoes of the children left out on the porch,” added Hardy.

The familiar Santa who arrives via a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer (Blitzen, Comet, Cupid, Dancer, Dasher, Donner, Prancer and Vixen) was created by best-selling author Washington Irving in 1819.

“He couldn’t figure out a way for St. Nicholas to travel around the world in one night, so he came up with this idea of him flying through the trees,” said Hardy. “Now in Louisiana, we know Santa, Papa Noël as he’s called, comes in a pirogue pulled by eight alligators (Gaston, Tiboy, Pierre, Alcee, Ninette, Suzette, Celeste and Renée) from reading the ‘Cajun Night Before Christmas.’”

Another longtime tradition in Louisiana’s River Parishes is the Christmas Eve bonfires on the levee, lighting the way for Papa Noël.

“The tradition of the bonfires began with the Marist priests at Jefferson College in Convent (what is now Manresa),” explained Hardy. “It was originally celebrated on New Year’s Eve.”

What started out as simple bonfires in the 1800s has grown into massive creations constructed by multiple generations who join together with family and friends and thousands of complete strangers for a huge celebration.

Further north in Natchitoches, Louisianans have been celebrating the Festival of Lights since 1927. Begun by the city’s superintendent of utilities, today’s celebration runs from Nov. 20 through Jan. 6 and draws more than 100,000 visitors. It features more than 300,000 Christmas lights, more than 100 displays and a parade as well as a candlelight tour of homes sponsored by the Natchitoches Historic Foundation.

Natchitoches isn’t the only city with a Christmas parade. In fact, most cities and towns celebrate the holiday with a parade including Baton Rouge, Amite, Baker, Clinton, Denham Springs, Gonzales, Hammond, St. Francisville and Walker.

“Everybody celebrates Christmas,” said Hardy, “but in Louisiana Christmas is a colorful, diverse and unique celebration.”

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cajun Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas an' all t'ru de house,
Dey don't a ting pass Not even a mouse.
De chirren been nezzle good snug on de flo',
An' Mama pass de pepper t'ru de crack on de do'.

De Mama in de fireplace done roas' up de ham,
Sit up de gumbo an' make de bake yam.
Den out on de by-you dey got such a clatter,
Make soun' like old Boudreau done fall off his ladder.

I run like a rabbit to got to de do',
Trip over de dorg an' fall on de flo'.
As I look out de do'in de light o' de moon,
I t'ink, "Mahn, you crazy or got ol' too soon."

Cux dere on de by-you w'en I stretch ma'neck stiff,
Dere's eight alligator a pullin' de skiff.
An' a little fat drover wit' a long pole-ing stick,
I know r'at away got to be ole St.Nick.

Mo' fas'er an' fas'er de' gator dey came
He whistle an' holler an' call dem by name:
"Ha, Gaston! Ha, Tiboy! Ha, Pierre an' Alcee'!
Gee, Ninette! Gee, Suzette! Celeste an'Renee'!

To de top o' de porch to de top o' de wall,
Make crawl, alligator, an' be sho' you don' fall."
Like Tante Flo's cat t'ru de treetop he fly,
W'en de big ole houn' dorg come a run hisse's by.

Like dat up de porch dem ole 'gator clim!
Wit' de skiff full o' toy an' St. Nicklus behin'.
Den on top de porch roof it soun' like de hail,
W'en all dem big gator, done sot down dey tail.

Den down de chimney I yell wit' a bam,
An' St.Nicklus fall an' sit on de yam.
"Sacre!" he axclaim, "Ma pant got a hole
I done sot ma'se'f on dem red hot coal."

He got on his foots an' jump like de cat
Out to de flo' where he lan' wit' a SPLAT!
He was dress in musk-rat from his head to his foot,
An' his clothes is all dirty wit' ashes an' soot.

A sack full o' playt'ing he t'row on his back,
He look like a burglar an' dass fo' a fack.
His eyes how dey shine his dimple, how merry!
Maybe he been drink de wine from de blackberry.

His cheek was like a rose his nose a cherry,
On secon' t'ought maybe he lap up de sherry.
Wit' snow-white chin whisker an' quiverin' belly,
He shook w'en he laugh like de stromberry jelly!

But a wink in his eye an' a shook o' his head,
Make my confi-dence dat I don't got to be scared.
He don' do no talkin' gone strit to hi work,
Put a playt'ing in sock an' den turn wit' a jerk.

He put bot' his han' dere on top o' his head,
Cas' an eye on de chimney an' den he done said:
"Wit' all o' dat fire an' dem burnin' hot flame,
Me I ain' goin' back by de way dat I came."

So he run out de do' an, he clim' to de roof,
He ain' no fool, him for to make one more goof.
He jump in his skiff an' crack his big whip,
De' gator move down, An don' make one slip.

An' I hear him shout loud as a splashin' he go,
"Merry Christmas to all 'til I saw you some mo'!"

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday Baked Brie

This has to be one of the most versatile and popular appetizers around....Holiday Baked Brie. It's so easy and simple to make, yet so delicious that even children like it! I've even prepared it and given it as Christmas gifts to my managers and co-workers, and it was such a hit that I received requests, not only for the recipe but to gift it again the following year!

Light Brown Sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 large (13 oz, 8" round) wheel of Brie
1 stick butter
Apple and pear slices, assorted crackers

Place brie wheel in a baking dish which will also be the serving dish. I use a nice ceramic pie pan. Generously pat brown sugar on top of brie wheel so that it’s about 1/2 - 3/4 inches thick. Sprinkle pecans over the top, slightly pressing them into the brown sugar to keep them in place. Completely cover pecans and brown sugar with pats of butter all over. Bake at 400° until pecans are brown, sugar is melted and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Serve warm with apple and pear slices, and assorted crackers.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Cajun Christmas, Heaux, Heaux, Heaux

Depending on what side of the family we are spending Christmas with or what our plans end up being otherwise, we will sometimes forego the traditional Southern Christmas and instead have a Cajun Christmas! Cajun Christmas traditions are celebrated somewhat in our household every season but some years we go all out and go full blown Cajun.

We have some wonderful Louisiana traditions that may seem crazy to the rest of you and are very different than the way you celebrate Christmas yet, they are so incredible and unique!

Instead of Santa Claus we have Papa Noel. Papa Noel lives down in the hot, humid, swampy bayou of Louisiana. He's a Cajun legend and you'll often find momma’s (Mère’s) and daddy's (Père’s) reading such books as The Legend of Papa Noel or Cajun Night before Christmas on Christmas Eve.

While Santa is pulled in his sleigh by eight reindeer, Papa Noel is pulled in a Pirogue (pro: Pea-row) by eight alligators: Gaston, Tiboy, Pierre, Alcee, Ninette, Suzette, Celeste and Renee.

On Christmas Eve we follow a tradition dating back hundreds of years....the lighting of bon fires on the levees of the Mississippi River and in the bayous to guide Papa Noel and his alligators to the swamp to deliver gifts to our children in Bayou Country.

Christmas in South Louisiana is so unique and magical with the Cajun decorations, traditions, food and Christmas Zydeco and Jazz music.

The following are a few of our traditional Cajun dishes we serve at Christmas.

Bar-B-Q Shrimp

4 lbs shrimp with shells on (heads on, if possible)
1/2 lb butter
3-4 tbl Worcestershire sauce
3 tbl pickapepper sauce
1-1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 lg lemon
1 tsp tabasco
4 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic sliced

Melt butter in large casserole dish and add all ingredients except lemon. Cut lemon in half and squeeze juice, add to mixture. Bake in oven at 350 until done. Serve in large soup bowls with lots of sauce and toasted french bread for dipping.

Copeland's of New Orleans Hot Crab Claws

2 teaspoons garlic
1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
2 tablespoon scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
6 ounces fresh crab claws, crawfish tails or shrimp
3 ounces chicken stock
1 ounce Italian dressing

Place seasoning, herbs, garlic and half the butter in a preheated skillet; saute until butter is melted. Add seafood, chicken stock and Italian dressing; increase heat to high and toss until seafood is cooked through. Add remaining butter; swirl into the sauce. Do not boil. Serve immediately with buttered and toasted French Bread slices.

Cajun Cornbread Casserole

2 pkgs Pioneer Yellow Cornbread Mix or homemade cornbread
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
1 lb of Louisiana crawfish tails, chopped
1 lb shrimp, peeled
1/2 lb chopped hot sausage
1/2 cup milk
1 can cream style corn
2 whole eggs, beaten
1 cup mild cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup parsley

Bake cornbread as directed per package instructions or make homemade cornbread. Crumble into a large mixing bowl. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan; add onions, celery, and bell pepper sauté mixture until the onions clear. Add crawfish tails, shrimp, sausage. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add milk and cream corn, stir until mixture is fully blended. Fold all ingredients into the bowl of crumbled cornbread, along with eggs, cheese, and parsley. Mix well, season with Tony’s to taste, transfer to a baking dish, and bake it at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Additionally, we also have dishes from previous posts such as Crawfish Stew, Creole Crawfish Etouffee, Shrimp Creole, and Spinach Madeline. And, of course, we have a smoked or fried turkey!

Monday, December 13, 2010


Ever wonder what Santa looks like in the summer months?

I do not want that man coming anywhere near me but once a year, down the chimney, in a red suit, bearing gifts then disappearing into the night, unnoticed.

Ho Ho Hell No.

***Sarcasm intended!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sweet Potato Casserole

One cool, crisp fall day, when I was in college, I was at a friend’s in-law’s farm out in the country and we were playing around with the “toys”. At this particular time, it was 4-wheelers (quads) and we were just running around on them or racing/chasing each other with engines wide open enjoying the beauty of the day and the clean fresh air blowing in our faces and through our hair.

Nearby was a man-made lake with a high levee surrounding it and the boys started running their 4-wheelers up, down and all round the top of the levee. However, being the girl I am, I was scared to do what they were doing. So, my friend’s husband jumped on the back of my bike to “show” me how it’s done.

With his coaching, I turned away from the levee for a distance, then followed his instruction to go head-on, straight up the levee then cut right. Against my better judgment I did so. Ok, fine so far…or so I thought….NOT!!! He yelled that I needed to give it more gas, so I did….but not to his satisfaction. He put his hand over mine and pushed my thumb down on the accelerator, HARD, and gunned it. Big mistake.

Before I realized it, he had gunned that damned bike straight up the levee and straight into the air like a rocket with only the two rear wheels on the ground and it was starting to flip over backwards! Holy Sh*t!!! I yanked my hand out from under his thus moving his hand off the accelerator just in the nick of time. Together, we fell off the back of the bike and landed on our backs, me on top of him. Next thing I knew, I was flipped over with my face down in the dirt when he jumped up and went after the bike.

By the time I got myself up and to the top of the levee, the bike was submerged in the lake and my friend’s husband was slogging waist deep after the bike! *SNAP* (conjure a little sassy neck movement here) Serves his a$$ right! He yelled at me to come help him get the bike out before the engine got wet, so there I am pulling on him with him pulling on the bike. He lost his grip and there we go, on our backs, this time he was on me, in the mud and water!

His weight pressed me down into the soft mud, my head went in too, and I had to work against some serious suction to get up and out!! Not pretty! I was madder than a wet cat…I WAS A WET CAT! I evacuated myself from the bowels of hell and with the last shred of dignity that I could muster and a withering glare at anyone who dared to find amusement at my predicament, I stomped off to the main house only to be met by a cold hose bath before I could get within 10 feet of the door. Baptism by frigid water.

Anyway, it was my friend who gave me the following recipe for Christmas one year. It was wonderful and I’ve been making it ever since. The orange juice and raisins offer a unique twist to an old classic.

3 lbs sweet potatoes
3/4 cup orange juice
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup white raisins

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Scrub sweet potatoes, cut in half and boil until tender. Allow to cool then slip the skins off and mash well. Add orange juice, eggs, raisins, vanilla, melted butter, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir until sweet potatoes are smooth and well blended. Spoon potatoes into buttered 2 quart baking dish.

Combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon in medium bowl. Add butter and pecans, stir well. Sprinkle pecan mixture on top of sweet potatoes. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.

***Note: This can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to cook.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Spinach Madeline

This post originally appeared in July, 2010 but is being reposted for the holidays.

A Southern Holiday favorite for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Easter or any special occasion, this versatile dish is excellent year round. It compliments any type of entree: roast beef or steaks, turkey or cornish hens, baked ham and fish. It can also be served as a dip with melba toast as is or by adding lump crabmeat or steamed shrimp. I sometimes make it just because!

Spinach Madeline is particularly good when served at Thanksgiving or Christmas with Turkey, South Louisiana Cornbread Dressing and Giblet Gravy. This recipe is easily doubled, tripled and quadrupled depending on how many people you will be serving. It also freezes very well so it can be made ahead of time. One trick I do is multiply the recipe 6 times, divide that and freeze half for Thanksgiving and half for Christmas. It's such a hit with my family and friends that we all want leftovers to take home hence the large quantity!

2 packages chopped spinach, frozen
4 tbsps butter
2 tbsps flour
2 tbsps chopped onions
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup reserved spinach liquor
1/2 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp celery salt
3/4 tsp garlic salt
6 ounces Velveeta Mexican cheese, cubed
salt and red pepper to taste
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Italian Bread Crumbs

Cook spinach according to directions on package. Drain and reserve liquid. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add flour, stirring until blended and smooth, but not brown. Add onions and sauté 3-5 minutes or until wilted. Add evaporated milk, spinach liquor and Worcestershire sauce slowly, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Cook mixture until smooth and thick, stirring constantly. Add seasonings and cubed cheese. Stir until melted and combine with cooked spinach. This may be served immediately or put into a casserole and topped with Italian bread crumbs. The flavor is improved if the latter is done and kept in refrigerator overnight. Bake at 350.

***Note: see Tips and Information on Velveeta Mexican Cheese

Chicken Gumbo

Gumbo is an original creation and is a staple in South Louisiana cooking. The word "gumbo" comes from the Congo "quin-gombo" which means okra which is a thickening agent. While classified as a soup it really is more like a stew in taste and texture. Additionally, gumbo is served over rice, whereas, soup is not.

There are many different types of gumbo from chicken to wild game to seafood and the recipes vary somewhat. The gumbo we make most often in our house, simply for ease, economics and availability, is Chicken Gumbo. I have to admit, my favorite is Seafood gumbo but it gets really expensive to make if you don't live in South Louisiana! Here is a basic Chicken Gumbo recipe that you can start with and add other types of meat such as sausage, venison, duck or seafood. Have fun experimenting!

3 tbl Oil
3 tbl Flour
1 pkg Boneless Chicken breasts
1 pkg boneless chicken thighs
1 med onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 10 oz pkg frozen sliced okra
Tony’s, salt and pepper
Parboiled rice

In large pot, brown chicken in oil. Remove from pot when thoroughly browned on both sides. Add oil and flour and make a dark brown roux. Add onion and stir well; then add okra and blend well. Add all other vegetables except tomato and allow to cook down, cover if necessary to retain moisture. Cut up chicken into large bite size pieces. Add about 4 cups of water, tomato, and seasonings; blend well. Add chicken and stir. Cook down for about an hour adding more water if necessary. Recheck seasonings. Serve over rice.

***Note: If you will be making Giblet Gravy for the holidays, now would be the time to cook it as you need pan drippings and a little meat, not to mention that it can be frozen ahead of time. Add some extra chicken when making your gumbo then set aside some of it and all of the pan drippings from when you brown the chicken as stated above, then make your gravy while your gumbo cooks! This way, you can make the gravy ahead of time without having to do any extra work to obtain the two aforementioned ingredients.

Giblet Gravy

One Christmas, I must have been about 6 or 7, my great uncle gave me a HUGE candy cane as his present to me. Everything seems so much bigger when you are little but I swear, that thing must have been about 18 inches long and 3 inches in diameter! It was gigantic!

After Christmas dinner, one of my cousins kept teasing and tormenting me relentlessly and we started squabbling. My mother made me come inside and I was furious. My uncle took me aside and privately whispered to me that if my cousin bothered me again, I was to take that candy cane he gave me and whack my cousin with it! He wasn’t serious, but being a little kid, I took what he said seriously.

So, when my cousin started tormenting me again, I grabbed my candy cane weapon, swung it like a bat and {{{{CRACK}}}}, whacked him in the head with it! He let out a blood curdling scream. All the parents came running outside and there I was standing over him, holding my broken, shattered candy cane with a very satisfied smile on my face!

This is the Giblet gravy recipe that goes with my South Louisiana Cornbread Dressing. These are dishes that we serve at both Thanksgiving and Christmas unless we do a Cajun Christmas meal. I used to make Giblet gravy exactly the way my grandmother made it…with the actual Turkey Giblets. But after she passed away and in response to several requests, I stopped doing that and have since been using either breast or thigh meat.

Since this can be made ahead of time and frozen, I usually bake some chicken or make some Chicken Gumbo the week or two before. Then I use a little of the meat and the all of the pan drippings from it and make the gravy then, freezing it for later. Additionally, I usually double the recipe, then when it's cool, divide it in half and freeze both separately: one batch for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas!

3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 can chicken broth
Garlic powder, Onion powder, Celery salt and Tonys, to taste
1 to 1-1/2 cups Chicken breast or thigh meat, chopped fine***
Pan drippings

Over medium-low heat, combine the oil and flour in a large saucepan and make a dark roux. Slowly stir in the chicken broth, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the gravy is smooth and thickened. Add pan drippings and allow to thicken again.

Reduce heat to low, add seasonings and the giblets. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Recheck seasonings, adding more if necessary. This gravy can be made ahead of time and frozen or refrigerated until needed.

My grandmother's way of making it is as follows:

In a medium sauce pot, boil 1 stalk of celery and 1/2 a medium onion along with the turkey neck and giblets. Season water with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and garlic powder. Cook until done. Discard celery and onion. Remove neck and giblets and allow to cool. Make a dark brown roux and add the pan drippings and the seasoned broth you just made (refer to recipe above for instructions). When neck and giblets are cool, remove meat from neck bone, finely chop it and the giblets. Stir that into your gravy. Recheck seasonings and serve.

***Note: I usually bake some chicken for dinner or make a pot of Gumbo the week before, separate enough chicken and the pan drippings and make my gravy at the same time. Then I freeze the gravy and later thaw it out in the refrigerator the day before I need it.

*** When I make chicken salad, I freeze my broth and use that when I make my gravy instead of using canned broth. See Gourmet Chicken Salad recipe.

***See Tips and Information for making a roux and for Tony's.

South Louisiana Cornbread Dressing

My grandparents used to own a cemetery in Louisiana. I was six and my sister was three when late one Thanksgiving afternoon, after we had all eaten, my oldest cousin snuck away to set up a prank on all of us younger cousins, 6 of us to be exact with the 4 oldest being boys (Seven with the oldest prankster). He then came inside, got us and took us up to the only above ground mausoleum in the cemetery, telling us we just "HAD" to come and see.

Once we got close, he told us the ghosts were trying to get out and were coming to get us and kill us! He had wedged a turkey thigh bone into the crack around the perimeter of the door and poured ketchup all over it to make it look like blood! When we got really close to look, he shoved us towards the door and screamed, "THEY'RE GETTING OUT" and ran down the hill and left us all there!

We were screaming and crying and trying to run away, bumping into each other and grabbing onto each other while still trying to escape (envision The Keystone Kops). All of my cousins older than myself and my sister were able to run but we, being the youngest, were so terrified and crying, we couldn't see and we stumbled around, running and falling until we made it down the hill and back home. My sister and I were traumatized about that for years to come!

Needless to say, our "old prankster" got the stick and we got the laugh! We sought revenge later in the weekend by luring him into the basement and later into the cemetery barn and scaring the bejeezus outta him both times by making ghost sounds and bumping around! Revenge is a dish best served COLD!

At any rate, my grandmother made the best cornbread dressing and it has been our family tradition to have it with Giblet gravy since long before I was born. She passed her recipes on to me and I took over some of the holiday cooking duties in my mid 20’s. Later I introduced Spinach Madeline (see recipe in another post) and that has now become our other traditional favorite dish along with Sweet Potato Casserole.

The Cornbread:
3 tablespoons bacon drippings or butter
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups corn meal
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450°F. Put the bacon drippings/butter in a 9x13-inch baking dish and put it in the oven while it is preheating. It will melt while you're mixing up the batter.

Beat the eggs in a medium bowl until frothy. Add the corn meal, salt, baking soda and baking powder, and stir to combine. Add the buttermilk and stir well. Remove the hot dish from the oven. Swirl the dish to coat it with melted bacon drippings/butter then pour it into the batter and stir to combine. Pour the batter into the pan, and bake 20 to 25 minutes. The cornbread will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Make the cornbread a day before you intend to make your dressing. Leave it out, uncovered, overnight.

The Dressing:
1 9x13-inch pan of cornbread, crumbled
10 pieces white or whole wheat bread, heels are good (left out overnight)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped (2-1/2 to 3 cups)
1 large green pepper, chopped
3/4 cup butter (1-1/2 sticks)
4 cups chicken broth, canned or homemade
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp rubbed sage

Preheat oven to 375°F. Crumble the cornbread and white bread into a very large baking dish or pan (This is the pan you will cook your dressing in, and you need room to stir it while it's cooking). Combine the vegetables with the bread crumbs and mix well. Melt the butter and add it and the beaten eggs, chicken broth and stir. (You may need a little more chicken broth – its better if it's too moist than too dry; the uncooked dressing should be a little on the slushy side.) Add poultry seasoning, rubbed sage, black pepper, and mix thoroughly.

Bake 15 minutes then stir dressing from the sides of the pan into the rest so that it cooks uniformly. Recheck the seasonings, adding more if necessary. Bake until browning on sides and top and center has set.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Holiday Pecan Snack

There are all kinds of pecan snacks that we make during the holiday season: from my grandmother's special recipe of sandwiching a small ball of a butter, sugar and cream cheese mixture between two pecan halves to my other grandmother's recipe of toasting pecans in butter, salt and both onion and garlic powder and all other recipes in between. However, I found something new a few years ago that I love more than other mixtures even though they are beloved childhood snacks. This one is salty and sweet at the same time while combining fruit. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have! Happy Holidays!

2 lbs Pecan halves
1 stick Butter
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 bag Dried Cranberries
1/2 container Orange Zest or 1/2 cup fresh
1 tsp Pepper
1 tsp Salt

Melt butter in microwave. Line a large cookie sheet with waxed paper. Place pecans, cranberries, orange zest, brown sugar, salt and pepper in large mixing bowl. Pour in melted butter and stir until mixed well. Taste to check seasonings adding more if necessary. Stir again. Pour mixture out onto lined cookie sheet and spread out so that pecans are all in a single layer. Use another cookie sheet if necessary. Bake at 350 until slightly toasted, about 15 minutes. Peel off cookie sheet and break everything apart. Store in a zip-lock bag.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pot Roast

Pot Roast is a very popular dish in South Louisiana cooking. It involves the French technique of braising or pot roasting which comes from the French word “braiser”. The meat is seared at a high temperature, then finished in a covered pot with liquid, resulting in a succulent, flavorful meat and gravy. Coq au Vin is a well known French dish in which the braising technique is used.

History aside, it’s one of my favorite wintertime dishes as it fills the house with a wonderful aroma and is a hearty, warming, filling dish for a cold winter night. It’s one of those things where you sit on the couch under a heavy afghan in your warm fisherman’s sweater eating a big bowl of pot roast while watching your favorite movie or football team with your family. And then you fall asleep, warm and happy. Hmmmm.

When I was in Junior High, we lived on a corner; our side yard was very large and a long rectangular shape, completely unimpeded by shrubbery. It was the perfect place to play football and all the neighborhood boys and school friends would come play ball at my house in the fall during football season.

We would play no matter how cold it was and continue until it was so dark that we couldn't see anymore. By the time we quit and I went inside I was chilled to the bone, shivering badly and hungry as a bear. My mother usually had something cooking that was good and hot and she would hold up dinner until everyone went home and I came in. But what I loved and remembered about those meals was Pot Roast! By the time I changed clothes, she had dinner served. I would grab a bowl, go sit next to the fire and watch whatever my father had on TV and eat that wonderful incredible food. The warmth it brought would slowly spread through my cold body all the way to my finger tips and toes and leave me in a satisfied bliss.

POT ROAST (requires a large oven safe pot or roasting pan)

2 large chuck roasts
1 large onion chopped
5 stalks celery chopped
1 medium bellpepper chopped
8 large cloves garlic, minced
1 large bag baby carrots
5 large Red or 10 new potatoes, cubed (skin on)
Beef bouillion (I use Better Than Bouillion paste)

Salt, pepper and flour roasts, then brown both sides in oil. When browned, remove from pot. Add onion, celery, bellpepper and garlic and sauté, scraping the residue and drippings from the bottom of the pot. When vegetables are sauted well, push them to one side (or remove them entirely) and place roasts in bottom of pot. Place vegetables around the roasts; add potatoes and carrots and mix them with the sauted vegetables. In a large container, add 4 cups water and 3 tablespoons of bouillion (or 6 cubes) and dissolve. Pour into pot and add enough water to cover 1” over the top of the roasts and vegetables. Season with Tony’s and stir. Cover and bake in oven at 350 degrees (or cover and slowly simmer it on the stove) until roast is fork tender. Serve over rice.


See Tips and Information on Better Than Bouillion paste.

When browning floured meat, leave it alone and don't move it for a few minutes (the residual flour around it will brown), then you can turn it. Otherwise the floured crust will come off and stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fleur De Lis Round The World Pizza

I've travelled all over the country and Canada for business. As a result, I've eaten pizza at all kinds of different locale's including Chicago and NYC, however, the best pizza I've ever had is Fleur de Lis in my home town of Baton Rouge. Fleur De Lis was an existing cocktail lounge out of the city limits on a gravel road, back in 1946, when Mama & Papa Guercio bought it. Mama Guercio decided to make a small pizza as an appetizer for the lounge customers and her pizza was enjoyed so much that she begin to sell them. She originally made the pizza in small pie pans she brought from home. When she realized they needed a larger size, she used a rectangular cookie sheet and the "square" pizza Fleur De Lis is famous for was born.

If you haven't been to Baton Rouge and have the opportunity or if you live there and haven't had a pizza from Fleur De Lis, you need to go! However, if you don't live there anymore and are missing some Fleur De Lis pizza, you are going to love me! I've figured out the Round The World recipe!!! Yep, I finally did it. I don't live in Louisiana and haven't for years so I can't get home to get my fix anymore. I've been craving it therefore, through trial and error, I finally came up with the recipe. It still needs a little tweaking here and there but you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. At any rate this is still a darn good pizza recipe!

Fleur De Lis - Round The World Pizza

Smallest pkg lean ground meat (I prefer lean ground chuck)
1 pkg Mild Italian sausage, removed from casing
1 sm yellow Onion, halved then sliced thin
1-1/2 tsp Fennel
1-1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 sm can sliced Black olives, drained
1 sm can sliced Mushrooms, drained
1 sm can Tomato paste
4 tbl Olive oil
Garlic to taste (fresh minced or powdered)
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp Tony’s
Canadian Bacon (if large round slices, cut into quarters)
3 pkgs sliced Provolone (shredded is better but I couldn’t find it)
3 pizza crusts (I used Boboli store bought or you can prepare your own)
Ground Romano cheese optional

In medium to large skillet, brown ground meat and Italian sausage (removed from casing). As the meat is cooking keep breaking it up so, when it is done, it is ground and not lumpy. Add onion, mushrooms, fennel, Italian seasoning, garlic, olives, tomato paste, olive oil, salt, pepper, Tony's and saute until everything is browned and cooked thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Alternately place pepperoni and salami on pizza crust and spread cooked meat mixture on top. Make sure to spread it so that it is about a half inch thick, any thicker and the crust will get soggy. Generously top with provolone cheese, one layer of sliced isn’t thick enough so I used two layers. Bake at 425 degrees until cheese is mostly browning on top.
The quantity of pizza mixture is sufficient for 3 round pizza crusts. I used Boboli but in the future, I am going to make the following Bisquick recipe and press it into a rectangular cookie sheet. A good crust makes all the difference in the world and is crucial to a good pizza. Any leftover meat mixture can be frozen for future use.

2 cups Bisquick
1/2 cup hot water
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In medium bowl, combine baking mix, water, and olive oil and beat hard until a dough forms. Press dough into a greased pan, dipping your fingers in flour to prevent sticking. Prepare pizza as indicated above.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Chocolate Cake In A Mug

For my eighth birthday, my parents got me a black standard poodle. Because he looked like a little teddy bear we, of course, named him Teddy. Teddy was very sneaky, always doing bad things quietly and quickly without us looking which, in turn, we would later discover.

One afternoon my mom made a delicious homemade, from scratch, chocolate cake with cream cheese icing to take to a friends birthday party that night. After the cake was cooled and she frosted it, Mom left it on the kitchen counter while she went to get dressed.

My sister and I were in our rooms when I heard noises coming from the kitchen. I went in there to investigate. Teddy was on top of the counter hovering over the cake!

He had licked all the icing off one side and had proceeded to devour that side of the cake! When he saw me, he jumped down and ran out the kitchen and hid somewhere...his usual modus operandi and I called Mom. She was so upset and there wasn't any time left to bake a new cake. Sooooo, she made more icing, filled in the "uneven" part, re-iced the cake and took it to the party!!! LOL, I wonder if anybody there ever knew what had happened and that my dog had eaten part of the cake and they had eaten after the dog! I break into fits of laughter everytime I think about that! My baddd!

Anyway, you can avoid that from happening to you too by making this simple recipe!!! It's a cake in a mug! Yeah, I could call it a cupcake but then that would be misleading. But, oh no! I would never do that! Unlike my mother that day! LOL~ Seriously, you can make a homemade cake, from scratch in a simple coffee mug in just 5 minutes and it is wonderful! It's great if you're single or just want a little something without baking a whole cake or a batch of brownies. I've modified the recipe a bit to make it sweeter and moister, more like a brownie than a cake. Use a mug like one you would get from the company you work for rather than one that comes with your dishes. The "commerical" ones are a little bit taller than the ones from your set, therefore, the batter doesn't overflow.


4 tablespoons flour, level
4 tablespoons sugar, level
2 tablespoons cocoa, level
1 egg
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons chocolate syrup
A small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug (Microwave Safe)

Add dry ingredients to the mug and mix with a fork. Add egg and oil. Mix thoroughly while ensuring that you get the dry ingredients off the bottom and sides. Add in the vanilla and syrup, stir. Slowly add in the milk, stir well to thoroughly incorporate it into the batter. While mixing, feel the bottom with the fork for thickness and stir until that is well mixed. Put your mug on a microwave safe plate and place it in the microwave. Cook for three minutes. The cake will rise up and over the top of the mug, but don’t be alarmed! Allow it to cool then eat it directly out of the mug or tip out onto the plate if desired. Frosting is optional.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Best Chili

I was never a big fan of chili as there was really only one recipe that I ate growing up and it was really basic with only four ingredients. My mother usually got distracted with other things so she didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the recipe or the process therefore, it just wasn't very good. While I've had good chili through the years, I just never obtained a recipe.

Last year, one of my aunt's brothers was in town visiting and made a huge pot of his special chili. Everyone loved it but my cousin and I thought it was a little on the "hot" side. You know, some people like their food so darn hot you can't taste anything at all because your mouth is on fire and you're sweating like a dog! That's how this chili was. However, I saw that it was a really good recipe and worth a little modification. All it needed was to have some of the heat taken out and some veggies added to it for flavor. When I made my modified version I thought it was fabulous and was so excited about it that I invited my cousin over to have some and he loved it! Since then, several friends have eaten some and they agreed that it was wonderful! Trust friends and family would let me know! Here is the best chili recipe I know of!

3 lbs lean ground chuck
1 onion chopped
4-5 stalks celery chopped
½ bellpepper chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
½ small bottle Italian dressing (Zesty or Viva)
1 to 1-1/2 lg bottle Mexene Chili Powder or your favorite
2 pkgs dry onion soup mix
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans chili beans (not red kidney beans)
1 bottle 32 oz of V8 juice
Optional: Cheese of your choice (shredded cheddar or cubed Velveeta , plain or Mexican)

In a large pot brown the meat, ensuring that it is broken up and very crumbled. Then add onions, garlic, bellpepper and celery. Cook until wilted. Add all remaining ingredients (except cheese) and stir well. Simmer about 2 hours, check seasonings. Season to taste then cook another 30 min to an hour. Optional: Add sliced cheese to each serving and stir to melt.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Shrimp Salad

Back in the early 80's when I was working as a dental assistant, a friend of a co-worker opened a little lunch place not far from our office. To help her jump start her business, we all went there for lunch on her opening day. I had the Shrimp Salad and it was nothing like any one I had ever eaten but I couldn't discern what made it so special as she had run the ingredients through a meat grinder. For years, I have looked and looked for a recipe that was close to what I thought hers was. Two weeks ago, I happened upon probably her identical recipe while surfing the internet. I made it this past weekend and Yep, it's the one! At Last....(conjurning up Etta James)! Here you go! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

1 pound shrimp
3 boiled eggs
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
Zatarain’s liquid crab boil
Lemon pepper

Peel then boil shrimp on the stove or in the microwave with some Zatarain’s liquid crab boil and salt. Boil, cool and peel eggs. Chop celery, green onion and mince the garlic and place in medium size boil. Remove egg yolks from whites and break them apart with your fingers or a fork into bowl. Chop egg whites, add to bowl.

When shrimp are cooked and cooled, chop and place in bowl. Add mayo, lemon pepper, salt and Tony’s, mix well.
Check seasonings and add more or add mayo as needed. Cover and refrigerate to let the flavors all meld together. Serve on a bed of lettuce. I prefer finely shredded lettuce with this recipe. It’s also good on tomato slices.

*** You can coarsely chop all your ingredients, but I really like them finely chopped. This is the one recipe that makes me really miss my Cuisinart!!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

French Onion Soup

I didn't go to college (LSU) until 1986 when I was 25 and I put myself through school with the help of my wonderful grandparents. That following November, when I was 26, I came down with the chicken pox. Yes, you read that correctly! Let me repeat it....Twenty-six years old with the chicken pox...UGH. Even when the Board of Health and Hospitals called they didn't believe it, they kept asking for my mother! We went round and round until I finally convinced the woman on the line that YES, I am an adult and YES, I have the chicken pox! Needless to say, it took me a long time to recover, it's true when they say childhood illnesses hit adults particularly hard. I was covered, densely, from head to toe with those little devils!

Fortunately, after several weeks (yep, that's true too), I was recuperating fairly well but I was still contagious and couldn't get out yet. I was bored as heck and bouncing off the walls! My dear friend and neighbor offered to pick up some groceries for me when she went shopping so I gave her a small list. Since it was December by this time, and cold, I inventoried my pantry and decided I had most everything to make a big pot of French Onion Soup.

I had never made it before and was interested in doing something fun to help allieviate my boredom without being too involved as I was still regaining my strength. French Onion Soup is pretty easy to make and is really inexpensive, not to mention soul soothing which was just what I needed. I've tried several recipes over the years and modified them until I came up with the following. The first time I made it and ever since then, I've served it with my Gourmet Chicken Salad with Snow Peas and Water Chestnuts. They make a great combination!

6 large sweet onions, halved lengthwise then sliced
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 stick butter
3 tbl flour
1 cup white wine
8 cans beef broth or equivalent (ie boxed broth)
Salt and ground pepper, to taste
Sliced Gruyere (have the deli slice it for you, it’s free of charge!)
Sliced Parmesan cheese (have the deli slice it also)
Sliced Swiss cheese
1/3 cup Cognac, dry Madeira or dry sherry
6-8 slices toasted, buttered French bread

Slice and caramelize onions in oil and butter. To do this, just add the oil and butter to the pot, heat, then add onions and saute until brown and wilted. You can sprinkle some salt in it to dry up some of the liquid and speed up the process. Usually the onions will not get really dark.

Sprinkle flour over onions and blend well. Slowly add broth, stirring well to blend with flour to avoid lumps then add wine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook at a slow simmer until done about 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours, onions should be completely clear.

Ladle into oven safe bowl. Put 1 slice of toasted, buttered French bread into bowl and top with the cheeses. Broil in the oven until brown and bubbly.

***Simply for ease, I just place the cheeses in the bottom of a regular soup bowl, ladle the soup over it, heat it in the microwave until the soup is hot and the cheese is melted, while toasting French bread or a sourdough bun with butter. Then I dip the bread in the soup while eating rather than broiling it all in the traditional method. I love it either way!