It’s Fat Tuesday Mon Ami! The one magical day in the year where gluttony is celebrated in its many forms, both tasty and tasteless. In my early twenties I made my first pilgrimage to the Crescent City. I was captivated by the art, the song, the mood of this one-of-a-kind city. Okay, I might have been wooed by a Hurricane too. Sadly it would be many years before I’d venture back to this Spanish Moss laden Brigadoon. Unfortunately it would be a post Catrina trip. Even years removed from the ravages of Catrina and her aftermath, NOLA still bears the scars.
No matter the time -nor distance- between The Cornstalk Hotel, Muriel’s on Jackson Square, Preservation Hall and I, I’ve always managed to keep a bit of NOLA with me. Partly through photographs, but mostly through food. That is the beauty of Fat Tuesday, no matter where you are you can make your own “New Orleans”. What follows are some links to just a few of my favorite recipes and traditions for Mardi Gras.
Oh and by the way, if you think a trip to NOLA is out of the question because you’ve got offspring in tow. Think again, and check out this great piece on Family-Friendly New Orleans. Note: I’d still steer clear of Bourbon with the babies. <—see what I did there?
Shrimp & Grits(this version from Bon Appetite puts an egg on top, not traditional per se but I’m always one for putting and egg on it)
Muffuletta (note: Party Blueprints is a great place for all things food and fun. I’d totally live there if I could)
Forgotten Jambalaya (BONUS this one is a slow cooker recipe!)
Gorgonzola & Pear Tart(While not Cajun, Chef Gus Martin at Muriel’s on Jackson Square makes this slice of heaven that keeps me coming back. If I could get my hands on his recipe… I’d never share!)
Do you garden? Even if you don’t, if you hit any local farmer’s markets it’s likely you’ve seen a few zillion zucchini around. This gorgeous green gourd (yep, a squash is a gourd gang) is my summertime muse. I can’t get enough of the stuff. Then winter swoops in, like a bad breakup, and steals the zucchini from me. So I devised a pot to save me some lovin’ for the cold days ahead. I concocted zucchini alchemy in my kitchen by transforming my “Zuppa Zucchini” into warm mugs of zen whenever I want it.
Let’s start with the recipe for awesome…
2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tsp butter (optional)
1 medium onion, chopped roughly
2 pounds of Zucchini, trimmed (removing the skin is optional here)
2 1/2 cups chicken or veggie stock
1 1/4 light cream or half&half
Salt, pepper and dried oregano (to taste)
Shaved Parmesan or Asiago cheese (optional)
Heat oil and butter in a large sauce pot (an enameled cast iron Dutch Oven works best, really it does make a difference) until it starts to foam up a bit. Don’t let it burn though! Add in the onion, cook it through, stirring frequently (about 5 minutes) just until it’s softened but not brown. Add in zucchini and your spices (to taste). Cook them over a medium flame (or heat) for 10 minutes. Pour your stock over the veg and bring to a boil. Now lower your heat by half, put the lid on the pot and let it groove for about 30 minutes, string it now and then so it doesn’t get lonely.
Remove your soup from the heat and let it chill out a bit. Puree in a food process until smooth, then press rough a sieve into your pot.
Now, you can heat this up and enjoy it now. OR you can break out a muffin tin. NO we are not making muffins.. well unless you want to make them and bringing some over for me! Fill your muffin tins 3/4 of the way full with soup. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it atop your soup so as to force out the air. Then cover you plastic wrap with foil. Pop those puppies in the freezer over night.
Remove them the next day, run a little warm water across the bottoms and then whack that tray on a hard surface. Now you’ve got little hockey pucks of frozen zuppa AWESOME. Simply pop them in a mug and zap them in the microwave or pile a few into a pot with a splash of stock and warm them up stove-side to feed the family.
You’ll be thanking me all winter long when you’re noshing these tasty treats!
Being a big family has never kept us rooted at home. Given the opportunity, we pick up and go! Planes, trains and automobiles? We’ve done that. This summer we set out to explore the Gulf Coast. The adventure began with taking the kids, and even our car, along on the Amtrak Auto Train to Florida’s glimmering shores. Waving a fond farewell to Florida, we hit the road, landing in Savannah, Georgia.
If I had to use one word to sum up our stay in Savannah it would have to be, Magical.
To be honest, choosing to stay in Savannah was more a strategy than a burning desire to see the place before I die. The logic? The kids could only last a maximum of eight hours in the car before a hierarchy emerged and people started to be marked for elimination. Not good. So Savannah it was. Lucky for me -card carrying member of the Residence Moms Club- there were a few Residence Inns (RI) to choose from. Little did I know what amazing stay we’d have at the the RI Historic District.
From the moment we pulled up in front of the charming brick building -nestled amongst art museums, city trolley tour stops and historic landmarks- we were made to feel like family. A friendly valet welcomed us, helped with bags and made the kids giggle (a very “luxury property” touch). The desk staff got us checked in, in a jiffy, then gave us a mini tour of the property, from the fire pit crowning the sparking pool and courtyard, to the full dining area and bar, the place as an “Old South” feel and true Southern Hospitality.Obviously the kids loved the pool most of all. That and they Eggs Florentine, grits and fresh waffles at the free breakfast bar. My kids love to eat. I enjoyed having a full kitchen (hello, eating out with a family of 6 can break the bank) stocked with groceries that the RI staff picked up for me and had delivered to our room, swoon.
The staff were so much more than hospitality workers, they became our personal tour guides, recommending places the locals go to eat, indulging my obsession with Johnny Mercer and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” and pointing us to an awesome dolphin tour. We got to see WILD baby dolphins!
My absolute favorite part of our visit to Savannah (other than the Shrimp and Grits at The Boar’s Head Grill and Tavern on the Riverwalk) was the afternoon we spent at Bonaventure Cemetery. Yes, I drug my kids into a cemetery as a family activity, don’t judge. In the visitor’s center, most people grab a map and go, in a rush to go find the Bird Girl. We lingered, and boy was it worth it. We met a lovely Southern Gentleman, a member of the historical society and a treasure. He entertained us with an oral history of Savannah in a way no book or website could. We learned about the founding of the city, why the cemetery is laid out the way it is, how it was inclusive of several religions at a time when this was a rarity in the south. Some of the stories he told us were simply jaw-dropping. Like the one about his 200 year old obelisk that made it’s way into the Georgia soil all the way from France.
How did it end up in Bonaventure, and why? Well it was purchased by a local businessman who wanted to save the particular plot it resides on, for the day he meets his eternal rest. Where does one go to purchase a several ton marble obelisk from France? Why, eBay of course! True story.
Bonaventure was also the perfect place for me to hone my very-amateur photography skills.
From encounters with wild dolphins to a not-so-spooky walking ghost tour, amazing eats to quaint cobblestone streets, Savannah is a magical place imbued with true Southern hospitality, steeped in history and the perfect place for a family adventure!
Disclosure: Our stay at the Residence Inn in Savannah was compensated as part of my participation in the Residence Inn Moms Club. I was under no obligation to give this property a favorable review. As ALWAYS my opinions are my own. That said, you should stay at this property, words really can not describe how wonderful our stay was.
Don’t let the eye-talian last name fool ya, I’m a Lass o’ Erin through and through. With the annual, “Tell everyone you’re Irish so you can either a) get a kiss or b) get ya some Belgian beer dyed green in honor of your heritage” day, fast approaching I thought I might inject a little Irish into your St. Padraig’s (<–not a typo) festivities. What better way to go Gaelic than with the be-all-end-all of barley based beverages..
Guinness it’s what’s for dinner..lunch & desert too!!!
Guinness BBQ Glaze
1 12oz bottle of Guinness stout
1 tsp honey
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp Balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
In a medium sauce pan bring Guinness to a rolling boil. Lower heat (medium to low) and allow to reduce by 3/4. Stir in remaining ingredients and remove from heat. Baste desired protein with this delectable homage to Ireland*. Bain sult as!
Traditional Irish Soda Bread would turn it’s nose up at a raisin and never be seen in public with a caraway seed. My Gran used both. She was a rebel. In her honor I’m staging my own soda bread rebellion. It’s away with the caraway and enter the conquering currants and their cousins. Since nothing in life can not be made better by a propper beer.. you guessed it this recipe calls for GUINNESS!
Gran’s Soda Bread ala Guinness
1 2/3 cups of bread or all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (I prefer kosher)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup raisins
1 large egg (room temp)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup Guinness stout
4 tbsp unsalted butter (melted)
Preheat oven to 357 degrees. Grease (or line) a large baking sheet. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix in currants and raisins. In a medium bowl whisk egg, butter and buttermilk together. Add this wet mixture into the dry until moistened, adding the Guinness in as the final step. Batter should be sticky but also stiff. If it’s too wet, add more flour by teaspoons until batter stiffens. Turn the batter out onto your greased cooking sheet and form it into a 6 inch diameter tall disk, pat down slightly. Using a sharp knife, cut an “X” into the top. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean, when done. Allow to cool on a rack. (though I can’t help stealing a hot slice to slather with white butter). Ith suas!
Generally I make four to six loaves of Soda Bread each St. Pat’s. Why so much? PUDDING!!!
Chocolate Guinness SODA Bread Pudding with Jameson Sauce
2 loaves Gran’s Soda Bread
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2 large egg YOLKS
12 ounces dark chocolate (I use a bar and chop it up but chips or even semi-sweet chocolate work just as good)
2 cups milk (whole not low fat.. this is not your average WW dessert.. Le Sigh)
1 tablespoon Bourbon Vanilla
Cut bread into 1/2 inch cubes and place in a large mixing bowl. In a sauce pot bring the heavy cream, sugar and salt to a boil (string constantly). Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until smooth. Whisk in eggs and yolks, adding in milk and vanilla. Pour this mixture over the bread and allow to stand for 1 to 2 hours. Occasionally give it a stir to be sure the bread soaks up the liquids. Preheat oven to 325 degrees, butter a shallow 2 quart baking dish. Prepare a water bath. Pour bread mixture into the baking dish and smooth out the top. Bake for 50-60 minutes until the center feels firm when you press it down with a spatula. Allow to cool for a minimum of 20 minutes.
Jameson IRISH Whiskey Sauce
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tbsp water
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup Jameson Irish Whiskey
In a small sauce pan, melt butter over low heat. Using a wooden (NOT METAL) spoon stir in sugar, whiskey, water nutmeg and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is well blended and the sugar dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk until frothy. Add in egg and whisk the heck out of the sucker (aka vigorously). Put back on a medium heat, string continuously until thickened, about a minute or so. Serve atop the just warm Chocolate Guinness Soda Bread Pudding. Oh chomh maith!
Irish or not, embrace the spirit of Saint Padraig’s day. Go chase a snake off some island. Or just find a table, gather round and enjoy good food, hearty drink and the telling of tales with those you care about. HÉireann i bhfad beo or Erin Go Bragh!
*Note: Corned Beef.. not-so-Irish.. more Jewish, still a great “ish” though. Now salmon, there is an Irish “meat”! This glaze is OUTSTANDING on salmon!!
Okay put that first thought you had on hold, this post is about food.. come’ on people! Of course if Johnny Depp had returned my calls about MANuary we could have gone in a whole new direction with this one. Alas, it was not to be. So we will rebound with SNACKS! And because we have ALL stuck with our resolutions this year we’ll make those snacks a bit more “skinny” with the help of Frito-Lay and my mad kitchen ninja skills. Thus the “Skinny” Dipping (punny aren’t I?)
Oh and yeah since I have this thing about “sharing” the nice folks of Frito-Lay have indulged me with a giveaway FOR YOU!
(stay tuned to the end of the post for details)
First we’ll head south of the border for my childhood comfort food with a twist.
Tasty Tamale Dip
1 8oz package low-fat cream cheese (room temp)
1 cup low-fat Mexican cheese blend (shredded) -reserve 1/4 cup for topping
1 can diced green chilies
2 tablespoons reduced sodium taco seasoning
1/2 cup green olives (sliced)
Hot sauce to taste (after all some like it hot)
Low fat sour cream and shredded lettuce for garnish (optional)
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor or medium sized bowl, combine all ingredients (accept reserved 1/4 cup of cheese) until well mixed. Place in a baking dish (I used a fun Mexican pottery dish). Top with reserved cheese and bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly. Garnish as desired
Now here is the MOST IMPORTANT part. A tamale is a wonderful stuffed corn meal concoction that warms your belly and takes you to Mexico.. so you must have corn! How do we do that? By dipping Fritos Scoops into the warm cheesy goodness. Trust me it’s really good and a heck of a lot less work than an actual tamale!
Next we take a trip to Italy.. alright maybe it’s just a new take on an old dip but doesn’t a trip to Italy sound great?
2-3 Roma tomatoes (diced)
1-2 gloves of garlic (minced) the amount of garlic increases the “heat”
6-8 leaves basil (FRESH, chopped)
1/2 cup onion (chopped)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup olives (chopped) I use Greek but you can choose your favorite
1/4 cup Pine Nuts (toasted)
1/4 teaspoon Anchovy paste (optional)
cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste
EASY PEASY PREP! Combine all ingredients accept oil, lemon zest and anchovy paste (if using) in a medium sized bowl. Add lemon and paste to the oil and stir until combined, pour over salsa mix and combine. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes prior to serving. We noshed on these with Tostitos Scoops.. it was like an Italian taco salad!
Now that you’re all hungry and stuff how about we set you up with some Frito-Lay snacks and say $100 DOLLARS (in the form of an Amex gift card) to host a killer Super Bowl party or an out of this world snack fest? One lucky Nuggetier (aka reader) will win this fabu prize! And how you say? I’ll tell ya.
Required for entry:
Visit the Snack Chat blog (which is a treat in itself). Follow Frito-Lay on Twitter (@FritoLay) and come join me as a Frito-Lay fan on Facebook…it’s fun, trust me! Come back here and leave me a comment telling me you did this and what your all time FAVORITE game day snack is (If you don’t dig football, don’t tell me. I’d have to not like you and neither of us want that, ha ha).
Want ONE more entry? Follow me on Twitter and tweet this:
“I’m going “skinny” dipping w/@DipaolaMomma to #win $100 & snacks from @FritoLay http://bit.ly/e1veIW ”
MAX of two entries per person. Contest ends January 31, 2011 at 10 pm (est). Winner will be chosen by random number generation and notified via email on or about February 2, 2011
This is post was not sponsored by Frito-Lay however I was provided with monetary compensation in exchange for creating the ORIGINAL recipes featured in this piece. Prizes are being provided by a third party.