31 May 2009

Video: Paul Deen Picnic Picks

From Denny: Paula Deen is always entertaining as well as informative with real recipes we can easily use! Take a look at her ideas for picnics and easy weekend dining.

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30 May 2009

Recipe: Crawfish Pie

From Denny: Crawfish Pie is easy to make and a huge favorite around here. During crawfish season (from about March through the end of May, sometimes into the first week of June) we enjoy these simple pies. If you don't have crawfish available, use shrimp! We don't use Chinese crawfish because of the heavy metals contaminants found in them. Use Louisiana crawfish whenever you can - just buy it as the frozen tails already shelled for you.

From: Shelley Boudreaux and given to publish in the 2theadvocate.com food section (local newspaper in Baton Rouge, Louisiana)

Makes 2 (9-inch) pies.


2 pie crusts

1-1/2 sticks butter

2 onions, chopped

1 bunch green onions, washed, dried and chopped

1/2 bunch fresh parsley, washed, dried and chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

2 lbs. crawfish tails

Tony’s Cajun Seasoning or salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

2 (14-oz.) cans cream of mushroom soup

2 (14-oz.) cans cream of celery soup

2 to 3 cups cooked rice


1. Place pie crust in bottom of 9-inch pie dish. Repeat with second crust. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In large skillet, melt butter and sauté onions, green onions, parsley and garlic until onions are soft.

3. Add crawfish tails and season to taste. Cook, uncovered for about 10 minutes.

4. Add cream of mushroom and cream of celery soups. Cook another 5-10 minutes.

5. Remove from heat and gently stir in at least 2 cups of cooked rice. You will have to judge if it looks too soupy and if so add more rice. Allow the filling to cool slightly.

6. Spoon into prepared pie crusts. Crimp top edge of pie or gently fold it over the pie filling. Repeat.

7. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes or until each pie crust is nicely browned and pie is heated through. If after 15-18 minutes pie crust top is getting too browned, cover top edges with strips of foil to prevent burning. Cool about 5 minutes before serving.

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29 May 2009

Recipe: Italian Stuffed Steaks (Braciolini)

From Denny: Italian comfort food reigns supreme in Louisiana too! This is an old dish still popular today. It takes a while to make, can be done in stages, and is usually reserved for special gatherings or holidays. Long on presentation!

From: 2theadvocate.com

"Like most heritage recipes, each family adds its own special touches, which came from previous generations.

Most of the bracioline dishes in our area are stuffed with a combination of ham, prosciutto (ham of Parma), bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, salami or sausages. Some wrap the meat around whole hard-cooked eggs. Grace Guarisco slices the eggs, and her in-laws never use eggs. They wrap the meat around diced potatoes.

The recipe I’m preparing in the photo is from the late Mona Drago. She taught me to make her version of Braciolini and Tomato Gravy years ago for a Food Focus show. Her steak is stuffed with prosciutto, salami, pepperoni, cheese, bread crumbs and whole hard-cooked eggs.

The meat is thin-cut beef, top or bottom round, steaks. Ask the butcher to cut the steaks between ø and ‰ inch thick. You will find that some recipes call for veal, but most suggest round steak.

This is not a complicated recipe; it just takes time to cook the gravy and the meat. As long as you can wrap the meat around the stuffing and secure it with cotton string, you have it made. The Tomato Gravy is cooked slowly for 3 to 4 hours before it is poured over the meat. Then it cooks with the Bracioline for 2 to 2-1/2 more hours. Yes, it takes time, but it’s worth the effort."

By food writer Corinne Cook

Mona’s Braciolini (Stuffed Steaks With Three Meats and Cheese)

From: Mona Drago

Serves 12-14. Recipe can be halved.



3 round steaks sliced thin (get the butcher to cut them less than &permil-inch thick)

1/2 lb. prosciutto (Italian ham), thinly sliced (substitute regular ham if you cannot find the prosciutto)

1/2 lb. salami, thinly sliced

1/2 lb. pepperoni, thinly sliced

1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Italian bread crumbs

5 or 6 hard-cooked eggs

4 strips bacon

Tomato Gravy (recipe follows)


1. Overlap the round steaks a little on each other, then pound the meat well with the flat side of a meat mallet.

2. Layer the ham, then the salami, pepperoni, cheese and bread crumbs.

3. Line the boiled eggs on one end and holding the meat and filling together as you start, roll up jellyroll style.

4. Tie securely with cotton string.

5. Place bacon over the top of the meat. Pour Tomato Gravy over the meat and cook at 350 degrees for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, depending on the size of the steak.

Tomato Gravy


1 large onion

2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

3 or 4 ribs celery, chopped

1/3 cup olive oil

1 (12-oz.) can tomato paste

3 tbls. sugar

1 (28-oz.) can tomato purée or 2 (16-oz.) cans whole tomatoes, cut up

Salt, black pepper and red pepper, to taste

Oregano, to taste

Sweet basil, to taste

2 or 3 bay leaves

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

Cooked pasta


1. Cook onions, garlic and celery in olive oil until vegetables are tender. Add tomato paste and sugar. Fry this until it begins to hold together and is a nice rich color, about 15-25 minutes.

2. Fill the tomato paste can with water and add 2 cans of water to the tomato mixture. Cook for about 15 minutes then add tomato purée and seasoning. Add 2-30 quarts of water and cook slowly, covered, for at least three hours or until slightly thickened. If mixture gets too thick, thin with a little more water.

3. Pour over prepared meat and bake in 350-degree oven for 2 to 3 hours, depending on size of steaks.

4. To serve, remove string, cut meat into slices and serve over cooked pasta with added gravy over the top.


Another version of Italian Stuffed Steak:

Siracusa Bracioline

From: Grace Siracusa Guarisco

Serves 4.

Note: This is enough steak and filling for 1 bracioline. Double or triple these ingredients if serving more and wrap each separately.


1 to 1-1/4 lbs. thin-cut top or bottom round steak (slightly less than &permil-inch thick)

Salt, black pepper and red pepper

2 to 4 slices thin-sliced ham

4 pieces sliced bacon, fried crisp and crumbled

2 sliced hard-cooked eggs

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup Italian-style seasoned bread crumbs

2 tbls. chopped fresh basil or parsley

Olive oil for browning

Italian Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)


1. Season meat, which has been pounded into rectangle about 1/4-inch thick, to taste with salt, black pepper and red pepper. On top of steak, layer ham, then crumbled bacon, sliced hard-cooked eggs. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and seasoned bread crumbs. Those amounts need not be exact. Sprinkle with either chopped fresh parsley or fresh basil.

2. Roll up tightly, jellyroll style, and tie securely with cotton string to secure stuffing. Brown meat, on all sides, in large heavy pot in about 1/3 cup olive oil.

3. Pour cooked Italian Tomato Sauce over stuffed steak and cook for about 2 hours. Do not overcook or steak will fall apart instead of slicing nicely.

Italian Tomato Sauce

This is enough sauce for three (1- to 1-1/4-lb.) braciolini.


1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes

1 (12-oz.) can and 1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste

6-3/4 cups water

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 tsp. dried basil

1/4 tsp. oregano

Pinch of ground cinnamon

2 to 3 tbls. sugar

4 to 5 leaves of fresh basil, coarsely chopped

1-1/2 to 2 lbs. pasta


1. In heavy pot, sauté onion in olive oil until almost tender. Add the garlic after the onions have cooked awhile. Add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste.

2. Cook tomato mixture, while stirring constantly, until it’s a deep red, about 15 minutes.

3. Add water, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, dried basil, oregano, cinnamon and sugar. Cook slowly, covered, for 3 to 5 hours.

4. Right before serving add the fresh basil.

5. Pour over prepared Bracioline and cook an additional 2 hours.

6. To serve, remove string, slice and serve over cooked pasta with extra sauce over the top.

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28 May 2009

Recipe: Parmesan, Pecan & Arugula Baskets

From Denny: These are delightful baskets made from Parmesan cheese to hold your salad and Brie cheese "egg." It's a bit of whimsy along with good eating! If you don't own a non-stick skillet (like me) you can use a Silpat sheet to melt the cheese.

From: Taste of Home, April/May 2009 issue

Serves 6.

Parmesan, Pecan & Arugula Baskets


1 cup plus 2 tbls. shredded Parmesan cheese

2 tbls. finely chopped pecans


4 cups fresh arugula or spring mix salad greens

1/2 cup red or green grapes, halved

3 tbls. chopped pecans, divided

2 tbls. olive oil

1 tbl. raspberry vinegar

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. black pepper

Soft brie cheese, optional


1. Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons cheese and 1 teaspoon chopped pecans in a circle over the bottom of the skillet.

2. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until edges are golden brown and cheese is bubbly. Remove from the heat and let stand for 30 seconds.

3. Using a spatula, carefully lift cheese mixture out of pan and immediately drape oven an inverted old-fashion-shaped glass that has a 2-inch diameter bottom; cool completely.

4. Repeat with remaining cheese and pecans, forming six baskets.

5. For salad, in a large bowl, combine the arugula, grapes and 2 tablespoons of chopped pecans. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper; pour over arugula mixture and toss to coat. Place 1/2 cup salad in each basket.

6. If desired, shape a spoonful of soft brie cheese into a tiny egg shape and roll in remaining chopped pecans. Place “speckled brie egg” on top of salad in the Parmesan nest. Make an egg for each salad. Serve immediately.

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27 May 2009

Recipe: Sir Percy’s Favorite Sticky Lemon Cake

Cover of "Aunt Dimity and the Deep Blue S...Cover via Amazon

Sir Percy’s Favorite Sticky Lemon Cake

From:Aunt Dimity and the Deep Blue Sea” mystery book by Nancy Atherton

From Denny: Don't you just love it when an author gives you recipes after finishing their novel, cool! We love lemon recipes here in Louisiana, crazy for them!

Serves 6 to 8.


3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1-1/2 tsps. grated lemon peel

2 large eggs

1-1/4 cups self-rising flour

Optional toppings: whipped cream, clotted cream, lemon curd or confectioners’ sugar

Lemon Syrup:

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square glass baking dish.

2. Use an electric mixer to cream the butter in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Add the sugar and lemon peel and beat until fluffy.

3. Beat in one egg, then half of the flour; repeat.

4. Pour the batter into the buttered glass baking dish. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake’s center comes out clean. Place the pan on a rack.

5. While the cake is baking, combine the 1/2 cup sugar and ø cup lemon juice in a small bowl to make the Lemon Syrup. Whisk until the sugar dissolves.

6. Use a toothpick to poke holes all over the top of the warm cake. Spoon the Lemon Syrup slowly over the cake, allowing it to soak in. Cool the cake completely.

7. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and cut into small squares. It’s very rich. Can also be served with whipped cream, clotted cream or lemon curd.

Testing note: The Sticky Lemon Cake tastes like a lemon square. It’s better the second day when the acidity of the lemon juice and peel have mellowed. Store covered in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature to serve.

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26 May 2009

Recipe: Grilled Shrimp with Chocolate Mole Poblano Sauce

From Denny: We love seafood because it is quick to prepare. Here's a new twist; pair grilled shrimp with a chocolate mole sauce! Anything chocolate works for me!

From: Southern Living Magazine, a wonderful resource recipe database.

Southern Living, "This recipe offers a creative savory use of Andrew Weil's "perfect" food: dark chocolate. The chocolate adds richness to the mole, a traditional Mexican sauce. Prepare the sauce a day ahead, and refrigerate so the flavors have time to develop. Store the mole poblano, covered, in the refrigerator for up to three days, or freeze for up to two months."


2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups Mole Poblano (recipe follows)


Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.

Pat shrimp dry with paper towels. Combine shrimp, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Thread the shrimp onto 6 (8-inch) skewers. Place skewers on grill pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until done. Serve with Mole Poblano.

Note: Nutritional analysis includes 1/3 cup Mole Poblano per serving.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 skewer and 1/3 cup mole poblano)

CALORIES 230 (25% from fat); FAT 6.5g (sat 1.5g,mono 2.1g,poly 1.2g); IRON 3.7mg; CHOLESTEROL 230mg; CALCIUM 79mg; CARBOHYDRATE 10.1g; SODIUM 556mg; PROTEIN 32g; FIBER 1.3g


Mole Poblano

If needed, add more water during the final 18 minutes of cooking to achieve the desired consistency.
This recipe goes with Shrimp with Mole Poblano


2 ancho chiles, seeded

2 mulato chiles, seeded

1 pasilla chile, seeded

2 plum tomatoes

2 (6-inch) corn tortillas

1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

Cooking spray

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 soft black plantain, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/4 cup sliced almonds

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/4 cups water, divided

2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

3/4 teaspoon salt


Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ancho, mulato, and pasilla chiles; cook 1 minute on each side. Place chiles in a medium bowl; cover with hot water. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes; drain.

While chiles soak in hot water, place tomatoes in pan, and cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from pan. Add tortillas to pan, and cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until browned. Place drained chiles, tomatoes, tortillas, and broth in a blender; process until smooth.

Heat pan over medium-high heat. Coat the pan with cooking spray. Add chopped onion, and sauté for 3 minutes. Add plantain, and sauté for 3 minutes or until browned. Add almonds and garlic; sauté for 1 minute. Stir in unsweetened cocoa, cumin, cinnamon, and cloves; sauté 15 seconds. Place onion mixture and 1/4 cup water in blender with chile mixture; process until smooth.

Place chile mixture, 1 cup water, and chocolate in pan; cook over medium heat, partially covered, 18 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in lime juice and salt.

Wine note: The complex flavors of moles are a big challenge when it comes to wine. One style I like is fruity but dry rieslings. These have crisp acidity to counterbalance a mole's intense flavor, plus a touch of fruitiness that plays perfectly off the chiles. A great example: Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling Cold Creek Vineyard 2003 from Washington's Columbia Valley ($17). -Karen MacNeil

Yield: 4 cups (serving size: 1/3 cup)

CALORIES 80 (30% from fat); FAT 2.7g (sat 1.1g,mono 0.7g,poly 0.4g); IRON 0.6mg; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 23mg; CARBOHYDRATE 13.8g; SODIUM 219mg; PROTEIN 1.9g; FIBER 1.8g

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25 May 2009

Memorial Day Poems

From Denny: These are a selection from many wonderful poems written with heavy hearts and great sincerity about the reality of how war affects us all. The old men who send young men to war rarely stop long enough - or at all - to consider their haste to anger and action affects the entire nation for generations to come.

The following are not glory poems but rather the perspectives of those involved in war be they one soldier, a POW, a mother, a daughter, a citizen who knew none of them but felt a duty to pray for them constantly, knowing the personal cost war would bring to all. They span several wars from the Civil War to WWII, the Korean War and today's Iraq and Afghanistan War.

These poems came from the comprehensive Memorial Day site where there is much more than poems to view. Please take a look today as you remember those who came before us.

For the link to the Memorial Day Poems post at my poetry blog, The Social Poets, go here.

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Recipe: Chicken and Potato Pancakes

From Denny: Here is a savory version of the pancake that is quick and easy to do this busy Memorial Day weekend. It's also special enough to impress family and friends who visit! And a comfort food prepackaged cream gravy you add wine to? Can it get any easier or tastier?

Chicken-and-Potato Pancakes

From: Southern Living Magazine. Be sure to check out their site for all kinds of wonderful comfort food as your resource to return to time and time again!

Prep: 15 min., Cook: 9 min. per batch. The secret to tender pancakes? Mix the batter just long enough to incorporate the ingredients, and flip them only once.


2 cups instant pancake mix

2 cups milk

2 cups shredded cooked chicken

1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded Colby-Jack cheese blend

1 cup refrigerated shredded hash browns

4 green onions, finely chopped

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Quick Cream Gravy (optional)


1. Whisk together pancake mix and milk in a large bowl, whisking just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in chicken and next 6 ingredients, stirring just until blended.

2. Pour about 1/4 cup batter for each cake onto a hot (350°), lightly greased griddle or large nonstick skillet. Cook pancakes 3 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look dry and cooked; turn and cook other side 5 to 6 minutes or until done. Serve with Quick Cream Gravy, if desired.

Note: For testing purposes only, we used Aunt Jemima Complete Pancake & Waffle Mix and Simply Potatoes Shredded Hash Browns.

Chicken-and-Rice Cakes: Substitute shredded Italian six-cheese blend for Colby-Jack cheese blend and 1 cup cooked rice for hash browns. Proceed with recipe as directed.

Quick Cream Gravy: Bring 1/4 cup dry white wine to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 1 minute.

Add 1 cup water; whisk in 1 (1.2-oz.) package roasted chicken gravy mix and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Increase heat to medium, and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 3 minutes or until thickened.

Whisk in 2 Tbsp. heavy cream. Makes 1 1/4 cups. Prep: 5 min., Cook: 5 min.

Note: For testing purposes only, we used Knorr Roasted Chicken Gravy Mix.

Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings (about 18 cakes)

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24 May 2009

Recipe: Polenta Pudding With Warm Caramel Sauce

From Denny: I'm a huge fan of cornmeal dishes because of the high amount of calcium you can derive. Why not get your calcium AND great taste? This is an unusual recipe I ran across at The Atlanta-Journal Consitution recipe archives for a dessert pudding made with cornmeal by a chef. Sounds awesome and I have to try it this weekend! It can be served warm or cool - definitely serve it with the caramel sauce! Make sure you share this caloric mini-monster with a friend... :)

Polenta Pudding with Warm Caramel Sauce

From: Chef Meredith Ford Goldman in Rhode Island

Hands on time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
Serves: 6



2 cups whole milk

2 cups half-and-half

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone ground

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1 cup grated coconut

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 teaspoon salt


Makes: 6 servings
Hands on time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons light corn syrup


For pudding:

In a 2-quart saucepan over high heat, bring the milk, half-and-half and sugar to a boil without stirring. Reduce heat to low, and whisk the cornmeal into the liquid, stirring constantly to prevent lumping.

Stir in the butter, coconut, cherries, raisins, pecans and salt until well combined. The mixture will be thick.
To serve the pudding hot, scoop immediately into dessert bowls and drizzle with caramel sauce, if desired.

To create a cold pudding, spoon the mixture into silicone muffin baking molds. Press the mixture firmly into the molds to release air and ensure that when inverted, the pudding does not have holes or gaps on the surface. Chill for 1 hour. Release from molds and place on a dessert plate for serving.

For sauce:

Cut butter into pieces and place in a small saucepan. Add sugar, cream and corn syrup. Stir to combine. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and begins to boil. Increase the heat to high and boil, stirring very little, until the mixture begins to turn light brown (between 200 degrees Farenheit and 220 degrees on a candy thermometer). Remove and use immediately, or let cool to room temperature. Mixture can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.


Per serving (without sauce):
631 calories (percent of calories from fat, 43), 9 grams protein, 83 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 31 grams fat (17 grams saturated), 62 milligrams cholesterol, 170 milligrams sodium.

Sauce, per serving: 352 calories (percent of calories from fat, 56), 1 gram protein, 39 grams carbohydrates, no fiber, 23 grams fat (14 grams saturated), 69 milligrams cholesterol, 172 milligrams sodium

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23 May 2009

Recipe: German Chocolate Cake

Ancestral Memory - Michael Lewis Miller - Germ...Image by Marshall Astor - Food Pornographer via Flickr

From Denny: Here is another goodie from the folks over at Best Chocolate Recipes. We love our desserts in Louisiana, especially various chocolate or lemon cakes!

German Chocolate Cake


1 package (4-oz.)sweet baking chocolate

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup shortening

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk

1 recipe Coconut-Pecan Frosting


In a small heavy saucepan, or better yet a good double boiler, heat chocolate and water over low heat till chocolate is melted, stirring to blend. Cool.

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans.

In a small mixing bowl stir together flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl beat sugar and shortening on medium speed of an electric mixer till fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat on low speed till combined. Beat for 1 minute on medium speed. Beat in chocolate mixture. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk or sour milk, beating on low speed after each addition just till combines.

Spread batter evenly in prepared pans. Bake at 350 about 30 minutes for 9 inch pans; 35 to 40 minutes for 8 inch pans, or until toothpicks inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes on wire racks. Remove from pans. Cool completely on wire racks.


Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Spread half of the Coconut-Pecan Frosting on top; repeat layers. If desired, frost the sides with Chocolate Butter Frosting. Store in the refrigerator till ready to serve. Makes 12 servings.

Coconut Pecan Frosting

2 1/4 cups granulated sugar

2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter -- 18 tablespoons

17 ounces evaporated milk

6 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups chopped pecans -- toasted

10 1/2 ounces sweetened coconut flakes -- toasted

12 pecan halves -- for garnish


Remove 1/2 cup of the toasted pecans and 2 tablespoons of the toasted coconut and set aside for garnish.

In a sauce pan on medium heat, mix evaporated milk and 2 1/4 sticks butter. Whisk and melt until thoroughly blended. Add sugar and whisk to blend and cook down the sugar. Whisking briskly so as not to cook the egg, add egg yolks one at a time.

Add vanilla and mix well. Cook over low-medium heat for about 12 minutes to cook it down and until it has a rich caramel color. Cool slightly. Stir in the coconut and toasted pecans; blend well.

Assemble Cake

Stack layers, using your frosting as filling. Frost top and sides. Use remaining pecans as garnish.

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22 May 2009

Recipe: Easy Baked Ziti

Baked ZitiImage by SoxyLady via Flickr

From Denny: Here's an easy versatile basic version of Baked Ziti that is kid-friendly too! Sometimes, you want to cook easy, fast but tasty and here is one of those comfort food recipes that answers the call! :) With a strong Italian population in Louisiana for centuries now, everyone has learned how to cook a wide variety of those fabulous and easy dishes.

You can do a lot of variations, so add your personal touch. Try changing it up with ground turkey or ground sirloin for less fat. Add your favorite white cheddar cheese or regular yellow Colby cheddar cheese as cheddar is packed with flavor.

Add mushrooms and some more spices like extra garlic, a little curry powder (especially good with beef), basil, and thyme, yes, even on top of the Italian seasoning already in the spaghetti sauce. A little smoked red chili pepper also makes it good for adult palates!

I like to make my own marinara sauce in place of the jarred spaghetti sauce that includes a little dark brown sugar to balance the sourness of the tomatotes. (Some Sicilian friends showed me that yummy little trick though they used white sugar. I prefer the dark brown sugar as it adds to the background depth of the sauce, providing another layer of taste.)

We like Louisiana heat in our spaghetti sauce so we add that too. Really this dish hinges on the quality of your sauce, the meat used (bits of smoked pork chops from your local grocery store would be good too as a way to use up leftovers!) and the flavors of the cheeses.

Make sure you undercook any pasta. Why? Undercooked pasta doesn't make you swell or turn to fat quickly like overcooked soft pasta does. It also tastes fresher! And when you bake a dish it absorbs the flavors more: win-win!

You can always divide this dish into two baking dishes and place one in the freezer for another meal.

Baked Ziti

Prep time: 30 minutes

Serves: 8


1 pound ground beef or ground sirloin or ground turkey

3 cups ziti, or your favorite pasta, cooked and drained (about 6 cups cooked)

1 (26-ounce) jar your favorite spaghetti sauce or your own marinara sauce

8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese or cheddar cheese

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large skillet, brown meat and drain. Stir in ziti, spaghetti sauce, mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Spoon into 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Cover and bake 20 minutes.


Per serving:
556 calories (percent of calories from fat, 49), 26 grams protein, 45 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 30 grams fat, 81 milligrams cholesterol, 792 milligrams sodium.

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21 May 2009

Video: Cajun BBQ Shrimp on Cornbread Squares

From Denny: Can I tell ya that we LOVE BBQ shrimp here in Louisiana? Everyone has their version of this easy dish. Here's a good video from NBC's The Today Show and a great recipe for you to try today. The video was developed to promote this chef's latest New Orleans cookbook during Marti Gras season.

"Big Easy Cocktails, Jazzy Drinks and Savory Bites from New Orleans" by Jimmy Bannos

Serves: 6-8 people

Cornbread: Makes 36 squares

Angel Dust: Makes 1/2 cup

Roasted garlic puree: Makes 1 cup

"Here is one of our favorite discoveries. We take the buttery-peppery barbecue shrimp that have become such a modern classic in New Orleans — and then we serve them atop squares of wonderful cornbread. Talk about a marriage made in heaven!

Now, a couple of notes on authenticity. Barbecue shrimp are traditionally cooked in the sauce with the shells and heads still on, thus upping the flavor through the roof. But doing that makes this dish too messy to eat, we think — though you’re welcome to do it your way and keep a hose within reach. And while many traditional barbecue shrimp recipes are made without cream, we really love the lush richness a little cream brings to the table here." - Chef Jimmy Bannos

Barbecue Shrimp


• 1 8-by-8-inch pan Cornbread (see recipe below)

• 36 raw (U-15) shrimp, peeled

• 3 teaspoons Angel Dust (see recipe below)

• 6 sticks unsalted butter

• 1 1/2 cup Abita Turbodog or other dark beer

• 3 teaspoons black pepper

• 3 teaspoons white pepper

• 3/4 cup Worcestershire

• 3 tablespoons Garlic Puree (see recipe below)

• 3/4 cup heavy cream


• 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely ground corn flour

• 2/3 cup granulated sugar

• 5 teaspoons baking powder

• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

• 1 large egg

• 1 1/3 cups milk

• 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

• 1 teaspoon bacon drippings, optional

Angel Dust Cajun seasoning

• 3 tablespoons Hungarian paprika

• 1 1/2 tablespoons Spanish paprika

• 5 teaspoons salt

• 1 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme leaves

• 1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano

• 1 teaspoon ground white pepper

• 1/2 teaspoon dried basil

• 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

• 1/8 teaspoon onion powder

Roasted garlic puree

• 1 cup peeled garlic cloves

• 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil


Prepare the cornbread recipe without cheddar or jalapeno and slice into 36 squares. Season the shrimp with the Angel Dust.

Cornbread: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 by 8-inch baking pan. Combine the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg, then whisk in the milk, butter and bacon drippings. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and mix until smooth. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake 50 minutes, until golden brown. Cool slightly before cutting.

Angel Dust Cajun seasoning: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl until thoroughly mixed. Store in an airtight container. The spice mix keeps its best flavor for about two months. It is also available from Heaven on Seven’s Web site, heavenonseven.com.

Roasted garlic puree: Place garlic cloves in an ovenproof container and pour in the olive oil, making sure all cloves are covered. Cover with aluminum foil and roast in a preheated 300-degree oven until light brown, about 1 hour.

Strain the garlic and puree in a blender, adding a little of the strained oil if necessary to form a smooth paste. Transfer to a container and pour in enough oil to cover. Use as needed, storing the remainder in an airtight container in a refrigerator. Refrigerate and store the garlic-infused oil in a separate container.

Shrimp: Melt the butter in a large skillet. Stir in the beer, peppers, Worcestershire, garlic puree and heavy cream. Reduce over high heat until thickened and creamy, 5-7 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook in the sauce just until pink, about 4 minutes.

Serve, spooning one shrimp and plenty of sauce over each cornbread square.

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20 May 2009

Video: Paul Deen Previews Latest Kitchen Trends

From Denny: From the Comfort Food Queen of Southern Food herself, Paul Deen, reviews the latest season's kitchen gadgets, colors and other offerings from the trade show. Items for your grandchildren as well as the family pets! Interesting to hear the latest trends.

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19 May 2009

Recipe: Slow Cooker Cheesecake

peach cheesecake02Another version of a peach cheesecake Image by babe_kl via Flickr

From Denny: This unusual method for baking a cheesecake really caught my eye today! Chef Sandra Lee from the Food Network has launched a new cost effective meals program called Sandra's Money Saving Meals.

This woman is stuffed full of personality AND she can cook well within a budget! Well, Louisiana food is all about the wallet and innovation. We often adopt smart ideas like the one presented today.

We sure love our cheesecake in this state as one version or another in on restaurant menus from diner to sophisticate. Give this one a try and save on your electricity as a slow cooker generally costs about three cents an hour to operate as opposed to a full oven for much more. Definitely more "green." Hope you enjoy!

Slow Cooker Cheesecake

Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 1 hr 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 30 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 8 servings

Ingredients For Cheesecake:

1 (15-ounce) container ricotta

3/4 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 orange, zested

Pinch salt

1 (9-inch) prepared graham cracker crust

For Topping:

1 (15-ounce) can peaches, juice reserved and peaches chopped

1 orange, juiced

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon sugar

Pinch salt

Directions For Cheesecake:

Puree ricotta in a food processor until smooth. Scraping down the sides. Add the sugar and puree for approximately 1 minute so that it is not grainy. Add the eggs, vanilla, orange zest and salt. Puree until smooth and combined.

Place a small bowl in the bottom of a 5 quart slow cooker and place a small plate on top of the bowl. Place pie crust on top of the plate and pour the filling into the pie crust. Place 4 paper towels over the top of slow cooker bowl making sure not to let the towels touch the top of the cheesecake. Secure with lid and cook on high setting for 1 1/2 hours, or until set. Remove from slow cooker and let sit for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for 30 minutes or until chilled.

For Topping:

In a small pot whisk together the reserved peach juice, orange juice, cornstarch, sugar and salt. Stir in the chopped peaches and heat over medium heat. Cook until liquid thickens about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve warm over a slice of cheesecake.

* If you prefer to bake in an oven rather than a slow cooker *

Oven Instructions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Place the pie crust into a baking dish or roasting pan large enough to accommodate the pie tin. Pour the filling into the crust. Add about 1-inch of warm water into the bottom of the baking dish and cover with foil. Using a skewer, pierce about 12 holes into the foil to allow steam to vent. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until cheesecake set. Remove cheesecake from water bath and let rest on the counter for 30 minutes. Then place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until chilled.

© 2009 Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

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18 May 2009

Video: Louisiana Jockey Calvin Borel Wins Preakness

From Denny: Calvin is on one wild ride in the world of horse racing! For the first time in over 70 years a filly has beat the guys in a national race. Women across America are delirious with joy at this unexpected win! We all can identify because we know what it's like to win in a man's world: huge! Congrats, Rachel Alexandra. You go, girl!

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Video: Louisiana Jockey Calvin Borel Wins Kentucky Derby

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17 May 2009

Video: NY Times Food Writer Mark Bittman and Freezer Food Tips

From Denny: These guys on the Today Show segment are funny in this video while they give you a run-down on what, how and why to use your freezer to help your busy life AND eat healthy. Great pointers here for the novice cook and a good reminder list for the experienced cook too. New York Times Food Writer Mark Bittman gives gread advice.

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15 May 2009

Recipe: Chocolate Cornbread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

Put Chocolate Pudding on the Top Shelf !!Image by RIPizzo via Flickr

From Denny: Here is an unusual recipe using chocolate in a pudding! What a delightful site: best-chocolate-recipes.

It's well known often the best cooks for centuries have been the African-Americans of the American Deep South. Sadly, this wonderful tradition of soul cooking was born out of slavery. The best of those tragic times endures, coming down to us through history. What endures is their sense of innovation, trying unusual combinations and perfecting those recipes for home cooking, becoming family favorites.

Part of what Louisiana is known for is the French tradition of using up leftovers as good ingredients for the next dish. Leftover cornbread is usually just reheated or pan-fried in a little butter (clarified butter at our house for cholesterol reasons). But this is certainly a new and wonderful twist! And with chocolate! Does life get any better? :) Enjoy!

This Chocolate Cornbread Pudding is served with Whiskey Sauce.

Tip: For a healthier, and lighter pudding, use two cups of milk instead of half and half.


4 beaten eggs

1 cup of brown sugar

1 cup milk

1 cup cream

1 tablespoon vanilla

6 pieces day-old cornbread cut into cubes

1 cup mini chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 325 F.

Mix all ingredients together, but save 2/3 cup of chocolate chips. Allow mixture to sit for half an hour until the liquid has softened the cornbread. Pour into a greased baking dish. Sprinkle the remainder of the chocolate chips on top. Bake until firm. Check after about 40 minutes.

Whiskey Sauce

½ cup melted butter

1 cup sugar

1 well beaten egg

1 ½ cups heavy cream

¼ cup whisky, or more as desired

Melt butter and sugar in saucepan over low heat. Stir often. Add one beaten egg. Stir. Remove from heat and cool. Add whisky and cream. Beat until light. Chill for one hour before serving.

Serve chocolate cornbread pudding recipe soul food warm or cold, with sauce. Enjoy.

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14 May 2009

New Link Pages: List for Fav Bloggers and Fav Links!

Big Faves and Model Shoot Links SetLinks Image by cobalt123 via Flickr

From Denny: Hi, everyone! Been busy on the blog's housekeeping and you all know how much I don't like (OK, despise) housework...

The Social Poets has become a bit of the Wild Wild West. Read that as too much overwhelming info on one page. Too much on one page has really slowed down the final load time of this blog too. Surely you find it as annoying as I do! So, something had to be done and two more blog pages were born:

The Social Poets Fav Bloggers

The Social Poets Fav Links

OK, so I'm one of those people who enjoys a clean house, everything in its place, neat and orderly - I just don't like the effort it takes to do it! (Hmmm... TMI...)

Seriously though, if you are a blogger or are thinking about starting a blog, maybe try out the same idea for your convenience. For both content and link worthiness it's a great idea to have links to other blogs and sites. I just choose to do so by fitting it into my niche because I'm a total information junkie. Sigh... TMI yet again... :)

Actually, I've been wanting to expand on finding additional blogs to fit my categories and have been limited - until now. I really see the potential for how I could create additional interesting pages/related blogs!

Currently, on The Social Poets Fav Bloggers there are blogs on general musings, poetry blogs, writing blogs, political and social issues, creativity blogs, and more will be added. If you have some interesting blogs or sites you have run across (or your own) you think warrant as an addition, feel free to drop me an email with the link and I'll be glad to consider it! (Always looking for new talent as life is a team effort.)

On the links list page, The Social Poets Fav Links, there are links to my original poems (parked in various places so required a link page area), links to my friends who write poetry (let me know if you want to add your poetry page, be glad to do so to help promote fellow poets), writing sites (let me know your contribution to helping others develop their writing skills and be glad to include your site), poetry sites, music and more.

For your convenience the new links are located right before the day's post. The link pages also have a link to navigate you back to the home page of The Social Poets blog too.

Blogging is a lot of fun! Always learning how to solve "all the problems of the world." Now if world politics and world peace were just this easy...

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13 May 2009

Recipe: Incredible Cajun Greens

mustard greensmustard greens Image by rachel is coconut&limevia Flickr

From Denny: OK, WOW! Now this is a dressed up greens recipe that men will happily eat in large quantities! There won't be any whining about eating vegetables at the table when you serve this outstanding recipe. Why? It has lots of meat in it in the form of smoked sausage as well as pork butt along with incredible seasonings.

Why eat greens? Are you kidding? Besides the fact they just taste good (Tabasco pepper white vinegar dabbled on it to tamp down the intensity), greens are stuffed full of the mineral calcium! If you can't drink milk or don't like it this is another way to get easily digestible calcium, fiber and B vitamins for your nervous system and liver. Give this recipe a try at your house!

R. L. Greens by R. L. Holmes

From: R.L.'s Greens - from R.L.'s Off the Square Cajun restaurant, 1113 Floyd St., Covington, Georgia, published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. R. L. Holmes is from Alexandria, Louisiana, almost northern Louisiana, far from New Orleans. The man can cook!

Hands on time: 1 hour

Total time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Serves: 16


2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1 pound pork butt, diced

Salt and pepper

1 pound smoked sausage, diced

1 pound bacon, diced

1/2 cup diced onions

1/2 cup diced carrots

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 head cabbage, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 bunch collard greens, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 bunch mustard greens, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 bunch turnip greens, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 quart chicken stock

1 ham hock

1/4 cup Tabasco sauce

3/4 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup meat seasoning (such as Chef Paul Prudhomme's Pork and Veal Magic Seasoning Blend)

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar


Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Coat the bottom of a roasting pan or baking dish with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Add the diced pork butt, season with salt and pepper, and roast 20 to 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until it starts to brown. Add the sausage and cook an additional 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until meat is browned and sizzling.

In a skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon and set aside; drain off most of the grease but reserve about 1 tablespoon, leaving it in the skillet. Add the onions. Cook slowly over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are brown but not burned, about 30 minutes. Add the carrots and garlic and saute an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

In a large stockpot, heat the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the cabbage, stir lightly and then cover the pot and cook about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once or twice to prevent scorching. Add the collard, mustard and turnip greens and the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, then add the pork butt and sausage, bacon, onion and carrot mixture, the ham hock, Tabasco sauce, vinegar, meat seasoning and brown sugar. Cover and cook about 45 minutes, until greens are tender and flavors are well-incorporated. Adjust seasonings to taste.


The quantities in this recipe are reduced from the much larger batch that Holmes makes at his restaurant, so the proportions are just a bit off. If you want to reproduce his version exactly, increase the pork butt, smoked sausage and bacon to 1 1/4 pounds each. Holmes also makes his own meat seasoning, which can be purchased at the restaurant.

For simplicity's sake, this recipe uses store-bought chicken stock and a ham hock. The greens are well-seasoned with hot sauce and vinegar, so Martin always advises restaurant patrons to try them before they start dumping on the condiments.


Per serving:
367 calories (percent of calories from fat, 69), 21 grams protein, 7 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 28 grams fat (9 grams saturated), 70 milligrams cholesterol, 1,338 milligrams sodium.

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12 May 2009

Recipe: A Gumbo You Will Only Find in Louisiana

First, You Make A RouxFirst you make a roux! Image by scottpartee via Flickr

From Denny: What a GREAT name for a recipe! It sure made me laugh today! We all love this local magazine, Country Roads, because they do such a wonderful job of covering the French culture, history, restaurant reviews, recipes and much more for Louisiana. There was a time when they had humble beginnings and now they are a publishing force in their own right! Congrats go to the folks over at Country Roads!

Louisiana chefs are known for their innovation, finding ways to interpret traditional local foods, using local ingredients. Hunting is still a big part of Louisiana culture as this state is known as The Sportsman's Paradise. Bass fishing tournaments have been popular here for a long time. From generation to generation children have learned the traditional French and Native American values of how to live off the land. This recipe reflects those values.

From: Chef Forrest Dillemuth, published in Country Roads Magazine


1 lb Louisiana crawfish tails

1 rabbit (store-bought will work)

1 duck breast (trim any fat and again, store-bought will work)

1 lb Andouille sausage

1/2 lb boneless buffalo stew meat

1 lb shrimp

3 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 tsp ground thyme

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp oregano

1 chopped purple onion

2 bell peppers (1 red and 1 yellow)

2 gallons water

2 Tbsp of roux mix

1 tsp filé powder

2 cups white rice

1 Tbsp olive oil


Bring two gallons of water to boil. Add 1 clove of chopped garlic, parsley, thyme, oregano and salt to water. Once boiling place whole rabbit and boil slowly (until meat is soft and tender). Once rabbit is boiled pull from pot, let cool, remove all meat from bone and set aside. Also pull out 4 cups of water from the stock and set aside.

In new pot add olive oil and heat. Once heated add remaining garlic, onion and bell pepper and sauté until vegetables are tender. Now add sausage, duck, buffalo, shrimp and crawfish and sauté until cooked. Then add 2 tablespoons of roux mix and 1 teaspoon of filé into pot and sauté at high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add remaining stock from rabbit and cook on medium heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

To cook the rice take the 4 cups of stock you set aside and place into small pot. Bring to boil and add 2 cups of rice. Stir and then reduce to low heat. Cover and let simmer for 20-25 minutes or until thoroughly cooked.

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11 May 2009

Recipe: Triple Chocolate Mess in a Crock Pot

Recipe: Quadruple Chocolate CakeImage by Smaku via Flickr

From Denny: From Chow.com this is one of those simple recipes you can do with the kids or if you are a beginner cook. Also good for a weekend when you don't have the time to stop and do several steps for a recipe. Here the slow cooker takes care of it all!

Triple Chocolate Mess in a Crock Pot


1 package chocolate cake mix

1 pint sour cream

1 package instant chocolate pudding (any size)

1 (6 oz.) package chocolate chips

3/4 cup oil

4 eggs

1 cup water


Spray crock-pot with non-stick spray. Mix all ingredients, pour into crock pot. Cook on low 6-7 hours. Do Not Lift Lid!

Serve hot in the crockpot with ice cream or whipped cream.

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