Nostalgic Gift from the Heart for “Front-Line Workers” aka “Christmas Wreath Bread”

My mother was a wonderful baker. Every Christmas holiday, the aroma of fresh baked bread filled the air as she made gifts for the “front-line workers” in our lives. When I was young, the “front-line workers” included the rural postal carrier, Mr. Heatwole, who delivered mail in his own car, the school bus driver and various teachers in our schools. As a young child, I always wondered why our mother would want to give a gift to the postal man. However, Mr. Heatwole was an important service employee; he daily drove his Rural Route #1 for 30 years. I was fascinated that he drove while sitting in the middle of his front seat so that he could pass the mail to the boxes on the passenger side of his car. (I always wanted to try that.) Mr. Heatwole smiled which he got the loaf of bread. I guess it is those “Gifts from the Heart” that make things worth it. The “front-line workers” have changed over the years, but the idea of showing appreciation for their unpublicized work is still the same. So, let’s make “Christmas Wreath Bread.”

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Spicy Christmas Chutney with Satsumas, Cranberries & Apples

Here’s a colorful and absolutely delicious chutney for the holiday season. This “Spicy Christmas Chutney” is hard to stop eating once you open a jar of this pungent and hot concoction. The recipe is a sweet and sour chutney which combines Louisiana satsumas, cranberries and apples with a blend of spices for a powerful mix. I ran across the recipe inspiration on a Scottish internet site — didn’t know that the Scottish cooked with satsumas or made chutneys with this much punch — but it is a great recipe for me because it is a way to use my backyard satsumas. And the recipe is mighty spicy, too, including cloves, cinnamon, ginger and cayenne pepper. Yeah, we’re talking Louisiana, now.

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Fabulous Turkey Makeovers: Best Ever Heisey Chipotle Chili

For Thanksgiving we served “Smoked Turkey Breast with Cajun Infused Spices” which we cooked in my brand new tabletop smoker purchased at Buc-ee’s — that Texas mega-road gas station and convenience store highway stop. The turkey was delicious; but what stole the show was the “Chipotle Chili” made with some of the leftover turkey breast. The chili recipe is a creation of my brother and his college-aged daughter. They did some cooking while they were quarantined in their Boston home this past summer during the pandemic. I believe that this dish is a “throw in the pot” stew made with ingredients which they found while sorting through their kitchen cupboard. Well, they got the seasonings just right and the chili has a great “Cajun kick’ proving that Yankees can indeed cook seasoned dishes. And it is a very healthy recipe which includes carrots, black beans, tomatoes and ground turkey rather than beef. I made the chili using leftover turkey. Here’s what I did to make this very, very easy chili recipe. But first, I must tell the Texas Buc-ee’s story and brag about my smoker.

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Persimmon Spice Bread

Here’s an absolutely delicious “spice bread” recipe which is just right for the holiday season. It comes from my across-the-street neighbor, Kathy. The bread blends pungent persimmons with a combination of spices — cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice — to make a moist, dense and perky quick bread. For many years, another favorite Cajun neighbor treated us to a small loaf of pumpkin bread every Christmas. I remember Essie with great fondness during the holiday season for all of her kind deeds. And so I am making Kathy’s “Persimmon Spice Bread” to use as Christmas and Hanukah gifts. As a bonus, this is quite a healthy bread and the recipe includes a “secret ingredient.”

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Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish aka NPR Cranberry Relish for Thanksgiving

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving dinner without Roast Turkey and all the fixin’s. Cranberry Relish turns a rather bland piece of turkey into something really tasty — and if you have never tried a bite of turkey with cranberry relish on the same fork — you really should. Several years ago, my brother-in-law brought a very unique version of “Cranberry Relish” to our family’s traditional Thanksgiving meal. You either really liked the dish which includes a “secret ingredient” or thought that these cranberries should never be served again.

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Marie’s Artichoke & Mushroom Appetizers with a “Pinch of Cajun”

I love artichokes in any shape or fashion– added to green salads, as an ingredient in dips, in New Orleans Eggs Benedict or as a whole boiled artichoke. One of my favorite recipes combines chicken, artichokes, pearl onions and wine. Yum! Marie made an artichoke appetizer recently at a dinner gathering for a small group of friends and she graciously shared the recipe. This appetizer blends artichokes, mushrooms and cheese into bite-sized balls; perfect for the holidays. For a “Cajun” kick, it contains garlic and cayenne pepper.

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Maine-ish Fried Apple Hand Pies and a Baked Variation

Autumn is the season for wonderful apple desserts and concoctions. In October, quite by chance, we were treated to one of these desserts: “Maine Fried Apple Hand Pies.” I was not familiar with the dessert and term, “hand pies.” Wow, these small apple pies were delicious. We sampled the hand pies during a whirlwind visit to New England to visit relatives and see the fall foliage. I loved the small “pies” and returned home to Louisiana eager to try my luck making these delicious apple treats. After many attempts to replicate the ones we ate at the Maine café, I now have my very own unique recipe for “Apple Hand Pies.”

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Nathan’s Mini Chicken Pot Pies and Variations

What does a Google software specialist do in his spare time when he is working from home close Palo Alto, California, during the pandemic? Well, this Google employee creates and cooks. My nephew, Nathan, has been making pot pies in his kitchen as his group of Google employees continue their jobs from home. He baked the pies in mini-muffin tins so that the pot pies could easily be frozen and reheated as a single serving snack. I liked the idea and found a unique mini-pie tin which made twelve very small chicken pot pies. I made slightly larger individual pot pies, too, which were perfect for a dinner. And I loved the idea of freezing the pot pies; they made a tasty and quick homemade meal when I was was too busy to cook. Now I’m hooked on pot pies!

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Cream Cheese & Persimmon Brownies for Halloween

These brownies have just a tint of orange color and just a pungent “bite” that make them perfect for a “hint” of Halloween. I love cream cheese brownies; and I’m never sure which I like best — the brownies or the swirled in cream cheese. I decided to add a ripe persimmon to the cream cheese filling of this delicious brownie recipe for a Halloween effect.

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Brazilian Sweet Potato Bread

“Brazilian Sweet Potato Bread” is a flavorful, rich yeast bread which includes eggs, milk, butter, and of course, sweet potatoes. This combination of ingredients results is a light, airy and slightly sweet bread. A friend, who emigrated here from Brazil, posted a photo of the bread on Facebook. It looked mighty tempting; she agreed to share the recipe. I like to highlight Louisiana sweet potatoes which ripen in the fall. Why not make the bread adapting it to use our variety of this tuber? Plus, sweet potatoes are full of nutritional value adding to the health aspects of this bread. So, I attempted to make “Brazilian Sweet Potato Bread.”

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