My Favorite “Hush Puppies”

A fried catfish platter with French fries and hush puppies is a favorite Friday night supper during Lent. And you can’t find a better plate of a fried catfish than at the iconic Baton Rouge restaurant of Ralph and Kacoo’s Seafood. I wasn’t surprised when I checked out their internet site and saw that they boasted of being the largest seafood restaurant in the South with a seating capacity for 800 patrons. The restaurant is massive and everything about the place shouts “big.” The restaurant has an interesting saga. My favorite food and memory of Ralph and Kacoo’s Restaurant is however, not the catfish, but their hush puppies. Their little fried cornmeal treats are unique — just a touch of sweet with green onions and spices. The best ones that I ever have eaten. I am going to try to re-invent these hush puppies. However, rather than frying catfish, we’ll more likely serve them with broiled or baked catfish — I’ll save that recipe for another time.

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New Orleans Shrimp Creole

Shrimp Creole is a venerable and classic New Orleans entrée. It combines the “Holy Trinity” of fresh vegetable seasonings with tomatoes, spices and shrimp to make a flavorful and satisfying dish. Although not seen as frequently on restaurant menus as perhaps in past years, the entrée is certainly served in New Orleans’ homes during Lent on Fridays. And most Louisiana chefs have a rendition of this dish somewhere in their files. With Lent here, I am making my Shrimp Creole recipe again. There are two approaches to making this dish — since I couldn’t decide which I like better; I made both variations. And I love tomatoes. This is my type of dish. Serve Shrimp Creole with rice. (And I have included several Mardi Gras 2021 photos at the end of the post.)

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Classic New Orleans-Style Bread Pudding

I am making “Classic New Orleans Bread Pudding” as a sentimental tribute to all the Mardi Gras parades and festivities which have been cancelled this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Sad, but true — hard to social distance with these huge crowds and parades — and they have all been cancelled in the greater New Orleans area. Most restaurants in southern Louisiana offer a variation of Bread Pudding on their dessert menus — I view this as the quintessential New Orleans dessert. My favorite bread pudding recipe comes from well-known Cajun chef, Paul Prudhomme, and his Louisiana K-Paul’s restaurant. His recipe hits the spices just right — it is something special. I have adapted Prudhomme’s recipe slightly and am making it in honor of Mardi Gras this year. I will miss the fun and revelry!

 

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Let’s Eat Fruit: “Kitchen-Counter Fresh Fruit Bowl”

The 2020 – 2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released to the public on December 29, 2020. These guidelines are updated every five years. Panels of nutritional scientists and researchers meet to review the latest nutrition research on how to keep Americans healthy — what foods and nutrients do we need to eat. Their reports then undergo scrutiny by anyone who wants to make a public comment. (This amounted to more than 62,000 comments!) After all the comments are considered, a policy report is released to the public. The report is important because it dictates how government funds are allocated and spent, especially for food programs. As expected, one of the conclusions state that Americans don’t eat enough fruit. And this, unfortunately, is often true at our house. Although we always have fresh fruit around; sometimes it gets skipped. When I make a “Kitchen-Counter Fresh Fruit Bowl,” the fresh fruit seems to quickly disappear. Here’s a little more about the Dietary Guidelines and also how I make my fruit bowl.

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Easy Cook: Chili Con Carne with Louisiana Red Beans

Here’s an easy and very tasty recipe for “Chili Con Carne.” This is a great concoction for cold winter weather to warm up the body and soul. Or make a pot of “Chili Con Carne” next weekend and watch the football Super Bowl game — your family can help themselves to the chili and you won’t miss a football play. The recipe includes dried red beans –giving it a Louisiana “touch” — as certainly the dried version of red beans is used in traditional New Orleans cooking. I made this chili several times to tweak the recipe and the result is a pleasing blend of chili peppers and seasonings, tomatoes, kidney beans and beef. The chili has “bite” but no one component overpowers the other. I think I got this recipe “just right.” With the dried beans, this recipe takes several hours to cook — so start early in the day.

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“Oven-Fried Okra Poppers” in the Wintertime

Here is a way to enjoy “Southern Fried Okra” all year long. “Oven-Fried Okra Poppers” is an adaptation of a recipe which I posted in the summer for traditional fried okra. That recipe uses fresh okra which is available in the summer months. We love fried okra and so I adapted the recipe as a way to enjoy home cooked okra in the wintertime, too. Plus, this okra is baked in the oven rather than frying cutting down on the calories and fat.

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Crispy Salted Shrimp

After eating a delicious preparation of “Salt and Pepper Prawns” at a P.F. Chang’s restaurant, I decided to see if I could re-create a similar entrée at home without resorting to unusual or special ingredients. And, I was surprised at how easy it was to make a recipe adaptation. P.F. Chang’s continues to be one of our favorite restaurants with an Asian-inspired theme. The creative flavors — hot, spicy, sweet and sour — and attractive presentation of the food always make a pleasing and memorable meal. We like to visit the restaurant at some time during the holiday season; however, this year we ordered a take-out meal due to the Covid-19 pandemic. My entrée, “Salt and Pepper Prawns with Lime and Chili Dipping Sauce” was just right. I tried adapting their recipe, and mine is pretty good, too!

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Creamy Broccoli & Cheddar Cheese Soup

I always know when a recipe is a winner; my husband asks that the leftovers be refrigerated and not tossed out. A bowl of homemade soup is soothing and satisfying, especially in cold winter months. Before you say “yuk” to broccoli soup, try this recipe. The flavors of broccoli, cheese, onions and carrots blend together with a creamy texture to make a mellow and flavorful soup. This soup, which is adapted from a Panera Bread™ restaurant recipe, has become one of my favorite soup recipes. It is a good way to learn to like broccoli.

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Jazzed Up Cauliflower

Here is a good way to begin the New Year. This vegetable dish takes “Roasted Cauliflower” and adds a few additional ingredients to make a “Jazzed Up” version. Yum. I love cauliflower. Add in bacon, jalapeno peppers, whole garlic cloves and onion. Now we’re really cookin’. The result adds a “surprise” element to rather ordinary cauliflower dish and makes a nice recipe for the new year. Cauliflower is a cool seasonal vegetable — now is time to find the best ones in produce markets.

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Holiday Moscow Mule

A “Moscow Mule” is a great tasting cocktail although it has nothing to do with Moscow or with mules. Traditionally, the mixed drink is made with vodka, ginger beer, a squirt of lime juice and it is served in a copper mug. Last summer, a friend introduced us to these cocktails. She even took the extra effort to make her own ginger beer and purchase copper mugs for serving the drink. Of course, I had to look up the history of these drinks and mix up one myself. I learned that there are plenty of ginger beer brands for sale in retail stores so you don’t need to make your own beer “from scratch.” And there are many variations to this cocktail. This year, I’m making a “Holiday Moscow Mule” with ginger beer, cranberry juice, Louisiana vodka and rosemary for garnish.

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