“Irish Bread Pudding with Whiskey Custard Sauce”

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, I’m making “Irish Bread Pudding.” You may ask, what is so Irish about bread pudding? I am making my favorite New Orleans-style bread pudding recipe and I am adding Irish Cream to the custard. Irish Cream is a liqueur containing whiskey, cream and various flavors such as coffee and vanilla extracts, sometimes chocolate. To be labeled legally as “Irish Cream Liqueur,” the whiskey must be produced in Ireland. Bailey’s Irish Cream is the quintessential Irish brand of this liqueur. When the Irish Cream Liqueur is added to this extra-rich bread pudding, the dessert really has some kick. And as some interesting trivia, New Orleans actually has a significant Irish population. The first Irish immigrated to this city in the late 1700’s, attracted because of Catholic traditions. More Irish settled in the city during the potato famines. The first Patrick’s Day celebration was held in 1809  So, let’s celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a festive manner with this “Irish-inspired” dessert.

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Marie’s Party Shrimp Dip

With Mardi Gras quickly approaching, here’s a delicious “Shrimp Dip” to include in Mardi Gras parties. What could be more southern that shrimp? The dip, served along with crackers and vegetables, is perfect for this festive celebration. Actually, the shrimp dip is good any time of the year and it is a favorite appetizer for winter holiday buffets. Our little group of musician friends, which meets weekly, ends each jam session with a table of wine and snacks. How much fun is that? So this week I’m bringing Marie’s appetizer recipe for “Shrimp Dip.” It is easy to mix up, colorful and tastes great. The dip is better if it sets for eight hours to overnight for the flavors to blend so I better get moving.

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Dynamite Shrimp Appetizer

My “Dynamite Shrimp” appetizer is an absolutely delicious way to serve shrimp. It is inspired by the appetizer served at P.F. Chang’s Restaurant where shrimp tails are dipped in tempura batter, fried and then coated with a sriracha aioli. Yum! For the past several years, one of our winter holiday family traditions has been to enjoy a meal at a P.F Chang’s Restaurant. The atmosphere, variety of menu choices and presentation of the oriental foods can’t be beat. This year our favorite dish was “Dynamite Shrimp.” I decided to make a variation of the dish at home. We all agreed that my shrimp appetizer tasted just as good as P.F. Chang’s version and, surprisingly, it isn’t that difficult to make using common household ingredients.

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Brined and Roasted Boneless Turkey Breast with a “Touch” of Cajun Spice

Is my family the only one who doesn’t like traditional turkey and fixings for Christmas? After getting up at the crack of dawn to begin roasting the turkey and spending what seems like “hours” in the kitchen to fix the perfect Christmas dinner, I finally got the message. My family really doesn’t care for turkey and dressing or all the ceremony that goes along with carving the turkey. For several years I quit serving a turkey dinner at all. But, I like turkey. This year I plan to cook a small boneless turkey breast instead of a large bone-in turkey for Christmas. For a Louisiana twist, this turkey recipe is full of spices and great flavors. It is very tender and well-seasoned. This surprisingly simple recipe is a “keeper.” I have made it several times to fine-tune the recipe for our Christmas gathering. Each time, the turkey quickly disappeared.

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A Small Orange Streusel Coffee Cake

Here is coffee cake recipe which is just right for the holidays, “Orange Streusel Coffee Cake.” For a Louisiana twist, I am using satsumas growing on the tree in my backyard in the recipe. Coffee cakes are easy to make, they are tasty and the citrus flavor in this recipe gives a holiday flavor. As the cookbook author stated, “you can’t fail.” That’s my kind of cake. With a streusel topping, you don’t need an icing. This coffee cake makes for a simple “hurry-up” breakfast during the holiday season, a pastry for an afternoon break or a dessert for supper. Just add a scoop of ice cream or dollop of whipped topping.

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DIY Christmas Gift Project: Cookie, Muffin and Bar in a Jar Mixes

What unique gift can you give the family who likes to cook? This year, I am making each family member an individualized “Cookie Mix, Muffin or Bar in a Jar Mix.” The basic premise is to include the dry ingredients for the dessert in the jar. The “chef” provides the eggs, butter, vanilla extract etc; which are added to the mix and baked. Of course, you must include the instructions on how to prepare the baked desserts. Sort of like a boxed cake or brownie mix but much more creative (and homemade). The sky is the limit on what recipes can be adapted for this DIY Project and what ingredients can be added. Hey, you can’t find a store -purchased box mix for Matcha Muffins. Here is a batch of my “Macha Muffins with Cranberries” made from my “Jar Mix.” Not only is this a creative gift, but the muffins are extremely tasty, too.

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Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Flan

I’ve always wanted to make a “Flan” and was excited when I stumbled across a recipe for “Pumpkin Flan” in a vintage cookbook. It is another prefect recipe for Thanksgiving and the holidays. A custard-type dessert with caramel topping is by far my husband’s favorite dessert. In Louisiana, custard flans and a similar dish, crème brûlée, are standards on most traditional restaurant menus. I can always guess what dessert we will order when we go out to eat. This recipe for “Pumpkin Flan” is a baked custard using whole eggs, spices, cream and pumpkin puree. It includes a hard caramel glaze. This recipe, or at least the caramel glaze, is tricky to make. I included fresh pumpkin pulp from my “sugar pumpkins” in the custard which gives this flan a definite Thanksgiving “pumpkin pie” taste. The “Pumpkin Flan” turned out great including my caramel glaze. Creamy and smooth. Delicious.

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Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Swirl

Is there anything else for dessert other than pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving? “Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Swirl” might be an idea. This dense, moist cake has both pumpkin flavor and the spices of pumpkin pie. With a cream cheese filling swirled into the batter, you don’t need an icing for this cake. It uses a one-bowl cake concept and is easy to mix up. Plus, it can be baked a day or two ahead of time. This cake might make an alternate dessert if you want something different to serve in addition to or other than pumpkin pie. With the flavor of pumpkin pie, but not the texture, this cake is quite tasty especially with a dollop of whipped topping.

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Louisiana-Style Hummus with Roasted Red Pepper

Here’s a Louisiana-style rendition of a favorite Middle Eastern dip, “Hummus.” It tastes just as good as any purchased hummus and this recipe has a nice kick. The “surprise” ingredient in the recipe is white beans. Red bell peppers and yogurt may also surprise. Put them together — along with tahini, garlic and lemon juice — and you have a festive dip.

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Meringue Nests with Fresh Fruit for Passover and Easter

I cannot remember a Passover meal without my mother-in-law’s meringue nests for dessert. These are truly a family tradition. The little meringue shells are made from egg whites and sugar with a hint of vanilla extract and are filled with fresh fruit. They are tasty and colorful and truly remind me of spring. Fill them with whatever fruit is in season — blackberries, blueberries, raspberries or strawberries. Best yet, this dessert is fat-free and healthy. It will surely impress! This is the “perfect” and elegant dessert for spring — serve it for Easter dinner, too!

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