Cajun-Inspired Shrimp-Stuffed Patty Pan Squash

“Cajun-Inspired Shrimp-Stuffed Patty Pan Squash” may be my best recipe ever for fixing all the numerous summer squashes which grow my garden. I used these cute little “space ship” shaped patty pan squash and stuffed them with a savory shrimp filling. The patty pan squash are very bland compared to other summer squash varieties. They pair perfectly with a classic Cajun-type shrimp stuffing. If you are looking for an unique dish to share with family and friends, here it is.

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Authentic Cajun Dirty Rice

This week I’m featuring a recipe for “authentic” “Cajun Dirty Rice.” What is so special about “Cajun Dirty Rice”? When this recipe is made properly, it is absolutely delicious. Long ago, I worked in a small town outside of Baton Rouge. Upon leaving work, I would drive out of my way just to purchase a helping of “Cajun Dirty Rice” from a local fried chicken joint, “Danny’s Fried Chicken.” It was that good. This is one of those recipes which you will probably never find outside of Louisiana but it epitomizes Cajun cooking to me. It is full of the “Cajun Holy Trinity” of vegetable seasonings, fluffy long grain rice, meat, green onions and spices — yes, this dish can be quite “hot.” The mixture is slowly cooked on the stove to blend the flavors. It reminds me of a “jazzed-up” rice pilaf. This recipe does include two “secret” ingredients which make it unique. Read on.

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Louisiana Strawberry and Bibb Lettuce Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

For a few fleeting weeks in March, April and May, Louisiana strawberries ripen and are at their peak. You can find these luscious berries in local grocery stores and farmers markets. What is so special about Louisiana strawberries? I compare them to vine ripened tomatoes versus those which have been grown to travel long distances to markets. Louisiana strawberries are sweet, juicy and aromatic. They are picked when ripe; hence they are perishable and really are not suitable for transport to far away markets. Today I am enjoying these strawberries in a salad along with fresh bibb lettuce that I grew in my garden. I added feta cheese for flavor and nutrition, sliced almonds for crunch and served my salad with a Sweet Apple Cider Vinaigrette.

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Crawfish Cheesecake

It’s crawfish season here in Louisiana. These delicate, tasty freshwater crustaceans aren’t around very long in the spring, so it’s time to get cooking. This year I am making a unique recipe featuring this mudbug, “Crawfish Cheesecake.” And it is not what you might think it to be. Nope, this dish is not a dessert. Rather, it is a rich and savory appetizer with just enough crawfish to give it a taste of Louisiana. According to my friends who sampled the recipe, it is best when serve it with salty crackers such as Ritz crackers.

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“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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Tipsy French Quarter Praline Pecan Cheese Spread

Decadent, audacious and over-the-top sums up Mardi Gras festivities and the carnival season, in my opinion. The parades and Mardi Gras balls have a party-like atmosphere with lots of revelry, good times and costumes –some elegant, others more brazen and some just plain silly. This over-the-top appetizer, “Tipsy French Quarter Praline Pecan Cheese Spread,” fits right in. It is so, so rich. Like Mardi Gras, this appetizer is decadent, delicious and addictive. It is full of sugar and calories — but we’re indulging during these festivities. And Lent is coming soon. The cream cheese base has savory seasonings while the praline topping (brown sugar, butter, nuts and bourbon) is very sweet. Oddly enough, the sweet and savory flavors complement each other.

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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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Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée with Burnt Caramel Glaze

“Crème Brûlée” is a very popular and trendy dessert frequently served in restaurants in New Orleans. It is a creamy, smooth baked custard with a crispy burnt sugar glaze. In the past, I’ve posted recipes for a healthy crème brûlée version using yogurt and fruit and for a recipe for a custard-type “Pumpkin Flan.” Now, with Valentine’s day approaching, I’m making the real deal. This recipe is full of eggs, rich cream and scraped vanilla bean. It will stand up to any crème brûlée recipe served in a restaurant.

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Let’s Bake a “Mardi Gras King Cake” from a Box

The Mardi Gras season is here, it’s time to partake in King Cakes. And for those folks who live outside of south Louisiana, a King Cake is a rich, sweet yeast bread baked in an oval shape and decorated with the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. Often the pastry has a filling such as cream cheese, praline or fruit which makes this tasty bread even better. King Cakes are an integral part of Mardi Gras holiday merriment and they fill the bakery section of grocery shelves from early January to Mardi Gras Day (this year it is March 1). It is common practice to take one of these pastries to work to share with co-workers for a morning treat. Yum.

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Persimmon Rum Pound Cake

This week I’m making a delicious “Persimmon Rum Pound Cake” using some of the Hachiya persimmons growing on my backyard persimmon tree. This type of persimmon tree grows very well in Louisiana, mine was loaded with fruit this fall — I counted over 100 persimmons! While the persimmons grow during the summer, they are firm and astringent — almost impossible to eat. When they ripen in autumn, the fruit becomes very soft and translucent. The persimmons become sweet, gelatinous and lose their pungency.

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