Back in my hospital food service catering days, we prepared and served a dinner for the Board of Directors each month. I liked to change things up — partially for boredom’s sake and little for spite as it meant I had to work late that night. So one month I served carrot cake — trying to pack a little nutrition into the dessert. Much to my surprise, one Board member came to me after the meeting and said, “that very large piece of cake was the best dessert you’ve ever served — it was delicious.” And Carrot Cake is delicious. It should be moist, with just a little spice and nutty flavor. Topped with a cream cheese icing, it makes a great dessert for the holidays. And so I’m making my carrot cake again this year.
When the very nutritious vegetable, the sweet potato, is cooked perfectly, it is tender yet still a little crisp with a wonderful sweet flavor. I have decided that it is actually a little tricky to cook sweet potatoes properly. But I think I found the prefect sweet potato fry in a restaurant in Breckenridge, Colorado, of all places. We recently visited this very upscale restaurant with a James Beard Chef winner on the staff. The sweet potatoes were cooked and served immaculately. I came home to try to duplicate their recipe.
Bread Pudding is the quintessential New Orleans dessert. Every restaurant in the city has some sort of variation. Here’s an twist to this southern dessert. Sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie spices along with pecans really dress up classical bread pudding. And it appears like a cake when baked in a spring form pan. I served the dessert with bourbon sauce. Delicious. With Louisiana sweet potatoes available in the fall, this is a good time to make this variation.
Here’s an easy recipe for a small batch of eggplant — “Roast Eggplant with Garlic and Zahtar.” Eggplant grows well in a Louisiana garden and I needed ideas to cook a few at a time as they ripened in the hot summer heat. One of my favorite eggplant dishes is served at a local Lebanese and Greek cafe. It consists of sauteed eggplant which is doused in lemon juice and garlic. The soft eggplant pulp blends with the spices perfectly and it is another “melt in your mouth” eggplant recipe. Thought I’d try to make a variation with my garden eggplant.
Summer is a great time of the year to load up meals with fresh, seasonal vegetables such as zucchini and yellow squash. The quality of fresh picked vegetables is excellent and the price is usually inexpensive. But what if you don’t like summer squash? In searching for ideas to use a huge zucchini growing in my garden, I found a recipe which is absolutely delicious. Zucchini is a mild flavored squash and this recipe tones the flavor down even further by stuffing the zucchini with a meat mixture and topping it with pasta sauce. It is a good way to learn to like a new food and is the best recipe I’ve found in a long time.
I happened to mention to a friend that I was looking for recipes which use fresh Louisiana strawberries for my blog. She replied by saying that she has a great recipe which she makes every Easter using local strawberries. Bonnie shared her family tradition and recipe for “Miniature Strawberry Cheesecakes”. It’s a delightful recipe. Surely everyone will love to eat it!
My winter garden is rapidly coming to an end as warmer weather and longer daylight hours of spring arrive. My Chinese cabbage grew very well this winter, I am pleased to say. I’m going to make one of my favorite salads — Ramen Chinese Cabbage Salad — with the last cuttings. This salad is easy to make and is very healthy, too. How nice to have a healthy vegetable which also tastes great. The salad has plenty of crunch which includes the “surprise” ingredient of dry ramen noodles.
I decided to make a batch of pickled jalapeno peppers with my remaining garden produce. I have just enough of the peppers for three small jars. And surprise. It is really quite easy to make your own pickled peppers. These brined peppers turned out to be crunchy and full of hot flavor — much better than store bought ones, in my opinion. Although they can be kept in the refrigerator for several months, I doubt if they will last that long.
This summer, I’ve started on a mission to eat more fruits and vegetables each day. Here’s one way to meet that goal. This recipe features cottage cheese — which was a staple in our meals when I was growing up — and pairs it with fresh summer vegetables. I’d forgotten how tasty this combination was –cottage cheese and garden vegetables. It is one way to meet my goal.
I like to support local farmers whenever possible and to purchase their produce. While driving through the countryside about an hour north of here last week, I saw a sign pointing to the Naquin Family Tomato Farm. Wow, I love garden-ripened tomatoes in the summertime. I took a quick detour and stopped in at the roadside packing building. I left with a large bag of vine ripened Celebrity tomatoes. Now to savor the tomatoes and make a few of my favorite dishes such as ripe tomatoes and Tuna Fish Salad.