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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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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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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DIY Cooking: “Crispy Buffalo Chicken Wings”

Crispy chicken wings and drumettes make a great appetizer to serve at an afternoon gathering while watching some of the many televised football bowl games coming up this week. I experimented with several recipes and found that it is extremely easy to make these hot little appetizers at home if you just follow a little common sense advice. Of course, you can drive to a restaurant such as Buffalo Wild Wings and pick up an order or have the food delivered. But why? These homemade chicken wings are crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside and are so easy to make. Just put a simple dry rub on the wings and bake. Yes, these wings are baked; not fried. So tasty.

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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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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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Let’s Cook Lebanese: Baba Ghanoush

“Baba Ghanoush” is a wonderful smoky, eggplant dip of Eastern Mediterranean origin. My favorite Greek & Lebanese Café serves a version of this dip which is just the best one you will ever find. It combines the flavors of smoky eggplant, tahini paste, lemon juice, fresh garlic plus a little salt to make a a creamy and smooth dip. There’s still time to make this dish with the last of summer’s eggplant in fresh produce markets. I decided to try see if I could duplicate Serop’s “Baba Ghanoush.” It is more difficult than you might think to properly marry all the ingredients and flavors. Although still different from Serop’s, my version is tastes great, too!

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Easy Cook: Pico de Gallo

Let’s make “Pico de Gallo” to go along with the Shrimp Quesadilla recipe which I posted last week. Pico de Gallo is a spicy and pungent salsa which extends the flavors of summer. I love fresh, ripe tomatoes but it is difficult to find flavorful tomatoes when they are out of season. This recipe seems to make the best of tomatoes in the wintertime. Plus the recipe uses lots of cilantro — which is plentiful at this time of year — and  growing in my garden now. Continue reading

Easy Cook: Shrimp Quesadillas

“Shrimp Quesadillas” is quickly becoming one of our favorite supper dishes. They also make a great appetizer for a party such as an upcoming Superbowl football game gathering.  If you haven’t tried to prepare these at home, then you are missing out on an easy-to-prepare Mexican entree. The recipe for shrimp quesadillas takes only a few ingredients. After they are made, pile on the toppings and serve!  Here’s what we did.

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