Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce

Cherry tomatoes are tiny versions of the wonderful, ripe tomatoes which I love so much in the summertime. There are many varieties of cherry tomatoes and they all grow prolifically in Louisiana gardens. This bowl of assorted minature tomatoes was grown at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden on their research farm. The tomatoes were “on sale.” Some were “research” tomatoes — all were difference sizes, shapes and colors. “Take as many as you want,” the kind lady said. That was music to my ears. I came home with over three pounds of these small tomatoes. This was more than I could use in salads. I did not want to let the tomatoes go to waste and decided to experiement making a pasta sauce with most of them. How did the sauce turn out? Quite unique, very tasty.

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Cajun-Asian Fusion Stuffed Gypsy Peppers

I decided to get creative and find a way to use the sweet-flavored gypsy peppers which I grew in my summer garden. I concocted a dish which has both Cajun and Asian elements which I am calling, “Cajun-Asian Fusion Stuffed Gypsy Peppers.” I used a traditional Cajun stuffing of pork, rice and lots of vegetable seasonings. The Asian fusion component comes from Indonesian Sambal Oelek Ground Fresh Chili Paste which I added to the stuffing. This paste gives a different flavor “twist” to the stuffed pepper dish. And the mild gypsy peppers are a great pepper to use for stuffing. The result is a flavorful rice and pork casserole and supper entree.

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Sautéed Patty Pan Squash

Here is a very easy recipe using the interesting space-ship looking patty pan squash. These squash are from my garden last year and I’m planning ahead this summer with recipes for using more of these squash. The scalloped-edge squash are mild-flavored, somewhat firm and work well in so many recipes. An easy way to prepare them is simply to sauté the squash in a little butter/olive oil combination and seasonings. What a great way to add vegetables a person’s meals! If you have never purchased patty pan squash, I do hope you take a chance, and try out this recipe.

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Green Gumbo

This week I’m cooking “Green Gumbo” or “gumbo z’herbes.” What is “Green Gumbo?” It is a thick, flavorful soup traditionally served in Louisiana Catholic homes during Lent. On Fridays during Lent, a meatless version of gumbo is made by omitting meat and chicken and substituting vegetable broth or water for chicken stock. On Holy Thursday before Easter, a generous amount of meat (usually sausage, smoked ham) is added to the gumbo. As many types of greens that a person can find are added to the soup (but always an odd number of greens). The greens are symbolic and for every green added to the soup, you will find a new friend in the coming year. The greens add a zesty, peppery flavor to this gumbo. With smoked ham, sausage and chicken broth for flavor and with Tabasco sauce for zip, this very tasty version of gumbo is worthy of being served any time of the year.

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Pickled Carrot Slaw with Cilantro

Do you ever open your refrigerator door to find carrots staring back at you? And the next time you look in your refrigerator, the same carrots are still there. Fortunately, carrots have a long shelf life. But in my family, it also means that we are not eating this simple, very nutritious vegetable to its full potential. In my quest to “elevate” carrots, I decided pickle the carrots — along with cabbage and red onions– adding fresh cilantro from my garden. Wow, it was a hit and my husband couldn’t stop eating the pickled carrot slaw. Time to make another batch.

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Pecan-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Fig Glaze

Here we go again — Mardi Gras season in Louisiana just finished this week. This brings up many memories of visits to New Orleans during the weeks of Mardi Gras season to take in all the parades and other festivities. It also brings recollections of traditional French and Creole restaurants in this city as we often ate a fancy dinner at an up-scale restaurant during these trips. “Pecan-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Fig Glaze” is an elegant entree fitting for a Mardi Gras buffet or party. The recipe originates with the venerable New Orleans restauranteer, Ralph Brennan. His creation of stuffed roast pork tenderloin with fig glaze is an absolutely delicious way to prepare a pork roast and also feature southern figs. It is a quintessential New Orleans recipe. The pork roast medallions fit perfectly into a Mardi Gras themed event. Really, it can be served any time of the year. Here’s my rendition of the recipe.

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Let’s Cook Something New: Charred Broccolini with Garlic

So, you don’t like broccoli? How about giving broccolini a try. This vegetable looks alot like broccoli but is sweeter, more tender and milder in flavor. Rather than one large head, there are many smaller florets on a long stem. You eat both the florets and the stems. Broccolini is a hybrid of traditiional broccoli and Chinese kale. This new vegetable variety was developed by a Japanese seed company and introduced into the market in 1998. Those folks got it right. Broccolini has the same nutrient-rich value as broccoli but is much easier on the palate. I purchased several small seedlings via mail order catalog from the Burpee Seed Co. this fall and just harvested my broccolini shoots. I simply cooked them in olive oil and garlic. The dish is delicious.

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Holiday Breakfast Strada with Kale

This year, I’m starting our Christmas celebration with a hearty dish of “Holiday Breakfast Strada with Kale.” A strada (meaning layers) is an American brunch casserole made with a mixture of eggs, cheese and stale bread. It is sort of a savory “bread pudding” or “French Toast” — perfect for us here in Louisiana. I still have Red Russian kale growing in my winter garden and am adding the kale, along with sweet white onions and seasonings, to my breakfast strada. It is a colorful, super-charged breakfast casserole. I think it is best to begin Christmas day — or really any day — on a full stomach. This casserole is so easy to make. Plus it can be pre-prepped the prior day. Then it is a simple matter of heating the oven and baking it on Christmas morning

Anything Goes, “Kitchen Sink Dump” Recipe

Of course, if your family is not a fan of kale, then no need to introduce this vegetable on Christmas morning. This is a “kitchen sink dump” recipe.” It is easy to substitute ingredients in or out of the breakfast casserole. For example, use baby spinach rather than kale — or omit both. Other ingredients can be added to this savory casserole such as diced ham or bacon, green onions, colorful bell peppers, mushrooms. Change the type of cheese — use smoked Gouda cheese or cheddar rather than Monterey Jack — or omit the cheese entirely to make a savory baked French toast. In other words, fix something your family will eat.

Fond Memories of Parade Magazine

A “strada” was first popularized in Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook published in 1984 by Julee Rosso and Shelia Lukins. These two ladies were based in New York City. They were some of the big culinary influencers of their age. This was long before the internet and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok– yes, there was life prior to the internet. Our “internet” was the newspaper and perhaps a cooking show on PBS. Rosso and Lukins wrote innovative cookbooks and edited a gourmet food column in the Sunday morning newspaper Parade Magazine insert after Julia Childs left the magazine. Those times — including Parade Magazine — are gone. But I’ll always have the memories of these ladies’ articles — we used so many of their recipes at holiday meals. Here is one of their later cookbooks which I enjoyed to browse through for the latest ideas back in those days.


I love French toast and often make a baked version using either my oven or Instant Pot . A strada is similar to French toast except that French toast tends to be sweeter while a strada is savory and it includes cheese.

I added a sweet, white onion flavor in the casserole — because I love onions and it complements the kale. The diced red pimento adds a red Christmas color. The seasonings in my casserole are salt, pepper and dry ground mustard. My choice for cheese is a mild Monterey Jack cheese. You could substitute Gouda, Parmesan or cheddar cheese or omit the cheese entirely.

We have lots of crumbly, airy French bread in Louisiana. I have also used stale white bread in this casserole or denser French bread. You need about 6 cups of packed bread cubes or 12 oz. I would not recommend a sweet bread such as challah in this casserole as these the sweetness may clash with savory flavors in this mixture.

Making the Casserole

To make the casserole, pre-prep the all the ingredients. Red Russian is a mild kale and can be eaten either raw or cooked. When cooking kale, it still involves removing the center stem which is too tough to eat. To prep the kale, wash the kale leaves, rinse and drain them. Remove the center stem by folding each leaf in half lengthwise and cutting out the stem. Roll up the leaves like a cigarette and slice the rolls Then cut across the segments to make strands of kale.

Saute the onions and then add the kale. Kale will cook down and it seems to evaporate. Even if this seems like alot of kale, it will reduce in volume.

Making the rest of the casserole is simple. Blend the eggs very well with a wire whip. Add the milk and seasonings. Mix in the cheese, chopped pimento, sautéed onions and kale. Gently fold in the bread cubes. Place the mixture into a well-oiled casserole dish. Either bake immediately or refrigerate overnight and bake in the morning.

I baked this casserole in a 9″ diameter deep dish pie casserole in a 325 degree oven for 40 minutes. The casserole will puff up, then fall down as it cools.

Enjoy family, friends and memories this holiday season. I prepare this type of strada or French toast casserole frequently during the year for a substantial brunch. It is extra special at Christmas time. Enjoy.

  • Servings: 6 to 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 6 oz Red Russian kale (2 cups firmly packed kale which is stemmed, chopped)
  • 12 oz (6 cups packed) French bread or stale white bread
  • 1 Tbsp oil plus oil for casserole dish
  • 1/2 sweet, white onion, chopped (about 1 cup, chopped)
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp chopped pimento
  • fresh parsley, optional garnish
  • orange slices, optional garnish

Method and Steps:

  1. Oil 9″ round deep dish pie casserole. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Pre-prep kale. Thoroughly wash kale under running water. Rinse, drain and pat dry. Fold each kale leaf in half. Use a large kitchen knife to slice and remove center stem. Then place leaf halves on top of each other and roll up like a cigarette roll. Slice rolls. Then cut through rolls crosswise to make slivers. Set kale aside.
  3. Cut French bread or stale white bread into 1″ cubes. You need about 6 cups packed bread cubes. Set aside.
  4.  Heat 1 Tbsp oil in large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute for about 10 minutes until onion is translucent. Reduce heat if onion begins to burn.
  5. Add kale slivers to skillet. Cook, tossing frequently, for about 5 minutes until kale wilts.
  6. Meanwhile, place eggs in large bowl and beat with wire whip into eggs are blended and creamy yellow.
  7. Add milk and stir to combine.
  8. Add in seasonings — salt, pepper and ground mustard.
  9. Mix in sautéed onion and kale.
  10. Add chopped pimento.
  11. Carefully fold in bread cubes, tossing to coat all the cubes with egg/milk mixture.
  12. Transfer to oiled deep dish pie casserole and toss to combine all ingredients, mixing in any egg/milk on the bottom of the casserole dish.
  13. Bake in 325 degree oven for 40 minutes. Casserole should not “jiggle” in center. It will puff up and be browned on top.
  14. Alternatively, rather than baking immediately, cover and place in refrigerator. When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature while oven pre-heats. Then bake for 40 minutes in 325 degree oven..
  15. If desired, garnish with fresh parsley and orange slices.

Duchess Sweet Potatoes with Brown Butter Sage

I walked into Whole Foods Grocery Store to return gift items at the Amazon Customer Service Center and walked out with Louisiana sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes were right inside the entrance to the store. Too tempting to walk by them without purchasing several. This root vegetable has lots of nutritional value. Plus, they are in season and inexpensive. So, there you go — three good reasons for why to purchase sweet potatoes. Today, I am making “Duchess Sweet Potatoes” which is a jazzed up concoction of mashed potatoes. I added browned butter with sage to give a upscale flavor. I even located my pastry piping bag and star tip to bake the potatoes little swirl shapes which is what makes “Duchess Sweet Potatoes” special. These creamy potatoes are just as good for when baked in a casserole dish as piped onto a platter for a fancy holiday dinner.

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Easy Cook: Skillet Zucchini and Corn Sauté

Everyone should have a couple of good zucchini recipes for the summertime. This squash is so plentiful and inexpensive during the summer months; it’s a great way to get fresh vegetables into a person’s meals. And cooking zucchini doesn’t have to be difficult. My recipe for “Skillet Zucchini and Corn Sauté” sort of sneaks the zucchini into the dish. It is turning out to be one of our favorite zucchini recipes. The dish has only a few ingredients, uses “one pot” (a skillet) and tastes great. Let’s eat zucchini!

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