Welcome to my Food Journey

Curious Southern Cook on a journey to learn...and to create exceptional dining experiences. I love entertaining and preparing food for loved ones & friends and sharing those experiences with others. My wish is that you will be fed too. Bon Appetite!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy International Coffee Day – I Love Coffee

Background - As with many of you (probably), when someone in our office is out… a co-worker fills in as a vacation buddy until they return.  Usually too, the one vacationing brings back the buddy a little something in appreciation.  Last week I was Lisa Wellborn’s buddy and she brought me back a very nice Mexican vanilla.  Right away I began thinking about making Mexican coffee.  It was later I learned that today is “International Coffee Day", so it is appropriate for me to share this recipe with you... today.

Origin of Recipe – I have made Mexican coffee before, but wanted to present a recipe with more precise measurements than the way I usually make it… (A little of this and that).  Last night my friend Debbie Gillespie came over to help me make beignet dough in preparation for the Red River Revel that is starting this weekend (http://www.redriverrevel.com/).  Like me, Debbie loves coffee so I asked her to be of assistance in vetting this recipe.  We did learn that the cup measurement of my coffee carafe is based on a 5 ounce cup.  Who drinks 5 ounces of coffee?  Anyway, we had a blast trying to figure it out for you.  Happy International Coffee Day!
Note: Besides beignets, we will be serving cafe au lait and iced coffee at the Red River Revel October 1-8, 2011 - Booth #18, come see us!

Mexican Coffee
Makes 4-6 servings (depending on size of cup or mug)
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
30 ounces water
6 tablespoons ground dark roast coffee (I like Sumatran)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus extra for sprinkling
½ cup half & half (I used fat free)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¾ cup chocolate liqueur (I used Godiva)
2 teaspoons Mexican vanilla (make sure that it does not contain Coumarin)
Whipped cream
Cinnamon stick (optional)

Place the cinnamon along with the coffee in the filter basket of the coffee maker, add water and brew.
In a microwave safe container, heat the half & half and brown sugar until hot and the brown sugar is dissolved (in my microwave it took about a minute).
Stir the heated half & half/brown sugar mixture into the brewed coffee.
Add the chocolate liquor and vanilla and stir.
Pour the coffee mixture into cups; add whipped cream, sprinkle cinnamon on top and add a cinnamon stick if desired.  Enjoy!  

Friday, September 23, 2011

OMG Granola - (Oh My Goodness)

My family loves granola.  I love it too, but not the price.  I’ve thought for a long time that I could make it as good as or even better than what we have available at the grocery store and probably for less.  Well, last night I decided to put it to the test, but sorry to say that my data is incomplete and can't make the call on whether or not it’s cheaper because… we ate it before I could measure the yield.  Between my testing, Neil testing, Sara testing, Lori Baynham testing, Neil taking to friends and all of us coming back again and again, it’s almost gone.  So while the goal of making it better has certainly been achieved, I’ll have to get back to you on the cost savings…but as Lori said,         
"When it’s this good, who cares about the cost”.

OMG Granola – (Oh My Goodness)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees
Spray 2 half sheet pans with cooking spray
Mix together the following, divide and place on sheet pans
4 cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
2 cups chopped Pecans
2 cups Flaked Unsweetened Coconut
1 cup quartered dried Mediterranean Apricots*
1 cup Craisins*
½ cup Toasted Wheat Germ
½  cup Flax seed
1 cup Honey
½ cup Brown Sugar
Place in preheated oven and stir every 15 minutes for 1 hour.
If there is any left, store in an airtight container.  Enjoy!

*For less dry fruit, add and stir in halfway through cooking

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cocktail Party for: River City Repertory Theatre

We love our River City Repertory Theatre, a professional theatre company blending the best of local, regional and national stage actors through it's membership in Actors' Equity.  When asked to host a cocktail party for RCRT we were thrilled to take part. 

The long awaited event was held last evening.  As part of the staging...dress forms with costumes from previous shows "THE LION IN WINTER" and "A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC" were prominently featured throughout our home.  Photos from earlier productions were also exhibited for all to enjoy.  As you can see in the picture above we had lot's of goodies, brought and lovingly prepared by the League members.  I made the Rumaki that you see in the foreground (recipe to follow).  You'll notice too, a captioned photo on a stand that reads "THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING" which was RCRT production number 6 at The Scottish Rite Cathedral Theatre, July of 2008. 

The actress in the photo is none other than Academy Award Nominee Margaret Avery (known for the role of Shug Avery in "The Color Purple") as she brilliantly portrayed the character of Berenice Sadie Brown.  Neil and I were blessed with the opportunity to share a meal with friends and Margaret while in town for the production.  It was the first dinner party in our new old family home and I remember preparing shrimp and grits, greens and cornbread.  Ms. Margaret did say that my grits were the best grits she had ever tasted.  What a complement.
For more information on the River City Repertory Theatre go to http://rivercityrep.org/


Thick Sliced Smoked Bacon - cut in thirds (the brand I buy has 12-13 slices per pound, so each pound should yield approximately 36 to 39 pieces)
Determine filling to be wrapped and the number of servings desired and purchase items accordingly (I use all 3).
Pineapple Chunks – drained and reserve juice (20 ounce can yields about 48 pieces)
Dried Apricots   (yield per bag, various)
Water Chestnuts - halved (8 ounce can yields about 15 whole pieces and when halved 30 pieces)
Wrap each filling piece with a 1/3 slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Place in a zip top storage bag and pour reserved pineapple juice** in bag, seal and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Just before ready to serve, *pat dry and deep fry at 325 degrees for approximately 3 minutes or until bacon is crisp.   Alternatively bake in a preheated 350 degree oven 20-30 minutes or until bacon is crisp (I prefer deep frying).  Place on paper towels to drain.  Plate with greenery such as parsley, serve hot and enjoy!
* Do not skip this step; pieces must be dry before proceeding.
**Another suggestion for added flavor, add teriyaki sauce or soy in addition to or instead of pineapple juice and *pat dry before proceeding.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Who Dat?

Well it finally got here...Football Season.  One of my favorite entertaining canvases is a televised football game where friends and family gather to support "our" teams...the New Orleans Saints and LSU Tigers.  Last night was the first regular season Saints game, against the Packers.  Despite the loss... Neil, Sara, all of our walking buddies and I had a big time cheering them on.  What's a football game without game food?  (Silence)  So you would have to agree, not as enjoyable.  It's fun coming up with new recipes, especially themed ones, so here are a couple that I created for last night and will make again.  Enjoy... and Geaux Saints and Tigers!

Who Dat Salsa - (Homage to the Black and Gold)

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 yellow onion, diced medium
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into tidbits
1 mango, peeled and diced medium
1 jalapeno pepper (for mild), seeded and finely diced (2 for medium, 3 for hot)
2 limes, juiced
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Salt to taste

Add all ingredients into a bowl and stir until thoroughly incorporated (careful not to mash the beans).  Salt to taste.  Chill at least 30 minutes.  Serve with your favorite chips.
Suggested additional ingredients: canned corn kernels (drained) and/or yellow bell pepper, diced medium.

Fleur Dats


1 package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), defrosted
Cooking spray
Granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Lay 1 sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured board and roll it out to 10 by 12 inches.  Take decorative cookie cutter of choice (of course I used a fleur de lis) and cut out shapes, place on parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Spray each pastry with cooking spray and lightly dust with granulated sugar.  Repeat with other puff pastry sheet.  Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Coq au Vin

So what does Coq au Vin have to do with being Southern you ask?  Well in Louisiana...everything.  We have a rich food heritage from many different cultures, especially the French.  Don't let that word scare you, it's not hard and worth the time to create a special meal just for your family.  One day I will modify this recipe for the crock pot (or you can),  so it can be ready after work on a weekday evening,
or after church on Sunday. 
Give it a try.

2 tablespoons olive oil
8 slices thick sliced bacon, cut in 1 inch slices
10 chicken thighs
2 ½ teaspoons salt, plus extra for seasoning chicken
1 teaspoon pepper, plus extra for seasoning chicken
6 carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally about ½ inch
2 yellow onions halved from root to stem then half moon slices about ½ inch
4 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup brandy
3 cups red wine
1 cup stock (vegetable, chicken, turkey, veal)
10 sprigs fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
8 ounce bag frozen pearl onions (boil in salted water, drain and hold)
8 ounces baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
Preheat Oven to 325 degrees F
In a large skillet, add olive oil and bacon, fry over medium heat until crisp.  Remove from pan to paper towels to drain.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.  Brown chicken in hot bacon fat/olive oil on both sides about 10 minutes total.  Remove chicken to Dutch oven.  To skillet add the sliced onions, carrots, mushrooms.  Sauté over medium heat for about 10 minutes, add garlic continue cooking for another 5 minutes.  Add wine, chicken stock, thyme, salt and pepper.  Stir and heat until it reaches a simmer.  Turn off stove, add the brandy and stir.  Place tight fitting lid on Dutch oven, place in preheated oven for 1 hour.  In the skillet previously used, melt butter, add flour and stir until incorporated.  Carefully remove Dutch oven to flat surface, remove lid.  Check seasoning and correct if needed.  Add butter/flour mixture and stir until incorporated.  Add pearl onions.  Place back in oven for about 15 minutes or until chicken is done (no longer pink). Stir, serve garnished with extra fresh thyme.
Note: The photo shows the Coq au Vin served with fingerling potatoes which were boiled in salt water, halved and browned cut side down in butter.
Dedication: This very special meal was prepared for my Husband Neil for his birthday and was also enjoyed by our daughter Sara.  You both inspire me.    
Recipe credits: I began by studying recipes from Ina Garten, Tyler Florence, Emeril Lagasse and Alton Brown...then tweaked until it was ready.  The result is what you see above...user friendly and delicious.  ENJOY!