Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cake Cravings

There is a hilarious scene in an episode of Sex and the City where Miranda makes herself a homemade chocolate cake. She starts off by eating one thin sliver of the cake and then walks away. The camera frame doesn't leave the kitchen the entire scene. You see her walk back into the kitchen just seconds later and help herself to another minuscule piece of the sinful treat. After she leaves the shot she is once again back within seconds and cuts herself a third helping. This time she is more realistic and portions out a sizable piece of the cake. After her third tasting she covers the cake in aluminum foil trying to make it less accessible. The tin foil wasn't strong enough to keep her out. After a short while she returns to the kitchen and has another piece. This time she covers it with foil and places it in the fridge assuming it to be the final resting place until a later date. Time elapses and she is back once more. She eats another piece; visibly frustrated with her lack of self control she throws the cake in the trash. Miranda thinks this will deter her from ever eating the cake again. In one last desperate scene, they show her back in the frame hovering over the trash can about to make a very dirty decision. She heads over to the sink, grabs the dish soap and pours it all over the cake making it unedible to her tempted tastebuds.

It is a brillant scene and my paragraph above does it little justice. I think the will power struggle she goes through during the short 2 minute scene is captured perfectly and with so much humor. I never could relate to the scene on a personal level because I am not a chocolate lover. I have never had something so rich and decedant tempting me in my own kitchen - that was until this weekend. Although it wasn't the chocolate cake of the sitcom, this pound cake was addictive. I couldn't stop eating it. Everytime I passed the cake stand I lifted the lid and helped myself to a sliver. I felt like I was headed down the Miranda dish soap road very quickly. I made sure to cut up slices to bring to work on Monday in an attempt to get the cake out of my house so it didn't end up in the trashcan drowning in Palmolive.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake
Southern Living November 2001


1 (10-inch) cake

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened at room temp
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened at room temp
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract


Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy (do not over beat);

gradually add sugar, beating well.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until combined. Crack eggs into a bowl first before adding to the mixture to make sure you avoid shells in the cake mix.

Sift 3 cups of flour. Combine flour and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla from the huge 1 liter Mexican vanilla bottle my mother in law shared with me.

Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch Bundt pan.

Smooth the top of the cake or bottom of the cake (depending how you look at it) with a spatula to even it out.

Bake at 300° for 1 hour and 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pan, and let cool completely on wire rack. My pound cake had a crazy crusty layer on the bottom that I just peeled off. It was like candy, it was so sweet and cruchy but it wasn't pretty so I just threw it away.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Decadent Decapod

We haven't had crab in a while and when I saw this recipe I couldn't wait to try it. Crab and cream cheese were born to go together. This recipe was great for a Sunday lunch and was ready in less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms
Adapted from Paula Deen

  • 1 cup crabmeat
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons Parmesan
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon crab boil
  • 6 baby portobello mushrooms caps
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine the crabmeat, cream cheese, parsley, green onions and Parmesan. (Next time I will cook the green onions and parsley in a pan with a little cooking spray first. I found the parsley to have to strong of a taste.)

Season with Salt and Pepper, to taste. Add Crab boil and blend thoroughly.

Remove stems from mushrooms and using a teaspoon, carve out a cavity large enough to stuff filling inside. Be very careful to not break the mushroom caps while making the cavity.

Stuff the mushroom caps with the mixture and top with bread crumbs.

Spray the tops with nonstick spray to help them brown.

Transfer to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the filling is hot and melted.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Gracious Gifting

My husband's father is one of seven children. Several of them are scattered around the country, but there are a few that still reside in upstate New York where they grew up. The Upstate New York aunts and uncles have had a pretty vibrant game of regifting going on for quite some time now. Don't be alarmed - it isn't the run of the mill, secretive and tacky regifting you pray every year you don't fall victim to during the holiday season. This regifting is openly advertised and kept solely amongst my husband's aunts and uncles. They save gifts that they have received from their siblings and when another one of their birthdays roll around they bestow the honor of receiving that gift to another victim. They never give the gift under the guise of a new one. The receiver knows they are getting a recycled gift and that is where the fun lies. It is very humorous and quite entertaining.

I wasn't aware of this little game they play until I benefited from it recently. My mother-in-law and father-in-law went to visit their New York family about a month ago and my mother-in-law received a regift that she generously passed on to me. It was a copy of Paul Prudhomme's first cook book and I couldn't have been more elated to accept the famous hardback. I read through each recipe title in the entire book and was ecstatic to have recipes to some of the most classic Louisiana dishes from one of the most classic Louisiana chefs. I think it is quite ironic how the cookbook that has been described as the best Louisiana regional American cookbook ever published made its way into this Louisiana girl's DC kitchen via a bunch of regifting New Yorkers - Thanks Aunt Beth!

Chicken Sauce Piquant
Adapted from Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen

Makes 8 Servings


Seasoning Mix:

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground red pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1 cup all-purpose flour
3 pounds of bone-in chicken pieces
Vegetable oil for frying
1 3/4 cups chopped onions
1 3/4 cups chopped green bell pepper
2 stalks of celery
1 14.5 oz can of peeled and chopped tomatoes (drained)
2 whole fresh jalapeno peppers (finely chopped)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon of Tabasco sauce
4 cups chicken stock

Hot cooked rice or pasta


Combine the seasoning mix ingredients in a small bowl, mixing well.

Mix 1 tablespoon of the seasoning mix into 1 cup of flour. Remove excess fat from the chicken pieces and sprinkle the remaining mix evenly on the chicken pieces. Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour until well coated.

In a large skillet heat 1/2 inch of oil to 350 degrees. Fry chicken (large pieces and skin side down first) until browned and crispy on both sides and meat is cooked,

about 5 to 8 minutes per side. Do not crowd. (Lower heat if drippings start getting dark red-brown; don't let them burn.)

Drain chicken on paper towels. Carefully pour the hot oil from the skillet in to the glass measuring cup, leaving as much sediment in the pan as possible then return 1/4 cup hot oil to the skillet.
Turn heat to high. Using a spoon, loosen any particles stuck to the pan bottom and then add the onions, celery and bell peppers;

cook until sediment is well mixed in to the vegetables, stirring constantly and scraping pan bottom well. Add the tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and garlic;

stir well and cook about 2 minutes,

stirring once or twice. Add the tomato sauce

and cook about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the Tabasco and remove from heat.

Meanwhile, place the chicken pieces and stock in a large Dutch oven and bring to a boil.

Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook 5 minutes. Then stir half the tomato mixture in the stock;

cover and simmer over low heat 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining tomato mixture, cover and simmer 10-15 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Skim fat from the top of sauce using a rolled up paper towel skimmed across the top of the sauce. The paper towel will absorb the fat.

Remove from heat and serve immediately over rice or noodles.

"Piquant" to a Cajun means "it's hot and 'hurts like a sticker in your tongue.'" If you want less "piquant," reduce the jalapeno peppers by half.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Tasty Tortellini

I wouldn't consider this recipe to be cooking. It is more assembling than anything else. But just because it doesn't require any skill doesn't mean it isn't delicious. This is the perfect recipe to glam up a weekday meal without the extra effort.

Cheesy Baked Tortellini
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

  • Olive oil
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red peper
  • 1 pound purchased cheese (or any other variety) tortellini
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil an 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish.

Measure out the sauce, mascarpone cheese, parsley and thyme in a large bowl.

Cook the tortellini in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 2 minutes.

Drain. Add the tortellini to the sauce and toss to coat. The heat from the pasta will melt the cheese and help the mixture blend smoothly.

Transfer the tortellini mixture to the prepared baking dish.

Top the mixture with the sliced mozzarella

and Parmesan.

Cover and bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheeses on top melt, about 30 minutes.

Serve as a side or the main dish with some warm bread.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In a Pickle

There is a restaurant in Mississippi that has the best fried catfish EVER! It is called Cuevas's Fish House and it is in the middle of nowhere in Kiln, MS. I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure the only claim to fame that Kiln can get credit for is Cuevas's. Their catfish is amazing, so good in fact that it is worth the drive to the middle of nowhere MS just to indulge. It is only about 30 minutes from my parents' home in Louisiana; so it isn't so unrealistic to suggest occasional trips to enjoy their golden fried fish. Last time I was visiting home I convinced the family to have dinner there on Saturday night. I have a big family, so we caravaned in several vehicles to partake in the all you can eat experience.

There were several patrons of the Fish House that got their money's worth - I could look around and tell. My family on the other hand, helped Cuevas's profit margin that night. First off, my dad is the world's lightest eater and half of our party was under the age of 5 - they weren't pounding too many slabs of catfish if you know what I mean. Secondly, we ordered appetizers - you never order appetizers at an all you can eat experience. It is like eating rice at a buffet, it is a filler that should be avoided in order to save room for the good stuff. But, when one of the appetizers offered is fried pickles, how can you refuse? Well folks, we didn't. And when I got home I told Forrest (who wasn't with me on my last visit) about the great food in MS and he asked that I make fried pickles at home. So I did...

**Editor's Notes:
Cuevas's Fish House is in Picayune, MS - NOT Kiln. (Thank you, Laurin) Brett Favre is Kiln's claim to fame - NOT fried fish. (Thank you, Laurin and Jesstyler)

Fried Pickles


  • Dill Pickle Chips
  • 3/4 to 1 cup of beer
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 -2 cups of flour
  • Cholesterol free oil


Pour oil in a large skillet until the oil is about 1-2 inches up the side of the pan. Heat oil to 350 degrees.

Strain pickles in a small colander.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the yolks and 3/4 cup of the beer. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Whisk in enough flour to form a batter. If the batter is too thick add the remaining beer to thin the batter.

Dip pickles one at a time using tongs into the batter and then place in the heated oil.

Fry pickles for about 2 minutes flipping the pickle after about 1 minute.

Place pickles on a plate lined with paper towel and then season with salt. Serve with Ranch Dressing.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Noodle This !

During one of our visits to New York City, Forrest and I dined in China Town at a famous noodle house. I don't remember the name of the joint, but it came highly recommended by our hotel concierge as an authentic noodle house that actual New Yorkers frequent and not just a tourist trap. When we arrived at the restaurant it was prime lunch hour and the place was packed. Our choices were to wait two hours for our own table or to sit at the first come first serve round 8 tops in the middle of the restaurant. Forrest doesn't have the luxury of waiting to eat very long and I get REAL hungry and REAL cranky when unfed for extended periods. Our choice was clear, we would sit at the table full of strangers in order to eat before the next millennium rolled around.

During our short 10 minute wait I played out introduction scenarios and discussion topics with my soon to be dining partners in my head. Although I wouldn't consider myself shy by any stretch of the imagination, I can be apprehensive when unexpectedly forced into conversational situations with strangers. Fortunately, Forrest is extremely natural in these situations and isn't the least bit backwards when it comes to talking with strangers. So I figured we would fare well. I began to scope out the existing diners of the group table and decided it would be an interesting lunch with stimulating conversation led by my very social husband. As we sat down to dine, Forrest and I smiled at our new "friends" and they eagerly smiled back and nodded. Next came Forrest's obligatory "Are you guys from New York?" - our new "friends" eagerly smiled back and nodded. Forrest tried again, "So have you guys eaten here before?" - our new "friends" eagerly smiled back and nodded. Then came Forrest's last attempt to spark the conversation at our group table, "Any of you speak English?" - our new "friends" eargly smiled back and shook their heads east and west. I guess that is what we get for dining with the China Town locals. Although we didn't leave with any new phone numbers in our Blackberries, we left with full bellies from some of the most delicously authentic cuisine I have ever tasted. This recipe is very authentic and took us back to that chat free lunch in New York's China Town.

Very Spicy Asian Noodles with Chicken
Adapted from Cooking Light March 2009


4 servings (serving size: 1 3/4 cups)

  • 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb of boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
  • 1 (6.75-ounce) package thin rice sticks (rice-flour noodles)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dry-roasted peanuts, if desired

1. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper and cook in a pan sprayed with cooking spray until browned and cooked throughout.

2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic to pan; cook 45 seconds, stirring constantly.

Place in a large bowl. Stir in remaining 1 teaspoon oil, chicken, and next 6 ingredients (through sambal).

When I am purchasing an ingredient I have never seen before I always wish I had a picture of what it looked like so I could better navigate the crowded grocery shelves. So to help you out, I have pictured below some of the ingredients that may be unique to you.

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

3. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water; drain. Cut noodles into smaller pieces. Add noodles to bowl;

toss well to coat. Sprinkle with peanuts.

This was really delicious and VERY spicy. It could be served hot or cold and can be thrown together with pantry ingredients on short notice. This noodle dish is filled with flavor and tastes very authentic. Once you add the rice noodles to the sauce and chicken mixture, the dish comes together very smoothly and blends with ease.