New Orleans Food Tour, Day 2: Beignets and Fried Chicken 

We got off to a bit of a later start than I had planned, but c’est la vie, right? We’re on vacation without kids. If we can’t sleep late now, when can we?

We got up and headed straight to the famous Cafe Du Monde for beignets and coffee.   

They aren’t kidding when they say to get there early. By the time we got there at 10am, the place was packed with long lines! There’s a to go window towards the back that still had a line, but it wasn’t nearly as bad. 

We got our beignets and made our way to the Riverfront to eat our goodies and look out over the mighty Mississippi River.   

If you’ve never had a beignet, it’s basically a French donut. It’s nice and crispy on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside. And absolutely covered in powdered sugar. Seriously. It will get everywhere, so be prepared. 

The coffee was good too, but I only took one drink before I dropped it, which made me really sad. Oh, well. Guess that means we’ll have to go back!

For dinner, we went to a place called Willie Mae’s in uptown (near The Garden District). I have a co-worker who is from this area and she highly recommended this place. She said the chicken was “the best fried chicken ever!” Well after a long-ish streetcar ride, we made our way over there and it certainly did not disappoint! It thoroughly lives up to the hype as the best fried chicken in America. If you are in this area, go here! There are two locations: one in Treme (the original) and the one we went to on St. Charles Street. This was cool because the streetcar lets you see the garden district and the houses here are stunning!

   
 
Stay tuned for tomorrow. I’m taking a cooking class!

New Orleans Food Tour Day 1: Po’ Boys, Red Beans and Rice, and Hurricanes 

Hello from The Crescent City, Readers!!

We arrived today and have already samples some delicious cuisine! 

When we got to our hotel, our room wasn’t quite ready. As much as I prefer to settle in when I get somewhere, it was fine because I was hungry and eager to start exploring. Our hotel is minutes from everywhere in the Quarter, so we headed out and hit up Johnny Po’ Boys. This place has been a French Quarter staple since the 1950s and I can see why. The place is small, but the food is so good.   

A Po’Boy is a New Orleans style sub sandwich. It contains meat of some sort–usually roast beef or seafood– and getting it “dressed” adds lettuce, tomatoes, dressing, and sometimes pickles and onions. The term originated in 1929, during the streetcar workers strike. The Martin Brothers owed a restaurant in New Orleans and would serve sandwiches to the strikers for free. The Martin brothers would refer to the workers as “poor boys.” The name stuck for the sandwiches and, in Louisiana dialect, came out pronounced “po’ boy.”

I got a shrimp po’ boy and my husband got a crawfish po’ boy. We took them to go and enjoyed them in Jackson Square Park with the sounds of jazz performances from the street artists on streets surrounding the square.   

Later, for dinner, we went to The Gumbo Shop. My husband got a sampler platter with crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, and shrimp creole. It was all so, SO good!  

I got the red beans and rice. Red beans and rice is a very traditional dish in New Orleans. It is also traditional to eat them on Monday and here’s why: Sunday dinner was usually ham. Then, Monday’s were wash day, so the leftover ham bone would simmer in a pot all day with the beans and seasoning while the women would do the wash. That may not be the way it is now, but the tradition stuck. I’ve made this dish at home many times, and this classic dish at The Gumbo Shop was so good.   

Finally, we ended our first night here walking up and down Bourbon Street with our Hurricanes from Pat O’Briens. The Hurricane was invented at Pat O’Brien’s back in the early 1940s. I’ll let the menu I “borrowed” from the bar tell you:  

I’ve never had a hurricane before and they are really good. REALLY sweet, but good. We took ours back to our room (because you can take alcohol to go in New Orleans) and sat on our balcony and people watched and listened to all the live music playing. And, boy, were there a lot of people to watch!    

   
Stay tuned for Day 2. This is such a cool city! 

*I’m blogging from my phone, so please forgive typos and bad sentence structure! 

Dream Trip: New Orleans! 

I sometimes mention my “Travel Bucket List” when I talk about recipes from other countries. Well, next week, my husband and I are taking a trip to a place that has been on my Travel Bucket List for a LOOOOONG time: NEW ORLEANS!  
New Orleans, Lousiana. The Crescent City, The Big Easy, NOLA… You guys, I can’t even explain to you how excited I am for this trip. The history and culture of this town has always been a fascination of mine.
Since its initial founding by French colonists in the early 1700s, the area has been owned by France, Spain, and the U.S. through various treaties and purchases. The city’s heritage remains strong in the historical roots influenced by French and Spanish colonists, as well as the immigrants—Haitian, French Creole, African (free and slave), and other European countries—who settled in the area.
  
We are staying in the French Quarter (sometimes referred to as the Vieux Carré, pronounced “voo karay”), which is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans. Our hotel is right in the middle of the action on Bourbon Street. We are only about a 5-7 minute walk from just about everything we want to do in the quarter. If not, we can take a street car anywhere that is farther away. 

  
We have plans to see St. Louis Cemetary #1 and hit up the Voodoo Museum. I’m also going to talk my husband into a haunted ghost/vampire tour! How awesome would that be? If we find any vampires, let’s hope they’re nice ones… Or at least nice-ish… 

Oh, Klaus…

 

I’m really looking forward to catching some live Jazz shows. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for a surprise appearance from local boy Harry Connick Jr., but with American Idol and all, I doubt he’ll be around.

*Swoon* HCJ is the bees knees, amiright?

 

Mostly, we are just going to walk around and see what sort of adventures we can find!
And the food! Oh, how I am looking forward to the food! Gumbo, Jambalaya, Po’Boys, Beignets. My mouth is practically watering just thinking about it. I already have a list of places I want to go to, knowing full well we don’t have time to go to all of them. It’s a good thing we are planning on walking a lot, because I have a feeling we are going to need it!
  
One of the coolest things we are planning on doing is going to a class at the New Orleans School of Cooking. I’ve made my fair share of Cajun and Creole cuisine at home, but I’m hoping to pick up a trick or two from the experts to up my game.
I’m going to miss my babies something fierce, but I am really looking forward to this trip! Stay tuned for a little review of my personal NOLA Foodie Tour!

Slow Cooker Irish Stew

Since it’s St. Patrick’s Day, I figured it would be the perfect time for a recipe from Ireland. Although I’ve never had corned beef and cabbage, it really does not sound appealing to me, so for this St. Paddy’s day, I went a different route. 

Ireland is one of the countries that is near the very top of my travel bucket list. Just seeing pictures and hearing stories from friends who have been makes me really want to go there myself. It is an ancient country that has a long and storied history that I encourage you to research if you have the time. It is really such a beautiful place, based on what I’ve seen, and I would love to spend some time there. My recipe today is for a traditional Irish Stew. I remember when I was in college, a friend of mine made a pot of Irish stew for a group of us and it was really good. I don’t remember how he made it, but I do remember liking it. 

This dish is indicitive of traditional Irish cuisine, which has been largely dictated by crops and herds tended in the country. As with many “folk recipes” there really isn’t one definitive way to make an Irish stew, but lots of people have an opinion on it! Purists tend to stick with lamb and potatoes, but from what I’ve seen in my research, it should be OK to add a few ingredients to liven it up a bit. 

Here’s my take on Irish stew:

 1 pound lamb, cut into 1″ cubes (you can use beef, if you’d rather)

3 large carrots, cut into rounds (you can do parsnips too if you want)

2 medium russet potatoes, cut into cubes

**Just make sure all your pieces are roughly the same size

1 onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, smashed

2 teaspoons dried thyme

salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 12oz bottle Guinness Stout

3 cups beef broth

2 bay leaves

In skillet, season the meat with salt and pepper and brown on all sides. You aren’t trying to cook it all the way, just a nice sear on the outside.  

Transfer the meat to your slow cooker. If you have one that allows you to use the insert on the stovetop, you can just do it all in there and not bother with another dish. 

To the slow cooker with the meat add your chopped carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, thyme, tomato paste, and a little more salt and pepper.  

 Add your liquids: the Guinness and beef broth. Stir together and add two bay leaves.  

Cook on low for 8-10 hours. 

  
This was so savory and just delicious! The veggies were soft and flavorful. The meat was fall-apart tender.

You can’t taste the Guinness much, except for a slight underlying taste that kinda just makes you wonder what it is. 

This is a keeper of a recipe for sure! I just wish I had made it last week when it was cold and rainy, not 75 and sunny like today! 

Guinness Cake with Bailey’s Icing

I will admit, there was a time, in my college-aged youth where I had an Irish Car Bomb or two… or three.

The drink is definitely not for the faint of heart. It is “bomb” style drink, meaning you drop a shot of one drink into another drink and chug it. With ICB, you have to chug it really fast, because the shot part of the drink is a mix of Jameson Irish Whiskey and Bailey’s Irish Cream and when the Bailey’s hits the Guinness, it will start to curdle if left in there too long. You basically have to drink the whole thing before the curdling begins. Fun game, right? And a way to get royally f’d up quickly.

Another fun game? Try ordering this in an Irish bar. At best, you won’t get served one. At worse, you might get a punch in the face. The Irish Car Bomb is so named because of 1. the Bomb shot effect, and 2. the “explosion”. The whole thing reminiscent of what is known as “The Troubles,” a very sad and, well, troubling part of Irish history.

The conflict in Ireland is well documented. Car bombs were the weapon of choice for the Irish Republican Army’s fight against Northern Ireland. One day, July 21, 1972, was known as “Bloody Friday.” The IRA set off about 20 bombs all over Belfast. Nine people were killed.

There isn’t really anything wrong with the drink itself, but due to the controversial nature of the name, perhaps we call start calling it something different?

That all being said, this drink is definitely a young man’s game. Cake, however, is definitely something I can do! This was really good too. You can definitely taste the beer and whiskey and bailey’s but it’s not overpowering, so even if you are not a drinker, you will still like this cake.

Guinness Cake with Bailey’s Icing

1 box chocolate cake mix
1 12 oz bottle Guinness Stout (not Draught)
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon Jameson Irish Whiskey
1 stick softened butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 full mini bottle Bailey’s Irish Cream

Mix together the cake mix, the beer, the eggs, and the oil. You are basically just substituting the water that the mix usually calls for for the beer.

In a small bowl, add the chocolate chips. Microwave for 30 seconds and add a splash of milk or heavy cream. Microwave in further 30 second increments until melted and smooth. Add the Jameson and mix in.  I just bought one of these small bottles because we are more Jack Daniel’s people, but whatever size you buy, you just need a tablespoon.

Pour half the cake mix into a well greased bundt pan. Then drizzle in the chocolate and Jameson mixture.Top with the rest of the cake mix. Using a skewer or a knife, swirl the Whiskey Chocolate into the cake mix.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

For the icing, mix together 1 stick of butter and 1 cup of powdered sugar. Add the entire mini bottle of Bailey’s. I think it was 50ml.

Blend until smooth.  I wanted more of an icing, so I left it on the thinner side. If you want a thicker frosting, add more powdered sugar to reach your desired consistency.

When the cake is done, let it cool for a few minutes. Run a knife along the outer edge to loosen it up and invert it onto a plate.

I put the icing on while it was warm so it would melt over the cake. If you were going for a more frosted look, let the cake cool completely before putting the frosting on.

Either way, you gotta include the green sprinkles. Can’t be getting pinched!!

Easiest Meatloaf Ever

When I think of meatloaf, images of a Norman Rockwell-esque, 1950s all-American family come to mind. Little Bobby and Susie run off to play with the neighborhood kids, while dad’s at work and mom’s busy in the kitchen, after playing Bridge with the girls while the kids were at school, of course. It’s comfort food. It may seem dated, but it really is the definition of a tried and true classic dish. 

Clearly, I thought meatloaf was as American as Apple Pie. However, I was slightly wrong. Meatloaf actually has European origins dating back to the 5th century. It is actually a traditional German, Scandinavian, and Belgian dish, and has many global iterations. For example: 

* In Austria, the meatloaf is wrapped in ham before being baked. Denmark also adds ham or bacon to the top of their meatloaf.

* Many countries add hardboiled eggs, such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Germany, Greece, and many others.

* Chilean meatloaf is considered a staple of Chile cuisine in areas having been influenced by German settlers in the 1800s. In addition to beef, they include carrots, sausages, and hardboiled eggs.

* In Cuba, they add ground ham to the beef and cook it on the stove-top instead of baking it in the oven

* In the Czech Republic, they also add hardboiled eggs, but they also sometimes add gherkins, or small pickles.

* In Puerto Rico, they include potatoes and red beans in the meat mixture. 

American meatloaf has it’s origins in something called scrapple, which is very popular in Pennsylvania. Scrapple has been around since Colonial times, but contemporary meatloaf as is common today didn’t appear in cookbooks until the 1800s. Meatloaf gained it’s popularity mainly during the Great Depression because it was a good way to stretch a food budget. 

Fun Fact: Meatloaf was voted the seventh-favorite dish in the US by Good Housekeeping. 

There are so many ways to make a meatloaf. You can change the seasoning, you can change the type of meat you use, you can change your add-ins. This recipe here is my go-to. It is super simple and perfect for a weeknight. It bakes in the oven for about an hour, but the prep time is next to nothing, so you just throw it together, put it in the oven, and move on to other things while it bakes. And my kids like it, so that make it a winner in my book! 

2 pounds of ground beef (you can do a mixture of meats if you want)

3/4 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt 

1 egg

Splash of milk (helps keep it moist!)

In a bowl, combine all your ingredients. 

  

You can form the loaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or you can use a loaf pan.

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Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup ketchup with 1/4 cup brown sugar. Pour over the top of the meatloaf and bake another 10-15 minutes.

  

DONE! Serve with potatoes or veggies. This also makes a really yummy meatloaf sandwich the next day.
 

Some fun alterations I’ve made are adding crumbled (cooked) bacon, shredded cheese (different kinds), using BBQ sauce instead of the ketchup mixture, wrapping it in bacon, using turkey instead of beef… I recently saw that you can smoke a meatloaf! I may have to look into that and put my hubby’s smoker to the test! 

What’s your favorite way to eat meatloaf?

Paella (Spain)

Ah, Spain. España. Have you been there? I have not been to Spain, but it is definitely on my Travel Bucket List. The country is ancient and beautiful. I kinda *sorta* understand the language. The food looks amazing.

Since a trip to Spain is not in my near future, this dish is the closest I’ll get to it. Paella is widely considered the National Dish of Spain and originates from the Valencia region, along the Mediterranean coast. The main component of paella is rice, and you can make seafood paella, meat paella, mixed paella, vegetarian paella… you get the picture.

Around the 10th Century, the Spanish Moors began cultivating rice and the Valencian people would use that rice to make casseroles of rice, fish, and spices for family and religious feasts. By the 15th century, rice became a staple of Spanish cuisine. I read a quote from a Spanish food historian, Lourdes March, about paella that said, the dish “symbolizes the union and heritage of two important cultures, the Roman, which gives us the utensil and the Arab which brought us the basic food of humanity for centuries.”

I really loved that because that was sort of the whole point in my starting this blog. In a world that is as divided as today’s is, food is still so universal. Everyone loves food. Every culture has their own traditions. Most cultures even borrow from other cultures. We all sit down at the end of the day at the dinner table. The fact that paella has come to symbolize the unity of two cultures in Spain is beautiful.

From what research I’ve done, there are many ways to make this dish. You can even get a paella pan, but I just used a large skillet. This particular paella is shrimp and scallops because that’s what I had on hand, but I think doing a shrimp and chicken would be delicious.

A typical spice in paella is saffron. As you may know, this is the most expensive spice, by weight, in the world. The bonus is a little goes a long way. I found a small jar at Trader Joe’s that cost about $5 or $6, which is the cheapest I’ve seen for a jar. The one I saw at Pavilions was closer to $17.

The only problem I had with the recipe I used was that it made SO much rice! The rice to seafood ratio was so off. I would probably just make less rice next time. Otherwise, this recipe was delicious and I can’t wait to play around with this dish again and see what sort of delicious combinations I can come up with.

Shrimp and Scallop Paella

(recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking?)

¼ cup olive oil

4 shallots, minced (I used leeks because that’s what I had on hand)

6 cloves garlic, minced

4 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from the stem

2 bay leaves

2 pinches of saffron

3 cups long grain white rice

¾ cup white wine (I’m sure you could just use chicken broth)

2 tsp salt

6 cups chicken broth

3 tomatoes, seeded and diced (I used a handful of cherry tomatoes because that’s what I had)

8 jumbo shrimp, peeled, split, and deveined

8 sea scallops, cleaned

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil, for drizzling

1 lemon juiced

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a large oven-proof skillet, add the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic until soft and fragrant. Add the thyme and the bay leaves and cook for a minute or two. Add the saffron and the rice and stir for a couple minutes until the rice is coated with the olive oil.

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Add the wine, salt, and chicken stock, making sure the rice is evenly distributed in the pan. Raise the heat to high and bring to a simmer. Once it comes to a steady simmer, remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle in the tomatoes. Put the dish in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

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After 20 minutes, take the pan out of the oven and add the shrimp and scallops. Put the pan back in the oven and cook for another 13 minutes until the seafood is cooked. This seemed like a very specific time, but I did exactly 13 minutes like the recipe called for and it came out perfect!

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Remove from the oven and sprinkle with parsley, drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice and serve.

I had no expectations for this dish, but it turned out really good! I can see why Spain claims it as their national dish!

¡Buen Provecho!