new orleans food & drink highlights

PART 2

Instead of working on today’s post last night, I went to see Anna Karenina. Very irresponsible of me, I know, but I’ve been wanting to see it ever since I did that post on Banana Republic’s Anna Karenina collection (to see that post, click here).

Anyway, today marks the second portion of highlights from Michael and I’s food and drink adventure in New Orleans. Next up: The Bulldog on Magazine Street. This establishment is always packed, and on a nice day, your chances of finding a table on the patio are very slim. It’s a mecca for locals and tourists alike who enjoy draft beer, drinking outside, dogs, cool water fountains and warm conversation. Sounds like my kind of people.

Check out these photos I took during our Saturday visit there… The Bulldog New Orleans 3

The Bulldog New Orleans 5

The Bulldog New Orleans 4

Michael Nicley & Andouille (not Michael my boyfriend…just to clarify)

The Bulldog New Orleans 2

 The Bulldog New Orleans

new orleans food & drink highlights

PART 1

While Christmas is still a week away, Michael and I already exchanged a gift—the gift of a big New Orleans weekend. As I’ve stated before, when it comes down to a material gift or an experience, I will choose experience every time. Fortunately, Michael feels the same.

Also worth noting is the fact that we made a deal before the trip began: no calling and/or making plans with the many friends and family members we have in New Orleans. It was time for some “us” time, if that makes sense. And while it is always wonderful to go out with friends and family, we usually end up on the other side of the table or bar from one another, talking to other people…not each other.

Weekends spent in New Orleans are usually gluttonous ones, filled with copious amounts of scrumptious food and intoxicating refreshments. I must admit that this weekend was no different. Michael and I hit up some of our Crescent City favorites, but we also discovered (and delighted in) a few new bars and restaurants. Since we covered a lot of ground in 48 hours, I’m going to incrementally post some of the highlights from our indulgent weekend. First up: St. James Cheese Company on Prytania. YUM!

Overall, it was an incredible weekend. Eating and drinking my way through New Orleans with my best friend…gifts don’t get much better.

No matter its form, I hope you receive (or give yourself) a truly worthwhile gift this holiday season.

St. James Cheese Company New Orleans

St. James Cheese Company New Orleans

St. James Cheese Company menu


St. James Cheese Company slow roasted beef and bleu cheese on multigrain

SMOKEY BLUE SANDWICH House smoked Mycella blue cheese, top quality roast beef, Worcestershire mayo, tomatoes and lettuce on toasted Wild Flour multigrain bread.

HOOKS CHEDDAR SANDWICH Hooks Cheddar from Wisconsin with house smoked turkey, fresh basil, tomato, mayo and avocado on fresh ciabatta.

Learn more about St. James Cheese Company by clicking here.

More New Orleans food & drink highlights to come this Wednesday. Have you been to St. James before? If so, what’s your favorite sandwich there? I’m determined to try them all. If not, what’s YOUR favorite sandwich spot in Nola? I’ll add it to my “must try” list.

hump day treat

Happy hump day, lovelies! Italian sausage and red bell pepper is one of those solidified, unmistakable food duos that can’t be compromised. Like other combinations that have stood the test of time (think PB&J), Italian sausage and red bell pepper may be adapted for various dishes without compromising the ingredients’ basic goodness. This dish below is a great example of that. With a few spices and some whipping cream, you have a delicious sauce, where the crunchy sweetness of the bell pepper and robust taste of sausage are the main event. You can toss the finished sauce in traditional pasta, or you can do like I did, and sub in spaghetti squash. For instructions on how to prepare spaghetti squash, click here. I hope you enjoy!

Italian Sausage Pasta copy

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, casing removed and crumbled
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1½ cups whipping cream
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 12 ounces of pasta of your choice (or, in my case, spaghetti squash)
  • freshly grated Parmesan
  • chopped fresh parsley (for garnish at the end)

Directions

Makes 4 servings

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until golden, about 1 minute.

Mix in sausage and cook until brown, about 8 minutes.

Add peppers and onion and cook until almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.

Add salt, pepper, basil and oregano.

Cover and simmer 8 minutes. Uncover and cook 2 minutes.

In the meantime, cook pasta according to package directions.

Pour finished sauce over pasta (or spaghetti squash) and toss.

Top with freshly grated Parmesan and parsley and serve.

*Recipe adapted from food.com

 Quote of the day:

“Before you act, listen. Before you react, think. Before you spend, earn. Before you criticize, wait. Before you pray, forgive. Before you quit, try.” –Ernest Hemingway

hump day treat: pesto pinwheels

Fancy in appearance and scrum-diddly in taste, pesto pinwheels are my go-to appetizer when I’m trying to impress guests in a pinch. Hope you enjoy. And happy hump day!

Press seams of the crescent roll dough together.

Spread pesto onto dough. *Note: I lay the dough on a piece of plastic wrap during this process. Read on to see why.

Top dough with sun-dried tomatoes.

Then sprinkle with goat cheese or feta.

Roll dough into a log.

Wrap plastic wrap around dough log or place dough in a plastic bag. Dough may be refridgerated for a few days before baking. Or, if you’re in a hurry, simply place plastic-wrapped dough in the freezer for a few minutes. This will allow the dough to firm up, which makes it much easier to cut into.

Slice dough into medallions, approximately half an inch in width (totally up to your discretion).

Place medallions on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Enjoy! And try to share…if you can.

Ingredients

  • Crescent roll dough
  • Pesto – it can be basil pesto, it can be arugula pesto, whatever you like!
  • Fresh goat cheese or feta
  • Sun-dried tomatoes

Directions

Press seams of the crescent roll dough together.

Spread pesto onto dough. *Note: I lay the dough on a piece of plastic wrap during this process. Read on to see why.

Top dough with sun-dried tomatoes.

Then sprinkle with goat cheese or feta.

Roll dough into a log.

Wrap plastic wrap around dough log or place dough in a plastic bag. Dough may be refridgerated for a few days before baking. Or, if you’re in a hurry, simply place plastic-wrapped dough in the freezer for a few minutes. This will allow the dough to firm up, which makes it much easier to cut into.

Place medallions on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Related story: For another quick, easy and scrumptious app, check out my peach and prosciutto crostini recipe.

pumpkin cheesecake with praline topping

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I didn’t get this pumpkin cheesecake with praline topping finished quite in time for Wednesday’s hump day treat post, but I wanted to share it with you in Thanksgiving’s postmortem. Hopefully you can still glean some inspiration from it for your next holiday get-together. If you’re braving the Black Friday crowds right now, I wish you the best of luck and happy shopping. If you’re not working today, I hope you’re doing something cool either for yourself or with your friends and family. If you’re back at the office, I’m so sorry. Stay strong!

Ingredients:

For the crust

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

For the filling

  • 3, 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon. vanilla
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • Whipped cream 

For the praline topping

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups pecans (8 ounces)

Directions

For the crust

Preheat oven to 350˚F

Place a piece of parchment paper in an 8-9 inch spring form pan.

Lightly coat parchment paper with cooking spray or butter

Mix crust ingredients together, just till coated and crumbly. Press into the bottom of the parchment-covered pan and 2/3 up the sides. Bake for 5 minutes. Set aside.

For the filling

Combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in large bowl, mix until smooth with a hand mixer or food processor.

Add pumpkin puree, eggs and spices, beat until smooth and creamy. Pour into the crust.

Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until the top turns golden brown.

Remove cheesecake from oven and leave out until it comes to room temperature, then refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

After it has thoroughly chilled, remove cheesecake from pan and carefully peel away the parchment paper.

The cheesecake may sit in your fridge for up to 3 days before serving.

For the praline topping

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350˚F .

In a large saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar and cook over moderate heat, stirring until smooth.

Stir in the heavy cream and salt and bring to a boil. Simmer just until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Let cool.

Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until they are lightly browned and fragrant. Transfer the pecans to a work surface and let them cool. Coarsely chop the nuts, stir them into the cooled caramel and serve.

*Praline topping adapted from Food & Wine’s Pecan Praline Topping.

Quote of the day:

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.” –J.K. Rowling 

hump day treat: light(er) french toast

Peeps, I’m tired. Real tired. I’m in the middle of training for my new position with nola.com and it is AWESOME (truly), but there is a lot to absorb each day, and my full focus and attention is absolutely necessary.

Anyone else out there feeling nervous/excited/overwhelmed by a new job or venture? Is it zapping your energy the way a microwave zaps nutrients from food? Nerd analogy, I know, but that’s kind of how I feel right now. I was a nutritious vegetable filled with all sorts of good things, like a healthy immune system and bag-free under eyes. And now I’m in a microwave.

The upside? I’m going to come out all warm and melty and full of digital savvy that far surpasses the amount I have now, and I’m going to do it in less time than I would if I were in an oven (and by oven, I mean a not-so-digitally driven company). That’s the hope anyway. And it’s a pretty fantastic trade-off if you ask me.

So now that I’ve lengthily played out that metaphor, this week’s hump day treat is a light, but scrumptious French toast recipe. Even though you may be eating a lion’s share of Thanksgiving leftovers all weekend, you can maybe throw this dish into the rotation for breakfast.

For another healthy breakfast recipe, check out my oatmeal blueberry muffins.

I sincerely hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon milk, divided
  • 3 tablespoons agave or honey, divided, plus more to serve (It’s equally delicious with either agave or honey)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4 slices whole grain bread
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
  • Sliced fruit and berries (your preference) 

Directions

Serves 2

In a baking dish, whisk together the egg, 1/4 cup milk, 2 tablespoons of agave or honey, and vanilla, until well combined.

In a bowl, whisk together the ricotta, lemon zest, remaining tablespoon of milk and remaining tablespoon of agave or honey, until smooth. Chill until ready to serve.

Heat the butter in a large non-stick pan or griddle over medium heat.

Dredge the bread in the milk, one by one, on both sides. Add the bread to the pan and cook for 2-4 minutes on each side, or until golden.

To serve, sandwich a quarter of the ricotta between two slices of toast

Top with a dollop of ricotta and your preference of sliced fruit and strawberries. Drizzle with agave or honey to serve.

*Recipe adapted from The Fit Cook’s stuffed strawberry French toast.

Quote of the day:  

“Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.” –Erma Bombeck 

hump day treat

 

Happy hump day lovelies! These baked sweet potato fries are so scrumptious that I just couldn’t resist sharing them with you. What’s more, they’re extremely easy to make. The toughest part is cutting the sweet potatoes into wedges, which really isn’t difficult at all.

Sweet potatoes are packed with twice as much fiber as other types of potatoes and they also contain high amounts of potassium, beta-carotene and the heart-healthy B6 vitamin. Basically, ladies, this is a friendly carb. I actually made these recently with a little less olive oil and brown sugar than the recipe calls for, and they still tasted wonderful.

What’s your favorite way to cook sweet potatoes? I’m always looking for new recipes, so I’d love to hear from you!

P.S. – Have you ever tried dipping sweet potato fries in barbecue sauce? So delish!

Ingredients

Makes 3-4 servings

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F

If desired, peel sweet potatoes (I like the skin, so I didn’t). Begin cutting potatoes into wedges—I make my wedges smaller so that they take less time to bake.

Add potatoes to a bowl and combine with olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika and brown sugar. Mix thoroughly with your hands so every wedge is covered.

Set a wire rack on a baking sheet and spray with non-stick spray (A wire rack ensures that the fries crisp up on all sides, but you can go without one. The fries will just be a little mushier, but still delicious!).

Sort wedges on the wire rack and bake for 25 minutes, then check to see if the potatoes are close to where you’d like them. I usually flip the fries at this time, rotate the rack, and put them back in for 15 minutes.

*Recipe adapted from How Sweet It is.

Quote of the day:

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” –Julia Child

hump day treat: grilled salmon
with creamy cucumber-dill salad

Happy hump day, lovelies! Not to sound cocky, but I feel like I outdid myself with this hump day treat. It’s the best salmon dish I’ve ever made. Having never cooked with dill, I’m now a believer in its earthy sourness. Not overpowering, but juuust right. See the recipe and photos below. I hope you enjoy! And Happy Halloween!

Cut cucumber in half and then slice each half down the middle lengthwise. Use the tip of a teaspoon to scoop out center seeds.

Cut into thin slices and place in colander with finely sliced red onion. Toss with salt and let sit in sink for at least 30 minutes, until water drains out.

Combine sour cream, mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, dill, garlic, sugar and black pepper in a medium bowl and mix well.

Grilled Salmon with Creamy Cucumber-Dill Salad

Ingredients

For the salmon

  • 4, 6-ounce salmon filets (At some seafood counters, they’ll remove the salmon skin for you, so don’t be afraid to ask. It may save you a lot of trouble, especially if you don’t have a good paring knife)
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the cucumber-dill salad

  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/3 cup finely sliced red onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons of high-quality mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Makes 4

Cut cucumber in half and then slice each half down the middle lengthwise. Use the tip of a teaspoon to scoop out center seeds. Cut into thin slices and place in colander with finely sliced red onion. Toss with salt and let sit in sink for at least 30 minutes, until water drains out.

In the meantime, make the dressing. Combine sour cream, mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, dill, garlic, sugar and black pepper in a medium bowl and mix well.

When cucumbers and onions are ready, release any excess water by tapping colander on the base of the sink, then pat vegetables dry with paper towels. Add to dressing and toss well. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Preheat grill to high heat. Clean grill rack, then brush lightly with oil. Close lid and let return to temperature. (I don’t have an outdoor grill, so I simply used my George Foreman)

Rub salmon with olive oil and season generously with kosher salt (about 1 teaspoon) and pepper. Place filets skin side down and grill until golden brown and slightly charred, 4-5 minutes. Flip filets over and continue grilling until done, 2-3 minutes. Let cool slightly, remove the skin if desired, and serve with the cold cucumber-dill salad piled over top or alongside.

*Recipe adapted from Once Upon a Chef’s grilled salmon with creamy cucumber-dill salad.

Quote of the day: 

“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.” –Theadore Rubin

hump day treat: big john’s bloody mary

On Sundays after church, beginning in the mid-1960s, the Womacks, Wrights, Raggios, Thompsons and Terrells made their way to my grandparent’s home in Jefferson Place, children in tow. My grandparents Bitsy and John (also known as Big John) Weimar always loved to have their people around. The children would play in the yard while parents socialized in the house with Bloody Marys in hand.

Big John’s Bloody Mary recipe was, and remains, a much-anticipated treat, so much so that my uncle has a framed copy of the recipe sitting atop his bar. Another hangs in the kitchen at our camp on Lake Bruin. The paper is slightly yellowed with age and the unmistakable typewriter font hearkens to a nostalgic era (see photo below). As silly as this may sound, I feel honored to be the one to share this recipe with people.

I enjoyed one of Big John’s Bloody Marys last weekend at my family’s tailgate, which I’d like to share a little history on. Beginning in 1958, Bitsy and Big John would park in the same spot every home game, on the side of Lockett Hall before there was Lockett Hall. Fifty-four years later, my family still parks in that spot. The tailgate there began with an ice chest of beer and a box of crackers on the back end of the station wagon; it has grown to a full-on production complete with a massive purple and gold tent, platters brimming with food, and a high-def television. My time spent here with family and friends is irreplaceable. And while Bitsy and Big John are no longer with us, to me they seem immortalized through this weekly ritual each fall, even if it is only a tailgate.

See Big John’s Bloody Mary Recipe and photos from the tailgate below…

Fried shrimp from Maxwell’s Market

Yes, we have an oversized Barbie that’s displayed at the tailgate each week. I don’t know how she got there, but she’s growing on me.

Petit fours from Keller’s Bakery in Lafayette

Meat pies from Maxwell’s Market

Quote of the day: 

 

“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.” –George Bernard Shaw

hump day treat: french 75

 

Easy to make and even easier to enjoy, French 75 cocktails are crisp, light and refreshing. Michael and I made these with my parents during our recent hurri-cation in Lafayette. With no place to go and nothing pressing to do, it was really nice to sip a cocktail (or two) and watch the rain. But trust me, this bevvy is just as enjoyable under clear skies. I hope you enjoy! Happy hump day!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 to 2 ounces cognac, brandy or gin (I used gin)
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup (make your own using equal parts sugar and water)
  • Champagne

Directions

Makes one drink

Fill tall glass with ice.

Add alcohol, lemon juice and simple syrup.

Mix with a spoon.

Top with champagne.

Garnish with lemon twist.

Quote of the day:

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” –Lao Tzu