Christmas Eve Lasagna

Christmas Eve Red Lasagna

Every Christmas Eve I prepare lasagna, chicken French, and Cajun eggnog. Sure, I have a display of Christmas cutout cookies and red velvet cupcakes, but it isn’t Christmas Eve until the lasagna is out of the oven.This recipe yields a 2-3 … Continue reading

Better than Grandma’s Pie Crust

Recipe yields enough dough for two flaky buttery pie crusts. I usually double recipe, which yields enough dough for one pie and a 9″ x 13″ pan. This crust is great for pies, cobblers, dumplings, etc. Although I’m posting photos … Continue reading

Potato Latkes (Pancakes)

Potato latkes with fresh sour cream and homemade apple sauce brings back wonderful childhood memories!   Ingredients  2 lbs butter/yellow potatoes, peeled 3/4 cup chopped scallions 3 large eggs, beaten 2 tablespoons all purpose flour OR matzo meal 1.5 teaspoons … Continue reading

Cooking as Racial, Cultural, and Religious History #BlackHistoryMonth

For me, cooking and entertaining is performance art. Every time I plan a party, event, or create a menu for my family, I am engaging in a performance that is a reenactment of what the woman in my family did … Continue reading

Low Country Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits. One of the quintessential low country dishes great for breakfast, brunch, or in my home, the perfect after work snack. Low country cooking is unpretentious, yet flavorful. It is representative of true American flavors! Low country refers … Continue reading

Professional Food Photography

In 2014, while I was completing my dissertation research and writing, I began working at a local restaurant as an “escape” from the drudgery of writing. One day, while working, I met a talented photographer named Brandon Vick and as they … Continue reading

Creamy Baked Macaroni

BLOGGER’S NOTE: PHOTOS ARE NOT INCLUDED AT THIS TIME. I WANTED TO ENSURE THAT THE RECIPE WAS POSTED PRIOR TO THANKSGIVING. I WILL UPDATE POST WITH PHOTOS AFTER THANKSGIVING, IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS.

This recipe juxtaposes my two favorite versions of macaroni and cheese: classic U.S. southern style baked macaroni and West Indian macaroni pie. There are several imitations of macaroni pie on the internet and do not do the real thing justice. Both macaroni pie and southern style baked macaroni are staple on holidays and Sunday dinners often served along side a green vegetable such as callaloo, steamed cabbage, or collard greens and of course, stewed or fried fish and fried chicken! I like my baked macaroni a little spicy so I add finely chopped habanero pepper, but feel free to leave it out. What separates my baked macaroni from that bland stuff is all of the flavor, the creaminess, and richness. Note, I did not include the calorie/nutrition information here. Why not? Because it’s calorie free of course!

Seasoned Bechamel Sauce

3 cups evaporated milk (carnation or Pet; you may also use whole, 2% or 1% milk)

1 stick (8 tablespoons) salted butter

1/2 cup all purpose flour

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons ground/dry mustard

1 teaspoon white pepper

***optional***- 1 habanero pepper seeded and finely chopped OR 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce/hot sauce

Remaining Ingredients 

1 lb “elbow” macaroni or this for traditional style 

1-2 teaspoons kosher salt for boiling pasta

1 teaspoon vegetable or olive oil for boiling pasta

2 eggs whisked (remove the white string with a knife FYI this makes your eggs taste and smell “fresh” or eggy)

2 cups (1 lb) shredded sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup (1/4 lb)   shredded pecorino romano

1 cup (1/4 lb) crumbly cubes (coarse chop using food processor) mozzarella or muenster cheese

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large heavy bottomed pot (such as the IMUSA castiron pot) melt the stick of butter over medium heat. Sprinkle in flour by the heaping tablespoon full whisking thoroughly and constantly before adding more flour. Be careful not to burn.

Once all flour is incorporated add milk slowly while constantly whisking.

Reduce temperature to medium-low and add garlic powder, onion powder, dry mustard, white pepper, and optional hot sauce or chopped habanero.

Cook for 5-7 minutes or until rather thick. Reduce stove temperature to low.

Take a cup full of bechamel sauce mixture and add it to bowl that contains 2 whisked eggs. Slowly pour cup of sauce into eggs, whisking constantly, as not to cook/scramble eggs. Pour egg mixture back into remaining bechamel sauce.

Add 1.5 cups of shredded cheddar and pecorino romano into bechamel sauce.

Boil pasta with salt and oil until al dente/cooked but firm (about 8-10 minutes).

Drain pasta reserving about 1/2 cup of water. While still hot, return pasta to pot it was boiled in and add the reserved pasta water. Set pot aside. Be careful not to return pot to hot eye of stove.

Pour cooked pasta into pot with bechamel sauce. Stir. Season with salt (approximately 1 teaspoon).

Pour 1/2 of macaroni mixture into well greased/buttered (you can use a cooking spray to reduce the calories, Ha! Ha!) casserole dish or pan. Sprinkle with crumbly cubes of mozzarella or muenster cheese. Add remaining macaroni mixture. Top with remaining 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

Bake 20-30 minutes or until just beginning to turn golden brown.

 

 

Super Lemony Lemon Coconut Cake

Lemon Coconut

This is a fairly easy recipe for a great Spring time dessert. I created this recipe Easter 2014 because every lemon cake recipe I’ve ever used was never lemony enough. Trust me, if you like that tart lemony bite, this cake has it. How? I use lemon oil!! Lemon oil is approximately $10 for 0.5 ounce and goes rancid rather quickly, so it is best to refrigerate it upon opening. This is a great recipe for cupcakes too. I simply sliced the tops off horizontally, topped with curd, replaced the top and frosted. Makes 24 standard sized cupcakes, 1 3 layer 9 in round cake, or 1/2 sheet cake. By the way, this cake recipe is amazingly moist!! Simply remove the lemon ingredients and you have a great yellow cake recipe. 

Lemon Coconut Cupcakes, Triple Chocolate Sheet Cake (recipe coming soon), hot crossed buns, homemade peanut butter eggs, etc.

Lemon Coconut Cupcakes, Triple Chocolate Sheet Cake (recipe coming soon), hot crossed buns with cinnamon butter, homemade peanut butter eggs, etc.

Ingredients for Basic Moist (Lemon) Yellow Cake*

2 1/4 cups cake flour

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cup milk in a 2 cup measuring cup, add enough vegetable oil to bring milk level to 1 1/3 cups

1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter softened

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 large eggs room temperature

1/2 teaspoon lemon oil (use an eye dropper)

2 teaspoons lemon powder

2 teaspoons ground lemon zest

2 drops lemon food coloring

*Simply omit the lemon oil, lemon powder, ground lemon zest, AND yellow food coloring  for a very moist basic yellow cake

Lemon Oil, Ground Lemon Zest, and Lemon Powder

Lemon Oil, Ground Lemon Zest, and Lemon Powder

Ingredients for Lemon Curd Filling

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest OR 1 tablespoon ground lemon zest

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

4 teaspoons corn starch

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon salted butter

Ingredients for Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

2 tablespoons ground lemon zest/finely shredded lemon zest

8 ounces softened cream cheese

1/2 cup softened salted butter

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon powder

1/2 teaspoon lemon oil

5 cups confectionery sugar

Ingredients for Coconut  Coating

3 cups shredded sweetened coconut

Optional- 3 drops food coloring of your choice

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

Prepare three (3) 9 x 1.5-inch round pans OR 1/2 sheet pan by either spraying with cooking spray or cutting wax paper to fit bottom of pans (spray pans with cooking spray, place the wax paper in the pans and spray the paper)

In large mixing bowl combine cake flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix until well incorporated.

Add the milk/oil mixture and butter to dry ingredients. Beat on medium-high for 2 minutes. While beating add vanilla (and lemon oil, lemon powder, and ground lemon zest if making a lemon cake).

Add eggs one at a time and continue beating on medium an additional 2-3 minutes.

Pour batter into prepared pan(s). Cut wax paper to fit the bottom of (3) 9 x 1 1/2-inch round pans. Spray the pans with cooking spray, place the wax paper in the pans and spray the paper. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until inserted knife comes out clean.

          While cake is baking make lemon curd. In a medium sauce pan over medium low heat add water, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice,corn starch, and salt. Whisk ingredients until well incorporated. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes. Reduce temperature to low and remove pan from heat. Stir in butter and cool. Refrigerate until ready to use. FYI the curd will be a pale yellow color. If you desire a more intense yellow color then add a drop or two of yellow food coloring.

Cool cake on wire rack for 15-20 minutes or until cool.

For frosting, mix cream cheese and butter on medium speed. Once well blended add confectionery sugar one cup at a time, adding next cup once the previous cup is completely incorporated. Add lemon zest, powder, and oil. Mix/blend an additional minute. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

When ready to assemble, place curd between cake layers. Frost cake. Immediately, mix coconut and food coloring. Pat coconut evenly over cake while icing is still wet. Cover/store cake appropriately.

Shredded Sweetened Coconut

Colored Coconut

Mussels For Two

 

Steamed Mussels in a flavorful white wine broth. A great dish to add to your Valentine's Day menu.

Steamed Mussels in a flavorful white wine broth. A great dish to add to your Valentine’s Day menu.

This is a quick and easy recipe using all fresh ingredients! This is a perfect appetizer to accompany your Valentine’s Day meal. You can serve these mussels in the shell or removed from the shells and over a bed of fresh pasta. Make sure you have fresh crusty bread on hand to sop-up the flavorful broth. Please note, when choosing a white wine, do not buy a “cooking wine” from off of the shelf. Do not cook with a wine that you won’t drink. I suggest buying an inexpensive dry wine that you enjoy and cooking with it. This rule applies to white and red wines. 

Mussels shown removed from shells, served over pasta.

Mussels shown removed from shells, served over pasta.

Ingredients

4 lbs of mussels, butter, red onion, fennel, roma tomatoes, garlic, white wine

4 lbs of mussels, butter, red onion, fennel, roma tomatoes, garlic, white wine

4 lbs mussels debearded and cleaned

4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) salted butter

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 red onion quartered and sliced thinly 

5 cloves garlic peeled and sliced

5 sprigs fresh thyme

3 roma tomatoes chopped

2 fennel bulbs sliced thinly 

2 cups good quality dry white wine (i.e. chardonnay)

1 tablespoon salt 

Directions

If possible, buy mussels fresh, the day in which you plan to use them. If you are unable to do so, remove mussels from plastic bag and place in the back of your refrigerator with a damp paper towel covering them, for one to two days. This will allow the mussels, which are alive, to breathe. 

When ready to prepare, place mussels in a bowl and fill with cool water. Allow mussels to sit for 20 minutes to allow them to expel the sand and dirt inside. Begin to debeard and clean mussels. For tips on debearding mussels please visit this site. Any mussels that are opened, do not close when tapped, or chipped, discard (they are not viable/they’re dead). Once mussels are clean place them in another bowl. Do not simply pour cleaned mussels and water into another bowl, for the sand and dirt that was expelled will transfer to clean bowl. You may use a slotted spoon to transfer mussels.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy pot heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add slice garlic, red onion and fennel. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring often. Add tomatoes, thyme, and salt. Cook an additional 5 minutes.  Pour in two cups of wine and increase heat to medium high. Add mussels on top of vegetables. Place cover on pot.

Allow mussels to cook covered on medium high for 10 minutes. Remove cover and stir so that vegetables are no longer at the bottom of the pot.

Mussels steamed w white wine, fresh thyme, fennel, red onion, garlic, and roma tomatoes.

Mussels steamed w white wine, fresh thyme, fennel, red onion, garlic, and roma tomatoes.

Cook mussels an additional 5-10 minutes. Remove/discard any mussels that are unopened. 

Serve mussels w some of the liquid in bowl with crusty bread. Provide guests with a plate/bowl for discarded shells.

If serving mussels over pasta, remove mussels from shells and continue to cook in liquid for an additional 5 minutes. Remove all of thyme stems. Pour mussels w sauce/liquid over cooked pasta. 

“Sister Time” Doubles

Carnival Season is officially upon us! Happy Carnival 2014! If you’re here in New Orleans, these are great for your next Mardi Gras/Carnival Party and great to take with you on the parade route (see you on the corner of … Continue reading