Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cookbook Challenge Goes Catholic: Leftovers During Lent

We had a considerable amount of leftover ingredients from our ravioli experiment on Sunday and were searching for a recipe to clean out the fridge. I found a recipe from a cookbook Keith has owned for quite awhile: the St. Martins Catholic Church cookbook from 1992. I'm not Catholic myself but I suppose its still kosher, er, ok to cook up a Catholic recipe.

The cookbook compiled recipes from members of the Jefferson City church and includes entries that date back to 1968. It's a kick to read many of the recipes that were clearly a sign of the times...casseroles play a starring role, butter is typically listed as "oleo", and cream of mushroom is a primary ingredient (which ain't just a Catholic thing, it was a big ingredient at my house when I was growing up as well). I found a recipe that best utilized a lot of our leftovers: Casserole of Ham, Macaroni and Broccoli by Ann LeCure.

One would think that all of this cooking and writing about food would cause me to mature in the kitchen a bit but last night proved that I'm still not immune to cooking meltdowns. Preparing this meal was certainly much easier than our ravioli from scratch on Sunday, but a long day at work precipitated some distracted agitation and that reminds me that I still need to practice some relaxation when cooking. The meal still turned out delicious. We used mostiaccoli we had on hand as opposed to macaroni and used a Mexican blend of cheese for the sauce. Otherwise, I'll include the recipe as printed.

No, I have not converted to Catholicism nor was I moved to go to confessional following the creation of this casserole. Confession would mean I would have to compile the list of sins, then add footnotes, a glossary of references and then tease the next installment and well, there's only so much time in the day. Keith's family IS Catholic, however, so it was cool to recreate a recipe from their family church cookbook without having to worry about giving up anything during Lent. This recipe is Cookbook Challenge #36.

Also, I'd be remiss not to mention the result of Keith's latest creative spark. He designed and made a beautiful stained glass piece for one of our kitchen cabinet doors. The K-Man outdid himself...it looks awesome!

Casserole of Ham, Macaroni and Broccoli

3 tbsp oleo
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
dash of pepper
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 tbsp grated onion
3 cups of milk(we used skim)
2/3 cup grated cheese
8 oz. elbow macaroni
6 oz cooked ham (we used our leftover meat filling from ravioli-salami, ham, ground beef)
1 pkg frozen broccoli, cooked
grated Parmesan cheese

Melt oleo in large saucepan; blend in flour, salt, pepper, dry mustard and onion. Gradually add milk and cook until thick. Remove from heat and add cheese. Cook macaroni; drain. Add ham, broccoli, macaroni to cheese sauce.
Place in 2 quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese; bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Where For Art Thou, Spring?

It's been a bit since my last blather, as The K-Man and I have been on the slow road to recovery from The Crud of Doom that has been a beeyotch to shake. Needless to say, we haven't been all about the food for awhile. Once we had finally regained our appetites, it was a one-day whirlwind of spring-like temps and we decided we would most certainly be grillin' and chillin' by the weekend. We planted lettuces, photographed the daffodils and crocuses, made fajitas and celebrated the new season. Well, spring may have sprung but Mother Nature apparently decided Spring-like weather ain't stickin' around until She's damn good and ready for it to do so. Therefore, as the snow falls on this frigid March day we decided to change it up and make ravioli...from scratch.

We returned to the Cookbook Challenge with a vengeance and consulted the Cooking Class Italian Cookbook for our guide to homemade ravioli....in fact, it was the dish featured on the cover. The recipe was a tad detailed and labor-intensive, but it was most assuredly worth every minute. Now that we've done it, the recipe will be much easier to repeat and we can play with the ingredients somewhat. I completely recommend this recipe, though.....we made the pasta, sauce and filling all from scratch and it was spectacular. We served the ravioli with a spinach salad tossed with a honey-brown butter dressing from a Tyler Florence recipe in the Food Network Favorites cookbook. The recipes are lengthy so I'm moving on to them and these count as Cookbook Challenge # 34 and 35.

Four-Meat Ravioli

1. Prepare Four-Meat filling; refrigerate.

2. Prepare Plum Tomato Sauce; set aside.

3. For dough, mix flour and salt in large bowl. Combine 2 eggs, oil and 2/3 cup of water in small bowl; whisk thoroughly. Gradually stir egg mixture into flour mixture with fork. Add enough of remaining 1/3 cup water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to form firm but pliable dough.

4. Place dough on lightly floured surface; flatten slightly. To knead dough, fold dough in half towards you and press dough away from you with heels of hands. Give dough a quarter turn and continue folding, pushing and turning. Continue kneading 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic, adding more flour to prevent sticking if necessary. Wrap in dough in plastic wrap; let rest 30 minutes.

5. Unwrap dough and knead briefly (as described in step 4) on lightly floured surface; divide into 4 pieces. Using lightly floured rolling pin, roll out 1 dough piece to 1/16-inch thickness. (keep remaining dough pieces wrapped in plastic to prevent drying) Cut dough into 4-inch-wide strips. Place teaspoonfuls of Four-Meat Filling along top half of each strip at 2-inch intervals.

6. Whisk egg yolk and milk in small bowl. Brush dough on long edge and between filling with egg-milk mixture.

7. Fold dough over filling; press firmly between filling and along edge to seal, making sure all air has been pushed out.

8. Cut ravioli apart with pastry wheel (we didn't have this,used pizza cutter). Repeat with remaining 3 dough pieces, filling and egg-milk mixture.

9. Cook ravioli, 1/4 at a time, in large pot of salted water 3 to 5 minutes just until al dente. Remove with slotted spoon; drain well. Add ravioli to reserved sauce. Bring sauce and ravioli to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, 6 to 8 minutes until heated through. Sprinkle with parsley and cheese. Garnish, if desired. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Four-Meat Filling

5 ounces fresh spinach, cleaned and cooked and squeezed dry
2 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 4 ounces each), cooked
3 ounces prosciutto or cooked ham
1 1/2 ounces of hard salami
1 clove garlic
6 ounces ground beef
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mince spinach, chicken, prosciutto, salami and garlic; combine in medium bowl with beef, parsley, eggs, allspice and salt. Mix well.

Plum Tomato Sauce

1/3 cup butter or margarine
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can (28 ounces) Italian plum tomatoes, undrained
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed
1/8 teaspoon pepper

1. Heat butter in large saucepan over medium heat until melted and bubbly; cook and stir garlic in hot butter 30 seconds. Press tomatoes and juice through sieve into garlic mixture; discard seeds. Stir in tomato sauce, salt, allspice, basil, rosemary and pepper.

2. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer 15 minutes more or until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.

Spinach Salad with Honey-Brown Butter Dressing

4 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 loosely packed cups baby spinach

1. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until shallot is tender and the butter turns a light brown color, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar, honey, salt and pepper to taste.

2. Pour desired amount of dressing over the spinach in a bowl and toss. Serve immediately.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Savor The Moments

The aftermath of the earthquake in Japan seems to be an undulating, relentless horror....the news seems to worsen with every viewing. The survivors that I've watched seem shockingly resilient, considering that so many of them have lost everything and the outlook at the moment ranges from bleak to terrifying. They go on, though......they move forward, as we must, even in the most horrifying of scenarios.

Watching tragedies unfold like this tsunami nightmare remind me once again about how fortunate I am for this life I have and how grateful I am for the folks in it. Why, though, do I so often require tragedy of some sort to wake my sorry ass up and remind me to stop and smell the damn roses? Last Saturday night, we attended a family gathering that was another reminder to savor those special moments.

Keith's cousin Rhonda and her husband Brett hosted a party for their daughter Morgan, who had returned home from boot camp and would soon be departing for Turkey, where she'll be stationed. The party was a delightfully typical gathering for this branch of the family.....one calls and the others rally 'round, bearing food, gifts and abundant good cheer. Their kitchen was, as it so often is, the hot spot. Everyone gathered around the island; sampling some of the delicious appetizers that various family folk brought. Anne caught my attention with a simple and terrific snack: tater tots wrapped in bacon with jalapenos and cheddar.....who knew? Delicious dips ranged from assorted cheese dips to Rhonda's really awesome Reuben Dip to Dave and Kim's Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (my favorite). I made hummus as well.....a spicy black bean hummus from Guy Fieri's cookbook that turned out quite well(CC#33, recipe at end of post).

I've written about these family get-togethers countless times before and they never fail to fascinate me. Keith stopped me at one point in the evening and said, "look at everything that's going on." Indeed. Morgan was hanging with her best friends and having a great time. The kids were madly running about; inside and out. Baby Lindsay was sitting with her Dad; being her adorable self. Two tiny dachshunds skittered around here and there. K and I also met two of the funniest dames I've met in some time....Michelle and Sarah, both of them hilarious and with greatly infectious laughs.

How many moments can a family savor from one evening? Plenty. Morgan's cousin Aly told us that she's pregnant and this will be she and husband Tim's first child. Morgan's sister Shelby and their live-in exchange student Nonna modeled their prom dresses for everyone. A fully decorated Christmas tree sat in an adjoining room, signifying Morgan's belated holiday celebration. Easter was also making an appearance in various bunny-related decorations around the house. Morgan asked for a Mardi Gras theme for the party itself; so colorful beads were worn and an excellent homemade king cake was served. Mardi Gras of course, was officially over and this being a very Catholic family, the subject of Lent was not far behind. Leave it to young Caitlyn to steal the spotlight once again: when her parents asked her what she would be giving up for Lent, she replied that she would be giving up the word "is".

The setting for all of this frivolity was the Robert's truly beautiful newly-built home. One of the earliest posts that I'd written in this blog was the first to feature one of these family frolics....a camping trip. In that post, I wrote of the Roberts losing everything, including family pets, in a devastating house fire. They were still recovering from their tragic loss at that time. I would later write about a moving party, one of several times this family would gather and surround the Roberts with unwavering support. Now, once again, everyone was together in celebration for Morgan at the Robert's new home; a house that family even helped build. One piece of decor struck me like no other, though........on the dining room wall hung a framed newspaper clipping of the Roberts' original home in flames. It's a little disconcerting to see; at first. Rhonda and I chatted about it later and she helped me put it in perspective: that photograph reminds them of how quickly it can all be taken away, of what they've recovered from and how far they've come and to always count their blessings. Looking from that clipping to this kitchen filled with people and laughter certainly makes one appreciate all of these moments to savor.

The tragedy in Japan, of course, is on a far greater, almost unimaginable scale. This humanitarian crisis needs everyone's help. Please visit http://www.redcross.org/ to donate or learn how to help the people of Japan.

Black Bean Hummus (courtesy of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives cookbook)

*also courtesy of Penguin Drive-In of Charlotte, NC

Ingredients

1 (15.5 ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2/3 cup blended oil (equal parts olive and canola oil)
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon tahini
2 small garlic cloves, chopped
4 teaspoons chili powder
Juice of 1 1/2 limes, or to taste
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch of ground coriander
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cumin

Directions

1. Mix all the ingredients for the hummus in a bowl. Puree the hummus mixture, in batches if needed, in a food processor until very smooth. Taste and season with salt. Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl. Serve with pita chips.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day 2011: Potato Soup And An "Irish" Tale

The arrival of this year's celebration of all things Irish has me feeling a tad wistful and most certainly older. My original intention was to whip up some Irish deliciousness this week but life interrupted with this wretched chest cold that's been cascading through my workplace for weeks. As a matter of fact, K and I are both waylaid at the same time and that's a first in over 11 years. While Kansas City hosts another legendary St. Patrick's Day celebration, Keith's asleep at noon and I barely have enough energy to type this. Sigh.

Ah, well.....I don't have the constitution for those St. Paddy's parties of yore anyway. The novelty of the emerald tongue from copious cups of green beer wore off a long time ago. The Irish beer tasting that Willow Spring Mercantile hosted last week would be more my speed....had I not been sick. I remember Bennigan's, the restaurant chain that had an outpost in the same mall in Charleston, WV had a big St. Patrick's hoo-ha every year that featured a barber's chair where you would lean back to do some kind of green shot......ay yi yi. Of course, my beloved Boston Beanery in Morgantown, WV will be hosting all-day revelry today and that's always a good time.

Denis Leary said that Irish food "isn't cuisine.....it's penance." I'll admit that my experience with Irish cuisine is limited to a few dishes that were basically ordered to compliment my glass of Guinness or pair with my Black and Tan. With the onset of illness this week, I just went with that staple of Irish food: potato soup. Potato soup is one of my all-time favorite soups. It was also Dad's....there was little he liked more than potatoes and he loved potato soup. He wouldn't follow a certain recipe but simply load the soup with potatoes and vegetables and hit it with salt and pepper and it was always good and filling. The recipe I went with was Emeril's, from his Every Day's A Party cookbook, and it features an appropriate "bam" of cayenne. This recipe will be at the end of the post and is Cookbook Challenge #32.

The "Irish" tale I teased about actually comes from the seven-year-old daughter of Keith's cousin Jill and her husband Chris. You may remember Caitlyn riding the elephant in my Ren Fest post. On the 100th day of class at the school Caitlyn attends, the students were asked to bring 100 of something to present to the class. Chris put together a bag of 100 lentils for Caitlyn to take. When Caitlyn presented her lentils to the class, she proceeded to tell them the heartwarming tale of how she was adopted from Ireland, what her real last name was and how Chris makes this special Irish candy (the lentils) to remind her of her homeland. Classmates and teacher alike were mesmerized by this touching tale and in fact, when Chris and Jill came to the school, the teacher told them how wonderful they were to adopt this lovely girl. This came as quite the surprise to Jill and Chris, who replied, "She's not adopted and she's not from Ireland." That's right.....NONE of Caitlyn's touching tale was true. Caitlyn's fertile mind concocted the whole thing and snowed everyone, including her teachers. I've always said that child has a serious future in the theater.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone. The recipe follows:

Emeril's Potato Soup (courtesy of Every Day's A Party cookbook)

Ingredients

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups chopped yellow onions
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
8 cups chicken broth
2 large baking potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and diced
1/4 cup heavy cream

Directions

Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, salt and cayenne and cook, stirring, until the onions are soft and lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaf and garlic, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the broth and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat. Discard the bay leaf. With a hand-held immersion blender, or in a food processor or regular blender in batches, process until smooth. Slowly add the cream and stir to blend.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Grand Opening of The Gallery Off Broadway

The bright, shining highlight of Friday's Art Crawl was our girl Kathleen's smash of a grand opening. Everyone was dressed to the nines, the music was smokin' and the wide range of artwork was most impressive. The best part was witnessing the gallery finally take shape and seeing Kathleen's dream become reality.

I've written previously about watching Kathleen work with Keith to create her own creative space and I've been blessed enough to be a bystander as she started with Gallery 105 and moved on to finding her own space. Soon thereafter, she found a space off Broadway and through blood, sweat, tears and the support of friends and family began evolving the place into her creative space. I was often gobsmacked watching Kathleen's vision materialize. On every visit, I would walk away with a new level of excitement for her as each piece of the puzzle fell into place. Sure, there were setbacks and frustrations....but she always forged on; sometimes with a gentle shove from Keith or simply by pulling up her own ever-stylish bootstraps....or stiletto straps, as it were.

The Gallery Off Broadway is a brilliant art space now; characterized by quirky design and the artwork of several artists. From Dan's beautiful renderings of seemingly innocuous everyday objects to Tosha's terrific TYPOGRFX (see here: http://www.grfxcreative.com/GRFX_Creative/Home.html ), not to mention Molly's unique pieces and of course, Kathleen's beautiful art, the gallery is quite the unique setting.

The Gallery truly sparkled for their opening. Kathleen's cocktail-inspired art framed the sleek and stylish bar area where colorful martinis, including the Have Your Cake And Meet Us Too martini, were being poured and sipped. Delicious food from BBQ to crudite were served and dessert was the very cool "Starry Night" cake; inspired by Van Gogh's Starry Night painting. The entertainment was some truly righteous blues being played by renowned blues musician Billy Beale. Mr. Beale's blues were red-hot and this smooth bluesman was, to quote Kathleen, "a work of art" himself. The most touching portion of the evening arrived when Kathleen cut the ribbon and spoke of her journey to this breathtaking moment. She became choked up during her speech and I could see that Keith; ever so proud of "his girl", was a tad ferklempt himself. The official opening came to a close and astoundingly, Kathleen and her most excellent crew reset the gallery for a Corkscrews and Canvas party immediately after.

The Grand Opening was grand in every way and then some. Kathleen watched her dream become reality while surrounded by friends who helped make it happen. One of those friends, Keith, could not have been prouder of Kathleen. The K-Man has toiled greatly to help steer these businesses into fruition and he and Kathleen weathered many a storm to make it happen. As for me, it was truly a joy to watch both of these hard-working people see their efforts pay off brilliantly and get some well-deserved praise. Our girl Kathleen's vision has indeed borne fruit but her journey's just begun.

I can't wait for the next chapter.....in the meantime, check out The Gallery Off Broadway's Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Gallery-Off-Broadway/161021613944320

The Art Crawl Strikes Back

The long-awaited return of the Second Friday art crawls finally arrived and it was a marvelous night of music, food and artistic achievement enjoyed by all. Thanks in part to the spectacular weather, more than 200 people filled the shops and streets to enjoy the wide array of creativity on display. I was lucky enough to sample some goodness from all over....

The Hall of Waters featured some lovely stained glass pieces; artist Kim Graham set up shop with her atmospheric oil paintings in the lobby of the Elms; and some unique jewelry was showcased at Willow Spring Mercantile. Speaking of the Merc, we had dinner with the divine Ms. Daphne and it was a bit of a revelation. Not about the fact that it was all kinds of tasty, but about a well-known soup they offer that I have been newly turned on to. This beauteous beer cheese soup was so rich and decadent, that I seriously didn't want it to end. I've always had this Rain-Mannish quirk of eating my least favorite item first in order to savor my favorite morsel and while I totally dug the house salad with housemade buttermilk ranch dressing, I drug out the enjoyment of the soup for so long it's a wonder that I didn't let it go cold. This is the kind of soup that I obsess over (like Third Street Deli's Aztec Chowder in Marietta, Ohio) and will track down whenever its being served. As we enjoyed our delightful meal, the setting was enhanced by the lovely live music and Daphne's son Colt zooming by on his scooter.







We moseyed down the street to Broadway and Penn for dessert. The store was hoppin' as the down-home sounds of David Simmons and the Country Makers wafted through and Mary Harris displayed her digital artwork. We enjoyed the music while sampling our delicious Cherry Torte and sinful chocolate pie. We were particularly entranced by the beautiful sounds of the dulcimer playing from one of the band members.

It was a terrific night but the highlight of course, was the grand opening celebration of our girl Kathleen's Gallery Off Broadway. That special event will get its own writeup in the next post. In the meantime, check out the Downtown Excelsior Partnership's webpage for upcoming events in our ever-evolving downtown....www.visitesprings.com

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Vegetarian Sunday

We didn't set out with a meat-free goal, but that indeed was the result of our Sunday grazing. It might have been an Andouille-induced hangover from that jivin' jambalaya from the Schutte's Mardi Gras bash but for whatever reason, we went full-out vegetarian last Sunday. To wit:

Breakfast was the usual fresh fruit smoothie and wheat toast. Lunch brought out the on-hand vittles and we whipped up some mini-thin crust pizzas with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil with a hit of spice such as shallot pepper from Penzey's. We tried one with feta but that one was fairly dry and not a match for the ones made with creamy goat cheese. They were quite tasty.

The big hit came from the Cookbook Challenge-created dinner entree: Tuscan Bread Soup from the Daily Soup Cookbook. I was leery about a soup that involved the bread being actually mixed in as opposed to being a topping, as I'm not a fan of soggy bread. However, the result was a big, heaping bowl of layered flavor that had us both raving. The bread certainly thickened it and made for a filling meal; accompanied by a mixed green salad. I would most certainly recommend this soup and the recipe for Challenge #31 follows the post.

I'm not quite ready to go vegetarian as a lifestyle, but it certainly made for one savory Sunday.

Tuscan Bread Soup

Ingredients

1 sourdough baguette (about 1/2 pound and preferably day-old), cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 large Spanish onion, chopped (my store didn't have these; we went with large yellow, sweet onion)
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 leeks, rinsed well and chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
6 cups vegetable stock
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and diced
1 bunch basil stems, tied together
1/2 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, garlic powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and toss to coat bread. Spread the bread cubes out on a baking sheet, place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, until crisp all the way through. Remove from the oven and set aside until ready to use.

2. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, leeks and garlic cloves and sweat for 4 minutes, until tender.

3. Add the thyme, remaining 2 teaspoons of salt, pepper, and cayenne and stir to coat the vegetables.

4. Add the stock, tomatoes and basil stems and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, partially cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

5. Remove from the heat, stir in the bread cubes and let sit for 5 minutes.

6. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the Parmesan and parsley.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mardi Gras Party Brings A Taste Of New Orleans

We attended a Mardi Gras party at the Schutte's lovely home in Excelsior Springs last night and it was most certainly a Good Time Had By All but of course, the highlight for me was the much-coveted Cajun-Creole cuisine. Carolyn and Jim certainly know how to host an entertaining bash and thanks to Jim's mad culinary skills, the food re-sparked the long-held loving torch I've held for spicy New Orleans fare.

I last visited New Orleans several moons ago in its pre-Katrina days and the mouth-watering meals have always held an esteemed place in my culinary memories. Beignets and a Cafe Au Lait at Cafe Du Monde, fresh seafood with a kick and a soul-nourishing helping of jambalaya or gumbo constitute just a few of those delicious delights. Years later, when we lived in Atlanta, we worked for a conference center where I was the assistant food and beverage director and two members of our culinary staff were Louisiana natives; one of whom was a true Cajun. They would whip up Creole and Cajun goodness on a regular basis and it was always a true treat for the taste buds. There is most certainly a difference between Cajun and Creole cuisine, but in the interest of space; I'll share a link that explains the difference: http://www.landrystuff.com/cuisine.html. One characteristic both share is, as the article states.....most people eat to live, but Cajuns and Creoles live to eat!

The Schutte's Mardi Gras party featured tasty reminders of that beloved New Orleans food. Red beans and dirty rice, savory polenta, Cajun bean dip and my personal favorite: Jim's hearty and wonderful jambalaya. Fittingly, at the end of that table was a jumbo bottle of Louisiana Hot Sauce. The Mardi Gras desserts were dreamy as well; including decadent bread pudding served with bourbon sauce and a traditional King Cake. Most King Cakes include a hidden plastic figurine; traditionally a plastic baby doll and depending on which tradition you follow, the person who discovers the figurine receives good fortune for the next year but is also obligated to buy the next king cake. This particular (and particularly delicious) king cake featured tiny plastic stealth ninjas and one of them were inadvertently cut in half by their friend Kerri, so I'm not sure what effect that has on one's luck or obligations. Drinks were appropriately potent; especially the eye-opening Hurricanes that were served from the Best Drink Dispenser Ever.

I was also fortunate enough to watch the making of the beignets last night as well. Carolyn and her friends whipped them up from an actual Cafe Du Monde mix and when the flour stopped flying, they produced some hot and sweet beauties.

It was a delicious night through and through and a delectable reminder that Big Easy cuisine will always be one of my favorites. The Schuttes most certainly brought us a delectable taste of New Orleans and Mardi Gras. Laissez le bon temps rouler!