Mardi Gras 2013

I’m not from New Orleans nor do I observe Lent, but, ANY excuse for me to cook a themed meal & I am all over it! I cooked our Mardi Gras dinner last night so YOU could read the post today and get some ideas for your own Mardi Gras dinner tonight.

On my menu: Muffaletta Finger Sandwiches, Shrimp Creole and a Mardi Gras Salad with a Creole Vinaigrette
Muffaletta Finger Sandwiches
Recipe comes from a “Cuisine at Home” magazine, with modifications
Serves 8-12 as an appetizer, 4-6 as lunch
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano leaves
  • 1 cup drained Giardiniera vegetables
  • 1 cup chopped green olives with pimentos
  • ¼ lb. each of two to three meats: salami, honey turkey, mortadella, capicola, ham
  • 1 loaf ciabatta, halved lengthwise
  • ~½ lb. sliced provolone or mozzarella
Preheat oven to 400º. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place vinegar, oil, mustard, dried oregano, Giardiniera vegetables and olives in a food processor and pulse until vegetables are minced.
Giardiniera Olive MixtureChop meats and stir into Giardiniera mixture. Place ciabatta halves on baking sheet. Spoon Giardiniera-meat mixture evenly over bread and top with mozzarella slices.
Muffaletta Ready for the OvenBake until cheese melts and meat is hot, 20-25 minutes. Slice each ciabatta half into 6-8 slices. This is fabulous as an appetizer for a party or watching the big game.
Muffaletta Finger Sandwiches
Shrimp Creole
My own recipe
Serves 4
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ medium white onion, diced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1¾ cup crushed tomatoes
  • 2 bays leaves
  • 1¾ cup water (1 can’s worth)
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ⅛ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Dash Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash hot sauce – optional
  • 1½-2 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp, tails removed
  • 1 Tbsp. creole seasoning
  • White rice, for serving
  • Flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped – for garnish
  • Scallions, thinly sliced – for garnish
Melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, to make a dark roux (the color of chocolate).
Chocolate Colored RouxAdd onion, celery and bell pepper (the “trinity”); cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic & cook 1 minute. Add both tomatoes, bay leaves, water, salt & cayenne. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss shrimp with creole seasoning in a medium bowl. Add Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce (if using) to tomatoes in pot. Mix to incorporate, then add shrimp. Cook 4-6 minutes (depending on the size of your shrimp), until fully cooked.
Serve over white rice, garnished with parsley and scallions. Pass additional hot sauce at the table.
For a nice presentation, mold rice into ramekins and invert onto large shallow bowls. Spoon shrimp & sauce around rice. Garnish.
Shrimp Creole
Mardi Gras Salad with Creole Vinaigrette
This salad is festive with the Mardi Gras colors of purple, yellow and green
Serves 6
  • 2 romaine hearts, sliced crosswise 1″ thick
  • ¼ small purple cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 pint yellow cherry, pear or grape tomatoes, halved (omit if you can’t find yellow)
  • 1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. creole mustard
  • 2  cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 yellow pepper, cored and cut into 6 rings
Place romaine, cabbage, tomatoes & cucumbers in a large bowl. Whisk vinegar, oil, mustard & garlic together. Taste & season with salt if needed. Toss dressing with salad. Serve salad on chilled plates and top each with a pepper ring (I completely got distracted while cutting my yellow pepper and ended up with strips instead of rings).
Mardi Gras Salad
Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!
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Two Great Party Dips

Good friends of ours had an Age of Aquarius party last night for their joint birthday. Of course I had to cook something to bring. I picked a caramelized onion dip and sun-dried tomato dip, both from Barefoot Contessa.

Pan Fried Onion DipPan-Fried Onion Dip
Makes 2 cups
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter (I use 2 Tbsp.)
  • 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil (I use 2 Tbsp. olive oil)
  • ¼ tsp. ground cayenne pepper (use up to ½ tsp. if you want it spicy)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (I use the ⅓ less fat Neufchâtel)
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup good mayonnaise (I use the light Hellmann’s)
Cut the onions in half and then slice them into ⅛” thick half-rounds (I use the thin setting on my mandolin). (You will have about 3 cups of onion.)
Onions after 5-10 minutes

Onions after 5-10 minutes

Heat the butter and oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt and pepper and sauté for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes, until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow onions to cool.

Caramelized OnionPlace the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat until smooth. (I use my food processor fitted with a metal blade.) Add onions and mix well. Taste for seasonings.
Serve at room temperature.
I serve this with Kettle Brand potato chips – either the Sea Salt variety or Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper. You could also serve with fresh vegetables and crackers for dipping.
Sun Dried Tomato DipSun-Dried Tomato Dip
Makes 2 cups
  • ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped (~8 tomatoes)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (I use the 1/3 less fat Neufchâtel)
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup good mayonnaise (I use the light Hellmann’s)
  • 10 dashes Tabasco sauce (I use the Green Jalapeño Tabasco)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt (I use 3/4 tsp.)
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
Purée the tomatoes, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, Tabasco, salt and pepper in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the scallions and pulse twice. Serve at room temperature.
When I am serving this with the onion dip above, I use the same Kettle Brand potato chips for both. You could also serve with crackers and fresh vegetables.
Do not substitute the dry sun-dried tomatoes for the oil-packed ones; the flavor will not be as intense.

Brussels Spouts, Cranberry Relish and Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce

Back in early November 2012, I was starting to test recipes for Thanksgiving and never got around to posting them. This dinner was a such a definite winner and perfect for the cold weather we’ve been having that I’ve decided to share it with you. The menu consisted of roasted Brussels sprouts, a raw cranberry relish and instead of turkey, sautéed chicken with a mustard cream sauce. I rounded out the meal with mashed potatoes from Costco.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Raw Cran Orange Relish Chick Mustard Cream SauceSimple Roasted Brussels Sprouts
The family (except Andy of course) LOVED the roasted Brussels sprouts. I had never served Brussels sprouts to my family but had seen several recipes for roasted sprouts and decided to try them. They came out deliciously crispy & caramelized and Nate was eating them like candy! Since then we’ve cooked them several more times with variations. I used the method described in my FineCooking Roasting magazine:

Trim sprouts and cut in half lengthwise, through the stem end. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt & pepper. Preheat oven to 475º. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Place sprouts cut side down on the parchment. Roast for 10-15 minutes (depending on the size of your Brussels sprouts).

Raw Cranberry-Orange Relish
I was looking for a low-sugar recipe for cranberries and came across this one from Epicurious.com. The fresh orange taste really complements the cranberries.

  • 1 12-oz. bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 navel orange
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ⅛ tsp cinnamon (which I omitted)

Raw Cranberry Orange Relish in Food ProcessorZest entire orange into food processor with a metal blade. Cut pith off orange & separate into sections. Place cranberries, orange sections, sugar & cinnamon in food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Scrap into a bowl, cover & refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Raw Cranberry Orange RelishSautéed Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce
This was a really good stand-in for turkey with gravy and the mustard-cream sauce was delicious drizzled over the Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes in addition to the chicken. The recipe came from another favorite cookbook, EverydayFood Great Food Fast. I especially like this book because the recipes are divided into sections according to seasons, with soups, salad, main courses, sides & desserts for a particular season all grouped together.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup dry white wine or chicken broth
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. dried tarragon (I used thyme for a more Thanksgiving-y feel).

Season each chicken breast with salt & pepper to taste. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken and sauté until cooked through 10-15 minutes, turning once. Transfer to a warm serving plate & cover with foil.

Pour the wine into the hot skillet; cook, stirring, until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Whisk in the cream, mustard & herbs. Cook, whisking, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Serve chicken with sauce on the side (for my picky child) or drizzled over the chicken.

Healthier Creamy Coleslaw

Years and years ago, I modified a recipe for coleslaw that I found on a jar of mayonnaise. I lightened it up without changing the flavor or consistency of a traditional creamy coleslaw. No one I serve it to can tell that it’s different.

Healthier Creamy Coleslaw

  • cup light mayo
  • cup fat-free plain yogurt
  • 1½ Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 2 16-oz. bags shredded coleslaw
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine mayo, yogurt, vinegar, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add coleslaw mix. Combine well. The mixture will look very dry. Cover and chill at least 4 hours before serving. The coleslaw will shrink and become moist. Add freshly ground pepper to taste and stir. We like to serve with a pepper grinder on the table for diners to add additional pepper to taste.

Healthier Creamy Coleslaw

Healthier Creamy Coleslaw

Notes:

  • I buy my mayo from Whole Foods because their 365 brand does not contain soy oil unlike most national brands.
  • I don’t use Greek yogurt as it’s much thicker & tarter than the regular yogurt.
  • If you prefer to chop your own vegetables instead of buying the preshredded coleslaw, use: 1 medium head cabbage, thinly sliced, ¼ small red cabbage, thinly sliced and 4 medium carrots, shredded.
  • Optional vegetables to add: thinly sliced sweet onions, thinly sliced green bell pepper or thinly sliced celery.

Menu for Atlanta Falcons Fans

I’m not a big football fan. I didn’t grow up in a football town – baseball & hockey are much bigger in St Louis than football; I didn’t go to a big football college either. However, my husband likes watching football & so does his family. So, today, the Atlanta Falcons are playing in the NFC championship game and Eric’s family is over to watch the game. Of course, I am cooking (it IS all about the food). I tried to create a menu based on some ingredients associated with Georgia – Vidalia onions, peaches and Coca-Cola. My menu for today is:

Munchies

  • Baked Vidalia Onion Dip served with Triscuits
  • Peach Salsa (purchased from Costco) served with tortilla chips
  • Palmetto brand Pimento Dip (purchased from Publix) served with Wheat Thins
Baked Vidalia Onion Dip

Baked Vidalia Onion Dip

Pimento Cheese Football

Pimento Cheese Football

I molded the pimento dip into a football-shaped cake pan and my older son decorated it with pimento strips to look like a football. 

Dinner

  • “Dirty Bird” Chicken Sandwiches (crock-pot Coca-Cola BBQ chicken)
  • Coleslaw (my own recipe)
  • Baked Beans – I buy the Bush’s brand Vegetarian Beans

The Baked Vidalia Onion dip recipe and BBQ chicken recipe both come from The Official SEC Tailgating Cookbook by Southern Living. The vidalia onion dip was fantastic but the BBQ chicken recipe was so-so. I put out some bottled BBQ sauce for people to add to their sandwiches.

 

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Coleslaw

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Coleslaw

Rise Up Falcons!! – edited: There’s Always Next Year

Israeli Salad

This is one of my many, many favorite salads. It is, of course, better in the summer with ripe, homegrown (or farmer’s market) produce. However, even in the winter it is still delicious and balances out the abundance of comfort food at this time of year. I like to serve it for Hanukkah to counter the fried latkes and heavy brisket. It’s also welcome at other Jewish holidays such as Yom Kippur Break the Fast. Whenever you serve it, it will be gobbled up.

Israeli SaladIsraeli Salad

  • 4 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 English cucumber, diced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (red, orange or green)
  • 1 large handful Italian parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Combine tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, peppers and parsley in a bowl. Add lemon juice and olive oil and mix gently. Season generously to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Happy Hanukkah everyone! Here is a fabulous recipe to serve with your latkes as an alternative to brisket. And, if you aren’t making latkes, the meatballs are great with wide egg noodles. The original recipe came from one of my favorite Jewish holiday cookbooks, In the Jewish Tradition

Sweet and Sour MeatballsSweet & Sour Meatballs a la Suzanne

  • 2 15-oz. cans tomato sauce
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 lg. white onion, minced (4 Tbsp. reserved)
  • 1 small green pepper, diced, optional
  • ½ cup golden raisins, optional
  • 2 lb ground beef
  • ½ cup matzah meal
  • cup water
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 Tbsp. minced onion (reserved from above)
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • tsp. allspice

Combine all sauce ingredients, from tomato sauce through raisins, in a large, heavy-bottom pot. I use my cast iron Dutch oven. Bring to a boil.

While sauce is cooking, make the meatballs. Thoroughly combine the beef, matzah meal, water, egg, onion, garlic powder, salt, pepper and allspice. Form into small meatballs (about the size of golf balls).

Once the sauce is at a boil add the meatballs. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 45 min to 1 hour depending on the size of your meatballs.

Notes: the matzah meal is very important but if you can’t find it you can substitute dried bread crumbs.

I served the meatballs with latkes (from a mix) and an Israeli salad.

Hanukkah table