Showing posts from 2009

New Year's Eve at Our House

Many years ago when we were young and our children were small, we began a New Year's Eve tradition of eating a fancy dinner at home.  Budget constraints, the hassle of hiring a babysitter and fighting crowds had no small part in the decision to celebrate "in."  I created a recipe that was a blend of several favorite seafood ideas that I had tried previously and called the new creation:  New Year's Eve Shrimp.

No expense was spared in selecting the freshest and finest shrimp available.  After all, we were saving by staying home.  I spent the afternoon taking off the shrimp shells, chopping onions, measuring spices, squeezing lemons, and setting the table for the night.  The mise en place technique would ensure that I could enjoy the meal with my husband.  The actual cooking time is very short.

New Year's Eve Shrimp is always  served on my best china.  The sterling silver flatware and crystal stems also make an appearance.  The candle wicks are trimmed and lighted …

Christmas in the Back Yard

The Christmas Cactus plants bloomed today!  When my mom downsized her life and abode I inherited the huge plant from her former home.  As the recipient of this prized specimen I was determined to keep it alive in hopes of the promised annual blossoms.  That was five years ago.  The plant has been separated many times by my husband who has the "green thumb" of the family.  We now have eight pots of the hearty bush on our patio. 

Internet research reveals that the Christmas Cactus is not really a cactus, but a succulent requiring a dry soil, moderate temperatures and blooms in late November and early December. It got its name from the flat stems that have a slight sticker on the end of each frond.   Supposedly the species was discovered by a 19th century Frenchman who was visiting Brazil.  The scientific name is Schlumbergera bridesii.  Legend has it that since traditional Christmas trees such as spruce and fir do not grow well in tropical climates, that people began to decora…

Julia Child Christmas

This was their first year in their new house!  Gretchen and Jeremy invited us share Christmas Eve with them, so we packed ourselves up, took the short drive to Zachary and went to Fort Hurst for the celebration. (Fort Hurst is what I call their home because when they first moved in they were the only house on the street.  When the six foot privacy fence went up, it appeared they had a fort in the wilderness, thus I christened it: Fort Hurst!)

 It was to be a Julia Child Christmas complete with the traditional Boeuf Bourguignon. Our family developed an interest in French cooking this summer. Gretchen and I read Julia and her nephew's book, My Life in France. We also read the book and saw the movie, Julie and Julia. Gretchen even purchased her own copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Gretchen was a French major in college and is now a French language teacher, so the natural progression to learn all things French. We have always loved cooking and my son is an excellent chef, b…

The Grand Dame of the Great River Road

My friend, Sandra,  invited Candy, Beverly and me to join her for a day at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana.  It has rained for 6 days, but today we were blessed to have a beautiful, cold, crisp day for our outing.  Sandra's van was filled with chattering ladies for the 30 minute drive necessary to reach the other side of the Mississippi and River Road. We continued to talk and laugh the way women do when out for a day of fun, until we reached our destination. As we approached and saw the beautiful grounds framing the old house we became speechless. It was a beautiful site and we had to stop and take in the grandeur we were about to explore.

Oak Alley is a magnificent example of the antebellum Greek Revial architecture made famous in the South.  The name comes from the 1/4 mile long corrider of majestic live oaks that shade the front lawn.  The oaks are thought to be about 300 years old.  The house was constructed in 1837 by the creole Roman family from New Orleans.   I…

Fresina's Will Bring Italy to You

I went to Fresina's Italian Specialties  today for some Christmas gifts.  I always have those on my list for whom gifting is a near impossible task.  You know the type.  They either have everything and/or buy everything they want for themselves ,or you don't know them well enough to buy something for them.  We all have those people in our lives.  So, I went to Fresinas. 

Fresina's  is locally owned by Frank and Linda Fresina.  Frank is a direct descendant of the original Sicilian owners and Linda graduated from high school with me.  (Baton Rouge is a very, very small place!) The family has been making pasta since 1926 with its beginning in New Orleans as the Fresina Macaroni Manufacturing Company. Chef John Folse, a widely known celebrity chef and author has featured Frank's mother on his  cooking shows produced by Louisiana Public Broadcasting for national distribution. Mama Fresina, as she is known, still participates in the pasta making and her homemade lasagna is …

Gray Days and Comfort Foods

I have no idea why, but when it's nasty outside, I go into the kitchen and cook.  Must be something about the warmth of food on the stove that appeals to my inner soul.  Physcially, the house is warmer and smells better when something is simmering.  The feeling of satisfaction that comes from knowing that supper will be there when we are ready for it is also appealing.  Nothing worse than having to trek out in bad weather to a restaurant  for sustenance.  And then there's that sodium thing.  Older folks such as we, need to watch our sodium levels.  When you don't cook it yourself, you just never know that salt content.  It's a control thing.
Yesterday and today I have busied myself with creating some menu items that can be eaten in a bowl and savored all day through the process of getting them ready to eat. 

Another reason that I love this type of food preparation is that I can go to my pantry and find ingredients that can be mixed and matched into one-pot dinners.  I …

Red Stick at the Strands Cafe

One bite of the Red Stick sweet treat and it was heaven! I read about Strands Café newest signature confection when reading the latest issue of  225 Baton Rouge magazine. Rachael Upton wrote a short review that aroused my curiosity and my taste buds.  My friend and I made the trek to the downtown location for a quick lunch and to try it for ourselves.

Strands Café is the entrepreneurial success of cousins Linelle Mon, who grew up in Baton Rouge, and Lilita Blanchard who hails from Honolulu. Both studied at Le Cordon Bleu Australia in Sydney. They chose Baton Rouge as the place they wanted to set up shop and our city is lucky to have them. Their pastries, coffees and candies are fabulous!

All the food, according to Linelle, is made from scratch. They are closed on Mondays to make chocolates. They bake their pastries daily.  Everything is very fresh and the display case was filled with tempting treats.  The aroma from the kitchen made my mouth water. This is no ordinary café. They even…

Snow, Louisiana Style

The weather forecaster mentioned the possibility of snow. The mention of the “s” word was met with much skepticism since the current temperature was 65 degrees F and there were no clouds in the sky. It was a sunny, cool, crisp morning. The daily news emails also mentioned the possibility, but no one took it seriously. The morning of the so called “snow day” the city parish government postponed the lighting of Christmas lights in the downtown area. Businesses closed early to get folks off the road. The sky began to blacken and low and behold, it began to rain.

I had decided to spend the afternoon shopping at the mall. Not unlike the Post Office, the snow would not dampen or thwart my plans. Those forecasters, in my opinion were way off base. Boy, was I wrong!

Exhausted from an afternoon of shopping, I left the mall loaded down with packages and unaware of the emergency situation caused by the possibility of bad weather. I was in denial.  I still didn’t believe the forecast. Baton Rouge…

A Bright Idea

We had this bright idea of selling our house and moving ourselves and our dog, Dexter, to Tennessee to live on the banks of Lake Tellico. The retirement community we visited was so appealing and since we have lived in the same city for virtually all of our lives, we thought it was about time for a change. To the shock and dismay of our relatives and friends we nailed up a For Sale sign and began to plan. That was two years ago.
     Time dragged on and I got sick of straightening the house and making the bed every day for fear that we would have the anxiously awaited “showing.” Actually we got pretty efficient at getting ready for the quick exit to allow buyers to peruse our dwelling. I was always in charge of bathroom pick up, dusting and bed making. My husband took over the heavy duties of vacuuming, trash collection and hosing the screened porch. He also became quite accomplished at making the countertop granite shine. Even though the house has lots of storage we became adept…

The Northshore Visit

The area we visited this time is called "The Northshore" because of the
proximity to  Lake Pontchartrain and New Orleans.  The Weekday Rambler and her husband ventured to Covington, Louisiana and the Blue Willow Bed and Breakfast. On this one we made a reservation a week in advance via the internet and some telephone calls. We discovered the Blue Willow (  by perusing its rather extensive website and it proved to be as charming and inviting as the internet pictures had shown.
     We arrived on a Tuesday. The Blue Willow is located in old downtown Covington one block south of the main drag of Business 190 a.k.a. E. Boston Street. Nearby are other “be & bees,” quaint shops, art galleries, and restaurants.
     The gardens and ambience of the historic district of downtown Covington give it the feel of times past. Maureen and Tom Chambless are the proprietors of the Blue Willow and their personal touches were evident in the design and d…

My Three Best Travel Secrets

I was surprised that I was tagged in this travel meme going around the internet.  I felt I had arrived (pardon the pun) when Shannon Lane ( ) mentioned Weekday Rambler blog on her website.  The challenge:  Share your three best travel secrets. 

My first secret is not a place.  It's a tip for you to search local publications that list attractions or special events in your area.  Many times there are short trips worth taking that involve little planning and expense.  Sometimes they involve a museum exhibit, a new restaurant, or simply an interesting historic area.  Be open to new ideas.  A vacation doesn't have to take several days or involve an airline.  Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities near, rather than far

If your travels do find you in a new city, seek out locally owned restaurants to sample the cuisine of the area.  Avoid chains at all costs.  An example would be this:  When traveling I-49 north in Louisiana there is a little town na…

The Big Trip 2009

We normally take one big trip each year. This past summer we booked a Tauck Tour of the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. We like this tour company because you write one check and it’s all taken care of for you. No big decisions left to make except what to order at the restaurants along the way. We joined a group of about 30 people for our “tour”.  By the end of the twelve days we would be great friends. 

The adventure began with an uneventful (our luggage was not lost and there were no delays) flight to Salt Lake City. Having never been there, we were curious to see the town. Our hotel was in close proximity to Temple Square, so we walked there. The Mormons are very proud of their properties. All of the properties are staffed by volunteers who are doing their required church service. The place is fascinating and we had a guided tour of the site. No money has been spared for the buildings. It’s a very holy place in their religion and many young people flock there to get married. We saw n…

Third Tuesday Book Club

I orignally stated this blog would be about reading and so far I have discussed some travel and some cooking.'s the reading part.
I joined a Book Club and we call ourselves the Third Tuesday Book Club.  Guess what!  We meet the Third Tuesday of each month in the afternoon.  There are eleven of us.  On the 12th month, we go out to lunch together at a really fancy restaurant and enjoy each others company.  (can't get away from the food!)
Our format is simple.  Each selects a book for her assigned month.  We go alphabetically so there is no confusion on whose month it is.  Here is what we are reading this year:
The Guersney Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann ShafferThe $64 Tomato by William AlexanderThe Girl with the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg LarssonThe Help by Katherine StockettThe Stars for a Light by Lynn and Gilbert MorrisOnce Upon a Town:  The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen by Bob Greene (not Oprah's Bob Greene)A Walk in the Woods by Bill BrysonKane …

My Favorite Cranberry Relish

When not traveling, I like to dabble in the kitchen.  Since seeing the movie, Julie and Julia, I have begun to wear my pearls while cooking.  You would be surprised how much better the food tastes!
 I wish I could take full credit for this recipe, but I must confess that my friend, Sherry, gave it to me a long time ago.  Sherry and I both were teachers in the middle school at Episcopal for more years than I wish to count.  She had the knack of finding unusual and delicious ways to prepare old favorites.  She also gave me a wonderful Cauliflower Soup recipe.  Also, her chili recipe cannot be beat. 
The secret ingredient in this recipe is a cup of bourbon.  Once I served this recipe to several teetotalers along with their Thanksgiving feast.  They all exclaimed it was the best cranberry sauce they ever had.  I didn't tell them it was laced with the forbidden bourbon! 
I have shared this recipe with several people who have reported great success at serving it.  It's versatile a…

Natchitoches Getaway

Natchitoches, Louisiana was the destination for our latest rambling. It’s the oldest town in Louisiana. The history, area plantations, water sports, and Northwestern State University are all good reasons to visit Natchitoches, but, no doubt, many will remember the city as the locale for the filming of “Steel Magnolias,” and the Festival of Lights each Christmas. We had seen the town at Christmas, but had never in the summer. For lodging we chose the Queen Anne Bed and Breakfast. When browsing the internet we found the Queen Anne and fell in love with the 1905 building and the charming interiors that were pictured. Another plus for this Be & Be is that there was ample parking for us to bring our small boat.
Natchitoches is a (leisurely) three to four hour drive from Baton Rouge. From I-49 take the Natchitoches exit (Highway 6) and proceed into town where the Queen Anne is located on Pine Street.
This B&B is a great example of architecture common in the early 1900’s. The home …