White Light Night & Healthy Holiday Eating

As the holiday season nears, keeping that resolution of healthy eating can be tough going in Louisiana. River Road Recipes (RRR) is happy to help with River Road Recipes III (RRRIII), A Healthy Collection. Now you can have your cake and eat it too! Each recipe in RRRIII contains the breakdown of calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium per serving. Check out one of our favorite dinner and dessert recipes from RRRIII below.

Seafood Eggplant Casserole (RRRIII, Page 171)

One 1 1/2 – 2 pound eggplant
4 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup skim milk
1 cup chopped cooked shrimp
1 pound lump crabmeat
1 cup bread crumbs
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1⁄2 teaspoon each basil, oregano, thyme, paprika
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons parsley
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon each pepper and
red pepper

Peel and cube eggplant. Boil in water until tender, drain. Make a roux with the oil and flour. Add milk and stir until thickened. Fold in the eggplant and remaining ingredients. Place in 2-quart baking dish sprayed with vegetable oil cooking spray and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

A few more member dinner favorites: the Carrot Soufflé on page 119, the Blackberry and Port Venison on page 156, the Seafood Paella on page 237, and the Pepper Crusted Red Snapper on page 246.

 

Black Forest Cake (RRRIII, Page 223)

Cake
3⁄4 cup egg substitute or 1 egg and 3 egg whites
1 teaspoon almond flavoring
1 box light chocolate cake mix, preferably devil’s food or fudge
One 18-ounce can reduced sugar cherry pie filling or cherries packed in light syrup

Glaze
1⁄2 cup cocoa powder
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/3 cup skim or low fat milk
1 tablespoon margarine
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Beat eggs by hand. Add flavoring. Stir in cake mix and blend well; batter will be thick. Fold in pie filling. Pour into greased bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool and remove from pan.

Glaze: In a saucepan, mix cocoa, sugar and cornstarch together until well blended. Place over medium heat and gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook for about 2 minutes until thickened; continue stirring. Remove from heat and whisk in margarine and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Drizzle over cake. This cake travels well.

 

Other great entertaining menus from River Road Recipes IV :

Graduation Dinner, page 126 – includes a Seafood Lasagna and Red Velvet Cake
Bundle of Joy, page 223 – include a full delicious menu of food and dessert for the whole family and their new additions
Family Reunion, page 267 – southern style reunion
After the Hunt, page 216 – the sportsman’s paradise of recipes

 

White Light Night: RRR & Laura Bellone

River Road Recipes will join Laura Bellone, the artists for RRR III, this Friday, November 17th at White Light Night. We will be at Booth #30. Stop by to pick up a copy of your favorite RRR books for a friend and local artwork. Be sure to see more of Laura’s work at Petite Louisiane.

Baked Cauliflower

After a long day I am sometimes at a loss for what side dish to prepare to accompany my main dish. Last week I turned to my mother, a former Junior League member, for assistance. Of course she knew exactly what I needed based solely on her knowledge of the River Road Recipe books and what I told her I had in my kitchen. Below is the easy and crowd pleasing Baked Cauliflower that saved the day!

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Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Level of Difficulty: Medium

Servings: 4-6

KITCHEN TOOLS:

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Wooden spoon
  • Sauce pan
  • Small pot
  • Glass baking dish

INGREDIENTS:

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  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pimento
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup buttered bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon grated cheese, or more to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Cook the whole cauliflower in boiling salt water for about 20 minutes. Drain and place in baking dish.

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2. Melt Butter in small skillet. Add flour and stir until blended. Gradually add milk, stirring until smooth and thick. Add salt, pepper, pimento, and green onions. Blend.

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3. Pour over cauliflower. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and grated cheese. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until slightly browned.

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Chicken Shwarma with Yogurt Dill Sauce

Warmer weather is finally here, and it’s a great time to begin cooking outdoors again! While the typical grill fare includes barbecue, hamburgers, or steak, if you’re looking for something different, River Road Recipes IV: Warm Welcomes has a fantastic Chicken Shwarma recipe that can be done on the grill. The preparation is a little time consuming, but the recipe makes a ton. You’ll be able to feed your entire family dinner, with plenty of leftovers to spare for lunches later in the week! Before you get started, be sure you have a wooden dowel and kitchen twine available.

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Photo by Lauren De Witt.

The Chicken Shwarma pairs perfectly with our Yogurt Dill Sauce and is great added to a salad or served as a main course with roasted potatoes (check out our Potatoes Forno recipe in RRR IV, p. 70), rice, hummus (RRR IV, p. 67), or a side Greek salad. Finish off your meal with a delicious piece of Baklava (RRR IV, p. 71) for dessert!

Chicken Shwarma, RRR IV, p. 69

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 3 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed

Note: Meringue powder is available in most supermarkets or party supply stores and is used in this recipe to hold the chicken together while cooking. 

Directions:

  1. Mix the paprika, garlic powder, meringue powder, salt, onion powder, and pepper in a shallow dish.
  2. Pound the chicken 1/4 inch thick between sheets of waxed paper with a meat mallet. Coat the chicken with the paprika mixture.
  3. Cover a sheet pan with a clean tea towel. Arrange 1/2 of the chicken in a single layer on the tea towel. Layer the remaining chicken overlapping. Cover the layers with a clean tea towel and top with a sheet pan; press together. Chill for 1 hour.
  4. Remove the top sheet pan and tea towel. Using a wooden dowel or the end of a long wooden spoon, roll the sheet chicken onto the dowel and secure with kitchen twine. 

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    Photo by Lauren De Witt.

  5. Grill the roll over hot coals for 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through, turning occasionally.
  6. Slice as desired and serve with the Yogurt Dill Sauce!
Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Serves 12.

Yogurt Dill Sauce, RRR IV, p. 69

This chilled Grecian sauce is used as a dipping sauce for the Chicken Swarma but is also delicious with other dishes in the Mediterranean Mixed Grill menu found on page 66 of River Road Recipes IV: Warm Welcomes. The sauce adds a cool and refreshing taste when combined with the warm flavors of a Mediterranean meal.

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Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole milk yogurt
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dill weed

Directions:

  1. Combine the yogurt, lemon juice, and dill week in a bowl and mix well.
  2. Store, covered, in the refrigerator until serving time.

Makes 2 cups.

A History of Spinach Madeleine

It goes without saying that Spinach Madeleine is hands down one of the most famous recipes in the River Road Recipes cookbook series. In fact, Spinach Madeleine was named as one of the Century’s Best Recipes in an article that appeared in the Houston Chronicle in December 1999. For many Baton Rougeans, no holiday dinner would be complete without this delicious dish! In honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, we wanted to highlight the history of this iconic recipe.

The original Spinach Madeleine recipe is found on page 63 of River Road Recipes I: A Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine.

The original Spinach Madeleine recipe is found on page 63 of River Road Recipes I: A Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine.

The recipe’s creator, Madeline Nevell Reymond, created this legendary recipe by accident.  She was a young and inexperienced cook when she decided to use up a jalapeno cheese roll that she had in her refrigerator by adding it to a spinach dish she was preparing for a ladies’ luncheon.  The result was a dish that became one the most popular special-occasion vegetable dishes in Louisiana.  This is evidenced every year by the empty freezers in the grocery stores at Christmas time after all the frozen spinach packages have been snatched up.

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When Kraft Foods decided to discontinue making the jalapeno cheese roll, which is called for in the recipe, hundreds of distraught cooks called Kraft Foods to protest.   The powers-at be at Kraft were amused by Louisiana’s devotion to their jalapeno cheese roll, but discontinued the product anyway.  Fortunately, the River Road Recipes committee developed a new version of Spinach Madeleine in 2000 so that cooks can still serve this outstanding dish. A lighter version of the recipe appears in River Road Recipes III: A Healthy Collection.

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The recipe is versatile and can be served alone or as a warm appetizer dip with toast points or crackers. Spinach Madeleine also freezes well, so it can be made in advance of hectic holiday dinners! To make sure you have this holiday classic at your Thanksgiving table this year, check out the recipe here!

Roast Turkey with Bourbon Gravy from River Road Recipes Cookbook

Roast Turkey with Bourbon Gravy

We don’t know about you but we are Pro-Thanksgiving girls. It seems like stores are going straight from Halloween to Christmas and skipping this wonderful holiday.

Luckily, this recipe makes it real easy to enjoy one of your favorite Thanksgiving comfort foods year round. The sweet apples combined with that rich bourbon is sure to please a crowd. Apologies in advance if your husband passes out on the couch and blames it on the tryptophan. Also, make sure you find someone else to remove the neck and giblet bag. Seems like a good job for your mother in law.

Roast Turkey with Bourbon Gravy from River Road Recipes Cookbook

Roast Turkey with Bourbon Gravy (RRR IV, Pg. 120)

Serves: 12

  • 1 (17-pound) turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons pepper
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cup flour
  • ¼ cup bourbon

Place the oven rack in the bottom 2/3 of the oven. Remove the neck and giblet bag from the turkey, discarding the liver. Rinse the turkey with cool water and pat dry.

Combine the onion, celery, apples and poultry seasoning in a bowl and mix well. Stuff the turkey with the apple mixture. Rub the salt and pepper over the outer surface of the turkey.

Arrange the turkey, neck and giblets in a roasting pan. Roast at 350 degrees for 2 hours in a convection oven or 4 hours in a conventional oven or until a meat thermometer registers 180 degrees. Remove the turkey to a platter, reserving the pan drippings. Add the water to the reserved warm drippings and stir to loosen any crusty browned bits. Pour into a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Mix the flour and bourbon in a bowl and whisk into the pan drippings mixture. Cook over medium-high heat for 10 minutes or until thickened and of a gravy consistency, stirring frequently. Serve with the Turkey.

 

 

Member Spotlight: Let Food Be Your Medicine with Betsy Buchert

Dr. Elizabeth “Betsy” Buchert operates her practice, Mint Health, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as both a conventional OB-GYN and a functional wellness practice. (Functional medicine is based on evidence that factors such as nutrition, sleep, exercise, stress levels, relationships and genetics are major contributors to disease.) She and her husband also have four young boys. In Betsy’s (limited!) spare time, she volunteers on the River Road Recipes Committee of the Junior League of Baton Rouge. 

Betsy with her husband and four boys.

Betsy with her husband and four boys.

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”

Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, told us this during his times, which was from 460-370 B.C.

“The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.”

This comes from Thomas Edison, who lived from 1847 – 1931.

Well we know these two men are super smart, for sure, but unfortunately this is not how most of us approach our health at all, and it is definitely not how we approach our medical care!

I have to say, I LOVE food just as much as every other good Southerner.  I love eating most of all, but I also love cooking (preferably easy) nutritious, health promoting foods for myself, my family, and my friends.  I love the endless “I can’t believe how good this is” remarks I get when people eat at my house.  The secret is not that I am an amazing cook, but rather that I know the importance and amazingness of whole, fresh, local food,  AND I know the importance of avoiding processed, packaged foods – well, at least most of the time!  There is a reason all the new trendy restaurants are Farm-To-Table!

One of the talents I’ve become adept at in the kitchen (since I’ve learned Functional Medicine and definitely practice what I preach) is how to make substitutions, so we can keep eating the yummy foods we love, but in ways that are health promoting rather than health deteriorating.  So we can “youthen” rather than “age” – ugh! Who wants to age ungracefully?

Finding Healthier Alternatives

One area that can be tricky is having creamy dressings and party dips or spreads, so I was excited to find these two recipes in my copy of River Road Recipes I. The “Egg Salad Dressing” on page 23 of RRRI is fast, easy, creamy, delicious, and so good for you (versus the bottles of things you may buy in the store with unpronounceable, suspicious ingredients).  I made sure to use fresh, local, free range eggs, extra virgin olive oil (instead of “salad oil”), and the juice and grated rind from one fresh organic lemon rather than the prepackaged stuff  (and it is Meyer Lemon season right now – an extra plus!).  We ate this dressing mixed with a bunch of fresh assorted greens, like swiss chard and baby kale (it’s greens season, too!), the chopped whites of the eggs, some olives, and fresh brightly colored bell peppers.

The “Olive Egg Spread” on page 70 of RRR1 is also another good find, although I prefer to call it simply “Creamy Olive Dip.”  It’s a little spicy, very flavorful, creamy, and can be made filled with good-for-you ingredients.  We all ate it for dinner one night spread on a crunchy nutty toast (https://www.mynewroots.org/site/2013/02/the-life-changing-loaf-of-bread/), and my husband couldn’t help himself from polishing off the rest of the bowl with a spoon.  In this recipe, again I made sure to use fresh, local, free range eggs (the nutrient content is completely different from standard store bought eggs).  I also used raw organic apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar, ghee instead of butter, Dijon mustard instead of Durkees, and Kalamata black olives.   And the parsley and green onions come from local farmers (I order from indieplate.com at least once a week to keep a flowing supply of produce, eggs, and meats from our local farmers).  What a great spread of health promoting foods!

Betsy's Creamy Olive Dip served with Nutty Toast.

Betsy’s Creamy Olive Dip served with Nutty Toast.

Helping Others Find Lasting Health

Why am I so passionate about eating, serving, and teaching about the value of food as medicine and proactive health for life?  Not only am I an OB/GYN (and see all the time how not-their-best people feel and too many pregnancy complications), I am also a Functional Medicine doctor, and started my practice “Mint Health” at Woman’s Hospital to be able to offer women a better approach to lasting health.  Most people in our area of the South don’t know yet what Functional Medicine is all about (although it is all the rage in more progressive areas of the country!).  I’ll just say that the most fun I have as a doctor is helping people get to the bottom of metabolic issues, digestive issues, fatigue, hormone issues, headaches, amongst other common health concerns, to work on becoming HEALTHIER, rather than just trying to figure out what prescription is best to cover up a bothersome symptom.  Many people also come to us at Mint Health to learn how to proactively support their own health and their children’s health, knowing that without learning and being progressive, they will at some point (probably sooner than later) end up not feeling so great, just like the average American.  Health starts in the womb and goes until the ripest of age!

If you are interested in learning more, I regularly give seminars to help people understand what Functional Medicine is and how you can change your health outlook and your family’s health:  see http://myminthealth.com/events/ to register – the next one is October 25th and it’s almost full!  I also share lots of fun information on personal and family health at https://www.facebook.com/MintHealth/. We’ll see you there!

Betsy’s Creamy Olive Dip

Adapted from the Olive Egg Spread recipe, River Road Recipes I, p. 70

Betsy's recommended substitutions for RRR I's Olive Egg Spread.

Betsy’s recommended substitutions for RRR I’s Olive Egg Spread.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole egg
  • 5 egg yolks
  • A little less than 1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Large bottle of Kalmata olives
  • 4-6 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 4 green onions (tops only)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Fresh is best! Betsy recommends using fresh, local, and organic ingredients as often as possible.

Fresh is best! Betsy recommends using fresh, local, and organic ingredients as often as possible.

Directions

  1. Chop the olives, green onion tops, and parsley. Beat the eggs thoroughly.

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2. Heat Apple Cider Vinegar to boiling point, adding 1 teaspoon of water before heating to cut the vinegar.

3. Pour boiling vinegar into eggs, beating constantly.

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4. Place egg and vinegar mixture in sauce pan over heat and stir until it thickens.

5. Remove from the heat and add the ghee, then add the Dijon mustard, chopped Kalmata olives, green onions, chopped parsley, salt, and Tabasco.

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6. Enjoy over mixed greens with a side of Nutty Toast!

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Festive Orzo Salad

Even though the summer may be wrapping up and tailgate season is kicking off, the temperature in South Louisiana is still sweltering in the 90 degree range.  For us, tailgating is considered a time honored tradition —  we love spending our Saturdays with friends and family under the Oaks, waiting for the band from Tigerland to come marching down the hill!

On any given Saturday during football season, you will find a menagerie of food being cooked on the parade grounds at LSU — anything from jambalaya, crawfish étouffeé, fried catfish, boudin balls, to gumbo.  As football season wears on, it’s always difficult to know what to take to a tailgate. You don’t want to break the bank in the process of feeding the masses, yet you want to be able to bring something that is not the “same ole, same ole.”  The Festive Orzo Salad in River Road Recipes IV: Warm Welcomes, is a nice addition to this year’s tailgate menu!  You can also add grilled chicken breasts or shrimp to make it a hearty entrée!

Photo by Jessica McVea.

Photo by Jessica McVea.

Festive Orzo Salad, RRR IV, p. 243
Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • 3/4 cup light olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar

Salad

  • 1 bunch asparagus spears
  • 16 ounces orzo
  • 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 (2-ounce) can black olives, drained
  • 1 small red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 purple onion, chopped
  • 1/2 (8-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
Photo by Jessica McVea.

Photo by Jessica McVea.

For the vinaigrette, combine the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and sugar in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and seal tightly.  Shake to blend.

For the salad, snap off the woody ends of the asparagus spears.  Steam until tender-crisp; drain.  Cut each spear into 4 or 5 portions.  Cook the pasta using the package directions; drain.

Combine the pasta, artichokes, olives, bell peppers, onion and sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl and mix well.  Add the vinaigrette and toss to coat.  Add the asparagus, cheese and basil and mix gently.  Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for 2 to 10 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Photo by Jessica McVea.

Photo by Jessica McVea.

Taco Soup: The Perfect Weeknight Dinner

As school bells ring signaling the start of a new year, families everywhere will be faced with the weeknight dinner struggle.  Taco Soup is an easy, hearty, crowd pleaser that can be prepared quickly, mostly with ingredients from your pantry.  While the instructions state an hour-long simmering period, this recipe can be prepared in advance or left to simmer on the stove while homework is conquered.  Double the recipe and freeze the leftovers of this delicious dish for the first fall chill.  Tailor the toppings listed or add your own favorites to please everyone in your family.  Best of all, the preparation of this dish only dirties ONE POT making cleanup a breeze!

Photo by Jennifer Henry.

Photo by Jennifer Henry.

Taco Soup (RRR IV pg. 45)

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 can tomatoes with green chiles, Italian-style tomatoes or Mexican-style tomatoes
  • 1 can while kernel corn, drained
  • 1 can Ranch-style beans or pinto beans with jalapeno chiles
  • 1 envelope taco seasoning mix
  • 1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Tabasco sauce to taste

Toppings:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup chopped green onions
  • ½ cup sliced jalapeno chiles
  • ½ cup sliced black olives
  • 1 avocado, chopped

Directions:

Brown the ground beef with the onion in a large saucepan, stirring until the ground beef is crumbly; drain.  Stir in the undrained tomatoes, corn, undrained beans, seasoning mix, dressing mix, chili powder, garlic powder and Tabasco sauce.  Bring to a boil; reduce the heat.

Cook over low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Ladle the soup into bowls.  Serve with the sour cream, cheese, green onions, jalapeno chiles, olives and avocado.

Serves 6.

Community Project Spotlight: Ready Hands!

After our son was born, my husband and I were amazed at the outpouring of love from friends and family – most of which came in the form of food! Nearly every day for weeks after he was born, church members, coworkers, friends, and family members stopped by to ooh and ahh over our bundle of joy and bring us dinner. It was a lifesaver during this chaotic time. As we struggled to adjust to life caring for both a newborn and a toddler and trying to stay on top of all our other responsibilities, having these “extra hands” to take care of one of our family’s basic needs truly meant the world to us.

Through its Ready Hands! committee, the Junior League of Baton Rouge lends an extra hand to nonprofit organizations hosting events throughout the Baton Rouge community. Ready Hands! touches nearly every aspect of our community, and Junior League members volunteer thousands of hours each year assisting organizations who fit within the League’s mission by providing brown bag lunches, frozen casseroles, handing out water at 5ks, assisting with registration at events, playing bingo with residents at Oak Park Plaza for their birthdays each month, preparing and assisting for luncheons and fundraisers, and countless other acts of service. If your nonprofit organization needs assistance for an upcoming event, learn more about Ready Hands! here!

Chicken-Spaghetti Casserole, River Road Recipes I, p. 129

This Chicken-Spaghetti Casserole is a great dish to bring to someone in need of an extra hand. As a bonus, kids love it too, making this dish a crowd pleaser for the entire family. Make it ahead and simply pop it back in the oven to reheat when you are ready to serve. The recipe makes 8-10 servings, so I recommend making it in two separate casserole dishes. You can keep one dish for your family and bring the other to a friend in need!

  • 1 large hen
  • 1 stick butter or oleo
  • 3 medium onions, minced
  • 2 bell peppers, minced
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 cups canned tomatoes
  • One 16-ounce package spaghetti (Angel Hair or similar)
  • 1/4 pound mild cheese, grated
Photo by Leslie Ellis.

Photo by Leslie Ellis.

Boil the hen in enough water to make 2 quarts of stock. Sauté the onions, peppers, celery, and garlic in butter. Add 1 quart stock and tomatoes to the pan and simmer together. Bone the chicken and cut into  large pieces. Mix with the sauce and put it in the casserole dish. Add the cooked and drained spaghetti to the remaining quart of chicken stock, and mix well with the chicken and the sauce. Bake for 40 minutes at 350°, sprinkle with the grated cheese, and continue baking for an additional 20 minutes.

Photo by Leslie Ellis.

Photo by Leslie Ellis.

In a hurry? Modify this recipe by simply picking up a freshly cooked rotisserie chicken and a two quarts of ready made chicken stock at the grocery store instead of cooking your own hen!

Serves 8-10.

Member Spotlight: Eating Seasonally with JLBR Member Erin Nugent

Seasonal. Local. Organic. These are the culinary buzzwords of the last few years. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s almost impossible to have missed the “farm to table” movement that is dominating the national food scene. While eating seasonally and sourcing food locally may be a hot new trend for the rest of the country, in Louisiana, it’s something we have been doing for generations. In fact, we mark our seasons not by the changing temperatures, but instead by the available local fare: celebrating crawfish season in the spring, crab (and snoball!) season in the summer, shrimp season in the fall, and oyster and wild game seasons in the winter.

For Junior League member Erin Nugent, seasonal and local cooking comes naturally. With familial roots in Louisiana, Erin learned early on how to turn seasonal cooking and entertaining into a lifestyle. She was first introduced to the River Road Recipes collection by her mother in law, Simone Nugent. Drawing inspiration from Louisiana’s unique seasons and agrarian surroundings, Erin’s passion for incorporating seasonal and local ingredients into everyday recipes eventually led her and close friend Lauren Beth Landry to co-author Five Seasons, a regional cookbook devoted to “celebrat[ing] natural beauty and explor[ing] the versatility of seasonal ingredients.”

Erin with friend and co-author Lauren Beth Landry at one of their favorite spots in Baton Rouge. Photo from Five Seasons.

Erin with friend and co-author Lauren Beth Landry at one of their favorite spots in Baton Rouge. Photo from Five Seasons.

“Eating seasonally is more cost efficient, the produce tastes better, and it’s fun!” says Erin. “As they say, variety is the spice of life, and varying my produce from season to season not only forces me to be creative, it balances my diet.” Shopping at Whole Foods and the Redstick Farmer’s Market Saturday mornings in downtown Baton Rouge for the freshest, local ingredients, Erin cooks nearly every night of the week. “We eat at the table — no phones or TV. Sharing a meal each day is very important to me so we’ve done this since day one, but it’s especially important now because we put the baby to bed first, so it’s catch up time for [my husband] Justin and I (although it will also be nice when Oliver can stay up late enough to join us).” On the occasions when Erin does eat out, Baton Rouge restaurant Beausoleil is one of her favorites.

Erin sharing one of her favorite meals at Beausoleil with son Oliver: the fried oyster salad (substitute grilled shrimp) and a glass of the Whispering Angel rose`. Photo by Erin Nugent.

Erin sharing one of her favorite meals at Beausoleil with son Oliver: the fried oyster salad (substitute grilled shrimp) and a glass of the Whispering Angel rose`. Photo by Erin Nugent.

One of Erin’s favorite recipes is Chicken Pomodoro. “The chicken cooks down until shredded in a medley of fresh tomatoes, wine, and herbs so it’s light enough for warmer months, but also savory due to the addition of Parmesan cheese rinds — the perfect combination.” Her favorite dessert, found in the Five Seasons cookbook, is a Pavlova with lavender whipped cream and berries. “Berries are delicious right now!” notes Erin.

Pavlova with Lavender Whipped Cream and Fresh Berries. Photo from Five Seasons.

Pavlova with Lavender Whipped Cream and Fresh Berries. Photo from Five Seasons.

While cooking local recipes and ingredients is her forte, Erin is also not afraid to try things outside her comfort zone. “My stepfather is from Boston,” says Erin, “so every year, his family sends us live Maine lobsters. Boiling them is still a little scary for me, but they are fun to eat and so delicious — you can definitely taste the freshness!”

Like Five Seasons, the River Road Recipes collection draws inspiration from the ingredients and traditions that make Louisiana unique. Long considered “the textbook of Louisiana cooking,” Country Roads Magazine recently noted in its April 2016 article “By the Book,” by Lucie Monk Carter and Anne Monk, that the River Road Recipes collection, and others like it, “act as cultural totems – keeping Louisiana cooking traditions alive and accessible to the modern cook.” “These cookbooks act as extensions of the neighborhoods, towns, and cities in which they are founded. More so than most mass-produced cookbooks, River Road Recipes . . . and the like list the author’s name with every recipe, adding a layer of familiar—almost neighborly—assurance.”

This week, we encourage you to celebrate whatever is being harvested in your region currently by trying something new in your own kitchen. If you’re in the Louisiana area, okra, summer squash, corn, bell peppers, and eggplant all make great contenders. If you need inspiration, trust the “neighborly assurance” found in the tried and true recipes from your “neighbors” at River Roads Recipes or Five Seasons!

Corn Fritters, River Road Recipes I, page 40

While corn is typically considered a spring crop, ears of corn still abound during the summer months in Louisiana. You can use fresh corn from your local farmers’ market  or your community shared agriculture box to make these delicious corn fritters, which pair perfectly with an evening summer fish fry!

Fresh ears of corn from Luckett Farms. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Fresh ears of corn from Luckett Farms. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 cups drained corn
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
After frying up your fish, drop spoonfuls of the corn fritter mixture into the hot oil to cook. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

After frying up your fish, drop spoonfuls of the corn fritter mixture into the hot oil to cook. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Beat eggs and stir in milk, flour, and other ingredients. Drop from spoon in deep fat until brown. Note: you can get creative and add different spices, cheese, or even jalapeños to change up this recipe!

Serves 6 to 8.

Hot, freshly cooked corn fritters. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Hot, freshly cooked corn fritters. Photo by Lauren De Witt.