Member Spotlight: Hosting a Cocktail Party with Meghan Poole

No matter what political party you belong to, one party we can all agree on is a cocktail party! In honor of the upcoming election, Junior League member Meghan Poole shares with us some tips and tricks from a political campaign reception she and her husband recently hosted at their home. Meghan used the Cocktail Meet & Greet Menu on page 56 of River Road Recipes IV: Warm Welcomes and had rave reviews from her guests. Whatever get-together you may be having, political or otherwise, these recipes are sure to get bipartisan support!

Junior League member Meghan Poole.

Junior League member Meghan Poole.

Cocktail Meet & Greet Menu

My husband, Lamar, and I hosted a small reception for a friend who is running for a City Council seat. We had a similar reception last year for a state representative and used this menu then. The food was such a hit, that we prepared the recipes for a second time. Because our party was at six o’clock in the evening, dinner time, and guests made a contribution to attend, we supplemented the food with gumbo and rice from Pot & Paddle, and some sliced ham and rolls.

Meghan with her family on vacation.

Meghan with her family on vacation.

I prepared the turkey meat for the Toasted Canapés about a week in advance by boiling turkey legs and boneless/skinless breast in water seasoned with salt, pepper, onion, carrot, green bell pepper, celery, bay leaf and a few shakes of tobacco. I froze the broth and chopped meat in one cup portions to use in other recipes later.

I made the Blue Cheese Truffles, Pralines and Bourbon Pecan Tartlets in advance, and stored them in the freezer until the day of the party.

The party was on a Monday evening, so we spent Sunday afternoon preparing most of the food. I did the grocery shopping the day before on Saturday. There was nothing that had to be cooked the day of the party, which was a lifesaver. We both work full time, so cooking the day of was not an option.

I chopped two bunches of green onions before I started preparing the food, and that was enough for everything.

For the most part, these recipes are easy to follow and prepare. The most difficult recipes to cook  were the Toasted Canapés and the pralines because they require constant attention at the stove. Leaving them for just a small amount of time can cause them to burn.

Meghan enjoying an afternoon with her two sons.

Meghan enjoying an afternoon with her two sons.

Crowd favorites were the Crawfish Supreme, Crabmeat Green Goddess and Citrus-Glazed Sausage. The Southern Antipasto recipe doesn’t make a lot, but it’s the least popular dish on the menu. The Blue Cheese Truffles are great because they are small, rich and flavorful. They are easy for guests to pop in their mouths and pair perfectly with a glass of wine.

Southern Antipasto

The Southern Antipasto was the easiest item on the menu to make. I cut the green beans into two pieces each before blanching. I sliced one type of olives lengthwise and the other crosswise. My garlic press also has a slicer on it, so it was easy to get the garlic to a consistent size. Three tablespoons of thyme takes a while to get, so I used an herb stripper to make the process go faster. I prepared the marinade the day before the party in a plastic container with a lid. I combined the rest of the ingredients in the quart-sized bag as indicated in the recipe. I poured the marinade in the bag about 2 hours before the party, then into a serving bowl when I was ready to serve it without draining the marinade.

My son loves olives, and he requested to take the leftovers to school in his lunchbox.

Southern Antipasto, RRR IV, p. ___. Photo by Meghan Poole.

Southern Antipasto, RRR IV, p. 57. Photo by Meghan Poole.


  • 1 (12-ounce) jar pickled okra, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, blanched and drained
  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olive halves
  • 1/4 cup pitted green olive halves
  • 1/4  cup pimento-stuffed olives
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teasoon crushed dried red pepper


  1. Combine the okra, green beans, and olives in a 1-quart resealable plastic bag.
  2. Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, thyme, garlic, salt, and red pepper in a bowl.
  3. Pour the lemon juice mixture over the okra mixture and seal tightly. Turn to coat.
  4. Marinate in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes. Drain before serving.

Serves 12

Blue Cheese Truffles

I made the cheese balls about a week before the party and stored them in a plastic container in the freezer with each layer separated with a piece of waxed paper. The morning of the party, I placed them in the refrigerator and they were perfect that evening. The recipe call for 3 cups of pecans, but 2 to 2.5 is enough. I have a lot of leftover pecans. I put the blue cheese and cream cheese in my stand mixer and let it do the work. I used the small end of my melon baller to make them, but will use the larger end next time. They were a bit too small for my liking. I sliced green apples about four hours before the party and put them in a quart-sized bag in the refrigerator with about 2-3 teaspoons of lemon juice to prevent browning.

Blue Cheese Truffles, RRR IV, p. ___. Photo by Meghan Poole.

Blue Cheese Truffles, RRR IV, p. 57. Photo by Meghan Poole.


  • 3 cups pecan halves or pieces, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces blue cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened


  1. Spread the pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast at 300° for 15 minutes or until light brown, stirring occasionally. Let stand until cool and finely chop.
  2. Combine the blue cheese and cream cheese in a mixing bowl and beat until blended.
  3. Shape the cheese mixture into balls using a small melon baller and coat with the pecans.
  4. Arrange the balls on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Chill, covered, until serving time.
  5. Serve with sliced apples and/or grapes.

Makes 3 1/2 dozen truffles

Toasted Canapés

I couldn’t find pumpernickel rye bread at the grocery store, so I used dark rye bread. The recipe calls for 24 slices of bread, so I bought two loaves. I sliced the crusts off of the loaves and cut each piece into two triangles using an electric knife. One loaf of bread would have been sufficient because there wasn’t enough filling to go on each toast triangle. I cut the bread the afternoon of the party and stored it in gallon-sized bags until I was ready to make the toast triangles. I prepared the turkey mixture the day before the party and heated it in the microwave when I was ready to top the toast. The recipe was spicier and more flavorful than I’d expected, and I was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out. I served the canapés in a chaffing dish to keep them warm.

Toasted Canapes, RRR IV, p. ___. Photo by Meghan Poole.

Toasted Canapes, RRR IV, p. 58. Photo by Meghan Poole.


  • 24 slices pupernickel party rye bread, cut into triangles
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup  (2 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup chopped cooked turkey
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 6 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled


  1. Arrange the bread slices in a single layer on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 500° for 3 to 4 minutes until crisp.
  2. Heat butter in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in the flour.
  3. Cook until smooth and bubbly, stirring constantly.
  4. Add the milk gradually, stirring constantly.
  5. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly.
  6. Add the Cheddar cheese adn cook until blended, stirring constantly.
  7. Stir in the turkey, mushrooms, salt, and red pepper.
  8. Spoon some of the turkey mixture onto each toasted bread slice.
  9. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese adn bacon.
  10. Bake at 500° for 2 to 3 minutes or until the cheese melts.
  11. Garnish with grape tomato slices and fresh chives.

Makes 2 dozen canapés

Crawfish Supreme & Crabmeat Green Goddess

Both of these recipes are served over a layer of cream cheese. I spread the cream cheese over the trays the day before the party, covered them with wax paper and set them in the refrigerator. When it was time to set the table for the party, I just spread the toppings over the cream cheese. They were both cold when served. I used Melba toast for the crawfish instead of preparing my own toast using French bread. I bought lump crabmeat and not jumbo lump crabmeat.

Crawfish Supreme, RRR IV, p. ___. Photo by Meghan Poole.

Crawfish Supreme, RRR IV, p. 58. Photo by Meghan Poole.


  • 1 baguette French bread, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil to taste
  • 1 pound crawfish tails
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon white Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/.2 cup remoulade sauce
  • 1/2 cup reduced calorie Italian salad dressing
  • 12 ounces cream cheese


  1. Arrange the rbead slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil.
  2. Toast at 500° until light brown.
  3. Saute the crawfish tails and green onions in a skillet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
  4. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce.
  5. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
  6. Stir in the remoulade sauce and salad dressing.
  7. Microwave the cream cheese until slightly softened. Place the cream cheese on a serving platter and top with waxed paper or plastic wrap.
  8. Roll or pat the cream cheese to cover the platter.
  9. Discard the waxed paper and spread with the crawfish mixture.
  10. Serve with the toasted bread slices.

Serves 10-12

Crabmeat Green Goddess, RRR IV, p. ___. Photo by Meghan Poole.

Crabmeat Green Goddess, RRR IV, p. 59. Photo by Meghan Poole.


  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise or cream
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Red pepper to taste
  • Tabasco sauce to taste
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 pound lump crab meat, drained and shells removed


  1. Beat the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl until blended, scraping the bowl occasionally.
  2. Stir in 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, green onions, 2 crushed garlic cloves, salt, black pepper, red pepper, Tabasco sauce, and lemon juice to taste.
  3. Spread the cream cheese mixture 1/2 inch thick on a serving tray. Chill, covered in the refrigerator.
  4. Combine 1 cup mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 crushed garlic clove in a bowl and mix well. Season with salt, black pepper, red pepper, and Tabasco sauce.
  5. Fold in the crab meat.
  6. Spread the crab meat mixture over hte cream cheese mixture just before serving.
  7. Garnish as desired and serve with assorted party crackers.

Serves 12

Citrus-Glazed Smoked Sausage

Sausage is always a party favorite, especially in South Louisiana! Veron’s Sausage is my family’s favorite, so that’s the brand served at the party. The day before the party, I followed the first two steps of the recipe, where the sausage was microwaved twice. I poured the marinade over the sausage, but didn’t return it to the microwave. Before the party began, I microwaved the sausage to heat it up, then poured everything into a chaffing dish for serving. This is the only recipe I doubled.

Citrus Glazed Smoked Sausage, RRR IV, p. ___. Photo by Meghan Poole.

Citrus Glazed Smoked Sausage, RRR IV, p. 60. Photo by Meghan Poole.


  • 1 pound smoked sausage, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper


  1. Combine the sausage and green onions in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave, covered, on High for 2 minutes; stir. Microwave for 1 minute longer.
  2. Whisk the oil, lemon juice, dry mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl until blended.
  3. Add the oil mixture to the sausage mixture and mix well.
  4. Microwave until just heated through.
  5. Serve with wooden picks. You may prepare in advance and reheat just before serving.

Serves 12

Microwave Pralines

I’ve tried to make this recipe more than once, and the pralines never turn out. I even burnt up a plastic bowl once trying to make these. Because microwaves are each a bit different, it’s difficult to develop a perfect recipe for them, especially for pralines because the temperature makes or breaks their success. My go-to praline recipe is Senator Ellender’s Creole Pralines on page 178 of RRR II, which I prepared for my River Roads obligation my provisional year. My cooking thermometer indicates when the temperature reaches “soft balls,” so I don’t have to throw cold water on the praline mixture to judge if they are ready or not. I prepared the pralines 5 days before the party and stored them in the freezer with each layer separated by a sheet of waxed paper. They thawed perfectly on the counter. There was no need to freeze them that close to the day of the party, but my family and I would have gobbled them up otherwise!

Bourbon Pecan Tartlets and Microwave Pralines, RRR IV, p. ___. Photo by Meghan Poole.

Bourbon Pecan Tartlets and Microwave Pralines, RRR IV, p. 61. Photo by Meghan Poole.


  • 1 (16-ounce) package light brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 2 cups pecan pieces
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract


  1. Combine the sugar and heavy crea in a microwave-safe bowl and mix well. Microwave on high for 7 minutes; stir.
  2. Add the butter. Microwave on High for 7 minutes longer and stir vigorously.
  3. Stir in the pecans and vanilla.
  4. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Let stand until set.

Serves 12

Bourbon Pecan Tartlets

I prepared one and a half times the filling called for in the recipe because I had extra shells. The pastry shells are sold in packs of 15, so I had 45 when the recipe makes 3 dozen. I made these the same day as the blue cheese truffles, so they too went in the freezer with each layer separated by waxed paper. I thawed these on the counter top next to the pralines.

My son and I had fun making these together. He placed the chocolate pieces in each pastry shell, then proceeded to eat several just to make sure that they were okay!


  • 36 frozen minature phyllo pastry shells
  • 1/2 cup (3 ounces) minature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup bourbon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten


  1. Arrange the pastry shells in a single layer on a lightly greased 10×15 inch baking sheet.
  2. Spoon the chocolate chips evenly into the shells.
  3. Combine the pecans, brown sugar, butter, bourbon and egg in a bowl and mix well.
  4. Spoon the pecan mixture into the prepared shells.
  5. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Remove to a wire rack to cool. store in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.

Makes 3 dozen tartlets

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 (, 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 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 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 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.


  • 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.


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



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.


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.


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


JLBR Member Spotlight: Celebrating Hollydays with Renee Skinner


It’s nearly the most wonderful time of the year – Hollydays! Hollydays is the Junior League of Baton Rouge’s largest fundraiser. Since Hollydays began 32 years ago, it has raised over $6 million dollars for the Baton Rouge community! In the past 32 years, Hollydays has raised over $6 million dollars for the Baton Rouge Community. These funds directly support our community projects: Diaper Cooperative, Kids in the Kitchen, Patient Activity Days, Breast Health Awareness, The Little Bookshelf, Building Blocks to Bright Futures, and Ready Hands.

For many, including this year’s Hollydays Chairman, Renee Skinner, Hollydays is the “kick-off” of the holiday season. With over 200 merchants to browse, Renee says that Hollydays is where “my Christmas shopping officially begins and I officially feel like I move from Summer to Fall. Last year at the Hollydays market I purchased the most beautiful tea towels from a vendor that I used to package my favorite River Road Recipe—the Sugar and Spice Pecans from the Warm Welcomes cookbook.  I make these pecans every Christmas for my neighbors, children’s teachers, doctors, etc. They are so simple to make and always a crowd pleaser. They are great to snack on by themselves, on top of cheese, or even on top of ice cream.   Last year, by wrapping them in the beautiful Christmas tea towels with a pretty ribbon, it made it an even more special gift.  I am not very artistic or crafty, but they turned out beautiful.  Nothing beats a homemade gift.  I can’t wait to see what I can find at Hollydays this year to package them in!”

River Road Recipes:W arm Welcomes Sugar and Spice Pecans, wrapped in a beautiful tea towel Renee purchased at Hollydays last year, make the perfect gift! Photo by Renee Skinner.

River Road Recipes:W arm Welcomes Sugar and Spice Pecans, wrapped in a beautiful tea towel Renee purchased at Hollydays last year, make the perfect gift! Photo by Renee Skinner.

Hollydays 2016 kicks off with Blitzen’s Bash on October 5, 2016 and continues through Saturday, October 8, at the Baton Rouge River Center. We hope you’ll join us for great shopping, entertainment, special events, food, music and more. You can purchase tickets and learn more about some of the special events at this year’s Hollydays at

Sugar and Spice Pecans, RRR IV, p. 255

In addition to making a great gift, these pecans are a great snack for cocktail parties and the like!

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Level of Difficulty: Easy

Servings: 4 cups

Photo by Jessica McVea.

Photo by Jessica McVea.

Kitchen Tools:

  • Mixing bowl
  • Baking Sheet
  • Wooden spoon or spatula
  • Measuring spoons


Photo by Jessica McVea.

Photo by Jessica McVea.

  • 1 pound pecan halves
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (heaping) brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Morton Nature’s Seasons Seasoning Blend
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder


  1. Toss the pecans with the butter in a bowl Add a mixture of the sugar, brown sugar, seasoning blend, and curry powder to the pecan mixture and mix well.
  2. Spread the pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast at 275° for 45 minutes, stirring at 15-minute intervals.
Photo by Jessica McVea.

Photo by Jessica McVea.

3. Remove the pecans to a plate and let stand until cool. Stir in an airtight container.

Photo by Jessica McVea.

Photo by Jessica McVea.

Photo by Jessica McVea.

Photo by Jessica McVea.

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.

Member Spotlight: Dining with Our President, Kathy Victorian

Every Friday evening, my family has what we call a “special night.” I pick up our three year old daughter from daycare; we get “freats” (we are still working on that “tr” phonetic combo) – usually our favorite Talenti gelato to share and a nice bottle of Malbec for Mommy and Daddy; then we pick out a movie to watch as a family. One of her favorite  movies for nights like these is Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. At the beginning of the movie, Tiana’s dad, James, makes the following observation while helping his daughter make the perfect pot of gumbo: “You know the thing about good food? It brings folks together from all walks of life. It warms them right up and it puts little smiles on their faces.” I could not agree more!

Kathy Victorian, President of the Junior League of Baton Rouge, also knows that there is truly something special about sharing a meal with loved ones. Growing up, Kathy remembers fondly the meals she shared with her family. “My mom was an amazing cook, and I remember vividly her preparing a home cooked meal for us every day, but she made Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas magical in our home with her cooking.” Today, Kathy continues this tradition with her own family. “I LOVE to cook,” she says, “because cooking a meal is one of the most personal things I can do for someone. I’m literally providing plated ‘love’ made with my own hands and creativity – even if I’m following a recipe, I picked the recipe and planned the meal!

Kathy Victorian

Kathy Victorian, Junior League of Baton Rouge President 2016-2017

Like most of us, the typical weeknight dinner at Kathy’s house varies, depending on how busy everyone is. “The typical weeknight can consist of take out or a sit down dinner with my husband, Michael, but Sunday after church, my cooking skills are on display at Chateau Victorian!” One of Kathy and Michael’s favorite River Road Recipes is the Chicken Stew found on page 195 of River Road Recipes III – A Healthy Collection. Another favorite from RRR III is the Creamy Risotto, featured below. “I had never prepared homemade risotto until I got my hands on RRR III, and when I turned to the recipe, I found my elegant comfort food. Needless to say, I prepare this dish often.”

Kathy with friends enjoying a casual evening dinner at home.

(Left to right) Kimberly LaMotte, Kathy Victorian, Elisha Browder, and Brunetta Adams enjoying a Memorial Day Weekend cookout and surprise birthday party for Elisha! “Food always brings me and my loved ones together,” says Kathy. “Friends plus Family plus Food equals FUN!”

In addition to cooking at home, Kathy enjoys eating out. While she has several favorite Baton Rouge restaurants, Mansurs on the Boulevard takes the cake. “If I had to pick one,” Kathy says, “it would be Mansurs on the Boulevard simply because of their fantastic staff, and every meal I’ve eaten there has been Ahhhhhh-Mazing!” Whether dining out or trying a new recipe from the River Road Recipes collection like Kathy, or even just sharing store bought “freats” with your loved ones on the couch like my family, there are so many opportunities in the Red Stick to enjoy some “plated love” and create lasting memories with both friends and family alike.

Creamy Risotto, RRR III p. 132

This Creamy Risotto, as Kathy says, makes for an elegant comfort food that works well as a side or as the main dish!

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tub margarine
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 cup arborio rice or medium grain rice
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 3 1/2 cups defatted chicken stock, less salt
  • 1/3 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon saffron (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • Black pepper for seasoning
Aborio is an Italian short grain rice and can typically be found at most grocery stores on the grain aisle. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Aborio rice is an Italian short grain rice and can typically be found at most grocery stores on the grain aisle. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Heat oil and margarine. Sauté vegetables for five minutes. Add rice and stir for 30 seconds. Add wine and stir for one minute. Add stock, cheese, and spices. Simmer until the rice is tender but slightly firm to bite and the mixture is creamy, about 25 minutes. Season with pepper. Serve with extra Parmesan cheese if desired.

Creamy Risotto. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Creamy Risotto. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

This recipe has 208 calories, 6.4 grams of fat, and 511 milligrams of sodium per serving, which is over 5 grams less fat compared to the original! You can take the nutritional benefits a step further by omitting the olive oil and margarine and simply sautéing the vegetables in the chicken broth to save an additional 3.7 grams of fat and 33 calories per serving. Try using a sodium-free broth to cut additional sodium.