Use this New Orleans seasoning blend to add a Creole flavor to eggs, rice, casseroles and vegetables. Recipe Source: Emeril Lagasse

 Creole Seasoning
(Makes about 1-1/3 cups (325 mL)

5 tbsp (75 mL) paprika
1/4 cup (60 mL) garlic powder
4 tbsp (50 mL) salt
2 tbsp (30 mL) freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp (30 mL) onion powder
2 tbsp (30 mL) cayenne
2 tbsp (30 mL) dried oregano
2 tbsp (30 mL) dried thyme

Combine ingredients, blending well.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Shake or stir well before use.

For more information about New Orleans food, including a glossary of Creole and Cajun food specialties, check out our RoomPlanners June 2010 issue! This special issue profiles New Orleans style food, architecture, culture and interior design.

Click on the magazine cover to the left, or on the link below.
http://roomplanners.com/pdfs/06-2010.pdf

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Dirty rice is a favorite in the deep south, including New Orleans! The dish gets its name because of the addition of meat, giving the rice a dark appearance. Typically, the meat used is chicken livers and giblets. This version uses a blend of ground beef and pork.

Southern Dirty Rice
(Makes 4 to 6 servings)

1 tbsp (15 mL) cooking oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 ribs celery, very thinly sliced
125 g (1/4 lb) extra lean ground beef
125 g (1/4 lb) lean ground pork
1 teaspoon (5 mL) Creole Seasoning (recipe follows)
2-1/2 cups (625 mL) cooked white rice
3 green onions, thinly sliced

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion and celery; cook and stir until onion is soft and celery is tender-crisp, about 6 or 7 minutes. Add ground beef and ground pork; cook until meat is browned, stirring often to break up. Drain off any fat. Add seasoning, rice and green onions. Cook for a few minutes until rice is heated through. Taste and add more seasoning, if desired.

For more information about New Orleans food, including a glossary of Creole and Cajun food specialties, check out our RoomPlanners June 2010 issue! This special issue profiles New Orleans style food, architecture, culture and interior design.

Click on the magazine cover to the left, or on the link below.
 http://roomplanners.com/pdfs/06-2010.pdf

Another green-inspired recipe that’s perfect for Spring!

Kale & Chicken Soup

1 to 2 tbsp (15 to 30 mL) cooking oil
1 boneless chicken breast, cut into ½” (1 cm) cubes
½ medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups (1.5 L) chicken stock or broth
½ tsp (2 mL) hot pepper sauce (or more to taste)
6 cups (1.5 L) chopped kale
2 tbsp (30 mL) lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil in a large stock pot on medium heat. Add chicken; sauté until cooked. Remove from pot and set aside.

Add additional cooking oil if necessary, then add onion, carrots and garlic. Sauté until vegetables are tender. Add chicken stock and hot pepper sauce; bring to a simmer. Return chicken to pot and add kale and lemon juice.

Cook for a few minutes until chicken is heated through and kale is tender. Season to taste.

(Makes 4 servings)

TIPS!

* Spinach, Swiss chard, sorrel, dandelion greens or beet leaves can be substituted for kale.

 * For a vegetarian version, replace chicken with cooked cannellini beans (white kidney beans or Great Northern or white navy beans) and chicken broth with vegetable broth.

Do you love all things green? Or just need more of this restful color in your life? Check out our RoomPlanners ‘green issue‘. Take our green quiz to see which green paint color is right for your rooms, learn about green color psychology, pick up a few green ideas for around the home… and much more.

We’d love to send you our free monthly online magazine every month, filled with practical interior design ideas and recipes. If you’d like to join our mailing list, subscribe here.

Add green to your meals this Spring with asparagus, spinach, cabbage, kale, peas, beans, lettuce, watercress, fiddleheads, cucumbers, peppers, artichokes, fennel, or even dandelion greens!

Asparagus & Feta Frittata

1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
6 small red potatoes (each cut into 8 wedges)
2 cups (500 mL) chopped asparagus (about 1” / 2.5cm pcs)
6 eggs
1/3 cup (75 mL) milk
1/8 tsp (.5 mL) pepper
½ cup (125 mL) crumbled feta cheese (about 2 oz/60 g)
2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped chives 

Heat oil in a large skillet (about 10” or 25 cm) over medium heat. Add potatoes, cover and cook for 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Add asparagus; cook until asparagus and potatoes are almost tender, 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  

Whisk eggs, milk and   pepper in a medium bowl. Pour egg mixture over vegetables. Sprinkle feta cheese and chives over top.

Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and cook until eggs are set, 8 to 10 minutes.  Cut into wedges to serve. 

(Makes 4 servings)

Tips!

  • If desired, brown the top of the frittata by placing the skillet under the broiler for a few minutes. Wrap the handle of the skillet in aluminum foil if it is not heatproof.

Do you love all things green? Or just need more of this restful color in your life? Check out our RoomPlanners ‘green issue’. Take our green quiz to see which green paint color is right for your rooms, learn about green color psychology, pick up a few green ideas for around the home… and much more.

We’d love to send you our free monthly online magazine every month, filled with practical interior design ideas and recipes. If you’d like to join our mailing list, subscribe here.

This French favorite is easy to make, inexpensive and delicious. You might remember croque monsieur from the movie, It’s Complicated… when Jane (Meryl Streep) made it for dinner with Adam (Steve Martin)… but it was Jake (Alex Baldwin) who sneaked into the house afterwards and found the leftovers! You might also know it as a Monte Cristo sandwich (in some restaurants, it’s even served with syrup!).

 Croque Monsieur

4 slices bread                          
Dijon mustard, to taste                       
2 to 4 thin slices cooked ham                                  
2 slices Gruyere cheese (or grated Gruyere) 
2 eggs                        
2 tbsp (30 mL) milk                             
1 tbsp (15 mL) butter

Makes 2 servings.

Spread two slices of bread with mustard. Place one or two slices of ham and a slice of cheese (or 1/3 cup (75 mL) grated cheese) on each slice of bread. Top with remaining bread.

Whisk together eggs and milk in a medium bowl. Melt butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Dip sandwiches into egg mixture, coating both sides well. Lift out and place in the skillet. Cook each sandwich on both sides until golden brown.

 

Chocolate cake got big exposure (along with a funny story) in the recent movie, It’s Complicated when Jane (Meryl Streep), a bakery owner in Santa Barbara, crafted a beautiful one for a dinner that never happened.

If you need a delicious homemade chocolate cake recipe, try this one… it’s worthy of being put on a platter (or an elegant glass cake stand, like Streep did in the movie). 

Chocolate Cake

2 cups (500 mL) sugar
1-3/4 cups (425 mL) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (175 mL) cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp (7 mL) baking powder
1-1/2 tsp (7 mL) baking soda
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
2 eggs
1 cup (250 mL) milk
½ cup (125 mL) vegetable oil
2 tsp (10 mL) vanilla
1 cup (250 mL) boiling water

Makes 8-10 servings

Grease and flour two 9” (23 cm) round baking pans.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water. (The batter will be thin.) Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake in a preheated 350F (180C) oven until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in the centre of both cakes comes out clean, about 30 – 35 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes, then remove cakes from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with Chocolate Icing.

Chocolate Icing:
Melt ½ cup (125 mL) butter or margarine. Stir in 2/3 cup (150 mL) cocoa. Alternately add 3 cups (750 mL) icing sugar and 1/3 cup (75 mL) milk, beating with electric mixer on medium speed until spreading consistency. If needed, add more milk. Stir in 1 tsp (6 ml) vanilla.

Recipe Source: Hershey’s

It started with finding cream-style corn on sale at the grocery store. I love the stuff, so stocked up. Then one fateful night, when I realized my faithful supply of Campbell’s chunky chicken corn chowder (also a favorite) had run out, I was left with no choice but to make my own.

This recipe is super easy, fast and good!

CHICKEN CORN CHOWDER

2 chicken boullion cubes / 4 cups water
4- 10-oz cans or frozen boxes of creamed corn
1- 12-oz can of chicken (add a second can if you like more chicken)
3 carrots, diced
2 potatoes, diced

Boil water with boullion cubes. Add creamed corn, chicken (with liquid), carrots and potatoes. Salt to taste. Add croutons or oyster crackers to serve.

Makes 8 servings. Enjoy!

If chocolate is your weakness… or your source of strength, why not a romantic chocolate fondue for Valentine’s Day… or any time a romanic dinner is called for.

Here’s a quick, simple recipe.

10 oz (280 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (125 mL) cream (18% to 35% MF)
2 to 3 tbsp (30 to 45 mL) favorite liquor or liqueur (optional)
Dippers and dunkables (see Tips)

Combine chocolate and cream in a 1 qt (1 L) saucepan. Set over low heat; melt chocolate, stirring frequently. When mixture is smooth, stir in liquor or liqueur, if using. (Fondue can be prepared up to this point 3 to 4 hours ahead; a few minutes before serving, reheat over low heat or carefully in the microwave.)

Pour chocolate mixture into a fondue pot. Set over a heat source. Serve with your choice of dipper and dunkables.

Makes 6 servings

TIPS:

If using alcohol, try rum, kirsch, cognac, brandy, triple sec, Grand Marnier, Kahlua, Chambord, Amaretto, etc.

Any of the following would be great to dip or dunk: fruit (e.g. strawberries, bananas oranges, mandarins, apples, pears, seedless grapes), pretzels, potato chips, cookies, biscotti, pound cake, angel food cake or brownies.

For tips on setting up a romantic dinner for two at home, see page 10 of our February roomplanners issue at http://roomplanners.com/pdfs/02-2010.pdf

Here’s a great wine and cheese fondue recipe for Valentine’s Day! With or without wine, it makes a very romantic dinner for two. Or invite a few favorite friends over for an extended evening of grazing over an open flame!

1-1/2 cups (375 mL) dry white wine
1/2 lb (250 g) Emmenthal cheese, grated (about 2 cups/500 mL)
1/2 lb (250 g) Gruyere cheese, grated (about 2 cups/500 mL)
1 tbsp (15 mL) cornstarch
2 tbsp (30 mL) Kirsch
Dippers and dunkables (see Tip)

Pour wine into a 2 qt (2 L) saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Add cheeses, about 1/2 cup (125 mL) at a time, whisking constantly in a figure-eight motion (this will prevent cheese from clumping into a ball) and adding more cheese only after previous cheese has melted.

In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch and Kirsch. Add to fondue; bring cheese mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly. Cook over low heat until thickened, about a minute or two.

Pour mixture into a fondue pot. Set over a heat source. Serve with your choice of dippers and dunkables.

Makes 6 servings
TIP:

  • Any of the following would be great to dip or dunk: crusty bread cubes, pretzels, apples, fresh or steamed vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, Chinese pea pods, new potatoes, mushrooms), sausages or ham.

Serving a buffet-style dinner this Super Bowl Sunday?  What seems like an easy dinner party idea can be quite an excercise in logic and organization! Buffet–style serving, especially to a large crowd, can put you at risk of buffet gridlock or other food-serving chaos. So here’s a compilation of the best tips I could find to keep the buffet line moving… and guests coming back for more next year!

1. For a buffet party over eight people, lay food out on both sides of the table, rather than along a one-sided sideboard. For a buffet party over 18 people, repeat the same food dishes on both sides of the table. Remove the chairs around the buffet table so traffic flows easily.

2. Serve drinks in a separate area – a cart, separate table or sideboard will keep drink traffic out of the food lanes. Group bottles of soda or cocktails together with glasses, an ice bucket, small napkins and a bowl of lemons or limes.

3. Better yet, allocate or hire someone to serve drinks. It could be a child or a neighborhood friend. People will have to get up less often and it’s really rather hospitable! Your party will be talked about for weeks!

4. Serve drinks, or make them available, right when guests arrive. It’ll put less pressure on guests to balance plates and glasses in the buffet line.

5. Use large plates and oversized napkins. Avoid flimsy paper plates unless they’re hefty, hearty and able to withstand weight and moisture, at the same time. A large napkin that completely covers the lap (when open) will be appreciated.

6. Avoid serving food that requires a knife; buffet food should really be spoon-friendly or fork-friendly only. Even if you’re not weak at the knees, It can be precarious to balance a plate on them while performing food feats with a dangerous weapon.

7. Place clean plates and cold items at the beginning of the line, hot entries last. Place silverware and napkins at the end of the buffet, rather than at the beginning.

8. Roll a napkin around a fork and spoon, so they’re one item to carry.

9. Use a hot plate or warming tray to keep hot things hot. Buffet-warmers have become a hot item, meaning they’re also more affordable than ever. They also have a polished, restaurant quality!

10. Avoid food that requires time or talent to get from serving dish to plate. A block of cheese can be a thing of beauty, but cutting off a piece with one hand is quite a feat. If using cheese blocks, pre-cut part of the block. And pre-cutting smaller branches of grapes will avoid guests walking off with half of them, without wanting to!

11. Poke a toothpick into items that are tough to pick up, or to pick up without touching everything around them. Or invest in a few small tongs for biscuits or hand-picked items. In an age of killer flus, everyone will thank you.  

13. Label food or ingredients that aren’t easily recognizable, including food with nuts or a choice of sauces or dressings. Better yet, label everything with a folding card or a flag. It’s restaurant-like and helpful. Plus, there’s nothing worse then when people have to smell something to see if they want to eat it. Except, maybe, a guest being rushed to the hospital at halftime on account of a food allergy you didn’t know about.

14. Serve desert, tea and coffee on a tray or rolling cart you can bring to your guests. Once guests are settled in place, sometimes it’s an effort for them to get up again (… and risk losing their prime seat location!).

15. Create an abundant-looking table.  Avoid unforutnate gaps by taking the leaf out of the table, grouping food at one end, drinks at the other, or placing a large floral or food display arrangement at the center or end of the table. Also, vary the height of items on the table. Add a large centerpiece, or place some serving plates higher than others. (An easy way to do this is to pile books under select plates, then cover the entire table with a tablecloth).

A few final ideas…

Lay out out the serving table plan ahead of time, even the night before. Place post-it notes where things will go; it’ll be one less thing to think about on the day of the party… and help out those who want to help you in the mad rush right before dinner is served.

If, or when, you’re in the market for new dining room furniture, consider a buffet or sideboard rather than a china cabinet. They’re versatile if you like buffet-style eating and make a great place to serve drinks. Also, look for one with a marble top; they’re plentiful these days and perfect for buffet parties – they can handle heat and are easy  to clean!