Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mardis Gras - Shrimp Creole

I am a little late posting this recipe, since Mardi Gras has come and gone, but I think it would still be a great meal any night of the week, especially now that Lent is upon us, as this is a meat free dish.

Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday, is the culmination of the the Mardi Gras season, traditionally celebrated by consuming copious amount of alcohol and fatty foods in preparation for Lent. Mardi Gras varies from city to city, with Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Fastnacht in Dusseldorf and Carnevale in Milan, but all have ties to the religious obligations and fasting period of Lent that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday, lasting forty days. While Lent is a Christian tradition practiced by Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists and Anglicans to remember -- Mardi Gras has become a celebration that can be embraced by all. In the United States, Mardi Gras has its strongest associations with New Orleans, Louisiana. The tradition of Mardi Gras was brought to the area in the 17th century, when King Louis XIV sent Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville and Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville to lay claim on the French territory of Louisane (now the states of Alabama, Mississippi and Lousiana). The residents of New Orleans pride themselves on their French heritage and embrace the slogan of Mardi Gras, Laissez les bon temp rouler, meaning "let the good times roll".

Shrimp Creole

New Orleans has made a name for itself by upholding the spirit of Mardi Gras and integrating those traditions and the cultures of their mixed southern and french, spanish and carribean heritage into everday life. The mixture of cultures is evident in the people and the cuisine in Louisiana, and creole food is just one great example. Creole food is centered around the idea of the "Holy Trinity": chopped onions, celery and bell peppers. This shrimp creole recipe relies heavily on the "trinity" and the freshest, plumpest shrimp you can find. You can definitely play around with this recipe and add in chicken and sausage or chorizo for a heartier dish, as well as adjusting the heat factor to your liking. I added more hot pepper flakes to mine! My little sister Veronica and I really enjoyed this dish with a class of pinot grigio and some crusty bread to soak up the sauce with. Rice would be great, we were just ready to dig in and didn't have the patience for the cooking time!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Valentine's Day Pancakes - Quinoa Beet

Nothing says I love you like quinoa beet pancakes and scrambled eggs.

Wow it has been quite a while since I have posted. To the few people that read this blog, I apologize for the long absence. I have been taking night classes recently, which has cut down on my free time for blogging. However, I have still been eating, cooking, and baking (just a little bit). :)

I don't make a huge deal about Valentine's Day, but I do love a reason to celebrate or cook something a little special. My friend, Katy, recently got me a whole grains baking book, and I had been intrigued by the quinoa beet pancake recipe. What better day to serve beautiful pink pancakes than on Valentine's Day?!

These pancakes take a little more effort than your standard buttermilk recipe, but if you roast the beets the night before these come together rather quickly! Also be sure to buy the quinoa flour ahead of time because if you're like me you probably don't have quinoa flour on hand. The flour is worth the investment, as it imparts a unique sweet, almost grassy flavor to the pancakes, which really compliments the sweet earthy beets. It took me a couple tries on the griddle to cook these to perfection. Overall, I really enjoyed the flavor profile - just a little something different. Try serving these to people without telling them what is in the batter - you might be surprised how much people like them! Plus, the presentation is just stunning. I don't think I've ever had a more beautiful pancake.

If this recipe intrigues you, why not consider picking up "Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole Grain Flours" by Kim Boyce. I have also made her whole grain choco chip cookies, which were a big hit with some of my coworkers.

Happy Belated Valentine's Day! (1 month late)