appleMy ultimate sweet weakness is a good caramel apple. I love them. I have a will of iron when it comes to pretty much everything else . . . . but something about the perfect balance of sweet and salty and sour and . . . yummmmmm.

I mean, they were the only culinary highlight of Disney. . . possibly my favorite part of the whole trip. My mom knows how much I love them and sends me some every year from Mrs. Prindable's, a fancy caramel apple place in Illinois.

So last summer when I read about a local gourmet caramel apple company called Le Posh Pomme from Baton Rouge . . . I've naturally been hunting them down ever since.

I finally got my act together this last week and ordered one . . OK, two. And can I just say, they are not only seriously beautiful, but they are seriously amazing. I just asked Christina, the creator of these beauties, to send me her best seller. And usually I'm a purest . . green apple, caramel and peanuts. Not all the extras. But my boys and I just devoured one with caramel and pecans and then drizzled with milk and white chocolates . . . and it was fabulous. I now don't have to eat for a week.

Ours came with super cute bows with an apple charm (I really have no idea what to call that doo-dad on the bow — a button, a charm??), but she does all kinds of decorations for holidays and even personalizes them. How cute for a teacher . . . I think they might actually eat this apple!

So how and where do you get these? You can place an order by emailing leposhpomme@eatel.net or calling (225) 921-2677. She ships and can arrange pickups in Baton Rouge. And you can find her at different events around Baton Rouge . . . check out her Facebook page.

But seriously, this is the best and cutest caramel apple . . . better than Mrs. Prindable's (and I thought those could never be topped). . . and not just because it's local. The local, handmade-by-a-Louisianan just makes it that much sweeter! :)

br_la_heartBATON ROUGE

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cane_syrupMy mom is Canadian. So I grew up with Maple syrup — over pancakes, on oatmeal, poured over snow and in sugar candy. South Louisianans have cane syrup.

I was first introduced to cane syrup by one of my students. Her family makes cane syrup the old fashioned way . . . cutting it by hand, grinding it, boiling it down and bottling it in small batches in Gray.

She also taught me about how Cajuns use cane syrup in everything from pecan pie, to cakes and cookies and even savory dishes — anything that needs a little sweet. And theirs, Baudoin Creations' Sweet Memories Old-Fashioned Cane Syrup, is super smooth and light . . . and local and lacking the chemicals of mass production.

sweet_memoriesThe Thibodaux-based Donner-Peltier Distillers uses Sweet Memories in their products and you can find it in drinks at several New Orleans' restaurants and bars. Or you can buy your own at the Laurel Valley Plantation Store.

I personally just like it over biscuits . . . like my mother-in-law taught me . . . like she learned from her French grandfather from Port Allen. She said she'll crave biscuits with cane syrup, just like he would always eat — I think it's the taste . . . but mostly I think it's a way to connect to someone she loves that is long gone.

Sweet memories.

gray_la_heartGRAY

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chicken2So I really am mostly a vegetarian . . . but if I'm going to eat meat, it'll be chicken and it'll be good, happy chicken — not those scraggily ones you see piled on top of each other in little cages on the stinky chicken trucks screaming down the interstate.

Those actually make me really sad and barf a little in my mouth.

But moving on to something exciting . . . Today I picked up my first order from Mossy Ridge Farm, a happy, pasture-raised chicken farm in Houma.

It's new and small and the couple that raises the chickens have a great vision — supply our area with local, happy, healthy chicken. And at a great price . . . . can you see the price in the picture?? I bought two packages of tenders and a package of breasts for $11.08. The last time I bought organic chicken at the grocery store it was about $13 for two breasts. And, let's be honest, while getting to use the label USDA certified organic does mean something, I really have no idea where that chicken came from.

Ordering is also super easy. You can go to their website and order. And for Thibodaux people, ask to pick up at the Saint Francis Vegetable Garden at their weekly drop on Thursdays evenings from 5-6. Or you can find them at Anela's in Houma, Verdun's Meat Market in Raceland or at the Lafourche Central Market on Saturdays from 8-noon.

Right now the farm is just doing chickens, but they are looking to expand and offer mushrooms, artichokes and rabbit.

And I can't say there's anything better than getting to pick up my food from the people who raised it while our kids pick green beans and zucchini together in the Saint Francis Vegetable Garden. Theirs was the super cute little girl that my 3-year-old was trying to impress. . . . hope they'll still sell me chicken . . .

houma_la_heartHOUMA

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red_gravyOk, so I was just going to be lazy and post this picture to Finding Fresh's social media accounts* . . . I mean, I try so many different local products and sometimes they aren't good or just mediocre at best.

But this "Red Gravy" from Tony Mandina's in Gretna that I picked up on a whim today at Rouses in Thibodaux was a really great surprise. I mean,

I think this is the best store bought pasta sauce I've ever had . . . 

I actually enjoyed it a lot. And I'm a slow-cook-your-homemade-sauce-all-day girl. But this is a great option for a lazy or crazy busy day . . . 

Well done. Worth the $8. And, I saw that you can even buy it at nolacajun.com if you can't make it this far south.

*so take note . . . just because I'm too lazy [insert too busy] to post to the actual blog sometimes . . . I'm always posting pictures to my social media . . . so follow me over there ->

nola_la_heartGRETNA

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pistachiosIt's been a while. I mean, I've still been eating (and even posting some of the pics to Instagram), but I've been really distracted by other stuff. . . . like distracted going on 4 months now.

I've had food things to talk about… we grilled veggies marinated with the Baton Rouge-based Hooked on RE: on Labor Day and it was awesome on everything it touched … my husband took me to The Little Village in Baton Rouge last week and then to La Thai in New Orlean's uptown this weekend . . . and both were fabulous . . . 

eats. . . but then something else comes up and I forget… or, more likely, I decide that actual eating and keeping everyone alive takes precedence over writing about it. I feel like the waterspout of parenthood, career, volunteerism and [fill in the blank]… has sucked me up and all I see is the blur as everything shoots by.

So I've decided… either I need to win the lottery (I totally don't play) and hire a personal chef, trade husbands for a true Cajun one that likes to cook (yes not-from-Louisiana ladies, Cajun men cook . . . like well . . . . I'm still trying to get my jambalaya to taste as good as one of our good friend's . . . of course that may be because I don't use all the meat stuff . . .), or, I suppose I'm just going to have to simplify and, just like it dawned on me to bring my kids' school lunches back to basics, I need to bring my life back to basics.

Now, there are a few new things in Thibodaux that can help with a crazy life and eating well.

  • Elizabeth Cotter's community-supported 12th Street Bakery is back from a summer break with organic, I'm-not-really-even-a-bread-person deliciousness available for pickup every week.
  • And then the new Momentum Fitness has worked with a local chef to offer healthy and good-tasting (because we all know those two things don't always go together) meals you can buy each week.
  • And then another resource for organic foods . . . especially stuff you can't find at local markets or farms . . . is Azure Standard, an Oregon-based company that delivers to local drops (the closest for us is Gonzales).

That's a few . . . I'm trying out some others and I'll let you know about them soon.

So anyway, what did I do last night? I ate pistachios for dinner while I watched The LSU game with my family … completely ignoring the freelance projects that keep trying to suck me up.

la

SOUTH
LOUISIANA

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school_lunchI've got two kids in school now . . . and both require that I pack them lunches or snacks. . . which, at first, sounded great. I get to decide what my kids get to eat. But then I went to the school meetings.

One school says "Only healthy stuff. No fast food or sodas." YAY, I say. Then the other school says, "Nothing homemade. Only prepackaged foods." NOOOOOO WAAAAYYYYYY, I say.

And, to complicate things, the allergies. No peanuts anywhere and one school bans all nuts. Um . . . . I kind of rely on nuts as an easy, portable and nonperishable whole-food snack. . . . And then there's my kid's carrot allergy. Do you know how nice/healthy/easy it is to just pack some raw carrots in a lunch?

Ugh.

I had mild guilt when my oldest just ate in the cafeteria last year at the local Catholic school. They required a doctor's note just to have water with lunch (the other option is non-organic white or chocolate milk). I knew it wasn't exactly what I wanted him to be eating . . . but it was easy and I didn't have to think about that one extra thing. Now, at his new school, I have to pack him a lunch. I love that . . . . and I hate that. 

Anyway, that got me thinking about eating healthfully on the go — I mean, even I would be better off with a packed, thought-out lunch at work too — in a world with so many special needs and restrictions and . . . well, just overworked parent brains.

So I did a little research beyond what I normally pack for myself . . . I mean my kids aren't going to eat the almond butter sandwiches I eat everyday. And the research shows . . . .people and websites are crazy. There is no way I'm going to make my child an alfalfa sushi sandwich rollup or sesame-pecan chicken strips with a mustard/peach preserve dipping sauce, as some chef from the Food Network suggested, for a lunch box. I guess I'm a little bothered by the unrealistic-ness of all that. It's kinda how I feel about most stuff on Pinterest. Yes, I'm that mother whose kid doesn't bring a homemade craft for every classmate on every holiday. And trust me, I love me some crafts. But that's insane.

So, I'm pulling this all way back to basics. Back to whole foods. Back to a place that feels manageable on a busy night/morning, but also a place I don't have guilt. As my husband reminds me when I get stressed about finding time to cook — "it doesn't always have to be a five-course meal." Yes dear, I'll say it in public, "you're right."

So here's the start of my list for no frill lunch items:

  • Whole fruit — banana, sliced apple, pear, grapes, Satsumas, berries . . . whatever is in season
  • Raw veggies — carrots (not us), celery, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, edamame (cooked, but served room temp), 
  • Freeze-dried or dried fruit — raisins, craisins, mango, apples, kale chips, fruit leathers, 
  • Cheese
  • Hummus (can be prepackaged and kids can dip crackers, veggies or pita wedges in it)
  • Crackers, pretzels
  • Corn chips with salsa or bean dip
  • Granola bars (organic options)
  • Homemade muffins (made over the weekend if I'm feeling ambitious. . . . )

And as for the "pre-packaged only" school . . . . well . . . . as the old saying goes "if you don't have anything nice to say . . . . "

thib_la_heartTHIBODAUX

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lentilsSo I asked the kids if they had any requests for dinner this week. And what did my 8 year old ask for . . . out of everything he could think of?

LENTILS.

I had to ask twice just to make sure I heard him correctly. Of course his little brother wanted French fries. . . guess you can't win them all. . . 

Anyway, this is one of those recipes from my childhood that is stupid easy and all from the pantry. . . so it's not hard to make any time a kid asks and without having to go to the store.

Lentil Chowder
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Ingredients
  1. 8 oz dry lentils
  2. 1 tsp salt
  3. 1 can stewed tomatoes
  4. 8 oz tomato sauce
  5. 1/4 tsp celery salt
  6. 1/8 tsp garlic salt or powder
Instructions
  1. In a pot, cover lentils and salt with 1" of water.
  2. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until lentils are tender.
Finding Fresh http://finding-fresh.com/wordpress/
thib_la_heartTHIBODAUX

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Oshkosh camp

The Chattanooga group's Oshkosh camp

My 8-year-old son just got back from an airplane trip with my dad to the Oshkosh air show in Wisconsin. They went with three other Super Decathlon airplanes from Chattanooga, slept in tents by their airplanes, learned the science of flight and watched airplanes and helicopters do tricks. They had a blast.

That and many other trips have kept this little son of mine very busy this summer. And, while I'm a proud and thankful mama, I've also missed my little red head. So, in honor of him coming home, I made one of his favorite breakfasts today — cornbread.

cornmeal2My cornbread recipe is my great grandmother's, whose father owned a bakery in Illinois in the early 1900s. He even owned the first car in the county for deliveries. I know you're reading between the lines and thinking, "This isn't SOUTHERN cornbread." And, yeah yeah. But it's good. Even my born-and-raised-in-the-South husband loves it. So there.

And I also found some local cornmeal last week that I've wanted to try — Country Boy Brand yellow cornmeal from Denham Springs. 

Cornbread
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/4 cup flour
  2. 1 cup cornmeal*
  3. 2 1/2 tsp baking powder (aluminum free)
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 5 tbsp sugar
  6. 1 1/3 cup milk
  7. 1/3 cup oil (I use extra light olive oil)
  8. 2 eggs
Instructions
  1. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk milk, oil and eggs in a separate bowl.
  3. Pour liquid ingredients into dry, stirring lightly so it's still lumpy.
  4. Pour into greased cast iron skillet (I use ghee to grease).
  5. Bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean from the center.
Notes
  1. *I used Country Boy Brand cornmeal, but I prefer stone ground
Finding Fresh http://finding-fresh.com/wordpress/

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