Louisiana Companies

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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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/

wisconsin to louisiana heart

genealogyMy mom and I worked on genealogy when I was at home last week . . . and since then, I've gone a little berzerk. Like I've traced my husband's family back to the 1600s in Spain on one side and the 1500s in France on the other . . . who then moved to Acadia, Canada, and then here. 

So yesterday we decided to take his mom and go on a little day trip to the family homes and gravesites and take pictures to add to the family tree. We took some pictures of his South Louisiana heritage and found some South Louisiana good eats along the way.

We started in Paincourtville to find the grave site of a relative who drowned in Bayou Lafourche at age 10 and his sister who died after shooting herself in the leg . . . . hmmmm . . . Anyway, we decided to stop for lunch in Donaldsonville on our way to Brusly and randomly found The Grapevine Cafe and Gallery when I did a quick search for lunch options. And it was such a nice surprise — a creative, locally inspired menu in a gallery of Alvin Batiste art. Not a lot of vegetarian choices, but the portobello fries with garlic aioli were delicious. And across the table, my husband was raving about the blackened redfish with lemon butter . . . if you like that kind of thing . . .

We had a few more stops and ended up at two cemeteries . . . that are now in the 'hood . . . in Baton Rouge for a couple of great-great grandparents. We also stopped to see Mike the Tiger . . . because that's just what you do when you have little boys and are in Baton Rouge.

On our way back south, I was searching for a new local place to get dessert and came across some locally produced caramel apples, Le Posh Pomme, sold at Alexander's Highland Market. So we stopped. And, I can't believe I just discovered this market. Its whole focus is local food and they carry all my favorite stuff. Now, I will forgive myself a little . . . it just opened a little over a year ago. But still. Anyway, they are sooo conveniently located south of Baton Rouge just off of I-10 by the Blue Bayou Waterpark. It's closer than Whole Foods, has more local stuff and is missing the frantic, watch-out-for-the-crazy-yuppies Whole Foods' experience.

We never found the caramel apples, the bakery people said they hadn't seen them in a while, but that they're really good and sell out really quickly. Hmmm, Le Posh Pomme, be on notice, I'm hunting you down. But we did find some locally made bread from Our Daily Bread bakery and I finally got a bottle of the locally made Re:'s dressing/marinade that I've been wanting to try. I'll let you know what I think.

So it was a good day — tripping with my family, tracing their family's steps and finding new local foods.

la

SOUTH
LOUISIANA

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rousesThat is the directory I got from Rouses' employees the other day when I asked them where the h#^* they put EVERYTHING?!

As I walked through Rouses Epicurean in Thibodaux, my favorite nearby grocery store, I realized I couldn't find anything on my list. Now I'm a mom and I make my grocery list in the order in which I will encounter the items in the store so that I can be as efficient as possible. Moms have to prepare. Who knows if I'll have both kids. Who knows if the 3 year old will decide to stick his tongue out and offend all the old people. Who knows if the 3 year old will leap to his death from the cart, or, God forbid, make me maneuver one of those humongous car carts. I just never know . . . . so I need something to be predictable. And NOTHING was where I knew it was.

At one point, during one of my many loops around the store, I realized that I had passed the same woman several times and we both had the same expression of bemused lostness on our faces.

I asked several employees why they had done this. Why had they moved everything but the produce, meat and milk? Give me a reason not to hate you as my 3 year old yells at me that we've already been down this aisle THREE times! Most of them shrugged and said, "I don't know." And then the cashier gave me this answer: "I think it's a marketing thing. . . you know, to get you to go around the store more and buy more things . . . Do you want a directory?"

I just blinked at her, supressing my rage, and left Rouses with two directories and half the items on my list. Like I could read a directory, keep my 3 year old from scaring people AND not knock over the displays with the car cart. 

thib_la_heartTHIBODAUX

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salsaI have issues with salsa around here. Like, why do Mexican restaurants give you hot salsa — as in tomato soup? Maybe it's me . . . I've had several local friends say they like cooked salsa. But my favorite salsas are fresh with lots of bright flavors that typically can't be found in a jar . . .

. . . that is until I discovered Malco's Magnificent Salsa from Baton Rouge.

I actually had two new salsas to try, Joseph's Garden Salsa from Madisonville and Malco's.

malcos_smalljoseph

So the family had a taste off of the two local salsas. We tried each one with chips and on cheese quesadillas. And there was absolutely no comparison. Let's just say the Joseph's is pretty much full, still in the fridge and Malco's is long gone.

Joseph's was OK, it was just like most other bottled salsas . . . muddled flavors with limp, if any, veggie presence. And Malco's was just such a nice surprise. 

I haven't given up on Joseph's Fine Foods, though — I plan to try some of their pickled veggies next . . . maybe even their "Zesty Brussels Sprouts." My husband is puking somewhere right now . . .

br_la_heartBATON ROUGE

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redstickI know that title totally sounds ridiculous . . . but, really, this pomegranate balsamic vinegar from Red Stick Spice Co. in Baton Rouge is amazing.

My husband actually told me about this company last fall after seeing it referenced on Tiger Droppings (yes, that place where I try not to look at the computer to see what he's laughing at . . . because I've done it before and been sorry . . . it's a man place, you know).

Anyway, being me and loving local stuff, especially as gifts, I bought several oils, vinegars, tea and spices for my mom, sister and mother-in-law for Christmas. And they loved them. Which was fun until I realized I didn't get myself anything.

And, after trying this vinegar, I can't believe it took me several months to go shop for myself.

caprese_recipeI put it on my caprese salad last night, but it would be fabulous just with oil as a salad dressing, reduced over ice cream (I know, that sounds a little freaky at first, but reduced balsamic vinegar makes a sweet syrup that I personally love) . . . . or licked off your finger . . .

And my sister suggested it on her favorite, easy chard recipe.

Easy, Go-To Chard
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Ingredients
  1. * * my sister doesn't use measurements . . . * *
  2. Ghee/butter/olive oil
  3. Dried cherries, roughly chopped
  4. Onions, roughly chopped
  5. Chard, deribbed if the ribs are tough . . . if from a farmer, it's likely tender enough
  6. Pine nuts, toasted
  7. Balsamic vinegar
Instructions
  1. Sauté dried cherries and onions in ghee/butter/olive oil until soft. Toss in roughly chopped chard and sauté until tender. Top with pine nuts and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Serve.
Finding Fresh http://finding-fresh.com/wordpress/
br_la_heartBATON ROUGE

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dinnerThe bounty of summertime is always amazing to me . . . and I most enjoy it at the beginning, before I'm tired of any single crop and the heat has sapped my enthusiasm. And, go ahead and call me cheesy, but I like to make a game out of finding ways to use as many fresh, local ingredients as I can in one meal.

For dinner the other night, we started with a super easy, but looks rather gourmet salad of Louisiana baby lettuces topped with Louisiana Strawberries, chopped Sucre candied pecans, blue cheese from somewhere up north and Hanley's strawberry vinaigrette (get this while you can . . . it's seasonal and only available March - May).

And I've found my menfolk tolerate veggies better when I add pasta . . . it's like it distracts them or something. Anyway, back in college, I got this cookbook with easy, from scratch pasta recipes. I've had mine for a long time and it looks pretty crappy, but I still love almost any recipe from it. It's not strictly vegetarian, but it has a lot of meatless options that are really good. The cookbook was out of print for a while, but I looked today and it's back with a much prettier cover on Amazon (just in case you were interested).

So we followed our Louisiana salad with a pasta featuring local mini portobello mushrooms with a side of local yellow squash. I've made the following pasta recipe with both the pepper and herb Boursin, a creamy French cheese, as well as used lots of different veggies. It's a recipe that works well with lots of variations.

Pasta Shells with Portobello Mushrooms, Asparagus & Boursin Cream Sauce
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Ingredients
  1. 1T butter
  2. 1T olive oil
  3. 1lb portobello mushrooms, stems removed, caps cut crosswise in 1/4-inch slices
  4. 1/2t salt
  5. 1 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  6. 1 51/2 oz package pepper Boursin cheese (or herb)
  7. 1lb asparagus
  8. 3/4lb medium pasta shells
Instructions
  1. In a large frying pan, melt the butter with the oil over moderate heat. Add the mushrooms and salt and cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are tender and well browned, about 8 minutes. Add broth and Boursin cheese and bring to a simmer while stirring.
  2. Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and discard them. Cut the spears into 1/2-inch pieces. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until almost done, about 6 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook until it and the pasta are just done, about 4 minutes longer. Drain. Toss with the mushrooms and sauce.
Finding Fresh http://finding-fresh.com/wordpress/

thib_la_heart

SOUTH LOUISIANA

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