Arti chokes when a bourbon soaked scallop from the bay leaves smoked oysters bacon’ on the hot New Orleans shore

In this final week we are going to go out with a bang! For all of you who were wondering if I had an issue with water-bound wildlife, no I don’t, I was saving the best for last.

This weeks menu is:

Artichoke Cheese Squares     and     Smoked Oysters wrapped in Bacon
Seafood Creole
Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce     and     Pecan Pralines

This menu is a tip of my hat to Louisiana. New Orleans is coming back, stronger than ever, and the foods that Louisiana is famous for is one of the big tourist draws. But, with a bit of clever shopping and looking for specials, you can create a Cajun night without having to board a plane. I warn you in advance, if you have a heart or weight issue you have to plan ahead . . . this menu is a heart-stopper and flies in the face of Weight Watchers. While the Artichoke Cheese Squares and the Seafood Creole are not the offenders, all these recipes combined, have a calorie count of 1673 and 34.4g total fat per person. So, get the paddles out and remove all the clothes draped across the treadmill ‘cause you’re going to need them!

Talking about clever shopping, if you live in or go to the west-end of downtown Montreal in the Atwater area you should make an effort to check out Aubut Inc., a Food Wholesaler, open to the public that I have been dealing with for the last 25 years. They are located on St. Ambroise St. just west of Atwater Market. They offer over 12,000 different foods and food related products that cover the scope of fresh produce, tinned goods, bulk dry goods and frozen goods to wine glasses and banquet rolls. What I do is get together with a few of my neighbours and split cases of goods saving an amazing amount of money over the course of a year. Check out: http://www.aubut.ca/index.html. You will find a lot of what you need in this week’s menu at Aubut at really good prices.

So now that you’ve zeroed in on one of shopping’s secrets, let’s look at wowing dinner!  The Artichoke Cheese Squares are ridiculously simple (as are the Oysters wrapped in bacon). You will want to use either frozen artichokes or ones in water, not in oil. This produces a high yield, but if you look forward to leftovers this will satisfy your needs.

The Seafood Creole will knock your socks off! You have a lot of wiggle room as to the varieties of seafood and fish that you choose so you can scope out the grocery stores to find the best deals. It is nicest with a firm white fish and mid-sized shrimps (oxymoron ?) and scallops but really, no matter what you choose, this recipe is a keeper. On the odd occasion that I have had leftovers I have extended it with a small can of stewed tomatoes and some egg noodles or diced, cooked potatoes and created a scrummy soup.

So, we’ve come to the piece de resistance, dessert! How can you have a Cajun meal without Bread Pudding?  and . . .

What is more quintessential than the New Orleans candy Pralines (pronounced PRAH-leens)? So few ingredients and most are a staple in the average kitchen with the possible exception of the pecans. What is nice with this recipe is that you don’t have to use pristine, unbroken pecan halves . . . the broken ones taste just as good!

I just couldn’t decide which you would prefer, maybe both. Perhaps have the bread pudding at the table and the pralines once you have adjourned to the sitting room, over coffee and Bailey’s !?!

       photo: Flickr               Artichoke Cheese Squares

9      oz         frozen Artichoke hearts (or 14oz/400ml can, rinsed, drained), chopped (255 g)
6      oz        cheddar cheese, shredded (170 g)
½     cup      onion, minced (125 ml)
2      cloves garlic, minced
1/3   cup      seasoned bread crumbs (80 ml)
2      tbsp     fresh parsley or 1 tbsp/15 ml dried (30 ml)
2      large    eggs
2      large    egg white
¼     cup      skim milk (60 ml)
1/8   tsp       freshly ground black pepper (0.5 ml)
¼     tsp       dried oregano (1 ml)
dash            hot pepper sauce   

Preheat oven to 325ºF (165ºC). Spray a 9 inch (22 cm) square glass baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine artichoke hearts, cheese, onion, garlic, bread crumbs and parsley.

In a small bowl, beat the remaining ingredients together until frothy. Fold, until blended, the liquid ingredient into the dry ones, trying not to crush the liquids.

Spoon into prepared baking dish. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly and cut into 36 pieces (1½”/3.8 cm squares). Serve warm.

33 Calories, 17 Calories from Fat, 1.9g Total Fat, 1.1g Saturated Fat, 17 mg Cholesterol, 63 mg Sodium, 1.9g Carbohydrates, 2.2g Protein

Smoked Oysters wrapped in Bacon 

Not necessarily the heart-healthiest appetizer, but what a taste treat!

3   oz   tin smoked oysters (85 g)
10 oz   Canadian bacon (300 g)

          photo: Flickr                                   Cook until lightly brown. Cut bacon strips in half. Drain on paper towels.

Wrap each oyster with a half strip of bacon and secure with a wooden toothpick. Arrange on a baking pan lined with foil.

Just before serving, put in oven and broil until sizzling. Serve with or without toothpick.

Serves 4-6

386 Calories, 258 Calories from Fat, 28.6g Total Fat, 9.6g Saturated Fat, 74 mg Cholesterol, 825 mg Sodium, 2.9g Carbohydrates, 27.1g Protein

Seafood Creole

2      large    peppers (your choice of colours), cubed
½     bunch  celery, cubed   
2      large   onions, cubed   
1      pkg      mushrooms chunked  
3      cloves garlic, minced          
½     cup      butter (125 ml)
¼     cup      oil (60 ml)
2      tbsp     flour (15 ml)
28   oz         diced tomatoes (825 ml)
2      med     bay leaves                   
1      tsp        thyme (5 ml)
½     tsp        allspice OR Old Bay (2.5 ml)
¼     tsp        saffron (1 ml)
¼     tsp        cayenne (1 ml)
½     cup       water (125 ml)
1      cup       white wine (250 ml)
5.5  oz          tomato (155 ml)
optional       spring onions, diced into ¼” (.63 cm) rings for garnish

Sauté peppers, celery, onions, mushrooms and garlic in butter and oil.

Sprinkle in flour. Mix well.

Add remaining ingredients (up to and including tomato paste). Cook for 1 hour on Low.

1      lb       fresh fish * (450 g)
1      tbsp  fish base powder (15 ml)    
1/3   cup   Worchestershire sauce (80 ml)       

Heat sauce to near boil but do not allow to boil.

Add fresh fish about 10 minutes before serving.   

photo: Flickr                                          Sprinkle with green onions.                     

* Choose 3 of your favourites including selections such as cod, scallops and shrimp

Serves 4-6                                 

288 Calories, 17 Calories from Fat, 1.9g Total Fat, 107 mg Cholesterol, 537 mg Sodium, 30.3g Carbohydrates, 6.3g Dietary Fibre, 17.0g Sugars, 27.8g Protein

Serve with rice or a fresh baguette.

Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

½     loaf   French bread
2      cups whole milk (500 ml)
2      med  eggs, beaten
1      cup   sugar (250 ml)
1½   tsp    vanilla extract (7.5 ml)
1½   tsp    ground cinnamon (7.5 ml)
½     cup    raisins (125 ml)
1½   tsp    melted butter (7.5 ml)

Preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC). Pour melted butter into an 8 inch (20 cm) round soufflé dish and coat the bottom and sides evenly.

Whisk together milk and eggs in a medium bowl until frothy. Add the sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.

Tear bread into chunks and soak in milk mixture. Crush with your hands to ensure the milk has soaked the bread thoroughly. Add raisins and stir well the blend evenly.

Place bread mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle with an additional ¼ teaspoon cinnamon and tablespoon raisins. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until firm.               

photo: Flickr              Cool pudding on a wire rack while preparing the whiskey sauce.

Whiskey Sauce

½     cup     sugar (125 ml)
¼     cup     butter (60 ml)
1      small egg, beaten
1      oz        bourbon or any variety of whiskey or dark rum (30 ml)

Cream sugar and butter together and cook in a double boiler until very hot and the sugar has dissolved. Stirring constantly with a whisk, add the beaten egg, whisking fast to avoid the egg curdling.

Cool and add the liquor.

Scoop spoonfuls of bread pudding into individual serving cups. Pour over with hot whiskey sauce.

Serves 4

789 Calories, 193 Calories from Fat, 21.4g Total Fat, 11.8g Saturated Fat, 186 mg Cholesterol, 605 mg Sodium, 132.1g Carbohydrates, 2.7g Dietary Fibre, 94.2g Sugars, 16.3g Protein

for a different recipe with instructions video, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DddmsHAioE

Pecan Pralines

¾     cup  brown sugar  (175 ml)
¾     cup  white sugar (175 ml)
½     cup  evaporated milk (125 ml)
½     tsp   vanilla (2.5 ml)
2      tbsp butter (30 ml)
1      cup  pecans (250 ml)

Combine the sugar and milk and cook slowly in a heavy pot over a low flame (Low/Medium heat) until it reaches the soft ball stage (238º F/114ºC on a candy thermometer). Remove from heat and add the butter, vanilla and pecans. Beat mixture with a wooden spoon until it is smooth and creamy.

Test for doneness by taking a small drop of the sugar mixture (no nut)and dropping it into an ice-cold glass of water. If the drop hardens then it is cooked sufficiently. If not, cook further until test drop hardens.

Drop by the spoonful onto parchment or waxed paper.

* If the candy does not harden within 10 minutes, it must be cooked further.

         photo: Flickr                                                          Yield: approximately one dozen

177 Calories, 83 Calories from Fat, 9.2g Total Fat, 2.3g Saturated Fat, 8 mg Cholesterol, 277 mg Sodium, 23.7g Carbohydrates, 0.9g Dietary Fibre, 22.77g Sugars, 1.6g Protein

for a different recipe with instruction video, see: http://www.associatedcontent.com/video/14833/video_recipe_how_to_make_southern_pecan.html

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Categories: Dinner for 4 for -$40, Food

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