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Favorite Summer Appetizers & Desserts

TASTY TREATS, GOOD TIMES

By: Marcelle Bienvenu

I’ve decided that late afternoons on these long summer days are perfect for inviting the neighbors over for a cocktail hour now and then. Mama and Papa often had these impromptu get-togethers years ago on their cool, lush patio and I thought that was so civilized and pleasurable. You might want to do the same! These appetizers and desserts will surely win over the neighbors!


PEPPERONCINI-CREAM CHEESE DIP

1 (10-ounce) jar pepperoncini (salad peppers), drained and stemmed

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

Two or three dashes of hot sauce, or to taste

Party crackers or toasted pita triangles

Combine the peppers, cream cheese and Parmesan in a food processor and pulse several times until smooth. Transfer this mixture to a bowl and fold in the sour cream. Season with hot sauce. Cover and chill for at least one hour before serving. Serve with party crackers or toasted pita triangles.

Makes about 1 2/3 cups




CORN AND AVOCADO DIP

Makes about 3 cups

1 cup frozen whole kernel corn, thawed

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

2 large avocados, peeled

1 medium tomato, finely chopped

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons finely chopped onions

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons chopped, pickled jalapenos

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Yellow or blue cornmeal chips

Combine the corn and oil in a shallow pan. Bake at 400 F. for eight to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned, stirring once or twice. Cool and set aside. Mash one avocado and coarsely chop the remaining one. Combine the corn, mashed avocado, chopped avocado and the remaining ingredients, stirring to blend well. Cover and chill up to 24 hours. Serve with yellow or blue cornmeal chips.




SEAFOOD SPREAD

Makes about 20 appetizer servings

2 cups finely chopped cooked lobster, shrimp, or crawfish tails

1 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 cup finely chopped green onions

1/4 cup finely chopped red bell peppers

1 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon capers

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon hot sauce

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir to mix well. Chill for at least two hours before serving. Serve with party crackers or toasted pita bread triangles.

FIG CAKE

2 cups sugar

3 large eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup whole milk

2 cups bleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups mashed fig preserves

1 cup pecan pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

I always put up fig preserves during the summer, and I always set aside some to make this delicious cake. Serve it with vanilla ice cream for a cooling dessert.

Cream the sugar and the eggs. Add the vegetable oil and stir well to blend. Add the milk and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Mix well. Add this to the first mixture, stirring, to blend. Add the pecans and figs. Stir again to blend. Pour into a 12-cup bundt pan and bake until it sets, about 1 hour. Remove and cool before slicing to serve.

Marcelle Beinvenu

Favorite Summer Drink Recipes

COOL DRINKS, GOOD TIMES

By: Marcelle Bienvenu

During the summers of my childhood, the highlight of many hot afternoons was sipping homemade lemonade, root beer or tea. What fun we had under the oak trees at Aunt Belle’s slurping the beverages chilled with ice that had been crushed by beating ice cubes wrapped in a towel with an old hammer! These days, what with the plethora of bottled, canned and ready-to- mix drinks on the market, half the fun, that of gathering ingredients and making the concoctions, is gone. With the summer stretching before me, nieces and nephews, some of them with their own young children, are already calling to set aside some time to spend in my tree-shaded yard with plastic swimming pools, I’m gathering some old-time drink recipes.

LEMON CREAM SODA

2 quarts water

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

3/4 cup light brown sugar, or more to taste

1 teaspoon vanilla

Club soda * optional

Crushed ice

In a large pitcher combine the water, lemon juice, sugar and vanilla. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Serve over crushed ice and top with a splash of club soda.

TEA PUNCH

6 individual size tea bags

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup pineapple juice

1/4 cup grenadine

1 quart chilled ginger ale

Combine the tea bags with 2 cups of boiling water and steep. Discard the bags. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the fruit juices and grenadine. Chill for several hours. When ready to serve, add the chilled ginger ale. If you have fresh mint, use a sprig for garnish.

GRAPE ICE SLUSHY

3 1/2 cups water

3/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 (12-ounce) can frozen grape juice concentrate, undiluted

Combine the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring until the grape concentrate is completely melted. Pour the mixture into freeze trays or a plastic bowl. Freeze until firm. Stir several times during the freezing process. The adults can enjoy these cooling drinks.

BOURBON PUNCH

Makes about 3 quarts

1 (6-ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed and undiluted

1 (6-ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed and undiluted

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

2 cups bourbon

1 (2-liter) bottle lemon-lime carbonated beverage, chilled

1 (10-ounce) bottle club soda, chilled

Combine the orange juice, lemonade, lemon juice and bourbon and mix well. Chill for several hours. When ready to serve, add the lemon-lime beverage and club soda and mix. Pour over crushed ice to serve. Hors d’ouevres can be as simple as cheeses and crackers, but if you want to take a little more effort, here are some easy tasty treats.

THE BUSHWACKER

Makes 2 servings

3 to 4 scoops vanilla ice cream

Ice

1 1/2 jiggers dark rum

1 jigger light rum

1/2 jigger Creme de Cocoa

1/2 jigger Kahlua

Dash of 151 rum (optional)

Put the ice cream and liquors in a blender and pulse to blend. Add the ice to an inch or two to the top of the blender container and blend until smooth. If the mixture freezes, add a few drops of water. Pour into an old-fashion glass and top with a dash of the 151 rum.



Marcelle Beinvenu

Beach Food Recipes – JUNE/JULY 2016

By Marcelle Bienvenu

When friends called to invite me and my husband to join them at their beach house at Grayton Beach, Florida, I didn’t have to think about it. I was packing before I ended the phone call. Two other couples would also be joining us and I was ready for some fun in the sun. I dug out my swimsuits, beach towels, beach chairs and umbrella. I stuffed some shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops into my bag and ordered my husband to do the same. Our hosts did ask us to bring food and I’m always at the ready when it comes to packing foodstuffs for a week at the beach. I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but at the same time fast food doesn’t appeal to me either, so I always have a plan. I try to eliminate too many trips to the supermarket and too much time getting meals together. Most of my repertoire includes casseroles or one-pot dishes, which I can prepare ahead of time, freeze, then pack them in ice chests. Then when mealtime rolls around, all we have to do is throw together a salad of mixed greens or fresh fruit, heat up a French bread and chow down. Desserts can be as simple as ice-cold watermelons, popsicles, ice cream sandwiches, store-bought cookies, or pound cake topped with fresh berries. Voila! Here are a few suggestions that have always been popular with our family and friends.

SPAGHETTI SUPREME

Makes 12 servings 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 pounds lean ground beef 2 cups chopped onions 1 cup chopped bell peppers 1 cup chopped celery 1 tablespoon chopped garlic 2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste 2 (1-pound) cans whole tomatoes, mashed with can liquid 2 (7-ounce) cans sliced mushrooms with can liquid 1/3 cup dry red wine Salt and cayenne to taste 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves 1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves 1 pound angel hair pasta, cooked and drained 1/2 pound grated Cheddar cheese 1/2 pound grated American cheese 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the beef and cook, stirring often, until all pink disappears. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery and garlic and cook, stirring often, until they are very soft, about six to eight minutes. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, tomatoes, mushrooms, and red wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Season to taste with salt and cayenne. Add the oregano and basil. Simmer, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally. To assemble, lay about one-third of the pasta on the bottom of a large casserole dish. Spread one-third of the tomato evenly over the pasta. Then sprinkle with one-third of the Cheddar, American and Parmesan. Repeat the process until all of the pasta, sauce and cheese is used. The casserole can be frozen at this point. When ready to serve, thaw the casserole. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until bubbly and hot throughout. This next recipe is a south Louisiana version of goulash. It’s similar to the previous recipe, but no one seems to tire of this kind of food on vacation trips. Do what I do. Serve the spaghetti recipe early in the week and the goulash at the end of it. I guarantee no one will complain. Oh, by the way, this recipe makes enough to serve about 20. You can freeze the goulash in two casseroles (one to take with you and one to use another time), or simply cut the recipe in half. You can also pack the mixture into quart-size freezer containers to make it easier to stash in the ice chests.

MY FRIEND MIL’S GOULASH

Makes about 20 servings 5 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 1/2 pounds lean ground pork 2 1/2 pounds lean ground beef 3 cups chopped onions 2 cups chopped bell peppers 1 tablespoon chopped garlic 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves 1/2 cup chopped green onions 3 (10 3/4-ounce) cans tomato soup, undiluted 1 (10-ounce) can Ro-tel tomatoes 2 (7-ounce) cans sliced mushrooms, with can liquid Salt and cayenne 1 pound Velveeta cheese, cubed 2 1/2 (14-ounce) packages (#4) spaghetti, broken into 3 to 4 inch pieces (cooked and drained) Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven medium heat. Add the pork and beef and cook until all pink has disappeared. Drain off any excess fat. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, parsley and green onions. Cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, or until very soft. Add the tomato soup, the tomatoes, and the mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and cayenne. Cook, uncovered, for one hour. Stir in the cheese and cook until it has completely melted. Add the spaghetti and mix well. Pour into casserole dishes. The goulash can be frozen at this point. When ready to serve, thaw and bake in a pre-heated 350-degree oven until bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes. If you like Mex-Tex food, try this casserole. Accompany it with avocado slices drizzled with a little olive oil and fresh lime juice and seasoned with a dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

MEXI-CHICKEN CASSEROLE

Makes about 8 servings 1 1/2 cups chopped onions 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped 2 cups cooked chopped chicken 1/2 cup chicken broth 2 teaspoon chili powder 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon dried oregano Pinch or two of cayenne (to taste) 6 corn tortillas, cut into fourths 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese Cook the onions in the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for about five minutes, or until tender. Add the tomatoes, chicken, broth, chili powder, salt, ground cumin, oregano and cayenne. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Layer half of the chicken mixture in the bottom of a lightly oiled baking dish. Then layer half of the tortillas and cheese over the chicken mixture. Make another layer of chicken and another of the tortillas. The casserole can be frozen at this point. When ready to serve, thaw and bake, covered, in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese and bake an additional five minutes.

Here’s a couple more ideas that friends have given me:

Make ahead two or three meat loafs (use your favorite recipe), bake and freeze. Pack them up in the ice chest and at your destination, thaw, and slice. They’re ideal for making sandwiches and po-boys for lunch. Too, you can always pick up a couple of bags of pre-packed salad greens. At the same time, purchase some sliced Swiss and Cheddar cheese, sliced ham and turkey. Then everyone can make their own chef’s salad. Now, my piece de resistance, usually saved for the last night of this last fling, is to cook steaks– -big filets or rib-eyes. Broil them in the oven if a grill is not available. Accompany them with baked potatoes and a tossed green salad.

Memorial Day Recipes

Memorial Day Marks the Beginning of Summer

By Marcelle Bienvenu When I was a child, I eagerly awaited Memorial Day for it unofficially marked the end of the school year and the beginning of summer. For years, the entire student body of our small Catholic school was bussed to the Evangeline State Park (now a commemorative area) for an all-day picnic with box lunches, baseball and volleyball tournaments, climaxed at the end of the day with cold watermelons that were packed on ice in galvanized tubs. During my teenage years, the program changed. Then, the day began with Papa taking the family to the local cemetery where we hunted for the tombs marked with military insignia so that we could pray for the brave men and women who had defended our country. In the afternoon, relatives and friends gathered in our large backyard for hot dogs, hamburgers, and all the trimmings. Years later, when Memorial Day extended to the three-day long holiday, the entire family headed out for the camp on Catahoula Lake where the activities ranged from water skiing to bicycle rides along the levee glorious with wild clover and buttercups. There were fish-fries, seafood boils, barbecues, and lots of homemade ice cream to keep up our energy. Alas, this year the family will not be together as my sister and brothers are heading out in different directions with their children and grandchildren. My husband Rock and I will be shoving off for a four-day stint on the white sand beaches of Florida with friends. But be assured, food will be an integral part of the holiday. Since there are no children involved, our menus need not include hot dogs, fried chicken, or hamburgers, although Rock says he has nothing against any of those food items. This comes from a man who adores pimiento cheese spread, bologna and Vienna sausage, and who claims he’s never met a food he didn’t like. I like to say “if you make it, he will eat it” no matter what it is. Since one of the couples who will be accompanying us have a fine home garden we will have an abundance of fresh produce that will likely include tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers and zucchini. We can scout around for fresh seafood markets and knowing our group, there will be plenty to eat. Here are some ideas for lunch and dinner that I’ve been rolling around in my brain.

CRABMEAT SALAD

Makes 4 to 6 servings 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 3 dashes hot sauce 3 tablespoons finely chopped celery 1 tablespoon finely chopped green onions 1 tablespoon capers, drained 3 teaspoons finely chopped freshly parsley leaves 1/4 (about) cup mayonnaise 2 teaspoons Creole mustard Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix gently. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. Serve in halved avocados or stuff in garden-fresh tomatoes for a cooling lunch.

SALADE NICOISE

Makes about 6 servings 4 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced l medium green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into rings 2 (6 1/2-ounce) cans good-quality tuna 4 hard-boiled eggs, quartered 2 cups cold, blanched green beans 4 radishes, thinly sliced 1/2 cup Nicoise or Mediterranean-type olives (or black or green olives) 6-8 anchovy filets 1 tablespoons finely chopped chives or green onions Extra-virgin olive oil Freshly ground black pepper Divide each ingredient into 4 equal parts, then arrange them on 4 salad plates. I layer then in the order listed. Then drizzle with olive oil and season with the pepper. Put the salads in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to cool before serving.  

BARBECUED SHRIMP

Makes 4 to 6 servings 6 pounds large shrimp, heads on (don’t peel them) 2 sticks butter 3/4 cups olive oil 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce juice of three lemons 1 teaspoon garlic powder 2 teaspoons paprika 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1½ teaspoons salt (or to taste) 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco® (or more, according to taste) 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves 1 teaspoon oregano leaves Rinse the shrimp in cool water and drain. Spread the shrimp in a large shallow baking pan. In a saucepan, melt butter, then add the rest ofthe ingredients. Mix well. Pour sauce over shrimp and marinate for one hour. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir a couple of times with a spatula. Do not overcook. Serve in a soup bowl with lots of hot French bread to sop up the sauce. Be sure to have some trays around on which to put shells and such. Be forewarned – this can only be eaten with your hands.  

SHRIMP SCAMPI

Makes about 6 servings 2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined 1 (8-ounce) package of linguini or angel hair pasta 8 cloves garlic, minced 1 cup butter or margarine, melted 1 cup white wine 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pinch of two of black pepper 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley Cook the linguini or angel hair pasta, drain and set aside. In a large skillet, cook the garlic in the butter or margarine. Add the wine and cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook for about five minutes or until the shrimp turn pink. Season with salt and cayenne and black pepper. Spoon this mixture over the pasta. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. This recipe was a favorite of my mother’s and we continue to enjoy it, especially during the summer when fresh crabmeat is available.  

CRAB CHOPS

Makes 6 servings 3 tablespoons butter 3 green onions, chopped (green and white parts) 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1 cup milk 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage 20 saltine crackers, finely crumbled 1 egg, lightly beaten ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon cayenne 1/8 teaspoon Tabasco hot sauce Cracker meal or bread crumbs for dredging Butter and vegetable oil for frying Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for about one minute. Alternate adding the flour and milk, stirring constantly to make a smooth thick white sauce. Remove from the heat. Add the crabmeat, saltine cracker crumbs, egg, salt, cayenne and Tabasco. Gently mix together and set aside to cool completely. (If you wish, you can chill the mixture in the refrigerator.) Gently shape into six patties. Dredge them in the cracker meal or bread crumbs, coating completely and evenly. Put about one-half inch of equal parts of butter and vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Fry the patties two to three minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve warm with tartar sauce

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