Cooking: Wish List

Big Green Egg smoker/grill/bbq (XL size)

Big Green Egg smoker/grill/bbq (XL size) (image via Wikipedia)

This past month, Cristina and I were able to finish off a lot of long-term bills which means extra money in our pockets. While I put the extra money into my savings account, I created a wish list of cooking items I want.

A top-notch cutting board: I’ve spied a few at local arts and crafts fairs that I would like. That way I’m shopping local and getting a quality handmade board.

A proper stove: I never really thought about it before until I read this (including the comments), but most electric stoves are stupidly design. It truly doesn’t make sense to have the controls in the back.  Our house was turn-key and is only electric. If I must have an electric stove, I want one with the controls in the front.

A Green Egg: I’ve never met a person who owns the Green Egg of any size who doesn’t use the hell out of it. For those of you who don’t know, it is a smoker, an oven, and a grill. So not only can you have great barbecue, you can make pizza, bread, quesadillas, and pretty much anything else you want on it.   After tasting the pork from the Big Green Egg competitor at Hogs for the Cause (which we will be writing about  soon), Cristina understood why I wanted one. Hopefully, we will have one by summer.

Healing: Back on Track

The half marathon has come and gone. Our original plan was to take a week or two break from working out. Of course, this translates to a three-week break. In those three weeks, I’ve also took a break from watching what I eat. It’s amazing how ten pounds can come back on so quickly. It’s time to hit the gym again.

It’s also time to start cooking eighty percent of my meals again. It’s time to go back to the farmer’s market to load up on fruits and vegetables. Time to buy fish from trusted markets. If anybody from the bayou saw me fish they would demand my Cajun card back on the spot. In full confessional mode, I’ve only been fishing twice resulting in only four fish that were taken home. And I’ve never been hunting. Thank god for my Cajun blood lines because when I think about it, I’m a terrible Cajun.

But I digress.

I don’t believe that good food means bland food. I’m getting confident enough in my cooking skills that I feel I can alter any recipe to fit both our picky taste buds and our shrinking waistlines. Yet, I’m always looking for help.  One of the blogs I’ve been following lately is memeinge.  There are plenty of healthy recipes on her site that I can’t wait to try out…especially the healthier cookie dough dip.

How do you keep flavor in your dishes while keeping calories low?

Eating: High Hat Cafe

The Bar at the High Hat Cafe

The Bar at the High Hat Cafe

A life lived in chains is not a life worth living.  This is one of the main reasons why Cristina and I don’t often eat at chain restaurants.  Another reason is that we live practically ten minutes away from New Orleans.  I can understand that if I lived in Grand Forks, North Dakota that I could be excited about an Olive Garden.  However, I don’t.  I live in New Orleans.  I can get fresh made Italian food at numerous local places in the area.  And most of the places are cheaper than chain restaurants.

Coming from a small town that doesn’t have a red light, I can understand how people think chains are good.  I used to believe they were.   New Orleans, unlike Metairie, has very few chain restaurants.  When I taught in New Orleans, my school near the corner of Magazine and Louisiana.  There were a restaurant row of some very good restaurants: Joey K’s, Byblos, and Rocky’s to name a few.  That’s when I broke free from the chains. The food was better and cheaper than most of the chain restaurants I’ve been to. And yes there are some chains I do like, but most of those tend to be locally based.

The question we are asked all the time is where do we hear of these places.  Easy, check out the Nola Food blogs on the left side of the page. The Gambit is a good place to look as well.

Those two places led us to High Hat Cafe on Freret Street.

I really liked the space at High Hat. It is open with a great looking bar. Large windows let you see all the activity on the street which was pretty crowded due to a boxing match across the street.  The earthy look of the restaurant went well with the down home cooking. I ordered the smoked pork with sweet potato salad. The pork was very good, fork tender but a little too greasy which would actually make for a great po-boy. The sweet potato salad was creamy and cold and lovely. Cristina had the smoked chicken with pimento cheese fries. The chicken had a nice smokey flavor but was a little dry. The pimento cheese fries, however, were a perfect side dish.

Smoked Pork with Sweet Potato Salad at High Hat Cafe

Smoked Pork with Sweet Potato Salad at High Hat Cafe

Smoked Chicken and Pimento Cheese Fries at High Hat Cafe

Smoked Chicken and Pimento Cheese Fries at High Hat Cafe

The best part of the meal was the check. Both entrees clocked in at under thirteen dollars.

NOLA-ing: Louis Armstrong Park

Louis and Mahalia at Louis Armstrong Park

Louis and Mahalia at Louis Armstrong Park

Sometimes you show up to the play with your tickets, and sometimes you don’t. Unfortunately, for us our tickets were still on our hutch when we realized we needed them with us in New Orleans. The Lion King was the reason we bought a season pass to Broadway Across America at the Mahalia Jackson Theater. We didn’t want to drive out of New Orleans during rush hour just to go back home 45 minutes away and get them. Luckily, after a call to the box office, we found out that we could just show up to the theater with our ID and the card we paid with and our tickets would be there. All we had to do was show up early.

What to do with the extra time? Exploring Louis Armstrong Park seemed like a good idea.

The park, which holds the theater, is right where the Treme meets the Quarter. We held hands and walked around looking at all the ducks paired off with their mates. Sitting in the shadow of the Louis Armstrong statue, we listened to what I believe is the greatest recording of all time: West End Blues.

It was just a simple yet wonderful way to spend an hour. And it could only happen here.

Parading: The Irish-Italian Parade and What to Do With Your Catch

The Sunday after St. Patrick’s day was a beautiful day, so we headed to Metairie to catch the Irish-Italian Parade. The parade, which started in 1983, is known for it’s marching groups that hand out flowers and it’s unique throws. Sure there are beads, doubloons, and moon pies; however, the real prizes are potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and if you are lucky, garlic.

Irish-Italian Parade

Irish-Italian Parade floats

Irish-Italian Parade Celtic marching group

Irish-Italian Parade Celtic marching group

Our loot this year was quite impressive. But what to do with it?

Cristina posted a picture of our loot on Facebook. Our friend Vinnie offered to give our cabbage a good home. Since I like cabbage, but cabbage doesn’t really like me, I thought this was a good idea.

Vegetables from the Irish-Italian Parade

Vegetables from the Irish-Italian Parade

Yet, we were left with still a lot of carrots and potatoes. We were planning on barbequing some steaks that evening, so why not put the vegetables on the grill as well? I sliced up our carrots, onions, and bell peppers we caught at the parade as well as some summer squash I purchased at the farmer’s marketthe day before. Drizzled some olive oil and some Herbes de Provence on them and placed them in my BBQ skillet. I took some russet potatoes, scrubbed them clean, and put them on the grill as well to get that smoky flavor before I transfer them to the oven to have them bake all the way through. Not a bad way to use free vegetables.

Irish-Italian Parade Vegetables on the BBQ

Irish-Italian Parade Potatoes and Vegetables on the BBQ

Meanwhile, Vinnie worked her magic on the cabbage and delivered to us some braised cabbage and onions and topped it with some pickle relish.

Vinnie's braised cabbage and onions

Vinnie's braised cabbage and onions

So we started the day with a community parade and ended with a community meal. Cool, cool, cool.

Eating: Pi Day!

hubig's pies

Hubig's Pies (Photo credit: artbymags)

We  love to eat. We also love movies. Therefore, we love the The Theatres at Canal Place when we want a special treat.

When you by your tickets, you are asked where you would like to sit. This is one of the few theatres I would recommend you sit in the front, due to the ottomans, which allow you to just relax. You are then taken by the usher/waiter to your seat and given menus. I haven’t tried much here, but I do recommend the Roman Artichokes highly. The flatbread pizzas are also very good. The gourmet popcorn is very tasty, but don’t expect them to come out hot…or even warm.

If you need something to wash it down with, you can order the movie size soda. Or, because they only let those of us over twenty-one in, why not order a beer or a glass of wine. A Sazerac goes well with the Parmigiano and Black Pepper popcorn.

However, the real star is for after the movie. Go to the bar (which you can go to without going to a movie) and order the Hubig’s Pie with ice cream. For my readers who don’t live in the Greater New Orleans area, a Hubig’s pie is like a Hostess Fruit pie but actually good.  Seriously, they are fantastic. One of the reasons is they use fruit that is only in season (which means strawberry ones should be coming any day). At the theater, the pie, which is an apple pie, comes out hot and crispy with vanilla ice cream on the side both topped with caramel sauce.

We definitely give it two thumbs up.