Wednesday, May 30, 2012

BBQ Pizza & Memorial Day

This Memorial Day, Robert and I took to the grill, like most Americans. Which I have always found strange because why would we kick off the hottest season with a scorching activity that involves fire? But I digress ... Instead of ribs, burgers or hot dogs, we decided to start summer with one of our favorite recipes: Grilled Pizza.

That's right, we threw dough on the grill. Robert likes to make a barbecue chicken pizza and I stick to margherita. We are usually Lazy Larry's (that's a saying, right?) and use pre-made dough, but this time we were quite adventurous, using a dough recipe from my absolute favorite blog The Londoner. I call Rosie's Proper Pizza recipe an adventure for two reasons: 1) I hadn't made dough as an adult without my Dad before. Robert had never made any bread. Ever. 2) The Londoner, as you may guess, is a UK blog that uses the metric system.

Robert and I had to do a little bit of conversions that I will share here with my fellow Americans who want to make this delicious dough too. Robert factored these with his engineering precision ...
500 grams of bread flour = 3 cups of bread flour
1 7g sachet of dried yeast = 1 sachet of dried yeast in America also equals 7 grams
What the heck is Golden Sugar? = In America, we call it Light Brown sugar
330 ml water = roughly 1 1/4 cups water
* These were our conversions that worked deliciously. To view the full recipe on The Londoner click here.

After we championed the dough like bosses (we were just a little proud of ourselves), we went on to make the pizzas like we have several times before. The homemade crust made for the best pies. And, it was so easy! The dough only needs an hour to prove. We are now "Proper Pizza" converts.

While the dough is from the lovely Londoner, our pizza technique is a Robert creation.

Grilled Pizza:
Now that I have the dough recipe, how exactly do I grill a pizza?

Here's what your starting with ...

Follow Rosie's advice on kneading here. Remember, it's not store-bought so it's not going to be a perfect circle. That's part of the charm!

Our prepped toppings for the two different pizzas. For the margherita: chopped basil, sea salt, sun dried tomatoes and garlic. For the barbecue chicken pizza, barbecue chicken hot off the grill.

To make the barbecue pizza ... Olive oil the pizza dough and place it oil side down on the grill. Let sit until visible grill marks appear on bottom. Olive oil side currently facing up and flip. (We use a cookie sheet for flipping.)

That was the only flip you are going to do. Now, use barbecue sauce as the pizza sauce.

Place grilled chicken on pizza.

Add Cheese. Close the top for a couple of minutes, allowing cheese to melt and dough to crisp. Remove (on cookie sheet). Cool. Consume.

To make the margherita ... Use the same olive oil method. Once pizza has been flipped use olive oil for the sauce.

Top with garlic, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and a pinch of sea salt.

Allow melting, crisping, etc.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

LSU Graduation & The Ultimate Cheesecake

A love letter to LSU
Long post today, but there is so much love to discuss

After four wonderful years at LSU, each one a little different from the last, but all full of hard work and fun, I graduated last Thursday and Friday.  And, the end of my experience at LSU was just as amazing as the beginning.  In fact, Friday was one of the best days of my life. But, I’m getting ahead of myself …

I walked with the LSU Honors College My roommate Haley graduated with top honors and was hooded. I was so proud of her! It was nice to attend a commencement together and to take pictures decked out in our regalia.  Haley and I actually met via the Honors College in a HNRS course for FOCUS, an organization run by honors students that introduces kids from underserved high schools to higher education. (Haley describes the program quite nicely here.)

With my pretty (and bright) roommate.

It all started very early in the morning, with the main 9 a.m. commencement — which meant a 6:00 a.m. alarm.  My parents were excited to make the early morning drive from home to Baton Rouge because we had received some exciting news earlier in the week about the Chancellor's speech. Chancellor Martin mentioned me in his speech about grads with noteworthy plans. I think this was my favorite ceremony, and not just for the speech, but also for the company.   I was able to sit with my dear friends Jake and Emily.  They were fantastic company and singing the alma mater together one last time is something I will remember about graduation forever.

Oma and me outside the main commencement.

We went back to my place between ceremonies, where I got a HUGE surprise. My honorary sister Rachael and her husband Johnny knocked on the door, what a pleasant surprise.  Then, two more guests popped into view: My sister Julie and her husband Andrew! They live in DC so this was a big shock.  Seeing them meant the world to me and I owe a big thanks to all of my friends who were in on it and didn’t tell me (especially Emily and Jake who waited in line for extra commencement tickets for my family).

My family reunited at my place.

We then ventured together to the Journalism Commencement where Bob Schieffer spoke — he was amazing which goes without saying. I also almost cried when I saw my professors and mentors before me, knowing that I will never sit in their classes again. And, of course, it was strange to see my Student Media colleagues walk off the stage, leaving college journalism and onto the "real world" — except for those of you going to grad school.

Jake, me and Slack after the J-School Commencement. They were my comrades in Student Media.

Me and Robert (already a graduate) also met in LSU's Student Media.

That evening included dinner downtown and as my family toasted I felt oh so special and incredibly loved. I looked around the table at my old friends Rachael and Johnny, my new brother, the best big sister in the world, my Oma who I am so blessed to still have in my life, my cute boyfriend and my wonderful, supportive parents, and thought low lucky I am. 

In a 48-hour period, I was fortunate enough to spend time with my biological family and the one I had created over the past four years at LSU.  My graduation was greater than I expected it to be and it is all owed to the fabulous people in life — as are my successes and happiness at LSU.  Thank you.

The Ultimate Cheesecake
Oma's cheesecake recipe that she has titled "The Ultimate Cheesecake" 

I have a relative (who will remain nameless) who has worked for LSU's Athletic Department for ... ever? When Oma was in her 50s or 60s, she and my late grandfather had season tickets and lived for LSU football.  They would make the drive to Baton Rouge, and Oma would have her famous purple and gold LSU cheesecake in tow. Oma would give the treat to our relative, and sometimes players would get to enjoy it after the game.  This cake bleeds purple and gold, so it was only appropriate to have it at my graduation party. Below is the recipe dictated by Oma and typed by my mother

A piece of cake at my Graduation crawfish boil.

  Ingredients and Recipe for Crust:
-       3 cups all-purpose flour
-       ¾ cup sugar
-       3 egg yokes
-       1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
-       1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
-       1 ½ teaspoon lemon zest
-       9” bottom, 3” high spring-form baking pan (no smaller)
       Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, grease sides and bottom of a spring-form baking pan.  Remove side of spring-form pan and set it aside.  In a medium size bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and lemon peel.   Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and cut the butter into small pieces and into the well.  Add the egg yolks and vanilla to the well.  Quickly mix all ingredients with fingertips until it holds together and you have a smooth ball of dough. Break off a small piece and roll it with your hands into a long strip that will fit the circle of the spring-form: set it aside. On the bottom of the spring-form pan, roll out dough to cover the bottom of the spring-form pan, right to the edge of pan (the thickness of a cut-out cookie, about 3/8 inch).  Bake this for 6 to 8 minutes (do not over bake: it will be baked again with filling).   Cool on rack.  Pat the rest of the dough all around rim wall of the pan (3”high).  Assemble spring-form rim piece with the cooled bottom piece.  Take the reserved strip of dough and press it as a leak-proof seal all around the edge of where the rim dough meets the bottom crust.  Set the spring-form pan aside.  Any dough not needed for crust can be saved & baked into cut-out cookies.

Ingredients and Recipe for Filling:
-       5 8-oz. packages cream cheese (2½ pounds cream cheese) set in large bowl to room temperature
-       ¼ cup heavy cream (NOT WHIPPING CREAM!)
-       1 ¾ cups sugar (regular granulated is good, fine is best, but NOT confectioner’s extra fine)
-       1 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh is best)
-       2 teaspoons vanilla
-       5 eggs + 2 egg yolks (rest to room temperature first)
-       4 tablespoons flour
-       6 oz. real sour cream
-       Electric mixer- preferably heavy duty hand mixer or a stand mixer!

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.   Set out the eggs & cream cheese to rest at room temperature.  In a large bowl,  start mixing (SLOWLY at first) the cream cheese and sugar.  Cream these two ingredients thoroughly until fluffy.  Add the cream, and alternate it slowly and with mixing in the flour until the mixture is evenly blended and smooth.  Add the eggs one by one and then the yolks, thoroughly blending in each egg.  Use low mixing speeds for blending, not beating.  Add the lemon juice and vanilla and blend.  By hand, stir the sour cream last- just mixed enough to blend: do not over beat cream.
Pour cheese mixture into prepared crust in the spring-form and bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees.  Reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees and bake another 60 minutes.
Testing for Doneness, Cooling, Chilling, and Topping the Cake
The cake is done when the outer edges are just turning light brown, are slightly higher than the center, and just begin to pull from the wall of the pan.  The raised edge will be more done, more firm than the center, but the center will be set and glossy.  The center should have some firmness, not be “uncooked.”  Press lightly with a finger and it resists the pressure.  REMEMBER: The center will continue to cook more as the cake cools for several hours on a rack.
When the cake is done, remove it gently from the oven.  Place it on a rack with legs so air can circulate under the spring-form pan and evenly cool the cake from all sides.  Allow the cake to cool to room temperature (4 to 6 hours).  Use a serrated knife to loosen crust from spring-form wall: slowly slide the knife around the cake between the crust and the spring-form wall.  Do not remove cake from spring-form until after cake has chilled in the refrigerator.  If the cake is completely cool, it can be glazed at this time with the desired topping. 
Cover the cake to seal out other food odors before chilling. Chill the cake in a refrigerator for least four hours before serving.  Check to make sure crust is free from spring-form wall before unlatching the pan.  The cake can remain on the spring-form bottom or moved with a cake-mover (over-sized spatula) to a cake plate.

Oma uses blueberry and pineapple or lemon glaze to make the LSU colors. She's been known to marble them in the past. 

Blueberry Glaze:
-       1 pint fresh or frozen blueberries
-       1 can  blueberries in syrup, or 1 can blueberry pie filling
-       ½ cup granulated sugar
-       2 tablespoons cornstarch
-       ¼ cup of blueberry liquid drained from canned blueberries
-       1 teaspoon butter
-       1 teaspoon lemon juice
-       1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Drain liquid from canned blueberries and reserve.  Add fresh or frozen berries and mash until there is one full cup of blueberry pulp.  In a small saucepan, stir and dissolve the cornstarch in the blueberry liquid and the granulated sugar. Add the blueberry pulp to the mixture and heat to boiling.  Stir it constantly while letting it boil for two minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat, and stir in the butter, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Pour in any remaining blueberries, fresh or frozen, and gently stir once.  Let the glaze cool to room temperature and pour over cooled cheesecake.  Chill in refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours.

Lemon Glaze:
-       1 tablespoon unsalted butter
-       1/3 cup granulated sugar
-       1 large egg
-       1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
-       1 teaspoon lemon zest
-       1 teaspoon vanilla

Use a double boiler (or use a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water):  melt the butter in the top bowl. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended and pour into the top bowl. Cook and whisk constantly (to prevent  the egg from curdling)over the simmering water. Keep whisking until the mixture becomes pale in color and thickens to the consistency of sour cream (160 degrees F  on a candy thermometer).  This will take 10 minutes of steady whisking!  Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer if there are any lumps. Keep the cooked lemon mixture off the heat, and stir in the lemon zest and vanilla extract.  Let the glaze cool to room temperature and pour over cooled cheesecake.  Chill in refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Grandma Names & Crawfish Etouffee

The Question: What do you call your grandmother?
Kids call you the darndest things ...

I remember quite a few years back, my dad revealed what his dream grandpa name would be.  My mom then thought on it for several years and finally discovered the perfect name last fall in a moment of clarity.  It's going to be a long, long, long before they need these names and they're too good to reveal now. But my mother already refers to herself and my dad using the nicknames in front of their fur-grandchild, Rasco.

Grandma names have been a hot topic of late, as the baby boomer generation's flower children are having grandchildren. Last year, a popular New York Times article "Who Are You Calling Grandma?" discussed how grandmas are opting for hipper names than granny; for example,  the "Laugh-In" bohemian Goldie Hawn prefers to be known as Glam-Ma.

Personalized grandma names are the best laid plans. But, as my boyfriend Robert's family knows, they are just plans. Because, when it comes to baby babble, you get what you get.  Robert's maternal grandmother wasn't called Grandma, or MiMi or anything else an adult would decide.  Her eldest grandson, couldn't pronounce these names. But he tried, and what popped out was Marna.  And the name stuck.

Whether you call her Oma (German for grandma), Gammie Goose (like Mother Goose) or Marna, she won't mind.  Because no matter what the label is, grandmas are grandmas.

Grandma's Recipe: Marna's Crawfish Etouffee
Robert remembers his Marna with her etouffee recipe.  

Marna wasn't Cajun or originally from Louisiana, though she spent much of her life in Baton Rouge, but she made a mean crawfish etouffee. The recipe is a little less stressful than most because it doesn't call for a roux, which I was happy about because I have a knack for burning them.  But, Robert did the heavy lifting on this dish and it turned out delicious.

Marna's delicious crawfish etouffee

-       1 onion
-       1 bell pepper
-       2 stalks celery
-       4 green onion
-       2 cloves garlic
-       ½ cup butter
-       4 T flour
-       2 pounds crawfish tails
-       1 cup white wine
-       2 T paprika
-       2 tsp salt
-       1 tsp black pepper
-       2 T lemon juice
-       ¼ tsp red pepper
-       1 bay leaf
-       2 T chopped parsley
-       2 cups rice

“Saute the following vegetables chopped fine: 1 onion, 1 bell pepper, 2 stalks celery, 4 green onion, 2 cloves garlic in ½ cup butter, oleo or crawfish fat. Add 4 T flour. Mix well. Add 2# crawfish tails. Stir until coated with flour mixture. Add 1 cup any white wine. Blend carefully. Add 2 T paprika, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 2T lemon juice, ¼ tsp red pepper, 1 bay leaf, 2T chopped parsley. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasoning. Serve over rice. (Cook 2 cups raw rice) Serves 6-8.”
 - Transcribed exactly from Marna’s recipe card (see below)  

Marna's original, handwritten recipe. Thanks to Robert's Aunt Nancy for sending it!

Our kitchen experience ...







Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Semmelschmaarn & All things Mother's Day

The Toast: To Moms 
Happy Mother's Day, especially to moms with "spirited" kids. 

When my mom and I started talking about my Mother's Day post, we both agreed that it should feature my mother's Oma — my Uhr Oma, Babette. Babette had a kind heart and a mischievous son, what Germans would call a real schlingel.  Albert wasn't trying to be bad. He just was a little ... uh ... spirited. He threw a tomahawk at his sister's (my Oma) head and let her loose on an ice flow, but he loved her dearly. He also loved his mother.

So one Mother's Day, or Muttertag, in the late '20s or early '30s in Bavaria, Albert decided to show his affection with a bouquet of wild flowers. But, the flowers he picked weren't exactly wild.  He returned home with his arms full of a beautiful, professional caliber, arrangement.  Albert had picked the fenced in, manicured flowers in the city park.

Babette admired her grand bouquet, but had to scold her son. Because her job as a mother was to teach Albert right from wrong. But when she scolded, she showed love. Because, even when Albert was bad, he meant well. And that's the thing about moms with spirited kids, and actually all moms, it's hard to find that perfect balance between letting your kid be creative and discipline.  This is a line that I think my mother walked with grace. And for that, I would like to thank her.

My mom and me (the fattest preemie ever), November 1989.

Dear Mom, Thank you for letting Julie, my spirited sister, make a water slide in the living room. But also for having her help clean it up after.  Thank you for making the bed with me, and then messing it up again for a pillow fight. Thank you for the sand artwork we made in the kitchen and for laying down newspaper so I can spill. Thanks for eating when I played chef — actually, thank you for that now too! Thank you for telling me what a spleen looked like and showing me in the encyclopedia when I decided to make a play-doh person with organs, you never said "ew" or asked "why." Thank you, for being you! Love Always, CC 

The Toast: Semmelschmaarn 
It's like German French Toast ... or Bavarian Bread Pudding. My mom's Oma made it for her, and my Oma for me. My Dad also remembers his family making it in New Orleans and calling it "Lost Bread."

-       Ingredients:
-       1 ½ cups milk
-       3 eggs
-       ½   teaspoon salt
-       8 slices of slightly stale bread (My mom suggests French bread, but I used regular white)
-       3 to 4 tablespoons butter, unsalted
Traditional toppings:
-       ½ ground cinnamon/ ½ sugar blend (optional)
-       Ground nutmeg (optional)
-       Fresh apples sautéed in butter (optional)
*I used only the cinnamon sugar blend and nutmeg.

Cut bread slices into 1” wide strips. The shapes will be irregular. 
In a deep dish or bowl, beat milk, eggs, and salt together. 
Place bread slices in the egg mixture, and allow bread to soak for 2 minutes. Then turn over. Sit until all liquid absorbed
In a large frying pan, melt butter. Fry slices, turning them until golden brown on both sides. Do not overfill pan — break into 2 batches if needed.
Serve this hot! This dish is usually dusted with cinnamon and sugar, a touch of nutmeg and hot sautéed apples. A favorite compote can be substituted: blueberries and peaches work just as well as apples.

My kitchen experience: Two Dishes, One Recipe!

My mom explained that this dish can turn out two different ways, depending on how you fry it.

1.  German French Toast

To make it more of a french toast dish, carefully move intact bread strips from bowl of egg mixture to frying pan. Very little egg will be with it on frying pan and make sure bread keeps it shape.

2.  Bavarian Bread Pudding

For Bavarian Bread Pudding, let the bread fall into pieces in the egg mixture. Scoop out these plops of combined bread and mixture into the frying pan and prepare together. 

Bonus! The third thing to do with the recipe? If you have any extra egg mixture, fry it up for the dog. 

Rasco lounging after our delicious breakfast.

Monday, May 7, 2012

National Geographic

I woke up this morning to the alarm, then the dog licking my face and, lastly, a google alert got me on my feet.

My adorable dog and the exciting news to follow made my morning. The Baton Rouge newspaper, The Advocate, printed a piece about my oral history project in the New Orleans Ninth Ward (where I have roots). The article, Young Explorer, discusses  a grant I received from the National Geographic Society to conduct the research. After the story was printed this morning, I noticed on my stats that a lot of people were finding my blog via a google search.  If you guys were googling me because you are interested in participating in my project please contact me at and for more info please visit

The size of the photo makes me blush, but finding participants for the project is worth my mild discomfort.   

Friday, May 4, 2012

Spicy Margaritas & Cinco de Bayou

After finishing up finals for the week (I just have one left at the end of next week) and tying up other loose ends. My friends and I decided to have a celebratory pot luck last night. This party can only be described as Cinco De Bayou. 

My friend Jake, the host, made delicious, Louisiana red beans and rice. And Robert and I made some Cinco de Mayo treats to share with you guys: Jalapeño Margaritas and Guacamole. The food was spicy — Cajun red pepper on the beans and jalapeño drinks — and, as Louisianians, we loved the heat.  My dad has a saying for meals like this, "It's so spicy it'll make your teeth burn." As we smoked through the meal, I had to take off my accessory scarf to cool down. It was all very delicious and fun was had.  

Those of you who don't enjoy five alarm meals ... Have no fear, either of these dishes separately would not have this effect. 

Jalapeño Margaritas: 
Courtesy of Robert's friend Sean, thanks dude! 

Our Cinco de Bayou margaritas rimmed with salt and Tony's for that Cajun kick. Photos by Robert Giglio

-       1.5 cups of lime juice (About 10 limes)
-       2-3 jalapenos, chopped (I used store bought)
-       1/4 cup sugar
-       1/4 cup water
-       2 cups tequila (Use Patron if possible)
-       1.5 cups orange liqueur
-       ice
-       salt
-       Tony’s

Squeeze limes and set juice aside.
Make simple syrup: Boil water and add sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add 8 – 10 jalapeño slices and let simmer until flavor is absorbed, the water will have a greenish tint. This is how you get the jalapeño flavor.
Combine syrup, lime juice, tequila and liqueur. Shake.
Rim the glasses in salt and Tony’s red pepper seasoning — for Cinco de Bayou it’s gotta be Tony’s!
Pour over ice.
Serve 6-8 margaritas.

Mom's Guacamole:
My mom has a surprising secret ingredient.

Combine this ingredients to taste ...
-       avocados, mashed
-       cumin
-       lemon juice
-       lime juice
-       Italian seasoning, the secret ingredient
-       salt and pepper
-       Tony’s

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Sorry, no blog today due to Finals! But I haven't forgotten about you this week. Here is how I will make it up to you ...

1. Check back Friday for a fabulous Cinco de Mayo Margarita post — I'm going to need a drink!
2. In the mean time, entertain yourself with my roommate's adorable blog. (Today she posts a tribute to finals comfort food, specifically ice cream.)
3. If you are also enduring finals and came to my blog to procrastinate, I suggest Pinterest and Facebook. And, I leave you with some Finals inspiration/humor I found while procrastinating on Pinterest. 

Don't forget to check back on Friday! 

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