Friday, August 25, 2017

New Orleans 2017

New Orleans, Louisiana 2017

Last weekend I took my very first trip to my neighbors next door. 

Here is Henderson Swamp as viewed from I-10. Good ole real life swamp. I did not see me a gator as we were on an elevated freeway and did not stop. 

We arrived on Friday, August 18th. Our hotel was a 15 minute walk to the start of the French Quarter on Royal Street. 

The architecture was charming. 

Some ways it reminds me of Pelourinho in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. 

This is Bourbon Street. We walked on it, glanced down it, but we didn't really need to stay. 

Royal Street was charming. Lots of shops. 
Pralines are the most popular sweet treats. 
Then there are the hot sauces. 

I sampled a mango habanero one. It wasn't too crazy. 

One store we stopped in had antique guns and swords and coins. We saw a display of "pirate money". We asked the guy if that was actual coinage used only by pirates. We learned that pirates went for Spanish coins because they were valued universally. Spanish coins could be used as far away as China. So the Pirates liked Spanish coins the most. 

Being the town of Marti Gras, there are plenty of shops with masks and ornaments. This store was my favorite. It had a display of Merpeople ornaments and a sign that read, "Please do not twirl the Merpeople".  I mean really? It was enough of a problem to have a sign? 

Friday we made it to Cafe Du Monde. If you look to the left of my head, you can see the back of the saxophone player with no pants. We thought he had chaps on, but really it was more like a scarf keeping him "modest". Sure dude, whatever. 

Cafe Du Monde is home of the beignets, square-fried-donut-like-yummy-goodness smothered in powdered sugar. 

We also visited the St. Francis Cathedral. It is the oldest Cathedral in the United States. 

Not only was it beautiful, it was air conditioned and provided great refuge from the heat and humidity. 
It was so incredibly HOT and HUMID. 

We walked through Jackson Square to see the Mississippi River. We asked these fine folks to take our picture after taking theirs. 
She took a selfie first. 

Here is the Mississippi River Folks! 

Saturday was another grand adventure. We had breakfast in the French Quarter at the Royale House Oyster Bar. My poached eggs on crawfish cakes, smothered in crawfish sauce was a winner! It was delicious!  Now I need to try to learn to poach eggs. 

We then tried to go to the cemetery where the famous Voodoo lady is buried (above ground because New Orleans is 10 feet above sea level at the highest point). Sadly they only let you in with a guided tour and that one, cost $20, and two, wouldn't have given us enough time for our food tour. 

So we bought some water at the gas station, and then ploughed on through the heat and humidity and visited Armstrong park. 

Here I am with Mr. Armstrong himself. 

As we walked down St. Anne Street to Decatur St to meet up with our food tour, we began seeing a lot of police, barricades, and emergency vehicles. We didn't know what was happening till we started out tour. Our tour guide told us that there was a protest planned regarding some statutes in New Orleans. Some white supremacists caught wind and were rumored to be coming to town. We aren'y sure how we actually missed the protest march, but it started at Armstrong Park, went down St. Anne street, and ended up at Jackson Square. Luckily only a dozen supremacists showed up and it was fairly peaceful. 

But let's get to the food... 


First stop on our Tastebud Tours was TUJAGES. It is the oldest bar in New Orleans. It is the home of the Grasshopper Cocktail. 

Here we ate Brisket Po'Boys. The recipes at this bar and restaurant are 150 years old. We learned the Po' Boy sandwich originated as a sandwich to feed poor day laborers. As another one came by the originators establishment, they'd yell,
 "here comes another poor boy". 

This was delicious. It has horseradish sauce and was amazingly moist. Loved it! I'd like to try a shrimp Po' Boy. 

Here I am drinking my water in Tujague's while our other fellow foodies sampled the Grasshopper Cocktail. 


Here we learned about creole vs cajun. Creole in reference to New Orleans are the descendents of the European colonials, whether European and mixed European, and also used to describe the descendents of the Africans and Natives. New Orleans was ruled by the French, then the Spanish, then the French for like 20 days before the Louisiana Purchase and the Untied States obtained it. As in most places, when you settle in a new place you bring your home cooking with you, and then you adapt. Jambalaya can be thought of as Spanish Paella without the saffron. It is tomato based. Gumbo, in African Bantu language, means okra. Okra is the thickening agent in the stew/roux. We sampled a light roux shrimp gumbo. I'm now interested in learning to make roux. 

Next stop was the CREOLE COOKERY. Here we sampled a bread pudding. Think about all the French Bread in this cuisine, day old bread gets soaked in milk and BREAD PUDDING is born. It was dense and delicious, not mushy at all. 

Our next stop was a Spice Shop that blends salts, sugars, and spices. I bought a few samples that will be fun to cook with. We mostly stopped here so our tour guide could pick up the Muffaletta from Johnny's Po Boy shop that we took and ate on the steps of a plaza next to the Mississippi. MUFFALETTAS are a Sicilian-Creole creation. Bread, ham, cheese, and olive salad. It was good too. A bit thick, but good. 

Our tour ended at Laura's Candy Shop. We sampled some pralines and I bought some to take home, as well as some Mississippi Mud- chocolate, caramel, and pecans. Sweet treat to end our three hour tour. Our tour guide was excellent. I'll be doing more Food Tours in my future. 

Our tour guide definitely loves her city. She said it is better to think of New Orleans not as a Southern city, but more like the most northern city in the Caribbean. It made total sense. 

After returning to the hotel to crash for a bit, we eventually decided we could eat one more mean in New Orleans. We travelled across the street to "Walk On" Sports Bar. 

I had my first grits. This had corn in it too. The shrimp was stuffed with jalapeno and cream cheese, wrapped in bacon, and grilled! Yummy! 

And a crawfish Etoufee, and Duck and Andouille Sausage Gumbo. 

And a Krispy Kreme bread pudding. 

I said I was going to eat my way through the weekend. I did... It was great. I'd go back! 

Thanks NOLA! 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Finding Peace & Comfort in Christ, and Becoming Peacemakers & Comforters As Disciples of Christ.

Here are my notes for a talk I gave at church today, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

“Finding peace and comfort through Christ, and becoming peacemakers and comforters as a disciple of Jesus Christ” August 13, 2017

President Uchtdorf described the air raids he experiences as a 4-year-old child.
Not far from where my family lived was the city of Dresden. Those who lived there witnessed perhaps a thousand times what I had seen. Massive firestorms, caused by thousands of tons of explosives, swept through Dresden, destroying more than 90 percent of the city and leaving little but rubble and ash in their wake.
In a very short time, the city once nicknamed the “Jewel Box” was no more. Erich K√§stner, a German author, wrote of the destruction, “In a thousand years was her beauty built, in one night was it utterly destroyed.”1 During my childhood I could not imagine how the destruction of a war our own people had started could ever be overcome. The world around us appeared totally hopeless and without any future.
Last year I had the opportunity to return to Dresden. Seventy years after the war, it is, once again, a “Jewel Box” of a city. The ruins have been cleared, and the city is restored and even improved.
During my visit I saw the beautiful Lutheran church Frauenkirche, the Church of Our Lady. Originally built in the 1700s, it had been one of Dresden’s shining jewels, but the war reduced it to a pile of rubble. For many years it remained that way, until finally it was determined that the Frauenkirche would be rebuilt.
Stones from the destroyed church had been stored and cataloged and, when possible, were used in the reconstruction. Today you can see these fire-blackened stones pock marking the outer walls. These “scars” are not only a reminder of the war history of this building but also a monument to hope—a magnificent symbol of man’s ability to create new life from ashes.

"As I pondered the history of Dresden and marveled at the ingenuity and resolve of those who restored what had been so completely destroyed, I felt the sweet influence of the Holy Spirit. Surely, I thought, if man can take the ruins, rubble, and remains of a broken city and rebuild an awe-inspiring structure that rises toward the heavens, how much more capable is our Almighty Father to restore His children who have fallen, struggled, or become lost?
It matters not how completely ruined our lives may seem. It matters not how scarlet our sins, how deep our bitterness, how lonely, abandoned, or broken our hearts may be. Even those who are without hope, who live in despair, who have betrayed trust, surrendered their integrity, or turned away from God can be rebuilt. Save those rare sons of perdition, there is no life so shattered that it cannot be restored.
The joyous news of the gospel is this: because of the eternal plan of happiness provided by our loving Heavenly Father and through the infinite sacrifice of Jesus the Christ, we can not only be redeemed from our fallen state and restored to purity, but we can also transcend mortal imagination and become heirs of eternal life and partakers of God’s indescribable glory." (He Will Place You On His Shoulders and Carry You Home, April 2016)

I wanted to take one a most dramatic account with a happy ending to introduce my topic. My topic for you today is finding peace and comfort through Christ, and becoming peacemakers and comforters as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Sometimes peace and comfort seem impossible after monumental moments. topics describes peace as the following…

"Many people think of peace as the absence of war. But we can feel peace even in times of war, and we can lack peace even when no war is raging. The mere absence of conflict is not enough to bring peace to our hearts. Peace comes through the gospel—through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the ministration of the Holy Ghost, and our own righteousness, sincere repentance, and diligent service.
In addition to feeling peace ourselves, we can be an influence for peace in our families, our community, and the world. We work for peace when we keep the commandments, give service, care for family members and neighbors, and share the gospel. We work for peace whenever we help relieve the suffering of another."
In John 14:26-27 Jesus said, “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid”.

In John 16:33 He said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world".

Alma taught the people of Gideon the following doctrine of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in Alma 7:11-12

11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
Jesus Christ can succor us, bind our wounds, give us peace, and comfort us because he took it upon himself to feel our pains and sufferings.

Jesus climbed the hill
To the garden still
His steps were heavy and slow
Love and a prayer
Took Him there
To the place only He could go
He felt all that was sad, wicked or bad
All the pain we would ever know
While His friends were asleep
He fought to keep
His promise made long ago

The hardest thing that ever was done
The greatest pain that ever was known
The biggest battle that ever was won
This was done by Jesus
The fight was won by Jesus

Jesus loves me
So He went willingly
To Gethsemane

If we as Latter-Day Saints are striving to become like Christ, we too can be peacemakers and comforters.

In October of 2009, President Monson taught us,
“The Savior taught His disciples, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”5
I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives.
My brothers and sisters, we are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness—be they family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us.” (What Have I Done for Someone Today?)

And as an added bonus to providing love to others, President Uchtdorf taught,
“As we extend our hands and hearts toward others in Christ like love, something wonderful happens to us. Our own spirits become healed, more refined, and stronger. We become happier, more peaceful, and more receptive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit.”
(You Are My Hands, April 2010)

Evidence of this can be found in 3 Nephi. In the account of the Savior’s visit to the Nephites, we learn that Jesus spent a lot of time teaching the people at the temple. After awhile he look at the people and basically said, I’ve worn you out and given you a lot to think about, so go home for awhile and ponder on this.  But when he look out at them they gave him such a look of longing he decided to stay awhile longer. In chapter 17 vs. 6 he said, “Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you.” He was full of compassion because of what the verses in Alma 7 talk about, he has just experiences the Atonement, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. He was literally filled with compassion.

Vs 7,  Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.

And it came to pass that when he had thus spoken, all the multitude, with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted, and their lame, and with their blind, and with their dumb, and with all them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him.
10 And they did all, both they who had been healed and they who were whole, bow down at his feet, and did worship him; and as many as could come for the multitude did kiss his feet, insomuch that they did bathe his feet with their tears.

They. Their- the afflicted were from among them. All the multitude. The afflicted needed people to help bring them up to Christ. So with one accord, they that were afflicted, and those that assisted them, went up to Christ. And all were healed. All.

“You may feel that your life is in ruins. You may have sinned. You may be afraid, angry, grieving, or tortured by doubt. But just as the Good Shepherd finds His lost sheep, if you will only lift up your heart to the Savior of the world, He will find you.
He will rescue you.
He will lift you up and place you on His shoulders.
He will carry you home.

If mortal hands can transform rubble and ruins into a beautiful house of worship, then we can have confidence and trust that our loving Heavenly Father can and will rebuild us. His plan is to build us into something far greater than what we were—far greater than what we can ever imagine. With each step of faith on the path of discipleship, we grow into the beings of eternal glory and infinite joy we were designed to become.” Uchtdorf (2016)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mary Berry's Florentines from the Great British Baking Show

This was a week of baking. 

I baked some scrumptious zucchini bread from my homegrown zucchini. 

Then I baked 3 homegrown spaghetti squash. 

Then I tackled another British Baking show recipe. 
This time, Mary Berry's Florentines. 
What is a Florentine you ask? It is a fruit and nut cookie with chocolate on the underside. It called for Golden Syrup (which I substituted with light corn syrup), Demerara sugar (which I substituted with turbinado sugar), almonds, walnuts, cranberry, and orange candied peel (which I made from scratch!). 

I didn't even know candied peel was a thing. 

First I peeled 2 oranges and sliced them up. 

Then I boiled the peels in cold water, once it came to a boil I drained it and repeated 2 more times. 

Then I mixed 2 cups of sugar with 2 cups of water and simmered the peels for an hour! 

After an hour of simmering, I let the candied peel cool in the syrup, then put them on a rack and cool for another 30 minutes. After wards, I chopped them up. 

Now time for the Florentines...

Mix turbinado sugar, light corn syrup, and butter in a sauce pan until just melted. 


Add in finely chopped nuts, dried cranberries, candied peel, and flour. 

(I admit I bought these cute little bowls and put each ingredient in it just for the aesthetics of this blog)

Spoon out up to 18 small spoonfuls (less them tablespoon size would have been better) on to 2-3 cookie sheets. 
The really will spread, so lots of space needed between. 

See, they spread...

While these thin and delicate little cookies cool, start melting the chocolate. I've never tempered chocolate over a simmering bath. As instructed I melted half the chocolate in the heatproof bowl then removed from heat and added the rests to melt. I think it really did give it a shiny look! 

Mary Berry's secret to putting the chocolate on is using a pastry brush.  So I did! I painted the cookies, holding them in my hand, with chocolate (on the underside) with a pastry brush. Then you take a fork and make the squiggle lines... 

I painted the chocolate on pretty thick. It took awhile to cool. I admit, I ate one before they were all cooled and set and I wasn't very impressed last night. HOWEVER...

I put them overnight in the fridge and had one today and it is magical!   Last night I thought I might not make them again, but now I definitely think I will!  Besides, I have tons of candied peel in syrup in my fridge that will only last another 3 weeks. 

Thank you Mary Berry!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Savory Biscuits from Paul Hollywood and the Great British Baking Show

When you've been waiting 10 hours for the AC technician to come to your house, you kick yourself to discover at hour 9 that you could have been watching the Masterclasses for the Great British Baking Show.  Today I decided to make Paul's Savory Biscuits.

One half of the dough was turned into poppyseed biscuits with sesame seeds on top, and the other half tomato and cheese biscuits.

Click here for the recipe

I have to say I am a bit unimpressed with the flavor. I'm pretty sure I converted the recipe from the metric measurements correctly. And the poppyseed portion was too dry,I should have added more water like I did the tomato dough. But I pureed sun dried tomatoes and garlic in my magic bullet instead of buying paste and that tasted yummy. Perhaps they would be best with a bit of English tea and as as the ever wise Virginia E said, "an extra serving of Paul Hollywood's ego".