Sweet Home Louisiana

Creole Shrimp Fettuccine

image This fettuccine boasts Louisiana shrimp and classic creole flavors melded with rich fettuccine in a creamy, spicy Alfredo sauce.  This relatively simple dish is inspired by most recent trip home to Baton Rouge. My sister Dawn made it and everyone loved it. I used Creole seasoning and Louisiana gulf shrimp.  The base of this dish, the holy trinity-- onion, celery and bell pepper,  is the same as the base for many Louisiana classics such as gumbo or etouffee, giving it that familiar Louisiana flavor.


Once the ingredients are prepped, this dish comes together in about 25 minutes, making it a sophisticated weeknight dinner option.  I melted the butter in my round dutch oven, then sauteed the onion, celery and bell pepper. I then stirred in a teaspoon of flour to thicken it. Next, I stirred in the raw shrimp and chopped parsley. I reduced the heat and allowed it to cook until the shrimp were pink throughout. During this time, I also prepared the fettuccine according to the package's instructions.

Once the cheese has melted, stir in the cooked fettuccine

Once the shrimp is cooked throughout, I removed the mixture from the heat and stirred in the velveeta and half-and-half.  Once the cheese was completely melted, I stirred in the cooked fettuccine.

Creole Shrimp Fettuccine
Author: Vallery
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8 servings
  • 2 pounds raw shrimp
  • 2 table spoons Creole Seasoning, such as Tony Chachere’s
  • 16 ounce package of fettuccine, uncooked
  • ¾ cup butter (1 and ½ sticks)
  • ½ cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • ¼ cup onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 8 ounces velveeta cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  1. Peel and devein the raw shrimp. Generously season the shrimp with creole seasoning. Set aside.
  2. Prepare the fettuccine according to the package’s directions. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce.
  3. Heat the butter in a dutch oven over medium heat until melted. Once the butter is melted, add the onion, celery and bell pepper. Cook until softened, approximately three minutes. Stir in one teaspoon of flour. Stir in the shrimp and parsley. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring often, until the shrimp is cooked and pink throughout, 10-15 minutes.
  4. Once the shrimp is cooked, remove the mixture from the heat, and stir in the velveeta cheese and half-and-half. Once the cheese is completely melted and the mixture is smooth and creamy, stir in the cooked fettuccine. Adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with grated parmesan if desired. Serve immediately.


Pecan Praline Cake

image Candied pecans, praline filling and caramel buttercream make this cake a delectable treat that's fit for any table. This cake is reminiscent of the Louisiana delicacy pecan pralines. Pecan pralines are pecans suspended in a thick caramel, and they melt in your mouth with each bite. This pecan praline cake stays true to this southern candy, since I'm pretty sure the praline filling could double as a pecan candy recipe if you just add some pecan halves to it and let it solidify at room temperature.


One reason pecans are found throughout Louisiana cuisine is because there are just so many of them! I have fond memories of walking home from school, stopping in a neighbor's yard, and collecting as many pecans as I could carry. In fact, pecan trees produce so many pecans that folks are eager to give them away. Plus, unlike delicate berries or other fruit, pecans are much simpler to gather. You don't have to worry about bruising the bounty or picking not-yet ripe berries. When pecans are ripe, they fall to the ground. You just gather them (but the real work comes in with shelling them!) imageI wanted to bake something this weekend to celebrate my home state of Louisiana, as many people are still reeling from the devastation that has been caused by the flooding two weeks ago--flooding that has affected nearly everyone in Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas--directly or indirectly. The city's curfew was lifted a few days ago, but it still feels like a bit of a war zone. Certain resources (like vehicles) are still scarce because so many people lost their cars in the flash floods. I made this cake with my mother this morning. I came home to Baton Rouge to assist family with cleaning up following the flooding.

Mom helping to ice the cake

This unique cake is comprised of four parts: the cake layers, praline filling, caramel butter cream and candied pecans. Candied pecans are made by coating pecan halves in a sugar-egg whites mixture and then baking. The cake layers are similar to most cake, except they're spiked with praline liqueur. The filling is made by stirring chopped pecans into a homemade caramel-type mixture. And the caramel buttercream is made by preparing a homemade caramel, then beating in butter. There are quite a few steps but it's such a delicious and unique cake that it's worth it!

Pecan Praline Cake
Author: Vallery
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 10 slices
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg white
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 3 eggs + 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon pecan liqueur
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  1. Prepare the Candied Pecans: Preheat oven to 300°F. Whisk together 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 egg white in a medium bowl until foamy. Add pecan halves; toss well to coat. Spread pecan halves in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in preheated oven until browned, 25 to 28 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. (Pecans will become crisp when cool.)
  2. Prepare the Cake: Increase oven temperature to 350°F. Whisk together 3 cups flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Beat 2 cups granulated sugar and 1 cup butter in a large bowl of a stand mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs and egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with milk, in 5 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed after each addition. Beat in pecan liqueur and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Divide batter evenly between 2 (9-inch) greased and floured round cake pans.
  3. Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 28 to 30 minutes. Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans; cool completely on wire rack, about 30 minutes.
  4. Prepare the Filling: Combine 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, 6 tablespoons butter, and 1/4 cup heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until butter melts; bring to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; add powdered sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla. Beat at low speed until mixture thickens to spreading consistency, about 1 minute. Stir in chopped toasted pecans.
  5. Prepare the Buttercream: Whisk together 1 cup light brown sugar, 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup flour, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan until smooth. Place pan over medium-high, and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is very thick and bubbly, 4 to 5 minutes. Spoon mixture into a bowl; place bowl in freezer, uncovered, until mixture is cold, about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
  6. Beat 1 cup butter with an electric mixer at medium speed, using whisk attachment, until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add cold brown sugar mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, and beat at high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  7. Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate; spread Filling evenly over top, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Place remaining cake layer on top, pressing lightly. Spread Buttercream on top and sides of cake. Arrange Candied Pecans over top.


This recipe was adapted from Southern Living.

Peach Plum and Cherry White Sangria

I'm headed to a picnic in Central Park to commune and fellowship with other friends separated from their fathers this Father's Day, be it by miles, oceans, sickness or heavens.

My contribution to the picnic is this white sangria with all of my favorite stone fruits in season right now: peaches, plums, and cherries. I infused the simple syrup with a whole vanilla bean because I adore flavor combinations like "cherry vanilla" and "peaches and cream." This is a sweet sangria, but if you prefer your sangria on the less sweet side, simply use a dry white wine and reduce the amount of simple syrup or eliminate it altogether.


And last but certainly not least, Happy Father's Day to all of the dads, especially mine! The worst thing about living thousands of miles away from family is missing all of the "minor" holidays, parties, celebrations, and even everyday events like Sunday dinner. My dad especially loved Father's Day, the day that he and all of his brothers would get together at my grandmother's house in Prarieville and throw the biggest bash--complete with everything you could possibly want at a Louisisna barbeque like ribs, porkchops, and crawfish of course!

My grandmother would always make her "million dollar cake" for the Father's Day Barbeque. Averse to both the relentless Louisiana sun and even more relentless mosquitos, I'd sit in my grandmother's living room with the other ladies, being blasted by the wall unit air conditioner. I'd take breaks from the AC to refill my plate only to be caught by my dad, dancing to Jackie Neal or some other local blue's artist. "Come dance with your daddy," my dad would say, grabbing my hands and twirling me around as he two-stepped to the music. We'd dance for a while, but being the bratty teenager I was, I was eager to catch one of my sisters walking by and would hand off my dancing dad to one of them.

I have so many rich memories of those Father's Day parties in prairieville, but for today, a picnic in Central Park with friends will do.

White Sangria with Peaches, Plums and Cherries
Author: Vallery
Serves: 6-8 cups
*Eliminate the simple syrup if you want a less sweet sangria.
  • 2 large peaches, thinly sliced
  • 2 plums, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cherries, halved and pitted
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup peach brandy or other liquor (e.g., rum, etc)
  • 1 bottle dry white wine
  1. Prepare the fruit. Once sliced, you should have about 8 ounces of each peaches, plums, and cherries.
  2. Prepare the simple syrup by heating the 1/4 of water in a small saucepan. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds into the simple syrup. Remove from heat. Add the entire vanilla bean and allow to sit for 20 minutes.
  3. Add the fruit to a pitcher. Remove the vanilla bean and pour half of the vanilla-infused simple syrup on top of the fruit. Pour the 1/2 cup peach brandy and stir. Pour the bottle of wine in and stir. Taste the sangria. If desired, add more simple syrup. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
  4. When ready to serve, add ice cubes to pitcher, stir, and serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from the Kitchn

Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar Jam

fe38717e-d9ec-4a87-aff0-57f9d6dcf72a Strawberry jam is both simple and tricky. This recipe uses just a handful of ingredients: fresh strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, balsamic vinegar and pectin. This was my first attempt at making jam, and even though it wasn't perfect, it was definitely strawberry jam.

Although this was my first attempt at making strawberry jam myself, I grew up in a household where preserving strawberries was a yearly tradition. My mom, dad, older sister and I would go to Prairieville to my cousin Jateaux's farm and pick strawberries. We would have crates and crates full of strawberries, and that evening, after eating all of the fresh strawberries my little girl's body could possibly consume, my parent's stood over large pots in the kitchen, stirring and jarring. And we'd have homemade strawberry preserves that lasted for months. Of course, these preserves were shared with friends and family as well, and my teachers always got a jar during teacher appreciation week, complete with a special cross-stitched picture and message, done by hand by my crafty mother.  And once the jars were empty, they'd end up in our kitchen cabinets until the next late spring when strawberries were in season. But parents divorce and family traditions end. It's been over 20 years since I was in a kitchen with strawberries simmering on a stove next to a pot full of simmering glass jars.


Living in New York has made me a fresh fruit hoarder. When I see ripe, gorgeous berries, I buy them. And what I've been seeing is fresh strawberries. Bushels and bushels of fresh strawberries. Living in New York has taught me to appreciate fresh fruit since the fruit-growing season here is so short, and fruit shipped from far away isn't the same as strawberries ripened outside in the Louisiana sun on my now-98-year-old cousin's farm. (I'm pretty sure the fact that he grew pretty much everything he ate, and farmed the land well into his 90s is a significant contributor to his longevity.)

When I found myself with a few pounds of fresh strawberries earlier this week, I decided to reignite a family tradition and make strawberry preserves.  As much as I love chunky preserves where I can sink my teeth into the fleshy fruit, I knew I wanted to make something more akin to "jam" so that I could use it as filling for homemade pop tarts, something that has been on my to-make list for quite some time. So, I crushed the heck out of these berries before cooking them with the other ingredients. Plus, I thought balsamic vinegar would be great to add acidity since the happy marriage of strawberries and balsamic vinegar was still on my mind after the strawberry caprese salad I made last week.

So, I will share my experience, but please note that preserving fresh fruit can be tricky. And if you do something incorrectly, your goods may become contaminated and you will get sick. So, do your research and read to make sure that you do this correctly!  I recommend you reading this "canning 101" guide.

Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar Jam
Author: Vallery
  • 5 cups of crushed strawberries (measure once the strawberries are already crushed and include their liquid)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons powdered pectin
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 8-ounce preserving jars with lids and bands
  1. Wash the lids and bands with warm soapy water and dry thoroughly.
  2. Prepare the strawberries by hulling them, halving them, and crushing them. Measure out 5 cups of the crushed berries, with their juices.
  3. Heat jars in a large pot in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. (The glass jars should be very hot when you pour the cooked berries in so that the jars don't break.)
  4. Place the crushed berries in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the lemon juice and balsamic vinegar and stir. Gradually stir in pectin. (If you add the pectin too quickly, it will form clumps.) Increase the heat to high. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, so high that the boil is undisturbed, even with stirring. Stir constantly.
  5. Add the sugar all at once and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
  6. Skim foam from the top. Remove the jars from the simmering water.
  7. Pour the hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space from the top rim of the jar. Wipe the rim in case any jam got on it. Center the lid on jar. Carefully screw the band on, but don't screw it on too tight.
  8. Add the jars to the large pot, standing upright. Pour water until the tops of the jars are covered by a couple of inches. Increase heat and boil for 10 minutes.
  9. Remove jars and carefully tighten the bands. Allow to cool at room temperature for 24 hours.
  10. *After 24 hours, press the center of the lid. It should not yield to the pressure. If it makes a popping sound, the lid isn't tight and that jar should be stored in the refrigerator and used first.

Recipe adapted from FreshPreserving


chicken sausage shrimp jambalaya I haven't been home since June.  I miss my family, the Waffle House, and other Louisiana-y things.  When my dad came to visit last month for the U.S. Open, I had him haul a cooler full of seafood from Tony's.  I have a freezer full of head-on shrimp and crawfish, so I decided to use some of that Louisiana shrimp to make jambalaya.  I added a ton of chicken because I have been trying to eat more protein as of late. And of course, it's not jambalaya without andouille sausage.

I kid you not when I say this dish is easy to make.  The most laborious part is chopping the meat and vegetables.  If you can cook rice, you can make this jambalaya! The process is simple. Saute your chopped sausage and boneless, skinless chicken.  Add the holy trinity--onion, bell pepper, and celery--a hallmark of Cajun cooking. Then, add the rice and garlic and toast.  Next, add the diced tomatoes.  Lastly, add your chicken stock, put the top on the pot, and let it cook like rice does--until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked through.  Lastly, stir in the shrimp and herbs, and adjust the seasoning.  This is weeknight cooking.  You can do it all start to finish in an hour.

Add the holy trinity to the sauteed chicken and sausage.

Add diced tomatoes and rice. Cook until the tomato juice is absorbed.

Add the chicken stock. Once it boils, cover and let it cook until the rice is done.

Stir in the shrimp, herbs, and adjust seasoning. Voila!

Jambalaya with Brown Rice
Author: Vallery
Serves: 6
This recipe was inspired by one of my favorite publications, Louisiana Cookin'. This recipe makes 6 hefty servings, with about 500 calories per serving.
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into 2" pieces
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • chopped green onions, for serving
  1. In a heavy bottomed pot (I used my dutch oven), add one tablespoon olive oil to medium-high heat. Stir in sausage and chicken. Cook for about five minutes, until browned.
  2. Stir in chopped onions, bell pepper, and celery. Cook about five minutes, until onions have softened.
  3. Stir in garlic and rice. Cook for about three minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add tomatoes and stir until juices are absorbed.
  5. Add broth, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat to medium-low, cover with tight-fitting lid, and cook until rice is cooked and liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. If the liquid is absorbed but the rice is not cooked, add water and continue cooking until the rice is done.
  6. Meanwhile, season the shrimp with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, paprika, cayenne, and parsley. Once rice is cooked, stir in shrimp and remaining spices.
  7. Cook until shrimp are pink throughout, about two minutes.
  8. Adjust seasoning to taste. Add Louisiana tobasco sauce, if desired. Garnish with green onion and serve immediately.


Gumbo with Gulf Shrimp

  Homemade Gumbo with Gulf Shrimp

There is nothing like a snowstorm that makes me want to cook up a big pot of gumbo!  This is really a seafood gumbo, but I threw some shredded chicken breast in as well.  I didn't quite stick to a recipe because I am in New York and certain basic ingredients (like file powder!) were impossible to find.  Nevertheless, this hearty dish is filled with flavor and is the perfect dish that will stick to your bones during this harsh winter weather.

Of course, you can jazz up the recipe by adding a pound of andouille sausage or a half pound of oysters or crab meat (if adding oysters or crab meat, add with the shrimp).

Every gumbo starts with a roux.  And be careful not to burn the roux!  Stir the roux constantly, otherwise it can easily burn.  If the roux burns, you'll have to discard it completely and start over.  I then sauteed onion, celery and bell pepper, which I then added to the roux.  Finally, I added the diced tomatoes, homemade shrimp stock, okra, spices, and shredded chicken.  Finally, I sauteed the shrimp in garlic and butter, before topping it off with white wine and then adding to the gumbo.

Every gumbo starts with a roux: a combination of oil and flour

Sautee onion, celery, and bell peppers before adding to the roux

Sprinkle cayenne pepper over the sauteed vegetables

Sautee garlic in butter before adding shrimp

Allow shrimp to cook about 2 minutes per side.

Shrimp is ready when it is cooked through out.  Allow to simmer in white wine for two minutes before adding to gumbo.

Your gumbo is ready to serve over rice! (Of course, you can sub out rice for a healthier grain like quinoa)

Gumbo with Gulf Shrimp
Author: Vallery
Serves: 6 servings
Every region of south Louisiana does gumbo differently. Some will scoff at the tomatoes in this recipe. Some, the okra. Some will wonder where the file powder is! Of course, you can mismatch whatever gumbo recipes you want.
  • 1/2 cup butter + 3 tablespoons
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 1/2 bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • <span class="mceItemHidden" data-mce-bogus="1">2 <span class="hiddenSpellError" pre="2 " data-mce-bogus="1">cups</span> okra, cooked according to directions*</span>
  • 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
  • 3 cups seafood stock (See previous post for recipe)
  • 2 teaspoons old bay seasoning
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1.5 pounds fresh shrimp, seasoned with creole seasoning and pepper
  • 2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
  • <span class="mceItemHidden" data-mce-bogus="1">1 cup dry white wine (e.g., <span class="hiddenSpellError" pre="" data-mce-bogus="1">sauvignon</span> blanc)</span>
  • creole seasoning, to taste
  • Tabasco, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • <span class="mceItemHidden" data-mce-bogus="1">*Don't worry if okra initially appears slimy. It is an excellent thickening agent for the gumbo, and the <span class="hiddenSpellError" pre="the " data-mce-bogus="1">sliminess</span> of the texture will cook away while the gumbo is simmering.</span>
  1. <span class="mceItemHidden" data-mce-bogus="1">Combine 1/2 cup butter with 1/2 cup flour in a dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat (I used my 5.5 qt. Le <span class="hiddenSpellError" pre="Le " data-mce-bogus="1">Creuset</span> dutch oven). Stir constantly for 10-15 minutes, until a light-brown roux forms. Remove from heat.</span>
  2. <span class="mceItemHidden" data-mce-bogus="1"><span class="hiddenSpellError" pre="" data-mce-bogus="1">Sautee</span> onion, celery, bell pepper and cayenne pepper in one tablespoon olive oil and one tablespoon butter until tender, about 5 minutes.</span>
  3. Place roux over medium heat. Stir vegetables into roux. Add diced tomatoes, seafood stock, cooked okra, cooked chicken and old bay seasoning. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmering. Allow to simmer until the mixture has thickened slightly, 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add two tablespoons of butter to a large skillet, along with garlic over medium-high heat. Allow to cook until garlic is light brown and fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add shrimp and cook on each side for about two minutes, until the shrimp is cooked throughout. Then, add white wine and simmer for about two minutes. Finally, add the mixture to the gumbo.
  6. Allow the gumbo to simmer another 5-10 minutes. Correct seasoning with tabasco sauce, salt, and pepper. Serve immediately over rice.