February 28, 2014

Mardi Gras Cajun Beer Cheese Dip

 
 
Living in Louisiana has it's ups and downs but I must say one of my favorite things about this state is Mardi Gras! I'm a Mama now so the drunken craziness in NOLA doesn't appeal to me but the family friendly food, parades, and festivals statewide are a blast!

To celebrate Mardi Gras I made a Cajun inspired Beer Cheese Dip. I used local Abita beer, Louisiana favorite: Andouille sausage, and Cajun spices and Louisiana hot sauce! Finally I served them with festive Mardi Gras chips from my local grocery store! Fun and colorful just like Mardi Gras!
As is the slogan of Mardi Gras: Laissez les bons temps rouler (Let the good times roll)!

Last year, Ashton and I took Ava to Nachitoches, LA, a small river front college town about an hour away. Nachitoches is best known for where the film Steel Magnolias was based and filmed. My girl was still an itty bitty baby and even with all the music and noise she SLEPT through the entire parade and half of dinner afterwards! But we still had fun celebrating her first Mardi Gras and our first Louisiana Mardi Gras Parade.
 
Ava in her Mardi Gras outfit last year and me modeling all the beads I caught!
My cutie all bundled up with her Daddy Mardi Gras 2013

This year, my mom is visiting so we are going to Lake Charles, LA, another town about an hour away. This Sunday they have a children's festival and Children's Mardi Gras Parade and then a boat parade later in the evening. View info on the events here: http://www.swlamardigras.com/events/ .
 I am so excited...stay tuned for pics! 

 
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Ingredients:

  • 8oz Philadelphia cream cheese, softened and cubed
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese 
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 7-8oz Andouille sausage, chopped (about 1/2 a package)
  • 1 bottle Abita beer (I used Purple Haze)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Cajun seasoning (I used Tony Chachere's)
  • 1/2 tsp (or more to taste) Hot sauce ( I used Louisiana brand)
  • Tortilla chips or crusty bread, for dipping

Directions:

  1. In a skillet add sausage and cook until crispy (the sausage should be already cooked).
  2. Remove to a papertowel lined plate and drain.
  3. In a large saucepan add cubed cream cheese and beer. Heat over medium, stirring until melted and smooth.
  4. Toss shredded cheese with flour and then mix into the cream cheese mixture until melted.
  5. Finally add seasonings and hot sauce and remove from heat.
  6. Stir in sausage and serve warm.
  7. Serve with tortilla chips or crusty French bread for dipping.
 To add to the Cajun part of this dip I added chopped Andouille sausage.
It's already precooked so you just have to heat it and crisp it up for a few minutes before adding it to the dip.
Crisp up the sausage in the skillet for a few minutes then drain to a paper towel lined plate.
You have to have beer for Beer Cheese Dip! I used local Abita beer as the base and mix with cubed cream cheese. Everything's better with cheese!
Toss the shredded cheese with flour and then add to the saucepan.
Stir until melted.
Add hot sauce, garlic powder, and Cajun seasoning and then remove from heat.
Finally, mix in sausage.

All done and ready to serve!
Creamy and with a kick, this dip is sure to be a hit!
Serve with tortilla chips or crusty bread for dipping. 
Don't you love these fun Mardi Gras chips I found at my grocery store?!
Happy Mardi Gras!
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February 25, 2014

Fresh From Florida Strawberry Cream Parfait


 Today I am excited to feature one of my favorite fruits: Strawberries!
I have teamed up with Fresh from Florida to promote local seasonal Florida produce. One of the great things about living in Florida is the availability of fresh seasonal produce. I am Florida born and raised and I have fond memories of picking berries with my parents at local farms and visiting farmer's markets...all year long!
 In February, when everyone in the country (sorry guys!) is suffering through snowstorms and freezing temperatures, Florida is celebrating Strawberry Season! They even have a Strawberry Fest in Plant City every Feb-March (I've been and it was both delicious and entertaining!).

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Fresh From Florida.  All opinions are 100% mine.
Enjoying one of my many Strawberry snacks at The Strawberry Festival: Strawberry Shortcake!
 Today I am sharing this Florida Strawberry Cream Parfait recipe with you. Sweet, fresh berries, crunchy graham crackers, and soft pillowy cream make up this simple and delicious dessert!

Ingredients:

Serves 4
Prep time:10 minutes
  • 2 cups fresh Florida strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced
  • 8 ounces low fat whipped cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp natural Florida sugar
  • 1/2 cup low fat vanilla yogurt
  • 4 graham crackers, crushed
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 4 sprigs fresh mint, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine whipped cream cheese, sugar, and lemon juice.
  2. Fold the yogurt into the cream cheese mixture.
  3. In four wide mouth glasses, evenly layer cream cheese mixture, strawberries, and crushed graham crackers.
  4. Garnish with fresh sprigs of mint.
  5. Serve chilled.
Recipe from Fresh from Florida
 
Beautiful Florida Strawberries!
Rinse and slice your berries.
Make your cream filling: whipped cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla yogurt.
Crush 4 graham crackers. I like to do this by hand 
so they aren't too small and still have some texture and crunch.
Assemble your parfaits by layering cream, strawberries, and graham crackers until you have filled your glass.
Then top with more berries and a sprig of mint. Serve chilled.
I made cute strawberry hearts to garnish the top of my parfaits!
Comment below and tell me your favorite recipe featuring Fresh from Florida Strawberries!

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This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Fresh From Florida for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.
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February 24, 2014

Meatless Monday: Warm You Up Cheesy Broccoli Casserole

I have been a fan of the Pacific Organic brand since I reviewed their products last month for my
Cranberry Sandwich Cookies recipe and promoted Carton Smart. Luckily, my local commissary on base carries a lot of their products including soups, broth, and purees. I purchased their Cream of Mushroom soup (a childhood favorite of mine!) a few weeks ago and was excited to try the recipe on the back for Broccoli Casserole. Ava loves pasta and cheese and broccoli (all the good stuff!) so I knew this would be a hit with my little girl, for sure! And casserole's are a favorite of mine because they are easy to prepare and make lots of leftovers. Perfect for this busy Mama!


Ingredients:

  • 1 12oz carton Pacific Foods Cream of Mushroom Condensed Soup
  • 2 heads of broccoli, cleaned and trimmed
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 2 cups cooked pasta, I like Veggie Rotini
  • 5 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups skim or low fat milk
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • salt/white pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Steam broccoli until tender and then chop into bite size pieces.
  3.  Heat a skillet over medium and add 2 tbsp butter (or sub olive oil).
  4. Add shallots and garlic and cook until softened and browned. Remove from heat.
  5. In a saucepan add remaining 3 tbsp butter and flour. Heat over medium and whisk until combined.
  6. Slowly whisk in milk until combined then add cheese and salt and white pepper. Whisk until melted.
  7. In a large bowl mix together broccoli, cooked pasta, shallots, soup, butter, and cheese sauce.
  8. Pour mixture into a 8X8 baking dish.
  9. Bake for approx 30 minutes until golden and set.
Try not to eat the whole pan! This casserole is addicting!
Recipe adapted from Pacific Foods. 

I am hooked on this tasty Cream of Mushroom soup from Pacific Foods.
Ava and I are hooked on veggie pasta so for this recipe I used veggie rotini. You can also use bowtie, penne, or macaroni pasta. Cook according to package directions, drain, and set aside.
Dice a large shallot then saute with garlic in a skillet over medium with 2 tbsp butter
(or sub olive oil).

Steam broccoli until tender and then chop into bite size pieces.
Start the cheese sauce with a roux: butter and flour whisked together.
Slowly whisk in milk until blended and heated through.
Add shredded cheese and season with salt and white pepper.
Mix until melted and blended. Mix into a bowl with all other ingredients.
Pour into baking dish and bake for approx 30 minutes at 350 degrees until golden and set.
Hot out of the oven and ready to dig in!

There is nothing better on a cold night than a comforting, cheesy casserole. 
Ava and I ate this dish for days and never got tired of it! 
Happy Meatless Monday!
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