Friday, December 23, 2011

Easy holiday 'Talk About Good' recipe, Lafayette in Southern Living 'Tastiest Towns' contest

My mom is stressed from holiday shopping and the usual day-to-day events that happen in December that can interrupt the best-made plans. Knowing I had a vast library of Louisiana cookbooks, she implored me for an easy recipe to make for Christmas dinner on Sunday. She had seen one regarding artichokes and spinach — not a dip, but a casserole for a side dish — but in all the hassle of the holidays lost it.
Here's a quick and easy recipe I found from "Talk About Good!" by the Junior League of Lafayette (Louisiana), one of the best-selling cookbooks of the non-profit world and winner of the Tabasco Community Cookbook Award Hall of Fame. The League has sold more than 750,000 copies of this amazing cookbook to date!
So, don't stress in your last-minute shopping-getting things ready for Sunday. Here's a fabulous gift idea that's inexpensive and easy to obtain (at most Louisiana bookstores and gift shops), plus a recipe to throw together quickly.
And let me add that we eat and cook REALLY well here in Lafayette. That’s why Lafayette was named “Best for Food” in the Rand McNally nationwide Best of the Road contest this year. And now, Lafayette is in the 10 “Tastiest Towns” in the South by Southern Living magazine. In the latter, we want to be chosen No. 1, so please vote daily in the Southern Living poll here. Voting ends Jan. 31, 2012.
Spinach-Artichoke Casserole
From "Talk About Good" by Lafayette Junior League
1 stick butter
2 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach
1 large can artichokes
1 pint sour cream
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Directions: Cook spinach as directed on box. Drain. Saute onions in butter. Mix all ingredients together and place in casserole. Stir Parmesan cheese into casserole and also sprinkle some on top. Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 or 30 minutes.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

'Lost Restaurants of New Orleans,' heathy ways to cook Cajun

New Orleans TV personality and author Peggy Scott Laborde and foodie Tom Fitzmorris performed exhaustive research for “Lost Restaurants of New Orleans and the recipes that made them famous,” a homage to those establishments lost to Hurricane Katrina, as well as before and after. Restaurants are listed in alphabetical order with photos, ads, menus and other memoriabilia, not to mention actual recipes.
            Retired nurse Dana Hotard of Opelousas was always searching for healthy ways to cook Cajun. After experimenting and collecting a variety of nutritious, low-calorie recipes, she published them into “AdJUSTed For You: Recipes to fit your lifestyle” and “AdJUST for You II.” Each cookbook is divided into party/appetizers, breads, desserts, main dishes and sides and all include information on calories, fat and fiber, plus some show ways to reduce all three.
            Here’s a great recipe from “AdJUSTed” for some holiday fun, only 51.3 calories per turnover:

Crawfish Turnovers
1 1/2 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 pound crawfish tails
1 1/2 teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon red pepper
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup chopped celery
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 (10-ounce) can low-salt, low-fat cream of mushroom soup
16 sheets phyllo pastry, thawed
Butter flavor non-stick cooking spray
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat large non-stick skillet, sprayed with butter-flavored spray over med-high heat until hot. Saute onions, bell pepper, celery, mushrooms, green onions and garlic until tender. Reduce heat to low. Stir in soup, crawfish, parsley, basil, oregano, red pepper and thyme. Simmer for 4-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Arrange 1 sheet of pastry on damp towel, keeping rest covered with damp towel. Lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray. Layer with another sheet of phyllo and spray. Cut the stack crosswire into 4 strips with a pizza cutter or sharp knife.
Working with one strip at a time, keeping the remaining strips covered with damp towel, spoon approximately 2 teaspoons of crawfish mixture at the base of the strip. Fold the right bottom corner over to form a triangle and continue folding the triangle back and forth to the end of the strip Arrange the turnover seam side down on a baking sheet sprayed with PAM. Repeat the procedure with the remaining strips and crawfish mixture.
Spray the tops of the turnovers with PAM and bake 35 minutes or until golden brown, Serve warm.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Metairie Library hosts 5 St Landry Parish Authors

The East Bank Regional Library in Metairie will host an event featuring five authors from St. Landry Parish at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15, at the library, 4747 W. Napoleon Blvd. in Metairie. The program is free of charge and open to the public.
Authors are: 
James Booksh, “My Life with Rita”
Booksh takes readers into his 58-year marriage, from love at first sight after WWII to her eight-year struggle with Alzheimer's. A recourse for those caring for loved-ones with the disease, the true story is a testament of the power of love that may restore reader's faith in the institute of marriage.
John La Fleur, “A Cultural Legacy: Creole Gourmet Secrets of Louisiana”
Chef John La Fleur will discuss and sign his book but he’ll also provide some kind of snack for the event. La Fleur teaches fine art, studio art, print, language and culture at Ville Platte High School.
Mel LeCompte, “Sharpened Iron”
“Sharpened Iron” focuses on a football game between Sacred Heart High School and Ville Platte High, two schools that could not be further apart racially or socially. However, LeCompte covers far more than a single annual game. What started out as a nice idea and a trophy is now a week-long celebration complete with Zydeco and Cajun concerts, all-day tailgating, and an intense prayer banquet for both teams.
John Mayeux, “The Avogel Tribe of Louisiana: Volume 1”
Mayeux has been Chief of the Avogel since the death of his mother in 1975. He wrote this book to let people know about this local tribe and that it still exists.
Don Stanford, “Southern Kingdom” and others
“Southern Kingdom” is the opening novel in the Blythington Family Saga.  
Members of the Friends of the Jefferson Public Library will be sell copies of books with a portion of book sales benefiting the Jefferson Parish Library.
For more information, call Chris Smith, manager of adult programming for the library, at 504-889-8143 or

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chef Rosenthal's book one of many events for week of Dec. 11, 2011

Chef Donald Link will host a special tasting and booksigning for Chef Mitchell Rosenthal from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at Link’s restaurant, Butcher, in New Orleans. Rosenthal has published “Cooking My Way Back Home: Recipes from San Francisco’s Town Hall, Anchor and Hope, and Salt House” and the book features recipes from those establishments, with clear evidence of Rosenthal’s influences, much of which is from Louisiana.

The chef started out in a New Jersey deli, impressed with the heady flavors of Chef Paul Prudhomme, which he incorporated into the menu.

“The disconnect is apparent now, but at the time, nothing seemed strange about putting kishke, kniches, and corned beef sandwiches alongside jambalaya, blackened chicken and gumbo,” he writes in the introduction.

Rosenthal later worked with Chef Paul and received invaluable experience, he writes, then headed back to Manhattan where he worked at the Four Seasons and later San Francisco. But readers “need only look at the contents of this book to see how Prudhomme’s influence carried me forward,” Rosenthal writes.

Indeed, readers will find the “Peacemaker” or fried oyster poboy, Bienville stuffed mushrooms, corn macque choux and other local favorites, but a wide variety of interesting dishes that make me want to grab the next flight to San Francisco.

On Friday in New Orleans, Rosenthal will serve three tastes from his cookbook along with locally brewed beers. The cookbook will be available for purchase for $35, and a sample recipe is below. RSVP by Dec. 16 to Elizabeth Goliwas Bodet,

More book events this week are:
Kelli Foret signs “The Acadiana Art Trail” at 4 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12, at The Depot in Abbeville. Foret, a Lafayette artist, has compiled “trails” where readers can spend time in Acadiana hoping from one great artistic experience to another. If you haven’t traveled to Lafayette and environs, you’re missing out on great art, and Foret’s book will clearly show you why.

Warren Perrin will sign copies of his historic book, “Images of America: Vermilion Parish” Monday in Abbeville as well. The book explains the history of the settlement of Vermilion Parish, its culture, music and people told through photographs.

Speaking of great artists from Lafayette! George Rodrigue will sign copies of his books from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, at Blue Dog Café in Lafayette, a restaurant choked full of his artwork. The Cafe will sell all of his books in stock, from children’s books to coffee table books, and Rodrigue will sign books already purchased that are brought to the café by patrons.

Casa Azul Gifts in Grand Coteau will host a poetry reading by Nellie Harrington and a musical performance by Byron Knott at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15. An open mic follows. This free event is appropriate for teens and adults. For more information contact Patrice Melnick at (337) 662-1032 or

Chef John Folse signs copies of his cookbooks at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, at Barnes and Noble Corporate Woods in Baton Rouge and with Rick Tramonto (“Scars of a Chef” and “Steak with Friends”) at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17. at Barnes and Noble Mandeville, 1 p.m. Saturday at Barnes and Noble Metairie and 4 p.m. Saturday at Barnes and Noble Harvey.

Iron Chef champion and James Beard award-winner John Besh signs copies of his cookbooks at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, at Barnes and& Noble Lafayette and visits The Accidental Chef at 1:30 p.m. to sign his new book, “My Family Table,” and to demonstrate a dish for guests. The Accidental Chef is located at 
608 Garfield St. in downtown Lafayette.

I (your humble blogger Cheré Coen) will be selling copies of my books, including “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, at Acadian Village’s Noel Acadien du Village. It’s a great holiday event with thousand of lights, live music, Santa and much more. And did I mention my book makes a great Christmas gift?

Peanut and Tasso Crusted Pork Chop with Hot Mustard
From “Cooking My Way Back Home”
2/3 cup kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 cup peppercorns
1/2 bunch thyme
4 quarts water

4 pork chops
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces tasso or ham, finely diced (about 1/2 cup), mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons Town Hall Spice Mixture (from the book)
1 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon maple syrup
4 tablespoons whole grain mustard

Directions: To make the brine, in a container mix together all of the ingredients and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Add the pork chops to the brine, cover, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to three days. When you are ready to cook the pork chops prepare a hot fire for direct-heat grilling in a charcoal or gas grill.In a heavy bottom frying pan melt one tablespoon of the butter over medium high heat. Add the tasso and sauté until crispy. Remove from the heat and let cool. In a food processor combine the cool tasso, peanuts, Worcestershire sauce, maple syrup and the remaining one tablespoon butter. Pulse a few times to blend. Set aside. Take the pork chops out of the brine and rinse them off under cold running water. Pat dry with a kitchen towel. Place the chops on a grill rack directly over the fire and grill, turning once for 5-6 minutes on each side or until pale pink in the center when tested with a knife. The timing will depend on the thickness. Two minutes before the chops are ready to come off the fire, smear one tablespoon of the mustard on each chop, then cover each chop with 1/4 of the tasso mixture and continue to grill just until the tasso topping is warm. Serve at once.

Monday, December 5, 2011

New Orleans Saints to Cajun Country, Louisiana kids books run gamut

Looking for some gift ideas for the younger set? Here are a few children’s titles penned by Louisiana authors or concerning Louisiana stories.
Lovers of the New Orleans Saints and the city itself will enjoy Todd-Michael St. Pierre’s fun “Who Dat Night Before Christmas,” illustrated by Keith Douglas and published as a bilingual book in both English and French by Piggy Press Books. Santa arrives dressed in gold and black, his sleigh pulled by pelicans with names such as Momus, Zulu and Flambeaux. He comes down the chimney in K&B purple boots and a fleur-de-lis on his breast, enjoying a poboy and Barq’s before laying out gifts. St. Pierre has penned a delightful new Christmas tale with a Who Dat twist.
Lynda Deniger of Louisiana, along with illustrator Paulette Ferguson, have published a children’s book to explain the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Titled “Patti Pelican and the Gulf Oil Spill,” the book uses the disaster to explain the importance of taking care of the environment.
Michelle Carley Loup of Baton Rouge and 10-year-old daughter Chloe Loup has teamed up for a book that focuses on bullying. Titled “Nate the Naughty Gnat,” the book follows Nate who is always in trouble at home and at school.  Mr. Crusty, an old cockroach who is the school janitor, tries to help Nate learn how to be kind to others and that bullying hurts.
Monsiur Durand was a wealthy plantation owner in St. Martinville who spared no expense on his daughter’s wedding. The extravagant affair he created is the basis for Rose Anne St. Romain’s latest children’s book, “Monsieur Durand's Grosse Affaire,” published by Pelican Publishing. I won’t spoil the ending and reveal to what extent Durand goes to make the wedding over the top, but it’s a wonderful read that pays off well in the end. St. Romain is a professional storyteller and director of the 4-H Museum in Marksville. The book is illustrated by Joan C. Waites, who also worked with St. Romain on “Moon’s Cloud Blanket.”
Other children’s books out now by Pelican Publishing include:
“Six Foolish Fishermen” by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Doug Kennedy, involving six foolish friends in a pirogue who make a host of silly decisions. Louisiana residents may recognize many of these fun folktales, and will enjoy a good laugh.
Johnette Downing of New Orleans explains the origin of pearls in “Why the Oyster has the Pearl,” illustrated by Bethanne Hill. In Downing’s story, the oyster is the keeper of the world’s jewels until sly snake comes along, a good lesson in greed and the virtues of generosity.
The poor mosquito doesn’t have many friends in Virginia Kroll’s “Mosquito,” illustrated by Betsy LaPlatt. As he flies around, all the animals are not happy to see him — and rightly so. The book also includes a list of mosquito facts.
New Orleans storyteller Dianne de Las Casas explains with Aztec and Mayan folklore how chocolate came to Earth from the heavens in “Blue Frog: the Legend of Chocolate,” illustrated by Holly Stone-Barker. The book was inspired by Blue Frog Chocolates of New Orleans, which is also named after South American legends. In the back is a recipe for Mexican hot cocoa.
Carole Gerber explains the story of an American woman who developed a system of classifying stars in “Annie Jump Cannon, Astronomer,” with illustrations by Christina Wald. Cannon still holds the record for identifying more stars than anyone else in the world.
Replacing rats with alligators and nutrias is “The Cajun Nutcracker” by Chara Dillon Mock, illustrated by Jean Cassels. The star of the show is still a nutcracker, but the locale is South Louisiana with its swamps, fireflies, Sugarcane Fairy, cayenne peppers from Avery Island and the waltz of the magnolias.

New releases
            Kody Chamberlain, a native of Thibodaux now living in Lafayette, has published a new comic titled “Sweets: A New Orleans Crime Story.” The tale follows Detective Curt Delatte, who has just buried his only daughter and is forced to chase a spree killer days before Hurricane Katrina makes landfall. Newsarama said of Chamberlain’s work: “This kind of care and craftsmanship isn’t just art it’s magic.”
UL Press has released “Louisiana Folktales: Lupin, Bouki, and Other Creole Stories in French Dialect and English Translation,” the first complete anthology of the folktales collected by linguist/historian Alceé Fortier. The book includes facsimiles of the original 1985 edition of “Louisiana Folktales,” and each selection is rendered in Creole French and English translation and includes Fortier’s original notes.
Tulane University professor Melissa V. Harris-Perry, where she is founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South, has written an examination of race and gender in “Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America.” Readers may also recognize Harris-Perry from her regular appearances on MSNBC. “She assays the political implications and consequences of these archetypes in the lives of contemporary black women — and for how they influences black women’s participation in American public life, finding that they enjoy a less than complete citizenship…” wrote Publisher’s Weekly of the book.
And now a plug for my cousin who’s an outstanding scholar. Waights Taylor Jr., who grew up in Birmingham and experienced the extreme social change brought about by the Civil Rights Movement, has published “Our Southern Home: Scottsboro to Montgomery to Birmingham — The Transformation of the South in the Twentieth Century.” The book is available at or through and websites.

Book news
Derek Mosley, archivist and assistant director of the UL Ernest J. Gaines Center, has been named a 2012 Emerging Leader by the American Library Association (ALA). Mosley is one of 77 librarians selected for this six-month leadership development program and will attend the ALA Midwinter Meeting and the Annual Conference. Mosley’s goal is to be a mentor and role model for young African American men and to bring attention to librarianship as a career path.

Book events
            Cornell Landry reads “Le Petit Bonhomme Janvier” at 11 a.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble, 5707 Johnston St.
            I will be presenting a workshop titled “Get Your Mojo Working” in connection with my book “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets” at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Greenwell Springs Library in Baton Rouge.
James Nolan will read from and sign his novel “Higher Ground” at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Arts Council of New Orleans and at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Gold Mine Saloon in New Orleans.
The Historic New Orleans Collection will host authors from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at PhotoNOLA 2011 photography festival at the Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St. in New Orleans. The event is free and open to the public. Featured photographers and their titles are Shannon Brinkman, “Preservation Hall;” Deborah Luster, “Tooth For an Eye;” Ashley Gilbertson, “Whisky Tango Foxtrot;” James A. Reeves, “The Road to Somewhere;” Joséphine Sacabo, “Pedro Páramo;” Jennifer Shaw, “Hurricane Story” and Mary Virginia Swanson, “Publish Your Photography Book.” Sacabo will also present an overview of her work from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Chef John Folse will sign copies of his cookbooks at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Barnes & Noble Perkins Rowe in Baton Rouge.
Carol Stubbs and Nancy Rust sign their cookbook “A Louisiana Christmas: Heritage Recipes and Hometown Celebrations” at 2 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble Lafayette.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at

Friday, December 2, 2011

Rodgers' love of meatballs shared in new cookbook

Who knew meatballs come in so many shapes and styles? “I Love Meatballs” by Rick Rodgers explains the full range of this culinary sphere, from Swedish and Mom’s to Vietnamese, Moroccan and Greek, among many others. Recipes range from Persian meatballs in pomegranate and walnut sauce to lemongrass-chicken meatballs on rice vermicelli. There are meatballs in soups, meatballs between bread, meatballs on the grill and the old standard, meatballs and pasta. There’s also a handy introduction to the styles and cooking techniques involved.
            Here’s a recipe that can be used in holiday dining:

Greek Meatballs with Tzatziki

2 standard cucumbers
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup Greek-style yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
2 cloves garlic, crushed through a press
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Greek Meatballs
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 pounds ground round (85 percent lean) or use half ground round and half ground lamb
1 medium yellow onion, shredded on the large holes of a box grater
4 cloves garlic, crushed through a press
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon3 freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons olive oil
Wooden toothpicks, for serving

Directions: To make the tzatziki, peel the cucumbers. Cut each in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Shred on the large holes of a box grater. Transfer to a wire sieve and toss with the salt. Let drain in the sink for 30 minutes to 1 hour. A handful at a time, squeeze the shredded cucumbers to extract more liquid, then transfer to a medium bowl. Add the yogurt, lemon juice, mint, garlic and pepper and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

To make the meatballs, combine the breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl. Let stand until the breadcrumbs are thoroughly moistened, about 3 minutes. Add the ground meat, onion, garlic, eggs, mint, oregano, salt, pepper and cinnamon. Use your hands to mix the meat mixture well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes and up to 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Using your wet hands rinsed under cold water, shape the meat mixture into 18 equal meatballs, Transfer the meatballs to a plate. Heat the oil in a large skillet (preferably nonstick) over medium heat. In batches, add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while cooking the remaining meatballs.

Spoon the tzatziki into individual ramekins or small serving bowls. Drain the meatballs briefly on paper towels. Serve the meatballs hot, with toothpicks for spearing and the tzatziki as a dip.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at

Thursday, December 1, 2011

'Roadfood' authors compile 'Lexicon' of American food

Jane and Michael Stern are food writers who travel the country. Three-time James Beard Foundation Awards winners, the Sterns are best known for their “Roadfood” books and appearances on the “The Splendid Table” radio show and in Saveur magazine.
            Gathering up their years of travels and food exploration, the Sterns have published the highly informative, “The Lexicon of Real American Food.” Written like an encyclopedia, the book’s ingredients travel from American Chop Suey and Andouille to Wonder Bread and Ya-Ka-Mein.
            I have to admit, I started out reviewing this tome with the idea of skimming its pages, examining the Louisiana entries and touching on subjects of interest. Instead, I couldn’t put it down, fascinated by the history of America’s foods, the unusual stories behind many dishes and pleased to find a handy guide to the different styles of clam chowder, barbecue sauces and the like.
            Louisiana is well represented here, and outside of a tiny error (beignets are not pronounced “bean-yay”), the Sterns are right on, showcasing the Bayou State with cochon de lait, red beans and rice and the New Orleans restauranteurs Anthony and Gail Uglesich, among many others.
There are several recipes scattered throughout, as well, plus fascinating stories on individuals dotting the national culinary landscape, accented by loads of photos. Here is a recipe to warm you on a chilly day, and if you can’t find fresh clams, I’m assuming canned clams might do:

Southern New England Clear Broth Clam Chowder
8 slices thick bacon (about ½ pound)
2 cups chopped onion
2 1/2 cups diced redskin potatoes, skin on
3 cups clam broth
18-20 large, hard-shell clams, shucked and drained and their liquor
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
Directions: Cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces. Fry in a large pot until crisp. Remove the bacon pieces and save them to put in omelets the next morning. Add onion to the rendered bacon fat and sauté until soft. Add pototes, clam brother, and enough water to fully cover the potatoes (at least 1 cup). Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 12 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
Coarsely cut the clams (do not mince or use a food processor). You should have about 3 cups of clam meat. Strain the clam liquor through a double-layer of cheesecloths to remove impurities, or boil it and skim off the foam that rises to the top. Add the clams and clam liquor to the chowder pot. Bring it back to a boil. Simmer 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add pepper to taste. Sprinkle on basil; serve with crackers.
Learn more about the Sterns at

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Willis brings Southern-French fushion to entertaining, Y'all

Virginia Willis continues her blend of Southern dishes with a French flare just in time for the holidays in “Basic to Brilliant Y’all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company.” Many readers will know Willis by her award-winning “Bon Appétit, Y’all,” and her latest is a “body of basic recipes that can stand on their own,” she writes, “but they can be transformed to brilliant by a short recipe, presentation tip, or technique — all accomplished without ‘dumbing down’ the basic to make the brilliant work, and without the overuse of expensive or hard-to-find ingredients.”
Talk about my kind of book.
The opening features “fundamental recipes” such as stocks, sauces, pie crusts and the like. Then readers move to “starters and nibbles,” with lovely ideas that run the gamut, such as Southern ratatouille, shrimp rillettes and pigs in a blanket bites. Other chapters include typical meals — soups and salads, fish and shellfish and beef, pork and lamb, gospel birds and game birds and vegetables. In Southern fashion there’s rice grits and potatoes; eggs and dairy, a section on daily bread with items honoring cornmeal and sweet potatoes and, of course, desserts.
And the book is full of helpful hints, anecdotes and ways to turn the basic recipes into brilliant ones.
Here’s a great example. This sweet potato grits recipe can be enhanced into a soufflelike spoonbread; the book offers both. I’ll include it here as grits and lets you check out the book if you wish to know more. Note: If you live in the Lafayette area, there are folks who sells stone-ground grits at farmer’s markets and festivals.

Sweet Potato Grits
2 cups water
2 cups low-fat or whole milk
1 cup stone-ground grits
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Direction: In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the water and milk and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Slowly add the grits, whisking constantly. Add the sweet potato. Season with salt and white pepper. Decrease the heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until the grits are creamy and thick, 45 to 60 minutes.
            Taste the grits and sweet potato to make sure both are cooked and tender. Add the ground ginger, cinnamon and butter. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and white pepper. Serve immediately.
Book events today
The UL Press Annual Holiday Book Sale will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. today (Nov. 30, 2011) at the UL Alumni Center, 600 E. St. Mary Blvd. on the UL campus, and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Bourque’s Social Club, 1109 St. Mary St. in Scott. There will be new releases, clearance titles, signed copies and complimentary refreshments, tote bag and giftwrapping. Every title will be discounted by at least 20% off of the regular retail price.
James Nolan will read from and sign his novel “Higher Ground” at 7 p.m. today at the Jefferson Parish Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave. in Metairie. He will also sign at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Latter Memorial Library in New Orleans.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Take 5 with Robin Miller

Looking for cookbooks that make life easier?
Robin Miller, host of “Quick Fix Meals” on the Food Netwood has published a cookbook chock full of ideas. “Robin Takes 5: 500 Recipes, 5 ingredients or less, 500 calories or less, 5 nights a week at 5 p.m.” features 500 easy to make recipes that keep your life simple and won’t pile on the calories. Everything you can imagine is contained within this fat cookbook, from flatbread and calzones to a variety of entrees. Side dishes include stuffed artichokes within 20 minutes, a 10-minute chickpea salad with shrimp and scallions and interesting vegetable dishes such as roasted cauliflower with Granny Smiths and Parmesan. Desserts ran the gamut as well, and still stay within the 500 calorie threshold.
Another great book for those who don’t want to spend time in the kitchen is “50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker” by Lynn Alley. There’s a black bean soup with tomato, cumin and coconut milk, a new potato and parsley soup with olive tapenade and Swedish rhubarb raspberry soup, to name a few. It’s a handy little hardback that opens easily, as simple to use as its recipes.
Here’s a recipe from Robin Miller that’s perfect for the holidays when cooks are strapped for time and want to watch their calorie intake:

Nicoise Pizza with Olives, Red Peppers and Gruyère
1 pound fresh or frozen bread or pizza dough, thawed according to package directions
2 cups thinly sliced roasted red peppers
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced into thin rounds
1 cup shredded Gruyère or Swiss cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Direction: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll the dough out into a large circle or rectangle about ¼-inch thick. Transfer the dough to a pizza pan or baking sheet. Top with peppers, olives, cheese, and oregano. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly.

Nutrients per serving: 322 calories, 12g fat, 4g saturated fat, 20mg cholesterol, 39g carbohydrates, 12g protein, 1g fiber and 826mg sodium.

UL Press Holiday Book Sale
The UL Press Annual Holiday Book Sale will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30, at the UL Alumni Center, 600 E. St. Mary Blvd. on the UL campus, and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Bourque’s Social Club, 1109 St. Mary St. in Scott. There will be new releases, clearance titles, signed copies and complimentary refreshments, tote bag and giftwrapping. Every title will be discounted by at least 20% off of the regular retail price.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ruby Tuesday's 'Simply Fresh' cookbook lets readers bring it home

If you’re a lover of Ruby Tuesday, you can bring home those dishes in a new cookbook by Jeff Morgan titled “Simply Fresh: Casual Dining at Home.” The cookbook features recipes from the popular restaurant founded by Sandy Beall, who credits its success with its “full-of-flavor dishes, prepared with the very best ingredients, never fancy for fancy’s sake, always generously served with gracious hospitality.”
            Readers will find cocktail recipes and appetizers and side dishes such as chicken wings three ways, sautéed carrots with cumin seeds and cilantro and corn and edamame succotash. There’s chapters on brunch, salads and soups, pasta, seafood, beef and desserts. The Ruby Tuesdays burgers are here (with tips on how to barbecue) along with some of their fun entrée dishes, from gourmet crab cakes with corn and pineapple chutney to meatloaf and everything in between. There’s even the restaurant’s elegant and popular take on mac and cheese.
             For lagniappe (what we call in Louisiana a little something extra), there’s a $5 coupon in every book to use with a $15 food purchase at any Ruby Tuesday restaurant in the mainland United States.
            Here is an easy recipe from “Simply Fresh” that’s as appealing to the eyes as it is to the taste buds:

Oven-roasted Potato “Fries” with Rosemary
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 pounds large red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a large roasting pan with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Arrange the potato slices in long rows, each slice slightly overlapping the next one, in the prepared pan. Drizzle the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil evenly over the potatoes, then dust the potatoes with the rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Bake the potatoes for about 30 minutes, or until they are golden brown and crisp around the edges but still soft in the middle. Serve hot.

If you love restauranteurs and Food Network celebrities Pat and Gina Neely, you’ll be pleased to know they have a new cookbook out in time for the holidays. “The Neely’s Celebration Cookbook: Down-Home Meals for Every Occasion” includes 120 recipes for entertaining year-round, including Hoppin’ John Soup and Deep-fried Cornish Game Hens for New Year’s Day, Smothered Pork Chops and Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes for “Welcome Home, Baby,” One-handed Turkey Burgers and Mint Tea for “Spring Cleaning.”

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at

Saturday, November 26, 2011

John Besh scores with new cookbook

            Chef John Besh, owner of seven acclaimed New Orleans restaurants, offers simplistic yet flavorful advice in his new cookbook, a tome to entice readers to enjoy fine foods at home. “My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking” is a gorgeous coffee table book filled with recipes, photos of John and his family, plus engaging food dishes. Besh’s reason for publishing a book that may keep people out of his restaurants is for Americans to return to the family table with simple but healthy meals, free from processed foods and hormones.
            “Our food world today is a cacophony of mass-produced this and instant that, of genetically modified vegetables and prepared, processed, point-and-click meals,” Besh writes in the book’s introduction. “I urge you to set aside manufactured convenience and to cook real food instead. You’ll be amazed at what this elemental act does — not only for the people you feed, but for you as well.”
            The “passionate plea” is evident when you open the book, greeted by a Norman Rockwell-esque holiday meal with John at the helm. Perusing these pages of “Sunday Supper” pecan-baked ham or learning how to cook potato chip-crusted drum with sambal mayonnaise accented by photos of South Louisiana living will make anyone want to relive a simpler time of slow food and good company. Interspersed in the recipes and photos are Besh’s reminiscenses of learning life lessons from grandparents, enjoying one-pot meals and teaching his son to cook.
            The bottom line, Besh stresses, is to make cooking for the enjoyment of all and not relegated to the elaborate creations of TV chefs.“If we as humans are to continue to evolve as a civilized society, we most certainly must find the time to slow down, to figure out how to make time to cook and eat with each other,” Besh writes. “This kind of communication is more fulfilling and more satisfying than anything that goes out through the airwaves.” Here’s a fun and easy recipe to try:

Marinated Crab Fingers
1 cup olive oil
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon horseradish
1 teaspoon lemon juice
4 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Few pinches Zatarain’s crab boil or Old Bay seasoning
2 dashes Tabasco
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound crab fingers
Directions: Whisk together all of the ingredients for the marinade and toss with the crab fingers about 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve.

I'll be reviewing cookbooks all this week so check back every day for a new cookbook review and recipe!

Book events this week
The UL Press Annual Holiday Book Sale will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30, at the UL Alumni Center, 600 E. St. Mary Blvd. on the UL campus, and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, at Bourque’s Social Club, 1109 St. Mary St. in Scott. There will be new releases, clearance titles, signed copies and complimentary refreshments, tote bag and giftwrapping. Every title will be discounted by at least 20% off of the regular retail price.
Warren Perrin will sign copies of “Vermilion Parish” from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, at New to You, 117 S. Main St. in Abbeville, as part of the Abbeville Christmas Stroll in Abbeville.
James Nolan will read from and sign his novel “Higher Ground” at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Jefferson Parish Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave. in Metairie. He will also sign at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Latter Memorial Library in New Orleans.
Ken Meaux, illustrator of “Tout Bec Doux,” will share stories from the book in between acts at the “Rendez-Vous Des Cajuns” radio and TV show beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Liberty Theater in Eunice.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at

Sunday, November 20, 2011

'Louisiana Christmas' offers great cooking ideas, makes ideal gift

            There have been so many wonderful cookbooks arriving on bookshelves that it’s difficult to know where to start. I decided to celebrate a few here this week for those wanting ideas for holiday cooking and continue the list next week. The beauty of cookbooks is they don’t just offer the buyer wonderful new ideas for the kitchen, but they make excellent holiday gifts as well.
            Carol Stubbs and Nancy Rust of Lafayette have compiled wonderful recipes from friends, family, notable chefs and owners of Louisiana attractions in “A Louisiana Christmas: Heritage Recipes and Hometown Celebrations.” The book also includes a handy list of holiday events and attractions statewide, plus lovely photos of the Hanley-Gueno Neopolitan Presepio collection of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist Museum in Lafayette.
            The Louisiana-produced book sells for $20 and is available online, plus at Classic Golden Pecan, Pieces of Eight, The Kitchenary, The Cottage Shoppe, Louisiana Hot Stuff, Jewelies, Caroline & Co and the Vermilionville Gift Shop in Lafayette and Rip Van Winkle Gardens, Books Along the Teche, Shadows-on-the-Teche Gift Shop and Conrad Rice Mill in New Iberia. Also available at The Kitchen Shop in Grand Coteau, Crawdaddy's in Shreveport, Follette Pottery Store in Dubach and The Sanctuary and Paper N Things in Baton Rouge.
            The River Oaks School in Monroe has published a delightful fund-raising cookbook titled “Oaks and Rivers,” choke full of recipes and graced with a cover of the Ouachita Riverby renowned Monroe artist Tommie Sue Sartor Hubenthal. Hubenthal’s work has been shown in numerous galleries, including the Masur Museum of Art.
            The cookbook offers the usual categories, from appetizers to desserts, but also sections on international cuisine, “Men Who Cook” (featuring recipes by men) and “This & That” for all those sauces, jellies and spiced nuts. “Oaks and Rivers” will delight cooks year-round, but there are plenty of ideas for Thanksgiving and surrounding holidays, from homemade breads to the endless array of sweet treats.
Both cookbooks are full of delectable recipes for winter holidays, so get one for yourself for Thanksgiving ideas, then more for under the tree.
            One of my favorite aspects of Thanksgiving is oyster dressing. Just in time for the holidays is the latest installation of Jerald and Glenda Horst’s “Louisiana Seafood Bible” series by Pelican Publishing of New Orleans, this time spotlighting oysters. “Louisiana Seafood Bible: Oysters” features not only 75 recipes but the history of the state’s industry, shucking techniques, interviews with fishermen and much more.
            Need some holiday dessert ideas? TV foodies Kimberly “Momma” Reiner and Jenna Sanz-Agero, known as the “Sugar Mommas,” have produced a cookbook titled “Sugar, Sugar: Every Recipe has a Story.” There are fun stories behind a host of recipes, from the Kentucky Derby Bars derived from a college friend to the Southern traditional Hummingbird Cake sent in by Irene Mangum of Baton Rouge. If you like homespun stories with your recipes, this book is it. I can’t wait to try the chocolate cloud cookies from an early 1930s recipe.
            Fans of the Joanne Fluke Hannah Swensen mysteries, which always included dessert recipes, will be pleased to learn there is now the “Joanne Fluke’s Lake Eden Cookbook: Hannah Swensen’s Recipes from the Cookie Jar.”
            And from Andrews McMeel Publishing comes two delightful little cookbooks: “Cutie Pies: 40 Sweet, Savory, and Adorable Recipes” by Dani Cone and “So Sweet! Cookies, Cupcakes and Whoopie Pies, and More” by Sur La Table. Both are filled with easy-to-read recipes, photos and helpful baking advice.
            Next week I’ll review John Besh’s new cookbook, plus “Lost Restaurants of New Orleans,” “The Lexicon of Read American Food” and more.
            Signing locally will be Neal Bertrand, who will share ideas for one-pot meals and sign copies of his “Slow Cooker Meals: Easy Home Cooking for Busy People” at 11 a.m. Friday at Barnes & Noble, 5707 Johnston St.

New releases
Libby Gardner of Lafayette has published “Barefooted” under the pen name of Lizzie Garrett, a book about her struggle with depression and addiction.
“Much like the lives of millions of others I struggled throughout my life with tragedies, molestation, and then addiction and clinical depression,” she wrote me by email. “From attempted suicide to Godly revelations the story shows the power of depression and addiction and the spirituality required to penetrate and overcome the darkness.”
The book is for sale online at and
Mystery author June Shaw of Thibodaux has published a book about her mom, “an amazing yet ordinary woman named Nora Shaw,” she wrote me by email. “Mom inspired everyone, becoming spunky and great fun during her senior years.”
“Nora 102 ½: A Lesson on Aging Well” is available on Shaw’s web site, and (discount code: YCRWQHRE). Shaw will sign copies, along with her mysteries, at 1 p.m. Sunday at LA Cajun Stuff in Houma.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Louisiana releases

            Documentary photographer Lori Waselchuk of Baton Rouge spent two years visiting the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, where more than 85 percent of the 5,100 inmates will never be released before their deaths. In her book, “Grace Before Dying,” Waselchuk documents the many incarcerated members who have become hospice volunteers to dying inmates. Her poignant photos portray caring individuals who have taken the time to administer to terminally ill inmates. The book includes a history of Angola and its hospice program by historian Lawrence N. Powell.
            In time for Thanksgiving but encompassing more than one holiday comes a beautiful children’s book of gratitude. “Giving Thanks” follows a young boy in the woods with his father, who gives thanks to every living creature he passes. The boy learns that nature is a gift and we must give thanks back in return. ”Giving Thanks” is written by Jonathan London, and lovingly illustrated by Gregory Manchess.
            Author Ed Shankman and illustrator Dave O'Neill, who have teamed up for children’s books focused on the northeast, tackle New Orleans and a time when the music stopped and was resurrected in “The Bourbon Street Band is Back.” Proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the New Orleans Musicians Assistance Foundation.
John Travis edits a new anthology titled “Something in the Water: Louisiana Stories,” which includes 20 original short stories about the Bayou State.
            Curt Iles of Dry Creek, La., has published “A Spent Bullet: Louisiana 1941,” about military life in central Louisiana and the largest army maneuvers undertaken on American soil. Visit for more information.
            Rochelle Staab teams up characters Liz Cooper, a pragmatic Los Angeles psychologist, and Nick Garfield, a professor of religious philosophy, in the first book of her new series titled “Who Do, Voodoo?”  Cooper doesn’t believe in the supernatural, but when her best friend finds a tarot card tacked to her front door, and is then accused of murder, Cooper must embrace the occult to find the killer.

Book events
            Warren Perrin will sign copies of “Vermilion Parish” at 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 15, at the Vermilion Teachers’ Association meeting at the Abbeville Library in Abbeville.
            Walter Isaacson of New Orleans will discuss and sign his latest book, “Steve Jobs,” from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans.
            James Nolan, author of “Higher Ground,” will sign copies of his book at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, at the Maple Street Book Shop, 7523 Maple St. in New Orleans.
            The South Regional Library is having an Author Alley, featuring numerous regional authors and their books for signing, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19. 
            The Louisiana Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators will hold its November meeting at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, at the Bluebonnet Library in Baton Rouge. Those interested in writing or illustrating for children are free to attend or may email Terri Dunham at with SCBWI in the subject line for more information.
            R. Reece Fuller will discuss and sign “Angola to Zydeco” from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans.
Playwright Rosary Oneill will speak on “Dialogue” at the South Louisiana chapter of Romance Writers of America (SOLA) at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, at the Jefferson Parish Eastbank Library, 4747 W. Napoloen Ave. in Metairie.
Cheré Coen will be speaking about my book, “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets,” at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, at the St. Charles Parish Library in Destrehan.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fuller's book showcases Louisiana's many colorful people, stories

            One of the many great aspects of the Louisiana Book Festival on the grounds of the state Capitol is listening to authors speak wisdom where politicians once spoke…well, I’ll leave that up to you kind readers. First, you have to be body scanned to enter the Capitol building, then you get to hear literature discussed with massive TVs watching your every move. And authors get to have those fun little committee room mics at their disposal. Makes you want them to say, “If I may, Mister Chairman…”
R. Reese Fuller, author of “Angola to Zydeco: Louisiana Lives,” brought his family to Senate Committee Room F, to watch dad speak about his debut book. They were enjoying the exploration of its political technology, his young son happily using the mic to inform us he was writing a book himself. When Fuller was introduced, his wife, Heather, suggested she reign in the kids but the crowd disagreed, something about innocence gone wild in the halls of power that made us all happy. Plus it added to Fuller’s presentation, who read from his book while his daughter danced about him, a sweet reminder of the stories that continue to surround us.
“Angola to Zydeco” is a collection of 25 articles Fuller published in the Times of Acadiana and The Independent of Lafayette, essays on South Louisiana notables such as Ernest J. Gaines, Buckwheat Zydeco, Marc Savoy and Eddie Shuler.  Although Fuller now teaches English and history at the Episcopal School of Acadiana, his foray into journalism produced fascinating tales, which he recounted at the festival.
            There’s the eclectic story of Greg Kerr of Opelousas, who claimed to be “an anointed cherub” able to heal and the secret of writing from best-selling author James Lee Burke (“There is no secret”). Fuller examined both hurricanes of 2005, visited Angola prison and spent “one day in Jena” during a rally where nearly 30,000 descended on the small town. My personal favorite, and one Fuller read at the festival, was a tribute to Elemore Morgan Jr. who painted Louisiana prairie horizons “where our planet ends and where the limitless universe begins,” Fuller writes. Morgan’s art graces the book’s cover.
            “Angola to Zydeco” showcases what makes our state great — its people and their endless colorful stories. What makes this book even more special is that it’s written by a native, a writer who spends more time letting the subjects speak for themselves than explaining how colorful Louisiana is.
Fuller will be part of a literary reading with Martha Garner and Chamir Murphy, who teach English at Southeast Elementary School in Opelousas, at 7 p.m. Thursday at Casa Azul Gifts in Grand Coteau. Have a story of your own? An open mic follows their reading.
            For more informaiton about “Angola to Zydeco,” visit

Book news
            “Furnishing Louisiana: Creole and Acadian Furniture, 1735–1835,” published by The Historic New Orleans Collection, has been recognized by the Southeastern Museums Conference’s 23rd Annual Publication Design Competition with a Gold Award in the Books and Catalogues category, as well as the Best in Show award. Designed by Tana Coman, “Furnishing Louisiana” features more than 1,200 full-color images, including several by Louisiana photographer Jim Zietz, and presents a comprehensive catalogue of furniture forms produced in the upper and lower Mississippi River valley.
            James Nolan will read from and sign copies of “Higher Ground,” a novel published by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, at Octavia Books in New Orleans.
The Friends of Dupré Library Annual Book Sale will be Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 10-12, at the library, 400 E. St. Mary St. on the UL campus in Lafayette. Times are 8-4:15 Thursday and Friday and 10-3 Saturday. For information, call (337) 482-6677.
            The North Louisiana Storytellers meets from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 12, at Bossier Central Library History Center, 2206 Beckett St. in Shreveport. Louisiana fantasy writer Faith Hunter will speak on “Your First 5 Pages – Make It or Break It.” Participants should bring the first five pages of their work in progress to get the most from this workshop. For information, visit

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

'Tout Bec Doux' compilation a fun examination of Cajun life

Beginning in August, 1969, French teacher Earl Comeaux and graphic artist Ken Meaux of Vermilion Parish began the country's first comic strip in Cajun French. Titled "Bec Doux et ses amis," the strip featured Bec Doux, his sidekick Zirable and a few others, including wives, children and friends. It was published with an English translation in The Kaplan Herald, then later in other southwestern Louisiana newspapers, and offered a good laugh at Cajun culture, daily Cajun life and sometimes the difficulties pronouncing both English and French (as in Continental French) well.

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press has compiled all of the Bec Doux comics and published it in a large format book that's a delight to enjoy. "Tout Bec Doux: The Complete Cajun Comics of Ken Meaux & Earl Comeaux" features an introduction by Fabrice Leroy and Barry Ancelet and includes two of Meaux's early strips — Louisiana Folklore and The Cajuns — plus a comic strip publishers refused to print.

This Saturday, Nov. 5, at 2 p.m., Meaux, Leroy and Ancelet will sign copies of "Tout Bec Doux" at Barnes & Noble, 5707 Johnston St. in Lafayette.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Festival of Words this week in St. Landry Parish

The fourth annual Festival of Words, celebrating the written and spoken word, will take place Thursday through Saturday in Grand Coteau, Sunset, Arnaudville and surrounding communities. The event features public readings and performances, student creative writing contests, open mics, writing workshops in the schools and community and “drive-by poetry” readings. Authors scheduled to participate include fiction writer Barb Johnson, poets Darrell Bourque, Toi Derricotte and Tim Seibles and spoken word artists Desiree Dallagiacomo and Latasha Weatherspoon. 
On Saturday, there will be “drive-by poetry” readings at cafes and gift shops in Grand Coteau, performances on the outdoor Community Stage and booksignings by local authors at the festival’s inaugural Book Fair. An afternoon art reception will celebrate “Words and Images,” mixed media compositions by high school students. For the full schedule, visit
Authors signing books at Casa Azul and Catahoula’s restaurant are as follows:
11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. - Children’s book authors Rosemary Smith, Mel LeCompte, Terry Bethea, Jackie Hirstberg, Theresa Singleton and Roslyn Fouin, and Warren Perrin, author of “Vermilion Parish.”
            12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. - Nancy Duplechain, Jim Booksh, Cat and Don Stafford.
            2 p.m. to 3 p.m. - Cookbook Authors John LaFleur and Carolyn Shelton.
3 p.m. to 4 p.m. – Poets Valentine Pierce and Jim McDowell.
            For more information and a full schedule, visit

Book news
            UL Press will participate in the New Orleans Book Fair from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday along Frenchmen Street in New Orleans. Authors signing books will be James Nolan, author of “Higher Ground” and Freddi William Evans, author of “Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans.” Nolan will also be signing at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Garden District Book Shop, 2727 Prytania St. in New Orleans.
Dr. Darrell Bourque, the former Louisiana Poet Laureate, will offer the Marie Fletcher Lecture at 6 p.m. Thursday at Nicholls State University. The event is free and open to the public. Past Fletcher speakers have included Robert Penn Warren and his wife, Eleanor Clark, Cleanth Brooks, Lewis P. Simpson, Sybil Kein, Ernest J. Gaines, X. J. Kennedy, Lee Smith, Fred Chappell, Tim Gautreaux, Maxine Hong Kingston, Ellen Gilchrist, Randall Kenan, Chefs Paul Prudhomme and Chef John Folse.
            Last chance to get tickets to see New York Times bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries speak at the Heart of Louisiana’s Annual Romance Readers Luncheon Saturday in Baton Rouge. The event will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Juban’s Restaurant, 3739 Perkin Road, and will also feature book signings. Tickets to “Fall in Love With Romance” are $40 and available through
Christopher E. Cenac Sr., author of “Eyes of an Eagle: Jean-Pierre Cenac, Patriarch: An Illustrated History of Early Houma-Terrebonne” will give a presentation from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at The Historic New Orleans Collection, 533 Royal St., in the French Quarter. Admission is free, but seating is limited; call (504) 523-4662 or email

Halloween reads
            New Orleans children’s author Dianne de Las Casas has penned a witchy tale titled “The House That Witchy Built,” based on the Mother Goose rhyme “The House That Jack Built,” this time with a spooky theme and complemented with cut-paper and collage illustrations by Zachary artist Holly Stone-Barker.
            New York Times bestselling author Kim Harrison has released “The Hollows Insider,” an encyclopedia of sorts to her sexy supernatural “Hollows” novels. The book is perfect for newcomers to the series, as well as those needing to refresh their memory.
            Pelican Publishing of New Orleans has two books out in time for Halloween.
Halloween expert Lesley Pratt Bannatyne examines America’s love affair with All Hallows Eve and documents its various elements from haunted houses to zombie infatuation in “Halloween Nation: Behind the Scenes of America’s Fright Night.” Barbara Sillery takes on our neighbor and its hosts of ghosts in “The Haunting of Mississippi.”
For those of you hoping to catch a glimpse into the other life when on vacation, Tom Ogden “retells” ethereal tales in “Haunted Hotels: Eerie Inns, Ghoulish Guests and Creepy Caretakers.” Of course, Louisiana has more than its share.
Gordon Bonnet, who has penned the Louisiana hurricane tale “Convection,” has two ebooks available for Halloween: “The Conduit” and “Signal to Noise.” Both are available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.
When I was published in romance, I had to invent a pen name because there is an accent over the last letter of my first name. My pen name became Cherie Claire to avoid those pesky keystrokes publishers don’t like. How happy I was to see that Chérie De Sues has published a book in time for Halloween and her accent remains! Chalk one up for the French (although she actually spells hers correctly). DeSues’ witchy novel is titled “West Salem,” the first book in the Ravenclaw Trilogy, and naturally takes place in Massachusetts and involves witches. Read more at