Tuesday, June 28, 2016

LaRue offers 'Whole Enchilada' and much more

Food writer and recipe developer Angelina LaRue tackles southwestern cuisine in a variety of delicious ways in “The Whole Enchilada: Fresh and Nutritious Southwestern Cuisine,” published by Pelican Publishing of New Orleans. It’s a consummate book with lovely photography by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn, full of recipes from snacks and appetizers to spicy breakfasts and Southwestern drinks. There’s also helpful lingo for the Spanish impaired and staples to have in the pantry.
In honor of National Ceviche Day, we offer LaRue's shrimp ceviche shooters that will impress your guests with their colorful presentation in a shot glass — and they’re so easy to make. 

Shrimp Ceviche Shooters
From “The Whole Enchilada”
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1-2 fresh limes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
Directions: Rinse the shrimp in cold water and pat dry. Cut them into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces and place in a shallow bowl. Squeeze enough lime juice over the shrimp to completely cover, and let them rest for at least 20 minutes. The “cooking” process (the acid in the lime juice reacts with the protein of the shrimp) is complete once the shrimp turns pink and opaque. I prefer to let the lime juice “cook” the shrimp for 35 or 40 minutes, but after 20 minutes, test every 5 to 10 minutes to make sure the texture does not become tough.
            Once the shrimp is ready, stir together with the salt, diced bell peppers, and fresh cilantro. Spoon the ceviche into shot glasses (or tasting spoons). Top with an additional squeeze of lime juice and more cilantro leaves, as desired.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Louisiana's Farrah Rochon returns to Maplesville in latest romance, 'Any Time You Need Me'

            Farrah Rochon’s latest “Moment in Maplesville” novel, “Any Time you Need Me,” has just been released. Rochon is a USA Today bestselling author with several series under her belt. “I'll Catch You,” the second book in her New York Sabers series for Harlequin Kimani, was a 2012 RITA Award finalist from Romance Writers of America. “Yours Forever,” the third book in the “Bayou Dreams” series, was a 2015 RITA finalist. Farrah has been nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, and in 2015 received the Emma Award for Author of the Year.
We caught up with the Louisiana native and posed some questions.
Q: Tell us about Maplesville and the people who live there.
A: Maplesville is a fictional town set around the Bogalusa area. It’s your typical bayou town with a small, tight-knit community that loves to cheer for their Maplesville Mustangs football team on Friday nights. Like most small towns, they also come together to help fellow residents when in need. And, because I write romance novels, it’s often filled with fun, sexy shenanigans. 
            Q: Is Maplesville based upon your hometown in St. Charles Parish?
A: Actually, it’s the neighboring fictional town of Gauthier that most closely mirrors my small hometown. Gauthier is featured in my “Bayou Dreams” series for Harlequin’s Kimani Romance imprint, and is in somewhat of a competition with Maplesville throughout most of the series. Maplesville experiences a growth spurt when a new outlet mall comes to town, threatening the mom and pop shops in the smaller Gauthier. It reminds me of what happened when the town of Boutte got its own Walmart. The locally owned family businesses in my small hometown suffered because of it. 
Q: Do you incorporate Louisiana into many of your books? 
A: My two small-town romance series, “Bayou Dreams” and “Moments In Maplesville” are both set in Louisiana, so it’s imperative that I incorporate the sights, sounds and flavors of the state in those stories. And I love it. Readers will always find at least one or two scenes that revolve around tasty Louisiana cooking. I also love to take my characters out of the small town and drop them in the heart of New Orleans. It’s such a romantic city, with ample settings for scenes that are uniquely Louisiana. It’s a fabulous way to showcase this wonderful state to readers around the country and the world. 
Q: How did you get started in writing? 
A: As cliché as it sounds, I’ve been writing all my life. I have floppy disks —the old five-inch ones that actually flop — with books I wrote back in the fifth grade. However, I didn’t get serious about writing until college, when a professor at Xavier University read an essay I wrote about my fear of public speaking. I can still remember her penciled-in remarks about how my vivid words sent chills down her spine. It wasn’t until after I finished graduate school that I recognized that romance was the genre that most called to me. I started writing with the hopes of making it my career two weeks after earning my degree. 
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do when not writing?
A: Reading is, of course, at the top of my list. I don’t know a writer who doesn’t love to read. I also love to travel, both domestically and internationally. This past April I visited Thailand for the first time and completely fell in love with it. When I’m not traveling to another country you can usually find me at Disney World. My family and I travel there multiple times each year. I’m also a huge theater nerd. I travel to New York at least twice a year to see shows. Like the rest of the country, I’m currently obsessed with “Hamilton: An American Musical.”

New finds
            Michelle Hirstius wrote me recently to let me know about her series of children’s book titled “Juju the GOOD Voodoo.” Juju is a voodoo doll that comes alive with a “good deed” spell so she can spread goodness and show children how to do good deeds. The books are available at 35 boutiques and Voodoo BBQ & Grill restaurants from Florida to Louisiana. Hirstius is a New Orleans native with a background in sales, marketing, acting and management. She both writes and illustrates the books.
            Private Eye Jackson Holt makes a living investigating underground supernatural creatures of New Orleans in Moira Rogers’ “Crux,” the first book in the “Southern Arcana” series.
Claudette Carrida Jeffrey has recently published “The Color of Life,” which is the second book in the four-book “Claire Soublet Series.” The book follows Soublet's great-aunt Sera as a dressmaker in the French Quarter of the early 1900s, a woman of color hiding behind blue eyes and blond hair.
Playing around on Ancestry.com, I realized I’m related to the famous Dureaus of New Orleans, the painter George Dureau and opera singer, teacher and author Lorraine Dureau who wrote under the name Lorena Dureau. The latter wrote the historical novels “The Last Casquette Girl,” “Iron Lace” and “Beloved Outcast.”

Southern bookstores
            It’s a beauty parlor, bookstore and host of one of the most popular — and fun — writer events in the country. Beauty & the Book in Jefferson, Texas, offers local and regional books in addition to beauty books, children’s books and other titles. Its owner, Kathy Patrick, is author of “The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing Guide to Life" and she hosts the Pulpwood Queen Book Club Convention, otherwise known as Girlfriend Weekend, every Martin Luther King weekend. The theme for 2017’s event (Jan. 14-17) in Nacogdoches, Texas, is “Once Upon a Time.” For more information on the store and the event, or to become a Pulpwood Queen member, visit http://beautyandthebook.com/.

Jim Pharis
Book events
The Bayou Writers Group meets at 10 a.m. the first Saturday of each month at the Carnegie Memorial Library in Lake Charles. For information, visit http://bayouwritersgroup.com/.
The Festival of Words Cultural Arts Collective hosts an evening of music by Jim Pharis and an open mic of music and other creative works beginning at 7 p.m.  Wednesday, June 29, at Chicory’s Coffee & Café in Grand Coteau. Participants may bring their own songs, poems or stories for the open mic. This free, community event is suitable for all ages. For more information, call (337) 280-5517 or email festivalwords@gmail.com.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country.” She writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Cookbook Thursday: Evelyn Roughton's 'Crown' jewel of Southern cookbooks

Tourists visit the Mississippi Delta by the literal busload, and one of those important stops is Indianola, Miss., birthplace to B.B. King and now home to the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interperative Center. If you’re visiting Indianola, take time for lunch at The Crown, a family owned restaurant that’s been serving folks since 1976. The catfish and other Southern favorites have been attracting national attention as well, including Bobby Flay and his “Food Nation,” Turner South’s “Blue Ribbon” show, and publications such as Southern Living and Saveur, to name only a few.
The restaurant located in town (it used to be further out in the country in the midst of cotton fields) also sells original Delta artwork, gifts, books about the Delta and the restaurant’s Taste of Gourmet products.
Evelyn Roughton, chief cook and part owner of The Crown, has published a cookbook full of 170 easy-to-male Southern recipes titled “The Crown of Southern Cooking: Recipes from the Birthplace of the Blues” (Quail Ridge Press). There’s Vidalia onion dip, cheese straws, corn fritters and wonderful ways to cook chicken and Mississippi catfish. Of course, because this is the South, there are wonderful desserts, such as The Crown bread pudding, plantation pie and Southern praline pie with caramel pecan sauce.
            Here’s a few items from their menu:
Catfish Allison - Poached fillet of U.S. Farm-raised catfish fillet gratineed with a Parmesan cheese, butter and green onion sauce.
Chicken Allison - The same delicious butter smothering a chicken breast, served browned and over rice.
Creole Catfish Cakes - U.S. Farm-raised catfish flakes mixed with green pepper, onion and bread crumbs, patted into cakes and sautéed (think crab cakes) then topped with Suddenly Peach Salsa.
The Crown’s Royal Sandwich - Thinly sliced roast beef with melted Swiss cheese on New Orleans French Bread with Taste of Gourmet’s Jezebel Sauce and a choice of potato salad, potato chips, vegetable salad, Mama’s cole slaw or side salad.
            I could go on and on but the writing of these delectable creations may force me to jump in my car and head to Mississippi!
You can meet Roughton, learn more about her cooking and watch a demonstration from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 25, at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum in New Orleans. You can also read her advice and sample more recipes than the ones below at her blog

Mama's Buttermilk Cornbread1 1/2 cup white self-rising cornmeal
1/2 cup self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk (or add 1 teaspoon white vinegar to plain milk and let it sit a bit)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a bowl, combine meal, flour, baking powder, egg and buttermilk.  Heat oil in 9-inch skillet, roll round skillet to coat bottom and sides.  Pour mixture into hot skillet and place in hot oven.  Bake about 20 minutes until lightly browned.  Invert onto a plate, cut and enjoy every bite!

Deviled Cheese Ball
2 (8-ounce) cream cheese, softened
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 (4.5 ounce) can Deviled Ham
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
2 teaspoons grated onion
1 teaspoon Sassy Seasoning or season salt
2 tablespoons chopped pimento
2 tablespoons parsley flakes
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 to 1 cup toasted pecans to garnish
            Directions: Mix it all together and chill for several hours. Form into a ball or a football during this time of the year!  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Will keep refrigerated for 5-6 days.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Ouachita Library book sale Friday and Saturday

The Friends of Ouachita Public Library Book Sale will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the West Ouachita Branch Library, 188 Highway 546 in West Monroe (1/2 mile north of Cheniere-Drew exit off I-20). There will be hardback and paperback books, videos, CDs, audio books and children’s book for only 10 cents each.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Harding talk at World War II Museum, plus new releases, Louisiana book events, Cottonwood Books

Author Stephen Harding presents “The Castaway’s War: One Man's Battle against Imperial Japan” Tuesday at the World War II Museum in New Orleans. There will be a reception at 5 p.m., a presentation at 6 p.m. and a book signing at 7 p.m., all in the museum’s U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center.
In the early hours of July 5, 1943, the destroyer USS Strong was hit by a Japanese torpedo killing dozens of sailors. While accompanying ships were able to rescue most of Strong’s surviving crewmen, scores were submerged in the ocean as the shattered warship sank beneath the waves. Based on official American and Japanese histories, personal memoirs and the author’s interviews, “The Castaway’ War” tells the personal tale of Navy Lt. Hugh Barr Miller’s fight for survival.
Harding is the author of eight previous books, including The New York Times bestseller “The Last Battle” and “Last to Die.” He is a longtime journalist specializing in military affairs. For nearly two decades, he was on the staff of Soldiers, the official magazine of the US Army, reporting from Northern Ireland, Israel, Egypt, New Zealand, Bosnia, Kuwait and Iraq. Currently he is editor-in-chief of Military History magazine.
The author program is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. RSVP online or by calling (504) 528-1944, Ext. 412.

New releases
Raif Shwayri tells the story of Lebanese immigrant Alfred Nicola, the fortune he began building as a peddler in Louisiana and the family that founded Al-Kafaat University, a Middle East institution serving the underprivileged and disabled in “Beirut on the Bayou: Alfred Nicola, Louisiana, and the Making of Modern Lebanon.” The author’s grandfather Habib Shwayri arrived at Ellis Island in 1902 and changed his name to Nicola, moving to New Orleans where he had relatives. There he began peddling down Bayou Lafourche, earning the nickname “Sweet Papa” for his kindness and generosity. When he returned home to Lebanon in 1920, he invested the money in real estate and died a wealthy man in 1956. After his death, his youngest son, Nadim (the author’s father), turned his part of the inheritance into an endowment that started Al-Kafaàt.
            Donald C. Jackson takes readers into the sacred spaces where hunters and fishers connect with the earth in “Deeper Currents,” published by the University Press of Mississippi. Jackson explores hunting and fishing as frameworks — sacraments — for discovering, engaging and finding meaning.

Book Sale
            The Friends of Ouachita Public Library Book Sale will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the West Ouachita Branch Library, 188 Highway 546 in West Monroe (1/2 mile north of Cheniere-Drew exit off I-20). There will be hardback and paperback books, videos, CDs, audio books and children’s book for only 10 cents each.

Book news
O’Neil de Noux’s novel “The Long Cold” has been nominated for the Shamus Award for Best Original Private Eye Paperback. Shamus Awards are given annually by the Private Eye Writers of America to recognize excellence in private eye fiction. The awards will be presented at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in New Orleans in September.

Southern bookstores
Next up on our tour of great Southern bookstores is Cottonwood Books of Baton Rouge, nestled near the Interstate 10 overpass on Perkins Road, close to the LSU campus. Owner Danny Plaisance sells both new and used titles in this quaint shop, many of the books antiques, collector items, first editions and specific to Louisiana history. Have something specific in mind? Plaisance is there to help. He’s a former board member for the Foundation for Historical Louisiana and past president of the Baton Rouge Civil War Round Table. For more information, visit www.cottonwoodbooksbatonrouge.com.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country.” She writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.