PJ's Coffee and Tea Company: Simply the Best Coffee

PJ's Coffee and Tea Company is more than a place or a coffee shop to me. It is a place that was young when I was young, and as I have grown up, so has PJ's. I started frequenting PJ's on Maple Street in New Orleans as a young high school student. In those days (mid 90s), PJ's workers weren't so much baristas as they were tattooed, dread-locked and interesting. Everyone had their own crazy style rocking lip rings and baggy clothes, which was quite mesmerizing to a bunch of Catholic schoolgirls whose only form of style expression was the length of our skirt. My sister was a junior and drove my friend and I to school everyday, so we tagged along with her to meet her friends at PJ's before school. We lived across the river making our morning commute a bit lengthy, 20 minutes on a good day and up to an hour on a bad traffic day. We would leave the house early to maximize our time spent laughing with friends and sipping on our sugary coffee drinks. The patio at PJ's on Maple Street was a mecca for young Catholic New Orleans high school students uniform-clad learning and experimenting with the natural highs of coffee and socializing.

Since those carefree days, PJ's has taken on a whole new meaning for me. My parents took ownership of three PJ's franchises in 2003 and 2004. It became a family business with my cousin managing the stores and my sister working as a barista. My parents made their franchises truly beautiful and modern places to enjoy the pleasures of coffee. My dad would have liked to still own these great franchises but in 2005 Hurricane Katrina changed everything. Not only did the stores take a serious hit, especially their PJ's on Orleans Avenue nearest to the highest of flood waters, but also my dad became very ill following the storm. My parents took these events as a sign and didn't know if they would ever be able to sell their home if they didn't act fast. So, they moved away from their beloved New Orleans and from the constant stress of wondering when the next Katrina will come. They ran the shops for a while from afar visiting often, but eventually sold the shops.

When I visit my hometown, so ma
ny things are different without my parents living there and without the home I grew up in, but some things remain constant. One thing that I can always count on when visiting New Orleans is PJ's coffee. So many memories rush back when I walk through those doors and order my favorite PJ's coffee drink. Besides being this great place to spend time, did I mention the coffee is outstanding, by far my favorite coffee. That's right-leaps and bounds better than Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts. I guess if you haven't had the pleasure to experience really good coffee, then these chains seem like the real deal. After living in Philadelphia for almost 8 years, I have yet to find a coffeehouse that understands how to properly brew cold coffee for iced and frozen coffee beverages.

Coffee shops out there...listen and learn.
There is an actual method to making cold coffee other than refrigerating hot coffee or using tons of ice that only melts when the hot coffee hits it. The method is called "cold drip", which is the steeping of coffee grounds in cold water for at least 24 hours. The cold steeped coffee is filtered out making a perfectly bodied espresso-like blend, which is ideal for cold coffee beverages. This is why when I arrive in New Orleans, all I want is an iced coffee or a "Granita" from PJ's. The "Granita" exemplifies what a frozen coffee beverage should be-smooth and flavorful, crystalline frozen coffee. This coffee treat highlights the coffee not weighed down with tons of milk, sugar, flavor syrups, whipped cream or toppings. While it is lightly sweetened, the "Granita" brings you a deliciously rich flavor that gives you the strongest jolt of any coffee I have ever had.

PJ's has it all from traditio
nal hot beverages and the fancy sweet specialty coffees to the best iced coffees and frozen coffees anywhere. Unlike most coffee houses, PJ's roasts flavor into their coffees instead of using sugary flavor syrups after the fact. Flavors like hazelnut, Southern pecan, French vanilla, and English toffee are just some of the many flavored roasted coffees available. Another PJ's specialty is their Iced Mocha. This simple beverage is better here than anywhere else simply due to the quality of the cold-drip iced coffee before adding the chocolate syrup and milk.

PJ's stands for Phyllis Jordan, the founder of PJ's Coffee and Tea Company dedicated to making the best coffee by roasting coffee blends in small batches.
PJ's roasting facility is right near the Mississippi River moments from the French Quarter. All coffees are made with a drum roaster, which uses an indirect heating method allowing for each bean to be roasted uniformly. With New Orleans being a port for the entire country, it is only natural that the best coffees land into this city first. A third of all coffee brought into North America enters through the docks of New Orleans before it gets to you. PJ's has greatly grown since its days of only a few shops in New Orleans. Now, you can find as many as 48 locations in the state of Louisiana plus multiple locations in Mississippi as well as a store in Eustis, Florida and Highland Park, New Jersey. If any Philadelphians are interested in opening a franchise, please check out PJ's' website for these opportunities. And if you open, I promise I will be your number one customer and recruit a huge following to partake in "simply the best coffee"!

PJ's Coffee and Tea Company



Where to Eat in Vancouver 2010

After reading Vancouver Magazine's "Best Things to Eat and Drink in Vancouver 2009", I decided to pick my favorites among this extensive and interesting list of food and drink encompassing a multitude of cuisines. Besides the strong Asian influence in Vancouver cuisine, it seems that Vancouverites appreciate creative comfort food as well. Check out http://www.vanmag.com to see the full list for yourself but here are the ones that I would be thrilled to try when visiting Vancouver.

The first dish that truly caught my eye is called "Paan".
Paan is unlike anything that I have seen in cuisine. Based on East and Southeast Asian tradition, Paan is served before a meal as a symbol of hospitality which cleanses the palate and freshens breath. There are different variations of this offering ranging from Tobacco Paan, a betel leaf (a minty leaf) filled with powdered tobacco and spices to Areca nut Paan, a betel leaf filled with a mix of chopped areca nuts and spices. The tastiest sounding of the bunch has to be the Sweet Paan usually filled with coconut, fruit preserves and spices. The East African style restaurant, Jambo Grill and Goodmorning Paan, serves this intriguing appetizer among many others.

Poutine, the Canadian specialty consisting of French fries, cheese curds and gravy is number one on my list of Canadian things to eat. Some say it is more difficult to find quality poutine in Vancouver than the eastern Canadian cities like Quebec where poutine originates. However, Vancouver Magazine says the place to go for poutine in Vancouver is Belgian Fries. Belgian Fries offers a menu item called "Deluxe Poutine" which is traditional poutine with a rich meat gravy and roasted veggies. Any place that just specializes in fries is a place worth checking out.

Dosa, a traditional South Indian dish, is a crepe made from rice and black lentils. Variations of dosa are endless including fillings of potato, cheese, vegetables, Chinese noodles, chutneys, or spices. Many of these variations include cooking or topping the dosa with ghee, which is a form of butter originating in Southern Asia. At Saravanaa Bhavan in Vancouver, you can find Giant Dosa. The large dosa are 2 feet in length and are filled with potatoes, onions and spices covered in ghee. Chutneys of tomato, mint and coconut are served with this creation. Dosa sounds like the perfect combination of a sweet French crepe and the flavors of savory and spicy Indian cuisine.

Simple but one of my favorite things to eat,
Pork Gyoza is one dish of many that encompasses the Asian influence in Vancouver. A gyoza is another word for a Chinese dumpling, which I had the pleasure of sampling many times when I visited Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics. "Handmade Pork Gyoza" filled with pork and shiitake mushrooms are just one of many snacks that you will find at The Diamond in Vancouver.

"Crispy Ceci "(chickpeas) at the casual Italian restaurant, Campagnolo, is a dish that I would to sample or even try to prepare at home. Chickpeas alone are one of my favorite snacks, so this special spin on ceci sounds out of this world. After deep-frying the ceci, they are tossed with arugula, mint, lemon, chili flakes, and perperoncini. This dish gives me ideas of the many ways that chickpeas or ceci could be delicious.

As a lover of all noodles, the "
Delux Tan Tan Noodles" would be right up my alley from Szechuan Chongqing. Another sign of the Asian influence, this Szechuan restaurant makes this dish super spicy with ground pork and pickled vegetables tossed in a chili and peanut sauce.

Another dish that I would have to sample would be the
"Vietnamese Submarine Sandwich" from Au Petit Cafe, a cafe specializing in Vietnamese and French fusion. "Prawn Crab Rolls" from Pattaya Thai Restaurant sound amazing with their crispy rolls filled with prawns, crab meat and cream cheese. From Dundarave Fish Market, Vancouver Magazine recommends the "Riptide Squid". Cuttlefish is used instead of squid tossed in Thai and Korean flavors of spicy chili, rich oil and sweet sugar, and then deep fried of course. Finally, my last of the top picks from Vancouver Magazine's best things to eat in Vancouver has got to be the "Dungeness Crab Hot Pot" from the fantastic Chinese restaurant Sea Harbour. Long crab claws are soaked in a mixture of kabocha squash, black beans and garlic.

Any of these dishes sound like the perfect finale to any fun, busy day in Vancouver. I can just imagine indulging in the "Dungeness Crab Hot Pot" after a long day on the slopes in Whistler or at the lodge watching others injure themselves on the slopes. Either way, the cuisine in Vancouver seems just as innovative and intriguing as the city itself. To those of you who are enjoying the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, then check out Vancouver Magazine's,
"Best Things to Eat and Drink in Vancouver 2009" before making your dinner reservation. Or if you are envious of those in Vancouver and cannot be there like myself, check it out anyway to see the amazing culinary surprises that Vancouver offers.

-The Editors of Vancouver Magazine. "Best Things to Eat and Drink in Vancouver 2009" Vancouver Magazine. February 20, 2010.


The 3rd Annual Chili Bowl

Last weekend, I attended my mother-in-law's 3rd Annual Chili Bowl Competition. I recall years ago when she just came up with the idea, an idea to bring people and family together for an event other than football. Usually the week after the Superbowl, she has hosted an afternoon devoted to chili. The first year of the chili bowl, I proudly took home a blue ribbon for the number one chili voted upon by a panel of judges. The following year, my chili verde didn't quite make the cut with so many good traditional chili recipes ahead of mine. For the 3rd Chili Bowl, I moved up in the ranks as a judge for this event along with a much more qualified food editor, a cook, and a fellow foodie like myself.

As the guests arrived, my mother-in-law set up the competitors in the kitchen with crockpots. Each entry is numbered as to remain anonymous to the panel of judges. My co-judges and I took this time to enjoy some Mexican brews and work up our appetites to taste 10 different kinds of chili. When it was time to begin the judging, I couldn't believe how many different interpretations of chili these competitors managed to invent. Some were hits others clearly misses, but a sense of effort and creativity remained consistent. Sometimes with chili, less is more. This year our winner certainly took the traditional route with their meaty chili. Ground beef, beef tips, seasoning and jalapenos harmoniously came together in delivering a depth of flavor and simplicity. Instead of chopping up the hot peppers into the chili, this competitor placed the whole peppers into the chili allowing for the flavors to be extracted without an overbearing heat. This chili was all about the meat and the flavor.

The second place chili was our most unique entry of the bowl being a white chicken chili. Although not traditional, this chili stood out with its creamy white texture, tender shredded chicken, white beans and corn. The flavors of chili emerged even though the look was quite different. If I didn't know that it was supposed to be a chili, then I would likely consider it more of a creamy chicken soup. The third place chili was in the traditional style, heavy on savory seasonings. Ground beef, black beans, tomato, beer, and spices brought this home-style chili into the top three.

Some of the chili was just too sweet. I don't mind a little brown sugar sweetness to balance out the spiciness of chili but the sweetness cannot stand alone. Being an adventurous chili maker is commendable but can go wrong if not handled with the utmost care. When being so bold as to submit a seafood chili, your seafood better be on point with no sign of shells or anything to turn off your taster. This play on chili is not recommended unless you are skilled in working with fish and seafood. Using different kinds of meat in your chili can also be tricky unless you have the ability to tie in the right kind of seasonings to enhance the flavor of the meat while keeping the integrity of the chili.

Judging the Chili Bowl has inspired me to try some different methods of making chili. I think I might try the white chicken chili in the near future. Congratulations to the winners of the 3rd Annual Chili Bowl-you know who you are! I plan to post their winning chili recipes in the near future but in the meantime here is my winning recipe from the first ever Chili Bowl and another favorite chili recipe of mine.

Lizzy M.'s 2008 Grand Prize Winning Chili

1/2 lb bacon, diced (Feel free to diced the bacon before it is cooked or after-whichever is easiest.)
1/2 lb mild Italian sausage
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground beef (chuck or sirloin)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-16 oz. cans crushed tomato
1 can tomato paste
1 bottle dark beer (Guinness or other dark beer)
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1-2 tbsp Adobo sauce (Start with one tbsp and add the other if you like more of a kick.)
2 chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce diced
2 yellow onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, grated or minced

Spice Mixture

1/4 cup dark brown sugar
3 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp Ancho chili powder
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp cinnamon

*Combine these dry seasonings together to make your spice mixture. Divide into 3 portions. This will make it easy to add the spice "dumps" when it is time.


1. Saute the bacon in a large skillet on medium heat until the fat cooks out. Remove bacon onto paper towels and set aside. Keep a portion of bacon grease in the pan.

2. Remove Italian sausage from the skin and crumble into the skillet. Brown the sausage in the bacon grease and break up with a wooden spoon. This does not have to be fully cooked, since it will continue to cook in the chili pot.

3. In a large chili pot, brown the ground pork and ground beef on medium heat. Salt and pepper the meat while sauteing. Add 1/3 or the first "dump" of seasoning at this time. Saute until the spices are combined with the meat. At this time add the crushed tomatoes, beer, Adobo sauce and the chipotle peppers. Keep on medium heat covered.

4. Add cooked bacon and sausage to chili pot. In skillet saute onions in bacon and sausage drippings on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Then add tomato paste to the skillet and saute until the paste is combined well with the onions. With a grater, grate in the garlic cloves. Stir well and saute for another 3 minutes. Finally add the vinegar. With a wooden spoon scrape up the bits and drippings on the pan and then cook for another 3 minutes.

5. Add the onion mixture into the chili pot. Add another 1/3 or the second "dump" of the spice mixture. Cook the chili on low heat covered for 2-3 hours stirring occasionally.

6. Remove from the heat after cooking for about 3 hours. Let the chili come to room temperature. Store chili in the fridge overnight or at least 14 hours.

7. Set the chili out to bring back to room temperature before putting over heat. Once it is at room temperature or close to it, then place on low to medium heat. At this time add the final 1/3 or third "dump" of the spice mixture and cook for at least 2 hours before serving.

* This chili recipe is made to feed an army or a large family, so keep this in mind before you prepare. You may want to cut back on the amount for less people.

Lizzy M.s' Turkey Chili

1 lb ground turkey
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 1/2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp Tabasco
Freshly ground black pepper
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp liquid smoke


1. In a large chili pot, brown the ground turkey and break up with a wooden spoon. Add the seasonings (chili powder, cumin, oregano, Tabasco, black pepper, and beef bouillon cubes) soon after you start sauteing the turkey. Mix well and continue to saute until the turkey is almost cooked.

2. Next add in all remaining ingredients of onions, garlic, crushed tomatoes, vinegar, and liquid smoke. Stir well. Cook the chili covered on medium to low heat for one hour. Stir occasionally.

*This chili recipe is made for 2-4 people.

Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips. With winter lingering on, there is no better time than now to get your chili on. Try one of these recipes or get creative with a new chili concept all your own. Recipes from the 3rd Annual Chili Bowl to come.


Valentine's Day: A Sweet Treat

Do you want to make something special for your loved ones for Valentine's Day but don't want to spend a bundle on those lovely bakery creations?

I have the perfect treat that you can create right in your home kitchen. Gourmet, perfectly love-filled, and red in color are the characteristics that make this recipe unmista
kably Valentine's-appropriate. A dear family friend and the best home cook that I know, Rhonda Dumas of Vacherie, Louisiana, invented this fabulous, sinfully delicious creation. Rhonda has shared her love of cooking and expertise with my family for as long as I can remember with her Cajun-Creole seafood dishes (my favorite being shrimp toast) and her desserts. I can't imagine that Rhonda has ever used store-bought cake mix in her life. She always makes her own creations all from scratch. Rhonda has the skills of a great chef; and I am so honored that she shared this particular recipe with me.

Rhonda's sweet treats of Red Velvet Cheesecake Muffins are a perfect offering to prepare for your significant other, family or friends. No matter who your Valentine is, they will know how much you love them if you take the time to make these. The vibrant red color, the creamy center and the delectable flavor make Red Velvet Cheesecake Muffins love on a plate!

Rhonda's Red Velvet Cheesecake Muffins

1-1/2 cup butter

1-1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 bottle red food color
2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp vinegar (white vinegar)
1 cup buttermilk


8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup butter
8 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
1 lb powdered sugar


1. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer. Once the ingredients are creamed together, then add vanilla, eggs and food color. Mix together until all ingredients are incorporated.

2. Sift flour, cocoa and salt into a bowl. Then add into the butter and sugar mixture alternating between flour and buttermilk ending with flour. (Add small portions of each mixing the whole time.)

3. Mix the vinegar and
baking soda in a separate bowl, then fold into the cake batter.

4. In a new bowl, mix the cream cheese and sugar until well blended.

5. Fill muffin cups 1/4 full with batter. Then drop 1 tsp cream cheese mixture into the center of each cup. Top with more batter and bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until cake is firm and cooked through. Will probably crack open at the top when done.

6. Make the icing while the muffins bake. Start by creaming the butter, cream cheese and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended.

7. Add the sugar in gradually as you mix. If the mixture is to thick, then add milk.

8. Frost your Red Velvet Cheesecake Muffins with the cream cheese frosting.

I hope that you and your loved ones will feel the love from Rhonda's fabulous sweet treats. Thank you Rhonda for being one of the sweetest and truest people that I know and of course a fabulous and inspiring cook as well!


Blizzard 2010 Recipes

Here we go again. Another paralyzing snowstorm only days after the first snow pounding of 2010. However, this storm, a true Nor'Easter has provided treacherous conditio
ns with high winds and blinding snow leaving us with no choice but to stay indoors. Except for a few shoveling and snow-ball fighting ventures outdoors, inside is the place to be. After being interrupted from watching the last quarter of Superbowl 44 on the NFL Network (seeing the Saints win again was just as awesome as the first time) by the Emergency Alert System, we knew we were in the midst of a serious extreme weather event. As a fan of extreme weather, the emergency alert stating that all major highways were shut down in the Philadelphia area made my day that much more exciting. After another quick photo shoot of our sea of snow outside, it is time to get into the kitchen to create something warm and comforting.

Many folks may not ha
ve had the chance to stock up at the grocery store before this blizzard, but the recipes that I have in store only have just a few ingredients that you will likely have on hand. If not, then hopefully this will inspire you to create a satisfying meal for your family that will make your forget there is a blizzard outside.

Lizzy M.'s French Onion Soup

Extra virgin olive oil
5 medium to large yellow onions, thinly sliced
Sea salt and fre
shly ground black pepper
1 tsp steak seasoning
2 dried bay lea
2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
4 cups beef stock
4 large slices bread, cubed and toasted
1 cup cheese, shredded or sl
iced thin

*Use a soft Gouda, Fontina, Provolone or
Mozzarella cheese. Any cheese will do but those are my top picks.

Makes 4 servings


1. In a large pot, drizzle extra virgin olive oil liberally around the pot. Over medium to high heat, heat the oil and then add all of the sliced onions.

2. Season with sea salt, freshly ground
black pepper, steak seasoning and bay leaves. Saute the onions for about 10 minutes or until they cook down and become translucent.

3. Add the beef stock to the pot and cover. Allow the onion soup to cook for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, toast the cubed bread in the oven or toaster oven. Once the bread is toasted, keep the oven on and crank the oven heat to 450 degrees because the soup goes in too.

4. Time to assemble this delicious and simple French Onion Soup. Ladle the soup into small oven-safe bowls or crocks. Top with a handful of cubed bread and 1/4 cup of the cheese. Place the bowls onto a large baking sheet, so you can easily get these in and out of the oven. Once the soup is in the oven it should take about 7-10 minutes for the cheese on top to get golden and bubbly.

Serve the bowls on a plate because the bowls will be much too hot to handle. Enjoy this yummy soup with a side salad or all by itself. With simple ingredients like onions, beef stock (beef broth or beef bouillons will wor
k fine too), bread and cheese, you can surely pull this comforting dish together even in a blizzard.

Lizzy M.'s Carrot Ginger Soup

Extra virgin olive oil
Dash of crushed red pepper
1 medium yellow onion, cho
2-3 celery stalks with tops, chopped
2 cups carrots, largely chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated

Dash of smoked paprika
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup milk


1. In a large pot, drizzle extra virgin olive oil liberally into the pot over medium to high heat. Once heated through, add a dash of crushed red pepper, the onions, celery, carrots, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well and saute for 10 minutes or until carrots are slightly tender.

2. Grate in 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tbsp of fresh ginger, and a pinch of smoked paprika. If you don't already, keep your fresh ginger in the freezer for ultimate freshness for up to 6 months or more. Incorporate these ingredients well and saute for another 3 minutes.

3. Turn the heat off the veggies and carefully transfer to a food processor. Blend until smooth and return to pot. Turn the heat on medium and add the chicken stock and milk. Use whole milk or cream for a rich soup or use 2% milk or skim for a light version. Stir well and allow the soup to cook covered about 30 minutes.

Serve your Carrot Ginger Soup with toasted pita bread. The warmth and spice of this delicious and healthy soup will help restore your body after hours of the hard work of shoveling snow. I hope you will enjoy these recipes whether you are having Snow Day #2 or if you have no snow at all.


Snowstorm Part I: Snowed In with Blue Steel Pizza

Last weekend in preparation for a weekend inside from the snow, my husband and I took our Friday pizza night tradition to a new level. At our local pizza shop,
Luigi's Pizza Fresca, a gourmet Italian eatery, we found maybe the largest pizza I have ever seen.

Called Blue Steel Pizza named for the very large rectangle pan in which the pizza is baked, this pizza brings a super bang for the buck with its ability to feed an army or just a couple of people for days and days. Crispy on the outside and chewy in the center, the taste and texture of the Blue Steel crust is perfection. The crust is not too thin and not too thick, the perfect support for many delicious toppings.

Creativity took
over for our topping selections. We asked to divide the topping into four quadrants. On one half of the Blue Steel, we asked for a red sauce with toppings of sausage on one quarter and pepperoni on the other. On the other half, we opted for a white pizza with a quarter of tomato and artichoke and the other with mushrooms and black olives. With more toppings and slices than we could really handle, we were thoroughly set for the snowy, cold weekend in doors.

I think we managed to eat maybe a quarter of this pizza on our traditional Friday movie and pizza night while the rest of the pie was slowly consumed throughout the snowed-in weekend and on Super Bowl Monday. There is still one slice left of this pizza masterpiece that might be useful tomorrow during the snowstorm which will leave us snowed-in yet again.

Check out Luigi's Pizza Fresca at their Fairmount location in the Art Museum area in Philadelphia. Their menu is not limited to pizza, Luigi's also offers an array of great Italian eats such as calzones, strombolis, paninis, hoagies, steaks, pasta dishes and salads. If you are in New Jersey, then check out locations in Marlton or Burlington.

Blue Steel Pizza, a tasty way to deal with being snowed-in while also providing good fuel for shoveling snow and digging out your snow-buried car. Enjoy today!

Luigi's Pizza Fresca

2401 Fairmount
Philadelphia, PA 19130



Super Bowl 44 Kickoff Time

Super Bowl Kickoff time is just hours away. If you are having a gathering, then I assume that cooking and preparations have commenced. Getting antsy for Super Bowl coverage, then tune in to CBS for Superbowl Today from 2-6pm for interviews and updates lived from Miami's Sun Life Stadium. Look for James Brown as the host accompanied by Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason, Shannon Sharpe, and Bill Cowher. I hope your Superbowl spread is good and ready by 6pm because from 6-6:25pm the Super Bowl Pregame starts with activities leading up to the kickoff for the Saints-Colts matchup. The National Anthem by Carrie Underwood and coin toss will also take place within that 25 minutes Pregame.

Kickoff time at 6:28pmEST/5:28pmCST/4:28pmPST on CBS, I hope you will be ready to cheer on your team of choice for Super Bowl XLIV featuring the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts. This is the first Super Bowl for the New Orleans Saints since their establishment in 1967. With the highest completion percentage for the 2009 season, Drew Brees shines as New Orleans Saints star quarterback against one of the best quarterbacks of all time, Peyton Manning, holding some of the highest records for passing yards. Look for a great game and a great match-up for this 44th Super Bowl.

Time to get my gumbo on and cheer for my home team,



New Orleans Saints Superbowl Party Menu

Throughout the football season, I am a big believer in cooking food that reflects the cuisine of the team or teams that are playing. When watching the Philadelphia Eagles, hoagies and strombolis are the perfect game day eats; and when watching the Dallas Cowboys (although that would only happen if the Eagles or Saints are playing them), then a hearty chili would be a perfect dish. For Superbowl 44, there is no shortage of delicious party foods that you could offer. Whether you are rooting for the New Orleans Saints or the Indianapolis Colts with their New Orleans born and raised quarterback, Peyton Manning, your Superbowl party theme has got to be New Orleans. With Mardi Gras being one week after the Superbowl, there is no better time to get into the New Orleans spirit no matter where you live.

With so many hearty, satisfying game-appropriate dishes in New Orleans cuisine, you should have no problem picking something for your Superbowl gathering. The top three choices f
or the star of your Superbowl party are Gumbo, Jambalaya and Red Beans n’ Rice. Of these three choices, Gumbo is my choice, since it will feed an army and pack in the biggest flavor punch and satisfaction. With Jambalaya, you do have to worry a little about overcooking the rice, but with Gumbo the rice is on the side and the Gumbo can simmer away on the stove all day. Your guests can help themselves in the kitchen to bowls of Gumbo at their leisure.

As a secondar
y dish, a sandwich can fulfill this position, and what better sandwich to make than the famous New Orleans Muffuletta. Now, you may be thinking how in the world can I pull off making a Muffuletta? Some adaptations may have to be made depending on what ingredients you have access to, but this recipe is fairly simple. If you have a gourmet store or a shop that specializes in New Orleans cuisine, then check it out for some Zapp's chips to go along with your Muffulettas. Zapp's chips, Louisiana-made chips kettle-cooked in peanut oil, offer crazy flavors like Cajun Crawtators and Cajun Dill Gator-Tators. Provide a simple sour cream dip to go along with these delicious chips and a plate of crudité or veggies to perfectly round out your Superbowl spread.

For dessert, if you are so lucky to have access to King Cakes, the scrumptious icing and sugar covered cake associated with Mardi Gras, then by all means stock up on these for you
r Superbowl gathering. If you don’t have these locally, then you can go online and order your King Cake to be shipped straight to your door. For the best King Cakes in New Orleans, check out Nonna's Italian Bakery and Cafe at http://www.nonnaskingcakes.com/. My favorite is the traditional cinnamon flavored cake, however there are other options with Nonna's filled king cakes with flavors like cream cheese, pecan praline or strawberry cream cheese. Order your king cakes today!

One of the most im
portant elements to your Superbowl party is certainly the selection of liquid refreshments. There is one essential beverage that must make an appearance, the Louisiana brew, Abita beer. Abita has a selection of seven flagship brews including my favorite Purple Haze (a raspberry wheat), Abita Amber (a Munich-style lager), Abita Golden, Abita Light (both lighter lagers), Turbodog (a dark-brown ale), Jockamo I.P.A., and Restoration Pale Ale. Besides the must-have brew, it never hurts to offer a cocktail as well for the ladies. One of the most famous of cocktails to come from New Orleans has got to be the Hurricane. Hurricane mix should be easy to come by in your local liquor store. Your guests will love this fruity, strong rum-based concoction.

Saints-Colts Superbowl Party Menu

Lizzy M.’s Gumbo

1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil (For roux)
1/2 cup flour (For roux)
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 beef bouillon cubes

4 cups water
2 dried bay leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Dash of crushed red pepper

1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 cup green pepper chopped

1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup leafy celery tops, chopped
1 tbsp Tony’s Chachere or Cajun s
1 tbsp thyme
3 garlic cloves, minced or grated
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lb smoked sausage/Andouille sausage (You can use either kind of sausage or both-whatever you have access to.)
2 tbsp Kitchen Bouquet
1 cup green onions (Use half for gumbo and other half for garnish)
1/2 cup parsley, chopped


1. Make Roux. In a large pot, pr
eferably a cast iron pot, heat the canola or vegetable oil over medium heat. Once the oil is heated through, whisk in the flour. Whisk constantly until the flour is completely absorbed. Continue whisking or stirring as the roux cooks into a darker reddish-brown color. Making a roux is a skill that takes practice; so don’t put too much emphasis on the perfect roux, especially if you are a beginner. As long as the flour is cooked into the oil and has a nice thick consistency, don’t worry too much about its perfection-just don’t burn it. If you find that it is too hot, then turn down the heat.

2. Once the roux is at the desirable consistency and color, then add the chicken and beef bouillon cubes, water, and bay leaves. Stir well over medium heat to incorporate well with the roux. K
eep covered to cook.

3. In a large sauté pan, heat a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Add a dash of crushed red pepper to the oil for heat. Once the oil is heated through, then add the trinity or the onions, peppers, celery and celery tops as well as the seasonings of Tony’s Chachere or Cajun seasoning, thyme, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sauté on medium to high heat for about 5-7 minutes. Next, grate in 3 garlic cloves and mix well into the vegetables. Sauté for another 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the vegetables to the gumbo pot. Keep the gumbo on a medium to low simmer.

4. Next add the clean, skinless and boneless chicken breasts into the gumbo. Push them down, so the liquid is coverin
g them. Let these cook in a covered pot on a low simmer for 15 minutes turning them over once. While the chicken cooks, slice the sausage into small disks. In the large sauté pan that was used for the veggies, add the sausage and a few dashes of Tabasco or hot sauce. Sauté the sausage until a gets a bit of brown color for about 5 minutes.

5. After the chicken is cooked, remove from the pot onto a large cutting board. Allow the chicken breast to rest for about 5 minutes before shredding. After the chicken has rested, take two forks and pull through the chicken in oppos
ite directions to shred the chicken. Slicing or chopping the chicken will work fine too. Place the shredded chicken back into the gumbo pot. Add in the sausage at this point as well.

6. Add a half-cup of chopped green onion, parsley and 2 tbsp of Kitchen Bouquet, a browning and seasoning mixture. You can find Kitchen Bouquet in the seasoning section at your grocery store. Stir your gumbo well and allow for the gumbo to cook covered for an hour on a low simmer. Add more water to the gumbo if needed.

7. While the gu
mbo is cooking, make white rice according to the directions on the rice package to serve with your gumbo. Taste the gumbo for seasoning after the hour of cooking. Add more at this point if desired. Serve your gumbo to your guest piping hot over white rice topped with chopped green onion. Cornbread or garlic French bread would make great accompaniments to the gumbo.

Lizzy M.’s Muffulettas

1 large loaf of French bread (about 12 inches)
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb ham, thinly sliced

1/2 lb Mortadella (Italian bologna), thinly sliced
1/2 lb Genoa salami, thinly sliced
1/2 lb Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 lb Provolone cheese, thinly sliced
2 cups olive salad

Olive Salad: (If you cannot find a pre-made Olive salad, then any variation of this recipe will do.)

1 cup pimento stuffed green olives, chopped
1/2 cup black olives, chopped
2 tbsp capers
1/4 cup carrots, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
3 pepperoncini (salad peppers), chopped
1 tbsp yellow onion, minced
2 tbsp oregano
1 cup olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1. In a storage container, add all ingredients and mix well. Make the day before, allowing for the olive salad to marinate.

2. When it is time to make the muffulettas, cut the whole French bread loaf lengthwise down the center. Layer the meats and cheeses on the entire loaf. Top generously with the olive salad. Place the top of the loaf onto the sandwich and push together. Cut the loaf into 6 pieces to make 6 sandwiches. Serve cold or serve hot by heating for 15 minutes in a 375-degree oven.

You can make your gumbo ahead of time, even the day before if you like, saving only the rice to make on game day. The olive salad for your muffulettas can be made the day before as well, and the actual sandwich can be made well before your party. This menu will give you the quality time to enjoy the game with your friends and family. Serve the muffulettas to your guests at the start of the game with Zapp's chips and Abita beer, and offer your gumbo at halftime. No matter what the outcome is of the Superbowl, your guests are sure to be satisfied by your winning New Orleans style spread. Remember if you aren’t ready this weekend for a big Superbowl party, then make this fabulous party spread for a Mardi Gras party the weekend after the Superbowl.

Enjoy your New Orleans Superbowl or Mardi Gras party! Who Dat! Go Saints!

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