Quarantine Baking!! “Chocwitt” Cake

Got up today and three year old Vincent asked, “Noni, can we bake a “Chockwitt” Cake??”  Being quarantined for almost 6 weeks now, we have been doing a lot of baking together ……Lemon Cake to eat with Pontchatoula Strawberries, Cinnamon Rolls to share with his three cousins Vanessa, Ashton and Giselle, and now a chocolate cake from scratch!



This is a very quick cake to put together and you probably have all in the ingredients on hand already!!  If you don’t have real buttermilk, you can just add 1 tablespoon of vinegar (white or Apple Cider) to the one cup of whole milk and let stand 5 minutes.

This batter yields a two layer 8″ cake or two-9″ layers.  I prefer the 8″. Continue reading

Spring and Summer Months Usher in the Weddings! Here is the story of a very special couple Victoria and John.

This Spring and Summer I had the honor and challenge of baking two wedding cakes for the same Bride and Groom a few months apart. Why, you might ask? Covid 19!

When Victoria and John got engaged over a year ago, they began to plan their perfect wedding in perfect detail. They chose a date, a reception venue, bridesmaids and groomsmen. They chose invitations, Tuxedos and Bridesmaids gowns. Victoria and her Mom shopped for the perfect “Princess” gown. Guest lists were written and Victoria’s “Storybook” cake was chosen.

Victoria always wanted her wedding cake to come from the same bakery as her Mom’s and her Aunt’s wedding cakes. After all it was a family tradition and Victoria loved Traditions! Their cakes came from the famous New Orleans wedding cake specialists, Swiss Confectionary Bakery. Victoria chose a tall cake with several tiers that were separated by Grecian columns and decorated with old fashioned Buttercream flowers and swirls. The cake was chosen and all was well with the world.

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Tonight is one of my “Dinner For Free Meals”.What does that mean????

 Well, it just means I didn’t have to go to the store to purchase any groceries to prepare the meal  for the family.



During these Quarantine days my kids really don’t want me to leave the house so when my son “lets” me cook dinner, (He loves to cook, too,)  I look at what is in the freezer, check out the pantry, and then peruse the fridge to see what is already on hand.

About four weeks ago, I cleaned out the freezer upstairs and my little one downstairs and typed up a list of what was on hand.  I needed to do that because we were buying things or cooking things we already had frozen. 


I remembered we had about five nice thick slices of Roasted Prime Rib in the freezer so I decided that tonight we would have Roast Beef Hash that would normally be made from leftover Rump Roast. 

I cut up all the slices of meat (after trimming away any excess fat and gristle) into 1/2-1” cubes.  I saved all the trimmings and any juices that were in the bag when it defrosted along with any of the whole garlic slivers I had studded in the Prime Rib. 

I started a stock with it (the trimmings, etc. ) along with some saved random bits of celery, onions, and parsley sprigs.  I let it all simmer for about an hour on low and then added some small Yukon Gold Potatoes I found in the pantry!  I let that simmer for about 40 minutes, strained the broth and removed all the potatoes and cut into large cubes. I also cut the red and green bell peppers along with one large onion into 1” squares.

I put the strained broth back on the stove and brought it to a med. low simmer to concentrate it, reducing it by 1/3.  I also found a large handful of fresh green beans so I cut those into 2” pieces and parboiled them, also.

 I did NOT ADD ANY seasoning to the stock because my prime rib roast was well salted and had lots of fresh garlic, Rosemary.  and fresh bay leaf when it was roasted so there was still a lot of seasoning still clinging to the trimmings when I made the stock.  

Because the potatoes were almost cooked thru, I started the hash by adding a few tablespoons of Crisco oil to a large skillet and stir fried the onions and peppers for three minutes.  I carefully stirred in the cubed potatoes and raised the heat to medium high.  I let the potatoes brown slightly without moving them around.  Using a large spatula, I flipped the mixture in the pan over like you would a pancake and gently added the meat cubes to the pan.  I did not stir it, but allowed the hash to cook and brown slightly for about 2-3 minutes.  I repeated flipping mixture and tasted for seasoning.  Since the potatoes should have soaked up some of the salt from the stock I don’t add any seasoning until the dish is cooked.  I taste it and  then add any seasoning I think it needs!



Scattered the Green Beans, a bit of Paprika and fresh chopped parsley.  You can drizzle with a little of the reduced stock if your hash needs a little more moisture!!  Serve hot!!  YUM!!

Bon Appetit……..until next time


What’s your favorite cooking equipment you just can’t live without??? Hang in there folks; this is gonna be a long post!!

My dear Mama, who I have always believed was the best cook in the world ever, swore by her Club Aluminum Cookware!  My Grandmother loved her pressure cooker.  And then there was my mother-in-law loved her Iron Skillets and a beautiful old French Enameled, Cast Iron Dutch Oven that was a light Turquoise with a little design around the bottom.  Her other favorite was a Speckled (Graniteware) Navy Blue Oval Roaster that always showed up in her oven for Sunday Dinners. There were so many dents and dings in that old pot but the food was always so moist and flavorful!wp-1585333264704219841867118181182.jpg

When I first got married we bought one of those sets of “Waterless” Stainless Steel cookware.  You remember, the kind you purchased at a Home Demonstration Party??   They were good but not my favorite.  Ended up giving they away. wp-15851885272587043977086344061676.jpg

Then came a set of those new Teflon pots that were touted as being non-stick and they were indeed until the Teflon started to flake off into your food!!  Not good at all.


I received a great Presto Pressure Cooker that I loved and used all the time after I finally learned how to use it and not blow it up!!  I had this one for 49 years and just sold it at a garage sale!!


Next came probably the most expensive cookware I have ever purchased…..well, almost!  It was a set of All-Clad Triple Ply Stainless Cookware.  Wonderful pots, but I found something I loved even more and so much more affordable……

wp-15851883775976188049160053638877.jpgHere are pictures and a list of my current favorites!!

Curtis Stone Cookware…I must admit that I had a huge collection of All-Clad cookware. They were very pricey so I would have save up and buy one at a time when they went on sale.  They are wonderful pots, they cook great, but I had to have the fanciest ones with the black coating on the outside and so they could never be put in the dishwasher……(not that I do that anyway) and required careful handling to not get scuffed.

One night at 3 a.m. I got a Tornado alert on my television. I went to take cover in an inside bathroom with no windows, got under a pile of quilts and pillows and waited in the bathtub until I got the “all clear”.  With my heart still racing a half hour later, I just couldn’t go back to sleep so I started flipping through the channels and came across a demo of these pots with the man himself!!  Home Shopping Network at 4 a.m., Really Chiqui???  In a weak moment after being so impressed, I ordered a 14 piece set and called it a night!  Woke up the next morning and asked myself, “What have you done??  The last thing you need is another set of pots!”  So I calmed myself done by rationalizing that I could always send them back if I didn’t like them in person……right??

Can I tell you that I am in love with these pots?  Great to cook in, food never sticks, great variety of sizes and that tall pot with the handle is indispensable!!   Perfect for brewing iced tea, cooking grits, and especially great for making Pralines and Almond Butter Crunch Toffee!!   I also LOVE the see-thru lids with the tiny steam release vent!   Great for cooking rice or a recipe that says not to raise the lid!  Best part you can pretty much use any utensil in them but I always avoid metal whenever possible.  I do take care of my cookware!!

Goes without saying, I gave my whole set of All-Clad to my daughter and son-in-law and have never looked back!!  I talked so much about these pots one night while teaching a fancy cooking class that before I could finish singing their praises, one of my students ordered them right there on his phone!!wp-15852494278394724171805753098092.jpg

Now the ones in the picture with the Dura-Pan sticker are brand new ones I got for my son and his wife as a Housewarming gift and obviously have not been used yet; you do need to remove the stickers first! The others have been used all the time!  By the way, they do come in a stainless steel version instead of a color! Continue reading

If it’s Sunday and you are Italian, your first thoughts turn to Church Service and Sunday Dinner…..Some kind of Pasta, of course.

wp-15855274052395342918548345436824.jpgI know this looks like Lasagna but it is actually Eggplant Pasticcio.  The recipe is in my Cookbook on page 108 and is listed as a side dish but at my brother-in-law’s restaurant (Ristorante Pastore) on Thursday’s it was the lunch special.  It was served with a house salad and some warm Italian bread …..that’s it!!!  Poor Uncle Paolo (The Chef) had to make this recipe and double and finally triple the amount because it sold out every week.  It got to the point that people would call to pre-order this dish Thursday mornings to make sure they got their portion!!

The recipe is quite laborious but not for someone who loves to cook.  The components can be made ahead of time to make it a little easier.  For instance the Tomato sauce can be made weeks ahead and frozen.   Also you can grate the Pecorino Romano cheese and the Mozzarella cheese a couple of days ahead, too.  The eggplant can be peeled, sliced, salted and placed in a colander sitting in a bowl in the fridge overnight.  All that’s left to do is batter and fry the eggplant and make a quick Bechamel sauce, and assemble the casserole!

The recipe for the basic sauce or what most people call a Marinara sauce is on page 86.  The recipe makes a lot of sauce and can easily be cut in half, but why would you???? It freezes beautifully and you will have it for so many other dishes!!

Paolo’s Basic (Marinara) Tomato Sauce

Chiqui Collier

6 large cans (28 oz.) whole Italian Plum tomatoes, crushed with your hands or  in a blender

15-20 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced

2 large onions, chopped

6 tabsp. olive oil 

1 teasp. salt

1/2 teasp. black pepper ( I use lemon-pepper)

2 bay leaves

1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

1 stick unsalted butter

1/2 teasp. dried oregano (optional)

2 cups water (use this to rinse out the tomato cans and add to the sauce)

In a large 6 qt. Dutch Oven…Saute the chopped onions and garlic in the olive oil (over medium low heat) until softened and onions are transparent. Add all remaining ingredients. Simmer over a low heat for at least 2 hours.


20150227_123031Thin Bechamel Sauce…and I stress thin.  The recipe in my book is for a standard, thick Bechamel but for this dish, this is the one you will need:

Thin Basic Bechamel Sauce

Chiqui Collier

2 cups Whole milk

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter 

2 heaping  Tablespoons all purpose flour

salt & pepper to taste  (yes, I use black pepper but you can use white if you prefer)

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (must be fresh)

Place milk in a saucepan and heat just to the boiling point; remove from heat.  In another saucepan, melt butter and stir in flour; cook 3 minutes over low heat.  Using a wire whisk, stir in strained milk; add nutmeg and salt.  Cook over medium low heat about 5-8 minutes until slightly thickened. Add pepper to taste.  If sauce becomes too thick, stir in a little extra milk.

Yields approx 2 1/2 cups sauce for this recipe.

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It’s strawberry season in Louisiana and boy are they so delish this year!

20180213_18575420180213_185801A fresh Strawberry Tart is a great way to celebrate our fabulous Pontchatoula,  Louisiana Strawberries.  This tart is especially good because the filling is like a thin layer of cheesecake and who in their right mind doesn’t like Cheesecake!!

The recipe for this Tart is on page 197 of my cookbook, but check out my blog about how to put together a Perfect Pie Crust!!  It will save you a lot of time and it really does insure a perfect crust!


Other ways to serve our fabulous strawberries….Strawberry Shortcakes made with Sweet Cream biscuits and Chantilly Cream, Fresh Fruit Salad, Strawberry Cream Cheese Pastries, Balsamic Glazed Strawberry Dessert,  and my Springtime favorite….Fruit and Nut Salad with a Poppy Seed Dressing!

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Seventeen (17*F) Degrees in South Louisiana>>Really????? Frozen Pipes, No Guys Around, and Leftover Pot Roast.

I wrapped my pipes…..didn’t get frozen when it snowed in December…..what happened??

Call my youngest son at 6 a.m. to tell him we have NO WATER and could he come home and fix it??  He was just getting off work across the lake but said the bridge was closed!  “You should have run the water last night, Mom.”  Really, son??  “Can’t you call Jason??”

Called Jason and his pipes were frozen, too.  Said he would come over when he could.  Oh well, I’ll just go outside and fix it myself.  With hair dryer in hand, I proceeded outside and blow-dried  my pipes for a total of 30 minutes with the wind blowing and the wind chill at 10*F.  I laid hands on the pipes, prayed and held the dryer in place.  Thirty chilly minutes later….SUCCESS!!!!

Came inside to let my body defrost, cooked breakfast and had my second cup of coffee, ahh…..Thank you Lord for answered prayer!

So I decided to clean out the fridge and pulled out some leftover Pot Roast and a few veggies…….so guess what I’m making now???


Homemade Vegetable (Beef) Soup  Page 128 & 129 in my cookbook.


Or maybe you want a real easy soup without meat but really satisfying and a real comfort on a chilly day!

Cannellini Soup with Parmesan

This hearty soup makes delicious use of the flavorful 1/4-inch-thick rinds that remain after wedges of Parmesan have been grated away; they infuse the soup with a nice salty bite as it simmers.  (I always grate my own Parmesan and Romano cheeses so I always have these in my freezer.  I sometimes put these rinds in my red gravy…….so good!!)

Makes 6 to 8 servings


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional oil for garnish
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large celery stalk, finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
  • 3 15-ounce cans cannellini (white kidney beans), drained
  • 6 cups low-salt chicken broth (preferably homemade)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage or 1 teasp. dried
  • 2 2×2-inch Parmesan cheese rinds
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped or cooked Bacon (meat is optional)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery and sauté until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add beans, broth, sage, Parmesan rinds, and prosciutto or cooked bacon; simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until flavors blend and soup thickens slightly, about 40 minutes. Using tongs, remove cheese rinds.
  2. Puree about 5 cups soup in processor and return to pot. Season with salt and pepper. (Soup can be made 2 days ahead. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Rewarm before serving.) Ladle soup into bowls and serve, passing grated Parmesan cheese and additional olive oil separately.

This blog post was written two years ago in December but somehow never got posted!!  Better late than never, especially since some states are still experiencing cold temps!


Bon Appetit…..until next time




Everybody Confined to home because of the “Virus”….How are you passing the time????


I admit that the first couple of days I found lots of things to occupy my time while halfway listening to updates of the VIRUS on tv…….Cleaned out my closet, organized my “cooking school” recipes to start writing my new cookbook, changed the sheets, washed and folded all the laundry and even contacted all my family members in Guatemala to send in their favorite recipes to put together a family cookbook to honor our Spanish Heritage!!  WOW!  All the while trying to help others with babysitting so they can take kids to the doctor, run to the grocery or play with a three year old so his Mom can get her work done at home!

Like most people in the world, we are trying to stay home and use the groceries that we already have in our freezer and our pantry to avoid more trips to the grocery.  This morning I decided to defrost a 3 pound package of Pork Stew meat that I had purchased from Sam’s a couple of weeks back.  Never having made a Pork Stew before, I “relished” the challenge of making something new for dinner tonight!  Turned out really good so I thought I would share…..Comfort Food I would call it.  Hope you give it a try!20200324_1848393768759124348769499.jpgPork Stew Over Guatemalan Style Rice, Baked and Buttered Sweet Potato , and Gabby’s Peas

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