Finally Friday!

As we all enjoy cooler days I thought about this meal, one of my favorites!   Whether you are entertaining guests, family or having a quiet dinner for two, this is a delicious combination of courses, flavors and textures.   Come with me to foodie land and enjoy!  Here’s the menu:

Scotch Mists with a Lemon Twist

Gougere (little cheese/pastry appetizers)

Chopped French Salad with Apples, Walnuts and White Wine Vinaigrette

Pork Chops, Pan Seared with Port Wine Sauce and Served On A Bed Of Wilted Fennel and Shallots

Creme Brulee

Pinot Noir


Any cocktail will do, but somehow, a good single malt scotch poured over crushed ice with a twist of lemon just seems perfect with the Gougere appetizer.  A good Amantillado Sherry would be delicious as well.


For the Gougere*:

1 1/4 cup water
10 Tbl butter
1 tsp salt
1 c all-purpose flour
5 large eggs
1 c shredded Gruyère cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbl fresh thyme, chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter with the water and salt.  Let it come to a rolling boil and  immediately add flour, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon.  Keep mixing until the flour absorbs all the liquid and pulls away from the sides of the pan.  You want to cook the mixture  for about 3 minutes to dry out the dough.
Put the flour mixture in to the bowl of a standing mixer with paddle attachment.  On medium-low speed, mix for about 30 seconds to cool it a little.  Add eggs one at a time, making sure that it’s fully incorporated before adding the next.  Once the dough is all combined, it should be slightly thick, shiny and pasty, add the cheese, black pepper and thyme.
Pipe onto a parchment lined baking sheet in your desired size. (Note: I have made these by simply dropping a small spoonful onto the parchment paper and it works well.)  If you want them as appetizers, pipe 1″ rounds.  For breakfast size gougères pipe the rounds about 2 1/2″.   Sprinkle grated Gruyère on top.Bake until they are puffy and nicely browned, about 25 minutes for the small ones and 35 minutes for the large ones.
*Thanks to the wonderful blog “Treats” for this delicious recipe!
french green salad
Chopped French Green Salad with Apples, Walnuts and White Wine Vinaigrette
2 heads Endive
1 head Raddichio
1 head butter lettuce
1 head frisee
2 honey crisp apples
1 cup toasted walnuts
Wash the greens and spin them dry in a salad spinner.  Loosely chop the lettuces and raddichio.  Slice the endive or, if you prefer, break the spears apart and toss whole in the salad.  Wash and core the apples.  Slice them about 1/8″ thick.  Toast the walnuts on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about five minutes, just long enough to let the oil and flavors release.  Toss the greens together and place on four chilled salad plates.  Arrange the apples on the top and sprinkle with the toasted walnuts.
White Wine Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
6 tablespoons good quality olive oil
a Big pinch of coarsely ground black pepper
Whisk the vinegar, salt and dry mustard together in a small bowl.  Continue to whisk as you add the olive oil in a steady stream.  Blend in the pepper and pour a bit over each salad.
pork loin with shallots cropped
Pork Chops with Port Wine Sauce, Served On A Bed Of Wilted Fennel and Shallots
4 bone in pork chops, about 1 1/2 inches thick
Sea salt
Ground black pepper
1 cup port wine
1 bulb fennel
3 shallots
2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
Slice the top off of the fennel bulb and thinly slice the bulb.  Peel and slice the shallots.
fennel & shallots cropped
Place the olive oil in a heavy saute pan and heat for 3 minutes.  Add the fennel and shallots with a pinch of sea salt and pepper.  Saute for five minutes.  Remove from the heat and place the mixture in a bowl, covered with foil to keep warm.  Salt and pepper the pork chops.  Return the saute pan to the heat on medium high.  Place the pork chops in the pan and sear for five minutes, turn and repeat on the other side.  Remove the chops from the pan.  Carefully pour the port into the pan over high heat and allow to boil for one minute.  Turn the heat down and return the pork chops to the pan.  Turn the heat to low, cover the pan and let simmer very slowly for 20 minutes.  Just before serving, add the butter to the pan to incorporate into the sauce.  If needed you can had 1/2 cup chicken broth to the sauce.   To serve, place the fennel mixture on the plate and top with a pork chop.  Spoon the sauce over all and grind a generous amount of black pepper over all.  Note:  I serve this with tiny yellow potatoes that have been roasted at 425 degrees for one hour, toss them in a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt before roasting.
creme brulee

Creme Brulee*

My all time favorite dessert, hands down.
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup half and half (light cream)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 300F. Arrange 6 custard cups in a large pan with sides at least 1 1/2 inches deep.

Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl until they turn frothy and bright yellow. Slowly whisk 1/3 cup sugar, the creams, and vanilla extract into the beaten eggs. Beat the mixture for 90 seconds.

Pour the eggs and cream through a medium-mesh sieve into a large (4 cup) liquid measuring cup. Divide the mixture between 6 custard cups and fill the large pan with hot water half-way up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake the custard in the hot-water bath for 55 minutes to 1 hour, until the custard is set, but still moves a bit in the center when jiggled. Cool the custard in the water bath for 20 minutes, and then refrigerate them until they are chilled.

Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar over top of the custards and caramelize the sugar with a small, handheld kitchen torch. Serve immediately.

This classic crème brulee recipe makes 6 servings.

*Thanks to  French Food for this yummy recipe.


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I don’t think I’ve actually ever touted a product in a blog post before.  As you, my readers know, I have had a very stressful year.  I ended up with digestive issues due to stress…no surprise.  I knew I had to do something.  I also wanted to take off a few extra pounds…especially after hearing from a medical professional that women “of a certain age” just can’t lose weight.  That was the challenge for me.  I heard from my friend, Lisa, through a Facebook post with before and after pictures of what was happening to her body and how she was experiencing healing in ways she could not believe.  I had to know more.

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Since the products came with a money back guarantee after 60 days, if I was not pleased with the results, I decided to give it a try.  I can tell you now that this product line is amazing!  I have been drinking my “pink” drink every morning and taking the supplements at night to heal my digestive system and the results are obvious.  I am into skinny jeans, as of today, that I could barely get into before starting this product line.  I have more energy and my outlook on life in general has improved.  Everyone told me to take care of myself first as I provided care for my father and my husband over the last couple of years.  Of course that was difficult for me to do, but I did understand.  Getting myself started on Plexus has turned a page for me as far as my life and health are concerned.  That is why I felt compelled to share this information.

Lisa gave me permission to use her before and after photos…and she’s still losing!  I haven’t taken photos of myself yet, but I will.  I am very excited to share Plexus with you.  It’s all about self care and good health.  So much information has recently come out about the importance of a healthy “gut”!  Please email me if you would like more information:

Simple Sundays

Beautiful music for a quiet Sunday morning!  I stumbled across this piece while looking through YouTube!  Enjoy the day… well and find peace!

Cheesecake With A Twist

I’m in Autumn cooking mode these days.  I dreamed this recipe up years back and am making it again for a catering event I have tonight.  It’s a savory cheesecake, nothing sweet about it.  But it is so incredibly delicious!  This recipe is in my newly published cookbook, “Seasoning…Saucing…Savoring”, available on Amazon HERE!:…SAUCING…SAVORING+BY+MELISSA+LEE


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 tsp. Sangre de Cristo Mexican Seasoning ( available at

1 tsp. Sangre de Cristo Garlic Powder

1/2 cup chopped pecans

3/4 stick butter, melted

Mix all ingredients.  Grease a ten inch spring form pan with vegetable oil of cooking spray.  Pat the crust mixture into the bottom.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Remove fhe pan and lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

For the filling:

3 pounds cream cheese, softened and cut into chunks

2 whole eggs, slightly beaten

1/1/2 cups chopped, roasted New Mexico chilies (I found a bag of frozen, fire roasted peppers at Trader Joe’s that I’m using this time…yum!)

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 tablespooon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

1/2 teaspoon Sangre de Cristo Sea Salt

1/2 teaspoon Sangre de Cristo Mexican Seasoning

In a mixing bowl, place the cream cheese and eggs, mix until smooth with an electric mixer.  Saute onion and garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil until the onion is transparent.  Add the peppers and heat through.  Fold the pepper mixture and shredded cheese into the cream cheese, adding salt to taste.

Pour the cheese mixture into the prepared crust and place in a the spring form pan on a cookie sheet, adding 2 cups of water onto the tray to create a water bath.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/4 hours or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.

This cheesecake can be made a day ahead of time and placed in the freezer for 2 hours to set completely.  Remove the cake from the freezer and place in the refrigerator overnight.  Warm in a 350 degree oven for about a half hour or until heated through.



Simple Sundays

Fall…my favorite season of all.  The colors…the smells…the comfort food…It all puts me in my happy place!  I selected today’s music by Bach because it has a calming, peaceful effect.  Embrace this beautiful day, wherever you may be!  Deep breaths…loving moments and gratitude!  Peace.

Simply Delicious!

As the weather cools off a bit I’ve got the “cooking bug” again!  I’m sharing one of my favorite menus with you for a light weekend dinner or lunch…or anytime you feel in the mood for comfort food!  I have been making this version of French Onion Soup for years and it is always a big hit!  It’s easy to make and so delicious, paired with a light salad, crusty bread and a full bodied Grenache wine.  I hope you’ll try it!

French Onion Soup

Salad of Mixed Greens with a Light Vinaigrette

Crusty French Bread

Berry Crisp


french onion soup

French Onion Soup

2 tbsp. butter
2 large yellow onion finely minced

1 large purple onion finely minced

4 shallots finely minced

2 Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and cubed

8 cups beef or chicken broth (I have made this with vegetable broth as well…yum!)

¼ cup Madeira wine

1 bay leaf

1 tsp.  Sage Leaves, ground

Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste

8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated

8 slices cooked bacon, crumbled (optional)

1 French baguette, sliced and toasted
Heat butter, add onions, shallots, apples and cook over
medium low heat until caramelized, about ½ hour. Stir in
broth, Madeira wine, bay leaf and sage. Simmer for 20
minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Fill French onion soup
crocks or other deep soup bowls with soup. Top with two
baguette slices, shredded cheese and bacon. Place under
the broiler or use a small kitchen torch to melt the cheese
until bubbly.

mixed green salad

Salad of Mixed Greens with a Light Vinaigrette

1 head red leaf lettuce

1 head butter lettuce

1 head radicchio

1 head endive

Tear the greens and toss with vinaigrette and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar

Sea salt & Pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

Whisk ingredients together in a bowl then toss with the salad greens.

berry crumble

Berry Crisp

1/2 cup fresh blackberries

1/2 cup fresh raspberries

1 cup sliced, fresh strawberries

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together and place in a pie pan.  Top with Crumb Topping

Crumb Topping:

6 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cups quick-cooking oats

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped almonds

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Mix together and spoon over the berry mixture.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 1/2 hour, or until browned and bubbly.

The Causeway



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This is the causeway.  It is the longest causeway in the world!  It crosses Lake Pontchartrain, The distance and expanse bothered me at first.  Then I realized it is a straight shot, you can almost put your vehicle on automatic pilot and use the time to relax, listen to good music and enjoy the views.  When first entering the causeway you cannot even see New Orleans.  It is like entering an endless highway suspended over the lake.  Even that aspect of the causeway has become a friend to me.  You have to get from one side to the other.  Yes, there are places one can turn around if need be, but to remain on course is better.


We’ve learned the hard way to check conditions before heading out for early morning appointments.  If there is fog or an accident you don’t want to take this route.  Sitting for hours while suspended over the lake is not my favorite thing.  Especially in bumper to bumper traffic!  But I’m learning that “it is what it is”.  Life has taken on a different complexion for me now.  I have a different “take” on life, if you will.  I take each moment as it comes, realizing that every day is a present.  And, speaking of fog, my brain is feeling much clearer…it just takes time.

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This overview will give you a sense of how things are laid out here.  The white line down the middle of the lake is the causeway.  The area in which we live is referred to as the North shore, for obvious reasons.  I like having the option of city life or country life.  The city of New Orleans is not so big that one feels overwhelmed by crowds, but a city feeling is there that I feel surpasses some of the larger cities I have visited or lived in.  I feel we have the best of both worlds here!  It’s a beautiful lifestyle.  People who love to celebrate, who parade at the drop of a hat, and care for each other in ways so rare in today’s world.  Color me happy!  I’m glad we’re here!  This feels like my forever home.

Simple Sundays

It’s Sunday!  I never know whether to think of it as the end or beginning of the week.  Does it really matter if we’re relaxing and enjoying a beautiful day?  Perhaps you’re attending worship services this morning, taking a walk on the beach or simply making a delicious breakfast and sharing time with family and friends.  Whatever you are up to here’s a delightful work by Mozart to get you going and shining your light!  Enjoy….peace!

Kung POW Chicken

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I first tasted Kung Pao chicken while living in New York City.  I loved the spicy flavors and the crunch of peanuts…..layers of deliciousness exploding on the taste buds.  I found a recipe and have made it for years but it keeps evolving.  This latest version that I came up with a couple of weeks ago is definitely the best yet!  You can adjust the heat by using less red pepper flakes or omitting them entirely.  My secret for making Asian cooking easier is to do the chopping, placing everything in small bowls beside the wok so each step of the recipe can be handled quickly and easily.  Stir frying, at a high heat, requires being prepared.  Please let me know if you try this recipe!  Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!

Kung Pao Chicken

2 whole, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, split and cut into half inch cubes

1  large egg white

2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder

Place the cubed chicken breast into a medium sized bowl.  Add the egg white and cornstarch or arrowroot powder and stir to coat the chicken well.  Allow to stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes.  This process is called “velveting” the chicken.

1/4 cup coconut oil

3/4 cup raw peanuts

4 scallions diced, including green ends

1 red or orange bell pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 tablespoons fresh ginger root, minced

To Stir Fry:

In a large wok, heat the coconut oil until melted.  Add the chicken, tossing in the oil.  As it begins to brown add the peanuts, scallions, bell pepper, garlic and ginger root.  Toss in the hot oil until the veggies are just tender…you want a bit of crunch.  Add the sauce and cook until heated through and sauce has thickened.  Serve over jasmine rice and enjoy an ice cold Tsing Tao beer!


1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine or sherry

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon monk fruit or coconut sweetener

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot powder

1 tablespoon red or green pepper jelly

Mix all ingredients, except the jelly, and pour over the chicken mixture as instructed above.  When the sauce is thickening add the pepper jelly and stir well until the jelly has melted into the sauce.

NOTE:  There are many brands of pepper jelly on the market.  The one I used was actually made by a friend using my sister-in-law’s recipe…lucky me!  I’ll see if I can get permission to share it with you!

Dufour A Massage

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This door opens into a place I find to be magical!  I am a firm believer in self care, especially after having been a caregiver for three years.  Taking time out for oneself is critically important!  If you’re not in good shape, you can’t offer the care others need.  Part of my self care routine has always been regular deep tissue massage therapy.  Since moving to Covington, LA a little over three years ago I had not found anyone to work with.  I say “with” because I believe effective massage and energy work has to involve both the therapist and the client.  Being open to receive the healing the therapist offers is a huge part of relaxing and allowing the tension and stress to melt away.

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I met Martie Dufour several months ago through a mutual friend.  She left Denver, Colorado, returned to her roots here in Louisiana, opened her massage therapy practice and contacted me to introduce herself.  I needed a massage and she offered the exact services I was looking for.  Deep tissue work…Relaxation and Stress Relief…Reiki, a natural healing method through which the therapist moves healing energy through the clients body.  In my opinion Martie is a healer…I say that with confidence since I have experienced her work.  She offers therapeutic massage as well as specialized work such as cranial sacral, accupressure, reflexology and prenatal care.


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One of Martie’s specialities is working with children who have autism, downs syndrome and other emotional issues.  Her healing touch balances their emotions, helping them to cope with life more effectively.  It is a proven fact that massage provides physical, mental and emotional benefits.  Blood pressure lowers, metabolism balances, stress and anxiety are lessened and, over time, an over all feeling of well being is experienced by the client.  I have been having massage therapy for over 30 years and Martie offers one of the best hour long treatments I have received.  She is very flexible working with individual clients and their special needs.  I love the fact that her last name “Dufour” plays such a clever part in the name of her business!  Come to think of it…It’s time for me to schedule an appointment!

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522 New Hampshire Street, Suite 7….Covington, LA 70433…985-789-5458