The State of Louisiana, with its people, natural resources, music, culture, and cuisine, has captured my heart. Every time I visit I leave more impressed and several pounds heavier. The spirit of these people, who are constantly bombarded with devastating storms and endure sweltering summer temperatures and humidity, is one of perseverance, endurance, and determined survivability. They live off the land and have repeatedly proven their creativity and resilience. They work hard, they are passionate about the LSU Bengal Tigers and the New Orleans Saints, and whenever possible, they find a reason to celebrate -- as evidenced by the fact that Louisiana has 400 festivals every year in recognition of its food, history, music, and holidays. (Many of those were canceled or greatly modified this past year, but I am certain they will be back bigger and better than ever very soon).
Tomorrow is Mardi Gras 2021, but instead of the usual array of elaborate parades attracting thousands of party-goers, this year's version is designed to provide fun without spreading Covid-19. The idea was hatched for people to decorate their front porches and yards, allowing friends and revelers to drive by and enjoy. Many took that idea to heart.
Here is a sample: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS2o2RtRBH0
Last week I participated, along with 50+ other travel writers, in a Zoom meeting sponsored by Louisiana Travel. We watched as Chef Amy Cyrex-Sins, owner of Langlois (pronounced "lang-wah") in New Orleans, made King Cake Bread Pudding with Bananas Foster Sauce. Who knew it could be made in a muffin tin for individual servings OR in a bundt cake pan? Also, who knew there was such a thing as edible glitter? It's right there on Amazon! Gamechanger.
Here is Chef Amy's recipe for bread pudding. It's simple. I will find an occasion to make it soon.
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk (for these 4 cups, you can use all heavy cream, all milk, or coconut milk)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sugar
1/4 t. cinnamon
1 t. vanilla extract
pinch Kosher salt - Amy defines a pinch as 3 fingers' worth.
10-12 cups day-old bread -- French or brioche are ideal but hamburger or hotdog buns will do in a pinch
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a bundt pan or muffin tin with non-stick spray. (If you use a silicone muffin pan, the portions will pop right out). In a large bowl, combine first 7 ingredients. (Amy uses an immersion blender to create more air in her custard). Toss in bread cubes. Mix gently until evenly distributed over bread. Fill muffin tins 3/4 of the way with mixture. Bake 20-30 minutes. If using a bundt pan, cooking time will be a little longer.
Once bread pudding is cool, remove from muffin tin and place on a wire cooling rack. Top with bananas foster sauce and purple, green, and gold sprinkles. If you leave a comment and request it, I'll be happy to share her recipe for the sauce. :) By the way, purple stands for faith, green represents justice, and gold means power.
For the purposes of tourism, Louisiana is divided into 5 distinct areas: Greater New Orleans, Plantation Country, Crossroads, Cajun Country, and Sportsman's Paradise. I have had a chance to explore 3 of these regions and look forward to finding the treasures of Crossroads and Sportsman's Paradise (with fisherman Steve tagging along) in the not too distant future. Plus, I hear there's an Oyster Trail in Jefferson Parish with my name written all over it. :) For now, though, "Happy Mardi Gras" tomorrow. Fingers crossed that Louisiana will be able to "let the good times roll" with its usual gusto again very soon.
For help in planning your own trip, I suggest going to LouisianaTravel.com and request an Official Visitors Guide.