Archive | December, 2008

Blue Magnolia Bread Pudding Mixes

31 Dec

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We recently received a sampling of 4 flavors of bread pudding mix from Blue Magnolia in Louisiana. I had heard good things and I am anxious to give it a try. We will begin tonight with some Pumpkin Spice bread pudding to ring in the New Year. Stay tuned — we’ll be back with a more detailed review in the coming days. For now, take a few moments to read up on the company and the pharmacist who developed the mixes.

 

Bread pudding is frugal comfort food because it is made from leftover, slightly stale bread. There are dozens of recipes for bread pudding, and most restaurants have their own signature versions of the popular dessert. There is also a line of bread pudding mixes available in the Baton Rouge and Lafayette markets. The mixes are packaged by Southern Seasonings in Broussard and sold under the Blue Magnolia label.

Blue Magnolia Bread Puddings come in four flavors: Original, Classic Cinnamon, Lemon-Chiffon and Pumpkin-Spice. The mix contains the correct proportion of sugar and seasonings to make a 9-inch square pan or 2 1/2-quart casserole-size bread pudding. Cooks add milk, eggs, bread and any desired extras, such as nuts, dried cranberries, coconut and raisins.

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Desiree Guillory, a pharmacist in Lafayette, developed the Blue Magnolia Bread Pudding Mix after a friend who was getting married asked for her bread pudding recipe. For years,  friends had been asking her to come up with a packaged version of her bread pudding, so when the request for the recipe came, Guillory said she thought she might try developing a commercial bread pudding.

Also, true confession, Guillory admitted in a note to the food section, “When my friend asked me for my recipe as a gift for her recipe file, I had to tell her I didn’t have a recipe. I just threw bread puddings together without measuring anything. Since she wanted it so badly, I decided to try to measure everything the next time I made one. Well, that didn’t go so well. I messed the bread pudding up so bad I had to throw it away”, Guillory said.

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“I worked on the recipe for over a month until I finally came up with a recipe that could be duplicated by anyone. It was then that I took everyone’s suggestion and looked into marketing my bread pudding. From October 2003 until February 2004 I did a lot of groundwork. I talked to business people I knew, searched the Web for information, looked into logo development, label development, packaging, manufacturers, UPC codes, nutritional labels, basically everything it would take to get a food product launched,” Guillory continued.

“In February 2004, I met with the owner of Southern Seasonings, Tom Riggs, in Broussard. He loved the concept and the product. He offered to manufacture it for me even though I was just starting and only needed a small order. By October 2004, I sold my first four cases to Bayou Country in New Orleans”, Guillory said.


Since then she has sold the Blue Magnolia Bread Pudding Mix line to customers in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina and Texas.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita slowed down sales, but 2006 was a good year with sales doubling over the previous year, Guillory reported.

Guillory admitted she is passionate about her food company. “My small Blue Magnolia company is so much fun! I feel like I am living the American dream and definitely believe that if you have a passion to make something happen, it can happen with a little hard work, dedication and faith.”

www.bluemagnoliaproducts.com

Footnote: Tried the Pumpkin Spice mix last night – excellent!

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Whitley’s VA Peanuts are Truly Special

31 Dec

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I recently discovered these gourmet peanuts from my home state of Virginia. The Old Dominion has long been known as a top peanut producer and we have long been fans of the gourmet nuts sold at the Virginia Diner in Wakefield, VA.

The select super extra large peanuts we received from Whitley’s are perhaps the finest we have ever tasted. That is a bold claim because we love our peanuts and have sampled some of the finest the USA has to offer.

Whitley’s peanuts are massive and super-crunchy. In addition, they are not oversalted like many brands currently on the market. Forget about Planters peanuts and order some of these tasty little babies today. We guarantee that you will not be disappointed. In fact, I predict you will never go back to the generic store bought goobers again.

What follows is a brief blurb from Whitley’s web site …

Whitley’s “Home-Cooked” peanuts have a wonderful, crunchy freshness and distinctive flavor because our peanuts are still made the old-fashioned way-hand cooked, slowly roasted to perfection. We choose only the highest quality, super extra-large Virginia peanuts which are hand selected for their size and freshness. Each batch is individually cooked with proven, traditional recipes to ensure the crisp, fresh flavor and unique taste for which our peanuts are famous. We are very proud to have been selected by the National Association for Specialty Food Trade as a Finalist in the Outstanding Hors D’oeuvres or Snack Food category. We offer you only the finest products available and we combine our fine quality with good, quick service.

For over 20 years, Whitley’s Peanut Factory has been producing the finest quality gourmet Virginia peanuts on the market. Our delicious “Home-Cooked” peanuts are still hand cooked and slowly roasted to perfection the old-fashioned way. Hand selected for their size (super extra large) and packaged at the peak of their flavor will assure your customer of always receiving a fine quality product from Whitley’s.

In our first year as a member of the National Association of the Specialty Food Trade (1993) we were selected as a finalist in the Outstanding Hors d’oeuvres or Snack Food Category. We are proud to have been selected as a member of the Virginia’s Finest program, which supports and promotes Virginia manufactured products. The display of the Virginia’s Finest logo on our packaging confirms our status as producers of some of the finest quality products Virginia has to offer.

www.whitleyspeanut.com

The Sun Garden on Siesta Key

30 Dec

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Eileen and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary with a “Love Lunch” at the Sun Garden on Siesta Key. This was our first time dining here, although the restaurant is within walking distance of our pad right here on beautiful Siesta.  

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The menu is kept fresh with daily specials.

Most everything is very healthy.

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I started my meal with a bowl of Tomato Bisque topped with basil and sunflower seeds. It was very fresh tasting — and not so creamy. This makes for a less fattening experience. Imagine a warm gazpacho and you’ll get the general idea.

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Eileen, after some deliberation, ordered the fried shrimp salad. She let me try a shrimp and I was impressed. It was meaty and fried to a nice, crispy texture.

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My Yucatan fish taco entree was really tasty. I would strongly urge you to try this if you’re a fish taco aficionado. The grilled mahi-mahi was spiced just right and topped with chopped cilantro and pico de gallo. The accompanying guacamole was super smooth and flavorful.  Squeeze on a little fresh lime juice and you are in business! 

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Make sure you sit in the patio, where The Sun Garden lives up to its name.

Bud Royer’s Pies are the Best!

30 Dec

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Bud Royer is the man — and his pies are pretty darn special too!

Whether you’re a fan of buttermilk pie, chocolate chip pie, or traditional pecan pie, Royer’s Round Top Cafe has got you covered. Royer’s is a great place — located between Houston and Austin in one of the more quaint little towns in the Lone Star State. Round Top, TX boasts lots of history and some terrific eats — thanks to Bud Royer and his folks at Royer’s.  

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The above image is a shot of their wonderful pecan pie — which tastes even better with a heaping scoop of Amy’s Ice Cream (www.amysicecreams.com) on top. Unlike most pecan pies on the market, this baby is not a gummy, flavorless mess. The pecans are big and fresh and the filling is loaded with flavor.

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The buttermilk pies are also incredible. And listen, you don’t have to like drinking buttermilk to enjoy this legendary Royer’s creation. It is very reminiscent of my Granny Justice’s Chess Pie … maybe just a wee bit creamier. Man, is it good! Their kicked up Buttermilk Delight Pie (seen above) incorporates coconut, pecans, and chocolate chips. Serve it up warm and you will be blown away. I am also quite partial to their Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. I had a slab during our last visit and I was extremely impressed. Whole pies are priced at just $16.95 and they ship pretty much everywhere in the free world.

But please don’t just get dessert at Royer’s. Bud makes a great Grilled Shrimp BLT and the steaks at the Round Top Cafe are tender, juicy and delicious. Don’t be fooled, Royer’s may appear like a traditional Texas roadhouse, but the food here is gourmet quality and served up with a tremendous amount of TLC. These fine folks love what they do and it shines through in a big way.

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Check out “Bud The Pieman” today at  WWW.ROYERSROUNDTOPCAFE.COM 

SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE RECIPE

Yield: 12 servings

1 canned sweet potatoes, 60 oz. can

1 ½ sticks butter, melted

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Empty sweet potatoes into a bowl.

Add remaining ingredients.

Beat until smooth.

Pour into a 9×13-inch casserole.

Topping

1 cup shredded coconut

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 stick butter, melted

1 cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons flour

Mix all topping ingredients together and spread over the sweet potatoes. Bake at 300 degrees until the topping is brown.

So long, Delaney Bramlett

29 Dec

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Rock guitarist Delaney Bramlett, who collaborated with such artists as George Harrison and Eric Clapton, died in a Los Angeles hospital following gallbladder surgery. He was 69. His wife, Susan Lanier-Bramlett, said he died on Saturday after “seven hard months” of ill health.

“I held him and he held on up until the last breath with which he went in peace to the light and on into eternity,” she said in a statement. The Mississippi native first gained renown in the late 1960s as part of the southern-fried rhythm and blues combo Delaney & Bonnie, which he formed with his first wife, Bonnie Lynn. The gifted duo were often overshadowed by their “Friends,” as their backing group was known. Among them was Clapton, who regularly performed as a low-key sideman. Bramlett, in turn, produced Clapton’s self-titled debut solo album in 1970, and co-wrote most of the songs, including the gospel-tinged hit single “Let It Rain.”

Clapton brought Delaney & Bonnie to England, and recruited such musicians as Harrison and Dave Mason to perform at their shows. According to Bramlett’s biography, he taught Harrison how to play slide guitar and to write a gospel song, which led to the recording of the former Beatle’s hit single “My Sweet Lord.”

Delaney & Bonnie enjoyed a few hits of their own, including the 1971 tune “Never Ending Song Of Love,” but their popularity faded after Clapton moved on. The couple divorced after releasing their last album together, 1972’s “Together.”

Tasty Butter Toffee from Idaho

29 Dec

 

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The Idaho Candy Company kindly sent us some treats to enjoy over the holiday season. They are most famous for a candy they call the Idaho Spud, which essentially looks like a mini-tater and tastes like a cross between a Mounds bar and a Moon Pie.

However, we actually preferred their decadent butter toffee. This stuff is amazing, folks! Nutty, chewy and delicious. We really would suggest you order up a box for yourself. Our box is now dwindling and I’m not sure if we’re going to be able to live without it.

Read up on the company’s long history & then start ordering …

Idaho Candy Company began as a dream for T.O. Smith in his garage in 1901. He started selling the chocolates he made door to door, and the company started growing. In 1909 Mr. Smith built a modern factory at 412 South 8th Street in Boise to meet the needs of his customers.

The facility was built with the latest conveniences including being the first building in Idaho with skylights and a welfare room for the employees. In this factory Idaho Candy Company produced over 50 different candy bars over the years and many varieties of boxed chocolates.

Three of those candy bars are still in production: Idaho Spud Bar, Old Faithful Bar and the Cherry Cocktail Bar. Our factory also produces 3 varieties of Owyhee Butter Toffee, available in original chunk style, bite sized and chocolate covered.

Idaho Candy Company’s most famous employee is most definitely Violet Brewer. Vi began work at Idaho Candy in 1913 when her mother took ill and Vi had to work to help support the family. Vi was only 13 years old at the time and her first job was stoking the furnace. Later on she became the premier hand chocolate dipper for the company. Vi dipped and rolled chocolates for 50 years and later went to the weighing department where she worked for another 30 years. Vi finally retired in 1995, 82 years after she started with the company.

Today Idaho Candy Company is owned by the Wagers family. John Wagers, chairman, grew up in Nampa, Idaho and bought the company in 1984. Dave Wagers, his son, now serves as President. The company still makes its famous Idaho Spud Bars and Owyhee Butter toffee. We also make about 20 different kinds of bulk candies all in the same “modern” factory on S. 8th Street in Boise, ID.

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The Story of Owyhee (pronouced OH-WY-HEE)

This was the name given the beautiful Sandwich Islands by Captain James Cook when he discovered them on his second voyage in 1778. Afterwards, they were called the Hawaiian Islands; however, one of the islands in this group is still known as the Owyhee Island.

The association of this name with a river, a range of mountains, and a county in Idaho came about through the activities of the Hudson Bay Company, when in 1819 three Sandwich Island Indians or Owhyees, under the leadership of Captain Donald Mackenzie, were trapping on the river that now bears the name when they were attacked by a band of Snake Indians and killed.

After this time the river was known as the Sandwich Island River and was later called the Owyhee River. The mountains and the county were subsequently named from the river.

Idaho Candy Company uses Owyhee as a registered brand name on our candy. Originally, as expressed by Captain Cook, the word meant Delightful, Beautiful, Satisfying, which is truly symbolized in the famous Owyhee Chocolates.

www.idahospud.com

Berger’s Cookies from Baltimore

27 Dec

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I read about these decadent cookies in a recent issue of Saveur.

My mother in law (Pat Gunzelman) is a Baltimore native and she kindly sent us some for Christmas. The cookies are truly delicious and, to my surprise, taste just like a slice of rich chocolate cake.

Give them a try sometime and pick some up if you’re passing through the “Charm City.”   www.bergercookies.com

Berger Cookie History In 1835 two brothers named George and Henry Berger traveled to the United States from Germany. George, was a metal worker and lived in West Baltimore, Henry, was a baker and lived in East Baltimore. Henry had three sons, George, Henry and Otto. Each brother opened their own little bakery, with the exception of Henry who took over his father’s bakery.In the late 1800s “open air” markets dominated the way people shopped. They could purchase all their food needs in one general area. Each vendor had their own little shop, or as they were known, stall. It is believed that each brother maintained a stall in one of about five markets throughout the city.

Around the turn of the century Otto died and George and Henry combined the three bakeries, thus forming “Bergers”. As the automobile became more of a way of travel, the brothers expanded the business to the other markets. Sadly, Henry passed away and that left George as the sole proprietor of the bakery.

George had a young man by the name of Charles E. Russell in his employ. When George was ready to retire he sold the bakery to Mr. Russell. The bakery flourished under the care of Mr. Russell.

When Mr. Russell retired his son, Charles E. Russell, Jr. took control of the bakery operation. The bakery continued to prosper through the depression and two world wars. Mr. Russell, Jr. along with his two sons, Charles 3rd and Dennis, worked together in the business. He also had two brothers working for him by the name of Charles and Benjamin DeBaufre. Mr. Russell retired in 1967, turning over control of the bakery to his sons, the DeBaufre brothers branched out on their own, creating DeBaufre Bakeries, Inc.

The first two years were a struggle to make a fledgling company profitable. However in 1969 the bakery had become profitable enough to purchase Berger’s from the Russell family. In 1978 Charles’ son, Charles, Jr., purchased a portion of the bakery. In 1988, Charles, Sr., passed away, leaving Benjamin and his son Charles, Jr. along with John Koehler, in control of the company. In 1994 Benjamin retired. Charles, Jr. was now the sole proprietor of Berger Cookies.

The bakery has continued to prosper and grow from its relatively modest roots to one of the most recognized cookie in the Maryland region. We still maintain the same recipes, with some minor adjustments to adapt to the changes in processing of the raw ingredients, as in the 1800s. The same commitment to produce a quality product that our loyal customers can enjoy is maintained in our production today.

Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” looks Terrific

27 Dec

Mojitos at the Columbia Restaurant

27 Dec

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The mojitos at Columbia are legendary.

Lots of fresh mint — muddled to perfection.

Is there a more refreshing drink anywhere??? Doubt it!

Our Christmas dinner was really good.

Loved the roast pork & plantains. Even the bread and butter was special.

www.columbiarestaurant.com

“Santa Baby” singer dies on Christmas Day

26 Dec

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WASHINGTON (AFP) – Eartha Kitt, the versatile American singer and actress who died aged 81, mesmerized audiences worldwide for over six decades with her sultry voice and sensuality on stage and screen.

Kitt, whose outspokenness was a mainstay of her career but also led to a self-imposed exile to Europe in the 1960s and 70s after her stinging critique of the war in Vietnam, won two Emmy television awards and was nominated for two Tony awards and a pair of Grammys.

The performer, who lived in the northeastern US state of Connecticut, died late Thursday. She was being treated for colon cancer at a New York hospital, her friend and publicist Andrew Freedman told AFP.

“She was certainly a legendary performer and while I think there may have been many imitations, she was an original,” Freedman said. She was one of the few artists nominated for Tony, Grammy and Emmy awards.

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A self-described “sex kitten,” Kitt famously played the role of Catwoman in the US hit TV series “Batman” in the 1960s. Her trademark feline purr and uncanny persona won her millions of fans, among them Hollywood’s Orson Welles, who called her “the most exciting woman in the world.”

She had an aggressively sexy act and even as an octogenarian took the stage in dresses with thigh-high slits — the better to show off her glamorous legs. Kitt acted in movies as well, starring with Nat King Cole in “St. Louis Blues” (1958) and with Sydney Poitier in “The Mark of the Hawk” (1957). “I do not have an act. I just do Eartha Kitt,” she told the British newspaper The Times in April. “I want to be whoever Eartha Kitt is until the gods take me wherever they take me.”

Her song “Santa Baby,” still a Christmas favorite today, went gold earlier this year. Her other hits included “C’est Si Bon,” “Let’s Do It” and “Just an Old Fashioned Girl” and the 1984 disco song “Where is My Man.”

Kitt rose to fame from humble origins as a mixed-race child who grew up in South Carolina’s cotton fields, and, along with fellow cafe-au-lait screen sirens Lena Horne and Dorothy Dandridge, was among the first of the African-American sex symbols. But she said she did not view her race as key to her success. “I don’t carry myself as a black person, but as a woman that belongs to everybody,” she said in an online forum several years back.

Kitt launched her career as a dancer in Paris with the famed Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe. Before hitting age 20, she had already toured the world as a performer with the company. “Since that period in the early 40s and 50s, Europe has always held a special place in her heart, particularly Paris,” Freedman said. “Paris was one of her great loves. One of her first big hits was ‘La Vie en Rose‘,” he said.

Kitt was blacklisted in the United States during the late 1960s after speaking out against the Vietnam war during a White House luncheon.

“You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed,” she told a group of women hosted by Lady Bird Johnson in 1968. “No wonder the kids rebel and take pot.” The FBI and CIA began investigating her, she learned later, and she spent the next several years working in Hong Kong, Bangkok and Manila.

Kitt worked abroad for years until her triumphant return to Broadway in 1974. She received her second Tony nomination in 1978 for her role in the musical “Timbuktu.” In 2003, she replaced Chita Rivera for a remake of the Broadway musical “Nine.” In December 2006, she returned to the White House to light the National Christmas Tree alongside President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush.

Singing in 10 different languages, Kitt performed in over 100 countries, and was known to have legions of fans sometimes, some of whom were younger than half her age.

She was the voice of the flamboyant Yzma in the animated Disney movie “The Emperor’s New Groove” (2000), and continued to voice the character in a sequel and subsequent TV series. The glamorous cabaret chanteuse, who earlier this year opened Britain’s Cheltenham Jazz Festival, reportedly had had a romantic liaison with Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon cosmetics, who is said to have created a flaming red lipstick for her, called Fire and Ice.

She married in 1960 and had one daughter Kitt Shapiro, before divorcing in 1965. Kitt kept up her Broadway theater work and continued her cabaret stints, performing at the reopening of New York’s Cafe Carlyle in September 2007.