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Any Last Words?

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By Gini Raineycookbook_junkie[1]

Don’t you just love all of the surveys, quizzes, etc., that keep popping up on social media sites?  And, if taking one isn’t enough, they seem to lead to a rabbit hole that you can get lost in for hours, if you decide to go there.  I like the ones that ask things like “what is your favorite color? What is your favorite food? What is your favorite smell?” and then you click a button and it calculates an answer that is very revealing as to your personality, your best friend, or what you’re going to be when you grow up.  I just don’t know how “they” are able to figure all of that out from the very generic questions that are asked.

Along those lines, have you ever had anyone ask you “if you could have anything to eat – what would it be?”  I have, and I must say that I really don’t have a “favorite” food.  I pretty much like just about everything, but if asked what I would like to eat, I have a hard time coming up with anything specific.  When I was in grade school, my go-to-lunch was always peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chicken noodle soup.  THAT was my favorite food at that time.  Now? Well, right now I’m challenging my brain with what we should have for dinner.  I have a ton of cookbooks, a lovely kitchen, food in the freezer, and a husband who will eat just about anything I fix, but I’m at a loss for what it should be tonight.

So, where is all of this heading, you might ask.  Well, when I’m fortunate enough to have a conversation with one of my faithful readers and she just happens to mention that there is a cookbook that would make for an interesting blog entry, I just have to find that book, give it a once over, and fill everyone in about it.  As I’ve mentioned many times before, I surely don’t need any more cookbooks, but I’m a sucker for something new and unique.

“The Death Row Cookbook” by John Fleury is one of those kinds of books that asks the question “what would you like to eat?”  Well, not you specifically, but that group of folks that are a captive audience on death row.  Published by Absolute Crime Books in 2014, this little 147 page book goes where no other book has dared to go before – Death Row.  Not only does Fleury give the background information on the 28 featured criminals, but he also shares what their last meal requests were, along with their last words, and their method of execution.

This book gives some insight into the criminal mind shortly before the owner’s death, as the last meal is a way for the penal system to offer a last minute nod to humanity.  If you’ve death rowever wondered what Ted Bundy, who may have committed nearly 100 murders,  asked for his last meal, perhaps it will come as no surprise that one of the things he requested was a medium rare steak.  Then there was Velma Barfield who murdered more than half a dozen people by politely lacing their food and drinks with arsenic.  She requested only two things and they came in packages – cheese doodles and Coca Cola perhaps so that it would be harder for them to be filled with poison than prepared foods.

Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, chose 2 pints of Ben and Jerry’s Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream for his last meal.  It is also rumored that PETA had contacted him to request that his final meal contain no meat.  Then there is the maximum calorie award winner, Gary Carl Simmons, Jr., who was a butcher who took his craft a bit too far by carving up his dead victim and disposing of the dismembered body in the alligator infested bay.  Coming in at a whopping 29,000 calories, he managed to consume a medium-sized deep dish Pizza Hut Super Supreme pizza, 10 packs of parmesan cheese and 10 packs of ranch dressings, a family-sized bag of cheese Doritos, 8 ounces of cheese, 4 ounces of peppers, 2 large strawberry milk shakes, 2 cherry Cokes, a super-sized McDonald’s French fry order, and 2 pints of strawberry ice cream.  His last words were “I’ve been blessed to be loved by some good people, by some amazing people.  I thank them for their support.  Now, let’s get it on so these people can go home.  That’s it.”

Well, all of this talk about food has made me hungry, and although I’m hopeful it won’t be my last meal, I’m thinking that Ted Bundy’s Medium Rare Steak sounds mighty good to me today.  What is surprising to me is that the recipe in this book is so close to the way I prepare steaks around here!  It involves the marinade that my Uncle Eli always used for his grilled chuck roasts, and I know that I’ve shared it before in this blog.  Just in case you’ve forgotten it or can’t find it, and seeing as how we are coming up the prime grilling season, here’s a refresher for you.

Place your favorite cut of steak into a large zip lock bag along with ¼ cup teriyaki or soy sauce along with 2 cloves of coarsely chopped garlic.  Allow to marinade at least 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.  Turn every couple of hours to evenly [wdi_feed id=”1″]distribute the marinade over the meat.  Remove from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Remove from the bag and salt and pepper to taste and grill to your level of doneness.  Believe you me, this is some mighty fine eating.  Maybe this would be my favorite food!  Yup, I think it is!



Foodie Events: Decorating Your Way Through Summer…Cookies That Is


July 10th (6:30-8pm) – Summer Fun Cookie Decorating Workshop will be held at The Potpourri House, 3320 Troup Hwy., Tyler. You will receive 1/2 dozen cookies to decorate as well as instructions on how to decorate themed cookies using a special blend of Royal-Glaze icing. These will be a mix of Vanilla-Brown Sugar and White-Almond cookies that you can take home to enjoy. Each person will receive cookies and access to multiple colors of icing bags and tools to work with. All tools and supplies will be provided. Also, a 10″ sturdy plate will be provided for carry home (you may bring your own container).

Other classes will be July 24th (6:30pm), Tropical Fish Cookie Decorating Class will be held at Kiepersol Salt Kitchen, 4120 FM 344E in Bullard. RSVP at

July 20th and September 21st (5:30-6:30pm) – XTC Barbells, Bites & Beer – Start your weekend with a Friday evening XTC Workout, followed by some appetizers, bites, and beers on the patio! Members are $20 a session and non-members are $25 a session. For more info or to register please contact Tony Cruz at (903)561-3014 or email This will be held at Tyler Athletic and Swim Club, 11208 Oak Creek Blvd., Tyler.

July 25th (7-9pm),  Vitner’s Dinner: Taste of Alaska – This dinner is full of classic Alaska flavors and paired with our exclusive and adventurous wines. This will be held at Kiepersol, 21508 Merlot Ln., Bullard. RSVP by calling (903)894-3300, or visit

Other Vintner’s Dinners will be September 26th, South of the Border; and November 28th, Fall Harvest.

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The Cookbook Junkie

This Is To Die For!

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By Gini Rainey

When my mother passed away on July 4th, 1977, I hadn’t been exposed to very many funerals here in the South, and I really don’t remember that I had attended that many before we moved to Texas, so I wasn’t sure what type of etiquette was called for.  I do know that we were inundated with food the day that she died, the bulk of which was bowl after bowl after bowl of butter beans.  If I’m not mistaken, we were presented with at least five bowls worth – big bowls – maybe you could even say very large bowls.  I know it was partly the lack of sleep and the grief process, but my sister and I started taking bets on what type of food was being delivered when the doorbell rang.  Of course, as the day progressed we knew for sure the next dish of funeral food would be butter beans and most of the time we were correct. To make matters worse, we all left the next day to fly to Minnesota for mom’s burial, leaving a refrigerator literally packed full of butter beans.  When we returned 5 days later, you can rest assured that our disposal got quite a workout.

So today I would like to share with you THE definitive book about funerals.  I wish I had read this book prior to 1977!  Apparently butter beans, along with tomato aspic, are two of the primary foods necessary for a Delta funeral.  After reading this book, I’m pretty sure some of us have been doing it all wrong, and “Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral,” written by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays, can help us overcome that hurdle so we can all become the perfect food-providers when the time comes.  Printed by Miramax Books in 2005, this book is just one of the many guides that Metcalfe and Hays have written to help everyone (or at least those who really care) put on their best Delta (Mississippi) Etiquette to safely (and correctly) be part of just about any social situation imaginable from weddings and baby showers, all the way to funerals.

Although most of their wisdom is gleaned from their tri-state region of LA-ARK-Miss, I would imagine you could manage anywhere if you use their book for your own funeral food etiquette.  They also, so very charmingly, have included lots of recipes that are interspersed throughout their tongue-in-check chapters that are cleverly named Dying Tastefully in the Mississippi Delta; The Methodist Ladies vs. the Episcopal Ladies; Who Died? Stuffed Eggs, Etiquette, and Delta Pâté; I Was So Embarrassed I Liketa Died; Suitably Boxed: Meringue Shells, Pecan Tassies…and You, just to name a few.

I love how Metcalfe and Hays have taken a serious subject like death/funerals and put a nice, fresh twist on facing the final curtain.  They even managed to sneak in several references to death like “to die for” and “dying to get in,” so you might find yourself dying of laughter reading this book.  Just in case you might want to use some of the recipes, don’t worry, you won’t need to wait for someone to pass on to glory for you to try them out.

When it comes to pimiento cheese, I’m pretty sure that you will find a divided audience.  People seem to either love it or hate it.  I get a craving for it about once a year, so I’m surprised to find that these ladies, who refer to it as Southern Pâté, included six variations of it in their book.  The recipe that stands out for me is called Beer-Cheese Pimiento.  To make it, using a food processor, blend together 8 ounces grated extra sharp cheese, 8 ounces grated red rind cheese or mild American cheese, 2 cloves of fresh garlic, 1 ½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, ½ tablespoon salt, ½ tablespoon dry mustard, ½ cup beer – not “lite,” several splashes of Tabasco, 1 small jar (2 ounces) diced pimientos, and mayonnaise to taste.  After blending, add ¼ cup pistachio nuts – or more to taste – and finish blending.  This will make about one quart of PC – more than enough for lots of sandwiches or to eat with chips.  Wondering what to do with the rest of that beer?  Well, drink it of course and enjoy!

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Eat It – It’s Good for You!


By Gini Rainey

Now that we are a week down the road from Mother’s Day, I would imagine things around your  house – and kitchen – have pretty much returned to normal.  We’re past breakfast in bed for mom or a meal at her favorite restaurant, and if your kids are anything like my kids were, you’re starting to hear “I don’t like that” or “why don’t we ever have what I like to eat” at meal time.  As a young mom on a limited budget, keeping a family of four food-happy seemed to be a daily struggle – trying to please everyone – that I nearly threw my hands up in the air and said, “Let them eat cake!”

However, being the ever-resourceful person that I was, I came up with a plan.  I sat the four of us down, gave everyone five pieces of paper and asked them to write down their favorite meals.  When they were done, I put all the papers into a bowl and with my calendar in front of me, we drew them out one at a time and entered them in the Monday thru Friday boxes for a month.  Then, I patiently explained to the girls that this was how it was going to be – Mom’s Cafeteria Calendar would rule our daily menus, and if one of us didn’t like what was going to be served, just be patient, because ‘something you will like’ would come along soon.

I will admit that one of my favorite meals to prepare is spaghetti, and I will also admit that I generally would make it on Wednesdays, which were a nightmare for the Taxi Mom.  This was a meal I could prepare ahead of time and have dinner on the table in the least amount time.  In later years, the girls told me they always knew what we were having for dinner after dance lessons, because we ALWAYS had spaghetti on Wednesdays.

Well, all of this is to say that Dom DeLuise put together a great cookbook filled with his Mama’s recipes, as well as some from his friends and celebrities. DeLuise, the quintessential Italian wrote, “Eat This…It’ll Make You Feel Better!” It was published in 1988 by Pocket Books and is filled with some really terrific recipes and photographs of, not only Dom and his family, but also the likes of Ronald Reagan, Ricardo Montalbon, Anne Bancroft, and Burt Reynolds. There are also lots of tales about Dom and his friends that are written in such a great way it’s like you can almost hear him talking off the page.

While we often think of Italian cooking as being hearty and loaded with calories, nothing could be farther from the truth with this cookbook.  The majority of this book leans towards a healthier cooking/eating style and reflects Dom’s attitude about natural flavors, i.e. “Salt may be good for melting ice in your driveway, but let’s face it, it is not very good for you.”

Well, here’s a dish that sounds really yummy and is good for you, too.  Broccoli with Rigatoni by itself sounds great, but can also be augmented with chicken and mushrooms for a heartier version.  In a large skillet, heat 8 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter and gently brown 4 minced garlic cloves.  Add a bunch of broccoli that has been separated into florets (reserve the stems for another use) and stir gently until the pan gets very hot.  Add 1 cup of chicken broth, cover, and simmer just until the broccoli is al dente.  Meanwhile, cook one pound of rigatoni until al dente and then add to the skillet, along with ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil.  Mix thoroughly and put on a hot serving dish and sprinkle with another ½ cup fresh basil, pepper, fresh, chopped parsley, and grated romano or parmeson cheese. Serve with crusty bread and a tossed green salad.


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