Jan Norris: Food and Florida

Food, Restaurants, Recipes and Pre-Disney Florida

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Gifts for the Cook From Florida

December 18th, 2009 · 1 Comment


Here are some last minute-gifts that say Florida – good choices to send the frozen hinderlands to rub in just slightly, or something for yourself to remember your trip. There’s still time to order these for rush delivery by the 25th, I think, but do get on it right away.

(Disclosure: I get no kickbacks for promoting any 0f these, except from my own cookbooks, which I earned!)

Florida Reusable Shopping Bags

Can you get your head around how many billions – that’s right: billions – of plastic bags there are floating around on our planet? It’s obscene! I, for one, wish stores would charge for the bags – that would force us into doing what the Europeans do: Bring their own bags for shopping, and reuse them till they wear out.

I have dozens

I have dozens of reusable bags (yeah, it’s becoming trouble) – I forget to take them into the store with me and remember only at the check-out line, so buy more. But the early ones were really ugly and had small handles that cut my hands, too. They didn’t hold much, either.

Beauty in a reusable bag

w-d-reusablebagsThen, I hit Winn-Dixie’s new recycled ones, released this fall. They’re a very generous size, with wide canvas handles and are made of 95 percent recycled materials. They’re also graphically great – I have the one with oranges, of course, but the mango one makes a cool Florida gift – and sort of demonstrates how to “porcupine” cut a mango.

For $1.50 each, it’s a cheap thrill; they’re available at Winn Dixie grocery stores. If you can’t find one near you, email me or call (see my Help Line, top left of page) – there’s one within cycling distance to my home, and I’ll arrange to buy some and get them to you if you’re just burning to have one.

Florida’s own 4-Orange Premium Vodka

4-Orange Premium VodkaWhat makes this made-in-Florida vodka special is that it’s made from real Florida oranges – the byproduct of orange juice. I love it in every drink I’ve made with it, and it’s a new secret ingredient in some of my desserts.

Other vodkas are “orange flavored.” That’s like the difference in grape Kool-Aid and real grape juice. Huge, where flavor is concerned.

Think of it as a “green product” — recycling at its tastiest. The leftover pulp from four well known Florida oranges — the Hamlin, Parson Brown, Temple and Valencia – is used to make the molasses, or mash, from which this smooth vodka is distilled.

It’s $24.95 or thereabouts, and you can find it at most wine and liquor stores now. I’ll be writing more about the historic distillery in Lake Alfred where they make it and which I recently toured, so watch for it.

Gators, Flamingoes and Crabs – Oh My!

Some folks just have to have the kitsch in their kitch. One of the most popular items I’ve ever written about for cooks looking for a Florida gift was the alligator oven mitt. I had to go to Louisiana to find one online. It’s the same alligator that populates the banks of Lake Okeechobee where I cycle, I promise.alligator-potholder

He is $8.95 from www.cajun-creations.com (You also could order some crawfish from them for your New Year’s Day crawfish boil you’ll invite me to…. just sayin’.)

Flamingo coasters

We like the tastefulness of these flamingo stone coasters – they’d be a welcome host gift. Stone works to absorb liquid – and if you’ve lived in Florida more than 5 minutes, you already know the phrase “Humidity Happens.”

Set these lovelies under your drinks and pretend you’re in Key West even if you must eventually go shovel that white stuff they call snow. I heard of it once…

They coasters are from a shop that’s all things flamingo: www.apinkflamingoshop.com – be prepared for the shocking pink web site. The coasters are $21.99 a set of four.

Crabs for condiments

crab-snp-setOur blue crabs – and we have tons of them (best are from Gulf Coast – sorry, East coasters…) are a beautiful thing. If you’re a crabby sort, or know someone who is, get them this crab condiment set – napkin holder, salt and pepper shakers. They’re also tasteful but have a hint of whimsy.

They’re a steal at $4 from manateegiftsgalore.com. This is the site for the Vanishing Mermaid Gift Shop in Fort Pierce, Fla.,  which is part of the Manatee Observation and Education Center – a nonprofit that helps preserve these giant “sea cows.”

Throw in some of my crab-boil mix and instructions with them:

Jan Norris’ Homemade Crab Boil Mix

  • 1/4 cup smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Whisk together all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Makes 1-1/4 cups.

To use: Add the mix to 3 gallons of water in a large stock pot with a quartered, peeled onion and a bay leaf. Boil, add crabs (or shrimp or crawfish) and cook till seafood is done. Makes enough for 10 pounds of seafood.

My Cookbooks Are Great Stocking Stuffers

Finally, pick a Florida author for your cookbook gift. My publisher would love it if I would “occasionally mention” my books, he says. So this seems a good time, and I do have quite a few laying around here.

Florida Bed and Breakfast Recipes

floridamorninggloryOne is about our state’s Bed and Breakfasts. Florida Morning Glory is subtitled “Memorable Recipes from the Sunshine State’s Favorite B&B Inns.”

There are some yum recipes in here, such as the Potato-crusted quiche with smoked cheddar and bacon from our own Sabal Palm House in Lake Worth, or the Chocolate-cherry granola cookies from the Azalea House in Palatka.

By the way, you can visit Mary Thurwachter’s site, InnSide Florida, to learn all about the Bed and Breakfasts in Florida – she’s been writing about them for years and knows her state.

Sweet Southern Desserts and Treats

sweet-southernMy “South mouth” loves this book best. Sweet Southern is a collection of desserts that are classic and regional favorites from around the Southern states. The ever popular Red Velvet Cake recipe, an Kentucky Jam Cake, Chess Pie and even a version of my mom’s famous Lane Cake are among the dozens of recipes here.

Somebody on Amazon liked it enough to comment, “Picked up this little jewel at the San Antonio Airport. I realized I had the recipes for desserts I had read about in magazines, books & fancy restaurants. Tried several and received high praise for my efforts.

“This book is a small collection of cakes, cobblers and pies; a collection of the most rich and famous of the South. All the ingredients are identified (no boxes) and the instructions are clear and easy to follow. Personal notes from the author are nice, too. I also bought this book for cookbook collector friends.”

I swear I don’t know this commenter – but whoever you are, thank you for the kind words.

How to Order

The books are $6 for Florida Morning Glory, and $5 for Sweet Southern and you can order from me. Shipping is $2.50, or if you’re local — near Palm Beach County — call my Help Line (561) 340-0280-  and I’ll try to make arrangements to get them to you without dealing with the busy Post Office. (A $2 gas and traffic-hassle fee applies to hand-deliveries.)

 Hope you find something on this site for the cook in your life!

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Robert // Jun 13, 2012 at 10:27 am

    My mom & I originally bought a copy of Sweet Southern Desserts and Treats to try a recipe. I forgot my copy of the recipe at her house in San Antonio, so I bought another book and we both baked the desired recipe. We later collaborated on several other pies and truely enjoy baking together via long distance ! The recipes are easy to follow & are classic desserts of the South, plus my mom (who lives OUT in the country) has no problem finding the items for the recipes. Great little book !

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