Monday, February 8, 2021

Hot Cocoa Bombs and Hot Chocolate Charcuterie Boards For the Cold Winter Months


Hot cocoa bombs have taken over TikTok. If you want to make hot cocoa bombs yourself you will need a key piece of equipment: a mold.

There are several variations, but, for the most part, they all follow the same basic recipe steps:

1. Make the chocolate shells with melted/tempered chocolate and some sort of half-sphere candy mold. Allow the shells to harden completely before peeling them out.
2. Fill one half of the sphere with hot cocoa (either powdered mix or chocolate shavings).
3. Add the extras: a spoonful of mini marshmallows, candy cane bits, sprinkles, or whatever else you want to use to add more flavors.
4. Place the other half of the sphere on top, and then seal it with more melted chocolate.

Once the bombs are constructed, they’re ready to use. Just like the premade versions, all you have to do is heat up some milk. When you gently pour it over the sphere, the chocolate will melt and create a cup of hot cocoa with your mix-ins.

Hot chocolate charcuterie boards are popping up all over Instagram. Rather than cheese, meat, and fruit, these charcuterie boards are filled with all the necessities for a tasty mug of hot cocoa. Whether you top it with whipped cream, sprinkles, marshmallows, or candy cane pieces, these creative cocoa creations will help you celebrate the cold winter months. You can also include cookies, crackers, and candies to dip in your mug of chocolate.

Check out the new Virginia Diner Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix, a hot chocolate for the serious chocolate lover! Made with sugar, cocoa powder, milk, nonfat dry milk and creamer. We have included 

it in some of our gift baskets and gift boxes at The Virginia Marketplace.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Use Blue Crab Bay Bloody Mary Mix for February 25, 2021 National Chili Day

Blue Crab Bay’s award winning Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mix is great for making your Bloody Marys, We sell Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mix and use it in our Virginia Gourmet Gift Baskets and Seafood Gift Baskets. It can also be used as a delicious cooking sauce. In honor of National Chili Day, Feb. 25, 2021, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of February, here is a unique recipe for Jim's Bloody Mary Chili using Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mix

1 lb. ground turkey
2 c. Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer
2 15 oz. cans chili beans, drained
12 oz. jar roasted red peppers
 6 oz. can tomato paste
large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
 2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium pan, heat olive oil. Sauté onion and garlic until golden brown and remove from pan. Brown turkey in pan, season with salt and pepper if desired. Add onion and garlic back to the pan. Add all other ingredients except cilantro. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for at least half an hour or until flavors develop. Prior to serving, stir in cilantro or use as a garnish. Serve with your favorite toppings, such as sour cream, grated cheese, hot peppers, etc. Serves 4 to 6.

When it comes to the story of chili, tales and myths abound. 
While many food historians agree that chili con carne is an American dish with Mexican roots, Mexicans are said to indignantly deny any association with the dish. 
Enthusiasts of chili say one possible though far-fetched starting point comes from Sister Mary of Agreda, a Spanish nun in the early 1600s who never left her convent yet had out-of-body experiences in which her spirit was transported across the Atlantic to preach Christianity to the Indians. After one of the return trips, her spirit wrote down the first recipe for chili con carne: chili peppers, venison, onions, and tomatoes.

Another yarn goes that Canary Islanders who made their way to San Antonio as early as 1723, used local peppers and wild onions combined with various meats to create early chili combinations.

Most historians agree that the earliest written description of chili came from J.C. Clopper, who lived near Houston. While his description never mentions the word chili this is what he wrote of his visit to San Antonio in 1828: "When they [poor families of San Antonio] have to lay for their meat in the market, a very little is made to suffice for the family; it is generally cut into a kind of hash with nearly as many peppers as there are pieces of meat--this is all stewed together.”

In the 1880s, a market in San Antonio started setting up chili stands from which chili or bowls o'red, as it was called, were sold by women who were called "chili queens." A bowl o'red cost diners such as writer O. Henry and democratic presidential hopeful William Jennings Bryan ten cents and included bread and a glass of water. The fame of chili con carne began to spread and the dish soon became a major tourist attraction. It was featured at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893 at the San Antonio Chili Stand.

By the 20th century chili joints had made their debut in Texas and became familiar all over the west by the roaring ‘20s. In fact, by the end of that decade, there was hardly a town that didn't have a chili parlour, which were often no more than a shed or a room with a counter and some stools. It’s been said that chili joints meant the difference between starvation and staying alive during the Great Depression since chili was cheap and crackers were free.

U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson was a big chili lover. His favorite recipe became known as Pedernales River chili after the location of his Texas ranch. Johnson preferred venison, which is leaner to beef, probably due to doctor’s orders about his bad heart. Lady Bird Johnson, the First lady, had the recipe printed on cards to be mailed out because of the many thousands of requests the White House received for it.

"Chili concocted outside of Texas is usually a weak, apologetic imitation of the real thing,” Johnson is quoted as saying. “One of the first things I do when I get home to Texas is to have a bowl of red. There is simply nothing better.”

In 1977, chili manufacturers in the state of Texas successfully lobbied the state legislature to have chili proclaimed the official "state food" of Texas “in recognition of the fact that the only real 'bowl of red' is that prepared by Texans.”

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Dec. 12 is National Cocoa Day

The weather outside may be frightful, but cozying up with a mug of hot cocoa can make the day more delightful. December 12 is National Cocoa Day! It could hardly come at a more appropriate time. Since the 19th century, the mixture of chocolate (or cocoa powder), heated milk/water and sugar has been a fixture of the winter holidays. Prior to that, (dating back to the Mayan and Aztec civilizations), the concoction was considered to be primarily medicinal in nature, particularly for stomach problems.

Did you know that monkeys were the first creatures to discover that the cacao plant was edible and quite tasty? Over 1500 years ago, monkeys began to consume the pulp of the plant and spit out the beans. Humans soon began to follow the monkey's example and the rest is history.The Mayans are first credited with cultivating the cacao bean to brew xocoatl, an unsweetened version of modern-day hot chocolate. Much later in the 17th century, Spanish doctor Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma published the first recipe as an elixir, adding different spices to treat a number of ailments. Even President George Washington washed down his breakfast of cornmeal hoe cakes with a cup of hot chocolate.

To celebrate national Cocoa Day, send a gift with our new Virginia Diner Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix. a hot chocolate for the serious chocolate lover. Just mix with hot water or milk, stir and enjoy. For a holiday twist on a traditional cup of cocoa, try adding a candy cane!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Kid Made Pumpkin Pie with Byrd Mill Ginger and Spice Cookie Crust.

Kid Made Pumpkin Pie with Byrd Mill Ginger and Spice Cookie Crust.
When you taste this pumpkin pie, you’ll wonder why you’ve never made it with a Byrd Mill Ginger Spice Cookie crust before. That’s exactly what happened when my son and I baked this delicious pie. It’s a perfect recipe to make with kids. Taste a cookie and then crush the rest in a plastic ziplock bag using a rolling pin. Little hands get creative as they mix melted butter into the crumbs and press the sticky delicious mix into a pie pan.
This kid-approved pumpkin pie is fun and easy-to-make. You’ll never go back to boring piecrust after you try this version. Top it off with a generous squirt of kids all-time favorite whipped cream just because, they’ll love it. 
Byrd Mill homemade mixes use locally grown and freshly-ground wheat along with simple straightforward ingredients like sugar, spices and baking powder.

Byrd Mill Ginger and Spice Cookies
1 package  Ginger and Spice Cookie Mix              
1 stick butter (softened)
1 egg
Cut Butter and egg into mix and knead until moist. Roll into 1-inch balls and bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 2 dozen cookies. *You’ll want to make these ahead and let them cool.
Ginger Spice Pie Crust:
1 ½ cups cookie crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter
To make the cookie crust, crush the cookies with rolling pin (or grind up the in a food processor). In a medium bowl mix the cookie crumbs with the melted butter. Press the crumbs evenly and firmly in your pie pan. Our Pumpkin Pie Filling in and bake as directed below. 
Pumpkin Pie Filling:
½ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 can pumpkin
1 can evaporated milk (or substitute 12 ounces non-dairy milk)

Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt in a bowl. Beat eggs in separate bowl then add to sugar mix. Stir in pumpkin, vanilla extract and milk. Pour filling into your Ginger Spice Pie Crust. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40-50 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 2 hours, then refrigerate or serve.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Virginia’s Vanishing Rusty Patched Bumblebee

Some more about the importance of bees,,,, as pollinators, rusty patched bumble bees contribute to our food security and the healthy functioning of our ecosystems. Bumble bees are keystone species in most ecosystems, necessary not only for native wildflower reproduction, but also for creating seeds and fruits that feed wildlife as diverse as songbirds and grizzly bears.

 Bumble bees are among the most important pollinators of crops such as blueberries, cranberries, and clover and almost the only insect pollinators of tomatoes. Bumble bees are more effective pollinators than honey bees for some crops because of their ability to “buzz pollinate.” a pollination technique where it grabs onto a plant and then vibrates its body at a high frequency to shake loose tightly packed pollen that might otherwise be difficult to access. Not all bees buzz pollinate — honeybees, for example, don’t. But buzz pollination is essential for the reproduction of a range of plants, including crops like blueberries, apples and tomatoes. 

But some 25 years ago, the rusty patched bumble bee began to disappear. Eventually the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that the species was “so imperiled that every remaining population is important for its continued existence.” It became the first bee to be included on the agency’s endangered species list in 2017. 

In Virginia, where the species once ranged widely, the bee in recent years has only been observed in four counties: Bath, Highland, Augusta and Rockingham, with the most sightings in the former two locations. 

There is little consensus among scientists about what’s causing the rusty patched bumble bee’s disappearance, but much is being done to conserve them.

Several U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs work to assess, protect, and restore pollinators and their habitats. Also, the Service works with partners to recover endangered and threatened pollinators and pollinator-dependent plants. Concern about pollinator declines prompted formation of the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, a collaboration of people dedicated to pollinator conservation and education.

Trusts, conservancies, restoration groups and partnerships are supporting pollinator initiatives and incorporating native plants that support bees and other pollinators into their current activities. 

Researchers are studying and monitoring the impacts of GMO crops and certain pesticides on pollinators. Efforts by citizen scientists and researchers to determine the status of declining bee species are underway throughout the U.S.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

September is National Honey Month

Monastery Creamed Honey
Monastery Creamed Honey

National Honey Month is a celebratory and promotional event held annually during the month of September in the United States. Its purpose is to promote American beekeeping, the beekeeping industry, and honey as a natural and beneficial sweetener.
National Honey Month, initiated by the National Honey Board, marks an important time for honey producers and beekeepers across the nation. In the United States, honey collection season typically concludes in September as bees begin to secure their hives and prepare for winter.

In the spirit of celebration, try some fun flavors of Monastery Creamed Honey and here are a few fun facts you may not have known about bees, beekeeping, and honey!

There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees throughout the world; 4,000 of which are native to the United States.

A single worker honeybee produces approximately 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. That means around 22,700 bees are needed to fill a single jar of honey!

In 2012, archaeologists discovered “the world’s oldest honey”! It was found in ceramic jars in Georgia, the country – not the state, and is estimated by scientists to be about 5,500 years old!

Although Utah’s official state emblem features a beehive and enjoys the nickname “The Beehive State”, top honey producing states include North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, California, Florida, Texas, Minnesota, Michigan, Louisiana, and Georgia.

Honey comes in a variety of colors and flavors – including blue or purple! States located in the southeastern region of the United States are known to produce purple honey. Purple honey is an incredibly rare harvest – some beekeepers go their entire lives without ever encountering it. There are many different hypotheses on how purple honey gets its color, but scientists still cannot reach an agreement on the cause.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Southern Peach Jam Cake with Graves Mountain Peach Preserves

On July 25, Graves Mountain Lodge had their 9th Annual Peach Day Festival. There was live music, craft vendors. Hayrides, pony rides, food and of course, Peach Ice Cream, Peach Milkshakes, Peach Preserves, Peach Cobbler and FRESH Peaches and other produce for sale. They were open with CDC advice in place plus 110 acres for social distancing. If you missed it this year, you can make plans to make it to the next one. You don’t have to miss out on those delicious Graves Mountain Peach Preserves, Just click here.
So many ways to enjoy Graves Mountain peaches and Graves Mountain Peach Preserves. We’ll be trying this Southern Peach Jam Cake with a side of fresh peaches.
Southern Peach Jam Cake                                                                 
Ingredients:       2 cups sifted cake flour                                      
                          1 tsp. baking soda
                          1 tsp. baking powder
                          1 tsp. ground cinnamon
                          1 tsp. ground nutmeg
                          1 tsp. ground allspice
                          ½ tsp. salt
                          ¾ cup butter, softened
                          1 cup sugar
                          1 cup peach preserves
                          1/2 cup sour cream
                          3 large eggs
                          ½ cup chopped pecans
Frosting:           1-8 ounce package cream cheese softened
                         ¼ cup butter softened
                         1-16 ounce package confectioner sugar
                         ½ cup peach preserves
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 9-inch cake pans with non-stick baking spray with flour.  In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. 
  2.  In another large bowl, beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Add preserves and sour cream beating well.  
  3. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
  4. Fold in flour mixtures and pecans.  Pour into prepared pans.  
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  
  6. Cool in pans or wire racks for 5 minutes.  Remove from pans and cool completely.
For Frosting:
  1. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until creamy.  Gradually add confectioner sugar, beating until smooth.  
  2. Stir in preserves.  
  3. Spread frosting evenly between layers and on top and sides of cake.