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by Jamie Berube It’s 10 a.m., and I haven’t showered. A lazy Sunday ponytail and my blue and orange Florida football shirt make me dreamy with thoughts of home. I think back to a moment two years ago in which I sat in my mother’s kitchen with a bowl of cheerios before church, prayin’ to Jesus for no rain. “You’re a California girl now, cut it out.” The newly–made, sun-kissed Southern California girl mindset of mine fights against those memories. As I cruise a familiar, sleepy street in the urban sprawl of Orange County, I flip on the radio. Then it happens. I hear “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynryd Skynyrd, and it doesn’t matter that my hair’s a mess; and I haven’t showered today. The rugged 1970’s guitar riffs, and the image of the band in their black cowboy hats and bell bottoms awaken the Southern twang in my soul; and all I want is to be eating BBQ by the river where my roots lie. I should not admit this publicly. The refined So Cal elites and West Coast bros may never forgive me for what I’m about to confess. I miss the South. I let my car windows down and take my foot off the gas a bit.

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We interviewed Georgia gal Gena Knox for our Southern characters section (read the full article here) and ended up talking turkey, just in time for Thanksgiving. Gena offers Turkey Perfect Brining Kits through her company Fire & Flavor. She knew that during the cooking process, meat can lose up to 30 percent of its water, but a properly brined and cooked turkey will reduce that loss by half. So, Fire & Flavor's Brining mixes include salt and spices that help to trap moisture in the turkey, a process Gena says is "one of the best ways to cook a turkey." After brining, the turkey can be roasted, smoked, grilled or even fried. Fire & Flavor's brine mixes, also available at Whole Foods and Bed, Bath and Beyond, come in apple sage, herb, ancho chile and herbs de provence flavors and include a large brine bag. This Thanksgiving, we plan on brining our turkey in the herb flavor before dropping it into a fryer, a turkey cooking method that's popular in South Louisiana. Since this will be our first time brining, we'll be using the Fire & Flavor website and its section with turkey perfect instructions, a video by Gena and tips and

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Georgia cook Gena Knox gets back to her roots in redefining Southern cuisine. by Erin Z. Bass With a new cookbook out, plus an existing line of grilling products, Georgia gal Gena Knox may be the new face of Southern cuisine. Growing up on a farm in the middle part of the state, outside of Macon, Gena spent her days helping her mother and grandmother in the kitchen, selling lemonade and boiled peanuts in town and checking the fields with her dad. Some of her earliest memories are of food, whether it be her grandmother's caramel cake or fried catfish and butterbeans for dinner. "Growing up we lived on traditional Southern foods," she says. "Every Sunday, fried chicken, chicken fried steak. My mom made everything." In starting her own career, first with a fresh salsa company in Colorado, followed by a catering business and now the company Fire and Flavor, Gena wants the world to know that healthy cooking doesn't mean a compromise in taste. This is an especially hard sell to Southerners, used to cooking with that stick of butter, frying oil or pack of bacon. But Gena's goal with her latest cookbook, "Southern My Way," is to show people around

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By Amanda Burleigh This past year my husband and I thought we would try our hands at a garden for the first time. We had a nice sized section of yard and filled it with a variety of veggies, including tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers and chili peppers. As the months went by and our schedules got busier, the garden received less and less attention. Some plants held on longer than others, but unfortunately most of them died. However, one group managed to thrive, and that was the chili peppers. Now I am faced with dozens of peppers and no clue what to do with all of them.   My first attempt to use the peppers was in homemade salsa. Not realizing how spicy these peppers actually are, I made a small batch and used my poor family as guinea pigs. The salsa was downright inedible. I tried desperately to tame the fiery dish by stretching it with anything and everything I could find. My once small batch of salsa suddenly filled my largest gumbo pot, and was still too hot to eat. Sadly, I had to throw it down the drain. Back in the kitchen a second time, I'd learned from my previous mistakes and

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Rocky Sonnier reigns as Cracklin' King in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. by Erin Hutton Rocky Sonnier whistles as he preps breakfast at Bayou Boudin and Cracklin Café, just as he’s been doing since the café opened in 1987. Cracklin’, uncured pork belly fried in hog lard, is always first on his “to-cook” list as the pork bellies have to fry for over two hours and he wants to be sure there will be cracklin’ ready for 8 a.m. breakfast service. Sonnier is the Cracklin’ King, a title he won at the annual Cracklin’ Festival in 1987. He won first place in both 1989 and 1990 as well. “We were fortunate,” he says, “we haven’t been in a while though, been too busy here.” He and his wife, Lisa, opened the café in part because they felt they could make Cajun food at least as good, if not better than, what they got when they went out to eat it. Their successes have proved them right; in addition to Sonnier’s title as Cracklin’ King and features in national media, they’ve received the ultimate compliment: locals often bring out of town guests to the café for good, traditional Cajun food. With the success of Cracklin Cafe, the Sonniers

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by Amanda Burleigh The Alabama tourism bureau has designated 2011 Alabama’s Year of Music! The state will be celebrating its strong musical heritage all year, as a wide variety of genres and artists have roots in the state. Alabama’s abundant musical history can be discovered in museums like the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, recording studios Muscle Shoals and FAME and childhood homes of some of the biggest music legends America has ever known. Some such legends who either recorded in Alabama, were born there or have history with the state include Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Clarence Carter, Bobbie Gentry, Bob Dylan, Cher, The Osmonds, The Allman Brothers, Bob Seger, Percy Sledge, The Rolling Stones, Dire Straits, Rod Stewart and Little Richard. Quite a who's who in music history! Specifically for this tourism campaign, Gibson custom-designed a guitar shaped like the state of Alabama, which was unveiled in Birmingham on October 22. Although only recently unveiled to the public, the guitar has already been played by multiple artists including Bob Dylan, Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers and Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi. The guitar was also played on Jay Leno by a member from Jamey Johnson’s band. if you've enjoyed

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Biloxi's Ohr-O'Keefe Museum opens this weekend, signaling the Mississippi Gulf Coast is alive and well - and ready for holiday travelers. by Erin Z. Bass Five years after Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi’s Gulf Coast is still busy rebuilding and re-inventing itself, and there’s no better time than now to plan a trip to view its progress. With the much-anticipated opening of the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art this weekend, locals and travelers will have the opportunity to visit a Frank Gehry-designed space that celebrates the self-proclaimed “Mad Potter of Biloxi” on Beach Boulevard. Joining new hotels, plush casino spas, thriving downtowns, historic homes and restaurants that have stood the test of time, the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum is just another reason why the Mississippi Gulf Coast is making a comeback and here to stay. In 1994, a group of Mississippi citizens opened the George Ohr Arts and Cultural Center. Ohr was born in Biloxi in 1857 and studied to be a potter in New Orleans, exhibiting his work at the 1884 World’s Fair. Having created more than 10,000 pots in his lifetime, Ohr’s style was described as abstract and without perfection; his pots are thin with metallic glazes and twisted, pinched shapes. Much of his clay

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by Erin Z. Bass Deep South spent Halloween weekend in St. Francisville, Louisiana, a land of rolling hills, crepe myrtles, beautiful plantations and a few lingering spirits about 20 minutes from Baton Rouge. Those of you who followed our trip via Facebook and Twitter know we didn't actually see any ghosts, but I made sure to take lots of pictures during our tour of The Myrtles Plantation (one of America's most haunted homes) as well as our stay at The Cottage Plantation down the road. Back home, going through all of the photos, I found two that may have captured some sort of spirit. (All the photos will be up on Flickr later today.) Take a look and tell me what y'all see! This photo was take at The Myrtles Plantation, which dates back to 1796 and is believed to house 12 ghosts. The most well known is Chloe, a slave who baked a poisonous birthday cake that killed the mistress of the home and her two daughters. Chloe was supposedly hanged after the incident. Another ghost is reported to be that of a young girl with blonde hair, about 9 years old, who is trapped in the front hall mirror after

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