Rice and Gravy Cook-Off

If you grew up in South Louisiana, rice and gravy was (and still is) a popular dish. The simplicity of rice and gravy is what has always made it the perfect go-to dinner: savory gravy made from meat, poultry, or seafood poured atop a plate of steaming white rice. That’s all it takes to satisfy a Cajun’s appetite!

rice and gravy

If thinking about rice and gravy is making you hungry, you’re in luck.  The Breaux Bridge Lions Club is hosting its annual Rice and Gravy Cookoff TODAY!  Locals have registered to put their rice and gravy to the test and are currently cooking up big batches for all attendees to sample from now until 6 PM.

Head over to Parc du Pont in Breaux Bridge for all-you-can-eat rice and gravy and live music provided by Les Bons Sons, Nickeo’s Crustacean’s Band, and Brenda C & the Cajun Jammers.  There are also fun activities for the kids!  Tickets are $5 per entry.  The winners of each cookoff category (meat, poultry, and seafood) will be announced at 4 PM!

bblcBreaux Bridge Lions Club is part of a global service organization network whose mission is to provide community service and improve the lives of local youths, needy, and disabled.  Learn more about the organization here.

Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival

bb crawfish festIt’s no surprise that Louisiana is by far the largest producer of crawfish in the United States.  In fact, the Crawfish Capital of the World is nestled right in the heart of Acadiana.  Breaux Bridge, Louisiana was given the title in 1959 by Governor Earl K. Long.  Each year since then, Breaux Bridge and all of Acadiana have celebrated the success of the crawfish industry in Louisiana at the Annual Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival!

The festival is one of the biggest parties in Cajun Country, receiving around 30,000 attendees each year.  This year’s installment will be held next weekend, May 6th through May 8th, and is expected to be a huge turnout as always.

more crawfish

Can you guess what’s on the menu?  That’s right: crawfish, crawfish, and even more crawfish!  And it’ll be available in every imaginable form – fried, boiled, in an étouffée, bisque, boudin, pie or jambalaya, and crawdogs, along with other Cajun favorites.  (Other foods will also be available, but who goes to the Crawfish Festival and doesn’t eat crawfish?!)

The annual crawfish eating contest will be held for those who have major appetites for the mudbugs.  If you’d rather not eat the crawfish, you can enter one in the crawfish race instead!

In addition to all the food is the crawfish étouffée cook-off, where contestants cook up their best étouffée recipes in hopes of winning the title of Cook-off Champion.  Patrons will be able to sample the entries after judging!

dancing festival

There will be enough live and local music to go around all weekend, provided by 30 Cajun, Zydeco, and Swamp Pop band on three different stages.  So put on your dancing shoes, especially if you plan on competing in the Cajun and Zydeco dance contests!

Kids of all ages will love experiencing the fun and exciting carnival rides and games, all safely enclosed in a fenced-in area.  A highlight of the weekend is the Festival Parade, honoring the festival royalty and featuring festive floats and energetic music performances.

Be sure to check out all the arts and crafts booths for unique and creative items, ranging from clothing and accessories to wood work and furniture!  Official Crawfish Festival merchandise will also be available for purchase.

If crawfish has a special place in your heart, you won’t want to miss out on the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, a weekend full of fun for the whole family!

Visit the event’s website for the full weekend schedule, lineup, and more general information.

5 Tips to Secure a Successful Short Sale

Short sales have become the only way out for some sellers who owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth. For struggling borrowers, it’s a chance to avoid foreclosure.

While helpful, short sales can be stressful, time-consuming and may lead to harsh consequences if not done properly.

Many sellers think the biggest challenge they face in a short sale is persuading the lender to take a haircut and allow the property to sell for less than the mortgage balance. That’s only the first step.

Here are five tips you must know when short selling your home.

Choose an agent experienced in short sales

If you needed heart surgery, would you put your life in the hands of a surgeon whose first surgery would be on you? Probably not.

The same applies to your financial life. Hire a real estate agent experienced in short sales.

Ads of real estate agents who claim to be short-sale specialists are widespread these days. But some of these agents have closed only a handful of short-sale deals. Many have taken short-sale courses and are certified in selling distressed properties. That’s not enough; certifications help, but nothing counts more than experience.

Interview agents, ask how many short sales they’ve closed and ask to talk to some of their clients.

A short sale is a time-consuming transaction and can take months to close. You want an agent who will stay on top of the game until the deal is closed.

Understand potential consequences of short sale

Underwater sellers are so anxious to get rid of their mortgage payments, they often don’t think about what comes after the sale. Then, months or even years later, they receive a collection letter for the difference between what the house sold for and what was owed on the mortgage.

Laws vary by state, but many states allow lenders to go after that balance once a short sale or foreclosure is completed. That’s why it’s crucial for borrowers to understand whether the lender agrees to waive the deficiency, or the balance that will be left on the loan after the sale. This needs to be discussed verbally and represented in documents. It shouldn’t come as a surprise.

One way to avoid a deficiency judgment is to do the short sale through the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program, or HAFA. Lenders who approve short sales through this federal program have to release the borrower from a potential deficiency judgment.

Lenders are not obligated to approve HAFA short sales. They may choose to do the short sale based on their own internal rules and the guidelines set by loan investors. In that case, it’s really up to the lender to decide whether it will pursue the deficiency against the borrower.

You can negotiate your way out of deficiency

When negotiating a short sale, many lenders don’t voluntarily offer to release you of liability on the remaining balance of your loan – at least not for free. But you can ask to negotiate a waiver.

Some lenders may ask you to sign a promissory note for at least a small portion of the balance, usually cents on the dollar, or they may ask for a lump sum. Sellers often are outraged when first presented this settlement offer; they sometimes forget they actually borrowed that money.

In many cases, it is usually worth paying upfront to avoid future headaches. There is a price attached to the waiver of deficiency, but most of them are very tiny.

Talk to an attorney

Real estate agents who are experienced in short sales can coordinate the transaction with the bank and tell you what to expect of the process, but remember they are not lawyers.

Most of the people who do short sales are doing it through the Realtors or people who claim to be short-sales specialists. But there are many issues that borrowers need to discuss that cannot be discussed with a short-sale specialist.

Those issues range from potential tax implications to protecting other assets the borrower may own if the lender tries to collect the balance of the loan in the future.

If you don’t understand the contract you are signing or the potential consequences of a short sale, you should consult with a lawyer.

Keep up with HOA payments

If you are thinking about short selling your home, don’t stop paying your homeowners association dues. The fees can turn into a snowball and kill the sale, even if the buyer is willing to pay for the delinquent dues at closing.

In short sales, there are a few problems that money cannot fix. In a regular sale or even with foreclosures, the seller or the bank pays any past dues owed to the HOA at closing so the buyer gets clear title of the property. But in a short sale, the seller’s lender wants to get every penny out of the transaction.

Plus, you want to make sure the association is able to maintain the common areas so your house is sellable. A short-sale property needs to be maintained. The power needs to be on; the grass needs to be cut. You don’t want your home to look like a foreclosure.

Spicy Shrimp and Grits Casserole

Wine Down Wednesday Logo New

As far as Southern comfort foods go, shrimp and grits is one of my favorites. That’s why when I came across this spicy shrimp and grits casserole, I knew I had to share it! This recipe takes about 20 minutes of active cooking time, and the rest is done by the oven. If you’re looking ahead to a super busy week, it can also be made ahead of time; it’s even freezer-friendly!

I hope you enjoy this spicy, cheesy, delicious shrimp and grits casserole as much as I did. Pair it with a glass of champagne.

shrimp grits casseroleINGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons butter, plus more for baking dish
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats (not instant)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 12 ounces large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cooked
  • 2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded Gouda cheese, divided

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8 x 8 baking dish. Set aside.
  2. Heat butter over medium-high heat. Add the scallion, bell pepper and jalapeno. Reduce heat to medium, cook 4-5 minutes or until beginning to soften.
  3. Stir in garlic, died tomatoes with chiles, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Slowly stir in grits. Stir continuously until mixture returns to a boil Reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Stir in shrimp, bacon, egg, and 1 cup cheese. Transfer to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  5. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until heated through and bubbling. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.