Kool Kat of the Week: Making Whoopie Pies with Widdi Turner of No Big Whoop Bakery, Just in Time for the Turnin’ Trixx Bake Sale and Valentine’s Day!

Posted on: Feb 8th, 2012 By:

Widdi Turner's whoopie pies make a delicious Valentine's gift.

By Jennifer Belgard
Contributing Editor

Widdi Turner is one of the most talented and busiest gals in the ATL. She’s an actor, producer, crafter, a baton twirling-go-go dancing-performer, and an adventurous baker. She’s a one woman whirlwind taking Atlanta by storm. This month celebrates the one-year anniversary of her No Big Whoop Bakery, and Widdi is taking it to new heights. Her delectable treats are the perfect gift this Valentine’s Day.

Widdi’s homemade Nutella Whoopie Pies are the number-one selling dessert at Wisteria Restaurant in Inman Park.  Her weekly specialty flavors are also available online, or at Casseroles in Morningside.  You can pick up her goodies and many others at the Turnin’ TriXXX Bake Sale Sunday, Feb. 12 at the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club in Little 5 Points from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

ATLRetro: Tell me a little about yourself.

Widdi Turner: Well, I do a little this, I do a little that!  I’ve worn a lot of hats in my life, which is probably why I first became an actor – I figured then I could be anything. In addition to acting – my biggest claim to fame would be appearances on GOOD EATS with Alton Brown – I also produce commercials, have my own crafts business [called] widdiwoo; twirl with Turnin’ TriXXXLittle 5 Points’ premier baton twirling troupe!; but mostly these days, I make whoopie pies – lots and lots of whoopie pies.

What led to the creation of No Big Whoop Bakery?

Speaking of Turnin’ TriXXX, we have a semi-annual bake sale at the Euclid Ave Yacht Club. Last year – one year ago this Valentine’s Day, in fact! – I introduced my whoopie pies along with cake pops and macaroons. The whoopie pies were the easiest of the three, so thankfully they were also the most popular!  And literally, after that day, the orders have never stopped coming in.  I had no intention of starting a business. It basically took on a life of its own, and I’m just tagging along for the ride.

Widdi Turner making whoopie pies.

I have about 10 that stay in constant rotation.  I recently cut the list down a little, although there are more flavors that I make if requested.  I do special events such as showers, wedding receptions, birthdays, etc.  I can personalize the wrapper that the treats come in with a special message, or display them unwrapped on platters in a decorative way.  I did one wedding reception where the bride was from Brazil and the groom was from India, so I created a whoopie pie of cardamom pistachio cake with mango buttercream filling.  They were a big hit!

Where do you find your inspiration?

It doesn’t hurt that I’m addicted to Food Network, Cooking Channel and TOP CHEF!  And of course, I could spend days exploring food blogs.  I try to think of foods I enjoy that demand to be recreated in whoopie pie form.  Being half-Asian, I’m familiar with flavors in Asian desserts, so I made a Japanese whoopie pie as a tsunami recovery fundraiser. It was a matcha tea cake with red bean paste buttercream and a swath of chestnut paste.  I called it the “Kibou Cake”; kibou means “hope” in Japanese.  Drinks can also be an inspiration, as the case is with one of my most popular flavors, the Irish Whoopie Bombe (Guinness chocolate cake, Jameson chocolate ganache and Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheese filling).

What has been your biggest challenge?

Basically I feel like I’m working 2+ full time jobs as I grow this business but still have to work “the day job.”  And it has grown to the point where I have to take the big leap soon of making it full time, but that takes money.  Right now I’m working on the business plan and fundraising ideas,  Wish me luck!

Widdi Turner's best-selling Nutella Whoopie Pies.

I am the baker at Casseroles in Morningside (1393 North Highland Ave behind Meringue), so they carry the pies, and Wisteria (471 North Highland Ave) carries my pies on their dessert menu. Currently they serve the Nutella Whoopie, and it’s their top selling item.  Did I mention I make my own Nutella?  You can also order from me by checking out my Facebook page and emailing me your order [at] widdi@nobigwhoopbakery.com.

Any specials for Valentine’s Day?

Agh!  Thanks for reminding me!  Well, I’ll be baking something – probably some new items to test out for the bakery – for the Turnin’ TriXXX Bake Sale that will be Sunday, Feb 12 at the Euclid Ave Yacht Club from 2 to 6 p.m.  And my Valentine’s Day specials will be posted on my Facebook page, so check back often!

All photos are courtesy of Widdi Turner and No Big Whoop Bakery!

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Kool Kat of the Week: Half-Baked’s J.J. Tomlinson Dishes About Casseroles as the Ultimate Retro Holiday Comfort Food and Shares a Recipe

Posted on: Dec 21st, 2011 By:

J.J. Tomlinson of Half Baked Casseroles.

When picking a Kool Kat for this week, we thought a long time about the ingredients for a Retro Christmas in the South which had to make us think of food. And being the south, that means not just a ham or a turkey, not just sugary cookies—but a feast fit for an extended family with a seemingly endless supply of casseroles made by your mom, your grandma, your aunts and maybe nowadays a male relative or two as well. That tasty thought led us to two Atlanta chef/entrepreneurs Lee Bradshaw Johnson (Dog Days doggie daycare) and J.J. Tomlinson (The Fickle Manor boutique) who this year co-founded Half Baked Casseroles, a Buckhead bakery specializing in the quintessential seasonal comfort food.

Traditionally, casseroles became a winter staple because they put good and long-lasting use to winter vegetable and meat staples like potatoes, sweet potatoes and pork—or in my Finnish mom’s case, rutabagas and liver (No, casseroles aren’t just a American holiday tradition!). At Half Baked, Lee’s and J.J. give recipes handed down from their grandmothers a modern twist, with fresh ingredients, no preservatives and all-natural, antibiotic-free, hormone-free meat. The dishes are prepared for convenience, oven-ready or frozen. They come in recyclable pans in three different sizes, and most bake in 45 minutes or less. Larger sizes are available upon request for special events or a hungry family. Half-Baked even delivers for a small extra charge or mails gift casseroles to nonlocal family and friends. And if you want to fill out the entire holiday feast, the menu also includes yummy appetizers, soups and desserts!

In the spirit of the season, ATLRetro asked J.J. if she’d tell us a little bit about what Christmas casseroles mean to her, what customers are hungry for in the holidays and the lucky side of a special New Year’s treat cooked up to bring you luck in 2012 and even share a recipe!

Casseroles and the holidays just seem to go together, especially in the south. What role did casseroles play in your Christmases growing up and who made them?

As a child, my grandmother was the chief cook, and I can’t remember a Christmas without casseroles. My personal favorite was the sweet potato casserole. Every time I smell it, it brings back a picture of Grandma’s holiday cooking.

How did you both get the idea of a casserole specialty bakery, and why do casseroles seem to have such staying power?

We got the idea for frozen casseroles after my business partner Lee had a baby. She received some casseroles as gifts from friends. Everyone is so busy these days, and we are always in need of quick dinners.

We’re guessing you’re pretty busy this week. What menu items are most popular this holiday season?

We are slammed this week! Many people are buying appetizers for drop-in guests. All casseroles, appetizers, soups, bread and desserts can be frozen up to three months, too.

Which casserole hasn’t been as popular but folks really ought to try it and why?

There doesn’t seem to be an item on our menu that people aren’t buying. That may be because we thought long and hard before we opened in order to have a variety that would be appealing. The word-of-mouth aspect has been wonderful. It seems that friends are telling each other about their favorites. Of course, there are also many different tastes and we seem to have something that will appeal to most everyone.

Chicken and Half Baked Biscuits.

What’s the deadline to mail or schedule a delivery for a gift casserole?

We will try to accommodate your requirements for a gift casserole, but as a rule, we need at least one day’s notice.

You don’t just bake casseroles, but appetizers, soups and desserts. What other holiday delights do you recommend to start or finish off a meal.

My recommendation for the holidays is that you try our pecan pie. It’s crustless, so those calories are saved for the extra rich filling—and maybe some vanilla ice cream to top it off. We also have gluten-free casseroles.

Finally, we understand you’re cooking up a special dish for New Year’s celebrations called the Hoppin’ John Casserole (black eyed peas, collard greens, rice, and pork). Why should we put it on our menu and will it bring us good luck?

Southern tradition says that eating Hoppin’ John on New Years Day will bring you good luck and financial rewards all year long. We can’t guarantee that, but you’ll feel mighty lucky when you taste this dish.

Recipe: Hoppin’ John

1 bag of dried of black-eyed peas
1 stick of butter
1 chopped onion
16oz of cooked collard greens
2 ham hocks
10 cups of cooked white rice
1/2 cup hot sauce
2 tablespoons of sea salt

Soak black eyed peas overnight in water. Drain peas. Add onion, hot sauce, ham hocks, butter, and salt to peas in crock pot. Cook for 8 hours on high. Take bones from ham hock out of black eyed peas. Combine rice, collard greens and black eyed peas into a pan. Cook in oven on 350 for 30 minutes.

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ATLRetro Holiday Gift Guide #3: A Holiday Inn-dependent Spotlight on Avondale Estates

Posted on: Dec 19th, 2011 By:

By Jennifer Belgard
Contributing Writer

The holidays are almost upon us.  Frost is finally on the ground.  Some of us are still scurrying to find gifts.  Don’t fret, pets!  The shops of Avondale Estates can help.  I recently spent the day there with three talented ladies from Blast Off Burlesque: Astrid, Barb and Sadie, their righthand-man Coleman, and my good friend Lori from Third Half Studios.

We met at Avondale Pizza Cafe to strategize our day, have a HUGE slice, and enjoy a Wild Heaven Craft Beer.  The Georgia-based craft beer company plans to have its own brewery in Avondale by 2013, but you can currently find them at the Beer Growler, along with many others.  A whiskey gal myself, I don’t really drink beer, but this place may convert me. I’m a sucker for good marketing and these craft beers have my number.  Southern Tier Brewery (my old stomping grounds in Western New York) has a Krampus Lager and a Creme Brulee Imperial Milk Stout.  Each with their own distinct personality and perfect for a couple characters on my list.  Prices start around $16.99 a growler.  Grab a Beer Growler Koozie while you’re at it.  The koozie has a strap for easy portability.  Great idea and design, $16.99.

 

What do you need to go with all this malty goodness?  Artisan meats, of course!  Pine Street Market is where you’ll find it. We were treated to samples of their drool-inducing Coppa, a dry cured pork shoulder spiced with black pepper and chiles. Alongside their more traditional meats you’ll find specials like Spiced Pear Sausage (Applejack Brandy, nutmeg, ginger, and pear; fall and winter only), Roasted Poblano Sausage (roasted poblano peppers, ancho chiles, garlic, and cumin; spring and summer only) and the Applewood Bacon Burger (applewood smoked bacon ground with fresh pork for the ultimate rich, smoky burger).  Can’t decide what to get the meat lover in your life?  Buy them the Meat of the Month Club, $40.00 per month.  Each month includes a pound of Applewood Smoked Bacon and a featured salami or sausage.  They also carry condiments and specialty items.  A special someone in my life enjoys Bloody Marys, so I picked up a couple jars of pickled okra and green beans from Phickles, an Athens-based gourmet pickle company.

 

At this point we’d had about all the food and drink we could handle (or so we thought), and we headed to Second Life. This organization is wonderful and one of my new favorites. Second Life is a nonprofit, thrift store that donates proceeds to animal rescues.  Barb found a brand new BCBG dress for just $14.00.  Vintage ornaments starting at $1.00.  If I had the space, I would have a collection of creepy dolls (much to my boyfriend’s chagrin) and this is a great spot to find them!  They also hold in-store adoptions once a month featuring other nonprofits like Royal Potcake Rescue USA, Inc.  Their goal is to save homeless pets from Atlanta, Georgia and Abaco, Bahamas.  We lucked out and met a few of their sweet pups on our visit. I am in no way advocating buying someone a pet for the holidays, but if you’re searching for a furry friend of your own, check them out.

 

 

 

Our last stop was Sweet-n-Sinful Bakery.  Layne Lee is the sweet and sassy brainchild behind this boutique bakery. Sweet-n-Sinful boasts 24 cake flavors from Vanilla to Green Tea, 30 cake fillings like Fresh Strawberries, Black Forest and Lemon Curd, and 14 different frosting options, including 11 different types of Butter Cream.  Her brownies are so good that Whole Foods has picked them up for two of their Georgia stores and hope to take them nationwide.  Layne’s cupcakes are available in yummy seasonal flavors like Chocolate Peppermint,  Pumpkin and French Toast.  Need something for Christmas morning?  Take along some fresh bread or over-sized muffin tops.  Shipping & delivery is also available.  Whatever you choose is sure to please!

I’m off to wrap this haul of goodies!  Hopefully our trying day of shopping, eating, and drinking will help you complete your holiday shopping while helping our independently-owned businesses.  Shop local.  Happy Holidays!

Jennifer Belgard is Co-Conspirator at Libertine, Curator of Curios at Diamond*Star*Halo,  Barkeep at Euclid Avenue Yacht Club, and Co-Coordinator of Chaos for the Little 5 Points Halloween Parade & Festival.  In her spare time she enjoys Turnin’ TriXXX and playing Queen of Your Distraction.

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