Side Dish: “Bulldog Legacy”

Barbara S. Thibaut, the librarian at Ascension Catholic School in Donaldsonville, believes including some of Butch Ruggerio’s recipes in the school’s latest cookbook is helping sales.

“He owned Ruggerio’s Restaurant in Donaldsonville for years and he sought me out to share his recipes” in “Bulldog Legacy The Tradition Continues …,” a collection of recipes by Families and Friends of Ascension Catholic School, she said.

His restaurant’s spaghetti and meatballs were always a popular item with customers, Thibaut said, and the recipe for Ruggiero’s Tomato Gravy, along with the one for his meatballs, is on Page 277.

Other local restaurateurs, including Cynthia Schneider, of Grapevine Cafe and Gallery in Donaldsonville; and John Folse, of Chef John Folse & Co., also generously shared several recipes for the book, said Thibaut, who headed the 23-member cookbook committee. Committee members included former Principal Janice Burns and her sister, Elmira Landry; Mary Turner, Jeri Dupré and Shandie Dazé.

The 167-year-old school serves students from prekindergarten through 12th grade on two campuses, the book’s introduction said.

“We decided to publish a cookbook instead of holding a book fair” to raise money for the school’s libraries, Thibaut said. A grandmother-granddaughter tea party was held at the Grapevine Cafe to raise seed money for the book.

The recipes are divided into eight chapters, beginning with Appetizers & Beverages, such as Sicilian rice balls and wedding day punch, and ending with This & That, which includes recipes for venison and duck. In between are such recipes as turtle soup, stuffed bell peppers, chicken picatta, shrimp and crab stew, shrimp eggpant casserole, pumpkin bread, fig preserve cake, bourbon pralines and caponata.

This is a typical community fundraiser cookbook in that the recipes are reprinted as they were submitted. That means, for example, some recipes include the number of servings while others don’t. Some provide pan sizes, others don’t. The book, however, does provide a good snapshot of the types of recipes popular in the Ascension Parish area.

While the book doesn’t include any photographs, each chapter opens with a full-color illustration by a student from the school.

To order a book, call (225) 473-8540, ext. 250, or email

Cookbook signing

Cynthia LeJeune Nobles, who writes the monthly food column Bites of History in The Advocate, will sign copies of her new book, “The Delta Queen Cookbook: The History and Recipes of the Legendary Steamboat,” at 4 p.m. Sunday at Baton Rouge Gallery, 1442 City Park Ave.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s Food editor. Her email address is

Advocate-tested recipe

Cauliflower Bake

Makes 10 to 12 servings. Recipe contributed by Adrienne Schexnayder, Jaxon Schexnayder and Ian LeBlanc is from “Bulldog Legacy The Tradition Continues …” by Families and Friends of Ascension Catholic School in Donaldsonville.

1 large cauliflower, cut into florets and washed

1/2 tsp. salt

3 cups water

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 tbl. sugar

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 cup buttery cracker crumbs

11/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

1 medium onion, chopped

1/4 cup chopped bell pepper

1. Combine cauliflower, salt and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and cook 5 minutes. Drain.

2. Combine butter, sugar, pepper and cracker crumbs in a large bowl. Stir in cauliflower, 1 cup cheese, onion and bell pepper. Spoon into a lightly greased dish.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Testing note: I used a 9x13-inch glass baking dish, but a slightly smaller one would work. Also, I would cut the amount of sugar, if used at all, to no more than 1 teaspoon. Why add sugar? Cooking softens the cauliflower’s fiber and adding acids such as lemon juice, vinegar, sugar or tomato makes the fiber firmer, according to the University of Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension Service.