Goin' fishing... for recipes

This week, I've been gearing up for the annual Ruskin Seafood Festival. Scrounging for "fishy" items to decorate my booth, I've ransacked friends and neighbors tackle boxes, garages and kitchen cabinets.

This will be the first time "Table Scraps" will be an exhibitor at the Nov. 7 and 8 event.

At the Table Scraps booth, I'll be "fishing for recipes." So bring your favorite seafood recipe or just stop by to say hi. If you do share a recipe, you could win dinner for two, catered by almost-famous me!

This is a big event for seafood lovers - think lobster, oysters, clams, grouper, mullet, shrimp and lots of other tasty ocean cuisine.

There is always plenty for everyone to eat and explore, so come on out and have some fun.

Be sure to stop by and say hi!

21st Annual Ruskin Seafood Festival
Nov. 7-8
E. G. Simmons Park, Ruskin.

Call the chamber at (813) 645-3808 or visit www.ruskinchamber.org.


Food bloggers meet

I had a wonderful and exciting Friday! I finally met fellow food blogger Tammy from over at Flip Flop Foodie. Our halfway meeting point was Della's Delectables in Brandon.

And what would you expect when food bloggers meet for lunch? We talked a lot about food, the world of blogging and a little about ourselves. Or was it the other way around?

She is so easy to talk with, so comfortable to be with. Tams has a fun blog, and she certainly knows about food.

Tams recently returned from a trip to Turkey. She brought back a mega stash of saffron and was kind enough share a nice portion of it with me. You'll be hearing more about that saffron in the future.

One thing, though, how did we neglect to try those homemade moon pies at Della's?


Death by chocolate, anyone?

I've been reading the book "Baking Boot Camp."

The words boot camp probably conjure up grit, sweat, and a bunch of drill sergeants barking orders. Certainly no cakewalk...

In the book, the demanding activities are more along the lines of whisking, piping and pulling hot pans in and out of the oven.

It's a diary of sorts of one woman's experience attending a five-day baking and pastry program at the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York.

The last part of the book includes recipes mentioned by the author, including quick breads, cookies, pies, yeasted breads and other desserts.

When I read these Mudslide Cookies are "the ultimate chocolate cookies," I knew I had to make them!

Fudgy, dense and moist, these cookies give added meaning to death by chocolate. No one wants to go, but there really isn't any sweeter way.


Makes 24 cookies
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
10 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. instant coffee
1 tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs
1-1/3 cups sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Melt the butter with the unsweetened and bittersweet chocolates in a metal bowl over barely simmering water and reserve. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In a separate small bowl, mix the instant coffee and water, add the vanilla, and reserve.

Beat the eggs, sugar, and coffee mixture with a whip attachment on high speed until light and thick, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce the speed and add the chocolate mixture. Blend on medium speed until evenly mixed, 1 to 2 minutes. On low speed, add the dry ingredients until just blended, 1 minute. If necessary, refrigerate the dough until firm enough to hold its shape 15 to 30 minutes.

Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop the dough onto the sheet pans lined with parchment. Bake cookies until they are cracked on top but still appear moist, about 14 minutes. Be sure not to overbake. Cool slightly on sheet pans and transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.


Piles of pumpkins

Growing up in Minnesota, my favorite season was Fall. I loved jumping in piles of raked leaves, going to the State Fair, eating caramel apples... and the crisp cool temperatures.

Fall in Florida these days is almost nonexistent, with our seemingly endless heat waves. It just doesn't seem like it's October!

This afternoon, I stopped by Hydro Harvest Farms in Ruskin to see what's pickin' and to say hello to owner John Lawson. He has pumpkins... lots and lots of pumpkins. Halloween is in the air!

I also found orient express eggplant, Nevada summer crisp lettuce, basil, tarragon and stevia, among other things, ready for the picking.

If you're in the area on Oct. 24 from noon to 3 p.m., stop by for the farm's 4th Annual Boo Fest. Wear your costume for special treats. In addition, there will be races and games, face painting, pumpkin painting and decorating contest.

Hydro Harvest Farms
1101 Shell Point Road East
Ruskin, FL (813) 645-6574


Move over muffin!

I'm lucky to live close to a well-stocked, community library that has an inspiring selection of cookbooks.

I often bring home an armful, flip through them, and then usually make a recipe or two, or three.

Recently, I checked out "Breakfasts & Brunches" by The Culinary Institute of America. I loved the book and the recipes in it so much that I ordered a copy from Amazon.com.

I'm providing you with its recipe for Ham & Cheddar Scones, one of my favorites from the book so far. Delicate, tender and crumbly, the scones are studded with diced ham and cheese, flecked with scallions. They were nothing like the doorstops some scones can be.

The cheese gets bubbly and oozes to the outside. I also like that I can freeze the dough overnight, and bake the scones the next morning.


3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup medium-diced ham
1/2 cup medium-diced cheddar cheese
1/2 cup scallions
2 cups heavy cream

Cut two, 10-inch circles of parchment paper. Use one piece to line a 10-inch round cake pan. Reserve the second piece.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a mixing bowl. Add the ham, cheese and scallions, then toss together with the dry ingredients until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.

Add the cream and stir by hand, just until the batter is evenly moistened.

Place the dough in the lined cake pan and press into an even layer. Cover the dough with the second parchment paper circle. Freeze the dough until very firm, at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it lightly with cooking spray or lining it with parchment paper.

Thaw the dough for five minutes at room temperarture; turn it out of the cake pan onto a cutting board. Cut the dough into 10 equal wedges and place the individual wedges on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake the scones until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks. Serve scones warm or at room temperature. They should be eaten the same day they are made or frozen for up to four weeks.


Order up!

I did some volunteer work yesterday morning by helping out at a local charity fundraiser. Although we didn't exactly have the throngs of guests we expected to wolf down pancakes and bacon, we certainly had fun.

You haven't lived until you've had Len Gamble's plate-sized, spongy and golden brown pancakes, which are slightly crispy at the edges.

Sous chef, server and dishwasher Toni Huggins with a pan of flapjacks

The "crowd" was tough at 7 a.m. Oh, well. On to the next event!