Bleu Cheese Kettle Chips will be devoured quickly by party-goers

The crunch of a chip is a happy thing.

From this week's Table Scraps column, I'm sharing my friend Sue Romeo's recipe for Kettle Chips with Bleu Cheese.

Looking for a splashy New Year's Eve nosh?

These tantalizing morsels can be consumed using only your forefinger and thumb. The other hand has its own job, clutching the stem of a wine glass or champagne flute.

Salty, sweet and tangy, these appetizers won't make it until the midnight countdown, so you might want to make a few batches.

Go here to get the recipe and have a Happy New Year!


Crunch time!

Still looking for the perfect something for your perfect someone?

Several years ago I was determined to make the perfect caramel corn. I've tried several different recipes but always come back to Paula Deen's recipe. Oh, yeah. You know it's going to be good!

7 to 8 quarts popped popcorn
2 cups unsalted peanuts, shelled pumpkin seeds, and/or sunflower seeds
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon maple-flavored pancake syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Spray rimmed cookie sheets or jelly-rolled pans with vegetable-oil cooking spray. (I use my Silpat mats, so I don't have to spray.)

Place the popcorn and your choice of nuts and/or seeds into a very large bowl. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, salt, syrups and vanilla. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and continue boiling for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add the baking soda. The mixture will bubble up. Stir vigorously until the mixture is smooth.

Pour the hot syrup over the popcorn mix. Stir until the popcorn is coated. This is messy; take your time and use a long-handled spoon.

Spread the coated popcorn in the prepared pans. Bake for 1 hour, stirring several times. The mixture will be very sticky.

Remove the popcorn from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Break big hunks apart while the mixture is cooling. When cooled, the sugars will have candy-coated the popcorn. Store in large, airtight plastic containers.

Source: Adapted from Paula Deen Celebrates! by Paula Deen.


I have a winner!

Congratulations to George Johnson! George, if you will email me privately with your mailing address I will notify Nescafe' and your Titanium Piccolo coffee machine will be on it's way!

Thank you to everyone for entering and sharing your favorite holiday cookie!


Win a Nescafe' Dolce Gusto Titanium Piccolo!

How'd you like to put some coffee cheer under your tree this year?

Thanks to my friends at Nescafe', I'm giving away a Titanium Piccolo gourmet brewing system, which retails for $200.

This compact machine is perfect for make-it-in-a-hurry coffee lovers. Simple to use, the one-cup brewer heats up quickly and in less than a minute your cappuccino, latte or hot chocolate is ready.

As I found out, it's a user-friendly way to make a cup of coffee-house java, minus the barista or potential danger associated with using espresso machines, milk-foaming machines and coffee grinders.

You can enter to win this fantastic system simply by posting a comment telling me your favorite holiday cookie. Hey, how can you have cookies without coffee? Please don't forget to include your email address so that I can contact you if you win.


Prize provided and fulfilled by Dolce Gusto. One entry per person, please.

Enter by leaving a comment by Friday, Dec. 15. Open to U.S. residents only.

One wInner will be randomly selected using Random.org and announced Sat., Dec. 16. Winners will be notified and need to provide me with their mailing address to receive the machine.

Good luck! Happy Holidays, everyone!


Ruskin Woman's Club Christmas Tea

The Ruskin Woman's Club is a well-oiled machine when in comes to throwing a tea party.

Yesterday's annual event at their historic 1912 clubhouse featured a spread the Mad Hatter would surely approve of.

The first course consisted of freshly baked scones served with jam, clotted cream and fresh strawberries followed by savory tea sandwiches and finger foods. For the final course, an assortment of sweets was served. Of course, a pot of tea was close at hand.

Two seatings, 170 guests. Yikes, that's a ton of dishes!


One-Hour Vegetable Stock Recipe

No matter how much I fix for Thanksgiving, when all is said and done there's going to be a hodgepodge of vegetables left behind. Instead of throwing them out, I make vegetable stock. It can be used anywhere chicken stock is - from soup to main courses.

This recipe makes about six cups. If you prefer to cook in larger batches, simply double or triple the recipe and allow longer for the stock to simmer.

2 leeks
2 onions
1 garlic bulb, peeled
2 carrots, unpeeled, cut into chunks
2 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
2 potatoes, scrubbed clean, quartered
Sprig of thyme
Sprigs of parsley
2 bay leaves
Pinch of salt and pepper

Prepare all of the ingredients and put into the bottom of a small stockpot. Add water to cover, until the ingredients start to float. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to simmer gently. Cook about 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender, then strain. Taste, and adjust seasoning, as desired. Use or freeze in suitable portions.


Need an easy dessert?

Keep it short and sweet. Literally. Whip up this quick banana dessert when last-minute guests show up. Saute sliced bananas in brown sugar, cinnamon and butter. Then serve the warm bananas spooned over Greek yogurt. Fantastic!

I also loved this recipe for peach melba crepes. While a little more elaborate, I think you'll love it, too!



1 12-ounce package frozen raspberries

Place raspberries in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The berries will gradually disintegrate as they are cooking. Remove from heat and strain the sauce through a fine mesh wire sieve placed over a bowl. Throw away the seeds and pulp that remain in the sieve.


2 large eggs

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup water

1 cup flour

3 tablespoons melted butter

Butter, for coating the pan

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and pulse for 10 seconds. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Heat a small non-stick pan. Add butter to coat. Pour 1 ounce of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook another 10 seconds and remove to a plate. Continue until all batter is gone.

Crepe Filling:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract

In a small bowl, beat all three ingredients until smooth.

Divide filling among 8 crepes, spreading evenly. Fold crepe in half, then in half again, forming triangles. Place 2 crepes on each plate. Top crepes with sliced peaches; drizzle with warm raspberries. Optional, serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Read more about fast desserts and get the recipe for Cinnamon Sauteed Bananas in this week's Table Scraps column.


2011 Ruskin Seafood Festival

Great food, great music, great friends. What more could you possibly ask for?

The weather gods were feeling good to us this weekend for the Ruskin Seafood Festival. It was another great family event, with an excellent array of mouth-watering crustaceans and other sea fare.

So dig in!


It's seafood time in Ruskin for the Ruskin Seafood Festival!

Yes, that's right. I can't wait for this weekend, when the 23rd annual Ruskin Seafood Festival comes to South Shore. The annual fish fest rolls into E. G. Simmons Park with boatloads of delectable seafood, and much more! Read all about the festivities in this weeks Table Scraps column.

I'm always looking for different ways to cook fish. Reach for the sour cream and garlic when baking this easy recipe for tilapia. These two basic ingredients provide a subtle flavor boost, while protecting the delicate fish from toughening or drying out.

You'll want to keep this one in your recipe log.


2 tilapia fillets
4 garlic cloves
2 tomatoes
5 tablespoons of sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the tilapia fillets in a baking dish. Bake for approx. 10 minutes. While the fish is baking, crush, mince or press the garlic and dice the tomatoes. Stir together garlic and diced tomatoes in a bowl. Stir in the sour cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. When the tilapia is halfway done, remove the dish from the oven and pour the sour cream mixture over the fish. Place the dish in the oven again and cook until the fish fillets can be easily flaked with a fork (approx. 10 minutes).
Source: www.aquaticcommunity.com


Opa! What an omelet.

Good mornin', South Shore!

We decided to venture out of our usual Sunday morning breakfast circle and visited the new Copper Bell Cafe in Riverview, which opened in August. We've driven to the Brandon cafe, but we're very happy to have our very own restaurant right here in South Shore.

I ordered the Greek omelet. It combined all of those good things like spinach, fresh tomatoes, black olives and feta cheese. It was fantastic!

Good coffee and friendly service. My kind of place!

Copper Bell Cafe
11228 Boyette Road
Riverview, FL


2nd Annual Tampa Bay Veg Fest

Today's 2nd Annual Tampa Bay Veg Fest celebrated the very best of everything vegetarian in and around the area.

There was something for everyone to enjoy.

Check out my pictorial recap of the the day:

In addition to the delicious meatless cuisine, there were many animal rights and rescue organizations on hand.


Introduction to Indian Cooking Class

One of the things I've enjoyed most about writing my Table Scraps column is that it forces me to expand my own culinary horizons. I know how easy it is to get stuck in a rut of cooking a few good dishes and rotating through them week after week.

To push my cooking envelope, I recently took an introduction to Indian cooking class. I learned a veritable feast of new Indian dishes including an amazing recipe for Chai Tea, which I shared in this week's Table Scraps column.

Here are a few photos I took during the class:

If you'd like more information about the University of South Florida Center for India Studies contact Gurleen Grewal, Ph.D., at (813) 974-8439 or www.global.usf.edu/indiastudies.


Slow Food $5 Meal Challenge in Ruskin

In my Table Scraps column this week, look for a flavorful recipe for Kate Hamilton's Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad and a recap of the Ruskin Slow Food $5-Meal Challenge event.

Find them both online at the South Shore News & Tribune.

Here are a few photos I took during the evening:


Community leaders cooking for charity

On Monday, Oct. 3, community leaders Tanya Doran, Annabel Lennard and Cindy Sofarelli will be cooking up cheese-filled ravioli, strawberry feta salad, garlic bread and "The Pink Cookie" at
the Copper Bell Cafe, 11228 Boyette Road, Riverview.

The special event meal will be prepared from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The cost to partake is $12. Compliments of Takeout Butler, there will be free local delivery if you can't make it to the cafe.

All proceeds and gratuities from the entire day will go to the Susan G. Komen "3-Day for the Cure."
For more information, call (813) 671-1100.


Nescafe' Dolce Gusto comes to Tampa for coffee talk

While a steaming cup of anything isn't the usual drink of choice for Floridians in 90-degree weather, we make an exception when it comes to coffee. So when Nescafe' Dolce Gusto came to town Monday night and invited local food bloggers to a complimentary menu and coffee tasting at Restaurant BT, it wasn't hard for me to "make the sacrifice."

Six other enthusiastic diners joined me at this beautiful restaurant and did our food blogger thing: snapping pics and tweeting while we "oohed and aahed" over the fabulous food.

This was my first visit to Restaurant BT. Owner and chef (she prefers cook) B.T. Nguyen uses organic ingredients; small farm meats and poultry; wild, fresh-caught seafood; and local Florida produce.

Some of those fresh ingredients are grown here in Ruskin literally around the corner from where I live. Two of the items showcased on the menu is a 3 Boys Farm Squash Blossom Soup and chilled Japanese hydroponic cucumber salad.

One of the highlights of the evening was an invitation into the kitchen, where we watched B.T. prepare Shaking Beef, one of the restaurant's most popular featured dishes.

Shaking Beef is a Vietnamese classic. Filet mignon is marinated in a rich brown sauce and quickly browned and stir-fried over intensely high heat. The result? Tender, robust flavored cubes of beef, served on a bed of watercress. Ah, lovely.

When cooking, B.T., a Vietnamese-American, draws on her Asian roots and classic French techniques. After five mini courses of fresh and fried spring rolls, octopus carpacio, vegetarian samosas and a crustacean bisque, I was feeling deliciously satiated.

Then came dessert. Perking up my sweet tooth was a delicious trio of toasted coconut ice cream, banana tapioca and chocolate mousse. Bring it on!

Hey, how can you have dessert without coffee?

We were treated to a demonstration of The Nescafe' Dolce Gusto, a brewing system by Nescafe' and DeLonghi. It combines a DeLonghi-built, simple-to-use one-cup brewer with a capsule-based beverage system by Nescafe'.

As I found out, it's a user-friendly way to make a cup of coffee-house java, minus the barista or danger associated with espresso machines, milk foamers, coffee grinders, etc.

It also made some kick-a** coffee! Yummy.


1 pound filet mignon steak
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons oil or butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 vine-ripe tomatoes
2 cups watercress
1/4 red onion, finely sliced
1 tablespoon cognac (Courvoisier, optional)

Cut steak into bite-sized cubes and place in a bowl with garlic, soy sauce, red onion, fish sauce, sugar and pepper; mix well.
Heat a large, heavy-based pan until very hot, add oil or butter until brown. Add beef cubes and toss by shaking the pan. Turn meat with tongs until brown and seared on the outside but still pink in the center (cook more if you prefer).
Add cognac and toss beef before removing from heat.
Slice tomatoes and arrange on plates to make a decorative base. Arrange watercress around or on top of tomato slices. Place the beef in a mound on top of tomatoes and watercress. Serve with jasmine-scented steamed rice.