Watermelon rind pickles for a cause

I received a much-anticipated phone call the night before last. For me, it's the call that signals summer's start and causes my mouth to water at the same time.

The Ruskin Woman's Club is selling its annual watermelon rind pickles! This year's delicious batch resulted in roughly 140 pints, which will sell for $6 a jar. The money goes into the club's general fund to support its various charity efforts and pay for building maintenance.

If you'd like to purchase a jar, call Bobbie Nell Strong at (813) 645-3136



When a woman has the power to muddle AND fresh mint in the backyard, the day becomes a candidate for mojitos. It may take a few times making these cocktails until you get the blend that fits your taste, but they are the most refreshing drinks on a warm spring day.

It's summer. It's officially Mojito time!

Cuban Mojito Recipe

1 teaspoon powdered sugar
Juice from 1 lime (2 ounces)
4 mint leaves
1 sprig of mint
Havana Club White Rum ( 2 ounces)
2 ounces club soda

Place the mint leaves into a long mojito glass (often called a Collins glass) and squeeze the juice from a cut lime over them. You'll want about two ounces of lime juice.

Add the powdered sugar, and then gently smash the mint into the lime juice and sugar with a muddler or the back of a fork or spoon. Add the ice, preferably crushed, then add the rum and stir. Top with the club soda and garnish with a mint of sprig.

Some Cubans, use guarapo in place of the powdered sugar, which is a cane sugar syrup available in the Latin food section of some supermarkets or at Latin grocery stores, It's typically sold in 12-ounce cans.


Ruskin tomatoes find their true calling: Fresh Bloody Mary's

We're pickin' tomatoes in Ruskin!

I visited Artesian Farms recently and collected a five-gallon bucket toppling over with large tomatoes. I made sure to throw a few green ones in the pile, too.

Get the recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes in today's South Shore News & Tribune online here. Warm inside and slightly crispy on the outside, they're a meal on a plate. Serve plain or with a spicy remoulade, and you're good to go.

Here's another of my favorite ways to enjoy freshly picked tomatoes. Try this over ice and through a straw.

Now we're talking.

Bloody Mary
3 large, ripe tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh horseradish
3 fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Peel tomatoes, remove seeds and dice, reserving the juices. Add all ingredients, except for the vodka, into a food processor or blender. Cover and chill for at least an hour. If you prefer a smoother texture, strain mixture through a fine sieve or cheesecloth.

To serve, mix with 4 ounces of vodka and pour into two glasses filled with ice.

Garnish with a beef or celery stick, olives, prawns, pickle spear or spicy green bean. It's bloody good!


Kings Point Open-Air Fresh Market in pictures

May 22 was the Open-Air Sun City Center Fresh Market in front of the Kings Point Clubhouse. The market featured vendors selling everything from cheeses to baked goods to tamales. Even Elvis was in the house!

I'll be writing more about the market, which was presented by Minto Communities and Tampa Bay Markets, next week. In the meantime, here are a few photos to drool over...


This is one sinful sauce.

I needed a quick dessert for company last night. Turning to the ingredients I had on hand (frozen vanilla yogurt), I assembled a mocha chocolate sauce using unsweetened chocolate, butter and instant coffee for a flavor spike.

This mocha sauce was incredible. It should be illegal.


2 squares (2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Microwave the chocolate and water in a large microwavable bowl on High for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted.

Stir the sugar and instant coffee into the chocolate mixture. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave for 2 minutes longer. Stir in the butter and vanilla. Serve warm over ice cream, pudding, or cake. Store the leftover sauce in the refrigerator. Reheat before serving.
Makes about 1 cup. Source: Maxwell House Coffee Drinks & Desserts Cookbook.


Toad-in-a-hole for breakfast

When I was a Camp Fire Girl, I was quite impressed when we made our own individual camp cook stoves. I won't admit how many years ago that was, but the camp project has stuck with me all these years.

There are two main parts to the cook stove. There's the buddy burner or heat source, and then the actual stove, which was a one-gallon coffee can. You get the picture.

When I was thinking about how to stretch the two pieces of bread I had left in the loaf this morning, I remembered the old toad-in-a-hole we made on those coffee-can stoves.

You cut a hole about two-inches around in the center of your piece of bread, then butter the bread frame. Place it on top of the camp stove top (or frying pan, if you're in the kitchen). Break an egg into the bread hole. Add salt and pepper.

Let cook and flip to brown the other side.

Tah dah! Being creative is the mother of invention.


No gluten for punishment

This morning I received an email from Gluten Free Tampa Bay thanking me for my column about gluten-free eating. I went to their blog and discovered it's filled with information focused on gluten-free dining in the Tampa Bay area. You can also find Gluten Free Tampa Bay on Facebook and Twitter.

In today's South Shore News & Tribune, my column features a recipe that transforms plain ol' lettuce leaves into a gluten-free chicken wrap. Click here to get to the tbo.com site.


Why, hello tomatoes!

Oh boy! Ruskin tomatoes are ready for picking!

I've been waiting since December to re-stock my freezer with homemade sauce. The last batch was so good we came close to scrapping over the final few drops.

I originally wrote about the freezer sauce last June. You can read the column and find the recipe here.

If you go picking, remember to wear some old clothes, sunscreen and gloves and bring your own bags to carry the tomatoes home in.

Artesian Farms U-Pick Tomatoes is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 2710 College Ave. E., behind the Circle K, in Ruskin.

Happy picking!


Leftover corn? Lucky duck.

Cleaning out the fridge can mean a picnic. It makes fabulous use of those crisp-tender haricots verts (thin French green beans), sweet corn on the cob and that leftover parsley from last week.

I clipped this recipe from a magazine years ago and finally gave it a try. I altered the recipe a little to use ingredients I already had in the fridge, and to kick up the heat a little.

It's crunchy, kinda hot, kinda sweet and has a great fresh flavor. This dish is a keeper!

3 cups corn cut from cob (about 5 ears)
1 large onion
1 cup cooked green beans, chopped
1 sweet red pepper
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup white vinegar

Cook corn in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes; drain and cool. Combine corn, onion, red pepper and parsley. Set aside.

Combine garlic and remaining ingredients, stirring well. Toss gently with vegetables. Chill 8 hours. Serve with a slotted spoon.

Makes 12 to 14 servings.