Festival was heaven for cupcake lovers

Today I was a guest judge at the 2nd Annual Cupcake Festival at the Ybor City Saturday Market. Getting to taste a smorgasbord of cupcakes sounded like a great gig, and it was!

The winners:

Best taste

1st: SouthShore Sweets, Ruth Foss
2nd: Cuppin' Cake, Eric Vandine

Best presentation

1st: Erica Gritzer
2nd: Candi Nevin



Everything cupcakes

Bigger, better and sweeter than ever, the 2nd Annual Cupcake Festival returns Saturday, Dec. 15 to Ybor City Saturday Market.

Festival visitors can purchase original creations from more than 25 cupcake vendors beginning at 9 a.m.

Last year's designs and flavors ranged from a festively adorned Christmas tree cupcake to a summery concoction of pineapple and coconut.

Oh, decisions decisions...

Contestants will compete for prizes and bragging rights. Contact Lynn Kroesen-Schultz at ybormarket@yahoo.com for more information.

Ybor City Saturday Market
Historic Ybor City
Centennial Park
1901 19th St. (corner of Eighth Avenue and 19th Street)
(813) 241-2442


Thanksgiving side dish that'll have them asking for a straw

Thanksgiving usually features the regulars, staring the turkey with co-stars like green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing and sweet potatoes drenched in butter and topped with tons of marshmallows. This year, introduce a new co-star!

Brandied Sweet Potatoes

4 medium sweet potatoes
2/3 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 c. water
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. seedless raisins
1/4 c. cognac

Wash the sweet potatoes, but do not peel them. Boil in water to cover until barely soft, about 15 minutes. Drain, cool and peel. Slice into a greased casserole. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring the brown sugar, water, butter and raisins to a boil. Add the cognac and pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes, basting several times with the syrup in the casserole.

Serves 4.


It's Seafood Festival time in Ruskin!

If you're in the mood for fresh seafood, live music, and a chance to get outside and enjoy yourself the 24th Annual Ruskin Seafood Festival is right around the corner. 

Heralded as the best event of the year, this SouthShore Chamber of Commerce event celebrates every ocean creature imaginable. 

Here are the other details:

Where: E. G. Simmons Park, 2401 19th Ave. NW, Ruskin

When: November 3, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; November 4, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Cost: $5; children under 12, free and a $2 per carload entry fee into the park


Canning classes

Of all the things I make in my kitchen, canning my own tomato sauce is one of the most fun. It's just so cool to have control over what goes in it, to watch how it comes together and to end up with a whole bunch of delicious sauce that's all my own.

You can learn to do it, too. The Hillsborough County Cooperative Extension Service, 5339 C. R. 579, Seffner, will be hosting the following home-canning classes:

Canning Tomatoes and Pickles at Home from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., Oct. 17, or 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., Oct. 20

Canning Vegetables at Home, 12 to 3 p.m., Oct. 19, or 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Oct. 20

These classes will demonstrate canning procedures and the use of equipment, and answer all your canning questions. A $5 donation is requested.

To register, go to www.hillsboroughnutrition.ifas.ufl.edu/ or call (813) 744-5519.

Check out this great video on pressure canning by Mary Keith, who teaches the canning classes at the Hillsborough Extension Office:


SouthShore Sunday Market: It's baaack!

The SouthShore Sunday Market  at the corner of U.S. 41 and Shell Point Road in Ruskin, kicks off its second year from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, September 30.

The open-air market has more than 40 vendors. Offering everything from fresh bread, herbs and local honey; a delicious assortment of baked goods; jewelry, produce, artisan cheeses and much more!

For information, call 813-732-5338 or 813-846-2000.


Meet Curtis Stone at the Rolling Pin

If you're one who swoons over adorable Aussie Chef Curtis Stone, why not catch him up close and personal? 

He will be at the Rolling Pin Kitchen Emporium in Brandon at 2 p.m. on Sept. 20 to present his new line of cookware, Curtis Stone Kitchen Solutions, meet guests and sign his current cookbook, "Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone: Recipes to Put You In My Favourite Mood."

Cookbooks for the event may be pre-purchased on the Rolling Pin's website or in-store.

I've got to say, I'm giddy with anticipation.  Hope to see you there!


Rowena Sjovall - Cooking demo with Thai salad

Rowena Sjovall is a local food blogger and self-taught home cook. Her dedication to exotic foods, budget-friendly and kid-friendly meals are the focus of her blogs Saraplicious! Kitchen and No Fuss Foods. 

When she's not in her own kitchen, she can be found teaching cooking classes at the SouthShore Regional and other area libraries. I met her recently after visiting a class.

Since then, I've made her recipe for Grilled Beef and Cucumber Salad a handful of times and it always turns out delicious - a perfect summer meal! Read about Rowena and her refreshing Thai recipe in this week's Table Scraps column in the South Shore News & Tribune and on tbo.com.


Sunshine Cafe rumors squelched

Rumors have been swirling that the Sunshine Cafe in Sun City Center is closing, so let me kill them once and for all.

Nothing could be further from the truth, said owner Manny Rousso.

I talked to Manny yesterday while I wolfed down a piece of chocolate peanut butter pie.

He told me about lots of exciting things that are happening at this homey breakfast and lunch spot.

On Monday the restaurant will unveil a revised menu, new dishes will include homemade corned beef hash, Mexican omelet, a variety of small-sized sandwiches with a cup of soup and much more.
If you're cholesterol conscious, you will also be able to start the day with omelets made from Egg Beaters, a no-cholesterol egg substitute.

September is customer appreciation month at Sunshine Cafe.  Manny will be offering a half-off breakfast meal with the purchase of a regular breakfast meal Monday through Friday.

And if that's not enough excitement for you, readers of the South Shore News & Tribune voted the Sunshine Cafe as their favorite Casual Dining spot in the 2012 Best of South Shore awards. The cafe also brought home the "silver" in the best Breakfast Place, Coffee House and BBQ categories.

Great job, Sunshine!


The Fresh Farm Market & Deli

Here are a few photos I shot recently during a visit to The Fresh Farm Market & Deli in Riverview. 

Purple garlic, farm fresh eggs, local honey, hand-churned butter, herbs, carrots the size of Idaho potatoes - I was in love!

I'll be writing more about The Fresh Farm in next week's Table Scraps column in the South Shore News & Tribune and on tbo.com.

The Fresh Farm Market and Deli
5914 Providence Road
Riverview, FL
(813) 685-3276


Let's eat Cuban!

I've been a fan of Little Habana since it opened three years ago. I love its food, ambiance and quite frankly its owners, Al and Tanya Estevez. They're two of the kindest people I know in South Shore.

In this week's Table Scraps column, I wrote about Little Habana and provided Tanya's flavorful recipe for Bistec de Pollo al Ajillo, chicken cooked in garlic and white wine. Find my column in the South Shore News & Tribune and on tbo.com.


Friday night pig pickin'

I just wanted to throw a short post up reminding everyone that Pigs in the Parking Lot is this Friday.

Come taste the mouthwatering food of Ribs on the Rail, Fatheads, The Mullet Shack and more.

Along with lots of barbecue, there will be beer and other beverages, a hands-on children's area and live music by the local blues band Ladyhawke.

Not a bad way to end a long week in my book!

WHAT: Pigs in the Parking Lot

WHEN: Friday, July 27,  4 - 10 p.m.

WHERE: Harbor Village Plaza, 137 Harbor Village Lane off U.S. 41 at Leisey Road in Apollo Beach

COST: Free admission and parking

INFO: Call (813) 645-1366


Colorfield Farms Mango Festival

I'm ready for one of my favorite events of summer: the Colorfield Farms Mango Festival! Learn all about the worlds most popular fruit July 27 - 29. Along with samplings, seminars and live music, there will be a mini food truck rally.

Read how to choose the perfect mango, festival details, and I've included a refreshing recipe for mango lime paletas in this weeks Table Scraps column.

I hope to see you there!


Try a patriotic dessert for the 4th

Several years ago, my talented friend Connie Lesko and I came up with these refreshing patriotic parfaits for a luncheon at her home. We served them in decorative, half-pint Mason jars, which lend themselves well to any summer picnic-like theme.

Sinfully delicious, it's such a festive dessert and I want to share the recipe again!

Happy Fourth of July!


Red layer
3/4 cup boiling water
1 package (3-ounce) sugar free strawberry-banana gelatin
Ice cubes
1/2- cup cold water
1 cup pureed strawberries
In a medium bowl, pour boiling water into dry gelatin, stir at least 2 minutes until completely dissolved. Add enough ice cubes to cold water to measure 1 1/4 cups. Add to gelatin and stir until slightly thickened. Remove any remaining ice. Refrigerate 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Gently stir in strawberries. Pour evenly into parfait or half-pint mason jars. Refrigerate 2 hours or until firm.

White layer
8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 ounces white Ghiradelli chocolate, coarsely chopped
Fresh mint, optional
Sliced strawberry, optional
In a bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, briefly beat together the mascarpone and heavy cream until smooth, about 10 seconds. Place the white chocolate in a glass container and microwave for 30 seconds or until melted, stirring until smooth.

Add the still-hot melted white chocolate to the cream. Beat with the mixer on medium speed until well blended and slightly thickened, about 45 seconds. Pipe or spoon the mixture evenly into parfait glasses on top of the chilled strawberry mixture.

To serve, top each parfait with blueberries, a dollop of the remaining cheese mixture and a sprig of mint and slice of strawberry.

Makes 10 servings.


Get your mullet fix

New location! Back for the 2012 mullet season, The Mullet Shack has moved to a new location at the southeast corner of U.S. 41 and Big Bend Road.

For those of you who have never tried smoked mullet, all I can say is "Good heavens you don't know what you're missing!"

Stop by on Saturdays only, and say hi to Steve, Steve Jr. and Angie. And don't forget to try that mullet!


Need more fruits and veggies?

Susan Bishop and Kathy Oliver have been involved in the local food movement for many years. Between the Sarasota Farmers Market, My Mother's Garden and Mabry's Market these sisters are more than familiar with the many practical facets of bringing local food to the table year-round in our area.

Hence their latest venture, Mabry's Online Market, which brings together local producers and consumers through a great website, and their family farm in Wimauma.

Check it out!


Tomato season in full swing in Ruskin


40 large tomatoes
1 large sweet onion

Bring a saucepan full of water to a boil. Place tomatoes in the boiling water for approximately 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, until skin becomes wrinkled. Using large tongs, remove the tomatoes and place them in a colander or on a sheet pan until cool. Peel and core, and then place in a large stainless steel pot with a chopped onion or any other vegetables or seasonings you desire (i.e. carrots, celery, green peppers, fresh chopped parsley, oregano, basil, sugar, salt or pepper).

Bring slowly to a boil, stirring often. Lower heat and simmer 30 minutes. Cool slightly, and then measure 3 cups at a time into blender. Cover and whirl at high speed until smooth, about 30 seconds.

Return tomato sauce to large pot and simmer until mixture thickens to your liking. Remove from heat.

Make sure tomato sauce is cool enough not to melt the freezer jars or bags. Pour your favorite serving-size portions, leaving 1/2-inch headroom for expansion when frozen. Seal, label and date.

Makes approximately 6 quarts.

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.


Meet the winners

Wielding knives, whisks and lots of carrots, their secret ingredient, members of the culinary teams from Riverview and Durant high schools dazzled the judges and cooked their hearts out recently for the first High School Iron Chef competition at the Rolling Pin Kitchen Emporium in Brandon.

Travis Gentile, Ryan Allers and Martin Gendron of Riverview, in solid black, took the title by a close margin and walked away with the grand prize of $1,200 worth of merchandise for their school kitchen.

The chefs prepared a mouthwatering menu for attendees, which included: Tuna Tartare with Kimchi and Carrot Pesto; Steak with Risotto and Candied Carrots; Carrot Cake Pudding with Candied Carrot; Carrot Fritters; Shrimp with Carrot Ginger Sauce; Apple Carrot Cake Cupcakes.

Congratulations to all of the cheftestants on a job well done!


Verna's Heritage, a sweet calling for mother-daughter duo

The mother and daughter team of Shirley Almand and Wendy Ranny just began Verna's Heritage, a cottage industry business selling delicious raspberry bars, chewy cake, jams and other delectable goodies at the SouthShore Sunday Market in Ruskin.

Read about them and their decadent recipe for Strawberry Soup in this week's Table Scraps column on tbo.com.


Tea, scones AND cowboy hats

Destiny Church in Ruskin hosted 104 guests at its annual spring tea on Saturday. The day before I got a sneak peak at the delightful table settings for the event. Every one of them was a "wow!"


Salsa festival brings out the heat

I was a judge today at the first Family Salsa Festival salsa competition at the Good Samaritan Mission in Wimauma.

Despite a brief rain shower, the event itself was fun and brought out a variety of salsa, including black bean and corn, mango and smoked.

The perfect salsa involves blending the right amount of heat and sweetness.

And a little kick doesn't hurt.

I applaud all the participants and congratulate the winners who earned bragging rights:

Commercial/Professional - Cigar City Smoked Salsa
Best Decorated Booth - South County Career Center (Team #1)
Hottest Salsa - Tree Dog Salsa
Finest Fruits - South County Career Center (Team #1)
Best Bean Salsa - East Bay High School
Righteous Roasted Salsa - Cigar City Smoked Salsa
Top Tomato Salsa - The King's Bistro
Mind Blowing Mild Salsa - South County Career Center (Team #2)