Calling all amateur cooks!

Calling all amateur cooks, bakers, hash slingers, culinary artists, and chief bottle washers...



For the love of lemongrass

I planted lemongrass several weeks ago and so far it's doing fantastic. 

Lemon grass grows in sunny humid climates. It has long, thin stalks that are stiff and sharp-edged, which vary in color from green to a grayish hue. 

The stalks are too tough to eat, so you must simmer them in liquids or use them finely minced. Lemon grass may look like any other grass, but its  tangy, fresh lemon flavor is unmistakable. 

The leaves can perk up everything from soup to stir fry and can also be used to wrap fish or steam vegetables, when added to water.

Lemon Grass Iced Tea
2 or 3 stalks fresh lemon grass
2 quarts water
8 oz. hard cane sugar
2 limes
Cut lemon grass into 2-inch pieces, then place into a pot with the two quarts of water. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool, strain and add the juice of the two fresh limes. Cool in the refrigerator. Just before serving, add
a splash of seltzer water or club soda and lots of ice. Enjoy!


Now that's a spicy meatball!

Meatballs, those delicious little Italian spheres will share the spotlight in Ybor this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the inaugural Happy Bald Day at Centennial Park during the weekly Ybor City Saturday Market.

The event will include a bald-is-beautiful contest and a "meat-bald" cooking-and-eating contest to honor those battling cancer. It should be lots of fun!

For a delicious recipe for Tunisian-style spicy meatballs, see my column in this week's Table Scraps column on tbo.com.


Happy Anniversary, Sunshine!

In honor of their 1st Anniversary, Sunshine Cafe will be celebrating with the following specials: 

Sunshine Cafe
3808 Sun City Center Blvd., Sun City Center, FL
(813) 633-3344


Tail-wagging recipe for juice-pulp dog biscuits

In this week's Table Scraps column I wrote about what to do with the mountain of perfectly good juice-pulp that has no business going down the disposal. Well, here is another great idea. Why not use the juice-pulp to make dog biscuits?

Our "pack" loves them!

2 1/2 cups organic rolled oats
1 1/2 cups potato or corn starch
1/2 cup white or brown rice flour
3 tablespoons flaxseed meal
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups almond milk
2 cups juice pulp (I used carrots, kale and ginger)
Put 2 cups of the oats in food processor and grind to a fine powder. Combine with the remaining 1/2 cup oats, potato starch, rice flour, flaxseed meal and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the egg, olive oil and milk.
Stir pulp into the mixture. The dough should be firm, smooth and workable. If not, add more rice flour. Cover the bowl with a towel and let set for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Flour a work surface with rice flour and roll the dough our to 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch thickness, depending on the size of your dog. Cut into shapes, and then transfer to the prepared baking sheets. 
Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the biscuits are dry and firm. Cool before serving or storing in an airtight container.


The charming Lee Bros. brought their Charleston kitchen to Tampa

I'm a big fan of Matt and Ted Lee, aka The Lee Bros. Here are a few photos I took during their recent visit to Tampa. You can read more about it in this week's Table Scraps column on tbo.com

The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen cookbook was recently released, and Matt and Ted were on hand to demonstrate some of the recipes in it and sign copies. 

Did  I mention how excited I was to finally get to meet them?

 Shrimp and Grits

Henry's Cheese Spread


3/4 pound medium (26 to 30) count wild-caught U.S. shell-on shrimp
1 small bay leaf
Kosher salt
1 dash of cayenne or paprika
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces smoked pork sausage, Cajun adouille, or kielbasa, minced
1 cup minced celery, leaves reserved for garnish
1 ear sweet corn
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 ounces fresh U.S blue crab meat, picked clean of shell fragments
1/2 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper

Peel and devein the shrimp, reserving the shells in a small saucepan. Chop each shrimp crosswise into 3 or 4 pieces and reserve. To the saucepan with the shrimp shells add 2 cups water, the bay leaf, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the paprika, and bring to a simmer over high heat. Simmer on medium-low until reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Strain the broth and discard the shells.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, add the sausage, and gently cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sausage has visibly shrunk, about 5 minutes. Tip the pan and with a slotted spoon, transfer all but 1 to 2 tablespoons of the sausage to a small bowl, and reserve for garnish. 

Add the onion and the celery and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pan, and cook over low heat until soft and translucent but not browning, 8 to 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, cut the kernels from the corn cob. You should have about 2/3 cup. Scrape the cob with the back of a spoon and add the juice to the pan along with the corn kernels. Cook for 4 minutes, then turn the heat to medium and add 1 1/2 cups shrimp broth, 1 1/2 cups water, and the white wine, and simmer for 5 minutes. Season the soup to taste with salt.

Let the soup cool for about 10 minutes, and then process the soup carefully, in batches if necessary, in a food processor until mostly smooth (some corn kernels may remain recognizable) 1 to 2 minutes. Return the soup to the saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Add the crab and shrimp, and simmer until the shrimp are firm and just cooked through, about 2 minutes. 

Stir in the cream, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and serve immediately, ladling the soup into serving bowls. Make sure to include some crab and shrimp in each bowl, and garnish with a pinch or two of reserved sausage bits and some torn celery leaves. 


It's tomato time again!

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.


Big hats and high tea at ABWA fundraiser

It was an English "high tea," complete with savory sandwiches, delectable scones with clotted cream, strawberries and dainty desserts. 

But all this merriment had a serious purpose - the event raises education and scholarship funds for the South Shore Charter Chapter of the American Business Women's Association.

It was a fabulous afternoon put on by all, check out the photos...


Wow! What a Day! Flan Fest 2013!

 It was a day to remember for flan lovers — from guava, coconut & brandy to "Put the Lime in the Coconut" and more.

Winners of the 2013 Flan Fest:

1st Place-Armando Delgado (#1)
2nd Place-Marlene Cooley (#8)

1st Place-Diana Diaz (#4-Pina Colada)
2nd Place-Norma Liza Betancourt (#10 Flan Cake)

Traditional, Nancy Gutierrez (#6)
Non-Traditional, Barbara Lence (#7)

Congratulations to all of the flantestants and especially to all the winners. See you next year!


E. G. Simmons Park chili cook-off this weekend!

They'll come out swinging with all their spices this Saturday at the 17th annual E. G. Simmons Park Chili Cook-off in Ruskin.

Approximately 12-15 participants will be competing during this outdoor event. Besides offering a chance to sample some hot chili recipes - which begins at noon - the event will include a classic car show hosted by the Sun City Center-based Roamin' Oldies auto club.

WHEN: Sat., Feb. 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

WHERE: E. G. Simmons Park, 2401 19th Ave. N.W. Ruskin, FL

HOW MUCH: Cost is a $2.00 park entry fee per vehicle and $5.00 for a bowl to sample the chili.

WHY: The event raises money for the Friends of the Park

INFO:  (813) 671-7655.


Tuttorosso Italian Recipe Contest

Tuttorosso Tomatoes is hosting a really great giveaway and recipe contest.

Enter your best original Italian recipe (using at least one Tuttorosso Tomato product) on Tuttorosso's Facebook page. The first 4,000 entrants will receive a FREE apron!

In addition to the apron, participants also get a chance to be in the spotlight. The top four recipes will be highlighted on Tuttorosso's Facebook page and website.

The grand prize winner will receive a $500 gift card at Cooking.com.

This contest runs through Feb. 8. Here are a few details to keep in mind:

1. Your original recipe must include a minimum of one Tuttorosso product.
2. The list of ingredients must be in the order of use and in standard U.S. measurements.
3. Be sure to include a photo of the finished product.

Please visit Tuttorosso's Facebook page for further contest rules.

Good luck and get cooking!


Got strawberries!

Goodson Farms
12405 County Road 672
Balm, Florida
(813) 634-7790

Monday - Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 6 p.m.


Homemade hot sauce and a hot cookbook

The sight of fresh chiles at the farmers' market now means one thing to me. It's time to make hot sauce.

In my column this week, you can find a recipe for hot sauce adapted from The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila. It takes a blend of chiles (dealer's choice), chars them, and then blends them with white vinegar and lime juice. Add a touch of sugar, and you've got a fabulous balance of heat, pucker and sweet!

The recipe is really just a template. Feel free to play around with not only the chiles but the sugar and acid components, as well.

The Homemade Pantry has quickly become my go-to source for how to make delicious staples like butter, potato chips and fresh mozzarella - all in my own kitchen at home.


Ybor City hosts first ever evening market

Too busy to make it to market during the day? Now you can enjoy a trip to the market in the evening!

Twilight Market in Ybor City is set to welcome its first shoppers and browsers on Jan. 15 and will run every Tuesday night from 5 to 10 p.m. at the Roosevelt 2.0, 1812 N. 15th Street in Tampa. 

The night-time venue will feature more than 20 vendors selling everything from organic produce to packaged foods to take home. Participants include Joey's Biscotti, Natural Goodness and The Sausage Laboratory

Live music will be played from 6 to 10 p.m.

The event will operate rain or shine. 

Parking is free on the street or in nearby city parking lots. 

The Roosevelt 2.0
1812 N. 15th Street
Ybor City, FL 33605
(813) 248-1904