Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Souper Fun Sunday

I am so excited! Hogtown HomeGrown has been chosen to participate in St. Francis High School's Souper Fun Sunday on January 31, 2010 from 1-4pm. It is a fund raiser for technology upgrades and enhancements for the school.

Lots of area restaurants and caterers will be participating in this soup tasting competition. Each participant will provide 5 gallons of soup to be tasted by ticketholders and judged by both local celebrities and ticketholders in several categories. They even added a vegetarian category this year!

Tickets are available on the website There are discounts on ticket packages until December 15th, so get your tickets now. With a Kid's Activity Tent (new this year) and family passes available, this is an event for the whole family.

What soup will I be making? I'm not telling, but I'll give you three hints - it's vegan, very simple and in the recipe section of the Hogtown HomeGrown site. Buy a ticket, taste my soup and I'm sure you'll be voting for it!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Clam Chowder for a cold, wet night

I'm back in the kitchen, successfully this time. Came home from shopping yesterday and knew that soup would be the perfect dinner.

1 T olive oil
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
1 T butter
6 stalks celery, chopped
2 pounds yukon gold creamer potatoes, chopped
dried herbs to taste
1/4 t salt
4 cups seafood stock
2 cups pinot grigio (white wine)
2 pounds frozen chopped clams (Northwest Seafood freezer)
1 can Pet evaporated milk (not condensed - that's got sugar!)
1 T butter
Salt and Pepper to taste

Saute onions in oil until limp, add butter and celery, stir until celery is softened.

Add potatoes, herbs and salt and stir occasionally until potatoes are hot, then add stock and wine. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered until potatoes are fork tender.

Add partially defrosted clams and reduce heat to medium. Cook until clams chunks are separated. Add milk, stir, cover and simmer on low for at least 1 hour.

Stir in butter and taste for seasonings.

Serve hot with crusty rolls to dip into broth.

Makes a huge pot, so either serve a crowd or cover and refrigerate.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

And I thought I could cook?

There are days and there are days - today was not my favorite kitchen day.

Kitchen disasters don't happen often in our house, but when they do, they tend to be spectacular. Today was no exception -

My Aunt Lil sent us some of her infamous baklava (the actual name is pronounced bitlayawa, but I can't spell it) and we enjoyed it so much, I thought I'd give it a try.

Ground walnnuts - check!

Melted and skimmed butter - check!

Simple syrup without honey - check!

Defrosted phyllo dough - NO CHECK!!!!

Did you know that frozen phyllo dough can get stale after a couple of years in the freezer? Well, I know now! Unfortunately I'm a little slow - my lesson was not evident until I bit into the completed pastry!

Yes, hours of prep, layering, brushing each individual phyllo sheet with butter, blah, blah blah.....

Maybe I can save the walnuts by scraping them off the phyllo and use them as an ice cream topper.

Just thought you would like to know!

Hope it gave you a smile!

P.S. There will be no pictures with this post - ever!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Baking Pumpkin Pies with the Pineridge Science Club

For years, when our sons were Cub Scouts, I would bake Pumpkin Pies with their dens right before Thanksgiving. I developed a very simple recipe that the boys enjoyed eating and that they could measure and mix without frustration. Pre-made frozen pie crusts made the project even easier.

I recently volunteered to make pies with the Pineridge Science Club, an afterschool program for elementary-age students. In the interest of science, I took the time to talk about each ingredient, from pumpkin to milk and eggs to honey. Showing whole spices was a revelation - that's ginger? Vanilla pods? Cinnamon sticks? Whole nutmeg and cloves?

Due to limited time, we would have to make individual pies, so that they would have time to bake and cool before the participants took them home. Fortunately, ready-made tart-sized graham cracker crusts worked perfectly and tasted great.

With the kids working in pairs and adults helping to measure and pour, 24 pies were mixed up in a very short time, then baked, cooled and placed in bakery boxes for the trip home. Everyone seemed to have a good time - I know I did!

Here's the recipe -

Pumpkin Pie
1 can pumpkin puree (15 ounces)
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon and ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and cloves
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together until completely combined. Pour into 1 pie shell (regular or graham cracker) or 8 individual tart shells. Place on cookie sheet in oven. Bake 20-23 minutes for individual pies or 30-35 minutes for a regular-sized pie. The pie is cooked when the center does not jiggle when shaken. Cool before serving. Makes 8 servings.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Out to dinner at the Paramount Grill

I love to cook, but when invited to dine out at a restaurant of my choice, I am thrilled. My cousin Susie who travels all over the world for business, but is based near New York City, came for a visit this past weekend.

Weekend plans included the art fest, La Chua trail and some local restaurants, but she wanted us to pick a restaurant we had not visited, but wanted to try. On the advice of foodie friends, we picked the Paramount Grill in downtown Gainesville.

Our early reservation on Sunday evening meant we were the first to arrive for dinner. Our server Daisy gave us wonderful personalized service that continued even after the dining room began to fill with other patrons.

Chef and owner, Clif Nelson, had taken the evening off, but you would never have known by the quality of food served. Artfully presented, the food was layered with flavors and brought "oohs" and "aahs" with each bite as a different taste sensation was discovered.

While pictures cannot do justice to either presentation or taste, here are pictures of my meal - fresh berry salad, curried tofu, and butterscotch creme brulee -

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Apples, Apples Everywhere

Although I prefer to cook with locally-grown food, we Floridians have an apple deficit. A few apples, especially ones bred to grow in the Middle East, will grow here, but after about seven years they tend to succumb to diseases brought about by our heat and humidity.

So I have to find apples elsewhere. For a few years I was lucky enough to get a case of freshly-picked North Carolina apples delivered by my parents, but unfortunately that stopped last year with my Dad's death.

This year I bought retail - it was tough knowing that although the fruit was organic, that it had to travel cross-country, using lots of fuel. Harry's Farmer's Market, in Roswell/Alpharetta Georgia, offered a bounty of apples from Washington State, Oregon and New York - Honeycrisp, Ambrosia, Paula Red, Braeburn and Macoun. Whole Foods in Orlando had a fresh batch of Stayman Winesaps from West Virginia.

Before I started cooking, I tasted each type. The Ambrosia were the sweetest, but without much flavor, depth or character. The Honeycrisp were sweet and crispy, with a more complex sweet-tart combination. Paula Red and Braeburn offered classic apple flavor, with less sweetness, while the Macoun and Stayman Winesap had a full fruity flavor, not as sweet or crisp as the others, but with subtle flavors that gave them real character.

To make sugarless applesauce (although it is so thick, you can put it on toast)I used Ambrosia and Honeycrisp with just a couple of Braeburn and Macoun for more flavor and depth. I cut the apples into quarters, skins, seeds and all, dropped them into a pot, squeezed a lemon over all and added enough water to almost cover them. I cooked them until mushy, cooled slightly and pushed through a fine sieve to create a smooth liquidy sauce, that I then cooked about 8 hours to a thick, sweet, rich sauce. From 6 quarts of apples I canned 7 cups of applesauce.

Next up, applebutter with sugar and cinnamon. I used all the remaining apples, prepared in the same way - I started with 12 quarts of apples (yes, I have two really big pots),cooked them down, added 1 1/2 cups of sugar and about a tablespoon of cinnamon. I ended up canning 16 cups of applebuuter.

So now there are no apples in the house - now we need some fresh bread to make toast so we can eat applebutter - yum!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The coolest dinner

We are in Atlanta and went to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. Noodle bowls (Pho) were a menu staple, but I found something unusual - Vietnam wraps - with an unusual note next to the description - "self wrapping".

My dinner was presented as a plate of veggies and herbs, a plate of dry rice wrappers, a plate of grilled salmon (there was a choice of beef, shrimp or salmon) and a big bowl of steaming hot water.

After dipping the rice wrapper quickly in the hot water to soften it, I laid it on the plate and assembled my wrap. The veggies and herbs included lettuce leaves, bunches of Thai basil and cilantro on their stems, julienned cucumber and carrots, and bean sprouts. Also available were crushed peanuts, hoisin sauce and a couple of different hot sauces. The salmon was grilled with a crispy exterior and moist center. I made several wraps and it was a fun and yummy dinner.

I can easily see making these at home - just put out all the ingredients and let everyone wrap their own. And it is definitely a fun way to get the kids to eat their veggies.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Day in the life of this foodie

Sunday is almost over and today has beeen a foodie's dream -

Breakfast - Nova Scramble with green onion from Farmer John, arugula from Devi, eggs from Glades Ridge - Sweetwater coffee - Valencia orange juice

Lunch - tofu salad with celery, green onions, tamari, tahini, Wickles Pickles and celery - some cute cherry tomatoes from Saturday's 441 market - a bite each of a praline and this heavenly pecan caramel thingie from Savannah Sweets in St. Augustine

Dinner - Double Stuffed eggplant - eggplant from Eric, shallot, mushrooms, tofu and farmers cheese from Ward's, elephant garlic from Possum Hollow, walnuts and thyme - a carrot, zucchini salad - bread pudding with pumpkin and pears - Irish coffee

No more food tonight - now I have to go write up all the recipes for the November Hogtown HomeGrown!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Time to Cook

Home from vacation - cooler weather - and I'm ready to cook again. Just mixed up a batch of bread pudding to soak overnight before baking tomorrow. Planning a stuffed eggplant with nuts and cheese for dinner tomorrow night Contemplating when the weather will be cool enough for a pot of vegan potato scallion soup.

Had fun at the 441/Alachua County Farmers Market Sustainability Fair today. Thanks to Erika Henderson for inviting Hogtown HomeGrown to participate. We gave out samples of Prickly Pear Jam on Challah bread from Flour Pot Bakery and White Batard from Upper Crust. Talked to lots of people and did an interview with Brittany Perkins - she's writing a local food article - possibly for the Gainesville Sun.

Off to enjoy the cool weather and listen to the rest of the Gator game.....

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dinner at the Columbia in St. Augustine

When I was five, my parents took me to the first Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City - wonderful food and atmosphere! During our many trips to St. Augustine, Jeff and I have always made a trip to the Columbia on St. George - even if it was to just pick up black bean soup and bread to take home for dinner.

Tonight was an adventure - we got dressed up and went to dinner. We ate on the second floor porch overlooking St. George Street, had a personable waiter named Ken and a wonderful meal. A bottle of crisp white wine - Vina Esmeralda by Torres from Spain - Caesar Salad, Cakes de Cangrejo (Blue Crab Cakes with Passion-Fruit Aioli) and hot Cuban bread to start. Jeff had Cannelloni de Langosta “Setes Portes” - cannelloni with lobster, scallops and shrimp in a rich sauce - very tasty! I had Snapper "Alicante" - a huge piece of fish with a brown gravy, onions and green peppers served with yellow rice - perfectly cooked, but a little salty. Jeff brought a piece of their Godiva Chocolate cake back to the room to have with Sweetwater coffee later.

Oh it is later and I'm going to ask for a bite of cake - bye for now!

To blog or not to blog?

In the age of internet-savvy people, blogging seems to be the next logical step for Hogtown HomeGrown. As I navigate the inner workings of my online world, I wonder - will anyone read my blog? To be sure, my friends on Facebook seem to love my posts about what's for dinner, as I love theirs, but is a relationship based on food sustainable?

I guess I am about to find anyone out there?