Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Love of Food Pays Off...Winning Recipes

Over the summer, with nothing else to do, I wrote, tested, and entered recipes in various contests. I've done this for several years, had some wins, been published a few times, and even did a cookbook signing.  This past summer, however, Jeremy got involved and surprisingly, we won and placed in a couple of contests.  Below are some of the winning recipes, their pics, and even links to the companies who sponsored the contests.  

Potato Salad Challenge

Since I compete at World Food Championships in Desserts, we thought it would be fun to see if we could Jeremy entered and competing in a different category.  Since Reser's hosts the Potato Salad Challenge, and its winner does not go to "Final Table," we though this would be a safe category.  With that said, we set out to see whose idea of potato salad was the best.  We assembled all of our ingredients, made our salads, took pics, posted them on Facebook to get feedback, and in the end, entered them.  Neither of them were selected by Reser's, but when I entered them in other contests, we won!

Jeremy's Memphis BBQ Potato Salad,Grand Prize in Boston Salads and Prepared Foods deli salad contest

2 lbs. red skinned potatoes, cut in half
¼ c. chopped green onion
¼  c. chopped celery
4 slices of bacon (crumbled)
½ cup of shredded Colby jack cheese
½ c French fried onions
½ c. cubed cooked pork roast

½  c. mayonnaise
½ c Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce

Boil potatoes in water until just fork tender.  Do not over cook.  Drain potatoes and cool completely before mixing & dressing. Cut cooked potatoes into 1 inch chunks. Combine all ingredients.

In a small bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients.  Pour dressing over potato mixture.  Toss gently to combine.

Serve immediately.

Amy's Summer Mandarin Potato Salad, First Runner Up in Hot Potato, Healthy Potato recipe contest and Consolation Prize in Boston Salads and Prepared Foods deli salad contest

2 lbs. red skinned potatoes, cut in half
8 oz. can mandarin oranges—drained
1 lb. medium shrimp—peeled & deveined
1 ½  tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 c. shredded Napa cabbage
¼ c. chopped green onion
¼  c. chopped celery

2 TBSP key lime juice
2 TBSP sugar
2 TBSP olive oil
¼ c. orange juice
¼ c. fat free plain yogurt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 TBSP dried parsley
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper

Boil potatoes in water until just fork tender.  Do not over cook.  Drain potatoes and cool completely before mixing & dressing.  Meanwhile, coat shrimp with cinnamon, ginger, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Broil for 5 minutes or until opaque/white/pink.  Remove and cool slightly.
Cut potatoes halves into 1.5 inch chunks. Add shrimp, oranges, cabbage, onion, and celery.

In a small bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients.  Pour dressing over potato mixture.  Toss gently to combine.

Serve immediately.

Amy's Wrap & Roll Breakfast Eggrolls, 3rd Place Winner  in Jones Dairy Farm's Rise, Sizzle & Shine Breakfast recipe contest

  • 1 (12 oz) Jones Dairy Farm All Natural Pork Sausage Roll
  • 1/4 cup bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green onion, chopped
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz) cheddar or other cheese, shredded
  • 12 egg roll skins
  • 1-2 cups peanut or vegetable oil


In large skillet, brown sausage with pepper and onion over medium heat. Drain fat and pour sausage mixture into large bowl; set aside.

In medium bowl, lightly beat eggs and milk. Spray medium skillet with non-stick cooking spray; add egg mixture and cook, stirring frequently, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove eggs from heat and add to bowl with sausage, add cheese and mix well.

Place egg roll skin on clean surface with one corner pointing away. Spoon heaping 1/4 cup of sausage egg mixture onto one corner of egg roll skin. Fold corner over, tucking in under filling. Fold in side corners and roll to opposite corner. To seal, wet edge of skin with water and press firmly. Repeat with remaining egg roll skins.

If serving immediately, heat 1-2 cups oil in large frying pan over high heat. Deep fry egg rolls in batches until golden brown, approximately 3 to 5 minutes.

To serve later, place egg rolls on parchment-lined cookie sheet and freeze. Once fully frozen, place egg rolls in freezer safe zipper bag for long-term storage. When ready to use, thaw completely and fry as directed above.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Barb's Chocolate-Cherry Christmas Bread...Jeremy's Favorite

Our first Christmas together wasn't too long after we met, and during that first Christmas baking season, Jeremy asked if I could make chocolate-cherry bread.  I'd never heard of it, so I went searching for a recipe on line.  Nothing I found seemed to be what he was talking about, so he emailed his mom, and to this day, I'm still making Chocolate-Cherry Bread at Christmas.

3 cups sifted cake flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 and 1/4 cup milk
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup melted shortening
3 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 pkg. (6 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1/2 cup drained maraschino cherries, snipped (6 oz. jar)

Into bowl sift flour, baking powder, and salt.  Stir in egg, milk, then brown sugar.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour three 6x3x2.25 inch miniature loaf pans

Add melted shortening and chocolate to batter, stirring until blended.  Then stir in semisweet chocolate pieces and cherries.  Divide batter between 3 pans.

Bake about 45 minutes or until cake tester, inserted in center, comes out clean.  Cool in pans 15 minutes and then remove from pans and cool completely.  Foil wrap.  Store until served next day.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Skip the Big Beaches...Try a Lesser Known Shoreline

When non-natives think of Florida, they imagine a state of nothing but Mickey Mouse and beaches. And when they think of beaches, they picture Dayton, Clearwater, South Beach (Miami), and Panama City...full of bikinis, packed with people, beach volleyball, celebrities, lots of skin, surfers, and the list goes on and on.  As a native, I'll agree.  Those beaches are great...for tourists.  Those beaches are the epitome of the Florida tourist, party beaches, but if you want the real Florida beach, you've got to head where the crowds aren't.
Here are a few of the best...and our favorites

Anna Maria Island (Holmes Beach, Coquina, Bradenton beaches)

This is where my mom always took us when we were kids.  I never understood why this was her beach of choice, but as I got older, it was obvious.  This place is completely un-touristy. Unlike Clearwater Beach, you don't spend half the day looking for parking or walking a mile from your car to the beach or paying $30 to park in a private lot near the beach.  No, the beaches of Anna Maria have plenty of free or super cheap parking, and if you don't want to drive from your hotel/motel, then take the trolley...it goes to the BEACH!!!  How cool is that!?!?  

Aside from the parking, the beaches of Anna Maria also look completely different. It's not a beach in the middle of a touristy town with high rise hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, and dinner cruises.  These beaches still have trees, and there are NO HIGH RISE HOTELS! Most, if not all, of the beaches along the island are still lined by huge Australian Pines, providing shade for picnics and naps.  

If all of this isn't enough, and probably, because of the lack of touristy crap, the beaches of AMI are still fairly low key...no blaring music, no massive crowds, no chance of your kid getting lost in a sea of sun bathers, swimming without bumping into the person next to you...
This is the beach we go to for a simple day out with the kids.

Manasota Key (Englewood Beach & Stump Pass State Park)

This was another family favorite as a kid.  When we took our annual family vacation to the beach, it was always to Englewood.  Back in the day, there were no high rise hotels, most of the island was either private resorts or private homes, and not a single restaurant on the water.  Today, nearly 30 years later, it's still the same.  The public beach is still relatively small, the shoreline is still lined with trees, private resorts, and private homes, and the closest restaurant is across the street from the public beach.  At the very south end of the key (island), Stump Pass State Park allows you to kayak the bay side and swim
in the Gulf on the other.  Like Anna Maria, there are no crowds, no wild parties, and no loud music. Instead, you have absolutely blue water, white sand, families, and lots of peace and quiet. And for the adults in the group, because so much of the island is private (homes & resorts), you can have your cooler of Coronas and Sangria on the beach without a single problem...as long as you clean up your bottles & cans.

Still in the same neighborhood, but a little north of Manasota Key is Casey Key and Venice. While I haven't stayed in either, my friends do and claim that it's the exact same way...quiet, relaxing, and uncrowded.

Gasparilla Island (Boca Grande & Little Gasparilla Island) 

AKA...The Sandbar

When McDonald's gives away free breakfast on testing morning, parents line up around the block. People love free stuff. If something is free, everyone lines up.  If you actually have to pay for something, it tends to keep a certain crowd
away.  That is Gasparilla Island.  What makes Gasparilla Island and Little Gasparilla so popular and fabulously private is that it is not free.  You actually have to pay to get on the island or you have to have a boat to get on the island.  For a great many people, that's an instant turn off.  HOWEVER, that also keeps out the garbage.  That $6/car toll is the key to the island staying perfect.  Well, add to that the fact that you aren't allowed to park along the side of the road, there are no chain hotels, no chain restaurants, and no beach front bars, so the whole island breathes an air of privacy.  Little Gasparilla is nearly the same...no hotels (all private homes & rentals), no restaurants, no bars, and if you don't have a boat, no entry.  There are no roads to Little Gasparilla, so the crowds are non-existent.

For the boaters & kayakers, one of the best parts of the island areas is the sandbar.  The sandbar between the two islands is heaven. The perfectly clear, blue water is between ankle and knee deep (depending on the tide), full of shells, starfish, sea urchins, and the occasional sting ray, and just at the edge, it's not uncommon to see dolphins and manatees swimming by.  When we want a day away, Jeremy & I paddle out, park our chairs, and chill out until the beer runs out or the tide comes in.

Egmont Key & Anclote Key

No these two aren't side by side.  They aren't even close to each other. Both are considered Pinellas County, but one sits at the northern end and the other at the mouth of Tampa Bay on the southern end.   However, they both have something similar to offer...privacy.  Both are only accessible by boat--private or ferry. Anytime you have an island that's only accessible by boat, and as we know, boats aren't free, the island and its beaches will be quiet, natural, and peacefully wonderful.  Both Egmont and Anclote are state parks,which means there's a bit more to offer than just a quiet beach. Egmont Key is home to Fort Dade, built and used during the Spanish American War, and a lighthouse.    Anclote Key, on the other hand, is a preserve.  There are no provisions whatsoever on the island, which means if there is
something you might need or want while on the island, you better plan to take it...this includes food and water!

Getting to and hauling your own stuff might be a pain and an inconvenience, but what you get in return is pure paradise.