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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thankful for food and all the choices!

Every year we celebrate Thanksgiving, sometimes with friends and family, sometimes alone, and we reflect on things in our lives we should be thankful for.
I have many things to be thankful for. I am thankful for having a loving and supportive family. I am thankful for my pets that also provide me with unconditional love. I am thankful, that unlike many others, I do have a roof over my head, electricity, hot water and the ability and comfort of sleeping in my own bed.
I am thankful to have a job that has allowed me to report on issues in our community, both good and bad, sometimes ugly, sometimes humorous. A job that has also allowed to me discover new places and adventures and discuss my all-time favorite topic – FOOD.

Oh, yes I am thankful for food!

This year I’ll be home for Thanksgiving (all alone, all by myself….whimper…whimper), while the rest of my family is in Chattanooga. I don’t plan on cooking an entire meal for myself but I do plan to EAT.
So I am thankful for places that that are taking orders for holiday meals.

SO MANY CHOICES

For a traditional Southern flare of mouthwatering turkey, ham, black-eye peas, greens, potato salad, macaroni and cheese followed up with banana pudding and peach cobbler, you must hit Izola’s Country Café.

Wake up people no one does Southern like Izola’s…NO ONE.

As it says on their website, “We can fix you up.” And they definitely can. There is a reason the folks who run Izola’s have been in the restaurant business FOREVER!
Taste their famous fried chicken and you will see why they’ve maintained the number one rated eatery in Hinesville for quite some time, according to Trip Advisor. And it is no secret they are my GO-TO place for fried chicken.
They tend to stay busy throughout the holiday season so it is best to call ahead and give them plenty of notice for your order.
WAIT…I need to call them before you guys do…dang do I need to share their number?

Boo…well okay here it is. The diner is located at 809 Willowbrook Circle. For more information call 912-463-4709.
If you are looking for a fried turkey Bojangles in Hinesville is taking orders.
WAIT…WHAT?

Yes, the eatery that is known for their fried chicken is offering up fried turkey and a complete holiday meal. They are offering mashed potatoes, green beans, Bojangles’ Cajun pintos, mac-n-cheese their dirty rice and of course BISCUITS.
Sounds incredibly delicious. Give them a try. Call 912-332-7304 and place your order or visit the diner at 130 Carter Street.
It’s during the holidays that I crave the foods I grew up with during my youthful days in Miami’s Little Havana. My dad would spend a day and half marinating and roasting a whole pig for the festivities.

Luckily for me, Walthourville Meat Market owner Ronald DeLeon caters to the Latin community here in Liberty County. DeLeon was born in New York from Dominican parents, and grew up in Miami.
At his market he offers whole pigs. They can either be bought raw for folks to cook on their own or he can cook them for you. He’ll even marinate it for you. He can get pigs as small as 20 pounds and as large as 120 pounds. They also offer another Latin favorite the roasted pork shoulder.

QUE RICO!!

He also does traditional Boston butts and also specializes on Latin side dishes like yucca, plantains, Spanish style rice and beans. For those seeking a Caribbean meal he takes order for lamb and goat as well.
Goodness my mouth is watering. It is all SO GOOD.
DeLeon has also expanded to offering seafood and cooks up a mean Lowcountry boil. He has a small platter that can feed two people easily (or just me). His large Lowcountry boil can feed an entire family (or just me).

I’ve had his Lowcountry boil. It’s amazing with just the right amount of heat and loaded with shrimp, crab legs, sausage and corn. Walthourville Meat Market is at 5715 W. Oglethorpe Highway. For more information call 912-369-4933.

If you are seeking something WAY different why not give the folks at Ludowici’s Majestic Meat Market a visit. They can get you frog legs, rabbit, deer and even alligator.
I’ve never had frog legs, but I’ve heard it tastes like chicken. Maybe I’ll give it a try.
The store is family owned, veteran operated by TRULY generous people. For the past four years they’ve helped local organizations feed more than 30 families through the holiday season. Go check them out at 576 S McDonald Street, Ludowici. Or call them at 545-2078.

All this talk about food is making me HUNGRY.

It also makes me thankful that I have the ability to afford this most basic need in life. Others can’t afford to buy food, don’t have shelter or other basic needs.
I am thankful to the many kind souls who have the willingness to GIVE to those in need. I plan to give back this year by volunteering at a food kitchen. I am thankful for the opportunity to do so. If you have the ability to lend a helping hand this holiday season, please do. People will be thankful for it.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Hankering for a hot dog any way

It’s getting cold outside and it’s usually the time of year where I tend to crave, soups, stews and chili. I mean nothing warms up your insides better than a bowl of piping hot chili covered with melted cheddar and a dollop of sour cream.

Am I right?

Or warming your hands as they grip a cup of savory chicken soup, which will also warm your heart.

Sounds like Heaven!

But the other day something entirely different beckoned me. I was watching a TV show that highlighted old television commercials. I got up and went to the kitchen to get some water. In the background I heard, ‘Oh I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener...’

And just that quick I needed, no not needed, WANTED a hot dog.

“Man I haven’t had a hot dog in years,” I thought as I grabbed my wallet and keys and rushed out the door.

Within minutes I was back home, suddenly facing a new dilemma — toppings and buns.

“Let me see where my old bun steamer is,” I said to myself as I plunged my entire body into the cabinets of all things kitchen gadgetry. “There it is.”

“Okay Chicago style or classic chili cheese dog? OMG I have a deep fryer and can cook up a ripper too.”

Soon I was frantically dicing up onions, making relish, prepping bacon and a variety of other toppings. By the time I was done I probably had around a dozen hot dogs made.

I ate most for lunch and put the rest away for dinner. YES I ATE THEM ALL (but note that is was not all in one sitting. That’s an improvement, in my book).

I made a few bacon wrapped rippers. Those are hot dogs wrapped in bacon and tossed into the deep fryer. You let it cook until the hot dog casing literally rips open. I topped some with chili, some with just onions and some with both and cheese.

I made a few Chicago-style dogs.

The ones I saved for dinner were a special concoction I read in a cookbook years ago. I whip up some homemade mash potatoes. I like my mashies with sour cream, chives and cheddar and bacon bits in it. You take the hot dog and split it down the center but not all the way through. You stuff the dog with the mash potatoes, add a little bit of cheese and bacon on top and bake it in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

It may sound weird but TOTALLY awesome!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Did you end up eating all your own candy?

I always buy candy to make sure I am covered for Halloween. I moved to Allenhurst in 2006 and can count the times I actually had a trick-or-treater knock at my door, on one hand.
I live on a cul-de-sac where three families have children. Most of the time the parents take their kids trick-or-treating at local community events, especially if Halloween falls on a school night, and also because it is safer.
Knowing that in all likelihood the candy I buy will be consumed by me, I go for the good stuff. I’m a chocoholic so I always get my favorites — Butterfingers, Snickers and Tootsie Rolls.
I get the bowl ready, just in case, sit down to watch TV and wait, and wait and wait.
There was this one year when I was doing this same routine and flipped the TV to the SyFy Network. It normally does a “30 Days of Halloween” each year, and when the channel came up, one of my favorite horror classics, “Friday the 13th” was just starting.

“Oh yeah,” I thought, “I haven’t seen this movie in years.”

I grabbed a Butterfinger, wrapped myself up in a blanket and turned up the surround sound.
“I honestly can’t remember who gets killed first,” I thought to myself.
In fact it had been such a long time since I had seen the original that it was like watching the movie for the first time.
Settled in, I opened the Butterfinger and took that first bite.

CRUNCH….yum.

About 20 minutes into the movie and two more Butterfingers and a Tootsie Roll devoured, I was totally engrossed.
“Don’t hide there! That is the first place he’ll look. You better get out of there or you’re the next one…WATCH OUT he is behind…OMG…RUN…ohhhhh…he got you.”
Grabbed more candy.
“Stay away from the lake! Are you crazy? GET OUT OF THERE. What are doing there all by yourself? Stupid, yep you’re dead.”

The frenzied drama continued. The deeper into the movie I got, the more I chased my fears away with candy. I was completely consumed by the movie when suddenly there was a POUNDING on my door.

I literally screamed at the top of my lungs and jumped off the couch.

“Um, trick-or-treat?” A little voice said from outside.
“No it’s a trick,” I thought, still shaking and hiding behind my door. “I don’t get trick-or-treaters here. Never have. Who is this person?”
“Um, trick-or-treat, Ms. Patty?”
“Oh, no. they know my name,” I whispered to myself. “I’m doomed.”

I peeped through the peephole. I could see it was a neighbor’s kid. I open the door and grab the bowl.

THREE PIECES OF CANDY LEFT.

“Hey there,” I said trying to hide my previously felt horror. “Nice costume. What are doing trick-or-treating all by yourself?”
“I live next door,” my little Batman neighbor said. “You told me yesterday to come by after mom took me to trunk-and-treat so I could get some candy, before you ate it all.”
“Oh yeah, I did,” I replied. “Well here you go.”

I tossed the last three pieces of candy into his bag.
He looked up at me with a smile. “I like you, Ms. Patty. You’re totally weird.”
“Kid, you have no idea,” I thought to myself as I closed the door.

I turned off my patio light, drew the blinds and turned off most of the indoor lights. I pulled the blanket back over myself and went back to watching the movie. I felt something under the blanket.

OMG! A BUG…THERE IS A BUG ON ME….HELP.
Thankfully no. It was one last Butterfinger that got lost in the blanket’s fold.
YES! Take that Jason Voorhees.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Drifting inward

I went into the Haunted Forest alone,
Deep into all unknown.
Deeper still where things howl and creek,
Enveloped in dark unable to speak.
In the stillness I lose track of time,
Stuck in the recess of my own dark mind.
Patty Leon

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Plantain Soup time

As the weather cools I look forward to homemade soups and stews. Since leaving Miami, I’ve craved a soup that I used to get on my visits to Latin House Restaurant in Little Havana – plantain soup.

No. Not banana soup. That would be just plain gross! Plantains are a cultivar of bananas, but are only edible when cooked.

Plantains are typically a side dish staple at a Cuban dinner. More often they are served as tostones (fried like thick chips) or as maduros (when the plantain is allowed to get a bit over ripe and soft to the touch. They are cut at a diagonal and sautéed lightly in oil). Maduros are sweeter and tender.

Both are scrumptious, by the way.

I had never attempted making homemade plantain soup, thinking it would take hours of preparation and a thousand items for the recipe. But I looked up the recipe and found one that seemed simple on the Three Guys from Miami Blog site.

Hey this looks simple!

Their original recipe called for a spice called bijol, which is primarily a coloring agent and mild spice blend. I didn’t have that on hand and in its place I used turmeric, which still provided the color. It’s also a natural anti-inflammatory and has many health benefits. The online recipe used chicken stock. Well, being the lazy person that I am, I used vegetable stock instead since it’s what I had in my pantry. It also made this a complete vegetarian recipe.

No. I’m not 100 percent vegetarian. But I am trying to cut out too much meat. And it is pretty rare to find a Latin dish that doesn’t have some small component of meat in it, at least in the kitchen I grew up in.

The first part of the recipe was easy. Just sauté celery, onions and carrots until they softened and the onions start becoming translucent. Then add in garlic for a few more minutes on the stove top. Turn the heat to high and add the veggie stock, 2 of the green plantains (peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks), cumin, turmeric, bay leaves and cayenne pepper and let it come to a boil.
After it comes to a rolling boil, let it sit for a few minutes, then bring it down to a low simmer, cover and let it simmer for about an hour (Until Plantain chunks are VERY TENDER).

EASY PEASY.

It was the second part of the recipe that nearly killed me. All I had to do was take most of the plantains out of the soup. Puree them in a food processor or blender and add them back into the soup and cook an additional 10 minutes.

Well poop, my blender is broken. But hey, no worries, I have my food processor. This baby is still in the box! How hard can it be to figure out?
Apparently very hard and I’m thankful I still have all my fingers. I got the processor out of the box, put the base on my counter and plugged it in. I washed the main container housing (you know the thing that hold the food stuff). Then I washed the rotating blade and top and started snapping them into the base. As I slid the lid in place and turned the unit to lock, the blade started whirring and spinning, scaring the poop out of me.

I wasn’t expecting it to be on. Note to self, plugging it in should be the last thing you do. It appears that the switch was in the on position so as soon as I locked the bowl in place it was GO-TIME.

Once I figured things out, I was so frazzled that I burned my hand when trying to scoop out some of the plantain chunks from the soup. Finally getting my act together, I managed to puree the plantains and finish the recipe.

With nerves still jumpy and one hand soaking in cold water, it was time to use up the last green plantain I bought for the soup topping and side.
I peeled the plantain and was going to use my fancy new mandolin slicer to make thinly sliced chips with half of the plantain and tostones with the remaining half.

Suddenly I got all these images I had seen online of the horrific cuts people received from their mandolin slicer. After my experience with the food processor, I decided it was safer to make the tostones. I looked into my pantry, found a bag of plantain chips to top the soup off and called it a success.

Safely seated away from the kitchen, I had my first taste. It was just as I remembered it tasting at the restaurant. I am pretty sure I was doing the Cuban salsa happy dance as I devoured my soup and tostones.

You can find my recipe for tostones and maduros here: https://pattyjaneleon.blogspot.com/2017/04/i-said-plantain-not-bananaomg.html?zx=6a237369be5096ff


Cuban veggie style plantain soup
Ingredients
1 cup celery
1 cup onion finely chopped
1 ½ cups of carrots, shredded
5 cloves of garlic, minced
3 large green plantains (2 for the soup, 1 for tostones or chips)
6 cups of vegetable stock
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 bay leaves
Dash of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for sautéing the veggies

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Stop panicking, start planning

Everyone I know is freaking out over Hurricane Irma. As of Tuesday morning she was a strong Category 5 storm barreling toward the Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Where it goes from there is still up in the air. Most models show it tracking toward Cuba and the Florida Straits. There are a few models that show Irma skirting up the East coast impacting all of Florida, the eastern coast of Georgia and South Carolina.
Which is correct?

WE DON’T KNOW YET PEOPLE because it is still way too early to tell people. SO STOP FREAKING the heck out.

The one advantage of hurricanes is that there are ways of tracking them and plenty of time to plan ahead. So instead of freaking out you should be planning.
First, secure all your important documents in one location and place them in zip lock bags to protect them from water. Have an evacuation plan in place. If you have pets they should be included in your plans as most shelters do not accept animals. Best place to stay is with family in another state if possible.
Of course you want to have plenty of food and water for you, your family and pets to cover 3-5 days post storm.

Some people already going crazy buying out cases and cases of water. QUIT BEING GREEDY MAN!

First of all if you are planning on evacuating and staying with family and you are planning appropriately, you aren’t going to need to take all that water with you.
For example, if you live in Georgia and plan to evacuate to Ohio, they do have grocery stores with food and water up there you know. So far none of the storm models indicate it will impact areas that far north. SO BUY YOUR WATER THERE and leave ours alone.

Also how about tapping into your own water resources instead of buying bottled water. Start filling up pitchers and if you aren’t sure about your water quality boil it first. This method will save you tons of money and get you through the first rough days. Plus you should fill your bath tubs with water and anything else you can find with water. You’ll need that to freshen up and be able to flush your toilets.
Another good idea is to start making your own bags of ice now. Each time your ice tray fills, dump the cubes into a plastic bag and tie it shut. This way if your power goes out you have ice already made for your coolers.

Always keep your car’s gas tank full, get cash out of the ATM and make sure all your flashlights and batteries are good to go.
But this is a foodie column so let’s get with the program here and talk about hurricane food.
The storm is about a week away so first things first – EAT UP ALL THE FOOD IN YOUR FRIDGE NOW!!
If the storm should come toward us, your fridge should be nearly devoid of anything that will spoil when the power go out. Don’t go out and buy a ton of stuff that needs refrigeration just before a storm because the power WILL go out. That is 100 percent guaranteed.
When planning for the storm, the canned food and chip section of the store are your best friends – DIET BE DAMNED.
Time to grab your favorite chips, crackers, cookies, cakes and of course the all-time classic protein of CANNED SPAM!

Yummy.

The main thing to remember is you need things that are non-perishable. There are healthy options. Granola bars are a good choice as are nuts and trail mix packages. There are many fruits that don’t require refrigeration. Bread and peanut butter can go a long way until things start to return to normal.
But, again, if you plan to evacuate don’t buy more than what you need to get to your destination and then do you’re shopping there. There is no need to have to lug all that extra stuff around if where you plan to go is safe from the storm.

In other words: LEAVE SOME STUFF FOR US STUPID PEOPLE WHO DON’T PLAN TO EVACUATE.

Leave some canned tuna and stuff on the shelves for those of us that, due to choice or job, need to hunker down in place. We need to eat too you know.
All kidding aside the best thing you can do now is to monitor the storm and plan accordingly and above all else – BE SAFE.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

BEER, BACON and BBQ

There is so many great foodie events coming up, two of which involve some of my most favorite things in the world – BEER and BACON.

We are just days away from the annual Savannah Craft Brew Fest. This year it will be held 2-6 p.m. Sept. 2 at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center.

Have you not been?


Well if you’re a beer lover, like me, YOU MUST GO AT LEAST ONCE.


Dude, I plan to sample every beer they have….all 150 (or more) of them!

I’ve got my ticket. Give me my two-ounce souvenir sampling mug and get the heck out of my way, please.

And the incredibly SMART folks of Savannah have one upped themselves by incorporating Bacon Fest into the same weekend. Well, Bacon Fest is actually Sept. 1-4, but they are smart to have them both on the same weekend.

Bacon Fest will be along River Street. Food vendors are encouraged to think outside the box and make bacon the center of all their appetizers, desserts, entrée and snacks.

Think about it!

Chocolate covered bacon. Shrimp wrapped in bacon. Bacon burgers and bacon wrapped hot dogs. Pork belly and bacon sandwich with ham, and more BACON.

I plan on eating my way through the vendors, then hopping on the ferry and drinking my way through the beer crafters.

It is a great plan, indeed. I should go ahead and book a hotel room for the night while I’m at it. I will likely need to sleep off the food coma and beer. Plus I can wake up the next day and head back for some eggs and BACON.

Then of course we have the 14th annual Blues, Brews and BBQ right here in Hinesville on Sept. 23. This event is free, but bring your cash to buy some of the best barbecue in the county.

GUESS WHAT? I was picked to be one of the judges for the bar-b-que competition this year!


I’m actually doing a little happy dance in my head. I do it every time I am reminded that I get to judge the ’que.

Y’all better bring it. I loves me some ’que and I get to sample all the entries (I’ll need some new stretchy pants for that).

The event starts at 1 p.m. and goes well into the evening. They offer a bottomless glass of beer (another GREAT idea) to help wash down the food (and other beverages too of course, but BEER and BBQ, yep). There will be plenty of fun activities for the kids and a lot of blues music from live bands.

I am excited about being a judge. I’ve been doing my research on it. Did you know there is an actual training course to become a certified BBQ judge for national and international events?

I’m glad it’s barbecue I’m judging. They make you spit out wine during those competitive tastings (wasting the wine, shameful).

Hmmm, I guess I’ll have to remind myself to not lick my fingers in between tastings.