All posts by mpabner

Pot Roast in an Instant Pot

So, when we downsized from our house in South Tampa to Channelside (another story for another post), we purged a LOT of things.  A couple of the things that I got rid of were the crock pot and the pressure cooker.  Each of those things I used a few times each month of so.  As we did not have a lot of room to store things, they did not make the cut for necessary things.  However, now that we have lived here for about 9 months, I really miss both of those things.    So, we have been looking at getting a crock pot, and stumbled across the Instant Pot.  At risk of this sounding like an advertisement, we love this thing!  It is a combination pressure cooker and crock pot.  IMG_3324

IMG_3310So, the first thing that I decided to make was a pot roast.  I took some  carrots, onions and potatoes and roughly chopped them.  As the pot has a metal insert, not a ceramic one, it can be used to brown the ingredients…

Like the roast…  IMG_3313IMG_3314






and the carrots and onions….


IMG_3325So, add some salt and pepper, put the roast back in, and cover the roast with the potatoes, carrots and onions, pour a couple of cups of stock over it all, and your ready to go.

50 minutes later with the pressure cooker, you have pot roast!



Fried shrimp and flounder

Recently, I went home to see my moms.  Whenever I go, there are always these great meals that we make that are just made from simple, southern and fresh items.  Saint SimoScreenshot 2016-01-14 10.01.07ns Island is the middle of a great shrimping and fishing area.  When mom asked me what I wanted to eat this time, I wanted to have Gramps’ fried shrimp and some fish.  Gramps always made the best fried shrimp!  They were simple, and delicious!  So, after cleaning tIMG_2892he shrimp, we placed them in a bag with flour, salt and pepper, and shaking the bag to coat the shrimp (which always makes me want to say “And I helped!”).

So, once the shrimp are prepped, melt IMG_2891some butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  When it is nice and bubbly, before the milk solids start to brown, add the shrimp, in a single layer.  Cook for a couple of minutes, then, with a fork, flip each shrimp over and continue to cook until the shrimp are nice and brown.  I like mine with ketchup!IMG_2893IMG_2894











The second part of this meal was a baked flounder.  We took some filets IMG_2887of flounder and mixed salt, pepper and dill.  Sprinkled the fish with lemon juice, and then sprinkled the mixture over that.


IMG_2885Then, the fillets were briefly cooked in a hot skillet and transferred to a baking dish, where we placed some bits of butter on them to finish cooking in the oven.



Finally, to round out the meal, we made some grits.  I could not think of a more southern, Golden Isles meal if I tried!


Gasparilla 2015


It is Gasparilla time again!  For those of you who do not know the legend, here it is:

Jose Gaspar, the person

Jose Gaspar was born in Spain in the year 1756.  He was supposedly a courtier in the Spanish court for King Charles III.  Having been falsely accused of attempting to steal the crown jewels, he fled in his boat and vowed vengeance on all of Spain!  To do this, he sailed up and down the west coast of Florida and attacked any Spanish ship he came across.  He amassed a great deal of loot and hid it on Gasparilla Island, near Port Charlotte.

Whenever he captured a vessel, the males on board would either be put to death, or pressed into service under his rule.  The females, however, would be taken captive and secured on Captiva Island until their ransom was paid.

As all good pirates are want to do, he wanted one last glorious battle and spied a British trader and attacked.  It was, however, an American pirate hunter in disguise, the USS Enterprise, and his ship was blasted with canon balls.  Rather than be taken hostage, he tied the anchor around his waist, and jumped overboard.

Jose Gaspar, the boat

The current Gasparilla festivities in Tampa, originate from a guy by the name of John Gomez, who died in int very early 20th century in SW florida.  He claims to have been a pirate under Jose Gasparilla.  He wrote his story as entertainment for the hotel guests at Boca Grande, a community on Gasparilla Island.  In 1904, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla in Tampa was formed.  They donned pirate costumes and rode around Tampa on horseback.  People loved this so much that the next year they decided to to have a parade and included all of the cars that were in Tampa at that time, 60.  From these humble beginnings, the celebration has gown into a 20 million dollar infusion of cash into Tampa’s economy and an estimated 400,000 people attending the parade.  At the very beginning of the season, the pirates attempt to get the Key to the city from the Mayor, who refuses.  This angers the pirates and they vow to come in force and take it.  On the big day, the sail into Tampa Bay on the Jose Gaspar, and head towards the city.  The locals, determined to protect their city, head out, en masse, via boat to turn the pirates away.  Instead, they all, to a man, join up with the pirates and become an escort for the Jose Gaspar, and bring it to port.   The Pirates then take the Mayor captive, do a little brunch, then head down to Ballast Point, and start a parade up Bayshore towards downtown.

The Gasparilla Season starts with the Children’s Parade, followed by the main parade the next weekend.  The Children’s parade is supposed to be an answer for all of the fretting parents who don’t want their innocent ones to witnessGasparilla.Tampa_-300x196 the debauchery of the main parade.  However, every year someone brings their little tykes to the main parade and complain how the event should be more family friendly.  It is, they were just a week late.

The next item in the season is the Sant’Yago Illuminated Knight parade which winds through Ybor.  This is my personal favorite!  The floats are very close, and the building prevent a build up of more that 4-5 people deep along the route.   It is also only about 2 hours long, not 5.AR-140129643

The love of my life, running and waving in the 5K

Gasparilla is very unique to Tampa and is cause for celebrating for a couple of months after the high holidays of November and December have come and gone.  There are several events other than the parades:  Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, Gasparilla Music Festival, and the Gasparilla Distance Classic, a two day running event with a 5k, 8K, 10K, 15K,


and half marathon. For some reason, I did not take a lot of pictures this year, but below are some things that I made to eat, as well as some really good cupcakes that a friend of ours, Angel, made for the Children’s Parade firework watching party hosted by Scott.

Southern Living Homage
Southern Living Homage
Mac in a bundt
Mac and cheese in a bundt

Farmers Cheese

Photo by Michael Abner
Photo by Michael Abner

I have been interested in making cheese for a little while now after visiting a farmer’s market in Saint Paul, MN a few years ago.  This dairy farmer was selling his cheeses and I was intrigued about making it.  Now, a few years later, and I found myself with a few days off and time to spare, so I decided to try my hand at making cheese.  I did not want to use rennet (I have not been able to find it locally, and when the urge to make something strikes I generally do not have time to order online…), so I researched rennet free cheese.  In farmers cheese, you use lemon juice to cause the milk to curdle.

So you basically take a gallon of whole milk (Skim milk just gives you less curds, and who likes skim milk anyway, except for frothing for lattes) and bring it to 190 degrees (medium heat), stirring to keep from burning.

Photo by Michael Abner
Photo by Michael Abner

At this point you  pull the pot off of the heat and pour in the juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup), stir this in and leave it alone for 10 minutes.  Seriously, just leave it alone!  I decided that I wanted to have a bit more taste, so I added fresh rosemary leaves at this point.  You pour this into a strainer with several layers of cheesecloth and allow it to strain all of the whey out.  After most of the whey has drained off, you can gather the cheese cloth together and squeeze the rest out.

At this point, you are left with just curds, which can be salted and kneaded to mix.

Photo by Michael Abner
Photo by Michael Abner

I was concerned about there being too much salt, so held back to just a pinch.  However, when I served it, I had to salt it to bring out the flavor.  This was really good on crackers.  I would not suggest using anything sweet with this, as it does not have enough “tang” to counteract the sweetness, but it complements salty items very nicely!

A tip:

Do not use “ultra pasteurized” anything.  This prevents any curds from forming and you will just have wasted a gallon of milk and a lemon.

Wasting Lemons is sad


When I find non-ultrapasteurized goats milk, I will make something with that!  If so, I will keep you updated.