Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Making Vacation Calories Count, Our Experience with Boardwalk Beach Cafe, Cherry Grove Pier, South Carolina

The day started with a walk out to the beach here in Cherry Grove South Carolina, the first official trip since our arrival on Saturday.  My bestie and I finally made it to our respective spots side by side, under a brilliant blue umbrella.  RD, the bestie mentioned above, was breaking in his new Tommy Bahama beach chair, a jawbone blue-tooth speaker, and waterproof case for his phone.  I too had come prepared, with my straw hat, sunglasses, fruit waters and most importantly Yes, Chef , a memoir, by Marcus Samuelsson. 
We waded out into the lukewarm and choppy salty waters to the waist, for our customary ceremony of  saturating  our suits and bodies, then posting up to dry again by the humid breeze and obstructed sunshine  that this wonderful day provided.  After about 30 minutes at best, we noticed clouds and quiet fury building on either side in  the distance.  We rationalized that one will go around, the other, gone before we know it, we were wrong!  My weather bug app insisted that we "seek shelter immediately", but we felt we could squeeze out a few more minutes.  A brief and sparse shower hit, but not enough to send us packing, so we continued to bob our heads in unison to Bob Marley or some Top Forty song, I can't remember which.  Within minutes, the thunder in the distance became more omnipresent and the darkening of the sky could no longer be ignored.  The rules of engagement for a thunder and lightning storm, drilled into my head by my parents, echoed in my ears, get inside, unplug appliances, no telephones, keep away from water, stay away from windows, be QUIET!!  

The lightning strike that stretched from the sky to the ground to our right, sealed the deal, sending us scrambling to remove from the sand and lower the umbrella, cover electronics, fold up chairs, grab everything and flee, as our fellow vacation mates yelled from the third floor balcony of our condo to get our butts inside!!  We stored our gear in the back of the Jeep, luckily it was nearby and in a single level parking garage, almost directly behind us.
It was around lunchtime, and since we felt like the crisis had been averted and immediate plans for fun in the sun had been thwarted, why not try out this cafe at the mouth of the pier, just beside our unit, Boardwalk Beach Cafe on Cherry Grove Pier, where in 1964, the world's largest tiger shark on record was caught!!!  
We tempted fate once more by using the garden hose to rinse the sand from our legs and flip flops, before entering, bold I know, but somehow very necessary before entering an eatery, at least in our minds, even though our clothing was soaked throughout.  
We were greeted by a cordial staff, that offered we sit anywhere, wetness and all, which was reassuring.  We chose to stand, until we saw a deck just out back with shelter, plenty of chairs and a new view of the ocean and opposite side of the pier.  The menu offered a select, but efficient selection of bar goodies like wings, cheesesticks, shrimp etc, but also salads, fish, shrimp and chicken tacos  and entrees, sandwiches ranging from Ahi Tuna and Grouper, to Caribean Jerk and Barbecue.   We went with the Double Whammy Burger, boasting two all beef patties, cheese and bacon optional. They offered all the fixings that make burgers awesome, including but not limited to mushrooms, jalapenos, chili and guacamole.
The children's menu is very fair @5.50, offering four choices  and there's also a great happy hour ensemble from 4p to 7p, boasting discounts on bar based appetizers and spirits.  The overall menu prices range from $5.50 to $18.
The burgers were made to order and fresh.  The fries were piping hot, the pickle cool and crisp, a portion of  slaw was also included.  This meal was really two in one and I definitely used most of my 'What the Hell, I'm on vacation' cards in one fell swoop.  Indulgent-yes, worth it-yes, fighting and cheating death, fleeing from lightning storms and  pigging out with your best friend of almost 22 years- on vacation- at the beach-PRICELESS!  

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Omega 3 BLT

A quick and wonderfully satisfying way to get the most out of your everyday BLT  is to add UMPH! and WOW, that being a baked or fried piece of fish!! Not just any fish, Catfish.  This gem happens to be locally caught by my brother in law and sister Bonnie on a fishing excursion.  I was delivered a hearty helping of these puppies still alive and well, when they arrived home from their victorious day.  I cleaned and dressed all my prizes and prepped them for an event packed weekend to come, that being the birthday of my sister Gayle and of course Mother's Day!!! The lettuce is tossed with some tangy seasoned rice vinegar, fresh lettuce and tomato, cheese optional! For Dexterity, I prepared some for lunch, eager to experience the unique and fantastic flavor profile that is food that you have had a hand in from start to finish!
 I like to soak my fresh water fishes in salted water briefly before using.  You may then rinse and marinate in buttermilk or skip the salted water and go straight to buttermilk.  These are both done to elmiminate any fishy taste that might be present.  There is also a veinlike structure that runs down the middle of the fillet that can be removed by pulling from one side of the fillet or the other, that helps this as well.
Omega 3 fatty acids are an amazing addition to any diet.  They are found in many food items including but not limited to walnuts, wheat germ, spinach, flax (seeds and oil), but are mostly associated with fish.  The levels vary from fish to fish, with catfish being above other fish like sole, haddock and flounder, but below salmon.  Considering I cannot access fresh out of the water salmon here in Leesville, I find
catfish to be most fitting.  Omega 3's possess many benefits for the body human.  Catfish contain  poly-unsaturated fats, which are wonderful for helping to lower LDL or what I like to call 'Lousy' cholesterol, and increse the HDL or 'Happy' cholesterol.  The Omega 3 fatty acids in this fish is also great for reducing or aiding in the battle with inflammation.  The heart has shown benefits from this as well.  It is thought to help counter depression and also reinforce antidepressant effects in those affected.
Fresh Cafish fillets, skin removed
seasoned flour
buttermilk pancake mix
canola or vegetable oil for frying, or non stick spray or olive oil for baking or poaching
whole grain bread
cooked bacon
mayo and cheese, optional
Heat oil to 350*F.
Combine seasoned flour with a 3 to 1 ratio to pancake mix.
Add as little or much paprika as desired.
Fry in small batches to keep oil from losing too much heat, possibly causing crust compromization!
Cook until fish floats and is golden brown.
Drain on paper towels.
Serve immediately for maximum crunchtasity!! Yep, I made that word up!!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dry Rub Aged and Double Smoked Boston Butt

Contrary to popular belief, a Boston Butt is not a part of the animal's behind at all, it is simply the upper portion of the front shoulder.  It is popularized commonly as a Southern American staple for making pulled pork sandwiches and barbecue.  I have enjoyed this cut many times over through my kitchen, as well as many family members' kitchens and grills.  I took a different approach to this protein this time and was amazingly gratified by the effort.  I pierced the fatty side  many times and  rubbed the butt (lol ) with a VERY liberal helping of garlic salt, about 6 oz. for the 8 1/2 lb. portion, pressing what I could into the incisions as I went.   I then placed it in the lowest portion of the fridge uncovered, for around 36 hours to cure and dry brine before grilling.  After the dry brine, I rinsed the meat thouroughly under cold water and patted it dry.  I then rubbed the protein with canola oil and placed it on the grill.  I actually used a metal tray filled with prepped and ready to cook charcoal and placed it in the bottom of my smoker to achieve the smokiness for the first part.
 As the day passed, I realized the evening was upon me and I had to get my girls ready for their wind-down, i.e. dinner, baths etc.. so I removed the meat from the grill and wrapped it in heavy duty foil and placed it in the fridge, to begin again during more reasonable hours.
 My brother and his family were in for the Easter and Spring break so the whole gang was tuckered out and ready for a rejuvenating dose of shuteye, myself included.  My day normally starts around 4:50 a,m daily, so I could really get a jump on my dish, ensuring it would be ready for an early dinner around 5 p.m, when all 9 total of our kids together could partake.  I tasted a piece of the meat and noticed that it was still very highly seasoned even after the rinse, so I countered the saltiness  with a brown sugar and spice based rub for the second part of smoking.
I added some hickory chips to my smoker, as well as a veggie laden ( onion, garlic, celery, plus rendered bacon fat) water bath and readied the B.B. for tastebud transgression.  To the brown sugar rub, I added a chili powder, poultry seasoning, LOTS of paprika,garlic and onion powders, cumin, and a bit of Badia complete seasoning, which is chock full of dehydrated veggies!  I placed the protein on the smoker and let it go for 7 more hours, low and slow!  The kids were on the patio and playing in the yard.  They noticed me checking the water bath levels and curiosity struck.  They then noticed the smell.  Upon request, I tore forkfuls at a time off the bottom, hot off the grill samples for the kids, they loved it.  I later sliced the whole B.B and plated it up, some plain and some slathered in bbq sauce with white bread.  The smoke went all the way to the bone, and my nephew Donovan said with his amazingly thick New York accent, "It was delicious", Enough said!
I fiddled around with flavor and texture combinations and paired the B.B with some yellow rice, quick pickled red onion and Sriracha on a warmed corn tortilla, YUM!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Gluten Free Pumpkin Vermicelli w/Merlot-Almond Butter Sauce

Did you know that pumpkins are a part of the squash family, also known as cucurbit or gourd family.
There are copious varieties of these guys, more often than not, used for decoration instead of  dinner plate adornment. Spaghetti squash is an extremely popular gourd, glamorized for it's spaghetti-like texture and characteristics, a varital substitute for the carby-ness of pasta made from flour, and guess what, gluten free!  I found through some recipe development, that the sought after strand effect of spaghetti squash can be achieved with it's lowly cousin, the pumpkin.  I had wonderful reviews from my tasters and even I was impressed at the finished product.
Many seem to look down their noses at the pumpkins with the stringy 'meat' of some pumpkins, viewing them as old or only good for carving or decorations, not so.  I have seen this strand effect in ones as small as a volleyball as well as ones as large as a baby bear cub's head, fresh picked from a patch and store bought.  I found this lab a particularly interesing and rewarding one.  This pumpkin was  rather small, like a volleyball, so the strands were small and thin as well, hence the name.  The larger ones will yield a larger strand, closer to the size of traditional spaghetti.  The flavor is still wonderful.  I served this spectacular side with a Gluten Free Seared Pork Loin w/Chinese Black Tea and Lemon Pan Sauce, also featured on this blog.
This dish is perfect with poultry or fish as well, a fabulous alternative to a  typical mashed or baked potato, cutting the carbs by 1/3 and boosting your vitamins A and C, B6, plus magnesium, potassium, iron and a gratuitous amount of dietary fiber!!
2 cups cooked stringy pumpkin
1/3 c. Merlot
1/4. c. organic blue Agave Nectar
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. cream or evaporated milk
juice of half of large lemon, about 1 1/2 tbsp.
1 small allspice berry, ground with mortar and pestle
1/4 c. slivered almonds, toasted if preferred for more depth and nuttier flavor profile
pinch of salt, optional
For the pumpkin:
Bring large pot of sea salted water to a boil.
Place halved and cleaned pumpkin in water, cut side up and fill cavity with some of the water with a spoon.
Gently continue to boil for about 5 minutes, then remove from heat and let stand covered, for about 15 minutes.
Remove from pot with and place cut side down in a colander, draining and cooling for about 10 minutes.
Use a fork to flake pumpkin meat into strands.
For the Sauce:
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, bring all remaining ingredients, EXCEPT nuts, up to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring often.
Once liquid has reduced and thickened, remove from heat and stir in almonds.
Fold pumpkin into sauce until well coated.
Makes 4 servings.
Note: This sauce may also be used as a dessert topper!!!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Gluten Free Seared Pork Loin w/ Chinese Black Tea and Lemon Pan Sauce

This is a quick, easy and delicous dinner idea, courtesy of some pantry ingredients, including Chinese Black Tea.  This tea is an excellent substitute for stock or broth, say a cup or less, instead of using just plain water.  The color aids in the browned desired look of just about any finishing sauce, perfect for deglazing.  I was curious and it paid off!  The tea lends a light and earthy element, complimenting the rosemary sprig thrown into the pan while the protein sears.  This recipe is featured alongside another creation of mine, Pumpkin Vermicelli w/ Merlot-Almond Butter Sauce coming up on my next installment!
The  implementation of the black tea serves many purposes, both positive and beneficial.  This tea comes from the Camellia Tea Plant.  There are studies that show this miraculous beverage contains a chemical called polyphenol, which is one of many antixoidants it possesses.  Studies also show that ingesting this tea in it's pure form, without sugar, is a great choice, since it is low in calories and sodium.
Chinese Black Tea is also accredited with lowering cardiovascular risks, helping to aid in the recovery from brain injuries, hearing  and also help slow and offset the progression of Parkinson's.  Now that's a mouthful worth having.  The tea may be brewed the day ahead and refrigerated and will keep up to a week in an airtight container.
8 slices, boneless pork loin, about 1 1/2 lbs., 1/4 inch thick
4 tbsp. Chinese Black Tea, prepared, chilled
Juice of 1/2 large lemon, about a 1 1/2 tbsp.
1 Sprig Rosemary
1 tbsp. butter
Olive oil for drizzling
In a large saute pan over medium high heat, drizzle with olive oil.
Pat chops dry and SPST on both sides.
Sear on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.
Toss rosemary sprig in while searing.
Cook until internal temperature reaches 145*F, and place on warm platter and tent with foil.
Meanwhile, add tea and lemon juice to pan and bring to a boil, scraping up all the pan bits.
Cook for an additional minute or so and remove from heat.
Stir in butter and strain sauce into small bowl.
Pour sauce over chops and serve.
Serves 4.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Country Girl's 'Sunday Dinner' Pizza

Deep Dish Tater Tot Pie Crust 
 Barbeque sauce
1 1/2 lb. seasoned, cubed and cooked chicken, boneless
2 c. packed mixed greens, sauteed in 1 tbsp. butter
3 oz. cooked bacon
2 oz. White Cheddar Cheese, grated
6 oz. Ricotta cheese
Melt grated cheese under broiler on lower rack of oven.
Makes 9 servings.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Deep Dish Tater Tot 'Pie' Crust

Want a new and interesting crust to get creative with in the kitchen, try tater tots.  They provide a hearty and crispity crunch, slightly chewy in the centermost part of the tot kernels, perfect for loading on goodies like sauteed chicken or fish, greens, bacon, and don't get me started on cheeses.  Execution of this crust is as easy as pie and once baked, will stand alone without the baking vessel, perfect for self serve dishes and occasions.  I came up with a recipe called Country Girl's 'Sunday Dinner' Pizza, which toppings include moist and delicious sauteed chicken, mixed greens, bacon,  white cheddar and ricotta cheese, with  barbeque sauce insead of pizza sauce, stay tuned for the recipe!! Back to the crispity crunchy wonder that is this gem, the possibilities are endless, here is your playground, let's see what you can come up with!
You can adjust the texure by letting this 'crust' bake a little longer or less, depending upon what type sauce if any you want to use as a base for other ingredients.  This should present well even at room temperature.  If using a wet sauce, serve immediately after adding the pre-cooked toppings and melting the cheese, there's usually always cheese!
4 cups frozen tater tots, thawed
1 large egg, slightly beaten or 2 egg whites
1 tbsp. olive oil
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
1 tsp. onion powder, optional
cooking spray
Preheat oven to 400*F.
In a medium bowl, crumble thawed tots until coarse and even. 
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle in onion powder.
Add egg.
Toss to coat, using clean hands or fold together with a rubber spatula.
Spray desired vessel with cooking spray and press crumbles into bottom and partially up sides to create borders . I used a 3 quart dish.
Place in oven and bake until golden and crisp, about 25 minutes.  Don't forget to wash your hands again if needed.
Let cool for about 15 minutes if you plan to serve it on a flat surface like a cutting board and will be filling with neutral or cold ingredients like fresh greens, thinly sliced veggies, cheeses you don't plan to melt etc. 
PRE-COOK any items that require it, like raw meat proteins, before adding to crust!!