Monday, December 20, 2010

Italian Spiced Wine to sip under your tree

Ashley and Jason Bartner, proprietors of La Tavola Marche Agriturismo and Cooking School, sends this to warm the cockles of our Christmas season hearts.

Italian Spiced Wine ~ Vin Brule'

1 liter of red wine
100 grams of sugar (just under 1/2 cup)
a few cloves
a stick of cinnamon
a bit of nutmeg
lemon peel grated (or half lemon, half orange peel)

Bring all ingredients to a low boil & add the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved - lower flame. Filter or strain. Serve warm & enjoy!

And may this time of joy bring you hopes and memories as bright as the taste of this beverage.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Swiss Muesli

Muesli, for many a breakfast treat, was originally created around the turn of the century by Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner for his patients. The good doctor must have known what he was doing because muesli is healthy, nutritious and, when served by Zurich's famed Bar au Lac Hotel, delicious as well.

In the season's spirit of giving, the hotel has released its recipe.

Birchermuesli Baur au Lac
Serves 3-4

1/4 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup farmer's cheese
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup half and half
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup golden apples, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup pears, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup bananas
1/3 cup strawberries
1/5 cup blackberries
1/5 cup blueberies
1/4 cup raspberries

Mix all ingredients to combine and serve.

Even non-cooks can present this to their families.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Salute to Seafood at Ashford Castle

Anyone can stay at a castle but only a lucky few will be able to participate in Seafood Appreciation Week Feb.28-March 6, 2011 at Ireland's impressive Ashford Castle. Located near the seafood-filled western coastline, Ashford was voted "Top Resort in Europe" by readers of Conde Nast Traveler this year.

Special two-day packages are available March 1 and 2 and March 4 and 5 during which Executive Chef Stefan Matz will guide participants through an oyster farm, a smokehouse, lobster fishing and a gala seafood dinner.

Here's the schedule.

Arrival: Welcome glass of Champagne
7.00pm: Dinner at leisure in the George V Dining Room

DAY 2:
Full day tour of Connemara, escorted by a chef from Ashford Castle
10:00am: Depart for Cleggan
11:30am: Visit an oyster farm
12:30pm: Depart for Ballyconneely
1:00pm: Guided tour of the Connemara Smokehouse at the Bunowen Pier
1:30pm: Lunch sampling of Graham Roberts' specialty products
3:00pm: Lobster fishing aboard a small local fishing trawler at the pier
5:30pm: Return to Ashford Castle
7:00pm: Gala 5-course seafood dinner in the George V dining room

8:00am: Breakfast followed by a fond farewell

Rates start at €385 per person (approximately $535) and include breakfast each morning. For more information, visit:

Not all of us have access to fresh Irish seafood so Chef Matz shared his recipe for another special, Beef and Guinness Stew.

Beef & Guinness Stew  
Serves 2

Guinness Sauce
4 1/4 cups Guinness Extra Stout
1 1/3 cup chicken stock
1 medium shallot, diced
2 tsp. flour
2 tsp. butter, room temperature
Combine 4 cups Guinness and 2/3 cups chicken stock.  Bring to a boil and reduce mixture down by 1/3.  Meanwhile, sauté the shallot until transparent and golden brown (about 5-7 minutes).  Add Guinness reduction and 2/3 cup chicken stock, and bring to a boil.  Combine 2 teaspoons flour and 2 teaspoons room-temperature butter and add to mixture.  Boil until sauce has a creamy consistency.

Sautéed Beef Fillet
10 1/2 oz. beef filet, trimmed and cut into small cubes
2 TBS oil
salt and pepper
broccoli and carrots, blanched
potatoes, steamed
Sauté beef in oil in a very hot frying pan.  Season with salt and pepper. When the beef has a nice color and is cooked to liking, allow to rest for two minutes.
Add beef and 1/4 cup Guinness Extra Stout to the Guinness sauce. Reheat, but do not bring to a boil. Season to taste.  Present in a bowl and garnish with blanched broccoli, carrots and steamed potatoes.

Last but not least, says Chef, "serve with a glass of Guinness and a fresh oyster.  Enjoy!"

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Survival Plan with recipes from Xanterra chefs

Even kitchenphobics find themselves drawn - or forced - to pots, pans and heating elements this time of year.

If this describes you, it isn't too late to announce to all that it is time to break out of the family rut and try something new like tofu turkey with liverwurst dressing. You may find guests will volunteer to bring the traditional dishes.

That leaves you free to set the table and contribute something else that's easier.

If you love the meal-making marathons, consider these recipes.

While the turkey cooks, whip this up for the family's breakfast.

Monkey Bread, Chef Michelle "Mike" Hanson
Furnace Creek Resort

2 tubes canned biscuits
1 tube canned cinnamon rolls
2 cups honey
1 ½ cups chopped walnuts or pecans
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Take biscuits and cinnamon rolls and cut into small pieces. The easiest way is using some scissors. Place in bowl add honey, nuts and cinnamon sugar. Mix well.

Pour dough mixture In a well-greased bundt or angel food cake pan. Place cake pan in a larger pan with two inches of water (this will stop the honey from burning).

Cook for 45 minutes-1 hour at 350.

Run knife around edges of pan and invert on a platter.

No one bringing the sweet potatoes?
Leave the masher in the drawer and try this version.

Raspberry Apple Sweet Potatoes, Chef Kenneth Diederich, 
Salt Fork State Park Lodge, Cambridge, Ohio

3 large sweet potatoes
1 cup frozen raspberries
2 red apples
lemon or orange juice
1/2 stick butter
cinnamon sugar
brown sugar

Wash, peel and cut the sweet potatoes in larger cubes, inch by inch. [Start cutting them small, you'll wind up with bigger ones without thinking] Cook the potatoes in lightly salted water for 15 minutes. Drain well and place hot potatoes in a small to medium sized casserole dish. Place frozen raspberries evenly on top.

Cut the apples into 1/2 inch cubes and toss with lemon or orange juice so they won't turn brown. Place evenly on top. Melt butter and drizzle over entire dish. Sprinkle as you like with cinnamon sugar and brown sugar. Bake for 20 minutes covered.

Family okay with a non-traditional main dish? Try this for something different.

Beer Braised Pork Loin, Chef Ben Theis
Deer Creek State Park Lodge

6-8 lb. boneless pork loin
2 lb. sauerkraut
8 oz. onion, large dice
4 oz. celery, large dice
4 oz. carrot, large dice
3 oz. turnip, large dice
1 oz. grated fresh horseradish
3 12-oz. bottles of beer, dark preferably
Bay leaf
Oil for searing

Rub the pork loin with salt and pepper, then sear over high heat in the pan in which it will be roasted in.

Once the roast is seared on all sides deglaze the pan with two of the bottles of beer. (“The third is for sipping on,” said Chef Theis.)

Add all the chopped vegetables then roast in oven for at least two hours, adding liquid as needed during the braise. Once the pork loin is fork-tender remove from the oven.

Bring sauerkraut up to heat over a medium fire on the stove top. Place sauerkraut on a large platter, slice pork and lay over top. Spoon vegetables and braising liquid over top of pork then serve.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving and beyond recipes from Xanterra chefs

Everyone has favorite Thanksgiving dishes but if you don't slip a new recipe into the lineup you'll never know if it could be the next favorite. The chefs at Xanterra resorts have offered a few for your consideration.

Today: Soups

Butternut Squash Soup from Chef Nathan Snyder, Mohican State Park Lodge
6-8 servings

3 large butternut squash
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped and rinsed well (Chef's note: I love to use leeks because it is a simple,way to add depth to my dishes.)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 16-oz can of crabmeat
1 orange, zested
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1/8 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. curry powder
3 TBS butter
1 cup of cream
vegetable stock, as needed

Wash all of the produce and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut squash into halves and take seeds out (Chef's note: I prefer to use an ice cream scoop to get my seeds out, it's very sturdy and keeps all the seeds together). Oil the halves, sprinkle with salt and pepper, place on a sprayed sheet pan skin side up. Roast until the skin blisters and browns, about 30 to 40 minutes.

In a large pot on the stove begin sauteing the onion,leeks, garlic, spices and thyme. Once the squash is done, it should be soft enough to scoop out with that ice cream scoop into the pot with the other ingredients. Add enough stock to cover and simmer for 30 minutes, Take a stick mixer and blend the soup until smooth, adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Return back to the heat and add crab. Simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in cream and butter until well blended. Optional - zest the orange into the soup before serving. (Chef's note: Adding zest to a dish can give you that extra special touch.)

El Tovar Smoked Corn Chowder with Asiago Cheese and Tortilla Confetti
Chef Mat McTigue, Grand Canyon National Park Lodges
6-8 servings

1/4 lb. red potatoes, medium dice
3 celery ribs, medium dice
1 onion, medium dice
2 carrots, peeled and medium dice
2 cips corn (frozen or canned)
1/4 lb. cooked bacon, diced
1 1/2 gallon chicken stock
1/2 gallon heavy cream
1 tsp. Liquid Smoke

Cornstarch mixture
4 oz. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Mix together dry ingredients, add 5 oz. cold water and stir until smooth. Use to thicken soup when boiling.Season with Tabasco to taste.

Saute all vegetables in a large saucepan over medium heat until tender. Add chicken stock and cream; bring to a slow boil. Add the cornstarch mixture.

Garnish with julienne fried tortillas and shredded asiago cheese.

Tuscan Pancetta Soup
Chef Michelle "Mike" Hanson, Furnace Creek Resort
6-8 servings

4 oz. pancetta diced small (rind removed) or thick-cut smoked bacon
2 TBS. olive oil
1 TBS. butter
5 1/2 cups white or yellow onion, julienned

1 TBS. sugar
2 qts. vegetable, chicken or beef stock
5 Roma tomatoes, chopped large
3 TBS. brandy or bourbon (optional)
3 large fresh basil leaves, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups croutons
2/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Place chopped pancetta or bacon in a very hot medium saucepan and cook until almost crispy. Add oil and butter and the onions. Stir occasionally so the onion caramelizes slightly. Scrape the pan occasionally, too. Add sugar and stir for about 3 minutes or more. Add half the stock and bring to a boil, reducing to almost no liquid. Add the rest of the stock, tomatoes and basil. Stir and season to taste. Cook for about 20 minutes. Serve immediately or set aside and serve later. When ready, place a good portion of crouton in bowls. Add soup and sprinkle with cheese.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tips for Thanksgiving

The chefs of Xanterra, the outfit that manages the resorts and lodges at many of our nation's favorite parks, have offered their tips and even better, recipes for cooking and enjoying this holiday for grateful gluttons.

I'll start with the tips today and follow later with some not so traditional recipes.

Chef tips

"Soup always tastes better on the second day so go ahead and make it the day before Thanksgiving," says Mat McTigue, executive chef at the Grand Canyon.

"Pull out and wash your china and silver several days before Thanksgiving." Kenneth Diederich, regional executive chef, Salt Fork State Park Lodge, Ohio.

If using a frozen turkey, take it out of the freezer at least a week in advance [note: keep it in the fridge]. If you are into all things natural and organic, choose a fresh Heritage turkey, advises Chef Peter Pahk, senior executive chef at Kingsmill Resort. This is not for procrastinators: you must have your Thanksgiving orders in by June.

Chef Michelle "Mike" Hanson at Furnace Creek Resort, Death Valley National Park makes her family a breakfast casserole "so the family has something to eat for breakfast and isn't picking at all the stuff I'm making for dinner."

Have plenty of food storage containers on hand before the feast and clean out your refrigerator before shopping.

Consider asking guests to bring a dish. "I am a big fan of potluck," said Chef Pahk. "It makes it easier on the host and guests get to show off their own Thanksgiving specialties."

Chef Mike sets out the food buffet style.

If you are still daunted by feeding friends and family, consider the advice from Chef Diederich. "Go to someone else's house so you don't have a mess to clean up. And be sure to take along plenty of good storage containers."

Whether you'd rather do it yourself or are lucky enough to have a generous hostess [Thank you, cousin Gloria],  the next post will have some recipes for the gobbling day.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Turn to "Roux Memories" for authentic Cajun and Creole recipes

Food writer Belinda Hulin grew up in Cajun country where her relatives whipped up memorable meals. When Hurricane Katrina hit, destroying or seriously damaging those families' homes, she realized a lot more than property was at risk. The blueprints for an entire way of life - recipes - were about to be lost.

Finding a box of her mother's recipes atop a newel post in the inundated house was a blessing and an impetus to collect those and many more for future generations and for many families who weren't as fortunate.

The result, Roux Memories, A Cajun-Creole Love Story with Recipes, is the kind of cookbook you read cover to cover. Part memoir, part reference book for Louisianans, it is filled with love and mouth-watering recipes.

Most of us have cookbooks we never use, but try to make room on the shelf for this one. Bet you can't resist trying a recipe or three.

Belinda graciously said "Yes," when I asked to share a recipe or two with you. Having scarfed down more than my share of her red beans and rice on numerous occasions, I've chosen it and included Belinda's introduction from the book to give you a sample of her infectious style of story-telling.

Before that, though, here's the info you will need to get your own copy of  Roux Memories, A Cajun-Creole Love Story with Recipes: Lyons Press, $19.95 USA/$21.95 Canadian; available online at and local bookstores.

The Fraziers lived next door to my parents in an apartment building at the corner of Eagle and Palm Streets, back when my father was getting his master's degree at Tulane. At that time the area was populated by young families and working-class folks, who could catch a bus downtown with only a short stroll. Mrs. Frazier was the first real New Orleanian I knew, and unlike the gentile Uptown types I met at Dad's graduate assistant job, she was loud, brash, and funny, and she had a heart the size of Lake Pontchartrain. Whenever I told her about my plans for the future (to have a horse farm, become famous, marry a prince), she'd laugh and say, "You have a lot of red beans and rice to eat yet." Since Mrs. Frazier followed the old New Orleans custom of cooking red beans on washday Mondays, I had plenty of opportunities to start my march toward life's realities while sitting at her table.

Red Beans and Rice
8 servings

2 lbs. dried red kidney beans
1 TBS vegetable oil
1 lb. andouille sausage, sliced
2 onions, diced
1 bell pepper, cored and diced
1 rib celery, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. thyme leaves
1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
8 cups pf ham or chicken broth, or water
1 tsp. lemon juice or wine vinegar
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
salt and black pepper
steamed rice

Rinse beans very well and discard any discolored or damaged beans. Put beans in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover by several inches. Let soak 8 hours or overnight, adding more water if needed.

Drain the beans in a colander. Place the oil in a heay Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook 3 minutes.

Add the onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Saute mixture 5 minutes. Add bay leaves, thyme, Tabasco and cayenne. Stir the beans into the pot, along with broth or water. Bring mixture to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer beans for 2 1/2 hours, stirring often and adding more water or broth as needed. Stir in lemon juice or wine vinegar, green onions and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over steamed rice and pass the Tabasco.

Monday, November 1, 2010

2010 South Carolina Campground Cookoff Dessert Winner

 Winning first place in the 2010 South Carolina Campground Cookoff dessert competition is - ta-da-dah and another drum roll, please - The Hicks Family 
Carolina Peach Cobbler

We didn't think any dish could top the bread pudding, but  after all that meat, the fresh, true fruit flavor of this really bit the spot. The fact that we were in the heart of South Carolina's peach-producing counties didn't hurt. For all I knew, they used fresh picked peaches from Titan Farms, probably the premier producer.

The Hicks Family 
Carolina Peach Cobbler

6 cups of peaches sliced, peeled and pitted (If peaches are out of season you may substitute frozen fruit)

1-2 cups of blackberries (optional)
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
¼ cup cornstarch

½ teaspoon cinnamon


2 cups of all purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt
¾ stick cold butter (6 ounces) cut in small pieces

1 large egg, beaten
¾ cup whipping cream

1/4 -1/2 cup pecans, optional

Preheat Dutch oven lid to about 375 degrees (about 16 coals). Grease Dutch Oven with butter. In a large bowl, combine peaches, blackberries, ½ cup sugar, ½ cup brown sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. Toss together lightly and set aside. (Pecans may be included in peaches or in crust.)

In another large bowl, combine flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives cut in cold butter and continue until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix the egg and whipping cream together and add to the flour mixture. Mix only until dough is moistened and comes together in a ball. Do not overwork the dough. Reserve leftover egg mixture.

Pour fruit mixture into the prepared Dutch oven. Turn out dough on a floured surface and pat it with your hands in to a round circle big enough to cover the Dutch oven. Carefully lift the dough onto the fruit and gently pat into place. Cut a few decorative vent holes on top. Brush a little of the egg mixture on top and sprinkle with sugar and/or cinnamon if desired.

Dessert category winning teams, from left, first, second and third place.
Bake at 375-400 degrees (about 16 coals) for 45-60 minutes or until cobbler topping is light golden brown and juices start to bubble up through the holes. Remove cobbler from coals and cool until ready to eat. DO NOT eat directly from the Dutch oven! It is VERY hot and can burn the roof of your mouth. Serving suggestion: Serve with ice cream, whipped topping or fresh whipped cream and garnish with fruit and/or mint leaf.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

2010 South Carolina Campground Cookoff Dessert Runner-up

The answer to an insatiable sweet tooth arrived in the form of second place winner, Team Hannahhill's
 Coconut Cream Bread Pudding. With its melt in your mouth texture and dreamy coconut flavor, this five-star comfort food was a hit. We judges wished we had room for a full helping. This is one I will make at home. Hope you will, too.

 Team Hannahhill's
 Coconut Cream Bread Pudding

12 ounces cream cheese (softened)
1 ½ cups sugar (divided)

4 large eggs

2 ½ cups milk (divided)

1 15-ounce can of coconut cream (divided)

8 TBS butter (melted and divided)

1 8-ounce loaf of French bread (cut into 1-inch cubes)
½ cup sweetened coconut

¾ cup chopped pecans

Vegetable spray

Preheat Dutch oven to 350 degrees. Beat cream cheese at low speed with mixer until creamy. Add 1 cup sugar and eggs and beat until sugar is dissolved. Stir in 2 cups milk, 1 cup cream of coconut and 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Pour over bread cubes and let stand for a few minutes.

Prepare a Dutch oven for baking. Pour mixture into dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until set.

Stir together flaked coconut, pecans and 3 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle coconut mixture over baked pudding and bake 5 more minutes or until browned.

Cook remaining ½ cup sugar in a heavy pan over low heat. Stir constantly until sugar melts and turns into a brown liquid. Stir the remaining ½ cup milk and ½ cup cream of coconut together and pour into the melted sugar. Stir until sugar and liquid mixes well. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Serve the caramelized sugar sauce over the pudding.

Garnish (if desired) with praline pecans and a flower. (NOTE: Cut the calories, cholesterol and fat by using 1/3 less fat cream cheese, skim milk and Egg Beaters. The result is still delicious.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

2010 South Carolina Campground Cookoff Dessert Category

Delicious beginnings deserve a suitably sweet ending and although the entries were few, each one in the dessert category at the South Carolina Campground Cookoff was a winner.

Taking third place was the Team Latimers “Pit” Crew 
Fruit Cake Stick, a fun, light, simple but satisfying finish to an al fresco meal. It's one younger campers can put together, too.

Team Latimers “Pit” Crew 
Fruit Cake Stick

4 skewers

¼ cup water
¼ cup sugar

Pineapple cut into chunks

Strawberries sliced in half

Whole seedless grapes

Angel food cake cut into cubes

4 maraschino cherries

1 cup milk chocolate morsels

Stir water and sugar together over medium heat on grill for a light syrup. Alternate fruit with cake on skewer. Add a cherry to top of each skewer. Lay on hot, clean grill. Sprinkle syrup mixture over the fruit as you turn skewer. Take skewer off of grill and drizzle with melted chocolate. Enjoy!

Monday, October 18, 2010

South Carolina 2010 Campground Cook-Off First Prize Winner

Ta-dah - drum roll, please. Imagine the aroma of freshly grilled rack of lamb, the wake-up call of stone ground jalapeno grits. Cut into perfectly pink meat, taste and sigh. Hands down,  Team PFC - Smarr
's Grilled Rack of Lamb with Jalapeno Bacon Stone Ground Grits
 won over our taste buds and our hearts.

However, as you'll see, the Smarrs left out measurements but it shouldn't be too hard to figure out. Even the errors in the trial and error process should be delicious.

 Team PFC-Smarr
's Grilled Rack of Lamb with Jalapeno Bacon Stone Ground Grits

Grilled Rack of Lamb:
Rack of lamb

Rosemary (dried or fresh)

Thyme (dried or fresh)

Garlic powder



White wine
Stone ground grits [Believe me, it won't be the same with any non-stone ground grits]


Jalapeno peppers

Onion, chopped

Garlic, chopped



Green onion, chopped

Fresh Parmesan cheese

Rub rack of lamb with herbs and spices (measurements to taste preference).

Brown both sides of lamb over hot coals. Place on baking rack inside aluminum pan with about an inch of white wine. Cook indirectly over coals and close grill. Cook at medium temperature until preferred doneness. Let rest for about 10 minutes and then cut into chops and serve.

Jalapeno Bacon Stone Ground Grits

Cook bacon in cast iron Dutch oven over hot coals. Remove bacon and set aside. Add several pats of butter to bacon grease and sauté chopped jalapenos, onions and garlic. Add water, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Add grits to water and cover. Add a few coals on top of lid and let cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened to desired consistency. Stir in crumbled bacon. Garnish with green onions and finely grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

(NOTE: I did not give measurements. All is done to taste and desired meal size. I prefer the grits to be a little runny and not stiff.)
Winning teams in the main dish competition

 Left to right: Third, Second and First Place teams

NEXT: Dessert winners.

NOTE: So sorry for the gap in posts - I've been in Germany and the Internet gods decided none of the equipment I hauled along should work properly.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

South Carolina 2010 Campground Cook-Off second prize winner

Risotto is not something you normally think of preparing when camping, but Team Hell's Kitchen pulled it off in Lowcountry Chicken with Risotto to capture second prize. Stuffing the chicken breasts with crab meat and smoked Gouda provided us judges with another surprise.

 Team Hell's Kitchen Lowcountry Chicken with Risotto

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
25 Ritz crackers, crumbled
¼ cup butter

2 TBS parsley
¼ cup flour Garlic 

¾ cup milk


¾ cup chicken broth
8 ounces smoked Gouda

1/3 cup beer

1 small onion, chopped
½ lemon

2 mushrooms, chopped
½ lime

4 ounces crab meat

¼ cup olive oil
½ cup chopped onions
½ tsp ground turmeric [I would recommend a little less]
1 cup sliced mushrooms

8 cups chicken broth

1 ½ cups Arborio rice

½ cup white wine

1 cup Parmesan cheese

2 TBS butter

Fresh parsley
Rinse crab meat, then squeeze ½ lime and ½ lemon over it and set aside. Pound breasts with meat mallet to 1/8-inch thick.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter. Stir in flour, milk, chicken broth and beer. Simmer and keep stirring until it becomes thick.

Sauté onions and mushrooms in separate skillet. Add crab, 15 crumbled Ritz crackers, parsley, garlic salt and pepper to taste, a handful of grated smoked Gouda and a couple spoonfuls of sauce.

Spread stuffing on chicken, then roll and seal with a toothpick. Place in a greased 12-inch Dutch oven. Pour remaining sauce over chicken. Cook for 1 hour around 350 degrees. After 1 hour, add the rest of the smoked Gouda over the top. Add paprika to taste and remaining Ritz crackers. Remove coals from bottom and add them to top. Cook 5 minutes to melt cheese and brown topping.


Heat olive oil in skillet and sauté the onion and turmeric until soft. Add mushrooms and sauté until liquid is absorbed.

In separate saucepan, heat broth and keep warm.

Add rice to sautéed vegetables and stir until all the grains are coated with olive oil mixture. Add white wine. Let cook until evaporated. Stir frequently. Add broth ½ cup at a time. Rice should absorb broth after each addition. Repeat until all broth is absorbed. Remove from heat. Add cheese, butter and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Monday, September 27, 2010

South Carolina 2010 Campground Cook-Off Prize-Winning Ribs

I would have given Team Pooreboy Charcookers' 
Mark’s Quick Grilled BBQ Ribs with Vegetable Medley second place but when all the points were tallied, they took third place. Not too shabby considering the competition. The ribs were moist, tender and delicious and the vegetables were wonderful.

Team Pooreboy Charcookers' 
Mark’s Quick Grilled BBQ Ribs with Vegetable Medley
1 rack ribs
½ cup brown sugar-based dry rub
1 cup BBQ sauce (Johnny’s Pride)

1 cup apple juice
Hickory or maple chunks

Vegetables for grilling - Squash, okra, eggplant, onion, bell pepper, corn, asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms and tomatoes work well. Pick your favorite combo.
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Take membrane off back of ribs and rinse. Pat dry with towel. Rub ribs with dry rub. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate 6-12 hours. Remove ribs from refrigerator and get grill ready for indirect heat. Add wood chunks for smoke flavor. Place ribs on grill at medium high heat (400-450 degrees) 1 hour and 20 minutes. Spray with apple juice occasionally to keep ribs moist.

Change grill to direct heat for 30 minutes of grilling. At this time apply your BBQ sauce. This is the last cycle of grilling. Remove ribs from grill. Let stand a few minutes before cutting between bones and serving. Use leafy green vegetables such as lettuce, parsley and spinach as a garnish.

Vegetable medley
Cut up vegetables to uniform size so they will cook evenly. Put vegetables in a heat-proof bowl and add salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Mix and put on grill for 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees.

Remove from grill and splash with more olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste. Put on plate with main course.

Friday, September 24, 2010

SC Campground Cook-Off Recipes

Today's campers have come a long way from the open-can, eat-contents school of outdoor meal-making.

Consider this Honorable Mention-winning recipe from The Happy Vagabonds. The sweet-tart cabbage and apples is the perfect counterpoint to the dense meat and puckery pickle.

Honorable Mention: The Happy Vagabonds
 Braised Stuffed Beef Rolls with Red Cabbage and Apples


3 lbs top round steak
2 TBS flour
 2/3 cup red wine vinegar
6 tsp hot prepared mustard
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
6 slices bacon

3 dill pickles cut lengthwise into halves

3 TBS bacon grease
2 cups water

1 cup celery, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced (white part only)

1 TBS scraped parsnip, finely chopped

3 parsley sprigs
1/2 tsp salt
2 TBS butter

Slice steak 1/2-inch thick. Trim all fat and pound to 1/4-inch thick. Cut steak into 6 rectangular pieces about 4 inches by 6 inches. Spread each rectangle with a teaspoon of mustard and 2 teaspoons of onion. Place a slice of bacon down the center. Lay a half of a pickle across the narrow end of each piece and roll the meat around it into a cylinder. Secure the rolls with toothpicks.

In a Dutch oven, melt the bacon grease and add the beef rolls. Brown the beef rolls on all sides and transfer to a plate. Pour the water into the Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Add the celery, green onions, parsnip, parsley and salt. Stir and return beef rolls to Dutch oven. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer about 1 hour. Turn rolls once during cooking period.

Transfer rolls to plate covered with aluminum foil. Strain the cooking liquid left in skillet through a sieve. Press down on vegetables and then discard vegetables.

Measure 2 cups of liquid and set aside. Discard any remaining liquid. Melt the butter in the Dutch Oven and then sprinkle in the flour. Stir constantly until the flour turns a golden brown. Gradually add the 2 cups of cooking liquid using a whisk until the sauce is smooth and thick. Add the beef rolls and simmer over low heat until rolls are heated through.

Red Cabbage and Apples
1/2-pound head red cabbage
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 TBS sugar

2 tsp salt

2 TBS bacon grease

2 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/8-inch thick wedges
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped

1 whole onion, peeled and pierced with
2 whole cloves
1 small bay leaf

1 cup hot water

3 TBS dry red wine

3 TBS red currant jelly

Remove the outer leaves and cut the cabbage into quarters. Cut out the core and slice the quarters crosswise into 1/8-inch wide strips. Put cabbage in large bowl, sprinkle with vinegar, sugar and salt. Toss with spoon.

Melt the bacon grease in a Dutch oven and add apples and onions. Cook stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Add the cabbage, whole onion with cloves and bay leaf. Stir and pour in hot water. Bring to a boil stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to very low. Cover and simmer about 1 ½ hours. Just before serving, remove the whole onion with cloves and bay leaf. Stir in the wine and jelly.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

2010 South Carolina Campground Cook-Off

I missed the first two South Carolina Campground Cook-Offs but I won't willingly skip future ones having learned what amazing dishes dedicated campers can make over fire.

The cooking rules are simple: Everything must be cooked over a wood or coal fire, no gas. No more than two store-bought, packaged ingredients can be included. Fire prep and cooking begin at 9:45 a.m. on Saturday and one portion of each entry must be brought to the main stage area between 12:15 and 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Plates are provided and no decorations other than ingredients in the recipe may be added. Recipes are scored on creativity, taste and presentation.

This, the third year, 23 teams pulled into Calhoun Falls State Recreation Area to compete for the $500 for first, $300 for second and $200 for third place prizes in entrees and desserts. Special non-cash Judges Awards were given this year and having been one of the three judges, I can tell you it wasn't easy.

I'll start with those and work my way up to the winners. If I can get through tasting 23 different entrees, none of them bad, you can stand the anticipation.

Oh, and all of this is sponsored by the Old 96 District Tourism Commission, the same group that brought us the annual Peach-Offs (on indefinite hiatus) to celebrate the area's stellar peach producers.

Ol' Carolina Chili and Korn Bread, the entry of Team
Daddy Don's Gang impressed us all with its flavor, appearance and family-friendliness. It's something we'd like to make at home, really good comfort food.

Team Daddy Don's Gang Ol' Carolina Chili and Korn Bread
2 lbs hamburger meat
2 cans Manwich Bold
1 TBS Texas Pete
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
Mix all together except cheese and cook. When ready to serve, top with cheese.

Korn Bread
3 cups self-rising corn meal
1 cup flour
1 cup bell pepper, chopped
4 Jalapeno peppers, chopped
8 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
8 oz. Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 large onion, chopped
3 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 can creamed corn
1 can whole kernel corn
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Mix all together and cook.

Serve with home made sweet pickles.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Florida Foodie Opportunities

So many areas hold restaurant weeks, food festivals and wine tastings that fall has become a great time to be a foodie.



Take note of these two for Florida-bound travelers.

As the nation's oldest city St. Augustine has had ample time and many cultural influxes to develop special cuisines. The month of October is when residents focus on the "Flavors of Florida's Historic Coast."

Oct. 1-31 enjoy month-long fixed price dining specials at 24 of the top restaurants.

Oct. 1 Aviles Street, the oldest street in the oldest city reopens with more authentic 17th century ambiance, including sidewalk dining.

Oct. 2-3 will be a hot time in the old town because of the Datil Pepper Festival.                            

Oct. 8-10 it's Opa! time at the 13th annual Greek Festival.

Oct. 16 celebrates Cracker Day with bluegrass music, horsemanship demonstrations and of course, barbecue.

Oct. 23 get your oompah on for the Oktoberfest Celebration.

Last and perhaps most hotly contested, Nov. 7  brings the 25th annual Great Chowder Debate.

Consider: an auction of 100 different bottles of 100-point wine. Down in Naples, plans for the 2011 Naples Winter Wine Fest have oenophiles salivating. Included are a bottle of 1955 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, a 1989 Chateau Petrus and a 1985 DRC Romanee-Conti, considered by many the best Burgundy ever made and valued at more than $11,000. You can see the entire list of 100 at in October.

A celebrity chef wine dinner brings in 17 masters of cuisine including Chef de Cuisine Lee Hefter of Spago

The cause is a good one - needy and at-risk children - and festival isn't until January 28-30 so you have plenty of time to get your financing in order, but contact them soon because tickets quickly sell out.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tomato, to-mahto

Charleston, S. C., one of this country's great restaurant cities, begins restaurant week tomorrow, Sept. 8, through Sept. 19. One group of restaurants offer three courses for $20, another, including Charleston Grill and Slightly North of Broad, offer three for $30. Go to for details and menus from the 50 participating restaurants.

One restaurant not participating, FIG, as in the Food Is Good, and Executive Chef Mike Lata were recently featured by The Food Channel.

Naturally I wanted a recipe from chef. Given the season, why was I not surprised to get one for heirloom tomatoes?

                      Chef Lata's Heirloom Tomato Salad 
                       Serves 4

2 lbs. heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
1 rib celery, peeled
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Maklon sea salt, to taste
Cracked black pepper
1 cup day-old baguette, crusts removed, 1/2-inch dice

Coat the bottom of a saute pan with olive oil and warm over medium high heat. Add the croutons and begin to toast until golden brown. Season lightly with salt and drain on paper towels. Set aside.

Using a mandolin, thinly slice heart of celery stalk and tear off celery leaves. Arrange sliced tomatoes around center of platter. Scatter celery slices, celery leaves and red onion slices over tomatoes. Top with croutons. Drizzle entire dish with extra olive oil and sprinkle with a generous amount of sea salt and cracked pepper.

Don't you just love food that tastes so good by itself all you need is a sprinkle of this and that?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Salad days

Not all visitors to Deer Valley complex in Park City, Utah, want stick-to-your-ribs carbohydrates. For them, Clark Norris, executive chef at Silver Lake, created this satisfying salad for diners at Mariposa.

Buratta inspired Chef Clark to develop this Caprese style salad.

"The individual portion of Buratta preserves its 'stuffed' nature, allowing the guest to cut through the firm outer mozzarella 'shell' and release the creamy fresh mozzarella center to mingle with the rest of the salad," says chef.

The result? In Chef Clark's words, "Caprese Nirvana!"

The Mariposa's Burrata, Fresh Basil and Heirloom Cherry Tomato Salad

Yield: 4 servings

16 oz. cherry heirloom tomatoes, halved
4 4 oz. balls of Burrata Mozzarella cheese (available from Gioia Cheese Inc.)
4 oz. petit basil
4 oz. wild baby arugula
4 oz. extra virgin olive oil
4 oz. aged balsamic vinegar
1 lemon, sliced into 8 vertical wedges
sea salt (granulates of small flakes)
fresh ground pepper blend (5-peppercorn blend is best)

Place halved tomatoes into a mixing bowl and dress with 2 oz. olive oil, 1/4 tsp. salt and a pinch of ground pepper.
Divide dressed tomatoes onto four 10-inch plates, placing tomatoes in a ring that leaves a 1-inch circular margin between the rim of the plate.
In a mixing bowl, dress the basil and arugula. tossing with 1 oz. olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste.
Place dressed basil and arugula inside the ring of tomatoes, hollowing center slightly if necessary so you can place a seasoned ball of Buratta on top without its rolling off.
Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil (1-2 oz.) and aged balsamic vinegar (1 TBS.) to taste, around the edge of the plate inside the 1-inch margin.
Finish each salad with a squeeze of fresh lemon, one wedge's worth, over the cheese, greens and tomatoes.
Serve immediately.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chef Ouita's Pickled Shrimp

Pickled shrimp used to be a prime, special event offering from Southern cooks with as many versions as there were cooks, but you don't often encounter this once popular appetizer any more, which is a shame.  This recipe from Chef Quita Michel of Holly Hill Inn in Midway, KY, via The Woodford Reserve Culinary Cocktail Tour cook book, just might reverse that trend.

Chef Ouita's Pickled Shrimp
12-16 appetizer servings

3 lbs. fresh large shrimp, or 2 lbs cooked frozen shrimp
salt to taste
4 cups white onions, thinly sliced
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 TBS sugar
5 bay leaves
1 tsp. crushed black peppercorns
1 tsp. dill seeds
1 tsp. celery salt
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. tarragon

Peel and de-vein the fresh shrimp. Combine the shrimp, salt and enough water to generously cover in a large saucepan. Steam or gently simmer for 3 to 5 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink and are cooked through. If using frozen shrimp, just thaw.

Layer shrimp and onions alternately in a nonreactive pan.

Whisk the oil, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, bay leaves, peppercorns, dill seeds, celery salt, dry mustard, cayenne pepper and tarragon in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

Pour the warm marinade over the shrimp and onions and let stand until cool. Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for 4 to 48 hours (the longer the better), stirring occasionally.

Discard the bay leaves and marinade before serving.

NOTE: To find out more about Chef Ouita, Lexington and the Bluegrass area of Kentucky check the August posts at my other site,  Travel on the Level.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

GA & KY chefs show off

Must tell you about two irresistible gourmet opportunities.

First up, Chef Laurie Erickson is holding two cook-in sessions for select groups of guests at Little St. Simons Island, GA, Aug. 27-29 and again Sept. 22-24.

The first night (guests depart St. Simons Island for LSSI at 4:30 p.m.) she cooks for you; the second she cooks with you, harvesting vegetables and herbs from the Island's USDA Certified Organic Garden and preparing dinner of fish and perhaps crabs that were caught that morning by you and the naturalists.

It sounds like a fun and memorable experience at one of the world's most relaxing getaways. Cost, $389 per couple per night, includes transportation to and from the island, accommodations, a gift, all meals and beverages and all cooking and island activities. Go to or call 866-855-0718 for details.

At Cookin' in the Bluegrass: a Celebrity Chef Dinner series all the preparation - and how! - will be done for you by 48 chefs during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington, KY, Sept. 25 through Oct. 10.

Working with the James Beard Foundation, organizers have put together once-in-a-lifetime dining experiences. On each of the 16 nights, 75-80 guests will gather at the Kentucky Horse Park's historic Farmhouse restaurant for meals and wine pairings worthy of James Beard House.

The best regional chefs will pair with notable chefs from around the country to prepare the best and freshest of regional ingredients. And what pairings; for example, Jonathan Lundy (I recently featured his shrimp and grits recipe) cooks with Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in Miami and Traci Des Jardins of Jardiniere in San Francisco. Eric Fowler from Dudley's cooks with Marc Vetri of Vetri in Philadelphia and Tim Byrnes of Smoke in Dallas.

Tickets are $300 per person and you can find out all the details, from chef and wine pairings to menus by clicking around

Monday, August 16, 2010

KY bourbon super sipper

Southern cooks are known for finding more than one way to use an ingredient, especially one as revered as Kentucky bourbon. Every distillery along the Bourbon Trail has its own series of recipes, but it's hard to beat those of Woodford Reserve in Versailles, KY.

Long a proponent of matching beverage with food, Woodford has encouraged and supported the area's best chefs in creating recipes using its bourbon as an ingredient.

Invitations to a dinner at the distillery are highly coveted and I was fortunate enough to experience why. Chef Ouita Michel, who with her husband Chris established the elegant Holly Hill Inn and wildly popular Wallace Station Deli & Bakery in Midway, has become Woodford's go-to gal for spectacularly good food.

Following model Southern hospitality, I'll start with Chef Ouita's recipe for an adult refresher, a grand prize winner perfect for sitting and rocking and sipping on a big porch or a tiny backyard patio.

The Midway Front Porch Social Sip
2 servings

1 cup water
1 tea bag, any flavor
3 TBS sugar
4 large sprigs of mint
3 ounces Woodford Reserve Bourbon
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
 2 TBS fresh lemon juice, about 1 lemon
1 TBS blond Lillet, optional

Combine the water, tea bag, sugar and two sprigs of mint in a small saucepan. Simmer over low heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Discard the tea bag and mint and stir in the bourbon, orange juice, lemon juice and Lillet. Pour over ice in two large ice tea glasses and garnish with the remaining two sprigs of mint.

Rocking chairs and lightning bugs are optional.

NOTE: To find out more about the chefs and other attractions in Lexington and the Bluegrass area of Kentucky check the August posts at my other site,  Travel on the Level.