Friday, December 23, 2016

Fresh Pierogies in the Neighborhood!

We were so excited to see that the European Market moved up Rosewood Drive closer to us.  I mean, I get it, where it was wasn't far, but now I can walk to it in no time flat. And, now they are right next door to another of our neighborhood faves, The Local Buzz. 

I was out tonight for some last minute boxes and wrapping paper when I noticed their "open" sign was still on.  I popped in hoping they might have Kinder eggs, being European and all.  Happy of happy days, they do!  The Vivver will be most pleased to see that Santa once again picked up a couple of these Euro-gems for her. 

Since I was alone, I took some time to browse around. I discovered all kinds of cool stuff in this little market, but one of the first things to catch my eye was that the clerk was unpacking a couple big boxes of containers of pierogies. I kind of lurked over her shoulder checking them out. Not having much experience with pierogies, I was curious but also clueless. 

Fast forward to check out.  I started chatting with the clerk and somehow the pierogies came up.  She told me that they are made fresh by the owner and that I should try them.  She recommended the ones filled with sweet cheese; those are her favorites.  I had also notice some were labeled as stuffed with kraut. Neil loves sauerkraut, so she said, "oh, you must get him some!"  So, I did.  I got them home and we dove into one of the kraut ones right out of the package.  They have caramelized onions on top; added bonus!  Then, I warmed and browned one of each type in some butter so we could sample them as intended.  OMG.  These little dumplings are so fantastic! The cheese pierogies are slightly sweet, kind of like lightly sweetened ricotta.  But, we both agreed the sauerkraut ones are our favorites. 

I've read tons of recipes over the years for pierogies but have never attempted them.  They are soft dumplings with (probably) as many types of filling as one could imagine.  The ones I bought tonight were fully cooked, so all I had to do was warm and brown them up. They were just delicious.  And, apparently, you can special order them from the market if you need a specific quantity for a party or get-together. 

The European Market is right next door to The Local Buzz at the corner of Shandon St. and Rosewood Dr.  I highly recommend you patronize both!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Mom was Right...Again!

By the time my sister and I got to high school, my mom was running a full-swing real estate business and was working a lot.  We had already begun learning to cook simply because quite often, mom got home late. My dad began to specialize in awesome stuff like Veal Oscar and his famous Kiwi Shrimp.  It was around this same time that Mom turned over the grocery shopping to us girls.

We would make the list, decide on dishes for the upcoming days and then Mom or Dad would hand us a blank check and off we'd go to the old Winn Dixie in Irmo.  Y'all remember that place?  When they built that grocery store, it was monumental.  No more trucking up Broad River Road to the old Big Star for us Irmese anymore!  The cashiers all knew us, so we never had any issues using our blank checks. And, we never abused it either. We stuck to our list, for the most part. Every now and then we'd find something that jumped out at us and we'd indulge.  But overall, we were good little shoppers.

So, here's today's lesson:  Mom told us something very important. She said, "It's ok to buy generic.  It all comes from the same factory. They just put different labels on it."  Now, we all know that sometimes there is a difference.  For instance, Aldi's brand of Cheetos just isn't worth the time of day.  Folger's coffee is crap, no matter what label you slap on it.  But for the most part, Mom is right.  Take this example that I noticed just today:

See this butter? The stick at the top is Publix brand.  The bottom one is Aldi brand.  The difference in color is because I just took the Aldi stick out of the freezer. You'll notice that the fonts look exactly alike, right?  Well, look at this:

Good ol' Plant # 55-360 packed both sticks!  See?  It IS all one big factory, just like my mom said all those years ago!  The only difference is that a pound of butter is about $2 less at Aldi than at Publix.  And, if you're one of those people who think you need to pay even more than the Publix price for something like Land O'Lakes, well...

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Don't Skimp on the Shrimp

One of the perks of living in a coastal state is that fresh, wild seafood is just a car ride away. This fact does make me scratch my head, however, when I see seafood in our grocery stores from other places.  Why?  Why?  It's just two hours down the road!

One of Neil's friends is from Beaufort, SC and he and his dad are avid fishermen.  On a recent visit to Columbia, Rick brought up tons of shrimp that he'd just caught.  Beautiful, South Carolina shrimp, already bagged up in 1lb sizes for us...and getting the "friend price" is always nice as well!  The thing about shrimp is, it's just like Bubba said in Forrest Gump; you can make a million dishes out of it.  Endless possibilities.

I needed some lunch, so here's what I did about it.  Shrimp salad on a flaky croissant.  Yeah, I said it.  I made a simple salad by gently poaching the shrimp in some homemade vegetable stock.  As they cooled, I mixed some light mayo, sliced green onion, salt, pepper and dill weed.  Stir, stir, stir and there's my shrimp salad. 

It was light, fresh and hit the spot.  In a restaurant, this would likely be a $15 sandwich.  Here at my house, about $2.50.  Hmmm, I think I got the better deal.  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Dad's Kiwi Shrimp

My mom began selling real estate in 1979.  Back then, agents were taught to drop everything when the phone rang, jump when a "potential" client said jump, run out the door the moment someone wanted to kick the tires of a house for sale. (By the way, in today's world, we don't operate that way.) But, back then, that was the insane teaching of the real estate schools, so I can't tell you now many times my mom would leave the dinner table to take calls or even leave to meet someone.  But, it wasn't all bad. Consequently, my dad, sister and I learned to cook because of this wacked out phenomenon. (Don't think I'm "dissing" my mom.  When I came to work with her in 1999, she is the one who taught me to make appointments with myself and my family and keep them.)

Anyway, back to the cooking.  My dad became quite the chef in the '80's. He had a fondness for veal, so he started serving up dishes to us like veal piccata, veal Oscar (my personal fave!) and veal marsala.  But, he didn't stop there.  Old school Columbians will remember the classic Greek restaurant "The Elite Epicurean" on Main St.  We went there for special occasions, proms, after the ballet, etc.  The Epicurean was THE place for lamb in Columbia.  But, they also served this crazy dish called "Shrimp, Island of Scorpios" which was shrimp in casserole with feta, tomatoes, onion and ouzo.  Dad figured it out, started making it at home and then none of us ever ordered it again because his was better. 

One day, he came across a recipe for shrimp, presumably from a magazine because it was the '80's.  We had no Internet, no Google. He is a HAM radio operator, but those guys rarely discuss cooking :-)  This is the nuttiest recipe ever and quickly became one of our family favorites. I wish I could tell you where it came from, but after all these years, there's no way for me to give credit where credit is due.  Therefore, in our family, we simply refer to it as "Dad's Kiwi Shrimp."

It's important to note:  SHALLOTS are not the same thing as SCALLIONS

Having a sous-chef who peels shrimp is a PLUS!
Sauteing proscuitto, shallot and crushed red pepper 

Shrimp, kiwi and cream going in
OMG: This is getting intense!

It's amazingly easy and everyone will think you are some kinda genius when you serve it.

2    Tbs olive oil
1.5  oz proscuitto or country ham, cut into strips
1/3  cup chopped shallot
1/2  tsp crushed red pepper
1/2  cup white wine
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
2     med kiwi fruit, peeled & cubed
1    cup cream
1/4  tsp salt
1/8  tsp pepper

Heat olive oil over high heat. Saute ham, shallot and crushed red pepper about 30 seconds. Add wine & boil until reduced by half (about 2-3 minutes). 

Add shrimp, kiwi & cream.  Reduce heat to medium low and cook until shrimp turn pink. Remove them from skillet.

Boil sauce 2.5-3 minutes. Add shrimp back in, with salt and pepper. Serve over rice.
Final product!  Dad's Kiwi Shrimp

Yes, I know.  It sounds completely crazy, but you're going to have to trust me here.  It is simply divine.  The kiwi gives it a fresh, yet tangy citrus note.  Cream...oh, lovely cream.  Salty proscuitto, spicy pepper.  And SHRIMP!  I wonder who it was who discovered how delightful these wacky little creatures taste? 

So, friends, go out on a limb and try my Dad's dish. Unless you're completely out of your minds, you'll want to send me flowers. Or wine.  Or money. Your choice.  

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Zippity Doo Dah!

Have you ever seen one of these?  
Do you know what it is?

It's an awesome little tool called a corn zipper.  Look how he smiles at you.  He zips corn off a cob in one stroke and it makes him happy to do such a great job for me.  

You just pull him down your ear of corn, and voila, here's the result...

 It takes no time at all and you don't run the risk of taking off the top of a knuckle or the tip of a finger with your knife.

 The little Zipster gets pretty messy, but he's still smiling!

You just give him a quick rinse and he's all cleaned up and ready for next time.  Always so happy to help!

Helping me make stuff like this makes him happy &  super proud of his work.  The corn zipper.  
You need one.

Saturday, July 23, 2016


As y'all know, I can't and won't pass up good pizza. Frankly, I love pizza so much, I probaby wouldn't pass up a mediocre one either.  Recently, MOD Pizza entered the Columbia scene.  It's a similar concept to Uncle Maddio's...choose your toppings like you do at Moe's and watch as they build your masterpiece for you.  But, at MOD, there's one big, major difference.  The price.  Whether you order one of their specialty pies, or build you own, the price is the price.  One ingredient or ten, all one price. This is true for their pizzas and their salads.

After golf today, Viv and I needed a snack so we headed over to check out MOD.  It's very open and dare I say it?  Mod. I love this huge collage wall.  
We both opted to build our own "mini" which is a 6" pizza.  MOD features thin crust and they have a gluten-free option.  The price of the mini pie is only $4.97.  Can you believe that?  I chose pepperoni, bacon, Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and a sprinkling of blue cheese crumbles.  Observe...

Vivian went with mild Italian sausage and black olives.  The pizzas are baked in a wood-fired oven and it doesn't take but a few minutes to get your order.  

We both were very pleased with our food.  The choices are great.  There are several sauces, proteins, tons of veggies and fruits, other cheeses, drizzles, and herbs.  You can check out their menu here.  The folks on the MOD Squad will build a salad for you the same way.  Choose your ingredients just as you would for pizza.  They also offer to build your salad on top of an Asiago pizza crust, if you wish. 

The prices are very reasonable.  The mini was more than enough for us and for just under $5 apiece, it can't be beat. Their "mod" pizza is 11" and is priced at $7.97. This may be a once a week kind of place for us! 

Vivi and I highly recommend MOD Pizza.  We loved the choices, the crust and it's close to home.  Long live the pizza pie! The world's most perfect food.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Somebody call Idgie Threadgoode

Thanks to the community church garden, I turned Casa d'Akre into the Whistle Stop Cafe tonight.  Don't worry, I'm just referring to the fried green tomatoes.  Neil is alive and well; no ribs served tonight!

So, as I told you last time, I visited the garden and plucked some perfectly beautiful green tomatoes. It's funny, growing up Southern, as I have, I never heard of fried green tomatoes until Fannie Flagg's book was made into a movie. Frankly, finding out that one of the '70's Match Game regulars was an author was the first revelation. Fried green tomatoes was the other.  In fact, when I was about 4, my first major transgression in life was when I ran inside to get mommy & daddy to take them out to see my giant pile of "green balls"  -AKA- my dad's immature tomato crop. 

Back before the great fire, the original Rockaway's had someone in the kitchen that was the fried green tomato master. After seeing the movie, I started ordering these babies.  Come to think of it, this was even before my raw, red tomato epiphany.  I still miss those fried greens. Whoever you were, I miss you, tomato frying chef master.

Tonight was a simple, yet simply wonderful, dinner of grilled ham, green beans and fried green tomatoes. It's been awhile since I've made them, but Neil and I agreed this was one pretty darn good batch! 

Take advantage of all the great produce that our ridiculously hot summers create.  Channel your inner Idgie but I wouldn't recommend sticking your bare hands into a honey hole.  Ain't nobody that lucky!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Zucchini Cakes

Summer time and the livin's hot and sweaty.  Mosquitos abound and the humidity is high...

Yes, yes, I'm quite musical. It's a gift, really.

If you don't live in the South, here's something you may not know.  We can grow the bejesus outta some squash.  You plant a couple of squash and zucchini plants and before you know it, you have more than you know what to do with.  One year, my parents were out of town and one of my jobs was to go over every couple of days to check the crop.  When we get good rain, those suckers can grow about 200% overnight.  I can't tell you how many times I pulled back the leaves to be startled by a dark green torpedo that wasn't there last time.  It can really scare you.

There's a Methodist church in our neighborhood that plants a giant garden each year...for the community.  That's right, for everyone.  I stopped by there today hoping for some zucchini because I've had my eye on a recipe for months...zucchini patties. Grated zucchini, two cheeses, egg, flour, onion.  Sure enough, I found a couple of those sneaky, lurking torpedos in the church garden. Usually, once they get this big, you don't want them because they can get tough.  But, for a recipe that requires grating them, the big boys are perfect.

So, tonight, I had zucchini loaves and fishes.  I made a batch of these killer patties and 3 loaves of zucchini bread from 1 1/2 (big) zucchinis.  What a plethora of good stuff from so little!  Took a loaf of bread to mom and dad and had part of one for dessert.  So thankful for that church sharing its bounty with the whole neigborhood!

So, if you're interested, this is a new favorite around here. Especially with Neil, because he HATES mushy squash, so finding a preparation that he likes is few and far between.  He's a big fan of these now.

Zucchini Patties
2 cups grated zucchini
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients together; stir well.  Heat about 2 Tbs veg oil in a skillet over med-high heat. Drop zucchini batter in about 1/3 cup measures into skillet. Cook until golden brown; drain on paper towels. 

Place in colander, sprinkle with salt and let sit about 20 minutes; then squeeze water out.

Zucchini patty in all its glory
This is pork tenderloin that I marinated and baked; served with mustard sauce on the side
We were surprised that they actually taste more like potato pancakes than a veggie patty, so if you have anti-veggites in your house, this may be a way to get some veggies snuck in.  I mean, who can survive without vegetables?  We served these tonight with some room-temp leftover pork tenderloin, mustard sauce for the meat and some gorgeous tomato slices with salt and basil. Summertime, summertime!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Thai One On

Y'all know that I really like Publico. I've told you that. But, it's been a while since we've been there. Yesterday was my birthday.  So, the three of us decided to continue the celebration of me by having lunch at our favorite neighborhood joint today.  

I got there thinking that I'd order the Classic Carnitas and the Sambol Fish taco.  Like I usually do. But once there, I thought, "no, I'm going to try something new this time."  I chose the Thai Shrimp Burger. 

Shrimp burger with fresh cut fries
 So, this is a burger made of giant chunks of shrimp.  This is significant because too often restaurant dishes really skimp on the shrimp.  The burger is served on a fresh bun with red onion relish that is delicious. There's also a Thai peanut sauce and orange sesame aioli.  It's a very flavorful and successful fusion of tastes.  I could only eat half of it though; it's a big sandwich. I definitely recommend this one!

Neil decided on the burrito du jour, the "Wingerito."  It was stuffed with pulled chicken with a chipotle wing sauce, brown rice, lettuce and black beans.  It was really yummy.  Of course, Neil had them also jam as many jalapenos as they could fit into it. Many of you know that Neil's heat addiction knows no bounds.  He's constantly on a quest for what he considers hot and it's rarely what others can even tolerate. Today he sampled a coconut Ghost pepper sauce and admitted "it's hot."  That says a lot.

Now, the Vivver decided on her "usual," the Crunchy Avocado taco.  Can I tell you how much I love that my kid has an avocado taco as her "usual?"  

The Crunchy Avocado
 It also never hurts to start off with guac and queso.  The chips are always warm and salty.  The guac is creamy and the queso, well, what's not to love about melty cheese? 

Publico has completed their back porch/deck area. Today they had some astro-turf out with hula hoops, cornhole and a baby pool in the parking lot.  I'm not sure if this was special for the holiday weekend, or if this is a new fixture.  And, since the last time I was there, they've added brunch. Check out the menu here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Summer is Officially Here!

When they declare "Yippee!  Summer is officially here!" what that  means here in Columbia SC is 100+ temps, 200+% humidity, frozen up a/c compressors, soaking wet clothing and afternoon storms that cause our (crumbling) roads to steam.  

Yep, you can actually see the steam rising. My sister can tell you first hand never, ever, walk home on a steamy road with nothing on your feet except pantyhose #burnedthecrapouttamyfeet #wontdothatagain...But, that's a whole other story! It also means we avoid using our dryers and ovens as much as possible because it just heats up the whole house. 

So, with all that in mind, let me share the ultimate summertime side dish that I got from a friend.  It's one of Ina Garten's recipes and it is the most awesome salad to have on a hot day. 

Cool, delicious fresh corn, red onion, basil. The cider vinegar is the trick.
Take it to your next cookout, block party, potluck, or just whip it up at home for a weeknight side.  Any day now, our famous Silver Queen corn will be hitting the markets and Silver Queen would reign supreme in this recipe.  When you read it, it doesn't sound all that exciting, but trust me.  It is delicious, it's cold, it requires minimal talent and minimal cooking.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Rosewood Crawfish Fest 2016!

I have a bit of a sentimental side for the Rosewood Crawfish Festival.  The first one we went to was about one month after my daughter was born. Neil and I dressed her up, got the stroller outfitted with all we would need and walked up there to show off our beautiful new baby. And to get crawdads.  Of course.

We've been going ever since.  There is something to be said for having a city-wide festival right in your own neighborhood.  Come park at our house and walk on over.  Go early with the kids, get crawdads with no lines, ride rides, listen to the bands from your front porch in the afternoon.  It's pretty daggum perfect.   

So, how was this year's festival?  Let's get right to it:

Upon arrival selfie, or is it an "us-ie?"
Bags and bags of crawfish

Have crawdads, will travel.
Quite a cooking operation
Start by getting your crawdad tickets
Trade your ticket for one of these babies
Join all the other crawfish aficionados
This is what $18 gets you; a little high, but it's fun
Decide which one to keep as a pet.  Not.
What?  Neil's smiling?  Yes, crawdads make Neil smile.
Get in my belly!
After our crawfish feast, we headed out to check out the rest of the festival.  There is really something for everyone at Rosewood's fest: morning 5K, live music, rides for the kids, Crossfit exhibitions, arts & crafts, tons of food and lots of good beer.  

Make sure you don your crawdad gear
Rosewood Market serving shrimp burgers, watermelon, amongst other things
Wacky food display. Gyros, funnel cakes, homemade chips, sausage dogs
Food truck action: Pawley's
Neil couldn't resist the monster turkey legs
Icy treats
I think she rode this contraption about 6 times
Festivals: they're not just for Budweiser anymore!
The first time I've drunk a beer in a can in a VERY long time!

We had a great time at this year's festival.  I think the Rosewood Merchants Assn has done a really great job of creating a family-friendly (without being dorky and boring) festival that is truly part of our community.  Living in Rosewood/Shandon is like living in a village.  Our kids walk to school, thanks to our Rosewood Drive corridor, we can hit the grocery store, local coffee shop, Dairy bar, gas station, local market, delis and restaurants, meat market, all in one trip, we have block parties and we know all our neighbors.  The Rosewood Crawfish Fest is just another cool component to our village. If you haven't come over to our neck of the woods for this event, go ahead and pencil it in for early May of next year.  Let the good times roll!


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