What's Cooking in Carolina?

Mainly creative menus and recipes (usually healthy) and always from scratch with tips for party planning, theme parties, weddings and decorating tips so you can give swank parties or dinners to delight your guests from a part time caterer, owner/operator of a coming soon Entree Vous, but mainly a cook and eater who grows much of her own food and loves to laugh.

Friday, September 29, 2006


For the year anniversary of at home at Kalyns Kitchen, the theme is your favorite herb. To be honest, my favorite herb is seasonal. My favorite summer herb is basil, fall is sage, winter is thyme and spring is rosemary. We grow all of these plus parsley, cilantro, tarragon, oregano, lavender, burnet, lemon balm, lemon grass, Wrigley's spearmint, chives, garlic chives, dill and wild peppermint grows wild in my woods. Some years I grow lemon verbena but my main source closed up and I had no easy access this year. One of my cats, Tai-thai has a preference for lemon grass, though you would think she would like the Thai Basil, given her name! Ha!

Anyway, I (probably along with many others) am going to focus on Basil, because it is the time of year when I have to figure out what to do with it all. Hopefully, I can put a twist on it that others have not.

When we make pesto, we make enough to freeze. It isn't as good as fresh, but still wakes up the palate on a winter day, or is great to stir into soups to lift the flavor! One nifty thick is to leave a bit of the pesto in the food processor, then add the flour, eggs, olive oil and water to make pasta. The pasta comes out beautifully flecked with the pesto and is delicately flavored too!

We love to make pizza with roasted eggplant, fresh tomato and fresh mozzarella and put fresh basil on it right out of the oven!

We just made basil, chive, and lime butter to put on fresh grilled corn on the cob.

And we made basil oil. It is great for decorating plates or adding color and flavor to pasta.

We will dry some too. Yes there is an occasional use for dried basil. And this year, for the first time ever, we're going to try to grow it under lights over the winter, now that we have an indoor growing chamber (which is used for grape seedlings, spring vegetables and orchids.)

Looking forward to fall even though I still have a tom of basil to process! And I want you to know how much I enjoy the other Weekend Herb Bloggers! Keep cooking! And if you want the recipe for basil butter, compound butter recipes are our recipe of the week on our website this week so check out Swank Recipes!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Wedding Reception

I have been too busy to sit down, so maybe today (start) I can get(ting) caught up. Yesterday we catered a wedding for 120. The menu is below with a few pictures. We didn't take many because there was not time and the ones we did take, didn't turn out very well.

The menu is below.

Bruschetta "bar" with three toppings

Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella and Basil
Chick Pea Salad with Rosemary and Basil
Mixed Olive Tapenade

Breads with Jellies and Butters
Pineapple Pecan Bread
Cranberry Walnut Bread
Pear Hazelnut Bread
Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Bread
Cinnamon Nutmeg Clove Butter
Hazelnut Honey Butter
Homemade Jams and Jellies
(Blackberry, Fig, Grape, Raspberry)

Asian Style Chicken Drumettes

Egg Salad Sandwiches

Smoked Salmon Sandwiches

Main Course

Chicken Saltimbocca
Pork Tenderloins Braised in Balsamic Vinegar
Potatoes in Crème
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Green Beans with Bacon
Pasta with Pesto and Home Grown Tomatoes
Mediterranean Carrot Salad
Black Bean, Roasted Corn and Pepper Salad
Marinated Cabbage, Peppers and Onion Salad

It appeared that everyone enjoyed it based on the quantity of food that got consumed.

Not to dismiss the event, the bride and groom were radiant, happy and are a gorgeous couple and we wish them many happy years together enhanced by great food! Cheers to Heather and Jay!

Check out our website Swank Catering Website for information on catering weddings, making wedding cakes, menus and even recipes!

Thursday, September 14, 2006


What's cooking this week?

We've had a big London broil braised and finished in the oven with oyster and shitake mushrooms and sauced with some stock and brandy which was good and provided many leftovers. So far, we've had wraps and I'll do a quick little stir fry with some more of it and now that I'm writing about it, it just occurred to me how much I like a meat and potato hash for breakfast with over easy eggs. Doesn't that sound good?

We've picked our last batch of corn :-(! It's in the frig, waiting to be processed. And I plan to dry some basil as well as make pesto for freezing this weekend.

The recipe of the week this week is a healthy way to cook fried chicken that's not fried. It really tastes good and is easy and NO grease. It is good with veggies and we've been trying to cook lots of corn, okra, eggplant, peppers and other summer garden vegetables.

A day later and I'm picking up where I left off. I finished off the pepper jelly and have made one batch of corn relish and another is waiting to be cooked and canned. We're trying two different recipes. We haven't touched the basil yet, as far as processing and the weekend is quickly coming to an end.

We've had spaghetti and meatballs, one of our favorites, especially because we use fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and homemade pasta. Last night, we had veal scaloppini and made Veal Masala to use the rest of the mushrooms. We served it over homemade pasta with broccoli raab par boiled and sautéed with garlic.
Variety IS the spice of life!

Back to work! Check out our website and recipes at Swank Recipes

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Hot Pepper Jelly

Hot pepper jelly used to be only a southern thing. I think it was popularized by Charleston Receipts, but don't know for sure. The recipe is in the cookbook with no fan fare. I have several old cookbooks, like my Grandmother's original, and she, like I, was from Virgina. I don't know how old the cookbook is, but there are articles from the newspaper with recipes in it from 1920. I also have a very old
Williamsburg cookbook as well as 2 from 1986 and there are no recipes for hot pepper jelly in any of them. I have heard that fancy dinner parties in Savannah and Charleston, it was served with water crackers and cream cheese. For those who haven't had the pleasure, it is a jelly made from bell and hot peppers. It can be red or green. It sounds weird but it is positively addictive. I do not know if anyone from anywhere who has ever tried it and not liked it. I recently visited the great town of Detroit and brought 3 kinds of jelly for my (3) hosts to choose from: fig, grape, and hot pepper, and the first one chosen was the hot pepper jelly (What does that tell ya?) and they were no southerns but me (what I mean is there were no Yankees there!)

It is traditionally served with cream cheese and crackers but serving with brie would work or as an accompaniment to meat. Trust me, if you've never had it, it doesn't taste like what you think it tastes like, whatever that is. Yes, it has a lot of sugar in it. It's jelly, after all. And because of it, you get the sweet and hot thing going. I am submitting this for weekend's , hosted this week at home at Kalyns Kitchen. It's really not hard to make and it's beautiful! I prefer all red because RED hot pepper jelly sounds and looks better than green, although they taste the same. I have even seen them mixed: 1/2 jar red and 1/2 green. It's pretty but it takes too much time when there isn't any.

My recipe:

5 red bell peppers
1 1/2 cups jalapeno peppers (or a mix of jalapenos and cayenne’s)
1 cup cider vinegar
2 cups white vinegar
12 cup sugar
3 boxes liquid pectin

Get most of the seeds and veins out of the peppers. Puree peppers in batches in food processor until very pureed. Add to large pot with sugar and vinegar. Cook until simmering and all of the sugar is melted. Bring to a boil. Add liquid pectin. Bring back to a boil. Boil 1 minute or until the temperature reaches soft ball stage (220). Spoon into sterilized 1/2 pint jars leaving 1/2" at the top. Put on lids and simmer in hot water bath for 10 minutes. Makes 14 1/2 pints.

Other things to consider: You can put the peppers through a food mill. I have one but like the pepper bits you see as a result of processing in a food processor. You can use all white or cider vinegar. I like the clarity that the white vinegar gives but the taste of the cider vinegar. You can use all green peppers. Most recipes call for all jalapenos. I happen to like mixing them for the heat and differences in flavor, but still use mainly jalapenos, but sometimes it’s based on how many I have of what in the garden.

If you try the recipe and you've never tried pepper jelly before, please let me know what you think. For more recipes, check out our website at swank recipes Cheers!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Soup, Pinini and Homemade Pizza

I had a dinner meeting here at the house last week for 15. I wrote this and then forgot about it until I downloaded the pictures and reminded me to post it. It was the first time many of them had been here and I wanted to take advantage of the produce coming in from the garden. They took a tour of the vineyard and stocked up on grapes and figs before dinner, which means they weren't as hungry as I'd have hoped and I had way to many leftovers.

However, dinner was great. We had 2 soups: roasted tomato with basil and parmesan crisps and crab and corn chowder. They were both good. Our friend in Durham who has a outdoor wood fired oven (read: green with envy) supplied the wonderful bread for the panini. We had 1.) Brie with bacon and 2.) Pesto, grilled eggplant, fresh tomato and mozzarella and 3.) Grilled Portabella, red onion and Fontina. A Capaese Salad and a blueberry cobble rounded it all out!

The best part was that we had some of the grilled veggies leftover. The September Cooking Light magazine had an article on pizza. Even though I love my pizza dough recipe, one never knows so I gave it a whirl. They had whole wheat pizza dough with basil in the dough so I topped it with tomatoes, grilled eggplant, grilled portabella, onion, olives and mozzarella and parmesan. The other, I made a traditional crust (their recipe) and made a pepperoni (low fat turkey pepperoni, of course) with mozzarella and parmesan.

Everything was great, although I still like my old standby pizza dough better; however, I probably will use the whole wheat crust again, especially when I'm making multiple pizzas for the variety. I think you can probably find their recipes on their website. The magazine is still on the shelves.

I love pizza, mainly homemade and we eat it whenever we have just the right ingredients on hand. One of these days, I'll post my pizza dough on our website. In the meantime, check out other recipes we have posted swank recipes and eat well, love much, laugh often.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Figs - You're Darn Tootin'

This weekend, Genie, from InadvertentGardner is hosting where you find people from all over the world featuring herbs, vegetables or flowers. Check it out; you're sure to find something you want to try.

This week we're featuring figs. This is our tree with a 12' ladder so you get the idea of its size.

We dried a dehydrator full of them, since they are extremely perishable and we still have fig preserves and fig puree left over from last year. Someone sent me a recipe to try for figs and sausage tapas, which we will. Mainly, we just like to eat them. They are great with goat cheese.

The fig puree is really good as an accompaniment to meat or just on bread. They are so sweet you don't need all that sugar. We just add Vitamin C to help it retain its color and that's it.

We grow several varieties but really like Celeste. It's the sweetest, if not the largest fruited, and has a flavor that approaches Nabisco's famed Newton, except Celeste, unlike the venerable Smyrna (Calimyrna in California), doesn't have viable seeds, that result from pollination by the fig wasp, a troublesome and expensive procedure in fig plantations that is considered worthwhile because the tiny seeds that develop are complete and contain an oily endosperm that lends a certain "nutty" character to Smyrna-based products. Celeste is classed as a "Common Fig" which means it develops fruit without pollination. No fig wasps, no nothing. It is parthenocarpic, which literally means "virgin fruited," appropriately enough. Nature is so kind to us *sometimes* and a plant that will set fruit reliably without the need of pollination and fertilization is a real gift, especially since the fig wasp doesn't thrive in North Carolina. So, learn to live without endosperm, folks.

You're Darn Tootin'
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