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.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Dessert Party

I promised I would show you pictures of the dessert party we did for 250. Actually, it is taking a lot of liberty to say WE did. Marne, our pastry chef made 99% of the food. I was, for once, the assitant chef and helped because I like to help and I get to learn some new things too, like making meringue mushrooms. As you can see, Marne makes beautful cakes and desserts, so if you need some, give us a call! Diane, my partner did all of the flowers and set up. She makes beautiful flower arrangements.
Withour further ado:

The Menu:

Carrot Cake

Black Magic Chocolate Cake with Meringue Mushrooms

Three tiered Packages Cake (Vanilla with Almond buttercream, Coconut with Orange Buttercream, Lemon with Raspberry Buttercream)

Spiced candied pecans
Chocolate Fudge (plain and with walnuts)
Rum balls

Brownies with marshmallows and fudge
Lemon Bars
Raspberry delights
Lemon cheese pressed cookies
Peanut Butter Fingers

Oatmeal Spice cookies
Molasses Crinkles
Brazilian Coffee cookies
Viennese Shortbreads
White Chocolate/Macadamia Nut Bars
Mint Meltaways


Pepperoni Biscotti
Mini quiches
Cheese Straws
Curried and Italian almonds
Bacon/Ranch pinwheels
Cheese puffs

Looks good enough to eat! Ha!

Check out recipes on our website at Swank Recipes or give us a call if you live in the area and want us to cater a party for you or give in-home cooking lessons that are better than you can go to a place for!


Saturday, November 18, 2006


We discovered how easy it was to grow ginger on a whim. We bought a big hunk at the grocery store our first year and stuck in in some dirt and put it in the hot bed with the grape seedlings in March. After the risk of frost, we moved it to the garden and mulched it. We never touched it until the first frost in the fall and then we dig it. It is wonderful fresh; like a new potato with a skin so thin you can scratch it off with your finger. Now we have enough to last until the next season. From about 10 plants in a typical year, you get about 30 pounds of ginger. This year was atypical so we only got about half that. It is truely easier to care for than anything else in the garden. If you haven't tried it, you will find it amazing. Ususally when we pull it, you can see the flower inforenceses forming, but it has never flowered. Even with starting indoors, the season is not long enough. We have grown it every year for more than 15 years and our friends look forward to the frost when we dig it all.

From The New Food Lover's Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst:

ginger; gingerroot A plant from tropical and subtropical regions that’s grown for its gnarled lumpy root. Most ginger comes from Jamaica, followed by India, Africa and China. Gingerroot's name comes from the Sanskrit word for "horn root," undoubtedly referring to its knobby appearance. It has a tan skin and a flesh that ranges in color from pale greenish yellow to ivory. The flavor is peppery and slightly sweet, while the aroma is pungent and spicy. This extremely versatile root has long been a mainstay in Asian and Indian cooking and found its way early on into European foods as well. The Chinese, Japanese and East Indians use fresh gingerroot in a variety of forms-grated, ground and slivered-in many savory dishes. Europeans and most Americans {not this one} however, are most likely to use the dried ground form of ginger, usually in baked goods. Fresh ginger is available in two forms - young and mature. Young ginger, sometimes called spring ginger {I would have to call it fall ginger}, has a pale, thin skin that requires no peeling {see, I told you}. It is very tender and has a milder flavor than its mature form. Young ginger can be found in most Asian markets during the springtime. {We have never seen it for sale as tender as the ones we grow, even in the Asian markets}.

The New Food Lover's Companion goes on discussing how to preserve and discusses ground, ginger juice, candied ginger, preserved ginger, pickled ginger {which I make in the years when we really get a lot, not this year, though} and red candied ginger. There are separate definitions for ginger ale and ginger beer. They don't mention ginger tea, and that it very good.

We used it to make egg rolls to go with the hot and sour soup made with fresh wood ear mushrooms and fresh shitakes. We only see the fresh wood ears a few times a year fresh and can't pass them by. I have posted how to make egg rolls before, probably the last time we saw them. This is a current picture, but it looks the same. I guess we are creatures of habit.

Have you tried ginger ice cream? It is so good. If we weren't trying to lose wait......so instead we tried ginger yogurt as a healthy alternative. It's got the creamy hot spicy thing going on.

We also do quick stir fries when we time is limited. It is quick and easy and good too!

This is being submitted to hosted this week by Nandita of Saffron Trail. Check it out Monday after she posts the roundup! Also, check out our website if you want to find more recipes.

Both the egg rolls and fresh hot and sour soup are listed.
Swank Recipes Cheers!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

An Apple a Day...

We have a few warm days, up to the mid 70s F for three days in a row. It would be nice for hiking; maybe we'll get some in. We are using it to spray Orchids for mites and aphids, taking them all outside. It will take us at least 2 days. In the meantime I am making applesauce. My Mom goes to the Virginia mountain every year and buys bushels of apples. I 'ordered' some from her, asking for a mixed bushel or two of good crisp apples. I am catering a wedding at the end of December and one of the items ordered was warm apple sauce so I am canning it now for later consumption. It's really easy, especially since I have this wonderful apparatus called a Squeezo Strainer. My sister in SC bought it for me at the Pickens Flea Market a few years back. It was in the original box and cost $5 or $10, I don't remember. A side note on the Pickens Flea Market. It is amazing, more like a real farmer's market. It is Wednesday mornings from 4:00 AM until 11:00 AM. It covers acres and is real farmers. She just got me some beautiful herbs there. $2 for the big pots and $1 for the small ones.

Back to the applesauce: All you need to do is quarter the apples.

I steam them in a big steamer meant for crabs, until they are soft. Put them in the strainer and the skin, seeds and cores come out of one side and the sauce comes out the other.

I put the sauce back on the heat and add a bit of honey, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Move to sterilized jars and simmer in a hot water bath for 30-45 minutes and voila. Now we have really good apple sauce for the rest of the year. If you make it and serve it warm, it's one of those warm, comfort, fall foods you could eat at any meal.

One other nifty idea that came from a great chef who happens to be in the Army is to stuff a pork tenderloin with a few of your favorite dried fruits (I like cranberries or cherries with pear) that have been bloomed in green tea and minced. Braise the stuffed meat in sesame oil, then coat in sesame seed (I like to mix white and black) and finish in the oven. Serve with homemade apple sauce that is flavored with a hint of soy sauce. It is divine warm, room temperature or cool.

I also made an apple crostata. We didn't eat much of it though. We are watching what we eat with the holidays coming up and that feeling we get like we need to eat to fatten up for the long winter ahead, like the bears. That doesn't mean we won't eat good stuff; just less fatty. We also dry some. A low fat way to eat them is to peel them and cut them in pieces, put on a plate, dapple with apple pie spices, cover with plastic wrap and zap until soft.

This is my submission to hosted this week by Meeta of What's For Lunch Honey?. Check it out!

In the meantime, Check out our website for recipes. Swank Recipes


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Pooped Pookah Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers..

Last week we had the mad scramble to get everything in before our first hard frost, which was Friday night. We had piles of peppers and eggplants as well as ginger, basil, grapes, and I also picked some tarragon which I never know about. Some years it lives and some years it doesn't. Maybe it is the hardness of the winter. Note: I'll do a separate post on the ginger when I get a chance.

I made pickled hot peppers, stuffed peppers Thai style, pickled banana peppers (and onions while I was at it). I used peppers in other dished, like Chinese Chicken Salad,
and still have some left for rellanos and ropa vieja (from Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarella on the Food Netwoek. When I saw the amount of peppers going in the dish, I knew I what was next for peppers). That's for tonight.

We processed enough muscadines to make jelly and they are awaiting their finishing time in the refrigerator. That means we have heated them and strained them so we only have juice and only need to finish the jelly.

The recipe for the Pickled Banana Peppers is not on our website but I'll try to put it up in a few weeks. It is very good on sandwiches. With Thanksgiving coming up, there is an immediate use for them. We like them on sautéed greens as well, like collards, kale or turnips.

I made a very low fat version of Chicken in Tarragon Crème, probably the same day as Katie at Thyme for Cooking, the Blog . She posted her recipe for last week's Weekend Herb Blogging while I was saving mine for another week. Instead, I'll post it here,
outside of the weekend blog and put it on our website as the recipe of the week. Check it out at Swank Recipes I checked the date of when I made it (from the camera) and it was November 4th and she posted hers on November 5th. The recipes are similar but enough different that I think it's worth the review. Mine cooks quicker and is lower fat. Hers more flavorful and autentic. We actually have a lot in comon, so I'm sure we would enjoy each others, both equally delicious in its own right, I'm sure.

I also made tarragon vinegar.

What's really strange about that is that Sweetnicks Blog last week also posted chicken picatta the same time I did. That means in one week I cooked the same thing as 2 other great food bloggers on the same thread and there aren't THAT many of us. Interesting. Great blogger that cook think alike?

Interesting to see what you think!

Cheers! P

ps: Can you tell I missed a week? Too busy cooking to blog.
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