An Autumn Affair in Charleston

Members of the Charleston Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International will host An Autumn Affair – A Celebration of Wine & Artisan Foods at Lowndes Grove Plantation, October 27, 2011, from 6 to 9 PM. Distributors and wineries will provide over 100 wines for tasting. There will be live music and foods based on local, sustainable harvests, with farmers present to discuss their crops. Booths will display products and books will be available from local Dames, including the popular LDEI cookbook. A silent auction from 6 to 8 PM will benefit the Charleston LDEI Scholarship Fund.  Tickets for the event are $45.00 and are available in Charleston at The Wine Shop, Charleston Cooks, and www.ldeicharleston.com.

Cooking with Les Dames d'Escoffier


Pool area, Lowndes Grove Plantation


Fresh greens from the market

Give fools their gold, and knaves their power; let fortune’s bubbles rise and fall; who sows a field, or trains a flower, or plants a tree, is more than all.”

John Greenleaf Whittier


The Sandhill Farmers’ Market is open for the season, and will run through November 22. You can visit the market each Tuesday, from 2:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m.  It is located at the entrance to Clemson’s Sandhill Research and Education Center, at 900 Clemson Road (across from Village at Sandhill), Columbia, SC 29229 in Northeast Richland County.   Approximately twenty-seven vendors are selling, with additional vendors expected as summer crops are harvested. Items for sale include fresh local produce, meat (beef, pork, lamb), shrimp, eggs, butter, milk, cheese  and honey.  Also plants, flowers, trees, baked goods, homemade bread, grits, boiled peanuts, kettle corn, yarn and woolen items.  Master Gardeners are available to answer questions. Live music is provided by Keith Tracy.  Do come – it’s a festive place to shop, hum along with the music, sample tasty foods and visit with your friends and neighbors!

Anna Langley, Columbia, purchases fresh sugar snap peas grown by Lugoff vendors Doris and John Baush

Taste of Carolina has been on hiatus, due to a busy work and travel schedule.  However, I am back on the job and open for business, just in time for the summer growing season. Check often for weekly market updates, farmer profiles and a generous serving of tasty recipes. I will soon post another blog story, with great tips for decorating cupcakes. It will correspond with my new magazine article on cupcakes, for Columbia Metropolitan Magazine. Look for this issue in June. Bon Appetit!

I love cupcakes!

Lettuce and cupcake photos: © Susan Slack

Farmers’ market photo: © Judith Gaskins

Spicy chicken wings will be flying off the platters during Super Bowl weekend as sports fans root for their favorite team.  Super Bowl without chicken wings would be a little bit like Thanksgiving without the turkey!  Even with rising costs, the popularity of chicken wings has been soaring over chicken breast meat recently.  Chicken wings are more popular during the Super Bowl than at any other weekend of the year.   The National Chicken Council currently estimates that more than 13.5 billion wing pieces will be sold this year – 4 billion in retail grocery stores. More than 1 billion pieces will be sold for consumption during the super bowl.

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Savory cheese is always a welcome guest at parties, especially in the form of an elegant, layered cheese torta. Here is a fast and easy recipe that you can put together for a New Year’s Eve party or other gathering. Serve this appetizer with a celebratory toast of champagne or perhaps sparkling pear cider.  


To save time, use quality ready-made pesto and sun-dried tomato spreads. Serve the cheese with plain water crackers or thin, crisp homemade crackers cut in holiday shapes like the ones shown in the photograph.  Or serve with thin slices of French baguette or even  fresh pita wedges.  Happy New Year!  


2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature

8 ounces mild, soft goat cheese or crumbled feta, room temperature

1/4 cup finely-grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Asiago cheese

1 small shallot, finely minced

1 clove garlic, finely minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil

1/4 teaspoon each salt and freshly grated black pepper

1/4 cup prepared basil pesto

1/2 cup prepared sun-dried tomato spread or oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, minced

Garnishes: lightly toasted pine nuts and fresh herb sprigs



Line the inside of a 3 to 4 cup decorative mold, loaf pan or 8 inch round pan with clear plastic wrap; set side. In a food processor or large mixing bowl, process or blend all ingredients except pesto, tomato spread and garnishes.  Spread 1/3 of the cheese mixture over the bottom of the mold; cover with the pesto. Add half the remaining cheese mixture; top with tomato spread. Spread remaining cheese mixture on top. Smooth cheese; tap pan on counter to eliminate any air bubbles. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight. To serve, remove top plastic; invert cheese mold onto a pretty serving dish. Decorate the top with pine nuts and add herb sprigs, as desired. Serve with crackers or sliced French bread. 

Photo by Susan F. Slack




This adorable, tasty candy cane treat can be quickly made by filling the center of a “candy cane heart” with melted white chocolate or candy coating.  Form the heart shape with red or green peppermint candy canes.  (See the instructions  below.)  Here is the recipe for making about one pound of the White Chocolate Peppermint Candy Filling. It makes a great holiday gift packaged in pretty containers.  For a different twist, don’t add the crushed peppermint candy but substitute your favorite coarsely-chopped dried fruits and nuts. You  can also use a (24 ounce) package of melted Almond Bark or other candy coating; increase the crushed candy amount slightly.  



1 pound quality white chocolate or dark chocolate

2 to 3 drops natural peppermint oil, if desired  (to taste)

6 to 8 peppermint candy canes, or 24 hard peppermint candies, finely crushed inside a sealed plastic bag


Line a large baking pan with foil. Melt chocolate in a dry bowl (NO MOISTURE) set over a pan of barely simmering water. Do not allow chocolate to get too hot. Stir often until melted. Mix in peppermint oil, if used. With a spatula, spread chocolate over the lined baking sheet; sprinkle top with the crushed candy. Let sit until white chocolate  hardens or chill in the freezer or refrigerator a few minutes. Break into pieces to serve or package in gift containers. 



  • To make Peppermint Hearts, melt six ounces chopped vanilla-flavored candy coating in a microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl on 50 percent power two to three minutes, stirring once or twice until smooth. On parchment or waxed paper, arrange 24 to 26 peppermint candy canes in pairs, each forming a heart shape. Spoon melted candy coating inside the center of the heart; sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy canes. Let the hearts sit at room temperature until set. Remove from paper.
  • Dipped Candy Canes:  Dip candy canes into melted dark or white chocolate then allow to dry on parchment or waxed paper a few minutes until set. Package in cellophane bags. Use as coffee or cocoa stirrers.  





Stir a little sweetness and flavor into your holiday coffee or hot cocoa with these yummy chocolate-dipped spoons. For a last-minute holiday gift, fill a hand-decorated mug with your favorite gourmet coffee beans or package of hot cocoa mix then add several chocolate-dipped spoons. (Enclose each spoon in a cellophane bag and tie with a ribbon.)  The spoons can be dipped in melted dark or white chocolate or candy coating. Embellish them with contrasting drizzles of chocolate or with peppermint candy chips.  Spoon-dipping is a great holiday activity for kids. The only other essential ingredient you will need besides those mentioned below, is your imagination! 


1 cup dark chocolate chips  

1 cup white chocolate or butterscotch chips

18 to 20 sturdy white plastic spoons


Place 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips into a large glass measuring cup or microwave proof bowl. Heat in 20-second intervals, stirring a little each time, to help remove lumps. Tip: Microwave-melted chocolate holds it’s shape and won’t look melted until stirred. 

When the chocolate becomes smooth, hold a plastic spoon by the handle and dip the “bowl” into melted chocolate to coat. Place on waxed paper to harden. Continue dipping half the spoons. Repeat process with remaining dark chocolate chips and spoons.  (Dipped spoons can be chilled for fast setting.)  

In a clean bowl, microwave half the white chocolate chips, reducing the power to 50 percent. (White chocolate is heat sensitive.)  When melted, partially dip each dark chocolate-coated spoon into the melted white chocolate to create layers. When chocolate is completely set, wrap each spoon in cellophane or enclose 2 or 3 spoons in a cellophane bag; tie tops with ribbon. 

Variations: You can apply the white chocolate with a small, clean paintbrush. The melted white chocolate can also be piped on using a small pastry bag or a small sturdy baggie fitted with a decorating tube. 

Tip: When melting chocolate, remove all moisture from inside the bowl, or the chocolate will seize up and ruin.  



  Photo © Susan Slack


 Today may be the busiest shopping day of the year so gear up if you plan to take  part in the big surge. Last minute holiday shoppers are filling the stores to purchase their last minute gifts.

If you dread the thought, but prefer to stay off the naughty list of your children’s teachers, acquaintances or neighbors, consider a lunch purse or a digital spoon scale (more information below), a cooking gadget, a cookbook, artisanal chocolate bars or even a gift certificate from Starbucks.

For a gift that is more personalized, prepare one of the quick and easy holiday treats featured in this post.  If you love chocolate and peanut butter, a decorative container of Peanut Crisps or Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch would please anyone on your list or make a thoughtful parting gift for friends who have dropped in to visit. Check back tomorrow for holiday treats that are even quicker to prepare.  



                                  Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch                            



Peanut Crisps

These simple, delicious cookies have five basic ingredients –and no flour! The dough can also be embellished with mini chocolate chips, chopped nut brittle or peanuts. Baked cookies can be drizzled with melted caramel or chocolate. Plain small-size cookies can be sandwiched with a chocolate filling made by gently melting 1 stick unsalted butter with 2-1/2 (4 ounce) bars of chopped bittersweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl in the microwave or set into a pan of barely simmering water. 


2 cups plain or chunky peanut butter

2 cups granulated or light brown sugar (or half of each) 

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, stir all the ingredients together to create the dough. For large cookies, shape dough into 23 or 24 balls. Place on parchment lined baking sheets 2-1/2 to 3 inches apart. Flatten cookies slightly using the bottom of a lightly greased large Pyrex glass measuring cup dipped in sugar. Press cookies to about 2-1/2 inches wide. Bake 10 to 11 minutes until crisp and light golden. For crisper cookies, reduce heat; cook a few minutes longer. Watch to prevent excessive browning.  For small  cookies, use one generous tablespoon cookie dough per cookie   Pressing dough is optional; bake 8 to 10 minutes. Cool and pair cookies with the chocolate filling mentioned in the intro material. 



Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch

This recipe has been in my files for years and I forgot about it. I made a batch again this year and everyone went crazy over it -you can’t eat just one piece!  Recipients on your holiday gift list will be delighted to receive a generous portion in a decorative canister, a colorful Chinese carry-out box or in a clear cellophane bag tied with raffia.  This recipe makes a lot! 


1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 (12 ounce) bag semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

1 (12 ounce) box Rice Chex Cereal

1 pound box confectioners’ sugar

In a medium saucepan, melt peanut butter, butter and chocolate chips over low heat. Put cereal into a large bowl, pour in chocolate mixture; mix well. Pour half of the confectioners’ sugar into a large zip-top plastic storage bag. Spoon half the cereal mixture into the bag. Shake well to coat. Remove to a large bowl. Repeat process with the remaining sugar and cereal mixture. Store the crunch in an airtight container. Package in small containers for gift-giving.


Holiday Extras:

Check out the following link on the amazing Lunch Purse – a new hot trend in lunch boxes that foodies love.  There are many varieties for sale on the internet or you can make your own.  To learn more, start here:    http://hubpages.com/hub/Selecting-a-designer-lunch-bag

The very popular Digital Spoon Scale has two detachable and interchangeable scoops. The handy scale measures in both weight (ounces and grams), volume, tablespoon and teaspoon units. Many other gift ideas at this site:   http://www.spoonsisters.co

Photos  ©   by Susan Fuller Slack


chocolate drizzled peanut crisps

Recipes appeared in a holiday article I created for Columbia Metropolitan Magazine (December 2010 issue)