This picnic and the recipes developed are dedicated to the residents of Riverwalk, Rock Hill, and Evans Cohgill Homes, builder of fine homes at Riverwalk Carolinas in Rock Hill, SC.
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“Time for a picnic.” I muse, choosing to travel today to Riverwalk, in Rock Hill, SC to see friends, and then enjoy an al fresco meal among the oaks. As I prepared my simple weekend lunch in honor of this last holiday of summer, I decided to create not only something fun and original, but one themed for the many activities that every resident in Riverwalk is lucky enough to enjoy. With ice and napkins on board, I head out for one of the most progressive master-planned communities in the Carolinas.
After arriving and saying hello to my friends at Evans Coghill Homes and touring their amazing homes (I want one of the Villas!), I unhinge my bike, throw my lunch across my shoulders and ride slowly towards the river. Passing tree lined streets dotted with colorful cottages, and charming front porches, I then wave at my fellow pedalers -- those more ardent in their cycling passion than myself who are racing away at the adjacent and world-class Giordana Velodrome -- and settle in for lunch beside the river. The spot I choose is in the middle of the budding Town Center parcel. Among other exciting additions it will feature its own micro-brewery, a YMCA, shopping, dining and enhanced open spaces.
Spreading out a blanket and noshing on some carrot sticks and asparagus, my first course is a nod to cyclers everywhere. Check out my BMX-CELLENT SPIRAL PASTA SALAD WITH CHICKEN AND ORANGE GINGER DRESSING which pays homage to the Novant BMX Supercross Track soon to open here in Riverwalk. Using ready-made and fresh ingredients, this colorful salad is packed with protein and vegetables, and surprises with a kick of chili flakes and the heady satisfaction of ginger and orange. Replacing the usual sandwich fare as the centerpiece, this salad comes together in a flash, and qualifies easily for one of my #fabin40 recipes. It goes great with chips, apples, even holding its own next to your favorite baked beans, or a generous slice of watermelon. “This salad will taste even better tomorrow!” I think, as I wipe the last vestiges off my chin, and place the leftovers in my back pack.
I’m now ready for something sweet, and inspiration is only a few yards away. Watching the currents in the bend in the river swirl around the base of aging trees, I see the brightly colored kayaks come into view, paddling peacefully along the banks of the Catawba just inches from my traveling lunch. Warm and soothing, the muddy waters urge me on to dessert. My first bite of my CATAWBA INSPIRED DARK CHOCOLATE, CREAM CHEESE AND CARAMEL SWIRL PARFAIT wows with the dizzying satisfaction that only chocolate provides. Crowned with a caramel filled Ghirardelli wafer planted in the middle of swirling dark chocolate ganache, I dig deep to get a spoonful of caramel, and sweetened cream cheese in one, decadent bite. These are easy to make in advance and keep in the fridge, covered until you put them into your cooler. Yeah, I know. I’ll have to paddle a few hundred miles to mitigate the calories, but it’s chocolate, caramel, and cream cheese for heaven’s sake! Plus, I need energy for the hike I have planned later, right?
Speaking of hiking, the Carolina Thread Trail is another huge amenity here in Rock Hill. Eventually it will connect 15 communities and over 2.3 million citizens, and features miles of meandering pathways. Not to mention a way to get your pulse respectably up to speed. I even created a beautiful, take-along snack for the trek. My CAROLINA THREAD CASHEW CURRANT TRAIL MIX is pumped up in flavor with the addition of crunchy organic raw sugar, and earthy cinnamon. White chocolate makes it rich, golden raisins make it pretty, and peanuts make it familiar. I declare! Pack some in your pocket next time you sport those hiking shoes and you won’t regret it.
“Hey! You want someone company?” A low voice chants from behind, interrupting my slow attempt to gather my belongings and head for home. As I turn to identify the callers, I see four bikers, 10-speeds in tow, headed my way for a rest after 30 miles or so at the track.
“Sure! Come on down!” I shout. And turning to my leftovers, I know just what to offer them on this lazy, comforting, delicious, No-Labor Day.
#caminecooks #riverwalkpicnic #catawbainspired #fabin40 #caminewrites #c-and-company #evanscoghillhomes
With a business to run, a home to take care of, a husband with whom private time is hard to come by, and a mother in law with dementia who lives with us, I don't have a lot of room in my day for meaningful cooking. The inspiration for the blog was because my husband, ever trying to pamper and take care of me, would, after a long day, suggest that we go OUT to eat. "Nah, I feel like cooking. It will relax me!" And we would, at my request, stay home.
As my craft improves, my kitchen confidence soars, and my blog lengthens, I am still, at heart, a pleaser. And nothing makes it all worthwhile more than having a dinner guest proclaim what I stated in the title of this entry: "We've never been so spoiled!" Uttered as she and her husband swooned over the entree and the dessert and intoned with a bit of shyness as she proclaimed she might be too intimidated to cook for me, I hoped my next statement would convince her that friendship transcends all. With understanding, I looked at her and said, "You know, it's more important to us who is AT the table than what is ON it." And that is the TRUTH.
I'm not one to spend days planning a menu. I do better off the cuff, as I did with this meal, grabbing what's fresh in the market that day, using magazines, Pinterest, and Instagram as muse, and always including something I've never done before. They say to never try something new with guests. I say you only live once and I ALWAYS do something I've never done when guests come over. I can count on one hand the times it didn't turn out just as I had hoped it would be. So poo-poo to the naysayers. Pressure makes you BETTER.
Take this meal. I took ground lamb, added pine nuts, mint, raisins, garlic, and rosemary and stuffed it into these adorable and sweet mini red peppers and baked it until soft and fragrant. Alongside these ruby gems I served a jasmine rice braised with dried apricots, onion, jalapeno, garlic and of course cumin, coriander, tumeric and thyme. The salad was a simple butter lettuce with yellow tomatoes, and a lemon vinaigrette, and it all sat on a bed of cucumber, cilantro, mint yogurt sauce. Holy spices, Batman, this was sooooo good.
Dessert didn't disappoint either. I caramelized some bananas in butter, brown sugar and a little Southern Comfort Bourbon and placed it over a shortcake and bathed it in whipped cream. Uh, yes. We were still conscious afterwards, but just barely.
Really, spoiling guests is my passion. Especially when it works out. And the more I cook, the MORE everything in life seems works out. Download the meal recipe here.
There are few things that come together, and make as much of a splash, as fruit salad. Topped with one of my favorite syrups, a combination of lime juice and honey, it is elevated to Royal status. Put in between a homemade shortcake and whip some fresh heavy cream, and you'll be toting your fork as though it's a scepter. Aaahhhh!
Slowly but surely I am converting all of my shopping habits to smart habits. I've always eaten healthy -- and I'm not the one who shows up at the check-out with 10 boxes of Twinkies and Red Bull --but I found that I can't continue to trivialize just how much better real food tastes or how much better I feel when I eat smart food. So, with each visit I become more loyal to the good stuff.
Take chicken for example. You have seen the labels for Smart Chicken. Even if it is someone down the line with a higher IQ, it just sounds better than buying Dumb Chicken. And recently I decided to buy a pound of ground up Smart Chicken and see what would come of it.
First of all, ground chicken is STICKY. Ew. Without any fat content, it is like paste. However the color is a pale pink and you just know it has potential. And by the time I mixed in the onions, cheese, bread crumbs and such, I found that the only way to get it off my hands and onto the plate into with a shape that resembled an orb, was to moisten my hands with water. Worked great.
Most of the things I create are not preplanned. I just get out pans, wash my hands, roil around in the produce drawer, and start cooking. When the idea of turning Chicken Parmesan inside out came to mind, in the form of a classy, tender little meatball, it only made sense to nestle them inside a simple reduction of white wine, chicken stock and spike its silkiness with simple aromatics and a bit of chili flakes.
Now, how about this pasta I laid it upon. Yeah, cool, eh? I love the name of it! Casarecce, which loosely means home made. It's a traditional pasta for Sicilian pesto dishes, but it the was perfect shape to latch on to those little tomatoes and peppers, and glistened when the sauce covered it and everything else in the bowl. Think it all sounds divine?
I know you want to try it, and certainly I encourage to not to eat dumb. Click here to get the recipe for my Smart CHICKEN PARMESAN MEATBALLS WITH CASARECCE AND A TOMATO WHITE WINE BUTTER SAUCE.
When they're on sale, you can't help but purchase at least 2 tubs. And so, I had to make at least 2 pies! Blueberries are just like tiny little planets. They're so intricate, perfect, and iridescent. And REALLY good when you add fresh grated ginger. It wakes up the berry, and blends perfectly with every morsel.
For these pies, I began with a tub of blueberries, about 3 cups. Then added 1/2 C sugar, zest from a lemon and about 2 T of fresh grated ginger. I took about a third of the blueberries and then added a cut up Fuji apple, and a handful of golden raisins, and then a scant 1/4 t of allspice and that became the second pie. (see photos below)
Each went into a small, 6 inch pie plate, and I did fun things with the crust. Bake them each at 375 degrees for about 50 minutes, with foil covering the pie the last 20.
Serve with your favorite cream expression; iced, whipped, or ladled on, and don't be shy about it.
I'm a mixologist at heart and I work hard to create new food experiences by simply building a hierarchy of textures, flavors and colors. Perhaps it's because I love to write, and part of the writing exercise is to create columns of words that are foreign in theme, and then see if putting them together achieves the melodic result you desire. One of the most recent "oh yeah..." moments came when the bright, stinging flavor of ginger helped mesh all the Asian flavors I had on hand into a hot but cool, sweet but sour, and fresh but pre-made sensation.
Savoy cabbage was the muse, which I blended overtly with onion, green pepper, carrot and strawberries, and a handful of cilantro. The dressing carried the umami notes with a dash of sesame dressing and 2 knobs of fresh grated ginger. Once this came together, it was the perfect bed for seared chicken thighs, which were finished with braising them in a little chicken stock, and then simmering them with bottled mango habanero sauce and Kraft honey mustard dressing. A sprinkling of sesame seeds and voila! Hunch, turned to lunch, turned to a BUNCH of table applause. Get the recipe for both the chicken and the slaw here.
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Meet the Cook...
My name is Camine Pappas and I love to create beautiful and delicious food that anyone can make. My signature style centers around a love for combining things in a way you might not expect as I work to find a hidden combination of colors, textures and flavors from the things that are in my pantry and/or easy to obtain.