My Culinary Kid

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

I grew up hating fish.  I was fine with shrimp, lobster and scallops, but I didn’t like anything with fins.  When I first met my (now) husband, he was baffled about how anyone could dislike fish.  One evening, we were with a bunch of friends in the bar at Harper’s, where we ordered some dinner.  When our plates arrived, I looked over at my husband to see that he was happily chewing a horribly undercooked piece of chicken breast.  I practically Tunadove on top of him and wrestled the fork from his hand to, you know, save him from a most certain death from raw chicken.  As the hubbub died down, he said something along the lines of “what the  ____ are you doing?” As I pointed out the raw, pink meat he was chowing down on, he shook his head and said, “Elizabeth, this is tuna.”

And so it began.  He was determined to “teach” me to eat fish. Well, here we are 16 years later and I’ve mastered tuna, salmon, tilapia, flounder, grouper and snapper. And, now we have a child involved.  The last thing I want to do is taint her tastes by inserting my own opinions about likes and dislikes or tales of picky childhood eating. But, I must admit…in the back of my mind I thought, “surely she won’t like fish. She’s just a kid.”  I started her out on shrimp, then moved to lobster (which she immediately loved and asks for all the time) and then I decided to get bold and serve some salmon. Guess what? The child devoured it, gave it her signature “10 thumbs up” rating and has now had several varieties of fresh salmon, as well as smoked salmon. Both are on her list of favorites. I am blown away by this, but also really proud of her, and a little proud of myself for succeeding in not transferring my childhood anti-fishness onto her.

So recently I decided to introduce her to another finned friend. I rubbed Cajun seasoning on tilapia fillets, grilled them in my grill pan with a little bit of butter, and served the fish and sauce over grits and collards. I crossed my fingers as I set the plates on the table. Guess what? She did it again!  Loved every bite and before dinner was finished, she asked if I’d make it again the next day.

Now, I’m beside myself. My child likes fish. This is a good thing. Fish is good for us. It keeps us from getting chicken-day-after-day-boredom syndrome. Yes, this is a very good thing indeed.

Here’s the funny part of this tale.  A few days ago, my husband and I had eaten late in the day, so were just going to make supper for the little one. He offered to cook her some salmon, which he was already in the process of thawing.  But then came the curveball.  “Daddy, I’d really rather have tilapia.”  He proceeded to tell her that the salmon was almost ready to be cooked and that we’d have tilapia next time. She was not happy. When my daughter is upset or angry about something, she writes it down and delivers it to you in the form of a letter, a note or even pictures.  She disappeared for a few minutes and returned with an 8”x11” piece of paper with one word scrawled across it.

T o l o p i a


She’s quite good at sounding out words that she’s not sure about. Well, my husband took one look at this note and realized that the salmon would have to wait until another day. He cooked up some tilapia and veggies and all was right with the world. I guess the moral of the story is: if you get your child eating fish, let her choose which one she wants to eat. ElizabethDidn’t Confucius say that?  🙂

Elizabeth writes about food, cooking, and other culinary adventures at Gastronomy (by a Wanna-Be Chef).  You can also “like” her page on Facebook.

DASH Eating Plan – More Than Just Another Diet

By: Katie Austin

KatieOkay, I know what you are all thinking. Not another diet!  But wait – don’t rule this out yet. I believe anytime there is a new idea to help us live healthier lives, we owe it to ourselves to at least consider it. This diet may not fit everyone’s needs or lifestyles, but it is worth looking into.

I know, and have known for months, that I need to make a change. You would think that after battling breast cancer, I would be eating healthy and working out to get in the best shape of my life. Well, let me tell you, I am not so now it is time for a change! I am hoping my newly found motivation, this diet plan, and exercising a few days a week will help me reach my health goal. Simply put, I want to be able to get up in the morning without hurting all over and have the energy to do all the things I love to do. Easier said than done, but I believe in myself and the ability to change, which is half the battle!

So, what is the DASH Diet? The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet was developed by the National Institutes of Health as a suggested way of eating to lower blood pressure without medication. Research has shown that the DASH Diet lowers the risk of several types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, heart failure, kidney stones, reduced risk of developing diabetes, and can slow the progression of kidney disease. Enough said for this girl to try this diet! 🙂

DASHHow does the diet work? The DASH Diet includes healthy eating from all food groups. The suggested foods are high in fiber, low to moderate in fat and low in sodium. The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution turbo charges weight loss with a powerful plan based on previously overlooked DASH research. Because it has an emphasis on real foods and fruits and vegetables, it is both filling and satisfying.

Foods in this plan include:

  • Whole grains
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Low fat or non-dairy foods
  • Lean protein
  • Nuts, seeds, and legumes
  • Fats and sweets

Knowing that this plan is flexible and offers a variety of foods to eat, I am ready to take the plunge and see how this goes!  I will be sure to bring back what I learn, good and bad, and hopefully this will be the eating plan I have been looking for. More to come and I will follow up with a progress report in a future blog post 🙂

For more information about the DASH Diet, visit

Take care and God bless each of you!

A Naturally Sweet Treat

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

When you have a sweet tooth and want to stay on track, here’s a nice treat. They’re good and easy, plus they use ingredients that you probably already have around the house. All that and no sugar!



  • 3 smashed bananas (ripe work best)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup milk (I use light vanilla soy)
  • 1/2 cup raisins*
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

* If you don’t like raisins, you can experiment with other add-ins; I made a batch with dried cranberries that were delightful.


  1. Mix well.
  2. Drop tablespoonfuls onto prepared (non-stick spray or parchment paper) cookie sheet.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

What is YOUR favorite healthy sweet tweet?

The Loveliness of Legos

By: Shannon Shull

Okay, so I know it’s a bit odd to call Legos lovely, but to me they are! The experience of “doing” the whole Lego thing is an absolutely, positively, lovely experience. Not only can it be considered play time, but it’s time in which your brain is challenged, your focus is put to the test, your creative juices start flowing and you become an engineer, architect and artist all in one. Let’s face it – it’s super cool to build with Legos!

Legos Collage

And, of course, building Lego creations is something I cherish doing with my kids. We play music or put on a movie and dive into a world of discovery as we engineer our creations. Fortunately, both my boy and my girl love to play with Legos. I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of loving them. I sure hope my children continue to be inspired and excited by them as they grow up, because I love the creative process of Legos.

There’s not a negative thing about them – except maybe when you accidentally step on them! Or how the price racks up! But if you’re like me, you hold out for big sales, utilize coupons and scour places like Craigslist to get the most for your money.

Lego Collage

When I was younger I went through a phase in which I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. Oh yea, I even went to Space Academy when I was in middle school. Upon attending the week-long camp though, I promptly discovered that math and science were not my strong suit and that I much preferred to “act” like an astronaut rather than try to become a real one!  (I’ll save that story for another blog entry!) But I will always have a fascination with astronauts and all things that have to do with space.

So recently, when my kids and I hit up a big sale on Legos, I was drawn to the Space Shuttle. My girl, Mina, and I engineered the Lego Space Shuttle which had 65 pages of instructions to follow! And it wasn’t even one of the mac-daddy Lego creation options. You really do feel like a puzzle maker/scientist/architect/engineer while putting these Lego creations together. No wonder it’s such a sense of accomplishment to complete the task and view this hand-crafted master creation.

Our Lego Space Shuttle

In sharing my fascination and adoration of this engaging, super fun activity to do with your kids, your friends or even alone, I was inspired to do a little research on the history of Legos and the educational benefits. You guys, this Lego thing really is fantastic.

In January of 1958, a patent was filed that would change kids’ lives and family floors forever. 1958 is the year the Lego brick was born. Since then, over 400 billion Lego elements have been made (62 bricks for every person on the planet!), and approximately seven Lego sets are sold each second. Each second, ya’ll! Now that’s impressive! The cool thing is that today’s bricks still have the same physical design and can interlock with the bricks made 50 years ago. And they’re still just as popular among kids and adults alike. The Lego is now over 50 years old and is still rockin’ kids’ worlds.

Sawyer with his Lego Plane

Here’s a cool trivia fact for you to lock away in your amazing minds… straight from Wikipedia:

“The Lego Group began in the workshop of Ole Kirk Christiansen (born 7 April 1891), a carpenter from Billund, Denmark, who began making wooden toys in 1932. In 1934, his company came to be called “Lego,” from the Danish phrase “leg godt,” which means “play well.”

How appropriate is that!? “Play well.” I love it and I can certainly agree that Legos inspire others to play well. Combining fun and learning, Legos are a truly undeniable teaching tool that develop fine motor skills, patterning practice, problem solving, teamwork, three-dimensional thinking – which they say is a precursor to physics! – and my favorite, creativity and imagination. I’m telling ya, you just can’t lose with Legos!

All this being said, whether you have children or not, go pick out a box of Legos and dive into this fabulous world of fun and inspiration.  I just can’t imagine one not enjoying the process. And hey, as a Lego Lover, you (or your child or any special person in your life) are learning important skills that can be applied in the professional world. Tons of engineers, architects, scientists, artists, teachers, have translated a love of Lego to a career full of design.  Now what’s not to love about that?  I’d say it’s a lovely thing indeed.   😉

Chicken Gyros

By: Brady Evans 

Growing up in Orangeburg there weren’t many options for dining out. There was Duke’s Barbecue, a favorite but only open three days a week, and the House of Pizza, a family-run restaurant that served a combination of authentic Greek and Italian food.

GyroI don’t remember what I usually ordered but I know my mother always ordered a gyro sandwich. A debate into the true pronunciation of the meal always ensued. (I am firmly on the “hee-row” side.)

I don’t cook lamb here at home but I do enjoy a gyro sandwich knock-off.  This is a chicken gyro sandwich – a little easier to manage in your kitchen than tracking down lamb and cooking it traditionally.  I make my own homemade pita – you wouldn’t believe the difference between homemade and store bought, so if you are feeling ambitious give homemade a try!

Chicken Gyros (from Elly Says Opa)


  • 1.25 lbs. chicken pieces (I used breast this time)
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 heaping Tbsp. plain yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup tzatziki
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Sliced onions
  • Pitas


  1. IngredientsWhisk together the garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, oil, yogurt, and oregano in a bowl. Add the chicken and coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Preheat the broiler or grill.  Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides and then cook thoroughly, about 5 minutes per side. Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes before slicing into strips.
  3. Meanwhile, heat your pitas.  Top the pita with the chicken, tzatziki, tomatoes, onions. Roll up and eat!

I Could Get Used To This!

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

ElizabethMy next door neighbor and I go way back. I bought my house way, way back in 1993.  Now, statistically speaking, I should have moved a long time ago.  She should be long gone, too. In fact, everyone on my street with the exception of 4 should have moved on.  Why are we still here? I guess it’s the fact that we have a tree-lined street that doesn’t connect to a major artery of traffic, we can walk our kids to the elementary school, we’re in town and close to everything, and it’s comfortable. We all know each other. We meet outside and chat while the kids ride bikes. We have block parties. My next door neighbor and I have keys to each other’s houses. When we go out of town, she feeds our dog. We check her mail when she travels. I once came home to find her leaving my house with a roll of toilet paper. “Emergency borrowing,” I like to call it.

For ages, she’s been talking about her mother’s shrimp remoulade. I’ve heard about this dish so many times I can’t even count. She always talked about making it for us, for which I’ve eagerly awaited. When Neil and I went to New Orleans years ago, as soon as we arrived, we dropped our bags at the hotel and headed to the French Quarter. We ducked into the first little place we found and were seated in an interior courtyard for lunch. I ordered shrimp remoulade which was served over an avocado half. It was positively divine and ever since, I’ve been on a quest for that remoulade sauce. I’ve never Shrimpbeen able to duplicate it at home and no restaurant that serves “remoulade” ever comes close to the sauce I crave.

So guess what happened? On a lovely Saturday evening, my neighbor showed up at my door with her mama’s shrimp remoulade, roasted potatoes, asparagus and a bottle of white wine. Now, this is the kind of treatment I could get used to. All I had to do was set the table. And this famous remoulade? Touchdown!  THIS is the remoulade that I’ve coveted from that long ago trip to New Orleans. I mean, it is spot on!  Perfection. And, now I have the recipe. And, I’ve been given permission to share it with you. 

Mrs. Miner’s Shrimp Remoulade

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 Tbs chopped onion
  • 1 Tbs chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbs chopped celery
  • 2 Tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbs prepared horseradish
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Dash of hot sauce (like Tabasco)
  • ¼ cup salad oil
  • 1 Tbs vinegar
  • ½ tsp Worchestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate.  Best if allowed to chill overnight for flavors to marry. Top a bed of lettuce with boiled shrimp and drizzle with sauce. 

This is a fantastic dish for a luncheon, brunch, shower or for a cool dish on a hot summer night, like we had. This is the sauce that is perfect on a Po’ Boy as well. And, I’ll say it again: I could really get used to having friends just show up at my house with a complete meal. Especially when it’s something this special and satisfies one of my age-old recipe quests! I hope you’ll try it and love it as much as we do.

Elizabeth Akre writes the blog Gastronomy (by a Wanna-be Chef).

SC Mission 2013

 By: Katie Austin

This August, at the State Fairgrounds, there will be a great opportunity to give back to the community. No, the fair isn’t back in town. This is something even better. Yes, even better than fair food and rides. The SC Mission 2013 is back and you won’t want to miss this volunteering opportunity!

SC Mission

The SC Mission first came to Columbia back in the summer of 2011. The event, which is sponsored by the United Way, brings together doctors, nurses, medical professionals, and many non-clinical volunteers for two days to provide medical, dental, eye and mammogram services to the public for FREE. Yes, you read correctly – FREE!  If you are reading this and need these services for yourself or family, you need to plan to be there!

Why do I keep coming back each year to volunteer?  Because the easiest thing we can donate is our time and to do so while making a difference is priceless.  This event needs volunteers (clinical and non-clinical) to bring these needed services to the public. When I volunteered back in 2011, I had no idea that my life would be forever changed. You can read about my experience here.

I hope that after reading my blog post that you want to get involved, too!  Okay, so who’s with me to volunteer for SC Mission 2013?!  (Insert loud cheering and many voices saying “I am!”)  There is still time to volunteer. I have provided registration links below, as well as a link to the SC Mission page to learn more about this event. If you go to register and there are no spots available, keep checking back as plans change and volunteers have to give their spot back.

Remember – it’s not what we have in life that makes a difference. It’s how we make a difference in life 🙂

If you have questions or want to share your past SC Mission experience, post it here.  After you participate, come back and share your story with us. We would love to hear all about it!

God bless each of you and wishing you a wonderful day!


Clinical volunteer registration:

Non-clinical volunteer registration:

SC Mission page: