Field Trip: Cooking up a storm at the Culinary Arts Center

Recently I attended a cooking class at the Culinary Arts Center at Hilton Head Health. The CAC facilities were totally renovated in 2011 into a larger space with top of the line EVERYTHING. Hilton Head Health has been in existence over 35 years, helping those struggling with weight issues AND individuals (and groups) who would like to focus on a healthy lifestyle. By addressing the mind-body connection between weight loss, fitness, nutrition and overall well being they supply the tools to sustain a healthy weight-loss. They were featured on the A&E weight loss docudrama, HEAVY.

This is the classroom. Each station has a professional range, sink and even pot fillers. At front is the huge stone “island” demonstration area – large monitors make following along with the chef easy. Photo courtesy of the Culinary Arts Center, Hilton Head Health.

But my afternoon there was all about cooking and seafood. As part of a post that I am writing for my other blog (Hilton Head Foodie Vibe) I was invited to attend the “Seafood 101” participatory class. Led by Chef Jen Welper the packed class began by getting some basic instructions and information about the ingredients we were going to use. We were given a packet of recipes for sauces or marinades plus instructions for cooking methods for fish fillets, shrimp, and scallops.

We then paired up with a partner. Mine was Marie, who was on a 3-day getaway program – a gift of her husband. Nice husband! She was bubbly and friendly and we hit it off from the start. I will state that I had thought to myself, “Okay, I know how to cook seafood so I’m wondering what I can learn here?”

Well, I learned how to quickly “press” garlic cloves without using a garlic press the professional way. Also a great way to let some aggression by slamming your lower palm down on a chef’s knife that is pressed flat on a garlic clove. Then just mince a little – so easy.

The snapper was pan seared and then surrounded by a pool of sesame ginger marinade.

I learned that shrimp can be crunchy and delicious by baking in an oven and that one of my favorite restaurant appetizers, Bang-Bang shrimp, was super easy to make at home. While I do not have step-by-step instructions for the “Bang Bang Shrimp”, I am offering up the recipe, courtesy of the Culinary Arts Center, below. It is a straight-forward recipe with two parts – the sauce and the shrimp. You can make the sauce earlier and simply warm it before tossing with the shrimp too.

The other two recipes we made were a sesame ginger marinade (which we used as a sauce) for a mild, pan seared snapper fillet and shrimp scampi, where we were able to use that garlic smashing technique. With the onset of the local shrimp season and plenty of fresh local fish I’ll be preparing those recipes in the future with step-by-step images and instructions.

Shrimp scampi: garlicky, lemony, tasty!

The cooking classes and demonstrations at the Culinary Arts Center are open to everyone – you do not have to be enrolled in a program at Hilton Head Health. So if you are interested in visiting the Hilton Head area and would like to include some learn’in (and cooking fun) while you’re on vacation, check it out.

Bang Bang Shrimp

Culinary Arts Center at Hilton Head Health

Bang Bang Sauce:

  • ½ cup orange marmalade
  • ¼ cup sweet chili glaze
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ tsp. Red pepper flakes
  • Panko shrimp (below)

Preheat a medium saucepan. Mix all ingredients (except the shrimp) in the saucepan until sauce is well mixed and warm. Toss in the cooked hot panko shrimp until coated. Note: we served our sauce on the side. Serve immediately.

Panko Shrimp:

  • 6 shrimp per person peeled, deveined (21/25s size)
  • ½ cup Panko Bread crumbs (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • ¼ cup Egg Beaters or just egg whites
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In one bowl place Panko crumbs, pepper and salt. Mix lightly. In a separate bowl place Egg Beaters. Dip each shrimp in Egg Beaters, then toss each shrimp in the Panko crumbs. Spray baking sheet or pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place shrimp on baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss with Bang Bang sauce and serve!

Field Trip: Fly away with me to the Coastal Discovery Museum

The flower of the Passion Fruit Vine (Passiflora incarnata), known locally as Maypop, is at once both strikingly unusual and lovely. The vines grow wild all around the Lowcountry and butterflies love them!

On Hilton Head Island, just a quick 45-minute drive from my home, is the Coastal Discovery Museum. The museum has been in existence for many years, having lived sort of a gypsy life moving from location to location until 2007 when it found a permanent home on the grounds of town-owned Honey Horn Plantation.

Honey Horn was a real, working plantation and while most folks around here sort of wince these days at the word, “plantation”, it denotes a time and a place that I think for all the right reasons we should not forget. As George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Remembering the past, good and bad, can be cathartic especially when it leads to a learning experience applicable to the present and the future.

This fellow was kind enough to be still while I took his picture.

However, this visit to Honey Horn centers on the Coastal Discovery Museum and specifically the butterfly enclosure. It’s hatching time right now and if you find yourself in the area it’s worth a stop to catch the monarchs and other species in various stages of their lifecycle. The enclosure is surrounded by lots of pretty butterfly and bee loving plants too. It’s a serene way to spend a half hour and it’s free*.

The thoughtful folks at the museum have a nice little set up to encounter butterfly eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalis. And if you are lucky, witness a chrysalis evolve into an adult butterfly -as I did!

While you’re there, be sure to check out inside the museum – you can self-tour in about another 45 minutes. There are very good exhibits on the history of the Island and surrounding Lowcountry including the Native Islanders or Gullah. For the planners, there are also set talks and walks covering subjects like The Civil War era on the Island, a salt marsh discovery (wonderful for kids new to the Lowcountry environment) and special programs/events happening throughout the year. The Evening Turtle Talk & Walk off-site at the beach would be of particular interest to our family.

The Magnolia flower…in bloom now in the Lowcountry… need I say more?

For instance, last weekend was the annual Kiwanis Rib Burn Off. I was invited to be a judge and jumped at the chance – it was both educational and delicious! After sampling all those rib and barbeque entries (professional and amateur) I realized two things – I love barbeque more than ever and I need to work on my own barbeque recipes. Inspiration is a wonderful thing!

Inside the museum there are goodies for sale (of course I found those!) and informative exhibits about the local history including the Gullah or native Islanders. They also have special exhibits that change throughout the year- including sculpture, paintings, high-end crafts and last I visited – some very nice photography.

The Coastal Discovery Museum also has a child and parent friendly ‘kid zone’ set aside for learning about the history and natural history of the island. It is set up for interaction so hands-on is not only okay but encouraged. They even offer  scavenger hunts that allows children, with a scavenger hunt guide, to explore Historic Honey Horn and find

The cottage-style main building of the museum is a nice, cool respite from a warm Lowcountry summer afternoon.
Photo: Discover South Carolina.

items related to the cultural heritage and natural history of the property. As my 4-year old says, “very cool”! No doubt we’ll be making another visit to the CDM very soon – hope to see you there!

*While the museum and its attraction are technically free, they do kindly ask for donations.