Pucker up for spring-time lemon squares

on the plate 1

So with this post southbyse.com has reached its 100th post. Honestly I had hoped to hit this mark a few months ago but c’est la vie. After pondering a few ideas of what this milestone post should be, I decided to throw out all ideas and just go with a favorite recipe. I am a lover of all things lemony and lemon squares are one of my favorite recipes because they are both forgiving and easy – so easy a kid can make them with just a little assistance. It’s hard to screw them up in other words, and well, they just plain taste great.

This recipe is an oldie from a fundraising cookbook from the “Medical University of SC Student’s Wives Organization” dated 1979 and given to me as a gift from one of the wives – I was 15. As antiquated as referring to the organization as a “wive’s” club is today, it does contain some really awesome recipes like pecan pick-ups, scalloped oysters, Sally Lunn bread and these lemon squares.

One can use plain all-purpose flour, however, in this version I decided to include sorghum and white whole wheat flours in the shortbread crust. If your diet is gluten-free I’d think lemon squares could be a great dessert-fit, since you could easily substitute gluten-free flour (or a combination of gluten-free flours to make a substitute for all-purpose) and the rest of the recipe would follow along just fine. I simply added the sorghum to try it out, as luckily my family has no gluten issue.

My only tips in making these is to not over bake, and slice after they have cooled – it’s easier that way.

The shortbread crust ingredients - I used white whole wheat flour and sorghum flour. The shortbread was light and not dry with a good (but not overwhelming) butter flavor.

The shortbread crust ingredients – I used white whole wheat flour and sorghum flour. The shortbread was light and not dry with a rich (but not overwhelming) butter flavor.

The shortbread crust goes together quickly - just press the dough into a 9 x 13 inch pan.

The shortbread crust goes together quickly – just press the dough into a 9 x 13 inch pan.

Here is that same crust baked and ready for the filling.

Here is that same crust baked and ready for the filling.

Girly Girl helped me with this recipe - she's a master at cracking eggs now.

Girly Girl helped me with this recipe – she’s a master at cracking eggs now.

Once you whisk the eggs some, just mix everything into the bowl. So easy.

Once you whisk the eggs some, just mix everything into the bowl. So easy.

Here's the fresh lemon juice and zest. I measured out a half cup of juice from the 2 large lemons I used.

Here’s the fresh lemon juice and zest. I measured out a half cup of juice from the 2 large lemons I used.

Pour the filling over the crust and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven 25 minutes.

Pour the filling over the crust and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven 25 minutes.

Here the pan of lemony goodness right out of the oven. I'll sprinkle with confectioner's sugar, allow to cool and cut into squares.

Here the pan of lemony goodness right out of the oven. I’ll sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar, allow to cool and cut into squares.

Lemon squares are good for travelin' and are a bake sale favorite! I like to serve them when tailgating but of course we've got 4 more months  before college football season cranks up...

Lemon squares are good for travelin’ and are a bake sale favorite! I like to serve them when tailgating but of course we’ve got 4 more months before college football season cranks up…

Lemon Squares

  • 1 ½ cup white whole wheat flour*
  • ½ cup sorghum flour*
  • ½ cup confectioners (powdered) sugar plus extra
  • 1 cup of butter, softened
  • Juice of 2 large lemons – plus zest from both
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tbl all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the first 4 ingredients (except the extra confectioners sugar) in a mixing bowl. Press this dough into an oiled 10 x 13 baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl whisk eggs lightly. In a separate bowl mix the sugar, flour and baking powder. Add this to the eggs and mix until very well combined, then stir in the lemon juice and zest.

Remove the shortbread from the oven and pour the lemon filling over the crust. Bake back in the preheated oven (350 degrees) for 25 minutes – until center has just cooked through – do not over bake!

Remove to a rack to cool. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar while warm and slice into squares after completely cooled. Makes approximately 30 lemon squares.

* You can also use 2 cups of regular all-purpose flour or try a combination of flours to see what you like best. This is one recipe that is very forgiving.

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Goodness knows… its Challah Bread

Challah bread

Today’s recipe is my family’s favorite bread, nudging out 1,2,3 Bread by a slice. I first came across Challah bread many years ago at Signe’s Bakery & Café on Hilton Head Island, SC. Signe Gardo makes many fine breads including a fantastic 8-Grain and during the holidays, a spectacular traditional Stollen with real marzipan – one of my other favorites! She is a veritable institution (36 years plus!) of breakfast and lunch deliciousness, so if you’re ever on Hilton Head Island, I highly recommend a stop here.

Challah is a rich, egg bread eaten on the Jewish Sabbath and Holidays. While I am not Jewish, I love to eat and make Challah bread. It is a fun bread to make with kids as the resulting loaf is pretty impressive (especially if you take the time to create the 4-braid loaf) and tastes great. Girly Girl could not stop eating this loaf, exclaiming, “Mommy it tastes even better today than it did yesterday!” Challah is wonderful plain, warm from the oven, apparently excellent the “next day”, and makes great French toast and bread pudding…it there’s any left for those purposes!

One can make the Challah with vegetable oil to remain Kosher, or as I did use Ghee. I’ve made the recipe both ways, this last time trying out the Ghee, which was given to me by my friend Greta over at the Herban Marketplace. Ghee is a clarified butter that is commonly used in south Asian cooking, has an amazingly long shelf life and requires no refrigeration. Ghee is a real epiphany if you enjoy the nutty richness of clarified butter and can buy an organic brand.

Replacing the vegetable oil in Challah actually makes the bread non-Kosher like I stated above, and this switcharoo means the Challah is now actually Brioche, for all intents and purposes. For any Francophiles out there; Yes, you can bake this dough in a fluted and flared tin and place a small ball of dough on top and voilà, you have classic Brioche à tête.

So today you’re getting a sort of a two-fer recipe. Hey, I’m all about value!

First thing make your starter - flour, yeast and water. So simple!

First thing make your starter – flour, yeast and water. So simple!

Allow the starter to rest - have a cup of coffee - the starter will be sort of gummy and thick. This means that the yeast is doing it's thing.

Allow the starter to rest – have a cup of coffee – the starter will be sort of gummy and thick. This means that the yeast is doing it’s thing.

Here are the other ingredients, including the Ghee.

Here are the other ingredients, including the Ghee.

Mix the eggs with the starter and the Ghee - all the 'wet' ingredients. You can use a mixer with a dough hook attachment or mix by hand.

Mix the eggs with the starter and the Ghee – all the ‘wet’ ingredients. You can use a mixer with a dough hook attachment or mix by hand.

Add in the dry ingredients. The KitchenAid mixer makes quick work of it. Mix it together well and then knead for a couple of minutes by hand if you like.

Add in the dry ingredients. The KitchenAid mixer makes quick work of it. Mix it together well and then knead for a couple of minutes by hand if you like.

This dough is a pleasure to work with if you enjoy kneading dough by hand. I think it is somewhat theraputic myself.

This dough is a pleasure to work with if you enjoy kneading dough by hand. I think it is somewhat theraputic myself.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and allow to sit in a warm place to rise. Here is the 'before' picture.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and allow to sit in a warm place to rise. Here is the ‘before’ picture.

Here is the dough after the rise.

Here is the dough after the rise.

Punch the dough down, separate into 4 evenly sized balls and then roll out into 4 evenly sized strands.

Punch the dough down, separate into 4 evenly sized balls and then roll out into 4 evenly sized strands.

Pinch the ends together to start.

Pinch the ends together to start.

Begin braiding the bread according to the instructions below.

Begin braiding the bread according to the instructions below.

The braided loaf ready for the glaze.

The braided loaf ready for the glaze.

Brush on the glaze and allow to rise again for about an hour.

Brush on the glaze and allow to rise again for about an hour.

Preheat your oven, brush more glaze on the risen bread and sprinkle with poppy seeds, if you like.

Preheat your oven, brush more glaze on the risen bread and sprinkle with poppy seeds, if you like.

Challah bread sliced

Bake the loaf in the preheated oven and remove to cool on a rack. Slice with a serrated knife or just pull apart. This bread is truly heavenly!

Challah Bread (or Brioche if using the Ghee)

Based on a recipe from King Arthur Flour

Quick Starter

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast 

(basically 1 pkg of yeast)

Dough

  • All of the starter
  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Ghee (or vegetable oil to remain Kosher)
  • 2 large eggs + 1 yolk (save 1 egg white for the wash, below)
  •  
  • Wash
  • 1 egg white
1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tbl water
  • poppy seeds (optional)

Make the starter by mixing 1 cup flour, 1 cup water and yeast together in a large bowl. Let the mixture sit for about 45 minutes.

Add the dough ingredients to the starter and mix and knead together — by hand, or with a mixer– until a smooth, supple dough is formed. I knead mine about 3 minutes after it has come together. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning it over once to coat it lightly with oil. Cover it and let it rise for about 60 minutes, or until it’s doubled in size.

Punch down the dough. Divide the dough into four pieces, and roll each into a snake about 18 inches long. On the lightly greased or parchment-lined sheet pan, braid a four-strand braid (see instructions below) or fashion a simpler three-strand braid.

NOTE: How To Make A Four-Strand Braid: Lay the strands side by side, and pinch them together at one end. For instruction purposes, think of the far left strand as #1, next is #2, then #3, and the far right is #4. Take the left-hand strand (#1) and move it to the right over strands #2 and #3, then tuck it back under strand #3. Take the right-hand strand (#4) and move it to the left over strands #3 and #1, then tuck it back under strand #1. Repeat this process until finished.

Make the wash by mixing together, in a small bowl, the reserved egg white, sugar, and water. Brush the loaf with this mixture, reserving some for a second wash. Cover the loaf with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it’s almost doubled in size.

Brush the loaf with the remaining egg wash (this will give the finished loaf a beautiful, shiny crust, as well as provide “glue” for the seeds), sprinkle with poppy seeds, if desired, and bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the Challah is lightly browned. Remove it from the oven, and cool completely before slicing.

Yield: 1 large loaf, about (16) 1-inch slices.

Blog Award: One Lovely Blog Award

You like me! You really like me! Well, Anne at Uni Homemaker does, so thanks Anne for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award! Made my day, yes sir’ree.

As a recipient of this nomination, I am required to:

  1. Thank the person who honored me with this award and post their link(s)
  2. Nominate 15 other blogs for this honor
  3. Tell readers 7 things about myself

Here are the 15 other blogs that I nominate for this award, in no particular order:

  1. remcooks.com
  2. acorninmykitchen
  3. rantingchef.com
  4. wordsandimagesbycynthia.com
  5. putneyfarm.com
  6. onceuponarecipe.wordpress.com
  7. Bucket List Publications
  8. cookingwithcorinna.wordpress.com
  9. Canadian Hiking Photography
  10. Homemade with a mess
  11. A Wee Bit of Cooking
  12. Food Glorious Food
  13. The Oven Mitt
  14. Two Spoons
  15. Simple Provisions

And, because I know you’re on the edge of your seat, here are 7 “things” about moi:

1. I have 3 sisters, all older and 1 brother, who is younger.

2. My favorite pie is blueberry with a double-crust straight up – no funky additions or flavors needed.

3. My husband and I married on New Year’s Eve in lovely Savannah, GA.

4. I can catch a trout (fly or spin), clean it and make a delicious pecan-crusted trout meunière…over a camp fire.

5. When I was 17 years old, I won the blue ribbon at the SC State Fair in the adult category for my apple pie.

6. I had my daughter and only child when I was 43… proving it’s never to late for dreams to come true.

7. Besides working in marketing and advertising on and off for over 20 years, I was also a floral designer for two.

Happiness is – a platter of homemade fried chicken!

Oh boy I hope this post will not come across as cliché. This has been my thought as I pondered posting my recipe for fried chicken. Yes, at the center of southbyse.com is the food and culture of the American south but do I really want to go there, straight to one of the most stereotypical southern foods of all time?

I don’t think of fried chicken in that way, but most of the world (if they ever come across it) probably does. No one would dare accuse me of being a food snob, however when it comes to a few of my most beloved favorites then I will gladly admit to being biased. This goes for seafood (especially shrimp), tomatoes, peaches and fried chicken.

I like my shrimp wild and local. I like my tomatoes ripened on the vine and local. I like my peaches to smell like peaches (not a vacuum bag) and if they sport a sticker it better be stamped ‘South Carolina’. And I like my fried chicken crisp, with the skin left on and local – preferably from my kitchen… or my Mama’s or someone else’s mama’s kitchen.

Yes, I have eaten fried chicken from the Colonel and even from neighborhood grocery stores over the years, but there has never been any purchased fried chicken to match the chicken that was fried in my (or my mom’s) own cast iron skillet. In childhood, we ate fried chicken about twice a month, maybe a little more during the winter and a little less in the summer. It was on the Sunday dinner (lunch) rotation along with pot roast, roast chicken, and ham. Sometimes we would have it during the week as well, with sides of fresh vegetables, rice or homemade potato salad.

Thinking about delicious homemade fried chicken makes my mouth water, much like the smell of smoking barbeque pork, and it conjures up warm feelings and memories that I associate with that food. Dreaming about biting into that first taste of crispy, juicy chicken transports me back to my Mom’s small kitchen in Columbia, SC, with my Dad watching a baseball game in the den and my mother hollering for my brother to “come in and get washed up, ‘cause dinner was fixin’ to be ready!” It makes me feel good inside…plus it’s just plain delicious.

Truthfully frying chicken can be somewhat messy – sticky chicken pieces, flour covered work surface and cleaning up that grease. If you’re doing it right, then hot oil will splatter across the range top. That fried oil odor may hang on for a while too. However, if you have a good ventilation fan it’s not much of a problem. Be sure to eject all small chicken and pets from the frying area– it can be hazardous for small ones. Used flour bags work great for tossing the chicken pieces and seasoned flour; it keeps any flour dispersion to a minimum too.

Unless I have some kind of insatiable craving for fried chicken, I’ll make it when there’s a crowd to feed – like a potluck picnic or wait for it…tailgating. Today’s tailgater may be expecting something grilled or perhaps smoked, but my traditional football tailgating spread must include fried chicken. Even if you’re traveling for the game, just pack the fresh, hot fried chicken tightly in an insulated container and you’re good. Heck better to serve cold homemade fried chicken than none at all – that would be sad, and probably bad luck. Make people happy… cook up some fried chicken!

I skipped showing the ingredients and mixing up the marinade but it’s a simple task. I highly recommend using homemade ranch dressing, i.e. I use Hidden Valley Ranch mix and fresh low fat buttermilk. Turn the chicken over a couple of times throughout the marinating time so each piece is soaked well.

Having the right equipment is important in frying chicken to ensure good results and safety too. Like the coal miner’s daughter Loretta Lynn (remember those commercials?) I prefer Wesson Oil for frying chicken. Leave ample space between the oil and the top of the pan, but you will need 1/2 inch of oil in the skillet.

I save my used flour bags for frying chicken. One of these bags will work great for 8-10 pieces of chicken, then you may need to use a “new” bag. The flour, salt and pepper goes into the bag.

I test my oil by throwing in a pinch of flour. If it sizzles it is ready for chicken. If it just sinks and/or slowly fizzles it’s not hot enough. If it’s smoking it is too hot so turn down the heat asap.

Here the first 2 pieces (breasts) go into the hot oil. You can see the frying in this image and that the oil is near the top of the pan, but not going over it. That would be incredibly dangerous so be careful. I find that when oil is 1/2 inch deep it is perfect for cooking half way up the largest chicken pieces – you only want to turn the chicken over once.

Here is the next batch and you can see the wing portion. I fry my wings down side first (so the wing tip is down) which allows more even cooking of this piece. If you do the opposite it is impossible to get the whole wing to lay flat and cook evenly.

Here you can see that blood is seeping up from the chicken. This is good – it means the chicken is almost ready to turn over to the other side. For large pieces like this breast, I let it go another two minutes or so after the blood appears before turning.

The chicken has been turned over and is just about ready for the platter!

I guess you can go home again, at least I can, with this meal! This is similar to a meal my own mother would serve when I was child: hot fried chicken, fresh steamed green beans with potatoes and homemade savory muffins.

Betsy’s Fried Chicken

  • 1 cut-up chicken (2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings or a combination of 8 pieces)
  • ½ cup buttermilk dressing, preferably homemade
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp. Grill Mates Montreal Chicken flavor seasoning
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour plus scant 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp. black pepper
  • Vegetable oil

Mix dressing, milk and Montreal chicken seasoning in a bowl. Wash and dry chicken pieces careful to not contaminate surfaces. Place chicken in a large container or resealable jumbo-size bag and pour the dressing mixture over. Be sure it coats all the chicken. Place in refrigerator to marinate at least 4 hours and up to 8 hours. You may want to flip the bag or mixture over a couple of times throughout this marinating time.

When ready to fry the chicken, prepare a paper towel covered platter and have tongs available. Take chicken out of the refrigerator and set aside. Heat oil in a deep, heavy frying pan, preferably a seasoned cast iron pan. Pour oil ½ inch deep (or deeper) just so that there is at least 1 inch of space between the oil and the top of the pan. This is very important in keeping the pan from overflowing.

In a large bag or shallow bowl, stir the flour with salt and pepper. Begin heating oil until it is very hot but not smoking. Test with a pinch of flour – if it sizzles immediately, then the oil is hot enough. Dredge 2 or 3 pieces of chicken in the flour mixture so they are well coated, shaking off any excess flour. Carefully lay each piece of chicken in the hot oil. Do not crowd the chicken in the pan.

The chicken will be ready to turn over in 5-8 minutes depending on which pieces you are frying. If blood is beginning to draw from the bone and you can see it, it is almost ready to turn over. Allow to fry a minute or two more and turn over. Fry on the other side and remove to the prepared platter. Allow the oil in the pan to reach the proper heat again before adding the next batch of chicken. Repeat & then eat!

Serves 4. Double or triple this recipe as desired.

Livin’ on grilling time with Moroccan-style chicken

I grill a lot. You may have noticed this by reading southbyse.com. It is just easy since we live in such a temperate climate here in the Lowcountry. I also like the fact that with the gas grill it’s an easy cleanup and we keep the heat out of the house, especially this time of year.

Grilled chicken is a family favorite, but it can get boring – it’s chicken after all. I’m always on the lookout for new recipes and I found a great one with this Moroccan chicken. It is based on a Bon Appetite recipe from 2003 and honestly, it is almost the same. Here are the few differences and tips I have incorporated after making this many, many times:

• The original recipe calls for only olive oil but I have found that using mostly canola oil (or safflower or grape oil) is better since olive oil has a lower burn temperature.

• I also like this with drumsticks and thighs as I find grilled chicken breasts seems to dry out – plus I like the rich flavor of ‘dark meat” chicken. Oh, thighs and legs are less expensive too.

• Use bone-in chicken not boneless. The bones add flavor and give the meat something to hang on to… boneless thighs tend shrink up to nothing. By the same measure I prefer leaving the skin on as it helps keep the meat moist and makes for a prettier presentation too with a nice grill-mark sear on the grill.

This grilled chicken is a superb entrée for a crowd and since should soak awhile, it’s mostly a do-ahead recipe. You can easily double or triple this recipe. If you want to go authentic Moroccan serve with a couscous salad, grilled eggplant and mint tea. Or go Southern-style with homemade potato salad, grilled zucchini squash and Vidalia onions and iced tea (or a fairly full-bodied Chardonnay or Saint-Véran Burgundy).

Ingredients include lots of spices, fresh citrus fruits and chicken, of course.

A close up of the pretty limes, oranges and lemon. Smells divine!

This is an easy recipe. the most time consuming part is getting all the ingredients together – here is everything but the sliced fruit in a bowl. Just mix it together.

Place the chicken pieces in the bag , add the marinade and the sliced fruit. Make sure the marinade is coating the chicken and place the closed bag ( or covered bowl) in the refrigerator. During the marinade time flip the bag over a time or two.

After marinating all day this is how the chicken looks. You can discard the fruit and excess marinade. Get your grill ready!

The chicken goes onto the grill. Be sure to watch it carefully as both the oil-infused marinade and the chicken itself can cause flare-ups and burning.

Another shot of the grilled chicken. Moist and flavorful!

Grilled Chicken, Moroccan-style

  • Chicken pieces: mixed thighs and drumsticks, 12 pieces in total. Do NOT use boneless.
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup canola oil (or safflower or grape oil)
  • 1/2 cup vinegar – mild such as rice wine vinegar
  • 2 oranges, 1 squeezed (reserve juice) and 1 sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 2 limes, sliced
  • 3 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 3 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. sugar (Demera or light brown)
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

Wash and dry chicken pieces and set aside. In a bowl mix the oils, vinegar, spices and salt. Add in the juice from 1 orange. Add sliced fruits. In a large zippered plastic bag or shallow container add chicken and pour the marinade and fruit over the chicken. Cover or secure the bag and place in the refrigerator to marinate at  8-12 hours. Turn the mixture over a few times throughout the marinating time.

Prepare your grill. When ready, sear chicken pieces on the grill, careful that they do not burn. Since the marinade contains a lot of oil (and if the skin is left on the chicken) it will easily catch on fire. Grill until cooked through. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Field Trip: mixing business with pleasure in Bluffton, SC

One of the small towns located close to where I reside, Beaufort, SC is Bluffton. Actually, Bluffton is not all that small as it ranks as the 5th largest ‘city’ in the state (by area), due to the incorporation of various annexations in the past dozen or so years.

The largest of these was the property known as Palmetto Bluff, previously a hunting property, now a development replete with Jack Nicklaus golf course, a spectacular Auberge Resort, multi-million dollar homes and it’s own little “town”. These fine folks also hold homage to all things deliciously Southern at their annual Music to your Mouth Festival held in November. It’s a literal bacchanalia of food, wine and southern-inspired artisans showcasing their work.

Of course, with the gorgeous setting overlooking the May River and sumptuous, tasty treats prepared by foodie celebrité chefs like Chris Hastings, Sean Brock, Craig Deihl, Steven Satterfield and Hugh Acheson one cannot go wrong just attending the Saturday Culinary Festival. I was lucky to be invited last year and write about the Culinary Festival as part of my other blog, Hilton Head Island Foodie Vibe. Fingers-crossed, I will be invited back this November. Whether I am or not, it remains the finest example of mixing business and pleasure that I have encountered.

There are actually a whole slew of events that make up the festival and one can surely carve a very nice foodie-centric getaway out of the week, if you are so inclined. Note that it is not a free affair – the cost is as they say, somewhat substantial, but where else can you actually strike up a conversation with that many accomplished chefs AND sample their best creations, all on the same day? This year I heard that there will be a bacon forest – are you kidding me? I must see (and nibble?) that!

To say that Palmetto Bluff is a “nice property” is an understatement. To give you an idea, it has received the AAA-5 Diamond award for the last 3 years, U.S. News & World Report ranked it as the #1 hotel in the entire U.S. this year, and Conde Nast Traveler named it the #3 best southern golf resort and #15 spa this year. While that is all well and good, I find that the best aspect of this place is that it actually fits into Bluffton.

This could be deemed peculiar since Blufftonians are known – and proud – to flaunt their ‘own state of mind’. Old Town Bluffton itself, is well, old… and rustic with paint peeling, un-manicured yards and even neighborly roosters crowing at dawn… and other, usual times too. The flora and fauna here can be wild and well, quite beautiful in it’s own overgrown and verdant way.

In Bluffton you can find a million-dollar home sitting contently next to a tiny, rusty tin-shingled cottage. When you belly up to the oyster table at the annual Rotary Oyster Roast don’t be surprised to find yourself standing between the CEO of the largest corporate business in the county and your car mechanic – both happily shucking and sucking down some briny May River beauties and discussing fishing for sea trout, college football and/or the stock market. No one really puts on any “airs” here – it’s that kind of town.

Bluffton is one of my favorite places in the Lowcountry. I did live there for a few years and while it has transformed in ways there are still some things that have not changed in literally years (or even decades). I find comfort in this – the positive changes which equate to growth and, hopefully, prosperity – and reassurance that the beautiful aspects of the town, the May River and the quirky, friendly people of Bluffton will remain that way.

Here’s to you Bluffton with my mixed bag of pictures taken over the last 12 months, maybe you’ll be enticed to give her a visit …

Chef Matt Jording of the Sage Room on Hilton Head prepared this dish: Parmesan and Crab Rissoto Cake, Bacon Buerre Blanc, Truffled Shiitake at the Culinary Showcase held during Music to Your Mouth 2011.

Gail Simmons of Food Network fame and local Chef and Food Network Star Contestant Orchid Paulmeier entertain the crowd up on the expansive demonstration stage at the Culinary Showcase.

The Culinary Showcase tent and artisan promenade light up the green lawns of Palmetto Bluff (that’s the May River beyond the live oak trees).

The Store is, well, a store that features vintage household items and real honest-to-goodness antiques. The centuries old building is in Old Town Bluffton on Calhoun Street.

Bluffton is also an art-town with many working artist studios and galleries located in renovated cottages in Old Town.

The May River and salt water estuaries (the marsh) are a place for play and work in Bluffton. Here are shrimp and fishing boat moored to a dock on the May. Also of note are the “pocket parks” the town is creating in the historic Old Town. Open to all, some have awesome views like this one.

There are several festivals in the Bluffton area (including Music to Your Mouth). The Bluffton Village Festival is in May, the Art & Seafood Festival in October and the totally unique Christmas Parade in December. Many merchants (including artists) offer their wares for sale – like this pretty painted furniture.

Live music is almost always on tap for Bluffton festivals . Check out the accordion! There was also a band member playing the wash board but he stepped out of the picture. Even the weekly Bluffton farmers market features live music.

A pretty clematis vine grows among the azalea bushes and honeysuckle at the pocket park.

Seven Oaks was constructed in 1850 and has been carefully restored in a manner typical of antebellum homes. It’s located near the end of Calhoun Street, close to the Church of the Cross and May River.