Grilled Venison Tenderloin Dinner with Friends

Fess Parker's lovely 08 Ashley's pinot noir

We had a wonderful evening last night! I got to dine on a wonderful venison tenderloins (thanks Nate!) and enjoy the company of some lovely folks.


Dinner prep included cutting watermelon into chunks, removing seeds, and mixing that with crumbled Feta cheese, oil curied organic olives. To serve I plated mixed spring greens and lightly dressed them with a purchased Greek Dressing, then topped that with the watermelon, feta and olive mix.


I marinated the venison for 24 hours in organic, sulfite free red wine and lots of garlic. Prior to grilling, I wrapped the venison in organic bacon.


The eggplant and zucchini (thanks again Nate!) were sliced and “sweated” prior to grilling, then brushed with EVO, and sprinkled with organic Basil and Oregano.


I “created” the chocolate sauce in a make it as I go style (typical of me). I melted approx 1/4 c butter and added 1/3 c + 3 tbsp sugar. Then added 1/3 c cocoa mixed it in and then added approx 1 tbsp water. When this was all smooth, I removed it from the heat and added approx 1/4 cream; and 1/4 c half and half. I removed it from the heat, put in a sauce boat to chill in the fridge. We mixed it and then poured / spooned it over ice cream.



Charleston Artisan Cheese, Manchago Cheese, Grana Prada and Crackers accompanied with Frosty Margaritas


Watermelon, Feta, Cured Olive Salad on mixed greens

Pied Blanc 2009 Monterey Chardonnay


Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Venison Tenderloin

Herbed Oven Roasted Potatoes

Herbed Grilled Eggplant and Zucchinni

2008 Ashley’s Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills


Homemade Blueberry Ice Cream with Housemade Chocolate Sauce



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Cheryl’s Pasta Carbonara


The other night I wanted to make a satisfying supper but didn’t have time to stand at the stove. I made this long-time favorite of mine. This is a rich and filling dish, and if you are counting fat grams, you may want to change it up and use reduced fat products or turkey bacon, or even soy bacon.

However, a little indulgence once in a while probably won’t hurt you, as long as you don’t do it every day!

When I made this, I tested Land ‘O Lakes Soft Butter with Canola Oil and found I really liked it.


Pasta Carbonara

Serves 2-4; depending on portion sizes


10 oz. dried pasta, cooked al dente, drained and kept warm (use linguine or fettuccini)

1 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. olive oil

½ large sweet onion, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, minced finely

1 cup fresh sweet peas, hulled (or petite sweet peas, frozen)

4 oz of cooked, crumbled bacon

½-¾ cup half and half (less if you like a thicker sauce, more for thinner sauce)

1 egg yolk

½-¾c up grated parmesan cheese (depending your cheese preference, you can use more or less)

Kosher salt & freshly grated black pepper

Over medium high heat, put butter and olive oil into large non-stick sauté pan and heat until the butter melts. Add chopped onions and garlic and “sweat” until the onions are translucent. Add the peas and the bacon to the onions and garlic. Stir well.

Turn heat down to low, and remove pan from heat. Wait for pan to cool a bit. After it’s cooled, slowly add the half and half and stir well to warm. (If you do this too hot, you can curdle it.) Then add the egg yolk and stir all together. Put pan back on low heat, stirring to warm. Bring heat up gradually so the sauce is warm, but not boiling! Do not boil.

When heated through, stir in cheese, making sure it down not stick to the bottom of the pan.

Portion out your pasta into pasta bowls, and spoon carbonara sauce over the pasta. Top with freshly grated black pepper to taste adding salt if you need it.


Because I was not thinking ahead when I made this dinner, I did not photograph each step. Thanks to Flickr Creative Commons user whitneyinchicago whose photograph of pasta carbonara resembles mine.

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They Raced After Dinner

You can work and make a great dinner

If people believe it’s not possible to work until 5:00 p.m. and then have guests at your home for dinner at 6 p.m. and only have an hour in the kitchen for prep, I can tell you it is indeed possible!

Prep time! All in the Planning

I stopped work at 5 p.m., went into the kitchen:

  • got out the chicken breasts from the freezer
  • put them into the microwave to partially defrost
  • mixed up the Bruschetta Topping
  • sliced the baguette, brushed with olive oil and garlic and put in the oven to toast
  • chopped the veggies for the rice pilaf and put them on to cook
  • rinsed the salad greens and wrapped them in a tea towel and placed them in the fridge to chill until needed.

Then I chilled the Chardonnay and poured myself a glass Cabernet, sat down at 5:50 p.m. and cooled my heels until our guests arrived.

Janet and Brock arrived a bit later which was fine with me. We’d told them that unlike this blog’s title, Dress4Dinner, we are Casual for Dinner on both arrival time and dress.

Happy hour first

When they arrived, we started chatting and Bill got drinks. The “boys” each had hard liquor and Janet and I enjoyed glasses of wine while we caught each other up on the week’s events.

After about 45 minutes, we sat down at the table (and I forgot to designate that Bill photograph our plates so there are no images of our lovely dinners or our guests enjoying dinner.) Our conversations ranged from family to business to leisure topics.

When Harry Meet Sally Redux

I do wish I’d had an audio recording for our groans of pleasure over the glory of our dinner. For a quick dinner, this is one that I’m putting on my list of best dinners I’ve ever prepared.

While I had seared the chicken to get a nice color on it, I had turned it to the lowest heat setting to cook every so slowly, glazing it with the Orange Rosemary Sauce about 5 minutes prior to servicing. This very slow cooking, and the partial defrost led to a chicken that while completely cooked through, was juicy, tender and so incredible. To plate, the chicken was placed akimbo, with thicker end atop a mound of rice, with the salad on the plate rather than on a separate salad plate.

The Orange Raisin Rice Pilaf was packed with flavor and the raisins gave it a touch of sweetness that married well with the celery and onions in it.

We discovered that Janet’s favorite ice cream is strawberry! So she was very happy with the dinner we prepared.

Racing after dinner is just right

"Two Lovers" was a great chick flick to watch after dinner with my client and friend.

"Two Lovers" was a great chick flick to watch after dinner with my client and friend.

After dinner, we adjourned from the table and the “boys” went in to give Bill’s racing rig a try. All I can say is that I thought my two sons were living here again, because the whoops of boyish delight and sound of cars that came from that room of the house left no doubt that the guys were enjoying a bit of racing.

Janet and I decided to watch a movie. We selected “Two Lovers” and quickly settled in to enjoy that.

Normally, we don’t end a dinner with this type of activity, but all I can say is that it too was perfect for the evening. After they finished racing, the guys, returned to the living room, grinning from ear to ear with the shared delight of racing imaginary cars around a virtual track.

After the movie, Bill and Brock picked up their guitars to play a couple of songs together. Brock is an excellent guitarist who plays in a Rolling Stones cover band. We has so much fun singing those two songs and Brock just fell right into the songs. There is definitely going to be another dinner with the two of them as entertainment before and after dinner.

The next morning, Bill woke up and after a good morning, he exclaimed, “That was the most fun I’ve had at dinner!” Enough said!

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Menu for Our Dinner for Clients


Bruschetta with Olives


Herb Parmesan Crumb Crusted Chicken Breast

Glazed with Orange Rosemary Sauce

Orange Raisin Rice Pilaf

Salad Mixed Greens

Dressed with Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Sherry Vinegar

Mariana Vineyard 2008 Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands


Bill’s Best Strawberry Ice Cream

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Planning Our Dinner for Clients

Because I really don’t care to spend all my time in the kitchen when I entertain, I frequently plan dinners where the items have a lot of flavor, but don’t take that long to prepare, cook or bring to the table.

I knew that inviting guests for a Friday night dinner after a long work-week would mean I’d need to plan ahead.

A week prior to our dinner, my friend Shirlie invited me to go with her to a new shop in Mt. Pleasant. Oil and Vinegar is a wonderful find. The local franchise owned by Mark & Kristi Samber, is a resource for home cooks.

Mark and Kristi Samber Proprietors of Oil & Vinegar in Towne Centre Mt. Pleasant, SC

Mark and Kristi Samber Proprietors of Oil & Vinegar in Towne Centre Mt. Pleasant, SC

They offer a large variety of oils and vinegars available by measure in glass containers that they sell. When you’ve emptied your container, you return with it to the store for a refill, saving the cost of disposable packaging and helping the environment just a tiny bit.

At Oil and Vinegar they also sell many imported specialty food items, such as dehydrated bruschetta mix, sweet nut butters, remoulades, and beautiful platters, bowls, dishes and more.

The Oil and Vinegar website says it really well:

Oil &Vinegar “culinary gift shop” concept brings together a wide range of international food and cooking products in alluring, Mediterranean-style surroundings. Our mission is to be the consumers’ first choice when looking for a unique and “tasteful” gift for any occasion. The focus is not only on the attractiveness of the gift, but ultimately its flavor and ability to accent both the palate and table.

Our product lines and everything we do at Oil & Vinegar reflect our focus – being “PASSIONATE ABOUT TASTE”.

When I shopped there, I got a wonderful organic EVO, a bruschetta mix with olives, an orange rosemary sauce and a sherry vinegar.

I planned our dinner around these ingredients.

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Dinner for Clients

Would you entertain clients at your home?

Would you entertain clients at your home for dinner? We did with wonderful results.

When you work closely with people on projects important to them, you learn so much about them, their lives and their family. Often, at the end of a project, I find I’ve made a new friend. This is exactly what happened with a couple of clients recently.

There are pros and cons to becoming friends with clients, but generally, I’ve only experienced the positives.

At the end of a website re-design for a professional services firm, my business partner Bill (who is also my husband) and I realized that we wanted to say thank you to our very special client and her husband.

Having been to dinner with them at the start of their project, we knew we were all compatible. We knew that Bill and Brock shared a passion for playing guitar and for sim racing and Janet and I both enjoyed books, discussing theology and watching old movies.

So, without any hesitation, we invited them to join us for dinner on a Friday night.

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A Dream Dress4Dinner

When D4D began, I am sure we had in the back of our minds some cinematically-inspired vision of that ideal dress for dinner event. You know, the kind of perfection only attainable through the expertise of a team of set designers, cinematographers, costume designers, etc.

If someone had given me the assignment to be Director of this dream event, it might go something like this:

Place: Our 3-story brownstone townhouse in New York City, say Chelsea, or maybe the edgier Lower East Side. For the big event, we’ll have all the furnture cleared out (put-who-knows-where, but hey, it’s a dream) so we can set up a collection of different-sized tables to seat about 85 people, taking over 1 1/2 floors of the townhouse.

Time: A cold, dark December night, with all the warmth generated by the good cheer, the heat of cooking, and the candles everywhere, with each flicker of candlelight multiplying off every piece of crystal and silver in the rooms.

Cast: Andra and I, of course, as the hosts: me, all in black (obviously) and Andra in her opera cape with some wild tights poking out below and some killer shoes. A world-class chef and kitchen team to prepare the meal and attend to the tables. And a guest list filled out with long-standing friends, newly-met table companions with interesting conversational topics, and everyone decked-out in fashionable but not ostentatious clothing.

Action: A seven-course meal with perfect wine pairings and a delectable range of flavors, textures, and aromas, all brought forth in a manner that feasts the eyes as much as the palate. Amazing experiences shared in conversation at each table, with a collective denoument celebration to highlight the end of the dinner, and to set up the more intimate discussions as the event eases to a close.


Sometimes dreams do come true, but usually they end up very different than the way you dreamt them….

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Hot Curried Crab Dip or Spread

This savory dip or spread is best served on toasted, baguette slices or in pastry shells made from phyllo pastry. Those are available in the freezer at your grocery or local bakery.

I’ve had this recipe since 1977 and it’s always a hit with the crowd. I usually double this recipe and I always add more curry powder and sometimes, more cheese.

Hot Curried Crab Dip

Hot Curried Crab Dip

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

8 ounces of crab (or 1 can of King crab)

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1/3 teaspoon curry powder (I like 3/4 teaspoon)

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

pinch cayenne pepper

1/2 medium onion, minced fine

1/3 Bell pepper (green pepper), minced fine

Mix all ingredients the night before and put in refrigerator. When ready to bake, place oven-proof casserole with mixed dip into a 350 degree F oven until hot and bubbly.

Serve hot. One recipe serves 12.

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Sausage Pinwheels

Hot from the Oven, Sausage Pinwheels

Our Vintage Cocktail Party featured an array of hors d’oeuvres that might have been served at a party in the 1960s.

I know for a fact this these were one of the most popular hors d’oeuvres served in my small hometown. In our household, these were our annual Christmas morning snack while opening gifts. The aroma of them baking brings it all back to me!

Sausage pinwheels were a staple at many of the parties given by hostesses in Anderson. They were the favorite item we served at our Cocktail Party.

A quick search on the internet finds many recipes for sausage pinwheels and many images of them.

The recipe is more a method than recipe. You need 1 lb. (a pound) of good, lean bulk breakfast sausage: hot, mild, herbed or not. Your choice on that. Then you need a batch of biscuit dough. I make my own homemade dough. I would not recommend that you use canned biscuit dough—it doesn’t have the same taste or flavor. You probably could use a biscuit mix, but basic biscuits are very easy:


2 1/2 cups Southern Self-Rising Flour (I prefer Adluh but you can use Martha White)

5 Tablespoons Crisco Shortening

2/3 to 3/4 cup of whole milk (do not use low fat milk!)

Cut shortening into the flour until it is the size of small peas. Then add the milk in stages mixing gently with a wooden spoon until the milk is incorporated. Continue until you have a ball of dough. Use more milk as necessary to create dough or more flour to thicken. Measuring is really not terribly important! You want a moist dough and you don’t want to handle the dough more than necessary.Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill it in the freezer until your sausage is at the right temperature and you are ready to assemble the roll.

Assemble the Sausage Roll

Remove the sausage from the refrigerator an hour or so before you expect to make the sausage roll. You want the sausage to be pliable so you can pat it onto the biscuit dough.

Dampen a counter with water and lay two long sheets of waxed paper atop the dampened counter. The moisture on the counter will help prevent it sliding while you roll the dough out. Scatter a good handful of flour (maybe 1/2 cup if you need a measurement) on the surface of the waxed paper. You want to be sure the dough doesn’t stick to the waxed paper! More flour is better than not enough!

Shape your chilled dough into a snake then roll out until it is a long rectangle or close to that. It needs to be between 1/2” – 1/4” thick.

Unwrap your sausage and pinch off bits of it, flattening it into the dough and gently smearing it out on the dough. When this is complete, lift the long edge of the waxed paper and begin to roll up the sausage roll—just like a jelly roll. When finished rolling it up, shape the length of it by smoothing your hands along the length of the roll. Wrap the roll in waxed paper, then in aluminum foil. you will have a roll that is about 24 inches long. Put this in the refrigerator to chill until you are ready to slice and bake.

To slice use a very sharp knife. You’ll probably have to wipe the knife off between each slice. Cut slices about 1/2” thick. Lay them on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees F.

Serve hot.

This video I made from the photos Bill took, shows the process after you have the dough rolled out and the sausage spread on the dough.

(PS—I know most things on this blog are more serious, but I couldn’t resist making a silly opening and using the fun music.)

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Seasonal, Native, Wild and Green

Go native when making arrangements for your party!

December is a wonderful time to host a party in most anyplace. However, in the Charleston, South Carolina area, I think it’s one of the best options. Our Fall comes late and it’s usually very easy to find red leaves to augment our lovely evergreens. In planning my decorations, I expected to use the natives on our small marsh island. I knew I wanted to create two very large arrangements for the stairwell landings up to our front door as well as small arrangements to place in the washrooms, making them a bit dressed up. For the large arrangements, my containers were some faux stone planters that we had on hand. So with my game plan sketched in my mind, out I went on Saturday, midday to gather greens.

Magnolias and More

The most familiar evergreens from the South are magnolia grandiflora or Southern Magnolia. They make great structure for an arrangement because of their lovely glossy green leaves. My floral plan included both magnolia leaves and branches of our Southern Red Cedar. Cedar’s fragrant wood is familiar to many, and it is frequently grown or used for Christmas trees, but be sure to wear gloves when picking or cutting, because the branches are a bit prickly.

Small Sabal Palmettos grow in the wooded areas near the marsh on our island. Their young fronds are perfect for “backing” in a large arrangement and give a lot of punch and texture. I love using them, winter, summer or fall!

We Must Have Color!

Yupon Holly and Bluebird

I couldn't find any Yupon Holly, but have included this image for you to see what I mean about the lovely red berries.

When I went out on Saturday looking for greenery, I was fortunate to find some incredible red Virginia Creeper to punch up the arrangements as well as some umbrella palms which were included for additional texture. More color was gained from some branches of American Holly that was full of berries. If I could have found any, I would have also included Ilex vomitoria or Yupon Holly because I adore the glassy surface of the red berries it sports, but there was none to be found.

The other texture addition that was part of my arrangements were the brown and green lengths of Salt Meadow Cordgrass. Because we’d not yet had a freeze, some of the cordgrass was still green and some was already brown. Cutting a few handfuls from random locations (not too much from any one place) provided me an airy vertical component that fleshed out the arrangement.

Foraging is Fun

What I love most about making arrangements like these is the fact that I get to go out and search for items to include. It’s like a treasure hunt! In my opinion, there is no need to spend money to purchase flowers unless you live in the city where there is no place for you to collect items. If you live in a subdivision, you most probably have some trees around and shrubbery as well. Using items from the side of the road is another favorite tip. You can even use sticks that you decorate.

So, when you plan arrangements for your next event, go foraging!

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