If you plan well and pay attention, travel should be exciting, relaxing, and informative.
What travel brochures fail to warn us is that it also is the ideal route to gain weight.
I should know. I packed more slacks and skirts than I care to admit for this two-month trip south and not one of them has the comfortable fit that they did when I left Toledo on Christmas Eve.
My intentions are always good. I try to rent a place with a kitchen so that I can prepare meals and avoid restaurant costs and calories. Even if there isn’t a full kitchen, most motel rooms are now furnished with a microwave oven and a small refrigerator, which is adequate if you truly want to prepare a meal in your room with frozen products.
But other than to re-heat leftovers from a restaurant meal I simply can’t stay in and cook. Right now I have four leftover coconut shrimp, a rack of ribs, and zucchini cakes.
My new eating-out plan is intended to curb weight gain. Because appetizers and desserts seem to be my main interest on restaurant menus, I limit most orders to those two courses. Luckily, I am still able to scout recipes
Two appetizers that were shared with other diners can easily be tried at home to serve at a casual gathering of friends. On the menu at Speakeasy in downtown Aiken, S.C., a high stack of chips, layered with bacon chips, scallions, and gorgonzola crumbles, is heated just enough to soften the cheese slightly. Blue cheese crumbles could be substituted.
Poutine, the stacked french fries appetizer at Manuel’s in North Augusta, Ga., was the saving grace of an otherwise disappointing and costly dinner. Like the layered chips, the french fries appetizer can be easily prepared. Hot from the fryer, french fries were layered with mushrooms, andouille sausage slices, bacon, garlic, and onion. The glue to hold it together was beef gravy nicely seasoned with mustard seeds that drizzled through the fries and other goodies.
During the annual Aiken visit I have excellent dining guides — Richard Enk and Gene Roach, who moved from Toledo to Aiken 13 years ago. I enjoy meeting them for Sunday brunch at the Willcox, a stately hotel that joins two identical historic mansions.
The creative menu guarantees to make brunch more interesting than the usual bacon and eggs or waffle. I chose the Sweet Potato Hash, a hot and colorful mixture of sweet potatoes, pastrami, baby kale, and red onion, topped with two poached eggs.
Before leaving Aiken, I stopped at Betsy’s On the Corner to thank owner Betsy Simons for contributing to my weight gain and to ask for her recipe for Triple Crown Pie.
I prefer to eat at the counter at Betsy’s as I do in most restaurants when I am alone. Betsy’s counter is lined with sweet temptations ranging from buttermilk and raspberry pies to four-layer cakes and brownies.
All of the sweets are baked by Betsy from scratch recipes after the restaurant closes in the evening. I have yet to have lunch or dinner there without adding pie or cake with ice cream.
Betsy named the rich chocolate pecan pie Triple Crown in recognition of Aiken’s popular Triple Crown that opens March 15 with seven thoroughbred races.
A close cousin to pecan pie, by any name it is well worth making and sharing with friends. Add whipped cream or ice cream. I do.
Triple Crown Pie
1 9-inch unbaked pie shell
4 eggs, beaten very well
1 cup sugar
¾ cup dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon bourbon
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat eggs until frothy. Mix in sugar,syrup, vanilla, bourbon, and salt.
Slowly add melted butter and mix it in thoroughly. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans.
Spoon into unbaked pie shell. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until it is soft, but be sure the center is set. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at: email@example.com
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