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Highs and Lows in Low Country

Last week we headed to low country for summer sun in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. As if we weren't getting enough with Boston's recent heat wave! Must be my New England stubbornness in bearing weather extremes that would make me want to trek into deeper Southern heat. I’ve always loved beaches but after experiencing more of them over the years, I’ve realized that what I actually love is the beach landscape, the feel of ocean waves and sinking sand, artists’ communities and lazy local cafes. What I don’t love is overwhelming commercialism such as when you see the same fast food joints and shops on every single block; watching people on the boardwalk fill up on cheap quality ice cream and deep fried messes like those monstrous blooming onions before heading to $10.99 all-you-can-eat buffets; or trying to find something special to buy for loved ones among endless rows of dreadfully gaudy trinket souvenirs. And that’s about 20 square miles of the same stuff, over and over and over. Guess I’m just not a boardwalk babe because I didn’t care much for Myrtle Beach’s business district that almost completely obscured its unique landscape. However, there were some local treasures that highlighted our trip:

The Franklin G. Burroughs/Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum. This small but newly renovated museum was located next to our hotel. We were lucky enough to catch a special exhibit of Gee’s Bend Quilts along with striking portrait photography of the Alabama quilters by Linda Day Clark. I loved the museum’s enclosed porch tearoom with homemade iced tea and chocolate chunk cookies laid out for visitors.

Brookgreen Gardens. Located in Murrells Inlet about 10 minutes away, this is an oasis from commercial Myrtle Beach with grounds landscaped to perfection and luxurious gardens (with plenty of huge oaks graced with Spanish moss for shade!). Their vast sculpture collection housed in three different small museums and scattered throughout the gardens gave me a new appreciation for bronze sculpture.

Drunken Jack’s Restaurant. Murrells Inlet is the place to be for seafood and we were glad to find this popular eatery with a friend’s recommendation. We were seated at a window that overlooked wild goats, white peacocks and ducks roaming around the inlet. My salad with boiled shrimp came with a generous serving of eight large meaty shrimp adorned with sunflower seeds. We also tried their special hushpuppies (cornbread balls), which tasted like deep fried munchkins. Dipped in a yummy sweet honey butter, just a couple made the perfect dessert!  

Surfside Flea Market. There were endless outlets and obnoxious shopping "experiences" like Broadway on the Beach, but this was a humble and traditional open air flea market where you could meet gracious locals and find truly great deals on everyday items. I picked up some hard to find spices, a few baking pans at a third of the usual cost, and a great leather belt. The nearby indoor Myrtle Beach Flea Market was larger and air-conditioned but filled with cheap quality items, not all of which were inexpensive. 

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the dragonflies! We saw them in Brookgreen Gardens hovering and darting in every direction. I'd never seen so many and in so many different colors: blue, red, purple...amazing! Yellow 


Got My Healthy Pizza

I recently posted about a summer Bertucci's pizza that wasn't as healthful as it appeared. Although I still wish for the convenience of a healthy restaurant pizza, I came up with a recipe that'll do until I find one! I used Bertucci's dough and their roasted tomato sauce to preserve a similar flavor but also added a few unusual ingredients: 1) Fiber One cereal ground fine and kneaded into the dough, which I promise you won't notice! (you could use whole wheat dough for fiber but I don't love its texture/taste as a pizza base) and 2) pumpkin puree added to the tomato sauce for a boost in nutrients and a thickened heartier sauce (thanks EatingWell for the great idea!). Brushing on olive oil instead of drizzling it on, and using reduced-fat cheese and sausage round out a really delicious restaurant-quality pizza. Without all the extra oil, you can taste the simple but wonderful flavors of each ingredient. This is by far my favorite homemade pizza recipe.


1 Bertucci's large pizza dough ($3.50 from their take-out)

1/3 cup Fiber One cereal ground in food processor until fine

1 T olive oil (optional)

*1 cup Bertucci's roasted tomato sauce (or your favorite pizza sauce)

1/2 cup pumpkin puree, canned or fresh

2 cups regular or baby spinach

4 basil leaves, chiffonade

4 oz chicken smoked sausage or turkey polska kielbasa, sliced thin

1/2 cup reduced-fat grated mozzarella or pizza cheese blend


  1. Preheat oven to 450 F.
  2. Knead Fiber One cereal into pizza dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough as thin as possible into a circular or rectanglar shape (it will rise and get puffy when baked). Line a pan with parchment paper and place dough on pan to bake for 8-10 minutes. (You can also use a pan sprayed with cooking spray but I like the easier cleanup with parchment.)
  3. Remove dough from oven and let rest a minute, and then brush top of dough with olive oil.
  4. Mix pumpkin puree into tomato sauce until well blended and spread evenly over dough.
  5. Layer baby spinach and basil evenly over dough. Then add turkey kielbasa and cheese.
  6. Bake pizza in oven for 10-12 minutes or until cheese is melted.

*The Bertucci's tomato sauce had at least an inch of oil sitting on top so I drained off some and didn't add extra olive oil to the dough. Not only was this sauce extremely oily but it's pricey at $4.99 for 1 1/2 cups; I'll use my own sauce next time. 


Superfruit or Superhype?

Darling of the moment: acai berriesIf someone asks me, "What's the best fruit to eat?" I respond with a most dull answer, "They're all good!" It's not what folks really want to hear. They're hoping to find a magic bite that will supply them with lifelong wellness and vitality, and since people have become more savvy to the dangers of supplements, food has come back into focus. Fruits and vegetables regularly pop up in news headlines with a link to preventing this disease or that ailment. Tufts University rated blueberries highest in antioxidant capacity out of 60 fruits and vegetables. The skins and seeds of red grapes with their dark pigments contain resveratrol, a powerful disease-fighting chemical. The Allium family of vegetables including onions and garlic contain odiferous plant compounds that have been found to play a role in supporting heart and stomach health as well as lowering blood sugar and preventing certain cancers. Maybe you've heard of ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity), which measures the antioxidant power of various foods, with spices and berries earning top scores. Antioxidants in theory are believed to stave off free radical damage. An excess of free radicals may promote certain diseases and quicken the aging process. However, it's important to know that this is only a theory that has been shown in laboratory research; it has yet to be demonstrated in humans.

What we do know is that fruits and vegetables contain not only antioxidants but thousands of types of phytochemicals (translation: plant chemicals). These chemicals occur naturally in plants to help protect them from diseases, insects and harsh climates. When we eat those plants, their phytochemicals appear to protect us from disease or even help fight existing disease. If you choose to eat only blueberries or acai juice or broccoli because they rank high on Top Ten lists, you miss out on thousands of other benefits in other plant foods. Good ole' oranges may not be as trendy as acai berries but they are a powerhouse of nutrients including vitamin C (an antioxidant), folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and at least five different kinds of phytochemicals. Like oranges, each fruit and vegetable has a unique architecture of nutrients that our bodies crave. This is why health experts recommend at least 3-5 servings of mixed produce a day, and more than 5 servings for even greater health benefits.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Fruits and Veggies Matter recipe page for great ideas on how to use an abundance of superfruits and superveggies every day.