Foodie Travels: Bantam Chef, Chesnee, SC

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Back in June, we decided to take a Gaffney/Chesnee foodie adventure. Part of my side of the family is from Union, South Carolina, so I’ve spent some time in the area traveling through. We found a restaurant decorated in 1950s memorabilia – an Elvis Presley mannequin, a 1950 Studebaker, tons of model cars, license plates, and classic black and white tile floors. It’s called the Bantam Chef and its burgers and offerings are well known in the area.

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I had heard of it because the owner’s brother owns a second Bantam Chef in Union, where my grandparents and dad used to eat when he was younger. They usually got food to go. I had never been to either restaurant location. So for me, it was a bit of a homage to my grandparents’ love for the hometown establishment.

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Matthew tried the Studebaker Cheeseburger and I tried a regular cheeseburger. And their fries were to die for! Here’s Matthew’s review of the burger at Bantam Chef. 🙂

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Easy Slow Cooker Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches

Philly Cheesesteak

How often do we find ourselves ordering a meal at a restaurant, but we don’t know how it’s made?
For Matthew, that doesn’t happen often, because he loves experimenting in the kitchen, learning how to make favorite dishes and exploring unconventional combinations.
Since we got married in January, we’ve tried a variety of new homemade foods in the kitchen.
Mozzarella cheese sticks was the first venture, and it flopped the first time because the recipe we followed left out a step. We learned just how important an egg mixture can be for holding together a recipe.
More recently, we attempted our first Slow Cooker Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches. Molly’s dad enjoys Philly Cheesesteak (and anything with meat, cheese and bread), and Molly experienced the glorious concoction of an authentic cheesesteak during a visit to Philadelphia several years ago.
Our first conundrum with the cheesesteak: what kind of steak?
Obviously not New York Strip.
Not T-bone either.
Apparently, there are several different options, including ribeye.
But how expensive do you want your sandwich to be? Especially when you’re planning to make dinner for five people?
And how do you slice a steak thin enough to get that authentic Philly style?
Must you visit an old-time meat market for such an ingredient?
With more questions than answers, we visited a place that appears to have all the answers: Walmart.
Matthew’s dad doesn’t like to set foot in the place, but we don’t mind it as a one-stop-shop for most everything you need.
We first needed to decide if we could find the meat needed for the cheesesteak, and we did. From several options, we chose a thin top sirloin. Despite Matthew’s concern of not having enough steak, two pounds made a full seven sandwiches.
With the big-ticket item (in price as well at $13, so don’t expect to make a cheap true Philly cheesesteak) out of the way, we easily progressed through the rest of our shopping list. Check out the ingredients list below for more.
You’ll also find out how we cooked our steak with ease, and we’ll offer a tip for what you might do to make a better Philly than we did.

Ingredients
1 package of meat (for us, 2 pounds of top sirloin yielded seven sandwiches)
Salt, pepper and seasoning to taste
1 package of cheese, our choice was provolone
1 green pepper
1/2 sweet onion
1 package of sandwich buns of your choice, with preference of sub style

Peppers and onions
Steps
1. Slice your steak, peppers and onions into thin strips. You’ll need a fairly sharp knife for the meat.
2. Season the steak with salt and pepper as desired. We included a few bouillon cubes and 2 cups of water in our slow cooker for an extra boost.
3. Our family was coming over for dinner on Friday night, just minutes after we planned to get home from a full day of work. So we wanted to make Philly cheesesteaks without having to do a lot of cooking in a short period of time. Enter the slow cooker. We cooked our meat the night before and all day that Friday in a low heat in the slow cooker. The meat was incredibly tender by the next evening, but it had also fallen apart a bit more than Matthew desired. You might slice your ingredients the night before and put them into storage containers in the fridge, then put them in the slow cooker before you head out to work for the day. You might get a tender-cooked meat without the pieces being so small. The recipe we found on Pinterest suggested cooking your meat six to seven hours.
4. Once your steak has cooked, divide it up evenly (or unevenly depending on appetites and diner preferences) onto your sandwich buns.
5. Cover your steak with the desired amount of cheese.
6. Stick your cheesesteaks on a pan and heat the buns and melt the cheese in the oven. We didn’t use the oven because we’re partial to our toaster oven. If you have a toaster oven, you might want to try the same method.
7. Serve up your cheesesteaks with any side you choose. We went with French fries.

Matthew’s Take: These sandwiches were much better than I expected, and they were honestly much easier than I expected. You won’t get out light on the cost, and you’ll notice that if you’re a cheapo like me. But you won’t have to do much cooking by using the slow-cooker method. After the meat and vegetables are sliced, you’re home free as long as you have the time to cook the meat. My sandwich was as good as any steak sandwich I’ve had at a restaurant. I usually find steak sandwiches to be tough and this was anything but tough, probably because the meat cooked for about nine hours. I give this recipe an A+ for taste, an A+ for ease of preparation and a B for cost. If you’re making it for a group of more than five, you’ll have to pay quite a bit to get enough true steak for a Philly.

Molly’s Take: I really liked these Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches. I think it would be interesting to try another type of steak to see how different it would be. I can say that no Philly Cheesesteak has compared to the one I actually got in Philly. But this one was pretty darn good and super easy. Putting it all in the crockpot and letting it cook and stay warm meant we didn’t have to worry about dinner that night. And my whole family loved them. All in all, it was a great choice. If you try them, let us know what you do differently! And how you like them! We hope you enjoy.

Old-Timey Brown Sugar Pie

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This is probably one of the first recipes Molly ever made when she started baking. Pies are her favorite, and this is one of her top three choices to bake anytime. (The other two, for reference, are her great-grandmother’s recipes for chocolate pie and sweet potato pie.)

There’s nothing more amazing than pulling this pie out of the oven, freshly baked, warm and perfect, then slicing it after it cools and having a warm, custard-y slice of brown sugar pie with a dash of whipped cream on top. This pie is sooo good, and it keeps for days, so you can rewarm slices of it and they just get better every time.

Many a morning, Molly had a slice of this pie for breakfast. If you’ve never heard of it, we’re not surprised. Matthew had never heard of a brown sugar pie until Molly told him about them. The recipe came from an old (possibly a hundred years old by now) cookbook that Molly’s great-grandmother owned. But just so you can envision its deliciousness, it’s similar in taste to a pecan pie, and in consistency, to an egg custard. Here’s how it’s made.

Ingredients:

1 cup corn syrup

1 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

1 stick butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Dash of salt

1 deep dish pie crust

Instructions:

IMG_33601) Put the syrup and brown sugar into your bowl and mix together with the three eggs.

2) Melt butter in the microwave. (Try not to make it super hot, but do try to melt most of it.)

3) Add the butter, vanilla and salt.

4) Prepare the pie crust by poking it all over with a fork.

5) Pour the mixture into the pie crust (trust us, you’ll need a deep dish pie crust) and bake in a 350-degree oven until it’s done in the middle. This usually takes about 35 minutes, but it can take longer. To prevent the edges of the pie crust from getting too brown, you can cover them with foil. We also suggest not cooking it too long, since the pie has a tendency to get sticky if you do.

6) Let it cool completely before slicing. (You might want to dip the knife in hot water and wipe it after each slice for a cleaner cut each time.)

Here’s a look at the mind-boggingly delicious, soft, sweet pie with a little piece cut out of it. (It’s messy, we know. We couldn’t wait til it cooled to slice into it.)

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Matthew’s take: What a delicious discovery this was for me. If you add pecans, it’s almost the same as a pecan pie. The brown sugar pie is more custard-like, so the filling consistency is a bit different. It also has a bit of a caramelized consistency to it, so be careful if you have concerns about sticky foods and your teeth. I would highly recommend trying it, the first time without any topping to get the full burst of flavor and texture, and a second time with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. If you’re like me, you’ll feel a tad more Southern after you have a piece of brown sugar pie. I give it an A+ for taste and a B for presentation. Like pecan pie, brown sugar and many chocolate pies aren’t the prettiest in the world. But who needs pretty when you’re eating a tasty pie anyways? 🙂

Molly’s take: If you’re looking to try something different, old-fashioned and unique, I definitely recommend this delicious, sweet pie. It’s got simple ingredients (I actually have the recipe memorized) and is something almost anyone will like. (Except my mom, who’s a chocaholic and refuses any offering not made with cocoa.) We hope you’ll give it a try. Be adventurous! You just might like it. 🙂

Family-Favorite Roasted Potatoes

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Potatoes are full of possibilities. You can bake them or cut them and make fries, wedges or homemade chips. You can shred them and make hash browns or mash them and make homemade mashed potatoes.

Matthew’s favorite way to prepare potatoes is to roast them in a stovetop pan.

It’s also a favorite of Molly’s mom, who requests the potatoes at nearly every family gathering.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can follow all of the steps until you put the potatoes in the pan and then mash the potatoes, add milk or cream and butter and have delicious homemade mashed potatoes.

This recipe can incorporate your favorite potato, Idaho, red or otherwise, and you can also bake the potatoes in the oven, instead of cooking them in a pan.

Ingredients

3 cups of peeled potatoes

a dash of salt, pepper and/or garlic salt, depending on your taste

a dash of olive oil

Step one:

Cut your potatoes. The smaller the potatoes, the faster they will cook in all stages of this recipe.

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Boil your potatoes in a pot on the stove until the potatoes are fork-tender. You can boil the potatoes in a microwave, but it will take much longer.

Step three:

Drain your potatoes in a colander or around your pot lid over a sink, being careful to keep your potatoes in the pot.

Step four:

Turn your burner to medium-high heat and put your potatoes in the pan on the stovetop. Cover your potatoes with a light coating of olive oil (or vegetable oil if that’s all you have). Top with a sprinkling of salt and pepper to your desired taste. Let your potatoes roast until you start to see sides browning, then take a spatula to mix the potatoes and move them to position them for browning on other sides.

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Reduce your heat to low and cover your pan with a lid to allow your potatoes to steam and thoroughly cook. You will get a slight browning on the potatoes while they are covered, too, but this part of the process is mostly to soften and moisten the potatoes after you’ve just browned them in the pan. The browning process can remove much of the moisture in the potatoes, and the roasting process with the lid on helps replace that moisture.

Step six:

Remove your potatoes from the pan. It’s not likely you’ll have much grease after roasting the potatoes. Enjoy!

Molly’s Take: We love this simple method of making roasted potatoes. They always come out hearty and flavorful and so versatile. One of my favorite things to do is have the potatoes for dinner with salmon or burgers or the like, then the next morning have them wrapped in a tortilla with cheese, your favorite breakfast meat, and maybe even a few onions. they’re delicious, inexpensive and a great addition to any meal. If you ever need a side dish that is filling, not bad for you, and tasty, these potatoes are your MVP. (Most Valuable Potatoes)

Matthew’s Take: Not only is this my favorite method of preparing potatoes, it’s my favorite way to eat potatoes. These go great with burgers, with salmon, with grilled chicken, with fried chicken tenders, with almost anything. If you cut the potatoes into small pieces, they’re a great breakfast potato, and they can even be used as leftovers in breakfast tacos or burritos. They pair great in a tortilla with eggs, bacon or sausage and cheese. These potatoes get an A+ for taste, an A+ for ease, an A for cost as a plain ole bag of potatoes isn’t usually expensive, and they get a B for presentation. You can jazz up the presentation by topping with a little light cheese or carefully ensuring you have the perfect browning on all sides. (You can do that by browning in the pan more than roasting with the lid on, but you may lose some of the moisture.) I hope you enjoy these potatoes as much as we do.

Simple Caramelized Peaches

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Fresh peaches are a sign of summer in the South, particularly in South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina.

Roadside stands are the resource of choice when possible, and those baskets of fruit can yield the most delicious cobblers, pies and baked goods you can imagine.

But you often get more peaches in a cheap bin than you can use in those oven-baked treats. So what do you do with the rest?

One of Matthew’s favorite things to do with fresh fruit that contains some natural juices is to caramelize it. The process draws out the natural sugars in the fruit and creates almost a sweet sauce that is delicious by itself, on top of another dessert element or with plain ole vanilla ice cream.

This recipe is a bit unconventional because there’s no need to really list ingredients or a process. Many recipes for caramelized fruits will suggest adding white or brown sugar to the pan. Some guides even suggest putting a little bit of olive oil in the pan to keep your fruit from sticking. Matthew doesn’t prefer the oil because it doesn’t benefit a sweet dish, and he doesn’t prefer adding sugar to the pan because it defeats the purpose of relying on and enjoying the natural sugars.

For fresh peaches that you have peeled yourself, it’s likely you have some juices in addition to the solid fruit, especially if your leftover fruit has had time to sit in the fridge for a few days.

How we made it:

Put your frying pan or skillet on your burner and give it medium-high to high heat.

Take a cup or two of fresh fruit, depending on how much you want to eat, and spread it out in your pan, being sure to include some of the juice. The key to having the juice is that it will help keep your fruit from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Still, like many things you cook in a stovetop pan, you’re less likely to deal with sticking if you’re using a newer, non-stick pan.

You have to achieve the right balance of letting your peaches sit to heat and caramelize and moving them around so they don’t stick. That balance can only be determined by your pan and your burner, along with how much juice you add to the pan. I would suggest a quarter cup of juice per cup of fruit.

Your fruit will almost become a light jelly or sauce, with the chunks of peach or fruit of choice still visible in good supply. That’s when you will know that your caramelization process is done.

As we said above, you can do many things with caramelized peaches and other fruits.

Matthew chose to use the fruit he made to top a graham cracker square in a bowl. Then he added a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Molly’s Take: I love this recipe because it does encourage creativity. Caramelizing the fruit, then topping it with whatever you like (ice cream, whipped cream, cookies, etc.) can be completely different every time, for whatever your taste buds desire. And when you use fresh South Carolina peaches, the juice, the consistency and the taste is just delicious. Mouth-watering, even. I love fruit with ice cream, and caramelizing it with vanilla bean ice cream is a delightful pairing.

Matthew’s Take: I’ve caramelized fruit many times, but peaches may be my favorite. They retain so much of their juice after peeling that they are perfect for cooking in a pan on the stove. They pair perfectly with a slightly sweet cookie and/or vanilla ice cream. I give this one an A+ for taste, an A for presentation, depending on your topping, an A for cost if peaches are readily available, and a B for ease. It takes some creativity to caramelize fruit because you can’t just follow an exact recipe and expect the same results every time.

Molly’s Three-Ingredient Homemade Biscuits

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Matthew’s grandma Quinn made delicious homemade biscuits. He can remember her spending long periods of time before meals mixing the ingredients by hand, cutting out the biscuits and baking them in the oven. Her biscuits were small, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Homemade biscuits, like many other treats, do not exist in today’s kitchen.

Many people just aren’t interested in taking the time to make things like biscuits. They’d rather stop at the local fast food chicken joint and grab a box to go with dinner.

Not so at our house. Molly makes delicious biscuits that rival what you’d find at a Cracker Barrel or your favorite country restaurant. And they’re not THAT difficult to make. They don’t take that long to bake either.

Molly’s side of the family and my side of the family both have a history of cooking and baking. If your family does, too, or if you’d like to add a simple homemade touch to breakfast or dinner, try out this recipe.

Ingredients

2 cups self-rising flour

1/2 cup shortening

3/4 cup milk (some people use buttermilk; we prefer regular)

Step one:

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, and blend your flour and shortening with two forks, with your bare hands or, the easiest route, in an electric stand mixer.

Step two:

Stir/blend in your milk.

Step three:

Form your biscuits and place on an ungreased pan.

Step four:

Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Yield: Makes 9 average-sized biscuits.

Matthew’s Take: I love homemade biscuits, and I can eat them with any meal with many accompaniments. They’re delicious at breakfast with jelly on them. They’re delicious with lunch, or dinner with a meat and veggies meal. They’re delicious for dessert with an apple butter, a jelly, or even with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce on top. Molly’s biscuits are as good as any homemade biscuits I’ve ever eaten. They’re soft throughout, without being doughy inside or out. I look forward to the times when she makes these biscuits because I know they’re not the hardest thing to make and they are so versatile. They get an A+ for taste, an A+ for cost because the ingredients aren’t expensive and last for a while if you don’t make biscuits every day, and they get an A for presentation because what Southerner doesn’t get excited about a homemade biscuit?

Molly’s Take: I made these biscuits for a long time before I realized that the recipe should yield 9 regular-sized biscuits. I used to make six biscuits out of this one recipe! But you can (and should) make 9-10. This is my favorite way to make biscuits, because it’s simple, they cook into a beautiful golden brown color, and they taste like home. There’s just something better about a homemade biscuit. The other great thing about these is that they really are cheap to make. One bag of self-rising flour, a huge can of shortening and a gallon of milk (all purchased at your local Aldi, of course) will last you for a while, through many rounds of biscuit-making, and won’t cost that much. This is my best recipe for biscuits. And I’m sharing it with you!