Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Join The Fight, Let's Defeat Cancer Today

In addition to losing both of my parents at an age when they were much to young to leave, I have lost countless close friends, neighbors and co-workers to cancer. I am fortunate to work for a hospital system that is dedicated to improve the treatment and success in our war against this dreadful ailment. While I like to keep From The Land of Palm Trees light and easy to read, this is a cause that I feel strongly about. Please, as a reader and supporter of this blog, consider helping with our cause.

Roper St. Francis Cancer Care is a community, non-profit hospital-based cancer center accredited by the Commission on Cancer. We serve approximately 2000 newly diagnosed patients each year and strive to provide excellent care to our cancer patients and their caregivers. Our multi-disciplinary support team collaborates to assist in meeting the physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs of those we serve. Recognizing the broad continuum of needs for this population, we have a vision of expanding and developing more comprehensive oncology support services. With funding from the LIVESTRONG grant, Roper St Francis Cancer Care will have the opportunity to pursue such expansion and enhance the quality of care for our patients and their loved ones. We are a community healthcare system with a community focus. We have the desire to meet people at their point of need and to empower them as they journey through cancer.

Please Vote for my hospital to Receive a Grant for Palliative Care
(Please note you can vote for TWO RSFH grants in Pillars4Life and Palliative Care categories)

Roper St. Francis Healthcare is applying to be one of the first palliative care programs to receive certification by The Joint Commission (TJC). TJC is recognizing leading programs in an effort to provide and improve this needed service to all hospitals.

Roper St Francis Healthcare has applied to the Lance Armstrong Foundation to receive grant funding for this important process.

This foundation relies on online voting as part of their criteria.

Roper is the only hospital in South Carolina trying to get this grant. Hospitals from GA, NC and VA are also applying for this grant.

Please consider adding your vote before the deadline, March 23, 2012 at 5:00 p.m. CT.

It should only take 2 clicks at this site.

For more information, please contact SCHA’s Rick Foster, MD, and Karen Reeves, or:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What I Love About Sunday!

Those of you who know me beyond my blog know that I have a wonderfully exciting career as a midnight shift hospital based pharmacist. There are many “wonderful” aspects of my job, but one that generates the most interest when I tell people what I do for a living is my work schedule which is seven nights on and seven nights off. That results in me leaving home each night at around 9pm, working all night providing medications for the hospital patients and serving a great medical staff of physicians and dedicated nurses keeping people alive all night long while most of the Lowcountry dreams on their pillows. I do this for seven straight nights, then for seven straight days and nights, I AM OFF FROM WORK. Not a bad gig for a guy who lives in “Vacation Land” to be sort of on vacation every other week. Consequently, my life becomes a tale of two weeks, one as a day sleeping vampire like existence while I endure seven straight 10-hour shifts and one week as a man of leisure. But I digress, what I had intended to do here was to draw attention to what I love about Sundays. Every other week, when I make it to Sunday I know that little separates me from my week of fun than a single ten hour all-nighter. Predictably, when I wake up on Sunday afternoon there is an attitude that pervades my soul that isn’t there on any other work night, a calm reassurance that rest and fun is just around the corner. This attitude usually provides for a wonderfully enjoyable evening spent anticipating the week to come.

Today, was extra special though, while I slept a spring thunderstorm passed through the Lowcountry, and even though I was awakened prematurely by a loud boom of thunder, I fell right back to sleep as natures “sleep machine” provided the relaxing and rhythmic sound of rain on a roof-top. And of course, when I woke up, the storm and rain had passed and we were left with a fresh and sunny evening, with that feel in the air that only happens after a spring rain. While spending some quality time reading on the front porch I noticed just how vibrant the rain had left the lush green springtime landscape. There is color all around me, bright breath taking pinks and pure white flowering azaleas, orange and peach tulips and Indian Hawthorne bushes that look like big cotton balls from all of the tiny white blooms. Can you say “blessed”.

After moving to the back patio to fire up the grill and begin barbecuing some chicken I watched neighbors stroll past walking their dogs, kids on scooters and families out for a cruise around the neighborhood on their golf carts. Watching all of this activity, I thought, you know Sunday afternoons are like that, aren’t they? It’s just different, oh sure there are people walking and golf carts passing by every single day, but there is just something different about the approach to it all on Sunday afternoon. And, I like it. Another benefit of my “every other Sunday” is that my wife usually handles supper, and that not only gives me the night off (well, almost I did man the barbecue) but also gives me a chance to enjoy her cooking. This evening it was barbecued chicken breasts, green beans and pepper-jack grits.

I hope you enjoyed your Sunday evening as much as I did, for now, I will enjoy the next couple of moments of solitude then it’s time to prepare for my Sunday night at the hospital. After an afternoon and evening like this I am ready to handle all that comes my way. Night time in a hospital is exciting: expectant mothers in labor, emergency room drama, critical patients being nursed back to health by nurses whose hands do the work of God, surgeons awakened early by patients in need of surgery, and a midnight shift pharmacist who is ready to provide IV drugs, perform calculations to properly dose powerful antibiotics and prepare clot busting medications to preserve the life of a heart attack victim. All in a nights work. God Bless.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Goodness Sakes That's Yum!

Now that we have turned the clocks forward and we have an extra hour of daylight each evening to mow grass, work in the garden and, oh yeah, I almost forgot, enjoy the EEEEEEZZZZZZZYYY LIVIN' sitting on the front porch I guess it is safe to say that Spring is in the air. Of course, the yellow pollen dust all over my front porch furniture indicates that Spring isn't all that's in the air. It's funny how your culinary adventures assume different perspectives as the calendar progresses through the year. For instance, even though tomatoes are available throughout the year, I tend to more freely incorporate sliced tomatoes into the menu during the Spring and Summer months. From a cheeseburger-in-paradise, to gilled chicken sandwiches, a fresh slice of tomato compliments the plate quite well.

Of course, I didn't even mention one of my favorite ways to eat sliced tomatoes, that being on an open faced cheese and tomato broiled english muffin for breakfast. For me, that is just the best. This past weekend I picked up some Thomas's Corn English Muffins at the grocery store and Saturday morning I decided it was time for my first cheese and tomato muffin, only this time I was sure that the corn muffin would add an interesting twist to an old favorite. When I opened the refrigerator to retrieve the american cheese my eyes were immediately drawn to another favorite of mine, the plastic tub of pure ambrosia, Palmetto Cheese pimento cheese. Like an illumination of epic proportions, it hit me, I should toast the english corn muffin, place a spoonful of Palmetto cheese on the toasted muffin and top it with a slice of tomato and finish it off with a bit of Dukes Mayonaise. The finished product, paired with some fresh strawberries (so glorious that it's strawberry season) and I had a wonderful fresh breakfast plate for a perfect Spring morning.

You can enjoy Palmetto Cheese no matter where you live, order online here.

And if you are a fan of the english muffin and you haven't tried the Thomas Corn version, you don't know what you are missing. Also, I am really looking forward to local strawberry season coming up in the next couple of weeks, there is nothing like a big old field of "pick-your-own" strawberries and John's Island corn and tomatoes can't be that far behind.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

And Beach Music, Beach Music, Beach Music Just Plays On!!!

Since June 2007 when Michelle and I relocated our family to the Lowcountry and established the Hammond name in a colorful neighborhood 23 miles west of the shores of the Atlantic Ocean we have experienced many “firsts” as new residents of the Charleston Area. For instance, our first backyard oyster roast, our first tropical storm, kayaking on Shem Creek, and our first neighborhood backyard barbecue and fireworks display on New-Year’s Eve, a holiday traditionally celebrated indoors in our native beloved West Virginia. And even as we draw near to the five-year anniversary of our “BOLD” and “ANXIOUS” act of following our dream of living in the Lowcountry, we still experience “firsts” from time to time. Although for the most part life has settled into a somewhat familiar easiness in between our jobs and responsibilities of day to day life as big people.

Yesterday was one of those days. A rare Saturday with nothing really planned, so when we woke to a beautiful sunny Saturday morning we decided to take a day trip down to Edisto Island, a barrier island that lies just South of Charleston in between Kiawah Island and Hilton Head Island, close enough to be considered a “Charleston” beach, but far enough away to not be an everyday type beach for Charlestonians. We had heard about Edisto Beach long before moving to the area, since some of our friends from West Virginia had family there and frequently visited, and since moving to The Land of Palm Trees, we have wanted to visit, but the opportunity never really presented itself until yesterday. First of all, let me say, as I drove into Edisto Beach I felt like I had truly stepped back in time. Still today, this beautiful stretch of coastline is everything but typical in terms of beach development. Mixed in with the usual oceanfront mansions featuring 10 bedrooms with 4 master-suites that you see up and down the Atlantic Coastline, at Edisto you will be amazed at the predominance of simple ranch style homes elevated on pilings with the beach as their backyard. You know, the kind of houses that you remember from your childhood trips to the beach in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Realize here, I am not talking about third-row from the ocean, I am talking oceanfront here. Also, you won’t find any oceanfront condo units, hotels or villas; at least we didn’t see any on our brief tour of the beach on this windy and chilly March afternoon. Except for a Subway near the town-limits as part of a gasoline station, I didn’t see any national brand eateries, one grocery store, also at the edge of town, a Piggly Wiggly of course. You really have to see this slice of Americana to believe it. In a word, COOL.

But the real reward for our 90 minute drive through rural Dorchester and Charleston County was the chance to visit Botany Bay Plantation located on Edisto Island. Botany Bay is a 5000 acre wildlife management area on the site of two large Lowcountry plantations from the 1800’s. The plantation is a mix of pine-hardwood forests, agricultural fields, salt-marshes and a barrier (hammock) island with an UNBELIEVABLE two mile long bone yard beach, totally undeveloped, untouched and preserved. In fact, in order to reach the beach you park your car in a small sandy parking area and walk on an improved path one-half mile across the salt marsh to the barrier island maritime forest and beach front.

As we entered the forest on the opposite side of the salt marsh, I felt like I was on Gilligan’s Island as the path cut through the forest of live-oaks, various palmetto’s and loblolly pines I could hear the roar of the surf crashing on the beach, I could scarcely anticipate the beauty and wonder that I would experience in just a minute or two.

This is what greeted my eyes as I emerged onto the beach at Botany Bay Plantation.

If driving into Edisto Beach was a step back in time to what beach goers experienced in the halcyon years of the 50’s and 60’s my steps emerging from the lush maritime forest onto the sand and shell covered beach at BBP was a step back in time to what English settlers and slaves from West Africa must have seen as they caught the first glimpse of the South Carolina shoreline back in the 17th century. All I can say is Oh My God, and I mean that reverently as in How Great Thou Art. Michelle’s first words were, “how did they make it this way?” My response to her was “it’s not what THEY made it into; it’s what WE haven’t made it into.” That about says it all, this 2 mile stretch of beach is the antithesis to the sinking Lowcountry that Jimmy Buffet sings about in The Prince of Tides.(Out on Dafuskie Island, the bulldozers bury the past, and the Lowcountry sinks, she cannot swim. The dogwood feels the hurt, while the foursome plays on borrowed days, in their alligator shirts.)

While Botany Bay Plantation represents so much more than just the eroding bone-yard beach, I will reserve that for a future expose, for now, there is really nothing more that I can add, I think the pictures will tell the rest of the story. Enjoy, and if you ever have the opportunity to head south of Charleston to Edisto Island, save some time for a trip to the beach at Botany Bay Plantation.

Friday, March 9, 2012

April Came Early This Year

Back in the early 1980’s Golf World Magazine published their annual edition featuring Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters Golf Tournament. I was a senior in high school at the time living in North Central West Virginia and I was absolutely enamored with the beauty and ambience of Augusta National and The Masters. I took the cover of the magazine, clipped it and framed it and it hung on my bedroom wall. Yep, that’s the kind of teenager I was, while my buddies had pictures of Farrah Fawcett in “that swimsuit” hanging on the wall over their bed, I had a picture of a golf course hanging on mine. Not just any golf course though, it was Augusta National. The picture was labeled, “April in Augusta” and to me it represented where golf should be played, amidst towering pine trees, lush green grass and vibrant pink, white and purple azaleas. If I had to peel back the layers and delve into my inner psyche and analyze how a Mountaineer born and raised in West By God Virginia ended up living and loving the low country of South Carolina, the answer could possibly be traced back to that magazine cover.

This year, April has come just two or three weeks early to the Land of Palm Trees and today while I was playing a round of golf with three guys whom I had not previously met, all three just vacationing in the area from Ohio and Nebraska, I took the opportunity to snap off some pictures of some of the azaleas that live on my home golf course, The Summerville Country Club.

After the round, I drove to Azalea Park in the heart of historic Summerville, South Carolina and took a quick jaunt through the park taking the time to snap off a few more colorful shots for you to enjoy.

Azalea Park is a true gem of the Charleston Area, built in the 1930’s by WPA workers and flowered by then Summerville florist and botanist George Segelken who donated over 33,000 azaleas to the park. Segelken was a pioneer in the propagation of azaleas and is even credited with the development of the recognizable pink azalea that is so prevalent throughout Summerville which he called “The Pride of Summerville Azalea.”

When I write that these azaleas are so plentiful around my town, I can’t begin to explain to you without sounding like I am exaggerating when I say, it is literally hard to go on any street or lane in Summerville today and by doing a 360 degree turn about where you are standing and NOT see one of these trademark pink azaleas. The azalea grows so prodigiously in this area that the bushes are often the size of a small house, and when they are naturalized in the landscape and not pruned they occupy acres of ground that appears to be an explosion of pink and white this time of the year.

Today as I enjoyed the colors during my round of golf and my walk through the park I couldn’t help but remember that old magazine cover and how intriguing it was to a young lad living in the ever changing March climate of West Virginia rotating through snow squalls, rain showers and sunny but cool days anxious for golf season to descend upon the Mountain State.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Soul Food

Somewhere along the line I read a column about Hong Kong being a foodie Utopia. At the time, I can remember thinking to myself, hmm. I didn’t have any earthly idea that Hong Kong was critically acclaimed as a foodie destination, but the article was intriguing. The piece even referred to Hong Kong as being the food lovers equivalent to Hajj and that all foodies should make the trip there once in their lifetime. I think of Charleston much the same way, and where else would you find a restaurant that showcases locally grown and harvested fish, all-natural poultry and vegetables producing a classic lowcountry cuisine inspired by Southern roots obtained by growing up in Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana, with a name inspired by The Beatles White Album? Charleston, but of course and The Glass Onion never fails to satisfy.

I have been a fan of The Glass Onion since Thanksgiving 2008 when my wife happened across an article in the local newspaper featuring a classic cornbread and oyster stuffing from, you guessed it, The Glass Onion. On a visit there over the Christmas Holiday with my sister and her family visiting from West Virginia we stopped by The Glass Onion on a Tuesday night on our way to see the Holiday Lights at James Island County Park. I had bragged about the restaurant to my sister and niece and had spoke of all of the culinary accolades heaped upon the joint, even being mentioned recently as deserving of a James Beard Award. One of the appetizers that the group decided upon was macaroni and cheese, and once we had all sampled the cheesy casserole it was a unanimous decision, “that be some good stuff. So good in fact, we all decided that the Glass Onion Classics Cookbook would be worth the purchase price just in order to get the recipe; that is until our server told us that the recipe isn’t within the cookbook. After thinking about it for a few moments my sister spoke up and said, “You know, I bet it’s just made with Velveeta cheese, that’s what it tastes like.” Well, I was almost offended by her comment, and I quickly scoffed, “I hardly think that a possible James Beard Foundation winner is going to serve a macaroni and cheese made with Velveeta.” When the chef came by our table to ask us how we liked our supper, my sister spoke up and asked him why the mac-n-cheese recipe is not in the book, to which he smiled and replied, “oh, that? It’s too simple; it's just made with Velveeta cheese.” You could have heard a pin drop at our table, except for the loud thump as my chin hit the floor…

But honestly, if you know anything about the Glass Onion, you will know that it is not their style to throw together dishes by using a bunch of esoteric and exotic ingredients presented on a menu with names you can’t confidently pronounce when placing your order. The finished product is very exotic, in its own right, try it I am sure you won’t be disappointed. Once you do you will understand why Monday evening after attending our son’s high school baseball game in James Island we detoured on to the Savannah Highway to stop and have dinner at The Glass Onion. And of course, it was awesome.

If you missed their recent appearance on The Food Network's, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives I thought I would put together a little photo expose of our visit last night to the Glass Onion.

All-natural chicken and pork is a trademark of The Glass Onion, and you can taste the difference.

The menu board changes everyday.

A classic "out of the garden" salad, topped with pickled okra and pickled green beans.

Housemade Pickles, page 96 in the Glass Onion Classics cookbook, buy it here.

My entree this evening, SC Triggerfish over Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Turnip Greens. Yummy!!! Can't say enough about fresh Triggerfish out of the local water.

Three owner-chefs with resumes that include Emeril's Delmonico in New Orleans, FIG in Charleston, Johnson and Wales University, SNOB in Charleston and a philosophy to offer a meal that satisfies the soul, as in "Soul Food." The Glass Onion, nice.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Ultimate Comfort Food

I love to cook and I enjoy blogging about my food experiments from time to time. After all, the snippets fit well into a lifestyles blog, right? I haven’t done a cooking post for a while so Friday evening when my wife requested home baked pizza it provided an opportunity to not only honor her request but to also snap some photos of the process for a blog post. After all, is there anything better than pizza on a Friday night? OK, I admit, this is a rhetorical question, of course I know that you may be able to identify scores of things that are better than pizza on a Friday night, but I think you get the point.

When I was preparing to write about the experience, I considered the various angles that I could take with the piece to make it entertaining as well as informative. The thought that kept percolating to the top of my head was, “pizza, the ultimate comfort food.” That’s it, I thought, I can publish a post on the merits of pizza as the ultimate comfort food, after all, isn’t it? So, as I frequently do, I decided to do a little research on my chosen topic before I started writing, that’s what all the professionals do, huh? So I went to my favorite search engine and typed in “history of pizza.” Of course, I perused the information and didn’t really learn much that I didn’t already know, and certainly nothing that really grabbed me as information that I must pass along in the form of a blog post. Then I thought I would check my catch phrase, “pizza the ultimate comfort food.” Yep, you guessed it, 150 gazillion million references came up, so much for originality.

Consequently I decided, why should I try and write something profound about a topic as well known as pizza, I mean after all, what hasn’t already been said about PIZZA? For crying out loud, it’s the ultimate comfort food, everybody knows that. Ha, there you have it, although lobster macaroni and cheese is a close second.

So, instead of writing some award winning expose on pizza, I think I will just give you what you really need, want and will appreciate; an idea for an easy, yet exceptional homemade pizza. I must say, I use several different methods for pizza made at home. I have, from time to time, done the “from scratch” routine. I also frequently do pizzas outdoors on the grill; those are particularly fun to do. I have a pizza stone that I use in the oven and it is perfect, but for this night, I wanted to make a large rectangular thick crusty pizza so I used a cookie sheet. Once again, and I stress, this is an EASY way to do a home baked pizza that doesn’t taste like EASY.

This pizza starts with store bought dough. Publix Supermarket sells fresh pizza dough in single pizza size balls in the bakery department. I find that two of those provide the perfect amount of dough for a large rectangular pan. I combine the two dough balls into one giant glob of dough and let it rise for a couple of hours. While the dough rises I gather my other ingredients, including a can of pizza sauce, a pound of provolone cheese (I like provolone occasionally as an alternative to mozzarella), a can of mushrooms, a stick of pepperoni (cut your own slices from the stick, allows you to use thicker slices), and if you are lucky enough to have them, some peppers canned in tomato sauce (see Oliverio’s Peppers). I also go ahead and shred my provolone at this point as well.

Once the dough has rested and grown in size I put about a tablespoon of olive oil on the cookie sheet and plop the dough into the puddle of oil, and begin flattening the dough by hand in an attempt to cover the cookie sheet. After a while of working the dough, I flip it over so that the oiled side is now up, and I begin using a small roller to roll the dough into the rectangle shape required to fill up the cookie sheet. As soon as you have the dough conforming to the pan, it’s time for the sauce. Use the sauce sparingly, you can use too much and if you do, the crust will not bake as evenly and your pizza will be sloppy and runny. For a large rectangle, I usually use about half of the 15 ounce can of pizza sauce and I spread it over the crust leaving roughly a 1 inch margin on all four sides of the rectangular pizza crust.

Next, it’s time for the toppings. I usually try to be uniform with the placement of the pepperoni and random with the peppers and mushrooms. And last but not least, I top the pizza with the shredded provolone before popping the pan into a pre-heated oven at 500 degrees.

The baking time is going to vary depending upon your cookie sheet, so here is where you just have to watch the pizza. The goal is a well done crust but you definitely don’t want the bottom to begin to burn or the cheese to begin to brown. After you remove the pizza from the oven, it is very important to let the pizza rest on the counter for about 10 minutes, to allow the provolone to begin to harden back up a bit before you slice the pizza into squares.

I think you will agree, this is a good pizza and it’s pretty easy to do. If you try it, leave me a comment with what you thought. Thanks for stopping by From The Land of Palm Trees.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sure Signs of Spring In The Lowcountry

This has surely been an odd winter season; in fact, it's almost strange to talk about signs of spring when most of the East Coast has experienced spring all winter long. But, sure enough, there are lots of signs of spring abound in the Lowcountry.

While a huge portion of the country looks to a groundhog named Phil to predict the arrival of spring, in the Hammond House, there are signs a little closer to home to look for. You know, like Michelle scrubbing red dirt out of baseball pants and a bat bag constantly residing in the floor of the front foyer. If the baseball equipment doesn't provide enough of a hint that spring has sprung, perhaps a drive down Central Avenue in Summerville, SC will serve as a reminder. Prior to moving to the Low country seeing the televised images of azaleas in full bloom at Augusta National Golf Club during the Masters formed an iconic identity of spring in Dixie for me. But I now believe that some of the most vibrant pink flowers reside right here in Summerville during the spring when azalea bushes the size of a house burst into bloom as the sun warms the air.

Of course, along with the explosion of color comes the telltale layer of yellow pollen that settles on cars, outdoor furniture, porch railings and sidewalks. It reminds me of the chalk dust accumulating on the chalk rail under the chalkboards in my elementary school back in the day. But the reminders of the coming of spring and summer are not all provided by Mother Nature. Even though Charleston is a year-round tourist destination, the South Eastern Wildlife Exposition followed by the Charleston Food and Wine Festival leading up to the Cooper River Bridge Run ushers in the high-season for tourism in the Land of Palm Trees.

But even though all of those things SCREAM spring has arrived, there is a single clue that serves as the one undeniably "Chawlston" reminder that beach season is just around the corner. Yep, you guessed it, the Seersucker Suit advertisements from M. Dumas & Sons on King Street are back in the Post & Courier each day. I never owned a Seersucker Jacket until I came to the Lowcountry, but it is a staple for every Southern Gentleman's closet and as "Chawlston" as Shrimp-n-Grits and Bawled Peanuts.