Mandy Richburg Rivers
Mandy lives in Lexington, South Carolina, is a contributing writer for the Food & Drink section and is currently working on her first cookbook. Mandy is an award winning recipe writer and judges regional cook-offs and other culinary contests.“I'm just a gal that likes food. Of course I like to eat, but what I've discovered about myself over the years is that there are more ways for me to enjoy food than just eating it. I like to shop for it, read about it, cook it, entertain with it and write about it. And when it's really good, sometimes I'm tempted to throw it on the floor and roll in it."
Number of posts: 40
Email address: email
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By Mandy Richburg Rivers:
- Tequila Mojitos
- Kinda Like Deb’s Orzo Salad
- Roasted Corn with Chili Butter
- Cowboy Beans
- Slow-Cooked Barbequed Ribs
I’m a South Carolina girl. Among many, many other things, that means I have a few born-and-bred ideas about barbeque. For starters, it means I spell it with a “q”. It also means my barbeque sauce is mustard based. And it means pork shoulders and butts. I do own a television so I am aware that somewhere around the Mississippi River, barbeque can also mean beef brisket.
The only exposure I’ve ever had with beef brisket has been in the bigger barbeque restaurants around town. My experience has been that the meat is almost always overcooked and usually drowning in barbeque sauce. Errr…. no thanks.
I was a little less than enthusiastic when my dad informed me that we were going to have brisket for Labor Day …
I thought I could die happy when I was able to scratch Create the Perfect Chocolate Cake Recipe off my bucket list. Then I kind of started feeling like a one-trick pony and wanted to be able to do the same for a super moist and tender vanilla cake.
This seemed easy enough. I would just omit the cocoa, substitute the vegetable oil with butter, add a little more flour and vanilla and then voila. So that’s what I did. I took one look at the finished product and knew I’d failed. It was greasy (almost like cornbread) and too porous.
I have maintained for quite some time that one could not duplicate the moist, light consistency of a boxed chocolate cake mix in a homemade recipe. I would see a beautiful recipe in a magazine or cookbook, try it and always be disappointed with the results (too dry, too dense, etc.). So I gave up and resigned myself to the box mixes, figuring I was willing to sacrifice flavor for great texture.
Then I saw a recipe online that looked right. I tried it. The texture was exactly what I had been looking for. With a few tweaks for flavor’s sake, I eventually landed on a version of the recipe that I thought was The One.
As I’ve mentioned in just about every other article I’ve written, my life is total ferkin chaos. I have children and work coming out of my ears. Take one minute out of my morning routine and you might as well have thrown a grenade into Big Ben. The gears disengage, the wheels stop turning, everything locks down and time stops.
The grenade this morning came in the form of a breakfast food outage. I somehow managed to let the well run dry of prepared options. And since we do not have cooked breakfast on Tuesday (it’s not in the schedule!), I had to improvise.
The single greatest dish to come out of Canada is the Butter Tart (sometimes called Taffy Tarts – or maybe just Husband calls them that?). Now, if you know how much I lovvvvve Poutine you will know how serious of a declaration is it for me to make, but Butter Tarts are the awesomest.
Butter Tarts are sort of like miniature pecan pies without the pecans. You make small, very shallow crusts with ultra flaky pie crust dough using about 900 muffin tins. Then you fill them up with a syrupy, buttery filling and bake them.
I love this time of year in the South. Even if it does feel like someone’s ironing my face every time I step outside. I love that Husband came home with two grocery sacks full of fresh zucchini that a coworker sent for me … I love that one of our neighbors hands fistfuls of tomatoes over the fence when we’re heading out the door. The sheer generosity and sense of sharing that come with the bounty of a summer garden is pretty awesome.
So, while basking in my amazing Southernness is lovely and all, the question still remains: what the crap am I going to do with 3 tons of zucchini?
Brutus’ 5th birthday party is this weekend. As usual, we’re having a pool party (because it’s FREE). The kids will have a blast swimming and frolicking in the water. The parents will not. The parents will huddle around the one umbrella on the patio seeking out some sort of reprieve from the relentless South Carolina heat while their faces melt off. They will hate me for doing this to them while sneaking glances at their watches counting down the minutes until they can collect their drowned rats and escape back to the air conditioning.
There’s not much I can do for those parents other than pledge an oath to drag my behind to their kids’ birthday parties in return. What I can do, though, is plan an after-party for the grown folk in my family.
I’m no barbeque expert nor do I have the equipment to throw down grill-master style. So I adapted (culinary Darwinism?). This menu includes my recipe for slow-cooked ribs (in the oven) and an out-of-the-closet confession (yikes!). And please, I love y’all, but spare me the lectures on how inferior this cooking method is to indirect heat, applying dry rubs, grilling, etc… I KNOW it is. This is just my simple recipe for cooking ribs in the oven.
What I love most about this time of year can be summed up in five blow-your-face-off-they’re-so-awesome things:
5 – Homemade Ice Cream. This is my new obsession. I realized a few years ago that I didn’t really love most homemade ice cream. It was always too “ice milky”, lacking flavor, filled with rock hard chunks of fruit or too runny. So I started experimenting. To date I have created five varieties that I really, really love (Blueberry Cheesecake, Buttermilk Peach, Chocolate Cheesecake, Birthday Cake and Banana Pudding). Something I love equally is the harvest gold 1970’s churn I stole borrowed from my mom (a.k.a. My Precious). This thing has a 4-quart tub and could pull a freight train.
I have a confession to make. I burn stuff all the time. It’s a problem I’ve been dealing with since the onions were born. I love cooking – obviously – but it’s more than just a pastime. When I say I love it, I mean I want to marry it and have its babies. Then cut my palm and take a blood oath for it. Then take out a second mortgage to build it a better kitchen and install one of the eye-scanning entrance systems so that no unworthy souls can come near it.
Anywho, my problem is that my kids drive me bat sh!t crazy when I’m trying to cook and I get distracted. That wouldn’t be so bad except that A) it sucks all the happiness out of it for me and I want to cry because the twenty minutes of my day that I actually get to do something I want to do get turned into a frazzled cluster funk; 2) I feel like the absolute worst mother in the history of ever and want to shove skewers under my nails in penance after I’ve pulled a Bruce Banner on them and gone all green and scary and D) I feel like a failure on all counts.
I have a day job. I do freelance work. I get sucked in to every neighborhood, team, school and booster project. At least one of the kids has some sort of practice each night of the week.
The hours from 5-7PM are balls-to-the-wall insane for us.
I grew up in a family that ate supper together each and every evening. We set the table, turned the TV off and shared a meal together. With vegetables. As a family.
The other day I wanted my mom’s recipe for a dessert we call Tipsy. I wanted it right then and there at 11:47 Tuesday morning. I did not want to wait until I next made the five-mile journey to her house. I did not want to wait until she was home to dictate it to me over the phone. I had to have it then. At 11:47 Tuesday morning.
My mother would tell me to stick in my ear if I even thought about being that demanding with her so I Googled it. Well, I was delighted with what I learned on ye old World Wide Web! There are fazillions of recipes for Tipsy ranging from Tipsy Cake, Tipsy Parson, Tipsy Pudding, Tipsy Trifle, Tipsy Squire and even something called Tipsy Hedgehog!
I ran into an old friend at a wing and rib restaurant last week. It was her young daughter’s birthday and when asked what she wanted for supper on her birthday, her daughter responded, “some meat on the bone!”
I’ve since done some reflecting on my own children’s love for “meat on the bone.” Our 9-yr old, very petite daughter, Maddi, could eat a dozen wings, a full rack of ribs or six chicken legs in one sitting without blinking an eye. And clean those bones too!
Great God Almighty, I’m done with summer. All – repeat: ALL – of my once lovely perennials are crispy, wilted and dead and I don’t care. The mosquitoes have taken over the yards and porches with an even more hostile aggression than usual (seriously, I think one called me a bitch last night as it whizzed by my neck). My happy place, the screened porch, looks like a booth at a flea market because the heat has zapped my will to pick up after my husband and kids that treat it like a mud room. The dog needs a good brushing and bath worse than a POW. My curls have been plastered to my head like an Irish water spaniel’s for weeks now and I work up a full blown lather just loading the kids in the car at 7’oclock in the morning.
I just recently did a stint in Marshalltown, IA – home of my employer’s “mother ship” operations offices. There isn’t really anything much to do in Marshalltown and more importantly, there isn’t anything much to eat either. Except, that is, for Rube’s. Rube’s Steakhouse turned out to offer one of the most unique dining experiences I’ve ever had.
I wasn’t really even looking forward to going. At Rube’s, you select and grill your own steak. To this I was thinking that I do enough cooking at home and really didn’t like the thought of paying for something I had to cook. I had it all wrong. As their website points out, Rube’s is not just a steakhouse – it’s an experience. And it was the experience (and wicked top quality steaks) that sold me.
Taking questions in a recent interview for a local paper, I was asked what the most stressful experience I’d ever had cooking. A colorful memory sprang to mind and I quickly forced it back and thought of a rosier story to tell. But I do believe y’all might know me a little by now and will be ready for this… This was back when I was in college working in my beloved little juke joint. It was a Wednesday which meant I was there early in the afternoon to start cooking the free meal that was served every week on that day…
Southerners love to stand around a fire. This evidenced by the fact that we are probably the only breed of modern era people to purposefully fashion a metal drum into an upright vessel and call it a “fire barrel”. We are so serious about it, we actually take great lengths to cut out holes near the bottom to feed rebar through to support the burning wood (and whatever else deemed safe enough to be fed into said fire barrel – note: consumption of canned beer expands this criteria) and a portal in the bottom so coals can be removed.
I like to think that this harkens back to our Neanderthal ancestors who simply had to maintain the fire because restarting could prove near impossible and who also had to guard it from neighboring Neanderthals who might try to take the fire. It’s instinctual, you see.
My husband is a plumber. Every day he deals with the likes of stuff you and I shudder to even think about. This is the precise reason why, when he made a gagging sound as I set supper on the table, I almost picked up his fork and stabbed him in the face with it. I’d made salmon patties with a horseradish aioli, grits with stewed tomato gravy and a side of fried eggplant. My four-year old has a broader palate than my husband. Husband is “meat and potatoes” personified. He will not – repeat: WILL NOT – eat cooked green vegetables and I won’t even tell you what he thinks about grits, eggplant and something called aioli. I manage to keep his colon in check with green salads and pork ‘n’ beans but that’s about all I can get in him. I used to take it personally. I almost […]
I think God blesses us with subtle little miracles when He can. These quiet little blessings giving us a soft spot to land when life stakes a sucker-punch at us. I think that’s what I got when my husband and I moved into our little two-street neighborhood …
If you’ve never experienced it, it may be hard to understand, but I submit to you that our little neighborhood has been my salvation and means to sanity time and time again. Many evenings we all seem to meander out and about and have come to know and love one another …
Once everyone had gone to bed last night and I was finally alone after the long weekend I cozied up on the couch with a book and let out a sigh of relief. In answer to the sigh my stomach let out a sound of its own – a long, agitated growl. Having spent the last three days celebrating Independence Day here and there, I realized I’d had little more than beer, grilled meats, more beer, highly processed and preserved sausages and hot dogs, some beer, appetizers and snacky food, a few beers and there might have been some champagne in there somewhere too. After all that, nothing sounded good but my stomach insisted otherwise so I went to the kitchen thinking that a soda cracker might do the trick. The pantry and fridge were pretty picked over but something about the way the few tart green apples, half a […]
There’s a lot to be said for a community cookbook. You know, the ones that the Rotary Club or the First Baptist Church sell? You’ll be sure to find way too many recipes laden with cream-of-whatever soup in there but it’s also a way to grab a hold of some Southern classics that everyone ought to know how to make: baked macaroni, red velvet cake, watergate salad, sour cream biscuits, salmon patties, banana pudding, etc.
I like to give these as bridal shower presents. A lot of us may know these recipes by heart or religiously use our mama’s but for those out there that are new to cooking, these books are perfect. The recipes are usually simple, have short ingredients lists and are a great way for a new cook to learn a few basics.
I get a call the other day asking if I would judge a barbeque cook-off at a Low Country festival in the fall. As I’m getting the specifics on the event the guy asked me if I’m “certified.” Well, I’m certifiably a lot of things but not a barbeque judge, so I tell him so.
This conversation leads to a series of events that has landed me with an invitation to attend barbeque judging certification school.
Having grown up in rural South Carolina, I’ve had a good bit of exposure to barbequing hogs.
Now that summer is officially upon us, the neighborhood has been awaft with the smoky, telltale aromas of the great American grill. It’s just June and I’ve already feasted upon a cornucopia of exquisitely grilled meats and vegetables.
When making my weekly grocery list the other day I realized I was thinking way outside the box; listing ingredients for complex and time consuming summer recipes, and wondered how (for months) I’d skipped over the quintessential entrée for grilling: the hamburger.
I sort of lost my fascination with homemade ice cream somewhere around age ten. Once the novelty wore off I realized that the bland, texturally challenged results didn’t stand up to the store bought varieties.
This could be for a variety of reasons: crumby recipes, not taking the time to let the ice cream set up properly after mixing it, using substandard ingredients, etc. Or it could very well simply be about a ten-year old’s fascination with the bubblegum swirl, chocolate doo-da chunky fudge or neon blue cotton candy variations that boomed onto the market about the same time.
I’m not too big on most prepackaged, prepared, shortcut foods (i.e. gravy mixes, canned soup, dehydrated potato side dishes, etc.) but there is one major exception: cake mixes. I’ve tried dozens upon dozens of cake recipes in my day and have yet to find one that was better than what can be made using a quality cake mix. I find homemade cake recipes (pound cake and fruit cakes excluded) to be dry and often crumbly and lacking in taste. I once saw Alton Brown discuss this very issue on his Food Network show Good Eats. And let me just take a moment to say that I think Alton Brown is one of the best sources of instruction for the home cook. His scientific approach at the ‘whys’ of cooking has helped me to understand so many of the fundamentals and, in turn, apply them in my own kitchen. In summary, Alton says that the producers of the box cake mixes just have more resources (leavening agents, specific grades of flour, etc.) than we average grocery shoppers have. And, like me, says to just swallow your pride and go for the box.
There are so many things I love about summer but high on my list are summertime cocktails. Oh, to behold a plump glass pitcher, dripping little rivulets of cool dewy sweat, jingle-jangling chunks of ice that stand up to the omnipresent heat, filled with just the thing to beat down the choke-hold humidity throws on us every summer.
Summer means putting away the red wine – for me, anyway, because it’s just too damn hot here in the South to fill my gullet with such heady richness – and serving my favorite go-to cocktails.
I was reminded of a Canadian dish last week after reading Alex Kearns’ Through the Looking Glass piece. I’ll be the first to tell you that Southern American cooking can’t be rivaled by many but our good neighbors to the north have something that we don’t – poutine (pronounced poo-teen).
When you’re interested enough in something new to invite thirty people over to try it with you, it really sucks when it, well… sucks. This was what happened with ‘The Absinthe Experiment.”
I’d read an article about the great absinthe resurrection and reverse of its prohibition in the States and the wheels started turning in this born-to-entertain head of mine. Off I set to learn everything I could about the Green Fairy and plan an evening complete with French inspired hors d’oeuvres, authentic absinthe serve ware, etc.
It’s no wonder I’m such a foodie. Aside from my family’s appreciation of good food, my first job, at the ripe old age of 15, was at The Fresh Market. Then in college I had the privilege to work at a greasy spoon / juke joint. This place was a bona fide honky-tonk, complete with pool tables, a juke box, a short-order kitchen and occasional wafts of marijuana coming through the back door. If you were working on a slow night, you were literally the barmaid, the bouncer, the waitress and the cook.
Hosting my in-laws last week provided me the excuse to do some cooking, that is, beyond what my kids and meat-and-potatoes husband usually require in our daily grind. It also provided me a beautiful excuse to indulge a little at the grocery store (yippee skippy bo-dippy!) OK, I know most women don’t think of groceries when there’s an opportunity to splurge but given the chance, I’ll take an organic grocer and German butcher over a mani and pedi any day.
I was recently asked which of my collected recipes was my all-time favorite. This was certainly food for thought (pun intended) because I have several favorite dishes and meals that don’t necessarily require recipes.
Once I filtered those from my mental search criteria I asked myself which of my favorite dishes really depended on the recipe itself. Which one truly called upon the combinations of the specific ingredients and shouldn’t be altered too much? It didn’t take long to recall this recipe and, after much consideration, I have deemed it my all-time favorite!
I’ve been absolutely starved for inspiration since the New Year. What do you write about when everyone is on a diet and every magazine is littered with bold headlines with the likes of, “The Wheatgrass Mold Diet!” and “Drink Your Own Urine to Lose 10 Pounds in 1 week!” My favorite foodie websites feature nothing but lightened-up recipes and salads. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good salad and have created some fabulous recipes of my own over the years, but who wants to eat cold greens when it’s freezing outside? Cuddling up by the fire with a bowl of frisée just isn’t hitting it for me.
My memories of growing up in a small Southern town are colored in the vibrant hues of love, fellowship and camaraderie, the earthy tones of upturned field rows and split fire wood, the crisp whites of the First Baptist church and linens on the clothes line, but those memories are also tinged of the dark purples and reds of regret. Like many small towns, we had a mysterious character for the children to fear and be cruel to. Ours was a black man who walked the streets, limping; his body and face covered with white-pink scars, his lips contorted and eyebrows gone so that his face was in a constant expression of disgusted surprise. We ran from him, yelled after him and the nastier kids threw things at him. We joked that he would come for us on Halloween and images of him haunted us when dusk caught us on […]
Nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit like tequila shots and boilermakers. OK, so I know that may seem a little bizarre, if not sacrilegious, but there’s a story here. For all intents and purposes, I was raised as an only child (I do have a much older half-brother but he never lived with us) so Mom, Dad and I had to crash the holiday goings-on of extended family for any semblance of that warm and fuzzy Norman Rockwell Christmas experience. Most Christmas Eves were spent at Aunt Alice and Uncle Dave’s house – a place such the polar opposite of my home as could be imagined. First of all, there was Bandit, the stinky but loyal lhasa apso. There were my four cousins: Tina, Carol, David and Russell. Russell was closest in age to me and lived (not suffered) with cerebral palsy. There was Mrs. Cockfield, my aunt’s mother […]
It’s so exhilarating to find a performer like Lauren Lucas. She’s powerful and curvy and sexy and talented and from South-by-God-Carolina! I’ve known Lauren since we were little girls and though I don’t get to see her much now that she’s in Nashville, I’m always a taken aback when I hear her strong and sultry voice or see those in-the-moment photos from her latest performances.
“With soulful pop melodies, country undertones, and thoughtful lyrics, Lauren is a powerhouse singer/songwriter and skilled multi-instrumentalist. Think Bonnie Raitt sipping tea with Dolly Parton at a blues joint.” – Supersonic
Check out some of the content from her EPK and do check out the link to sample a taste of her music (click audio).
I’ve recently become aware of a shift in my dessert preferences from those made with chocolate to those made with fruit. Being the culinary anthropologist that I am, I’ve spent some time thinking about how and when my pendulum might have begun to swing.
Like anyone with a uterus, I have always held chocolate on the pedestal it belongs — right between lycra and Jesus.
One of the biggest fights my husband and I ever had was over bacon grease. Like any good Southern cook, I save bacon drippings for later use. Bacon grease is as important to some dishes as saffron or white truffle oil is to others. My cornbread wouldn’t be “My” cornbread without the bacon grease I heat in my cast iron skillet before adding the batter for that oh-so-perfect crust. If I have enough, I add it to the oil I fry my chicken in. I add it to green beans, crowder peas and any other slow-cooked Sunday Dinner vegetable side dish. I wilt my collards in it. I fry eggs in it. I… you get the point.
I opened the door to the fridge to discover it gone one afternoon. As I’m noisily searching for it and cursing under my breath, my husband, Jeff, asks what’s amiss. After a brief discussion, he tells me he threw it out. You’d have to know Mr. Let The Garbage Pile Up Two Feet Around The Can Before You Take It Out to fully appreciate how ludicrous an act it would be for him commit.
I never really loved Thanksgiving turkey. I loved the things that went with it: fat-laden casseroles masquerading as vegetables, Uncle Dave drinking a little too much whiskey and rolling around on the living room floor with seven kids on his back, spending the whole morning in the kitchen cooking with Mom with the Macy’s Day parade in the background, that amazing dressing that was only cooked on this one day during the year, tabletops filled with pies and cakes and everyone piled up like hostages in the den later watching football and dozing in and out of consciousness. But, if I’m being honest, the turkey was always lacking. No matter who did the cooking or how it was cooked, the end result could be summed up in two words: dry and bland. We baked it, we fried it, we smoked it, we grilled, we shoved apples and beer cans in […]
Southerners are superior cooks. There, I’ve said it. I’m not so verbose as to claim that we are masters at French or California-chic cuisine but as per straight-up American cooking, we reign righteously. This being illustrated by the fact that my Canadian in-laws think I’m a culinary goddess. I might be slightly above-average, but a goddess I am not. We Southerners just have very different beliefs about the importance that food plays in our lives. The first trip I made to Canada was a 20-hour expedition with a 3-year-old and infant in tow. A few hours outside of our destination in Ontario, my mother-in-law rang to advise us not to eat before we got there, that she had dinner waiting for us (note, she didn’t say supper). Thank you, Jesus! My mouth started to water as images of such “company’s coming” preparations flooded my senses. Any time we expect overnight […]
I can guarantee you that I would not be able to pick up the phone on Sunday and reach any of my home-town friends between the hours of 11AM-3PM. I know where they are though… at their Mama’s for Sunday Dinner.
This is a tradition that goes back before we were born. Since the beginning of time, Southerners have spent Sundays with family eating giant homemade meals, napping in their daddy’s Lazy-Boy, reading the newspaper, watching football, just taking it easy and catching up. I’m not romanticizing this either – it’s the way that it is, or at least it was in the small town I grew up in.