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.

They’re also handy to have around when you’re staring at your cupboard, desperately wanting something sweet, and trying to figure out what you can do with the can of sweetened condensed milk, bag of flour and quart jar of peaches you’re staring at.

All that being said, I have one such cookbook in hand that encompasses those attributes as well as a little something more.  The ladies at Dems Fine Jewelers of Irmo, SC have put together a cookbook that is a collection of those simple Southern classics as well as their tried and true special recipes such as Raspberry-Balsamic Glazed Chicken, Burgundy Beef Tips and Shellfish Chowder (this one’s my mom’s and hands-down the best chowder I have ever eaten. Ever. Seriously.).

My mother has worked for Dems since before I was born.  Dems, or more importantly, the ladies that work there are woven into the fabric of who I am as surely as my own family.

And what a crew to have in your corner.  The personalities differ as greatly as the spectrum of gemstones they sell.  From young to old, traditional to eccentric, conservative to liberal, outspoken to reserved and artistic to pragmatic the ladies couldn’t have a better nickname: Dems Gems.  Picture Steel Magnolias meets Sex in the City then goes shopping with Designing Women.

Statistically, I suppose it might add up but when I look at them and think of the beast they have battled, it utterly stuns me that that ugly bitch, breast cancer had to strike them.  Four times.

Tough as the cancer has been, they have been stronger.  Team Dems is four for four and going strong.  Choosing not to focus on the ugly aspects of the treatment, they instead pour their energy into awareness and this cookbook, a collection of their favorite recipes, is one such endeavor as a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the South Carolina Oncology Association’s SCOA Cares Foundation.

The introduction they’ve written for their 300-recipe collection sums the book up better than I can so I’ll share it with you here:

The recipes in the cookbook are our family’s favorites.  Some have been passed down through generations and come from many countries including Poland, England and Greece.  All of us at Dems love to cook and it’s always a topic of conversation.  We love having all of our favorites in one book.  We know these recipes will become favorites of yours too.

To give you a sample of what’s in store, I’ll share with you one of my mother’s best, most requested recipes, Chicken Diane.

Chicken Diane By Carol Richburg

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ¾ teaspoon rubbed sage
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 ½ sticks butter
  • 12 oz boneless skinless chicken breast cut into strips
  • 3 cups sliced mushrooms
  • ¼ cup minced green onion tops
  • 3 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 6 oz. dry bowtie pasta

Mix salt and next five ingredients in small bowl. Cook pasta according to package directions and set aside.

Melt ½ stick of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add spice mixture and chicken; brown chicken about 2 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and cook 2 minutes. Add the onions, parsley, garlic & stock and cook 2 more minutes or until the sauce is at a constant simmer.

Add the remaining butter (cut into pats) Stirring and shaking the pan to incorporate. Cook for 3 minutes and add the cooked pasta. Stir & shake the pan to mix well.

Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

If you would like a copy of their book, From Our Table to Yours, call the ladies at Dems Fine Jewelers at 803.407.5290 to order one today.  Cost is $20, plus tax.

Mandy Richburg Rivers

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."