It is August in Houston and as many of our friends head north to destinations like Colorado, Canada, Alaska and Maine to get out of the sweltering heat, two of our daughters thought a family trip to the Carolina coast was overdue. Seriously, if you live in South Texas, do you really want a summertime vacation on the South Carolina coast? It is hot in Houston and it is hot there. But as one of my daughters so aptly stated, “A hot day at the beach is better than no day at the beach.” And besides, we are going to our family cabana on Hilton Head Island. Thirteen pristine beaches on a 12-mile-long island; what’s not to like!

We like all of the beaches: the sand, the ocean and, of course, the beach foods. Some cold, some hot, some messy, some highly spirited in a frosty glass with chunks of tropical fruit atop swirls of flavored liquor and fruit juices. Here is the big bonus; we have eight, yes, eight beach bars, and we love to ride our bikes on the beach right up to the bar for drinks, food, music and the view. Volleyball is, of course, in the picture as well.

So, while we are all sweltering outside or freezing inside (we do love our air conditioning), “Please Join Our Table” or beach blanket for fun, family beach food.

A few years ago our niece, Sidney Bilinovich, shared a photo of herself on a Carolina beach enjoying what she called “beach bread;” she begged me to try to create it for her next trip. Here it is, Sidney, enjoy!

My HHI Beach Bread

I can’t make enough of this. They eat it like they are starving. While the kids are at the beach I will whip this up and walk it to them with a cooler of lemonade and watermelon (three-minute walk, no sweat)!

1 long loaf (about 3 feet) Italian ciabatta or French bread, cut into 3 pieces, then sliced in half
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 and 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder (I use the one with parsley mixed in)
2 tablespoons chunky blue cheese dressing
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese or Gorgonzola cheese
2 cups seeded, diced and drained fresh Roma tomatoes (I like to drain mine a bit to keep the bread crispier)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh green onion tops or chives
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, Italian cheese blend or your cheese of choice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or Italian parsley

Preheat oven broiler to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with non-stick foil. Brush cut sides of French bread with melted butter and olive oil, then place under broiler and toast lightly, about 2 minutes. Using oven mitts, carefully remove it from the oven. Sprinkle with onion and garlic powder. Spread the blue cheese dressing over both halves. Top with blue cheese or Gorgonzola cheese, tomatoes, green onion tops, mozzarella (or other cheese) and basil/parsley. Place under broiler until cheese is melted, about 2-4 minutes; bread should be crusty on the outside and top just beginning to turn golden.

Note: (Other ingredients we sometimes substitute or add is diced onion, mushrooms, chicken, pepperoni or mixed cheeses (Greek, Mexican, etc.) to taste. You can really Greek it out by using feta cheese and soft herb goat cheese in place of the other cheeses, then add capers, Greek olives and Greek-seasoned meat.

Lava Flows and the Volcano Blows (makes one drink)

My Lava Flow Cocktail inspired by Pool Bar Jim's Cocktail Bar in Hilton Head Island

1 ounce light rum
1 ounce coconut rum
2 ounces strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 small banana
1/2 small mango or 1/3 cup frozen mango pieces
2 ounces pineapple juice
2 ounces coconut cream (not light)

Blend the two rums and the strawberries in a blender to form a smooth mixture. Pour into a Hurricane glass. Rinse the blender. Blend the banana, mango, pineapple juice and coconut cream in the blender with crushed ice until smooth. Slowly pour this into the glass with the rums and as the strawberry mixture moves up to the top it looks like a flowing lava volcano.

Karen’s Sisters by the Shore Beach Pie

(Easy, salty, sweet and lemony… it’s crackers. My non-bake lemon pie is always a delicious surprise to have waiting upon returning from the beach and this recipe does not disappoint! This is my fun, easy recipe.

For the crust

1 1/2 sleeves saltine crackers (60 crackers)
3/4 cup softened, unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

(Or skip this step and buy a pre-made graham cracker pie crust in the pan)

For the filling

1 14-ounce can sweetened, evaporated milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice (real juice fresh or in a bottle)
2 tablespoons lemon or lime zest plus 1 tablespoon lemon zest

Whipped cream for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a gallon plastic zip-lock bag, crush crackers using a meat mallot or rolling pin. Add the sugar, nutmeg and then the butter. Kneed it until it is semi dough-like. Press it into an 8- or 9- inch pie pan. Bake for 16-18 minutes until golden brown. Place it in the fridge for 15 minutes. In a medium bowl, add the evaporated milk and egg yolks; mix until blended. Add the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons lemon/lime zest and blend till mixed well (I use an immersion blender). Remove the shell from the fridge. Pour the milk mixture into the shell and bake for 15-16 minutes or until set. Remove from the oven, top it with the remaining zest and place it in the fridge until completely cold, at least 1 hour. Serve it topped with whipped cream along the edges.

Karen Boughton
Author: Karen BoughtonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I grew up in a big, Greek, cooking family. I married my high school sweetheart and soon had three daughters. My husband and I worked in the family’s Greek restaurant, “Zorba’s,” for several years before moving to Baton Rouge and eventually Corpus Christi. There I taught microwave cooking classes for Amana.in studio and on television for three years before moving to Kingwood in the late '80s. I reached out to learn more about regional and international foods, spending 16 years in management in private athletic/dining/country clubs for ClubCorp, where I embraced health and cooking. In 2008 I joined the Tribune Newspapers as food editor, the same time that I became a nutrition advisor and USANA Health Sciences Associate. These two passions have given me better health and the freedom to live life my way.