Thinking Ahead: Formal Dining --Napkins

5:22 PM

For a few years it seemed that most people began to shy away from formal entertaining. Parties and dinners became more relaxed. As I get older, I want to throw more formal events. I am excited about the upcoming holidays and I love the thought of actually using the 'good stuff'.  I have narrowed my menus down for Thanksgiving and Christmas, to ohhhhh say 100 possibilities (it is so hard to choose!!) and while I continue to widdle down my choices, I have other decisions to make.

One thing I do know is that the holidays will be formal dining experiences. Being that I made that one final decision, it has led me on an online quest for unique and gorgeous napkin ideas.

Here are a few that I found. I will be practicing these and sharing how well I could do them, how easy or how tough or if I just could not hack it.


African Cassava Leaf Stew With Rice

11:45 PM

I just recently returned from a week long trip to Chicago. I was there to photograph the Chicago Fashion Week debut of children's fashion designer, Alexandria Olivia and I had booked a few headshot and editorial sessions.

While it was mostly work, I was there to also enjoy some good food.

Being in Mississippi, there are limitations as to what we can experience. I know, I know...but yes, it is true. The designer I was commissioned to work for is of African descent. While there in Chicago, I was so thankful to experience authentic African food that literally made me say, "yesssssss".

One of the foods  I tried was called Cassava Leaf Stew with rice. 

Oh my. It was so good.

Full of all kinds of meats and  earthy ground leaves, it had me wanting to bring it on back to Mississippi.

And I did just that, I brought back some cassava leaves and palm oil -- determined, I made this delicous meal at home for my family.

I used beef neckbones, chicken, mussels and shrimp but the meat possibilities are endless. This is a hearty African comfort food that is perfect for these impending cool winter nights.

It was a hit and even my mom with her picky palate went back for seconds.

Here is a recipe I followed that you can try. Of course, cassava leaves and palm oil are not readily available in all areas. Check your local ethnic markets or online. It is so worth it.

*I served mine with parboiled rice. My mom, being the ultimate southerner and despite boiling the meat with a habenero, added hot sauce*


Start A Recipe Book

8:54 PM

Image from Alaina Ann

One of the reasons I started this blog was because I loved cooking for my children and wanted to share the things I made. One of the reasons I eventually learned to cook (and not just microwave) was because of my children.

One of the best memories I have of growing up are of the dinners and meals my mother, father and us kids would all have. I remember us coming home from school, my mom at the stove and once we put down our books, washed our hands, we had to set the table for dinner.  It was a routine, a tradition and it stands out to me so much as an adult. I cook because I want to give my kids that same feeling when they are older. I want them to know that their mama took the time to prepare good meals for them because she loved them so much.

While it is good to have a blog, which is the one stop internet is also best to have something else for them.  An actual recipe book that they can touch, feel, flip the pages of while reliving memories that go with certain dishes and be able to recreate themselves.

We depend so much on technology these days, but nothing beats handwritten or typed out bound books that people can actually enjoy outside of the computer, smartphones and tablets.

That is why I decided to make use of the recipe binder a friend got me for my birthday two years ago. It sat in the kitchen all this time as a decoration more than a functional piece. As I get older I realize that I would rather my children, my family have my recipes and the recipes I love all in one place that they can actually touch and feel.

So why not start a recipe book if you have not already? Don't rely on technology to keep records for you. You never know what can happen. Handwrite some, type and print out some...add your own special notes to recipes or include a memory with them! Your family and children will love it.

Here are some cool ideas I found on pinterest, that I love.

Pinterest and the internet is full of free printable pages and ideas for starting your own recipe book--just get started! I have started mine and while I take the time to write down recipes, it may seem a bit time consuming but all  I can think about is when I am gone and my kids--all grown with kids of their own--flipping through the pages until they memorize how to make the dishes they so loved growing up.


Ready For The Holidays

12:37 PM

Halloween is right around the corner and then we are kicking the holiday season into full gear. We have a white tree this year for Christmas, so I have been on Pinterest looking for red and white holiday inspiration. All that red and planning made me remember these!

I made these last year and they were featured full page in 2013's Yum Food And Fun for Kids Holiday issue. These are cute, simple and fun!

A great alternative to the traditional milk and cookies we leave out for Santa and perfect for children's winter parties.

Chocolate chips
Powdered donuts
Fruit leather
Milk bottles

Fill your glass with milk and top with a powdered donut. Insert a straw for easy sipping and garnish with a nice red strip of fruit leather and chocolate buttons down the bottle.  *Leave the chocolate at room temperature and they will stick the the glass on their own. A quick, easy and fun addition to any party or perfect holiday treat for your little ones.


Gumbo Round Up....

2:41 PM

Here in the South, when it starts cooling off, all the pots come out. No more humid and sweaty summers swatting 'squitos and box fans, we gear up for soup and stew season.

It is still somewhat hot down here, but occasionally we get a cool breeze and witness a few leaves falling to the ground. That is more than enough reason for us to get ready for fall and winter and start gearing our pots up for warm gooey, soupey, stewey goodness.

One of our staples at my house during the cooler months, is gumbo.  It is a cajun dish with a roux base and loaded with okra, tomatoes, shrimp, chicken and sausage.

It is not the easiest dish to photograph, but oh it is so comforting. We usually serve with some saltine crackers and with some rice.

Here are some that have caught my eye on the internet. Hopefully, I will photograph some this fall and share my mom's recipe for it with you. Until then, consider adding this to your fall and winter meal rotation.

This looks so much like the one my mom makes. Oh yeah. Recipe over at The Gridiron Girl's Guide to the Good Life.

Oh look! Pretty! This one seems a bit thicker than what we serve in the south, but oh it looks like it would be heaven with some rice! Recipe at Saveur for chicken and sausage gumbo.

I like that this is called "Gumbo-laya". Two winter and fall favorites in one! Recipe can be found at The Cozy Apron.

This one right here....ohhhhh weeee. Crab added, why yes, sir!  A nice seafood gumbo recipe from Leite's Culinaria

I can't wait to make my own this fall. My kids have already asked me when the chili, chicken and dumplings and gumbo are going to be made. I guess they are ready for fall too.

Not A Recipe: Italian Beef & Giardiniera

7:50 PM

(My Italian Beef Attempt #1 using store bought giardiniera)

This is not recipe but simply a declaration of sorts.  I am now officially on a quest to make my own giardiniera.  If you are familiar with Italian foods or from the Chicago area and familiar with a certain delectable sandwich called the Italian Beef, you will know that giardiniera is a yummy delicious goodiness of peppers, celery, cauliflower and a host of other little bits.

I was in Chicago a few weeks ago and could not come back home without some giardiniera. While I have half a jar left, I know my appeitite for it---and being here in Mississippi-means that I need to learn to make it on my own.

I. shall. succeed.

I found several recipes on google that I am going to test out and tweak. Fingers crossed I can get it!

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