As American as Hamburgers and Peach Pie

Glad I was graced with time, opportunity and inspiration for this blog post. I had started a post on Work/Life balance a week ago and I’m assuming it’s on my phone because it was not available on my desktop when I sat down to work. It’s probably better that I didn’t find it, it was the hum drum, run of the mill type of stuff that I didn’t want to post and I think this one is a lot better. The last post thoughts were forced because I was pressuring myself to get it done for timing reasons. Taking my time with this process has allowed me to come full circle in my thought process. I am better now than I was then and hence I believe this is the blog post and meal that I was meant to serve up.

A classic hamburger and peach pie, it was Thursday night’s planned dinner as we awaited Hurricane Florence’s potential arrival. Honestly I had foreseen that we wouldn’t be as affected as the forecasters had predicted but that still didn’t stop me from running out and buying an obscene amount of bottled water that cost $1.30 more per case than I would normally pay. Not to mention the two cases of water that I picked up for my hairstylist who has still not mentioned wanting these waters anymore, lol. It’s all good though we will drink every last bottle of the Nestle Pure Life waters one bottle at a time. So my daughter kept asking for a cheeseburger and I kept forgetting to get her one when I was out and then let’s not forget the request made by my husband for hamburgers but no store prepared patties. He wanted the homemade kind that you had to mix and shape yourself by hand. So it’s safe to say that it was going to be a Cheeseburger Night at my house. Almost everyone eats hamburgers except for Cassius. He’s not big on meats and meaty meals. Still I forged on with my idea because I knew the general consensus would be happy. Can’t please everybody all the time, us Moms know that best.

I was in pursuit of the perfect all American Cheeseburger and Peach Pie! After perusing several websites and reviews I was most inspired by the “All American Burger Recipe” via Deepsouthdish.com I braved the stores to gather the necessities that I didn’t have on hand to complete this task. I didn’t have ground chuck  and fresh hamburger buns. For my hamburgers I used 2.25 lbs of ground chuck, 1 pack of Beefy Onion soup mix, Worcestershire sauce and salt. That’s it. Pretty simple right?

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Worcestershire Sauce & Lipton Beefy Onion Soup Mix (not shown salt)

 

When I was in Wal-Mart the other day getting storm supplies I spied the mountain of peaches on display. I was on the phone with my husband at the time so I threw out there that they had peaches and I should make him a pie. Of course he was in full agreement, “peach pie was exactly what we needed to help ride this storm out”. So I grabbed my share and proceeded to get through the storm chaos as quickly as possible. In addition to the peaches I picked up two frozen traditional pie shells, a box of pre-made pie dough sheets and PET Homemade Peach Ice Cream. Even though I was planning to make my dough, please know that I am a tried and true vet to these things…sometimes things go wrong – so it’s always good to be ready for anything. I had confidence in my dough making abilities but I wanted to be able to deliver a finished product no matter what obstacles may have arisen. Always a Girl Scout, “be prepared” had been imbedded in my DNA. In the fall and winter months, you can never have enough pre-made pie crusts on hand. Nevertheless I was ready. Back at home I printed out the recipe and was ready to tackle the peach pie head on. There are 8 steps in total to achieve Peach Pie heaven. I decided to employ the use of my mixer to help me achieve the dough consistency I was looking for. Step 1 has you cutting butter into small cubes and chilling for 15 minutes.

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Cubed Butter

While you wait on the chilled butter, you are to mix together the flour and salt. Your chilled butter cubes are then introduced into the mixer slowly until your mixture is crumbly in texture. Increments of ice water are poured into the mixture to moisten the dry ingredients. Ice water is continuously added to help form the dough.

 

The dough will begin to take shape and come together as it pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Once to your liking, the dough is shaped into disks and wrapped in plastic wrap. The dough must chill for at least 30 minutes and can be chilled up to 24 hours.

With the dough doing its thing in the fridge I decided to work on the pie filling. It was time to peel the peaches. Step 2 instructs you to pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees and roll out your dough. I skipped ahead to Step 4 while I waited the dough out.

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I wasn’t looking forward to peeling these peaches but my trusty peeler would be put to the ultimate test. Could it peel peaches as good as its peeled potatoes and what not? I found out quickly that a good utensil makes the most tedious jobs simple and seamless. I had those peaches peeled, quartered and then sliced in no time. In a separate bowl I mixed the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon and salt before coating the peaches with the mixture. (Side bar – I also added a little Pure Vanilla extract to my peach slices before I coated them in the sugar mixture. I love vanilla extract and hoped that it wouldn’t hurt.) Here’s where I appreciate my thought process! Thank God I bought those pre-made pie shells. I threw away the last pie plate I had months ago. I had nothing to put my pie in other than cake pans or molds. So I used the store-bought shell for the bottom and was able roll out a beautiful pie crust for the top that I had made. The pie filling is spooned into the pie plate and then it’s covered with the sheet of pie dough.

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I trimmed the excess dough from around the pie plate and pressed the crusts together before crimping the edges with a fork. The left over dough allowed me to fashion together leaves with a knife that I arranged on top of the pie crust. An egg is beaten and then brushed all over the pie before being sprinkled with granulated sugar. Don’t forget to cut your 4-5 slits into the top of your pie. I did and I haven’t eaten that pie yet so I can’t tell you what went wrong. Just don’t skip this step. That’s what I get for jumping all over the page. I ended up with enough filling and pie crusts for two pies. The other pie dough was rolled out just like the first but I cut it into strips with my knife (no fluted pastry wheel on hand) and arranged it into a lattice pattern on top of the second pie. It too was brushed with a beaten egg and then sprinkled with granulated sugar. The recipe then advises to freeze the pie for 15 minutes before popping it into the 425 degree oven for the first 15 minutes. The heat is then lowered to 375 and cooked for another 40 minutes. Finally the pie is loosely covered with aluminum foil and baked for the last 25 minutes. It is suggested to allow the pies at least 2 hours to cool prior to serving. This was the biggest test. Everyone kept coming into the kitchen to inquire when the pies would be ready for slicing. My daughter even suggested slicing it up Fruit Ninja style which I declined for logical reasons. They were going to have to wait until after dinner to try these Peach beauties.

 

With the pies done, I took a tv break with the hubs for an hour and caught up on the latest episode of Snowfall before I got right back into action in the kitchen making the all American Hamburger. By the end of Snowfall I was getting hungry and ready to finish up in the kitchen.

A quick mix of the ground chuck, onion soup mix and Worcestershire sauce with a spoon was needed before the hamburger patties were rolled into balls first and then formed into hamburger patties. Per Deepsouthdish.com our burgers were also going to be getting a coating of melted butter brushed on each side during cooking. A sprinkling of salt also accompanied each side of the burger as they cooked. Now before I go further I should warn you that there was a bit of pre-work done before I actually was ready to cook the burgers. Hence the bacon had to be cooked, the onions were sliced and grilled, the tomatoes were sliced and we cannot forget the eggs were fried! Once all of that was done then I was ready to cook the all american hamburger because it could be eaten immediately with all of its accessories ready. Deepsouthdish.com suggests allowing the burgers to cook without too much flipping or pressing down of the burgers. Once the burgers were to my liking they were pulled and ready to be fully dressed.

The hamburger buns also received the butter treatment and were brushed with melted butter and toasted. Then the assembly of the all American Hamburger could begin. American cheese went atop the burger to melt while both sides of the buns were lathered with mayo. The burger was then placed atop the bottom bun and covered with a fried egg and grilled onion patty. The top of the burger was covered in bacon and tomatoes. A small dab of yellow mustard and lots of ketchup went atop the bottom half of the burger before the two halves were joined together in burger matrimony.

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The All American Hamburger with Cheese, Bacon, Fried Egg, Grilled Onion, Tomato, Ketchup and Mustard

Now I know some of you are thinking, that looks delicious but what did Cassius eat? He doesn’t eat hamburgers right? Well that’s exactly what happened to me when I was about ready to eat my burger and then I remembered the Cheez It Chicken Bites I had picked up in some store that week.

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Boneless Chicken Bites Breaded with Cheez It Crackers

I made a pan of these that also went great with the regular and waffle fries that I had deep-fried to accompany the burgers. They were popped in the oven at 450 degrees for about 25 minutes and voila, Cassius was taken care of. The best part of it, he loved it! And we loved our burgers! There were huge to start off with, but they also boasted tons of flavor and they were juicy. I think everybody rushed through their food just so they could get to the Peach Pie. This was one of those desserts that everyone was anticipating.

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PET Limited Edition Homemade Style Carolina Peach Pie

A slice of pie and a dollop of ice cream was all it took to quiet the normally talkative bunch. This pie was declared an official winner by my husband who requested his second piece of pie not long after his first. It was good. It was sweet but not too sweet. The peaches were dead on, they weren’t mushy. They tasted like peaches! The brown sugar and cinnamon elevated this to new heights. This was classic goodness!

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Peach Pie Minus 1 Slice

Again I was pleased with the end result for both the hamburgers and the peach pie and so was my family. I always get a kick out of something I personally enjoy but it always pleases my heart and soul when I can make my family happy. Sometimes it’s these little things that make a big impact on us and cooking for my family has been one of those things that have shaped the woman, wife and mother that I am. Figuring out this meal and blog post also reminded me that just like the perfect burger I was pursuing, I’m also pursuing like so many others, the “American dream”. When googled, the “American Dream” is expressed as “a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success…”

Aren’t we all working towards our own versions of what the “American Dream” looks like or feels like to us? One of the best things about being an American is the ability to dream freely and then pursue those dreams. That’s why so many people come to our country every day…the hope of better. So many of us awake each day with a dream in our hearts to do something, to create something or to be something. I’ve been dreaming all my life of being this or that, doing this or that and there are some dreams that I’ve long fulfilled and there are others that I am still working my way towards. It was a realization just the other day that I might have been circling back into old habits that were not going to get me closer to my dream. If you’ve been following me you know that I am back in the wonderful world of the workforce again. It was something that I’ve been longing to do for the last few years but the job that I am doing has long hours, is physically demanding and lacks organization to help efficiency. Too many shifts already have me getting home after 9:30pm, after my children are already in bed. There are a lot of sacrifices that I can handle when it comes to the benefit and well-being of my family but one of them is not sacrificing seeing them or spending time with them. I love my family. They pluck my nerves like nobody else in the world but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. It’s my dream to give my family a wonderful life that includes accomplishing my dream of being a best-selling author, a screenwriter, a restaurateur, a farmer and so much more. I don’t want to be unhappy and unfulfilled working tirelessly for someone else who doesn’t value who I am or what I’m working towards for my family. Hence the feeling like this latest job was killing me physically and emotionally; not to mention spiritually. I was circling back into old chains that I had previously broken free of. Being a stay at home Mom had given me the freedom of pursuing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Now I was chained to this job and it was more than I was prepared to deal with. I was beating myself up mentally every day as a result.

Nothing being by chance, I had to reach out to my friend Nichole for a favor as the new school year broached. I needed a hairstylist for my daughter and there was only one person that I knew I could call and count on to help me out, my good pal Nichole that I met when I worked at SunTrust Mortgage many years ago. Nichole and I became buddies fast when I was pregnant with my son Cassius. A simple compliment from Nichole about my maternity gear has forged an unexpected but genuine friendship amongst us. Doing hair is one of Nichole’s many side-hustles. It was one of the things that I respected and loved about her the most next to her kind and giving heart. She has always been a go-getter and she is another Jill of All Trades like me but she can SANG! And I do mean, she can SANG!! She tore down Adele’s, “Rolling in the Deep” at my Lady’s Power Showcase in 2011. She can COOK! And I do mean, she can cook. She can sew! She’s hella smart! She was always a top performer and producer at work. She’s a leader and a motivator, and always a team player. I was glad to reconnect with her after life had kept us both busy in our own parts of the world. After rehashing the things we had missed in each other’s life I was delighted to find out that she had started her own Catering Company, Kenny’s Kitchen, named after her son that was keeping her busy. She is doing weddings and other events, and even meal prep options for individuals and families. I’m so proud of her! She has clung to her dreams and her pursuit of them despite numerous obstacles that she has faced personally and professionally. She is all American in her pursuit of whatever accolades and success she is seeking for her own life and family and I am proud to call her my friend. Please check out her if you’re in need of Catering Services via Kenny’s Kitchen . Talking to her reminded me that we must be fearless in our pursuit of what we want and that we can’t let our circumstances keep us from living the life we desire. The drive and motivation to be successful is as All American as Hamburgers and Peach Pie and I’m proud to be an American in full pursuit of my dream.

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A Meal Offered thru Nichole’s, Kenny’s Kitchen

Thank you all for stopping by, I can’t wait to whip up something tasty and delicious to share with you all next time!

Till then be blessed, and be a blessing!

A Very Pleasant Mom, Tameka

#AVeryPleasantLife

#Dreamchasers

#Hamburgers

#PeachPie

#AllAmerican

 

 

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Meatloaf – 2 Meats?; and Oreo Pie

So it’s a double post day, normally my posts are geared towards the meals I make like the one I’m sharing with you today. Hopefully you checked out my first post, “The Forgotten Black Butterfly: Me” and I hope you check this one out too.

It was time for something comforting and homey on the food front and I was feeling like meatloaf. I wanted to give it a twist so I decided to do a Lamb and Beef meat loaf. I found a great recipe via GeniusKitchen.com, “Meatloaf with Ground Lamb”. It’s a standard meatloaf recipe that uses the surprise ingredient of ground lamb. The first thing I did was make my own breadcrumbs. It’s not one of those things that I care to waste money on because I don’t cook with it frequently. So I browned 4 pieces of seasoned white bread in the oven on low heat, and then I crumbled the slices in a gallon ziploc bag.

Next I sauteed the cut up onions and mushrooms I added for more texture and allowed them to cool while I mixed the meatloaf. Using a rubber spatula I mixed the ground meats together with the remaining ingredients – eggs, salt, pepper, seasonings, herbs, ketchup and worcestershire sauce. Once mixed well I added in the bread crumbs and then spooned my meatloaf mixed into a greased bundt pan. I use vegetable oil spray to do it quickly and mess free. I baked it for right at an hour before spreading a thin layer of ketchup on top of the cooked meatloaf. It went back in the oven for another 7 minutes and whoila it was done.

While the meatloaf baked in the oven I made homemade mashed potatoes very simply. Thankfully my husband was wanting mashed potatoes with the skins on this time so that meant no peeling potatoes.

After washing them I submerged them into water ane began boiling the potatoes until they were fork tender. One the potatoes were tender I made a mixture of chicken stock, butter and milk that I microwaved and mixed together. That mixture was poured and mixed into the potatoes as they are mashed. I mix and continue to add the liquid until I have the desired constency in my mashed potatoes and then I season with salt and pepper and a few more pats of butter. These potatoes are easy to make yet delicious and fresh. Brocolli florets were steamed and seasoned with butter, salt and pepper.

I also made Oreo Pie for the first time. I found the recipe on Pinterest that called for crushed oreo cookies, whipped topping, vanilla pudding, and milk. I’m still trying to find the actual recipe I used. I will update the link when I find it. I will say, this was delicious – the Oreo cookie crust is covered with the pudding and whipped topping mixture and finally the crumbled cookies. I also cut Oreos in half and arranged them around the dish. The recipe asserted that it would be set up in a couple hours. Two hours later it wasnt set. Three hours later it was good enough to eat. The next day it was better. Unfortunately I never got a picture of a piece of it on a plate because it was devoured. I may use less milk next time and maybe an additional box of pudding, I’ll keep you posted how it goes.

Otherwise this meal was a homerun. The meatloaf was juicy and tangy. The lamb was the star of the meal and the ketchup complimented the flavors perfectly. The mashed potatoes were sumptuous and fluffy with bits of the potato skin througout the bite. I was impressed with how delicious it came out and my husband loved the new flavor profile in the meatloaf. This was another success story, so if you’re looking for a walk on the wild side, give your meatloaf some kick with  a little ground lamb.

Till next time,

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4, Tameka

The Forgotten Black Butterfly: Me

It was probably a week ago when I sat on my deck under the umbrella shielding myself from the already beaming hot sun although it was still pretty early in the day. The deck had become my new office in the recent weeks as it’s one of the few places that I can work without noise or distractions from my family or one of the many televisions that’s on. That means transplanting my laptop, notebooks, reference materials, cell phone, chargers, extension cord, bottled water and possibly snacks…to the patio set on the deck to work outside. I light my citronella torches to keep the bugs at bay and hunker down for as many hours as I can get without interruption – that’s usually till the first kid wakes up. On this day in particular I was feeling very good about all the progress I had been making on a novel that I’m working on when I saw that beautiful black butterfly flying towards me. Instantly the butterfly reminded me of myself and although I was happy to see it initially, it made me feel sad for a moment. Of course I couldn’t grab my phone quick enough to snap the photo before the butterfly had flown away. That visit from the black butterfly had jolted me into a heightened awareness of who I was, who I am and who I still want to be. Realizing that I had somehow managed to forget that there was a time when I thought of myself to be a “black butterfly” too like so many women who have grown, survived and transformed themselves and their lives.

I honored my association with this “black butterfly” with matching tattoos on my left and right legs many years ago. This small and beautiful creature had shaken my whole thought process up. It helped me put things in perspective. This simple unexpected visit from the black butterfly reminded me of everything that I have survived and how much I’ve changed over the years. Some of my changes have been for the better and others haven’t served me well at all. I sat there trying to figure out when I forgot that I’m always that black butterfly even if I don’t recognize it.

Back then I was a very eager go getter about anything that I would involve myself in. If it was something that I wanted to learn or to do, I did it without hesitation. I was highly motivated and looking to be validated instantly. I’m the type of person who wants to be good at everything I do. I like to think that I’m smart, capable, well read and knowledgable. I don’t mind working hard. I’ve always been a team player and try to go the extra mile. Plus I had dreams, big dreams of success, wealth and respect amongst my peers. My books were going to be best sellers. My screenplays were going to get sold for millions of dollars to the biggest studios and made into movies. I could do it all. I even tried to.

I mailed hundreds of query letters off for different novels, or screenplays. I entered contests. I was doing everything I could to strike gold. I didn’t win any of those contests. I never heard from any of those agents, agencies or companies I queried. It was disheartening. It felt like failure and rejection. It made me doubt myself and whether I was any good. Eventually I was published in 2005, a year after my first son was born my first book “Divine Glory” came out.       divineglorybookcover

I felt good about myself and all that I had managed to accomplish in the midst of my pregnancy and arrival of my son. It motivated me to keep pushing. I set my sights on other tasks though. Being a mother who was working full-time was new to me. I had no time to devote to writing or pursuing certain dreams because I was bad at managing my family’s time and mine. I was doing the best I could, so I devoted myself to being the best mother and wife when I was not at work. My family continued to grow and so did my responsibilities. I remember feeling like I had writer’s block for years when I didn’t write anything at all. I felt creatively stifled although I had tons of creativity for my children and their projects and hobbies. There was just none of that creative juice or myself. It was okay though because I was looking for validation in my new career in the finance industry. Starting out the hours were crappy (4:30pm-1:30am), not the worse but not the best when you want to be at home to put your child to bed and kiss them goodnight. The pay was good though and after a while you could work your way up to a better shift which I eventually did. Then a better position at a better company.

I was making more money and was hopeful of the opportunity to advance and build myself a solid career. What I didn’t know was how cut throat corporate environments could be? I was blind to so much that was going on around me because I was just trying to do my job and move up. I did move up but then I got stalled. In my office environment people weren’t moving up solely on merit. It was politics, relationships and a whole lot of other seedy and underhanded scheming and conniving that I had absolutely no parts of. At that point it didn’t matter how well I worked, I was like a thorn in their sides and it became extremely hard to keep my job. Strategically I managed to hold on to my job as long as I could but I was miserable. I was looking to be free of the stress and pressure that I was feeling daily at work. My first day out of corporate I started writing again. I began writing, “Sweet Justice: A Mother’s Revenge” which I published later that year.

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I felt like I was somewhat back on track and that felt good. In 2015 I was baptized and as a result I began a deeper, more obedient relationship with the Lord that helped to transform my life more than I could ever imagine. I was learning a lot about myself and life, what it meant to have faith and believe. I was inspired to write and publish another book, “Amen S.i.s.! It’s Already Done!”

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I was in a good place and it showed in my desire to write and create. I had produced a ladies talent showcase at a local nightclub. I was bubbling again. During these years I was recruited by various leagues or organizations. By chance I had managed to run into a member of the Purple Orchids while I prepared for my first book signing for “Amen S.i.s.!” That connection would lead to an invitation to their group that I accepted. Lastly I was installed as a member in an honored ceremony. I was honored that these ladies had selected me to be a part of their organization. My heart was in the right place but I found myself disinterested and unable to commit to the calendar of events that the group kept. In the meantime I had managed to land a good position in another mortgage company. The pay was better and I was doing something different at the other end of the mortgage spectrum. I liked what I was doing and hoping for a second chance to restart a career that I was eager to succeed in before. What I found out was that the culture that I was finally free of was also running rampant in my new company. I was crushed again. No amount of drive or hard work was going to help me advance or get me the recognition that I might have earned and even deserved in this all too familiar environment. When my time at that organization came to an end I was actually relieved but my ego and pride took a hit that would take me years to recover from.

I was needed at home. Hell, my husband wanted me at home so the timing couldn’t have been better. It was then that I was able to immerse myself into being a full-time stay at home mother and caretaker of my family that also included my mother in law fresh out of rehab. I had found my purpose and was finally feeling free of all the guilt and unhappiness that I had carried around working full time outside of my home. These days were busy with my oldest son’s homeschooling and being the engaged Mom who was on top of it all. Even though I was happy, I still longed to support my family financially so I started driving part-time and eventually full-time as a Taxi Driver. The demand of the long 12 hours shifts from 6pm-6am and the danger of driving into dangerous areas for fares was more than I could bear and again I found myself feeling failed at my attempt again. What was worse is that I hadn’t written in a while again.

I had discovered a love and joy in cooking and I was good at it. I was always a good cook but my time at home with the family had given me new tasks that gave me new comfort. I had found success in making people happy with the meals and desserts that I was preparing and out of it my love for cooking was born and a new dream, culinary school. This come to Jesus moment couldn’t have happened at a better time, all of my young children were enrolled in school and my oldest homeschooling was already established. I was ready to go to culinary school. I applied, was accepted and then I was rear ended in a car accident and again my plans were derailed. I couldn’t commit to the rigorous physical demands of school, plus the damage to my car put me out of commission as I drove for Uber and Lyft part-time then. These feelings of failure and disappointment had become a recurring theme in my life. Something would happen. I would get disappointed and I would move on to the next thing looking for success and validation. Even though I wasn’t working on any specific project I had begun writing about my meals on my blog that became my only creative outlet for a while.

It was only when my family’s world was rocked earlier this Summer that I was jolted out of my writing dry spell. Instantly I was reminded why I was given certain talents and what I could do with them if I tried. It was exactly a week or so after this that I had my encounter with the elusive black butterfly in my backyard and was further reminded that my life has always been about growing, surviving and transforming. I figured out that I could still achieve the level of success that I had dreamt of but that meant that I had to still try. I wondered if I could do it all. I was thrust back into the workforce instantly and didn’t want to leave behind all that I had accomplished working on my books and blog.

How do I feel today? I feel faithful today. I know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me so it gives me the strength to push on when I find myself feeling the challenges and pressures of day-to-day life. My dreams are still attainable and achievable. I know that I’m capable of more than I give myself credit for and I am anxious to try again those things that I felt like I failed at before because even though I may have forgotten, I’ve always been that beautiful black butterfly. I’ve been ever-growing, surviving and transforming all along. I’ve had failures but I’ve also had successes. I’m looking forward to what ever is next while still enjoying the present that is the gift that keeps on giving. I even have new dreams that I never thought I would be interested in.

I’ve been thinking about this blog post for over a week now. I had bulleted points to remember. I had to hear Deborah Cox’s “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here” that references her being a “lovely black butterfly” and in the midst I discovered Deneice Williams’s song, “Black Butterfly” and was floored as I listened and read the lyrics, another reminder to keep flying – to keep dreaming.

Lots of us have desires of our hearts and dreams that we are wanting to come to pass, every day we are here is a new opportunity to keep trying. Don’t ever give up. If you fall, get back up. The world needs you.

Peace and Blessings,

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4, Tameka

Honey Mustard Chicken

Howdy Folks! It’s the start of a new month already! Can you believe it’s August? I want to say I’m shocked that Summer is going by so fast but then I’m reminded that it’s like this every Summer. So you know what that means – school will be back in school. I’m not ready to send my munchkins back but I’m ready to send my munchkins back if you get what I mean.

Today I’m bringing you the latest recipe that I’ve tested in my kitchen…Honey Mustard Chicken. I found a few recipes that I mused over but ultimately followed one closely – SimplyRecipes.com; however it should be noted that there is an equally similar recipe availabie via Recipettineats.com that inspired my journey into Honey Mustard land. I was uber excited to give this meal a try, my famiy loves Honey Mustard so it was nice to think that I could give them a flavor that they love in a new dish. You guys know I’m drawn to simplicity. It’s not that I don’t like complex or meals that require many steps; I just try to plan those meals for days when I have more time in the kitchen. In my research of this recipe I stumbled on honey granules. Apparently you can use these granules in place of liquid honey because of it’s sticky consistency. The granules make it easier to measure the amounts. I didn’t seek to purchase honey granules because I already had honey in stock.

With less than 10 ingredients needed, this recipe was a hit because I had all of them. I was winning already. The recipe calls fr smooth dijon mustard. I had some yellow mustard and deli mustard, so I opted to combine the two in substitute of the smooth dijon mustard. The flavor was still good. This recipe has 3 steps! They used bone in thighs for the recipe but suggests chicken legs as an alternative. Perfect again. I had two packs of chicken drumsticks that I needed to use.

Seasoned Chicken Drumsticks

The honey mustard sauce was whisked together with the mustards, honey, and olive oil making a creamy sticky sauce. The chicken legs were arranged in the baking dish and seasoned with salt and pepper before it is covered with the honey mustard sauce. The chicken is then baked uncovered until it is done. The recipe suggests starting at 45 minutes, I cooked my chicken for an hour. It was perfectly cooked.

While the chicken baked, I worked on the Smashed Potatoes. I cut down my time by placing potatoes in sandwich bags and steaming them in the microwave first. I then used the bottom of my glass measuring cup to smash each of the potatoes before seasoning them with salt, pepper, and a pat of butter. I then layered on shredded sharp cheddar cheese, bacon crumbles and dried parsley. After they were to my liking I put this pan in the oven as the chicken finished cooking.

My husbands’ eyes lit up when it was all finished. The chicken had filled the house with a barely there sweet aroma. It all looked amazing. There was no waiting with this meal, it was done and we were ready to eat.

Honey Mustard Chicken, Smashed Potatoes and Steamed Broccoli

This was a hit all around! The chicken was moist and juicy. The Sauce was the perfect balance of sweet and tangy. The honey and mustard worked well together- neither overpowered the other. The Potatoes were texture and gooey goodness. It was crispy on the edges, the bacon crumbles added to the crunch but the inside of the potato was soft and silky from the butter. It was so quiet at the dinner table! We thoroughly enjoyed this recipe and will be adding this to our rotation.

I highly recommend trying this recipe if you want an affordable and convenient meal for your family.

What’s your favorite weekday meal? Share your fave’s, I need inspiration for the weeks ahead. Thanks for stopping by my little corner of this vast universe! Have a Pleasant Day y’all!

Blessings and Peace,

A Very Pleasant Mom

#AVeryPleasantLife

#WeekdayMealIdeas

SimplyRecipes.com

RecipeTineats.com

Swiss Steak and Mashed Potatoes

It’s a Pleasant Saturday Fam! The weather is mild and sunny and it’s the perfect day to tackle outdoor projects. I have some landscaping that I need to get done if the rain holds out but first I wanted to update you all on the last recipe I tried last night…Swiss Steak. In an effort to stay consistent on my blog I went through my freezer and deep freezer for recipe ideas to plan out a content calendar for the month of August when I ran across a pack of Thin Eye of Round Steaks. At first I thought about Beef and Broccoli or Mongolian Beef. I already do quite a bit of Asian Cuisine so I wanted to try something out of the box.

Now mind you I have no idea if Swiss Steak is actually swiss or not but hey, it sounded foreign so I went with it, lol. Sometimes I research the recipe’s origin but I didn’t this time. I found two recipes first via Pinterest – one from Food52.com and another via certifiedangusandbeef.com that was slightly different as it used cubed steak. I opted to go primarily with the Food52.com recipe because of its simplicity and the fact that I had the same cut of meat that the recipe called for. Y’all I know I love straightforward recipes that don’t require a ton of ingredients or steps and this one was one of those.

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Less than 10 ingredients and I had all but three because I use them frequently and hadn’t restocked my pantry yet. I was excited to give this recipe a try because we are not big steak eaters but I’m always delighted to find a new way to enjoy steak and work with a new cut of meat too. I grabbed my apron and blessed my hands and heart. In my opinion meals are made best when I have love and joy in my heart.

In the background my husband and kids were playing NBA Live and enjoying themselves loudly so I put on my PowerBeats and my Pandora app and started to do what I love most next to spending time with my family – cook for them. 🙂 With all of my ingredients and pans out I was ready to take on this new recipe. At the last-minute I found a third Swiss Steak recipe that was similar to the other two I had previously found on Pinterest. I had no issues with steps 1 and 2 per Food52.com.

I did find that the 3rd step should have been the 4th step and as a result I switched them. Step 3 instructs you to fry onions and green peppers first, remove them and then brown steak on both sides just to put the onions and peppers back into the pan. Alternatively I browned my steaks first, put those to the side before frying the onions and peppers.

The second issue that I found with this recipe was that it called for pan frying in olive oil. After dredging the steaks in seasoned flour I attempted to brown them but the breading started coming off in the pan. So I only dredged about three steaks before I opted to just brown them without the flour dredge. (Tip: I keep and reuse/recycle some of plastic food service containers I receive. They don’t have a long shelf life but I’ve been able to repurpose quite a few things temporarily. For me getting an extra use or 2 out of common items is a way to cut down and reduce trash…I’m a recycle fanatic if you don’t know. So I used a baby back ribs container that I had gotten rom Fridays to dredge the steaks in. Photo Below)

In reviewing the other recipes I decided to use a little minced garlic, smoked paprika, Worcestershire sauce, beef stock and bay leaf in addition. So I added a little more olive oil to my pan, the minced garlic and the onions and peppers. I opted to not cook down the onions and peppers too much as I knew it would possibly need an additional hour or 2 of cooking time over low on the stove top. With the onion and pepper medley to my liking I put the steaks back into the pan on top of it. I then added the stewed tomatoes in. Now the recipe indicates that during the cooking time some of the liquid may evaporate and to add water. One of the other recipes called for beef stock so I grabbed a few beef bouillon cubes and boiled it in a little over a cup of water and added that stock to the pan. A sprinkling of smoked paprika, salt, pepper, 2 teaspoons of worcestershire sauce and a bay leaf to the pan. I covered and simmered on low for two hours.

After two hours the thin steaks were still not as tender as I would have liked, so I cut my oven on 275 degrees, covered my pan and baked it for an additional hour and a half before it was tolerable to eat. I imagine I coud have allowed it to continue baking as it would have only made it more tender but it was already late and we were an hour and a half over the recipes’ instructions. Prior to starting the Swiss Steak recipe I whipped up one of my all time favorites Homemade Mashed Potatoes. To me mashed potatoes is one of the most simple, delicious and versatile sides that you can made cheaply too. Potatoes, water, salt, milk, butter or margarine and chicken stock is all you need for a creamy pot of mashed potatoes.

With my potatoes done, I put together a simple side salad and Voila dinner was ready. I was a little concerned that my husband wouldn’t like it if the steak wasn’t on point. He loves anything tomato based that has onions and peppers. I fixed his plate, took my pictures and then served my patient husband his dinner at almost 11 o’clock on a Friday night, lol. The verdict – Delicious! He loved it. The steak was good. It wasn’t chewy or hard as I hoped it not to be. It was really good. As we sat at the table mulling over it I decided that it was like a Deconstructed meat loaf. And it must have been really good because he got up and ate another plate of it after I retired for the night.

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Swiss Steak over Mashed Potatoes

So Fam, it was another Pleasant dinner, lol. All smiles and clean plates. Now y’all know my children wanted no parts of Swiss Steak although they inquired excitedly about it as I cooked. My oldest son Fredo was supposed to give it a shot but he was nowhere to be found when it was time to eat. For the children I grilled them Beef Hotdogs, one of their absolute favorites. So I can’t complain, every one was satisfied and full from their respective dinners.

I’m contemplating my next challenge. My content calendar suggests making Honey Mustard Chicken with the chicken drumsticks I have in my deep freezer but I was watching Diners, Drive-in’s and Dive’s with my husband and was intrigued by Empanadas, a meat pie or savory turnover. A lot of cultures have their own versions of the empanadas like the Jamaican’s do the Beef Patty or Chicken Patty that employs the same technique – meat filling in a pastry dough that is baked. So make sure you check back to see what I decide.

What do you think I should try next? Honey Mustard Chicken or Empanadas? Let me know in the comments and I might just take your advice or suggestions. Enjoy the rest of your Saturday folks, it’s almost time for me to pick up my oldest son from basketball practice.

Peace and Blessings,

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4 – Tameka

#AVeryPleasantLife

#SwissSteak

#AVeryPleasantDinner

Food52.com

Certifiedangusbeef.com

3rd Swiss Steak Recipe via This Site

Pinterest

Southern Pulled Pork

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Southern Pulled Pork

Happy Hump Day to ya! Has the summer sun been chased away by the rain in your area? It’s been raining off and on for days now and while I am glad to have a break from the heat, this rain is trying to put a damper on the summer fun. If you’re like me you probably swear by your grill all year long including the sweltering hot days of Summer! That makes you a serious Griller because not everyone can manage the heat that comes from cooking on a grill out in the hot scorching sun. We are the true survivors! 🙂 Me, I’ve braved all kinds of weather outdoors in pursuit of outdoor grilled delicacies. It was during Hurricane Isabel over 10 years ago that I manned the grill that provided the only cooked food we had access to for weeks with no electricity. Then I can’t forget about the tropical storm two years ago that flatlined my daughters’ outdoor birthday bonanza; we didn’t have electricity for a week and a half and had resorted to living off of our grill and generator. Then there are those times that during the winter the indoor grill pan won’t cut it. I’m going outside coat, apron and all in pursuit of that flame killed perfection. You get it? I likes’ to get my grill on. I’m the Grill Master of our family and I hold that title proudly yet this rain makes it tough to do. I like traditional charcoal grills. I don’t like fooling with propane tanks or whatnot. Plus, nothing beats that flavor you can evoke from the charcoal and some wood chips if you like to go the extra mile.

With rain in our forecast for the past few days I decide to rely on my trusty oven to do my next to favorite cooking process – low and slow. You can’t go wrong with cooking anything low and slow. So that’s what I did for the pork shoulder I bought from my favorite store, Kroger. I live in Kroger y’all. I’m seriously considering applying for a part time job there because I spend so much time and money there. There are lots of ways to ensure you get a dynamite pulled pork. Some folk like to brine their pork shoulder first. Some may brine and then sear it before slow cooking. This time around I opted to season it with my store bought dry rub and wrap it in plastic wrap. The seasoned and wrapped pork shoulder went into my fridge overnight.

 

The next day I woke up, thanked God for another day and got back to this beautiful pork shoulder. My oven was pre-heated to 225 degrees. I removed the plastic wrap and placed the pork shoulder with the skinside up into a roasting pan. I covered with tightly with aluminum foil and set my timer for 7 hours. Then I went about my day. Even though there is a little prep and time involved – it’s actually a no frills, no fuss type of meal. These are the meals I love.

Seven hours breezed by so fast, before I knew it my timer was beeping and the house was smelling absolutely divine. This is when I pulled together a quick smoking sauce to pour over the almost one Pork Shoulder. I used Hickory flavored liquid smoke, apple cider vinegar, Louisiana Hot Sauce and Worcestershire sauce in my smoking sauce. A quick blend of all the liquids with a fork or whisk, and then I poured it all over my pork shoulder and wrapped it back up with foil and put it back in the oven for 2 more hours. The remaining seasonings minus the dry rub were used to season the pulled pork once cooled and shredded.

After the two hour mark my pulled pork was to my liking. It was fork tender, so I removed the skin and fat cap from the top first.

With the skin and fat removed I used to fork to pull my pork shoulder apart.

The pulled pork was seasoned additionally with the likes of Ground Cumin, Chilli Powder, Ancho Chile Pepper, Garlic Salt, Onion Powder, Smoked Paprika and Crushed Red Pepper flakes. We like ours to have that tinge of vinegar flavor, so I also added more apple cider vinegar. I also used a little salt to season with overall but not much because I have two folk in my house with High Blood Pressure.

 

All in all this pulled pork was so flavorful, moist and tender! It was definitely a home run and I always know I did it again when I see the look on my husband’s face when he tries it. His face said it all, it was a hit! Since his diabetes scare I had reverted back to brown rice, so I boiled him a bag of brown rice to go with it. Personally I’m not a pork over rice type of girl, I like a pulled pork sandwhich and I was lacking the cole slaw so I wasn’t even any of it until I could have it the way I wanted it. A portion of it was put aside for my husband’s dinner and the rest went in a plastic bowl and lid for the next day…his birthday!

At the store the next day I retrieved hamburger buns, cole slaw mix and my dressing of choice, Marie’s. I spice my cole slaw up with a little smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. To add to his birthday fiesta I used leftover chicken breasts to make fried chicken tenders (from the Chicken, Sausage and Mozarella Pasta I made the other day), grilled lobsters and steamed white shrimp. I always include veggie and fruit trays because my family loves fresh vegetable and fruits. I can’t forget his cake – a yellow cake with whipped icing from you know where…Kroger. He loves the cake with whipped icing, so I was glad I was able to find one since I hadn’t had the time to order his cake beforehand.

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Dad’s Birthday Table

I’m thankful that my husband was able to celebrate another year of life knowing that the people who love him most, appreciate him and celebrate his life and presence, not just on his birthday but every day. We had a great evening of food, family fun and lots of love.

So the Southern Pulled Pork was a hit and my husband’s birthdy fiesta was a hit! I’m so grateful that God’s grace has made it all possible.  This Southern Pulled Pork recipe is another one of my tried and true favorites that will be included in my soon to be released, “A Very Pleasant Home”.

How do you like your pulled pork? Over rice, or on a bun like me? My thoughts when it comes to buns are keep it simple. Every time I’ve tried some fancy bun or roll, it has thrown off the texture and bite of a Southern Pulled Pork. A simple hamburger bun will do the trick.

Hope your Hump Day is off and running, the weekend isn’t far behind. What am I going to cook up next? I have no idea but right now I still have lots of pulled pork and buns so I’ve got time to figure it out. Check back for more great meal ideas and more!

Peace and Blessings,

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4

Kroger

 

Chicken, Sausage and Mozzarella Pasta

On the heels of a new week, Sunday’s are the perfect days for big sit down dinners with the family. We don’t get to do it every day but whenever we do it’s a nice treat. It’s an even better dinner when we all can enjoy the same thing.

Tonight’s dinner was inspired by a meal I saw Ree Drummond prepare on “The Pioneer Woman”, one of my favorite cooking shows. She made “Chicken Mozzarella Pasta” and hers inspired my own version that I created tonight for my family. Like her recipe, mine boasts cubed chicken breasts, fresh mozzarella and parsley. My version also included slices of sautéed andouille sausages for that extra kick of flavor.

What I love about this recipe is that it’s pretty straightforward. It’s a great combination of fresh and store bought ingredients. I was confident in my flavors but a little hesitant…my husband is not a big fan of pasta. So I knew if I could tickle his palette, I might could pull it off with the kids.

Please use fresh mozzarella in your pasta, the cheesiness is ridiculous. This pasta was absolutely amazing! I knew my husband approved when he couldn’t stop eating it out of the pan. And all of my kids loved it including Cassius who typically eats only cheese pizzas and chicken nuggets.

I served this deliciousness with sliced Italian bread and a chopped romaine salad with bacon, Roma tomatoes, cucumbers and sharp cheddar cheese. Generous coverage of black pepper and seasoned croutons over top the salad was the perfect compliment to this hearty Italian feast.

I am so pleased with how this came out, it definitely passed the Pleasants seal of approval. This will be one of my recipes included in my book, “A Very Pleasant Home”.

A great quick and easy clean up dessert was Food Lion Cookies and Cream ice cream sandwiches or the Banana Split ones…2 for $4.00 . I even cut my kids in halves so they wouldn’t waste them.

The week ahead is looking good already and this was the perfect meal to start it with! Follow my blog for more successful meal ideas!

Have a great week!

A Very Pleasant Mom

#SuccessfulSundayDinners

#ThePioneerWoman

Christmas in July

 

With the kind of start to the month that my family had you would definitely understand why I titled this post, “Christmas in July”. Our lives were rocked by an incident that  caused my family to be separated from each other temporarily at the beginning of the month. The things that we were going through made me empathize with the many families who have been separated by the border patrol agents, the justice system and even medical ailments and diseases.

Our reunion this month truly felt like Christmas came early. With joy in our soul and love in our hearts, it was just the pick me up we all needed to remind us that the love of God is real and ever present. Feeling like I had witnessed a miracle happen before my very eyes I was soaring like an eagle spiritually when my birthday sailed around on the 14th of this month.

My birthday wish this year was simply to have my family be together and not disjointed. I got exactly what I wanted so it was certainly time to celebrate.

Circumstances each day are beyond our control but how we get through these situations are the true tests that life throws at you unexpectedly. My family and I aren’t strangers to hard times as we have survived and overcome many obstacles placed in our way. Celebrating my 37th birthday was a welcomed reflection of all that I have experienced, endured or overcame in my lifetime thus far. I am proud of the woman I am today. I am hopeful for the woman I will be tomorrow. The food spread was amazing and catered by yours truly. Yes I cooked my own food. I like my food the best. I’m just saying. The final spread included a Family Variety Feast from Bojangles that contained chicken, chicken tenders, mac and cheese, dirty rice, french fries and sweet tea. I prepare and cooked 2 racks of BBQ ribs, cheeseburger sliders, a crawfish boil, steamed and spiced shrimp, guacamole, hot dogs and crab dip. Of course there was tons of food to last us a couple of days and it was all delicious. I ate so much crawfish and shrimp on my birthday that I didn’t even get a chance to eat an actual plate after that. It was cake to top it all off and that was all she wrote. I was stuffed.

The crawfish were so fresh and juicy. I found a new home at Captain Greg’s Seafood on Mechanicsville Turnpike. The ladies there were friendly and knowledgable. I picked up the crab dip here too and a few sleeves of Ritz crackers too.

Today I woke up and got right back to the things that I have been working on because this is important to me. I miss working on my blog. I miss the excitement and intrique of engagement. Seeing the notifications and comments, watching the numbers rise slowly each month. It’s not a science that I have yet perfected but I am invested enough to keep giving this my best shot.

I jumped back on the bandwagon today and found a new recipe on Pinterest. I was looking for a recipe to use my overipened bananas in. I remembered pinning a Jamaican Banana Fritters recipe a few week ago, so I pulled it up and confirmed I had all of the ingredients or a suitable substitute before immersing myself back in blog life.

This recipe was great right off the bat because of it’s ease and convenience. How many times have we braved the kitchen to whip something up magical and realize we are short an ingredient or two or three? I dread the shame walk back to the store to retrieve additional items. Proper planning is key to reducing these dreadful trips back to the supermarket.

The Jamaican Banana Fritters recipe that I tried today is courtesy of http://www.cookingmaniac.com. The ingredients needed are 3 super ripe bananas, 2 eggs, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, flour, milk, molasses, sugar, salt and oil to shallow fry fritters.

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My super ripened bananas to be used in the Jamaican Banana Fritters.

The recipe boasts five steps and is not exactly clear as to when the molasses should be incorporated into the mixture. I figured this out when I was ready to fry and I realized that the recipe didn’t address it. So I added it into the batter/mixture  before beginning the frying process.

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Jamaican Banana Fritters being shallow fried in a cast iron skillet.

This recipe is super simple and it came out light and delicious. I found the final product to be very light in sweetness overall but the confectioner’s sugar helped tremendously. So long story short, if you like them barely sweet keep this recipe as is. If you want more sweetness add in more sugar to the batter or coat generously with confectioner’s sugar after fried and cooled.

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The finished product Jamaican Banana Fritters coated generously with confectioner’s sugar.

So far 2 of my four children have all tasted and approved the Jamaican Banana Fritter’s recipe. I ate 3 so far myself so that’s got to mean something good right? I’d interested to see if my daughter will like these, she’s a big eater but sometimes she just doesn’t gravitate to certain things. I think my husband will tell me it’s good regardless but I definitely don’t think these are his cup of tea. I’m interested to see how similar New Orleans beignets are to these fritters. Maybe I’ll try that next.

Either way I’m back, and you can see what’s going on around this side of the woods by following me on Twitter @PleasantsMomof4.

Hope to see you soon!

Peace and Blessings,

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4

 

 

Southern Fried Fish & Life in Bloom

May, a month many of us look forward to for our own reasons…maybe you welcome the change in climate, the holidays we celebrate (Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, Teacher Appreciation, Memorial Day, etc.) or maybe it represents something else for you. The rainy blah of April welcomes an exciting and expectant month of May and so far this month has not disappointed one bit!

I had planned to do a Cinco de Mayo inspired spread of delicious foods instead I was whisked away to Grand National Harbor for a romantic getaway by my husband. I couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend my Saturday night and Cinco De Mayo. We had a beautiful night, a classy and swanky, Voltaggio Brothers Steak House set the ambiance and back drop for a night to remember. The food was pricey but well worth it. My husband’s steak was huge and so tender it didn’t need a knife, I had the crab cake that was mostly crab – that was baked in a metal tin to keep it together. The wait staff made the experience that much better. They made you feel like VIP for the bread you spend.

Our stay in Oxon Hill, Maryland was the best kickoff for a month that has been blossoming into one surprise after the other. We look forward to going back and rekindling our romance right where we left off. If the Grand Harbor is booked, Harborside is literally right around the corner and it was a hit at a great price. Of course it wouldn’t be a trip if we didn’t stop at Potomac Mills Shopping Mall on the way back home. I’ve got one word for you – Deals! There were so many deals, I promise you there is something for everybody in that mall. I even got the chance to make a Unicorn for my daughter at the Build -a- Bear store. That was truly one of the cutest experiences I’ve ever encountered…the care and sentiment they put into crafting your child’s keepsake is out of this world. I ended up making a purple unicorn that smells like cupcakes with a colorful tutu. By the time we had shopped, we were ready to drop, and see our babies.

The week ahead would prove to be a busy one as usual. Teacher Appreciation Week had been on my calendar for months and of course my surprise trip threw me off a little bit. Monday I woke up ill prepared for teacher appreciation and headed straight to the store once I dropped the kids off at school. I had no solid plan but I knew I wanted to send them something daily. I found white paper lunch bags, grabbed some snacks, and drinks. Each day they received a different snack or treat bag and on Friday I sent in school supplies per the schools’ request. Mind you, I have three children in elementary school, and 1 of them has 2 teachers so that was a total of 4 bags each day. The first day I let the kids draw pictures on the bags, another day I found a poem that  I taped to each bag. I tried to make each teacher’s bag as individual and unique as they are. I wish I had taken pictures but it was one of those weeks that I feel lucky that it got done, even if their isn’t a picture to capture the memory. What I do have? Thoughtful messages and thank you cards from my children’s teachers and those I certainly intend to keep. Shout out to the hardworking teachers and staff at Harvie Elementary School! Special thanks to our former teachers Mrs. Bradford and Mrs Raymond. Super special thanks to our current teachers Ms. Dowell, Ms. Brown, Mrs. Brooks-Giles and Mrs. Purnell, all beautiful ladies, inside and out!

With Teacher Appreciation Week out-of-the-way, a full week of activities that now includes basketball practice for the boys at two different schools twice a week. I was happy to return to my norm and happy place in my kitchen, and who would’ve thought that I would have cooked a complete meal on a Friday night? Fridays’ are typically a fast food type of night or a DIY type of meal – meaning it’s everyone for themselves. Yes, my younger kids can make their own food as long as it’s in the microwave or fresh. My oldest son is a Sous Chef in training, so his privileges and skill in the kitchen are a little more advanced. He even has his own apron. The specialty of this Friday, the 11th was southern fried whiting, macaroni and cheese, collard greens with smoked pork neckbones and Jiffy cornbread. My Friday night dinner turned out great. The fish was crispy and flavorful from the Creole seasoning I added to the fish coating. The macaroni and cheese was creamy and gooey. The collard greens were seasoned perfectly, you could taste a hint of the apple cider vinegar and the red pepper flake. The cornbread was moist and cake like from the vanilla extract that I added to the mixture of Jiffy Mix, egg and milk.

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Southern Fried Whiting, Macaroni and Cheese, Collard Greens with Smoked Pork Neckbones and Cornbread

One thing I had done was properly prepare for Mother’s Day as I had been picking up gifts and cards for the past month or so. So I was smooth sailing as Mother’s Day approached and only needed to pick up a couple of things to complete my shopping. The only other thing that was of importance to me was to make sure I paid homage to one of the best mothers I’ve ever known, my Granny. Visiting her grave is always an emotional thing for me. Even though I don’t want to cry when I get out there, I always end up sobbing by the time I’m driving off. I miss her a lot. I knew she would appreciate the yellow roses I added to her headstone. On this particular day it was only my daughter with me, she watched me closely as I cleaned up my grandmother’s plot. I removed the old flowers and brushed the dust off with my hands. I kissed the top of the headstone as if she could feel it in heaven and then I had to leave because it was too hot to be standing out in the cemetery crying, and my daughter was visibly confused by my tears.

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Beautiful yellow roses for my Granny, Mrs. Viola Chambers.

Leaving the cemetery left us hot and sweaty,  and the kids needed something to do. I don’t know what I was thinking but I decided to take them to the splash park in my area. 60 minutes was all I could stand but I’m nobodies fool, I put my bathing suit and shorts on too. There was no way I was going to sit out in that heat and sun without indulging in the cool refreshing water play.

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Fun at the Splash Park with the Youngest Bambino’s.

By the next day – Mother’s Day I was worn from the busy week, when my husband asked what I wanted to do that day my response was simple, “absolutely nothing”. And nothing was what I did that day from the comfort of my bed. I caught up on much-needed beauty sleep and chillaxed catching up on missed shows like “The Last O.G.”. I gorged myself on the 30lb bag of Haribo Gummy Bears I was gifted by my family, a Wendy’s single with bacon combo and brown liquor, lol (Shout out to Loni Love – that brown liquor is the truth). As Ice Cube said, “it was a good day” and there is nothing that I would change about it. What do you get the Mom who truly has it all? Flowers galore, a new cellphone and 30lbs of Gummy Bears (I might be exaggerating a tad but I promise you we are still eating the same bag of Gummy Bears). Even though I wasn’t expecting or in need of anything, I was very delighted by my husband and children’s thoughtfulness.

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Mother’s Day proved to be relaxing and rejuvenating at the same time and rightfully so, I had another jam-packed week coming up with more wonderful delights blooming each day. I woke up first thing Monday morning to be reminded that I had “Muffins with Mom” at the school with the kids. I made it to the school fashionably on time and enjoyed some time with my babies eating pastries. It was a great turnout! There were so many moms, grandmas’, and mother figures – I had to park behind the school and walk around the building. I appreciate their school taking time to recognize us Moms and the roles that we play in our homes and children’s lives.

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A selfie at Muffins with Mom.

I can’t remember how long but maybe a couple of months ago I wrote nominations for each of my children’s teacher’s for Henrico County Public Schools “Heart of Henrico” Contest that recognizes Henrico County employees who demonstrate the heart of our great county. Lo and behold one of my nominations was selected for my son King’s 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Brooks-Giles. As a result Mrs. Brooks-Giles and her entire class would be recorded one day at the school, and on a separate day I would be recorded at my home. Wow, my first filming in years. I can’t remember the last time I was actually recorded but my last notable appearance was in an Arthur Ashe documentary on HBO back in the day. Yes, I am on film being instructed how to hit the tennis ball by the late, tennis great, Arthur Ashe. So anything in between then and now was small beans. I wanted to look good for my new debut to television so I went on the search for a Loctician to hook a sister up. Thank God my search engine took me to Natural Beauty Salon & Spa where I submitted my appointment online late Monday night. Tuesday morning my appointment was confirmed, and before I knew it Mrs. Alecia had me washed, re-twisted and styled. I was ready.

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These locs have been slayed!

     Wednesday morning was a blur, my allergies had kicked my butt and was wreaking havoc on me. The film crew arrived on time but I needed 30 more minutes to let my allergy medicine fully kick in. I couldn’t be on camera sneezing and snotting all over the place. That would definitely not be a good look. With my house in order, the refreshments laid out, and my allergy medicine working I was ready when Mr. Gill and his associate showed back up 30 minutes later. “Always be prepared” is the girl scout motto or at least it was when I was a Brownie Scout. That lesson has stuck with me my whole life, even when I decided the last-minute to cut my grass the Tuesday before. Thank God I did. We had cleaned my house from top to bottom (okay the main floor and the basement/den floor) to prepare for the filming. You can imagine my surprise when they suggested filming outdoors to change-up their normal scenery…inside the schools. I smiled as I thought about all the tidying and straightening up that we had done in preparing of the recording. Still, the yard looked great due to the last-minute cut, and the recording went smoothly. He asked me a few questions, and had me say a couple of lines. I was officially a STAR!

The next day King and his class would be recording their segment of the video and he couldn’t have been happier. Even though it had been raining cats and dogs for days their smiles that Thursday en route to school was as bright as the shining sun. King looked good. He was ready for his debut too.

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We lucked out and was able to finish our week off on a high note. The kids got Little Caesar’s pizza for dinner and I treated the older folks to one of my favorite dishes…Old Charleston Style Shrimp and Grits compliments of allrecipes. This time I used bags of small shrimp and andouille sausage that I had on hand in my deep freezer. It came out spot on point. The Shrimp and Sausage gravy was comforting and sumptuous. The grits were creamy and cheesy at the same time. Together in a bowl – it was heaven on earth. Yet as good as it was, it’s all gone. My husband  demolished most of it overnight. I woke up to one bowl left so needless to say that was my breakfast of champions.

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Old Charleston Shrimp and Grits with French Bread

A distant memory is all that remains of the Shrimp and Grits but it’s okay because I’ve moved on in my heart and kitchen. I am on the cusp of finishing yet another meal – this time – pulled pork, potato salad and collard greens. The pork is done. The greens are almost done and the minute I get up from finishing this blog post I can finish the potato salad.

In the meantime I hope you will sign on to follow my journey – there are lots of great things to look forward to and I can’t wait to share it all with you in hopes that you too are finding new ways to enjoy and live your most pleasant life each day. I’ve got a 10 part post series promoting Self-Care, Health & Wellness coming up that I can’t wait to share with you all. I’m working on a book review, and some other well thought out ideas that I hope you guys find refreshing, helpful or at the very least entertaining. Till next time!

Peace, love and fish grease!

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4, Tameka

#TeacherAppreciationWeek

#HeartofHenrico

#MothersDay2018

#AllRecipes

#FishFry

#Shrimp&Grits

 

 

 

Chinese Pepper Steak, Chinese Spare Ribs and Crab Rangoons

Happy Monday! It’s the second week of May and I’m excited to get right to it! You all know I’m attempting to master Asian cuisine dish by dish. I’ve done General Tso’s Chicken, Shrimp Fried Rice, Orange Chicken, Korean BBQ and tons of stir fry. Recently I had the taste for Pepper Steak and I knew I had a flank steak in the deep freezer, so I thought, “let’s give it a shot”.

Justapinch.com has a great recipe for Chinese Pepper Steak that is very simple. 13 ingredients and 3 steps..not too bad. There were a couple of swaps and a substitution, oh and I had to get 1 item – the dry sherry. I substituted the peanut oil for vegetable oil, and swapped out fresh ginger for ground ginger I have on hand, and minced garlic in the jar that I keep in the refrigerator. I did buy fresh peppers and onion because my husband loves that largely cut crisp of the fried peppers and onions. You could use a frozen pepper and onion mix to save time but the veggies won’t be as firm.

Right off the you want to slice your flank steak diagonally against the grain.

With the flank steak sliced, the official first step is to mix the marinade in a howl. That includes the soy, dry sherry, sugar, cornstarch and 1/2 cup of water.  I let my meat marinate for at least a couple of hours.

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The sliced beef flank steak marinating in the soy sauce mixture.

When you’re ready to cook your pepper steak you’ll want to get your wok hot. Not too hot though. I’ve made the mistake multiple times of letting it get to hot, adding in my oil and garlic and getting popped by hot oil on my arms or face. Oil, garlic and scallions are added to the hot wok for 30 seconds before the first batch of sliced beef flank steak is cooked for 3 minutes.

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The first batch of steak to be cooked.

The cooked steak is removed from the pan before the remaining half is cooked in the pan. With all of the steak cooked, the cut peppers and onions are fried in the pan.

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The vegetables being stir fried.

I browned my veggies a little before adding the remaining marinade to the wok and cooked till bubbly and thickened. All of the cooked steak is added back into the pan and mixed in with the sauce and vegetables.

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I poured the contents of the beef flank marinade in the pan with the steak and vegetables and allowed it to cook until the liquid began to bubble and thicken.

I also made Chinese Spare Ribs to go with the Beef Pepper Steak. I found a pack of St. Louis style spare ribs in my deep freezer that I thawed before removing the back membrane.

 

I was able to use a butter knife to remove the membrane from the ribs. Once the membrane was gone, I was able to easily slice the ribs individually.

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With the ribs cut, I was able to prepare the marinade according to the recipe instructions. The recipe I used is compliments of Food Network courtesy of Jeff Mauro who uses hoisin, soy sauce, honey, five spice powder, ginger and food coloring for the best Chinese Spare Ribs I’ve ever tasted. I prepared the marinade by combining all ingredients into a non-reactive bowl. I did season my ribs with meat tenderizer before bagging them in a gallon zip bag and covering them with half of the marinade. I allowed the ribs to marinate in the refrigerator while I prepared the Pepper Steak.

Once marinated I grilled the ribs indoors on my grill pan, basting with the reserved marinade before I baked them all together in a pan for roughly 1.5 or longer until the ribs were tender.

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With the ribs baking away in the oven I whipped up some Shrimp Fried Rice (you can check out a previous post I think for the details) and lastly but not least, the Crab Rangoon. First let me say, it took me a couple of stores to find the wonton wrappers. I was delighted to find them in a Food Lion near my house, so I grabbed two packs as they were 2 for $5.00. The packages had to have at least 24 wrappers or more as I had so much filling and wrappers to use, that I ended up frying the remaining Crab Rangoons the day after as a snack.

Crab Rangoon are easy to assemble. Dinner Then Dessert.Com has a great recipe that is simple to make yet full of flavor. 7 ingredients is all you need for restaurant quality Crab Rangoon  – crab meat (imitation is noted in the recipe), 8 oz of cream cheese, minced garlic, Worcestershire sauce, wonton skins, a beaten egg and oil for frying. Once the crab meat is chopped into small pieces it is then mixed well with the cream cheese, garlic and worcestershire sauce. I also added some green onions to mine before I assembled the Crab Rangoon. There were multiple methods that I employed in fixing these, the best method that allowed the pocket to retain all of the filling was a double skinned wonton that was pinched together in the center. The beaten egg was used to seal the edges of the Crab Rangoons before they were deep-fried to golden perfection.

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With all of the items done, I fixed our plates anxious to dig in.

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When dinner was complete my husband walked in, in search of the infamous Chinese food boxes that litter our trash at times. There were none. He was impressed. I was content. We ate. We enjoyed it. It was actually good and it tasted fresh and authentic. I am so pleased with how this meal came out that I will definitely be adding this to our regular meal rotation.

Till next time … Be Blessed and Be a Blessing!

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4

#ChinesePepperSteak

#ChineseSpareRibs

#CrabRangoons

#Delicious