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.
My birthday Bouquet of Flowers
Another Shot of my Birthday Bouquet
My Birthday Cake
My Big Baby & Me
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Getting ready to record!
Quiet on the SET!
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.
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.
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!
I know what you’re thinking. How did I end up cooking Portuguese Peri Peri Chicken? Well I saw a chef make it on one of the many cooking shows, it might have been Beat Bobby Flay. It looked delicious. Peri Peri or Piri Piri chicken is grilled whole chicken that has been butterflied, or split or cut into leg quarters that has been marinated and basted in the peri peri sauce. The peri peri (or piri piri) sauce is made up of a blend up Peri Peri or african bird’s-eye pepper, garlic, sun ripened lemons and spices. Originally I thought this dish was Portuguese as there are spanish variations. However I prepared the African version as I used a shortcut this time, the already bottled and packaged Nando’s Medium Peri-Peri sauce. I did want to fix it but I didn’t want to buy a long list of ingredients to make the sauce, sometimes I’m here for it – the homemade taste and flavor of cooking from scratch. Then there are those days when I am absolutely not here for it. I want to cook, I want it to be good but most importantly I want it to be convenient. So I grabbed two bottles of this 4.7 oz bottle because I was skeptical if I could make such a small amount go far. But at $3.49 a bottle in Kroger, two had to do.
It probably would have been cheaper to buy the ingredients and make the sauce, but again, I was buying time and convenience in a bottle. I would also benefit from getting the authentic Peri Peri flavor versus what I hoped it should be if I made it myself. So it was still a win win situation. I found mine at my Kroger on the condiment aisle. Once back home in my kitchen I prepped my chicken leg quarters for the marinade. I opted to get quarters because they are affordable, you get a gang of them, and I would have a bunch left over to cook another day. Still winning right? Right. So with my chicken rinsed and dried I covered 4 leg quarters in a gallon zip loc bag with a whole bottle of the sauce. I massaged the sauce into the meat and let the bag rest while I lit my grill. Normally I would recommend marinating your chicken overnight. If you don’t have time, 30 minutes is better than nothing. While my chicken marinated and the grill heated up, I googled side dishes that went with the Peri Peri chicken. I found a rice dish and grilled corn. Of course I included a side salad because that’s a staple at my table.
Once my coals were nice and hot I placed 4 leg quarters on the grill rack that I had already sprayed with Canola oil to keep the meat from sticking. Sometimes I cover the grill rack with aluminum foil when I want to slow down the cooking process or prevent the food from cooking too quickly. When I’m cooking bulky meats like leg quarters I try to get a direct heat source to help them cook evenly and completely. The best advice I have received to date is to cook to temperature and not time…when it comes to meats anyway. The quick marinated leg quarters went directly on the grill rack and were basted with the remaining sauce from the bag before it was discarded.
While the leg quarters cooked on the grill I went back inside to prepare the rice dish, Portuguese Rice. Yes I know, I thought I was on a whole Portuguese thing with the chicken but I was already invested – no turning back. Again the ingredients were pretty straightforward: long grain white rice, olive oil, chopped onion, minced garlic, salt, crushed red pepper flakes, bay leaf, chopped tomatoes, water, parsley, and cilantro. The recipe calls for fresh herbs but fresh herbs go bad quickly. I keep dried herbs on hand because it’s more convenient and affordable. First you want to get your oil hot in a sauce pan.
Once your onions have softened a little bit, you add in the garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and bay leaf. This cooks for about a minute or so and then the chopped tomatoes are added. Your tomatoes need a couple of minutes to soften and then the water, parsley and cilantro are added and brought to a boil. Once boiling the rice is stirred in and then the pot should be covered and the heat reduced to low. The recipe suggests cooking the rice undisturbed for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender. An additional 5 minutes of rest time is given before the rice is fluffed for serving.
With the rice done, the chicken was coming along beautifully. It had a slight char around the edges but it was cooking to a golden brown with splashes of red peri peri sauce. During the grilling I had used the half of the second bottle to baste and brush the leg quarters as flipped them over. I pulled the leg quarters about five minutes after they read 165 degrees on my meat thermometer and covered them in foil.
Along my research I also stumbled upon Peri Peri chips and sauce. Essentially it’s potatoes that have been either cut or sliced in chip form and fried and served with a sauce that is mayonnaise and peri peri sauce mixed together. I short cut it and picked up a bag of Kroger potato wedges and whipped up the sauce (1/4 cup of mayo and 4 tablespoons of peri peri sauce) while I fried the potatoes in my cast iron pot. I tossed the fried potato wedges with smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt and black pepper.
The final product looked pretty good once I put it all together. If you ever eaten at Chicken Fiesta, my finished plate almost resembled a meal from their menu if I have to say so myself. What do you think?
I can’t forget I shucked a couple of pieces of corn, and cleaned and then covered with olive oil, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, salt, garlic powder, and old bay. I grilled the corn about 12-15 minutes while turning the corn over 5-6 minutes. The plate above is my husbands’ plate who doesn’t care for corn. The plate below is the plate I prepared for myself and my mother in law.
With all of the semi hard work done it was finally time to eat. Upon first bite the chicken was juicy and flavorful. The Peri Peri sauce was spicy and tangy. It wasn’t overly spicy but mind you I got the Medium version. There are a Hot and a Lemon Garlic version as well. The Portuguese rice was different. It too boasted lots of flavor but there was one flaw. The rice was still crunchy and this was after determining at 20 minutes additional cook time was needed. So I added more water, replaced the lid and put it back on low setting to cook longer. I know I cooked it another 30 minutes or more and it still wasn’t completely tender. I didn’t care for the corn. I would have preferred it if I had boiled the corn first to get it tender and moist first before grilling. The Perinaise wasn’t my cup of tea. It was a little thick in taste and texture. In the future if I were to attempt it again, I might add more spices and fresh lemon to the mayo to lighten it up a little more. I ended up eating my peri chips with ketchup. Overall the meal was entirely delicious. The rice was still a hit, I would definitely add more water and a longer time to cook. My husband liked it. I liked it. I definitely didn’t get my kids to try this. This was way too elevated for their peculiar taste buds.
I give this meal 3.5 out of 5 stars, it delivered on the flavor and it was not very complicated to put together. With the modifications discussed I think this could definitely be a five-star meal. So what’s next on my plate? Umm, at the suggestion of one of the doctor’s at my kid’s dental practice…baked alaska. Interesting right? Yeah, and my oldest son’s birthday is Monday and even though I bought him a traditional store brought cake, I still want to do something special for him. Two cakes for a special kid. So check back to see how my Baked Alaska turns out!