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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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

 

 

 

Happy Spring Break!

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Yay! It’s the first day of Spring Break and I hope you all had a fabulous Easter holiday! No matter where you are in the world, I pray that you had the blessing of experiencing God’s love, the comfort of family and some good food to top it off! To me that is one part of what Easter is about. If you aren’t familiar with the specifics, pick up a Bible (New Testament) and brush yourself up on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the significance in the message and it’s impact on people and maybe even you.

Many an Easter Sunday ago my Granny thought it was important that we (my cousins and I) not only attended church but also showed up in our Easter Sunday best with our tithes and offerings sealed in envelopes ready to hear the message of the miracle and blessing of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I get it now. Even though I missed church today God is alive and He was very much with me and my family today as He is every day. My relationship with God is rock solid so for me Easter is a celebration and remembrance; an opportunity for revival and renewal. I still gave it my Easter Sunday best in the name of Jesus Christ and I think my Granny would have been proud. My dinner came out great (okay there was 1 fail – we will get to that later), my kids had such a great time and my husband loved the food and enjoyed himself. I couldn’t have asked for a better day. I remember when it all came together smiling so hard thinking – Jesus you outdid yourself this time!

Picture it…Richmond, Virginia – Easter Sunday. It was a balmy sixty something degrees outside. The sun was shining. The smell of grilled and smoked barbecue perfumed the air. The youngest Pleasants children sped around the cul-de-sac in the girl Pleasants princess carriage pumped up on sugar while the eldest boy Pleasants played(I will not reveal the outcome of the game) father Pleasants in NBA Live. Mother Pleasants sat in her chair satisfied with the outcome.

Okay that’s a brief rundown of my favorite moment of the day. It was a great day and culmination up to Spring Break. I am so looking forward to sleeping in at least 1-2 days if possible. The before school morning routine is crucial. The struggle is real! Let’s just say that we need this break, okay I need this break. The last few months have felt grueling and we’ve had way more tardies than I care to admit but in the sense of my glass is half full theory – a tardy is better than an absence, right? Right. So again, I need this break. We were getting back on track but Spring Break is a great chance to regroup and recommit. We’re always accountable but we still want to improve where we can. So before we can jump into Spring Break I have to share with you the spectacular meal that I made for my family and friends for Easter Sunday.

It took me a few days to finalize a menu but luckily my deep freezer held a few gems that would save me some time and money at the grocery store. My menu was a Smoked Turkey, Roasted Ham, Grilled Pork Loin, Grilled BBQ Chicken, Smoked Beef Brisket, Hot and Spicy Shrimp Dip with French Bread Crostinis, Macaroni and Cheese, Potato Salad with Bacon, Stuffing and Turkey Gravy, Deviled Eggs, Collard Greens with Smoked Ham, Homemade Dinner Rolls, Sweet Potato Pies and Carrot Cake Donuts. We were gifted a delicious pound cake from one of my neighbors that was a nice addition to our spread.

 

Although this feast turned out great there were a few stumbling blocks to overcome. Let’s start with the fact that I started cooking right after a trip to the mall with my kids and then Wal-Mart. You already know both of those tasks can be complicated alone so imagine how tired I was when it was all said and done around 6ish Saturday evening. Still I was in a good mood to start cooking, so I hopped right in my zone by grabbing my Beatz headphones, charging up my phone and setting my Pandora on rotation. Drake radio station is a favorite play list of mine on any given day. I blessed my meal and my hands before I started and delved right into cooking. I finished around 4ish Easter Sunday but that was after a trip to the store, and grooming and dressing the kids.

Starting so late in the game Saturday evening I made several improvisations to my menu to ensure that we would be able to eat at a reasonable time. Initially our plans included going to church but I can’t even lie, when I walked out the store at 10:47am with the last of my ingredients I knew I could rush home, wake the kids, get them fed and dressed, get myself dressed and leave and possibly get to church before it ended. I didn’t think it was impossible but I knew I would be rushing and irritable throughout the entire process. So I continued on with my cooking trusting that God would deliver me the special Easter message I was seeking like so many people walking into churches all over the world. The first task on the list was to cook the bacon for the potato salad so I cooked that in a foiled covered sheet pan. Another game time decision was to do a mock smoking of the Turkey. If you’ve seen my previous post “Diary of an Amateur Smoker” then you know my last attempt at Smoking was not very successful. I made some modifications to my process per my research and determined that I would need a ton of time in order to properly smoke the turkey, brisket and pork loin. So the turkey was going into the oven with what I call I mock Smoking created with a foil packet of lit hickory pellets and placing it in the bottom of the oven underneath the roasting pan. To elevate the smoked hickory flavor I made a compound butter that included liquid hickory smoke , rosemary, smoked paprika, black pepper, seasoned salt, ground thyme and garlic that I used to put beneath the turkey skin. I covered the bird in vegetable oil before seasoning it with the same seasoning blend. With the main meat in the oven I could focus on other tasks.

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On the stove top I began boiling the potatoes and eggs for the potato salad and the elbow pasta noodles for the macaroni. While I waited on those I put together a simple cheese sauce that consisted of Velveeta Cheese, milk and butter for the macaroni and cheese.  The noodles finished first so I finished the macaroni and cheese by buttering the baking dish and mixing the noodles, seasoning, shredded cheeses and finally the cheese sauce. I mixed it all up, covered it in foil and baked it at 350 degrees for an hour. Once the eggs finished boiling I allowed the eggs to cool briefly before preparing the Deviled Eggs. I found a really simple recipe that called for ingredients I had on hand. I did swap out Paprika for Smoked Paprika and I also sprinkled on some parsley for decoration once done.  I was off to a good start and feeling confident about my spread. Next up was the ham. Luckily I had a petite Honey Ham in the deep freezer so I prepared that according to package instructions. I did sprinkle some brown sugar all over the spiral arranged slices in the pan. The ham needed to bake for roughly 30 minutes so I used that time to fix the collard greens. I sautéed onion, minced garlic and smoked ham neckbones in a little canola oil (of course I ran out of olive oil) and then added in a little apple cider vinegar. I let it heat up and then filled the pot up with water. I then added in chicken bouillon cubes and let the water mixture come to a boil before adding in the pre-washed and shredded collard greens.

 

Next up on the list was the sweet potato pies. I put the sweet potatoes in the oven and let them roast for about 45-60 minutes. Imagine my surprise when I went to retrieve 8 lbs of what I presumed to be chicken wing drummettes when I discovered an obvious blunder when I accidentally picked up chicken drumsticks. And not just any chicken legs – the biggest chicken legs that I’ve ever seen in my life. I was frustrated for about 9 minutes. It was after 12am Easter Sunday and I didn’t want to run back to the store for chicken wings. So I opted to prepare one bag and get the wings later. I continued on thawing the chicken legs for grilling. The potatoes had cooled down which meant it was the perfect time to prepare the potato salad. First the potatoes and eggs had to be peeled and then diced. I used a short cut and used my little food processor to chop the boiled eggs, onion, green pepper and celery into small pieces. With the potatoes and eggs diced I seasoned the first layer of the potato salad liberally with smoked paprika, seasoned salt and black pepper. I then added in the chopped vegetables, mayo, a little mustard, sugar, and sweet relish. You’re going to need your muscles to fully integrate the components of the potato salad. Making potato salad takes a lot of fine tuning flavors to get it just right. With all of the standard ingredients mixed in I then added in my bonus – crumbled bacon. Afterwards my potato salad took its rightful place in the refrigerator where it could blend and come together.

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I know you’re probably thinking when is she going to bed. I don’t know what time I went to sleep but it was after I had taken the rolls out of the oven and brushed them with melted butter. I woke up at 4am on the couch covered in my comforter. I was up and back at it in no time. It was still too cold to go out and start the grill and smoker so I finished the sweet potato pies and put together some Easter treat bags, gifts, and cards. I also did some cleaning and began setting up. By 8am the sun was out though it was still cool. I wrapped up in my husband’s jacket and prepped the grill and smoker. The grill was simple and was hot in no time. In effort to save time and ensure doneness I split the chicken legs down the middle to grill. The smoker was a little tricky but I finally bit the bullet and used a little lighter fluid to help ignite the chimney starter. The lighter fluid was what  I needed to get the flame and temperature right. I modified the use of my smoker for only 1 tray versus the 2 so that I could position the water drip tray on top of a tray instead of directly over the coals. This helped tremendously. Once the drip tray was in position I could position the last tray on the middle rack. My brisket was seasoned with the included seasoning package but I also covered the meat with copious amounts of ancho chile powder, cumin and meat tenderizer and wrapped in foil before it was placed on the inside tray

It was definitely time for another unplanned change. Initially the plan was to smoke the pork loin with the brisket but the 1 tray challenge nixed that plan. The bbq chicken grilled quickly so I wrapped that pork loin in foil and placed it on the grill. (FYI the chicken legs were seasoned liberally with chilli powder, seasoned salt, garlic. meat tenderizer, onion powder, smoked paprika and black pepper and lastly coated with Sweet Baby Rays Honey Chipotle BBQ sauce.) A quick store run got me the last ingredients I needed to finish my dinner. The shrimp had thawed so I put together the Shrimp Dip first. A box of Seapak Shrimp Scampi went in a pan over med-high heat  while I diced some of the medium shrimp. After dicing a quarter of the shrimp I opted to leave the rest whole since I had to dice peppers. I used about a quarter of each – red, green and orange peppers and added that to the shrimp. Once the Seapak Scampi was done, it was mixed together along with cream cheese, shredded pepperjack seasoning, Louisiana hot sauce and creole seasoning. I sprinkled parsley all over the top and baked it at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes till it was bubbly and slightly brown on top.

With the Hot and Spicy Shrimp Dip in the oven I could devote my attention to the Stuffing, Turkey Gravy and Carrot Cake donuts. The gravy was simple. I sautéed chopped onions, minced garlic and the turkey neck in butter. I then added 1/4 cup of flour to that and browned it altogether. I had some chicken stock in reserve for another dish so I added that to the flour and stirred it up. Then I added in the Turkey Juice packet included with my turkey and some additional water. I turned the heat up and watched the gravy bubble and thicken. I used the same chopped onion, in addition to celery and sauteed it in butter before adding in chicken stock. After a quick boil the stuffing mixture was added in and voila, I was almost done cooking and in the nick of time because bellies were getting hungry.

The carrot cake donut recipe seemed easy enough though I had my concerns right off the jump. I don’t cook or bake with yogurt a lot so I was concerned about the consistency of the donut. My family loves carrot cake so this was a good opportunity to display a great flavor profile in donut version. I should have quit on the donut when my attempt to crush the pineapple first and lastly matchstick carrots in the blender. The pineapple worked out but the carrots didn’t and I was running out of steam so those matchstick carrots went in regular. I should probably note that I left the standing mixer running while checking my grill and smoker. I may have over mixed my dough too much but the consistency resembled the description on the recipe so I proceeded with caution. I funneled my dough into a gallon zipper storage bag and cut the end off. I piped the dough into a silicone donut mold that had been sprayed with baking spray. The donut molds were baked on top of baking sheets as directed. They had ample time to cool as I had to stop cooking to get my kids bathed and dressed and rather sharply if I have to say so myself.

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When I returned to my kitchen there was very little to prepare. The Easter eggs had been hidden by eldest boy Pleasants who also looked pretty sharp too. I mixed together the pineapple cream cheese frosting to dip the donuts in. I sprinkled some chopped walnuts over a few and kept the others plain in case my husband wanted to try one. At that point I could relax so I watched the kids run around the house looking for Easter eggs that had been hidden so well, that eldest boy Pleasants had forgotten where he had hidden them all. There was much fun and laughter that our family were able to share together. The food was a hit! Okay there was 1 miss that I referenced earlier – the carrot cake donuts. Though they looked fine – they tasted horrible…to me. The kids seemed to enjoy them just fine though. They scarfed them down till I took them off the table after I tasted them. Everything else was on point. The brisket and pork loin were sliced thinly after they had ample rest time and arranged in spirals. The turkey was carved and everything was out and ready to eat. My favorite dish of the evening was definitely the Hot and Spicy Shrimp Dip. It was a perfect combination of cheeses, peppers and shrimp and it went perfect with the Crostinis. The second fave was the brisket – it was flavorful, tender and moist. On the briskets’ heels was the pork loin.

The rolls came out great. They had great texture and were highlighted with a smidge of butter or margarine. The turkey gravy was rich and supple. It went perfectly over the turkey and stuffing. The macaroni and cheese had a creamy consistency that blended well with the melted shredded cheeses. The greens were good but next time I wouldn’t use the pork neckbones because I did’t the pork flavor I was looking for. A surprising hit was the potato salad with crumbeled bacon. It gave the normal potato salad a little punch of salt and texture. There was something for everyone’s individual tastebuds and no one went to bed hungry. By the time that I ate my food and served my husband the first heated slice of Sweet Potato Pie I was ready to retire to my bed to put my feet up.  After eating my own slice of pie, I retreated back to the kitchen for a slice of my neighbor’s pound cake and I’m certain that I dozed off shortly after that.

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I woke up Monday morning around 4am and watched some television, one of my old favorites Real Housewives of Atlanta and a very hilarious Watch What Happens Live with guests Kenya Moore and Michael Rappaport. Once filled of my Shameful TV fix I found my way downstairs to my desk to start working on this blog and breakfast. Yes I forgot to get breakfast for the kiddos on the first day of Spring Break. They could eat cereal but only 3 of 4 kids will truly eat cereal. So I whipped my Super Mom cape out and managed to throw together Link Sausages, Wildberry Muffins, Mini Pancake Bites (Plain, Cinnamon, Pineapple, Strawberry, Chocolate Chip and Sprinkle) Strawberries and Orange Slices.

 

I started working on this post around 6am this morning, it’s 12:49pm and I’m on my way back to bed for a couple of hours till I have to do something fun with the kids. Can’t forget it’s Spring Break – Day 1. Hope your Spring Break started with a bang, mine’s did. In a day or so I’ll have my full write up of each Pinterest inspired recipe under my She Tried It board.

Thanks for stopping by! Till next time…. be blessed and be a blessing!

Peace and Blessings,

A Very Pleasants Mom

#SpringBreak

#HappyEaster

#familygoals

#EasterSunday

 

#ShareandSpreadLove Officially Began

Sharing and spreading love was the agenda for Valentine’s Day and the perfect start to my #ShareandSpreadLove project. My family is going through coping with a loss right now so it’s definitely a good time to focus on positive things. With so much going on interpersonally the last week or so I did have to scale back my initial plan due to the time constraints. Still I was determined to push through and do something, no matter how small, small beginnings are still a start.

Already tired I still decided to make my family Valentine’s Day mailboxes although it was down to the wire. Lucky for me I had a little quiet time I was able to capitalize on when my husband took my sons to the barber shop. I worked quietly at my dining room table cutting and covering various cereal and treat boxes that I had rescued from my recycling bin while my daughter played downstairs. I didn’t want her to see what I was doing so each time I’d complete a box I’d run it upstairs quietly and stick it in the closet. I did this five times and was pleased that I manage to finish before the boys got back without her spoiling the surprise.

Initially I wanted to crochet over a hundred bracelets to share with my children’s entire school but that requires you to be able to focus on one thing for a long period of time and that never happened. So instead I opted to share the bracelets included inside gift bags that I made for my children’s teachers, principal and front office staff. We included some sweet treats, a novelty pen, the bracelets and a nomination written by me for the Heart of Henrico contest that recognizes Henrico County Public School employees “who possess an uncommon passion for what they do being the Heart of Henrico County”. The gift bags were really cute and the kids had a great time assembling them.

While the kids slept I put together a little “Valentine’s Day Mail Center” in my den of the mailboxes and gift bags. It was well after 2am when I put the final finishing touches with the help of my husband who agreed it came out nice. Initially I wanted to really decorate and personalize each mailbox but y’all already know I was so tired I was glad I had gotten them done and didn’t scrap the idea. In the end I kept it simple, Happy Valentine’s Day followed by their name. There is always some sort of fresh flowers in the house because I love them and that’s one of the things my husband does weekly to express his love. So with beautiful roses already on hand, I borrowed the largest arrangement for the Mail center and left the mini one at my desk. I tossed in some crumpled tissue paper, construction paper hearts and red streamer to jazz it up. All things I usually have on hand, so it was super convenient and affordable. Check out the picture below. Not bad right. I should probably tell you that I stayed up way too late working on this stuff when the next day I was responsible for being a Chaperone for King’s field trip to the Science Museum of Virginia.

 

Still I was pleased with the outcome. When the kids awoke that morning they were blown away and excited. I only gave them their prayer bracelets out of their mailbox as they were going to be able to see the entire contents after school. Everybody looked great in matching red shirts and were amped to get to school to Share and Spread love. With almost two hours of sleep to my name I was only about 7 minutes late arriving to King’s class. We had such a great time at the museum! I was pleasantly surprised that the museum was completely different since the last time I had gone with my oldest son, Fredo on a field trip. The exhibits were interesting and interactive. My group was full of excitement and energy.  We walked, we ran, we rode the elevators, we took the steps, we window shopped and then gift shopped…it was a truly great day with a great group of kids. My sons’ classmates were sweet, respectful and well-behaved. I even Shared and Spread love with them when I bought pencils for each of them to thank them for being such a great group. By the time I was done at school I was almost literally done.

My husband popped up with a dinner proposal that I was too pooped to take him up on and believe me, I love going on dinner dates with my husband. We haven’t had one in ages but I was worn all the way out. Being the sweetie he is he decided to bring the Chinese Buffet home to me. After I passed out on the couch surrounded by children and Valentine’s Day swag and candy he showed back up with grocery bags of General Tso Chicken, Black Pepper Chicken, Shrimp and Broccoli, Beef Peppersteak, Shrimp Egg Foo Young, White Rice, Fried Rice, Lo Mein Noodles, Crab Rangoons and yes he even  got them their beloved sugar-coated Chinese Donuts. It was a masterpiece of proportions on the plate he served me. I could only eat half of the plate.

My romantic dinner for two had turned into a feast of epic proportions for the whole family. How sweet? Even my husband was sharing and spreading love! I hope you’re on board with our #ShareandSpreadLove project. I think I even figured out my next recipients to keep the love movement going.

I pray your Valentine’s Day and every day is filled with all the love you can handle and then some! I’m searching for that next great recipe to try, or maybe I’ll jazz up this blogsite with something totally new.

What I would like to ask you to do is take a moment to pray for someone today, be a friend, lend a hand, console with a hug and always walk in love. I’ll be praying for us all today including the entire Parkland Florida, community and our nation.

God Bless us All,

Tameka

#ShareandSpreadLove

#ValentinesDay

#HeartofHenrico

#HCPS

#PrayforParkland

And let us not forget…love

So the other night I was sharing with my husband my small victories that I have been experiencing since the unofficial relaunching of my blog this year and he was under the impression that my blog was solely about food. He was right though, that’s the impression I probably even have been giving you all that have been swinging by to check something out. The truth is that yes this blog is heavily influenced by food and cooking as that is a major part of my life, but if you look at my title it clearly says – averypleasantlife – Pleasants being my last name, there was a time when people would compliment me that I was my last name. That meant a lot to me because I feel that reflected where I was in my walk with the Lord and how I was feeling on a day-to-day basis. It was that “pleasant”  attitude and demeanor that I have seen take me through various triumphs and tragedies in my life.

I am an artist by gift but I am an analyst by trade. Since working in corporate I have adopted an analytical side that I apply to life every day. I encounter so many issues and challenges on a daily basis that it gets easy to get overwhelmed by it all. I know because I’ve been there too many times. Once I was able to shed whatever apprehension or dismay I was feeling I was able to kick into gear by looking at the problem or challenge for what it was. Then I’d try to figure out what’s the solution. Often times there is the best solution, and then the highly thought out alternatives. I always try to keep a Plan B thru Plan T in the holster. Some things may take that many times to correct, resolve or even master. Once a solution has been outlined, then it’s time to execute and facilitate the plan. This is a small look into my thought process these days when problems rear their ugly heads. I never thought about it until now but my last position at SunTrust Mortgage was actually role titled a Solution Specialist and that is actually what I still am. As an Entrepreneur, Mother, Wife and now Blogger I specialize in coming up with solutions for my family and hopefully yours too.

A Very Pleasant Life is more than a lifestyle blog, it’s the future community of like-minded people who loves, supports, takes care of, cooks for, combs hair of, works for a living, runs their own business, has goals, has family dinners, dreams, runs into obstacles, has questions, or is just looking to expose themself to something slightly different from a lot of what is out right now. I love helping people. Then there are the times that I need help or guidance too. I love sharing information and connecting people to good – positive information. Pleasant for me means positive. Though I have a lot of sarcasm and even vulgarity at times, I  also know class, professionalism and integrity. I’m not all of one thing but a whole lot of everything and with that being said, there’s not enough positivity being promoted in the world daily so, A Very Pleasant Life is a small contribution to the general good for mankind. I have four children that I love and because I love them, I love you all and your children as well. It’s important to me that the message of love is spread by me and my family as often as possible.  (Disclaimer: I am not perfect!) Plus it just makes me feel better about myself and the future if I know I’m putting out positivity as much as I can versus the alternative.

So yes – there you have it! A Very Pleasant Life is a lifestyle community for us all right? I love taking care of my family – that means there will be more family oriented posts  and updates coming. I love crafting with my children – that means there will be more craft related posts and updates. I love planning events and doing things with my family – that means there are going to be opportunities to engage and fellowship offline in our local communities. I love eating and cooking – that means there will continue to be food and cooking related posts and updates. I love sharing information and helping people stay informed – that means that there will be more opportunities to exchange and promote the things that are important to each one of us. I love talking – that means there will be open dialogue for people to truly connect and grow.

I feel like I’m finally truly learning what to do and how to do it, I hope that you will be informed, enlightened or excited by the things being published on this blog and look forward to having you feel connected to our community – A Very Pleasant Life.

IMG_20180201_082249.jpgP.S. Earlier this month I posted a #ShareandSpreadLove challenge that my family are personally spearheading. We have started making greeting cards to send to children in Pediatric Hospitals. I’ve been trying to expand on that idea and have decided to make some cool crafts and delicious cakes to surprise some of our Seniors with. I haven’t figured out quite where to go but if you know a group or organization, or even a loved one that you think could use a special display of love this month? Drop me a line in the comments and I’d love to see what we can do!

 

#shareandspreadlove

#averypleasantlife

#thegreatestofthemallislove

 

Peace and Blessings,

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4

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