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August Recap…

August Recap…


I know we are in a whole new month, September. But I never got to share all that I did in the month of August. So here’s a recap of all I did.  At the beginning of the month I got to visit a really great spot in the Dunwoody, GA area. It’s called Crafthall Kitchens. They are a 3 in 1 restaurant serving up gluten-free options that are amazingly good. You can read all about them in my next blog post where I’ll go a little more into detail. Just know that if you happen to get there before my post definitely try the fried avocado taco. You won’t regret it.

As always I fit in a trip up I-85 to visit my Dad and my bonus Mom. Once a month I work my way to Winston-Salem to check on the parental units and help them however I can. No big deal just teaching my kids through example. The daughter was in tow. We did get to check out a new to us breakfast place in Winston-Salem named Breakfastime. There were some hits and misses for me. No green tea offering, cold home fries, didn’t try the biscuit because it too came out cold. I did like the omelette I had but not enough to return.  Back down I-85 to Atlanta, GA.

When I returned to Atlanta I had a weekend of unexpected poetry and music. I don’t know if you have ever heard of the talented Mumu Fresh. Well if you haven’t I need you to check out her NPR little desk concert. Now that you have been officially introduced you will understand why I was hell bent on going to see her live at my favorite hole the wall music spot, Apache Cafe. I was so focused on getting to see her live in my neck of the woods that I didn’t even know that she was a part of  an erotic poetry night. Say what? Her friend and hostess for the night was Miss Ingrid B. If you have never been to a show she has put on you are truly missing out. She does a great deal in the Miami area and time to time in Atlanta. Keep an eye out. But back to Mumu she left me wanting for more. her talent is un-ending. I was literally left in awe as I watched her layer different recordings of her vocals to create the music she then sang over. Yeah she is not a part of that auto-tunes era, she is a true musician in every form. Since my life is never as simple as most the following night I was blessed with a ticket to take in “The Red Light Special” hosted by none other than my friend Journee Poetess. Did I mention that I had no clue either of these nights included erotica? Journee showcased some amazing talent from poets, to musicians, to a comedian. It was a hot night not to be forgotten.  Since I am a lover of music her closing act, Cristina Rae, vocalist extraordinaire left me with goosebumps. I am currently working out my schedule so that I am able to catch some more of the music she is serving. Her vocal range will leave you wanting for more.

As if August couldn’t be any better for me, I was back to host the 4th Annual Veggie Connection. I have been with Lateefah Smith since her inception for the event. As always she provided for a really great event. Not only did I host but I also did a demo. I showed attendees how to make an Un-Tuna Salad. I showed them my basic “tuna” salad recipe which includes corn, red onions, bell peppers and a few other things (video & recipe to come). I even gave them a sample of  an Un-tuna salad that had a spicy curry mayo base. Yeah I was doing it like that for the vegetarians and vegans.

I got a chance to visit High Hog Farm, only one of my favorite places in Georgia (even though I have an allergic reaction to their cats and dogs). I was there to help my sister friend Kiesha Cameron with the planning and organizing of a 3 day workshop on Provisioning with Leni Sorensen. Name not familiar to you? She is another person you should Google because the knowledge and history this woman brings to any table is amazing. When I first met her last year at the Food for Thought Conference. I thought this is what a 70 something year old Cass is going to be like. Well versed, opinionated and strong willed. Definitely my kind of woman. Interested in learning more about the workshop then hit the link. What link? This one right here.

What better way to close out the month than with me being the August feature on Flavorful World. Sometimes you think no one is noticing your work and then boom. Would you like to be our feature for August? Heck yeah I do. So I did. You can read my interview right here.

August has come and gone. It was memory filled. And I have seen some good and some bad but I keep moving. Thank you guys who are subscribed and those who dip in and out to see what I have going on. I appreciate the love you all give to The Chef In Pearls. I hope you had some great summer memories because Fall is on its way. Go make some last minute Summer memories before it is all gone.

Until next time…

~The Chef In Pearls

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Banana Bread Remixed

I love bananas…I mean I could eat bananas all everyday if…they didn’t cause me pain. Apparently at some point in my life I met my banana quota. My body’s way of letting me know this is by inflicting excruciating pain on my stomach. I don’t have to eat a whole banana for this phenomena to take place…a bite…hell a half a bite and BAM instant pain.  But that doesn’t stop me from creating wonderful banana inspired dishes (remember I love bananas).

Today I bring you the banana bread remixed.  This dish was inspired by a post a friend shared on Facebook, “20 Recipes that will make you never want to skip brunch Again,” by viral nova. On this list was a recipe for cream cheese filled  banana bread…..how could that not be good. I mean, I have done banana bread with a brown sugar cream cheese spread so I know cream cheese in the middle would definitely take it up a notch or 2. Here’s the thing though I wasn’t feeling the actual banana bread recipe that was posted so I went with my tried and true recipe from out of one of my old dusty notebooks. I now give you Banana Bread with cream cheese filling and candied walnuts….. So here ya go:

Banana Bread

3 or 4 ripe bananas, mashed

1/3 cup melted butter

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Cream Cheese Filling

1 (8oz) block of cream cheese

1 egg

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla

Candied Walnuts

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup of sugar

1 tablespoon of corn syrup

 

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter & flour a loaf pan. In a saucepan place walnuts, sugar and corn syrup.  Heat until sugar is melted and nuts are coated. Spread nuts out on a parchment lined baking sheets so as to cool and not form lumps.Mash bananas with a fork in a mixing bowl .With a wooden spoon mix melted butter into mashed bananas.  Mix in sugar, egg and vanilla. Sprinkle salt & baking soda over mixture and then mix in. Add flour and mix until incorporated ( do not over mix as it will toughen the texture of the bread). Put to the side.  Place softened cream cheese into bowl with egg, sugar and vanilla, mix until smooth. Pour 1/2 the banana mixture into prepared loaf pan. Then pour cream cheese mixture on top of banana mixture in pan. Top that with a 1/4 cup of candied walnuts followed by the other 1/2 of banana mixture. Finish it by sprinkling the remaining walnuts on top.Place loaf pan on a baking sheet and bake 45 minutes to an hour. Insert knife or toothpick to test bread , if it comes out clean then done.  Cool pan on cooling rack for 10 minutes.  Remove bread from pan, allow to cool completely on rack. Cut using a serrated edge knife. Then enjoy :-) .

 

 

Well I hope you’ll share how your banana bread turns out. CIPapproved

 

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The Month of May

The Month of May

May. What can I say about the month of May except that it’s been one helluva ride.  May came complete with a roller coaster ride of up and downs.  I wanted to bask in the sun of Springtime but that seemed to get interrupted with life.  I am blessed to still be able to enjoy my mother on Mother’s Day. My Children did the one thing most people fear to do for me, they cooked me a lovely dinner. All the while trying to keep the sun on me I was still preparing for the one year anniversary of my other Dad’s death (Yes Cancer Sucks!). We planned a community outreach to help make people aware of their health and bring a little fun to the neighborhood. As if that was not hard enough, in the midst of all of the planning we got news that would break my mother’s heart once again. A close family friend, correction a son to my mother and a brother to me, was murdered. I tried to find solace in cooking but it hadn’t helped. The clouds were covering up my little sunshine.  It’s kind of hard to have all these beautiful memories of these great & wonderful men, knowing I wouldn’t be able to make new ones with them. I pushed those clouds to the side as I laughed and recalled the good times I had with the 2 of them.  Then life showed up once more as I try to bring closure to my marriage. Remembering the good times with my soon to be ex-husband made it hard but life must continue on. I try to find the silver lining in it all. The memories are what helps to pull you through the rough times. Life continued on.  I got some sunshine pushing hard through those clouds. It’s graduation season here in Atlanta and I knew quite a few graduates. I was more than happy for them and their families. Seeing the potential in all of them from the kindergarten graduate to my daughter-in-law who just presented her dissertation for her doctorates. Proud moments and some sun to bask in again. It’s the closing of the month. It’s a celebration of our fallen soldiers , which always marks the start of grilling season and the wearing of white. If ever there was a time when having wonderful memories to recall was most important the month  of May was it. I beg you to please go forward and make wonderful memories…tomorrow is promised to no one.

~The Chef In Pearls

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8 Things you need to throw your very own tea party

8 Things you need to throw your very own tea party

So you’ve seen them on television. You may have even attended one at a swanky hotel in town.  And now you want to throw your very own tea party. Most people tend to throw tea parties for special occasions like a bridal shower, or a baby shower or even a birthday. Why not throw one just to have friends over to chat? It isn’t very hard to do.

Here is a list of 8 things you’ll need to pull this off.

  1. The Usual Party Arrangements. Like any other get together you have to have a location, time and invitation. With modern technology you can do invitations through Facebook, a text message or so many other online invite systems like Evite. I still like a good old fashion printed invite sent by snail mail.
  2. Tea Pots & Tea Cups.  Your china does not have to match. Let me repeat: they DO NOT have to match. Check out what you have in your china cabinet. Or visit your local thrift store and see what goodies you may come across. You can make it part of the theme for each guest to bring her favorite tea-cup. Same thing goes for the tea pots. See what pieces your Mom or if you’re lucky your grandmother may have in her china cabinet and have at it. For my last tea party, I was blessed with a plethora to choose from because my Mom collects tea pots.
  3. Tea. Can you actually throw a tea party without tea? I think not.  I grew up with fresh peppermint growing in my backyard so I know what it’s like to enjoy freshly made tea straight from the garden. There is also the debate loose tea vs. tea bags. I say loose but tea bags aren’t bad if you get them from a reputable company. Some days you really can’t be sure what manufacturers are giving you. With that being said you can make your own tea bags with just a couple of items. (See below)
  4. Tea Sandwiches I know we have all seen the infamous cucumber tea sandwich. Please do not think that is your only option for sandwiches at your tea party. It’s all up to your imagination. Think it up and shrink it down in size. They should not be larger than a 2 bite sandwich. I made a caprese styled sandwich with fresh mozzarella, basil, yellow grape tomatoes, spicy sliced turkey from the deli all on a toasted square of bread. If you really aren’t interested in making any small sandwiches find your favorite local restaurant and see what they can do for you.
  5. Scones. Now we all know it’s not really a tea party if there aren’t any scones. What exactly is a scone? I think the best description I have heard is that “a scone ain’t nothing but a glorified biscuit.” If you’ve been to a Starbuck’s you may have seen one or even eaten one. I made cranberry/orange scones and chocolate chip scones for my tea. Once again the choices are limited only by your imagination. Oh and don’t forget the lemon curd…it takes scone eating to a whole other level.
  6. Pastries.  Tea loaves, cookies, savory mini tarts, fruit tartlets: any of your favorite pastries in mini form. Remember they are meant to be eaten in 2 bites. Put them on a plate with a doilie (remember to use what you have as dishes or borrow from Mom) and set it on the table.
  7. Photos.  Pictures are important to immortalize the event. You can hire a photographer to capture all your hard work and the fun you and your guests will be having.  This will give everyone the chance to sit back a really enjoy. Your other option would be to make everyone the paparazzi for the night. With the digital age we live in now everyone has a smart phone, so picture-taking is inevitable. Create a hashtag just for your event so when attendees post pictures you can have access to them all in one place. Consider printing a photo book as a keepsake afterwards.
  8. Gift Bags. I always like for my guest t walk away with some sort of keepsake from whatever event I create. It doesn’t have to be super elaborate but it does have to show you put some thought into it. For my tea party I made tea bags for everyone, some lemon melt away cookies and placed a teaspoon in a goodie bag tied up with ribbon. I wanted them to continue the tea party for themselves when they got home. I am including how to create your own tea bags below.

How to make tea bags

You will need loose tea, old school white coffee filters, a stapler, and baker’s twine. Take one filter and flatten it out. Depending on if you plan to make bags for an individual cup or for a pot place 1 teaspoon to a tablespoon of loose tea along the center of filter. Do not come past 2 inches from either ends of the filter and forming a straight line done the middle. Fold either sides of the filter of the line of tea, making a rectangle with rounded ends. Starting with the end closest to you make 2 folds, one over the other. Then do the same with the other end. Now fold the filter in half, bring both folded ends together. Take a 5-6 inch piece of baker’s twine and attach it to the filter using the stapler. I like to leave a ½ of an inch of twine on the other end so that I can tie a knot and secure the twine on the staple. Viola you just made your very first tea bag and probably not your last.

I hope this has helped you in feeling like this is something yo can pull off because you know what? You can. Is there something you think should be added to this list. Drop me a comment below and let me know. Then take some time out and visit my It’s Tea Time board on Pinterest.

Now go forward and make some memories.

~Cassandra, The Chef In Pearls

 

 

Photo credit: Tonesha Smith Photography

 

 

 

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December…..What a month!

December…..What a month!

December has been one helluva month. It went so fast. I got to play set designer for Santa Dee.  I was able to decorate his set where families would come to take their Christmas pictures. Me, the lady who has a board specifically labelled “If I could D.I.Y.” on Pinterest. I did everything from create a fireplace, a snowman and tons of gifts all from empty cardboard boxes. I guess I can D.I.Y.

I eventually ended up being his hostess/cookie maker for his event Cookies and Cocoa with Santa where I made what has come to be known as my Signature Gingerbread Cookies. These cookies landed me selling them to the public and they were well received. You could have ordered them dipped in chocolate, plain or dipped with chopped crystallized ginger. They won’t be back until next holiday season.

 

In keeping with the whole cookie theme I participated in a cookie swap, The Great Food Bloggers Cookie Swap. It was a fundraiser designed to bring awareness to childhood cancer and raise money for research. I was more than happy to do my part. It gave me a chance to meet other bloggers and work on cookies. I made chocolate chip rugelachs because they reminded me of home, NYC. You can read all about it here.

I still had to do Christmas in my own home. My oldest came to visit with his wife and we had a lot of family fun. I made Pulled BBQ, two ways turkey and King Oyster Mushrooms) served on top of a cornbread waffle with a dollop of sour cream and sliced green onions. Everyone agreed it was yummy. I was able to get my Christmas tree up.  I did a Cranberry Wild Rice stuffed Turkey Reloude with a  Brown Sugar Orange Glaze another thumbs up. I finally got to meet my grand-niece in person. I was super excited because she’s even cuter in person. I made a wonderful Christmas dinner but forgot to take pictures. I did however get pics of the cinnamon-sugar buns I made during the day. I say better than nothing.

Anyway I am currently preparing for the rolling in of the New Year. As usual I will spend it with my kids. We will be dining on  shrimp and grits with some bubbly( theirs non-alcoholic mine very alcoholic). Anyway, I hope you ring in the New Year safe and in the best frame of mind. Until next year go forward and make new memories.

~The Chef In Pearls

 

 

 

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When You Got Friends in Snow Places

When You Got Friends in Snow Places

There is nothing cooler than being able to say you know Santa and actually knowing him. Yep. Your girl the Chef In Pearls not only knows Santa but recently did a photo shoot with him and Mrs. Claus. I mean I can’t get any cooler than that or can I? I probably could be cooler but that’s a whole other post.

Actually let’s not save it for another post. Let’s deal with it in this post. You know what makes me cooler even than just knowing Santa? The fact of being able to call him my brother. Yep Santa Dee of The Real Black Santa is my brother and the young lady who plays Mrs. Claus with him is actually my mother. So yeah I think I am way cooler that I previously thought I was. The only other person I think is cooler than me would be his 10 year old daughter who gets to tell everyone, ” Santa is my Dad”.

My brother gained a lot of popularity in a world where his skin color makes him different or not the norm. But he is the real deal. His beard is not fake but actually grows from his face. It is naturally white not bleached or died to get the color but actually white because it grew that way. It’s a family trait, the gray hair thing we got going on. He earnestly looks forward to the season because he likes the smile he puts on the children’s faces. I still remember how in awe I felt when I first saw him in a Santa suit. Instantly I just wanted to tell him what I wanted for Christmas in hopes that it would be waiting for me under the tree.

I know a lot of people don’t believe or even like the concept of Santa Claus. If for nothing else, when presented correctly, it’s the ideal of showing love to others. That’s what this season is all about. All anyone is really looking for is to be loved. Even the smallest token is appreciated when truly given out of love. That’s all Santa Dee wants to show the world. It may be a concept for children but believe me when I say it touches even the adults. They look forward to the chance to be able to bring their children in to take pictures. To be able to share a few words with him. At times they are more excited than the kids. They want to be the cool parents. I guess them, like me, want to be able to say they know Santa.  That gives them some kind of kid cred amongst their children and other children they may know.

Keep up with me and Santa Dee because we’ve somethings in the making. Hopefully we can help you with your memory making this season through cooking, some pictures or even some kind words. Now get off the computer and go makes some memories.

(All Photos by Nicole Denise)

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Quickie… Get Ready. Get Set. Holidays

Quickie… Get Ready. Get Set. Holidays

Holiday-dinner-table

It’s that time of the year again. You know where family gather and people eat like there’s no tomorrow. It’s also the time of year when everyone wants to show off their culinary skills (or the lack there of) with tables full of traditional and not so traditional meals. Well with the weeks leading up to the big turkey day and Christmas fast approaching after that The Chef In pearls will be sharing video tips to get you through the holidays with ease. You’ll be able to participate in the videos by catching them live on Periscope. You can download the app for free in your app store, Apple and Android users alike. Once downloaded look for me as, you guessed it, The Chef In Pearls. Then listen out for that sexy whistle because I will be coming to you live . You can always let me know some of the things that are your biggest challenges and I will try to address them in the scopes. Looking forward to helping you make new memories this holiday season

(image from realstylenetwork.com)
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Sausages, sausages and more sausages

Sausages, sausages and more sausages

 

So what do you do when you have over 10 pounds of leftover Italian sausage? You put them to good use (Don’t ask where they came from). My son was determined to eat sausages for a week straight but his sister wanted no parts of that. I was able to create 4 meals before having to call it quits. The following are pics of the dishes (requested by the kids).

 

 

 

What are some dishes you might have created using Italian Sausages?

Go buy a pound of Italian Sausages and see what you can create. Now go forward and make memories

 

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My Birthday

My Birthday

This past Monday July 6, I turned the ripe age of 43. I know most people start dreading birthday after they hit about 35 but not me. I embrace them. I look forward to every year I am blessed to be a part of this life of mine, good and bad. As I get older I get wiser, well at least I like to think so. This year was not my usual gathering of friends and associates. This year as a true Cancerian I crawled into my shell a bit, kept it low-key. My daughter wanted to make sure it was enjoyable so she made plans for me to visit the M.A.C. counter ( yes I love me some make-up)  and then we would have dinner at Makan ( a Chinese/ Korean fusion restaurant) I found out about this restaurant through Thrillist (shout outs to them). I had been determined to experience true Ramen soup when I happened upon their list of top Ramen places in Atlanta. I knew the real deal could be nothing like the instant stuff Momofuku created how many ions ago.

So where do I start I met the best make-up artist at the MAC counter, Tommy and Al. They helped me get my make-up shopping on. I learned a little ombre lip action while they were at it,too. We left there and then headed to Makan where we got a chance to take advantage of their “happy hour”. It was an excellent and cost-effective way to try things out. I tried 3 types of Ramen. Let me just warn you the Korean Spicy Ramen felt like satan had made himself comfortable in my chest. It really is spicy.I should have known just from the fact that the soup was red. I enjoyed the pork buns, the spicy wonton dumplings but my favorite for the night was the Kimchi Fried Rice. Too spicy but oh so flavorful.  We left there and headed to Jeni’s for ice cream. Yummy. They had a version of an ice cream I grew up liking but isn’t made anymore, Butter Almond. Nostalgia in a styrofoam cup. And what kind of Birthday celebration would it have been without cake. Yes and I got it from my favorite bakery, Apple Butter Bakery. Since I am a chocolate loving girl I had the cake version of their tall, dark, handsome cupcake. As always I was more than pleased. Well until next year.

I made plenty of new memories. Now it’s your turn go visit one of these places and let me know what you think. Go forward and make memories.

P.S. Oh yeah my Birthday outfit was another eShakti find. I got so many compliments on it.  eShakti sells customizable clothing in sizes 2-36 check them out. A gift to all for my birthday if you use the code: CASSANDRAMASON you’ll receive a special discount. Now go shop. BTW I’m still accepting gifts

 

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OOTD- eShakti

OOTD- eShakti

My mother recently was ordained an Evangelist at her church. She invited me to come witness her dedication. I was definitely the proud daughter in attendance.  My OOTD sleeveless tank top: TJMaxx Skirt: eShakti Purse/Shoes: Cato (Sorry for the scrunched up face in some of the pictures. The sun was in my eyes.)

Now go forward and make memories.

C.I.P.

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The Chef In Pearls

Cassandra Mason is a Lifestyle Chef and Gourmet Cooking Instructor who enjoys demystifying the art of cooking for One. You can catch her live demonstrations across major social media as @TheChefInPearls.

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