We’ve got another lovely southern lady to introduce to you and although she hasn’t lived in the South her whole life, she’s a country girl through and through. Let’s all give a warm welcome to Tina, known to us here as Mommy’s Kitchen!
Tina, who has this wonderful blog called Mommy’s Kitchen, lives in Texas with her husband and three children, “I’m a stay-at-home home,” she says, “but consider myself a Domestic Engineer only because it sounds so much more professional.” Although she’s lived in Texas for 20 years, she grew up in different places around the world. Thanks to the Air Force, she was born in France, then moved to California, then lived in Hawaii for quite some time, where she developed a love for Filipino, Korean, and Asian cuisine in general.
Her heritage is quite international, too. Her mother is German and her father was born and raised in Alabama. “My mother learned to prepare all my favorite southern classics from my grandmother,” she explains. Growing up, she was exposed to quite a variety of foods, but she considers herself a country girl with a love for all things southern, especially when it comes to food. “My favorite is southern comfort food and old fashioned classics, dishes that hold a special place in my heart,” she says. “I enjoy canning my own jams, jellies, pickles and fruits. I also still hang my clothes out to dry on the clothes line from time to time. There is just something about the old-fashioned ways that I love so much.”
We’re glad about that too, Tina, because you’ve got some really great southern classics in your recipe box and your blog.
Tina learned to cook from her mother, saying that, “I grew up always under my mother’s feet and I loved being in the kitchen just watching her cook.” She proudly declares that her mom could cook anything. It gives her great pleasure now to have three children who have that same love of cooking as she did when she was a child. “I try my best to get them involved in the kitchen as much as possible,” she says. Her children help in the garden and cook and bake with her in the kitchen. In their family, it’s a big deal to eat together at the table family style, and she enjoys showing her children how food and family can really come together.
Something tells me that with great food like the dishes below, you won’t have to call out “Dinner’s ready!” more than once.
Tina mentioned at the start that baking was also one of her passions, and in fact, when asked what ingredient shortage makes her panic, she unhesitatingly answered, “Butter!” Tina loves cooking and baking with butter, and admits that she tends to freak out a bit if she finds herself running low or without a stick. “To me,” she confesses, “butter is like a bar of gold.”
I’ll send you a few bars of gold if you’ll send me back a couple of these, Tina. Deal?
Clockwise from top left: Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Cheesecake, Fudge Puddles a.k.a. Puddles of Yum, Homemade Oreos, Dulce De Leche Ice Cream with Toasted Pecans, Healthy Peanut Butter Balls, and Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie.
Now of course, since we’re on a southern roll here, you know I’m going to show you some pie. But not without sharing one of Tina’s memorable kitchen disasters first. You see, about 23 years ago, Tina decided to make apple pie from scratch for some friends she was having over. “I thought I was going so well,” she says, “but I guess you learn that you can’t make and bake a pie from scratch in 30 minutes.” So when they sat down at the table and cut into the pie, to her horror, the bottom crust wasn’t cooked. It wasn’t even just half-cooked—it was still raw. When the first slice was lifted, the crust just stretched. And stretched.
Now Tina can make a mean homemade apple pie. Or peanut butter pie. Coconut cream. Strawberry. You name it, I’m pretty sure she can make it. But she does admit that she’s still a little hesitant and worried when she cuts into that first piece. She still gets flashbacks of her first apple pie.
Wasn’t that a nice story? I know you’d like to hear more, so let’s bring Tina in to answer some questions. In the meantime, I’ll go off to a corner and find myself a slice of pie.
Q: What do you enjoy most about cooking?
A: First and foremost, I love cooking! Most people view cooking as a chore, but not me. Cooking and baking are my passion so it doesn’t seem like work at all. I also love teaching other people how to cook. I was lucky enough to have a mother show me how to cook, so I want to do the same for others who were not as fortunate as I was. I never realized the impact my site had on other people. Well, that is until I received an email one day. It was a random email, sort of out of the blue. I get all teary-eyed still to this day every time I tell the story. It was from a young lady that made one of my recipes—a simple recipe but not simple to her. You see, this particular young lady has a learning disability and she is unable to read.
She says she can read bits and pieces but not much. She was sending me an email to thank me for including step-by-step photos with my recipes. She told me that she cooked a dish from scratch for her husband for the first time since they have been married. She kept thanking me and told me without the photos she could not have done it. She said by looking at all the ingredients in the picture and then following along with the step-by-step photos she was able to understand how to make that particular dish. She was so excited and her excitement got me excited and then I cried. It was at that moment that I knew what I was doing was all worth it. Just the satisfaction of knowing I had helped just one person cook for the very first time. Goodness, I still get goose bumps every time I think of her. This is why I blog, she is why I blog.
Q: Who inspires you?
A: Well, I would have to say my elders. What I mean by that is that I just love sitting and listening to older folks speak of cooking for their families long ago. The stories of how they hardly had any food or ingredients but yet they could turn out a full course meal on the table. Biscuits with homemade pan gravy, cream peas with bacon, a fruit pie and a cheap cut of meat that was transformed into something that would melt in your mouth. Those are the folks that inspire me. Just take a little of this and a little of that and you can make just about anything. From them I have learned that you don’t need a bunch of fancy schmancy ingredients to make a meal that will impress.
Q: What is your go-to dish or meal?
A: Pot Roast Chicken! There is nothing better than a good old oven-roasted chicken. Pair it with carrots, potatoes and homemade pan gravy. Goodness, it just screams comfort food. Add some homemade yeast rolls and it’s pure heaven.
Q: Any strange foods or food combinations that you really enjoy?
A: Rice or pasta with scrambled eggs. Sometimes I toss in some soy sauce. I know it sounds weird and maybe even gross but let me explain. When I was pregnant with my firstborn child I had horrible morning sickness. Really, it was all-day sickness. The only thing I could keep down was cream of wheat, plain pasta, plain rice and scrambled eggs. You eventually learn to mix things up a bit. Surprisingly it stayed down. So that was my diet for 9 months. I still eat it today when no one’s around. When my oldest son who is 16 sees it he says, “Mom, that is so gross.” I always tell him it’s his fault I love it so much.
Q: What ingredient or kitchen technique gives you the most trouble?
A: Candy making. I either don’t boil the mixture long enough or I boil it too long. I can never get it quite right.
Q: What is your favorite kitchen tool?
A: Well, I am not sure if you would consider this a kitchen tool or not, but my cast iron skillet. You know, the ones that your grandma used to cook with. I can cook just about anything in my iron skillet. Apple crisp, cobbler, buttermilk biscuits, pizza, a chicken dinner and even a skillet cookie. I don’t know what I would do without it. So I guess you could say I have a serious love affair with my iron skillet.
Q: Give us one of your favorite kitchen tips that you wish you’d always known.
A: Patience and love! Just have a little patience and you can make just about anything. Remember if it doesn’t turn out, well then just pick yourself up and try again. Secondly, always remember to cook from your heart. If you love what you’re doing and who your cooking for, it will always show through in whatever dish you make. It’s not about what you cook, but how you cook it.
Amen to that, Tina!
Tina’s recipe box here is just chock-full of down-to-earth goodness. Go check it out! For even more of her recipes, head to her blog, Mommy’s Kitchen. She says it’s where family meals and memories are made, and you know, she’s right. Mommies have a way of always being right.