Fa La La La La, SWEET MERCY, it is already Christmas Day and a new year is right around the corner. I want to thank all of you who have jumped in and breathed life into this mission of gathering, growing and connecting here at Arkansas Women Bloggers yet again this year. Seven years ago when this little seed took root, we could have never known that it would become what it is today.
Our community continues to get stronger. Many new faces, many who have continually stepped up to make this a more beautiful, loving group, and many whose life season does not include blogging, but still are a part of this community. We welcome any and all that have a true heart for community and are willing to open up and help one another with true kindness and giving. That is what this Christmas season is about, right? And, we try to keep that going all year long.
Business is booming in the influencer world and those of you who choose to grow as a business in some way, 2017 is going to rock your world. More and more brands are looking to partner with influencers, and yes, there are more and more blogs and social media accounts established every single day. Remember, comparison is the thief of joy, there is room for everyone, so be open to the amazing. Let The Women Bloggers be your training wheels, helping you to learn and keep upright in this busy, ever-changing world, while helping you to refine your message and your goals.
I look back with gratitude for the Lord’s many blessings on my family and this community in the past year. And I look forward to another great year with you.
Remember to exhale, to seek the beauty, the peace and the love that this season is all about. And carry it in your heart all year long.
In Northeast Arkansas spring is a time for being outside, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the freshness in the air.
In Blytheville, spring means it is time for the Farmer’s Market.Several years ago Blytheville started looking for ways to draw people to Main Street.A once thriving place, where most of the city’s businesses were located, it was then sparsely lined with businesses among empty buildings and sidewalks.
Sitting on the west end of Main Street is a blue building prominently displaying a vertical sign with lighted letters, identifying the building as the Greyhound Bus Station.The city and Main Street Blytheville organization has diligently worked to restore the building to its original grandeur.The building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places; it is believed to be only one of three of a kind still in existence. Built in 1939, the building houses the local tourist information center, Main Street Blytheville, and now the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market.
Not as large as some Farmers Markets, Main Street Farmers Market in Blytheville is a taste of small town Northeast Arkansas. You can buy fresh vegetables, locally baked goods and craft items.On almost any Saturday morning, there will be coffee and homemade tamales available.
Being a vegetarian in a family of carnivores, I often try to cook recipes that will bring my meat-eating family members over to the vegetarian side.One of my family’s favorite recipes is fried spinach artichoke balls.My boys never make fun of my vegetables served up southern fried.
Connie is a 50-something wife, mother, Nana, doggie mom, vegetarian, living in the small community of Blytheville, AR. located in the far Northeast corner of the State. She shares a home with her husband aka The Big Man, 14 rescue dogs and 10 chickens. Collectively they have five adult near-perfect children and five perfect grandboys and 5 awesome granddogs. Connie is a family nurse practitioner and manages a free health clinic (Great River Charitable Clinic). She and the Big Man also own and operate Bed and Biscuit Boarding. Connie is an active member of the Blytheville Humane Society. Her lbog Scrapbook Wife chronicles her journey to live a balance simple life making her little corner of the world a better place to live.
I love my hometown of North Little Rock, especially the revived historic downtown district of Argenta, where you can have a food adventure just walking down Main street!
Start with at Mugs Café. Yummy coffee concoctions and breakfast – and folks line up out the door on Saturday mornings for their all you can eat pancakes for just $5.
Work off some of that breakfast by wandering down to Argenta Bead Company, Galaxy Furniture, or the Argenta Drugstore – each with it’s own eclectic atmosphere and plenty to look at. Or, if it’s summertime, you definitely will want to spend some time at the Argenta Farmer’s Market, where the food and products are all guaranteed Arkansas-grown.
Perhaps you are thirsty by now, so walk a couple blocks over to Diamond Bear Brewery to enjoy their patio and a local craft beer. More likely than not, there will be some sort of fun event going on as well.
Or perhaps you are ready for a lovely lunch. Back over on Main, you’ll find fantastic pizza and pasta dishes at Ristorante Capeo, a beautiful spot that has long been known for excellent Italian dinner. We are all grateful that they’ve added lunch to their repertoire.
If you find yourself in the area during the evening, you’ll want to head to The Joint. This coffee shop/comedy club also serves cocktails and light meals while hosting live music and improv nights. And there is always an original theater show running performed by The Main Thing, a brilliantly funny comedy trio. Truly – something for everyone!
Or maybe you’re just looking for a quiet spot.Sit and enjoy a lovely glass of wine or beer and a charcuterie plate at Crush. The atmosphere is as much a draw as their extensive wine selection; this is the perfect quiet spot to have a date or meet friends for conversation.
There you have it: morning, noon, or night, there’s are food adventures to be had in Argenta!
[Tweet “When was the last time you took an Argenta adventure? How about now? #foodiefriday #ARWB” @sarabethjones]
Sarabeth Jones is a creative at Fellowship North who enjoys all kinds of artistic work; her latest project is bringing the national live-reading show Listen To Your Mother to Little Rock. She lives in Sherwood with her husband, Bryan, and their kids, Elizabeth, Jonathan, and Will. She loves to write about the way they make her laugh on her blog, thedramatic.com.
During the years I was lucky enough to get “stuck” in France, I picked up a lot of practical, food-related lifestyle insights:meals are good, snacking is not; if you feed your kids in courses, veggies first, the veggies get eaten; it is alarmingly easy to buy a bad baguette in Paris—better to commit your neighborhood’s “good” boulangerie’sapparently arbitrary schedule to memory.
The French really know the ins and outs of food.Maybe it was the wine, but I’d swear I never ate a disappointing meal while there. If they can’t put something worthwhile on the table, they prefer not to eat.
That’s why it seems counter-intuitive that among all the delicious dishes I sampled while there, perhaps my favorite is Mafe (mah fay), a hearty Senegalese peanut stew often available in the North African cafes of larger cities.
Traditionally made with lamb or other meat, I prefer to make Mafe as a vegetarian dish, rich with meaty root vegetables.As with most stews, many variations will work (skip the turnips and up the sweet potatoes, saute some sweet peppers with the onions, throw some torn kale in towards the end), but the stars here remain the chick peas and peanut butter.Though it sounds like an exotic combination, if you grew up with peanut butter as a staple like me and still crave its comforting and childhood-memory-inducing qualities, you’ll love this dish in any of its incarnations.
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (or 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
Fine salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups stock of your choice or water
2 Tbsp fish sauce, optional
3/4 cup creamy, natural peanut butter
parsley for garnish
Finely chop the garlic and dice the onions. Peel and cut the potato, turnip, carrot, and sweet potato into ½ inch cubes.
In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering and add the onions and garlic. Cook 2-3 minutes (until onions are transparent), then add the paprika, cayenne pepper and cumin and cook one more minute. Add the root vegetables, tomato paste, thyme sprigs, chickpeas, salt and black pepper.
Mix well. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the veggies are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
Turn off the heat but leave the pot on the stove.
Stir in the peanut butter and fish sauce, mix well and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with jasmine or basmati rice.
Adapted from the Cooking Channel’s “West African’s Finest Mafe” recipe.
After graduating Bentonville High School and Hendrix College, Paula spent many years out of the area, including time in Key West, New York City, London, New York and Paris. After the birth of their two boys, she returned to family and Bentonville, where, with her husband Frederic. She now owns and operates Crepes Paulette, a popular local food truck, with a storefront Crepes Paulette coming soon to “southern” downtown Bentonville.
One of the highlights of my week is Wednesday night church supper. I don’t know that it’s inherently Southern – I’m sure there are churches outside of our region that do weekly meals. However, at our church, it feels like the most classically Southern thing I do each week.
For starters, there are sweet Southern ladies, most of them grandmas, who gather during the day on Wednesday to prepare the meal. The menu rotates, and they do have the option of a healthy choice grilled chicken salad for anyone watching their waistlines. These workers spend hours diligently chopping, sautéing, and preparing the meal for our church.
After work and school, slowly a crowd gathers in our gym. By 5 p.m., the smell of the meal is overwhelming. You can always tell what’s for supper long before you ever get to the buffet line.
A crew of servers happily fills plates while those waiting in line catch up on life. We are treated to Southern fare – chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes, poppy seed chicken with green beans and bacon, and the crowd favorite – breakfast for dinner. On that night, we are treated to biscuits, gravy, and everyone’s beloved hash brown casserole.
Once we fill our plates, we gather around big tables to talk, laugh, and share life while breaking bread. We make trips to the dessert table and choose from a plethora of goodness including homemade pies, cakes, bread pudding, cookies, and my favorite, a Butterfinger ice box pie. We drink lemonade and sweet tea. We help feed each other’s babies. We watch kids as they play around the periphery of the gym. We hug the senior adults like they’re our grandparents. We hear about work, about life, about cars breaking down, and kids having fits. It’s around these tables and these meals that we share life together. It’s the best gathering each week.
I managed to wrangle the top secret hash brown casserole from our head chef, Monica. She makes enough to feed 100+ people each week, but she gave me recipe to make enough for our family. It’s great for breakfast or as a side dish. We love it with a roast or ham. I love it leftover for breakfast. I just love it. It’s easy. It tastes great. And it reminds me of sharing so many meals with my church family whom I love.
Over medium heat combine butter, onion, garlic, milk, heavy cream, and chicken broth in medium sauce pan until combined.
Add flour, salt and pepper and stir until it thickens. (About 3 minutes).
Just add more flour if you want it thicker.
Use in any recipe you need it for.
By Brittney Lee: Razorback Britt
Arkansas Women Bloggers http://arkansaswomenbloggers.com/
Brittney is a native Arkansan with a love for bright lights and big city. She often escapes her 20-acre home in a small town to shop, eat and catch a concert in the big city nearby. She blogs about her life, her faith, her adventures, her dogs and her country home at Razorback Britt.
Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes it backfires on me.
When it comes to the kitchen, I am a MAJOR control freak.
Early on in my marriage that backfired on me.
I come from a family that spent a lot of time together in the kitchen. We cooked and cleaned together. We hung out in the kitchen. Most family gatherings revolved around food and meals. Making food and eating food together was an important part of our lives.
My husband’s family was not into cooking and gathering around food like my family.
When we spent the first night in our home just after getting married, I planned an elaborate special breakfast. Holidays are always big affairs with menu planning for weeks in advance even if it’s just the two of us. I’ve been known to go all out for special dinners in the middle of the week.
Richie, who would have been happy with fried chicken every night when we first married, always thought this was a bit strange, but smiled and went along with it.
He enjoyed the chaos (and the food) from the comfort of his living room chair.
I expected Richie to step into the kitchen with me. To help cook. To help clean. Or at the least, offer to do the dishes if I did all the cooking.
Richie had never cooked more than a piece of toast, and his lack of understanding how things worked in the kitchen wasn’t entirely his fault. So, I invited Richie into the kitchen to help. We were still in “honeymoon” phase, trying to please each other, attempting to figure out how things worked.
But things didn’t go as expected.
I expected more. I expected knowledge. Basic understanding of how to slice an onion. How to load a dishwasher.
I got angry when that didn’t happen. There was frustration. There were words. Ugly words. There were tears.
It did not go well, to say the least.
Sixteen years later, the kitchen is still a place where we don’t quite jive yet. Recently, we’ve tried to rectify that.
Here are five tips to work better together in the kitchen.
If you’re working with someone who is new to a kitchen don’t throw Beouf Bourguignon, at them the first time out of the gate. Start simple with things like sandwiches or breakfast.
Take a cooking class together. Watch some kitchen technique videos on YouTube. Watch a show on the Food Network and then recreate the recipe together.
If you cooked, your spouse/significant other should do the dishes. But this should also be reciprocated.
Meal Plan Together
My husband seems more excited about helping in the kitchen if it is a meal he is excited about.
There really is more than one way to slice an onion and more than one way to load a dishwasher. The dishes will still get clean and the food will still taste great even if the pieces of onion are sliced into 37 different degrees of thickness.
Whether you are an ice cream lover, but can’t handle the lactose or you just want to cut fat and calories of your favorite sweet treat, I’ve got you. You can celebrate carving about 150 calories off your midnight snack if you make it my way.
Here’s what you need:
Chop up your banana.
Add it and a tablespoon of peanut butter (I used chunky.) to your food processor.
You will process it for a bit. Keep going until you get this texture:
Top with your favorites. I used chia seeds, but could also use sprinkles, peanuts, or chocolate chips.
It’s pretty delicious and it makes a great healthy after-school snack too!
My philosophy is that every meal should be a celebration. Food is life-giving. It is the fuel for our bodies. And it’s pretty awesome that our fuel can be beautiful and yummy too.
I recently made a traditional Nordic meal for my family including Swedish Meatballs and Potato Herb Gratin with Pepparkakor (Nordic Ginger Cookies) for dessert. These were all new recipes for me, so I was pleased when they turned out not just edible, but delicious. The entire meal was a hit with the Valley bunch.
I found the Swedish Meatball recipe on the food blog Damn Delicious. Meatballs look fancy, but are easy to make. You can substitute ground chicken or turkey for the ground pork if you would like cut some calories from the recipe (but I wouldn’t suggest it). It’s perfect just as it is.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onions have become translucent, about 3 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine ground beef, ground pork, Panko, egg yolks, allspice, nutmeg and cooked onion; season with salt and pepper, to taste. With clean hands, mix until well combined. Roll the mixture into 1 ¼ to 1 ½ inch meatballs, forming about 24 meatballs.
Add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet. Add meatballs, in batches, and cook until all sides are browned, about 5 minutes for each batch. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
To make the gravy, melt butter in the skillet. Whisk in flour until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in beef broth and cook, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in sour cream; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Stir in meatballs and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through and thickened, about 8-10 minutes.
Serve immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired.
I served the meatballs over cooked egg noodles. My sauce wasn’t quite as thick as I hoped, but the leftovers the following day were perfect. Based on that new information, I will make these a day in advance next time.
Don’t be afraid to try new recipes for your next food celebration. Experimentation and discovery are part of the fun. And believe me: your family will love slurping up these creamy, meatbally, sauce-covered noodles.
Stacey is a wife, mom of four girls, and public health professional. She adores her interracial, real-life modern family, and is thankful that her husband Anthony loves her kind of crazy. Cooking is her therapy. She dreams of moving to Italy one day, so you can often find her binging on House Hunters International. Stacey’s life motto is “Live big. Love deep.” You can find her online at…
I don’t have much memorized about cooking, but if you were to ask me the 2 things I know off the top of my head, it’s that most cookies bake at 350 for 10 minutes and the ingredients for Cake Mix Cookies are 1/3 cup of oil and 2 eggs. Something else my mama always taught me was that everything was worth celebrating. The end of a big project, cleaning the whole house on a Saturday, making it to the end of a hard work week, getting straight A’s on your report card, anniversaries, promotions, and even half birthdays if you were my sister.
The big and the small, it’s all worth celebrating. My parents sometimes feel bad when they get ready to pull a party together and invite their friends because we realize we have had much in life to celebrate. Heck, one year, not that long ago, we had 5 years cancer-free, a teacher of the year, a graduation, a big move and a retirement all in the same year. Not all of them had a party, but each one called for its own special celebration!
When I first lived on my own, I didn’t have much surplus in my budget, but I still loved to celebrate. I wanted to carry on this tradition I had learned from my parents to make every moment count and to celebrate all the small victories along the way. So, playing on my memory of baking growing up, and my often “famous” style of cooking, I decided to start experimenting with something I knew well.
Cake-Mix-Cookies. They were one of my favorite treats growing up. Always perfectly chewy, sometimes not too sweet and ever the easy go-to quick fix for just an afternoon toast with a cup of milk.
I’ll admit there are many varieties (and I’ll share them at the bottom), but the ones that always taste the best are the Confetti Celebration Cookies. Maybe it’s the sprinkles. Maybe it’s the fact that they taste like ice cream. Or, maybe nostalgia wins every time!
A homemade cookie with a cup of milk or a pot of coffee really is the best way to celebrate almost anything.
Mix together all ingredients by hand or in a stand mixer.
Scoop dough with a cookie scoop or make 1-1/2 inch balls.
Bake for 10 minutes or until edges get a little brown.
Cookies should hold shape and not flatten out. If you want flat cookies pat them to ½ inch thick before baking) Let cool to room temperature before serving.
Optional: Make ahead and keep in an airtight container in refrigerator for an afternoon snack. Or, roll into a log and put in your freezer when you need to just cut and serve quickly. Baking process is the same.
Variations: Strawberry cake mix with butter cream icing, Red Velvet cake mix with cream cheese icing, Dutch Chocolate or Milk Chocolate cake mix and roll balls in powdered sugar before baking, Lemon cake mix with cream cheese icing, Pineapple cake mix add ½ cup shredded coconut to the mix before baking.
Keisha Pittman can be found over at bigpittstop (bigpittstop.com), a blog started when she was brushing up on her superpowers kicking cancer’s butt. Eight years later, it’s a chapter book of a 30 something navigating life and learning lessons along the way. She is a self-proclaimed nerd and every once in a while lets us have a little glimpse into her recipes-for disaster, Saturday scenic drives, “big sister chats” and thoughts about living the good life in Northwest Arkansas. In the meantime, she is busy planning her wedding to her fun loving chicken man and planning her new life in South Arkansas.
There are just certain foods you expect at every family gathering, am I right? Certain standby recipes, if you will. At Thanksgiving there will always be turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie. At Christmas there will always be ham and homemade candy. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture.
In my family, something we have always come to expect is my sister’s Dot Cookies. My sister is the baker in our family. I love to cook but baking is just not my thing. The taste is always there but the presentation, not so much! Oops!
Dot Cookies are tiny sugar cookies with just a “dot” of icing on top and are just the perfect size to pop in your mouth and eat! Or, if you are my niece Paycen, you lick the icing off and give the cookie to your Aunt Ricci to eat. HA!
I believe the Dot Cookies came about when my aunt worked at a local bakery that made them. She started making them for our family get-togethers and then my sister started making them when my aunt didn’t want to any more.
The recipe has been tweaked a few times throughout the years but I love them no matter how they are made, HA!
I think these cookies are just adorable and I love these cookies are completely customizable in that you can make the icing whatever color you want to match your event. These cookies are perfect for holidays, birthday parties, baby showers, wedding showers, potlucks, really just whatever! They also travel well which is always a plus in my book!