This is It BBQ and Seafood, Decatur GA

This Is It! BBQ and Seafood, Decatur GA (Photo Credit: Monica Johnson)

It’s fun to run into places you weren’t expecting. It happens a lot on a road trips unless your wedded to Micky D’s or the king of burgers. While on a recent trip traveling north from the Deep South, my sister and I went in search for some victuals. And we were excited to find a restaurant that is no stranger to those in Georgia, or to anyone who may watch Diners, Drive-in & Dives. The restaurant was called This Is It BBQ and Seafood.

The ego on these people, right? This is It! You know, like there’s no other place…don’t waste your time. Well, after having their catfish, black eyed-peas and sweet-potato casserole, I’m going to give it to them because this was it! It was a soul food bonanza with errrthing you want from a soul food restaurant. And when my catfish was ordered, they did not just take it off a pile of catfish, they said that they always make their catfish fresh upon ordering.

I’m looking forward to another trek down south maybe to try their ribs and macaroni and cheese. Then again, the catfish was really good so I could definitely get that again but the smothered turkey chops do really sound delightful! And they get their soul food cred’ right off the top, just for including chitterlings on their menu. All I know is that my return trip needs to happen and soon because I have plans for these taste buds!

This is It BBQ is a black-owned franchise of restaurants, which was founded by husband and wife team, Butch and Barbara Anthony in 1983. There are currently nine locations throughout Georgia and they also have a location in Fayettesville, NC. For more information, visit the This Is It BBQ & Seafood website.

Make a Light and Refreshing Persian Shirazi Salad

No lettuce? No problem. Especially if you’re making a Persian Shirazi salad. This salad is made with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions along with a few herbs and spices and a citrus dressing (often lemon or lime juice). Talk about a summer treat!

The salad gets its name from its place of origin, Shiraz, a city located in the southern region of modern-day Iran. See the recipe’s ingredients below.

Ingredients

3 to 4 Persian cucumbers (about 3/4 pound)
½ red onion, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons any combination of finely chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, basil or dill
1 teaspoon dried mint
2 to 3 medium tomatoes (about 1 pound)
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 2 limes), plus more as needed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For recipe instructions, visit Cooking.nytimes.com.

Do You Agree with the Top 10 International Cuisines?

If you think the Olympics is something that inspires pride in one’s country, a country/culture’s food lifts pride to an altogether different level. Typically, we have grown up with our culture’s food whether we are American, Caribbean, Italian Indian or Japanese. And we have also had our favorite dishes within our country/culture. That’s why when I stumbled upon a list of the Top 10 International Cuisines, it made me chuckle within myself because a lot of us are not going to be happy.

This list was very democratic. It’s based on the votes received and it even explains what kind of food you will find in the culture. But here’s a spoiler alert to Americans, we don’t even get in the extended top 41 list. Go ahead and expand from the top 10… our lobster rolls, chocolate chip cookies, buffalo wings and sweet potato pie were not enough to make the cut.

However, that’s not the end of the story. The great thing is if your favorite cuisine is not listed, you can add to the list. If you want to move your culture up a notch, go ahead and cast your vote. At the time this article is being posted, here is a partial listing of the top 5 international cuisines from ListWoo.com’s top 10 listing.

Top 5 International Cuisines (from ListWoo.com)
  1. Indian
  2. Italian
  3. Japanese
  4. Chinese
  5. French

Personally, I would have added Caribbean food somewhere in that top 5 but it’s ranking at number 22 right now. I guess I’ll have to send my absentee ballot or I won’t be represented. See the rest of the Top 10 International Cuisines list on ListWoo.com.

A Hot Summer’s Day and a Cold Snowball Treat

Sensational Snowballs, 8101 Loch Raven Blvd, Towson 21286

According to VisitMaryland.org, “Snowballs started out as a Baltimore tradition in the 1800s, and during the Great Depression, were known as ‘penny sundaes’ or ‘hard-time sundaes,’ but now you can find them throughout the central region and scattered across the state.”

If you live in Baltimore or the surrounding area, you probably have your favorite spot to indulge in for your customized icy creation. My current choice is Sensational Snowball, located in Towson, MD. They understand what I want from my summertime treat. I want enough flavored-syrup to cover all of the ice in my cup. There’s nothing worst than getting through the lower parts of your snowball and finding no syrup. No bueno!

Then there’s the choice of marshmallow or plain. I’ve even seen people put ice cream in between layers of the crushed ice. Now that’s living on the wild side! It’s a world of pleasure! On a hot summer’s day, make sure to get your cold snowball treat.

Hometown Food in Laurel, Mississippi

Hog Heaven BBQ

If ratings are any indicator, it seems that America is in love with Laurel, Mississippi, the location of HGTV’s show, Hometown. Now the show has nothing to do with food but I took it as a culinary adventure when I was invited to visit from a family member who recently moved there for an assignment. Although it was not part of my itinerary for the summer, I did love so much about laidback Laurel.

Everyone I met was so friendly…like that extra-mile friendly. Then there were the quirky and lovely historic houses as well as the beautiful lush leaning trees. And I’d be lying if told you I wasn’t in it for a little slice of southern cooking. I was not disappointed.

Sweet Somethings Bakery

The first place I went was to a little bakery in downtown Laurel called Sweet Somethings Bakery. With that name, they are winning already in my book but I digress. It’s always a cool little perk, when you can see bakers doing their thing right in front of your eyes. The bakery has all kinds of goodies from sweet rolls and pecan pies to almond croissants and Heath Bar cookies. I didn’t see any fancied-up coffee but they keep a good-old coffee machine for coffee that is ready to serve.

Bird Dog Cafe

Now, this may be a shocker but I had never heard of ‘Hometown’ until a few weeks before coming to Laurel, Mississippi. But once I was informed, I put watching the show on my to-do list. Unfortunately, that to-do list didn’t get realized until I was already there, and after I had dined at one of the spots, that ‘Hometown’ made over. That spot is Bird Dog Cafe, and it opened in August of 2020. Yes, it was a pandemic-opener but it has quickly become one of the hot spots in town.

I don’t think I’d be out of step to say that it’s an enchanting little spot that grabs your attention from the road with its dark reddish brown exterior and rustic American decor. The inside is just as welcoming with a mishmash of tables that make you feel like you’re sitting in grandma’s kitchen with an eclectic makeover.

Enough about the decor, we’ve got some food to talk about! So let’s get to it with the first thing I sampled…the roasted pepper deviled eggs with candied peppers and bits of bacon. I liked it pretty well, especially candied pepper, eaten in conjunction with the deviled egg has a bit of kick…maybe keep the water nearby.

Roasted Red Pepper Deviled Eggs at Bird Dog Cafe, Laurel MS

For the main course I had one of the specials—the red fish. The spice was king on this fish dish. My buds—taste buds that is—were having a. good time. It was perfectly seasoned for me, and I especially loved that kick of pepper that followed each bite. It was served with yummy mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley that had me trying to figure out how to replicate it once I got back to my home. I was especially elated because, as I have explained in another article, the way restaurants cook fish can be so hit or miss, but I’m so glad when it’s a hit.

Red Fish special at Bird Dog Cafe, Laurel, MS
The Smokehouse of Laurel

My carry-out day brought me in touch with a very distinctive restaurant called The Smokehouse of Laurel. You won’t pass by this place without a second glance. A big pig beckons you. I went through the drive-thru and ordered a two-meat and two-side special. I picked smoked chicken and an order of brisket for the meat, and the mashed potato casserole and mac and cheese for the sides. (Don’t judge me I was on vacation!) I could’ve had some more of those sides because somebody knew what they were doing in the kitchen. Just take a look at the picture. It tastes THAT good.

I also enjoyed the smoked chicken quite a bit. It was tender and tasty. If I’m being honest, which I have to be, the brisket was okay. The reason I say that it was okay is because it was a bit dry. I’m told on good authority, that the brisket is usually fantastic so I’ll chalk it up to a rare miss. After all, they can’t all be home runs! However, I did eat it all, they me supplied with barbecue sauce and I definitely made it work.

Oh and the meal was very reasonably priced too!

Smoked chicken, brisket, mashed potato casserole and macaroni and cheese at The Smokehouse of Laurel.

I had a fine time in Laurel and I even have a few more places that I want to hit. I’m told Garcia’s Doughnuts are delightful. I’m looking to experience their much touted honeybun. Pearl’s Diner has also been featured on Hometown as well and it appears that the restaurant is doing something right because it had a line outside the door when I passed by. Prayerfully, I can get to both next time, but until then thanks for the good eats Laurel.

Cravings for Butter Chicken

Cravings are a funny thing


I’ve been craving for something I’ve never had but I’ve heard a lot about it. It’s nothing new, in fact, it’s a very popular Indian dish dating back to the 1940’s. But you know how it goes…once you get something in your head, the cravings are on! It’s sheer curiosity, and I’ve fallen prey. It has to be the name. It’s like a sweet melodic tune. Say it with me, and close your eyes while saying it…butter…chicken.

Surely, it’s conjured up some image in your mind even if you don’t know what it is. So I decided, why not ditch the normal Memorial Day beans and burgers in favor of something new. After all, it is “new” to me.

Butter Chicken is also referred to as murgh makhani. The chicken curry dish is a mix of chicken in a spiced tomato, butter and cream sauce. You can also substitute the butter for ghee to avoid a heavy bloated feeling afterward. The dish is similar to chicken tikka masala, which uses a tomato gravy.

I got my order of butter chicken from Cafe Spice, a restaurant in Cockeysville, MD that serves an authentic and varied selection of Indian cuisine. The butter chicken was served over basmati rice and everything about it was worth the price of admission. Admission to “where?” you ask. Admission to Yummytown. The chicken was extremely tender, and the sauce was flavorful and seamless.

Get the recipe and learn more about butter chicken below on the Cafe Delites website.

Knowing is half of the battle

Make no mistake this is a decadent dish. It’s high in fat. According to Livestrong.com, when using butter and cream in the recipe, a 4-5 oz. serving (with no substitutes like ghee or 2% milk) will averageabout 438 calories and 28 grams of fat.

The pros in this scenario are pretty good. Never let it be said that butter chicken is not without its benefits. It’s very high in protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. So make your daily dietary plans wisely when deciding to partake in this meal. Trust me, it will be worth it.

Photo Credits: Monica Johnson (Multi Cultural Cooking Network)


Cool Off with Real Fruit Popsicles

Make your own fruit popsicles. (Photo Credit: Pixabay)

Remember the running, jumping, climbing trees and all of the general sweat-inducing things you did as a kid. When you came in your home from all the fun, it was time to cool down. And what better way to cool off than with a popsicle?

As a kid, my sister and I loved making our own popsicles using popsicle moulds. We generally made it with Kool-Aid or sometimes iced tea. Of course as times have changed the desire to give children healthy snacks with less sugar became more prevalent. You can satisfy the healthy checklist and cool off when you make real fruit popsicles.

Now don’t get the impression that this is just for kids. Hecks to the no my foodie friend! Adults can enjoy these delicious frozen treats too. Break these out at your 95 degree Memorial Day or 4th of July cookout and see how many adults will pass it up.

The wonderful thing about this recipe is It’s not head scratching, mind-boggling or super complicated. You can generally make it like you make your smoothies and pour it into a popsicle mould.

Okay, so I feel the need to say this for anyone who does not have popsicle moulds. Don’t sweat it! And don’t let that stop you from making this. Make do with what you have. Do you have a mug or a durable plastic cup? Use that! It will be more like an icee, but do you really think children care? I’ll answer that for you with a big resounding “NO!”

Ingredients
  • 2 cups of your favorite fruit (fresh or frozen…see suggestion below)
  • 4 Oz cup of yogurt (optional)
  • ½  cup of orange juice/apple juice
Instructions

Load your blender (or Bullet) with 2 cups of of your favorite fruit combo like bananas, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or maybe mangos, peach and raspberry. You can even use frozen fruit. It’s up to you.

If you want your popsicles to have a creamy taste then add 4 ounces of yogurt (plain or fruit) and then add a 1/4 cup of apple juice or orange juice. Again, you can skip the yogurt and just add juice. This should make 4 to 6 servings.

Now it’s time to blend the contents until smooth then pour into your popsicle moulds (or cup). Freeze for about 4 hours and then serve.

Popsicle moulds (Photo Credit: Pixabay)

(Again, if you’re using a cup instead of popsicle moulds, it will be more like a solid icee. Set it out at room temperature for about 10 minutes to make it easier to eat when using a spoon. It still gets the job done.)


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New Orleans: C & A Seafood

MCCN Editor Crystal Johnson went to New Orleans for the first time and had the opportunity to taste the local cuisine. She found an unexpected but enjoyable spot called C&A Seafood. Read all about her experience!

Multi Cultural Cooking Network

Although most restaurants in New Orleans are worth the wait in the more touristy locations such as Jackson Square, Magazine St and Bourbon St, you’ll find C&A seafood off the beaten path of Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard and close to the major interstates by 5 minutes or less. My mother at age 75 was not up to standing in line or walking the streets so we searched for a non-tourist location.

Shrimp Po’ Boy

C&A is Asian owned so not only will you find New Orleans cuisine but a few Chinese offerings. This would not have been my pick for an authentic experience. I wanted the glamorous trendy/classic but it seems C & A has repeat local business so that was a good sign.

Sitting outside at picnic table eating gumbo

The front the building has a pleasing decor with picnic tables fun for eating with friends or family…

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Jambon-buerre

Showcasing the Jambon Beurre
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Wait! What’s so exciting about a ham sandwich? Well, it’s a French ham sandwich…duh! Leave it to the French to turn the seemingly simple into the simply sumptuous. Ooh la la, mes amis…the French will give you something to write home about starting with their Jambon-buerre.

Details! Details! It starts with the right ingredients. Salt & Wind, a travel company that caters to food lovers, recommends a ficelle (string) baguette. It’s a much thinner loaf bread. This bread is often called a baguette but is sometimes referenced in the category of a baton, which is typically a shorter loaf.

Now, here’s where we get decadent! In order for this to work, you will need to get a salted European butter to spread over the bread. Then select a Jambon de Paris. If you’re not able to find it, then just make sure that it is a high-quality super thinly-sliced ham.

It’s a simple treat but the French just know how to make simple things so good. Check out the ingredients below and read the recipe instructions on SaltandWind.com.

Ingredients

2 ficelle French baguettes (baton)
High-quality salted European butter
Jambon de Paris (or another high quality thinly-sliced ham)

A Simple Syrup Blackberry Lemonade

Photo Credit: Baker’s Corner (Flickr)

Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! I’m so excited to tell you about this recipe. It’s so simple and I made it twice so I could figure out how to make it mine. Well, it’s ours now, if you choose to try it. So if you haven’t looked around the blog, this is where I tell an unnecessary yet cute (debatable) little story to explain why I’m sharing this recipe. So here goes…

I bought some blackberries with the purpose of doing what I normally do. I tend to be pretty boring with my use of blackberries and use it in the same way all the time—in a smoothie, on a parfait, or on top of a shortcake. I wanted to try something different so I tasked the browser servant to look for blackberry recipes. As I started to see different recipes using blackberries, I noticed a few really easy recipes for blackberry lemonade using a simple syrup.

What really got me was when I read about how I was being cheated out of my sweetness by not creating a simple syrup for lemonade (Well, that’s how I interpreted it.) Sugar is absorbed so much better in hot water.

Are you the kind the person that once you get a recipe in your mind you have to make it? Phew! I thought I was the only obsessive one in the building…hello friend! Well, I got the idea of making this blackberry lemonade in my head, and so I did what I usually do with recipes…half-read them and decide how I’m going to change them. It’s true. I do it all the time. It’s a thing with me so I won’t be offended if you do that to this one.

For this blackberry lemonade recipe, I changed the frozen from concentrate lemonade and just used lemon juice from a bottle. You can also use fresh lemon juice (I just wouldn’t add it in to boil with the simple syrup). I also added more sugar because I just love sweetness but take it down by a 1/2 cup or a cup if you don’t like it as sweet. Check out the recipe below.

Ingredients

12 to 24 (handful of blackberries)

2 cups (Equal parts sugar and water for simple syrup)

1 cup lemon juice

2 cups water

Instructions

Add equal parts sugar and water in a pot and turn on low to medium to make your simple syrup. As the simple syrup comes to a low boil, add a cup of lemon juice and your handful of blackberries. You will notice the more blackberries you add, the darker the simple syrup will become. (If you add about 12 blackberries, it will most likely have a pinkish color as mine did but if you double it, the syrup will have a deeper blackberry hue.)

Allow to boil for about 7 to 10 minutes and check for taste. The simple syrup should taste pretty sweet but don’t be scared…you will be diluting this mixture.

In a pitcher add 4 cups of water and then combine with your simple syrup mixture (with or without the blackberries). Chill and serve.

Extra Blackberry Lemonade tips 

  • If it’s still to sweet add more cups of water to taste. 
  • You can add fresh basil, thyme or mint to your chilled lemonade.
  • Yes, you can chill and serve with ice but this is also killer as a hot beverage.
  • Freeze this with the blackberries and make yourself an awesome frozen icee! 

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