Last week, some of the (in)courage bloggers sat around chatting in real life last while our caterer walked through the door, ready to set up her delicious fare for our upcoming supper.
Chit chat continued with out one person noticing what I was noticing. I could not let this travesty continue, so I demanded my own little celebration. Yes, all by myself, I announced over the room,
“Ladies – do you not know who this is? This is Orchid from The Next Food Network Star. YAY ORCHID! Woot Woot!” I cheered and clapped for her – all by myself.
Embarrassing it was, but in our foodie world, the fact that a finalist from the Next Food Network Star started preparing our dinner was a big deal, and I wanted to celebrate her accomplishment.
Orchid chuckled and thanked me for watching. Can you believe that out of those twenty women, I was the only one who watched the show? For shame!
This summer, my 8 year old and I bonded over this one hour of TV, and it warmed my heart to snuggle on the coach and dream over what recipe we would try next.

I shared this story with my friend and she stated that I should totally try out for The Next Food Network Star. Yes, I took that as a compliment, but I am not a good enough chef to be on that show. I could handle the TV challenges just fine, in fact, that would be something I would love, but to create those unbelievable meals from one ingredient or create a seven course dinner off the top of my head, using only what they provide, not going to happen.
When the Celebrity Chefs give a new challenge to the contestants, I quickly try to think if I could do that on the spot and honestly, most of the time, I could not. Often, they are using ingredients I have never even heard of, let alone create as the basis of a meal.
That’s why when Orchid shared her menu, I loved her just a bit more. She prepared the foods that she would serve her own extended family if they were coming to visit, and what a southern feast she provided.
It’s wonderful to realize that a Food Network star’s meal looks very much like choices I provide for my guests. Connecting over food was her medium.
Comfort Food and Down Home Cooking are definitely what I would be known for, except it might not look as pretty as hers.
From the Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Fried Chicken, and Jalapeno Corn Bread, we were just getting started.
1109_incourageHHI_131I popped a few of these Deviled Eggs in my mouth while I waited in line (oh yes, I did.) Deviled Eggs are so simple to make and they always seem to be the first things to go at pot lucks. So why don’t we make this wonderfully frugal appetizer more often?

1109_incourageHHI_139(thank you to my sweet friend, Dawn, for all her great food pictures. I was too busy eating. :))

Ribs, anyone?
1109_incourageHHI_133 This loaded Baked Potato salad had me from the first bite. I debated between an additional helping or dessert. I splurged on the second helping. The carbo loading drew me in.
1109_incourageHHI_135Only the true, born and raised Southerners could appreciate this fare (of which I am not).
Collard Greens. The southern belles were holding this bowl close to their hearts. I, on the other hand, gladly let them. Someone had to sacrifice for them.
Divine Banana PuddingThe meal reached its crescendo with Banana Pudding.
Since moving South, I’ve learned to make Banana Pudding with the best of them, but I have never seen it made with these Chess cookies and I thought that was awfully creative.
So that was my evening with one of the Next Food Network Star contestants. We jabbered on more about cooking with our kids, the show, the restaurant she owns and her attempt at trying to balance those things, but mainly it was just a group of women sharing life around some good ‘ole fashion comfort food.
If you have extended family coming over, what do you serve as your favorite meal?
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