It had been more than a decade since a girl had been born into our family when Makayla came along. She was our third grandchild, and from the first time I held her, she won my heart.
Makayla and I love to do things together such as hang out, shop and eat ice cream. But the kitchen is the place where we share our most special bonding. It begins with choosing our aprons, which are from my mama and aunts. It is during this time that I share stories of Mama's cooking. When I talk about my three aunts, I tell stories of the youngest, Aunt Carrie, who finally grew to the distinction of a good cook after Daddy said she should rise to the occasion and cook as well as their mother. She accepted that challenge.
Then there are "just the two of us" times when Makayla and I talk about our family, times that bring us joy and times that have caused us sadness. It is during these chats that she reminds me just why we are "grand." We can share laughter and tears, smiles and giggles like no other.
This gem of a granddaughter celebrates her sweet 16 birthday today. I look up to her, as she is 6 feet, 1 inch tall. She is the grandchild who enters the room and stops to give a kiss. This always has been her style. I can remember when my daddy was living with us, she would hurry past us and head right to Gramp. It was a special time for the two of them to eat together.
My wish for Makayla: Follow your dreams and whatever you do, do it well. I want her to make herself proud, her parents proud, have faith in God and to pray to him as she set her goals in life. I wish for her the love of school and the fondness of reading. I want her to be prepared to meet the challenges of the world and not be afraid to work or to help others. I want her to succeed and to help others succeed. I want her to be a friend and receive friendship from others.
Happy birthday to a granddaughter who is, indeed, grand.
Okra Gumbo with Meatballs
2 pounds ground chunk2 heaping teaspoons poultry seasoning1 teaspoon salt1/2 teaspoon black pepper2 cups chopped onions2 pounds fresh okra1 large can tomato paste1 (No. 3) can whole kernel corn1 (No. 3) can baby green lima beans2 tablespoons sugar
Blend ground beef, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Make into small balls, and brown lightly. Add onions and okra. Cook slowly for 5 minutes. Blend sugar, tomato paste and water from vegetables. Add to meat, okra and onions. Let simmer. Add corn and lima beans. Serve with steamed rice.
Makes: 20 meatballs
2/3 cup low sodium soy sauce1/2 cup dry sherry1/2 cup sugar1/4 cup water2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced1 1/2 pound ground chicken or pork1/4 cup scallions, minced2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced1 teaspoon sesame oil1 egg white, lightly beatenSalt1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
Line a baking sheet with parchment and coat lightly with nonstick spray. Boil soy sauce, sherry, sugar, water and 2 tablespoons ginger in a sauce pan until thickened and reduced to3/4 cup, 13-15 minutes. Set aside.
Combine chicken or pork, scallions, 2 teaspoons ginger, sesame oil, egg white, salt and pepper in a bowl. Shape mixture into 1 1/2 balls and place on the prepared baking sheet.
Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add half the meatballs and saute until lightly browned on all sides, about 5 minutes; transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Saute remaining meatballs in 1 tablespoon oil. When cool, place meatballs in oven and cook at 350 degrees.
During the baking process, at intervals, dip balls in soy sauce to season.