I learned to express my love for others through food at an early age. I can remember surprising my father with homemade chocolate chip cookies when he came home from work. And helping my mother make our favorite chicken salad when her friends came over to play bridge. I traded my softball bat in for a mellon baller any day. When I met my husband more than 25 years ago, I attempted to dazzle him with my repertoire of stir fry chicken and homemade pasta. (It worked!) Today I still show my love through meals I prepare for my family. Even though it’s stressful and chaotic getting dinner for 5 on the table, there’s nothing that makes me happier than when my family truly appreciates the effort. Somewhere along the line I learned to choose healthier ingredients but I still love that feeling when one of my kids asks for a second helping of kale chips! And what I love even more is the time we spend together at the table.
That’s the reason LeAnn Rice was compelled to write The Loving Kitchen. She shares her delicious recipes, her faith in God and her heart for serving others in this beautiful and easy-to-use cookbook. LeAnn believes “There is always room for one more plate, one more chair, one more hungry soul at the table.” After all, she’s serving up a lot of love — and she calls on us to do the same.
Meet LeAnn Rice, Author of The Loving Kitchen
Q: When did you start cooking and what inspired you to start?
A: When I was a little girl my family took a road trip to visit my grandparents, who lived a 10-hour drive away, a couple of times a year. When we arrived, my grandmother, Nanny, had each of our favorite dishes ready for us on the table. All five of our favorite dishes! I remember the look of pure joy on her face as I took that first bite and I can still hear her voice saying, “do you like that, doll?” For Nanny, she loved through food. Preparing our favorite dishes was an act of love. It made her happy to see how much we enjoyed her food.
I wanted to feel that same joy so, when I was in middle school, I started surprising my family with dinner when my parents came home from work. I didn’t really know what I was doing and I made lots of mistakes. But I learned as I went along and I watched my mother when she was in the kitchen. The combination of flavors came naturally to me so I kept experimenting. I still love to experiment in the kitchen. That’s how most of my recipes come about. And the memory of my Nanny and that look on her face when I took that first bite still inspires me to cook from my heart.
Q: Have you studied the culinary arts and what is your professional cooking experience?
A: I have no formal training and I am definitely not a professional chef! Cooking is something that came naturally and my “education” was gained by helping my mom make Christmas cookies and watching with a keen eye as my Italian grandmother made her Sunday sauce. I have always had a passion for preparing food for others and for making the food look pretty on the plate. It’s a love thing! I was a caterer for a while but it wasn’t the same. At that point it was a job instead of a labor of love. There’s just something about presenting a beautiful, lovingly prepared meal or gift to someone you care about, or… to someone who really needs to be cared for.
Q: You’re a single mom with a full time job, a blog and social media outlets, a new cookbook to promote, articles to write, a house to take care of (and lots of dirty dishes to wash) and friends and family to stay connected to. How do you balance it all?
A: I’m not so sure I am successful with the whole balance thing. I simply prioritize what’s the most important (actually, I should say Who is the most important), and then I do the best I can. At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter if there are dirty dishes in my sink or if my blog wasn’t updated. What matters is that my son knows he is loved unconditionally, I didn’t turn my back on a friend or someone in need of a warm bowl of comfort or a seat at my table, and that my words and actions were glorifying to God.
Q: In what way is food related to your faith? How did you end up writing about food in the context of faith and love in your kitchen? Basically–how did your faith journey land you in your kitchen creating recipes that would lead you to writing a book!?
A: Several years ago I read the verse 1 Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” I had taken several Spiritual Gift tests over the years and had been disappointed to discover I didn’t have one of the “good” gifts. You know… evangelist, teacher, prophet, healer… etc. Gifts I saw as life-changing. Instead, I have the gift of hospitality. Great… so I can throw a party. That’s not necessarily life-changing.
But when I read the verse from 1 Peter my perspective changed. I realized that making people feel welcome and loving on them with something from my kitchen could be life-changing. I can extend HIS grace and love through the gift He gave me. So many are suffering or experiencing a tragedy or sadness. I can love them with a casserole or a basket of homemade muffins. I can let them know that someone cares. That someone notices. That they are not alone.
The Loving Kitchen is my way of extending that love to more people, and encouraging others who love to cook to use their gift in the same way.
Q: What’s your greatest hope when it comes to this project? What impact do you most want it to have on the people who read it?”
A: It is my prayer that people will pick up my book looking for recipes but they will find the hope of Jesus in the stories I share in between the recipes. I pray they will be encouraged to gather with the family around the kitchen table more often. And I pray they will reach out to others, loving those in need within their own sphere of influence. I have included sections filled with ideas for gathering around the table with those you love, and reaching out to those in need. I want these pages to end up completely worn out!
Win a Copy of The Loving Kitchen!
Leave a comment below and tell us what you like to cook when you show your love for others. Then enter the raffle to win a copy of The Loving Kitchen by LeAnn Rice.
About LeAnn Rice
LeAnn Rice, author of the new cookbook, The Loving Kitchen, juggles her roles as mother, homemaker, writer, career woman, and food blogger with warmth, humor and unmistakable Southern charm. As a single parent, LeAnn shares unique insights and observations as she recalls family stories from her own journey along with stories of the reality of Jesus in her life.
After several years living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, LeAnn and her son, Nick, moved down south to sweet tea country for a fresh start after the death of her husband. The longer she lives in the South, the more her tongue seems to curl as she speaks, and the more “y’all,” “I reckon” and “bless their hearts” slip from her lips, much to the amusement of family back in Washington State.
LeAnn reaches tens of thousands through her popular food blog, www.LeAnnCooks.org, a site she developed to share recipes, glimpses into her life and the more than occasional kitchen disaster. When she’s not blogging, going to the theater, packing a care package for her now college-age son, or trying to appease their high-maintenance cat’s unreasonable demands, you will find LeAnn creating new recipes to try out on brave friends who don’t let an occasional oven fire frighten them off! She doesn’t strive for perfection, and has been known to laugh, grab a fork, and sit down in the middle of the kitchen when a whole cheesecake falls to the floor.
Like her food blog, LeAnn’s new cookbook is about so much more than food. It’s about inviting others to share your table. It’s about extending grace to those who so desperately need it. It’s about serving others, especially “the least of these” in His name. It’s about making others feel special by setting an extra special table or wrapping a beautiful package. It’s about celebrating friends and family and blessings, and making the lives of those around you, richer and even more meaningful.
You can connect with LeAnn through her blog, LeAnnCooks, Twitter at @LeAnnCooks, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest at LeAnnCooks.
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