I had an absolutely great time taping Home & Family on the Hallmark Channel. Hosts Mark Steines and Cristina Ferrare were super nice, truly, and it was a really, really neat show.

Here’s a link to the segment if you missed it.

The how-to segments evoked shades of my days with Martha Stewart TV! I loved David Walrod’s gardening tips and the succulent gardens. (For more about the Urban Dirt folks, make sure to check out

Ok, and hello?! Fan Girl! Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman! I was in makeup at the same time as Jane Seymour! I could hardly breathe, so yes, of course, I was too shy to ask her for a photo.

The other crazy part was the show is shot on the Universal Studio back lot. So, it’s like a neighborhood, but it’s not. The Home & Family house is a functioning house-set mashup, but the neighbors are just facades! In fact, I walked past the Leave it to Beaver house! It’s black and white in real life, too. ;)


Lots of folks have emailed me this morning asking for the recipe so here it is! It’s a great dish for the holidays when you are feeling a bit turkeyed out and you feel like you are about to sprout tail feathers. Other fish can be substituted if you can’t find halibut, just make sure to check out Seafood Watch to insure you are buying sustainable seafood for your seafood feast! You can download the app for your phone. It’s fantastic. On that note, I am very, very proud to announce I’m a founding member of the Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force along with chefs Hugh Acheson, Cindy Pawlcyn, Richard Blais, and John Ash, just to name a few.

Happy to also announce today that I’m writing another book! LIGHTEN UP Y’ALL!: 150 Comfort Food Recipes for Heart and Soul for publication in Spring 2015. I’m very excited. Much like this seafood soup, Southern food doesn’t have to be unhealthy! The book will be real food for real people. No boxes or mixes, no “fat free” fake food, just easy, delicious chef-inspired recipes to make for your family at home.

Many thanks, once again to Home & Family for having me on the show. If you watched and order a copy of Basic to Brilliant, Y’all or Bon Appétit, Y’all, I’d be happy to send you a bookplate, just send a note to with your address and I’ll pop it in the mail. Thank you, thank you, once again for your encouragement and support. Feeling very full right now….Thank you.

Bon Appétit, Y’all



Creole Country Bouillabaisse

Serves 6 to 8

This is a marriage made in heaven. I grew up in Louisiana enjoying crawfish boils. The Low Country, the area of the Atlantic coast between Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, is famous for its Low Country boil, also known as Frogmore Stew. The south of France is famous for bouillabaisse. All are simple country seafood stews. I’ve combined the three, taking the best from each. Crawfish are available by mail order, online, and are sold live in better seafood markets in the spring.

2 tablespoons pure olive oil

1 onion, chopped

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 to 16 red new potatoes, about the size of golf balls

4 quarts homemade seafood stock or water

1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled

½ cup (3-ounce bag) Old Bay Seasoning

Bouquet garni (2 bay leaves, preferably fresh, 5 sprigs thyme, 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, 10 black peppercorns, tied together in cheesecloth)

¼ cup tomato paste

2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

2 pounds fresh kielbasa, cut into pieces

6 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked and silk removed, broken in half

12 live crawfish

1½ pounds skinless halibut fillet, cut into large chunks

12 large shrimp (21/25 count), in the shell

12 mussels, scrubbed and debearded

12 cherrystone clams, scrubbed

Heat the oil in a large, heavy stockpot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the potatoes, seafood stock, garlic, Old Bay, bouquet garni, tomato paste, tomatoes, and cayenne pepper. Cover the pot and heat to a rolling boil. Decrease the heat to simmer and cook until fragrant and flavorful, about 15 minutes. Add the sausage, corn, and live crawfish and return to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the fish and cook gently until just opaque, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the shrimp, mussels, and clams and cook until the shrimp shells are pink and the meat is white and opaque and the mussels and clams have opened, an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Taste the broth and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

To serve, transfer portions of the seafood to warmed shallow soup bowls. Spoon the broth over the seafood and serve immediately with crusty bread.

Bouillabaise photo credit Helene Dujardin.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, Thanks so much.

Copyright © 2012 Virginia Willis Culinary Productions, LLC.

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