Will Smith’s first wife Sheree Zampino returned to the table to share her holiday recipes, along with viral vegan sensation Tabitha Brown and social media star Joshuah Nishi of @NishCooks in a new episode of “Red Table Talk” with Jada Pinkett Smith, her daughter Willow and mother Gammy, that’s available to stream on Facebook Watch HERE.
As far as the Smith extended family goes, Sheree seems to be the most accomplished in the kitchen. She revealed that she got her start early growing up with a single, working mother. (2:34-2:57)
“My mom [was a ] single mom raising two kids,” Sheree revealed.” She’d get home – she’s working, [a] working mom – so she’d get home at about seven o’clock and we’d be home at three. That’s a big gap! So I cooked out of the necessity to not starve to death, you know what I mean? So I cooked for my brother.”
“How old were you then?” Jada asked
“Probably about nine,” Sheree recalled.
“Wow!” Jada reacted
It turns out that Sheree’s specialty is a mac and cheese so popular the family has dubbed it ‘Crack and Cheese.’ (3:05-4:11)
“We are going to make mac and cheese,” Sheree said. “I like to entertain. I cannot not make this. If I don’t, there will be a hit out on my life. I think it’s that serious. People will be very upset. And it has been dubbed ‘crack and cheese’ cause it does have an addictive quality.”
“Oh, yes it does. I can attest…” Willow cosigned.
“…Right. I don’t bother to come if you’re not bringing the mac and cheese,” Gammy added,
“So now it will pass the legacy on and you guys will be able to make it and Willow this is gonna be a part of your family tradition,” Sheree said.
“I would love to because the women in my family, we don’t really be cooking like that,” Willow said.
“We don’t, Willow! You’re right, so thank God for Sheree.” Jada admitted.
Jada and Sheree also shared their tips for blended families during the holidays. (5:33-6:41)
“Now Ree, let me ask you a question,” Jada started. “What would be some of your tips for bonus families that are getting together and it’s potluck? Because one of the things that you and I would do if we were doing like a potluck–”
“–I would do all the cooking,” Sheree said.
“You would do all the cooking! First of all, you would do all the cooking, but sometimes I’d bring a dessert. Remember when I was baking?” Jada asked.
“Yes I do,” Sheree said. “That’s one of my fondest memories of you by the way.”
“Now that is something I can do, too,” Gammy added. “I can make desserts.”
“We can bake,” Jada agreed. Would you say for bonus families that that would probably be a good strategy? So that everybody has their kind of avenue?”
“I like that. Yes, because it makes you–” Sheree said.
“–So you assign people what to bring or–” Gammy aded
“–Yes, you have to, and most of the time, people that don’t cook always want to bring a dessert,” Sheree agreed. “They always want to bring a dessert, so you have to find out… who does what and some people have their own specialities, but it’s nice because then you get the whole family involved and everyone is invested. You know, so it’s our holiday, which is nice.”
Having Tabitha Brown in the kitchen was particularly interesting considering, Sheree did not eat fresh vegetables until she was an adult. (7:48-8:12)
“Even though Pat [Sheree’s mother] didn’t cook, did she know how to cook?” Gammy asked
“Yes but you have to understand, at that time [she was] a single mom raising two kids,” Sheree explained. “It was Hamburger Helper. It was like the quick stuff. It was quick. I didn’t see a fresh vegetable, other than celery and carrots, until I was an adult. You know what I mean? because everything had to be so fast.”
One of our favorite parts of the episode was listening to Tabitha Brown share her vegan journey. Tabitha revealed that becoming vegan saved her from chronic pain and led her to become an internet sensation. Ironically it all started with her daughter prompting the family to watch a documentary. (11:46-17:22)
“Did you ever think you’d become the most viral vegan home cook in the world?” Jada asked.
“Uh, no. OK, I never thought I’d be viral anything or vegan!” Tabitha said. “I had been sick for a year and a half… My body started to attack itself, and I would go to the doctor every week, every month, [to get] MRIs [and] bloodwork, and everything would come back normal…I literally thought I was gonna die. I grew up in the church. I prided myself on being a woman of faith, but my faith had got completely wavered and shaken…I had what I call ‘my coming to Jesus moment’ in the bathroom one day. I was really in search of seeing my soul and they say the only way you can see that is through your eyes. So I got in the mirror…I sat in the mirror and I really cried out to Him and I said, ‘God this is my final call but i’m asking you, if you heal me, you can have me.’ I had lost my way…but that day I was like ‘I’m going to pull from wherever I can and this is gonna be it.’
“Wow,” Willow said.
“Been there,” Gammy added.
“…And about two weeks after that,” Tabitha continued. “I had a dream and…in this dream, I was completely free and I was just happy and me. I woke up and I said, ‘Now wait a minute Lord, what was this?’ And I heard a voice that said, ‘Start doing videos’ and I said, ‘Wait a minute, no, I ain’t gon’ do no videos.’…and then He reminded me. He said, ‘Remember about two weeks ago in the bathroom you said if I heal you, I can have you?’ I did say it, so I said, ‘OK now, I gotta trust this and I gotta be obedient.’ During this process, my daughter came home from school and she said, ‘Mom we just saw this documentary at school, I think you should watch it.’ Now you know, it ain’t everyday that–well, Willow might–but ain’t everyday a teenager comes home and tells you to watch a documentary.”
“Yeah. That’s right!” Gammy agreed.
“I was like, ‘Pop the popcorn! Let me see what it’s all about!’ Tabitha recalled. “It was “What The Health” and we watched it together as a family. When they started talking about [how] not all diseases are hereditary, [but caused because] we eat the same things causing the same diseases in our family, that was my moment. See, my momma died at 51 of ALS. My dad just turned 69, he’s the oldest male to ever live in our family.”
“Wow.” – Jada
“People get sick and they die very young in my family…” Tabitha revealed. “The only common denominator that I could think of was meat and it was also the only thing I had not tried [cutting out]. I had tried every drug the doctor offered me for the last year and a half, so I told my husband, ‘Let’s do a 30-day vegan challenge together.’ In the first 10 days, the headache I had every single day for one year and seven months, disappeared. As the days went by, I started getting energy again… and on day 29 I told my husband I said, ‘You know what, I know tomorrow the vegan challenge is supposed to be over, but I think this is gonna be my life. I think I’m gonna go vegan.’ And he said, ‘Babe, that is so great, but tomorrow imma need a piece of chicken.’ Honey, with the most sincerity in his heart!”
“Love it!” Willow said.
“But I always tell people that because sometimes, the most important journey you can go on, you gotta be willing to go it alone,” Tabitha added.
“Yeah.” Gammy agreed.
“Right? And I was willing to do that to save my life,” Tabitha said. ” The moment I said that, the same voice I had heard in prayer, that told me to start doing videos, whispered in my ear and said, ‘Now tell people what you’re eating,’ and I said, ‘Now time out Lord. Wait a minute. You know, I’m from a small town in North Carolina and you want me to tell the people I’m going vegan?’ And that’s how I started doing videos about food, but I also needed some money so I got a plan. My husband is my partner not my provider. It’s real talk.”
“I love that,” Willow said.
“Yup!” Jada agreed.
“And so I had this idea to drive Uber,” Tabitha continued. And I was driving for a couple months and I dropped somebody off by Whole Foods and you know Whole Foods always got a vegan option… [so I] went in there to get me some breakfast and I was like, ‘Vegan bacon? Who did that?’ I ain’t ever heard of that before because I’m still a new vegan. It was like a sandwich called a TTLA.”
“I love that sandwich!” Willow said.
“And that’s the video that went viral!” Gammy remembered.
“That’s the video that went viral first!” Tabitha said. “Yes, I sat in my car and did that video. I ain’t think nothing of the video cause wasn’t nobody watching my videos. I posted it. Went on back to driving and got home and turned my notifications on and I had like 50,000+ views.”
“Wow!” Jada and Willow said.
“That’s what I said,” Tabitha recalled. ” I said, who watchin’ the video? The next morning it had over 100 and something thousand and I told my husband I said, ‘I think I’m going viral.’ And he was like, ‘What that mean?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ He was like, ‘You gon make some money?’ I said ‘I don’t know.’ In four days, Whole Foods reached out and said, ‘We saw your video. We love you,’ and I became their brand ambassador and I went on to tour the country for the past two years.”
Similar to Sheree, Joshuah began cooking to help out his single, working father. (22:58-23:51)
“First of all, I know you started cooking because your dad is a single father who was working, right?” Jada asked. ” Most young men would just order pizza [and] eat out. What made you decide that you wanted to cook?”
“My dad, he would leave [for] work early in the morning,” Joshuah remembered. “Me and my brother would get to school at 5:30 in the morning, like pitch black. And then my dad would get home at like 10 and cook for us, so I noticed that he was working hard for us. I was like, ‘I could help out a little bit if I just get in the kitchen and cook something, just make some mac and cheese or something for dinner,’ and that’s not the only reason why I started cooking. I was, lowkey, I was fat. I was kind of down about myself and I would do research [about] how to lose weight as a fifth, sixth, seventh grader. It’s all about the food that you eat, so I can make that difference if I just cook.”
Hit the flip for holiday recipes for “Ree’s Crack and Cheese,” “Ree’s Rose Gold Champagne Bubbly,” “Tabitha’s Jackfruit Pot Roast,” “Nishi’s Fried Onion Bloom” and “Nishi’s Deep-Fried Cookies” as well as the full “Red Table Talk” episode.
Ree’s Crack and Cheese
Prep Time: 10 mins | Active Cook Time: 2 hr 30 mins | Serves: 4 – 6
1 1⁄2 cups dried Elbow Pasta (Yielding about 3 cups cooked) Kosher salt
2 sticks Butter, room temp
3 cans Evaporated Milk, room temp
4 cups Extra Sharp Cheddar, cubed
2 cups Parmesan, shredded
1 cup American Processed Cheese, cubed
1⁄2 cup Heavy cream, room temp
2 Eggs, room temp
1 Tbsp Fresh Dill, patted dry and roughly chopped
1 tsp Seasoning Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper, to taste
1 tsp Creole Seasoning to taste
Bring a 4 qt saucepan or pasta pot full of water to a boil. Season with salt generously. When the water is boiling, cook the pasta according to box instructions. You want a pretty al dente pasta as you will be baking this whole dish for another hour or so. Drain the pasta and set aside until ready to assemble.
Preheat your oven to 350 F.
In a large 6-7Qt dutch oven over the stove top, melt your butter. Add the three cans of evaporated milk to the butter and stir to combine, when both are warm and incorporated, add in all the cheeses. Turn your heat down to medium low heat and whisk until all the cheese is melted.
Crack your two eggs into a small bowl. Add the heavy cream to the eggs and whisk. Add this egg cream mixture into the pot. Whisk on medium low heat vigorously until fully combined and the sauce is velvety.
Season the cheese sauce with dill, seasoning salt, freshly ground black pepper, creole seasoning and taste to adjust. Cheese Sauce will be loose, but it will tighten up in the oven.
Add the cooked pasta into the pot with the cheese sauce, toss to coat all the pasta. Place your casserole dish into the oven and back for 1 hour and 15 mins until thick, bubbly and gooey, and the cheese is golden brown on top. Serve warm.
Ree’s Rose Gold Champagne Bubbly
Prep Time: 10 mins | Active Cook Time: 15-20 mins |Serves: 10-12
2 cups Sugar
1 cup Water
1- 2 stems of Red Rose Petals, separated and rinsed
Gold Flakes to garnish
Extra stem of Red Rose petals for garnish
Make a 2:1 simple syrup by mixing the sugar and water in a small 1 qt saucepan, and gently melting the sugar on low heat until liquified. Add the rose petals into the pot, gentle stir and simmer on low heat for about 15-20 mins. Cool and transfer to a jar or canister. Transfer to the fridge and hold until ready to use.
Pop your chilled bubbly bottle and portion into fluted glasses. Add 1-2 tablespoons of syrup to the glass (more to taste), carefully straining out any petals. Garnish with gold flakes and fresh rose petals.
Serve and enjoy!
Tabitha’s Jackfruit Pot Roast
Prep Time: 10 mins | Active Cook Time: 7 hours | Serves: 4-6
3 cans of Jackfruit, drained
8 Red potatoes, large chunks
4 large Carrots, chopped
4 stalks Celery, chopped
1 medium Sweet onion, large diced
4 cups Veggie Broth to cover the veggies in the pot 4 tbsp of Liquid Aminos
2 tbsp dried Thyme
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
2 tbsp of Garlic powder
2 tbsp Salt-Free Seasoning Blend 2 tbsp of Vegetable Bouillon
1 tsp Black Pepper
Sprinkle of salt to desired taste
Set up your slow cooker on your counter for an overnight cook. Add the jackfruit into the slow cooker’s insert pot, Shred/break up jackfruit with your hands a bit.
Pour all the seasonings into the slow cooker, close the lid and cook for 7 hours on medium heat.
Nishi’s Fried Onion Bloom
Prep Time: 5 mins | Active Cook Time: 5-10 mins | Serves: 1-2
1 large Yellow Onion
2 cup Buttermilk
11⁄2 cup All Purpose Flour 11⁄2 cup Corn Starch
1 gal Vegetable Oil or canola oil for frying
2 tbsp Mayonnaise 1 tbsp Ketchup
1⁄2 tsp Oregano
1⁄2 tsp Paprika
1⁄2 tsp Salt
1⁄2 tsp Garlic powder
Place your onion on a cutting board. Making sure to keep the root of the onion intact, trim off any stray hairs. Holding the onion at the root, turn the onion on it’s side to cut off the end about half an inch into the onion. Peel off the outer papery layer of the onion and discard. Flipping the onion onto it’s flat side down on the board, insert the tip of your knife just under the root of the onion cutting in towards the core. Rotate the onion a quarter of the way and continue to make even cuts, towards the core. Making sure the root still stays intact and making your way all around the onion. For more even cuts you can rotate the onion making quarter cuts at a time, and then halves until you’ve made it all around your onion evenly. Flip the onion over to open up the blooms with your fingertips.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk. Dip the onion into this mixture and marinate for about 10 mins.
In another mixing bowl, combine your flour and cornstarch and transfer your onion into this bowl. Coat and cover all of the petals making sure to coat in between all the petals with this flour mixture.
Prepare a deep 5-6 qt dutch oven with frying oil, ideally enough oil to deep fry the onion. Heat on med-high heat to about 350- 375°F or until a chopstick inserted in the middle of the oil begins to form bubbles.
Submerge the onion in the oil and fry for about 6 – 8 mins. (If your pot is not deep enough, you can fry one side at a time, petals down first for about 3 – 4 mins on each side). Gently remove the onion with a large strainer and tongs onto a paper towel lined plate or cooling rack over a sheet tray to drain off any excess oil.
Make the dipping sauce by mixing all ingredients together in a small bowl.
Serve the onion with the sauce and enjoy!
Nishi’s Deep-Fried Cookies
Prep Time: 5 mins | Active Cook Time: 5-8 mins | Serves: 2-4
1 cup Buttermilk Pancake Mix
1 cup Water (or more to adjust for a waterier consistency than pancakes) 6 – 8 Sandwich Cookies
1 – 2 qt Vegetable Oil or Canola Oil for frying
Ice Cream or Milk for serving (optional)
Heat up a heavy-set pot or deep high sided cast iron skillet with frying oil.
Prepare the pancake mix by combining the mix and water in a mixing bowl. You’ll want the batter a bit looser than if you were to make pancakes only.
Add cookies to batter, flip with chopsticks to coat on both sides. Shake off any excess batter and place into fry oil. Fry until golden brown or one minute on each side if the oil does not cover the entire battered cookie. Drain off excess oil on a paper towel lined plate and enjoy warm with ice cream or milk.
Tune-in: Tune-in to Facebook Watch now for a new episode of “Red Table Talk.”
Episode Description: “Red Table Recipes: Cooking for the Holidays” | Jada, Willow and Gammy are joined by Will’s first wife Sheree Zampino who reveals the secrets behind one of her famous recipes and gives tips on how other blended families can spend the holidays together. Then social media superstar chefs Tabitha Brown and Joshuah Nishi serve up their inspiring stories alongside must-make viral dishes… just in time for the holidays!
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