Okra and Tomatoes and Being Honest With Ourselves

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Okra & Tomatoes

A few days ago I was doing a magazine interview when the reporter asked me about my most embarrassing moment.  It took me a few seconds to scan through my brain – there are lots of those kinds of moments for me – when I arrived at a incident in the grocery store where one of my readers recognized me from the blog.  It was a few years ago and was one of the first times that I had been recognized like that.  The reason that it landed in that “most embarrassing moments” category is because of where I was in the grocery store and what I was doing.  There I was, a newly signed author working on my first cookbook, and I was standing in front of, you guessed it, the boxed dinner section holding a box of Hamburger Helper.  There was a long pause in my response and then when I started to tell the reporter about that moment, I started questioning myself.  I remember thinking how embarrassed I was after it happened, but as I was about recall the event for the reporter, I realized that that wasn’t something I should be ashamed of.  So yeah.  There.  I said it.  I feed my family Hamburger Helper.  And we kinda like it.  And yeah, I wrote a cookbook, too.  So what.  That is real life.  No, it doesn’t happen all the time.  Maybe not even once a month, but some days, after a long day at the office, or a tee ball game, I need something quick and easy.  And I’ve always argued that any home cooked meal is better than a drive-through one – in lots of ways.

You know, we need to be honest with ourselves.  We’re all guilty of making things seem better, or fancier, or more impressive and social media just drives that tendency even more.  But real life is real life.  And I think it was Annette Funicello who said, “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.”  I think that’s so true.  Sometimes, on the outside, our lives seem so perfect.  When on the inside, we know they aren’t.  It’s just like me and that danged Hamburger Helper.  I might even venture to say that I like Hamburger Helper, and maybe I shouldn’t say that being that I wrote a cookbook and all.  But liking Hamburger Helper is the truth.  And here are some other truths about me.  Though filled with love, my house isn’t always spotless.  I’m a bit overweight and I’m losing my hair – like REALLY losing my hair.   And contrary to popular belief, writing that cookbook didn’t make me rich – not even anywhere close – so we, like most families, struggle some months to pay bills.  And that’s okay with me.  And it should be okay with you too.  What do you need to be honest with yourself about?

This recipe for Okra and Tomatoes is one that can be found in my cookbook, but it’s so quick and so easy, that I just had to share it with y’all here.   It is also great because you can use frozen okra and a 14 1/2 ounce can of stewed tomatoes if you don’t have the fresh varieties available.  That way you can have okra and tomatoes any time of the year.  Okra & Tomatoes

Okra and Tomatoes
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
35 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 pound okra cut (about 4 cups cut)
  • 3 ripe tomatoes seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Salt and black pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, and cook 7 to 8 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic, and cook 2 minutes. Add the okra, tomatoes, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until the okra is tender.

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  1. One of my favorite dishes! I love fried okra, but I love this one just as much.

    Looks delicious! Enjoy your site, have subscribed in my reader for quite a while.

  2. Bless your heart for your honesty and especially your honesty about being HUMAN! You hit the nail on the head with this one. My husband and I struggle too, and my house is never really good and clean, but it’s clean enough. There’s enough love to blow the walls out and if I miss a bill, then I miss a bill. If I die tomorrow I won’t be worried about a bill I forgot about.
    Love your blog and your recipes…but being a ‘Northerner’ I still can’t wrap my head around okra. Maybe someday…!

  3. Thanks so much for your transparency Stacey! You are great! I can’t imagine how embarrassing that would be to be ‘caught’ holding the box of HH…I need to be more open and transparent too…thanks for this reminder.

  4. Darrelyn Kelley says:

    I love your honesty. Its so refreshing to hear someone talk about life the way it really is. I love to cook too and I try my best to make a home cooked meal for my family, but sometimes I have to grab the frozen pizzas out of the freezer.

    • Don’t ever be ashamed about those pizzas. Trust me when I say that that time with your family all together is a lot more important than what you’re eating.

  5. Love this! This so clearly shows what life should be about!

  6. You’re awesome.

  7. I always enjoy your posts! This okra and tomato dish sounds delicious! Thank you Stacey!

  8. We have all had those “Hamburger Helper” moments at work the next day after preparing it for supper the night before and telling a co-worker you had Cheeseburger Macaroni Hamburger Helper and they stated “my family likes the Straganoff better.” Some of the things we worry most about are so trivial and all your sweet family will remember is they went to bed with a full stomach and a happy heart. You are a good man Stacey and your recipies are some I prepare often. We should all heed your advice and not sweat the small stuff. Thank you for another insightful article about food and life.

  9. Thanks for keeping it real, Stacey. It’s a good reminder we’re all in this together!
    Love your recipes! Keep them coming!

  10. Stephanie O'Leary says:

    I’m glad you’ve had a revelation about this topic. I had mine a few years back after finding out my inherited joint problems were prohibiting me from wearing high heels ever again. Although I’d never been comfortable in heels over 2″ (and was often essentially crippled by days end), I’d bought and worn the damn things anyway to keep up with the other ladies in my office and “be stylish.” I had to ask myself: “How crazy ARE you? You don’t even LIVE with these people, yet somehow feel the need to explain your fashion choices on the job , even though they’re irrelevant? And persisting may make you PERMANENTLY crippled??? D’OH!!!!!”

    I wore jeans, knee highs, and sneakers out the next morning (a Saturday) and went on a quest to score practical, but pretty work shoes. My “Hamburger Helper” finds were not only cute, but a GODSEND of comfort to my crazy feet and ankles. And craziest of all, when I wore my first pair of non-seizure inducing embroidered flats into work the following week, while a few eyebrows were raised, the majority of women I work with LOVED that I was bucking convention and privately told me they, too, might now ditch their skyscrapers now that someone had started the ball rolling!

    Not a direct parallel, but I think the bottom line is the same: we need to be honest with who we are, to ourselves AND with others. It’s NOT a crime to eat a store-bought cookie, or even shop in a discount store if you’re a millionaire. And anyone who tries to make you feel it is just ain’t worth your time.

    Dear Stacey, keep doin’ what you do. Cook up marvelous food from scratch, and continue to proudly serve occasional short cut grub if that’s what your taste buds and family desire. Heck, serve it on CHINA! Just stay true to who you are …

    (BTW, my guess is you look AWESOME in a cowboy hat! ;D)

  11. Stacey, all I can say is you ROCK! Your honesty is refreshing and I love that you can put it out there like that. Now matter how much of a snobby foodie someone is, I’d bet money they secretly love a particular packaged ‘junk’ from the supermarket. It’s not always about taste. Sometimes it’s the memory associated with it. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

  12. I used to bring chicken and sausage gumbo to the pot lucks at my workplace when I lived in California. It was so popular that people were requesting my gumbo. Some would ask how I made it and I would coyly tell them it was an old family recipe and had to be kept secret.

    One day I felt guilty and admitted that it was made with Zatarain’s Gumbo Mix. We all had a good laugh but I started receiving reports that some of them had tried the mix after I made my confession. Now they could serve their families gumbo!

    You are so awesome ! Keep up your work and encouraging posts!

  13. I think my epiphany of honesty came at work when one evening I was upset with something on of my teenage boys had done. I can’t even remember now what it was so how earthshaking could have been? Anyhow -I just said to my co-workers that I was disappointed and felt like i was not doing a good parenting job and just admitted my family was not Leave it to beaver or the Brady Bunch. All the other women said they had difficult moments as well and I realized the bragging and painting a perfect picture was only a farce that we somehow feel compelled to present to others. I think we all felt better admitting we could not live up to that standard. We became more honest with each other, helped each other over rough spots with parenting, and all of us were better off knowing that no one is 100% all the time.

    • Letting go of all that stuff sure can be liberating. We’re all human and we all live imperfect lives. And that’s perfectly okay.

  14. Debbie Caraballo says:

    Hi Stacey….I also like Hamburger Helper – and there’s nothing wrong with that! Sometimes we all just need something quick, yet tasty, to make for supper. Life can get very hectic.
    And I LOVE okra and tomatoes; but I do have to add a bit of sugar to mine! Lol…thanks for a great post!

  15. Amen Stacey. You always hit a home spot with me when things seems to get to busy to stop and evaluate where you really are and what I should just let go. Thanks for reminding me. God Bless

  16. Hamburger Helper – yup, we eat it . . . and enjoy it . . . quite a bit, too. I LOVE your honesty and the fact you’re so genuine and not just “showing us your best side” as many bloggers seem to do. Many say they keep their blogs real, but you actually do. I’m not a southern girl (we’re way up in Minnesota), but I feel like a southern girl at heart. And thanks to your many wonderful recipes, I get a taste of what life in the south is like. Thanks – and keep doing exactly what you’re doing . . . Hamburger Helper, and all! 🙂

  17. Bravo!! I try to be as honest on my Blog also – not perfect by any stretch of the imagination – so – on Blacksheep….. what you see is what you get!!

  18. This is one of my favorite summer sides!!!…and reminds me of my childhood too!

  19. Stacey, I had okra and tomatoes while on vacation last week and I’ve seriously been craving it ever since. This recipe is coming into my life at the perfect time!

  20. Dorothy Dunton says:

    Hey Stacey! As a working mom of two, with at least four or five other kids in the house at any given time, my house was always clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy! 🙂

  21. My husband loves okra and tomatoes and I am going to make this for him. I see that I need to use 14 1/2 ounce can of stewed tomatoes but the frozen okra – do I just use a pound of frozen okra? By the way, I love your website and enjoy reading your posts and have tried many of your recipes. Many of which bring me back to my childhood days! Thank you!

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