We are officially in the second month of 2022—can you believe it? Hopefully you’re still riding the wave of new year excitement, but, if not, this issue of American Lifestyle is here to reenergize your outlook and help you feel enthusiastic about the months ahead.
February is a great time to prepare hearty, belly-warming meals that make you feel good, and there’s no better vessel for winter meal prep than a Dutch oven. The pair of recipes in this issue, a cheesy sausage bake and a tangy blackberry dessert, are the perfect seasonal pick-me-ups.
As a month dedicated to all things love, February would be incomplete without a proper nod to our affection for chocolate, which is something Memphis-based chocolatier Phillip Ashley Rix knows all too well. Learn all about his expertly crafted confections that are as much a delight for the eyes as they for the taste buds.
It’s always sweet when we get to spend quality time with loved ones, and one of the best ways to do so is by engaging in a little friendly competition. Board games and card games are the perfect medium to get everyone in on the fun! Check out the enclosed guide for tips to spice up the traditional game night, with options well-suited for any family’s interests and skills.
If you’re looking to give your home a modern refresh this year, there are plenty of interior design trends on the rise that can elevate the look and feel of your spaces. This issue explores what’s new in the design world for 2022 and how you can easily adapt these trends for your home.
Here’s to a fun-filled February! As always, it’s a pleasure to send you this magazine.
The Dutch oven is a versatile cooking vessel, enabling you to prepare everything from dinners to desserts. These recipes from The Ultimate Dutch Oven Cookbook are a prime example of the cooking pot’s multifunctional abilities.
So if you’re looking to refresh your menu with a bit of help from your Dutch oven, give these flavorful recipes a try. Your stomach will thank you!
This savory and satisfying dish is sure to be a hit with picky eaters. Best of all, it’s a one-pot wonder, so it makes cleaning up a breeze.
If you enjoy cobblers or crisps, you’ve got to try this slump recipe. The combination of blackberry and ginger will surely satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth, especially when served with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Reprinted with permission from The Ultimate Dutch Oven Cookbook by Emily and Matt Clifton, Page Street Publishing Co. 2021. Photo credit: Emily and Matt Clifton.
recipe by emily and matt clifton
photos by emily and matt clifton
If you’ve ever been to a party that had a kids’ food table and a grown-up food table, you probably noticed that everyone, of all ages, wants to eat the kid food. Us, too. This recipe is a rich marriage of meaty, cheesy flavors in an Italian-style family dish that everyone can fall in love with. You can use pork or turkey sausage, or leave the meat (and the anchovies) out for a vegetarian version. One of the cool things about this recipe is that it is truly one-pot: The pasta cooks right in the sauce, and the whole thing bakes in the Dutch oven, al forno style.
recipe by emily and matt clifton
photos by emily and matt clifton
While grunts, slumps, buckles and betties all sound like adorably old-fashioned insults, they actually belong to the same family of fruit desserts as cobblers, crisps and crumbles. So what exactly is a slump? We’ll clear that right up for you: A slump is a grunt that is baked in the oven instead of simmered on the stovetop. Capisce? No? Fair enough. All you really need to know is that the combination of sweet blackberries and spicy ginger is a winner, especially topped with dumplings perfumed with just a hint of rosemary. The fact that they slump down into the softened fruit is all part of the vintage charm.
Seeking to fulfill his dream of starting a business, Phillip Ashley Rix traded his corporate marketing and sales career for life as a chocolatier. Dubbed a “real life Willy Wonka,” Rix has catered many business events and even Hollywood award shows. Here he talks about his influences, challenges he’s faced, his company’s unique high-end flavors, and his experience on Chopped Sweets.
Who inspired your love of food? Forbes compared you to Willy Wonka. Did that movie pique your love of chocolate?
My grandmother got me interested in food because I always spent time at her house as a kid. Food is also a big part of my family’s holidays. And I’ve always been a fan of the Gene Wilder version of the film, but I like the new one, too, and the book. In fact, during the holidays, I dress up as my alter ego, Cocoa Claus, and hand out the book to kids at hospitals.
Honestly, the movie was the catalyst for me getting into chocolate. I was working in the corporate world in 2007, and one night I woke up at 3:00 a.m. from a crazy dream and decided I was going to be a chocolatier. I became obsessed with bringing Willy Wonka to life. I was always fascinated by that stick of gum with the tomato soup, roast beef, potatoes, and blueberry pie, which inspires the flavor profiles and intricate formulas we do.
You are completely self-taught. How did you learn your craft?
It was very challenging. I looked into culinary school, but there wasn’t a chocolate-focused path. I just figured I would make it happen myself.
Over the next five years, I spent thousands of hours researching and learning. I studied the history, science, and art of chocolate, saw how other companies marketed and did their packaging, and taste-tasted quite a bit. But the thing I didn’t see in my travels was a fantastical approach to chocolate making: why wasn’t anyone making a BBQ chocolate or putting blue cheese in chocolate? I wanted to figure out how to take the fundamentals of chocolate making and add my imagination and love of storytelling.
Why did you open Phillip Ashley Chocolates in Memphis?
Memphis is home. But more than that, it’s a great place to strategically start a business. The logistical infrastructure, especially for consumer foods, is very viable because all points of transport intersect here, which gives us a competitive advantage. Plus, there’s so much history and energy to draw from, whether it’s music or art. It’s just a cool community and place to be creative.
What are your most popular flavors? What are your personal favorites?
Our most popular flavor is a French blue cheese chocolate called Savoy. Other popular ones include Porto, made with goat cheese, port wine, and fig jam; Top Shelf, made with margarita; and Mama Jean, made with sweet potato, which was the first one I ever made and is named after my grandmother. People also love our Taste of America and Uncle Nearest collections.
One of my favorites is our whiskey-infused cherry cordials. I like some of our newer flavors, too, like chocolate with saffron and burnt orange peel. Another is one drawn from my childhood, called D’Artagnan. It’s my play on a 3 Musketeers bar, but it’s infused with fennel. We use very intricate, nuanced flavors.
Where do you get your ingredients?
I source my ingredients from all over the world, which can be challenging. For example, we’re working now to source our cocoa beans, peanuts, and cashews from West Africa. One reason for our price point is we use the highest-quality ingredients and are always doing R and D to make sure the taste is just right.
Did any flavor experiments bomb?
Bee pollen and beer hops. We were supplied real hops, which I’d never used before. I made the chocolates and painted Van Gogh’s The Starry Night on each. After putting a ton of work into it, we tasted them, and they were terrible.
You focus on the corporate and hospitality fields, but you also work with schools and hospitals in your community. What does giving back mean to you?
As a general principle, I feel it’s good to be a giver. If I can help others with the talents and gifts I’ve been blessed with, I’m all for it. It’s my way of showing appreciation to my community and for being able to help others who are in situations far more precarious than mine. I always say kindness is free.
Have you experienced many challenges?
Oh, yeah. And I still do. I’ve yet to find anyone who’s successful who hasn’t gone through a world of challenges. As someone once told me, blessings often come with burdens. For example, we were fortunate enough to recently be part of Oprah’s Favorite Things, which put us in a position to grow exponentially overnight. We had over 10,000 orders come in, and about 75 percent of that was in a six-hour period. That was more orders than in the previous eighteen months.
And then there’s the pandemic. I was making sure our team was safe, but I wasn’t sure if the business would survive. It was our worst year ever. Also, increasing productivity while maintaining handcrafted quality and navigating the issues in the shipping world has been challenging. However, I feel like the things we’ve gone through over the past few years will help us in the years to come, and the lessons learned have been plentiful. I don’t get flustered by challenges. I attribute a lot of that to my parents and having good people around me.
How else has COVID-19 changed your business?
Fortunately, I started shifting to an almost exclusively online business model right before COVID hit. Still, we had to make several pivots. Corporate projects were going away, so we started virtual chocolate tastings on March 8, 2020. Since then, we’ve done over 350 events for over 10,000 people worldwide. That really helped to sustain us early in the pandemic, as did holding a virtual date night for sixteen straight Fridays. Our mantra of “Every chocolate should tell a story” was never truer than at that time.
What was it like to be on Chopped Sweets?
I am a big fan of Chopped. They called in 2019 and invited me to be on their spinoff. It was such a cool experience. Seeing it on TV is one thing, but that clock doesn’t stop. Forty-five minutes feels like five minutes. We started shooting at 5:30 a.m., and I finished around 2:30 a.m. the next day! I barely got edged out in the finals. I definitely want another shot! [Laughs]
Has your business exceeded your expectations over the past ten years?
The opportunities I’ve had are special, and I don’t take them for granted. I still remember having to borrow my parents’ or my aunt’s kitchen because mine wasn’t big enough to even do a small job. Each year has brought new opportunities and challenges. I just want to continue to get better at meeting those challenges—I want to be least responsible for creating them but most responsible for solving them. I want the company to thrive so I can continue to provide jobs and a living wage for my employees so they can have good lives.
Mostly, I’m super grateful that, through all the ups and downs, we’re still here. Somebody recently asked me, “Could you have imagined doing all these different things?” My immediate answer was “Yes.” When I started this company, my vision was to go above and beyond and create something special—and yet we’re still moving in directions I couldn’t imagine.
For more info, visit phillipashleychocolates.com
As soon as a new year begins, it feels like everyone is jumping to adopt a new home design trend. In the past decade, trends like millennial pink and terrazzo were pushed by online influencers and adopted by homeowners, only to fade out of favor.
But we’re wiser now, right? The truth is, every year brings not only a handful of design fads but also innovative ideas that are sure to stick around for a while. So let’s look at what’s new for 2022 and how you can make the best use of these predicted trends in your own home.
There’s no denying that the future of home design is going green. If you haven’t considered it already, taking an eco-friendly approach to your home’s design can make a difference for both your household and the planet. Whether it’s incorporating more plants into your living spaces, swapping out heavy furniture for rattan or bamboo pieces, or upgrading your appliances to energy-efficient models, there are many ways to make your home’s design more sustainable. Here are a few other suggestions to help you go green in your home.
Green and blue may feel like bold colors to use in your interior spaces, and using color correctly is a delicate balance. Instead of filling the room floor to ceiling with one color, opt for one or two green or blue elements, such as a sofa or an accent wall, in a subdued shade. You can also work natural green decorative pieces like plants and flowers into your design; combine these two tips and you’ll give your room a calming effect inspired by the soothing properties of nature.
Letting in sunlight is one of the best ways to make your interior spaces feel more connected to nature. Replace heavy window treatments with breezy, light-colored fabrics like linen, and remember to keep blinds up and drapes drawn during the brightest part of the day. Doing so can also reduce energy costs, as you won’t need to keep as many lights on throughout your home in the daytime.
Wallpaper is officially back in! No, not the bold retro-patterned kind. Wallpaper has come a long way since its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, and its versatility makes it an amazing tool for transforming a space relatively quickly and easily. Several companies offer more durable and high-quality wallpaper options than the varieties available in years past. To get the most out of using wallpaper in your home, try these tips.
It can be easy to go overboard with wallpaper if you’re not careful with your choice of color and pattern. One of the main reasons wallpaper fell out of fashion in the first place was because of how bright and ornate popular styles tended to be. This is not to say you should shy away from a bold color or pattern, but the wallpaper should highlight or tie elements of the room together, not overwhelm it.
Wallpaper can be an amazing addition to a living space, a bedroom, or even a powder room. However, it’s best to avoid wallpapering rooms that might suffer from a lot of humidity or extra wear and tear, such as a full bath with a shower or a family play space.
COVID-19 has affected just about every aspect of our daily lives, including the way we think about home design. Experts predict that increased interest in spaces like home offices, home gyms, and family entertainment rooms will continue to rise this year. Thankfully, innovation is meeting that need, so homeowners aren’t necessarily forced to pay for an expensive addition. Here are a few ways you can make the multifunctional-room trend work for your home.
It’s not practical to turn every room in your home into a multipurpose space. What types of activities does your family do that feel natural combining into one space? For example, an office-playroom hybrid is likely a recipe for disaster, but a gym-playroom has great potential. Consider which elements of your life can work well together in the same area before completely overhauling your rooms, and then think critically about how you’ll arrange these rooms to your benefit. Create subtle separation by incorporating rugs, different-colored walls, and distinct furniture for each part of the space, so it’s clear which areas are for each activity.
Multifunctional furniture isn’t only for small-space decorating; it’s actually a great choice for any space, big or small, that you want to get more use out of. A sectional L-sofa can be an ideal piece for a family entertainment area or living room that needs to double as a hosting space. Simply remove any pieces that aren’t needed to create more surface area for walking around and mingling. Also, a folding or expandable desk can help save space in an office or a home-school room, allowing the room to be used for other activities during off-hours.
2022 is predicted to continue the Marie-Kondo-inspired trend of filling your home only with the things that serve you. It’s a trend that many have already embraced, but if you have yet to jump on the organization bandwagon, this might be the year to give it a try. Below are a few suggestions to get you started.
Take a cue from the “reduce, reuse, recycle” slogan, and eliminate the things you don’t need in your home. Also, consider what you can repurpose. It can help to start with the rooms that tend to be most cluttered, such as your basement, kitchen, and bathrooms, and take stock of your belongings piece by piece. Immediately remove any expired food and medications, dispose of them accordingly, and then separate anything left over into keep, donate, and repurpose piles.
The minimalist design aesthetic isn’t for everyone, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of furniture or decor in your spaces, it could be a good time to pare down your design. Walk through your rooms, and pay attention to anything impeding the natural flow or view, such as a window that’s overcrowded with plants or awkwardly positioned furniture. Remove or rearrange pieces until the room feels less cluttered.
Board and card games remain household staples for a reason: they spark a childlike joy. Regardless of how busy life is, your stress can melt away while playing these games.
Family game nights connect household members and teach life skills, such as strategy and patience. Whether you and your household are regulars or rookies, this is how to set up and host the best family game night that’s fun for people of all ages.
Where you play your game can affect the evening’s mood. Think about all the rooms in your home, and ask yourself which one has enough space for everyone, adequate lighting, and enough seating. A primary reason a family game night could fall apart, aside from an overly complicated or competitive game, is a lack of comfort and difficulty seeing the board or cards.
If you’re going to play at your kitchen table, consider buying cushions for the chairs. When playing on a carpet, use a tray or coffee table as a flat surface to keep the board or cards stable. These small adjustments can have a positive impact on the playing environment. Make sure the location is accessible to both children and adults. Children may not be tall enough to see everything on top of the kitchen table, while adults may have difficulty sitting on the ground comfortably. Create an accessible setup that works for all players.
Offer everyone who is playing the game a role for the evening. By doing so, everyone is encouraged to remain an active participant and feels included. Switch these roles between your household each week, or, if you find that everyone enjoys their role, keep them the same.
Now that the stage is set and everyone has a job, it’s time to play! But what game will you choose? Below are a few ideas to suit your family’s interests and energy level, but be sure to consider the size of your household too. Not all games will work for smaller or larger groups.
If your family likes sports or is more creatively inclined, these competitive and hands-on games are for you.
Are you ready for a long night of fun? These games will keep you focused for a few hours.
Sometimes game night can only fit into a small window of time, and that’s OK. The most important thing is that you’re making an effort to spend time with one another. These games are quick and full of fun!
It can be hard to convince children, and especially teens, to sit down and spend time with their families. However, if the price is right, your loved ones will be ready to participate in a flash. Below are some enticing and budget-friendly prize ideas.
Use these tips to plan your family game night, and then get ready for an evening of unforgettable fun for everyone!