Hi! I’m Kathleen Royal Phillips. I’m a food stylist, cookbook author, mom and lover of shortcut recipes loving life in a charming town called Gardendale, Alabama with my husband and two teenage children. I love to cook and laugh…not necessarily in that order.

Why Grits and Gouda? I’m Southern with a pinch of gourmet and a dash of healthy and frugal…and so are my recipes. Most of my recipes have shortcuts in them because although I love to bake from scratch and make jams and pickles, I always have a to-do list so the more shortcuts in the kitchen, the more I can check off my project wish list.

I was born and raised near the Ozarks of Arkansas but I have lived in Alabama most of my adult life so my roots run deep in traditional Southern food. I’ve also been a food professional for 29 years so I also lean toward the freshest ingredients with my radar out for what’s trending while constantly looking for a shortcut to make it happen on my table and on a budget.

My goal on my food blog is to inspire you to get in the kitchen. Period. Then, after you are in the kitchen, I’ll show you how to cook with fresh, seasonal ingredients and encourage you along the way to share hospitality with others while on a budget. I think it is important to be a good steward of my money so unless it’s on the gourmet side or cooking for a special occasion, I’m watching the budget and will pass along money-saving tips and time-saving short cuts. Heads up! What’s in season is also, usually what’s on sale.

Whatever is in season,  fresh from my garden, or on sale at the grocery store usually dictates what I make for dinner. Sometimes my recipes are simplified versions of  my mom’s homemade cakes and confections that I remember enjoying as a child growing up in Evening Shade, Arkansas. Sometimes my recipes are more in the realm of “gourmet”. What is gourmet to me? Non-native or trending – (My interpretation: Not from around here). High quality (Fresh off the cheese wagon). Presented with artistic flare (Full-on food styling skills).

Read even more: I grew up in Evening Shade, Arkansas where my mom was an organic gardener when “organic” wasn’t cool. She baked honey-wheat loaves of bread twice a week. If we didn’t grow it and can it, we didn’t eat it. I was baking yeast bread and entire meals before I was a teenager. Baking was-and still is- my  passion but we also love to eat clean with fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden or farmers market and I desperately try to schedule time for Body Pump or spin classes. Did I mention we also homeschool/college dual enroll? (Read more about my family’s nonprofits on the Community page.

Although I lived in a small town, I had big dreams of going to college, living in the city, and working at Southern Living. In January 1989, my dreams came true. I moved to Birmingham, Alabama after receiving my BSE in Family and Consumer Science at University of Central Arkansas and became a test kitchen professional and food stylist at Oxmoor House, the cookbook publishing company that produced Southern Living and Cooking Light cookbooks as well as many other brands. In the next 10 years, I became the OH test kitchen director, married Mr. “Perfect For Me”, Scott Phillips, had two amazing children, and moved to what we call “a modern Mayberry”, Gardendale, AL. Our second child was born with spina bifida so we decided I needed a more flexible schedule, so I worked part time in the test kitchen, became a freelance food stylist, and started a catering company, The Occasional Gourmet, and started homeschooling my middle school-aged children. Somewhere along the way, I became the event coordinator for the Gardendale Magnolia Festival, my husband and son started a nonprofit to equip the disabled outdoorsman, Outdoor Ability Foundation, and my daughter founded Hats For Health, an “army of knitters” that loom knits thousands of hats for premature babies and cancer patients. Did I mention they were still teenagers when they did this! The Gardendale Magnolia Festival food vendors were featured on an episode of Food Network’s Carnival Eats in 2015 and we have about 30,000 visitors. For nine years, I was the food columnist for Christian Woman magazine. I authored my first cookbook, Magic Cakes by Kathleen Royal Phillips, published by Running Press in 2017.  

Well, that is my life in a hickory nutshell!

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