BALDWYN • Betty Steward started cooking when she was 8 years old, and she hasn’t stopped since.

The mother of four, grandmother of 13 and great-grandmother of two grew up in Locke Station between Batesville and Marks in Quitman County. She’s the third of eight children – four girls and four boys – who grew up on a farm.

“I learned the basics on a wood stove,” said Steward, 74. “In the early ‘50s, we got a gas stove. Mama would start dinner off and I’d finish it. She either followed a recipe to a T or she didn’t use a recipe at all. I have a hard time using recipes myself.”

When Steward’s boys were growing up, she went to the grocery store once a month and stocked up.

“I didn’t buy little bitty – then you just have to go back,” she said. “I’d buy great big packages of ground beef and six or seven whole chickens. I’d spend a day cutting up chickens and sorting food into packages, then I’d spend a day or two cooking.”

After her boys were grown, she found it hard to cook for just herself and her husband, Jimmy. That’s when she realized cooking big was the way to cook for two.

“When I cook hamburgers, I make 10 or 12,” said Steward, who goes by the nickname JoJo. “We have them one night and I freeze the rest. When I make cookies, I freeze them in packages of three. That way if we want something sweet after supper, I just pull out a little package.”

She’s also found she can take a recipe for a big casserole – one that’s intended for a 9x13-inch pan – and divide it among three smaller pans. She and Jimmy eat one and she freezes the other two.

“When somebody gets sick, I can take them a little casserole or two or three if they have a family,” she said. “If I ever got sick, nobody would have to bring me food. I’ve got stuff in my freezer all the time.”

For 45 years, Steward was executive director with Beauty Control Cosmetics. When the company shut down two years ago, she and Jimmy opened Pop and JoJo’s Attic, a vendor shop, in downtown Baldwyn. One of her sons and his wife run it now, which allows Steward to spend even more time in her kitchen.

“I just like to cook – that’s my problem,” she said. “I’ll get in here to cook when I don’t have a soul to feed. That’s why my freezer stays so full.”

JOJO’S CHILI

1 pound 90 percent lean ground beef

1 small onion, finely diced

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) can Bush’s Chili Magic chili starter

1 can Ro-tel tomatoes

Shredded Cheddar cheese

Place beef in a skillet and break it up some with a wooden spoon as it starts to brown. After it browns a bit, add onions, tomatoes, chili starter and Ro-tel tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer 30 to 45 minutes or longer. Serve with a sprinkle of shredded Cheddar cheese.

EASY COOKIES

1 box yellow cake mix

2 packages sugar cookie mix

5 eggs

3 sticks butter, softened

1 tablespoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients. Use a 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop to form dough into balls. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper about 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned on bottom. Makes about 6 dozen.

Note: If desired, you can add chocolate chips, oatmeal, butterscotch chips, coconut or nuts to the dough.

APPLE DUMPLINGS

2 Granny Smith apples

2 cans crescent rolls

2 sticks butter, melted

1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 can Mountain Dew

Vanilla ice cream

Core and peel apples and cut each into 8 wedges. Separate crescent dough into 16 triangles.

Wrap each apple wedge in a crescent roll triangle, beginning with the small end, and place in a 9x13-inch pan.

Melt butter in a saucepan; add sugar and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Pour butter mixture over apple wedges, making sure each dumpling gets its fair share.

Pour Mountain Dew over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Serve warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

CAJUN SKILLET

1 pound smoked sausage, cut in 1/2-inch pieces

1 pound chicken tenders, cut in chunks

1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning

Olive oil

2 onions, 1 diced and 1 sliced in rings

1 cup uncooked rice

1 (15-ounce) can stewed tomatoes

1 can chicken broth

1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced

1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced

Season sausage, chicken and shrimp with Tony Chachere’s. Saute each protein separately in a large skillet with a little olive oil and when done, set aside.

In the same large skillet, saute chopped onion and rice in 2 tablespoons olive oil until slightly browned and transparent. Add tomatoes, broth and more Tony Chachere’s to taste. Simmer about 20 minutes until rice is tender, but still a little firm.

Arrange cooked sausage, chicken and shrimp over rice. Arrange bell pepper slices and onion rings over all and simmer another 5 to 10 minutes.

THE BEST MEATLOAF

LOAF

1 pound 90 percent lean ground beef

1 cup crushed Ritz crackers

1/2 cup dried minced onion

1/2 cup mik

1 large egg, beaten

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dried parsley

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

TOPPING

1/4 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Combine meatloaf ingredients with your hands until well mixed. Place meatloaf in a loaf pan and pat down to make level across the top and to seal all around the sides to the edges of the pan.

Combine topping ingredients and pour over meat mixture, spreading evenly over the top. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes. Let meatloaf rest in the pan on top of the stove for about 10 minutes before serving.

APPLE PIE SWIRLS

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled cored and chopped

1/2 to 1 1/4 cups sugar, to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon corn starch

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 can Pillsbury Grands biscuits

Flour for dusting

1 stick butter, melted

In a saucepan, combine chopped apples, sugar, cinnamon, corn starch and vanilla. Cook fruit until soft and spreadable.

Separate each biscuit into two rounds. On a floured surface using a rolling pin, roll out each biscuit half into a large oval, about the size of your hand (longer than wide). Spread 1 to 2 teaspoons butter along the center of the dough lengthwise. Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons cooked fruit on top of the butter.

Fold the right side of the dough about 1 1/2 inches in toward the center. Fold both the top and bottom side to hold the fruit and butter inside. Roll to the left with a quick swirl to seal and place pies in each cup of a nonstick muffin pan sprayed with cooking spray (they should almost look like little purses with some fruit peeking out of the top). Bake at 350 to 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with a dollop of ice cream.

  • Note: You can use peach, cherry or blueberries for the fruit or even chocolate.

DO YOU KNOW A GOOD COOK? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can call Ginna at (662) 678-1581 or email them to ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.

ginna.parsons@journalinc.com

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