TUPELO – When Chanda Cossitt was growing up in New Albany, her house was always the one people gravitated to.

“My mother was always – is always – the best hostess,” said Cossitt, 46. “She always had cakes and cookies ready. And she’d let us cook with her. She and my grandmother made wedding cakes so there was always extra icing in our fridge. We’d make cookies with her and decorate them.”

Now, Cossitt’s home in Tupelo is the one all her friends gravitate to. Every Sunday evening for the past three years, she’s prepared a meal and entertained anywhere from 10 to 15 people while they watched “Game of Thrones” on TV.

“When we watch that show, I don’t let anyone use their phones,” she said. “I’m very strict.”

Cossitt usually prepares the main course and her guests bring hors d’oeuvres, salads, sides and desserts.

“I’m an event chef,” said the real estate agent with Tommy Morgan. “I like to have a party and then cook for everybody. I do simple things that you can do for a big group.”

Some of her friends’ favorite dishes are her barbecue shrimp, sausage pea pasta, beef roast with mashed potatoes and carrots, Crock-Pot chicken, and chili.

“After I moved to Tupelo when I was 23, I started cooking with Valerie Whitwell (Delgadillo) and Rebecca Lawrence when their kids were little,” Cossitt said.”We all cooked together every day. We cooked together, ate together, cleaned up together and then went home. We were like a little extended family.”

Cossitt, the daughter of Bob and Paulette Cossitt of New Albany, rarely cooks just for herself. If she gets a hankering for something, she calls some friends over and then gets in the kitchen.

“I cook three or four times a week, but never just for me,” she said. “A lot of times, people will see my car in the driveway and they’ll stop and say, ‘What are you cooking?’”

During the week, she might treat her friends to cast-iron steaks with mashed potatoes and green beans or she might do breakfast for dinner – eggs and biscuits with sausage gravy and homemade fig and pear preserves.

“I feel like God has blessed me and I feel like I need to share that,” she said. “I like cooking for other people. But I like easy. I like to have a good time. I want to fix something where I can mingle with my guests.”

SAUSAGE PEA PASTA

2 pounds Tennessee Pride mild breakfast sausage

1 package frozen English sweet peas

1 pint half-and-half

1 pint heavy whipping cream

2 pounds bowtie pasta, boiled and drained

Salt and pepper

Grated Parmesan cheese

In a large pot, brown sausage and drain. Place sausage back on heat and add frozen peas, tossing to mix. Gradually add half-and-half and whipping cream. Add drained pasta to pot and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Plate pasta and sprinkle Parmesan over each serving.

DEVILED EGGS

12 eggs

4 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons stone-ground mustard

1/2 teaspoon white truffle oil

Capers or candied jalapenos

Cover eggs with water and bring to a boil. Turn off heat, cover the pan, and let sit for 9 minutes. Place eggs in an ice bath to cool. When chilled, peel eggs and slice in half.

Place yolks in a bowl. Add mayonnaise and mustards, then truffle oil. Mix well and spoon mixture into egg white halves. Top with capers or candied jalapenos. Makes 24.

BAR-B-Q SHRIMP LAFAYETTE

3 pounds medium shrimp, unpeeled

Black pepper

Garlic powder

Cayenne pepper

1 pound butter

1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce

Juice of 2 lemons

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco

Rinse and drain shrimp. Sprinkle generously with black pepper and garlic powder. Place seasoned shrimp in a deep casserole and sprinkle with cayenne pepper to taste.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine butter, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and Tabasco. Heat for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until melted. Pour sauce over shrimp. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring twice while cooking, or until shrimp is pink and cooked through.

CARAMEL CAKE

1 box Duncan Hines butter cake mix, prepared

3 cups sugar, divided

1/2 pint whipping cream

1 stick margarine

Prepare cake mix according to package directions and bake in three greased and floured 9-inch cake pans.

For the icing, place 2 1/2 cups sugar and the whipping cream in a heavy saucepan and let it come to a boil. Remove from heat.

In a small cast-iron skillet, brown remaining 1/2 cup sugar.

Place whipping cream mixture back over heat and gradually add the browned sugar to it, a little at a time and cook to a soft boil. Remove from heat and add margarine. Using an electric mixer, beat for 4 to 5 minutes. Spread icing between layers and on top and sides of cake while layers are still hot.

GUM TREE BRUNCH

2 to 3 tablespoons butter, softened

12 slices sourdough bread, crusts removed

1 stick butter, melted

2 1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms

1 cup thinly sliced yellow onion

Salt and pepper

1 pound mild pork sausage

8 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded

8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

5 eggs

2 1/2 cups milk

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Butter one side of each slice of bread with 2 to 3 tablespoons softened butter and set aside.

In 1 stick of melted butter, brown mushrooms and onions over medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes, until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Drain well.

Crumble sausage and brown in skillet. Drain well. In a greased 9x13-inch baking dish, layer half of the bread with buttered side down, half the mushroom and onion mixture and half the sausage and cheeses. Repeat layers.

In a bowl, mix eggs, milk, mustards, nutmeg, salt, pepper, cayenne and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over sausage and cheese. Cover casserole and refrigerate overnight. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until bubbly. Serves 6 to 8.

BANANA NUT CAKE

CAKE

1 box Duncan Hines butter cake mix

1 cup oil

1 teaspoon baking soda

4 eggs

3 ripe bananas, mashed

ICING

1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese

1 stick margarine

1 box confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped nuts

Combine cake mix, oil, soda and eggs. Add bananas. Divide batter among 3 greased and floured cake pans. Bake at 300 degrees until done and golden brown.

For the icing, beat cream cheese, margarine, sugar and vanilla. Fold in nuts. Spread icing between layers and on top and sides of cake.

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, fax them to (662) 842-2233 or email them to ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.

ginna.parsons@journalinc.com

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