VERONA • Donna Seymour Horton’s mother died when Horton was 5 years old, so her aunts took up the mantle and taught her how to cook.

“My cousins and aunts raised me,” said Horton, property manager for the Tennessee Valley Regional Housing Authority. “My aunts played a big part in my cooking.”

She learned to make country staples like salisbury steak, meatloaf and chicken and dressing from her Aunt Marie and her Aunt Linda, but now she saves that kind of cooking for weekends when her family visits. She and her husband of six years, Keith, share three children and four grandchildren.

“When we first married, we used to cook like Paula Deen – lots of butter – and we both gained a lot of weight,” said Horton, 51. “We even planned a whole vacation in Savannah, Georgia, around Paula Deen. We went to a taping of her show and were actually a part of her show.”

Now, she and Keith enjoy cooking healthy meals together at least five nights a week. Dinner might be a Greek salad, grilled tilapia and green beans, or baked chicken, roasted asparagus and a salad.

“We eat a salad at just about every meal,” she said. “On the weekends, we cheat and eat like everybody else.”

When Horton’s sons were small, she took a cake decorating class from Rose McCoy at Itawamba Community College.

“I don’t think Rose had even opened Creative Cakes yet,” she said. “I enjoyed the class so much I went out and bought a bunch of pans and frosting tips. I had so much invested in supplies that I started making cakes and selling them. I stopped doing that when I got burned out on it.”

Now, Horton has gone back to baking for pleasure.

“I do it for friends and family, not for extra money,” she said. “I do birthday cakes, wedding cakes, stuff for showers. We even made our own cupcakes for our wedding.”

Right now, Horton is concentrating on the meal for Thanksgiving Day. She and Keith will host her family and his family in their home at the Nettleton Hunting Club in Amory.

The menu includes turkey and dressing, sweet potato casserole, butter peas, corn casserole, mac and cheese, green beans, squash casserole, a salad, dinner rolls and a couple of desserts.

“I don’t ask anybody to bring anything,” she said. “I like to do it all myself.”

SWEET POTATO CARAMEL PIE

CRUST

2/3 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs

FILLING

2 tablespoons butter

1 (7-ounce) package flaked coconut

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

2 (8-ounce) containers whipped topping, thawed

1 (12-ounce) jar caramel topping

For the crust, combine melted butter and sugar. Add graham crackers and toss to mix; divide mixture between two 9-inch pie plates, pressing the crust into the bottom and up the sides. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter; add coconut and pecans and cook over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, potatoes and condensed milk and beat until smooth. Fold in whipped topping. Spread 1/4 of the mixture into the bottom of each crust. Drizzle each with 1/4 of the caramel topping and sprinkle 1/4 of the coconut mixture over the top. Repeat layers. Cover and freeze for 4 hours. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.

CORN CASSEROLE

2 cans white shoepeg corn, drained

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

8 ounces whipping cream

Place drained corn in a baking dish. Melt butter in the microwave. Stir in flour and gradually add cream. Pour over corn. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes.

CREAMY DREAMY SPINACH, ONION AND BACON DIP

1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped onions, thawed

3 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, softened

1 (5-ounce) package shredded Parmesan cheese

1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup mayonnaise

Corn chips

Combine bacon, spinach, onions, cream cheese, Parmesan, Mozzarella and mayonnaise in a medium bowl. Spoon mixture into a greased 2-quart baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serve with corn chips.

Note: This dip may be made up to 2 days ahead of time, covered and refrigerated. Let stand 20 minutes before baking as directed.

PAN-ROASTED CHICKEN WITH PROSCIUTTO, ROSEMARY AND LEMON

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut in ribbons

Leaves from 2 small rosemary sprigs

4 to 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves

Salt and pepper

3/4 cup chicken stock

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat an oven-proof skillet over medium heat until hot. Drizzle pan with olive oil. Add prosciutto and rosemary and cook, stirring, until prosciutto is crispy and brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Push to one side of the pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to pan, skin side down. Cook for 5 minutes; turn and cook 3 minutes more. Turn again, put in the oven, and roast about 30 minutes more. Take pan out of oven, remove chicken and prosciutto and arrange on a platter. Leave 1 tablespoon rendered chicken fat in the pan, return it to the stovetop and add stock and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until reduced to a syrup, about 3 to 5 minutes. Check seasonings, then drizzle over chicken.

CARROT CAKE

CAKE

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

4 eggs

2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 to 2 cups grated carrots

1 cup chopped pecans

ICING

1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese, softened

1/2 stick butter, softened

1 (1-pound) box confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans

For the cake, in a large bowl combine sugar and oil. Add eggs, one at a time. In a smaller bowl, combine flour, sat and cinnamon. Add carrots and nuts. Fold flour mixture into sugar mixture and blend well. Divide batter between 2 greased and floured 8-inch cake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

For the icing, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Add sifted sugar, vanilla and pecans and mix well. Spread icing between layers and on top and sides of cake.

CHOCOLATE COBBLER

COBBLER

1/2 stick butter

1 cup self-rising flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

TOPPING

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoon cocoa

1 cup hot water

For the cobbler, melt the butter in an 8x8-inch casserole. In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, milk and vanilla. Add to melted butter and mix together.

For the topping, combine sugar and cocoa and sprinkle over the top of batter. Pour hot water evenly over the top and do not stir. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Do not cook more than 30 minutes.

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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