BOONEVILLE • In March, when the COVID-19 pandemic began closing schools in Mississippi, Rhonda Green started looking for something to do with her days.

Green teaches business, marketing and finance at the Prentiss County Career and Technical Center, where she’s been for 17 years. Her husband, Kenneth, is retired from the Mississippi Highway Patrol. The couple has one daughter, Jonie Woodruff, a nurse; a son-in-law, Brandon, who plays for the Milwaukee Brewers; and a 6-week-old granddaughter, Kyler.

“I was looking for something to do to fill my time, so I started making decorated sugar cookies,” said Green, who lives in Booneville. “I took a class at Meg Makes & Bakes in Corinth, and I get a lot of ideas from Pinterest.”

She makes cookies for friends and family for special occasions and events, such as birthdays, baby showers, weddings, teacher appreciation, holidays – even breast cancer awareness.

“Other people see them on Facebook and ask me to make them for them, too,” she said.

Green, 56, got into cooking after she finished college at Freed-Hardeman University in Tennessee. She moved to Birmingham – with no job – where she shared an apartment with three other girls.

“We took turns cooking for each other,” Green said. “So I was cooking, but that’s also when I got into baking. I took some cake decorating classes for fun and started making and decorating cakes for friends.”

But decorated cookies are now her passion. She still takes orders, even though she’s gone back to teaching.

“The cookies take a lot of my time, so I don’t cook as much as I used to,” she said. “My husband and I like to exercise and we try to stay healthy, so we don’t eat a lot at night anymore. We usually have soup or a sandwich or something light for dinner.”

On Sundays, she does cook a big meal for her mother, Frankie Sartin, and a family friend who come over after church to eat and play cards. Green might make a pot roast with all the trimmings, or chicken and dumplings or meatloaf with creamed potatoes, peas and greens.

“I try to fix things they like,” she said.

Green isn’t sure where her baking talents will take her.

“My dream is to have my own bakery one day,” she said. “There’s a girl I know who makes cakes, and I’d love for us to be able to do something like that. But I don’t really see myself as getting that big. Mostly I just do it for fun.”

CARAMEL CAKE

1 box Duncan Hines classic yellow cake mix, prepared

2 cups brown sugar

2 sticks butter

Pinch of sea salt

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

6 marshmallows

Prepare cake mix according to package directions and bake in 2 layers. Let layers cool while cooking icing.

For the caramel icing, in a non-stick pan, boil brown sugar, butter and sea salt for 10 minutes, stirring continually. Add evaporated milk and boil 10 minutes more. Using a wooden spoon, make sure it forms a soft ball or is stringy when the spoon is lifted. Remove from stove and stir in confectioners’ sugar and marshmallows. Stir until smooth. Working quickly, spread icing between layers and on top and sides of cake.

SOUTHERN CHICKEN AND DUMPLINGS

1 whole chicken

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon black pepper

Salt

2 cups self-rising flour

2 tablespoons shortening

1 cup ice water

Pepper

Place chicken in a pan or Dutch oven with enough water to cover it. Boil until tender. Remove all meat from the bones, reserving the broth. Discard skin and bones. Add milk, butter and pepper and bring mixture to a boil.

Meanwhile, combine flour, shortening, ice water and pepper to taste and roll dough out thinly, like you were making a pie crust. Cut into small squares and drop one at a time into boiling broth mixture. Do not stir. Take a wooden spoon and push dumplings down as they cook. Boil until dumplings are done, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add chicken.

CHOCOLATE CAKE

CAKE

1 3/4 cups sugar

2 cups sifted self-rising flour

1 stick butter

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup water

3 tablespoons cocoa

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla

FROSTING

3 tablespoons cocoa

1/2 cup milk

1 stick butter

1 box or 3 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup chopped pecans

For the cake, sift sugar and flour together in a large bowl. Combine butter, shortening, water and cocoa in a pan and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over dry ingredients. Mix well. Beat in eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Pour into a greased and floured 10x15-inch cake pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. When done and while cake is hot, punch holes all over the cake using round end of a wooden spoon. Have frosting ready and spread all over cake, pouring some into the holes.

For the frosting, bring cocoa, milk and butter to a boil. Remove from heat and add sugar and vanilla. Pour over cake. Sprinkle with chopped pecans.

PECAN PIE BARS

CRUST

2 sticks butter, softened

2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

TOPPING

1 stick butter

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup honey

2 tablespoons heavy cream

2 cups chopped pecans

For the crust, cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add flour and salt and mix until crumbly. Line a 9x13-inch pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides. Press crust evenly into the foil-lined pan and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

While the crust bakes, prepare the topping. In a medium saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, honey and heavy cream over medium heat. Stir until the mixture comes to a bubble, then simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in chopped pecans.

Remove crust from oven and immediately pour the filling over the top, spreading it out to cover the entire surface. Return the pan to the oven and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool fully in pan. The bars will firm up as they cool, so don’t overbake. Use the foil to lift the bars from the pan and place on a cutting board to cut. These freeze well.

PIMIENTO CHEESE

2 pounds processed cheese

3 to 4 cups mayonnaise

5 tablespoons vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

2 (4-ounce) jars chopped pimientos

Put all ingredients in a double boiler and cook 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir and beat 2 to 3 times while cooking. Cool, put into a covered container, and refrigerate.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

1 stick butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped pecans

2 cups chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix well. Add eggs, beating well after each addition. Add flour, soda and salt and mix well. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 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 (662) 678-1581 or email them to ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.

ginna.parsons@journalinc.com

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