BELDEN • If you attend a luncheon or party at Nancy King’s home, you can just about guarantee the plate you’re served is going to be pretty.

“I always have liked my food to be attractive,” King said. “I guess that’s one of my little quirks.”

In the spring, she might put fresh flowers on the plate – violas or whatever she has blooming – not to eat, but to add color.

If she’s having fresh fruit, she might serve it in a little basket made from an orange rind. She garnishes meat with fresh herbs and at Thanksgiving, you might find a little pumpkin on the side of the platter of turkey.

“I love entertaining, women especially, because they ooh and aah,” said King, 78. “I do a lot hosting for luncheons, bridge club, birthdays.”

King has a nice-size kitchen in her home in Belden, but it’s not huge by today’s standards. So when she hosted a birthday luncheon recently, she put everybody to work in shifts.

“The kitchen was too small for everyone to get in at once, so I wrote tasks down on little pieces of paper and put them at each place setting along with an apron, a spatula and a wooden spoon,” she said. “They took turns with their chores. One would come in and make the salad, another would make the dressing, somebody else made the tea. It was just a fun thing to do and I think everyone enjoyed it.”

King was born and raised in New Albany. She learned to cook from her mother, as most girls her age did.

“With my generation, everybody kind of helped in the kitchen,” she said. “I remember making cinnamon rolls with my mother. My job was to melt the butter and sprinkle the toppings on. I remember learning to make fudge and cookies. I didn’t cook a full meal by myself until I was in my teens, but I always pitched in and helped before that.”

King and her husband, Bobby, moved to Tupelo in 1965, not long after they married. They have one son, Jonathan, who lives in Saltillo with his wife, Lisa; three grandsons and four great-grandsons.

“We wouldn’t know what to do with a girl,” she joked.

King figures she cooks two to three good meals a week and they might eat leftovers the rest of the time or go out to eat. A weeknight meal might be ham with garlic cheese grits, green beans and biscuits, or a beef roast with rice, fresh asparagus and fruit.

“I cook differently than I did when we first married,” she said. “I buy light whenever I can – salad dressings, mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese. When I make potato salad, I just use a little mayo and some light sour cream. You can tell people are trying to figure out what’s in there.”

She’s also a proponent of cooking in big batches.

“I make spaghetti sauce, taco soup and vegetable beef soup in bulk and put it in the freezer,” she said. “I cook four pork tenderloins at one time and we eat one and I freeze the other three. It’s nice to be able to just go and pull one out for supper.”

PEACH AND JAPALENO PEPPER JAM

3 1/2 pounds peaches, peeled and sliced

3 medium jalapeno peppers, chopped

7 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 to 2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 pouch liquid pectin

Stir peaches, peppers, sugar and lemon juice together in a large pot over medium-low heat. Keep stirring from the bottom of the pot to prevent scorching. Once sugar has melted, turn heat up to medium. Continue stirring periodically. As mixture starts to boil, add a tablespoon of butter or margarine in the pot to cut down on foam.

Bring to a roiling boil. Cook until the peaches become soft, about 20 minutes. Once peaches are soft, add liquid pectin to the pot, stirring. Bring mixture back to a full rolling boil.

Start a timer for 1 minute and if the jam foams up and looks like it might overflow, carefully stir it down. Keep the jam boiling for 1 full minute. Once timer goes off, remove pot from burner and skim any foam from the top. Fill sterilized jars, leaving a 1/4-inch of head space. Process jam in a hot water bath. Makes 4 pints or 8 half-pints.

SUMMER SLAW

1 head cabbage or 1 package slaw mix

1 teaspoon sugar

3 to 4 green onions

1 apple

6 mini sweet bell peppers (yellow, red and orange)

1 zucchini

1 yellow squash

1/2 cup toasted pecans

Dash of celery seed

Salt and pepper

Ken’s sweet Vidalia onion dressing

If using a whole cabbage, cut it up. If using slaw mix, pour into a large bowl. Sprinkle sugar over cabbage.

Chop the green onions and add to bowl. Cut the apple, peppers, zucchini and squash julienne-style (thin strips) and add to bowl. Cut up pecans and sprinkle on top. Mix everything together. Add celery seed and salt and pepper to taste. When ready to serve, add desired amount of dressing and toss again. Serves 8 to 12 people.

APPLE FRUIT SALAD

1 large can crushed pineapple

2/3 cup sugar

1 cup water

2 small boxes lemon gelatin

1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese, softened and beaten

2 cups whipped topping, thawed

1 cup chopped pecans

2 apples, peeled and chopped

Bring pineapple, sugar and water to a boil. Remove from heat and add gelatin and cream cheese, stirring until melted. Fold in whipped topping, pecans and apples. Pour mixture into a 9x13 inch dish and refrigerate until chilled. When ready to serv, cut in squares. Alternately, you can divide mixture among individual molds and refrigerate.

CHICKEN ARTICHOKE HEART RICE-A-RONI SALAD

1 box chicken Rice-a-Roni

3 green onions, chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

1 small jar sliced green olives with pimientos, drained

1 jar marinated artichoke hearts

2 to 3 cups cooked, chopped chicken

1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 cup mayonnaise, or more

Cook Rice-A-Roni as directed and cool. Add onions, peppers and olives. Drain oil from artichoke hearts and set aside. Chop artichoke hearts and add to salad along with chicken and water chestnuts. Combine curry, mayonnaise and reserved oil from artichoke hearts. Mix well, then stir into salad and mix well.

If desired, serve on lettuce leaves and garnish with hard-boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes, paprika and parsley. Serve hot rolls on the side. Serves 10 to 12.

Note: If desired, you can substitute 2 to 3 cups cooked, peeled medium shrimp for the chicken.

CHOCOLATE POUND CAKE

2 sticks butter

1/2 cup shortening

3 cups sugar

5 eggs

3 cups cake flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup cocoa

1 1/4 cups milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

Cream butter and shortening until smooth and creamy. Add sugar to mixture and beat with a mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

In a separate bowl, sift together cake flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa. Add to butter mixture alternately with milk, starting and ending with flour. Stir in vanilla.

Pour batter into a greased and floured Bundt pan and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Note: You should have enough batter left to make a small loaf pan 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 or email them to ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.

ginna.parsons@journalinc.com

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