TUPELO • There’s no such thing as a food rut at Aubre Wells’ home. The Tupelo mother of four tries at least three new recipes a week.
“That’s my hobby,” said Wells, 46. “I get a lot of ideas from Instagram and I follow a lot of amazing cooks who are not professionals. I figure if they can do it, I can, too.”
Wells and her husband, Jack, and their children, Ivy, Lucy, Jenkins and Witt, moved to Tupelo in 2000 to be closer to family and because a business opportunity provided a way for that to happen.
She volunteers at area schools and teaches adult Sunday school and women’s Bible studies at First Presbyterian in Tupelo. She also taught fitness classes until December 2017.
“I was in college when I decided I wanted to start eating healthier and not eat fast food all the time,” she said. “I found out I could cook and make people happy at the same time.”
All the women in Wells’ family that she was close to cooked.
“I didn’t grow up on a stool with them and their aprons, but I loved eating and they loved feeding me and I loved to be fed,” she said.
Wells cooks the evening meal just about every day except Wednesdays, when family members tend to scatter.
In the summer, she might prepare chicken salad BLTs with roasted potatoes, or pasta salad with ham, zucchini and squash and crusty bread.
“Sometimes we have salad night,” she said. “I put out chopped iceberg lettuce, ham, grilled chicken, blue cheese, goat cheese, feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, onion, croutons and bacon. I put everything on big platters and set out salad dressings. Nobody complains.”
Wells still makes some of her mom’s recipes, like rolls, baked beans and chicken and dumplings.
“I want to expose my children to all sorts of things,” she said. “The way I ate as a child is a part of our legacy.”
“And two blogs that are ridiculously helpful when you just cannot think of anything to cook or are looking for something new, but not exotic, are Easy Family Meals and There’s Always Pizza. I highly recommend both.”
SHRIMP AND SAUSAGE WITH PEPPERS OVER PASTA
1 (16-ounce) package pasta, such as egg noodles or spaghetti
1 to 2 pounds frozen shell-on easy-peel medium shrimp, uncooked
Old Bay seasoning
1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, cored and sliced
1 green bell pepper, cored and sliced
1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fresh minced garlic
1 pound smoked turkey sausage, cut in half lengthwise and sliced thin
Boil to pasta according to package directions. While waiting for water to boil, rinse the thawed shrimp, place in a bowl and season with Old Bay to taste. Set aside.
Sauté the peppers and onion in olive oil; add garlic and cook just until tender. Add sausage to heat through; add shrimp and cook until pink. Season all with Old Bay. Add cooked, rinsed and drained pasta to the pan with a little chicken broth to make a sauce to coat the pasta. Serve with crusty French bread and salad. (Peel the shrimp before eating, but leave shells on when cooking for more flavorful meal.)
Note: If you’re feeding a large crowd, you can add 1/2 pound of cooked, shredded chicken to the mixture.
CLARA’S CHOCOLATE PIE
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1/2 stick of butter, melted but cooled
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 deep dish pie shell, unbaked
Combine sugar, eggs, cocoa, milk, butter and pecans and pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes. Lightly cover with foil if crust starts to get too brown. Let cool to room temperature before slicing.
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 ripe avocados, peeled and cubed
Warm pita wedges or naan
Combine lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, oregano and black pepper in small bowl. Whisk in oil, then stir in cilantro and parsley. Fold in avocado cubes. Serve immediately with warm pita wedges or naan.
BEST-EVER WEDGE SALAD
BLUE CHEESE DRESSING
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons buttermilk
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1/2 large head iceberg lettuce
1/2 cup slivered red onion, soaked in ice water and drained
Generous 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 eggs, cooked over-easy
4 slices thick peppered bacon, cooked and crumbled
Homemade or store-bought croutons
For the dressing, combine blue cheese, mayo, sour cream, lemon juice, buttermilk, chives, salt and pepper. Set aside.
For the salad, divide the half head of lettuce into two wedges and put each on a plate. Scatter onions and tomatoes around each wedge. Drizzle dressing over wedges. Sprinkle with blue cheese. Top each plate with over-easy egg and finish with crumbled bacon and croutons. Serve immediately.
CHOPPED SUMMER SALAD
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 medium bell pepper, cored and diced
1 cucumber, seeded, salted and diced
2 green onions, chopped or jalapenos to taste
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese, such as garlic and herb
1/4 cup chopped green olives
1/4 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
Combine dressing ingredients. Combine salad ingredients in a serving bowl and toss. Add dressing, toss to coat and refrigerate until chilled.
ROASTED RED PEPPER HUMMUS
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic, chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
Cayenne pepper to taste
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice
Drain and rinse chickpeas, reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid. Drain peppers, and reserve about 1 tablespoon of peppers for garnish. Make two layers of beans, peppers and oil in a food processor. Add tahini, garlic, cumin and cayenne pepper. Pour lemon juice over layers and blend. Stop to scrape down the sides; if needed, add reserved chickpea liquid 1 tablespoon at a time to achieve the desired consistency. Let rest for an hour for flavors to develop before adding additional salt.
Serve with naan, pita bread, pita chips or carrot and celery sticks or use as a spread when making a wrap or a veggie sub.