HOULKA • When Lashunda Buggs’ paternal grandmother passed away, almost everyone who spoke at her funeral talked about her kitchen.

“She didn’t have much but she always shared food from her table,” Buggs said. “Big Mama was a mother of 12 and she cooked three meals a day every single day. I remember being up under her feet when she was cooking.”

Buggs, 43, said that’s where she got her love of sharing food with others.

“It’s more than the food,” she said. “It’s more than what’s in the pots and pans or on the plate. To me, it’s about the memories being created.”

Buggs was born and raised in Houlka, the youngest of two children born to Ether and Dexter Golden. When she was about 6, she became interested in cooking.

“There was this store that sold a little set of toy dishes and I was in there to get my picture made,” Buggs said. “My mama told me if I acted right, she would buy me those dishes. I acted so ugly, but I still got the dishes. Of course, I got a spanking first.”

Once the new wore off the toy dishes, Buggs’ interest in cooking waned and she never actually got into the kitchen to learn.

“I didn’t cook a meal until I got married and I got married at 19,” she said. “I couldn’t even boil water.”

Buggs and her husband, Maurice, started out with simple things like breaded chicken patties with baked beans. Then she learned to make eggs and toast.

“Then Mama started feeding me recipes one at a time,” she said. “That’s how I learned to cook. My mother is a wonderful cook, but she hates to cook. She was one of nine and there were only two girls. Her mother got sick when she was little and she had to start cooking for the family at age 5. That kind of put a damper on cooking for her.”

Buggs is a human resource assistant for the Tupelo Public School District. Once a week she takes food to work to share, whether it’s a pot of chicken and dumplings, or a full breakfast or chili or pie.

“I always take it on Thursday, so we call it Friday Eve,” she said.

Buggs and her husband have four children and two grandchildren. She cooks four to five nights a week for her family and every Sunday.

“I don’t eat half of what I cook – I’m ticky about the things I eat,” she said. “But I married a man who loves to eat and I wanted my kids to eat healthy. I also hope I’m leaving memories behind. I hope my husband and my kids and grandkids will have the same kinds of memories of me that I have of my Big Mama.”

BANANA PUDDING

4 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

2 large cans evaporated milk

1 can water

1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring

2 egg yolks

2 bags vanilla wafers

6 bananas, peeled and sliced

In a saucepan, combine flour and sugar; add milk, water, vanilla and egg yolks. Stir together well. Set saucepan in a pan of water or use a double-boiler. Cook on high heat, boiling for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring regularly.

Cover the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan with 1 bag of wafers. Place sliced bananas on top. Cover bananas with the second bag of wafers. Pour cooked pudding over all. Serve warm or refrigerate until ready to serve.

CROCK-POT CHICKEN AND DUMPLINGS

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Chicken Seasoning

Pepper

2 tablespoons butter

2 cans cream of chicken soup

1 cup diced onion

1 cup chicken broth

2 cans of 10-count biscuits

Wash chicken and season it with chicken seasoning and pepper. Place chicken in a Crock-Pot. Add butter, soups, onion and broth. Cover and cook on low heat for 6 1/2 hours.

Tear each biscuit into 3 or 4 pieces. Add biscuit dough to Crock-Pot, cover and cook 30 minutes more.

CHICKEN CASSEROLE

4 cups cooked, shredded chicken

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 sleeves Ritz crackers, crushed

6 tablespoons butter, melted

Combine shredded chicken with soup, sour cream and seasonings. Pour chicken mixture into a greased 9x13-inch casserole. Top casserole with crushed crackers and melted butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.

SLOW-COOKER SMOTHERED CHICKEN

4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Chicken Seasoning

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 dry packet onion soup mix

1/3 cup water

Sprinkle chicken with chicken seasoning and place in a single layer in a slow cooker or Crock-Pot. Combine soups, onion soup mix and water and pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours. This makes a wonderful gravy.

OVEN-FRIED CHICKEN TENDERS

4 tablespoons butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons paprika

6 to 7 large chicken tenders

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9x13-inch casserole with cooking spray and add butter. Place pan in oven to melt butter.

In a ziptop bag, combine flour and seasonings. Add chicken tenders and shake bag to coat chicken. Remove pan from oven and place chicken in the pan in a single layer. Cook for 12 minutes. Turn chicken and cook another 12 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and drain on power towels.

CHEESY CHICKEN AND RICE

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Chicken Seasoning

1 can Cheddar cheese soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 1/2 cups water

Minced onion, to taste

1 cup uncooked rice

1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Sprinkle chicken with chicken seasoning and place in a single layer in a Crock-Pot. In a bowl, combine soups, water, onion and rice. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low heat for about 6 hours. Remove cover, sprinkle cheese over the top of the chicken, place lid on and cook an additional 15 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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