TUPELO • Sue Freeman grew up in Tupelo near Ballard Park, but that part of town wasn’t a bustling area at the time.

“I lived out Highway 6 and it was so far out in the country,” said Freeman, 85. “My granddaddy and I would sit on the front porch and count cars that went by. There was so little traffic.”

Freeman, the younger of two children, spent a lot of time in the kitchen with her mother.

“I was the only one at home with her out in the country,” she said. “But I wanted to be in there with her. I didn’t have any little girls nearby to play with.”

Freeman’s mother taught her to make cakes and cookies, but she doesn’t really remember learning to cook meals.

“What I do remember is she didn’t have an electric mixer and she would use her hand to beat the batter about for cakes,” she said.

Freeman married at 18 and she and her husband, Gene, moved to California, where he was in the Navy. They eventually made their way back to Tupelo and into a home on Robins Street, where Freeman has lived for 47 years.

The Freemans had five children – three girls and two boys. Both boys have passed away, as has Gene, but she regularly spends time with the girls and their families and her seven grandchildren and five great-grands.

“I don’t cook much anymore, but when my son, Mark, was alive, I’d have all the family over here on Sundays,” she said. “I’d make casseroles and put them in the fridge and on Sunday mornings, I’d pop them in the oven to cook. We’d have 12 to 16 or 18 every week. The ladies would sit around the table and talk and the men would sit in the den and eat.”

Now, if her daughters want to go to Freeman’s home to eat, they bring the food.

“I still like to read new recipes and I’ve got them stuck everywhere,” she said. “I got my banana bread recipe from the internet five or six years ago and I usually have a loaf of that made. The best chicken salad recipe I’ve ever tried came from the ‘Great Performances’ cookbook. I used to make it and take it places.”

Freeman doesn’t watch cooking shows anymore like she used to.

“I stay on the computer more than I do in front of the television,” she said. “I spend time on Facebook. That’s how I keep up with family. They like to text, but I’d still rather talk on the phone.”

BANANA BREAD

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 medium ripe bananas, mashed with a fork

2 eggs

3/4 cup oil

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9x5-inch loaf pan with waxed paper and coat it with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, soda and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, mix together mashed bananas, eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla with a wire whisk until well blended. Gently combine both mixtures together with a wooden spoon. Stir in chopped nuts if using.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Note: If you use mini loaf pans, bake for 50 minutes. Also, this recipe doubles easily.

ICE CREAM SANDWICH CAKE

Chocolate ice cream sandwiches

1 carton caramel apple dip

12 ounces whipped topping

Coarsely crushed Oreo cookies

Cover the bottom of a 9x13-inch dish with ice cream sandwiches. Spread caramel apple dip over the top. Cover with whipped topping. Sprinkle with crushed Oreos.

CHICKEN CACCIATORA

1 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) fryer, cut up

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

2 cups hot water

1/4 cup dry red wine (optional)

1 bay leaf, crumbled

1/4 teaspoon allspice

Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Brown on all sides in hot oil in a heavy skillet. Push to sides of pan and add onion, garlic and mushrooms. Cook and stir a few minutes. Combine tomato paste with hot water, red wine if using, bay leaf, allspice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pour over chicken and stir well. Cover and simmer gently until tender, about 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer until sauce is as thick as you desire. Serves 4.

LASAGNA

2 pounds ground beef

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste

1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes

8 ounces lasagna noodles

8 ounces shredded Mozzarella cheese

1 cup cottage cheese

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Brown meat; add seasonings, tomato paste and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Cook noodles, drain and cover with cold water.

Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish. Add half the noodles, half the meat mixture, half the Mozzarella, half the cottage cheese and half of the Parmesan. Make a second layer using half the noodles, half the meat, half the cottage cheese, half the Parmesan and top with the remaining Mozzarella. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

UNCLE BEN’S SPANISH RICE

1 cup diced onion

3 tablespoons oil or bacon drippings

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup diced green bell pepper

2 cups cooked tomatoes

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons sugar

3 cups hot cooked Uncle Ben’s rice

5 slices bacon, diced and cooked

Cook onion in fat for 3 minutes but do not brown. Add salt, bell pepper, tomatoes, bay leaf and sugar; simmer 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf; add cooked rice and diced bacon; cook 10 minutes. Serves 6.

INDIE LEE’S COOKIES

1 box yellow cake mix

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1 egg

1/4 cup water

Chopped nuts or chocolate chips

Combine all ingredients. Drop by tablespoons onto cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

BEST CHICKEN SALAD

IN THE WORLD

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon lemon rind

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups cooked, chopped chicken

1 cup seedless green grapes

1 cup chopped celery

1/4 to 1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted

1 cantaloupe, peeled and sliced into rings

In a small bowl stir together mayonnaise, sour cream, sugar, lemon rind, lemon juice, ginger and salt. In a mixing bowl, combine chicken, grapes, celery and almonds. Add mayonnaise mixture and blend thoroughly. Cover; chill at least 2 hours before serving. Serve salad in melon rings. Serves 6 to 8.

Note: Recipe from “Great Performances” cookbook.

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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