TUPELO • Julie Brister grew up in the Mississippi Delta, the youngest of six children. You’d think she would have learned a thing or two about cooking in a part of the state known for its rich food heritage.

But she did not.

“My mother was always in the kitchen but I wasn’t,” said Brister, 47. “I was way too social.”

Brister met her husband-to-be, Steve, when she was in the ninth grade in Yazoo City. He was two years ahead of her in school.

“I knew then that I was going to marry him,” she said.

She still remembers the first thing she cooked for him when they were in college: poppyseed chicken.

“One of my sisters gave me the recipe and he was so pleased with the meal,” she said. “That made me so happy that he was so tickled. It made me want to cook more.”

The Bristers went on to marry and start a family. They have three sons: Boykin, 20, and Jack, 18, are both students at Mississippi State University, and Tom Henry, 16, is at Tupelo High School.

“We had three boys in four years and it was game on,” she said. “Three boys like to eat. If all three are home on the weekend, you better be ready because there is so much food.”

All three are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts and the two oldest are also allergic to fish and eggs.

“You have to really scour packages and look at everything,” she said. “You’d be surprised by the number of ice creams made with eggs. You start to get a little paranoid.”

About a year ago, Brister started a clean eating plan along with others at her gym, Fit Camp. She eats mostly plants, protein and good carbs, such as brown rice and sweet potatoes, and very little processed food.

“When I’m here by myself, I try new things and try to make them the cleanest I can, and most of the time my family will eat that, too,” she said. “My cheesecake and cheese grits are not so clean eating, but I get high-fives when I make those.”

The Bristers are all hunters – she especially enjoys it – so they eat deer meat two to three times a week. She also hunts dove and duck and she kills wild hogs on land the family has in Itawamba County.

“We eat what we kill or we give it to somebody who will,” Brister said. “One year we ran out of deer meat just before the season was to start, so I had to buy ground beef from the grocery store. One of the boys was so upset. He asked that we not eat ‘that fake meat’ again.”

10-POINT CHEESECAKE

CRUST

3 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 1/2 sticks butter, melted

1/4 cup sugar

FILLING

2 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 (8-ounce) tub whipped topping, thawed

TOPPING

1 pint strawberries, cut in chunks

1 tub strawberry glaze

For the crust, combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and sugar. Press into a 9x13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool.

For the filling, use an electric mixer to cream the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla. Fold in whipped topping with a spoon until well combined. Spread over cooled crust.

For the topping, combine strawberries and glaze and spread over the top of filling. Refrigerate.

Note: This recipe contains no eggs. Also, in the topping, you can substitute a can of blueberry pie filling for the strawberries and glaze.

OREO PIE

1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream

1 family-size package Oreos

1 Oreo pie crust

Soften the ice cream. Crush Oreo cookies using a pastry blender or potato masher until you reach desired consistency. Combine softened ice cream and crushed cookies. Spoon into pie crust (you will have leftover ice cream mixture). Freeze pie until ready to serve.

JAN JAN’S BANANALESS BANANA PUDDING

1 large box instant banana pudding mix

3 cups cold milk

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 (16-ounce) tub whipped topping, thawed

2 boxes mini vanilla wafers

With a mixer combine pudding mix and cold milk and beat about 2 minutes. Add condensed milk and beat. Fold in whipped topping.

In a large glass trifle bowl, place a layer of cookies, then a layer of pudding. Repeat layers until all ingredients are used. Sprinkle the top with some crumbled wafers. Refrigerate.

HIGH-FIVE CHEESE GRITS

5 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups quick cooking grits

1 (8-ounce) block sharp Cheddar cheese, grated by hand

1 (8-ounce) block Monterey Jack cheese, grated by hand

1/2 cup half-and-half

1 tablespoon butter

Bring water and salt to a boil. Gradually whisk in grits. Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat. Let simmer 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often. Stir in cheeses, cream and butter.

ROASTED VEGGIES

Fresh vegetables*

Olive oil, regular or flavored

Salt and pepper, seasoned salt or Neon Pig’s Black Gypsy Rub

J. Olive’s butter-infused olive oil**

Place vegetables in a 1-gallon ziptop bag and pour in enough olive oil to coat them. Spread on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle with desired seasoning.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the vegetables being used. Run them under the broiler at the end if you want them crispy. Remove from oven and drizzle with butter-infused olive oil.

*Note: Any types of vegetables can be used, such as sweet potatoes, asparagus spears, green beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, okra or carrots.

**Note: J. Olive is an olive oil/vinegar store. There’s one in Oxford or you can order online.

DEER SPAGHETTI

1 package pre-made Italian sausage meatballs

1 pound ground deer meat

1 onion, chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

Salt and pepper

Oregano

Spaghetti noodles or spaghetti squash, cooked

In a Dutch oven, brown the meatballs (don’t cook all the way). Remove meatballs to a plate. In the same pan, cook the deer meat with onions. Add minced garlic toward the end. Add tomatoes, spices and browned meatballs. Simmer on low for 30 minutes or more. Serve over cooked noodles.

CRAPPIE FILLETS

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt

Crappie fillets

Olive oil

Combine spices. Rub the fish fillets all over with olive oil, then rub them with spice mixture. Place fillets on a greased wire rack set over a cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

DEER BURGERS

1 pound ground deer meat

1/2 pound chorizo sausage (optional)

1/4 to 1/2 cup Dale’s marinade

1 cup shredded Cheddar or Pepper Jack cheese

Seasoned salt

In a 1-gallon ziptop bag, combine deer meat, chorizo, Dale’s and cheese. Mash together until well-combined. Form into 4 patties. Sprinkle with seasoned salt. Grill to desired doneness or bake in oven at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 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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