TUPELO • Mori Freeze didn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen growing up in Oxford because she preferred being outdoors. But she does remember food being the center of everything.

“Weddings, funerals, family gatherings – it was always about the food,” Freeze said. “I grew up the era of the ‘Bell’s Best’ cookbook. Everything was casseroles and frozen salads.”

When Freeze got to college, she shared a tiny house with three other girls. To save money, they decided they’d each cook one night a week for the others.

“Each girl had a different night,” she said. “When it was my turn, I’d get recipes from my mom. She would keep it simple for me. I mostly made casseroles.”

Over the years, Freeze’s cooking style has undergone a transformation. She still does simple meals, but they are healthier and have a lot more flavor.

“I love to have my kids in the kitchen to help,” said Freeze, who has four children – Reed, Eliza, Bella and Sidney. “I hate being in the kitchen cooking and not in the midst of the conversation. I’ve learned to incorporate them.”

She cooks four nights a week, one night a week she supports a local restaurant and the rest of the time, she serves leftovers. A weeknight meal might be grilled fajitas with black beans or a quiche with fresh fruit.

“My cooking changes depending on my work schedule, but I do not do 15-ingredient recipes,” she said. “I just don’t or if I do, it’s very rare.”

Freeze, 52, is a pharmacist at Mississippi Senior Care in Tupelo. Before that, she was at Thomas Street Apothecary.

She also has a flower and herb farm on five acres in northern Lee County called Fresh (freshfarmtupelo on Facebook and Instagram).

“I learned a long time ago that for me, gardening is really good therapy, a healing property,” Freeze said. “This farm is a refreshing, calm place to be. It’s good for the soul.”

She started Fresh in 2019 with the idea that people would come to the farm and pick their own flowers and herbs, but she’s found people would rather her do the picking and arranging.

She grows herbs such as rosemary, lavender, mint, oregano, thyme and dill. Flowers include hydrangeas, dahlias, yarrow, astilbe, white lace flower, bachelor’s buttons, rudbeckia, zinnias and cosmos. She’s also planted a large vegetable garden this year in case produce becomes scarce due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I regret that I didn’t have a full-fledged garden for my kids when they were growing up,” she said. “Now, it does a mama’s heart happy to see them out there working in it.”

CHOCOLATE COBBLER

1 3/4 to 2 sticks butter

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour

2 1/2 cups sugar, divided

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 scant cup milk

4 tablespoons cocoa

2 cups hot water

Melt butter in a 9x13-inch pan. Combine flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, vanilla and milk and pour over butter. Do not stir. Combine remaining 1 cup sugar and cocoa and sprinkle over batter. Do not stir. Pour hot water over all. Do not stir. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Do not overbake.

SWEET POTATO PIES

2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 stick butter

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 deep dish pie crusts

Combine sweet potatoes, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and sweetened condensed milk and heat through. Divide mixture between pie crusts. Bake at 350 degrees until firm.

QUICK STRAWBERRY DESSERT

1 pound fresh strawberries

Sugar (optional)

1 pie crust, baked

Whipped topping in a can

Wash, stem and slice strawberries. If desired, sprinkle with sugar and let sit at room temperature to create juice.

To assemble, crumble baked pie crust. Top with sliced strawberries and juice and top with whipped topping.

BREAD DOUGH

1 tablespoon granulated yeast

1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup olive oil

2 3/4 cups lukewarm water

1 (2-pound) bag all-purpose flour

Mix yeast, salt, sugar and oil with warm water in a large container, such as a stockpot. Mix in the flour using a wooden spoon. Do not knead. If you use your hands, wet them first. Cover loosely (not airtight) for about 2 hours at room temperature. Dough will rise and collapse. You can use the dough immediately, but it’s easier to handle once it’s cold. Store unused dough in the refrigerator for up to 12 days.

To make an individual pizza crust, flour your work surface. Pinch off a portion and make a ball. Without kneading, flatten out an 8-inch pizza round with your hands. (Homemade pesto works well for the sauce.) Add desired toppings and bake on a pizza stone at 375 to 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.

To make bread, take a ball of dough about the size of a baseball and turn it under with your fingers. Put it on a floured surface and punch it down once. Brush with olive oil and top with Italian seasoning or fresh herbs. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes (check it after 30 minutes).

You can also use the dough to make cinnamon rolls or bake it in loaf pans.

PESTO

2 cups fresh basil leaves (no stems)

2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts

2 large cloves garlic

1⁄2 cup olive oil

1⁄2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Combine basil, nuts and garlic in a food processor and process until fine. With machine running, slowly add olive oil until mixture is smooth. Add Parmesan until blended. Store in refrigerator.

QUICHE

6 eggs, beaten

2 cups milk

Shredded cheese

Onions and mushrooms

Fresh spinach

Cooked bacon, sausage or ham

1 deep-dish pie crust

Sliced tomatoes

Combine beaten eggs, milk and cheese. Saute onions and mushroom, then add spinach to wilt it. Add sauteed vegetables and/or cooked meat to egg mixture. Pour into a deep dish pie crust. Top with tomatoes. Bake at 350 degrees until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Let cool 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

FAJITAS

Chicken, cut into small pieces

Steak, sliced thinly

Fajita or taco seasoning mix

Bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, garlic, etc.

Hard or soft tortillas

Sour cream, salsa, cilantro and shredded cheese

Cook meat with seasoning in a cast iron skillet on stove top or on the grill until done. In a separate skillet, cut up bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, garlic, etc., and saute until soft. Fill tortillas with meat and vegetables. Top with sour cream, salsa, cilantro and shredded cheese. If there are any meat/vegetable leftovers, throw them into a quiche.

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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