TUPELO • Martha Dale has always enjoyed cooking, but these days you’ll find her in the kitchen whipping up something just about every day.

“I love to cook,” Dale said. “I guess it’s a creative thing and relaxing. What’s not relaxing is people in my kitchen talking and getting in my way while I’m trying to cook.”

Dale, 72, is a native of Tupelo, the oldest of two girls born to Margaret and Stewart Clayton. She was in the second class at Joyner Elementary, then went on to Milam before graduating from Tupelo High School in 1966.

She and her husband, Bobby, dated in high school and then off and on in college before marrying in 1969.

“I worked at the Methodist Children’s Home in Jackson while Bobby was in medical school,” Dale said. “He still makes fun of some of my newlywed meals. We didn’t have any money back then. There were two other couples in the same boat, and at the end of the month, we’d pool what we had, whether it went together or not.”

Dale learned some of her culinary skills from her mother.

“She was a wonderful cook and way ahead of her time,” Dale said. “She liked complicated, involved recipes. She liked to present things that were very pretty – and also very good.”

The Dales, who have been married 51 years, have two children and two grandchildren. They also have five rescue animals – dogs Chrissy, ChiChi, Winkie and Roscoe, and Tres the cat.

“Before COVID, we entertained all the time,” Dale said. “We’d have company at least two weekends a month. The guest room was always occupied, and Roscoe sleeps with whoever the guest is. That’s the deal here.”

If she’s entertaining, Dale might prepare a marinated grilled pork tenderloin and a wild rice casserole; a salad with romaine, mandarin oranges and almonds; sourdough bread; and brownies with ice cream or cheese cake pies for dessert.

“If it’s just Bobby and me, I’ll gamble on a meal, but with company, I do tried and true,” she said “Most of my recipes are old – I’ve used them for years. I have my mother’s old ‘Southern Sideboards’ cookbook with all her handwritten notes in it. I just love it.”

Dale volunteers at the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society, and she’s a member of the Tupelo Garden Club. When she and Bobby moved back to Tupelo from Ohio in 1999, she was asked to join a group of childhood friends in The Luncheon Club.

“When they invited me to join them, I was just thrilled,” she said.

RUSS FAMILY CHICKEN AND PASTA

6 chicken breast halves

Celery and onion

Salt and pepper

9 ounces angel hair or bowtie pasta

1/3 cup canola, olive or avocado oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

4 to 5 basil leaves torn into small pieces or 1 teaspoon dried basil

2 tablespoons light Italian salad dressing

8 ounces grape tomatoes, sliced

1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

4 green onions, thinly sliced

Cook the chicken in a pot of water with some celery, onion and salt and pepper. When done, let chicken sit in broth for about 30 minutes. Remove chicken; reserve broth.

Shred chicken or cut in small pieces. Strain reserved broth and cook the pasta in it according to package directions. Drain.

In a jar with a lid, combine oil, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, seasoned salt, basil and Italian dressing. Shake to mix thoroughly.

To serve, combine chicken, pasta, tomatoes, artichoke hearts and green onions. Pour dressing over and refrigerate. This dish is better the day after being made. Will keep well 4 to 5 days in refrigerator.

CHEESE CAKE PIES

1 small box lemon gelatin

1 cup boiling water

11 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 pint whipping cream

2 graham cracker pie shells

Fresh blueberries and sliced strawberries

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Cool, but do not let set (you can refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes to expedite cooling). Beat cream cheese with a mixer, gradually adding sugar and vanilla.

In a chilled bowl, beat whipping cream until soft peaks form. When gelatin is cooled and slightly thickened, mix it with the cream cheese mixture until smooth. Fold in whipped cream. Divide mixture between 2 pie shells. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Top with fresh berries. Serves 12.

SPANISH DELIGHT

8 ounces small shell pasta

2 pounds ground chuck

1 onion, finely chopped

1 bell pepper, finely chopped

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 can Ro-tel tomatoes

2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce

2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste

1 (11-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained

1 (8-ounce) jar green olives, drained

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, brown the beef in a large pot, then drain. Return meat to pan and add onions, peppers, chili powder, Ro-tel, tomato sauce, tomato paste, corn, olives and garlic. Stir to combine and cook about 10 minutes.

Drain pasta and add to meat mixture. Spoon into a greased casserole and top with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes.

FRUIT TEA

4 quarts water, divided

2 cups sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

6 regular tea bags

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

2 cups pineapple juice

1 cup orange juice

In a large pan, combine 2 quarts water, sugar and cinnamon. Boil for about 2 minutes. Let cool for about 1 hour.

In another pan, bring 1 quart of water to a boil and add tea bags. Steep for about 15 minutes, then let cool. Remove tea bags and add another quart of water.

Combine cinnamon mixture and tea mixture. Remove cinnamon sticks. Add lemon juice, pineapple juice and orange juice. Serve hot or cold. Store in the refrigerator; will keep for several weeks.

SISTER SCHUBERT CORNBREAD

1 1/2 sticks butter, melted

1 cup sour cream

3/4 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons water

2 large eggs, slightly beaten

1 1/2 cups self-rising cornmeal mix

Combine butter, sour cream, buttermilk, water and eggs. Add cornmeal and stir until mixture is well-blended and moist. Pour into a greased 8-inch square or round baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.

MARINATED TOMATOES

6 large ripe tomatoes

1/4 cup sliced green onions

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley

4 to 5 basil leaves, cut

2/3 cup salad oil (can use part olive and part avocado oil)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Lettuce leaves

Freshly grated Mozzarella or Parmesan cheese

Slice tomatoes and place in a gallon zip-top bag. In a bowl, combine onions, salt, pepper, parsley, basil, oil and vinegar. Pour marinade over tomatoes. Seal bag and refrigerate several hours, rotating the ingredients in the bag several times to make sure tomatoes are covered in marinade.

To serve, arrange several lettuce leaves on a plate and top with several tomato slices. Sprinkle with grated cheese.

SUE’S BROWNIES

4 sticks butter, softened

4 cups sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons vanilla

8 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/3 cups cocoa

1 teaspoon salt

1 (12-ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans (optional)

Using a heavy-duty stand mixer, cream softened butter, sugar, vanilla and eggs (added one at a time) for 3 minutes.

Combine flour, cocoa and salt in a separate bowl. Gradually add dry ingredients to creamed mixture. This process takes several minutes to incorporate and avoid a messy counter.

After thick batter is well-mixed, fold in chocolate chips and pecans, if using. Spread batter into a greased and floured 15x11-inch cake pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Makes 35 to 40 brownies.

STEAK MARINADE

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons dry mustard

2 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/3 cup lemon juice

Combine all ingredients. Marinate choice of meat in refrigerator for 24 hours, making sure meat is completely covered. If marinade is drained immediately, it may be frozen and used one more time.

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 (662) 678-1581 or email them to ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.

ginna.parsons@djournal.com

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