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Connection to food a family affair

By Stephanie Williams Dean

Bless Your Spoon

 

A love for passed down recipes keeps Melissa Rollins connected to food and family.

With a personal culinary heritage, some of her favorite dishes were those prepared by her grandmothers – and remembered since childhood.

One such recipe in the Davie County Arts Council’s cookbook, The Art of Cooking, is a Seven-Up Pound Cake submitted by Melissa and belonged to her paternal grandmother, Loyce, known to family as Memaw Marklin. The recipe is one made at Christmas surrounded by sweet memories. Melissa’s cousins keep that one in their special cookbook of family favorites, too.

Then there’s another favored – a breakfast casserole that came from Melissa’s other grandmother on her mother’s side, Lillie West – they call her Memaw West. The dish is prepared the night before and baked on Christmas morning.

These recipes are family treasures. Not only are they delicious, but they were her grandmothers’ favorites. Each time Melissa prepares the heritage dishes, she reminisces with reminders of her extended family. She likes the warm feelings tied to the memories .

Melissa likes to discover simple recipes with ingredients easily found. Her 15-year-old daughter, Lillie, named after Melissa’s grandmother, enjoys cooking, so Melissa looks for recipes she’s able to make.

There’s this one recipe, a Blue and Gold Banquet Corn Casserole that Melissa took to her son’s Boy Scout banquet, one of Bo’s favorites, and it was all but devoured. It’s safe to say, the dish isn’t a health-conscious one, but it’s oh-so-delicious.

Melissa uses a variety of ingredients when cooking for family and is not opposed to using canned goods or doctoring up such things as a cake mix.  “If you work, and you have to get food on the table quickly because your family’s hungry, you do what you have to do.”

Melissa’s always been surrounded by experienced cooks. As a kid, she was first introduced to the kitchen by her mom, Betty Marklin, who also enjoyed cooking. While Betty prepared meals for her family, there were a few times she invited Melissa into the kitchen – and that was enough to spark an interest. Her mother loves to bake and makes her own homemade pie crusts and yeast rolls. For pound cakes, she only uses real butter.

Melissa prefers short cuts that taste just as good as homemade – like the Pillsbury pie crust which looks and tastes like a homemade crust. Also, the Rhodes yeast rolls. She shared a yeast roll recipe that makes cinnamon rolls in a Bundt pan and tastes just like homemade.

“That way, I can then spend more time with my family on Christmas Day.”

While at college, the lady Melissa lived with taught her a lot of things about cooking. As a young girl, she’d never cooked a chicken. “She showed me how to rub spices on the inside and outside. That was strange to me, and I was clueless about all of it. Making yeast rolls by scratch is a labor of love. Maybe when I get older, and I’m not so busy. I don’t know when that will be.”

“One appreciates and understands the actual labor and how much work goes into a homemade crust or homemade persimmon pudding – that’s a lot of work,” said Melissa.

When giving credit to those who influenced her in the kitchen, Melissa recognizes her mother and grandmothers. But’s it’s all in the family as Melissa’s mother-in-law, Anne Rollins, who lives in Raleigh, is an excellent cook also and worked in catering for years.

“She has shared so many tips with me as far as preparing food for large groups. That’s her love language – having people over for Sunday lunch. All my life, I’ve been surrounded by good cooks.”

While Melissa taught herself to cook, she still enjoys reading new recipes on Pinterest or having a friend share a new one with her. “I like tweaking recipes. I put my own little twists on it. I have a homemade pimento cheese that my sister-in-law gave me, and I like to experiment a little bit and make it my own.”

Melissa served on the board for the Davie County Arts Council while the cookbook was in the planning stages. She gives kudos to Executive Director Sidniee Suggs, who deserves much credit for the project which took a considerable amount of work. “First of all, collecting recipes sounds like no big deal, but it turned into a big deal. They needed to be legible, and lots of proofreading had to happen. There are all these recipes coming in that have to be typed up. You hope they have a name on it and the ingredients are correct. ”

The arts council cookbook is different from others because of the artists featured in it. “We did have lots of good recipes submitted, and it turned out great.”

Sometimes unexpected things happen. A few of the recipes, which Melissa referred to as mystery recipes, showed up right before publication.  By the time Melissa realized they weren’t hers, it was too late to make changes.  She still has no idea. The mystery recipes were pretty fancy ones like Chicken Wellington and a Peach Kuchen.

“No one came forward to claim the recipes. Maybe someone will read this and recognize them. There were deadlines from the printer, and it was an oversight to the person who submitted those lovely recipes,”

Book projects are time-consuming, and cookbooks are no different. It took a good deal of time to put the cookbook together. The council did receive lots of delicious recipes and was well-received.

“We think they are artists in the kitchen – creating each wonderful recipe,” she said of the recipe donors. She also gave credit to the artists who permitted the use of their artwork as section dividers in the book.

“Sidniee embraces all art forms, and cooking is a form of art. She encourages our county to embrace all of it. At one of our meetings, we discussed it, and she handled all the publication of the book.”

The arts council offers many activities at the Brock Center such as the photography group that meets there as well as other events throughout the county such as the Bermuda Run summer music series.

Along with her husband, Lee Rollins, who is the town manager for Bermuda Run, Melissa enjoys hosting and entertaining guests. She delights in finding several tasty recipes she can share with people. When getting together with family and friends, Melissa makes sure the occasion includes good food.

“I like to hang out and surround myself with people who are good cooks. I’m a good little eater.”

She thinks of a good meal as comforting – and that includes a fondness for childhood memories of sitting around the dining table with her sister, Jeanie Reynolds, and brother, Will Marklin, the current Mayor of Mocksville.

“Mealtime was family time and still is. After eating, we sit around and talk long after we’ve finished eating.”

Sometimes people cook because they have to, but what Melissa enjoys most is cooking when she has time to plan and prepare a menu around an event.  That way, she can decide what goes with what and put it all together with organization.

“I’m not known for my cooking, but I have a few recipes that people really love. But no, I’m not known. I’ve tweaked, and people have shared, and to me, that is the biggest compliment.”

She just received recognition for 20-years of yoga instruction, and believe me when I say, she is one of the best. I asked Melissa what she thought she was most known for.

With much modesty, she shared, “I’m known as my children’s mom and my husband’s wife. And I enjoy painting. Back before kids, I did one of the town’s Christmas ornaments.”

She works at her family’s furniture store with her mom, dad, and brother. She’s also active in her church.

Although taking a break, Melissa enjoys serving on the art council and plans to do that again after she gets her daughter through high school. This mom’s in a different season of life right now with a high schooler at home  and is involved in Lillie’s activities.

Although busy, Melissa loves her family and feels so blessed and thankful that they get together often. They find ways to stay connected.

“We make excuses to have lunch together regularly.”

When entertaining family and friends at home, Melissa had a few tips. There are a couple of things to consider. If you’re just starting,  what you cook depends on who you’re cooking for. Many people with health issues have to watch their food choices.

“Some people are intimidated by the kitchen, and I hate that because it’s really fun to get in there.”

Melissa has one cookbook where she keeps her favorite recipes. The book was a gift for Christmas one year and had blank pages in it. She wrote down some of her favorite recipes, so she always keeps those handy.

Being a project person, Melissa finds it fun to look for simple yet delicious recipes. She also knows the excitement when a new recipe turns out the way it’s supposed to. There’s a board on Pinterest with pictures of cooking flops – and we all have them at times.

“I had a recipe that was supposed to rise overnight, and when we came down the next morning, the yeast rolls rose up all over the pan and all over the counter. I scooped it all up and just baked it like that.

“Be forgiving of yourself.  Be kind to yourself if you have a flop. That’s just part of it. Laugh and keep going.”

Her best suggestion is to keep it simple if just starting. There are simple recipes that don’t require a lot of time, and the ingredients are easy to find. The most important thing is the together time that comes with the sharing a meal.

An excellent place to start would be with the Arts Council’s cookbook. Available at the box office of the Brock, the books are $10 plus sales tax. The proceeds from sales help support the arts council’s programs.

“I love that it’s local Davie County recipes because we have lots of good cooks in Davie County,” Melissa concluded.

AUNT RUTH’S CORN PUDDING

16 oz. can cream style corn

¼ cup sugar

1 small can evaporated milk, diluted w/1 can water

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. butter, melted

4 eggs, beaten

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine corn, sugar, flour, salt, pepper, milk/water, and melted butter. Mix well. Fold in beaten eggs. Pour into a greased baking dish; place the baking dish in a shallow pan of hot water to keep the pudding from scorching. Bake in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until pudding is set in the center. (Anne Rollins)

AUTUMN FRUIT SALAD

Dressing

1 ½ cup sugar

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups water

1 tsp. butter

1 tsp vanilla flavoring

Fruit Salad

6 cups apples, not peeled, cored, cubed

1 cup red seedless grapes, cut in half

1 cup green seedless grapes, cut in half

1 cup celery, diced

1 cup walnuts, halved

In a saucepan, combine sugar and flour. Stir in water. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla, and mix well. Set aside to cool. In a bowl, place all fruit, celery, and walnuts. Toss fruit mixture with cooled dressing. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Stir well before serving. (Dorene Gardner)

CORN CASSEROLE

3 (15 oz.) cans sweet yellow corn, rinsed and drained

½ cup bottled ranch dressing

Ground pepper to taste

1 pkg. shredded Mexican blend cheese

1 pkg. Chili Cheese Fritos, crushed

In a large mixing bowl, combine corn, dressing, pepper, and cheese until well blended. Spoon into serving bowl; cover and refrigerate. Just before serving, stir in crushed Fritos. (Melissa Marklin Rollins)

CRANBERRY-APPLE CASSEROLE

3 cups tart apples, peeled and diced

2 cups fresh whole cranberries

1 cup sugar

Topping

1 cup chopped pecans

½ cup brown sugar, packed

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups rolled oats

1 stick melted butter

In a mixing bowl, combine apples, cranberries, and sugar. Spoon apple mixture into greased 10 x 13 casserole dish. In a small mixing bowl, stir rogether all the topping ingredients until well blended. Sprinkle topping mixture over the top of fruit. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 1 hour. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. (Kathryn Snider)

SEVEN-UP POUND CAKE

2 sticks salted butter, softened

½ cup shortening

3 cups granulated sugar

5 eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp vanilla flavoring

1 tsp. lemon flavoring

1 cup 7-up soda, not diet

With electric mixer, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Slowly add flour and beat until well blended. Fold in vanilla, lemon flavor, and 7-up soda. Pour batter into a greased and floured bundt or tube pan. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. (Loyce Marklin)

CROCKPOT SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE

2 (18 oz.) cans sweet potatoes, drained

1/3 cup butter, melted

2 Tbsp. sugar

2 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed

1 Tbsp. orange juice

2 eggs, beaten

½ cup milk

1/3 cup chopped pecans

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. salted butter, melted

Lightly grease bottom and sides of crockpot. In a large mixing bowl, mash sweet potatoes and add butter, sugar, and brown sugar. Mix well. Beat in orange juice, eggs, and milk. Transfer sweet potato mixture into crockpot. In a small mixing bowl, combine chopped pecans, brown sugar, flour, and butter. Mix well. Spoon pecan mixture over the top of the sweet potato mixture. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours. (Marge Barnett)

CHILI RELLENOS CHICKEN

2 boneless chicken breasts (4-6oz.)

1 lime, cut in half crosswise

1 egg white

1 garlic clove, pressed

½ cup finely crushed, nacho cheese, tortilla chips

1/2 can whole green chilies (4 oz.)

2 Tbsp. shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

1 tsp. fresh cilantro

Prepared salsa

Place one chicken breast inside a food storage bag. Seal and lightly flatten with a meat mallet. Repeat with each breast. In a mixing bowl, add lime juice, egg white, and pressed garlic. Whisk lime mixture until frothy. In another bag, crush tortilla chips. To coat the breasts, dip each piece into lime mixture than shake inside the bag with crushed chips, coating completely. Place coated chicken on to a foil-lined, 8 x 8 casserole dish. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes or more until juices are clear. Remove from oven and arrange chile strips over chicken. Sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven and bake 2-3 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven and sprinkle cilantro over the top. Serve with salsa. (Anna Jenkins)

AMBROSIA

10 oranges, peeled and seeds removed, chopped

2 red delicious apples, peeled, cored and chopped

1 (16 oz.) pkg frozen coconut, thawed

1-pint whipping cream

2 Tbsp. sugar

In a large serving bowl, add chopped oranges, apples, and thawed coconut. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Beat whipping cream with 2 Tbsp. sugar until peaks form. Serve ambrosia with a dollop of whipping cream. (Russell Suggs)

FRESH APPLE POUND CAKE

1 cup buttermilk

½ cup raisins

1 cup sugar

½ cup brown sugar, packed

½ cup shortening

2 eggs

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. cloves

2 tsp. baking soda

2 cups grated apples

Glaze

¼ cup butter

½ cup brown sugar

3 Tbsp. cream

1 Tbsp. corn syrup

½ cup chopped pecans

In a small mixing bowl, combine buttermilk with raisins and set aside. In a mixer, cream brown sugar and sugar with shortening. Add eggs, cinnamon, and cloves. In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. Drain off raisins, being careful to retain buttermilk. Add the flour alternately with buttermilk to creamed sugar mixture. Remove from mixer, and by hand, stir in raisins and apples. Pour batter into a greased and floured tube baking pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until cake tests are done. Cool 10 minutes before turning out. While cake is warm, cover surface with glaze and chopped pecans. For glaze, in a saucepan, combine all ingredients. Stir constantly and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and add chopped pecans. Spread topping over cake and put until broiler until all is bubbly and slightly brown. Serve warm or cold. (Sara J. Campbell)

PUMPKIN CRUNCH

1 (16oz.) can pumpkin

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 box plain yellow cake mix

1 cup chopped pecans

2 sticks butter, melted

Frosting

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 cup Cool Whip, thawed

In a mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, eggs, and condensed milk. Mix well. Pour pumpkin mixture into greased baking dish. Sprinkle cake mix evenly over the top. Sprinkle chopped pecans over cake mix. Pour melted butter over all. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour and cool before adding Cream Cheese Frosting. For the frosting, in a mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat until well blended. Remove from mixer and fold in Cool Whip. Frost Pumpkin Crunch after it has cooled. (Alice Creason)

GOLDEN OREO CHEESECAKE

1 pkg. Golden Oreos, crushed

6 Tbsp. butter, melted

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

16 oz. Cool Whip, thawed and divided

2 pkg. instant cheesecake flavored Jello pudding

3 cups milk

3 ½ cups sliced strawberries (or other fruit)

In a mixing bowl, combine crushed Oreos and melted butter. Press mixture in bottom of a 9 x 13 serving dish. Place in refrigerator. With mixer, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. By hand, fold in ½ cup of thawed Cool Whip. Spread mixture over the top of chilled crust. In another bowl, combine Jello and milk. Fold in by hand 1 cup of Cool Whip. Spread over the cream cheese mixture. Top with fruit. Spread remaining Cool Whip over fruit. Cover and refrigerate. (Betty Marklin)

CREOLE BURGERS

1 pound ground beef

½ cup onion, chopped

½ cup ketchup

1 can chicken gumbo soup

Dash Worcestershire sauce

2 Tbsp. prepared mustard

In a large skillet, brown beef and onion, and drain. Return to skillet and add other ingredients; cook until thick. Serve over toasted buns. (Anne Rollins)

EGG AND SAUSAGE BAKE

6 slices bread, torn

1 pound sausage

1 pkg. shredded Mexican blend cheese

2 cups milk

7 eggs

1 tsp. Montreal Chicken Seasoning

In a greased 9 x 13 casserole dish, place bread torn to fit. Brown and drain sausage. Layer sausage on top of bread. Sprinkle cheese over the top of sausage. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, milk, and seasoning. Pour egg mixture over sausage and cheese. Refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for forty-five minutes or until golden brown. (Melissa Marklin Rollins, adapted from the recipe of Lillie West)

MEATLOAF

2 pounds ground beef

1 cup cornmeal

1 egg

½ cup evaporated milk

½ cup chopped onion

½ can Hunt’s Family Favorite Seasoned for Chili Tomato Sauce

¼ cup Picante Salsa

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, blend together all ingredients, and put meat mixture into two greased loaf pans. Pour sauce evenly over the 2 loaves of meat. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let loaves rest for 15-20 minutes before serving. Sauce

½ can Hunt’s Family Favorite Seasoned for Chili Tomato Sauce

½ cup chopped onion

¼ cup cider vinegar

¼ cup ketchup

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup picante sauce

In a mixing bowl, whisk together all the ingredients and pour as directed over the 2 loaves of meat. (Melissa Marklin Rollins)

CHEESY BROCCOLI SUPREME

2 eggs

1 cup mayonnaise

10 oz. can cream of mushroom soup

2 Tbsp. chopped onion

Salt and ground pepper to taste

2 (10 oz.) pkg. broccoli, thawed and drained

1 ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 ½ cups crushed Ritz crackers

2 Tbsp. salted butter, cubed

In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, mayonnaise, soup, chopped onion, salt, and ground pepper, mixing until smooth. Stir in broccoli and cheese. Spoon broccoli mixture into greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Cover the top with crushed Ritz crackers and dot with cubed butter. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30-40 minutes. (Melissa Marklin Rollins)

SNICKER BAR SALAD

1 cup heavy whipping cream

3 Tbsp. powdered sugar

1 banana, sliced

8 oz. can pineapple chunks, drained

1 apple, peeled and chopped2 celery stalks, sliced

1 large Snickers candy bar, chopped

1 cup miniature marshmallows

In a mixing bowl, whip heavy cream with powdered sugar until stiff; set aside. In a separate mixing bowl, combine sliced banana with pinneaple chunks. Toss the chopped apple, slices of celery, chopped Snicker bar, and marshmallows into the banana mixture. Fold in whipped cream. Cover and chill. (Melissa Marklin Rollins)

WONDERFUL GINGER COOKIES

1 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. ground cloves

½ tsp. allspice

½ tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. ginger

¾ cup butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

¼ cup molasses

Enough sugar to coat

In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, and ginger. In a mixer, beat butter, sugar, and egg until light and flurry. Beat flour mixture into butter mixture alternately with molasses. Beat well after each addition. Refrigerate dough, covered for at least 1 hour. Shape dough into ½-inch balls. Roll in sugar. Place on a greased cookie sheet, 1 inch apart. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 8 minutes. Cool cookie sheet on rack for 1 minute. Remove cookies from sheet to finish cooling. Makes 5-6 dozen cookies. (Carole Demmy)

CRANBERRY AND ORANGE RELISH

½ large or 1 small orange, peeled, seeded

2 cups raw cranberries

1 cup granulated sugar

In a bowl, chop cranberries and orange. Stir in sugar. Spoon into a serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight. (Marge Barnett)

SPICE POUND CAKE

2 sticks butter, softened

½ cup shortening

5 large eggs

3 cups sugar

½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 cup milk

½ tsp. mace

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp allspice

1 tsp vanilla extract

In a mixer, cream butter, shortening, and sugar until light and flurry. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. In a separate mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and all spices. Add flour mixture alternately with milk (starting with flour and ending with flour).Beat well after each addition. Add vanilla. Pour batter ina well-greased and floured tube or bundt pan. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 1 and ½ hours or until cake tests done. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes and then turn out. (Wilma Masten Collins, Sidniee Suggs)