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Woman transfers ‘smell of home’ to cookbook

By Stephanie Williams Dean

Bless Your Spoon

 

Sherry Anderson wears many hats – and she wears them well.

In addition to holding down a full-time job, she’s a farm girl, gardener, and jack of all trades in the kitchen – she has a reputation for her cooking.

This girl finds time to do it all.

Her husband, Tony Montieth, says he’s never met anyone like her.

Sherry moved to Mocksville in 2018 from Pfafftown, after marrying Tony, who owns Cedar Farm near Farmington and runs a K9 rescue operation.

When they married, some ground rules were laid.

Tony was asked to create plots of land that Sherry could dig in and build a house for her chickens on their 23 acres.

“He’s very talented and gifted and built it himself. We complement each other because we each do something the other doesn’t do and work well together as a team.”

Blessed with her own talents – Sherry’s gifted in gardening, weekly meal planning, selective grocery shopping, and a personal cooking style that’s her own.

The airline industry brought Sherry to NC – all the way from California. She was working for US Airways in San Diego, where she lived on the beach and near the mountains.  When she had to relocate, NC offered the same attractions.

“It’s so beautiful here. I checked out Florida and Pittsburg and visited each but chose NC. It was springtime when I visited – it was like walking through Neverland.”

Since marrying Tony, Sherry feels cooking has never been more fun.

“My husband loves helping me in the kitchen, which I never had before. He always asks if there’s something he can come in and help me with.”

But that’s not without a drawback. Whenever the couple goes out to eat, Tony struggles. After ordering his meal and eating it, he then compares the taste to a dish his wife has cooked that’s similar.

“While Tony doesn’t mind paying the money for a good meal, he often thinks he could have gotten this at home, and it would have tasted better,” his wife said.

For Sherry, food’s an experience – it’s not just to fill her tummy. She’s all about tasting flavors of the food. So when eating out, she’s picky about where they’re going and will eat at a restaurant only if she knows the cook is better than her. “It has to be a style I don’t cook, and the chef has to be better than I am for me to really enjoy it.”

Growing up, Sherry’s family was large, with nine children, and her mother taught each to cook. They had a garden with lots of fresh vegetables, herbs, and fruit trees. The children had to take turns in the kitchen, and their mom taught them meal planning and prepping.

“I was used to going outside to grab ingredients for our cooking. I’d take recipes and change them up by adding things until I got it the way I wanted.”

Much of who Sherry is today is because of her mom.

“My mom and aunt made amazing biscuits and rolled out the most delicious sweet rolls. I didn’t learn these skills. My mom wanted to teach me, but I didn’t have the time for it, then.”

Sherry also learned how to save food from her mother. She has cans of organic wheat – all types of flours – that need to be ground.  Good until 2032, it’s been vacuum sealed and kept in a cold, canning room in her basement.

“I have a grinder and just do it as I need it. I use it for pies and cakes and other desserts now. There’s a lot of it, so I need to figure out how to make some bread. Without a doubt, my challenge now is to make my own bread.”

Her mom baked all the bread in the house, and Sherry can’t remember her mother ever buying a loaf of bread.

“One of the greatest things was when I walked in the door from school. She’d be sitting there with a fresh loaf of bread with jam and butter. She always had fresh cinnamon rolls. Just walking in and having that smell was like the smell of home.”

While Sherry was taught the basics as a young, 8-year-old girl, she developed her own cooking style later in life – self-described as comfort cooking with a healthy twist. She describes comfort as flavor. Comfort has nothing to do with foods she ate growing up as a kid, with culture, the south, or anything like that. It has everything to do with proper balance.

“It’s not something that’s heavy – not southern comfort. To me, it’s a well-balanced meal such as fish with a wonderful risotto and wild mushrooms with a side salad.” When I’m done with that meal, I’m not saying, Oh my gosh, I’m stuffed, but rather, I feel just right.”

Her cooking could be considered more Mediterranean in style, mainly due to all the fresh herbs and vegetables she uses. Never cooking out of a box, she’s more of a scratch cooker.

“I do a simple breakfast quiche in the morning for us. I work nights and make a lot of soups and stews that are easy to eat at work. On my days off, I’m always cooking.”

As Sherry’s gotten older, her cooking’s gotten better because she takes more time to plan a meal or cook a roast.  When her kids were growing up, she cooked quick and simple sautéed vegetables and rice to save time. Now that Sherry’s two daughters are grown, the couple’s children are chickens and dogs.

The knowledge she’s acquired over the years has allowed her to grow and dry her own herbs – the ones that are expensive in the store. “I used to do basic herbs but have now gone into the Greek oreganos and basils. Some of your Greek spices are more pungent because they don’t lose so much of their flavor when cooking.”

All Sherry has to do is share with friends or post on Facebook what she has – like some dried Greek basil – and she sells out quickly. While friends love fresh herbs and receiving them as gifts, honey from her honeybees is a hot commodity, too – she stays sold out.

In the summertime, she gets a dozen eggs a day or more from her girls. “I sell my eggs and stay pretty much sold out of those, too.”

Contributing to her sales is the fact she uses no pesticides or herbicides and produces everything as clean as she can. She tries to keep things old school as possible, using a lot of essential oils and herbs. She also makes her own soaps and lotions.

“I have not had a store-bought soap in 20 years.”

And her delicious sweetbreads – they taste amazing. She’s mastered those.

“I make the best banana nut muffin you’ve ever tasted in your life. I have those recipes, and they’re in my cookbook.”

Sherry published her own cookbook, where she keeps all her favorite collected recipes.  But at one time, Sherry kept a big encyclopedia binder full of recipes.

“It would take me hours to go through it because I was never very organized.”

Because folks were always asking for the recipes, her uncle, who was a writer, offered to publish them in a book. He and his wife are both fabulous cooks, too. They suggested Sherry share her best recipes, along with her family and friends’ favorites, and tips on gardening and canning.

It took Sherry a year to put it together. The most fun part was cooking for friends and having them taste it. So once a month, when she had girls over for brunch, a menu of new dishes would be offered. Her guests were given a questionnaire they had to fill out on every single dish.

“I do like to entertain and have friends over for lunch or brunch. Some of my best recipes are in the book. A friend helped me with photography.”

Besides her mom and grandma, Sherry says her uncle and aunt, who are her book publishers, were great influencers on her life.

“They are amazing – they’re on my father’s side and live in Missouri. I used to babysit my nieces, and it was always fun being with them. They’d take me outside to pick our berries for pies and such. It was such a fun way to learn how to cook at such a young age – having someone who knows how to use ingredients.”

Cooking brings Sherry an unbelievable amount of joy.

“What I get from watching someone eat my food, rave about it, and want more of it, is all the pleasure in the world. I never created a book for self-promoting. I did it because my friends were always asking for my recipes.”

Good cooks agree on these simple words of wisdom.

Start with a recipe, read it, and do exactly as it says. As you are eating it, think about how to tweak it, so it has a little bit of a different flavor. Think of other spices you could add or increase the volume of the spice to change the flavor.

Play around with fresh ingredients. Try to start your own herb or vegetable garden as it makes all the difference in the world. When you can do fresh – do fresh – it changes the taste of your dish. Get back to the basics and get away from boxed mixes – they’re filled with unhealthy chemicals and preservatives.

Sherry’s book is called “Homegrown,” which is sold mostly by word of mouth but is available on Amazon and at the Lewisville library, where she teaches homesteading classes several times a year.  Her favorite class is teaching people how to make their own bone broth.

It’s just a fun book. The book also features a canning section with favorite foods to can – and how to make the perfect steak.

“If you follow my instructions, you will never eat steak again except at your own home.”

KALE, SWEET POTATO, AND CHICKEN STEW                                  

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch pieces

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp. dried thyme

½ teaspoon salt

1/8 to ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

2 tsp. olive oil

1 small sweet onion, chopped

1 red or yellow bell pepper cut into ¾ inch pieces (I use a large pepper)

1 large sweet potato, peeled, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)

2 cups of low sodium chicken broth

3 cups packed coarsely chopped kale (discarding the stems and veins)

Toss chicken, flour, thyme, salt, and cayenne pepper in a zip lock bag until coated evenly.Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat until hot.  Add oil and heat until hot.  Add chicken mixture. Cook and stir 4 minutes. Add onion, and cook and stir for 3 minutes until the chicken is no longer pink on the outside. Add bell pepper, sweet potato, and broth. Bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Reduce heat to low; simmer, cover, and cook 5 minutes. Stir in kale and cook uncovered 8 minutes or until tender.  Stir occasionally. Yields 4 (1 ½ cup servings). My favorite dish, and when served to a guest, they always ask for a second serving.  The dish is colorful, flavorful and earthy.  A must-try. I promise you will be coming back for more.

SQUASH BISQUE SOUP

2 celery ribs, chopped

1 med. onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

3 Tbsp. butter

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

3 cups of chicken broth

2 cups mashed cooked butternut, acorn or Hubbard squash

2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley

½ tsp. salt

1/8 to ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

¼ tsp. dried rosemary, crushed

¼ tsp. dried savory

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 cup of half-and-half cream

In a large saucepan, sauté celery, onion, and garlic in butter until tender.  Stir in flour until blended.  Gradually add the broth.  Bring to a boil. Cook and stir 2 minutes or until thickened.  Reduce heat, stir in the squash, parsley, salt, nutmeg, savory, rosemary, and pepper.  Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until heated through.  Cool slightly. In a blender or food processor, process soup in batches until smooth.  Return to the pan and heat through.  Gradually stir in cream. Cook 5 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, don’t turn your heat up past medium; you don’t want to scorch your soup.

TURKEY RICE SOUP                                                                

½ cup sliced fresh mushrooms

½ cup chopped onion

2 tsp. vegetable oil

2 cans (14.5 oz. each) of low sodium chicken broth

2 cups of water

½ cup of apple juice, I use unsweetened. (Optional)

1 package of long grain and wild rice mix (Uncle Ben’s or

   Rice a Roni) use the rice and seasoning pkg.

2 ½ cups of chopped cooked turkey

2 cups of frozen mixed vegetables

In a large saucepan, sauté mushrooms and onion in oil for 3 minutes.  Stir in the broth, water, and apple juice.  Bring to a boil; stir in rice mix and reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Stir in turkey and vegetables. Cook 5 minutes longer or until rice and vegetables are tender. Yields 6 serving (1 ½ cup). I make this with my Thanksgiving leftover turkey, and it is an excellent dish to freeze and save for later.

WILD RICE AND LEEK SOUP                                               

4 ½ cups water (divided)

½ tsp. salt, (divided)

2 bay leaves

½ cup uncooked sliced leek (about 3 large, only white and

  light green parts)

2 tsp. minced fresh thyme

4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken stock

1 cup chopped peeled red potatoes

1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/8 tsp. savory

¼ cup whipping cream

Bring 3 ½ cups water, ¼ tsp. salt, and bay leaves to a boil in a large saucepan.  Stir in rice.

Reduce heat, and simmer 50 minutes or until rice is tender when it flakes with a fork.

Remove rice from the pan, draining if any water is left over.  Discard bay leaves. Heat pan over medium-high heat, coat pan with cooking spray.  Add leek and thyme; sauté 5 minutes.  Stir in remaining 1 cup of water, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, cooked rice, broth, potatoes, pepper and savory. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Place 2 cups of rice mixture in a blender.  Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape). Put a clean towel over the top of the opening to avoid splatter. Blend until smooth.  Return pureed mixture to pan, stir in cream, and cook over medium heat. Serve when warm. Leeks are one of my favorite onions to work with. They are sweet, mild and add amazing flavor and texture to dishes.

SHERRY’S MEATLOAF

1 ½ lb. ground beef of 85/15 for leanness

1 ½ lb. ground turkey

1 sleeve of saltine cracker crumbles

2 eggs beaten

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. white pepper

1 tsp. savory

1 tsp. cracked pepper

1 tsp. dry mustard

1 tsp. celery salt

1 large onion chopped

3 tsp. Worcestershire or Sriracha sauce

2 Tbsp. of your favorite BBQ sauce

Mix your ground beef and turkey, but don’t smash it together. Just toss till good and combined.  Then put a well in the center of the meat and add all the other ingredients and mix well.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a large loaf pan with parchment paper, add your meat mixture and spread evenly in pan.  I will put two to three dented lines in top of loaf. Then add your favorite BBQ sauce over the entire top of the meatloaf.  Bake for 1.5 hours or until meat registers 165 degrees on your meat thermometer. Serve with a mushroom sauce or even more of the BBQ sauce. Tip: To prevent the top from cracking or burning, place a 9×13 pan on rack below the meatloaf pan and fill halfway with water. Leave there the entire baking process. Meatloaf is one of those dishes that you can be creative with flavors by mixing meats and ingredients.

BAKED ZITI WITH EGGPLANT

¾ lb. ziti pasta

1 eggplant (about 1 lb. cut into 12 slices)

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt/pepper

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 jar (24 oz.) marinara sauce

¾ lb. shredded mozzarella

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente and drain. On a foil-lined baking sheet, rub the eggplant with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.  Broil about 7 minutes, turning once until browned. In a saucepan, heat the remaining 1 tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring for about 3 minutes.  Add the marinara. Spread one-quarter of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 10-inch casserole dish.  Layer with 1/3 of the pasta, eggplant, sauce, and your cheeses. Repeat your layers, put a good amount of sauce on top layer, finishing up with your cheeses. Bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes until the cheese is brown and the sauce is bubbling.

MAMA’S FAMOUS CHICKEN AND DUMPLINGS                            

1 chicken cut up

6 cups of water

8 peppercorns

1 Tbsp. salt

1 tsp. basil

1 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley

1 cup of peeled and sliced carrots

½ cup of diced celery

½ cup chopped onion

Dumplings

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon butter

½ teaspoon salt

1 egg, slightly beaten

2 tablespoon water

¼ cup of finely chopped chives

Place chicken in a large stockpot with 6 cups of water.  Add salt, peppercorns, parsley, celery, onions, and carrots.  Bring to a boil and cover. Reduce heat to a simmer for 1 hour or until chicken almost falls off the bone.  Remove the chicken and vegetables from the broth.  When chicken has cooled a little and is easy to handle, remove meat from the bones and chop the meat.  Discard the skin and bones.  In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, and butter, mixing with a fork.  Make a well in center of flour.  Add egg and 2 tablespoons water and beat with a fork until all ingredients are combined.  Place the dough on a lightly floured cutting board and roll out ¼ inch thick. When you have it almost rolled out, sprinkle on top of dough the finely chopped chives, and continue rolling till you have reached your ¼ inch thickness.  Cut into strips, 1 inch wide, 2 inch long pieces. Bring broth to a rolling boil and add dumplings, one or two at a time, making sure they do not stick together.  Cover and return to boiling.  Do not lift lid; when broth returns to boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for another 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, remove the lid and add back in the chicken and vegetables to broth, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Ladle into bowls, and sprinkle with fresh parsley and chopped chives. My mom added a little pad of butter to the top of each bowl and had us kids swirl it around till it melted.  It adds a rich flavor to your meal. I would always request my mom to make this when I would come home to visit. She always made her dumplings from scratch, and her chicken broth was homemade and so full of flavor. Courtesy of Mom-Erla Peterson

PUMPKIN MAPLE CHEESECAKE

Crust

1 ¼ cup graham cracker crumbs

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup butter

Pour melted butter over the sugar and graham cracker crumb mixture, mix well with your fingers and push into bottom of spring-form pan.

Filling

3 pkgs. of cream cheese (room temperature)

14 oz. can eagle brand sweetened condensed milk

3 eggs (at room temperature)

15 oz. can pure pumpkin pie filling

¼ cup pure maple syrup

1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

Use a mixer and beat the cream cheese on high till fluffy.  Reduce speed and add the eggs.  Increase speed to mix eggs well.  Add in pumpkin puree, sweetened condensed milk, and maple syrup.  Next, add in the cinnamon, nutmeg. Beat the mixture for a while until light and fluffy.  Pour the pumpkin onto the prepared crust.  Tap lightly to release any bubbles. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool 1 hour, and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight

Glaze

3/5 cup pure maple syrup

½-3/4 cup chopped pecans

1 cup heavy whipping crème

In a saucepan, combine maple syrup and whipping cream.  Boil rapidly for 15-25 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.  Add ½ cup chopped pecans, and spread on cake.  Cover and chill, stir before serving, spoon the glaze over the cheesecake. My favorite holiday dessert.

FRESH APPLE CAKE

3 cups of all-purpose flour

2 cups of sugar

3 eggs (lightly beaten)

1 ¼ cup of vegetable oil

¼ cup apple juice

1 tsp. of baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. vanilla

3 cups of chopped, cored and peeled apples (best to use golden, gala, Macintosh or Granny Smith apples)

1 cup of chopped and toasted walnuts

Toast chopped nuts at 350 degrees and toast till lightly brown, about 5 to 10 minutes, making sure you don’t burn them.  Set aside. Grease 9×13 inch baking dish, set aside. In a very large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix well, and make a well of your dry ingredients. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, oil, and vanilla. Stir in apples and toasted nuts.  Add egg mixture to flour mixture, stirring till moistened. (batter will be thick and stiff) Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when tested for doneness. Depending on your oven, increase time only if needed, but do not over bake.  Cool in pan on a wire rack for at least 1 hr.  Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Courtesy of Pat Stoeber