My name is Lee Ann Flemming. It is an honor for me to begin writing and sharing a weekly food column for The Star-Herald. I have been a food writer for 20 years and am a retired middle school teacher. My husband, Steve, and I have been married for 42 years and live in Cruger. We have one son, Steven, a daughter-in-law, Stephanie, and a 12-year-old granddaughter, Leila Rose. In addition to being a food writer, I also served as the food stylist for the Dreamworks movie “The Help.” Yes, I made Minny’s pie! When the DVD of the movie was released, I was hired by Disney Studios to promote the sale of the movie’s DVD by traveling to appear on television morning shows and give magazine and newspaper interviews.
For as long as I can remember, I have always had a love for food and recipes. I read cookbooks like most people read novels. For my 8th birthday, I received my first cookbook titled “Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cookbook for Hostesses of Tomorrow.” I still have it on my cookbook shelves. Under the title reads the statement, “Easy, no-fail recipes.” It has been marked out with a big black “X” mark. The first recipe I attempted was peanut butter cookies. I used ¼ cup of salt instead of ¼ teaspoon of salt as listed in the ingredients. My first culinary effort was not my best, and, apparently, I thought it was the cookbook’s fault. I don’t know how on earth my parents choked down those cookies. Luckily, I had made them some coffee to go along with their cookies. Unfortunately, I had used cold water for the instant coffee!
By the time I got married, I was a pretty good cook. Being a male economics major in college helped. However, there were a few country-style dishes that my husband loved that I really didn’t know how to prepare. My first attempt to cook fried chicken was a disaster. I fried four chicken breasts for a little over 2 hours. All that was left was crust and bone. The meat simply disappeared. They were beautiful and could have graced the cover of any food magazine. I had never made gravy before, and it resembled Play-Doh. It wouldn’t come off the spoon. My very patient mother-in-law took me under her wing and taught me how to make chicken gravy, as well as roast gravy. It took a lot of practice, but I finally mastered them both.
As a young bride at 22 years old, my husband and I had just settled in the Mississippi Delta, where my husband began farming. I entered the local newspaper’s annual recipe contest. To my great surprise and delight, I not only won one of the categories but also the grand prize as the best recipe overall. The newspaper published an interview with me and gave me a check for $250 as the grand prize winner. To newlyweds just starting out, it was like a million dollars.
I love shrimp! It is probably my favorite food. Mama said when I was little I could eat them faster than she could peel them. When dining out, the question isn’t what will I order, but how will my shrimp be prepared. Today I have three recipes with shrimp as the main ingredient. I hope you will give them a try. Thanks for reading.
PRIZE-WINNING SEAFOOD RICE SALAD
2 cans shrimp, drained
1 can of tuna, drained
3 cups cooked, cooled Minute Rice
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup finely chopped sweet pickle
1½ cups finely chopped celery
¼ cup diced pepper
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients together, and toss lightly. Salt and pepper to taste. Chill thoroughly and serve on salad greens, and garnish with tomato wedges.
STEVEN’S SHRIMP SPAGHETTI
3 pounds raw, peeled shrimp
1 tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 sticks butter, melted
12 ounces spaghetti, prepared according to package directions
8 ounces Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
Place shrimp in a large casserole dish. Add items 2-10. Cook at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven, and stir in prepared and drained spaghetti noodles. Add cubed Velveeta cheese and stir well. Return to the oven to heat thoroughly. May be made ahead of time and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before baking for about 30 minutes.
LAYERED SHRIMP DIP
2 (8-ounce) cream cheese, softened
1 bottle cocktail sauce
2 cans shrimp, drained
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 chopped tomato
1 can sliced black olive, drained
1 pound grated Mozzarella cheese
Spread softened cream cheese on a serving platter. Pour the cocktail sauce on top; layer the shrimp, onion, bell pepper, tomato and black olives. Top with cheese and refrigerate. Serve with your favorite crackers.