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Vowell creates simple, delicious family meals

August 7, 2012


Summer may be over and her family may be going back to school, but that will not stop Krista Vowell from whipping up meals for some quality time around the dinner table.

"We can't do it every single night, but it's important to me," Vowell said. "I love to cook because it not only feeds my family, but it lets them know that I love them, and I value our dinner times together."

Vowell begins her third year of teaching at Starkville Academy this week and while it was something she never thought she would pursue, Vowell said she has thoroughly enjoyed her time in the classroom thus far.

"After the first year at SA, they're going to have to run me off," she said. "It's fabulous. I love working with the kids, and I love everything about it."

It was in the kitchen, however, that this teacher began learning some of her earliest lessons.

"My grandmother taught me how to cook," she said. "I'm not an amazing chef, but if I have a recipe I can cook anything."

Oddly enough, Vowell said she rarely uses recipes, claiming she dictated the three dishes she prepared while her husband took down the directions.

"Marcus wrote everything down," she said. "I learned to cook in the time honored tradition of 'pinch of this,' 'little of that,' and 'a scosh or two of these.'"

While the three recipes she prepared are family favorites that are made with relative ease and produce satisfying results, Vowell said she must admit to some culinary flops.

"There have been disasters," she said. "My kids and my husband are very sweet people. They eat my disasters, but they tell me they're disasters."

Vowell said she remembers growing up eating dinner with the family on a regular basis and said planning around each family member's schedule is critical to maintaining that tradition.

"With the schedules now, we're always running back and forth," she said. "Friday night is when I plan meals for the following week, because Friday night I don't cook."

Vowell said she makes a list starting with Sunday lunch after church and plans through the next week, which has helped her budget on time and money.

"You can get an idea of when people will be home," she said. "Plus, it save money at the grocery store when you know exactly what you're going in for."

Vowell said she is a firm believer in experimenting in the kitchen with her culinary creations.

"If you are missing an ingredient, substitute," she said. "If it sounds like it will taste good together, try it. What's the worst that can happen?"

Above all, Vowell said she values the time she spends with her family over meals and creating food that is simple and delicious.

"We do 'fancy' meals for holidays…but most of the time, it's just real food that anyone can do," she said. "You need a good knife, some tomatoes, maybe a piece of chicken and some butter. All the rest just falls into place!"

Corn Salad

12 oz. bag of frozen super sweet yellow corn
2 11oz. cans of super sweet white corn
1 1/2 Cups diced fresh tomatoes (If not in season, use Campari)
1 Cup diced green pepper
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 Cup diced cucumber
2 heaping Tbsp. Blue Plate mayonnaise

Place large colander in sink. Dump frozen corn in and let thaw, running warm water over if in a hurry. Dump all other ingredients on top. Let ingredients drain very well. Transfer drained ingredients into a bowl and add salt and pepper to taste. Add mayonnaise. Mix gently until all ingredients are incorporated. Taste and add more seasoning, if desired. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. Serve.

Pork Tenderloin

1 2-pack boneless pork tenderloin
1/4 Cup orange juice
1/4 Cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Cup Ken's Steakhouse Italian Dressing
1/4 Cup Worcestershire sauce
Cavender's Greek seasoning
Garlic salt

Marinate pork tenderloin in this mixture overnight. Grill at medium heat until pork is slightly pink in the center. Let rest under foiled for 10 minutes. Slice and serve with spicy mustard, if desired.


2 lbs. ground beef/chuck
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1 medium white onion, diced
7 medium-sized mushrooms, sliced
1 20 oz. can whole, peeled plum tomatoes
1 24 oz. jar of favorite pasta sauce (Bertolli's Marinara with Burgundy Wine used here)
2 Tbsp. of chopped garlic (fresh or jarred)
1 1/2 Tbsp. tomato paste
Dash of oregano
Dash of Tony Chachere's
2 large bunches of fresh basil leaves, chopped

Brown ground beef with mushrooms, onions and peppers. Drain well. Smash tomatoes with hands in a stock pot and add ground beef and remaining ingredients, except basil. Bring to a boil, then add basil. Turn down heat to low and simmer for at least one hour. After an hour, add salt and pepper to taste.

Layering Ingredients:
2 boxes Bertolli flat, no-cook lasagne noodles (there will be some remaining)
1 large container cottage cheese
1 small container ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 Cup grated parmesan
3 1/2 Cups shredded mozarella

Mix together cottage cheese, ricotta and eggs. In a 9 x 13 (or larger) dish, layer: sauce, noodles, ricotta mixture, noodles, sauce, mozzarella, noodles, ricotta mixture, noodles, sauce, mozzarella and parmesan. Cover tightly with foil that has been sprayed with greasing spray. Bake at 375 degrees for one hour. Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown and bubbly.

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