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Good food is a family tradition

September 7, 2011


Mary Anne Benoist remembers growing up surrounded by good food.
Her mother, Norma Miller, was a United Methodist minister’s wife and Mary Anne said they never knew who would show up for a meal, so she was always prepared.
Benoist said her mom always had a garden and the steady stream of family and friends that graced their table had fresh vegetables paired with casseroles or meat and followed by a variety of cakes and pies. She especially remembers her mother making good biscuits.
“My mother always had good food,” Benoist said. “She kept up a garden and we learned to eat vegetables early. She was a good cook.”
Benoist remembers her grandmother also serving delicious dishes of fresh vegetables and fruits in season.
She and her sisters would help in the kitchen, and over time, they would also learn the tips and tricks of generations of great cooking.
Great food was not a big part of Jerry Benoist’s childhood. When he met Mary Anne on a blind date, he was interested, but when he tasted all of the good food, he was hooked.
Jerry said he loves everything Mary Anne prepares in the kitchen, as he eats a big slice of pecan pie.
“They are all favorites,” Jerry Benoist said. “I can’t just pick one thing.”
He did say, of all the great food Mary Anne prepares for family and church gatherings, if there is a night she asks his supper preferences, he chooses spaghetti.
“Spaghetti is something I had growing up in St. Louis, and she does a great job of fixing it,” Jerry Benoist said.
Jerry took a job as a shop manager at Mississippi State University, working with August Raspet in the early days of what is now known as the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory. Mary Anne also worked at MSU and met through mutual friends.
Today, couple live in Longview and now have three children and six grandchildren. Mary Anne is widely known throughout the community for her great cooking, particularly at her church.
She attends Longview United Methodist Church, where her father, Rev. Charles Leroy Miller, was the pastor many years ago. He also served as pastor for United Methodist Churches in Sturgis and Artesia.
The Benoists have always worked a garden, just like her mother, and each year, enjoy fresh vegetables and fruit. Mary Anne’s pecan pie was made from pecans grown on their property. For the Benoists, great food is a family tradition — one that Jerry wants to make sure continues, so he can be found working hard in the garden.
For the couple, the garden not only provides a lot of great-tasting fresh food, but brings back fond memories of days past — a family tradition of good food.

Sweet Potato Casserole
3 c. cooked mashed potatoes
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine
2 eggs, well beaten
1 t. vanilla
1/3 cup sweet milk
1 cup cocoanut
1 c. small marshmallows
Combine the above ingredients and put in casserole dish.
Topping: 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 T. melted margarine
1/2 c. chopped nuts
Mix and put on top of potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Zucchini Squash Casserole Au Gratin
1 1/2 lb. zucchini, cut in 1/2” slices
1 medium onion thickly sliced
3/4 t. salt
1 cup boiling water
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 cups grated processed American cheese
2 T. melted butter or margarine
3/4 c. soft bread cubes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place zucchini and onion in boiling water; add 1/2 t. salt. Cover, cook for 5 minutes or until zucchini is tender. Drain, reserving 1/4 c. liquid. Alternate layers of vegetables and cheese in 1 1/2 qt. casserole. Pour in milk mixed with reserved vegetable liquid. Add remaining salt and pepper. Sprinkle with bread cubes mixed with butter. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Yields 6 servings.

Cucumber “Apple” Rings
15 large cucumbers
2 c. lime
8 1/2 qts. water
Peel and core cucumbers, slice 1/4” thick. Put in enamelware pan and pour lime/water mixture over them. Soak overnight. Wash - soak in ice water for three hours. Drain.
Mix: 1 cup cider vinegar
1 oz. red food coloring
1 T. alum
Pour over cucumbers; add water to cover. Simmer two hours. Drain and wash.
Mix: 2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups water
7 cups sugar
8 sticks cinnamon
1 (10 oz.) pkg. red hots
Pour over cucumbers. Let stand 24 hours. Bring to a boil. Put in jars. Process in water bath 10 minutes.

Blueberry Salad
2 boxes Concord grape jello
1 No. 2 can crushed pineapple, undrained
2 c. boiling water
1 No. 2 can blueberry pie filling
Mix and chill.
Topping: 8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 tsp. vanilla
8 oz. sour cream
1/2 c. pecans, chopped fine
1/2 c. sugar
Mix well and spread over chilled jello mixture.

Fruit Salad
1 small box vanilla pudding mix, non-instant
2 large cans chunk pineapple, drained, reserve juice
1 small jar maraschino cherries - about 1 cup, drained and rinsed
2 cans mandarin oranges, drained; reserve juice
2 cups juice; water added to make 2 cups
6 bananas, sliced
Mix juice and pudding. Cook until it bubbles. Cool. Pour over drained fruit and stir. Refrigerate until serving time, then add 4 or 5 sliced bananas.

Strawberry Crunch
2 c. self rising flour
1 cup oleo
1 cup chopped nuts
Melt oleo and mix well with flour. Add nuts. Press into ungreased 9x13x2 pan. Brown in 350 degree oven.
Topping: 2 pkgs. Dream Whip (made up)
1 box confectioner’s sugar
8 oz. cream cheese
1 can strawberry pie filling
Mix whipped topping, sugar, and cream cheese together. Pour mixture on cool crust. Spoon strawberry pie filling on top and swirl. Refrigerate.

Strawberry-Fig Preserves
May use raspberry Jello instead of strawberry.
4 - 3 c. peeled and chopped figs
4 - 3 c. sugar
2 - 2 pkgs. Jello
1 c. water
Cook 25-30 minutes. Use wire protector under pan. This one is best. I use the 4 c./2 pkgs.

Martha’s Company Casserole
1 lb. ground beef
8 oz. pkg. noodles
2 cans tomato sauce
1 c. cottage cheese
1 tsp. salt
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 T. green pepper, chopped
1/3 c. green onions, chopped
Brown beef in a heavy skillet. Stir in tomato sauce and salt. Remove from heat. Cook noodles in boiling salted water for 10 min. Drain and rinse. Combine cottage cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, onion, and pepper. In a 2 qt. casserole, spread half the noodles. Cover with cheese mixture, then cover this with the remaining noodles. Pat the hamburger sauce mixture on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve hot. Approximately 8 servings.

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