Your hands are always busy, whether you’re sewing, crocheting or cooking for others. Do you feel as though you’re a dying breed in the domestic arts? In some ways I do feel like these things our mothers and grandmothers used to do are falling away, but I also see a resurgence of interest in the younger generation to be able to handcraft something. It’s very gratifying to be able to create something with your hands.
Cooking is one of my creative outlets, and I enjoy being able to share with others, whether it’s my own family or people who need a meal through our church. It’s just a small thing I can do to ease someone’s hurt or celebrate a milestone. Everyone appreciates a home-cooked meal.
But it seems to me that a meal you make is more than simply providing sustenance. For you, does food also equate to fellowship? It is absolutely a priority that our family sits down and shares a meal together at the end of the day. That just reinforces our closeness. I think when children can talk about something at the dinner table, they realize that they are surrounded by people who really care about them. It doesn’t have to be fancy food, but there shouldn’t be distractions — no television or telephone — that take your attention away from the people who have gathered around the table to be fed, both body and soul.
Are you passing these lessons onto your own grandchildren? My daddy and mama (Abney “AJ” and Bonnie Benoit) were wonderful people, and I would like to think I honor their lives by passing on lessons I learned from them. I am the youngest of five girls, and my daddy was a firefighter captain in Leawood. We grew up in a loving home, and both of my parents would cook.
My daddy was from Lake Charles, La., and would make the most wonderful Cajun dishes, including jambalaya and gumbo. My mama would cook by adding a handful of this and a dash of that. I like to cook by starting with a recipe and then take creative liberties, like they used to do.
It is such a joy to be with my grandchildren and have them help me in the kitchen by doing things as easy as rolling out peanut butter balls. Children are innately curious, and bring a sense of fun and excitement to the most simple things in life. They remind us of what is truly important.
With so many recipes, why did you choose this one to share? I have made this dish for most of my married life. I think I got the recipe from my mother-in-law, and people really like it because of the unique flavor combination. Also, I love that it is easy to make but tastes like you spent a lot of time in the kitchen cooking.
I just feel like I’m an average mother who likes to cook, but I also get a lot out sharing what I have with others. When our church youth group hosts a fundraising dinner, goes on a mission trip or travels to a youth convention, I plan and cook food for them. It’s always fun to get teenagers involved in cooking when some of them have never done it before. And things just taste better when it brings people together and the food is made with laughter and love.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. E-mail her at email@example.com to nominate a cook.
Occupation: Mother and grandmother
Special cooking interest: Deceptively undemanding dishes.
Family: Married to Mark for 32 years, with four children: James, 28; Stephanie, 25; Nicholas, 20, and Daniel, 17.
Peach Glazed Chicken
Makes 6 servings
3 pounds chicken pieces, rinsed and patted dry
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 (15-ounce) can peach slices
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces.
2 tablespoons cold water
4 teaspoons cornstarch
3 cups cooked rice
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange chicken pieces in a single layer in a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Season chicken with salt and paprika by sprinkling over all. Set aside.
Drain peaches, reserving 1/2 cup liquid. Set peaches aside.
Whisk reserved peach liquid, lemon juice and soy sauce together in a small mixing bowl. Mash enough of the peach slices to make 1/2 cup and stir into liquid mixture. Pour into baking pan and dot chicken with butter. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the chicken’s internal temperature reaches 165 degrees when an instant-read thermometer is inserted into the meat. While baking, baste chicken occasionally with pan drippings.
During the last 10 minutes of the chicken’s cooking time, coarsely chop remaining peach slices and set aside. In a small saucepan, whisk water and cornstarch together.
Spoon prepared rice onto a serving platter and top with baked chicken. Keep warm while making the sauce.
Pour pan juices into saucepan with water and cornstarch. Whisk on stovetop over medium-high heat until mixture has thickened and is bubbly. Stir in reserved chopped peaches and heat through. Spoon sauce over chicken pieces and rice and serve immediately.
Per serving: 395 calories (30 percent from fat), 13 grams total fat (5 grams saturated), 84 milligrams cholesterol, 43 grams carbohydrates, 26 grams protein, 606 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.