Fort Wayne – Fort Wayne resident Sheila Lawhead says she was a 20-year-old newlywed when she began to cook for others. It was during the time her husband was stationed in Germany.
It was my first Thanksgiving. I cooked for my husband and a half-dozen other guys that couldn’t go home, says the 51-year-old divorcée.
Fast forward 31 years and the funny and quick-witted Lawhead is still cooking family dinner for the holidays. Ossian ham seems to be the menu item requested most, especially by her mother.
I made (Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus Spears with Parmesan), and my mom weighed whether she was coming, she says teasingly.
She told me what she wanted for Christmas – an Ossian ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, rolls and nothing fancy.’
A nine-year employee at Vera Bradley’s quality department, Lawhead has five children – Nick, 27; Stephanie, 24; twins Landon and Lauren, 17; and daughter Sydney, 11.
Asked what she does to keep the family’s meals healthy, Lawhead replies with raised eyebrows and shock, Are you kidding me?
I’ve got the pickiest eaters. They exist on three things right now – bacon, ramen noodles and strawberries. I rarely get to make fancy cooking. They’re down now to eating two vegetables: asparagus and peas. But they do like my chocolate zucchini bread.
OK, there’s seven things they’ll eat, she adds.
Not considered an avid cookbook collector, Lawhead has a few, including a signed autographed copy of a Justin Wilson cookbook and her favorite, Mama Dip’s Family Cookbook.
She’s a dump cook, Lawhead says about Mildred Council, whose nickname is Mama Dip. I’m kinda like that. That’s my favorite (cookbook) because of the stories in it.
Lawhead said that she will go to the library and check out up to six cookbooks to read. She might also find a recipe online and print it out.
One such recipe is for fat bombs. Although she admits to not liking anything with coconut, Lawhead has a weakness for the bombs, which have coconut oil, coconut butter and unsweetened coconut.
She says laughingly, They’re supposed to curb your appetite, but I shovel them in. I’d been better just getting a bag of M&M’s. That’s why I started to run.
Q. What’s your favorite vegetable?
A. My favorite vegetable let me think. Corn on the cob from Schmucker’s (Produce Farm, 12815 Doty Road, New Haven). You don’t even need salt, pepper or butter. And it’s cheap.
Q. What’s your favorite cooking utensil?
A. My KitchenAid mixer. I use it maybe three times a month to make stuff that no one will eat. It’s great for breads and desserts.
Q. Who’s your cooking idol?
A. I love Alton Brown. He reminds me of Thomas Dolby. He sang She Blinded Me With Science. (Brown) is from Alpharetta, Georgia, and I was working as an orthodontic technician there. He was giving a cooking demonstration at the Kroger’s there.
Q. If you were stuck on an island, what food would you have to have?
A. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and a Diet Coke.
Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus Spears with Parmesan
2 bunches fresh asparagus
1 pound bacon
1/2 cup melted butter
1 to 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese (fresh, not out of the can)
Trim tough ends from asparagus. Wrap a half a piece of bacon spirally around asparagus. Dip in melted butter, and roll in parmesan cheese.
Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes until bacon is well cooked. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Bodacious Southern Pulled Pork with Crispy Bacon and Onions
1 (4- to 6-pound) Boston butt or pork shoulder roast
2 Vidalia or any sweet onion1 pound diced bacon
1 cup butter or margarine, divided
4 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (or to taste)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
Roast pork in oven at 350 degrees for 3 to 4 hours, or until easy to shred. May be cooked on low in a slow cooker for 6 to 8 hours. When done, shred meat and set aside.
Dice onion and cook in 1/2 cup butter until light brown and almost crisp. Set onion aside, and in same pan, fry bacon, chopped into small pieces, until dark brown and crispy. Set aside.
In Dutch oven on medium heat, or in crock pot turned to high, melt 1/2 cup butter. Add brown sugar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and vinegar. Cook until thoroughly warmed; add dry mustard and whisk well. Set aside 1/4 to 1/2 of the sauce to add if desired once pork is served.
Add shredded pork, and toss well with sauce. Add onions and bacon. Serve over rolls with additional sauce. Makes 12 to 14 servings.
Wickedly Simple Cranberry Walnut Pie
2 1/2 cups raw cranberries (can still be frozen)
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (may substitute pecans)
2 to 3 tablespoons melted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place raw cranberries in pie crust. Mix brown sugar, walnuts and melted butter together. Sprinkle over cranberries.
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs beaten
2/3 cup melted butter
1 cup flour
Beat all topping ingredients together and pour over cranberry mixture. Bake 45 minutes until topping is golden brown. Do not overbake. Serve warm with ice cream. Makes 9 servings.