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Dash of Class: Woodford-One of ‘Hardin's Finest Cooks’

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Food column by Nora Sweat

By Nora Sweat

Today’s “One of Hardin County’s Finest Cooks” is a lovely lady and was nominated by her daughter-in-law, Lu Woodford. I had Lu’s daughters in class and I see her quite often while stopping in at Surgical Specialists. It was obvious why she nominated Mary Lou Woodford when I got to reading about her.

Mary Lou told me she was influenced by her mother and her mother-in-law in learning to cook. Mary Lou’s mother-in-law worked on the river as a cook and both her mother and mother-in-law fed large families. Their food was always good and the meal was never complete without dessert, she said. Mary Lou’s interest in cooking led her to become a cafeteria worker at Lowes High School in Graves County in 1974 and she worked there until 1979.

It was at that time she went to work with her husband, Sam, on a river boat. She cooked three meals a day for a crew of 10 to 12 men. Mr. Woodford was the captain on the boat, so her husband was her boss. They worked 30 days on the river and 15 days off as they floated up and down the Ohio, Illinois, Mississippi and Tennessee rivers. In 1994, she and Sam retired after 38 years working on river boats and in 1995 moved to Elizabethtown to be closer to their family.

However, her days of cooking for others didn’t end, as she has worked for many years in the kitchen of Severns Valley Baptist Church. She also baked wedding cakes for the Elizabethtown Community and Technical College Culinary Arts Department at one time for the students to decorate and presently bakes three times a week for Morning View Gardens Assisted Living.

Mary Lou and Sam have four children, nine grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and have three more on the way. She is very proud that even her great-grandchildren like to help out in the kitchen.

The recipes Mary Lou is sharing are three of her families’ favorites. The layered dessert happens to be her son-in-law’s favorite. I hope you will enjoy them, too. Congratulations, Mary Lou.

Nora Sweat, author of “Mama and Me,” is a native of Hardin County and a retired home economics/family and consumer science teacher. She can be reached at norasweat@thenewsenterprise.com or by mail at 408 W. Dixie Ave., Elizabethtown, KY 42701.

Seafood Chowder

  • 5 slices bacon, diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ½ c. diced celery
  • 2 large baking potatoes, diced
  • ½ c. all purpose flour
  • 32 oz. container chicken broth
  • 2 ½ c. milk
  • 1 t. dried thyme
  • ½ t. salt
  • ¼ t. black pepper
  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 8 oz. fresh lump crabmeat

In Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon, leaving as much grease in pan as possible. Add onions and celery and cook five minutes, then add potatoes and cook another five minutes. Stir in flour and cook two minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in brother, milk, salt, thyme and pepper. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook fifteen minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add shrimp and crab and cook three to four minutes or until shrimp are pink.

Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip Macadamia Bars

  • 2 c. all purpose flour
  • 2 t. cinnamon
  • 1 t. cloves
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 c. butter or margarine, softened
  • ½ c. sugar
  • ½ c. brown sugar
  • 1 c. canned pumpkin
  • 1 egg
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 12 oz. package white chocolate chip morsels, divided
  • 2/3 c. chopped macadamia nuts

Combine flour, cinnamon, cloves and baking soda in a small bowl. Beat butter and sugars in bowl with mixer until creamy and then beat in pumpkin, eggand vanilla until blended. Gradually blend in flour mixture until combined. Stir in 1 ½ cups white chocolate morsels and nuts. Spread evenly into a greased 15 ½” x 10 ½” jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 22 minutes. Melt remaining morsels in the microwave at 10 second intervals until smooth and drizzle over cooled bars. Cut into 2 inch squares.

Layered Dessert

First layer:

  • 1 stick margarine, softened
  • 1 c. self-rising flour
  • ½ c. chopped pecans

Mix these three items and press into a 9” x 13” pan and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool.

Second layer:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c. frozen dairy topping, thawed
  • 7 pkgs. Equal (for sugar free)

Mix and spread over cooled crust. Then layer three sliced bananas over cream cheese mixture.

Third layer:

  • 2 small boxes sugar-free instant pudding, prepared and placed over sliced bananas

Fourth layer:

  • 20-oz. can pineapple in own juice; add enough milk to make 3 cups and spread over pudding.
  • Spread 2 c. frozen dairy topping, thawed over pineapple mixture and refrigerate.