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One of Hardin County’s Finest Cooks: It's no surprise, Shirley Pearson dishes up family favorites

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This month’s “One of Hardin County’s Finest Cooks” is a lady I have known for a long time: Shirley Pearson. This month is special because her adult granddaughter nominated her and three of her grandchildren have made comments about their favorite dishes.

Granddaughter Erin Roberts said, “Mamaw has inspired Travis, Jenna and I to learn to cook and make some of her recipes that we love.”

I have four of their favorites: a cake, bread and two salads. Erin later added the Mississippi Mud Cake is a favorite of all grandchildren and is a dessert-first dish to get when going through a buffet line at any family function.

The Macaroni Salad appears on the menu every Easter and sometimes on Mother’s Day and is a favorite of Erin and her brother, Travis. Erin also said one of her favorites is Cranberry Salad that her Mamaw makes at Thanksgiving. She uses an old-time grinder to get the exact consistency.

During the summer, there are other favorites because Shirley’s husband, Ernie, has a huge garden. He puts out tomatoes, squash, cabbage, beets, green beans, peppers, watermelon, eggplant and zucchini. He keeps everyone stocked with fresh veggies all summer long. Shirley also cans a crazy amount of beets, beans and green tomato relish every year with Ernie’s help.

To help use up extra zucchini, Shirley makes Zucchini Bread at least once a week during the season. But, really, she makes zucchini cake because she usually makes it in a loaf pan and tops it with homemade caramel frosting.

Along with Erin, Travis, and Jenna, Shirley has one other grandson, Matt. Shirley’s children, and parents of these grandchildren, are son, Danny and wife, LouAnn Allen, and daughter Pat, and her husband, Barry Roberts.

Congratulations, Shirley. I hope your grandchildren have made this a real April Fools’ surprise.

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.

Mississippi Mud Cake

1 cup sugar
1 stick butter, softened
4 eggs
1 cup flour (self-rising)
1 can (16-ounce) Hershey’s syrup
1 jar marshmallow cream

Cream butter and sugar with mixer. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each one. Add the flour and Hershey’s syrup and mix well. Pour batter into a greased 9-by-13-inch cake pan. Bake cake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until it tests done. Let cake cool before icing with marshmallow cream.

Frosting

2 cups sugar
1 stick butter, softened
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup milk

Mix sugar, butter, cocoa powder and milk together in pan on high heat and bring to a hard boil. Let boil for one minute and remove from heat. Beat with mixer for 9 minutes and then spread on top of marshmallow cream and cake. Let icing set before serving.

Macaroni Salad

1 box small shell macaroni
3 slices American cheese, diced
3 hard cooked eggs, chopped
1 cup thinly sliced celery
¼ cup chopped sweet pickles
2 tbsp. chopped pimentos
1 tbsp. finely chopped onion
¾ cup salad dressing or mayonnaise
¼ cup sweet pickle juice

Cook pasta as directed on box. Drain and rinse in cold water. Mix pasta, cheese, eggs, celery, pickles, pimentos and onion in a large bowl to combine. Add salad dressing and pickle juice to shell mixture and mix well to combine. Refrigerate to chill until ready to eat.

Cranberry Salad

1 package cherry gelatin
1½ cups boiling water
2 cups raw cranberries
1 apple, chopped
¾ cup pecans
¾ cup celery, chopped
¼ tsp. salt
2 oranges, peeled and chopped
1 cup sugar

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water and let cool. Grind cranberries, apples, celery and oranges in food grinder or food processor. Add sugar and let sit for an hour or more. Mix with gelatin and nuts. Let set up and chill in refrigerator until serving.

Zucchini Bread or Cake

2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
¾ cup crushed pecans
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. vanilla

Mix sugar and eggs together. Mix flour and cinnamon and slowly add to sugar and eggs. Add oil and vanilla and mix well with mixer. Fold in zucchini and nuts and mix well. Bake in either a greased Bundt pan or two loaf pans for 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove when toothpick comes out clean. Let cool. To serve as zucchini cake, frost with caramel icing before serving.