ENDVILLE — In 2015, after Diane Vandygriff’s children were grown and married, they started calling her for recipes.
“They’d say, ‘Mama, how do you make such and such?,’ so I just ended up making them a cookbook,” said Vandygriff, 63.
“Di’s Delights” (she only made enough copies for her kids) is chock-full of family favorites, and most have an anecdote at the top.
For several years, Vandygriff worked for Aramark food services at Delta State University in Cleveland before taking a promotion to move to Mississippi State’s dining services program in Starkville.
That’s where she met her husband, Jackey. The Endville couple, who have been married four years, share six children, 11 grandchildren and two great-grands.
“I don’t cook the same for Jackey as I did before we married,” she said. “The Vandygriff family is more into barbecue, so now I mostly do sides, appetizers and desserts.”
Vandygriff didn’t find out until after she and her husband were hitched that he didn’t like rice or pasta — two of her favorites.
“That makes it really hard for me, because I grew up in the Delta with a lot of Italian foods,” said Vandygriff, a Shaw native. “My kids’ favorite meal is manicotti, so when I make it for them, I make small portions and put them in the freezer for when I just can’t stand it anymore and have to have pasta.”
When Vandygriff lived in Cleveland, she started a catering business — Di’s Delights — after her kids went off to college and she had an empty nest.
“I don’t miss catering at all,” she said. “It was really hard work, and I was still working full time for Aramark.”
While she doesn’t miss catering, she does still enjoy cooking and is in the kitchen at least five nights a week.
Jackey might do stuffed chicken on the smoker, and she’ll make potato salad, black-eyed peas and cornbread. Or the couple might enjoy a favorite meal — snow crab legs, steamed vegetables and a bottle of wine.
“I like to cook things people enjoy,” she said. “Everybody has their favorite, and I try to remember their favorite so I can fix it for them.”
The only thing Vandygriff says she can’t do well is divinity.
“That was my mama’s specialty, and I’ve never quite gotten it,” she said. “I tried it and ended up throwing it out the back door.”
DO YOU KNOW A GOOD COOK? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can call (662) 678-1581 or email them to email@example.com.
DI’S DELIGHTFUL ICE CREAM CAKE
1 (18-ounce) package Nestle Toll House refrigerated chocolate chip cookie bar dough
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate baking bar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream, softened
■ Bake the cookies according to package directions. Cool and crumble in small pieces.
■ Combine walnuts, 1 1/2 teaspoons butter and brown sugar in a small bowl. Pour into a greased 8-inch pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes; stir. Cool.
■ Combine evaporated milk, chocolate chips, confectioners’ sugar, baking bar and remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium-sized heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring until chocolate is melted. Reduce heat to low; continue cooking for 5 to 7 minutes more or until thick. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Let cool.
■ To assemble, wrap outside of a 9-inch springform pan with foil. Spread half of the crumbled cookies on the bottom of the pan. Top with half of the ice cream and half of the chocolate sauce. Combine remaining crumbled cookies and walnut mixture in a medium bowl. Spread half of the cookie-walnut mixture over chocolate sauce. Top with remaining ice cream, chocolate sauce (reserve 2 tablespoons) and cookie-walnut mixture.
■ Place reserved 2 tablespoons chocolate sauce in a small heavy-duty plastic bag. Cut a hole in the corner of the bag and squeeze to drizzle sauce over the top of the cake. Freeze at least 4 hours or overnight.
■ To serve, remove ice cream cake from pan and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1 pound fresh button mushrooms
1/2 pound crab claw meat
2 cups oyster crackers, crushed
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
6 slices white Cheddar cheese
■ Sauté celery, onion and bell pepper in butter for 2 minutes; transfer to a plate and cool in the refrigerator.
■ Wash mushrooms and remove stems; set caps aside (you should have 35 to 40). Finely chop half of the mushroom stems, and discard the rest of the stems.
■ In a bowl, combine sauteed vegetables, chopped mushroom stems, crab, crushed crackers, shredded cheese, garlic powder, Old Bay, pepper, salt, egg and water, and mix well. Place mushroom caps in a greased baking dish. Spoon 1 teaspoon of stuffing into each mushroom. Cover with slices of cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned.
BACON-WRAPPED WATER CHESTNUTS
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 (8-ounce) can whole water chestnuts, drained
Bacon slices, halved
■ Combine brown sugar and soy sauce. Roll water chestnuts in mixture, then wrap each with a half piece of bacon, securing with a toothpick. Place in a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 to 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
■ In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture. Fold in chocolate chips. Place dough in the refrigerator for 1 1/2 hours.
■ Press dough into a pizza pan or large round cookie sheet (use plastic wrap or wax paper to help smooth it out). Bake at 325 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.
■ Decorate cookie for the season (pumpkin face for Halloween, Easter basket with jelly beans for Easter, etc.).
BLACK-EYED PEA SOUP
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon bacon drippings
1 cup canned black-eyed peas, drained
1 cup beef broth
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
■ Sauté onion in hot bacon drippings in a large saucepan over medium heat until onion is tender. Mash half of the peas and add to onion. Add broth, tomatoes and cheese, and stir well. Add remaining peas. Simmer soup until cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper. Serve soup hot with tortilla chips.
4 cups sliced squash
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
1 sleeve crackers, crumbled
1 stick butter, melted
■ Cook squash until tender, then drain. In a bowl, combine cooked squash, soup, cooked rice, onion, sour cream and cheese. Pour into a greased baking dish. Combine crumbled crackers and melted butter. Sprinkle over casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until brown and bubbling around the edges.
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 stick butter
2 tablespoons bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (14-ounce) can tomato wedges, with juice
4 teaspoons sugar
■ Cook onion and celery in butter until tender. Stir in bread crumbs, salt, basil and pepper.
■ In a 1 1/2-quart casserole, place 1/4 of the tomatoes and their liquid. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 of the onion-celery mixture. Repeat layers three more times. Top with shredded cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.
CHEESY ARTICHOKE HEARTS
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
■ Drain artichoke hearts and pat dry with paper towels. Cut each heart into quarters and place in a baking dish. Combine mayonnaise and cheeses and spread over artichoke quarters. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes until edges are lightly browned. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
1 to 2 eggs
2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup ground pecans
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
4 to 6 catfish fillets
■ Beat eggs with a little water in a shallow dish. Combine bread crumbs, ground pecans and grated Parmesan in another shallow dish.
■ Dip fillets in the beaten egg mixture, then roll in the bread crumb mixture. Place in a greased casserole and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
6 cups watermelon chunks
1/2 pint grape tomatoes
3 ounces crumbled feta cheese
3 to 4 mint leaves, chopped
■ Combine watermelon, tomatoes, feta and mint. Drizzle with olive oil to taste. Mix and refrigerate.
GRILLED BALSAMIC PEPPERS
Sweet bell peppers
Mozzarella cheese sticks
■ Cut peppers in half lengthwise, and remove seeds. Fill each pepper half with cheese sticks, then drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
■ Grill or cook at 375 degrees until peppers are semi-soft and cheese has melted.
1 pound thin spaghetti
1 (8-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
1 (6-ounce) jar pesto
1/3 cup black truffle oil
■ Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Reserve 2 cups of pasta water, then drain the spaghetti.
■ Combine sun-dried tomatoes with oil, pesto and reserved pasta water in a large bowl. Top with warm, drained pasta and the truffle oil. Toss to combine.
■ If desired, you can add grilled chicken, olives, artichokes or Parmesan cheese to this dish.
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