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Home Cooking with Buffy Ripley

Did your cooking take a turn for the more serious after you had kids? That was the case with this week’s Home Cook, Buffy Ripley. Look for our Home Cooking feature every Wednesday. If you’d like to participate, e-mail me.

Buffy Ripley and her son, Jameson

Name: Buffy Ripley

In a couple of sentences, tell us who you are and why you cook.

I have always loved food, and now my 5-year-old son has inherited the same particular fondness for it.  It was really because of my son that I started to expand my repertoire of recipes, as I wanted to diversify his range of food likes (and, unfortunately, his dislikes).  Until my son was born, I never really had a reason to cook meals on my own—before that I had either my mother or the Marine Corps supplying my meals every day, so there wasn’t much reason for me to do any cooking whatsoever.  But now that I’ve started, it has become a hobby, or one could even say an obsession.  I host a “steak night” every Friday evening for my close friends, and it has become my mission to impress my guests each week!

Describe your cooking style in three words.

Simple, Southern and Satisfying!

How did you learn to cook?

Most of what I do in the kitchen I learned from my mother.  Although she doesn’t consider herself a “good cook” in the typical sense, she has a flair for throwing random ingredients together and coming out with something extraordinary.  She really shows her stuff on Thanksgiving, when she pulls out all the stops to create a family meal reminiscent of her mother’s Thanksgiving dinner.  My grandmother also owned a Southern Coffee Shop, so all of her favorite southern recipes have been passed down to me.

Favorite cookbook (or online recipe source) of all time, or just of the moment?

My favorite cookbook is Better Homes and Gardens “New Cook Book” from 1968.  It belonged to my grandmother, and has since found its way to my kitchen via my mother’s kitchen.  The pages are yellow and dog-eared, but it is my guide to the kitchen.

What is one dish on your menu this week that you’re excited about?

Corned Beef Brisket.  I work all day, and it is sometimes daunting to come home and have to whip up a brilliant dinner.  So in the morning I take a brisket, rub it down with brown sugar, and then stick it in the crock pot with the contents of a bottle of Guinness.  By the time I get home I throw some carrots in for a bit.  I usually make a bit of white rice to accompany the meat.  It is delicious, and a definite crowd-pleaser.

What is one thing that must be in your pantry at all times?

Brown sugar.  I use it as a rub (on pork chops as well as for my corned beef brisket), and in most of my baking recipes.  Also, I make a pecan pie once a week for a good friend of mine, so brown sugar is a staple in my pantry.

What one kitchen gadget could you not live without?

Wooden spoons.  I don’t know why I love them, but I do.

It’s 6 p.m., the people in your household are hungry and you just walked in from work and need to get something satisfying on the table as soon as possible. What’s your favorite thing to whip up in this situation?

This happens to me all of the time!  One of my son’s favorite dinners came from a situation like this.  I cook up some medium sized pasta shells.  Once they are al dente, I drain and return to the pot.  Then I combine a few slices of American cheese, whole milk, and margarine or butter with the pasta and stir until melted and creamy.  Easy shells and cheese!  But then I take a turkey hot dog or two, cook them in the microwave, chop them up and throw them in the pasta.  I usually cook up some broccoli as a side, with an easy sauce to go on top (a mixture of mayo and ketchup—it may sound gross but it is one of my favorites).  This meal makes me feel like a kid again!

It’s a snowy Sunday, you’ve just done the grocery shopping and have the rest of the day to spend in the kitchen cooking a meal that will bring comfort. What’s for dinner?

Chili, of course!  My favorite chili combines sausage and onions with a bit of chili powder, thrown into a combo of tomato sauce, corn, picante sauce, and pinto beans.  Throw them in a crock-pot for a few hours.  I like to eat my chili with either rice or scoop chips, along with sour cream and cheddar cheese.

What is your favorite dish to make for pot-luck dinners?

I like to keep it simple, so I usually make tomato sandwiches.  I cut up some French bread, drizzle it with olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar, and top it with a basil leaf, a slice of fresh mozzarella, and a slice of tomato.  Sometimes I even like to throw a bit of prosciutto on there as well.  It’s super easy and everyone loves them!  I make bigger versions of these petite sandwiches for myself at home as well.

Do you have a favorite food source in the Fredericksburg region?

Snead’s Farm!  And of course, I love the Olde Towne Butcher on William Street.


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