COOK OF THE WEEK: Busy Pontotoc mother makes family meals a priority

PONTOTOC – To Christi Littlejohn, food is an art. Not only does it have to taste good, but it has to look good, too.
“Food has just always been interesting to me,” said the owner of The Kangaroo’s Pouch, an early learning center in Pontotoc. “When I got my elementary education degree, I took some nutrition classes and got really interested in that. Even more than eating it, I like the presentation of food, making it pretty and appetizing at the same time.”
With a full-time job, five children and a firefighter husband, Jim, one wonders how Littlejohn has the time or the energy to cook. But three to four nights a week, she tries to gather her family around the supper table.
“My children are very involved in sports so we’re often on a ball field or in a gym,” she said. “When I do cook, I try to prepare food healthfully, to keep them away from McDonald’s and keep them on the right track.”
A favorite weeknight meal includes baked pork chops, creamed potatoes, black-eyed peas, creamed corn, a mixed fruit salad, cornbread and sweet tea.
“I don’t care to bake,” said Littlejohn, who likes to garden and scrapbook in her spare time. “If I do bake, I’d rather do breads. I don’t like to make a lot of sweets. I’d rather do the whole meal and have somebody else bring the dessert.”

Variety is key
The exception is every other Sunday, when she has her whole family, plus some, in to eat.
“Sunday dinners here are usually wild,” she said. “Three of our kids are driving, so I never know how many I’m going to have. If Blake’s been to football practice, he might come in with two or three players with him. It’s the same thing with the girls. We always have 15 or 20.”
Littlejohn said the key to cooking for a crowd is having plenty of variety.
“Not everybody likes the same thing, so I do try to make something that is everybody’s favorite,” she said.
That’s why her Sunday menu sounds like something you might find at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. Minute steaks, chicken strips and chicken casserole are the entrees; green beans, lima beans, potatoes and creamed corn are the sides; desserts might include chocolate cobbler, ice cream and lemonade pie; and there’s always cornbread and rolls.
“When I was young, we’d go to my grandmother’s for Sunday dinner,” Littlejohn said. “I can still remember the smells in her old-timey kitchen. I make a lot of her recipes. I feel like cooking is my talent, my service. I think God gave me the gift of being able to cook and I want to use that for his glory.”

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 fax them to (662) 842-2233 or e-mail them to ginna .parsons@djournal.com.

Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal