COOK OF THE WEEK: Young wife, mother always up for culinary challenge

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

Five years ago, about the time Lesley Tackitt married, she started putting recipes she wanted to try into a black binder she calls her “Experiment Book.”
Measuring about three inches thick now, it’s stuffed with recipes from magazines, newspapers, online websites and Food Network stars such as Giada De Laurentiis, Paula Deen and Ina Garten.
“I’ll never make all of them,” said Tackitt, a paralegal for Evans & Bailey, PLLC, in Tupelo. “But I try to do one or two new things each week.”
Tackitt said when she and Kevin first married, she could cook what she calls the staples: spaghetti, tacos and chicken and dumplings.
“After about four weeks, Kevin said, ‘Really? We’re having spaghetti again?’ That’s when I started getting into the Food Network and getting ideas for things we wanted to try,” she said.
After their son, Dawson, was born in 2009, the couple discovered he was allergic to a number of foods.
“So then I became even more obsessed with food and recipes,” said Tackitt, the daughter of Liz and Dave Dawson of Tupelo. “It was like another layer of cooking, where I was trying to expand my knowledge.”
Tackitt, 31, who is expecting her second child this fall, said she sits down on Sundays and plans her menu for the week, then heads to the grocery store.
“I usually cook four nights a week, because it’s cheaper and I enjoy doing it,” she said.
One night, they might have grilled salmon with long grain rice and vegetable kebabs. For another meal, she might fix open-faced tuna or chicken salad melts and a pasta salad.
“I learned a few weeks ago to make my own hummus,” she said. “I was so proud. I was like, ‘This is my hummus.’ I really did something.”
Tackitt, who lives in Saltillo, is not above a challenge. Last Christmas, she got ambitious and decided to make croquemcbouche, an elaborate French dessert made with little cream puffs stacked in a pyramid shape and bound together with caramel.
“I’d seen them on TV and I knew I could make one,” she said. “Girl, I don’t even know how many hours I spent in the kitchen that day, refusing to fail. I was even tweeting Alton Brown and Giada, but no one would tweet me back. I was like, ‘Help me.’
“I think I sent Kevin to the store three times for eggs. Maybe 15 of the cream puffs came out decent, but then I burned the caramel and didn’t know it, so I put it on and we took one bite and Kevin was like, ‘You burned the sugar.’ Then I felt bad that I’d wasted all those eggs. They would have fed a lot of people at the Salvation Army.”
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 email them to ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.