LISBON – The apple doesn’t fall far from the family tree in the Henault household. Linda and Carla Henault enjoy spending some of their quality time in the kitchen of their Lisbon home. Linda, Carla’s mom, enjoys cooking, especially with her daughters.

“I find it relaxing to put something together and end up with a great tasting dish. My daughters have also developed a love of cooking. As a matter of fact, last Christmas they decided to help with cooking the meal and all but threw me out of the kitchen! It’s wonderful to see that they are not helpless when it comes time to make a nutritious meal. They actually prepare healthier meals that I do.”

Carla, a 15-year-old St. Dominic Regional High School sophomore, says that she learned to cook in much the same way her mother did: “I learned from Mom and Grandma.”

However, the younger Henault says she had other reasons for getting comfortable in the kitchen. “Having a highly selective palate as a child, when a food I didn’t like was being served for dinner, sometimes I had to be creative and come up with unique ways to make it taste better,” she said. “Sometimes I ended up making things taste worse, but it was fun all the same.”

Their approaches to preparing meals are different. “Cooking is as easy as reading directions,” Linda believes. “Just give it a try. Things may not always turn out well at first, but after trying a few times you’ll get the hang of it. And things always taste so much better when they are homemade. I usually try all kinds of recipes. I don’t have any special category. I have a bad habit of trying new recipes when company comes. All the books say to not do that, but I’ve never had a recipe come out badly.”

On the other hand, Carla likes to get creative with cooking and experiment.

“I have a horrible habit of not reading my recipes correctly, or not wanting to follow them,” Carla said. “Usually whatever I am making still turns out well, but I think it is a skill I still need to master. I love getting to be creative, getting my hands dirty and making the dishes look pretty when all is finished. Also, I love spices. With a few basic ingredients, spices can make any dish, no matter how plain the ingredients are, taste delicious.”

In addition to Carla, Linda and Jerry Henault’s family includes 21-year-old Sarah and 18-year-old Valerie. Linda will have been at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center for 29 years in June, as a staff nurse and more recently as a clinical educator.

Carla’s stuffed shells
1 box jumbo-size pasta shells

1 26-ounce jar of a favorite pasta sauce

16 ounces ricotta cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (divided)

1 egg

Handful of fresh spinach (optional)

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried basil (divided)

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried oregano (divided)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook shells according to package instructions, drain and cool. In a food processor or blender, mix ricotta cheese, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, egg, spinach, 1 tablespoon basil and 1 tablespoon oregano. Blend until smooth. Spoon cheese mixture into cooled shells.

Place filled shells in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour sauce over shells. Sprinkle remaining cup of mozzarella cheese over top of sauce. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon each of basil, oregano and crushed red pepper over cheese. Bake for 25 minutes or until top is browned.

Carla’s note

Depending on what I have on hand, I love to add chopped vegetables, such as portobello mushrooms, bell peppers and onions to the sauce. It adds a little extra flavor to the already delicious dish.

¼ cup margarine, melted

1 egg

½ to ¾ cup sugar (according to taste)

2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup milk

Dash of salt

Melt margarine, then add sugar, mix well. Then add egg. Then add flour, baking powder, salt, and milk. Then add any one of the following and mix until just combined:

¾ to 1 cup blueberries (floured lightly)

¾ cup diced apples

¾ cup chopped dates

¾ cup mini chocolate chips
Any other filling, such as jam or lemon pie filling

Place batter in muffin tin (you can use paper liners or spray with Pam). Sprinkle tops with a cinnamon-sugar mixture and then bake for 15 minutes in a 425-degree oven. Makes 12 regular size or 6 jumbo muffins. (If making jumbo size, bake for 20 minutes).

Linda’s note

This is a recipe that my mom always made when I was young. I used to bring these freshly baked muffins to work in the morning, and am now known as the Muffin Lady.

Zucchini bread
3 eggs

2 cups sugar

2 cups shredded zucchini

¾ cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon vanilla

3 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Beat eggs in a large bowl till foamy. Beat in sugar, zucchini, oil and vanilla.

Stir in flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Pour batter into greased and floured bread pans (makes 2 large loaves, or 1 large and 2 mini loaves). Bake for 50 to 60 minutes at 350 degrees.You may add chopped nuts, approximately ½ cup if desired.

Linda’s note

I also sometimes will substitute carrots if I don’t have any zucchini. This recipe is great for using up the bountiful zucchini crop we have every summer.

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