October 2016
Homeplace & Community

The Co-op Pantry


Julie Thompson and her father Elliott Montgomery, a retired game warden, enjoy spending time together hunting.

As a child of working parents, in a career-driven era, I was privileged to learn the essence of cooking from my mother and three grandmothers. This isn’t just about a recipe; it’s a story, a passion and true source of enjoyment for me now.

My mother was working nonstop building the business Judy’s Place.

My great-grandmother, Elva Huskey, started making birthday cakes for the neighborhood that eventually turned into a business known as Huskey’s Cake Shop. She baked almost everything for over 60 years.

Ruby Montgomery, one of my grandmothers, was a 1941 Nutrition graduate of the then aptly titled Alabama Polytechnic Institute, known today as Auburn University. Having been raised on a large farm in Athens, she grew up living off the land. Between her heritage and education, I was taught to cook from the pantry and by balancing foods. Some of my best memories were made in her kitchen where she challenged me to conceptualize and produce a meal with whatever we had in the pantry and growing in the garden – a home-grown version of Chopped minus the gross ingredients.

My other grandmother, Ludie Mae Brown, was the epitome of a working mom who still valued the traditional housewife role. She would spend her days working at the electric department, but always managed to make it home and produce home-cooked meals from the garden every night. She had a knack for making meals stretch throughout the week by adding a little variety to a basic meat. She held Sunday dinners every week at her house after church that NO ONE was allowed to miss.

The best way to sum up my culinary style is to first give credit where credit is due. I had the privilege of observing, learning and partaking in each of these special ladies cooking routines. Without them, I never would have developed my own cooking style. The best way to describe that style is: a texture or taste, a pinch of this or that, need to thicken it with this or sweeten it with that. In short, if it tastes good, you probably don’t want to know what all is in it. It is my hope to teach my own family the same traditions I have had.

With the upcoming opening day of deer season, I would love to share some recipes my father, Elliott Montgomery, a retired Game Warden and I have perfected over the years.

On Sunday, I typically thaw 8 or more pounds of venison for the week. Like many who prep their meals for the week, I prep to cook fresh each night. Once your meat is thawed you want to cook and apply a simple seasoning to counteract the game flavor. I typically use one of two options depending on what I will be incorporating it in. The first is a basic, Cavender’s Greek Seasoning, dried minced onion flakes, and salt and pepper. The heaviest is the Greek Seasoning continually being added while browning the meat. The second takes on a spicier twist. Use Lawry’s, onion powder, garlic salt and a little Tony’s Creole Seasoning.

Any casseroles I make ahead so they are ready to go on a busy night with all the activities our kids are involved in. It may sound crazy, but I fix those in aluminum pans. If you don’t get a chance to cook and eat it in a few days, just label and put up it in the freezer for later, or for families in need on short notice.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I have enjoyed telling the stories. Cooking is truly a passion for me. I love studying old dishes using techniques that are lost today in tailored recipes. It’s so much fun to go antiquing and find that old tool you remember your grandparents used. It may not be today’s latest and greatest version, but it sure does hold a lot of fond memories. Don’t be afraid to make a change to a classic recipe with your own twist or even add to a boxed meal to give a little variety. Prep on the weekends and freeze so you can cut down cooking time each night. In my house, the kitchen is the center. This is where we study, dance, sing and talk. This truly is my favorite part of the day. I couldn’t think of a better way to end our day than to be surrounded by family and or friends and sharing about all of our days or ideas.


Julie Thompson works in AFC’s Human Resources department.


Couple pounds venison
Dale’s Steak Seasoning
Worcestershire Sauce
2 family-size cans low sodium Cream of Mushroom soup
Green beans
Salt and pepper (or desired seasonings), to taste
Homemade mashed potatoes*
Cheddar cheese, shredded

In pan, brown venison and set aside. Sauté mushrooms in a little Dale’s and Worcestershire. Add soup. Mix with venison. In microwave, heat green bean with salt and pepper (desired seasonings). In casserole dish, layer starting with venison mixture on bottom. (You want this to be pretty creamy, if too thick just add a little milk.) Next, add green beans. Top with a thick layer of mashed potatoes. Finish with cheese. Bake at 350° for about 30-45 minutes.

Tip: Put dish on top of a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil for the drippings. It is ready when the mushroom sauce has boiled up and the cheese is crusted.

Gourmet tip: Add some bread to the meat with a beaten egg. Form in muffin tins, put green beans in the center of the meat then cover with mushrooms (pour some sauce over the meat to moisten). Cook for about 20 minutes. Bag mashed potatoes and pipe like frosting on the top, garnish with the cheese and bake just long enough to melt the cheese some.

* Everyone has their own taste for these that makes your recipe unique. I prefer to hand mash and cream with butter, sour cream, and salt and pepper to taste.



2 (8-ounce) packs cream cheese
Hidden Valley Spicy Ranch dip mix
Creole seasoning
Mushrooms, roughly chopped and sautéd
Venison tenderloin
Italian dressing
Bacon, thick cut

Double butterfly tenderloin. Place in a covered pan or Ziploc bag with Italian dressing and let marinate overnight in refrigerator. Next day, they are ready to grill.

In a bowl, combine cream cheese with ranch dip mix and creole seasoning. Add mushrooms. Set aside in fridge.

In skillet, cook bacon just enough that it will still be able to wrap without crumbling. Stuff both sides with mushroom mixture and close with bacon Wrap using toothpicks to hold. Place on grill. (Make sure to keep check of the temperature of meat. Optimal temperature is about 140°. Do not cook venison as long as you would other meats. It will dry out quickly and be very tough. Baste while cooking to keep moist if you like.) Lightly salt when it comes off the grill. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Note: I just have to brag on my husband, J.T., for a minute. He truly is the best and he cooks on the grill the way I do in the kitchen – a match made in Heaven. The tenderloin is the best selection of meat. We usually cook it immediately.



2-3 pounds venison
Cavender’s Greek Seasoning
Onion flakes
1 large can cream of mushroom Soup
4-6 cups milk
1 bag extra wide egg noodles
2 large handfuls pepper jack cheese, shredded
White pepper

In an electric skillet, brown venison with Greek seasoning and onion flakes. In a large bowl, place soup and whisk in milk (you want it to look watery). Pour soup mixture on venison. Stir to combine. Add noodles and cover. Heat on medium, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes. Just before finishing, add cheese. Lightly salt and pepper. Stir well and serve.

Note: Have you ever had one of those times where you promise your kids you would cook their favorite? Well this had been one of those weeks. I had promised to make the Stroganoff Hamburger Helper only to get home and not have any. So my roots kicked in searching the pantry for what I could make that would be similar. My kids told me later it was the best mistake I have made. This is now a frequently made meal in our house. We serve with Old Glory brand Green Beans because you just can’t beat their seasoning. Plus, I love any microwave short cut.



Cavender’s Greek Seasoning
Spice (your preference) |
Southern Flavor for Wildgame (optional)
Cubed steak venison
1 packet Instant Peppered Country Gravy

In bowl, mix flour with Greek seasoning and other desired spices/seasonings. In skillet, heat grease on medium high. Dredge venison in flour. Immediately drop in grease. Flip each 30 seconds. (You want the meat to still be a little squishy or tender when you pull it out.) Immediately season heavily with Greek seasoning. Put venison in large electric skillet. (Prepare as much as you like. We like to make about 40 or so 3-inch squared pieces. It is even better left over!) Dump grease leaving some in the bottom of the pan. Add flour to soak all of it up. Add just a little milk till you can work out the clumps and it starts to bubble. Continue adding milk gradually and stirring until gravy consistency. Prepare Peppered Country Gravy by packaged instructions. Combine gravies. (This will help cut out the game flavor.) Salt and pepper generously. Pour gravy over venison. Stir and let simmer on low to medium heat for about 45 minutes covered. Stir frequently so that it doesn’t stick.

Note: Personally this is one of my favorite recipes. My dad and brother would come home from deer camp and make this. Over the years, I have adapted to my family’s taste. I like using Southern Flavor for Wildgame. It packs a punch so be careful. We like to call it “Gun Powder Seasoning” in our house. It looks like pure black powder. Remember not to overdo it unless you like it really spicy.

This is best if served with a green vegetable and over white rice. In my house, the boys fight over who gets to lick the pan!!!



Onion, diced
Red and green bell peppers, diced
Fresh mushrooms, sliced
Cavender’s Greek Seasoning
Oregano, to taste**
Basil, to taste**
Garlic, to taste**
Garlic butter
2 pounds venison, browned
2 large mason jars canned tomato sauce (unseasoned)*
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 small can tomato paste
1 packet McCormick’s Spaghetti Mix

In a deep pan, place onion and bell peppers. In a bowl, season a hefty amount of mushrooms with Cavender’s, basil and oregano. Mix in garlic butter. Add to vegetables. Sauté. About half way through, add venison As the flavors start to come together and the vegetables cook down, add in tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Mix thoroughly. Add tomato paste (Don’t overdo the paste or the sauce will stick to the top of your mouth. If this happens thin out with water.) Stir thoroughly. Add oregano, basil and garlic. Add spaghetti mix (this adds a good balance of spices). Let simmer about a half hour. Stir frequently or it is so heavy it will stick and burn.

Once done serve over your choice of pasta: spaghetti, thin spaghetti, vermicelli or angel hair. It just depends on the thickness of the pasta that you like. Cook the entire box. Afterwards mix the noodles in with the sauce. It is even better left over the next day. Best if served with garlic bread.

Note: I tell you the combination of venison and fresh garden vegetables just makes my mouth water.

* It’s up to you if you can or just buy from the store. If store bought, use 2 large cans of tomato sauce and two medium cans of petite diced tomatoes.

** I typically measure by the pinch or palm of my hand.


I am looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions and skill levels to feature in this column. I want to hear from those in Alabama as well as our out-of-state readers. The simple requirements for being a featured cook are to love to cook (and eat) and to share your story with us. Get those recipes coming! Any featured cooks during 2016 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook.    

— Mary Delph, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.