By Ann Cipperly

Nestled on the edge of dense forest, the home of Esther and Arvle Marshall is steeped in history and filled with arts and crafts they created. Esther is also a vivid gardener and grows herbs to fill her corner spice cabinet overflowing with assorted dried herbs and spices. She combines ground juniper berries, rosemary and dried lavender flowers with garlic for her special pot roast, rich in tantalizing flavor.

When the Marshalls first saw the house, they immediately knew it was ideal for them. The four front rooms are the original house built around 1850 in Oak Bowery near the McCurdy plantation for one of the McCurdy’s grown children.

After the railroad came to Opelika, some families in Oak Bowery moved to Opelika. The house was dismantled and moved to Second Avenue where Burger King is now located. The Dorsey family lived in the house.

Don Oliff, an Auburn University history professor, moved the house from Second Avenue to the country in the late 1970s and added a thousand square feet to the back.

The Marshalls purchased the house in 1998.  They adored the heart pine floors and soaring ceilings. They Marshalls opened up the back hall to its original plan and added a bay window in the spacious kitchen, which had originally been a porch.

An interesting tree near the house is called an Indian Trail Tree, as one of the branches was tied to grow as an arrow, pointing to water or a trail. The Marshalls don’t know which one it meant.

Esther and Arvle both grew up in Texas where their ancestors were trailblazer pioneers in the Wild West. Arvle’s great-grandfather was part of the “old” 300 that moved into Texas with Stephen F. Austin, for whom the city of Austin is named. Arvle’s grandfather made the last cattle drive through Oklahoma to Kansas.

Esther also has interesting family stories. Her great-great-grandmother was a Native American. Esther has hung her buggy blanket in the dining room. Artwork by family members also hangs in the dining room.

Esther’s father worked for an oil tool company. Every time a new oil field opened in Texas, they moved. She went to 14 schools in 12 years, mostly in Texas with four years in Oklahoma.

She spent a great deal of time with her grandparents in New Mexico. Esther learned the basics of cooking from her grandmother and her mother. She fell in love with cooking and fresh foods.  Her grandmother had a garden and cooked what she called country Oklahoma.

Her grandparents had chickens, cattle and pigs on 14 acres. They also dined on game meats.

After high school, Esther attended Texas Tech, in Lubbock, where she met Arvle. After graduation, he attended vet school at Texas A & M. He did graduate studies at Oklahoma State and the University of Missouri.

Arvle’s first teaching job was at the University of Illinois. After four years, he was offered a position at the University of Georgia.

Eight years later he was contacted by the Vet School at Auburn University. They moved to Auburn in 1982, and Arvle retired in 2005.

Esther has a talent for weaving and spinning and was a member of the Studio 222 arts group. She taught spinning for 25 years, and weaving at the Pioneer Park Museum in Loachapoka for 3 years. The screened porch in back of their house has been converted into a work area for her spinning and weaving projects.

With a major in horticulture, she has a love of gardening and growing flowers as well as herbs.

Arvle enjoys woodworking and builds rocking animal toys and furniture in his wood shop on the property. He has made about 50 rocking horses. A few of the early ones are on display at the Good Ole’ Boys Restaurant. He also built two spinning wheels for Esther and 12 more for people she taught to spin.

His first building project was a cradle for their daughter. The Marshalls have two children, Peggy and Scott, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

In addition to Esther and Arvle enjoying crafts, they both cook. Arvle’s Chili recipe does not contain beans or chili powder. Instead of a commercial mix of spices he combines his own for a rich flavor. He adapted the recipe from an award winning Texas chili.

He also makes a Breakfast Casserole, which is a meal in one dish with Tater-Tots, sausage and eggs.

Esther adapts recipes and creates her own. She adapted the cole slaw recipe that doesn’t have mayonnaise and uses honey instead of sugar. It can be made a day or two ahead.

Her Beef Stew recipe is wonderful comfort food on a cold night. It can also be made with venison or bison.

The Raw Apple Cake is her grandmother’s recipe and uses coffee in the ingredients to make it moist.

Look over the following recipes to add to menus this coming week. Her pot roast will be good without the berries and lavender flowers, but won’t have the unique taste.

On a sunny afternoon with their three dogs at their feet on the wrap around porch that they added, the Marshalls are thankful for their restful home surrounded by trees. “This house was a dream in our early marriage,” says Esther. “We are thankful to God for putting us here in this home and setting.”

Ann Cipperly can be contacted at

Beef Stew
2 lbs. stew beef or cubed roast
1 large yellow onion, cubed
1 bell pepper, cubed
3 stalks celery, cubed
3 carrots, cubed
4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 box (32 oz.) beef broth
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. dried Thyme
2 tsp. rosemary (3 fresh 4 inch sprigs)
Brown onions, celery and garlic in 3 Tbsp. olive oil. Add meat; brown with seasonings. Add beef broth, and then add carrots and potatoes.
Add about 5 – 6 cups water.
Simmer about 2 hours until meat is tender and vegetables are done.

2 lb.s lean red meat: beef, or venison, cut into 1 inch cubes (not ground!)
#3 can (4 cups) whole peeled tomatoes
1 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
2 Tbsp. Masa (corn flour)
3 Tbsp. ground Chipotle pepper
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. (more or less to taste) cayenne pepper, or Tabasco sauce
1 tsp. cumin seed, crushed
1 tsp. oregano, whole leaf
1 tsp. paprika
Brown onion and garlic in a little olive oil. Add meat and seasonings. Brown with onions and garlic.
Add tomatoes. Add enough water to cover. Simmer until meat is tender.
Thicken with Masa (2 Tbsp. in 1/2 cup cold water), shake thoroughly and dump into chili. After simmering for a few minutes add more if not thick enough.
Serve with cornbread and molasses.

Pot Roast
Use a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven (both should have cast iron lid).
2 lbs. beef chuck roast
Sear on all sides.
Coat seared meat with pot roast rub consisting of the following finely ground herbs:
2 Tbsp. rosemary
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. juniper berries
1/4 cup lavender flowers, dried
2 tsp. black pepper, if desired
Add bite sized:
4 carrots
4 potatoes (Yukon Gold)
4 stalks celery
1 large yellow onion
Cover, cook in oven at 350 for 45 minutes per lb. of meat.

Chicken/Rice Electric Skillet Dinner
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large bell pepper, diced
2 lbs. chicken nuggets, fingers or boned pieces
3 cups water
2 cups uncooked brown rice
1 cup seedless black olives, chopped
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1 Tbsp. each — celery seed, dried parsley, black pepper
Heat electric skillet to 300 and reduce to 220 before adding ingredients. Start with olive oil and heat to bubble. Add onion and bell pepper to lightly cook. Add chicken pieces and brown lightly.
Add water and rice; increase heat to simmer. Add olives and peas. Add seasonings. Cover and cook until rice is done, about 35 minutes. Serves 6-8.

Breakfast Casserole
(To feed 4 young grandsons with additional overnight guests)
In a 2 inch deep 12 x 18 inch pan:
Cover bottom of pan with one layer of Tater-Tots or equivalent.
Brown 8 slices sausage with 1/2 chopped yellow onion. Crumble sausage as it cooks.
Spread on top of potatoes.
In a bowl break 8 eggs; add equal volume of whole milk or cream and whip into a smooth slurry.
Pour over sausage/potatoes.
Sprinkle 1 or 2 chopped bell peppers (green and red) over the mix.
Spread 1/2 inch layer of grated sharp Cheddar cheese over the mix.
Sprinkle chopped mushrooms on top.
Bake at 350 until eggs/potatoes are done, about 1 hour.
Serve with fresh French Roast coffee, assorted juices, fruit (bananas, oranges, sliced apple).

Make this coleslaw the day before it is to be served.
1 head green cabbage, cored
2 carrots, peeled
1 medium onion
Chop cabbage, carrots and onion fine with a food processor and combine in a large ceramic mixing bowl.
1 cup white-wine vinegar
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. mustard seeds
1 Tbsp. celery seed
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
In a (non-reactive*) saucepan, over medium heat, mix vinegar, oil, honey, lemon juice, mustard seeds, celery seeds, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, stirring often.
Remove dressing from the heat and immediately pour it over the vegetables.  Toss well, cover, and refrigerate overnight before serving.
*(Stainless steel or glass. Do not use aluminum.)

Raw Apple Cake
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup black coffee
1 egg
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup raisins or cranberries
2 cups raw apples, chopped fine
Combine sugar and shortening, well blended. Add coffee and egg, well blended. Add soda, cinnamon and flour to form cake batter.  Add raisins and apples, mix well.
Sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar on top. Bake in greased bread pan at 350 for 30 minutes.

Tea Party Scones
2 cups flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg or cardamom
1/2 cup cold butter (cut up)
1 cup raisins, cranberries or nuts
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Sugar and cinnamon mixture, if desired
Preheat oven to 425. Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt and nutmeg in large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles large crumbs. Stir in raisins and buttermilk.
Roll dough into a ball and knead for a couple of minutes on floured surface. Roll out into 3/4 inch thickness. Cut out 3 inch triangles and place on greased baking sheet.
Brush tops with egg white and sprinkle tops with sugar/cinnamon mix. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 12 scones.

Blueberry Cobbler
Batter mix:
1 2/3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
2/3 cup shortening
Mix above ingredients together and add:
1 small can Pet Milk
1 egg, well beaten
Spread batter on bottom of baking dish and cover with berries. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Then cover and reduce heat to 350. Bake for another 20 minutes. The batter should bubble up through the berries, which will produce juice and soak into cake.
Serve warm, topped by whipped cream or ice cream.

Picked Okra  (Texas style)
3 lbs. thumb-size raw okra pods
Equal parts apple cider vinegar and water to fill pint jars after packing
Pack pods in large mouth pint jars. Per jar, add 1 tsp. mustard seed, 1 hot pepper pod, 1 small garlic clove and enough vinegar/water to cover.  Process in hot water canner for 15 minutes. Let pickles “age” for at least 6 weeks before serving.

Cucumber Relish
3 lbs. large cucumbers
3 lbs. onions
4 green peppers
2 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. turmeric
1 Tbsp. celery seed
1 tsp. garlic chips
1 lb. sugar
4 Tbsp. mustard seed
2 qt. apple cider vinegar
Grind vegetables coarsely in food chopper. Mix with salt in large mixing bowl and let stand for 1 hour. Drain in muslin sack.
In large kettle combine turmeric, sugar, mustard seed and vinegar. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil.
Add vegetable mixture all at once and mix well. Reduce heat and cook slowly until vegetables are tender. Pack in hot sterilized jars and seal immediately.  Makes 8-12 pints.  For tart relish, leave out sugar.

Fig Preserves
6 lbs. figs, cut in quarters
2 lemons, juice and grated rind
1 pint sugar
2 cups apple juice
Combine all ingredients and cook until figs are transparent and syrup is thick. Seal in sterilized jars.
The fruit may also be left whole. To make a good conserve, add chopped walnuts or pecans several minutes before removing fruit from heat.