By Ann Cipperly
Living in the Historic District in Opelika, Sherri and Philip Rowton are enjoying their lovely older home and being part of a close neighborhood. The house was built
in 1927, and many people remember it as once being the home of the former Mayor Miles Thomas. Since Sherri likes cooking, the kitchen was redone with spacious marble counters and an island with a chef’s six-burner gas stove top.
Sherri recalls when they moved in the house 13 years ago, the kitchen was narrow and small. The space was completely remodeled, adding a long wet bar with an
icemaker that comes in handy for parties. Some of the windows are wavy, which she decided to keep, as they add character to the sleek, all white modern kitchen.

Since Sherri’s father was in the Air Force, her family lived in different places. She was born in Warner Robins, GA., where she attended elementary school. She spent her junior high years in Lexington, VA., when her father was on staff at the Virginia Military Institute. She graduated from high school in Montgomery.

Her mother and grandmother cooked southern dishes, while her father prepared more exotic and difficult recipes. She is sharing her Dad’s recipe for Chicken
Brunswick Stew, which has many ingredients but is worth the effort. Sherri began cooking after graduating from Auburn University. She then lived in Nashville, Hawaii and Atlanta.

Sherri had moved back to this area when she and Philip married. They held their reception at the Brownfield House. “Little did we know,” says Sherri, “that later we
would be living just a couple of blocks away.” After they married, the couple lived in Dallas, TX., for a couple of years, which was his hometown. Philip also graduated from Auburn. He had ties to the area, as his
grandfather taught in the theater department in the 1950s.

Philip works from home for VISA, based outside Denver, CO. He does some travel associated with his work. Sherri is a development officer for the College of Sciences and Mathematics at Auburn University. “I enjoy working with so many accomplished alumni and
friends, who, through their generosity and support, are making a difference at the university and beyond,” she says.

The Rowtons decided to live in Opelika, as Sherri prefers older homes with character. They like the neighborhood and feel a part of the community.
They have two sons, Joullian (Sherri’s maiden name), who is 13 and a student at Opelika Middle School; and Baker (Philip’s mother’s maiden name), who is 15 and
is a 9 th grader at Opelika High School. Baker is a kicker for the Opelika Bulldogs.

Sherri is sharing many of her family’s favorite recipes. Crème Brûlée is Joullian’s favorite dessert. Sherri finds it is easy to prepare by mixing cream, sugar, egg yolks
and vanilla for about five minutes until it has the consistency of cake batter. Sometimes she adds fresh raspberries. She spoons the mixture in ramekins to bake in a water bath. After it has chilled, sugar is sprinkled on top and caramelized with a kitchen torch. These small torches can be found in local stores.
Her go-to appetizers are Mango Chutney Deviled Eggs and Pimiento Cheese with Pecans. Sherri places the filling for the deviled eggs in a blender to process until
smooth and then pipes it into the egg whites for an attractive presentation. She roasts salted pecans for the Pimento Cheese. The recipe is easy to double to have plenty on hand, as it is always popular with family and friends.

The Curry Chicken and Rice Salad is a favorite recipe from a high school friend’s mother. Sherri made it for a luncheon with high school friends and their English
teacher, who continue to get together during the holidays. It is a flavorful, make ahead dish with curry laced dressing.

The Shrimp and Dill Salad is another favorite make ahead dish that is also good for luncheons. Sherri combines steamed shrimp and seedless red grapes with
mayonnaise and finely chopped dill. She collected the recipe from a small café near where her parents lived in Ohio.

For special occasions, Sherri prepares Philip’s mother’s recipe for Oven Roasted Beef Tenderloin. She combines softened butter with Greek seasoning and coats the
roast before baking to enhance the flavor.
Philip also does some cooking. During the summer months, he grows vegetables at the O Grows Community Garden in Opelika and will grill them. He also hunts and prepares the Deer Bites. The recipe can also be made with beef cubed steaks. “I love living here,” says Sherri, “it is truly a community. After living in so many large cities, I really prefer small town life.”

Ann Cipperly can be contacted at


Mango Chutney Deviled Eggs
1 dozen boiled eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. mango chutney
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Peel and slice eggs, removing the yolks. Blend yolks with remaining ingredients in a
food processor. Fill egg halves. For an attractive presentation, pipe filling into egg halves.

Pimiento Cheese with Toasted Pecans
8 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
2 oz. diced pimiento
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup finely chopped salted and roasted pecans
1/2 tsp. hot sauce (I prefer Frank’s)
Salt to taste
Combine all ingredients. May be easily doubled. Serve with crackers as a spread or a filling for sandwiches.

Crème Brûlée
2 cups heavy whipping cream
5 egg yolks
6 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
Scald cream; set aside. Beat yolks, sugar and vanilla with mixer for 5 minutes (should have consistency of cake batter). Pour hot cream into mixture while
continuing to beat at low speed.
Prepare a water bath in a casserole or roasting pan and place six ramekins, which have been filled 3/4 full. Bake at 325 for 45 minutes.
May be chilled until ready to serve. Sprinkle sugar on top and caramelize with a kitchen torch.

Curry Chicken and Rice Salad
3 cups cooked rice
3 cups cooked, diced chicken
3/4 cup roasted pecans, chopped
1/3 cup minced green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1 Tbsp. garlic vinegar
Combine salad ingredients. Mix dressing ingredients, blending well. Toss dressing with chicken and rice. Chill thoroughly.

Shrimp and Dill Salad
2 lbs. steamed shrimp
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 lb. red, seedless grapes
1 bunch dill, finely chopped
Mix ingredients and chill well before serving. Shrimp and grapes may be cut into
smaller pieces.

Philip’s Mother’s Oven Roasted Beef Tenderloin
3 lbs. beef tenderloin (have butcher trim)
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 oz. Cavender’s Greek Seasoning
Have beef close to room temperature. Cream butter with Greek seasoning. Spread
over beef. Roast at 450 for 10 minutes.
Reduce heat to 350 and roast for 30 additional minutes.
Let roast sit for 15 minutes before slicing.

Dad’s Chicken Brunswick Stew
3 lbs. chicken
6 cups water
4 medium onions, chopped
1 large potato, diced
Two 28 oz. cans whole tomatoes, do not drain
14 oz. ketchup
2 1/2 oz. mustard
2 1/2 oz. mayonnaise
2.5 oz. Worcestershire sauce
Juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup butter
1/2 Tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 can creamed corn (17 oz.)
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
16 oz. baby lima beans
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 1/4 tsp. hot sauce
Bring chicken and water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours. Remove chicken from broth, reserving broth. Skin and shred chicken; cover and chill. Chill broth and remove fat.
Reheat broth; add onions, potatoes, tomatoes, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, Worcestershire, lemon juice, butter, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 2 hours. Stir often.
Add reserved chicken, corn and beans. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 2 hours. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Artichoke Dip with Mozzarella
2 cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 3/4 cups mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Blend all ingredients together well. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Serve with pita chips or Fritos Scoops.

Bourbon Balls
16 oz. powdered sugar
1/3 cup Bourbon (I use Maker’s Mark)
1/4 cup softened butter
50 pecan halves
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 Tbsp. Crisco
Mix sugar, bourbon and butter. Chill overnight.
Shape into 1-inch balls. Press pecans into two sides. Chill 8 hours.
Melt chocolate chips and shortening in saucepan over medium heat. Dip chilled balls into chocolate and place on waxed paper. Chill until hardened.

Deer Bites
1 lb. venison cubed steak
8 oz. creamed cheese
1 lb. bacon
1 large jalapeño, seeds included
1 red bell pepper
Finely dice peppers and add to softened cream cheese. Place dollop on 1-inch pieces of venison. Wrap in uncooked bacon and secure with toothpick. Grill until bacon has reached desired level of crispness.

Cheese Grits
1 cup uncooked grits, cooked as directed on package
1 stick butter
14 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
2 oz. Velveeta
1 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp. seasoned salt
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
Dash of Liquid Smoke
Combine all ingredients and stir well until butter and cheeses are thoroughly
2 eggs
1 cup milk
Add eggs and milk, blending well. Pour into greased baking dish. Bake at 375 for 1 hour.

Whipped Ricotta, Tomato and Lemon Salad
1 container ricotta (full fat taste better)
Extra virgin olive oil
1-2 lemons
1 pint small tomatoes, halved
4 cups arugula
½ tsp. kosher salt (plus more to taste)
Cracked black pepper to taste
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
In a food processor, combine ricotta, 2 tsp. olive oil and the zest of one lemon. Set aside.
Combine tomatoes with the following to taste: fresh lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh basil. Set aside. When ready to serve, lightly toss arugula with
fresh lemon and olive oil.
Spread ricotta mixture onto a platter, top with greens and then tomatoes and fresh cracked black pepper.

Cheesy Venison Enchiladas
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, chopped (remainder freezes well for future
2 cups tomato sauce
1 tsp. chipotle or regular chili powder (plus more for flavoring)
¾ tsp. ground cumin (plus more for flavoring)
1 cup chicken broth
Kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste
1½ lbs. ground venison
1-2 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped
1 small red or yellow pepper, finely chopped
8-10 large flour tortillas
3 cups Colby jack cheese, shredded
¼ cup fresh cilantro, for garnish, if desired
1 avocado, chopped for garnish, if desired
1 cup cream sauce, if desired (recipe follows)
In a medium saucepan, spray oil and sauté garlic, being careful not to burn. Add chipotle chilies, chili powder, cumin, chicken broth, tomato sauce, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Set aside until
ready to use.
The sauce freezes well if you wanted to make extra for future use.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 casserole dish. Next, brown venison until cooked through and drain. Add peppers and fresh spinach and sauté an additional 5 minutes. Add ½ cup enchilada sauce plus cumin, chili powder, salt to
taste. Stir 1 cup of cheese into meat mixture.
Add 1/3 cup venison mixture to each flour tortilla and place in casserole dish seam side down. Cover with remaining sauce and cheese.
Cover with foil and bake and 20-25 minutes. Take off foil the last 5 minutes. Serve with cilantro, avocado and cream sauce. Serves 6.

Cream Sauce:
Mix together even parts sour cream with mayonnaise. Add fresh lime juice, lime
zest, cumin, kosher salt and/or chipotle in adobo to taste.

Praline Sweet Potatoes
4 cups mashed sweet potatoes (I cook them in microwave)
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. vanilla
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Combine ingredients and spread in greased casserole dish.
1 stick butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/4 cups chopped pecans
Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over potatoes. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Venison Meatball Sliders with Slow Cooked Marinara Sauce
1.5 lbs. ground venison
1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped basil
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 extra large egg, beaten
2 Tbsp. ketchup or tomato paste
¼ cup milk
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Slider buns
8 slices provolone, cut in half
Extra Parmesan for garnish, if desired
Arugula, for garnish, if desired
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place ground meat, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, salt, pepper, basil, nutmeg, egg and milk in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs.
Place meatballs on a lightly greased sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Bake 15-20
minutes or until cooked through.
Place meatballs in Marinara Sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 20 to 30 minutes or until ready to serve. Turn oven to broil. Place a meatball on each slider bun (shaking off excess sauce).
Place slider buns open on cookie sheet, top with cheese and lightly broil until cheese has melted. Garnish with
arugula and/or Parmesan, if desired. Serve sauce on the side. Makes 14-16.

Slow Cooked Marinara Sauce
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3-4 carrots, roughly chopped
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. cracked black pepper
2 (28 oz. cans) San Marzano peeled tomatoes
3 Tbsp. freshly chopped basil
In a large casserole pot, heat oil over a medium-high. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, being careful not to burn, about 3-4 minutes. Add carrots and 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper. Sauté until all the carrots are soft, about
10 minutes. Add tomatoes and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. The last 30 minutes, add basil. Place an immersion blender
into the sauce and blend until desired consistency. Season sauce with more salt and pepper to taste.
(The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat before using.)