Pamperins living the good life on cattle farm

With sweeping views of rolling pastures framed by woodlands, the country home of Anna and Matt Pamperin was built on a 470-acre cattle farm. Anna has a love of family, European antiques, the outdoors and cooking with fresh ingredients. The Pamperins toast to the good life at every candlelight dinner, and Anna feels the good life has nothing to do with where you live or your income.
“The good life does not depend on the size of your house or your bank account,” Anna said. “The good life is what you create with other people and your relationships. You can live in a RV and have a wonderful life, or you can live in a castle and have a terrible life. It comes down to the quality of your relationships and where you are investing your life and your heart.”
When the Pamperins were building their farmhouse, they sold their home and lived in a small trailer for two years while the house was being built.
“During the two years we were still toasting to the good life because nothing had changed,” she said. “You can make any life beautiful. You can use fresh ingredients that you grow in your yard to create something spectacular and have a wonderful life.”
Anna is enjoying living in a peaceful setting on land rooted in her family’s past going back for generations. The Pamperins’ Watoola Creek Cattle Company is located on farmland purchased by Anna’s grandfather, Benjamin Clay Dudley, in 1939. Anna’s brother lives on the other half of the original property.
Anna grew up in Marvyn where her father was a farmer, and her parents owned the Dudley T and C Cattle Company at the time. After graduating from Lee Scott, she attended Auburn University where she met Matt. Anna is currently a graduate student at Divine Mercy University studying to be a trauma therapist for teenagers in foster care who have been through difficult times.
When Anna and Matt married, they moved to Atlanta, where both of their children, Benjamin and Anna Catherine, were born. When they returned to Opelika, Anna homeschooled. Benjamin now attends Auburn University and is working this summer at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. Anna Catherine, who became a pilot in high school, attends Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona.
The Pamperins built their house on the cattle farm in 2019. They looked at a lot of house plans but couldn’t find one to suite them. Anna designed the house to look old but feel new on the inside with a classic look.
“I feel if you go with things that are classic and old to start, then those items are not going to age,” she said.
Two stunning antique French chandeliers hang over the spacious kitchen island, while another one brightens the living room. She has a fondness for French antique furniture and European style. She began collecting antiques in college and continued when she and Matt traveled.
Anna’s mother, Toni Jenkins Dudley, loved antiques and was an artist who enjoyed painting and making pottery. Anna has several pieces of her mom’s furniture and small porcelain birds from her grandmother that are meaningful to her. Worn Bibles from her and Matt’s families going back for generations are other treasures.
Beyond the kitchen, the dining room and a sitting room are in the two sunrooms. The bright light is good for the herbs growing in window boxes.
While her mother was a good cook, Anna cooks differently than she did. She doesn’t use canned soups that were popular in recipes when she was growing up. She uses fresh herbs and good quality products, such as fine olive oil.
“When you live this far out, you can’t eat out a lot, so you better learn how to cook,” Anna said.
Matt enjoys cooking on the grill, and everyone in the family likes to cook.
When Anna was homeschooling their children along with a few other students, she created a curriculum called “around the world in 180 days.” They studied countries around the world, including geography, weather, music and how to cook dishes from each country.
While doing this project, she tried hundreds of recipes from different countries that influenced the way she cooks now. While she still prepares southern cuisine, such as chicken and dumplings, she mostly cooks Mediterranean dishes. She feels European style cooking is easy.
“Cooking is like an art form,” she said. “You can decorate it and make it attractive with garnishes. I enjoy arranging charcuterie boards to look artistic.”
Anna enjoys entertaining, especially with wine and cheese parties. When entertaining for Matt’s company, Hi-Line Engineering, they will hold large parties. Earlier this year, they hosted 70 people at their home and cooked a whole hog with a variety of side dishes.
One of her favorite side dishes is potato croquettes that she prepares and freezes. She seasons mashed potatoes with truffle oil and salt, then wraps spoonfuls of the mashed potatoes around a piece of gouda cheese. Each one is then rolled in panko crumbs and frozen. When ready to serve, she will quickly fry them. They must be frozen or the cheese will melt.
Her favorite entrée is lamb that she serves with gouda cheese grits.
When Anna and Matt sit for dinner overlooking the pastures going back for miles, she often remembers what a friend told her years ago in a Bible study about creating the good life. She is thankful for the example of the way her friend lived her life in a happy home. With each day in the loving home Anna has made for her family, she finds joy in cooking, picking fresh herbs and setting a table surrounded by memories of the past.

This spicy, tangy dip/spread may become your new favorite
1 block sheep’s milk feta, such as Atalanta
1 to 1½ red bell peppers, seeded and sliced
1/4 cup quality olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Cayenne pepper to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Coat red bell pepper with 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil and roast at 400 degrees until soft and slightly charred.
Mix all ingredients until combined, allowing for a few chunks, if desired. Adjust pepper and salt to taste.
Serve with pita chips or as a sandwich spread.

This is an herbed version of a super easy Ukrainian/Russian cheese that tastes nothing like vinegar, I promise. Leave out the garlic and herbs, and this is a wonderful addition to pancake batter.
1 gallon whole milk, not ultra pasteurized
½ cup white vinegar
2-4 Tbsp. minced herbs of your choice
1 minced garlic clove, if desired
1 tsp. salt
Heat milk over medium-low until you see hundreds of little bubbles appear, but do not bring to a boil. (It would take 30 to 40 minutes). Stir occasionally to prevent the milk from scorching at the bottom of pot.
Once you see lots of bubbles popping, slowly add distilled white vinegar , give it a gentle stir and wait for 30 to 60 seconds. Then stir again. The cheese will curdle (become crumbly) and water should be lime-yellowish color. If it doesn’t, add a bit more vinegar until you do see that color of water. Remove from heat to cool to room temperature.
Line a sieve or a colander with cheese cloth. Slowly pour cheese into cloth to catch curds. Gather cloth around cheese and squeeze to get all whey out. When you start seeing whiteish liquid coming out instead of lime color, you can stop there.
Mix in salt, pepper, garlic and herbs to taste. Press tightly into a small Saran Wrap lined bowl and then invert onto a serving dish. Leave Saran covering cheese and refrigerate for several hours to let flavors develop. Serve with crackers.

2 racks of lamb, trimmed
1 tsp. herbs de Provence
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
⅔ cup chopped pistachio nuts
2 Tbsp. dry breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
Mint Jelly to serve
Generously season each rack of lamb with herbs de Provence, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat. Place lamb into skillet and cook until browned on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
Stir pistachios, breadcrumbs, melted butter and olive oil together in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper. Spread mustard over the fatty side of lamb, then press pistachio mixture into mustard.
Bake until crust is golden and lamb is pink in center, 20 to 25 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into center should read at least 130 degrees for medium doneness.
Transfer lamb to a plate and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with mint jelly.

This fun and easy recipe puts a Southern spin on traditional Greek baklava which is infinitely more time consuming.
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice (from 1/2 small lemon)
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup honey
2 pkg. (15 count, each) Athens® Mini Fillo Shells, frozen
2 cups nuts (I used 1½ cups walnuts and ½ cup salted pistachios)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.
In a small saucepan, combine syrup ingredients: 1/2 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, 1/3 cup water and 1/4 cup honey. Bring to a boil over med/high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved then reduce heat to low and keep at a light boil for 4 minutes without stirring. Remove syrup from heat and let cool at room temperature while preparing baklava cups.
In a food processor, pulse together 2 cups nuts until coarsely chopped then transfer to a medium mixing bowl and stir in 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. Add 3 Tbsp. melted butter and stir to combine.
Arrange 30 mini frozen phyllo cups on a rimmed baking sheet and divide nut mixture evenly between the cups (about 2 tsp. per cup), patting down tops with fingertips. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
Once mini baklava cups are baked, immediately spoon cooled syrup over nuts, adding 1 tsp. to each one to let syrup soak in then repeating with another 1/2 tsp. of syrup until all of syrup is used up. Let rest at room temperature for 6 hours or overnight for flavors to meld and ups to soften. From Natasha’s Kitchen

These are a full meal when served with feta and Greek pita. The olive oil makes this dish very filling, and calories are relatively low.
1/2 cup good quality olive oil (trust me on this)
1 large onion chopped
2 lbs. fresh green beans, trimmed and snapped into 1-inch pieces
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 can Cento San Marzano tomatoes
2 cups water
1 Knorr Caldo El Pollo chicken bouillon cube
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. sugar (optional)
fresh cracked pepper to taste
Atalanta feta
Greek pita bread
Sauté onions in oil until slightly brown. Add green beans and potatoes. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Break up tomatoes with a spoon. Cover and simmer for an hour. Serve with crumbled Atalanta feta and warm Greek pita bread.

This Italian spread is wonderful on wraps, sandwiche, or on pita chips.
1 (14 oz.) can white (cannellini) beans, drained
1 Tbsp. lemon juice or more to taste
1-2 cloves garlic minced
Salt, pepper to taste
1/4 cup quality olive oil
4-6 Tbsp. sun-dried tomatoes in oil
6 large leaves fresh basil
1/2 pkg. Sazon Goya seasoning
Process all ingredients until smooth in a food processor.
Garnish with additional basil leaves and strips of sun-dried tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil.
Serve with pita chips or use as a sandwich spread.

This Lebanese yogurt “cheese” is similar to a tangy cream cheese.
Large container of plain full fat Chobani Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp. finely chopped herbs such as thyme, oregano, or rosemary or 1 tsp. dried herbs
1 tsp. chopped chives
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
3 Tbsp. quality olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves finely minced
Place a colander in a large bowl so that colander does not touch bottom of bowl.
Line colander with a double layer of cheese cloth.
Pour all of yogurt into cheese cloth and twist cheese cloth at top to cover the yogurt and make a bundle.
Place in refrigerator for a day or two. I periodically twist the cheese cloth tighter to squeeze out more of liquid. This is essentially the difference between regular yogurt and Greek yogurt. Labneh removed even more of the liquid.
After labneh has a consistency similar to cream cheese or a little dryer, put it in a mixing bowl; add salt and garlic.
Beat until it takes on a fluffier texture, drizzling in olive oil as you whip.
A stand mixer with a whisk attachment is great for this.
Add herbs and chives. Taste for salt and adjust to your liking.
Grated lemon peel and fresh black pepper is also a wonderful addition.
Serve with pita chips.

This homemade hummus is much better than the kind from the store. Adjust lemon, garlic and salt to your liking.
1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ cup lemon juice (from 1 ½ to 2 lemons), more to taste
1 medium-to-large clove garlic, roughly chopped
½ tsp. fine sea salt, to taste
½ cup tahini
2 to 4 cubes of ice
1 ½ tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Za’atar to garnish
Olive oil for serving
Directions for basic hummus:
Place chickpeas in a medium saucepan and add baking soda.
Cover chickpeas with two inches of water, then bring mixture to a boil over high heat. Continue boiling, reducing heat if necessary to prevent overflow, for about 20 minutes, or until chickpeas look bloated, their skins are falling off, and they’re quite soft.
Drain chickpeas and run cool water over them.
Cover with several inches of cold water and gently rub between your palms to remove skins from each chickpea. The skins will float to top of water. Scoop them out with your hands and continue until most of chickpeas have been skinned. This creates a smooth hummus.
In a food processor or blender, combine lemon juice, garlic and salt. Process until garlic is very finely chopped, then let the mixture rest so garlic flavor can mellow, ideally 10 minutes or longer.
Add tahini to food processor and blend until mixture is thick and creamy.
While running food processor, drop in 2 ice cubes. Scrape down food processor, and blend until mixture is ultra smooth, pale and creamy. (If tahini was extra-thick, may add 1 to 2 more ice cubes.)
Add cumin and drained chickpeas. While blending, drizzle in olive oil. Blend until mixture is super smooth, scraping down sides of processor as necessary, about 2 minutes. Add ice water by tablespoon if necessary to achieve creamy texture.
Adjust seasonings if necessary. (I almost always add another ¼ tsp. salt and another tablespoon lemon juice).
Scrape hummus into a serving bowl or platter and use a spoon to create nice swooshes on top.
Top with garnishes of your choice and serve. Can top with lemon zest and thin strips of garlic cloves cooked in olive oil until crispy and drizzle top with olive oil.
Leftover hummus stores well in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 1 week. Serve with pita chips and raw veggies.

Basic hummus
2 red bell peppers
Cut peppers in quarters and remove seeds.
Coat in 1-2 Tbsp. of olive oil and roast at 400 degrees until soft and slightly charred.
Basic hummus
To basic hummus, add roasted red peppers and blend until smooth.
Garnish with fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.
Serve with pita chips and raw veggies.