By Ann Cipperly
As she passes on her family’s traditions, Mandy Trawick enjoys preparing meals and spending time at the dining table with husband Todd and their “Brady bunch” family of six children and two grandchildren. She also enjoys opening their home to guests for offering hospitality.
Mandy’s other love is her job as the director of physician recruitment and physician outreach at East Alabama Health. Since 2019, Mandy, along with the East Alabama Health administrative team, including President and CEO Laura Grill, have welcomed over 65 new physicians.
“God has blessed us with an incredible hospital, physicians, nurses, hospital administrators and community,” Mandy said. “I have the privilege of playing a small part in the growth of the hospital.”
Mandy grew up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where her grandparents and other family lived. Later, her parents moved to Germantown, Tennessee, outside Memphis. She is named after both grandmothers, her paternal grandmother Mildred, and her maternal grandmother Ann, called Mama Ann.
While grandmother Mildred was a good cook who followed recipes carefully, Mandy is more like Mama Ann, who cooked by taste without measuring. Mandy’s mother, Dibbie, was also an excellent cook and baked yummy cakes and breads. When she was growing up, Mandy enjoyed being in the kitchen watching Mama Ann and her mother cook.
Mandy’s family always ate their meals around the table without the television on, and it is a tradition she has continued for her family.
“I don’t remember sitting anywhere else to eat but at the table with family when I was growing up,” she says. “It was time to catch up with what was going on with everyone.”
Mandy raised her children the same, and they sit at the table to catch up without the television on and no phones. “That is when I learn about their day,” Mandy said. “I always prepare something to eat and we sit together, which is more important than what we are eating.”
Another tradition Mandy has continued is making holidays special by setting the table with fine silver and china like her mother and Mama Ann. “It was so pretty and festive, so I have tried to do the same on special holidays,” Mandy said. “There have been a few holidays that paper plates worked better, but I could see a slight glimpse of disappointment in my children’s faces because it is just not the same. My thought is if you have it passed down to you, then use it and enjoy it.”
After Mandy and Todd married in 2019, she went from having three boys to a blended family with five boys, one girl, two daughters-in-laws, two grandchildren and a dog. “When we meet people,” Mandy said, “Todd tells them that we are the “Brady bunch.”
Their family includes Beau Finklea, 21; Hampton Finklea, 18; John Spencer Finklea, 13; Scott Trawick, 36, and his wife, Jessica and their daughter Hope, 4; Grant Trawick, 28, and his wife Kayla; and Amanda Trawick 31, and her son R.C., 9. Their dog, Hannah, who is also part of the family, is 13.
Todd, who is a dental manufacturer rep for Dentsply Sirona, also enjoys cooking and grilling. He is sharing favorite tailgate recipes, including his hearty chili with assorted meats. Todd and Mandy look forward to the fall season for tailgating on the Auburn campus and at home for away games.
Mandy recently began pulling some of the family’s recipes together as she realized she would have another son leaving the nest in the fall. When her sons leave home for college, she wants them to feel confident in their cooking ability. Her middle son, Hampton, has been learning to cook by preparing dinner once a week.
“We quickly figured out that he learns better reading the recipe and doing it himself without me hovering over him,” she said. “He is in the kitchen, and I am nearby in case he has questions. It has been a special time, and I am looking forward to many more until he leaves the nest.”
Mandy is sharing recipes that are her sons’ favorites. One favorite, Baked Chicken in Sour Cream Sauce, is comfort food that she cooks if anyone is not feeling well or is having a bad day. When her sons go hunting or are away from home, she will have the chicken baking when they come home to have the house filled with a savory aroma. She serves the chicken, rice and green beans cooked with bacon.
The Italian Delight is her aunt’s recipe that she also makes often. Her youngest son always called the pork tenderloin his “favorite chicken dish” and the name stuck. They still call it that. Mandy serves the pork with the consume rice, green beans and cornbread.
Other favorites include her mother’s go-to salad, as well as salad with fruit that is her best friend’s grandmother’s recipe. It is also Todd’s favorite salad. Following the tradition set by her mother and Mama Ann, Mandy serves toppings to mix with vegetables, and she is sharing the recipes.
While Mandy enjoys spending time at the dinner table with her family, she feels blessed in many ways, including having a job that she looks forward to every day.
After she graduated from Ole Miss, Mandy moved to Montgomery and worked as a pharmaceutical rep that was hospital based for 15 years. The family moved to Auburn in 2010. In 2011, Mandy went to work at the hospital as the physician liaison and recruiter, and soon afterward, added the title of EAMC Foundation director.
Last August, Susan Cowart was hired to run the Foundation in order for Mandy to focus on physician recruitment and physician outreach. As the area continues to grow, East Alabama Health has grown and expanded. Auburn is second in growth in the state, while Opelika is in the top 20 in growth.
Mandy enjoys her work and spending time with the new physicians as they settle into the area.
“I love my work,” she said. “I get to use my ‘southern Delta’ background. My mom and grandmother were great entertainers as they served people with food. I like to bring people together in my home. That is my love language.”
Mandy has a gift for being a connector.
“When physicians commit to working here, I want them to connect to others and stay forever raising their kids and grandkids. I host a small group including some of the newer women physicians or physician spouses in town. It is a pleasure to be a part of their life and watch them flourish in the community.
“I enjoy what both Opelika and Auburn have to offer. I have the pleasure of showing off two different communities with different restaurants, hotels and quaint downtown areas, and we all can take advantage of both areas.”
She feels physician candidates visit and fall in love with the area.
“We are blessed to live in this community,” Mandy said. “Physicians instantly see the community support and love for the hospital. I feel people are incredibly welcoming with a ‘come on and join us’ attitude. We have a southern, comforting appeal, and the area pretty much sells itself.”
Mandy’s Favorite “Go To” Salad
My mom made this all the time and it used to drive friends crazy because there are no measurements. I learned how to do it just like her, and now she wants me to do it for her when she visits.
Spring mix and iceberg lettuce, mixed
Thinly sliced onion and bell pepper
Dried cranberry mix or fruit and nut mix
Crispy red pepper from salad toppings at the store
Garlic salt and pepper
Red or white wine vinegar and peanut oil
Depending on size of salad 1-2 Tbsp. of Hellman’s mayonnaise
Combine all ingredients and mix together.
Spring Mix Fruit Salad
Todd’s favorite Salad
Any fruit combination (apples, oranges, grapes, peaches, berries)
Some type of dried fruit and nut mix
Honey and Hellman’s mayonnaise, mixed together
Combine all ingredients.
Baked Chicken with Sour Cream Sauce
This is Finklea boys’ comfort food. I make this when someone is sick, hurt or just having a bad day.
8 oz. sour cream
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 Tbsp. cooking sherry
4 chicken breasts, best if not real thick
Crushed Ritz crackers mixed with melted butter for topping
Combine sour cream, mushroom soup and sherry. Pour over chicken breasts in a baking pan. Top with crushed crackers mixed with melted butter.
Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.
I usually double this to feed my family. We serve this with white rice and a can of green beans mixed with bacon fat and bouillon cubes.
Mom’s Refrigerator Cake
Box of Duncan Hines yellow cake mix
Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk
Large can of crushed pineapple, drained
Coconut mixed with finely chopped pecans
Bake the cake per instructions on box. While hot, poke holes into the cake and pour the condensed milk all over it. Spread a can of well drained crushed pineapple on top, then put in refrigerator. When cool, spread Cool Whip on cake and sprinkle coconut and pecans on top.
Grandmother Mildred Foy’s Apricot Nectar Cake
In a large bowl sift together:
1 pkg. Duncan Hine yellow cake mix
1 box lemon Jell-O
1 cup vegetable oil
¾ cup apricot nectar
Mix well and beat for 4 minutes. Pour batter in a greased and floured 9 by 13 inch pan. Bake 1 hour at 325 degrees. Remove from oven and leave in pan for 10 minutes. Place on a plate and spread with glaze while warm.
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Juice from 1 ½ lemons
Combine ingredients together.
One of the boy’s favorites. Can cook in crockpot until throughout hot or in a large pot on stovetop.
1 stick butter
1 bunch green onions, sautéed
8 oz. cream cheese
1 pint whipping cream or half and half
1 can whole kernel sweet corn, drained
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 cans cream of potato soup
2 Tbsp. Tony’s Creole seasoning
2 pkg. crawfish tails
Combine all ingredients in a crockpot and heat until hot and ready to serve. Serve the chowder over rice.
I usually double the recipe and only use 3 packs of crawfish tails.
Fiery Cajun Shrimp
My roommate from Ole Miss was Catherine Lester. Her mom made this every time we came to visit, and then my mama would start making this dish every time I came home from school.
1 cup butter
1 cup margarine
½ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ tsp. ground pepper
1 tsp. hot sauce
2 tsp. salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 lb. unpeeled medium size fresh shrimp
Thinly sliced French bread
Combine first 8 ingredients and pour half of mixture in a large ceramic heat proof dish. Layer shrimp and lemon slices in sauce, pour remaining sauce over shrimp and lemons.
Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until shrimp are pink, stirring twice. Drain sauce and serve with shrimp and French bread. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Aunt Libby from Clarksdale, Mississippi, made this all the time.
1 onion, chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can tomato bisque
1 can whole kernel corn
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 pkg. flat egg noodles
1 pkg. shredded sharp shredded cheese for topping
Brown onions and meat in skillet. Add mushroom soup, tomato bisque, corn and chili powder. Let simmer for an hour.
Cook noodles as directed on package; drain and add to sauce. Put in greased casserole dish and add grated cheese on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
Marinated Green Beans
4 cans French style green beans
8 Tbsp. brown sugar
8 Tbsp. bacon grease
4 Tbsp. prepared mustard
8 Tbsp. white vinegar
8 strips curly fried bacon
Heat beans in own liquid. When they are warm, drain and put in a 3 qt. dish. Heat bacon grease, sugar, mustard and vinegar and pour over the beans. Crumble bacon over the top and serve at room temperature. Serves 12.
1 large pkg. spicy sausage
1 ½ lbs. diced beef stew meat
1 ½ Tbsp. chili powder
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
6 slices bacon
1 green pepper, chopped
3 Tbsp. chopped Jalapeno Peppers
¼ tsp. oregano
1 can pinto bean, drained
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove minced garlic (we use more)
½ tsp. salt
2 ½ cups water
12 oz. can tomato paste
Cook bacon in pan until crisp, drain on paper towel-lined plate and then crumble. Brown sausage in the bacon grease. Drain the sausage on a paper towel-lined plate. Add the stew meat, onions, green pepper and garlic to the pan and cook until meat is brown.
In a large pot, add the browned stew meat, onions, green peppers, garlic, bacon sausage, jalapeno peppers, chili powder, crushed red pepper, salt and oregano and stir.
Add water and tomato paste and continue to stir. Bring to a boil, simmer uncovered for 1 ½ to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Stir in beans and simmer for 30 minutes.
Todd’s Mexican Tailgate Dip
16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
16 oz. jar salsa
Green onions, chopped
Mix the cream cheese and salsa. Add green onions and olives. Serve with chips and enjoy.
Grandmother Mama Ann’s and Mom’s Vegetable Toppings
For yummy Sunday vegetable dinners, my grandmother and mom would serve toppings for the vegetables. They would cut up cucumbers, and mix with onion slices and add white vinegar. They were then placed in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Salt and pepper was added.
They would also serve chopped onions and tomatoes mixed with Helman’s mayonnaise and salt and pepper.
Baked Pork Tenderloin
My baby son used to say, “Make my favorite chicken.” It was this, but they loved it. I serve it with Consume Rice Casserole and green beans.
1 bottle chili sauce
Season both sides of meat with garlic salt. Pour remaining ingredients over the meat. Bake at 400 for 1 hour. Ladle sauce over meat every 30 minutes.
Mama’s Consume Rice Casserole
1 cup white rice
1 can Campbell’s beef consume
1 can Campbell’s French onion soup
½ stick to 1 stick butter, melted
In a casserole, combine all ingredients. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
Cream Cheese Chicken Chili
Put 2 chicken breasts in a crockpot.
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn, undrained
10 oz. can Rotel tomatoes with green chilis, not drained
1 pkg. ranch dressing mix
1 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. onion powder
½ cup water
Then place on top:
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
Combine ingredients except cream cheese and then place cream cheese on top. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. After the cooking time is over, take chicken out and shred. Then add to the chili and enjoy.