Mother, daughters enjoy cooking, gardening, arts

Photo by Ann Cipperly

By Ann Cipperly

Turning off Oakbowery Road into the driveway at Heather and John Hardin’s home on a rainy afternoon, a red hen has escaped the coop and is cackling under a massive magnolia tree in the front yard. The Hardins look out across sweeping pasture views at the house that was build by Jack Tatum Sr.

“We love living here,” says Heather. When they moved in, the barn in the back had tags printed with  “Jack Tatum Chevrolet.” Tatum owned a Chevrolet dealership in Opelika for many years, and the Hardins believe he built the house in the early 1950s.

They purchased the house from Julia and Jack Tatum Jr. in 2009. An addition was constructed in the early 1990s. Heather and John made a few updates.

Near the barn, they have chickens in a hen house, and their three daughters have pets.  In the open fields, they see foxes, deer, coyotes, beaver and raccoons.

The home is a comfortable place for the Hardin family. Heather and John met in preschool and grew up together in Auburn. He moved away in high school. They reconnected after college. John works as a broker for Southeastern Land Group.

Heather has a degree in nursing, a master’s in nursing education and a doctoral in education. Her study was art and health, using art to enhance health.

She taught art at Trinity Christian School and Lee Scott Academy. Heather substitutes as an art teacher and home schools their three daughters, Katherine Campbell, 15; Claire, 14; and Lovie, 10.

Along with home schooling, Heather is teaching the girls arts and to cook.  Claire had baked yummy Chocolate Chip Muffins to serve with coffee when I arrived. During the interview, Claire worked on one of her homemade dolls. She has a basket full of dolls and bunnies she made over the last year.

Katherine Campbell and Lovie can both cook too. The girls set the table and help with dishes.

They have a big garden every year with vegetables, herbs and flowers. While everyone helps, Katherine Campbell’s main interest is gardening.  She plants seeds and small plants and will maintain the garden, watering and pulling weeds. She makes mint tea with fresh mint from the garden.

Plants include tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and squash, as well as sunflowers and zinnias. Last year they planted a field by the house with sunflowers. As soon as they came up, the deer ate them.

One of Katharine Campbell’s favorite dishes to prepare is a vegetarian Black Bean Bowl, embellished with portabella mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. It is served with assorted toppings, including guacamole, mango salsa and tortilla chips.

The girls enjoy fresh fruit dishes. Among the favorites are Fruit Salsa served with oven-toasted tortillas dusted with cinnamon sugar. During spring months, Strawberry Salad is popular.

Lovie enjoys mixing up Green Goo with fruit, pecans, miniature marshmallows, pistachio pudding mix and Cool Whip.

Heather’s mother prepared the Broccoli Pasta Salad for every family special event. It is mixed with cheese and an apple cider vinegar sauce.

Heather enjoys having guests over.  One time when she had company with four children, she made Shrimp Boil but didn’t realize the red pepper would be so hot. “The children were so sweet and tried to eat it,” she says. Heather, who adores drawing, drew a picture of the scene at the table with everyone drinking water.

Every other week, Heather takes the girls to the Summer Village at Auburn for them to participate in art projects with the residents. They will paint, color or draw.

Whether it is art, sewing, gardening or cooking, the girls enjoy the home arts. “Home schooling has been such a blessing,” says Heather, “and they have been able to learn so many arts.

“It is also a blessing to live here,” adds Heather. “We love this house and being outdoors.  There is a swing over the creek. At Easter, we will color eggs from the hen house and have an egg hunt for the girls. Living here feels like being in the country, although we are not far from town.”

Ann Cipperly can be contacted at

Claire’s Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup white sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup milk
1/3 cup melted butter
1 egg
Mix dry ingredients and add chocolate chips.
Combine egg, milk, and butter and stir into four mixture. Do not beat.
Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

Claire’s Basic Muffin Batter
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
1 egg
Stir together dry ingredients.
Add melted butter and beaten egg to milk
Add liquid ingredients to dry; stir to moisten.
To this batter, add fruits, nuts, etc.
Bake 375 for 15-20 minutes.
Muffin Hints:
Use all-purpose flour. If using cake flour add ½ cup more.
Stir only to moisten and mix quickly.
Mom used to freeze muffins to be able to keep some on-hand. Allow to cool completely and freeze in air-tight containers. Then reheat in 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.
To sour milk or cream add 1 Tbsp. lemon juice to one cup. We do this for “buttermilk” too.

Roasted Vegetables
1 head broccoli
1 head cauliflower
3 carrots
1 green, red, and/ or yellow pepper
1 purple onion
1 box portabella mushrooms
2 squash
1 bunch asparagus or any other vegetable
2 sweet potatoes and or gold potatoes, optional
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 Tbsp. vegetable seasoning (We use Simply Organic Grilling Seasons Vegetable seasoning)
Cut vegetables into bite size pieces. Spread evenly into foil lined roasting pan. Drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil over vegetables. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and vegetable seasoning. Cover with foil. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes.

Easy Roasted Vegetable Pizza
Makes pizza with leftover roasted vegetables.
2 ready-made Boboli pizza crust
1 jar pizza sauce or tomato sauce
Leftover roasted vegetables
Sliced tomato (optional)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
Drizzle olive oil across uncooked pizza crust. Top lightly with pizza sauce. Spoon roasted vegetables over sauce. Place slices of tomato, if desired.
Sprinkle 1 cup cheese over each pizza. Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes.

Katherine Campbell’s Black Bean Bowl
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups sliced purple onion
1 pack portabella mushrooms, sliced
4 cups cooked white rice (we like jasmine)
15-oz. can black beans
3/4 tsp. salt
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Mango Salsa
Prepare white rice according to package directions.
Sauté sliced onion and mushrooms in oil.
Spoon rice into individual dishes. Top with black beans, mushrooms and cheese. Continue layering with toppings. Serve with tortilla chips.

John’s Guacamole
Four ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and slightly mashed
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
Serve with chips or with Black Bean Bowl.

Barbara’s Broccoli Pasta Salad
1 box tri-colored (veggie) rotini pasta
1 medium head broccoli, chopped into small florets
1 medium red onion, diced fine
2 cups mild cheddar cheese, cubed or shredded
2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp.  apple cider vinegar
Cook pasta according to package directions.
Drain and rinse under cold water until cool; set aside in a large bowl.
Chop broccoli into small florets.
Finely chop onion, and mix broccoli and onions with pasta.
Add cheddar cheese to the pasta mixture; mix well.
In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sugar and apple cider vinegar well. Pour mixture over top of pasta, broccoli and onions; stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Fruit Salsa with Toasted Tortilla
2 kiwis, peeled and diced
2 golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced
8 oz. raspberries and/or blueberries
1 lb. strawberries
2 Tbsp. white sugar
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. fruit preserves, any flavor
10 (10-inch) flour tortillas
Butter flavored cooking spray
2 Tbsp. cinnamon sugar
In a large bowl, thoroughly mix kiwis, Golden Delicious apples, raspberries or blueberries, strawberries, white sugar, brown sugar and fruit preserves. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Coat one side of each flour tortilla with butter flavored cooking spray. Cut into wedges and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle wedges with desired amount of cinnamon sugar. Spray again with cooking spray.
Bake in preheated oven 8 to 10 minutes.
Repeat with any remaining tortilla wedges.
Allow to cool approximately 15 minutes.
Serve with chilled fruit mixture.

Mandarin Orange Salad
Dressing: raspberry walnut vinaigrette or balsamic vinaigrette
4 cups lettuce
1 large can mandarin oranges, drained
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup feta cheese
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted (or nut of choice)
Toast almonds or nuts of choice. Let cool. Meanwhile, mix lettuce, drained oranges, cranberries and cheese.  Sprinkle toasted almond pieces over salad. Serve with dressing.

Strawberry Salad
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 bunch fresh spinach
1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced
1 purple onion, sliced
1 cup nuts (pecans, walnuts or almonds), toasted
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
In a large salad bowl, combine romaine, spinach, strawberries and sliced onion.
Combine mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, milk and poppy seeds. Shake well and pour the dressing over salad.  Use poppy seed dressing from bottle, if preferred. Toss until evenly coated.

Lovie’s Green Goo
16 oz. can chunk pineapple
1 oz. can crushed pineapple
1 small pkg. instant pistachio pudding mix
1 cup pecans (optional)
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup small marshmallows
16 oz. container Cool Whip
Mix both pineapple and juice. Sprinkle with instant pudding and let stand for five minutes.
Mix nuts and coconut together and then add to mixture. Blend in Cool Whip and marshmallows. Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.

Shrimp Boil
1.5 oz. bag seafood boil seasoning
1 Tbsp. salt
12 oz. bottle beer (optional)
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
3 bay leaves
2 onions, quartered
2 garlic bulbs, halved
1 lb. small red potatoes
4 ears fresh corn, husks removed and halved
1 lb. smoked sausage, cut into 1-inch diagonal slices (optional)
2 lb. large shrimp
French bread, lemon wedges, melted butter and Old Bay seasoning
Bring 4 quarts water and first 7 ingredients to a boil in a 12-quart stockpot. Add potatoes; simmer 15 minutes. Add corn and sausage (optional); simmer 8 minutes.
Add shrimp, cover, and turn off heat. Let shrimp sit 10 to 15 minutes to absorb flavor.
Drain liquid, and spread shrimp boil out on a newspaper-covered table.
Serve with bread, lemon wedges, and butter.

Spinach Dip with Hawaiian Bread
1 box frozen spinach
1 pkg. Knorr’s vegetable soup mix
16 oz. container sour cream
2 loaves Hawaiian sweet bread
2 green onions, diced (optional)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained and diced
Defrost spinach and drain out any liquid.
Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, onion, soup mix, water chestnuts and drained spinach.
Create bread bowl from one Hawaiian sweet bread by removing middle of bread in bite size pieces until it is a bowl. Fill bread bowl with dip. Place pieces of bread around outside of bowl. Tear additional bread into pieces and place around outside of bread bowl as well.

Mom’s Famous Banana Nut Muffins
3 large bananas
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup butter
Mash banana. Add sugar and slightly beaten egg.
Add melted butter.
Add dry ingredients and bake at 375 for 20 minutes (13-17 minutes for small muffins).

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. hot water
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to batter along with salt. Stir in flour, chocolate chips, and nuts. Drop on ungreased pans.
Bake for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven or until edges are nicely browned.

Peach Cobbler
2 cups sliced peaches
2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk
Melt butter or margarine in 9 x 13 inch pan.
Pour 1 cup of sugar over peaches and let sit.
Mix together remaining ingredients. Pour mixture into pan.
Spoon peaches on top of batter evenly around the pan.
Bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
Serve with ice cream.

Butternut Squash Bisque
1Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrots
4 cups peeled, cubed butternut squash
3 cups vegetable stock
Salt, black pepper to taste
Ground nutmeg to taste
1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream (optional)
Slice butternut squash in half. Scoop out seeds. Place in pan with sliced side down in a little water. Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes or until cooked. (Alternately, poke a few holes and bake whole.) Let cool. Peel and cube squash.
Heat oil and melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, cooking until almost tender. Mix carrots and squash into pot. Pour in vegetable stock, and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer until vegetables are tender.
In a blender or food processor, puree soup mixture until smooth. Return to pot, and stir in cream, if desired. Heat through, but do not boil. Serve warm with a dash of nutmeg.


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