By ANN CIPPERLY
After interesting careers in Washington, D.C., and working on a presidential campaign for Sen. Ted Cruz, Rachel and Drew White, who grew up in Opelika, moved to Auburn last year to be near family. With two small children and a third on the way, Rachel is creating family experiences that she enjoyed growing up, as they gather around the dinner table for good, homemade food.
Rachel was raised in Orlando, Florida, and attended the University of Florida after high school. For her last semester of college, she was required to work a full internship. This led her to Washington, D.C., for six months working for an event company that focused mostly on corporate parties.
Afterwards, she moved back home in 2008 with plans to find a job in Orlando, but with the recession there weren’t many jobs available. While looking for work, a family friend in Texas called to tell her that Rick Perry was looking for interns for his campaign for governor and asked if she was interested. Seven days later Rachel packed her car and moved to Texas, which was the beginning of her career in politics.
Rachel worked on Perry’s reelection campaign in 2010. After that, he became chairman of the Republication Governors’ Association. When he became chairman, Perry sent her to Washington to represent him with the RGA. She moved from Texas to Washington for about a year to work as his representative with the association.
In 2011, Rachel received a call from a friend to see if she would be interested in working on a campaign for the former solicitor general of Texas. She had no idea who that was, so she looked it up. The person was Ted Cruz.
She received the position and moved to Austin a week later. She worked for Cruz for five years, starting as deputy financial director and becoming financial director on his senate campaign. After he won the election, she worked on his leadership pac before he announced he was running for president.
Cruz’s wife Heidi wanted to be involved in the campaign, so Rachel switched her job to become her point person for a year and a half. “We traveled around the country together nonstop,” Rachel said. “One month I was only in my apartment in Houston for 12 hours. We were on the road working a hundred hours a week, flying from here to there. One day we were campaigning in five different states.”
Rachel and Drew met while working on the campaign at a staff retreat in Houston where she was living at the time. She was working for Cruz on his presidential campaign, and Drew was working in his senate office. They dated long distance as she was traveling. He would fly to cities where she was working on the campaign.
Drew grew up in Opelika. His parents are Jim and Vicki White. His father was a coach and teacher at Lee-Scott for many years. After Drew graduated from Auburn University, he lived in Tel Aviv, Israel, for a year and a half while working on his master’s degree in Middle Eastern History and International Politics.
While flying to Israel, Drew met someone who was involved in politics with the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. They became good friends, and after Drew received his master’s degree, he worked for the Heritage Foundation a few years.
Then, he moved to Cruz’s office where he was the domestic policy advisor. Although his degree was in international politics and foreign policy, he worked mostly in domestic policy over the years.
After Rachel and Drew married and started their family, they moved to this area in March 2021 to be near his family. “We were trying to decide between here and Orlando where my family is located,” said Rachel. “We picked here since we think this community is amazing. His parents are retired and enjoying spending time with the kids. It has been a blessing to be here.”
Rachel and Drew attend First Presbyterian in Opelika. Living here has been a good transition and fit for their family.
Drew has his own business as a public policy analyst. Rachel works part time for the Owen Center, a Biblical counseling center. She helps with fundraising in their development program.
“Since some who need counseling can’t always afford it,” she said, “we rely on generous donations from the community to help supplement the cost.”
The Whites have two children; Jack is 3 years old, and Madeline is 2. Another baby will be joining the family next March. Rachel enjoys cooking and baking for her family. “My mom and stepdad are both great cooks. They can cook everything, and what one can’t do the other one can.
“Growing up we never ate at restaurants because my parents always cooked,” she added. “My sister and I would help in the kitchen. My mom taught us at a young age. Food was always a big part of the time in our household. We had dinner together every night without any outside calls or television. I am raising my family that way. When it is dinner time, we are all at the table together.”
Rachel doesn’t have a memory of her family going to a restaurant aside from a family member’s birthday when she was growing up. They always cooked.
Her aunts and grandparents also have a love for cooking. There are a lot of fishermen in her family. If someone has a great catch from a deep sea fishing trip or taking the boat out, they would all get a call to come for dinner. Her parents would go rock lobster diving in Key West, scalloping or looking for clams. Rachel’s favorite was when her uncle would catch redfish.
“We always ate a lot of seafood,” she said. “I cook a lot of fish now.
Rachel wants to teach her children to cook. Jack has his own apron and enjoys helping to stir when she is baking. He is learning numbers as they are mixing the batter. She plans to have Jack help her bake every few weeks.
Rachel is sharing several of her favorite recipes. Two of the recipes are from her mom, the Floridian Fish Tacos and Sautéed Tilapia with Lemon Caper Sauce that she has been making for over 20 years.
Aunt Dee’s Quiche is her maternal aunt’s recipe. “It’s always a big hit,” Rachel said. “She is a fantastic cook. The Black Bean Salsa recipe is from a college friend’s mom. She writes a blog about SEC tailgating.
“The Smoked Salmon Cracker is my stepdad’s recipe. He is the king of the smoker as well as the grill.”
Rachel created the Creamy White Chili by combining a few online recipes, and she made a few slight modifications on the Cowboy Cookies from Former First Lady Laura Bush. The Baked Apples is a fall favorite from Rachel’s sister.
Another favorite is Thai Chicken Wraps, a recipe from Rachel’s first cookbook. She has a sweet memory of going to a bookstore with her mom to find the cookbook before she left for college.
The Whites are glad they settled in this area to raise their family. “Drew and I love living here for reasons that are widely shared among residents,” said Rachel. “People are genuine, families are central, values remain strong and the community is both intact and thriving. A lot of places in our country can’t say that about their towns or cities anymore.
“Auburn-Opelika is very blessed, and I hope people understand that and work to keep it that way.”
Mom’s Floridian Fish Tacos
⅓ cup low-fat mayonnaise
⅔ cup low-fat yogurt, plain
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 cups shredded cabbage
2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
¼ tsp. salt
1 lb. tilapia filets (or any white fish)
1 cup beer
1¼ cup all-purpose flour, divided
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cayenne
1 Tbsp. cumin
¼ cup all-purpose flour
8 flour tortillas
1 avocado, thinly sliced
Optional: salsa, jalapenos
Remove and chop 2 chipotle peppers from the can. Combine mayonnaise, yogurt, lime juice, chipotles and 1 Tbsp. of adobo sauce in a bowl and refrigerate, covered, until ready to assemble the tacos. Combine cabbage, rice vinegar and ¼ tsp. of salt in a bowl and refrigerate, covered, until ready to assemble the tacos.
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Wrap tortillas in aluminum foil and warm in the oven.
For the batter, heat oil in a deep pan on medium-high. While oil is heating, whisk together beer, 1 cup of flour, salt, cayenne and cumin. In a shallow dish, combine ¼ cup flour, salt and pepper. Dredge fish in flour mixture, then in batter, and cook in oil.
Remove tortillas from oven. To serve, spoon chipotle sauce on the tortilla, add fish, and top with avocado and slaw.
Note: For a healthier option, grill the fish seasoned with cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper.
Thai Chicken Wraps
6 whole wheat tortillas
½ tsp. garlic salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into thin strips for stir-frying
1 Tbsp. cooking oil
12 oz. bag broccoli slaw mix
1 medium red onion, cut into thin wedges
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
3 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
3 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. cooking oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap tortillas in aluminum foil and warm in the oven. In a small bowl, combine garlic salt and pepper. Add to chicken and toss to coat evenly. In a large skillet, cook and stir seasoned chicken in hot oil over medium-high heat until cooked through. Remove from skillet; keep warm.
Add broccoli slaw, onion and ginger to skillet. Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.
To assemble, spread each tortilla with about 1 Tbsp. Peanut Sauce. Top with chicken strips and vegetable mixture. Roll up each tortilla, securing with a toothpick. Serve immediately with remaining sauce.
For the peanut sauce, in a small saucepan combine sugar, peanut butter, soy sauce, water, oil and garlic. Heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring frequently.
Mom’s Sauteed Tilapia with Lemon Caper Sauce
5.9 oz. box couscous
1 ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
½ cup lemon juice
3 tsp. capers, drained and lightly crushed
6 tsp. butter, divided
2 tsp. olive oil
4 tilapia filets
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ cup all-purpose flour
Lemon wedge (optional)
Prepare couscous according to the directions. Combine broth, lemon juice and capers in a bowl. Set aside.
Melt 2 tsp. of butter in a non-stick pan over low heat. Sprinkle fish filets with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish, dredge filets in flour, and shake off excess.
Increase heat to medium high, heat for two minutes or until butter turns golden brown. Add filets to pan and sauté for 3 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove filets from pan.
Add broth mixture to the pan, scraping bottom of the pan to loosen the browned bits. Bring to a boil, cook until reduced to about ¾ -1 cup, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in 4 tsp. of butter. To serve: scoop a generous portion of couscous on a plate, place fresh baby spinach on top of couscous, place a filet on top of spinach, and spoon broth mixture on top of fish. Serve with a lemon wedge.
Rachel’s Creamy White Chili
1 lb. ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cans (15 ½ oz. each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 ½ oz.) chicken broth
2 cans (4 oz. each) chopped green chiles
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. pepper
⅛ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
½ cup heavy whipping cream
Optional: tortilla chips, shredded cheddar cheese, sliced avocado, cornbread
In a large saucepan, sauté ground turkey, onion and garlic in oil. Cook until turkey is no longer pink. Add beans, broth, chiles and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in sour cream and heavy cream. Serve immediately. If desired, top with tortilla chips, cheese and avocados. I prefer to serve over cornbread.
Black Bean Salsa
2 cans white shoepeg corn, drained
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
¾ cup chopped onion
¾ cup chopped red pepper
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
½ cup balsamic vinegar
⅓ cup olive oil
1½ Tbsp. Dijon mustard
¼ cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the next 5 ingredients. Pour over the salsa, mix well and chill for at least an hour. Salsa is best the next day.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1½ cups (3 sticks) butter, room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
1½ cups packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 ½ cups milk chocolate chips
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup sweetened coconut flakes
2 cups chopped pecans (8 ounces)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. In a very large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Gradually beat in sugars and combine thoroughly. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each. Beat in vanilla. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips, oats, coconut and pecans.
For each cookie, drop ¼ cup dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing 3 inches apart. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until edges are lightly browned; rotating sheets halfway through. Place cookies on a rack to cool. Note: this recipe makes 3 dozen. I usually freeze half of the dough for later.
My Sister’s Baked Stuffed Apples
Serve with vanilla ice cream
4 medium apples, washed
⅓ cup packed light-brown sugar
½ cup quick-cooking oats
3 Tbsp. softened butter
⅓ cup chopped walnuts
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
Juice from ½ a lemon
½ cup apple juice
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Peel apples just around the tops and remove cores, taking care not to pierce through the bottom of the apple. Be sure to make a nice wide core, so there is plenty of room for the filling.
In a medium bowl, mix together brown sugar, oats, butter, walnuts, spices and lemon juice until crumbly. Divide mixture equally between the apples, stuffing it in their cores, and mounding it a bit at the top.
Place apples in an 8 x 8 inch baking pan and pour the apple juice all around the bottom. Bake for 45 minutes, or until tender. Serve warm with ice cream spooned over the top.
Smoke Salmon Crackers
This is my stepdad’s recipe.
1 lb. filet of salmon
½ Tbsp. soy sauce
Montreal steak seasoning
Chive and onion cream cheese
Prepare smoker (if you don’t have a smoker, you can cook over indirect heat on a gas grill). Pour soy sauce over the salmon, then cover the salmon with a light layer of Montreal steak seasoning. Place fish directly on the top rack of your smoker. Smoke for 30-45mins depending on the thickness of the filet. Remove from the smoker and serve on top of crackers with cream cheese. If you wish to serve your fish chilled on top of your crackers, you may smoke the day before.
German Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars
3 cups pecan halves and pieces
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup powdered sugar
¾ cup cold butter, cubed
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
¾ cup light corn syrup
¼ cup butter, melted
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8-10 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Line bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 inch pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, allowing 2 to 3 inches to extend over sides. Lightly grease foil.
Pulse flour and next 3 ingredients in a food processor 5 to 6 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal. Press mixture on bottom and 3/4 inch up sides of prepared pan. Bake crust at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and sprinkle chocolate over warm crust. Cool completely on a wire rack (about 30 minutes).
Whisk together brown sugar and next 3 ingredients until smooth. Stir in coconut and toasted pecans, and spoon into prepared crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden and set. Cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour). Chill 1 hour. Lift baked bars from pan, using foil sides as handles. Transfer to a cutting board; cut into bars.
Aunt Dee’s Quiche
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
⅔ cup shortening
4 Tbsp. water, cold
6 slices bacon
⅓ cup chopped onions
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
6 large eggs
1½ cups half & half
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
⅛ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
For the dough, combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add shortening and gradually work it into the flour with a fork or pastry cutter. The mixture should be crumbly. Add cold water and stir until combined. Roll in a flat disc-shape, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate about an hour or until firm. Generously flour your surface. Roll out dough in a 13-14 inch diameter to fit a 9 ich deep dish pie plate. Carefully place rolled dough in pie plate. Try not to stretch or tear. Fold the excess dough under to create a border.
For the quiche, heat oven to 425 degrees. In a large pan, cook bacon over medium heat. Remove and crumble. Drain all but 1-2 tablespoons of the bacon grease from the pan. Add onions and mushrooms, and cook for about 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent and mushrooms are tender. Set aside.
Defrost and drain spinach. Shred Swiss cheese. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and the next 4 ingredients. Spread crumbled bacon evenly over the bottom of the pie crust, repeat with onions and mushrooms, spinach, then cheese. Pour egg mixture into the pie crust.
Cook uncovered for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and cook uncovered for an additional 30 to 45 minutes, until a knife comes out clean. Can serve immediately or reheat the next day.
French Toast Muffins
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ cup sugar
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. nutmeg
½ cup milk
⅓ cup butter, melted
1 large egg
Non-stick cooking spray
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ cup butter, melted
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium-large bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Add milk, butter, and egg. Stir until combined. Be sure not to overmix; the batter should be a bit lumpy. Scoop batter into a muffin tin that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until they just start to turn golden at the edges.
For the topping, mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Place melted butter in another small bowl. Dip the warm muffins in melted butter, then dip/roll the muffin in cinnamon sugar mixture.