Terri Neighbors enjoys cooking for family, friends as act of love

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By Ann Cipperly

Terri and Dr. Mark Neighbors enjoy their lovely home in Sanders Creek and have created a cozy, relaxing area on the porch with a cushioned swing and small tables for holding a refreshing beverage in the afternoons, as they enjoy listening to the birds. They also enjoy a restful retreat on the back patio overlooking their garden with vegetables, herbs and fruits. Their two dogs enjoy being with them whether they are on the porch or patio.

Terri enjoys cooking for family and friends. “I feel like it is an act of love when you prepare a dish or meal for someone,” she says. “I am always thinking about who I am cooking for and make things I know they will enjoy and appreciate. It is an act of love for family and friends. I like for them to come and relax and not worry about anything.”

Dr. Neighbors is the superintendent of education for Opelika City Schools, and Terri worked at several positions with the city schools and in payroll for county schools. After 27 years in the school system, she retired two years ago. She is now the receptionist for Scott Bridge Company and is enjoying a different kind of work.

Terri was born in Tallassee where both of her parents grew up. Her father was in the military and they moved often, living in Australia, Ohio, Florida and Sicily. She attended five different schools from kindergarten to sixth grade.

When Terri was 10 years old, her parents divorced and her mother moved back to Tallassee. Terri met Mark in high school when his family moved to Tallassee from Guntersville. His father was her high school principal. “We think it is nice that his Dad signed my diploma and my brother’s, as well as Mark’s and his sister’s,” says Terri. “Mark was able to do that for both of our children.”

Mark’s family has been working in education for generations. His father was a superintendent of schools, while his mother worked with special needs children. Mark has a photo of his great-great-grandfather standing in a one-room schoolhouse with about 68 children. He traded chickens and eggs for books.

After high school, Terri attended a junior college and worked for an insurance company in Tallassee. Mark was volunteering at a fire station next door. They began dating and were married a year later.

The Neighbors had been married for three years when they moved to Opelika in 1991. Mark was principal of the Middle School before becoming assistant superintendent. He took over as superintendent when Dr. Raley retired in 2007.

Terri didn’t have any interest in cooking until she moved out on her own. One of her good friend’s mother worked for the telephone company and had a recipe published in “Calling All Cooks,” a cookbook assembled by the phone company with recipes of employees. Terri purchased a copy, and it has been her favorite cookbook over the years.

When she prepares one of the recipes in the cookbook, she makes a note on the date and occasion. While the cover has worn off the cookbook, it is filled with stories of happy dinners and parties.

Both Terri and Mark enjoy cooking and cook differently now that Chelsea and Carter are grown. Chelsea, who works at East Alabama Medical Center, is marrying Will Cloud in October. Carter graduated from Auburn University and has joined the military. He is stationed at Fort Benning.

Carter’s favorite dish is Shepherd’s Pie that everyone in the family enjoys, while Banana Pudding Cheesecake is Chelsea’s most requested for her birthday.

Terri prefers recipes that can be prepared quickly or ones using a product that can be embellished. “The Rosemary Parmesan Rolls looks like you have gone to a lot of trouble to make a nice dinner roll,” she says, “when really it is just a crescent roll that has been dressed up.”

For weekday meals, Terri prepares make ahead sides that will last two or three days. When she comes home from work, she will just need to cook the protein to complete dinner.

She grows a variety of herbs to use in cooking, including thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, basil and chives. She has five groups of cherry tomatoes in pots on the patio. While Terri prepares assorted tomato recipes, her favorite is simply made by marinating sliced tomatoes and chopped basil in Garlic Expressions Garlic Vinaigrette for about an hour before dinner. She finds it is good with chicken, fish or on pasta. The vinaigrette can be found in the produce section.

Terri enjoys being in a supper club that started as a bunco group 29 years ago. The 12 women members get together once a month with the hostess cooking the meal. Now that the children are grown, it is a wonderful fellowship time that she looks forward to every month.

Following are a variety of Terri’s favorite recipes. Clip and save these wonderful tried and true recipes to prepare for your family and friends.

Cipperly can be contacted at recipes@cipperly.com

Recipes:

Easy Mousse
2 cups heavy cream, whipped
1 cup Nutella
Fold Nutella into whipped cream. Place in a stemmed glass. Garnish with a strawberry or rolled cookie, if desired.

Pineapple Almond Slaw
Dressing:
1/2 cup fat free Greek Yogurt* (I recommend using Fage, other brands may be too thin)
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup honey or 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
Coleslaw:
1 bag of coleslaw mix
1 1/2 cups matchstick carrots
20 oz. can pineapple tidbits, drain juice and reserve 2 Tbsp.
3 sliced green onions
¼ cup slivered or sliced almonds
In a mixing bowl whisk together Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, honey, pineapple juice and apple cider vinegar until smooth, while seasoning with salt and peppers to taste.
In a large bowl toss together cabbage, carrots, pineapple, green onions, and almonds. Pour dressing over cabbage mixture and toss to evenly coat. Serve immediately for best results.

Mediterranean Bean Salad
This salad is packed with protein and an easy summer side dish. It is also great with grilled chicken or salmon on top for a complete meal.
15 oz. can of cannellini beans, drained and well rinsed
15 oz. can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas) drained and well rinsed
1 cup cherry tomato halves
1 English cucumbers, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (do not peel)
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup peppadew or banana peppers, rough chopped
1/2 cup black olives, halved
1 cup assorted colorful bell peppers, diced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup chopped marinated artichokes
About 10 large basil leaves, shredded
Dressing
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, or more to taste
1 tsp. dried Italian herbs, I used thyme, oregano, and rosemary
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Whisk dressing ingredients together and taste to adjust any of them. Add more vinegar if you want a tangier flavor. Set aside. Put beans in a large salad bowl. Add rest of the ingredients and toss gently so that the beans don’t break up.
The salad will keep, well covered, for several days in the refrigerator. This salad is very versatile. If you don’t like an ingredient leave it out.

Parmesan Cheese Dinner Rolls
2 tubes Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
1 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese or more to taste, plus 2-3 Tbsp. for topping
1 Tbsp. dried or 2 tsp. fresh rosemary
4 Tbsp. butter, divided
Kosher salt, omit if you use salted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place skillet with 2 Tbsp. butter in the oven to melt.
Working with one tube at a time, roll out dough and press seams together to form a sheet. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the Parmesan and 1/2 of the rosemary. Feel free use more cheese if you want it extra cheesy. Roll up the dough lengthwise and slice into approximately 1″ pieces.
Repeat with second tube of dough and remaining cheese and rosemary. Remove skillet from oven and brush butter around bottom and sides of the skillet.
Arrange dough slices in the skillet (they will fit snugly). Melt remaining 2 Tbsp. of butter in microwave and brush over the top of the rolls. Sprinkle with extra cheese, rosemary and a pinch of kosher salt, if desired.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until bread is golden brown. Cool slightly and serve right out of the skillet.
These taste like fancy dinner rolls and are so easy to throw together.

Banana Pudding Cheesecake
This is our daughter Chelsea’s request instead of birthday cake every year.
1 1/2 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup  butter , melted
17 vanilla wafers
2 ripe bananas, diced
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2-3 Tbsp. light brown sugar
3 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Whipped cream and vanilla wafers for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, stir together crushed vanilla wafers, chopped pecans and melted butter. Press into bottom of a greased 9-inch springform pan.
Stand 17 vanilla wafers around edge of pan with rounded sides facing outward. Press them gently into the crust.
In a small saucepan, combine bananas (both diced and mashed) and lemon juice. Stir in brown sugar, using 2 Tbsp. if your bananas are super ripe and 3 Tbsp. if they are medium ripe. Cook over medium heat until brown sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.
Gradually add granulated sugar.
Add eggs, one at a time and stopping to scrape down sides of bowl after each addition. Do not over beat. Only beat until most of yellow disappears before adding next egg.
Beat in vanilla extract.
Stir banana mixture in until evenly mixed. Pour batter into springform pan on top of crust.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until center is almost set. Jiggle the pan to check.
Turn oven off, open door about 6 inches and leave cheesecake in oven to cool for about 1 hour.
Remove cheesecake to counter to cool for another 30 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours before serving.
Garnish with whipped cream and vanilla wafers.
Recipe Notes
If you’re a huge fan of vanilla wafers, try adding 1/2 cup coarsely chopped vanilla wafers to the batter. You can leave the pecans out of the crust if you don’t like them.

Carter’s Favorite Shepherd’s Pie
2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
1 bag frozen peas and carrots
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups shredded cheese, we like sharp cheddar
Small bag of Yukon gold potatoes or can also use instant mashed potatoes in a pinch
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
Milk or buttermilk to thin potatoes, if too stiff
Cube potatoes and boil until tender with salt and pepper. While potatoes are cooking, brown ground beef and onion in a skillet. Add 2 cans of soups and frozen vegetables and salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes on stove top. Drain potatoes and mash. Add mayonnaise and sour cream and milk.
Pour meat mixture into a greased casserole dish. Add cheese to top of meat mixture and then add mashed potatoes and smooth top. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Serve with Parmesan Cheese Dinner Rolls.

Peanut Butter Fudge Bars
This is my new favorite go to dessert. So easy to throw together and tastes like you spent a long time making it.
1 box of your favorite brownie mix (I like Ghiradelli Triple Fudge)
10 oz. bag of Reese’s peanut butter chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
¾ cup heavy cream
½ cup roasted salted peanuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 and spray a 13×9 baking dish. Prepare brownie according to package directions and bake for 25 minutes. Cool completely, about an hour. Place peanut butter chips, peanut butter, vanilla, salt and condensed milk in a microwavable bowl and microwave on high for a minute. Stir until smooth and then spread in an even layer on top of the brownies. Place chocolate chips and heavy cream in the same bowl and microwave for 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Pour chocolate on top of the peanut butter mixture, top with chopped peanuts and refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

Ginger Ale Glazed Carrots
The easiest side dish you will ever make!
1 bag of carrots (you can use the bagged baby carrots or coins for a time saver)
1 Tbsp. butter
1 small bottle ginger ale (I prefer the brand Red Rock – more ginger flavor)
Peel and slice carrots into coins. Sauté carrots for 2 or 3 minutes in the butter until they start to brown. Pour in ¾ of the small bottle of ginger ale to cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove cover and let cook until the sauce thickens and mostly evaporates. This should only take a few minutes. So good!

Skinny Frittata
We like this for a quick and easy dinner with salad.
1 lb. of your favorite turkey or chicken sausage, browned
6 eggs
1 cup 2% cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
¼ cup unsweet almond milk
½ pickled jalapenos
Cholula hot sauce to taste or your favorite hot sauce (Can omit if you don’t like spice.)
Any assorted vegetables you have on hand. I usually put all the leftovers on hand, but my favorites are corn, peppers, mushrooms, onions and asparagus.
Preheat oven to 350. Brown sausage and add vegetables for the last few minutes.
Beat eggs with almond milk, hot sauce and cheddar cheese. Pour on top on meat and vegetables. Sprinkle with Parmesan and jalapenos. Bake until puffy and golden about 30 minutes. Low calorie and the spice will curb your appetite.

Spaghetti Squash Au gratin
1 medium spaghetti squash, roasted whole in oven for 40 minutes at 350
1 medium onion, sliced thinly and caramelized in a skillet until brown with 2 Tbsp. of butter (This part takes a little while but makes the whole recipe. Be patient.)
¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
2 clove minced garlic (I use the jarred kind.)
1 1/3 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
½ tsp. salt and pepper
½ tsp. cayenne pepper, if you like heat
After the squash is roasted, allow to cool slightly. Remove seeds and discard. Use a fork to remove the squash from shell. Mix in a bowl with the remaining ingredients. Put back in the 350 oven already preheated and bake for 30 minutes. Great side dish.

Greek Layer Dip
6 oz. crumbled Feta cheese
2 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 Tbsp. nonfat plain Greek yogurt
8 oz. Sabra Classic Hummus
1 ½ tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. white wine vinegar
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. dried basil
1/8 tsp. oregano
1/8 tsp. mustard
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
½ cup diced cucumber
½ cup diced grape tomatoes
10 pitted Kalamata olives, diced
Combine feta, cream cheese and yogurt in bowl of a food processor and process until combined and smooth. Spread cheese mixture evenly across bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. Top this cheesy layer with hummus and spread across evenly. (I reserved a tiny bit of the feta to sprinkle over the top at the end)
In a medium bowl, combine oil, vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil, oregano, mustard, salt and pepper and stir until well combined.
Add diced cucumbers, tomatoes and olives to oil mixture and stir until well combined. Spread tomato/cucumber mixture over top of hummus in pie plate and serve.

Tomato Crostini with Whipped Feta Spread
6 oz. feta, crumbled
2 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. minced shallots (2 shallots)
2 tsp. minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 Tbsp. good red wine vinegar
2 lbs. ripe heirloom or cherry tomatoes, ½-inch-diced
3 Tbsp. julienned fresh basil leaves, plus extra for serving
20 to 25 (½-inch-thick) diagonal baguette slices, toasted
2 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts
For whipped feta, place feta and cream cheese in bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse until cheeses are mixed. Add 1/3 cup of the olive oil, the lemon juice, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper and process until smooth.  
For the tomatoes, up to an hour before you’re serving, combine shallots, garlic, and vinegar in a medium bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes. Whisk in remaining 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 tsp. salt, and – tsp. pepper. Add tomatoes, stir gently, and set aside for 10 minutes. Stir in basil and taste for seasonings.
To assemble crostini, spread each slice of bread with a generous amount of whipped feta. With a slotted spoon, place the tomatoes on top. Put crostini on plates and scatter with pine nuts. Sprinkle with extra basil and serve.


Bread and Butter Jalapenos-Refrigerator Pickles
1 1/2 cup sliced jalapenos, ¼-inxh thick (I cut the membrane and most of the seeds ou.)t
1/4 cup onion, sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vinegar-I used cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. celery seed
3/4 tsp. salt
Mix everything and let sit on counter until it makes enough liquid to cover the peppers (a couple hours). Give it a stir or shake every once in a while.
Store covered in the refrigerator. The flavor is best after a couple days. These are great on fish tacos, sandwiches, frittata and even pizza.

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