Whitehead’s love language is cooking

By JOHN LEE

Shannon Whitehead says that cooking is one of her favorite activities, taking her away from the hustle and bustle of work, which she considers the language of love.

“I love the bonding aspect of cooking and being able to have fun with my family and enjoy special moments with them and my friends,” said Whitehead, the new Philadelphia Public Schools superintendent. “I like to visit them for different occasions, whether it’s a holiday or just a celebration of life.”

Whitehead was born and raised in Canton and remembers starting her cooking career in the kitchen with her grandmother and aunts.

“I would sit and watch them cook and sometimes I would help them prepare some of the items like seasonings,” Whitehead said. “I would absorb all the conversation and laughter in the kitchen. It brought together the unity and togetherness of the cooking, and it was a great coming together, whether the dish turned out well or badly.”

Whitehead said her family always had Sunday dinners during her childhood, a tradition she maintains even now.

“Cooking is always rich in our culture and we incorporate food into holiday traditions or celebrations like graduations and other achievements,” she said. “My fondest memories are cooking Easter and Christmas dinners with my family.”

Whitehead started cooking on her own around the age of 24, when she became a mother. She said her favorite things to cook are savory dishes like spaghetti and casseroles, turkey and dressing on Sundays and Mississippi pot roast. Her favorite party dish is pasta salad.

“I’m not much of a baker, but if I had to make a sweet dish, it would be strawberry shortcake or key lime pie, which is my favorite dessert,” she said.

Whitehead added that she is a foodie and likes to try new restaurants. She even travels to different states and cities just to try the food there.

White Whitehead recently became superintendent of the Philadelphia Public Schools. She plans to continue spending time cooking on Wednesday nights, and Sunday dinners are always available.

“It’s a tradition that will live on,” she said.

JOHN WAYNE

BREAD WITH TATTER TOT

800g Tater Tots, thawed

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 pounds of lean beef

1 yellow onion, diced

1 green pepper, diced

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

341 ml can of corn

5 cups chunky salsa

8 ounces of cream cheese with herbs and chives

1/2 cup Miracle Whip

1/2 tablespoon onion powder

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese mixture

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese with Jalapeño peppers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Dice the yellow onion and green pepper. Place the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the lean beef to the pan. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Shred the meat while cooking. Cook until almost browned. Add chopped onion and green pepper and continue to cook.

While the meat is cooking, prepare the cream cheese sauce by mixing together the cream cheese, Miracle Whip and onion powder.

Grate the cheddar cheese and the Monterey Jack cheese. When the meat is cooked, add the can of corn and salsa of choice to the pan and toss to combine. Reduce heat to simmer for 5 minutes.

Place a layer of Tater Tots in the bottom of the prepared 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Next is the meat mixture. Spread the cream cheese mixture as evenly as possible over the meat layer. Sprinkle the crumbled cheeses on top.

Bake in a preheated oven for 40-45 minutes. Remove the casserole from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

KEY LIME PIE

3 cups of sweetened condensed milk

¾ cup key lime juice

½ cup sour cream

1 tablespoon grated lime zest

1 (9-inch) prepared graham cracker crust

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine condensed milk, lime juice, sour cream, and lime zest in a bowl; Mix well. Pour into graham cracker crust.

Bake in the preheated oven for 5 to 8 minutes, until small bubbles with holes burst on the surface of the pie. The filling will wobble but not brown. Cool the pie thoroughly in the refrigerator for about an hour before serving. Garnish with lime wedges and whipped cream, if desired.

ITALIAN PASTA SALAD

1 (16-ounce) package rotini pasta

1 cup Italian-style salad dressing

1 cup creamy Caesar salad dressing

1 cup grated Parmesan

1 red pepper, diced

1 green pepper, chopped

1 red onion, diced

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente, rinse under cold water and drain. In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, Italian salad dressing, Caesar dressing, Parmesan cheese, paprika, green pepper and red onion. Mix well and serve chilled or at room temperature.