Good Cook - Deborah Roberts

Deborah Roberts fills chicken salad croissants.
Deborah Roberts fills chicken salad croissants.

Who she cooks for: Husband, Mike; two daughters, Sara and Adrianne, and their families. She also prepares meals for The Pampered Chef cooking shows, for which she is an independent consultant.

Signature dishes: Homemade chicken salad and custard-style banana pudding. "Banana pudding is a family recipe and it's different from most restaurants. My husband just likes the chicken salad because it's made with fresh chicken, and it's better than the store-bought kind. It has my own personal touch to it."

Favorite dish everyone loves: "I would have to say cookies, any flavor, but especially the ones with chocolate chips." One of her grandson's kindergarten teachers quoted him as saying, "My Nana, she's a good cooker." Roberts said: "That had to be one of the best compliments I've ever received. But I must say, when my husband takes my baked goods to work to share, his coworkers tell me when I call that if I ever run Mike off, they'd be more than happy to take his place."

Inspiration for cooking: "I believe the ability to cook is a gift from God; not everyone has been blessed with this ability. My mother, the late Dollie Mangrum, was a good cook and I always watched her and learned from her. Using quality kitchen tools, I find it is easy to be inspired to cook for anyone, but especially for my family."

Most important kitchen utensils: A good sharp knife, a quality cutting board, a classic batter bowl, mixing scrapers, stainless/silicone sauce whisk and nonstick cookware with lids.

Greatest cooking accomplishments: Over the years, Roberts and her husband have served as co-chairs for Woodland United Methodist Church's family ministries committee. Once the couple, with other church members, cooked the main dishes for the Thanksgiving dinner, which served about 300. "Everyone always commended me on the cornbread dressing, my own, slightly improvised version of my late mother's recipe. I baked the cornbread from scratch, while Mike diligently chopped onion after onion."

Worst cooking disaster: "I was about 14 years old and was frying French fries in a pan of hot grease in my mother's kitchen when the telephone rang and I ran to answer it. I smelled smoke and ran back to the kitchen, grabbing the handle, only to quickly realize it was too hot to hold. I dropped the pan on my mother's new linoleum floor and burned it. Luckily for me, the house didn't catch fire, and I learned a valuable lesson. When frying food, especially using a gas stove, don't answer the phone."

Cooking tips: When boiling eggs, add a tablespoon of vinegar and a teaspoon of salt to the water to make the eggs easier to peel. When a recipe calls for baking soda or baking powder, always use the exact amount or the recipe will fail.

Debi's Homemade Chunky Chicken Salad

3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3/4 cup Hellman's canola mayonnaise

4 tablespoons Mount Olive no sugar added sweet relish

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

1/2 cup green seedless grapes, cut into fourths

1/2 cup raisins

1/3 cup walnut pieces

Debi's Custard Style Banana Pudding

Cook chicken in water in a large stock pot. Drain, cool and cut the meat into small cubes. Place chicken into a large bowl and add mayonnaise, relish and celery seed. Mix together well. Fold in grapes, raisins and walnuts. Add black pepper to taste. Yields 4 cups. Makes eight croissant sandwiches.

3 1/2 cups whole milk

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 to 3 medium firm bananas, not too ripe

1/2 to 3/4 box of Nilla Wafers

In a 4-quart glass bowl, alternately layer the wafers and sliced bananas. Mix flour in 1/2 cup milk until smooth, then combine this liquid with the rest of the milk, eggs, vanilla and sugar. Pour into a 3-quart non-stick sauce pan. Bring heat up slowly, stirring constantly with a silicone whisk until a custard forms, about 10 minutes. Immediately pour custard over wafers and bananas. Let cool about 20 minutes.

-- Recipes provided by Deborah Roberts