Food is more than just a meal, it’s a ministry and way to show love for Northeast Mississippi Community College’s First Lady, LuAnne Ford.

LuAnne grew up in the Blue Mountain area, but when she married Ricky, in 1978, they made Booneville their home where Ricky coached the Lady Blue Devils and Luanne stayed busy with a church in Tippah County and then Tishomingo and finally First Baptist Booneville in 1981. Ricky coached for the Booneville School District for four years and then coached at Northeast and later became president of the college in 2015.

As her husband took on his new role, LuAnne having retired from her role as music minister at First Baptist Church Booneville, took her new position very seriously as well. Her goal as First Lady is to make sure that when people visit Northeast, they leave feeling welcome. LuAnne has been cooking all life, and says, “I just like feeding people.”

The first lady said, “We’re very interested in food, we’re food people.”

She explained her mother, after retiring from her duties as a librarian at Blue Mountain College, began work as a hostess in the cafeteria, and even after relocating to Tupelo she worked with Calvary Baptist Church, where she worked to feed others.

Northeast was recently given a series of grants from Blue Cross and Blue Shield to invest in community. The college thought it would be good to build a nutrition center. Since opening the nutrition center in 2019 they came up with an idea to reach others through this program, and titled it, “Food With The First Lady”. The first class was on muffins.

The instructor said, “I demonstrated with them, not for them.”

The original plan was to have a demonstration every semester and then the pandemic happened. Not one to give up, the decision was made to move the production to her home, and everyone wore masks and made the video safely.

For her first video in her home kitchen she, and her “walking buddies” made Northeast Gumbo. These videos are on the college’s Facebook page and YouTube Channel.

Many may not realize the effort, preparation, and thought that goes into feeding others. She is a frugal shopper, and buys her products on sale and prepares her vegetables, most of which she raises with her husband, by freezing them in serving size and even canning what she can. Items that can’t be prepared in small portions are cut up and frozen into individual servings for later meals.

“I don’t like to waste anything,” the frugal shopper and cook said.

During the coronavirus she refused to sit still, and decided she would take the time to begin cleaning around the home. Because she likes to plan ahead, the meal prepper created the coronavirus menu based on items she had in her kitchen and freezer. The menu is divided into categories such as; Mexican, Soups, American, Breakfast, Light Meals, Veggies, Cookies, Cake, Muffins, Pie and Other. Sheltering in place did not deter her frugality and ability to plan ahead.

The couple has four children, and eight grandchildren with two more on the way. The busy mother and grandmother has a family tradition, that was started by her mother, of chocolate chip cookies baked fresh on the day the baby is born. No surprise, the grandmother has a bag of frozen cookie dough already shaped in little balls ready for the oven in her freezer.

The First Lady of Northeast Mississippi Community College takes great pride in her role, but she has not given up on her ministry.

She said, “If you’re a Christian there is always a ministry to do, and the Lord has equipped you, and you need to use it.”

LuAnne Ford was nominated as the March Cook of the Month by Donna Cleveland. To nominate a favorite cook to be featured as the Banner-Independent Cook of the Month, email boone

Sweet Potato Casserole

4 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups miniature marshmallows

1 cup chopped nuts

1 cup shredded coconut

1 stick melted butter

Combine sweet potatoes, sugar and salt. Put into greased 13 X 9 casserole dish. Spread marshmallows on top. Sprinkle with coconut and nuts. Melt butter and pour over all.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly and marshmallows are lightly browned.

Crunchy Romaine Salad


1 bunch of romaine, torn

4 green onions, chopped

1 1/2 cups chopped broccoli, optional

Handful of dried cranberries, optional


1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tsp. soy sauce

Salt and pepper to taste


2 T. butter

1 (3 oz) pkg. ramen noodles, broken

Handful of nuts

In a jar with a tight fitting led, combine the sugar, oil, vinegar, soy sauce, salt and pepper; shake well.

Discard seasoning packet from noodles or save for another use. In a skillet, sauté noodles and nuts in butter until golden.

In a large bowl, combine romaine, broccoli, onions and cranberries. Just before serving, toss with dressing and sprinkle topping over all.


Old Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup shortening

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. Vanilla

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp. Salt

1 tsp. Baking soda

3 cups oats

1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Cream shortening and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, blend. Stir flour, salt and soda together. Stir into creamed mixture.

Stir in oats and nuts, if using.

Place on cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10 minutes or so.



1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup butter

1 onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper (or 1 cup), chopped

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 cups diced smoked sausage (1 package)

3 cups chopped cooked chicken or turkey

4 cups chicken or turkey broth

1 qt. or 1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes

2 cups cut okra, fresh or frozen (not breaded)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon file powder, optional

1 cup rice, brown or white

2 cups chicken or turkey broth or water

In heavy skillet, melt butter. Add flour and continue cooking on medium heat, stirring constantly, until dark brown – a roux. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.

In a crockpot, combine diced sausage, chicken or turkey, broth, tomatoes, okra and spices. Add sautéed mixture. Stir. Set to cook on high 4 hours or on low 6-8 hours.

Meanwhile, bring water or broth to a boil in a saucepan. Add rice and cover. Turn heat to low and cook for 15 minutes for white rice or 45 minutes for brown rice. When timer goes off, turn off and leave it to sit.

When ready to eat, remove bay leaves from the crockpot. Add the rice and stir to combine. Eat immediately. If the rice is left to sit, it will absorb the liquid in the gumbo making it very thick. Alternately, gumbo may be eaten atop the rice. In this case, spoon some rice in to a bowl separately and then add gumbo on top of rice.

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