Last updated: November 26. 2013 1:28PM - 786 Views
By Lucie R. Willsie Lifestyles Reporter

Peggy Tim has been cooking most of her life. She runs the Healthy Families Program for the N.C. Cooperative Extension office in Dobson.
Peggy Tim has been cooking most of her life. She runs the Healthy Families Program for the N.C. Cooperative Extension office in Dobson.
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Editor’s Note: This is the first of two articles on Peggy Tim, program assistant for the Healthy Families Program inthe N.C. Cooperative Extension Agency.

Waste not, want not.

Even stale bread shouldn’t be thrown out. For just one example, it can be used in a salad as croutons.

However, it’s best not to eat moldy cheese.

Even though some say to just cut off the mold and the rest of the cheese is still good to eat, mold that isn’t obviously seen yet as mold has probably already spread into the parts of the cheese that still looks good. Many don’t know this, so it is best not to eat moldy cheese at all.

All of this is great advice given by an extremely experienced and practiced cook.

But she is modest about her talents and gifts.

“I don’t consider myself a wonderful cook,” said Peggy Tim with genuine modesty. But she also does admit that she spends most of her time in the kitchen, whether or not she is at home or at work, cooking for others. “It’s just that I know how to use spices and how things go well together.”

Cooking since she was a child, Tim learned a lot from her family — her mom and her aunts, especially — but also from her dad.

Tim starting cooking at a really young age, she said.

“Six or seven,” if her memory serves her, she added. “My mom taught me.”

Tim’s earliest memory is of her mom making bread — every Saturday. She also remembers she rarely had store bought bread. In fact, “it was a treat to eat white bread,” she added.

And making bread also was Tim’s first cooking assignment given her by her mom.

“I remember it being lots of fun,” Tim said. “Plus, a lot of what I learned on how to stretch a dollar I learned at home.”

“My dad taught me how to make sauces,” she added. “He was a good cook too.”

Now, her youngest son also loves to cook, she said with pride.

“But he also likes to eat,” she added, “just like his mama.”

When it comes to eating, Tim said that one of her favorite culinary accomplishments has been expanding the range of food choices her husband now makes.

“When we got married, my husband often just ate noodles with butter,” she said. “Now, he eats everything, from eggplant and Parmesan cheese to whatever is the specialty of the day. His palate is now extremely refined. It’s one of my happiest and most beloved accomplishments.”

But Tim has many beloved food-related moments and recipes.

One of her favorite family recipes, for example, is Cucidati or Italian Fig Cookies — made with figs, dates, nuts, raisins, ground cinnamon, honey and orange marmalade. It is a dearly beloved recipe that Tim makes every year at Christmas time, even though it is extremely time-consuming.

“But I do it in memory of my family,” she said.

Tim added to her family training and knowledge in cooking by also majoring in home economics when home economics was still a serious classroom course.

“We learned everything — from the ground up — on how to be homemakers,” Tim emphasized. She learned canning, how to alter clothing patterns, how to shop properly for food, how to put together a complete and realistic household budget, how to sew a wardrobe, meal planning, in addition to cooking. “My home economics teacher also was a great influence in my life.”

Tim is the program assistant for the Healthy Families Program through the N.C. Cooperative Extension office in Dobson, a post she has held for the past 16 years.

“I work with agencies and families in the community to help them eat better and on a budget,” Tim said. But she wants readers to know her classes are not to be confused with cooking courses. “It’s about nutrition,” she said, “and eating healthy on a budget.”

One misconception about cooking, she tells her class, is that a lot of people think they have to get meals premade, out of a box, to make it convenient, she said. But folks aren’t really saving money buying prepacked food because it usually costs more per serving. Plus, the portions are usually smaller than the ones that can be made at home, fresh. Also, pre-packaged foods usually contain higher levels of salt/sodium and have added preservatives in them.

“Also, people think they are saving time,” Tim added, “but they still have to do the prep at home.”

And over the years, combining all the years of experience she had learning about food and cooking and nutrition since she was a kid, added to her food work experience, Tim has a lot of great advice for both budding, as well as experienced, cooks out there.

One important tip Tim has for folks is to shop early in the day.

“A lot of my bargain shopping I do in the morning,” Tim said. “I save a lot of money that way. Then I either use the food right away or I freeze it.”

For example, another one of her most important tips a cook needs to know is how to read the labels of the foods they buy. Cooks and consumers alike need to check the fat content of foods, as well as the sugar, salt, calories, cholesterol, fiber, vitamins and minerals types and amounts. Folks need to look at the overall amounts they are taking in throughout the day, the week and make sure it fits within what is recommended for their age and activity levels.

A great website she recommends to help track eating habits and nutrition can be found at myplate.gov. By plugging in nutrition information, this website will calculate your calories, and fat and more, and give correct amounts a person needs to eat. For example, a person should never eat more than 30 percent of total calories per day in fats. This site will help a person know if they are exceeding this limit.

Another important piece of food advice from Tim is to plan your meals. To do this properly, a cook has to know what they have on hand and then look for sales for what is on special that week.

“To make the most use of a food budget, purchase food in season,” Tim said. Don’t buy watermelon in the winter. Also, check the labels on the fruit to find out if they are from the United States or from outside the country. “Another clue is that fruits and vegetables that are in season are much less expensive … It’s what’s on sale at the store.”

In season in North Carolina now are broccoli, cabbage, leafy greens, pecans, and sweet potatoes. The bright orange vegetables are particularly high in vitamin A and fiber which is particularly healthy to help support a person’s immune system, especially during the cold winter months.

“And the more local, the better,” Tim advised. “Plus, it also helps the community.”






1 medium onion, chopped

½ green pepper, diced

1 Tablespoon of olive oil

1 can (15 ounces) of petite diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon of oregano

½ teaspoon of garlic powder

1 ½ cups of instant brown rice, uncooked

1 can (16 ounce) of undrained black beans (or bean of your choice)


In a large pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and green pepper and cook until tender. Do not brown. Add the tomatoes, beans (including the liquid from both), oregano and garlic powder. Bring to a boil and add the rice. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan, cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Leftovers should be stored in a clean covered container in the refrigerator. Yields 10, 1 cup servings. COOK’S NOTE: Leftovers mixed with a scrambled egg with cheese and served on a warm tortilla are great for lunch.





1 package of frozen burger crumbles, about 1 pound (See recipe for FROZEN BURGER CRUMBLES in PART TWO of Peggy Tim’s Cook of the Week.)

1 can of tomato soup

1 can of petite diced tomatoes

½ cup of milk

1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, divided

1 ½ teaspoons of Fiesta Spice Mix (See recipe for FIESTA SPICE MIX in PART TWO of Peggy Tim’s Cook of the Week.)

8 floured tortillas


Spray a 9”x13” baking pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a large mixing bowl mix the milk, soup, tomatoes and spice mix. Pour about 1/3 of this mixture in the bottom of the pan. Arrange 4 tortillas in a single layer in pan. Top with beef, 1/3 of the tomato mixture, and ¾-cup of the shredded cheese. Place remainder of the tortillas, sauce and cheese on top. Cover with foil and bake at 400-degrees Fahrenheit for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake 10 extra minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before cutting.





1 link of medium or hot Italian sausage, removed from casing

1 Tablespoon of olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon of garlic powder)

1 chicken bouillon cube

1 teaspoon of Italian spice

1 14.5-ounce can of crushed tomatoes

2 cups of water

1 14.5-ounce can of white beans (or bean of your choice), drained and rinsed

1 10-ounce package of frozen chopped spinach

½ cup of whole grain elbow macaroni (uncooked)


In a large sauce pan, sauté the sausage, onion, and garlic in the olive oil until cooked. Add the tomatoes, spices, bouillon cube, beans, water and uncooked macaroni. Bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. When the macaroni is tender, remove from the heat and stir in the frozen spinach. Return to heat and cook just until all ingredients are hot. Do not overcook. Serve immediately with fresh, grated Parmesan cheese.





2/3 cups of skim milk

1 cup of pure pumpkin puree

1 regular size of fat-free/sugar-free instant vanilla pudding

1/8 teaspoon of ground ginger

½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1 container of low-fat, thawed whipped topping

1 cup of crushed ginger snaps cookies or graham crackers


In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, spices, and dry pudding mix. Beat on medium speed with an electric mixer while slowly adding 2/3 cups of the milk. When completely blended, fold in 1 cup of whipped topping with a spoon. Crush the cookies or graham crackers in a large plastic bag. In parfait glasses, layer the pumpkin pudding mixture, cookie crumbs and some extra whipped topping. Continue layering and finish with the whipped topping. Chill until ready to serve. COOK’S NOTE: The pudding mixture may also be used to fill a premade graham cracker crust and topped with extra whipped topping for an easy pie. This pie can be made ahead and frozen for a later time. Just thaw several hours in the refrigerator before serving.






4 cups of peeled and sliced tart apples (about 4 medium apples)

¾ cup of packed brown sugar

½ cup of flour

½ cup of dry, quick-cooking oatmeal

½ cup of softened margarine

¾ teaspoon of cinnamon

¼ teaspoon of nutmeg


Heat the oven to 375-degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange the apples in a well-greased square 8”x8”x2” baking pan. Mix the remaining ingredients until crumbly and sprinkle over the apples. Bake about 30 minutes until the apples are tender and the crisp is golden brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped topping.





2 cups of rolled quick oats (dry oatmeal)

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 cup of packed brown sugar

½ cup of sugar

1 cup of flour

¼ teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of baking soda

¼ cup of hot water

½ cup of Crisco shortening, melted and cooled


Combine the oats, sugars, flours, and salt in a large bowl. Combine the soda and water and stir into the oat mixture along with the shortening and vanilla. Stir until well blended. Roll into walnut-sized balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350-degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes or until golden. Allow to stand 2 minutes before removing from pan. Makes 3 ½ dozen.

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