Someone's in the Kitchen with Sarah: Kathleen Boggs
Salisbury resident Kathleen Boggs doesn't like to waste time in the kitchen. She prefers to get in and get out.
“I like easy,” she said.
That was evident when I visited her home last Thursday.
She was flying around the kitchen, opening cans and chopping vegetables at warp speed.
There was rarely a moment when we were just standing around.
She likely learned speed was of the essence when she began cooking for her large Michigan family growing up.
“When I was 4 years old it was a rule that I had to make one meal a week,” she said. “There were nine people in my family and back in those days, it was maybe opening a can of soup and making sandwiches.
“It was insisted upon every week that I made one meal and I just fell in line.”
The oldest of seven children, Boggs learned many of the tricks she uses in the kitchen now from her mother.
“Something my mother taught me is nobody likes to clean up the mess after they get done cooking, so I keep a dishpan of soapy water to wash things off as I cook,” she said.
During our visit, Boggs showed me how to make chicken enchiladas, a recipe she got from her step-granddaughter.
It seemed simple enough and turns out it was.
The first step was just opening up several cans of green chilies and dumping them into the bottom of a metal pan. We topped that with a thick layer of chicken.
Boggs boiled three chicken breasts the night before and I shredded it before placing it on top.
Then, we mixed together equal parts sour cream and cream of chicken soup. Boggs used canned soup for simplicity sake, but she typically makes her own sodium-free concoction.
Next, I spread the mixture in the pan and top with cheese.
The last step is frying up some tortillas and placing them on top.
Boggs dipped each tortilla in hot canola oil for a few seconds before flipping it over. We cut up the tortillas into halves and quarters before frying them. The smallest pieces were placed in the corners, while the larger ones filled the inside of the dish.
Then we just popped it into the oven and waited.
From the garden
While the enchiladas cooked, Boggs and I worked on a salad.
Of course, the first step was getting the lettuce ready.
We washed it, and then Boggs showed me how to prepare it the “right way” by tearing off pieces.
Then she showed me the quick way, cutting it with a large knife.
“Always learn it the right way first, and then you can take the shortcut,” she said.
We chopped tomatoes, radishes, bell peppers, celery and onions.
She showed me an easy way to fancy up cucumber slices by first taking a fork and running it down the side of the cucumber all the way around.
“Doesn't that look nice?” she asked.
Boggs also taught me a quick way to get the smell of onion off my hands by adding a little salt to my hands while washing them.
Although most of the vegetables are store-bought this time of year, Boggs grows her own during the warmer months.
She and husband Tony have a multi-acre garden behind their Bringle Ferry Road home. They grow corn, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, mixed greens, carrots, radishes, peppers and more.
Boggs said they had more than 200 tomato plants last year and eight long rows of okra.
“I grow just about everything I can,” she said. “I freeze it, I dry it, I give it away.”
Boggs said she isn't above using her washing machine to clean green beans for canning.
The couple has already started this year's garden. During my visit, I saw seedlings sprouting near a window in their living room.
“My husband doesn't know how to stop growing,” Boggs said. “I'm surprised he hasn't planted the driveway.”
Boggs said the couple don't sell their bounty. Instead they share it.
She takes vegetables by the bucketful to Genevieve's Salon of Beauty, where she works as a hairdresser.
“We've got enough for all of Salisbury,” she said. “Tony has always said there are a lot of hungry people out there, so we share.
“We have never had to replace our well and I'm sure it's the Lord blessing us because we give it away all the time.”
Boggs hardly ever throws out food.
If she notices fruit nearing the end of life, she blends it up and pours it into a popsicle mold before popping it into the freezer.
“If I want something sweet, I have one of them,” she said.
Boggs said she typically places a paper towel on top of a salad and puts on a lid before flipping it upside down in the refrigerator.
“That way the moisture is absorbed into the paper towel and it stays fresh for at least a week,” she said.
Carrots and radishes usually go in water in the fridge, a trick to make them last longer, Boggs said.
Boggs said there were always plenty of mouths to feed at her house growing up, so they never worried about wasting food.
“My dad would call and say “Hey put some more beans on, the Boy Scouts are coming,' ” she said. “Our house was the bus stop too, so if another kid's mom didn't have time to make them breakfast they walked in, grabbed a plate and sat down.”
Saturday was “bake day” at Boggs' grandmother's house.
“Everybody in town knew to stop by grandma's, and everybody called her grandma,” she said. “The town I grew up in in Michigan still doesn't have a stop light.”
Boggs said she loves looking at recipe books for inspiration.
“I never follow them, but it gives me ideas,” she said. “If you're a good cook, you have to know how to improvise.”
Boggs cut sugar out of her diet after being diagnosed with diabetes. Her husband has had multiple heart attacks, so they've also eliminated salt from their diet.
Cayenne pepper, garlic and onions are common ingredients found in her kitchen.
“Those are the staples that I've got to have,” she said.
As we finished chopping up vegetables for the salad, Boggs took the enchiladas out of the oven.
“Whenever you cook anything, you should let it rest for 10 minutes,” she said.
We chatted while we waited for it to cool.
I have to confess that I didn't try the dish, but photographer Jon Lakey and videographer Andy Morrissey did.
They agreed it was delicious.
The truth is I don't like cheese. I've never eaten it, not even as a child.
I'm almost embarrassed to tell people that because they are typically appalled, but Boggs didn't seem to mind.
Here's hoping future kitchen hosts are just as understanding.
View more photos online.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.