Though she would never admit it, Johnson is an experienced cook who can eyeball the amount of ingredients used in a recipe rather than measuring them out.
“I just throw stuff together,” Johnson said, chuckling.
When Johnson was a young girl, her mother always worked. “My job was to keep the house clean and get supper started,” she said.
With her childhood chores came experience that would serve her well. She develops many of her own recipes.
Johnson said the chicken salad and jalapeño pimento cheese could be used for sandwiches or as dips and served with crackers or chips. She makes her chicken salad recipe with homemade sweet pickles and pecans.
“The sweet pickles and pecans make the difference. I make (chicken salad) with my pickles that I put up. They will take your breath away. But you could use store-bought sweet pickles, I guess,” she said.
Johnson started making jalapeño pimento cheese when she ended up with leftover shredded cheese. “My family enjoys Mexican food, so I added jalapeños,” she said.
Besides mayonnaise, Johnson binds the mixture with cream cheese. “(Cream cheese) really made the difference,” she said.
Johnson warns to be careful with the jalapeños and to make sure to sample in order to control the fire from the peppers. “My husband is my taster on the chicken salad and pimento cheese,” said Johnson, who has been married to Bobby for 54 years. The Marietta residents have two grown children and five grandchildren.
For dessert, she makes lemon lush, a layered dessert that is sure to live up to its name. A co-worker whose parents were bakers shared the recipe with Johnson.
“(Lemon lush) is the perfect ending to a meal,” Johnson said.
For a change of pace, Johnson recommends substituting chocolate pudding for the lemon pudding.
FROM THE KITCHEN OF RAENELL JOHNSON
PICKLE SPEARS (used in chicken salad)
7 pounds cucumbers (the big orange, yellow over ripe)
Peel and cut out center seeds. Slice longwise.
On the first day, soak 24 hours in 2 gallons of water and 2 cups pickling lime. On the second day, rinse and soak in 2 gallons of water and 3 ounces of alum for at least six hours. Rinse and soak in clear water for another six hours. Same for the rinse in clear water.
2 quarts white vinegar
6 pounds (12 cups) sugar
1 teaspoon celery seed
2 quarts water
3 teaspoons mixed spices
1 teaspoon salt
Bring to a boil & pour over strips. Let stand overnight. The next day, bring everything to a boil and cook until the pickles are clear. Put in hot jars and seal.
6 cups diced cooked chicken
¾ cup diced celery
¾ cup diced homemade pickle spears
½ to ¾ cup finely chopped pecans
1 to 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
Mix all ingredients together with enough mayonnaise to make chicken salad spreadable. Tip: You can use regular sweet pickles but it will not have the exact same taste.
JALAPEñO PIMENTO CHEESE
2 8-ounce packages grated sharp cheddar cheese
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 to 3 jalapeños seeded and chopped fine. (The number of jalapeños used depends on the size of the jalapenos and how hot they are. Also how hot you want the pimento cheese — use discretion — can always add more but not take back out. )
1 large jar diced pimentos, drained
Mix all together with enough mayonnaise to make pimento cheese spreadable. Tips: More mayonnaise may have to be added later as cheese absorbs mayo. Light or fat-free cream cheese can be used; however, light or fat-free mayonnaise doesn’t work well. Good in sandwiches and as a dip.
Follow directions below and layer accordingly.
First layer: 1 stick Parkay, softened to room temperature
1 cup self rising flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Cream together and spread in 13” x 9” pan. Bake 350 F for 15 to 20 minutes. Let it cool.
Second layer: 8 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
1 cup Cool Whip
1 cup powdered confectioner’s sugar
Blend together and spread over first layer
Third layers: 3 cups milk
2 packages instant lemon pudding
Blend together and spread over second layer and chill in refrigerator.
Fourth layer: Use remaining Cool Whip to top.
Tip: You can use Lite Cool Whip and Lite Philadelphia Cream Cheese, but nothing less.