Flavorful dishes made simply

Mother of two finds time to cook healthful foods for her family

September 19, 2010|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

SMITHSBURG - Collette Rooney stood over her granite kitchen countertop chopping shallots for a homemade, creamy tomato tarragon sauce and insisted that she isn't a good cook.

"I'm just your average housewife cook," said Rooney, a 43-year-old stay-at-home mother of two.

Then she presented sundried tomato and basil spread, with bruchetta and roasted garlic she made earlier that day.

Then she mentioned that she cooked every day except for dinner on weekends.

And she grows her own herbs, tomatoes and peppers - though, no eggplant this year, she said.

Her favorite childhood pastime was spending her Fridays baking cookies with her grandmother in California, Irene Pratt, whom she still calls for cooking advice.

"I surround myself with people who cook wonderfully," Rooney said.

She said she recreates other people's dishes.

Perhaps, it's more accurate to say that Rooney is good at what she does behind the stove.

Rooney is a "pinch of this, a pinch of that" sort of cook. And because she home schools her son, Joshua, 6, a first-grader, she relies on simple, savory dishes. Her preference is pasta.


On the day of The Herald-Mail visit, it was the tomato basil appetizer and some cheese tortellini pasta with tomatoes, tarragon, and cream - a favorite of her husband, Pete Rooney, who works for Verizon.

The Rooney family lives in a new swath of homes near Smithsburg. Their daughter, Ashley, 12, is a seventh-grader at Mount Aetna Adventist Elementary School, east of Hagerstown.

When they're not cooking together or entertaining guests for dinner, they're entertaining themselves on family nights with fruit smoothies and episodes of "The Waltons" and "Little House on the Prairie," Rooney said.

Collette Rooney grew up in California's San Joaquin Valley. She's lived in Washington County for the past few years, settling here after living in Waldorf, Md., and working as a guidance counselor at a high school in Prince George's County, Md.

Ever since their daughter was born, she's been a stay-at-home mother.

Rooney attended Pacific Union College, a private Seventh-day Adventist school, and studied abroad in Collonges-sous-Salve, France, where she acquired a taste for European chocolate and raclette cheese.

"This kind of reminds me of home," Rooney said of Washington County.

San Joaquin Valley, she said, is full of farms, fields and lots of open space. Her family had an almond ranch and Grandma Pratt lived next door to her childhood home, where the Friday-night cookie-baking tradition was born.

"I still have the chocolate chip recipe recorded in my head," Rooney said.

Rooney said she building new memories of her own baking cookies with Ashley on weekends or whenever they find time.

"It's a family tradition," Rooney said.

Sundried tomato and basil spread

1/4 cup sauted yellow onion, finely chopped
2 to 3 cloves of roasted garlic
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
1/4 cup basil
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, room temperature
Salt and pepper to taste

Using a food processor, blend the onion, garlic, tomatoes and basil. Add the cream cheese and blend. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with bruchetta and roasted garlic.

- Recipes courtesy of Collette Rooney, of Smithsburg


1 loaf of country bread, European style with the hard crusty exterior
Extra virgin olive oil

Slice bread thinly and brush the bread with the olive oil. Grill or lightly toast bread in a broiler for 4 to 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Roasted garlic

1 garlic bulb (see cook's note)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or enough to coat bottom

Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut a 1/4-inch off garlic bulb so individual cloves are exposed. Place the garlic in a clay garlic pot. Pour extra virgin olive oil in a pot. Sprinkle the garlic with a small amount of salt. Bake for an hour.

Cook's note: Set aside 2 or 3 cloves from the roasted garlic recipe for the sundried tomato spread.

The Herald-Mail Articles