Akeinnis Brown, Erica Carter Brown, Craig Pruitt, Kenyan Brown and twins Kaliyah and Chloe Brown
Akeinnis Brown, Erica Carter Brown, Craig Pruitt, Kenyan Brown and twins Kaliyah and Chloe Brown
Cook of the week Erica Carter Brown finds joy cooking for her family of six, and uses inspiration from past generations to drive what she does, in and outside of the kitchen. 

She is a class of 2005 graduate of Neshoba Central High School in Philadelphia. She got her bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2009. She started working at Weems Community Medical Health Center in Philadelphia February 2010. She went to grad school and started working on her master's in Counseling/Psychology in August 2010 at the University of West Alabama.

She started working in Meridian at the District Seven office for the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services in March of 2012. She received her master’s degree December of that same year. At first, she was just a counselor there, but she worked her way up to become the Deputy District Manager for District Seven. She now works at a separate office in Philadelphia.

MDRS focuses on serving those with physical and mental challenges in a capacity that helps them become more participatory in society. The agency offsets costs for surgery and medical supplies, as well as provides work and educational opportunities for those in need.  

“I’m all about making someone feel special within themselves, not thinking about what other people think or what the world may perceive them as,” Brown said.

Often, she works up to 10-hour days, and her husband, Akeinnis Brown, can sometimes work up to 12. He works as a Maintenance technician at Nissan in Canton, but also does work on the side as a licensed electrician. The two have been happily married since 2015, and have 4 children; 12-year-old Kenyan, 10-year-old Craig, 4-year-old twins Chloe and Kaliyah. 

When she was a child, Erica Brown learned the ropes of cooking from her grandmother. Her mother started having vision problems when she was around 10 years old, so she learned the most about cooking from her grandmother. She went to live with her around the time her mother went completely blind. She grew up having a passion for baking and to this day, Erica Brown still loves to cook. 

“Some of my favorite recipes are considered my grandmother’s recipes,” Brown said. 

But despite her mother’s unfortunate obstacle, she still had a profound influence on her life. 

To this day, Erica’s mom still lives independently and even cooks by herself. She is an inspiration to her and her family and is a constant motivator for Erica in her life.

“She gets around on her own, even without sight. So that’s what motivates me the most, and that’s what makes me do what I do every single day,” Brown said. “She is the strongest woman I’ve ever met.”

Both her mother and grandmother have instilled a sense of family unity into her. Erica and her husband Akeinnis take the initiative to support their children in their endeavors while also eating together as a family unit. And when she makes food for her family, there are few things that can match that feeling of fulfillment.

“It’s what makes me feel good when I know I did something to make them happy because everybody in the house all loves to eat,” Brown said. 

Cooking and family dinners are also used as a teaching tool not just for when her children are growing up, but when they become adults as well. This importance resonated fully with Erica as soon as she had twin daughters Chloe and Kaliyah Brown.

“When I had the girls, I noticed how important it is to make sure that I’m cooking not just to feed them but also to cook to show them the way of life so that when they are grown, they can do the same,” Brown explained. 

When not cooking or working, she is probably watching Kenyan and Craig play sports, bonding with Chloe and Kaliyah, or spending time with her husband. You may even find her helping out at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Carthage, giving back to the community.  

For her choices in recipes, she chose some of her favorite things to cook, including a hearty pasta salad, a filling macaroni and cheese casserole, and an interesting twist on a classic, banana-less pudding.





Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

1-pound Tri-Color Rotini (2 boxes)

1 large tomato diced

1 large cucumber diced

1 pack of diced ham cubes

1 pack of mild shredded cheese

1 pack of real bacon bits

2 bottles of Italian dressing

Optional: any vegetables of preference

 

Directions:

1. Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add the Rotini pasta and cook until

 tendered (follow box directions on time).

2. Drain the Rotini pasta and run cold water over the pasta.

3. Transfer the Rotini pasta to a larger bowl and add the diced tomato, cucumber, and ham

 cubes to the bowl. (add any vegetables of preference)

4. Add Italian dressing to the pasta salad and toss until evenly combined.
5. Layer a top coat of shredded cheese on the pasta salad.

6. Layer a top coat of bacon bits on top of the shredded cheese.

7. Refrigerate the pasta salad for at least 30 minutes.

*Always great the day after*

 

Baked Macaroni and Cheese Casserole
Ingredients:

2 ½ cups of uncooked macaroni

2 ½ tablespoons of flour

1 ¼ teaspoons of salt

Pepper to taste (about a teaspoon)
4 tablespoons of butter (cut into thin slices)

3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese (Mild or Sharp, your preference)

1 cup of whole milk

 

Directions:

1. Cook uncooked macaroni pasta until tender, drain.

2. Mix all dry ingredients together, set aside. 

3. Spray an oven safe dish (9X13) with cooking spray. Place half of macaroni inside the

dish. Sprinkle half of the flour mixture over top of macaroni and top with half of the

butter slices. Sprinkle 1 ½ cups of cheese over the top. Repeat steps.

4. Pour cup of milk over all. 

5. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for thirty-five minutes. Remove foil, back an additional

ten minutes. Serve hot.

 

Banana-less Pudding

Ingredients:

2 boxes of instant vanilla pudding

4 cups of milk

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

2 tablespoons of pure vanilla extract

2 boxes of vanilla wafers

2 containers of 8-ounce original cool whip (or 16-ounce container)

 

Directions:

1. Prepare instant vanilla pudding as the box directs.

2. Let the pudding set for 5 minutes then add a can of sweetened condensed milk and 2

tablespoons of vanilla extract. Whisk ingredients with pudding until evenly combined.
3. Layer the bowl with pudding and add a portion of cool whip. Flip the cool whip into the

layer of pudding. DO NOT STIR. Repeat the steps until all pudding and cool whip is

added.

4. Layer bowl with vanilla wafer cookies, then pour pudding mixture over cookies. Repeat

steps. Make sure to end with vanilla wafer cookies on top.

5. Refrigerate until ready to serve.