This Mom Used Food to Help on Her Daughter’s Road to Recovery

A mom’s kindness and passion for cooking help young women heal.

After watching her now-20-year-old daughter, Abby, struggle through years of addiction, Community Cook Deborah Pennington gets to play a part in her recovery. More than a year ago, Abby found her way to Her Recovery, a sober-living facility in Alabama where women prepare for a life without drugs or alcohol. In many ways, that life starts with the basics.

“Many of the women here have forgotten how to cook or never learned how to,” explains Mary Beth Robertson, the director at Her Recovery. “When I learned that Deborah was an avid cook, I asked if she’d volunteer to teach cooking classes.”

Deborah was thrilled to help. “I wanted to give back in some way,” she says. “Each woman has become like a daughter to me. I made them all aprons with their names embroidered on them, and bought them Taste of Home cookbooks. We make recipes together, like peach cobbler and a quick and easy ziti recipe they like from Taste of Home.”

The women love Deborah’s classes. “I see them connecting as they help each other learn to cook,” says Mary Beth. “They not only bond over a hot meal and see how cooking and food bring people together, they also gain confidence in their abilities and learn that they can be providers.”

“Sharing my love of cooking in this way has been a great blessing to me,” says Deborah. “It shows these women that we haven’t forgotten the ones struggling with addiction, no matter where their lives have taken them. Addiction is an awful disease. So many people struggle with it and it affects everyone involved. I pray daily for all the women at Her Recovery, and hope that they take every life skill they’ve learned there and really become the wonderful people they are.”

Deborah’s Slow-Cooker Salsa Chicken

Taste of Home

“This is a go-to recipe when I know I’ll be having a busy day. My family loves salsa, so I came up with this recipe for something to throw into a slow cooker and simmer on low. We love it served over rice or noodles and topped with tortilla chips and sour cream,” Deborah says.

Prep: 15 min.

Cook: 3 hours


  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (6 ounces each)
  • 1 jar (16 ounces) salsa
  • 1-3/4 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Optional: Hot cooked rice, cubed avocado, chopped fresh tomato, sliced green onions and lime wedges


  1. Place chicken in a 4- or 5-qt. slow cooker. Top with salsa, corn, beans, diced tomatoes and chiles, sugar, salt and pepper.
  2. Cook, covered, on low until a thermometer inserted in chicken reads 165°, 3-4 hours. If desired, serve with optional ingredients.

Inspired by Deborah’s story? Help your neighbors in need by getting involved with Feeding America. Contact your local food bank to find out how you can best support it now.

Next up: Here are our favorite ways to give back by cooking.

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Originally Published in Taste of Home