Dixie & Eli’s Crock Pot Macaroni & Cheese

mac2Growing up in a rural Southern Baptist church meant church dinners.  I can’t think of anything more exciting than the anticipation leading up to a Sunday pot-luck, covered dish, high calorie, comfort-food-rich Sunday church dinner.  Ladies would start bringing in their casseroles and crock pots before 10 am Sunday school, and the stove was on low – full of meats, dishes, and treats.  The dessert table was always overflowing, and to this day, I don’t know that I have ever tasted such wonderful Southern home-cooked dishes all stirred and mixed and baked not only with love but also with the generations of family and community knowledge passed down over hot kitchens on lazy Southern afternoons.   The smells that wafted from that kitchen made it hard to concentrate on the scripture and made time feel like it was dragging.  However, patience is a virtue, and in all good time, the bounty of our entire church family was open to us all.

One of the families that always offered up delicious dishes was Dixie and Eli Wentzel.  Both Eli and Dixie are still wonderful cooks, and this is one of their many delectable recipes that will change the way you think about macaroni and cheese.

This recipe is modified just a touch from the recipe Dixie’s daughter Karen shared with me.

From start to finish, this recipe will take 3 hours and 15 minutes (5 minutes prep time).

Ingredients

16 oz. elbow macaroni
3/4 stick butter
2.5 – 3 cups cheddar or colby jack cheese
1.5 cups milk
2 eggs
10 oz. evaporated milk
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Cook and drain macaroni and pour into crock pot.  Mix in butter and cheese until well blended.  Add milk, evaporated milk, eggs, salt and pepper.  Cook on low for three hours.

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Lakeside Chicken Chili

chickenchiliI know; I know!  It has been FOREVER since I have posted a recipe.  To be quite honest, when I started working in Newton-Conover City Schools and then started on my doctorate at the same time, I was pretty busy!  However, it has now been one year post-doctorate, and I am in the middle of my fourth year at NCCS, so it is back to nurturing my love of cooking and feeding my friends and family.

This recipe is a culmination of my picking and choosing from the ingredients in about six recipes I found online.  My family loves it so much that they now prefer it over my October Chili, and I hope you will too.

From start to finish, this recipe will take you approximately 2 hours (30 minutes prep time, and 90 minutes of simmering).

Ingredients

2-2.5 lbs chicken breast
4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
2 chopped ancho chilies (remove seeds)  – I use dried chilies and re-hydrate them.
1 can Ro-Tel original (drained)
1 can green chilies
12 oz. frozen corn kernels
1 large onion
1.5 tbsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
2 cups colby-jack cheese
1 cup sour cream
2 tbsp. olive oil
cumin, chili powder, cayenne, oregano, salt pepper, & more olive oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees   Spray baking dish with Pam.  Sprinkle olive oil and other seasonings listed over chicken breasts.  Bake 20 minutes and then spread.

In a food processor, blend 1 cup chicken broth and one can beans.

Saute onions with olive oil.  Add garlic, beans, broth, chilies, Ro-Tel, corn, cilantro, and seasonings to taste.  Boil for five minutes.  Then add all other ingredients.  Let simmer on low for about 90 minutes.

Enjoy with more cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips.

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Lakeside Tomato Pesto Bruschetta

This hearty bruschetta is bursting with flavor.

This hearty bruschetta is bursting with flavor.

Last weekend, I was trying to clean out my refrigerator and use some herbs and vegetables while they were still fresh.  So, I began to create a pile on my kitchen counter of the items I needed to use in my Sunday evening meal.

What happened was this:  I created the most amazing bruschetta I have ever tasted in my entire life!   Even though it is the dead of winter, all I could taste was the flavor of summer as I bit into these delicious multi-grain veggie delights. What started out as an appetizer became my meal because it was delicious, filling, easy, and good for you as well.

From start to finish, this recipe will take approximately 15 minutes.

Ingredients
1 large or 2 small Roma tomatoes
3/4 cup cherry or Zima tomatoes sliced in half
2 tbsp sundried tomato paste
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/3 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup red onion
1/2 cup yellow, orange, or red bell pepper
1 tbsp pesto
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1 avocado
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp Tuscan Herb Olive Oil (I purchase mine at The Crushed Olive)
Hearty multi-grain bread of your choice

Directions
Slice pepper, onion, and cilantro and place in a food processor.
Add garlic, sundried tomato paste, and pesto to the food processor.
Pulse the mixture until well blended.
Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat.
Add tomatoes and all ingredients in the food processor.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion and peppers are cooked well.
Meanwhile, cut avocado into bite-sized pieces.
Drizzle oil over multi-grain bread and broil on high until browned.
Turn bread to toast on both sides.
Add vegetable blend to toast, and top with avocado bites.

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Seasoned Pork Chops

Tasty and delicious.  Serve with your choice of sides.

Tasty and delicious. Serve with your choice of sides.

There is nothing worse than a dry, chewy pork chop that tastes like leather.  Ick!  I have had a few of those in my day.  I am always looking for a quick and easy way to improve on pork chops.  Well, thanks to Paula Deen, I have a foolproof method for making tasty pork chops.  I modified this recipe from her French Onion Pork Chops.

From start to finish, this recipe will take approximately 40 minutes.

Ingredients
4 boneless pork chops
1 pack of beefy onion soup mix
1 package golden onion soup mix
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup Panko
2 eggs

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In one pan, crack and beat the eggs
In another mix together the breadcrumbs, pepper, and soup mixes.
Coat the pork chops with the beaten egg, and then with the breadcrumb mixture; take care to coat both sides well.
Place pork chops on a greased baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on thickness of pork, flipping halfway.

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Butterscotch Pie

This old family favorite comes packaged with wonderful memories from both sides of my family.

This old family favorite comes packaged with wonderful memories from both sides of my family.

I was born on my grandfather’s birthday in November of 1972. Stacy Brewer, who was my maternal grandfather, a firm believer in traditional gender roles, and the unquestionable innocence of Richard M. Nixon, told my mother – when my birth was imminent – that were I a boy, he would give me $100. However, should I happen to be a girl, I would receive $50. That communicates quite the message!

However, I loved my grandfather, and he and I shared a love of music and an ability to harmonize. One of the last memories I have of my grandfather was when my grandmothers, my grandfather, my mom and dad, my brother and I piled into my grandmother’s van and took a trip to Shatley Springs for breakfast. It was rare that my grandfather accompanied us on these jaunts. I was around 13-14 years old. On the way home from our mountain meal, we sang gospel hymns. His beautiful tenor blended with my alto and the melody from other family members, and I remember thinking what a gift he had. Not long after that trip, he left this world for that “over yonder” we sang about on that drive home.

Ma Ma Pendry kept the recipe a secret for years, as it was her signature dessert for church dinners.

Ma Ma Pendry kept the recipe a secret for years, as it was her signature dessert for church dinners.

Butterscotch Pie was my grandfather’s favorite dessert. I remember the smile that would creep across his face when he would peek under the lid of the Tupperware container and see his pie. My paternal grandmother, Larmie Pendry, perfected the Butterscotch Pie, and she refused to give her recipe to anyone. Everyone loved it, and it was one of her signature dishes for church dinners. However, when she became ill, she allowed my mom to give the recipe to Hospice for their cookbook because Hospice was so good to her. She never had it written down. She had it all in her memory, and my mother wrote the recipe down as she dictated. Thank goodness!

The thing is: I have a good Butterscotch Story on both sides of my family, and it is a wonderful recipe. I hope you enjoy it the way we have over the years.

From start to finish, the recipe will take approximately 50-60 minutes. (Makes two pies)

Filling Ingredients

2 pie crusts
1 stick margarine
2 heaping cups brown sugar (just use the whole box)
5 egg yolks beaten (save the whites for the meringue)
1 cup granulated sugar
3 heaping tbsp. all-purpose flour*
3 heaping tbsp.. cornstarch*
1 large can evaporated milk
2 milk cans full of warm water**
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

*For flour and cornstarch, use a large tablespoon from your silverware drawer. Do not use a regular measuring tablespoon. My grandmother explained that this is what she used, and my mother tried it with a measuring tablespoon, and the filling was not solid.

** Make sure you use warm water – not hot or cold. The goal is to keep the eggs from cooking when you add the mixture to the brown sugar on the stove.

Directions
Bake pie shells according to directions and let cool.
In a thick pot, melt margarine.
Add brown sugar, and let simmer on low.
Use a hand mixer to combine granulated sugar, corn starch, flour, evaporated milk, warm water, and yolks.
Add to brown sugar mixture, and whisk constantly.
Turn heat to medium and whisk constantly until filling gets thick (5-10 minutes).
Remove from heat.
Stir in vanilla.
Pour into cooled shells.
Add meringue to top. (See recipe below.)
After meringue is added, bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until meringue is browned. (You may choose to broil for about 1 minute after baking.)

Meringue Ingredients
5 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
6 tbsp sugar

Directions
Place whites in the bottom of a bowl.
Add cream of tartar.
Use a hand mixer to whip the whites until fluffy.
Slowly and gradually, add sugar and continue to mix until soft peaks are formed.

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Crock Pot Lasagna

I forgot to take a photo, so here is a photo from the recipe I found on Pinterest that I modified.  Click the pic to see the original recipe.

I forgot to take a photo, so here is a photo from the recipe I found on Pinterest that I modified. Click the pic to see the original recipe.

Once I acclimated to life in college at Western Carolina University in the fall of 1991, I didn’t make many trips home to Wilkes County, but when I did, my mother would always ask me what I wanted for dinner.  I can remember getting in my car for that 3+ hour drive in a world before cell phones and anticipating the amazing meal waiting.  I usually asked for Chicken Casserole or Lasagna.  My mother makes the most amazing lasagna!  I can replicate it, but it is labor intensive!

(I just looked and can’t believe I have not blogged about mom’s lasagna.  That’s an oversight I am going to have to rectify soon!)

Working during the week until 5 or 6 does not allow me the chance to make my mom’s lasagna, so I thought I would try a crock pot lasagna recipe just to see if it could serve as a substitute when I didn’t have time for the real thing.  The verdict:  when you don’t have a great deal of time, this lasagna recipe a hearty and tasty substitute, but don’t be fooled – it is in no way the caliber of my mother’s amazing Italian dish.  🙂

From start to finish, this recipe will take approximately 4 hours 15 minutes.

Ingredients
1 lb. ground beef
1 8oz Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce
1 8oz Basil and Oregano Tomato Sauce
1 15oz Tomato Sauce
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp minced onion
1 tsp Italian seasonings
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
8 oz pkg. lasagna noodles, uncooked
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups Ricotta cheese

Directions
Spray the inside of the crock-pot with cooking spray.
Brown the ground beef.
Stir the tomato sauces, garlic, onion, seasonings, pepper, and salt with the ground beef.
Spread 1/4 of the meat sauce on the bottom of the crock-pot.
Arrange 1/3 of the uncooked noodles over the sauce.
Combine the cheeses in a bowl.
Spoon 1/3 of the cheese mixture over the noodles.
Repeat these layers twice.
Top with remaining sauce.
Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.
Let the lasagna remain in the crock-pot with the lid off for 10 minutes before serving.

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Crock Pot Apple Crisp

Wait to you smell your kitchen!

Wait to you smell your kitchen!

Ok, it’s official!  I am obsessed with Pinterest.  I know that I have been behind everyone when it comes to this web 2.0 tool, but I knew myself well enough to know that if I got started that I wouldn’t be able to stop…. and yes, that is exactly what has happened.  Something else I am obsessed with right now is the crock pot.  I asked for a larger crock pot for Christmas, so now I have two.  Put two crock pots and Pinterest together, and I have just about lost control.

Click the image above to see what I am thinking about making next!

Click the image to see what I am thinking about making next!

I modified this recipe from Karen Peterson’s blog that I found on Pinterest and decided to try it completely out of curiosity because it seemed so simple. It is tasty – especially if you need a quick and simple dessert and don’t have time to make a grocery run. Make sure to have vanilla ice cream on hand!

From start to finish, this recipe will take approximately 3 hours 10 minutes.

Ingredients
6 apples (use what you have on hand, but tart are generally better.)
2/3 c old-fashioned oats
2/3 c flour
2/3 c packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter softened, not margarine

Directions
Peel and cut apples into bite-sized pieces, and add to crock pot.
Combine oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla extract in medium mixing bowl.
Cut in softened butter until mixture is crumbly, and sprinkle over apples.
Cover crock pot with 2-3 paper towels.
Place lid firmly over paper towels to absorb moisture.
Cook on high for 2-3 hours, until apples are soft.

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Chicken and Dumplings

Comfort food at its finest!  These dumplings transported me back to my childhood.

Comfort food at its finest! These dumplings transported me back to my childhood.

No one can make chicken and dumplings like my grandmother could.  She would start with a whole chicken and let it stew all day with butter, chicken broth, salt, pepper, and flour, and then she would make her own biscuit dough to add to the pot about an hour before dinner.  I can remember watching her make chicken and dumplings as a child, but I didn’t realize then that I should pay more attention and ask lots of questions so that I could reproduce one of her signature dishes.

Over the years, I have tasted many different types of chicken and dumplings, but none have come anywhere close to my grandmother’s recipe.  However, with the help of several online recipes, I have devised a recipe that is so close to my grandmother’s that it made me smile.

My recipe is much healthier since I only use chicken breasts, rather than the whole chicken with skin, and it is much easier.

From start to finish, this recipe will take approximately 6 hours. (5 minutes prep time)

This recipe requires very little prep time but tastes like you worked all day.

This recipe requires very little prep time but tastes like you worked all day.

Ingredients
2 lbs chicken breasts
2 tbsp butter
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1 small can chicken broth
1/4 cup water
2 cans cream of chicken soup (I used one low sodium)
1 tbsp parsley
1 tsp black pepper
2 1/2 tbsp minced onion
6 frozen Grands biscuits

Directions
Place chicken breasts evenly in the bottom of a crock pot.
Cut butter into pats and evenly distribute on top of chicken breasts.
In a medium bowl, stir together all remaining ingredients except biscuits.
Pour over chicken, cover, and cook on high for five hours.
Meanwhile, spray wax paper with Pam.
Place six biscuits on wax paper.
Spray another sheet of wax paper with Pam, and place over the biscuits to allow to thaw and rise.
After five hours, take a fork and gently pull chicken breasts into pieces.
After chicken is separated into bite-sized pieces, cut biscuits into fourths and drop into dumplings.
Cover and continue cooking on high for 1 hour.
Serve in bowls.

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S’Mores Cookies

Easy, delicious cookies that will bring a smile to faces of young and old.

Easy, delicious cookies that will bring a smile to faces of young and old.

One of our favorite pastimes in the spring and autumn is to build fires in the fire pit, listen to music, watch boats go up and down the lake, and relax with friends.  I always make sure to have the fixings to make s’mores available for when we have kids over.  Plus, Jackson loves s’mores, so it is an easy treat that requires little effort.

When I found a recipe for S’Mores Cookies on Pinterest, I knew I had to try them!  These simple, delicious treats take only a few minutes to assemble and bake.

From start to finish, this recipe will take approximately 20 minutes.

Ingredients
1 sleeve of honey-flavored graham crackers
1 package refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
3 Hershey’s chocolate bars
1 bag mini marshmallows

Be sure to cut cookies with a wet knife to avoid pulling the marshmallow topping from the cookies.

Be sure to cut cookies with a wet knife to avoid pulling the marshmallow topping from the cookies.

Directions
Preheat oven to temperature on cookie dough container.
Cover a 9×13 casserole dish in aluminum foil.
Cover the bottom of of the dish with a single layer of graham crackers.
On a cutting board or wax paper, spread out cookie dough to place evenly over the graham crackers.
Bake according to directions on cookie dough.
Remove from oven, and place individual segments of Hershey’s bars evenly over the cookie dough.
Cover evenly with marshmallows.
Place cookies back in oven for 3-5 minutes until marshmallows begin to melt.
Move stove setting to broil and watch carefully for 1-2 minutes until marshmallows begin to brown.
Allow to cool, and remove cookies from pan by lifting aluminum foil out of pan.
**Cut with a wet knife to avoid pulling marshmallow layer off.

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Tender London Broil

This London Broil is comfort food at its finest.

This London Broil is comfort food at its finest.

It’s not often that I can whip up a new meal that takes me back to my childhood in a vivid way. This London Broil recipe does just that. My mother and grandmother used to make incredible roasts, stew beef dishes, and other rich comfort foods. I can vividly recall the taste, the smell, and the sight of those wonderful, home-cooked meals that brought us all to the table in anticipation. I am lucky when I can prepare a meal that brings all that imagery flooding back.

I found this recipe on Pinterest, my new obsession, and then modified it to suit our tastes.

I have never had what I would consider “tender” London Broil.  To me, it has always seemed a tougher cut of meat.  This recipe changes all that.  Not only is the meat tender and juicy, but the broth makes an incredibly tasty gravy for your potatoes.  This meal will certainly become a staple.

From start to finish, this recipe will take approximately 5 minutes prep time and 6-8 hours cooking time.

Ingredients
2-3 lbs. London Broil
1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 can Campbell’s Tomato Soup
1 package Lipton Beefy Onion dry soup mix
2 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
3 tbsp. dry red wine (I used Ruffino Chianti Classico because it was open.)
1 tbsp. minced garlic

Directions
Place London Broil in bottom of crock pot.
Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl until well blended.
Pour over beef.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours until tender.
Serve with whipped red potatoes.

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