One of my favorite things to do is to cook for a group. I love every aspect of it, the menu planning, food prep, and especially setting the table. For this occasion I was so excited to use two tableclothes that were my Mother's. I grew up with the green one with dogwoods since the very early 1950s. I loved it as a child and love it even more now. I think Mom picked up the pink one at an auction on one of her visits to Iowa. She used it for family dinners until she no longer felt up to washing/ironing it plus all the cooking. For a little party favor I picked up little magnetic notepads in various colors all with a different word, love, peace, grace, salvation, Jesus, wisdom, etc. with an appropriate scripture verse. Nice to tuck into a purse.
After dinner, we gathered in our basement family room to play a little game and have a "fairly" short M2M meeting before dessert.
These are creative, inventive, make-something-out-of-nothing women, so for the game, I gathered a clothes basket full of various items from around the house, such as gardening fork, bath brush, a costume beard, cookie press, embrodiery hoop, shaker, cherry pitter, hand towel bar, etc. Everyone was to choose an item and tell a story about it, describing it other than it's original purpose and design. Here Kathy is describing a box grater as a holder for her cross-stitch threads. She would keep threads separate by stringing them through the holes and then would just tear off the thread. Actually, not a bad idea!
Mary Ellen holds what is originally designed as a plate holder but she would use it (upside down) as a post for miniature hanging pots. Janice is holding a tech vac (who but Rich would give me a little vacuum to clean my keyboard!). She would give it to an audiologist to clean out someone's ears and then test their hearing by depressing the button for a "whirring" sound.
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men."
My life is enriched by the friendship of these dear, fun, wise, joyful, women who love their Lord!
Creamy Chicken Rice Casserole
1 3-4 lb. whole chicken or equivalent amount of chicken breasts
1 14-ounce can of low sodium chicken broth
3-4 whole carrots
3-4 celery stalks
1 medium onion, quartered
1 large garlic clove, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Put above ingredients in pot (if broth doesn't cover, add more broth or water to cover.) Cook until chicken is fork tender. Save the broth. Drain off solids so broth is clear. Cool chicken and dice into bite-sized chunks. Can freeze chicken and broth (separately) at this point, if desired.
2-3 cups cooked white rice
1/4 cup cooked wild rice
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 7-ounce can/jar sliced mushrooms, drained, save liquid
1-1/2 cups half and half (I use fat-free, not sure what can make half-and-half fat-free, but it relieves some of the guilt! HA!
1/4 cups diced pimento (small jar)
2 tablespoons dry parsley - use fresh if you have it
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup slivered, lightly toasted almonds
Cook rice separately according to package directions. (I use 2 cups water to one cup of uncooked rice.) Allow at least an hour for wild rice to cook. It needs to soften and begin to burst open. Set aside. Drain mushrooms and add mushroom liquid to reserved chicken broth to measure 1-1/2 cups. Cook onion in butter until tender but not brown. Remove from heat, stir in flour. Gradually stir broth into flour mixture. Cook a couple of minutes to mellow out flour taste. Add half and half. Cook and stir until thick and smooth. Add rice, mushrooms, chicken, pimento, parsley, salt, pepper. If more liquid is needed, add additional half and half or broth. Spray a 2 quart casserole with non-stick cooking spray. Place chicken and rice mixture in casserole. Sprinkle with almonds. Bake at 350 degrees, covered, for 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. If making a day ahead, let sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before baking. May require a little more baking time.
This recipe came from a colleague in the 1970s. I submitted it to the 2010 Wichita Eagle Holiday Cookbook contest and it came in the top 20 for main dishes. Not bad out of 500 recipes!
Merry Berry Salad
1 10-ounce package mixed salad greens
1 medium red apple, diced
1 medium Granny Smith apple, diced
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Craisins
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 cup craisins
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 apple juice concentrate (I have used local apple cider)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 cup vegetable oil
To make dressing:
Put all dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until a viniagrette forms and craisins are finely minced. It will be a lovely deep rosy color. Pour into a jar and refrigerate. Can be made a day ahead. Shake well before serving. Unless I'm serving over 8 people, I make just half a recipe of dressing. It goes a long way.
Toss first six ingredients with dressing. To avoid last minute chopping of apples you can chop up to 30 minutes before serving and cover with dressing. This will keep them from turning brown. I'm not a big fan of bagged greens so I use a mixture of iceberg, romaine, and red curly leaf lettuce, washed, dried and broken into bite-size pieces.
Strawberry Refrigerator Cake
1 package strawberry cake mix
10 ounces frozen sliced, sweetened strawberries
1 4-ounce package instant vanilla pudding
1 cup milk
2 cups Cool Whip, defrosted
Bake cake according to package direction. Bake in 9x13 pan. Cool. Puree strawberries in blender. Poke holes in cooled cake with handle of wooden spoon. (Wooden spoon handle is important. I used a large fork and it didn't leave large enough holes for berries to "ribbon" through cake.) Spoon berries over all and into holes. Mix pudding with the milk and blend until thick. Fold in Cool Whip and spread over all. Refrigerate at least 4 hours. Overnight is best.