Food


When we lived in Indiana, my husband had a meeting in the northern part of the state in a little town called Whiting, IN. Whiting sits right on Lake Michigan. Chicago is a stone’s throw away. The part of the meeting he remembers the most was the potluck, or as they say in Indiana, pitch in. The tables and tables of delicious casseroles and desserts were breath-taking. It wasn’t until a fella brought out four huge pans of mostaccioli that my husband thought he had died and gone to heaven! The man had a heavy Chicago accent, so it wasn’t mostaccioli, it was MAStaccioli.

In case you were unaware, the Chicago Cubs won the world series!!!!

cubs-win-the-series

We are Cubs fans here at our house–not bandwagon fans. We have loved the Cubbies for a long time!

When they made it to Game 7 I figured I needed to make something Chicago-ish for dinner. I thought about deep-dish pizza. I thought about brats. Then I remembered the Whiting experience and decided to make mostaccioli!

I didn’t, however, make four huge pans of mostaccioli. One huge pan was plenty!!

Cheesy Mostaccioli

This recipe comes from an old Pampered Chef fundraiser cookbook. My sister bought it for me when she was in college. (By the way, The Pampered Chef company is based in the Chicago area–Bonus points!)

Pampered Chef cookbook

We barely made a dent in that pan!

Hooray! Leftovers!

Easy Weeknight Dinner

Enjoy!

Cheesy Mostaccioli

1 package mostaccioli pasta (16 ounces) cooked according to package directions

1 1/2 pounds ground beef, browned and drained

1 jar (28 ounces) of your favorite  spaghetti sauce

1 can condensed cheddar soup (11 ounces)

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp dried Italian seasoning

3 cups (12 ounces) shredded mozzarella, divided

***cook’s note***You could replace some of the ground beef with some ground Italian sausage. I’m not a fan, so I stuck with the ground beef. I think next time I will add just a little more Italian seasoning-not too much more though.


*Once your meat is cooked and drained, add spaghetti sauce, soup, pepper and seasoning.

*Stir in pasta and 2 cups of the mozzarella cheese.

*Transfer everything to a  4 quart baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

*Sprinkle last cup of cheese over the top.

*Bake in a 350˚ oven for about 40 minutes.

Critics’ Corner

Chip-I LOVE this dish. I once enjoyed it at a “pitch in” (Indiana for “pot luck”) at Whiting Baptist Church in Whiting, Indiana. It was so good I almost made myself sick. This batch is like being “back home again in Indiana.”

Katie- I thought that it was sooo tasty! The soft cheesy noodles at the bottom were my favorite. I felt so “Chicago” eating it! Go Cubs! 🙂 

Megan-off at college

 

 

I wasn’t really planning on this blog post today. If I had planned it there would’ve been more pictures! Since this little experiment turned out so great, I had to share.


I had some apples on the counter that were past their prime and quite wrinkled. No one wanted to eat them. I just hated to throw them away. So, I decided I would try to make apple chips!

I’ve tried to make apple chips before. They just never turned out quite like I hoped. I think I just didn’t get them sliced thin enough. Here’s what I did today…

Take five small withered apples  (OK, they don’t have to be small, and they don’t have to be withered.  Any size or freshness will probably work.)

Wash your apples and leave the skins on.

Core your apples. I used an applecorer that I had. Use whatever method you prefer.

Cut the cored apples into quarters. Carefully slice each quarter into about 12 very thin slices.

As I sliced my apples I placed the slices in a bowl filled with leftover Sprite. The citrus in the Sprite helps keep the apples from turning brown immediately. This step is probably not necessary since the apples will brown in the oven.

Spray a cooling rack with nonstick cooking spray. Place the apple slices on the cooling rack in a single layer.


I placed my cooling rack on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. My apple slices filled two cookie sheets with a few leftover for snacking.

Place the apple slices in an oven preheated to 225° for 2 1/2 hours. I rotated my pans halfway through.

The apple slices won’t be completely crispy when you first pull them out of the oven. They will, however, crisp up as they cool. I really hope there are some of these left by the time my family gets home this afternoon!

My chorus, Top of the Rock, recently had our 4th Spring Tea. Mom and I once again co-chaired the event. This year the Tea was at the historic Albert Pike Masonic Center in downtown Little Rock on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon right before Mothers’ Day.

We had 120 guests–the biggest crowd yet! We will plan for even more next year!

Tables were decorated by members of the chorus. We gave the ladies free-range as far as decorating goes. You’ll see a variety of themes–from Christmas to farm to jewelry. Mine is the one with the yellow tulips!

Click on each gallery below to see the pictures better.

You must have some fancy food to go on those fancy plates!

Here is the menu we served:

Tea Menu2016

I had fabulous help in the kitchen, as always!

Some of the men from Accapella Rising, the Little Rock men’s barbershop chorus, helped us with the serving.

We had a FABULOUS vintage fashion show. A friend of Mom’s from high school, Wanda Cook (aka The Coca Cola Lady, be sure to check out this article from a few years ago) provided the fashions. Top of the Rock provided the models! Wanda has displayed her collection at Red Hat conventions, women’s luncheons and other events. She was so generous to loan her collection to us for the day! The fashion show was a HUGE hit! The models really got into character and made the clothing come alive.

Of course there had to be some singing!!

It looked like everyone had a good time!

A big thanks to my husband, Chip, for taking all the photos! He took over 500 pictures and walked over 11,000 steps that day!

 

Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to visit our college girl at school on homecoming weekend.

I couldn’t arrive empty-handed!

homecoming basket

Ouachita Baptist University holds a special place in our hearts. My husband and I met there! Now our oldest is a Ouachita Tiger!

Treats for OBU Homecoming HAD to  have a tiger theme!

Tiger Tails were easy to make and yummy to eat!

First, thread three marshmallows onto a bamboo skewer.

marshmallows on a stick

Melt orange candy melts.

Dip the marshmallows into the melted candy. I actually had to spread the melted candy on my marshmallows. Just be sure you get a little of the candy on the bamboo skewer and the under-side of the bottom marshmallow. If you don’t, the marshmallows will slide down the skewer.

orange candy melts

While candy coating is still wet, sprinkle with orange sugar for extra fanciness.

sprinkled with sugar

Stick the coated marshmallows in Styrofoam to dry.

Styrofoam cooling rack

If you ever let your children use your sprinkles, you can expect cross contamination of colors.

orange and blue

I had to pick out all the blue sprinkles. I think this was pay-back for the time I had them separate sprinkles for me.

blue sprinkles

Melt some chocolate chips in a zip top bag. Once melted, clip the corner of the bag. Drizzle the chocolate back and forth over the orange “tails”. Now they really look like tiger tails! Just don’t twirl the skewer. I tried it. The stripes looked like a spiral not a tiger. Carefree and unstructured is the way to go.

tiger tail treats

Of course I had to use cellophane wrappers to make them look more professional.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to practice my decorating skills a little, too.

college gift basket

I packed up the treats in an old purple Easter basket, handle removed, with yellow shredded copy paper. I needed the paper shreds to cover the foam in the bottom of the basket necessary for the tiger tails to stand.

homecoming basket

I happened to have a big cellophane bag that could house the basket and a big purple bow! Perfect!

The tiger tails were a hit! She even shared with the roommate and suite mates!

Hosting a Tea for the 3rd year in a row was a little tricky. We had guests who had attended the Tea the previous two years. We also had first time guests.  I wanted the food to be special. However, there were favorites from the past that we just had to include: the Chicken Salad, the Scones with Clotted Cream and Jam, and the Melt-Away Mints.

(You can see our plates from years past here, here, here, here, and here.)

Below is our Tea Party Menu for 2015.

Tea menu

I am sorry to say that I don’t have many “in progress” pictures. Quite frankly, with my poison ivy, I was a little behind schedule in my prep work. There wasn’t a lot of time for photography. Luckily, my husband took great pictures at the Tea!

savory plates

The Chicken Salad was very easy–ha! Someone else made it! Since we have had it every year, I have tried to present it differently each year–in a puff pastry, on an apple slice and now on a croissant. I’m open to suggestions for next year!

savory plate

That lovely little triangle Ribbon Sandwich was a HUGE hit! I was surprised. The Grits Crostini had people begging for more!

Of course, the Scones plate is the overall favorite.

scones

It wouldn’t be a Tea without sensational desserts!

dessert plates

You may have seen my Teapot Cookies when I posted them on Facebook. I dream of being able to decorate fancy cookies. This was my first public attempt. Is that brave or stupid?! They turned out pretty cute, I think.

One of our members made all the Melt-Away Mints. I LOVE those things!!!

The Tiramisu was donated by the Olive Garden-THANK YOU! I cut a regular sized portion into fourths for the perfect sized sample.

Carrot Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting were made a little fancier with the addition of a candied carrot curl. I had seen a how-to for the carrot curls on Pinterest. Not quite as easy as you might think!

The Salted Chocolate Tart with Kettle Chip Crust (of all things!)  was originally supposed to be a salted caramel and chocolate tart. When testing the caramel, I burned it. I don’t mean that it got a little scorched. I mean it was BLACK-all of it! I thought I was going to have to throw away my pan! Oh, the house stank! I figured I didn’t want to have the stress of trying to make it successfully for 100 little caramel tarts. The chocolate was a great alternative. I used flaked salt as a garnish. That was pretty exciting, well, to me. I felt all fancy and chef-y.

The Blackberry Lime Bars were a twist on Lemon Bars we have had in the past. I almost went with Lemon Bars again because I LOVE THEM SO MUCH!!! I decided to branch out a little. The extra expense of the blackberry and lime wedge on top made for a little more tea party glamor!

dessert plate

I was able to make most of the goodies in advance and freeze them-even the teapot cookie! Of course, nothing else would fit in my freezer for weeks.

teapots

Of course we had tea!

English Breakfast Tea

I would have never made it without my kitchen helpers.

tea ladies

Danielle and Kaye did a great job with the making and distributing of the tea. (I don’t know about that crazy person in the background!)

me and my girls

Oh, wait, she’s mine! My girls were a huge help in the kitchen. They are used to the way I boss them around already, so we worked well together. ; )

me and Cathy

My friend, Cathy, was my right-hand-gal! She is used to telling people what to do on her farm. She is a get-it-done type of gal, and I love working with her!

me and mom

Of course, Mom was there to do whatever needed to be done! ( I can tell this picture was taken at the end of the day. I have that “is it over yet” look on my face!)

Have you ever hosted a tea party? What did you serve? I mean besides when you were 6 years old and served air!

Ms. Leta' Chex Mix

We were at John and Leta’s house for a Bible study/prayer meeting last fall. Leta, being the hostess that she is, pulled out some Chex Mix for us to nibble. Y’all, I really needed prayer that night! I could NOT stop eating the stuff! It was so good!

Apparently, I was not the first of Leta’s friends to have this reaction. She had little green sheets with recipes printed up ready to pass out to those who could not control themselves.

I made some for our family that Christmas. Everyone went NUTS!

This year I decided to make the Chex Mix to send as gifts to Chip’s co-workers. (The cute little Santa tags were from the 90% off Christmas clearance one year.)

Chex Mix gift

Reactions at the office were very similar to mine.

I guess since Leta shared with me, I should share with them, and now you.

Thank you, Leta! Now I can get my “fix” any time I want.

Ms. Leta’ Chex Mix

1 bag each:

Turtle Chex Mix

Dark Chex Mix (I could not find this to save my life!)

Honey Nut Chex Mix

Caramel Bugles (Substituted for Chocolate Peanut Butter-they were hard to find.)

Muddy Buddies

Crunch & Munch (small box)

Can of Cashews (I used 8 ounces.)

Mix it all in a BIG bowl.

One batch filled about 10 little treat bags as pictured above.

Now you know my secret, well Leta’s secret.

Use caution when making Ms. Leta’s Chex Mix. It is highly addictive!!!

 

Well, I did it! I made Thanksgiving dinner!

I know it was a big sacrifice for Mom and Dad to give up their personal Thanksgiving traditions of doing all the cooking to come be teachers for the next generation.

I am so thankful they agreed to this little project. I am very glad to know how to do things “Mom and Dad’s way”.

Our table wasn’t too fancy. I had planned to get out the good china and change the tablecloth. The table looked plenty festive and our everyday dishes were dishwasher safe!

We did use fancy little butter dishes.

butter dish

Thanksgiving table

Please notice the tiny Thanksgiving table next to the glass of water.

tiny table

I found this idea on Pinterest more than a year ago. I let the girls make them. They didn’t mind the sprinkle sorting as much this time. The little tables turned out really cute, I think!

Thanksgiving crafters

Thanksgiving table decor

The cheese ring appetizer is one of Chip’s favorite parts of Thanksgiving! When I told him that Mom was going to make the Cheese Ring he panicked! He was afraid it wouldn’t be the right cheese ring. I assured him it would be okay since I had gotten the recipe from her.

Cheese ring

He was the first one to test it out. Two thumbs up from the Critic.

eating cheese ring

Well, here is the feast…

feast 1

feast 2

chef

You might have noticed a couple of items on our buffet that were not mentioned in a specific blog post.

Green Bean casserole, Mashed Potatoes and Green Fluff.

I felt obligated to have a green vegetable on our buffet. The green bean casserole recipe can be found here or on the back of the French’s Fried Onion canister.

As far as the mashed potatoes go, I’m pretty plain. Boil some Yukon Gold potatoes. Mash them up. Add butter, milk, salt and pepper to taste. Some folks get all fancy with cream cheese or sour cream or garlic or cheese. Plain is the preferred method at our house.

The green fluff is a MUST HAVE at all our holiday gatherings. It’s just the old Watergate Salad recipe.

watergate salad

Ooo, I can’t forget the bread–giant Sister Shubert rolls! They are the best for leftover turkey sandwiches.

How do you like my buttering method-rub a stick of cold butter on top of the rolls right after the come out of the oven.

buttering rolls

Katie was trying to take pictures for me. For some reason she was not able to see anything on the camera. Mashed potatoes will do that to ya.

iphone hazard

Guess who LOVES rolls?!

bread lover

What a feast!

full plate

Don’t forget dessert. I had to try half a piece of each pie.

pieces of pie

group minus one

Some folks chose to have their sparkling grape juice with dinner, others with dessert.

bubbly

We gobbled ’til we wobbled!

empty dinner plate

empty dessert plate

lick the plate clean

Thanksgiving naps are the best!

snooze

In case you missed the Thanksgiving 101 series, here are all the posts. You can also find them by clicking on the This and That tab at the top of the page.

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