A Personal Note On These Recipes…
My wife and I are newlyweds — and our wedding came just one month after we became becoming first-time home-buyers! As it drew near, loved ones flew in from all over, with one even coming in from Australia! To try to soften the financial blow from traveling, we invited them to stay with us.
There’s a catch: our house had an unfinished kitchen and needed a new roof. While we found a contractor who could rebuild the roof before the guests arrived, there was no hope of finishing the kitchen. We entertaining eight guests with a kitchen with no sink, cabinets, or countertops (dishes were done in the bath tub) — and with most of our cookware still packed in unmarked boxes in the basement. What a scramble that was!
This story has a happy ending! The wedding was lovely, and our entertaining was a complete success. (Who knew eight people could eat so much??!?) By way of celebrating– and since many travel nurses also operate with a “minimal” kitchen situation not unlike ours – my wife and I thought wed share three of our biggest cooking successes from this experience.
Grandma’s “Legendary” Salsa, Cheese, & Sausage Dip
My grandmother shared this recipe with me, and for that, I will be forever grateful. This is a definite crowd pleaser – and the recipe that put me on the “culinary map” with my new in-laws.
Best served with scoopable Fritos, this recipe also works with nachos, and makes an ideal Superbowl snack.
What You Need
A sauce pan, a stirring spoon, and a measuring cup.
Preparation Time: 15-20 mintues
- 1 lb regular or hot sausage (I’m a fan of Jimmy Dean)
- 8 oz. Velveeta
- 4-6 oz. Monterey Jack cheese
- ½+ cup picante sauce or salsa
- 1 bag tortillas or Fritos Scoops
In a sauce pan, thoroughly cook and brown sausage, breaking it into small pieces. Drain off any excessive grease. Add in the Velveeta, Monterey Jack cheese, and picante sauce. Simmer on low for about an hour, stirring often. Thin with additional picante sauce to taste and preference. Serve with nachos or Fritos.
A Warning: This is a very filling recipe – if you’re using it as an appetizer, it’s best to serve it very sparingly, or, as my grandmother says, “You’ll ruin your dinner!”
Curried Chicken And Broccoli Casserole
Another family recipe, this originally came to me from my grandmother, and I’ve made it into my own creation over the past decade. This is my wife’s favorite of my recipes, and a dish that never gets old with the family!
What You Need:
A cutting surface and knife, a pot, a mixing bowl & spoon, a measuring cup, and a casserole dish.
Preparation Time: 20 minutes to prepare, 25-30 to cook.
- 4 whole chicken breasts, boiled
- 2 packages of frozen broccoli spears, cooked partially and drained
- 1 small can of cream of chicken soup (I sometimes use cream of mushroom instead)
- 1 cup real mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup evaporated milk
- 1 cup grated Wisconsin cheddar (The “good stuff” makes all the difference!)
- 1 tsp of lemon juice – optional
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 4-6oz. poppy seeds
- 2 cups of stuffing (cubed or crumble)
- ½ cup of melted butter
- 2 sleeves of Ritz Crackers, crumbled
- ½ cup butter or margarine, melted
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Skin and bone the boiled chicken breasts; chop into 1″ cubes. Place broccoli in the casserole dish, and top with the prepared chicken. In a bowl, combined the undiluted cream of chicken soup with mayonnaise, evaporated milk, cheese, lemon juice, curry powder, and poppy seeds – pour over chicken. Sprinkle with topping. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until bubbling.
My grandmother used to use frozen peas instead of broccoli. My wife hates peas, so I changed it, but both versions are great. As an added bonus, this recipe can easily be made the day before it’s needed, if you take it out of the refrigerator a half hour before baking.
If you’re looking for a fast, easy-to-make desert, I can recommend this one wholeheartedly. A favorite of my wife’s, you can whip up a batch of these in less than fifteen minutes, and they’ll be cooled and ready in time for dessert!
What You Need:
A mixing bowl, a flat plate or baking sheet, and a measuring cup.
Preparation Time: 10-15 minutes, 30 minutes to cool.
- 1 ½ cups creamy peanut butter
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
- 2 tbsp shortening
Start by lining any flat surface (cutting board, baking sheet, flat plates, etc.) with wax paper. In a medium bowl, hand-mix the peanut butter, butter, vanilla extract, and confectioners’ sugar, forming a smooth, firm dough. Form dough into balls about 2 tsp in size apiece, and place on the wax paper. Refrigerate.
Melt chocolate and butter in a microwave or pan. Stir together until mixed smoothly. Remove the dough balls from the refrigerator, and insert a toothpick into each ball. Dip the ball into the melted chocolate, and roll around until coated well. Place the ball on the wax paper, chocolate-side down, and remove the toothpick. If desired, cover the hole from the toothpick with an extra dot of chocolate.
Repeat with other dough balls, and return them to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Try giving this recipe an added twist by using dark chocolate for the “shell” of the buckeye ball, and drizzling threads of white chocolate along the top. Delicious!