It all started with a few dilemmas:
How can I provide a hardy home cooked meal while on a family vacation and avoid spending what we don't have at a sit down restaurant or spending all my vacation time cooking.
Solution: Make time meal ahead of time, freeze, thaw, bake, serve!
How can I provide a satisfying meal to one family that has both meat eaters and veggie lovers?
Solution: Make the same meal with both options!
How can I provide a huge meal at a large family reunion and avoid that crowded kitchen with way too many cooks?
Solution: Make the meal ahead of time, freeze, thaw, bake, serve!
This recipe has been tweaked and refined over the years to solve these dilemmas. We found that an affordable rental or AirBnB was the way to go for our family of as many as 6. So the kitchen is there, right?! Problem is, I don't want to cook on vacation! (Hear a lot of whining.) So my husband Keith suggested I make my amazing lasagna, freeze it, stack it in a large cooler and hit the road ready. We did and the idea has definitely been a hit!
So then there was what to do about so many food preferences in one family. I worked with this recipe to hit a variety of preferences from the meat lovers to the veggie lovers. Everyone appreciates that I thought of them when I make this meal.
And then there was the massive family reunion need. This recipe has been quadrupled to serve a large crowd of 50 or so hungry relatives. It was such a big hit the first time I brought this meal that...you guessed it...I have to make it at every reunion!
Brown in a skillet and drain:
1 1/2 lbs Hamburger
Half of a Medium Sized Onion, chopped
If you would rather have 2 pans of meat lasagna, double this portion of the recipe and omit the next section.
Saute in a separate skillet until veggies are soft:
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
(I used chopped mushrooms, sliced yellow squash, the other half of the above onion diced and two handfuls of baby spinach. This was a great combination but use what you have on hand.)
If you would rather have 2 pans of veggie lasagna, double this portion of the recipe and omit the first section.
Fill large pot with water and add 1 Tbsp oil and a few dashes of salt.
Add and boil 16 oz. Lasagna Noodles. Drain.
Combine in a large bowl:
48 oz. Tomato Juice
4 Tbsp Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp White Vinegar
3 tsp Salt
4 tsp Leaf Oregano
1 tsp Garlic Powder
Divide in half between two above skillets (one with meat and the other with veggies).
Cover both skillets and simmer on low for 20 minutes.
Dissolve and add to two sauces above, dividing evenly between the two:
4 Tbsp Corn Starch
2/3 cup Water
24 oz. Cottage Cheese
4 cups your favorite Shredded Cheese (We like a mixture.)
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
1 Tbsp Parsley Flakes
In two greased 9 x 13 inch baking dishes, layer:
2. Meat Sauce in one, Veggie Sauce in the other
3. Cottage Cheese (I put this on in globs and then spread with a fork.)
4. Shredded Cheese
There will be three layers. In the top layer skip the meat sauce and the cottage cheese. Sprinkle Parmesan and Parsley on top. (I usually reserve a little bit of sauce for the top edges to make sure all the noodles are submerged and don't get dry on the top.)
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Allow lasagna to cool for 15 minutes before cutting into squares to serve.
"The Best Mashed Potatoes" recipe are the only mashed potatoes I make and they are only for the holidays. This is because they are so loaded and fattening that no one should be eating them year round! The best part of this recipe is that these mash potatoes stay the exact consistency you made them once they are leftovers and refrigerated. My family LOVES holiday meal leftovers and this is just one of the reasons why.
Secret ingredients: Sour Cream and Cream Cheese. Yes! That's what makes them so yummy, fattening and stay the same consistency after refrigeration.
So if you are only making them for the holidays...load up!
Peel, cube and cook on stove top:
5 lbs of Potatoes (around 20 small to medium sized potatoes)
Drain water and reserve potato liquid.
Mash potatoes with a mixer or blender. I use a hand mixer and a large mixing bowl. The trick to getting a nice mashed potato consistency without lumps is to:
1. Mash while the potatoes are still hot.
2. Add small amounts of your potato water gradually until the mashed potatoes become the consistency you desire.
3. Scrape the sides of your mixing bowl often while mashing the potatoes and blending in the water and other ingredients.
Add to mashed potatoes while you are mixing in the potato water:
8 ounce package Cream Cheese
1 1/2 cups Sour Cream
3 tsp Garlic Salt
1 tsp Salt
Pour the above Mashed Potato Mixture into a large Slow Cooker.
Top with 2 Tbsp Butter or Margarine.
Cover and Slow Cook on low for 4 hours.
Lots of families have a favorite dressing or stuffing recipe. Of course, we think ours is the best.
No, seriously! It is the best.
And it is a standout because this recipe has a special ingredient that is not often added to dressing...sliced almonds! This unusual touch gives our dressing a lovely and unique flavor. Even those who don't usually go for nuts love it. (Unless your allergic, then just skip recipe all together.)
The other change up I have from most dressing recipes is that I don't add sage. We just don't prefer it. Plus the almond flavor mixed with the rest of the ingredients is far superior to sage flavoring.
Our Favorite Dressing can be made in a slow cooker or baked in your oven...whichever works best for you. We typically enjoy this dressing for our Thanksgiving and Christmas meal!
Melt Butter and Saute together:
2 sticks Butter or Margarine
3 stalks Celery, finely chopped
1 medium sized Onion, finely chopped
1 cup Sliced Almonds
12 ounces mushrooms
2 teaspoon Parsley Flakes
2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Poultry Seasoning
Cube 1 loaf of Bread
(This could be done in advance. The dryer the bread cubes, the better.)
Toss together thoroughly in a large bowl:
All the sauteed mixture from above
3 Eggs, beaten
2-3 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth (Mixture should be wet but not sitting in liquid.)
Place the final mixture into a Slow Cooker. Cook on high for 45 minutes and then on low for 3 hours.
Place the final mixture into a 9 x 13 pan. Cover with tin foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes until golden brown.
If you are used to the savory style white cornbread you eat along side soup beans, this recipe will open your taste buds to a whole different dimension. I'm not necessarily saying "better" here but completely different. First off, Sunshine Cornbread is sweet and this puts it in another category as far as breads go. Second, it's cake like and made from yellow cornmeal so the appearance sets it apart.
From my early years and also for our children growing up, this recipe is cornbread. My husband, on the other hand, grew up in Appalachia with the savory white cornbread served with soup beans. So I am guessing this recipe was birthed out of my northern Mennonite roots. Where ever it came from, Sweet Sunshine Cornbread is best with a dab of butter and topped with local honey. We do eat it with soup or chili but I also like it for a quick, light breakfast. In fact, leftovers, if there are any, become breakfast. So it's duel purpose!
Preheat over to 350 degrees.
1 cup White Sugar
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Butter or Margarine
Add dry ingredients alternately with milk:
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Baking Powder
2 cup Yellow Cornmeal
2 1/2 cups Flour
2 cups Milk
Pour into greased 9x13 inch pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
(This recipe can also be made by reducing all the ingredients by half and baking in a 9 inch square pan. Decrease cooking time to 35 minutes.)
I'm not sure where my mother got this recipe but has been a favorite of mine since childhood. I imagine the "dutch" in the title is referring to "Pennsylvania Dutch" given her Mennonite roots. Coconut Dutch Apple Pie really takes your traditional apple pie to a new level as the topping is exceptional. Enjoy!
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Peel and slice 4-5 lunchbox size Golden Delicious (sweet) or Granny Smith (tart) apples and place in your favorite 9 inch unbaked pie shell. (We prefer Wick's brand unbaked pie shells.)
2 Tablespoon Flour
1/2 cup Sugar
1/8 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
Pour over apples in pie shell.
Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice over pie contents.
Dot with 1 Tablespoon Butter or Margarine
Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake for another 45 min. (I often cover the outer rim of the pie crust with tinfoil to keep it from getting to dark during baking.)
While your pie is baking, Combine:
1/4 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Flour
1/4 cup melted Butter
3/4 cup Unsweetened Coconut
Sprinkle over baked pie. Return to oven to bake 8-12 minutes or until coconut topping is toasted.
Best when served on a fall day and topped with whipped topping or vanilla ice cream along with a hot cup of steamy apple cider!
This is our family's "go to" basic chocolate chip cookie recipe. To begin with, when my children were elementary school age, I often threw together a batch of cookies for a birthday as they were expected to bring a snack for everyone. I mean, what could be better than a homemade chocolate chip bar cookie or two in a little baggie! You can't buy this at a store or bakery.
Why is it our favorite?
A. They taste amazing!
B. They are bar cookies, not drop cookies. This means no messing with that extra bit of cookie dough that, no matter how hard you try, won't fit on one cookie sheet. So then you grease and use an extra, burn the remaining four cookies and let the mess soak in your sink until you scrub burnt cookie off...Have you been there?!
C. This is a very versatile recipe. I can add white chocolate chips and call them Blondies (pictured). I can use milk chocolate chips for traditional chocolate chip cookies. Or I can use Christmas colored M&Ms to make holiday cookies. To further change it up, I can add almonds, pecans or walnuts to any of the above scenarios.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream the following ingredients together:
1 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat 2 eggs into the above mixture.
Then, gradually add in 3 cups flour as you stir by hand. (The dough will be stiff and a little difficult to stir by the time all the flour is added.)
Finally, fold in an 11.5 oz package white chocolate chips.
Optional: fold in 1/2 cup almond slivers.
Spread into greased 10x15 inch jellyroll pan.
Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. The top of the cookies should be light golden blonde when you pull them out.
Allow to cool slightly (if you can wait!) and cut into squares.
This has been my family's favorite chili recipe because it is loaded with hamburger and not too spicy. There are some fantastic and unique chili recipes out there. However, it seemed like around our table someone would turned up their nose when there were too many beans, another wouldn't like it if there were too many tomato pieces and another wouldn't care for it if it was too spicy. After a lot of experimenting, this is the recipe that seemed to fill hungry tummies so I kept making it.
Another reason I love it is because the ingredients I often have on hand or are easy for my husband to find if he needs to pick something up for me at the store. My prep time to pull everything together is relatively short and easy. I mean, who doesn't need a recipe with "simple" in the title! (If you want to use organic grass fed beef, soak and cook your own beans and harvest veggies from your own garden, you are amazing! I'm not quite there yet!)
This recipe will feed a crowd of people so it has often been a "go to" when we have guests over. Since it doesn't have a super spicy flavor, it is favorable to almost everyone, even young children. And if they don't like it, they can always fill up on the cheese and crackers!
3 lbs Ground Beef
1 Onion diced
1 Bell Pepper diced
3 15 oz cans light or dark Kidney Beans
3 15 oz cans Petite Diced Tomatoes
1 cup Water
1 tablespoon Salt
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
2 tablespoons Chili Powder
In a large skillet, brown ground beef with diced onion and pepper. Cook on the stove top until the vegetables are soft. Then drain.
Next, stir all ingredients into a large slower cooker (mine is a 6 Qt Crock Pot).
Cook on low for 3 hours.
Serve with cheese and crackers.
This recipe is perfect on a cool day to feed 8 or so people. And like any type of bean soup or stew, it's just as good, if not better, leftover. (I like to make it for a fall afternoon of football and lots of activities as it can easily be served immediately or heated up later.)
White rice is the perfect complement to this recipe and should be made in tandem with it!
Ingredients for Stew...
1 cup lentils
7 1/2 cups water
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons salt
3 lbs mild sausage
1 onion diced
4 stalks celery chopped
1 clove or a heaping tablespoon minced garlic
12 ounces tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon oregano
In a large pot, bring to a boil and simmer 20 minutes: lentils, 2 1/2 cups of the water, beef bouillon cubes, the bay leaf and 1 teaspoon of salt. (The lentils will be soft and all the water absorbed by the end of about 20 minutes.)
In a separate large pan saute sausage, celery, onion and garlic. Once the sausage is cooked and the vegetables are slightly soft, drain off the excess fat. Add sausage/vegetable mixture to cooked lentils in the large pot. Then add 5 cups water, tomato paste, oregano and 1 teaspoon salt and stir well. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Serve over white rice to fill lots of hungry stomachs!
It happens to all of us...those over ripe bananas!
Sometimes I'm tempted to pitch them.
But on a good day (or maybe when I had just a little too much coffee), I turn something beyond hope into yummy goodness...Oatmeal Banana Bread!
This has been my "go to" banana bread recipe for years because the unique addition of oatmeal yields a moister variation of the traditional quick bread. And even though it doesn't sit on the counter for long, the moist texture stays until the last crumb is devoured.
So whether you through over-ripe bananas in the freezer like my mom does. Or whether you just want to use up the over purchase from last weeks grocery store run...yep, that's me! Yummy Oatmeal Banana Bread is the way to go.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
Add, beating until fluffy:
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Add dry ingredients, alternating with bananas and milk:
1 cup flour
1 cup quick oatmeal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 medium sized over-ripe bananas (or 1 & 1/2 cup mashed)
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Pour into two greased 8 x 4 inch loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. For extra moist bread, cover for 5 minutes as it cools after removing from oven. (I prefer two smaller loaves to one larger one. I know it is the same amount of batter but two loaves seem to last a bit longer around our house. If you prefer, you can put all the batter into one 9 x 5 inch greased pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.)
Slice with a serrated knife and cover with a generous layer of butter or margarine. Enjoy with a warm cup of coffee or a cool glass of milk!