Dinner Tonight: Hot Chicken Salad

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I am a southern girl. I’ve got sweet tea running through my veins. I’m pretty sure I’ve also got fried chicken and greens in place of some other vital organs (clearly, vestigial). I spent every Thanksgiving of my youth in South Georgia, where I learned a lot about southern cooking, baking, and good ol’ southern hospitality from my darling Grandma and Granddaddy. The other side of my family resides in North Florida, which may as well be South Georgia, if their food and accents have anything to do with it. My precious Grandmother (she chose that name for us grandkids to call her because she didn’t want to sound “old” 😀 ) also had an abundance of southern recipes for me to learn – Perfect Macaroni and Cheese, Cranberry Cream Cheese Salad… Needless to say, it’s in my blood. It might just be my blood. And I’m so glad. Southern food makes me ridiculously and deliriously happy (see: food related memories).

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Exhibit A: Actual casserole from potluck

My family went to a church potluck a few weeks back and I couldn’t think of anything other than a southern casserole to take. That’s what I always looked forward to at my Sunday church potlucks, growing up. I’d beeline straight for those casseroles. Those were (and are) always the best. I know not everyone is on the Casserole Train (choo choooo), but I am the Conductor, and I’m am hoping they’ll change their mind after trying this recipe.

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I got this Hot Chicken Salad recipe from my Mom, who got it from my Grandmother. My Mom told me that this was one of my Grandmother’s go-to recipes for her Ladies Luncheons. I love picturing my beautiful Grandmother in the 1940’s, with her beautifully made up face and coiffed hair, in one of her fancy dresses, and serving up this delicious casserole to her gal pals.

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This casserole is filled with tender chicken, crunchy celery and bell peppers, salty potato chips, melty cheese, toasty almonds. I meannnnnnn… I have seen this recipe with mushrooms and water chestnuts (blech!), but I love sticking to what my Grandmother did. It’s a link between me and her past. I did make a few changes, but it didn’t alter the integrity of the original recipe.

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Hot Chicken Salad

1 pkg. dressing (some of you may call this “stuffing”)

2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed (I cooked them in my crockpot and shredded them)

Chicken broth

2 C chopped celery

1/2 t salt

2 T grated onion (I chopped mine and added a bit more)

1/2 C green bell pepper

1 C mayonnaise

2 T lemon juice

dash Worcestershire sauce

1/2 C shredded sharp cheddar

3 C crushed potato chips

1/2 C toasted almonds

Preheat the oven to 325F. Put the dressing into a bowl and add enough broth to moisten it all the way through. Combine all the ingredients from dressing to Worcestershire sauce together and place in greased 9×13 pan. Top with the cheddar, potato chips, and almonds.

Bake for 30 minutes. Leftovers are even better!

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This is best enjoyed with a Mason jar full of sweet tea. And probably some kind of cobbler, fresh out of the oven, or freshly churned peach ice cream for dessert. Just a friendly suggestion. 😀

Enjoy y’all!

Kristin

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Happy Thanksgiving 2013!

Away in a Manger Scene

We did it! We decorated for Christmas. We always do it the week of Thanksgiving since we travel on the day of and want our home to be Christmas-y upon our return. Bigs was SO excited! This will be a fun year with him. He “gets” it. Smalls, however, is just a typical one year old, plucking the Christmas balls off the tree, yelling, “BALL, BALL!!!”, and throwing them as hard as he can (and he’s freakishly strong) across the living room. I normally put a smaller tree up, as well, that is my “Sweets Tree”, where I put on only dessert and sweets themed ornaments. That one is, sadly, not up this year. I just don’t have the energy to watch Smalls around two trees. I have extra eyes on the back of my head to watch them, but they just aren’t enough. Perhaps next year.

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Bigs was very concerned that the Christmas tree would go away while he napped, while we were away for Thanksgiving and for any other event requiring us to leave the house. Which is a lot. Object permanence isn’t as ingrained as I’d thought. But that will make it more magical and more fun to show him as we get closer to the day. And for him, it’ll be like Groundhog Day, every morning! The tree will still be there, just like yesterday! It is just so wonderful to see this holiday through the eyes of a child. I know that is clichéd (I am shaking my own head at my own self right now), but it truly is.

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I just love that skinny little baby arm and hand (left), and that sweet toddler hand (right) coming together on an ornament, placing it on the tree in tandem. I am so in love with them.

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This is the first ornament Bigs made in church last year. I am only slightly concerned because it’s made of paper and you know, light-heat and paper don’t so much mix, but it was too precious not to put up. I love that he constantly sees the images of Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus. Seeing it over and over will help him learn and then know, with certainty, the true meaning of Christmas. I am truly blessed and thankful for them and my husband.

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Jesus sure is the Reason for this season. Without Him, none of this would be. And that applies to just about everything.

Today I finished making my Coconut Cake. I used a different recipe this year. And as per the usual, I didn’t read the recipe the whole way through before starting on it. That’s how I do. It called for keeping an un-iced, filled cake in the fridge for three days. Luckily, I made the cakes and filling two days before Thanksgiving, so it still worked out. You really think I’d have learned, by now, to read a recipe all the way through before starting on it!

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http://www.cakeduchess.com/2013/11/coconut-cake-foodmemory-guest-post-magnolia-days.html

The only changes I made to the recipe were that I used sweetened coconut in the filling and used less sugar since it didn’t really specify that the coconut used was sweetened or not. I also added about a half teaspoon of coconut flavored baking emulsion to really enhance that coconut flavor.

http://www.amazon.com/LorAnn-Oils-Emulsion-Coconut-Ounce/dp/B001REJIJM

I love how when I pat the coconut on the frosting, it falls all around the plate like freshly fallen snow. It’s such a show-stopper of a cake (if I can be so bold to say so – I simply just followed the recipe!). So very festive. I cannot wait to eat that piece as big as my face, that I promise myself each year.

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I also got my Aunt Sue’s Macaroni Casserole made. It is a cinch to throw together and is so delicious. Here is the little beauty going in to the oven.

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And here she is coming out…melty, ooey, gooey, cheesy goodness.

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I can’t wait to dig into it tomorrow.

Here is the recipe.

Bigs and I made pumpkin muffins for breakfast and snack tomorrow. It was a fun little activity for us to do together while Smalls was still napping.

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We used a shortcut and made them with a store bought cake mix (vanilla). We added one can of pumpkin puree to the vanilla cake mix and stirred like the dickens. We added some ginger and cinnamon and some pumpkin spice bakery emulsion. We baked them in a 350 degree oven for about 20 – 25 minutes.

http://www.amazon.com/Lorann-Oils-Pumpkin-Emulsion-4oz/dp/B00BR25W9E

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I also put together a snack bento for Bigs for the Thanksgiving car trip. We aren’t going TOO far, but snacks make for a more pleasant ride.

Preschool Thanksgiving Road Trip Snacks

I packed a string cheese, a clementine some 5-grain crackers, a box of raisins, some Newman’s Own popcorn and one of our pumpkin spice muffins. Smalls will have less exciting snacks, in the form of Cheerios. 🙂 I will pack both of them an applesauce squeezy fruit.

Thanksgiving Subway

I hope you all have a VERY blessed, safe, thankful and HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Enjoy the time with your family and friends. And if that’s not how it’s going to turn out, it’s what you make of it! And to those going through hardships and heartache, may you feel God’s warm, loving embrace and presence, and may you find comfort in Him and the blessings (big and small) you have. There is always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for. God Bless.

I am so thankful for all my friends and family, near and far. And I’m thankful to God for all the blessings He gifts us (and even those He does not!) And I’m also thankful for this blog and all who read it and support me. It means so much more than you can even know. So, thank you. Happy Happy Thanksgiving.

Kristin

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgrateful

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I am so thankful and so grateful. For so many things. While life is far from perfect (what is that, anyways??), for what God’s gifted us, I feel overly blessed and undeserving.

My family and I had the wonderful blessing of an opportunity to participate in the Operation Christmas Child this year, through my church.

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/

They do it every year and it’s now going to be an annual tradition for us. It was really rewarding and humbling. I took the boys to the store and, together, we picked out lots of toys and goodies for two boys in the same age range as mine. And then on Sunday morning, we dropped off our boxes at the collection table at church.

Operation Christmas Child and Boys

My sweet boys putting their filled boxes on the collection table.

I am, by no means, “showing off” by sharing this. I simply what to share how humbled it made me. And Bigs told me, after dropping their boxes off, “Now someone else can have Christmas!!” and that gave me hope that he could feel part of the true meaning of sharing and Christmas.

I have…

Thankful heart

Last night, for dinner, I cooked a pork butt in the crock pot with some apricot jam and spices. I served it with my Aunt Sue’s Macaroni & Cheese (recipe here!) and baked beans.

Dinner

A lovely prayer to end on…

Prayer

I forget to do this a lot. I want to change that. I just got a new devotional. I am hoping to use that time of day to really thank God for his blessings to me. It’s called, “Be Still…and Let Your Nail Polish Dry”.

http://www.amazon.com/Still-Let-Your-Nail-Polish/dp/1935416219

May thankfulness and gratefulness abound,

Kristin

Thanksgiving Food Roundup

Turkey Time

Let’s talk turkey. Just kidding. Someone else is making the turkey.

Ain’t nobody (read: me) got time for that! Literally.

So let’s talk sides and dessert. That’s my forte.

And before that, let’s backtrack just a little. I want to paint my very fond Thanksgiving memories for you.

Thanksgiving was always one of my favorite holidays. Everything it embodied – the food, the fellowship, the family, the thankfulness. We used to travel to see my Dad’s family. They lived in the Deep South and the memories that were made in that old country house will live in my heart forever. When I think of Thanksgiving, this is what comes to mind:

Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

Literally. And the dining room we ate in looked almost identical to this Normal Rockwell painting. My beautiful Grandma would have her long gray hair coiled into a bun, she’d wear a sweet little dress with stockings and slippers (it’s hard work cooking for so many!) and cover it all up with an apron that had seen many meal preparations. When she would see us, her whole face would crinkle up in a smile and she would always have this little sparkle in her eyes. My Granddaddy would always cry tears of joy when our family car would pull up that dirt and gravel-covered driveway. My Aunts and Uncles and Cousins would pour in through the tattered screened door in the kitchen, arms laden with covered dishes and hugs to hand out. My Grandma would be standing at the stove top, frying up her hoe cakes in her beloved old cast iron pan. There’d be field peas in a saucepan, a fried turkey, my Aunt Sue’s macaroni and cheese, shredded chicken and hard boiled egg dressing, and food for miles. And miles. Good Southern, comforting food. The dessert table always held the traditional pumpkin pies, cobblers, etc., but there was always something else that held my gaze. My Grandma would always make a multi-layered coconut cake. It always looked so tall from my shorter, younger (I’m tall, but my memories were made when I was young) stature looking up at it on the counter. It was iced with the most glorious white frosting, and then covered with stark, white coconut flakes, imitating that fresh first snow fall. I always ate a slice as big as my face. It was always my favorite. And my dear Aunt Sue’s macaroni and cheese. That is one of my all-time favorite recipes still. She passed that one on to me before she went to be with the Lord. While I never got the coconut cake recipe from my Grandma before she also went to be with the Lord, I did find recipes online that closely match these and my other heart-guarded dishes. I’d like to share some of these with you today. They may not be the healthiest or use the most “trendy” ingredients, but they are sacred in my heart. They equal hugs on my plate.

Thanksgiving Table

This is my dining room table last Thanksgiving. I prepared a few of my favorites. I made green bean and sweet potato casseroles (no favorite recipes here). The back right tray is my Aunt Sue’s Macaroni and Cheese and the front tray is my Shredded Chicken and Hard Boiled Egg Dressing.

Here is the recipe I’ve found that most closely resembles the dressing. I use only white meat (boiling chicken breasts or using a rotisserie can cut down on time), I make cornbread from Jiffy, and I do not make or use the giblet gravy or chutney.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-live/hazel-smiths-chicken-dressing-casserole-recipe/index.html

Here is my dear, sweet Aunt Sue’s recipe. I make my own “cream of” soups now, but I cannot bring myself to change her recipe AT ALL. This is a highly simple recipe, and quite humble. Even though it is such, it is one of my most prized and loved recipes. Please feel the love my Aunt Sue had for all of us when you make and enjoy this.

Macaroni Casserole:

1 8oz. pkg elbow macaroni, cooked

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 C mayo

1/2 C onions, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped and slightly cooked in microwave in a bit of water, drained

1/4 C pimento, chopped (or you can use canned, roasted red pepper)

1/2 lb. mild or sharp cheddar cheese

Combine the above ingredients and place in a buttered casserole dish. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes.

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Hoe Cakes are cornmeal based…pancakes, for all intents and purposes. The closest recipe I could find to match my Grandma’s could also be found from Paula Deen…go figure. These would be piled high in a pie tin on each table at Grandma’s house. And we’d eat our weight in them as we were waiting for the “big” meal to start.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/hoecakes-recipe/index.html

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The closest recipe I can find to match my Grandma’s Coconut Cake is another Deen recipe (lol – Southern at best!).

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/jamies-coconut-cake-recipe3/index.html

After our afternoon Thanksgiving feast, we’d go out in the backyard and shoot aluminum pie tins with Granddaddy’s BB guns. My brother and I had a blast. We’d go for rides on the riding mower. We’d go “moo” at the cows in the back pasture and go for a walk through the cotton fields flanking that country house with a porch swing. We’d sneak into my Granddaddy’s barn and look at all his old fashioned tools and try to guess what they were used for. How we loved those Thanksgivings spent there. As we grew older, we’d STILL enjoy the same traditions. After Thanksgiving day spent there, we’d go to my Mom’s family and have a second Thanksgiving with them (in a different state). My sweet Grandmother had (still has) her own recipe for macaroni and cheese (a recipe for another day!) and an amazing cream cheese topped, jellied cranberry and nut salad. I am going to have to get that from her again this year, as I’ve lost the recipe. Sadly, much of my family on my Dad’s side has passed on and so we’ve had to change traditions. Whether we spend the holiday with my Mom’s family or with my Husband’s family, locally, I always make it a point to make these recipes that are so fond in my heart so that I can feel that love miles and miles away from where it started.

I’ve got two other recipes that I’d like to share with you today. One is a scone that would make for a lovely, festive breakfast on Thanksgiving morning. Imagine eating these little beauties with a cup of coffee or tea as you are starting to prepare your meal.

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I got the recipe for these Harvest Pumpkin Mini Scones from King Arthur Flour.

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/harvest-pumpkin-scones-recipe

And here is another dessert recipe, but for the more daring home cooks!

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This Pumpkin Mochi Cake is REALLY good – not too sweet and sort of chewy in that lovely mochi way that I am so very fond of. I used Mochiko (glutenous rice flour) that I found at a local special store. I obviously didn’t use small molds for this, as the recipe calls for. I used an 8×10 dish and doubled the recipe.

http://kirbiecravings.com/2010/11/happy-thanksgiving-2.html

PS – My husband is home with us now. God is good!

I hope you can use and enjoy some of these recipes. Have a very blessed weekend,

Kristin