Last evening we had friends over for supper. I wanted it to be a casual, yet very special time for our friends. I planned a very casual menu but added some special touches to our time together.
On our front door we have a grapevine wreath twined with silk ivy. I add different trims depending upon the season, but our summer has been so busy I had not yet had time to do so. Yesterday I went to my craft closet and found four large sunflowers and a stripe-y yellow ribbon bow, and added these to the wreath. Then I added a slate a la Mrs. Wilt. I was out of white chalk, but pale yellow worked for this occasion, and I wrote a special message welcoming our friends by name.
I used our fruit-themed place mats and heavy restaurant plates (antique white with a red stripe around the rim); also strawberry-themed glassware. I have a delightful little candle lamp made to look like a stoneware jug of cranberry juice, so that was in the center of the table on an ecru doily, and I lighted a cranberry chutney candle in it just as we sat down. On one end of the table I used my strawberry stoneware salt & pepper shakers; on the other end, a set of shakers made to resemble a basket of strawberries. (The “basket” is the pepper; the “berries”, which sit on top, contain the salt.) As a final touch I made very simple place cards out of folded 3x5” cards -- printed a friend’s name on each and added a leaf sticker (these coordinated perfectly with the place mats!) to each card. What fun I had, just using what I had on hand and spending no extra money at all!
When our friends arrived, they brought a bag of freshly picked sweet corn and husked it then and there. We played a game of hobo golf while the corn cooked and the other dishes kept warm (or cold, in the case of the salad). This is what we ate:
* Pepperoni Pizza Chili *
* Creamy White Chili *
* Broccoli Delight Salad *
* Favorite Corn Bread *
* Corn on the Cob *
* Ice Cream Sandwich Dessert *
Both chilis were a huge hit! In fact, our friends raved about the entire meal. And it was all so easy! I made the salad and dessert the day before and stowed them in fridge and freezer, Then I made the chilis in the early afternoon and just kept them simmering on very low heat. The corn bread was the only thing I did at the last minute, because I wanted it to be warm when we ate. I would recommend this menu to anyone who wants to serve a fun, casual meal to friends and who wants to do so with ease.
Here are the recipes. To give credit where it’s due, I want to mention where I found each of them originally, although I have made some changes in most of them. The broccoli salad recipe came from FARM WIFE NEWS magazine, which is now COUNTRY WOMAN. (I’ve had this recipe a l-o-n-g time.) The chili recipes both came from TASTE OF HOME. The cornbread recipe is from a cookbook about Christian hospitality titled WE DIDN’T KNOW THEY WERE ANGELS, by Doris Greig. And the dessert recipe is from the wonderful cooking newsletter COOK & TELL (see link on this page for more info).
BROCCOLI DELIGHT SALAD
1 large bunch broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup raisins, or less, to taste (dried cranberries work well, too)
Cooked, crumbled bacon to taste (I use about 4 Tblsp. bacon bits)
1 cup roasted sunflower seeds, or less, to taste
3 Tblsp. sugar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tblsp. vinegar
1 Tblsp. instant (dried) minced onion
Place the broccoli, raisins, bacon bits, and sunflower seeds in a large bowl. In a measuring cup or small bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients for dressing. Pour dressing over broccoli mixture and toss to coat thoroughly. Chill 1 hour or longer before serving. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
CREAMY WHITE CHILI
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tblsp. vegetable oil
2 cans (15 1/2 oz. each) great northern beans, rinsed & drained
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) chicken broth
2 cans (4 oz. each) chopped green chilies
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin*
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whipping cream**
In large saucepan, sauté chicken, onion & garlic in oil until chicken
is no longer pink. Add beans, broth, chilies & seasonings. Bring to a
boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from
heat; stir in sour cream & whipping cream. Serve immediately.
* I was out of cumin so substituted chili powder.
** I omit this... it just doesn’t seem to be necessary.
Also, this time when I made the chili, I cooked the chicken breasts ahead of time. We had a whole tray of them, and we just sprinkled them all with Montreal Chicken seasoning and grilled them. Then I cubed what I needed for the chili and cut the rest in strips to freeze for another meal or two, some other day.
Yield: 7 servings.
This may be the best chili you’ve ever tasted! When I served several different chilis at a progressive picnic a few years ago, this was the first to go, and I received many requests for the recipe.
PEPPERONI PIZZA CHILI
1 pound ground beef
1 16-oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz. can pizza sauce
1 14.5 oz. can Italian stewed tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups water
3 oz. sliced pepperoni, slices cut in half
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 tsp. pizza seasoning or Italian seasoning
1 tsp. salt
In a large saucepan, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until chili reaches desired thickness.
Yield: 8 servings.
Well, no, maybe THIS is the best chili you ever tasted! This is a great favorite too, and so easy!
ICE CREAM SANDWICH DESSERT
12 ice cream sandwiches
12 ounces whipped topping
1/3 bag toffee bits (find these in the baking aisle near the choc. chips)
Ice cream topping of choice to drizzle on when serving
Place the ice cream sandwiches in the bottom of a 13x9-inch pan. (I like to use a disposable foil pan with cover. ) Cut some of the ice cream sandwiches to fill in around the edges. It will probably take about 11 ice cream sandwiches. Spread the whipped topping over the sandwiches. Sprinkle the toffee bits over the topping. Cover the pan and freeze until firm. When ready to serve, cut the dessert in squares of desired size and drizzle ice cream topping of your choice over each square.
FAVORITE CORN BREAD
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 stick melted margarine (1/2 cup)
2 cups buttermilk baking mix (I use Hannaford brand)
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (I use the Hodgson Mill stone-ground brand)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9-inch square pan. Blend eggs, milk,
and melted margarine. Sift sugar, cornmeal and baking powder together and add to egg mixture along with baking mix. (There will be some bran left in the sifter if you use the stone-ground cornmeal. Just add it into the mixture.) Whisk the ingredients together just until blended. Pour batter into greased pan and bake approximately 30 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the corn bread comes out clean. (It may take up to 40 minutes, depending on your oven.)
Makes one 9-inch pan of corn bread. Recipe may be doubled and baked in a 9 x 13-inch pan.
This may not be the healthiest corn bread in the world, but it may
well be the best corn bread you’ve ever tasted! Wonderful with a bowl
of chili or soup! (I make it healthier by cutting down on the butter. I cut the amount of butter right in half, using 1/4 cup. And, the last few times I’ve made this, I substituted canola oil for the butter -- again, using only 1/4 cup. No one appears to have noticed, and the cornbread tastes just as good as ever.)
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