A few years ago, I received one of those fundraising-community-church-lady cookbooks as a gift. Usually I look at them with a bemused eye as they are brimming with recipes calling for potato chips sprinkled on top of casseroles made with cream of mushroom soup, and some gourmet ingredient called ‘oleo.’ And the things they want you to do with Jello! Oy.
This cookbook, of course, has all those things, but so much more. It also has little blurbs at the top of each recipe written by the person submitting it telling long rambling stories, some of which don’t have anything to do with the recipe at all. But sweet and homey. As I was flipping through the pages I started dog-earing recipes I would actually consider making. If there are more than half a dozen ingredients it doesn’t make the cut, and four of those must be spices.
I love the fact that old people think I should use the name brand ingredient they’ve used for years. Really? I HAVE to use Campbell’s tomato soup? Really?
My favorite recipe, though, is the Honey Mustard Chicken that goes through the entire recipe and at the bottom says, “Be sure to start with frozen chicken breasts.” How many sorry chefs will see that too late for it to do them any good?! The other thing that makes it my fave is that there is absolutely no reason why those darn chicken breasts need to be frozen for this recipe to work. My guess is that the author just always forgot to defrost before dinner time.
You probably think I’m making fun, but I’m absolutely not. The historian in me loves that these cookbooks are like a little slice of Americana. The homemaker in me loves that these recipes are tried and true and beloved by their families. I could learn a lot from someone like Arlene March and her Taco Stew recipe. I wish she lived next door to me. Seems like she’d whip me into shape pretty quickly.
1 lb browned hamburger
2 cans each — pinto beans, kidney beans, corn, diced tomatoes (NOT with green chiles)
1 pkg Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix
1 pkg Lawry’s Taco Seasoning
Cook in crock pot on low 6-8 hours. Top with some sour cream. Eat with corn bread.
Can you imagine daring to eat it sans sour cream or corn bread?! Or using diced tomatoes with green chiles?! If you did, I suspect Arlene would express her displeasure by arching her painted on eyebrows, pursing her Raging Ruby lips and glaring over the top of her half-glasses. Then after a long drag on her Virginia Slim, she’d wisk away the Chilly Dilly Jello and place it out of your reach, swatting at you the entire time. The taco stew, of course, would have to be given to the dog.
Yep. Pretty sure Arlene and I would get along just fine.
What’s your favorite church lady recipe?