Church Lady Cookbooks

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?

0 thoughts on “Church Lady Cookbooks

  1. Liz in MN

    Living in Minnesota has exposed me to something called “hot dish” which I think my mom would have called a casserole. It often involves creamed soup, rice, and sprinkles of potato chips on top. Yum, yum.
    One of the church lady cook books up here had at least 5 variations of something called Mock Chow Mein, which is basically:
    1 lb. hamburger (beef or veal), browned
    1 lg. stock celery, cut up [note – I think they might mean ‘stalk’ of celery!]
    1 can cream of mushroom soup [generic store brand? gasp!]
    2 cans water
    2/3 c. raw rice
    2 oz. soy sauce

    Mix all together and bake 1 to 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees. Stir often.

    I am sure the stirring makes all the difference. There are variations on this recipe but they all include soy sauce and creamed soup. Indeed, “mock” is the correct word, but I believe it should be used as a verb, not an adjective.


  2. beckycc

    I also like that it’s a “large” stalk of celery. I guess in MN they have those mini-celeries, but clearly they’re inferior in this culinary delight.


  3. Vicki Clark

    Oh, I think I’m retaining water just from reading that Taco Stew recipe. Maybe throw in some bouillon cubes for good measure.

    And just this weekend I mentioned a recipe from one of my church lady cookbooks that has Velveeta in a recipe for fudge. Love the church ladies.

  4. Vicki Clark

    I bet the original said Oleo instead of butter.

    Velveeta Fudge

    1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
    8 ounces pasteurized process cheese, Velveeta, cubed
    1 1/2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, about 5 cups unsifted
    1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
    1/2 cup non-fat dry milk
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    2 cups coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

    In a large saucepan over medium heat butter and cheese cubes together, stirring frequently; remove from heat. Sift together confectioners’ sugar and cocoa; add to cheese, mixing well. Stir in non-fat dry milk, vanilla and nuts. Turn into a 9x9x2-inch pan; chill until firm and cut into squares. Makes about 3 pounds of Velveeta Fudge.

    Just in time for Christmas! Yum.


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