Bless Your Spoon: Cooking countdown to Christmas

Published 11:00 am Monday, December 11, 2023

By Stephanie Williams Dean

The days leading up to Christmas are a good time to get into the spirit of holiday entertaining. If you prefer small-scale parties, serve your select group of friends by planning a cookie-baking exchange. Gather folks together for good cheer and caroling or serve an array of desserts beside the fire. Other fun events might range from an “everybody-cooks party” to a “nobody-cooks party.”

I enjoy hosting small hot meals with friends gathered around my table. Casseroles are a good winter comfort food and everyone loves them. They’re easy to assemble and will feed a bunch of folks. Easy-does-it entertaining is fun and you don’t have to spend the entire day in the kitchen. The idea is to have a good time at your get-together.

Recently, friends came for a meal at noon followed by an afternoon of playing cards. My easily prepared menu was oven-baked meat and three sides. The entrée was an old-fashioned, comforting favorite — Chicken and Dressing Casserole. Complimenting the dish were the flavors of savory Tangy Green Beans in mustard sauce, scrumptious sour cream and onion Hot Deviled Potatoes, and a sweet Cranberry-Pecan congealed salad. The meal is one that never fails to please.

Small groups and hassle-free entertaining help us to harness our energies without feeling overwhelmed, allowing us to maintain our focus on the reason for the season.

For many of us, the excitement and wonder of the holidays can be overshadowed by feelings of loneliness. I don’t know about you, but after Thanksgiving, I get a little post-poultry depression. I long to be with my family and enjoy the holiday foods we once shared and miss those who are no longer with us.

Chicken and Dressing Casserole

• 1 large package cornbread stuffing

• 1 stick melted, salted butter

• 4 cups cooked, chopped turkey/chicken

• 1 can cream of chicken soup

• 3 ½ cups chicken broth

• 1 can cream mushroom soup

• 1 can cream celery soup

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a mixer bowl, mix stuffing with butter. In bottom of a baking dish, put half of the stuffing. Evenly layer the cooked chicken pieces on top of the stuffing. Salt and pepper the entire layer. Over the chicken, spread in order, the chicken soup, mushroom soup and celery soup. Do not mix. Evenly pour chicken broth over the soups. Evenly spread remaining stuffing over the top. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 1 hour. This is an old recipe — feel free to add chopped onion, celery and additional seasonings.

Fluffy Turkey and Rice

• 1 can cream of mushroom soup

• 1 soup can of whole milk

• ¾ cup uncooked regular rice

• 4 ounces mushroom pieces

• 1 envelope (1 /2 ounce) onion soup mix.

• 3 cups chopped turkey/chicken

In a mixer bowl, combine mushroom soup and milk. Reserve half of mixture and set aside. In another bowl, combine remaining soup mixture, regular rice, mushrooms with liquid, and half the onion soup mix. Pour into an ungreased 11 x 7 baking dish. Evenly place chicken on top. Pour reserved soup mixture over chicken and sprinkle with remaining onion soup mix. Cover tightly with foil. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 1 hour. Uncover and bake 15 additional minutes.

Turkey Pie

• 3 cups cooked, cubed turkey/chicken

• ½ stick melted salted butter

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• 1 cup whole milk

• ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 1 can mushroom soup

• 1 cup chicken broth

Evenly spread cooked chicken pieces in bottom of baking dish/glass pie pan. In a mixer bowl, combine melted butter, flour, milk, and pepper and mix well. Evenly pour flour mixture over the chicken. In a saucepan, combine mushroom soup and chicken broth. Mix well and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over chicken. Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven for 45 minutes.

Turkey Stuffing Scallop and Sauce

• 8 ounces prepared Pepperidge Farm stuffing

• 4 cups cooked, cubed chicken

• ½ cup melted, salted butter

• ½ tsp. salt

• ½ cup all-purpose flour

• 4 cups chicken broth

• 6 slightly beaten eggs

Prepare stuffing according to box instructions. Spread prepared stuffing in bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish. Evenly spread chicken over the top. In a saucepan, melt butter. Blend flour and seasonings in until a paste forms. Being to add broth a little at a time while stirring until it thickens. Stir small amount of thickened broth into the beaten eggs. Then return all to the flour mixture. Evenly pour over the chicken. Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 40-45 minutes or until knife tests clean. Allow to stand 5 minutes to set. Cut into squares and top with pimiento Mushroom Sauce.

Pimiento Mushroom Sauce

• 1 can mushroom soup

• ¼ cup whole milk

• 1 cup sour cream

• ¼ cup chopped pimientos

In a saucepan, stir soup, milk sour cream, and pimentos together. Heat until hot. Pour over Turkey and Stuffing Scallop.

Asparagus and Cheese Casserole

• 2 cans Green Giant asparagus

• 1 ½ cans mushroom soup

• ½ pound Velvetta cheese

• 3 sliced hard-boiled eggs

• 1 small package toasted, slivered almonds

• 8 pieces toasted bread crumbs

• ½ stick melted, salted butter

In a casserole dish, alternate layers of asparagus, soup, cheese and eggs. Sprinkle toasted almonds on top of each layer. In a bowl, combine toasted bread crumbs with melted butter. Evenly spread bread crumbs over top of casserole. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30-45 minutes.

Hot Deviled Potatoes

• Instant mashed potatoes

• ½ cup sour cream

• 2 tsp. prepared mustard

• ½ tsp. salt

• ½ tsp. sugar

• 2 Tbsp. chopped green onion

• Paprika

• Chopped chives

Prepare enough instant mashed potatoes for four people according to the package directions and keep them hot. In a saucepan, heat sour cream but not to a boil. Add mustard, salt and sugar. Stir in the hot potatoes and chopped onion. Mix well. Spoon into butter-greased casserole dish. Evenly sprinkle with paprika and chopped chives. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 25-30 minutes. I doubled this recipe, and it turned out great.

Puffy Potato Bake

• 2 cups seasoned mashed potatoes

• 3 Tbsp. grated fresh parmesan cheese

• 2 Tbsp. salted butter

• 2 Tbsp chopped onion

• 4 separated eggs, room temp

In a bowl, combine potatoes and cheese and set aside. In a saucepan, melt butter. Add onion and cook until lightly browned. Stir in potato mixture. Beat egg yolks slightly and stir into potato mixture. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into potato mixture. Gently turn into an ungreased casserole. Bake in a preheated 250-degree oven for 30 minutes or until knife comes out clean. Serves 4.

Tangy Green Beans

• 2 Tbsp. prepared mustard

• 2 Tbsp. sugar

• 1/3 cup salted butter

• ½ tsp. salt

• 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 2 Tbsp. white vinegar

• Cooked, fresh green beans

In a saucepan, combine mustard, sugar, butter and salt. Heat slowly while stirring. Add fresh lemon juice and vinegar and mix well. Pour over hot, cooked beans. Cook just until heated through.

Delicious Cheese Sauce for Steamers

• 2 Tbsp. salted butter

• 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 1 cup whole milk

• ½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

• Salt and pepper, to taste

• Sour cream, to taste

In a saucepan, melt butter, add flour and make a paste. When blended, add milk while stirring until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, until melted. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir in a little sour cream, to taste. Pour over steamed broccoli or other veggies.

Fresh Cranberry Salad

• 2 ½ cups crushed pineapple

• 2 package cherry flavored gelatin

• ¾ cup sugar

• 2 cups very hot water

• ½ cup cold water

• 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 1 ½ cups (1 pound) ground raw cranberries

• ½ cup (1) ground small orange

• ½ cup broken walnuts

• 1 cup chopped celery

In a bowl, drain pineapple and reserve syrup. Set aside both. To a saucepan, add very hot water. Stir in gelatin and sugar until it dissolves. Add cold water, lemon juice and reserved pineapple syrup. Chill until partially set. Stir in pineapple, ground cranberries, ground orange, walnuts and chopped celery. Chill for several hours or until firm.