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Have you ever noticed the cooks in your circles that have a favorite dish that is always requested for pitch-in dinners? There’s always the dessert folks, and the brisket baker, and, of course, the popular deviled egg favorite. Deviled eggs are always a hit, and so is the person that makes them. And, preparation isn’t that hard to do, it’s mostly a matter of boiling eggs and mixing up the yolks to go back into the egg whites. The problem with boiled eggs is the boiling and peeling. And, it seems there are always one or two that crack and leak some egg whites during the boiling stage.

There is a much better, more reliable, method that delivers great hard cooked eggs; steaming! I learned to steam eggs, rather than boiling, a few years ago while watching one of Alton Brown’s Good Eats episodes. This method has a few real advantages over boiling eggs, not the least of which is the ease of peeling them without destroying the wonderful smooth surface of the skin, and there are no cracked eggs caused by jostling about in boiling water. This method is reliable and provides perfectly hard cooked eggs.

2 1/2 Qt saucepan with steamer basketAll you need is a saucepan with a steamer basket and a lid, or, for larger batches, a Dutch oven with steamer basket and lid.

The keys to getting this just right are:

  1. Decide whether you want your egg yolks, soft, medium or hard;
  2. Decide how many eggs you want to cook in a batch (minimum is 4, I’m told);
  3. Determine how long to steam the eggs
  4. Plan the process, and get tools and accessories ready

This all comes more easily after you try it a couple of times. I usually cook in batches of 12-24, so I will focus on the Dutch oven process. As mentioned, you can cook small batches of 4 or more eggs in a saucepan with a steam basket, although I have not experimented with the smaller amounts. I have found some info on the small batches, which indicate:

  • 6 minute active steaming in a single layer for soft yolks
  • 10 minute active steaming in a single layer for medium yolks
  • 12 minute active steaming in a single layer for hard yolk with bright color

The reason I use the term “active steaming” is because warm up time doesn’t count. If you put cold eggs straight from the refrigerator into the pan, you have to recover the heat you lost when you lifted the lid, and you have to heat the egg to room temperature before any real cooking begins. So, you put in the eggs, you replace the lid, and you watch for steam to begin to escape from your vessel, then start your timer. I also read in various comments that if you steam your eggs in a double layer, it adds about two minutes to active steaming time to get the same results as listed above.

Here’s my process for steaming 18 Extra Large eggs, which is the maximum I can get in my Dutch oven steamer basket in a single layer.
18 eggs in steamer basket

  1. Remove the (extra large) eggs from refrigeration 30 minutes before cooking begins, and place on the counter next to the steamer basket
  2. Add at least one inch of water to the Dutch oven up to 1/2 inch below where the bottom of the steamer basket will be
  3. Cover the Dutch oven with the lid, and bring to a boil over high heat, and when steam starts escaping, reduce the heat to medium high, to produce a steady simmer (indicated by steam escaping)
  4. Meanwhile, arrange the eggs in the steamer basket
  5. Remove the lid from the Dutch oven, drop in the steamer basket loaded with eggs, and replace the lid
  6. Watch the Dutch oven for signs that steaming has begun, and when it appears, start your timer for 12 minutes for soft yolks, 14 for medium, and 16 for hard
  7. While the timer is running, prepare an ice bath. I do this by emptying my ice maker tray into a clean sink and adding enough water to cover the eggs
  8. When the timer is finished, turn off the heat, remove the lid (lift the edge away from you) to release built-up steam
  9. Basket of Steamed Eggs in Ice Water Bath

  10. Move the Dutch oven to an area near the water bath, and lift the steamer basket out, and place into the ice bath
  11. If you are going to peel the eggs right away, let them sit in the bath about 3 minutes so they are cool enough to handle, and yet are slightly warm in the center

Larry with Pot of Hot BrothTo peel your eggs, roll them on a hard surface so that you crack the middle of the shell all the way around. I use the palm of my hand to roll them, but I’ve also seen chefs use the handle of a knife, too. If everything works well, you should be able to peel the cracked part off pretty easily, and then pull the ends off in whole pieces. I have had varying degrees of success with this, and believe that fresher eggs peel more easily. The longer they sit in the refrigerator, it seems, the more I have to pick away at tiny pieces to get them peeled. By the way, I use these large batches of eggs to make Pickled Eggs, an occasional, fun, treat for the family.

Google recently released their “Google’s Year in Search 2016.” One category included was a listing of the top-searched food recipes for the year. We took a look in our own collection to gather our recipes for these delicious, and sometimes, just fun, items to create our own list of favorites in 2016.

1. Green Bean Casserole
Green Bean CasseroleThis classic casserole might be the star of your holiday table, but it isn’t just for holidays and pitch-in dinners any more. In 2016 home cooks were bringing this side dish to their table throughout the year, and we commonly see at least a couple of versions of this dish on pitch-in dinner tables. We are always delighted to try other’s approach to this staple. Here is our recipe for a Green Bean Casserole, with Mushrooms, Bacon, Onions and two optional Cheeses.

2. Brussels Sprouts
Brown Butter Brussels Sprouts with Cipollini OnionsThe Brussels sprout continues to be super popular this year; it’s the only green vegetable that got its own Google search spot in the top 10. Here is our recipe for Brown Butter Brussels Sprouts, and, you might also like our Browned Brussels Sprouts with Cipollini Onions.

3. Hashbrown Casserole
Hash Brown CasseroleCasseroles continue to dominate the top 10 list, and for good reason; they can be prepared ahead of time, chilled, warmed, and served later, making them very versatile and reliable. One of the most popular recipes searched is the ever-popular hashbrown casserole. This has been a Christmas Breakfast staple at our house for many years, and I prepared it a number of times for Men’s Breakfast at church. Get the recipe here.

4. Guacamole
GuacamoleAnother simple-to-make delicacy made it to the top of the charts this year. It’s guacamole made from wonderful Haas avocados. Avocados are full of monounsaturated fat and nutrients, especially potassium, B vitamins, 11 different carotenoids, and vitamin E. It makes a great dip with tortilla or corn chips, excels when planted by the spoonful on top of entrees, sides, salads, and even when served sliced in soups and tacos. The process is quick and easy, and produces a luscious, silky smooth dip with a hint of lime. You’ll find our recipe here.

5. Chicken Marsala
Chicken Tenderloin MarsalaThis is a delicious, classic chicken dish that used to be taught in junior high school cooking classes. Our Italian-American version calls for breaded chicken breasts that are braised with Marsala wine, mushrooms and onion. Paprika provides a smokiness to offset the sweetness of the wine. Quick and easy to assemble, this dish is ideal for a simple weeknight dinner, and is elegant enough to gain status as a longtime favorite for entertaining company. You can find our recipe here.

6. Chicken Tetrazzini
Chicken TetrazziniIf you’re not familiar with Chicken Tetrazzini, this essentially is a bowl of luscious pasta loaded with lots of chicken and mushrooms. This is one of Lea’s favorite dishes, to make, and to eat. If you have time to make your own delicious egg noodles, you can take this dish to a whole new level. Get the recipe right here.

7. Snow Cream
Homemade Ice CreamSnow cream can be one of two distinct desserts; a cream-based dessert with one or more flavoring agents added, or, a dessert in which snow is mixed with a sweetened dairy-based liquid to make an ice cream substitute. We rarely see snow here in Central Texas, so we tend to go with the cream-based version. Get the recipe here. Our recipe is located here.

8. Buttercream Frosting
Buttercream frosting on mini-muffinsIt’s great that there are enough cooks out there that want to learn to make their own buttercream frosting, rather than giving in to the ease of buying it at the store. It’s completely simple to make, and totally essential for baking when you want that extra measure of flavor that comes only from homemade buttercream. Our recipe includes a tip to avoid getting the frosting too runny. The recipe is located here.

9. Pork Chops
seared-pork-tenderloin-medallions2_smlThe ever-popular pork chop topped this year’s Google search charts again, which is not so surprising considering how easy or elegant this homey dinner staple is to prepare. We have lots of pork chop recipes on our Entrees page, and one of our favorites, Apple-Ginger Thick Cut Pork Chops, is located here.

10. Turkey Gravy
Pan Gravy with Chicken Fried ChickenSearches for turkey gravy rose to new heights in the last few weeks prior to Thanksgiving, and, according to Google, it was very popular this year! Once you learn to master gravy making, you can pretty much turn pan drippings and fond from any dish into a silky smooth and extra flavorful pan sauce or gravy to serve with your meal. Here’s our recipe and some tips to help.

These delicious recipes are essential for every recipe starter collection, and all have countless versions that have been developed by seasoned cooks over the years. Historically, the most adventurous cooks had extensive libraries of cookbooks to use for inspiration and exploration. Trading recipes with others who had an interest in expanding their meal offerings was a very common practice. Today, there are many other ways to find a recipe, including that quick search on the web, including our own collection. We hope you enjoy our tried and true recipes, and look forward to hearing about your favorite variations, too.

Christmas morning is a time that you shouldn’t have to spend any more time in the kitchen than you want too. Here is a small collection of some of the dishes we would have at our house when our children, and then the grandchildren, would come to spend Christmas eve with us.

Walton House B&B Christmas Table SettingAfter the children were tucked into bed, adults set the breakfast table and prepared some casserole dishes that could be slipped into the refrigerator over night, and then into the oven in the morning. Buttered toast and hot chocolate were served first thing Christmas morning while we admired with anticipation all the presents under the tree. After opening our presents, the aromas coming from the kitchen foretold a delicious brunch featuring some of our favorite dishes.

Homemade Hot Chocolate with Buttered Toast
Hot Chocolate with Buttered Toast Sliced for DippingHomemade hot chocolate mix makes it really easy to make a warm, comforting, drink for everyone with very little fuss. Hot chocolate with buttered toast sliced for dipping was always a family favorite for early Christmas morning. We also kept a quart jar of the mix in the guest coffee area at our bed and breakfast so guests could enjoy a cup by one of the fireplaces any time they wanted. Get the recipe here.

Egg and Breakfast Sausage Casserole
Egg and Breakfast Sausage CasseroleWe made this a number of times on Christmas eve for our Christmas morning brunch. It’s always fun to get everyone in the kitchen mixing and preparing casseroles late Christmas eve after the children were in bed. Come morning, it is so nice to be able to pop everything in the oven, and then take a break from opening gifts and sit down to a great meal. We always had this with the Good Potato Casserole. Get the recipe here.

Egg and Sausage Casserole with Biscuit Mix
Egg & Cheese CasseroleThis is Larry’s recipe, which he developed during their Bed & Breakfast days. Using biscuit mix, rather than bread crumbs, it is loftier, and presents great eye appeal. It was always a hit with their B&B guests, and has the old familiar warmth of the Italian fragrance and flavors that really stimulated our appetites on Christmas morning. Get the recipe here.

Good Potatoes (Hash Brown Casserole)
Hashbrown Casserole with Chicken Soup and Corn FlakesTalk about wonderfully flavorful comfort food for those cold winter mornings! Using frozen hash brown potatoes, chicken soup, sour cream and cheese, topped with corn flake cereal, this dish is too simple for the wonderful aromas it creates. It can be prepared the night before, covered and refrigerated until morning! This is one of our favorites, and the entire family has delighted at this dish for many Christmas mornings. Get the recipe here.

Walton House Orange French Toast
pix-2008-walton-house-orange-french-toastLarry delighted a great many B&B guests with this delightful breakfast! It was the favorite of a lot of returning guests. We were amazed at how many people would remember exactly what they had eaten on a prior visit, and asked him to fix it again! The French toast in poached over medium low heat, and served upside down on a garnish of raspberry sauce, sprinkled with powered cinnamon-sugar, and topped with whipped cream. Get the recipe here.

Carrots, Potatoes and Onions
Fried Carrots, Potatoes & OnionsThis is a very simple, but comforting, dish that can be assembled very quickly, and with very little fuss, left on the stove top to cook over medium heat. The dish only needs to be turned over once when the bottom layer is cooked through and begins filling your home with delicious aromas. Originally this was fried in bacon grease for extra flavor, and has long been a long time family favorite. Get the recipe here.

Christmas Morning Coffee Cake (Monkey Bread)
Christmas Morning Coffee CakeOur family has enjoyed this Monkey Bread recipe several different times at Christmas; so much so that our granddaughters dubbed it Christmas Morning Coffee Cake. But, it would be a nice breakfast surprise any time! Simple to assemble and bake, it will become a favorite in your family, too. We’ve seen a lot of variations of this, but find that we keep coming back to this version. Caution….do not try to put more than the number of rolls called for in this recipe, as they may spillover while rising. Here’s our recipe.

It seems like we keep really busy late in the year attending events and activities that involve food. Whether it’s a company party or a family get together, a welcome addition to any gathering is an appetizer. The term “appetizer” usually refers to a small plate or single bite of food served before the meal to stimulate the appetite. The same food item might be served as an hors d’oeuvres at cocktail parties and receptions, where no dinner is served afterward. There are many recipes freely available, and here are a few of our own.

Texican Street Corn Scoops
Texican Street Corn ScoopsThis is a delicious treat that accents the freshness of corn on the cob with butter, cheese and homemade Emeril’s Essence! Texican Street Corn Scoops are a terrific way to deliver wonderful flavors in a bite size finger food. We cook the ears of corn in the microwave for our Texican Street Corn to retain all the flavor and sweetness which other methods often cook out, and we show you how to create this flavorful bite size version that will bring them back for more. Get the recipe here.

Twice Baked Potato Skins
Twice Baked Potato Skins Treat the family to an oven baked potato recipe dish that has the ideal texture and taste. Load these twice backed potatoes with butter, sour cream, cheese, chives, and top with crumbled bacon. They boast the ultimate level of silky creaminess, cheesiness, and buttery goodness . . . then top it with bacon! The perfect recipe for your memorable Christmas meal! Many folks also enjoy smaller versions as finger food, whether served hot or cold. Get the recipe here.

Shrimp Boats
Shrimp In A BoatThe original recipe for this appetizer was a shrimp salad that dates back to the early 1970s when our next door neighbor, Karen Flessner, introduced this. She served the salad in a large bowl with a dipping spoon and snack crackers on the side so we could fix our own. This deliciousness can also be elevated to bite-size morsels served in tortilla cups, as we show here, or on crackers, croutons, or any other vessel that is available. Get the recipe here.

Curried Carrot and Pear Bites
Curried Carrot and Pear Bites with RaisinsAdapted from our Carrot and Pear Salad, this tasty morsel on a stick is a party of flavors in an attractive burst of colors. Combining a zesty marinade with the pallet-pleasing tastes of fresh pears and raisins is counterbalanced by the earthy tones of the carrot ribbons. This eye catcher is a favorite, and they are easy to assemble, so be sure to make plenty. Get the recipe here.

Fingerling Hasselback Potato Bites
Roasted cheddar potato fanThe Hasselback potato is clearly the most eye-catching spud to ever call itself a side dish. Elevate the baked potato into an eye-catching side dish or appetizer with these potatoes roasted in a hot oven to produce a crispy skin and creamy interior. Adding seasoning and cheese, these appetizers will leap off the serving tray. These are called “Hasselback” potatoes, which refers to the luxurious Hasselbacken hotel and restaurant in Stockholm, which originated this technique. Get the recipe here.

Rye Bread with Dill Dip
Dill Dip in Rye Bread LoafLarry’s mother got this dill dip recipe from a St. Louis grocery store that made it fresh daily. We have served it many times over the years, and it eventually found its way into a hollowed out loaf of rye bread. Break the center of the loaf into pieces and place around the loaf. When the broken pieces are gone you break bread from the loaf itself. Enjoy! Get the recipe here.

Roasted Cheddar and Bacon Jalapeno Poppers
Cheddar and Bacon Jalapeno PopperStems sliced down the middle give these jalapeno poppers additional eye appeal. Poppers are fun to experiment with and we like making these a variety of ways. This recipe uses flavored thick cut bacon, and a little bread or cracker crumbs to add a tiny bit of texture to the filling, to complement the crunchiness of the exterior. Get the recipe here.

Easy to assemble appetizers and hors d’oeuvres are fun to make, and even more fun when they become the hit of the party. Try putting together one or more of these for your next get together, and let us know how it went. Have a favorite you’d like to tell us about? We always enjoy hearing from you!

Comfort food is what we like to call it, and we all love it. Food that warms the soul and creates a warm and comfortable feeling to combat the cold weather doldrums. Here are some of our dishes that fill the bill and are great additions to the wintertime dinner table.

Roasted Pumpkin with Maple Chipotle Glaze
Roasted Pumpkin with Maple Chipotle GlazeHere’s a spin on traditional pumpkin dishes for the fall and winter seasons. Using a small 2-pound pie pumpkin that is first boiled and then roasted, the wedges are colorful and full of flavor. Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce combined with maple syrup create an exciting mix of flavors, and the roast delivers the beautiful fall color. Get the recipe here.

Barbecued Pork Spareribs
Smoked BBQ Pork RibsIf you haven’t tried to barbecue pork ribs, here is a detailed set of instructions to take you through the steps of creating a flavor much like an outdoor campfire style Kansas City sauce. The BBQ is wonderfully delightful with an additional pepper-caramel note after the flambe step. The sauce exchanges flavors with the dry rub during the tented process, and creates a flavor that is better than either one by itself. Get the recipe here.

Polish Sausage with Peppers and Onions
Polish Sausage with Pepper and OnionsThis is one of those surprise recipes that are tossed together with whatever ingredients you have on hand, and it instantly became a hit, being spread throughout cooking sites with their own little variations of it. There are many similar recipes available on line now, but this is the original that Lea put together for an impromptu lunch one chilly day. Get it here.

BBQ Pulled Pork SandwichBBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

You have a number of options with this recipe; If you want to serve the large, stadium size buns (5″), you will need to increase your pork accordingly because you will be going from a 1/3 lb serving to 1/2 pound per sandwich. You lose about 1/3 of the weight when you slow cook pork, so you can adjust your recipe as needed. The recipe is located here.

Baked Pasta Beef Tacos
Baked Pasta Beef TacosThis is a hardy comfort food that uses jumbo pasta shells stuffed with a rich, spicy blend of cooked ground beef, cream cheese, and chili powder with taco sauce topped with cheeses and sour cream. The combination creates a Mexican flavor delivered in a pasta shell! Garnish with diced tomatoes, lettuce, sliced avocados, ripe olives, or verde sauce, if desired. This is a very versatile dish that you can customize to make your own. The recipe is located here.

What recipes do you use to spice up your wintertime tables? Do you have favorites that will be passed on to your families? Drop us a note and share your thoughts. Happy cooking!

Corn, is a large grain plant first domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mexico about 10,000 years ago. Over time is became one of the most versatile food staples throughout history. Originally maize, it became known as corn which could be consumed in any number of ways; roasted, baked, fried, boiled, ground into meal for any number of uses. We are celebrating corn in its many forms in this listing of recipes that will help you appreciate the most appealing and tasty dishes easily prepared at home.

Marjorie’s Corn and Peas
Corn and Peas Side DishThis is another amazingly good recipe from the Thistlethwaite family. I fondly remember a number of delicious Thanksgiving dinners when Marjorie (J.B.’s mother) would bring this delicious vegetable dish. Combining shoe-peg corn and frozen peas with sour cream and spices, it goes together quickly, and certainly stands out on the table. The recipe is located here.

Texas Style Creamed Corn
Texas Style Creamed Corn with BaconThis corn is so delicious with barbecued ribs or brisket! Most of Texas’s best barbecue restaurants serve this style corn with coleslaw, potato salad and baked beans. Add bread, pickles, onions, and hot sauce, and you have a feast! You can even add in some bacon crumbles as shown above. The recipe is located here.

Texican Street Corn
Texican Street CornThis is a delicious ear of corn! Cooking in the microwave retains all the flavor and sweetness other methods often cook out, and clean up is so easy; no shucking, no frustration trying to remove the silks. We like them without any cheese just as well, although you can take this in many flavorful directions by using your favorite cheese.The recipe is located here.

Creamy Creamed Corn
Creamed CornThis recipe comes as close as possible to the flavor of the creamed corn at one of our favorite BBQ joints in Central Texas. Combining heavy cream, cream cheese, butter, sugar, salt and pepper in a slow cooker, it is a delicious blend of flavors that goes very well with every barbecue dish. Get the recipe here.
For a spicy version see Poblano Creamed Corn.

Campfire Chicken Dinner with Roasted Corn
Roasted Chicken Dinner in FoilWhat a fun recipe this is! A chicken quarter, or breast, potatoes, carrots and roasting ears, all in a single foil pack. Can actually be cooked on the campfire, or roasted in the oven, for the fun of an “outdoor” meal with all the flavors and variety of a home meal. This can be served right in the foil for easy after-meal cleanup!
The recipe is located here.

Poblano Creamed Corn
Poblano Creamed CornThis recipe is based on a favorite side dish we enjoy at a barbecue restaurant in Bee Cave, Texas, near Austin. I actually based the sauce in this dish on Southern creamed corn slow-cooker style recipes, and added the roasted Poblano chili for that unctuous earthy flavor. This requires special attention, and quite a bit of stirring, to successfully obtain that slow-cooker intense flavor. This is delicious with any barbecue flavored dish. The recipe is located here.

Cornbread Casserole
Cornbread CasseroleThis is an oldie, but goodie! This is so simple, and goes well with lots of homemade meals! The recipe doubles easily, too, for bigger gatherings! Combine whole kernel corn, cream-style corn, and sour cream with a store-bought cornbread mix. A quick and easy favorite, it takes only 5 minutes to prepare, and even the kids love it! The recipe is located here.

Golden Sweet Cornbread
Golden Sweet Skillet CornbreadSkillet cornbread, historically known as hoecakes, is cornbread made like a pancake. Inside, it’s dense, but creamy. Skillet cornbread takes it up a notch or two with even texture, and sweetness throughout. This is an American classic that pays homage to our pioneer ancestors. The recipe is located here.

Celebrate corn! And, share with us your comments, thoughts, and favorite recipes, to be shared with others. Best regards from our kitchen to yours!

Pitch-in dinners are a fun way to share togetherness and fellowship with friends and family, and you can kick up the fun factor by making it a themed pitch-in. Make it an “Appetizers Only” party, Munchies Only, with dips and things to dip into them, “Some like it HOT,” featuring spicy dishes, Hot Casseroles Only, Cold Salads Only, or, “How Sweet it is!” desserts only. Here are some dishes, with links to our recipes, that you can pass along as ideas.

Appetizers Only
Sweet Swedish Meatballs
Cheese and Sweet Pickles
Breaded Mushrooms
Honey Roasted Cipollini Onions

Munchies Only
Rye Bread with Dill Dip
Herb Oil Fried Zuchinni with Ranch Dip
Spinach Artichoke Dip
Stuffed Baby Portobello Mushrooms

“Some like it HOT”
Campfire Chili
Gene Vaughn’s 2-Alarm Chili
Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Peppercorn Encrusted Roast Chicken

Hot Casseroles Only
Creamy Four Cheese Macaroni
Orange & Gold Potatoes au Gratin
Sour Cream and Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Cold Salads Only
Grapefruit and Fennel Salad
Sweet and Sour Yellow Beets
Cauliflower and Broccoli Salad
Green and Gold Pea Salad

How Sweet it is! desserts
Peach Cobbler
Butternut Cream Pie
Gooey Butter Cake
Pear Bread Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce

Have fun with your pitch-in dinners! Select a theme and see how much more fun the party is when you elevate it to a whole new level. And, be sure to let us know how your idea worked out!

No one wants to take “just-another-same-same” dish to the pitch in dinner with friends or family. What we want is a dish with lots of visual appeal. Whether it comes from color or texture, we want everyone who passes by our dish to notice it. Here are a few of our favorites.

Sauteed Green Beans with Onions and Bacon
Green Beans with Onions and BaconHere is a green bean dish that certainly stands out from the others, particularly because most green beans turn gray from being overcooked. Boil these for four minutes and then immediately get into a cold water bath to stop the cooking and keep the beans bright green. Add crispy bacon and sauteed cocktail onions, and you have a winner! Get the recipe here.

Whole Sweet Corn with Cream Cheese
creamy-creamed-cornThis recipe comes as close as possible to the flavor of the creamed corn at one of our favorite BBQ joints in Central Texas. Combining heavy cream, cream cheese, butter, sugar, salt and pepper in a slow cooker, it is a delicious blend of flavors that goes very well with every barbecue dish. Get the recipe here.
For a spicy version see Poblano Creamed Corn.

Blue Cheese Cole Slaw
Blue Cheese Cole SlawLea adapted this recipe from a cooking show on television. This combination goes really well with spicy foods such as Southern Fried Chicken, Hot Chicken Wings, Spicy Jamaican Jerk Rib-eye Steaks, etc. It is also a real eye-catcher when completing with all the other dishes at a pitch-in. Get the recipe here.

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Make Ahead Mashed PotatoesMashed potatoes are always a welcome staple, but they are pretty time consuming, and difficult to time just right if you have to travel to that pitch-in. These potatoes come out of the oven light and fluffy, and no one will know that these were made ahead of time. It’s a great time saver. Get the recipe here.

Marjorie’s Corn and Peas
Corn and Peas Side DishThis is another amazingly good recipe from the Thistlethwaite family. I fondly remember a number of delicious Thanksgiving dinners when Marjorie (J.B.’s mother) would bring this delicious vegetable dish. Combining shoe-peg corn and frozen peas with sour cream and spices, it goes together quickly, and certainly stands out on the table. Get the recipe here.

These dishes not only show off your cooking skills, they also stand apart from the other dishes for your pitch in dinner with friends or family. When you present one of these super star dishes, everyone who passes by is sure to notice it, and the flavors always deliver on the promise.

Pitch-in (or, Carry-in) dinners are fun! We always enjoy getting together with friends and family, and when we can do it over food, that’s an even better good time! One of the reasons we enjoy those dinners so much is because of the variety of dishes that we find on the table(s). We might get a chance to try two or three versions of the same dish, and wonder at the variety of flavors that were mixed up. Here are a few of our recipes that offer up a little, sometimes whimsical, fun in being just a bit different than the regular dishes.

Rye Bread with Dill Dip
Dill Dip in Rye Bread LoafOur extended family started serving this treat several years ago. Marjorie, Larry’s mother, got the dill dip recipe from a grocery store that made this fresh daily, and was one of their best selling products. We have served it many times over the last thirty years, and it is one of our family’s favorites. Hollow out the middle, fill it with dip, and break up the center you removed and place around the loaf. Find the recipe here.

Roasted Cheddar Potato Fans
Roasted cheddar potato fanOne dish we don’t often see at a carry-in dinner is baked potatoes due to the difficulty of transporting them safely. Here’s an innovative way to bring a stand-out dish that isn’t likely to be duplicated. These can be made from quite small potatoes, right down to fingerlings or bite-size Russets. Have fun with this one, and soak in the oohhs and aahhs when you put them out. Find the recipe here.

Spinach Artichoke Dip
Spinach Artichoke DeipThis is a silky textured dip that pairs perfectly with tortilla chips. I like to finish mine with a slice of mozzarella cheese and a little dried parsley before baking. I like to finish it with a little bit of browned cheese on top, just to add an additional dimension of flavor and color. Your fellow diners will appreciate the eye appeal of the cheese, and the additional hint of flavor from the parsley. This is going to be a hit! Here is the recipe.

Seasoned Olive Oil for Bread Dipping
Seasoned Olive Oil with Balsamic ReductionThis is a fun dish that folks return to time and again. Fill up a large dinner plate or platter with this dipping oil, season it up with any combination of flavors you prefer along with cubes of three or four types of bread, and you’ll have them coming back for thirds and fourths. Our favorite breads to dip include; ciabatta, baguettes, French loaf, focaccia bread, Italian bread, and bread sticks. Have fun with this one! Find our recipe here.

Green and Gold (Pea) Salad
Green and Gold Pea SaladThis is a recipe that Lea has used since her Junior High School days. She made this in her Home Economics class when she was in the seventh grade. It’s a fun dish, easy to put together, and always brings “yums” when it is uncovered at carry-ins. Silky smooth and earthy in flavor, this is sure to become a favorite with your family. The recipe is here.

And, just for fun: Purple Pickled Eggs
pix-2008-purple-pickled-eggsOur family really loves these pickled eggs, and we used to make up a batch of them each year at Christmas time when our far-flung family got to be together at our bed and breakfast, the Asher Walton House! We printed up funny labels for the eggs, and that always adds to the fun. Boiled eggs and beets get evenly mixed, in a glass container, with sweet-sour mixture, horseradish and cloves to deliver great flavor and a bright purple color. This dish always strikes up a lot of conversation. Enjoy! Here’s the recipe.

If your family or friends are planning a holiday season pitch-in dinner where the meat is already planned, you need to be able to pull out a few ideas for side dishes that can go together easily, have great eye appeal, and deliver with flavors as good as the dish looks. Celebrate the casserole, hero of overly busy homemakers for centuries! Here are some carry-in ideas to help get you started.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Baked Macaroni and CheeseThis is a recipe by Alton Brown that we adapted to fit our family’s preferences. Alton’s recipe calls for Panko bread crumbs for the topping, which we don’t always have on hand. We usually make coarsely ground bread crumbs from any crusty bread we have around, such as French or Italian bread or baguettes. You can find our recipe here.

Cornbread Casserole
Cornbread CasseroleThis side is a bread accompaniment that fits right in with any meal, whether it is a holiday gathering, a family dinner, or a camp out. The cornbread casserole is likely as time tested as any dish we could name. This simple recipe uses a boxed mix, is quick to assemble and cook, and yet, it is one of the best comfort foods you can add to any meal. You can find our recipe here.

Orange & Gold Potatoes au Gratin
Orange and Gold Potato CasseroleThis is an eye-catching dish that always pleases, with color to provide the visual “pop,” and the lusciousness of the waxy Yukon Gold potato combined with the silkiness of the sweet potato. They are layered with ricotta or cottage cheese, and your preference of Romano cheese (creamy), Asiago cheese (saltier), or Parmesan cheese (salty and nutty). You can find our recipe here.

Sour Cream and Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
Horseradish and sour cream potatoesMashed potatoes are one of the most beloved dishes for pitch-ins, often with two or three versions making an appearance. This variation stands out because of its eye-catching silky finish derived from using red or gold potatoes, and pairs very well with brown gravies and sauces due to a hint of horseradish. You can find our recipe here.

Creamy Four Cheese Macaroni
Four Cheese MacaroniOne of America’s favorite dishes, this recipe is adapted from “The Best of Cooking Light,” and is one of Lea’s favorite recipes. In fact, she said this cheese combination of Fontina, Parmesan, extra-sharp Cheddar, and Velveeta, is one of the best tasting she has ever made. If you like mac ‘n cheese, we think you will really like this recipe! Find it here.

Classic Cranberry Salad
Lea Mixing Cranberry SaladLarry’s mother, Marjorie, always made this for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. It is so delicious with turkey! We enjoy it mostly with the turkey sandwiches the day after the holiday! Give cranberries a ride in the food processor, add sugar and orange, marshmallows and nuts to create a chilled salad that is even better the day after. You can find our recipe here.

Casseroles fit the pitch-in bill because now there are portable carriers that can be heated or cooled, as appropriate, to keep your food in the food safety zone until service. At room temperature, bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes, according to foodsafety.gov. Check it out, to keep your food safer. And, share with us your comments, thoughts, and favorite recipes, to be shared with others. Best regards from our kitchen to yours for the holiday season!

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