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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.

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Every day, home cooks hear, “what’s for dinner?” as hungry family members sneak a peek into bubbling pots and sizzling pans with anticipation. And, while there’s definitely a place for multi-hour braises and slow-simmered sauces, sometimes you just need a satisfying meal on the table. From quick and easy to classic and developed, nothing seems to shed the cold and warm the soul like a hardy, earthy, soup or stew. Here are a few favorite recipes that create that back-home feeling.

Sausage and Spinach Garbanzo Bean Soup
Sausage and Spinach Garbanzo Bean SoupSweet Italian sausage and chopped spinach combine to give this fall soup the soul-warming hardiness we love in our comfort food. This is a tasty and hardy soup for those days you need to take a little chill off the bones, and is also ideal for a quick meal when pressed for time. This is best when served right away while the spinach still has some crunch.
Get the recipe here.

Campfire Chili (Mild)
Campfire chili adapted for home cookingThis is a very flavorful, but mild heat, beef chili that was developed during family campouts, keeping youngsters’ pallets in mind. Take it in what ever direction you like by selecting some of your favorite sides or seasonings. Get the recipe here.

Spicy Sausage and Navy Bean Soup
Spicy Sausage and Navy Bean SoupThis is a perfect soup for those chilly days of fall and winter, with Hot Italian Sausage, Fire Roasted tomatoes, and fresh kale. This is a quick and easy recipe, but if you want to cook it longer to blend the flavors, leave the kale out until just before you are going to serve. The kale is best when it has just a little bite to it.
Get the recipe here.

Gene Vaughn’s 2-Alarm Chili
Gene Vaughn's Chili in Black PotThis recipe was one of my dad’s favorites. It was adapted, enhanced and embellished from the Army’s 1944 Cook’s Manual for Chili Con Carne. Dad’s recipe doesn’t much resemble that one, but is the result of much trial and error. This chili carries a lot of spicy flavors, mellowed by chocolate.
Get the recipe here.

French Onion Soup
Sweet Onion SoupThis classic soup delivers the wonderful aromas of caramelized onions, apple and a bouquet garni. Large sweet onions caramelize in butter that browns itself during cooking, and get a boost in flavor with apple juice or cider. Finish under the grill for that eye-pleasing presentation that is a classic favorite.
Get the recipe here.

White Bean and Pork Chili
White Bean and Pork ChiliAnother chili, but this one is made with pork, and gets mild spice from a Poblano chili. The velvety texture is surprisingly luscious, and is derived from the last minute addition of shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Keep your sausage in bite-size chunks for the “meatiness” texture we favor in chili soups of all kinds. Get the recipe here.

Spoon Dumplings for Soup
Spoon Dumplings in StewAdd another layer of flavor and comfort to any soup or stew by adding simple spoon dumplings just like great-grandma used to make. This recipe was handed down by Lea’s grandmother to her mother, Pauline Tate. Lea has used this recipe since she was a child cooking at home with her family. These dumplings really stand out on top of soup beans, vegetable soup and even chili! Get the recipe here.

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