­Consider joining a cooking club

By LISA IRELAND,

It is back to school time for many, and it is the perfect time to start a cooking club. This time of year, I am constantly trying to find new and interesting meals for my family. It seems like I am always making the same old thing.

If you like to cook or are interested in discovering new recipes, why don’t you join or start a cooking club. It’s easy. You can do lunch or dinner, and it is pretty low stress since you can always blame someone else if the recipe turns out poorly. “That was not MY recipe for potato soup!” Keep it easy and keep the set up simple.

Invite a few friends to join and divide up the sections of a good cookbook. One person does an appetizer, one person salad, another the main dish, one person for the side and one for dessert. You can also do it alphabetically if you have a large group. (i.e.: A-C: appetizer; D-F: Salads; you get the idea.)

I love to cook (as you might have gathered), so I am in a couple of recipe clubs and a supper club. Our supper club has been together for about 20 years and we all take turns hosting dinner. The hostess provides the main dish and everyone else just claims what they want to bring. A group of women at our church do a recipe club lunch once a month. We have been cooking through our church cookbook and it is been fun to discover recipes and try to guess the name of the recipe author.

I am also a member of a cooking group that meets at night. We have cooked through several cookbooks but one of my favorites was The Barefoot Contessa’s, Cooking for Jeffrey. My favorite discovery in the cookbook is the recommendation of serving homemade meatballs and marinara over creamy parmesan polenta. Meatballs and cheese grits? Wow, it was delicious and much easier to cook for a crowd than boiling water for pasta. I love these ideas.

All these groups provide me with a lot of great recipe ideas and even more laughs. Start or join one today.

These are a few of my favorite recipes from my cooking clubs.

French 75

This is hands down my favorite drink. I discovered this easy recipe when we were cooking through the Barefoot Contessa’s, Cooking for Jeffrey. It is so refreshing, but packs a punch so beware. The Barefoot Contessa recommends using Cognac but I prefer gin.

½ cup Gin

½ cup simple syrup*

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

2 cups ice cubes

1 bottle champagne, chilled

4 long strips of lemon zest

Pour the gin, simple syrup and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker or pitcher with a strainer. Add ice and shake or stir. Pour the mixture into 4 flutes about ½ filled and top remained of the glass with champagne. Garnish with lemon zest.

* Simple syrup: Combine 1 cup sugar with one cup water and boil for about one minute until sugar is completely dissolved. Chill.

Lizzy’s Green Beans

The best part of these beans is that you can half the recipe or double or triple it. It is easy to adjust.

1 large bag frozen, whole green beans

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup soy sauce (can use lite)

½ stick melted butter

Put all ingredients in a baking dish, cover and cook for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Delta Funeral Pimento Cheese

½ cup bacon, cooked crisp, chopped

½ lb. sharp white cheddar, grated and at room temperature

½ lb. extra sharp yellow cheddar, grated and at room temperature

2 small jalapenos, seeded, and finely chopped

2 t. garlic, minced

¾ cup mayonnaise

½ cup green onions, chopped

1 small jar pimentos, drained

1 t. Tony Chachere’s Seasonings

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and fold until well blended. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.

JoNeal’s Fiesta Chicken Crock Pot

Crock pot recipes are the best for school nights. Put it on in the morning and dinner is ready when you get home.

4 boneless chicken breasts (frozen or thawed)

1 envelope of zesty or fiesta ranch dip mix

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can Rotel

1 can corn, NOT drained

1 block cream cheese

Put all ingredients in crock pot and cook on high for four hours or low for six. Shred chicken and serve with rice, chips, tortillas or any Mexican sides.

Apple Dumplings

Something this good should not be this easy.

2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into eight pieces

2 can crescent rolls

2 sticks butter, melted

¾ cup brown sugar

¾ cup white sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 can sprite

Wrap each piece of apple in one of the crescent rolls. Place each in a 9x13 greased casserole dish. Mix butter, sugars, vanilla, and cinnamon. Pour over rolled apples. Pour Sprite all around rolls. Make sure sprite surrounds all the rolls and comes about half way up the rolls, but do not overfill pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Sour Cream and Cheddar Biscuits

These are truly simple to make and you can store them in your freezer for a quick treat. On occasion, I have added a pound of cooked and crumbled bacon or a pound of cooked and drained pork sausage for a breakfast treat.

1 stick butter, melted and cooled

2 cups self-rising flour

2 cup sour cream

1 cup or 8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

2 T. chopped chives, fresh or dried

Mix all ingredients and spoon mixture into well-greased mini muffin tins. Bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes until tops are brown.

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