Please welcome Passionate Cook Caitlyn Willows to the Cafe!
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Everyone always talks about how busy they are. In fact, I can’t think of anyone I know of who isn’t. It’s no exception around here. As I write this I… Trust me, you don’t want to know. Consequently, I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. There are those rare occasions like holidays where I might want to do things up a bit more, but for everyday meals I want it quick and simple. I have to laugh because I remember those days when I was a stars-in-the-eyes teenager, clipping every recipe in anticipation of gourmet meals each night. Perhaps there are those people who can do it. I’m not one of them. I’m the one stepping over toddlers, then dogs once the kids were grown, then toddlers again when the grandkids came along. I’m very good at that and have yet to lose a one (kid or dog) in kitchen mishaps. Although, there was the chocolate peanut butter milkshake incident years ago. Turns out, you really aren’t supposed to stick a spatula in a blender when it’s running. Only thing lost there was my dignity.
So it’s quick and simple (generally speaking) in our house. I like to get dinner cooked in 30 minutes. (“Like” is such a tricky concept. I do the best I can.) Steak, baked potato, vegetable. Chicken, pasta, vegetable. Short ribs, rice, vegetable. Pork chops, mashed potatoes, vegetable. (We love our veggies!) Fresh tomato, cucumber, carrot or zucchini spears take the edge off the starving masses. I might have scored fresh blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries at the store and small individual bowls serve as the appetizer. Every so often I’ll get a little crazy and make cornbread muffins (Betty Crocker makes a lovely little mix) or do crescent rolls.
It basically goes according to plan… And then comes the obligatory pot luck, baby shower, birthday party, BBQ, holiday gathering. Yikes! But…now I’ll share with you the tried-and-true, everyone-will-love-you recipes that have saved me undue stress. When possible I use bowls and trays from the Dollar Store so I never have to worry about retrieving my containers.
Fruit and Dip
Strawberries (washed, your choice if you want to hull them. I do.)
3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese (real stuff, not fat free)
1 medium jar of marshmallow cream
Mix the cream cheese and marshmallow cream. Put it in a bowl. Put strawberries in a separate container. Serve. (You can also use grapes. If you’re feeling wild, cut up melon.)
(you’ll need a crock pot)
3 pounds of turkey sausage (cut into bite size pieces)
3 bottles of chili sauce
1 medium jar of grape jelly
Mix it all up in a crock pot. Warm. Serve.
Cranberry Spinach Salad
(they’ll think you’re a gourmet)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 package baby spinach
1/2 cup sliced almonds
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Combine cranberries, spinach, and almonds in a bowl. Mix balsamic vinegar and olive oil, then pour over salad, toss thoroughly, serve. If you’re going to a picnic, wait until you arrive to add the vinegar and olive oil.
This leads me to my “claim to fame” Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cake featured in the Passionate Cooks Cookbook. My sister-in-law gave this recipe to me years ago then quit making it. This decadent treat will give you a chocolate rush like you’ve never had. It’ll will hurt your teeth and you won’t be able to stop eating it. Rich and easy to make. No frosting needed. It cooks in one pan and never lasts very long at all.
Oh…and here’s another little tidbit you’ll find shocking. I don’t like chocolate, can barely stand the smell of it.
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