Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chicken and Rice Casserole

Chicken and Rice Casserole

Dorcas Annette Walker

A sunny spring day tantalizes my senses and has a way of luring me out of the house. I love discovering what flower or plant has popped out of the ground overnight. Each time I take a break I go outside to sit on my porch and listen to the excited chatter of the birds as they scurry around building nests. This past week I spotted a set of hummingbirds migrating north as they buzzed around my blooming azaleas. I hurried to fill my hummingbird feeders and hung them up. In no time the hummingbirds spotted the feeders and began drinking and dive bombing through the air. It is days like this that I don’t want to spend a lot of time in my kitchen. So I made up my Chicken and Rice Casserole in the crock-pot and then hurried outside to plant some seeds knowing that supper was taken care of.

Speaking of chicken here is some more chicken or rather rooster gossip. My husband was given a hen from someone, who heard that he raised chickens, after deciding that having a pet hen was not what they wanted. Dana put the lovely hen I named Pretty Girl in with the rest of the hens. After a couple of weeks Pretty Girl was still hiding in the henhouse and was looking rather scrawny. Then Dana discovered that Pretty Girl was growing long tail feathers and realized that Pretty Girl was a rooster instead of a hen. So I changed Pretty Girl to Pretty Boy, who was promptly transferred to where the other roosters resided in the rabbit house. Within a month Pretty Boy filled out and became larger than any of the other roosters. Each morning there was a contest of who could crow the loudest. Zebulon, the reigning rooster, was always determined to have the last word or should I say crow. A few times I worried that he would collapse a lung or keel over in his efforts to out-crow the six other roosters.

When the roosters that we were fattening up landed in our freezer, we saved Pretty Boy as he is still not full grown and to help increase our chicken stock for meat. On a daily basis Pretty Boy and Zebulon fought mock battles through the glass window of the rabbit house that adjourns the chicken pen. One warm spring evening after dark my husband transferred Pretty Boy back to the henhouse. Even though Zebulon is clearly outsized, he is still determined to rule the roost. So far Pretty Boy gives Zebulon a wide berth and has only lost a couple of feathers even though he is almost twice as big as his opponent. We are keeping a close eye on our chickens these days as our henhouse nearly gives off sparks with all the electricity generated of two roosters in close quarters.

My Chicken and Rice Casserole is a filling yet quick meal to make. You can bake the Chicken and Rice Casserole in the oven for a couple of hours or put the ingredients in a crock-pot and let simmer on low all day while you are working. Try substituting cream of mushroom instead of onion soup or add vegetables such as carrots or broccoli to create an entire meal. You can alternate beef instead of chicken as well. My Chicken and Rice Casserole takes only ten minutes of preparation and this recipe serves four.

Chicken and Rice Casserole

Mix together in the crock-pot:
2 c rice (white or brown)
4 c warm water
1 tsp salt
1 pkg onion soup mix
1 pkg chicken gravy

4 pieces of chicken (your choice)
Cover and cook on low for at least eight hours until the chicken is tender. Garnish with parsley and serve!

Weekly tip: When making a casserole double the amount needed and store the extra in the freezer for a quick warm-up meal later!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a published author, columnist, speaker, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: For more recipes check out her Creative Tennessee Mountain Cookin blog at:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sweet & Sour Dutch Salad

Sweet & Sour Dutch Salad

Dorcas Annette Walker

Once a year we got to see our grandparents as growing up we lived out of state. So each visit to our grandmas made an unforgettable impression. Our holidays at my Grandma Landis’ house were more formal than on my mother’s side, but one dish I always enjoyed eating was her Sweet & Sour Dutch Salad that she made. Another dish I was sure to have was her partially frozen tart applesauce. When my mother discovered how much I loved my Grandma Landis’ Sweet & Sour Dutch Salad, she began making it at home. Soon I was able to make the Sweet & Sour Dutch Salad myself.

My father grew up on a large Mennonite farm in Pennsylvania where Pennsylvania Dutch was spoken. Grandmother Landis put out large vegetable gardens that she maintained yearly. Produce and meat was taken to the market each week to sell. Hearty breakfasts were cooked; the main meal was eaten at lunch, with a supper consisting of sandwiches and salads. During the summer a variety of cold fresh fruit and vegetable salads were prepared making a meal itself.

As the weather warms up this month salad greens will appear in home gardens. There is nothing like the taste of new garden greens that have been handpicked. Sowing lettuce seeds or putting out plant starts is easy to grow and always produce a bountiful reward. There are all kinds of greens that one can plant in the garden as well as wild dandelions greens that can be harvested out of the yard. Not only are salads nutritious, but they can easily be created to cater to each family member’s individual taste buds. Using a base of greens you can construct either a vegetable or fruit salad by mixing various fresh vegetables or fruits with your greens. Today there are numerous salad greens, vegetables, and fruits available year round making for a healthy diet.

Both my children love the Sweet & Sour Dutch Salad and often requested that I make one when they had friends visiting. My Sweet & Sour Dutch Salad is very simple to make using lettuce and a boiled egg adding a colorful healthy dish to your menu. Preparation time for the Sweet & Sour Dutch Salad is five minutes and this recipe makes enough salad dressing for two medium salads.

Sweet & Sour Dutch Salad

2 c shredded head or leaf lettuce (your choice)
1 peeled hardboiled egg
Divide the lettuce into two salad bowls and slice the hardboiled egg over the lettuce.

In a small bowl mix together:
1 tb vinegar
1 tb mayonnaise
1 c sugar
1 c evaporated milk
Beat until thickened and pour the salad dressing over the lettuce and sliced egg. Garnish the salad with a sprinkle of paprika and serve!

Weekly tip: To keep lettuce and salad greens fresh wrap them in a paper towel, place in a plastic bag folding it over until the bag is air tight, secure, and then refrigerate!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a published author, columnist, speaker, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: For more recipes check out her Creative Tennessee Mountain Cookin blog at:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter Bird's Nest Cake

Easter Bird’s Nest Cake
Dorcas Annette Walker

I always look forward to Easter. From yearly church ceremonies of jubilant praise for the resurrection of a risen Savior where death and the grave was overcome, the fashion show of new Easter dresses, profusion of blooming spring flowers, to the participation in Easter egg hunts with my grandchildren, I love every part of Easter. No matter how serious the economic or world situation is we can gather with family and friends and for one day rejoice together letting our spirits renew. Easter celebrates hope and life.

There is plenty of life here on the Walker farm. In January we brought home two, one-month-old German shepherd pups. Sandy, our aged chocolate lab, who has faithfully guarded our property throughout the years will soon be gone. So we decided to train a couple German shepherd pups. The energetic bouncing pups moved life to the fast lane overnight. It was fascinating watching Shep and Natasha’s first experience with snow. The pups soon became established outdoors and learned our property boundaries. They still stumble over their feet and long ears flop every which way, but Shep and Natasha are learning basic commands to grow into well behaved dogs.

Then last month on a warm sunny day, Bessie the goat, gave birth for the first time. The newborn kid was the size of a small dog. In no time at all, Bobby, was jumping and running around exploring his new world kicking up tiny hoofs. One morning I watched him intently eyeing the hens through the fence. He lunged at them and the hens squawked and fluttered around in panic. When they settled down, Bobby jumped at them again. The hens soon learned to ignore the whirlwind activity of the newest farm member outside their pen.

In a couple of weeks our first mother rabbit will give birth to several babies. Dana has already set up the incubator to begin the process of hatching eggs. I never fail to be awed at the miracle of dormant eggs coming alive. First a tiny hole is broken in the shell then the egg begins to move and crack until a baby chick emerges forth. The next thing you know there is a tiny ball of fluff walking around on wobbly legs cheeping in protest. Meanwhile migrating birds are returning busily building nests to raise their young for another season causing the Tennessee Mountains to burst forth with activity and new life all around. Easter has arrived.

My daughter, Dawn, gave me this idea for decorating an Easter cake with a bird’s nest using Chow Mein noodles. The filled bird’s nests make an awesome crunchy treat that can be eaten as a snack or decoration. You can place one nest or a ring of small nests with a bird in the middle on the top of the cake, or make one large nest and fill it up with malted eggs, jelly beans, and other Easter egg-shaped candy. I made cocoanut icing and tinted my cocoanut green, but you can use regular icing if you prefer. Let your creativity soar to produce a one-of-a-kind Easter Bird’s Nest Cake that will wow the entire family.

Easter Bird’s Nest Cake

Bake any cake of your choice (I used a yellow cake mix) in two layers and frost the cake.

To make 3-4 small Bird’s Nest melt together in the microwave:
¼ c chocolate chips
¼ c butterscotch chips

Pour in:
1½ c of Chow Mein noodles
Stir until all the noodles are coated and the chocolate mixture is used up. You can add more noodles if needed. Shape nests on waxed paper and let harden. Fill with Easter candy!

Weekly tip: To tint cocoanut place cocoanut in a baggie, add a drop of food coloring, seal the baggie, and shake the cocoanut around until evenly tinted. You can add more color if desired until you get the right shade!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a published author, columnist, speaker, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: For more recipes check out her Creative Tennessee Mountain Cookin blog at:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Puppy Chow

Puppy Chow

Dorcas Annette Walker

Want to fool your family this April Fool’s Day and raise some eyebrows? Serve them Puppy Chow. I am intrigued by names people give food as I travel around like: Dirt Pudding, Mississippi Mud Cake, Pigs Piggin Cake, Better Than Sex Cake, Cow Plop Cookies, Turtle Cake, Wackie Cake, Rabbit Salad, and Monkey Bread to name a few. April Fool’s Day is a perfect time to serve an unusual recipe to your family.

April 1st is a day when jokes, pranks, and tricks are played on family, friends, and coworkers throughout the world. The most accepted theory where April Fool’s Day originated from dates in 1582 when France adopted the Gregorain Calendar shifting the observance of New Year’s day from the end of March to the beginning of January. Since communication traveled slowly some folks out of ignorance or stubbornness continued to celebrate New Year’s Day on the first of April and were made the butt of pranks and considered foolish and thus April 1st turned into April Fool’s Day.

Some past April Fool pranks:
- In 1957 the BBC television programmed a hoax showing Swiss harvesting spaghetti from trees. A large number of folk contacted BBC wanting to know how to grow spaghetti trees.
- In 1976 a British astronomer told listeners of BBC Radio 2 that due to a unique alignment of two planets an upward gravitational pull would make people lighter at precisely 7:47 a.m. that day. He invited his audience to jump and experience a strange floating sensation. Dozens of listeners phoned in to say that the experiment worked.
- In 1993 a San Diego radio station announced that the space shuttle had been diverted from Edwards Air Force Base and was about make an emergency landing at a small local airport.
- 1996 Taco Bell put out a full page advertisement in The New York Times announcing that they had purchased the Liberty Bell to help reduce the national debt and renamed it the Taco Liberty Bell. When asked about the sale, White House press secretary replied that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and would henceforth be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.
- In 1998 Burger King ran and ad in USA Today saying that people could purchase a left-handed Whooper. Not only did customers order new burgers, but some specifically requested “old” right-handed burgers.
- In 2003 a radio station WAAF 107.3 in Boston announced a free concert by Pearl Jam giving a fictitious city in New Hampshire. A gas station in New Hampshire reported streams of cars drivers stopping to ask directions to the fictional town.
- Also in 2003 Chinese and South Korean websites claimed that CNN had reported the assassination of Bill Gates resulting in a 1.5% drop in the Korean stock market.
- In 2005 a news story was posted on the official NASA website purporting to have pictures of water on Mars. The picture was a glass of water sitting on a Mars Candy Bar.
- In 2006 a Cheyenne radio station reported that a Union Pacific 4-8-8-4 “Big Boy” steam locomotive weighing more than 550 tons was stolen from Holliday Park even though there were no tracks connecting it to any railroad. The road that overlooks the park was jammed for hours as people came to investigate.

My Puppy Chow isn’t guaranteed to make any major national news headlines, but it will be a hit with your family. The Puppy Chow has a crunchy texture with a chocolate peanut buttery taste. You can mix-match any Chex cereal. Nuts, dried fruits, or plain popcorn can be added/substituted to make your own original Puppy Chow. My Puppy Chow takes only ten minutes to prepare and this recipe makes thirteen cups.

Puppy Chow

Melt in the microwave:
½ stick of margarine
1 c creamy or crunchy peanut butter
1 (12 oz) pkg semi sweet chocolate chips

Pour over:
1 (14 oz) box of Corn Chex in a large bowl. Stir until well coated.

Put 2 c powdered sugar in a paper sack and dump the coated cereal into the bag. Shake thoroughly until coated with powdered sugar. Store the Puppy Chow in an air-tight container! (*Do not feed Puppy Chow to your dog as chocolate is poisonious to them!)

Weekly tip: To maintain a clean-free microwave cover any food that is being heated or melted and keep a paper plate on the round turn-table changing as needed for liquid spills!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a published author, columnist, speaker, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: For more recipes check out her Creative Tennessee Mountain Cookin blog at: