Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cheesy Cheese & Macaroni

Cheesy Cheese & Macaroni
Dorcas Annette Walker

There are some dishes that are a basic staple when it comes to preparing a meal whether just for the family or for company. One of them is cheese and macaroni. I think that cheese and macaroni range right next to mashed potatoes as a food that everyone loves. I remember when the first boxes of macaroni and cheese dinners came out. They were an instant hit being quick and easy to prepare on the stove compared to the previous baked style of macaroni and cheese and economical as well. Today there are several brands to choose from. I know that cheese and macaroni is my grandkids favorite so no matter what else I prepare, I always make a batch of my Cheesy Cheese & Macaroni.

I still use a cheap brand of the cheese and macaroni dinners and once in a while make it like the directions say, but most of the time I add a few other ingredients to make it more homemade. It wasn’t long until after eating so many of the same flavored cheese and macaroni dinners over and over that I began experimenting. While my husband can eat the same thing twice in a row, I prefer something different. Why settle for something plain when there are different ways to prepare food? Most of the time it doesn’t take a bunch of costly ingredients to give something a homemade twist. Just a blend of a couple ingredients will create a scrumptious taste. The crowning touch is seeing the surprised and satisfied smiles on your family’s faces as they eat something that you gave a little extra attention too.

My Cheesy Cheese & Macaroni is made up of a creamy smooth blend of cheese sauce surrounding cooked macaroni that is sure to be an instant hit with your family. You can experiment with different kinds of cheese for a different taste or pop the prepared Cheesy Cheese & Macaroni into the oven for a few minutes creating a browned crusty crumb topping of crushed crackers or bread crumbs with melted butter. My Cheesy Cheese & Macaroni takes about fifteen minutes to prepare and this recipe serves six.

Cheesy Cheese & Macaroni

2 (7.25 oz) boxes of macaroni & cheese
2 tb cooking oil
1 tsp salt
12 c water
1 c milk
¼ c parmesan cheese
2 c processed cheese cubed

In large saucepan bring water, salt, and oil to a rolling boil. Add macaroni and cook for ten minutes until tender. Drain water and add milk. Mix in the packets of powdered cheese until smooth. Add parmesan and the cubed cheese. Simmer on low for five minutes until all the cheese is melted. Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika and serve!

Weekly tip: When cooking macaroni or rice on an electric stove bring the water to a boil, add macaroni or rice, cover with a tilted lid, shut off the burner, and let finish cooking as usual. The food cooks just as fast and you save electricity as well!

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, January 20, 2010

Chunky Vegetable Soup

Chunky Vegetable Soup
Dorcas Annette Walker

Every cold and snowy day my thoughts turn to a bowl of steaming soup with some kind of hot bread. There is something comforting about inhaling the aroma of just-baked bread as you eat a bowl of nourishing soup while the freezing winds howl outside. Just as my outdoor pets and livestock need more food to keep healthy during the winter months so our bodies too need an extra shot of vitamins to ward off the rounds of colds and flu. Instead of popping more pills prepare a kettle of my Chunky Vegetable Soup. I always make a large amount as soups and leftover breads freeze well and are easy to warm up in the microwave on days when your schedule is hectic. Taking a thermos of soup along to work for your lunch is not only healthful, but economic as well.

When I worked in our local hospital I always packed my lunch. My penny-pinching Dutch background didn’t see the sense in paying for food when I always had leftovers at home. Each day as I arrived for work the first thing the other nursing staff wanted to know was what I had brought for lunch. While they grumbled over the cafeteria menu or ordered take-outs from local fast-food restaurants, I enjoyed my homemade food. I soon was handing out extra cookies, brownies, and cake that the different shifts fought over to get a piece of. It was amazing how a batch of just-baked brownies immediately changed the atmosphere at the nursing station and set the tone for the rest of the evening. So if you want to make new friends or improve your work environment, take a Crockpot of homemade soup or some home-baked goodie to work one day and I can guarantee that you will instantly become the most popular person around. You might even win brownie points with your boss.

My Chunky Vegetable Soup is ideal to make using up odds and ends of fresh vegetables right after a major holiday that are left over in your refrigerator. You can add or delete vegetables to cater to the taste buds of your family or put the items in a large Crockpot and let them simmer all day long. The more fresh vegetables you use the more colorful your Chunky Vegetable Soup will be. If you don’t have any fresh vegetables on hand substitute canned ones or use a couple packs of frozen mixed vegetables instead. My Chunky Vegetable Soup takes a couple of hours to prepare and this recipe will make about two gallons of soup.

Chunky Vegetable Soup

2 lbs hamburger
1 large onion diced
1 c chopped celery
2 qt tomatoes pureed
1 qt tap water
1 qt green beans drained
3 c frozen corn
2 c peeled & sliced carrots
1 (15 oz) can of peas drained
2 large potatoes peeled and diced
1 small head cabbage chopped
1 tb dried parsley
1 tb salt
1 tsp black pepper
*optional: 2 c pureed squash and 1 c shredded zucchini

Brown hamburger in the bottom of a large kettle with diced onion. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, cook until all the vegetables are tender, and let simmer. Serve hot!

Weekly tip: Soups are a wonderful way to disguise any vegetables that you or your family doesn’t like. Simply pureed and add them to the soup where the other flavors will override the taste!

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, January 13, 2010

Sauerkraut & Pork

Sauerkraut & Pork
Dorcas Annette Walker

My daughter-in-law’s family starts each New Year out with black-eyed peas, cooked cabbage, and hog jaw to guarantee good luck, money, and prosperity. My sister, who lives up North and where I was raised, always starts their New Year out with Sauerkraut & Pork. Each area of our country has certain traditions of how to bring in the New Year. The New Year is a time of reflection with the stark realization that time moves swiftly by and what is gone cannot be relived, yet it also brings the anticipation of untouched days ahead giving us another chance to make our life count by setting goals and new resolutions. No matter what objectives you have set for the New Year here is one recipe for daily use.

1 c forgiveness
2 c understanding
3 c kind deeds

Mix well and sprinkle liberally with love. Make up a batch each day to hand out to everyone that you meet.

Each summer, just like my grandmothers did in years gone by; I always make up a batch of homemade sauerkraut. Today there are all kinds of fancy gadgets for slicing and shredding, but I still cut my cabbage by hand on a cutting board with a sharp knife. There is something soul satisfying about cutting cabbage by hand that no modern piece of equipment can achieve. Each time I make a batch of sauerkraut I feel connected to the past. While the old method of making kraut was to salt down the cabbage in a large crock and let it ferment until it reached the desired stage, I have modernized my method. Instead of letting the cabbage sit for weeks, I experimented around until I got the right amount of desired sourness and now as soon as the cabbage is shredded, I pack my jars with cabbage, add salt, vinegar, and water and then can it immediately. While some may prefer store-bought sauerkraut to me there is nothing like your own homemade kraut.

Here is an easy recipe for Sauerkraut & Pork that my grandmother used to make a huge batch of for every family reunion. The Sauerkraut & Pork can be prepared in a Crockpot letting simmer all day. You can double or tripled the recipe as it makes great leftovers. My Sauerkraut & Pork takes about an hour and a half to make and this recipe serves four.

Sauerkraut & Pork

4 pork chops
garlic and regular salt
2 qt sauerkraut

Brown the pork chops in the bottom of a large kettle. Sprinkle with salts and pepper. Pour in sauerkraut (juice and all) and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer for one hour. Serve hot over mashed potatoes!

Weekly tip: Homemade sauerkraut: Pack qt jars with shredded cabbage. To each qt add 1 tsp salt, ½ c white vinegar, and fill the rest of the jar up with hot water. Can for thirty minutes!

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, January 5, 2010

Holiday Punch-Bowl Cake

Holiday Punch-Bowl Cake
Dorcas Annette Walker

Some people put up their Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and then take it down the day after Christmas. I like to have my Christmas decorations up the first week of December and then enjoy them until January. I’ve found that I get more pleasure out of my Christmas decorations after the rush of Christmas is over. Now I’m not advocating keeping Christmas lights up all year round like I’ve seen some folks do, but since Christmas comes just once a year why not stop to savor the season instead of fast forwarding it? My church has our adult Christmas party the week after Christmas. It has become a highlight of the year. We bring visiting family members, exchange gifts, and have a great time together. No matter what style of fashion you decide to end the old year with my Holiday Punch-Bowl Cake will help you celebrate.

Punch was first an Eastern drink taken from the Hindi word panch (five) for the five ingredients used to make punch as early as the 1600’s. Punch was introduced to the West in the seventeenth century and soon became the drink of England spreading to the American colonies by the eighteenth century where making punch was considered a social accomplishment. The earliest bowls were English and Dutch ranging from seven inches in diameter up to eight gallons. In the mid-eighteenth century Chinese porcelain became fashionable. It wasn’t until the nineteen century when cut glass punch-bowls were produced to use at festive occasions. George Washington established the tradition of serving punch to Congress on July 4th, 1790. The largest punch-bowl is the grand blue and white punch-bowl used by the first Continental Congress. The finest punch-bowl is of Liverpool Delft painted with blue ships and landscapes. The oldest punch-bowl decorated in red and gold resides in New York.

Punch drinking experienced its height from 1650 to 1850. Punch-bowls were used at husking parties, apple bees, elections, house-raisings, land sales, church dedications, baby christenings, and weddings. At funerals committees were appointed to mix and flavor the funeral punch. On Christmas Eve the punch bowl was filled and a silver coin and wedding ring dropped in to bring good luck to whoever received the item in their glass as people visited from house to house. Fashionable people in Boston served punch before dinner. By 1810 the Temperance movement was gaining momentum, which disapproved of punch drinking. Non-alcoholic punches began to circulate and soon punch became affiliated with church socials and ladies teas. Today the punch-bowl is used more as an ornament except for formal occasions.

My Holiday Punch-Bowl Cake is easy to prepare using ingredients that highlight the red and green Christmas colors when put into a glass punch-bowl. You can substitute other colors or fruit and use this basic recipe for holidays like the 4th of July or other celebrations throughout the year. To set off special occasions serve the Holiday Punch-Bowl Cake in punch-bowl glasses. Preparation time for my Holiday Punch-Bowl Cake takes about thirty-five minutes and this recipe serves twenty.

Holiday Punch-Bowl Cake

1 angel food cake
2 (20 oz) cans crushed pineapple drained
2 (3.4 oz) instant vanilla pudding prepared
2 (21 oz) cans cherry pie filling
3 (8 oz) containers of cool whip
green sprinkles

Tear angel food cake into bite-size pieces. Combine pudding and crushed pineapple in a large bowl. Four times layer in a glass punch-bowl: cake pieces with green sprinkles, pudding and pineapple mixture, cherry pie filling, and then cool whip. Garnish the top with red & green sprinkles, small decorative candy pieces, or pipe red and green icing gel in circles and weave a knife through. Cover with saran wrap and chill!

Weekly tip: When plastic wrap won’t cling, moisten the edge of a bowl or rim of container with water and it will stick immediately!

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: