Main Dishes – Chicken Casserole

Feed My Starving Children

Last Saturday, I took a group of youth and parents to Feed My Starving Children, in Aurora. There were 23 of us from Redeemer, a great number in my estimation. But we weren’t the only ones there.

Along with probably 100-150 other volunteers, we split up around various tables packaging food into “manna packs,” a blend of rice, soy, veggies, and vitamins. These are sent to various places in underdeveloped parts of the world.

In the packaging room, we noticed that some of the groups around us seemed more exuberant, more joyous in their packing than we did. Jacob said, with a wry smile, “Yeah, our youth group is kind of angsty.”¬†Jacob has this wit, this subtle humor that makes me hours or even days later smile a little to myself. He’s right: we are kind of angsty.

And isn’t that okay? We’re Lutherans, for crying out loud. As my friend Sherri said, “We Lutherans repress our feelings and bring a dish to pass at the potluck.”

Chicken Casserole

We Lutherans do love our potlucks, and our casseroles, don’t we? Or rather, those of a previous generation surely did. My mom made a salmon casserole that I remember, sadly, with much disdain. I eat fish at least once a week now, but I’m not wild about any noodle-y, creamy, crunchy additional ingredients.

Anyhow, despite my being down on casseroles, dishes like this make for an easy family meal, as Kathryn found when she cooked this chicken casserole (p. 42) for me! She cut up the chicken before cooking to make it easier to serve. Great idea!


And here is the finished product:


Nice one, Kathryn! Thank you for your willingness to help me get through these last few recipes. ūüôā



Main Dishes – Turkey Turnovers

The Real Work
I love this poem by Wendell Berry.

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Turkey Turnovers
I made a turkey breast on Friday and decided to turn the leftovers into turnovers. I adjusted the recipe because I couldn’t find a gluten-free pie crust, and though I had every good intention, I just ran out of time to make my own. Instead I used gluten-free bisquick, which worked well. It was all gluten-free, and overall, tasted pretty good. I’m not sure I’m a fan of the gluten-free bisquick. Wheat just works so perfectly. I feel badly for those who don’t have an option, but there are a lot of better products these days


Side Dishes – Chippewa Rice Dish

Julie here: It occurred to me today that with the popularity of such sites as Pinterest and the many cooking blogs and websites that the good ol’ recipe box filled with splattered well-worn recipe cards is becoming obsolete. I must say this made me a bit sad.


I was looking through my recipes today, thinking lovingly of all of the people whose recipes I’ve gathered over the years. Ones from my mom and grandmother, my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and friends in the various places I’ve lived. It made me nostalgic for a time when recipe sharing had a more personal touch.

Now it seems as though we turn to the “experts”–those whose blogs are slick and websites are bursting with hundreds or even thousands of recipes, fully tested and published in glossy books with professionally styled food photos.

But in that process, I wonder if we’ve lost a little something. As I thumbed through my recipe cards today I remembered dinner parties where dishes were shared and recipes exchanged. Or parties where an appetizer made its way from the gathering to a conversation to my recipe box.

Oh sure, people still share recipes in this way, but it seems almost more likely that we’ll quickly go online to find an expert recipe.

Will young people today gather their own favorite recipes in a box, to pass down to family members over the years? Or will all of this become digital, and the only way to access Grandma’s favorites will be to go online to her Pinterest account? I don’t know…somehow it just doesn’t seem the same.

Well, one thing I do hope continues into the future is the gathering of recipes in church cookbooks! Hopefully in a few years, someone else will come along to put together Palate Pleasers, vol. 4!

I want to give a shout-out to all those wonderful cooks whose recipes have made it into my recipe box. I do treasure them–and you!

Chippewa Rice Dish
We categorized this recipe (p. 44) under side dishes, mostly because it was a “rice” dish, and I figured that meant it was a side. But I think more accurately it could be a main dish because of the ground meat.

It’s quite tasty–a great option for nights when you need a quick family pleaser. I’ll have to ask Marian F., who contributed the recipe, to see if she knows why it’s named as it is. No matter what the name, however, it is a satisfying, good dish!


Main Dishes – Chicken Divan

Julie here–
This weekend we are going up to Wisconsin for a high school retreat to a lake house belonging to members of Redeemer. They were so gracious to host us last fall for a weekend retreat, and offered to have us back. Hooray! It’s supposed to be chilly up there this weekend, but it’ll be warm and friendly inside!

Over the weekend, we’ll be discussing the book of 1 Peter. Scott will take us through several study sessions, and we’ll have lots of fun activities in between.

I have planned a game called GROG, which involves a monster, a flashlight, and teamwork. We’ll also take a hike on Saturday afternoon. Last year we found a nearby state park which had nice trails, so we’ll probably head over there again.

I’m looking forward to the weekend, and hopefully afterward will have a few more blog posts to share because I’ll have more recipes finished. I hear that Nancy O. is going to send along a batch of her Five Pounds of Fudge! I’ll also have the kids make a dessert for Saturday evening. I may make one for tomorrow night too, depending on how much time I have.

Chicken Divan
In the meantime, here is one more recipe I made a couple of weeks ago. I adjusted it a bit, by using lower fat soup and cheese. Add some chicken and broccoli, and you’ve got a delicious weeknight meal of Chicken Divan.


Laughter and Lasagna

The face says it all

photo 1

I am not sure what animal is painted on his face.¬†¬† I have a feeling it was inspired by “What Does the Fox Say?”¬† Either way, you can tell he had a wonderful¬†day and¬†is loving life!

My son has a real knack for persuasion.   He managed to spend his birthday money before he actually received it and manages to take my turn at bowling or any other game, for that matter.  He talked the teens at Rally Day into covering his entire face with paint.  There are no dull moments in our lives with this eight year old!


Lasagna- page 50

I had another dietary dilemma to deal with while I was shopping for the lasagna ingredients.  I seem to have forgotten everything I learned while taking and teaching Food Science class.  What is Milnot anyhow and where am I going to find it?

photo 2According to and my wise bible study sisters, Naomi and Barb, Milnot is a brand of “filled milk” (marketed as an evaporated milk substitute).¬† It consists of ¬†sweetened condensed milk and skimmed evaporated milk. Luckily, I found it in the baking aisle at Jewel with evaporated milk.¬† Correspondence¬†from Milnot’s parent company, Smuckers, ¬†stated evaporated milk can’t be substituted for Milnot.

Once I found it, I was so happy to see how beautifully it blended with the meat mixture and helped with thickening

photo 3

After this, I added 2 cans of tomato paste to the milnot/meat/spice mixture. I found oven ready lasagna noodles that provided bottom layer.  The tomato/Milnot/meat mixture, and shredded mozzarella cheese were layered on top of the noodles. This was an easy recipe that served the purpose of feeding a family that likes lasagna but dislikes ricotta cheese.

photo 4 Mixture after adding the tomato paste


photo 5
Lasagna placed in oven, ready for baking!

Main Dishes – Zesty Chicken Polenta Cakes

I feel a little sorry for Chicago meteorologists. Their lives would never get dull though, would they? Chicago weather never ceases to be dramatic.

On Friday, the temperature plummeted to what seemed like November temps, not September mildness. September is usually my favorite month in the Midwest because it’s sunny, bright, clear, and usually not too warm. But by the end of the week, we all had to scramble to find our jackets and even scarves and hats to go outdoors.

I had to turn on the heat since temps dipped into the 40s.

Zesty Chicken Enchiladas
I have to admit that the dish I made on Friday night was more “inspired” by this recipe (p. 63), rather than even an adaptation. Because of that, I decided to include it below.

I heard about the deliciousness of polenta this week, so I decided to give it a try. It’s like corn-based cream of wheat. So do you call that cream of corn? No that’s something different. Anyhow, think of the consistency of cream of wheat or oatmeal, and you get the idea of polenta.

For polenta, you need:
6 cups water
2 t salt (could go with a little less)
1 3/4 cups cornmeal

Combine the salt and water and bring to a boil. Add the cornmeal, stir until it thickens. At this point, you can eat it as hot cereal. But I wanted it not as a side dish, but as the “tortilla” for my chicken/veggie combination. So I tried it out on a skillet to see if it would fry up like pancakes or johnny cakes. It sorta worked. Keep them thin if you try it because if you go any thicker, the inside won’t cook up nicely.

Once you’re done with your polenta cakes, you can put together the rest of the meat and veg combination.

3 tomatillos (paper skin removed) chopped
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 jalepeno pepper, minced
1/2 t garlic powder
1/4 t. ground cumin

Combine these ingredients. You may want to taste how deliciously fresh the combination is!


These are tomatillos, in case you’ve never tried them before:


1 (2 – 2 1/2 lb.) rotisserie chicken, meat shredded (or 4 cooked chicken breasts, shredded)

1/2 c. Monterey Jack cheese or cheddar cheese

Here’s the fabulousness!


Main Dishes – No-Fuss Beef and Spinach Lasagne

Julie here–
Rally Day and More
On Sunday at church, we had our annual “Rally Day”–the day when everyone who has taken a hiatus from chu…, er, Sunday School returns. (We hope no one has taken a vacation from church all summer!) Linda F. organized the Sunday school teachers and kids, and Bruce H. provided yet another great meal.


It’s nice to see a larger crowd gather for adult Bible study. We’re working through the book of Exodus, which may sound dull to some, but honestly, my husband makes it interesting, though of course I realize I’m slightly biased. He takes these ancient, difficult texts and puts them into modern-day language and understanding, showing that God’s Word is relevant still today.

Today we talked about Exodus 3 and 4 where Moses shows his reluctance to be the spokesman for God to free the Israelites from the Egyptian taskmasters. Moses presents not one, not two, but five objections to God’s call, saying, in essence:
1) Who am I to talk to pharaoh? I’m not sure I can do it.
2) Who are You, God? They won’t believe me.
3) What skills do I have? I’m not qualified.
4) What if they don’t listen? They’ll ignore me.
5) Send someone else. I don’t wanna!

Can’t you hear the whininess in his voice? He’s being what I call a BWB (big whiny baby). I mean, seriously. This is God talking to you in that burning bush!

God responds to each objection patiently, reassuring Moses of His care and provision. And then eventually God suggests his brother Aaron can help him, so they head on down to Pharaoh to start the negotiations for the release of the Israelites.

Scott asked why we thought God chose Moses when He knew that Moses would be so reluctant and so dang whiny. The answer? God often chooses the meek, the humble, the unexpected to get things done. Think of David (the adulterer), Jonah (the escape artist), and many others. Being a prophet or God’s chosen leader is hard, and these guys probably realize that. But God provides whatever they need along the way, just as He still does for us today.

So when I am pondering a difficult job, or a difficult task that I know is the right thing to do, I pray for the boldness of Mary who, when told she’d be the mother of Jesus said so simply, “May it be to me according to Your word.” In other words, let it be. God will take care of the rest.

No-Fuss Spinach Lasagne
So, it’s probably a good thing Jacob is away at college. If he got wind of this recipe, he’d roll his eyes and moan so loud you’d hear him a block away. For this recipe, not only is there spinach in the lasagne, but I also replaced the ground beef with lean ground turkey AND I replaced the noodles with zucchini. He’d be saying, “Mom, you basically ruined what could be a delicious lasagne.” Well, Jacob, you may be right.

I really only made a couple of actual substitutions from the recipe (p. 52) since it calls for ground beef or turkey and includes the spinach. I changed the ricotta to lower fat and changed the noodles to zucchini. Here’s a recipe for zucchini lasagne, in case you’re interested.

Here’s the cheese filling with spinach, parmesan, an egg, and ricotta.


And here’s the easy meat sauce.


Here it is, layering zucchini instead of noodles. Ack! Please don’t send me hate mail about this substitution!


And here’s the finished product. As you may guess, it doesn’t hold together as well as lasagne noodles would do, but I thought it tasted great. Some sausage with zing would have improved it even more, but it’s a nice low-carb substitution in my book.


Main Dishes – BBQ Beef Sandwiches

St. Monica, Mother of Augustine (August 27)

Julie here–I missed her exact day last week, but St. Monica is still worth talking about.

I love Monica. She was a mom, just like me. She worried about her son. She prayed for him to take the right course in life. And she lived 1700 years ago.

What’s remarkable about the story, though, is how God answered her prayers. Augustine was a young man “sowing his wild oats” when his mom prayed for him. He associated with other young men who sought to outdo each other in their sexual exploits. It was during this time that Augustine is famously remembered as praying, “God grant me chastity…but not yet.” So Monica prayed, like all moms do.

Augustine’s story had a dramatic turn, however. And what a Christian leader and writer he became. He converted to Christianity in 386 (baptized by Ambrose during an Easter vigil) and was soon ordained and then eventually became a bishop. His conversion story is in his Confessions, which has become a classic in Christian theology. Another classic is his City of God. He was a brilliant theologian and thinker, and still influences the church today.

God could’ve done that without Monica’s prayers. But her influence on his life helped this prodigal son return to God and the church.

BBQ Beef Sandwiches
This recipe (p. 39) is a basic sloppy joe-type sandwich. It’s easy–I started with 93% fat-free ground beef, browned that and added diced onion and green pepper. Then I added ketchup, a can of tomato paste, and then mustard and sugar. I’m putting the mixture on whole wheat bagel-thins.


Here’s how they came out:


Take Them a Meal: Chicken Casserole

I was just invited to join a group that will be taking meals to a friend’s family¬†from a website called, Take Them A Meal. ¬†This¬†site offers¬†a free meal scheduler, which sends invitations and email reminders,¬†recipe suggestions and¬†also gives you the option to¬†take the easy (but more expensive)¬†way out by offering¬†a prepared¬†meal¬†delivery service.

The friend I mentioned¬†is Lori Vierow. She is the mother¬†an¬†Immanuel Lutheran school friend.¬† Her husband was instrumental in helping Redeemer plan our wonderful organic garden that has produced hundreds of pounds for¬†a local food pantry.¬†¬†Lori has given me permission to share her story here.¬† She was recently diagnosed with leukemia and will be undergoing a¬†stem cell transplant in a few days.¬† Then, she will need to be in isolation for 100 days, without the comforts of her home or family.¬†¬†Despite her illness, she has done an amazing job using social media as well as websites like Take them a meal, Caring Bridge and Go Fund Me to¬†help her take care of her family and herself during the “100 days”.¬† She is close, but not quite to the amount needed to pay for her medical expenses.¬†If you wish to contribute, it is very easy to do so at¬† Go Fund Me

The amazing Lori and her daughter!

The amazing Lori and her daughter!

Chicken Casserole

Friends of ours from Redeemer recently were blessed with their fifth child.¬† I thought it would be a good idea to bring them a home cooked meal instead of another baby outfit.¬† This darling¬†was their fourth girl,¬†and I’m looking forward to becoming better acquainted with her older brother¬†in our¬†third and fourth¬†grade Sunday school class this Fall.

This was a great opportunity to make the Chicken Casserole from page 42.  I hope to make the white lasagna with creamed mushrooms from page 62 for the Vierow family in mid-September.

The chicken casserole was submitted by Cheryl D, who also served on our cookbook committee.  I really appreciated how easy this recipe was to put together.  I doubled it so it would make a larger family meal and a small casserole for us to enjoy at home that evening.   Most of the ingredients were things I had on hand, such as chicken, rice, celery, lemon juice, mayonnaise, onions, almonds and bread crumbs.   All we needed was cream of mushroom soup, which was easy enough to find at local grocery store.

Here is a favorite “shortcut” I keep on hand for recipes that call for diced onions/celery:


I usually have some bags of this and chopped onions in my freezer to save me some time and energy ūüôā

I also used whole wheat bread crumbs¬†and long grain brown rice to add fiber,¬† Found these at Mariano’s but they are easy enough to make by putting the heels of whole wheat bread that most people won’t eat in the food processor.


Here is the casserole prior to being delivered to our friends from Redeemer, with my ever-present can of seltzer water!

The casserole after being cooked for my family, which we enjoyed along with fresh-cut fruits and veggies.


Main Dish – Tomato Pie

Thursday night: oh no! Something happened, and all of the text didn’t appear in my post. Sorry about that! Thanks for letting me know, Kelly! This goes to show that life has been a little hectic. We’re getting unpacked from vacation, and also packing up Jacob for college.

The Beauty of Santa Fe
So beautiful–St. Francis Cathedral

Stravinski directed here. It seemed like everywhere you looked in Santa Fe there is another unique sort of beauty: the curved adobe structures, the colored tiles, the enormous skies, the red clay dirt, the pinon pine.

St. John College against the beautiful sunset.

Tomato Pie
Tomato Pie was my offering for our cooking club (at Elmhurst Public Library) where the August meeting featured tomatoes and peaches. One person brought fried green tomatoes. Yum!


This tomato pie is super easy to make, and could work well as a breakfast dish or a main dish. It has bacon on the top, but for vegetarians, it could be removed and would still taste great.

It’s just sliced tomatoes and onions, sprinkled with cheddar cheese and bread crumbs. Then over the top, you pour beaten eggs. What could be easier!?