I'm not so sure this is actually a Christmas story, so I'm not labeling it as such, although it did take place at a holiday event during the holidays. In fact, it happened last night.
Since my kids are in the school run by our church, I am constantly bringing some sort of food to the building. Not sure how I got on the funeral food list, but I get phone calls once a month or so to produce something for a funeral. I bring stuff when there's a bake sale, or if some volunteer group I'm in is putting on a pot luck dinner. I bring food to school/church for anniversary dinners, for teacher appreciation days, and for parties I host a couple times a year with my Sunday school Class.
Typically I make brownies. Who doesn't love brownies? I keep half a dozen boxes of brownie mix on hand because I never know when that phone is going to ring and I have to bake a pan of brownies.
Lately, though, I've noticed that I've been asked to bring something other than brownies. It started quietly enough. I was called to make something for a funeral, and I said I'd make a pan of brownies, and the coordinator said she had enough bars, thank you, could I bring a veggie tray or something?
Then there was the cheer leading dinner where, again, no dessert was needed, but could I make a jello salad? (As a side note...Jello is not now nor has it ever been a salad.)
Then there was the hot lunch event for the grandparents where I was asked bring a fruit plate because they were getting a cake.
Bought baked goods? At a church? I was starting to smell that something was up. Maybe, after almost 20 years, the church and school are tired of my brownies?
Truth be told, I wanted to embrace this as an opportunity to open up my cook books and find something new to share with my school and church family.
Yeah, I know. I had a hard time believing that too, and I just typed it.
So last week I read, belatedly, that we were holding a school open house on the 15th. School families were going to supply all the food needs for the dinner. The various items were split by grades, and, lucky me, the upper grade children were to bring "Main Dishes."
Again, no brownies for me.
Not a problem, though. I am a casserole maker. I come from a long line of women who make casseroles (known to my people as Hot Dish) for various reasons all through the year. We of course produce these steaming hot bowls of combined food glued together with canned cream soup for church potlucks. We make them for families who have a serious illness befall them. (Because nothing says "Get Well Soon, you're in our prayers" quite like a dump bowl of noodles, ground meat, and a sauce of some sort.) We make hot dish for someone who has had a death in the family. (And there's actually a slide rule for which casserole gets made for which event.) My grandmother did it, my mother certainly did it, and, in spite of my general loathing for cooking, I carry on the tradition.
So I pinned the note about the hot dish to my office wall so that I wouldn't forget that I had to bring one, by 5 PM, to church on Wednesday night.
Since I work until 4 PM, there wouldn't be time to assemble and cook a hot dish after work. This would take some planning. No problem, thought I, I have until the 15th of December. That's ages away.
Which is why, yesterday morning, at about 5 AM, I was standing in my kitchen, cursing myself for watching the Biggest Loser finale and going to bed instead of, you know, shopping and planning a dish for the dinner.
My go to casserole involves hot dogs, noodles, and Velveeta cheese. I was out of two of the three items. I hadn't defrosted any hamburger, and I had no tuna. Frankly, I was stumped, and about to plan on bringing pizza to the dinner. (I found out later that a number of parents did that...smart people!)
I stood there, in my jammies, staring into my fridge. Then I remembered: We had chicken for dinner and there are leftovers!
Cut up chicken is good in a casserole.
Noodles! I have twisty noodles! Those are fun.
YES! I HAVE CREAM OF CHICKEN SOUP!
Cream of anything soups are the foundation for casseroles. Cream of Mushroom soup, for those of you who remember Garrison Keillor's radio show, is known as "Lutheran Binder" because we use it so often in our pot luck dishes. So using Cream of Chicken is both a solid menu choice and fancy.
Now...I needed to beef up this chicken casserole because a three ingredient casserole doesn't look like I'm trying.
Recently a friend of mine shared a fantastic slow cooker chicken and rice recipe in which sour cream is the star. We never have sour cream, but we did yesterday morning.
Now, a veggie...I need a veggie.
CORN! We have CANNED CORN!
By 5:30 I was assembling the most yellow casserole I've ever made. Sitting there in the disposable pan (You won't catch me losing a pan in the church kitchen...again!) I realized I needed a topping.
Cheese. Cheese is a good topping on everything AND people like cheese on stuff.
|Not sure what's in the dish? It's okay, it's covered in cheese!|
The only shredded cheese we had was a fancy Romano/Parmesan/mozzarella blend that someone in the house bought at a gourmet food store. Well guess what? That fancy cheese was now the topping for my pitched together casserole.
After work I raced home, and stuck my creation into the oven for half and hour to warm up. What came forth from the oven, was something very, very yellow, that smelled faintly of feet. (Note to self: Parmesan cheese and corn to NOT meld to make a nice smelling food.)
Still, I had ten minutes to get this to church. The good news? I had a name for it. CHICKEN CORN CHOWDER CASSEROLE. The better news? NO ONE ever asks what a hot dish at a church pot luck is. They just eat it.
And eat it they did. I didn't actually get to eat at the dinner. I was helping with the open house. But when I went downstairs, I noted that there was not one bite left of that yellow, foot smelling dish.
Crap I yanked from my fridge...give it a fancy name, cover it in cheese, and stick it on a table at a church pot luck dinner and they will EAT IT!