It has never been a secret that I love church cookbooks. I mean, each recipe is signed! Sure, the person who submits the recipe isn’t necessarily the creator. Heck, they may never have even made the dish. But they are upholding a tradition that hales from days of yore, before recipe sites, before celebrity chefs, and before Amelia Simmons presented newly minted Americans with the country’s first formal cookbook in 1796.
I’m talking about the pass-along. The recipe that never dies. Whether it’s good for you or simply easy to make; clever or a day-to-day workhorse, a recipe only stays alive when it gets passed down, whether scribbled on the back of an envelope, or carefully curated by countless numbers of church members. Oh, who are we kidding – church women do the work. You’ll see a few men’s names in these books, but it usually has to do with grilled meat.
No, for the dips, sandwiches, stews and unending baked goods, I want to thank the first woman who figured out that her church could fill its coffers by filling the public’s belly.
Thanks to church cookbooks, I learned to make Pineapple Casserole, homemade sweetened condensed milk, Puppy Chow (or White Trash, depending on who you talk to) and Swiss Steak.
Sure you can find recipes for these and practically anything else online. But, when your teacher, neighbor or hairdresser touts it as something worth sharing, it means more. The members of Alexis Baptist Church know that, and they have put together a fantastic 350-page Fourth Edition of Tastes From the Country, which first appeared in 1996.
Whether you cook from scratch or ply the can opener, you’ll find something to cook here.
And, another bonus of church cookbooks, you can get as many as half a dozen variations on a favorite recipe, such as Mexican Dip or Seven-Layer dip. They’re all mouth-watering, but since I promised to lighten things up for the upcoming March Madness, I offer a recipe from the book and a slightly healthier version below. Either, way, enjoy.
Layered Mexican Dip
from Wanda Hammond
1 can refried bean dip
1 can frozen or deli guacamole dip
4 Tbsp. sour cream, mixed with 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 pkg. taco mix
3-4 green onions, chopped
2 good sized tomatoes, squeezed
1 can green chilis, chopped
1 to 2 cups grated Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheese
1 smal can chopped black olives
sliced jalapeno peppers (if desired)
Layer all ingredients in the order given in a 10-inch glass pie plate or quiche dish. Serve with large tortilla chips.
Layered Defense Dip
1 cup 1% cottage cheese
1 strip of bacon
1 12-oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 avocados, mashed and sprinkled with lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. hot sauce
1 cup salsa
2 cups shredded lettuce
3 green onions, sliced
1 can chopped green chilis
1/2 cup Mexican blend grated cheese
An hour before you want to serve the dip, drain the cottage cheese in a colander lined with several layers of paper towels. Cook the bacon until crisp. Pour the beans into the bowl of a food processer, add the bacon and pulse two to three times, until you have a pasty consistency. Place the beans in the bottom of your serving dish. Top with mashed avocados. Wipe out the food processor and add the cottage cheese. Pulse two-three times for a smoother consistency. Spread cottage cheese over the avocado layer. Sprinkle with salt, cumin and hot sauce. Layer on the remaining ingredients in the order given.