Sunday, December 30, 2007

An Amazingly Good Casserole

Every year the local Christian radio station has an appreciation banquet for the ministers in the area. It is always at the Foundry in downtown Knoxville, which is a very nice banquet facility. Ron and I always go with George and Becky and it is a very nice evening out. This year Becky and I were quite disappointed when we were informed that the meal was being served buffet style. (We wanted to be waited on!) All was forgiven when we saw the buffet line. There were several meat choices and vegetables, from which we could take as much as we wanted. Now we hope they do a buffet every year. One of the vegetables was a Baked Tomato and Basil Casserole. I only got a little bit, not being a big fan of cooked tomatoes. But this stuff is amazing! I actually emailed the Foundry for the recipe but only received an ingredient list from the PR director. It was enough to get me started. I know this makes a lot, but you won't mind the leftovers. It's perfect for a pitch in, and very different from anything anyone else will bring.

Baked Tomato Casserole

3 large cans diced tomatoes, well drained
3 tbsp. dried minced onions, or 1/3 cup diced fresh onion
2 tbsp. Italian seasoning mix
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. garlic powder
16 oz. sour cream
16 oz. ricotta cheese
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. Italian seasoning mix
4 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup melted margarine

Grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine tomatoes, onion, Italian seasoning mix, sugar, and garlic powder. Spread in bottom of casserole dish. Combine sour cream, ricotta cheese, sugar, and Italian seasoning mix. Drop by spoonfuls onto the tomatoes. Gently spread until tomatoes are mostly covered. Combine bread crumbs and melted margarine and cover cheese mixture. Bake 30 - 35 minutes, until bubbly.

If you don't have seasoned bread crumbs, grind any day old bread in your blender or food processor into fine crumbs. Add some more Italian seasoning mix and blend in butter.

I hope you enjoy this as much as the ladies at the church Christmas party did!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Emergency Apple Dip

At Tennessee Christian Teen Convention my friends Jessica, Mandy, and I are the back stage hostesses. We basically keep the backstage crew and on-stage talent in water, snacks, and coffee all weekend. It's pretty funny because Mandy and I don't make coffee. (This year Jessica has a new job that takes her out of our Green Room. She may have to pre-measure some filter for me if I can't find the pre-measured stuff.) We've been doing this for about 7 years now and we have a few standards that we are not allowed to show up without. One of the most popular is our caramel apple dip. This is how you make it:

Apple Dip

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 bag "Bits O Brickle" (Crushed Heath bar with out the chocolate)

Mash together until well blended. Store in refrigerator. Serve with sliced apples that have . dipped in pineapple juice, orange juice, or Sprite.

It's super easy and comes from a friend who swears she cannot make any dish other than this one. I was catering a party and had planned to serve this when, much to my dismay, I discovered Kroger is no longer carrying the Bits of Brickle, only the crushed Heath bar. You can still make it with the chocolate, but it's sweeter and I just like it better plain. I had purchased the cream cheese and brown sugar, but never made it to another store to find the Bits O Brickle. I looked in the pantry at our "unclaimed items" shelf and found a bag of marshmallows. Knowing I had to do something and thinking of the marshmallow cream cheese fruit dip, I came up with this:

Creamy Caramel Apple Dip

1/2 cup margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 bag marshmallows
1 8 oz. block cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt butter and brown sugar together. When bubbly, lower heat to medium and add marshmallows. Stir until marshmallows are melted. Turn off heat and add cream cheese, stir until melted and creamy. Add vanilla and stir well. Refrigerate until time to serve. It's good slightly warm or cold. Serve with sliced apples.

When you are serving sliced apples keep a bowl of orange juice, pineapple juice, or Sprite near by to dip the apples in. The acid in the juices will keep the apples from turning brown. I hope you like those two options. I heard Target has Bits O Brickle, so stock up if you find some!