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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Call ln The Kinfolk –  It’s Time For The Reunion

By Sherrie Norris

It’s that time of year again when relatives start heading toward home for the family reunion. It’s been a long-held tradition, in these parts, for families to gather for food and fellowship in the late summer/early autumn months, usually coinciding with the southern custom of memorial/decoration services at the local cemetery where loved ones are buried.

While the pandemic put a halt to most of these gatherings for the last two years, many of us are happy to be returning to this annual gathering of the clans this year. To stretch out the day, some families, like ours has done in the past, fire up the coals, place more than a few Boston butts on the cooker shortly after daylight, and by late afternoon, everybody’s digging in to some succulent pork barbecue that would rival any in the southeast, accompanied by delectable side dishes prepared by the family’s personal chefs. Talk about good!

Many families plan for a more “traditional meal” after a trip to the cemetery where the graves of loved ones are beautifully decorated with seasonal floral arrangements. There’s usually a memorial service under the giant oak, where tearful recollections are brought to mind, and music and melodies fill the air. Then, it’s off to the picnic grounds or back to a favorite uncle’s house, where tables are quickly covered with fried chicken, ham, potato salad, deviled eggs and luscious desserts that leave partakers soon afterward moaning from over-indulging. 

The family musicians often bring out their instruments for a little “pickin’ and grinning,’” while the left-overs are packed up for the return trip home. 

Way too soon, farewells and huggin’ and kissin’ resume, if perhaps with a bit more caution than before . Another reunion has come and gone, a few less in attendance it seems each year, but each one clinging to the hope that they’ll meet again, same time next year.

If your family gathering is on the horizon, maybe we can help with a few tried and true ideas.

Beef and Noodle Casserole

1 ½  – 2 lb. ground beef

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. sugar

1 large can (16 oz.) tomatoes

1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Dash of pepper

1 small pkg. thin spaghetti noodles, prepared as directed

1 cup sour cream

½ bar cream cheese, softened

1 med. onion or 3 fresh garden onions, chopped with tops included

1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

Brown ground beef, break up into small pieces. Discard drippings. Add next 6 ingredients, mix well. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Combine cooked noodles, sour cream and cream cheese, mix well. Layer noodle mixture, alternately with ground beef mixture several times. Top with cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. 

Pea Salad

1 head of lettuce, shredded or chopped

1 small package frozen peas, thawed and drained

1 onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

2-3 sticks celery, chopped

2 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. vinegar

2 cups mayonnaise

Bacon bits

Cheddar cheese

Layer first five ingredients. Mix sugar and vinegar with mayonnaise and spread over top of salad. Sprinkle bacon bits and Cheddar cheese over mayonnaise. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Easy Corn Casserole

3 eggs

2 cups whole kernel corn, fresh 

2 Tbsp. butter

½ cup milk 

½ tsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. salt 

½ tsp. pepper 

¼ cup red bell pepper, chopped 

½ cup cracker crumbs

Beat eggs; combine with corn, butter, milk, sugar, salt and pepper. Pour into a buttered pan; sprinkle top with bell pepper and cracker crumbs. Dot with butter. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until done.

Watermelon Salad

3 cups watermelon balls, chilled

4 oz. cream cheese

2 Tbs. mayonnaise

½ cup whipping cream

1¼ cups diced celery

¼ cup diced red bell pepper

½ cup pecans

Blend cream cheese with mayonnaise until fluffy. Whip cream to soft peaks and fold into cream cheese. Fold into celery and bell pepper. Place watermelon balls in dessert glasses and spoon dressing over top. Sprinkle with pecans. Add sugar to dressing for a sweeter salad.

Apple Butterscotch Crunch

1 (12 oz.) pkg. butterscotch morsels

1/3 cup margarine

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 cup chopped pecans

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp. vanilla

3 cups cooked granny smith apples

1/3 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 if using a glass dish). In a 3-qt. saucepan, melt butterscotch morsels and margarine. Stir in graham crackers crumbs and pecans. Press half of the mixture firmly into a large greased baking pan or dish. 

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, milk and vanilla until smooth. Stir in apples and sugar; mix well. Pour over prepared crust and top with remaining crumb mixture. Bake 25-30 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers