FUNERAL POTATO CASSEROLE

26 oz. pkg. frozen hash-browns*
2 cups sour cream
½ cup butter or margarine, melted
1 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup chopped onion
1-2 cups grated American cheese
½ cup butter or margarine, melted
2 cups corn flakes, coarsely crushed
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

*You may thaw the hash browns or leave frozen. If frozen they may need another 10-15 minutes baking time.

Mix together all ingredients except corn flakes and second half cup of butter. Pour into a greased casserole and cover with corn flakes and drizzle second half cup of melted butter over top. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for about 1 hour or until hot and cheese is melted.

We first had this at a wedding reception, and it was delicious.

DI'S PASTA E FAGIOLI SOUP

1 lb. ground beef or Italian sausage
1 medium onion, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup diced celery
4 cups hot water
2 cups dry small shell pasta**
4 beef bouillon cubes
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
2 cans mixed vegetables
1 can great northern beans or pink cannelini beans
1 large can petite diced tomatoes
1 large jar marinara or spaghetti sauce, your choice
1 tablespoon oregano, or to your taste
2 teaspoons thyme leaves, or to your taste
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to your taste
2 tablespoons parsley, dried or fresh
1 tablespoon sugar
salt to taste

**Any small pasta will work, including broken spaghetti, shells, alphabet pasta, orzo or even small elbows.

In a LARGE soup pot or Dutch oven, crumble ground beef or bulk Italian sausage. If using link sausage, remove sausage from casings and crumble into the pot. Add onion, bell peppers and celery. Cook and stir over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Drain fat if desired.

Add 4 cups hot water, bouillon cubes and dry pasta. Cover with a lid, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and cook for 10 minutes or until pasta is done, stirring often.

Add remaining ingredients, including all liquid from the canned beans and mixed vegetables. Add more water if a thinner soup is desired. Cover with a lid and bring back to a boil over medium low heat, stirring often. Simmer for a few minutes, then turn off heat and serve with shredded Parmesan cheese over the top and bread sticks or garlic toast. Add a green salad for a complete meal.

EASY PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES OR BARS

1 egg
1 c. peanut butter, creamy or crunchy
1 c. sugar, or packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350*.

** Tip: To measure peanut butter, spray measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray, then spoon peanut butter into measuring cup, pressing to fill any air pockets.**

In medium bowl, thoroughly combine all ingredients.

For individual cookies, drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Flatten with a fork in a criss cross pattern and bake for 10-15 minutes or until brown around the edges and set. Cookies will become firmer as they cool. Remove from pan and cool on rack. Store any leftovers in zip top plastic bags or tightly covered container.

For bar cookies, spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray, and double the recipe. Press into pan and bake until brown around the edges and mostly set, about 20-25 minutes. Bars should be still a little soft in the center but will firm up as they cool. Let cool in pan on rack, cut into bars and store any leftovers in zip top plastic bags or tightly covered container.

White sugar makes crisper cookies and brown sugar makes them moist and chewy.


DI'S CREAM OF MUSHROOM SOUP

*3 cups fresh mushrooms, your choice
*1 oz. dried mushrooms, your choice
2 cups boiling water
1 medium onion, diced fine
2 cloves of garlic, minced fine
1 quart chicken broth, homemade or bought
2 sticks butter, no substitutes
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh or dried parsley
1 tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste
water or broth to thin consistency if needed

*NOTE:  You may use any kind of mushrooms you like, including all fresh mushrooms, in which case increase the fresh mushrooms to 4 cups and omit the dried mushrooms and boiling  water, and add an additional 2 cups of broth or water when you add the quart of broth. You should have a total of 8 cups of broth and water and heavy cream, with more broth or water to thin to your liking if needed. The more varieties of mushrooms you use,  the better the soup, but even with all white button mushrooms this soup is delicious!

If using dried mushrooms, add them to the boiling water to reconstitute for 30 minutes. Remove soaked mushrooms and chop or slice, reserving soaking water.

Finely chop one cup of the fresh mushrooms and slice the remaining mushrooms. 

In a large skillet, melt one stick of butter and add onions and mushrooms over medium heat. Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir constantly until lightly browned. Add garlic and remove from heat. Set aside.

In a Dutch oven or soup pot, add remaining stick of butter and melt over medium heat. Add flour and mix well. Mixture will be thick and pasty. Do not brown! Add 1 quart of chicken broth and reserved mushroom soaking liquid, reserving last few drops of liquid in case of debris left from mushrooms. Discard the last few drops.

Remove from heat momentarily and working quickly with a whisk, whisk out any lumps until smooth. Place back over heat and whisk until just beginning to bubble and thicken.

This will scorch and burn quickly! Be very careful to whisk and stir constantly!


Add 2 cups of heavy cream, 1 tablespoon sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking and whisking until thickened and barely boiling, adding more broth or water to reach the consistency you like. Add the parsley and serve hot in bread bowls, or with hearty bread on the side.



DI'S SPAGHETTI CHICKEN

3-4 chicken breast halves
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes and green chiles
1 lb. loaf Velveeta cheese
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 lb. spaghetti
shredded cheese for topping, if desired

Place chicken breasts in a medium sauce pan and add water just to cover the chicken. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour or until chicken is tender. Remove chicken from pan and let cool. Retain broth for another use, or discard.

Skin and debone chicken and cut or tear into bite size pieces. Set aside.

Cook spaghetti as directed on package. While spaghetti cooks, prepare sauce mixture by combining soups, Ro-Tel tomatoes and corn in a medium sauce pan. Dice cheese into 1-inch pieces and add to pan. Heat over low heat until cheese is melted, stirring often as it WILL scorch easily. Remove from heat and set aside.

When spaghetti is done, drain thoroughly, then combine chicken and soup mixture with spaghetti. You may serve as is, or pour into a 13x9 baking dish or pan and sprinkle with shredded cheese and bake in a 350* oven until cheese is melted and bubbly.

I like to serve this with a green salad and hot garlic bread.

DI'S BLUEBERRY CRISP

8 cups fresh or frozen blueberries**
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup plain flour

2 sticks room temperature butter (not margarine or spread!)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup plain flour
2 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375*.

Grease or spray 2 (9x13) baking pans with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss blueberries, 2 cups white sugar and 1/2 cup flour till berries are well coated. Divide berry mixture evenly between greased pans.

In the same bowl, combine remaining ingredients and rub together with your hands, mixing butter into the dry ingredients to make a crumbly mixture. Sprinkle evenly over berries in both pans, dividing evenly.

Bake at 375* for 35-40 minutes or until berries are bubbly and topping is crisp and medium brown.

I freeze one of the pans to cook later, wrapping tightly in aluminum foil. To bake, thaw completely in the refrigerator, then bake as directed above, removing foil before baking.

Fresh or frozen blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, peaches or plums may be used instead of blueberries. Sliced apples may be used, adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to the apples, flour and sugar.

**4 cans of blueberry pie filling or any fruit pie filling may be used instead of fresh or frozen berries. Omit the 2 cups of white sugar and 3/4 cup of flour in the berries if canned pie filling  is used, and prepare the oatmeal topping and proceed as directed from that point.

HOMEMADE SPAGHETTI SEASONING MIX

3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup onion powder
1/4 cup garlic powder
1/4 cup dried parsley
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons dried sweet basil
2 teaspoons thyme
1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp. dried oregano


Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl and mix well. Store in an airtight jar or container.

Use 1/3 cup dry mix to 1 quart of tomatoes, or to your taste.

To prepare:

1-2 lbs. ground beef, crumbled, browned and drained
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/3 cup dry spaghetti sauce mix, more may be added to your taste
2 (15.5 ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes
1 (15.5 ounce) can tomato sauce
additional water if needed to thin sauce to your taste

Brown and crumble ground beef, drain fat. Add vinegar, dry spaghetti sauce mix, tomatoes and sauce. Mix well to thoroughly combine and continue stirring over medium heat until mixture bubbles and thickens. Continue cooking for a few minutes after mixture boils and add a little water if you prefer your sauce to be thinner. Combine with cooked, drained spaghetti or serve separately.

Also makes a great meat sauce for lasagna.

***Note: I also use frozen garden tomatoes or a combination of canned tomatoes and frozen tomatoes, or a quart jar of home canned tomatoes and a small can of tomato paste works great as well. Any combination of tomatoes and sauce or paste will work. I just use what I have on hand.