Celebrate with tired and true recipes

Published 1:32 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2024

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Years ago, a friend gave me the book “Being Dead is No Excuse,” a humorous, “official” guide for hosting the perfect funeral. With tongue-in-cheek humor, the writers assert that some quintessential rules and rituals surround our send-offs.

After all, a funeral is a ceremony – so why not treat it as such and celebrate?

A nice addition to your Amy Vanderbilt etiquette books, the guidebook gives the how-to for throwing festive parties. Each chapter includes popular southern favorites that are comforting balms like vintage Campbell’s soup casseroles and gracious sheet pan desserts that feed a mass of folks. Like relatives of potluck supper dishes, the recipes are akin to those in your church cookbook.

The instruction book walks you through, whether gathering in an event center, church basement, or receiving folks at home. Whether you serve pick-up foods or full-fledged, hot suppers – the book points out how to die – tastefully.

Today’s recipes include all-time, crowd-pleasers for post-ceremony celebrations – but delicious any other time.  At any Southern event, no party table’s complete without bowls of your mama’s sweet and sour pickles, spiced nuts, and pastel meltaway mints – the must-haves.

Recently, I attended a life celebration for local race car driver, Ralph Lee Brinkley. More than 200 fans attended a gathering at Richard Childress Racing in Welcome. The man was bigger than life. He was kind of like race royalty, and his fanfare was huge. Several speakers eulogized his life, sharing memories from his days in racing. Others talked about the legacy of a driver who won 8 championships in the modified racing division on the little racetrack that’s near and dear to my heart – Bowman Gray Stadium.

And amazingly, Brinkley did it with a single eye – dubbed the “one-eyed wonder.”

Former Sports Editor, Randy Pettitt, called the man, “the greatest show on turf.” During his life, Brinkley’s blue, #9 modified dominated the track – resting in the winner’s circle 64 times.

Shown in a filmed interview, Brinkley was asked how he did it and replied, “If it hadn’t been fun, I wouldn’t have been doing it.”

The celebration closed with Brinkley’s words, “At one time, winning was the biggest thing on my mind. But that chapter of my life is over now. God is God and He knows what’s ahead. I can only look back through the rearview mirror.”

It’s important to enjoy our lives and have fun along the way. And even if we’re not winning trophies and recognition awards, our memories are woven into the lives of others.

Fortunately, most of us have two eyes to do what Brinkley did – and that was to focus clearly on what’s ahead.

Paul tells us in Philippians 3:12-15 (NIV) that our goal should be to know and live like Christ.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it, but one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

So press ahead, friends, to the finish line – and win that prize.


2 -3 cups white wine

1 cup vegetable oil

1 Tbsp. onion powder

1 Tbsp. garlic powder

2-4 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 ½-3 tsp. each thyme, marjoram, rosemary, oregano

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

10 dashes Wright’s Liquid Smoke

8-10 quarters of chicken

If using dried herbs, use only 1 ½ tsp. of each. If using fresh herbs, use 3 tsp. of each herb. In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Immerse chicken quarters to cover. Cover pan and refrigerate overnight. If marinade does not completely cover, turn chicken pieces the following morning. Place on a grill and cook until brown. Then place each quarter in individual foil wraps with 2 Tbsp. of marinade. Return to grill and cook 45 minutes.


10 oz. frozen chopped broccoli

2 Tbsp. salted butter

3 finely chopped ribs celery

½ finely chopped med. onion

½ pkg. chopped fresh mushrooms

1 can condensed cream mushroom soup

5 oz. garlic cheese

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Large corn chips

Cook broccoli according to pkg. directions. Drain well. In a saucepan, melt butter. Saute celery, onion, and mushrooms until all are tender Add soup and garlic cheese. Continue to cook while stirring until cheese melts and mixture is smooth. Blend in drained, broccoli and Worcestershire. Serve hot with large corn chips for dipping.


Whole graham crackers


2 sm. pkgs. French vanilla instant pudding

3 cups whole milk

9 oz. thawed Cool Whip


¼ cup melted Crisco shortening

½ cup Hershey’s cocoa

¼ tsp. salt

1/3 cup whole milk

3 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar

Line the bottom of a butter-greased 9 x 13 pan with whole graham crackers. For the filling, combine instant pudding, milk, and thawed whipped topping. Evenly spread ½ of the mixture over 1st layer of graham crackers. Place a 2nd layer of crackers on top of the mixture. Then spread the remainder of the filling evenly on top of the crackers. Put a 3rd layer of graham crackers on top and then frost. For the frosting, combine the melted shortening, cocoa, and salt. Then add the milk and vanilla. Stir in the sugar in 3 additions, stirring until smooth and creamy. Spread over top of cake. Cover and refrigerate.


6 boneless chicken breasts

Lean bacon slices

16 oz. apple jelly

12 oz. pineapple preserves

½ cup Dijon mustard

Wrap each breast tightly in a lean slice of bacon. Place breasts in a buttered baking dish. In a bowl, combine the apple jelly, pineapple preserves, and Dijon mustard. Cover the breasts with this mixture. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Use for an appetizer but cut each chicken breast into 3 pieces. Wrap each with bacon and follow instructions.


1 ½ lb. sharp cheese

12 oz. pimientos plus oil

A little vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper, to taste.

Premium mayonnaise

In a bowl, mash pimientos in the juice. Combine cheese, pimientos, and enough pimiento juice/oil to make it spreadable. This is where you add ingredients according to your preferences – start with a little vinegar, salt, and pepper according to taste. Finally, start with a little sugar and taste as you go. Finally, add just enough mayo to make spreadable.


1 beaten egg

16 oz. tomato sauce, divided

1 chopped onion

1 ½ lb. premium ground beef

Salt and pepper to taste


8 oz. tomato sauce

1 can water

2 tsp. mustard

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

¼ cup vinegar

In a bowl, combine egg, ½ can of tomato sauce, onion, ground beef, and salt and pepper, to taste. Form into 1 ½-inch meatballs and place in a lightly greased oven dish. For the marinade, in another bowl, combine the other half of the tomato sauce with water, mustard, brown sugar, and vinegar. Pour mixture over the meatballs. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 1 hour.


1 lb. blanched fresh asparagus

1 lb. thinly sliced roast beef

Horseradish Sauce

1 cup heavy cream

Juice of 1 lemon

3 Tbsp. prepared horseradish

1 tsp. salt

Cayenne pepper, to taste

Wrap each blanched asparagus spear with a slice of thinly sliced beef or ham. Arrange on a platter. In a mixer bowl, combine cream, lemon juice, horseradish, and salt. Beat on high speed until forms stiff peaks. Add cayenne, to taste. Serve horseradish cream as a dip for the asparagus roll-ups.


1 stick melted, salted butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup chopped pecans

8 oz. softened cream cheese

1 cup confectioner sugar

13 ½ oz. Cool Whip, divided

2-4 ½ oz. pkgs. instant chocolate fudge pudding mix

3 ½ cups whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a bowl, combine butter, flour, and pecans. Press mixture down in bottom of a 9 x 13. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Cool completely. In a bowl, combine softened cream cheese, sugar, and 1 cup of Cool Whip until smooth. Evenly spread mixture over crust. In a bowl, combine pudding, milk, and vanilla according to pkg. directions. Evenly spread over cream cheese mixture. Top with remaining Cool Whip. Chill.


1 cup raw macaroni

1 1/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

2 beaten eggs

2/3 cup whole milk

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. paprika

Cayenne pepper to taste

¼ cup dry bread crumbs

3 Tbsp. salted butter

½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Boil macaroni in salted water. Drain well. In a butter-greased casserole dish, layer macaroni with 1 1/3 cups of cheese. In a bowl, beat eggs. Add milk and seasonings and mix well Pour over layered macaroni and cheese. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Dot with butter and top with remaining ½ cup cheese. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20 minutes or until knife tests clean.


Selection of sliced, fresh fruits

Pineapple Dip

1 egg

1 egg yolk

¼ cup sugar

1 ½ Tsp. cornstarch

½ cup pineapple juice

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. fresh lemon peel

½ cup heavy cream

Slice favorite fruits and berries such as grapes, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, apples, and cantaloupe. When ready to serve add the bananas. For the dip, in a saucepan, combine egg, egg yolk sugar, cornstarch, pineapple juice, lemon juice, and lemon peel. Mix well. Slowly cook over simmering water for 20 minutes or until mixture boils and thickens. Remove thick mixture from heat and cool. In a mixer bowl, whip cream to soft peaks. Gently fold whipped cream into the cooled pineapple mixture. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.


10 oz. shredded Cheddar cheese

8 1-ounce slices American cheese

1/3 cup whole milk

8 ½ oz. drained, flaked crabmeat

½ cup dry white wine

In a heavy saucepan, combine cheese and milk. Stir until cheese melts and then add crabmeat and wine. Cook until heated through. Serve with crackers.