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Tried and true recipes

April 1, 2008 - Jane Mort
By Jane Cannon Mort

    While I have worked in the The Sentinel’s newsroom for nearly 22 years, in many capacities and covering almost every beat, I believe I am best known in the community in my role as food editor.
    I believe this because often, when I’m out and about in the community, people will glance at me, look away, glance again, scrunch up their foreheads and then, finally, say, “Aren’t you the food lady?”
    Yes, I am. I became food editor about 20 years ago, and as I have explained in the past, it was because it fit into my schedule, not because of any expertise I have in the realm of cooking.
    But, because I am the food editor, I have, over many years, learned a great deal about cooking, and about food in general —from my own research, from the Associated Press articles that frequently appear on the food pages, from information sent by food companies, from the wonderful consumer educators associated with the Penn State Cooperative Extension and — probably above all else — from Sentinel readers who contribute to our twice-yearly cookbooks.
    The recipes in the cookbooks are submitted by people in Mifflin and Juniata counties (and, sometimes, beyond), who are willing to share their favorites and compete for prizes.
    The next cookbook will be published on May 28. In it, readers will share their “Everyday Recipes: Tried and True Family Favorites.”
    Even though I have picked up a lot of information about cooking and food over the years, not to mentions cookbooks and recipes, I still suffer from monotonous meal planning and  boring grocery shopping. It seems that in my household we have the same meals,  week after week, month after month, year after year.
    Hopefully, the newest Sentinel cookbook will put an end to that.
    Details about the cookbook, including how to submit recipes and what prizes you can win, are on the food page in Wednesday’s Sentinel (April 3). In addition, I promised to share a couple tried and true recipes that are my family’s favorites. (I am not ashamed to admit that I make good use of convenience products —remember, I am not a gourmet cook.) Here goes.
    Italian Pasta Bake —I think this is about the only thing I make that my college-age son, Joe, really likes, so I always make it when he’s home on break. I’m not going to tell you how much to make; it all depends on how many people you are cooking for. This keeps well in the refrigerator and heats up nicely in the microwave, especially if you have some extra spaghetti sauce.
    Brown some ground beef and drain the fat. Add your favorite spaghetti sauce and set aside.
    Boil a pound or so of pasta — any shape. I usually use penne or shells. After draining the cooked pasta, add the meat sauce and mix in 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese. Spread the  mixture into a 9x13-inch baking dish and top with about 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle another 1/4 cup of parmesan on top and bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is nicely melted.
    This also works well without any meat.
    Salsa Chicken — This is one of my favorites. Again, it’s so simple to make and holds up well to be reheated for lunch the next day.
    Prepare chicken-flavored stovetop stuffing mix and spread it into a baking dish. Top with skinless, boneless chicken breasts. Top the chicken with salsa, then sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. For this recipe, I often use leftover chicken that is already cooked. When I do, I reduce the baking time to about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cheese is nicely melted.



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