Two Sisters Cook: Potluck dinners

Published 8:00 am Saturday, September 1, 2018

Fall is approaching, and that means school is back in session, which leads to PTA meetings.

Church organizations will be in full swing. Other clubs will be resuming activities.

It all means potluck dinners will be on the agenda. With everyone so busy, we’re offering some good potluck menus to come to the rescue.

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Lucy: Back when my children were young in the 1960s, local garden clubs, hospital auxiliaries, and PTAs were all publishing their own cookbooks. Members would dig out their favorite recipes, publish a cookbook and sell the book to raise money.

Linda: I remember those. Sometimes they were all desserts, or all casseroles. I had a large collection of cookbooks, but unfortunately haven’t saved those.

Lucy: Well, one recipe seemed to pop up over and over, and it was my favorite to take to a pot luck. My dish always came home empty. It’s an Italian dish called Johnny Marzetti.

Linda: I’ve checked the internet, as I’m intrigued by the name. Wikipedia tells me, “Johnny Marzetti originated in Columbus, Ohio, at Marzetti’s, an Italian restaurant established in 1896, by an Italian immigrant named Teresa Marzetti. Marzetti offered her customers a baked casserole that she named for her brother-in-law, Johnny, of ground beef, cheese, tomato sauce and noodles. Marzetti’s later became known for various salad dressings, which are still produced under the T. Marzetti Company label.” Sounds delicious!

Lucy: Do you remember when we were kids? Our mother was a teacher, and her school often had potlucks. She would make baked beans and start them in the oven at a low temperature before she left to teach fourth grade. When we arrived home from school in the afternoon, we would take the cover off. By 5 p.m., they were browned and ready.

Linda: I definitely remember because other people would bring baked beans, but hers would be the first to disappear. Then people would ask for her recipe and she would tell them it was an old secret family recipe. We would have a good chuckle because, as you will see when you read the recipe below, it’s easy and tasty, but not much of a secret! I still use this recipe to make baked beans to go with smoked pork shoulder or baby back ribs.

Lucy: I have a good make-ahead recipe from Debbie Macomber’s “Cedar Cove Cookbook.” It can be assembled, wrapped in plastic and foil, and frozen for up to a month. It’s handy to have something like this to pull out a day ahead of time and bake in time to take to your potluck. It’s called Chili Pie with Cheddar Hash Brown Topping.

Linda: Let’s share our recipes. I know they will come in handy for anyone cooking for a potluck or just wanting a family dinner recipe to serve at home.

Johnny Marzetti


Servings: 12 generous portions (if making for a family meal, recipe can be halved)Ingredients

2 cups chopped green pepper

½ cup chopped mushrooms

1 cup chopped celery

2 cups chopped onion

1 can (10.5 ounce) condensed tomato soup

2 cans (8 ounce) tomato sauce

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground pork

1 cup butter

1/3 cup chopped olives

2 teaspoons salt

1 pound broad egg noodles

2 cups (½ lb) grated cheddar cheese

In a large skillet sauté pepper, celery, onion, mushrooms, and ground meat in melted butter. Add salt. Reduce heat; cook 5 minutes. Stir in olives, soup and tomato sauce. Cook 5 minutes. Cook noodles following package directions; drain. Turn noodles into 14-by-10-2 ¼- inch roasting pan (or large casserole dish). Add sauce and gently stir until well mixed. Sprinkle grated cheese on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.


Buy two or three large cans of VanCamps Pork and Beans. Open the cans and pour into a deep casserole. Add some molasses — add enough to turn the beans a darker color when all stirred in. About one third of the bottle is usually good. Chop up a large onion and stir into the bean/molasses mixture. Put five or six uncooked bacon strips on top. Cover the casserole and put in a low oven (about 250 degrees) and cook all day. About 3 p.m., remove the lid and continue baking. Remove from oven at 5 p.m. and let set for about an hour before serving. So that was her big “secret” They were canned pork and beans, doctored up a bit!

Chili Pie



2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion chopped

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

salt and pepper, to taste

¼ cup tomato paste

1 pound ground beef (or turkey)

1 can (15 ounce) diced tomatoes

1 can (15 ounce) black beans (rinsed and drained)

1 pound frozen shredded hash brown potatoes

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Set oven rack to upper third position. Warm oil in large saucepan over medium low heat. Add onion, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper; cook 6 minutes, until onions are soft, stirring often. Stir in tomato paste until absorbed.

Add beef and cook 5 minutes until no longer pink. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat while cooking. Stir in tomatoes and beans. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat and cook, covered about 10 minutes. Uncover and cook 10 minutes longer, adding a little water if mixture seems dry and stir occasionally. Season with salt. Pour into a 2 quart baking dish or casserole. ** (See make ahead instructions below)

In a large bowl, toss frozen shredded potatoes with salt and pepper. Scatter potatoes over casserole, sprinkle with cheese. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake 35 minutes until potatoes are cooked through and chili is bubbling.

**To make ahead: Wrap in plastic and foil and freeze. To finish cooking, thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Then bring to room temperature before topping with the potatoes and cheese and then baking.