Traditional Family Food: Coffee Hour Edition

If you’re like me, you’ve been doing a lot of therapy baking and comfort food cooking during the pandemic. And what’s more “comfortable” than treasured family traditions and beloved recipes?! That’s true whether they go back generations or began when you started your own family. During Emmanuel’s January 24, 2021 coffee hour, we shared stories of traditions and recipes that mean the most to us.

Parishioners shared stories of crabbing as a family ritual, tailgating at games, baking cookies as a family, holiday menus that change only at the risk of family ire, cherished recipes collected into family cookbooks, and recipes so loved that the cards or papers on which they are written are worn and stained. Jode Willingham recommended a cookbook: MFK Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf, a book of recipes and musings about cooking during wartime shortages, which applies nicely to COVID times. 

Not surprisingly, many of the traditions involve holidays, often Thanksgiving and Christmas. Recipes include Thanksgiving Stuffing, Mock Cherry Pie, Hoska, Christmas Morning Coffee Cake, Brie Phyllo Tarts, and Spinach Casserole. 

Other dishes are family favorites that make any time they are served a special occasion: Hominy Casserole, Butter Chicken, Grammy’s Oatmeal Cookies, Brown Rice, Pearl’s Molasses Cookies, Betty Rohde’s Incomparable Apple Crisp, and Chili. 

People also shared fond memories of past long-running food traditions at Emmanuel, especially the Greek Lemon Chicken for Seder, the Homecoming barbecue, and the Chicken Salad served at the annual bazaar luncheon. Emmanuel hosted a Seder Dinner for many years, and most of them featured Jim Makris’s chicken recipe, prepared under his guidance by a team of cooks and servers. Parishioners brought salads and desserts and the meal was served family style in the Parish Hall before the Maundy Thursday service. For many years running, one of the big draws for fall Homecoming Sunday was a delicious barbecue meal, prepared by Darry Dupree and his team of chefs. Emmanuel’s fall bazaar was a major fundraiser for decades and included a lunch that shoppers could purchase and eat onsite. The kitchen crew prepared enough chicken salad and other dishes to serve 150 people!

Here are the recipes!


Sautee 2 pounds of sausage (one hot and one sweet) in a pan on the stove with olive oil, garlic, and onions until the meat is browned but not fully cooked. Put the mixture in a bowl and wait till it cools it; then add two eggs, one cup of Italian breadcrumbs, a cup of raw onions, and a cup of sliced mushrooms. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and at least a tablespoon of thyme. Mix together, put in a baking pan, and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. Or you can put it inside a turkey and bake with the turkey.


“The reason why, when I was growing up, my family always served four pies for Thanksgiving dinner, no matter whether there were three or 30 attending. My father’s mother had three sisters, whose families celebrated Thanksgiving together; each sister baked a different pie: apple, pumpkin, mincemeat, and mock cherry. When my dad married my mother, he expected there to be all four pies for Thanksgiving!”

HOSKA, Mary Kasik

“The Hoska (really houska in Czech; we call it Vánočka or Christmas bread) I made for the first time this Christmas. Thanks to an online tutorial, it was perfection and Phil hopes it’s a new Christmas tradition. (It’s a lot of work!)”


1 bag frozen roll dough, 20-24 balls (do not get the frozen loaf dough for this recipe)

¾ c. light or dark brown sugar

¼ c. white sugar

1 t. cinnamon

½ c. butter, melted

Optional:  chopped nuts, raisins, or currants

Start preparing before you go to bed on Christmas Eve (or the night before any special morning).  Put melted butter in one bowl.  Mix sugars and cinnamon in second bowl.

Grease a large bundt pan. Roll each ball of dough in butter and then in sugar mixture. Arrange in bundt pan. Nuts and/or raisins can be placed in pan under the balls or sprinkled among the balls, if desired. The balls should fill the pan about half full.  If you have more, use them and a loaf pan. Pour any remaining sugar mix over the top of the balls; follow with any remaining butter.

Let rest on counter overnight to thaw and rise. Do not cover or provide any heat source under or near the pan.

In the morning, heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 30-40 minutes (may take a bit longer if anything else in the oven (egg casserole at my house). Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Invert onto serving platter (large as there will be buttery liquid coming out, too).


“A quick appetizer that is my go-to because it is easy to make, yet looks kind of fancy and tastes delicious. For the holidays, you can jazz these up and top with a dollop of cranberry sauce and substitute rosemary for the parsley.”

1 T butter

1 medium sweet onion (Vidalia is best)

2 t sugar

1 (2.1 ounce) box frozen pre-baked phyllo tartlet shells

1 (5 ounce) package Alouette Brie

2 T fresh parsley

Preheat over to 375. Melt butter in small skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute until golden. Just when onion begins to brown, sprinkle with sugar and continue cooking until golden brown. Fill each phyllo shell with heaping tsp of brie and top with ½ t carmelized onion. Place on baking sheet; warm in oven about 5 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.


“We make this instead of Green Bean Casserole for the holidays and everyone loves it; but it is very Paula Dean-esque in terms of ingredients, as are most Midwestern recipes.”

2 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach

3 (3-ounce) packages of cream cheese (let sit out at room temperature in advance to soften)

1 can Cream of Mushroom soup

1 small can of sliced mushrooms, drained

½ can Durkee dried onion rings

1 small can chopped water chestnuts (optional; they don’t add these in the Midwest, lol!)

Cook spinach as directed on package. In casserole dish, blend cream cheese with the soup. Then add mushrooms, water chestnuts and cooked, drained spinach and ¼ can of the onion rings. Mix well. Pour remaining onion rings over the top and bake uncovered at 350 degrees approximately 30 minutes.


2   14 oz cans of hominy

2   4 oz cans chilies

Sour cream


½ C whipping cream

1 C shredded Gruyere cheese

Layer hominy and chilies, dotting each layer with butter and sour cream – end with hominy layer. Season with salt. Put butter on top. Cover with ½ C heavy cream and put cheese on top. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

BUTTER CHICKEN, Jode Willingham

“I fell in love with this recipe in the UK.  (I think I read it’s the national dish?).  This version is an adaptation from a recipe I picked up from the BBC Good Food website.”

Start with 1.25-1.5 pounds of chicken.  I prefer thighs, but you can also cut up chicken breasts or tenderloins.


1 Lemon

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp paprika

1-2 tsp of chili powder or cayenne pepper

2 big “dollops” of Greek yogurt 

For the curry:

2 tbsp of oil (vegetable or olive)

1 large onion (or a couple chopped shallots)

3 garlic cloves (crushed)

1 green chili (though not necessary)

Grated ginger

1 tsp of garam masala

1 tsp of turmeric or Coleman’s English mustard (the latter is amazing and gives it a nice British touch)

3 tbsp of tomato puree (I like to mix in whole baby tomatoes or canned chopped tomatoes as well — we love tomato in our family)

1.5 cups of chicken or turkey stock

1-2 tbsp of brown sugar (to taste)

salt and pepper (to taste); fresh parsley

In a sealable bowl or bag, mix all the marinade ingredients with some salt and pepper. Chop the chicken into chunks and toss with the marinade. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours (preferably overnight — the longer the better).

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven pot, heat the oil. Add the onion (shallots), garlic, green chili, ginger and some seasoning. Fry on a medium heat for 10 mins or until soft.

Add the spices with the tomato purée, cook for a further 2 mins until fragrant, then add the stock and marinated chicken. Cook for 15 mins, then add any remaining marinade left in the bowl. Simmer for 5 mins (or longer), then sprinkle with the toasted almonds and fresh parsley. 

Serve on top of cooked basmati rice (preferably cooked in a half stock/water mix); add a dash of coriander and a squeeze of lemon or lime. You can also roast okra, spinach, or brussels sprouts as a side. 


1 C Crisco (or butter, or half each)

2 C flour

1 C sugar

2 C rolled oats (instant is ok)

1 C raisins (cover with water and let come to a boil)

2 eggs

1 tsp. Each of salt, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, vanilla

1 tsp. baking soda mixed with seven Tbsp. of water in which the raisins have been boiled

Cream together the Crisco and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Add soda dissolved in raisin water. Add flour, spices, and salt, sifted together. Stir in the oats and raisins. Drop from a spoon onto a greased sheet and bake about 12-15 minutes in a moderate oven.

BROWN RICE, Beth Jarvis 

“Easy, very tasty, another Midwest family favorite and goes well with steak.”

1 cup white rice

1 stick butter

1 medium onion, chopped

1 T Worcestershire sauce

2 cans Beef Consomme soup

Heat oven to 350. Melt butter in a skillet. Brown rice and onion until slightly golden. Add Worcestershire sauce. Remove from heat. Place in a casserole dish. Add the two cans of soup. Place in oven, uncovered for one hour.


“My mother’s Molasses Cookie recipe!”

Betty Rohde’s Incomparable Apple Crisp, Peggy Conner

“Another family favorite that a friend gave me 30+ years ago and I still use the same worn-out recipe he gave me then!”

CHILI, Mary Kasik


This general recipe can be adapted to the number of people you want to serve.  Set oven at 350 degrees. In a large roasting pan or rimmed sheet pan or 9×13 pan mix desired number of pieces of chicken (cut boned chicken breasts in half), quartered onions, baby potatoes, baby or chucked carrots. Sprinkle over all salt, pepper, a generous amount of dried oregano, and enough olive oil to coat everything. Then squeeze several lemons over the mixture and tuck the halved lemons among the meat and vegetables. Cover and bake. This can take 1-1.5 hours depending on how much in is a given pan. 


Heavenly Food From On High (p. 136) Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Alexandria, Virginia

Amounts can be adjusted proportionally to the amount of chicken salad desired.

70 lbs. chicken (45 lbs. breasts and 25 lbs. legs)

16 pkgs. celery hearts

3 dozen eggs

1 large jar French dressing

1 gallon mayonnaise

1 quart Miracle Whip

Salt and pepper to taste

12 lemons

Cook chicken in salted water with an onion and celery tops. When chicken is cooked, remove meat from bones. Chop into bite-size pieces. Chop celery fine; add to chicken. Combine lemon juice, mayonnaise, French dressing, and Miracle Whip. Add to chicken mixture. Serves 150.

Food The Episcopal Church

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The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog

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