Y’all know I’ve been forever pondering recipes to make most everything from scratch. You also know some ingredients are getting harder to find, and sometimes right pricey.

I used Paul Newman mild salsa with satisfactory results. Fresh, homemade salsa is preferable if you are serving salsa and chips. I used canned chili for the taco dip. I won’t be doing that again. Save two cups of your home made chili for the taco dip. It freezes well and will mix in nicely if you thaw completely and stir in gently.

Cook a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts in water with half a stick of butter and your favorite seasoned salt. There’s a jarred product called Better Than Bouillon. It is. Use it.

Chicken Cor Don Bleu Casserole

5 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

2 cups half and half

8 ounces Swiss cheese, grated

3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

3 ounces sour cream

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

8 cup chopped, cooked chicken

8 ounces deli ham, small dice

1 cup chicken broth

For the topping:

1 cup panko bread crumbs

3 tablespoons butter, melted

In a small skillet, toss crumbs with butter. Stir until golden brown. Remove from heat. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with Pam.

In a large skillet, melt butter. Add flour; cook and stir about one minute. Add half and half. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add Swiss. Stir until melted. Add mustard, cream cheese and sour cream. Stir until smooth. Stir in chicken broth. Stir in chicken and ham. Spoon into the prepared pan. Bake 30 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from oven. Top with bread crumbs.

Vegetarian Chili

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup diced onion

2 ribs celery, diced

3/4 cup diced green bell pepper

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup diced yellow bell pepper

1 large jalapeno pepper, very small dice

2 large cloves garlic, grated

1 teaspoon cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 tablespoon salt, or to taste

2 bay leaves

1 (4-ounce) can green chilies

2 (28-ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes

1/4 cup chili powder, or to taste

1 (15-ounce) can Bush’s chili hot pinto beans

1 (15 ounce) can Bush’s chili hot great northern beans

1 (15 ounce) can Bush’s chili hot black beans, drained slightly

1 can corn, drained, optional.

In a large, heavy Dutch oven, cook onions, celery and peppers in olive oil until crisp tender. Add seasonings and bay leaves. Stir until well combined. Add garlic. Cook about one minute. Add tomatoes and green chilies. Heat through. Add beans. Add corn if using. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves.

Taco Dip

12 ounces jarred salsa

1 (15-ounce) can chili

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

16 ounces sour cream

16 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese

In a medium size, heavy, saucepan, over medium heat, add all ingredients. Stir gently until cheese is melted. Transfer to a small crock pot. Serve with chips.

Pumpkin Cupcakes

1 stick butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

3/4 cup milk

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with 18 paper liners.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars until light. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat well after each. Add vanilla, milk and pumpkin puree. Beat briefly. In a medium bowl, whisk dry ingredients until thoroughly blended. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Beat only until blended. With an ice cream scoop, fill each liner. Bake 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Don’t over bake. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Frost, if desired, with cream cheese icing.

For the frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 stick butter, at room temperature

3 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add vanilla. Add sugar gradually, beating until smooth after each addition. Frost cupcakes. Cover any leftover icing tightly and refrigerate.

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