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Picking the right recipes make preparation easy

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I am planning a brunch for about 50 friends to be held in about a month. I am working on my menu now, trying to decide just what to have from the hours of 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

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I want it to be very simple, but really nice. I don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking and I also want some simple things that friends can help me prepare because I don’t want them to have to work too hard.

So far, I have come up with Kentucky hot brown casserole, salsa cheese omelet, fresh fruit, mountain top bacon, muffins and breads. This is relatively simple things to prepare ahead of time — wonderful! However,  I felt I was missing something and decided grits might be a good addition to this menu, but I don’t want to spend time making them at the last minute. I discovered the perfect solution, cook them in the crock pot. They’re so easy and simple and easy to serve, too.

After checking out my idea, I found a perfect way to prepare them. I give you:

Crock Pot Grits with Cheese

(6 servings)

1 cup uncooked old-fashioned grits

½ cup (2-ounces) shredded cheese (your choice)

1 tbsp. butter

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

3 cups water

Stir together the grits and water in a 3-quart crock pot. Let it stand for 1-2 minutes, letting the grits settle to the bottom; now tilt the crock pot slightly so that you can skim off the solids with a fine mesh strainer.

Cover and cook on high for 2 ½-3 hours or until grits are creamy and tender.  Be sure and stir them about every 45 minutes.

Stir in the cheese and the remaining ingredients.

I tried these out with a meal of pork BBQ, Mercer Island cabbage salad, vegetable tray and a simple pasta salad. Top this meal off with a  delicious chocolate sheet cake and you have a great party for a Saturday night get together.

The pasta salad that I prepared had pasta, hard-cooked eggs (cut-up), diced celery, diced onion, diced green pepper, mayonnaise, mustard (about 1-2 tbsp.), pickle (sweet or dill), pickle juice (about 1-2 tbsp.), salt and pepper to taste and paprika, about ½ tsp.

Once I lost this recipe so I’m making sure it’s always in my recipe file. I give you:

Chocolate Sheet Cake

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

¼ tsp. salt

½ cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. baking soda

2 sticks butter

4 heaping tbsp. cocoa powder

1 cup water, boiling

Icing

1 ¾ sticks butter

4 heaping tbsp. cocoa powder

6 tbsp. milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 lb. confectioner’s sugar

½ cup finely chopped pecans (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Stir together sugar, flour and salt in bowl; set aside. Mix together eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and baking soda in another bowl; set aside. In a medium saucepan, melt butter and cocoa. Whisk together to combine.  Bring 1 cup water to a boil. Pour the water into the pan with the cocoa mixture, let it boil up for 1 minute, then turn off heat.

Pour chocolate mixture into flour mixture, stir well, then pour in egg mixture. Stir until smooth.

Pour into an ungreased 12x16-inch pan with rimmed edges. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

For the icing, melt butter in saucepan; add cocoa powder, stir until smooth. Add milk and vanilla. Add confectioner’s sugar; stir together. (Add chopped nuts at this time). Mix well, then pour warm icing over top of warm cake.

Enjoy!

Lonnie Sundermeyer is a professional caterer residing in Ghent, Ky.