COOKIN’ WITH TONJA


I am not a cook. Never have been…never will be. Oh, I can do it. But, it just is not a fun way to pass the time. I mean…you put all that hard work into it…and someone comes along and eats it all up, and that’s the end of that. Well…not actually the ‘end’…there is still one more step, but I won’t even go there. Well, actually, I do go there, and so do you, but, let’s just change the subject.

ANYWAY…my friend Keetha sent me an urgent request for a recipe or two. Ha! She just did not know who she was asking, did she? Well, the one for Banana Pudding was actually Paula Deen’s Recipe…so I was pretty safe with that one.

But, she also wanted to know the recipe for squash casserole. Now, I could tell from her description of good squash casserole, that she was talking about the kind that I made. I make mine just like my Mom did. It was the hardest thing to learn, too. Because, she wouldn’t write it down for me. I remember her saying, “Tonja Lynn, you do not need a recipe for this…just make it and you will know if it is right.” I do not know why she thought I would know if it was right or not…but, after several attempts…I did get it right. And, Mom never wrote it down. And, no one has ever asked me to write it down for them, either…until now. So, I did. I wrote it down and sent it to her. I hope it is good when she makes it…if not…I’m sure it can’t be my fault!

TONJA’S BEST EVER SOUTHERN SQUASH CASSEROLE LIKE MAMA USED TO MAKE

Get some squash….wash them…and cut off any bad spots. Then slice into cute little round pieces.

Put them in a pot and add some water…and salt and pepper. If you are a real cook,
proceed to cutting up an onion, dicing, actually, and add it to the pot.
If you are not a real cook and just play one occasionally for the family…
you can open up a bag of frozen chopped and diced onions and add these to the pot.
If you take the bag and put it inside the empty cereal box in the garbage can…
no one will ever know that you did not chop those little demons yourself. And, I am NOT telling!

Boil the squash and onions until tender. You can tell because the little seeds
come sliding out of the cute little round squash you so carefully cut up earlier.
And the whole mess gets a little slimy looking…but, don’t judge the end result from that! A little slime never hurt nobody!

Next drain the water off the squash and pour into a big bowl. (Big is a relative term here…it depends on the size bowls you have living in your kitchen. I like to use the biggest because I have a tendency to get so carried away with the mixing process that things seem to fly out of the bowl onto the cabinet. So the bigger the bowl the better for me.)

Now here comes the part where you can really feel like you know what you are doing….. as if you are one in a long line of super cooks who never use a recipe for anything. You just ‘feel’ what is right! “Recipe? Why, no…don’t need one…this dish comes from my soul!”

Into the bowl of squash, start crumbling saltine crackers…crumble…crumble…at least 1 sleeve. Then add an egg or two. Then add some milk. And then lots of grated cheese. LOTS.
Mix all this together. If it is too soupy…add more crackers. If it is a little dry…add more milk. It needs to be kinda/sorta soupy…just a little,
but not too much. You should not see the soupiness at all. It should all be absorbed into the crackers. But is should not be dry…How can I make this clearer to you? OK if you put it into the casserole dish…one of those oblong clear glass kind…it should slide freely from one side to the other. If it will not slide…it is not soupy enough. Whew! I hope you understand that! And, by the way…when you are buying the frozen chopped onions, and I know you will,….go ahead and buy the already grated cheese. It is oh, so much easier..and you don’t have to worry about having one of those nasty accidents where you scrape all the skin off your knuckles with the cheese grater!! Once you get the sliding, soupy goodness into the casserole dish…cover the top with more cheese…Lots!

Then bake…maybe 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Just to warm through and melt the cheese.

Remove…cool, just a little…and enjoy. Serve with fresh, home grown tomatoes…
not the ones that come out of a green house or grow in water.
The kind that grow in good ole dirt and get God’s sunshine on them everyday.

I hope you enjoy eating this delicious casserole…as much as I have enjoyed instructing you in the making .

“What’s that you say?” “Why, no…no, I haven’t ever thought about writing a cook book. It’s a fine idea, though. I can just see the chapters I’d write.”

SANDWICHES…Quick and Easy!
VEGETABLES…Hope you like squash!
COOKIES……Start in the freezer section and look for the bright yellow packaging that says Toll House…
DESSERTS…the many things you can use to top store bought ice cream!
MEATS…most grocery stores and even Wal-Mart have wonderful Rotisserie Chickens!

In all honesty…I really did head up a cook book committee at our church one time. And, it was a rousing success! I was smart enough to only allow excellent cooks on the committee with me, though. We actually sold out of the first printing and had to have a second printing!

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