Bless Your Heart: Saving the World One Covered Dish at a Time


What would the South be without deviled eggs at the church potluck? Can you even begin to imagine a family reunion where nobody remembered to make the baked beans and sweet tea? Is it possible to celebrate a major holiday without crunchy sweet potato casserole on the buffet table? Patsy Caldwell and Amy Lyles Wilson don’t think so, either. Indeed, every occasion in the South comes with its own essential menu, and they’re all here in this collection of time-honored favorites.


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Bless Your Heart: Saving the World One Covered Dish at a Time

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What would the South be without deviled eggs at the church potluck? Can you even begin to imagine a family reunion where nobody remembered to make the baked beans and sweet tea? Is it possible to celebrate a major holiday without crunchy sweet potato casserole on the buffet table? Patsy Caldwell and Amy Lyles Wilson don’t think so, either. Indeed, every occasion in the South comes with its own essential menu, and they’re all here in this collection of time-honored favorites.

Want to show your team pride with the spread at your next tailgating bash? Patsy and Amy have got you covered with desserts that boast every color in the SEC. No matter the particular moment of life you encounter, this is your go-to encyclopedia of Southern cooking and traditions around the table.

Bless Your Heart will do just that. These recipes are proven to comfort and satisfy your family and the people who may as well be kin. Whether the occasion is a holiday gathering, a garden party, or one of life’s unexpected events, food is the common denominator in the South. Lifelong Southerners Patsy Caldwell and Amy Lyles Wilson understand the craft of Southern cooking, and how few things are as nurturing as a meal lovingly prepared in the traditions of the South.

There’s a recipe here for every situation in which a Southerner may find herself. From book clubs to baby showers, Patsy and Amy know exactly what flavors perfectly complement any of life’s occasions. You’ll enjoy the familiar stories of traditions in Dixie along the way, and no doubt pick up a new idea or two of ways to celebrate Southern culture, nourish your loved ones, and make new memories.


“Bless your hearts, Patsy Caldwell and Amy Lyles Wilson, for trying to save the world one covered dish at a time. If we truly could eat our way to paradise, this collection of heavenly recipes would be just the ticket to get us there—and what a way to go!” —JOHN EGERTON, author of Southern Food: At Home, On the Road, In History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401600525
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/9/2010
  • Pages: 254
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Patsy Caldwell has been a culinary professional for more than fifty years in a career that has included teaching, catering, cooking, and writing. She is a mother of two and grandmother of two. She lives in Charlotte, Tennessee next to the water tower with her husband Bill where they enjoy entertaining anywhere from two to twenty two people depending on the occasion.

Amy Lyles Wilson is a writer with more thantwenty-five years of editorial experience, including coauthoring Cooking with Friends and appearing on National Public Radio’s This I Believe.

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Table of Contents


CHAPTER 1: CHURCH POTLUCK Feeding the Faithful....................1
CHAPTER 2: BODY AND SOUL When Words Aren't Enough....................25
CHAPTER 3: TENDING THE SICK Food for What Ails You....................49
CHAPTER 4: FAMILY REUNIONS Blood Is Thicker than Molasses....................71
CHAPTER 5: HOLIGRAZE From Our Home to Yours....................93
CHAPTER 6: TAILGATING We've Got Cupcakes, Yes We Do....................115
CHAPTER 7: PARTY TIME It's My Party and I'll Fry If I Want To....................139
CHAPTER 8: BOOK CLUBS Turn the Page and Pass the Muffins....................161
CHAPTER 9: FESTIVALS Going to Town....................180
CHAPTER 10: LENDING A HAND Because It's Just What We Do....................207
CHAPTER 11: COMFORT FOOD All Hail the Covered Dish....................231
About the Authors....................256
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First Chapter


Saving the World One Covered Dish at a Time

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2010 Amy Lyles Wilson, Patsy Caldwell, and Bryan Curtis
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4016-0052-5

Chapter One



My friend Betty Love likes to say the church taught her to love the Lord and the church potluck taught her to respect a perfectly shaped gelatin mold. (Our neighbor Charlotte insists it's called "Add a Dish," but she's from a really small town Betty Love and I have never heard of.)

As a teenager, Betty Love was charged with helping her mother prepare food for the monthly church potluck. Her father was head deacon, so they were expected to do more than chop up a head of iceberg and call it a salad. And her mother said it would be "sinful" to pick up a couple of pies at the Piggy Wiggly and pretend they had baked them.

"Get it?" she would ask Betty Love, smiling. "Sinful!"

"I spent more hours than I can remember," says Betty Love, "helping my parents haul tuna noodle casseroles, fruit salads with and without poppy seed dressing on account of Mrs. Miles and her finicky dentures, and carrot cakes with half-inch-thick cream cheese icing to the fellowship hall of the First Millerville Anointed Redeemer Church.

"There I'd be," she says, "in the back seat of the station wagon, balancing this concoction or that in my lap while Daddy kept eyeing me in the rearview mirror, checking to see if anything had tipped over and if I had thought to bring a dish towel just in case. I never spilled a drop, because Daddy always drove about fifteen miles an hour and kept his hands at ten and two."

Sometimes Betty Love pauses about now to take a breath before continuing. "The worst was when Mother decided to take more food than usual, and I was forced to steady a pan on the floor between my penny loafers and keep my little brother from swiping his index finger through the icing for a lick. Every month, just as we were pulling into the parking lot of the church, my parents wondered aloud if the preacher's wife would have the nerve to show up with yet another batch of salmon croquettes.

"'Surely this time she'll bring something different,' my mother would say.

"'Surely,' echoed my father. And every month, there they were, laid out like an overcooked, sacrificial offering atop the long folding table: two layers of round patties, blackened on both sides and pinkish-orange in the middle."

Betty Love makes a funny face when she gets to this point in the story, as if to emphasize the awfulness.

"We had no idea what salmon croquettes were, only that they went down better with lots of ketchup. Daddy made us eat them, of course, so as not to offend the preacher, or, even worse, the preacher's wife. So we swallowed fast and prayed we wouldn't gag on a bit of fishbone."

* * *

Betty Love was well into her thirties before she realized not every church subscribes to the potluck theory of feeding the faithful. When she moved away to take a job in Louisiana, she attended a church that served catered food. Where's the faith in that, Betty Love wants to know? Just as the Lord invites everyone to the table, the potluck makes room for all manner and degree of cooking skills and imagination. While one believer may think his tofu chili with extra jalapeños is heavenly, his fellow pilgrim might consider hot and spicy as evidence that the devil is indeed alive and well. The "anything goes" approach of the potluck implies that whatever is provided will be acceptable and appreciated. Which brings us to Mrs. Jenkins and her chipped beef on toast.

One year everybody got sick as dogs within hours of the potluck and although no one can be sure, the bulk of the aspersion was cast squarely toward the Jenkins's kitchen.

"Mother had been over there once for a Circle meeting," says Betty Love, "and she just happened to notice that the drip pans on the stove were stained and there was a funny smell coming from the crisper in the refrigerator. She never looked at Mrs. Jenkins quite the same way again."

Oh the stories Betty Love could tell! Back in 1992, there was a disproportionate number of yellow vegetables and frozen salads that October when her mother was in bed with a bad back and someone else, probably Mrs. Jenkins now that she thinks about it, took over as temporary chairwoman of the potluck committee. And how one time the choir director claimed he put plenty of real sugar in the iced tea, but everyone knew it was artificial sweetener because he was trying to lose weight before the upcoming choral competition over in Chapel Hill, and so some of the congregants drank grape juice from the communion closet instead. But Betty Love was raised right, so she won't say another word.

* * *

Taking a covered dish to church for a potluck-or "Add a Dish" or "Meal Day," depending on where you hail from-is an obligation for some, an initiation into a new faith community for others, and a way of life for a lot of us. Be it to welcome a new preacher, honor a congregant who's turning ninety, celebrate a holiday, or convene the annual meeting, such sharing of food with friend and visitor alike is surely a kind of communion.

Grape Tea

This delicious tea will keep for a week if everyone doesn't drink it all up the first day. It never lasts a week around my house.

1/2 cup instant tea mix Lemonade mix, enough to make a gallon (can use sweetened or unsweetened) 3 cups white grape juice 1 1/2 cups sugar 12 cups water

Mix the tea, lemonade mix, grape juice, and sugar together in a gallon container.

Add the water to make one gallon, stirring well until combined. Keep refrigerated.

Makes 10 servings.

Kitchen Sink Broccoli Corn Muffins

This corn bread muffin gets its name because it seems to have everything in it but the kitchen sink. But the little extra work is so worth it.

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained 2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped 3/4 cup small curd cottage cheese 1/2 cup butter, melted 4 large eggs, slightly beaten 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese 1 /3 cup buttermilk 1 (8-ounce) package corn muffin mix

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease 18 standard-size muffin tin cups. In a large bowl combine the broccoli, onion, cottage cheese, butter, eggs, salt, cheese, and the buttermilk. Mix well. Add the corn muffin mix, stirring just to combine. Fill each muffin cup ? full. Bake for 20 minutes.

Makes 18 muffins.

Southern Spoon Rolls

If you don't want to use all of the dough this recipe makes at one time, you can place it in an airtight bowl and it will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.

3/4 cup butter, melted 1/4 cup sugar 2 cups warm water, divided 1 large egg, slightly beaten 1 package active dry yeast 4 cups self-rising flour

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease two 12-cup muffin tins. In a large bowl mix the butter, sugar, and 1 3/4 cups of the water. Add the beaten egg and stir. In a small bowl add the remaining 1/4 cup water and the yeast and stir to dissolve. Add the dissolved yeast to the sugar mixture and stir. Add the flour and stir until well mixed. Drop by spoonfuls into the prepared muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 2 dozen rolls.

Macaroni and Cheese with Cream of Mushroom Soup

2 (10.75-ounce) cans cream of mushroom soup 2 cups milk 1 pound shredded cheddar cheese plus 1 cup, divided 1/2 cup American cheese 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1 pound macaroni, cooked according to package directions and drained

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. In a large saucepan over medium heat mix the mushroom soup, milk, 1 pound of the cheddar cheese, the American cheese, and Parmesan cheese together, stirring until the cheeses melt. Remove from the heat and stir in the macaroni. Pour into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of cheddar cheese over the top. Bake for 30 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly and the cheese is golden brown.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

"I Hope the Sermon Isn't Too Long" Oven-Roasted Beef Tenderloin

You can put this dish in the oven when you leave for church and it will be ready to take out of the oven when you get home. That is, as long as you don't have a long-winded preacher.

1/4 cup chopped parsley 2 teaspoons minced garlic 1 tablespoon paprika 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard 2 tablespoons coarse salt 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 2 tablespoons black pepper 1 (4-pound) beef tenderloin, trimmed of excess fat 2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. In a small bowl add the parsley, garlic, paprika, dry mustard, salt, cayenne pepper, and black pepper and mix well. Brush the tenderloin with the oil. Press the rub on all sides of the meat. Let stand at room temperature for 40 minutes before cooking. Cook the tenderloin for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Check with a meat thermometer in the thickest part for a reading of 130 degrees for rare. Remove to a carving board, cover with foil, and let rest 30 minutes.

To serve: slice 1/2-inch-thick pieces for a main course, thinner if you are planning to serve on rolls.

Makes 10 servings or 30 beef and roll sandwiches.

Billy's South of the Border Chili

My brother Billy is the most gracious host. He and his wife, Wilma, served this the last time I visited them.

2 pounds ground chuck or ground round beef 1 cup diced onion 2 (1.25-ounce) packages taco seasoning mix 2 cups water 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes 1 (10-ounce) can chopped tomatoes and green chilies 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce 1 (4-ounce) can mushroom pieces, do not drain 1 (15-ounce) can whole kernel corn 2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, do not drain Salt to taste Cheddar cheese, sour cream, and green onions for topping (optional)

Place a 4-quart Dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat. When the pan is hot add the ground beef and stir, breaking up the meat. Continue to cook until all the pink is gone. Add the onion and cook until transparent. Add the taco seasoning, water, diced tomatoes, chopped tomatoes and green chilies, and tomato sauce and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the mushroom pieces, corn, and pinto beans. Simmer for an additional 45 minutes. Add salt to taste.

To serve: top with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and green onions if desired.

Makes 8 servings.

Baked Spaghetti

Be prepared. People will ask you for the recipe when you take this to a potluck.

1 1/4 pounds ground beef (I prefer ground chuck.) 1/2 cup finely chopped onion 1 teaspoon minced garlic 1 (14.25-ounce) can diced tomatoes 1 (10-ounce) can tomatoes and green chilies 1 (4-ounce) can sliced mushrooms, drained 1/2 cup stuffed olives, thinly sliced 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 1 pound American cheese, grated (You can also use processed cheese spread.) 1/2 pound thin spaghetti, cooked and drained according to package directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 13 x 9-inch baking dish by spraying with nonstick cooking spray. Brown the ground beef in a large saucepan over medium to high heat. When lightly brown add the chopped onion and garlic. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, tomatoes and green chilies, mushrooms, olives, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Add the cheese and spaghetti. Stir until the cheese melts. Place in the prepared baking dish. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly.

Makes 8 servings.

Orange Sherbet Salad with Ambrosia


2 (3-ounce) packages orange gelatin 2 cups boiling water 1 pint orange sherbet 1 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained

Ambrosia: 1 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained 1 cup flaked coconut 1/2 cup maraschino cherries 1/2 cup chopped pecans 1 cup sour cream 1 cup miniature marshmallows

To make the salad: In a large bowl place the gelatin and add the boiling water, stirring to dissolve. Add the sherbet and mix until it melts. Chill until partially set. Add the mandarin oranges. Spray a 2-quart ring mold with vegetable spray and pour the gelatin mixture into the ring mold. Place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours before serving.

To make the ambrosia: Combine the oranges, pineapple, coconut, cherries, pecans, sour cream, and marshmallows in a large bowl. Cover and chill for 8 hours.

To serve: Unmold the orange sherbet salad onto a serving plate. Fill the center with the ambrosia.

Makes 10 servings.

Twice As Nice Baked Potatoes

These are always a big hit.

6 medium baking potatoes 1/2 cup butter 1 cup grated cheddar cheese 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 1/2 cup sour cream 1/2 to 1 cup milk 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional) 1/2 cup chopped green onions (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the potatoes and place them on a large baking pan. Bake for 1 hour or until the potatoes test tender when pricked with the point of a knife. Split the warm potatoes in half lengthwise, and carefully scoop out the pulp, leaving the shells intact. Combine the potato pulp with the butter, cheese, salt, pepper, and sour cream. Using a mixer, mix well. Add the milk as needed. Stuff the shells with the potato mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Top with the crumbled bacon and chopped green onions if desired.

Makes 12 servings.

Norma's Pretzel Salad

This recipe came from one of the dearest ladies I have ever had the pleasure to know. She is no longer with us, but we serve this recipe almost every time our family gathers together.

2 1/2 cups pretzels 3/4 cup butter, melted 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened 1 (8-ounce) carton frozen whipped topping, thawed 1 (6-ounce) package strawberry gelatin 2 cups boiling water 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen sliced strawberries

To make the first layer: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a food processor, pulse the pretzels, butter, and 3 tablespoons of the sugar until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Press the mixture into a 13 x 9-inch dish. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool thoroughly.

To make the second layer: Mix the softened cream cheese and the remaining 1 cup sugar together. Fold in the thawed whipped topping. Spread over the cooled pretzel layer.

To make the third layer: Dissolve the strawberry gelatin in the boiling water. Add the frozen strawberries. Chill until syrupy and then pour over the cream cheese layer. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Makes 12 servings.

Note: This can be made a day ahead.

Deviled Eggs

Maybe the only time the devil is welcome at church.

6 large eggs 3 tablespoons mayonnaise 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1 teaspoon vinegar 4 drops Tabasco Paprika, for garnish

Place the eggs in a saucepan large enough to accommodate all of the eggs in a single layer, covering with water by 1 inch. Simmer over medium heat for 14 minutes. Remove from heat and place the eggs in cold water to prevent further cooking. Crack the shells, peel and split lengthwise. Remove the yolks, place in a small bowl, and mash with a fork. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, salt, black pepper, vinegar, and hot sauce and mix well. Spoon the filling into the whites. Garnish with paprika.

Makes 12 servings.

Chicken Casserole with Asparagus and Almonds

1 (15-ounce) can asparagus spears, drained 3 (5-ounce) chicken breasts, boiled until tender, drained, and chopped 1 (10.75-ounce) can cream of chicken soup 1/2 cup mayonnaise 2 teaspoons lemon juice 3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese 1/2 cup slivered almonds 1 cup butter cracker crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch-square baking dish. Layer the asparagus in the prepared baking dish and add the chopped chicken on top. In a small bowl combine the cream of chicken soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice, cheese, and almonds and pour over the chicken. Sprinkle with the cracker crumbs and bake for 30 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Green Beans with Chili Sauce

For such an easy dish to make, this is full of flavor.

2 tablespoons cooking oil or bacon drippings 1/2 cup onion, minced 1 (28-ounce) can French-style green beans, drained 1/2 cup chili sauce

Place a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil or bacon drippings and the onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the green beans and chili sauce. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Jam Cake with Easy Caramel Icing

If you can't find pear honey, you can substitute 1/2 cup strawberry preserves.

Jam cake: 1/2 cup butter, softened 1 cup sugar 3 large eggs, separated 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 cup buttermilk 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon cloves 1/2 teaspoon allspice 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder 1 cup blackberry jam 1/2 cup pear honey 1/2 cup raisins 1/2 cup chopped pecans Caramel icing: 2 cups sugar 1/2 cup buttermilk 1 teaspoon baking soda 3 tablespoons light corn syrup 1/2 cup butter 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the jam cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8-inch round cake pans. In the bowl of your electric mixer combine the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition. In a small bowl combine the baking soda and buttermilk and set aside. In another small bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and cocoa powder. Alternately add the spice and buttermilk mixtures to the creamed mixture, beginning and ending with the dry mix. Add the jam, pear honey, raisins, and pecans.

In a medium bowl whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold the whites into the cake batter. Divide the batter equally among the prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The cakes are done when a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of each pan. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto waxed paper and let cool completely before icing.

To make the caramel icing: In a large saucepan combine the sugar and buttermilk. Add the baking soda, corn syrup, and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture forms a soft ball stage (238 degrees). Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Let cool for 10 minutes. Beat with a wooden spoon until the icing achieves spreading consistency. Divide among the 3 layers, icing the tops and sides.

Makes 16 servings.


Excerpted from BLESS YOUR HEART by PATSY CALDWELL Copyright © 2010 by Amy Lyles Wilson, Patsy Caldwell, and Bryan Curtis. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Posted December 6, 2010

    Great Cookbook

    I love this cookbook! It reminds me of many of the things my grandmother used to make. If they are not the same recipe, they are very close, so now I can share these dishes with my daughters and grandchildren. The stores that go along with the recipes are wonderful. I've never laughed so much reading a cookbook!

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