Traci Meyers shares favorite recipes for Easter

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By Ann Cipperly

While every Sunday is an important day for Traci and Dr. Jeff Meyers, Easter Sunday is extra special. Dr. Meyers is the senior pastor at the First Baptist Church of Opelika. The Meyers moved to Opelika with their three sons last July.

“We do try to make Easter special for our sons,” says Traci, “because it is special for us. Our faith is booked between Christmas and Easter and is what our faith is built on. Sunday is important, but Easter is just not any Sunday.”

When Traci was growing up in Waco, TX., she would go with her family to shop for a new Easter dress and shoes. On Easter morning, they would attend a sunrise service.  Her mother generally prepared a traditional meal with baked ham decorated with pineapple and invited their family over. Sometimes they went out for lunch.

Both Traci and Dr. Meyers are from Texas. Traci’s father’s family was part of the 300 that settled Texas with Stephen F. Austin, for whom the city of Austin is named. Jeff’s great-grandmother was an Oklahoma Sooner when she was a child, traveling in a covered wagon.

Traci and Jeff met at Baylor in Waco, and they were married during her junior year. When people learn Traci is from Waco, they often ask if she knows the couple, Joanna and Chip Gaines, on the popular HGTV show, Fixer-Upper. They did know Chip’s family when they served in Dallas but did not meet Joanna’s. They still keep in touch with Chip’s parents, Gayle and Bob Gaines.

The Meyers moved to Dallas in order for Jeff to attend Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, TX. When they lived in Dallas, Traci taught kindergarten and first grade, and then began having children.

They have three sons, Marshall, 15, George, 12, and Jonathan, 11. All the boys attend Lee Scott Academy. When George was six weeks old, they moved to Bonneville, Miss., which is where her mother’s family is from, including her great-grandmother, who was a good cook.

While Traci watched her mother in the kitchen when she was growing up, she did not learn to cook until they were living in Mississippi and two older senior ladies came over to help watch her boys and taught her to cook. “That was a special time,” remembers Traci.

From Mississippi, they moved to Conyers, Ga. and served at the First Baptist Church of Conyers for five and a half years. One of the most unique Easter services she remembers was in Conyers where the church was near the Georgia International Horse Park. “We closed the church,” says Traci,  “and went to the horse park for the service. We were trying to reach the community and had thousands come through.”

From Conyers, they moved to Greenville Springs, La., to serve. While living there, they enjoyed dining on Creole and Cajun dishes. “It was fun and a good experience with precious people,” says Traci.

Since moving to Opelika last July, the Meyers are getting to know the community. They did some renovation on their home on Blackhawk Dr., including removing a wall to make to make the living room larger for their family.

With Easter this weekend, Traci is assembling her menus for the day, and she is sharing recipes she had prepared for Easter over the years. Since Dr. Meyers is speaking at three services on Sunday mornings, he generally does not have breakfast. For their boys, Traci may serve Quiche, Sausage Balls and Zucchini Bread, one of her Mother’s recipes.

She finds making casseroles are easy, as she can prep them ahead and then bake when she comes home from church. Her favorite casserole is the Chicken Spaghetti recipe that was her great-grandmother’s who lived in Booneville, Miss.

The boys like the Chicken Spaghetti, and it is easy for her to have ready to bake after Easter service.

The Pineapple Cake is excellent for an Easter dessert. Traci likes this cake, as it is very moist and quickly assembled. Another dessert option is Cake and Soda, which is super easy and can be colored by the soda used.

She plans menus a week ahead. Sometimes for Sunday supper she will serve scrambled eggs and pancakes, which the boys enjoy and are easy cleanup at the end of a hectic day.

Traci collected cookbooks from the places they have lived, and the recipes bring back good memories.

The King Ranch Casserole is one of those favorites, as it is from the 825,000 acre King Ranch in southern Texas, which is in the area where her parents’ lived. The family who owns King Ranch also has ancestors going back to the original 300 that settled Austin.

When Traci makes the King Ranch Casserole she serves it with chips and salsa, beans and tortillas.

While her boys are good eaters, they are picky about Macaroni and Cheese. Her recipe is one they always enjoy. The Fruit Dip is also popular with the boys, and they enjoy it for an after school snack. The dip is quickly made by blending cream cheese with marshmallow cream.

“On Easter we always try to focus on the Lord,” says Traci. “It is not about the Easter bunny, and so many times it is easy to get caught up on that. It is about the Lord and His Son and what His Son was willing to do for us and finish for us so our eternity can be settled.

“We focus on that and also that we can have a relationship with the Lord and eternity with Him,” adds Traci. “ It gives us hope to keep going.”

Ann Cipperly can be contacted at recipes@cipperly.com.

Pineapple Cake
I was given this recipe 20 plus years ago in a newlywed recipe exchange.  It never fails to be good and moist.
Cake:
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup oil
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 large can crushed pineapple (all contents)
Icing:
1 stick margarine
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
2 1/4 cups of powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Grease 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan.  Mix all ingredients for the cake and pour into pan.  Bake 30 to 35 minutes at 350 degrees.
While cake is baking, melt margarine and cream cheese.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla.  Stir until smooth.  Pour this mixture on cake while it is still warm.

Fruit Dip
The recipe is from Mississippi at our first church outside of Texas. It is easy and delicious!
8 oz pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 jar marshmallow cream
Put both ingredients in a mixing bowl and blend with hand mixer until smooth.  Place in serving dish and chill until needed.  Serve with apple slices, strawberries, graham cracker sticks, etc.

Mom’s Zucchini Bread
This is great for breakfast or dessert.
3 eggs
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
2 cups grated, peeled zucchini
3 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional
Glaze:
2/3 cups white sugar
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup margarine
2 Tbsp. Karo syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla
To make bread, mix first four ingredients lightly but well.  Add the next 6 ingredients. Add chopped nuts, if desired.  Pour batter into greased 9 x 5 x 2-inch loaf pan.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.
For the Glaze, boil all the ingredients except vanilla for 10 minutes, continuing to stir.  Add vanilla.  Pour over warm cake.

Chicken Spaghetti
This recipe is from my maternal great-grandmother better known as “Big Mama.”
12 oz. spaghetti noodles
1 1/2 tsp. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 cup chicken broth
3 cups shredded American cheese, divided
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley or dried parsley flakes
2 cans of condensed cream of chicken soup
1 tsp. seasoned salt
4 cups chicken, cooked and diced
2 Tbsp. diced red bell pepper or pimentos
Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook spaghetti according to package directions, adding oil and salt to cooking water.  Drain.
In large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic.  Cook stirring occasionally, around 2 minutes.
Add soup, broth, seasoned salt and half the cheese.  Cook and stir until cheese melts until mixture is smooth.  Add spaghetti and chicken.  Mix well.
Transfer to 2 qt. baking dish.  Cover with foil.  Bake 30 minutes or until hot.  Remove foil.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Continue baking 2 minutes or until cheese melts.  Sprinkle with parsley and bell pepper.

Choose-a-Flavor Quiche
This is an easy dish to prepare for a busy morning or day.
Piecrust (homemade, frozen, or refrigerated)
3 beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
Dash of ground nutmeg
3/4 cup cooked chicken, crabmeat or ham
1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded Swiss, cheddar, Monterey Jack or Havarti cheese
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
Precook piecrust according to directions.
In a bowl, stir together eggs, milk, onion, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Stir in meat.  Toss together shredded cheese and flour.  Pour egg mixture into hot pastry shell.
Bake in 325-degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  If necessary, cover edge of crust with foil to prevent over browning.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Strawberry Punch
This recipe comes from Jeff’s home church in Dallas, TX.
1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 can frozen lemonade, diluted according to directions
1 liter ginger ale
Mix strawberries and sugar; let stand 30 minutes.  Mash strawberries and sugar a bit.  Add strawberries to diluted lemonade.  Pour in pitcher and add ginger ale to fill remaining volume.

Apple Salad
This salad is a family favorite for all seasons.
2 large Red Delicious apples, coarsely chopped
1 large Granny Smith apple, coarsely chopped
1 celery rib, diced
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup lemon yogurt
2 cups granola
Stir together chopped apples and next four ingredients.  Spoon mixture evenly into 8 individual serving dishes, and then sprinkle evenly with granola just before serving.

Green Bean Bundles
This favorite vegetable recipe is from a friend in Mississippi, who is a mother of 5.
3 cans whole green beans
Bacon slices, cut in half horizontally, turkey bacon works well
1/4 cup tightly packed brown sugar
Drain juice from one can of green beans; set aside. Wrap bacon around a small bundle of beans. Repeat until all beans and bacon are used.
Place in small glass baking dish.  Mix brown sugar in reserved green bean juice.  Pour over beans.
Bake at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes.

Baked Mac and Cheese
My boys are picky mac and cheese eaters, but this one passes the test.
1 lb. elbow macaroni
2 (10 ¾ oz.) cans cheddar cheese soup
2 (12 oz.) cans evaporated milk
1 1/4 sticks butter
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
6 cups shredded cheddar cheese (medium, sharp or combination)
Dried parsley (for sprinkling on top)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook pasta according to directions.  Combine soup, milk, butter, salt and pepper in a large microwavable bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap, leaving a small vent, and cook for 6-7 minutes until butter is melted and mixture is warm-to-hot throughout.  In a large baking dish (minimum 9×13) spread 1/3 of the cooked noodles.  Top with 1/3 of the sauce.  Sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheddar.  Repeat layers twice, ending with cheese.  Bake for 40-45 minutes.  When it comes out of the oven, sprinkle with a little dried parsley, if desired.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

King Ranch Casserole
This family favorite recipe is from the great home state of Texas.
1 chicken fryer, stewed
1/2 pkg. corn tortillas, or more, if desired
1 onion, chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 can Rotel tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Cut tortillas into 2-inch pieces.  Place tortillas in a buttered pan.  Add chicken that has been chopped, and then add onion, soup, stock and tomatoes.  Sprinkle cheese on top.
Bake uncovered about 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Cake and Soda
This makes a quick and easy dessert that is low fat.  Great for color to add to menu.
Cake mix of choice
Can of soda of choice
Toppings of choice
Flavor ideas:
Strawberry Shortcake- Strawberry cake mix and cream soda
Zesty Lemon Cake- Lemon cake mix and lemon lime soda
Spice Cake- spice Cake mix and ginger ale
Devil’s Food Cake- Devil’s food cake mix and diet soda
Combine cake mix and soda in a bowl.  No eggs or oil.  Pour into prepared cake pans.  Bake as directed on the cake mix box.
Once cool add desired toppings.

Sausage Balls
Everyone loves them at any time of day.  This recipe comes from the church we served at in Georgia.
1 lb. sausage, use half mild and half hot
12 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups all-purpose baking mix
Mix together sausage, cheddar cheese and all-purpose baking mix.  Form into small balls.  Cook at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

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