Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole, Bacon-wrapped Green Beans,Fresh Broccoli Salad, and Rolls

Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole, Bacon-wrapped Green Beans, Fresh Broccoli Salad
and Aunt Jean's Sour Dough Rolls

I have been making Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole for almost thirty years! It's hard to for me to believe that, that can be true! But, I know that it is, because I remember the first time I ever ate it.

Last Sunday night, Brother Ken's message centered around this verse:

Jeremiah 29:11

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD,"plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Back in the late eighties and early nineties, there were several Bible studies, which we were all participating in, that encouraged us to choose a "Life Verse." I chose Jeremiah 29:11. I believe it was inspired. For someone like me, who needs a lot of reinforcement, it's good to have a Life Verse that is frequently stamped on mugs, Bible covers, the envelopes of several religious organizations' newsletters, etc. It keeps the verse in the forefront of my mind.
I do believe that God has a plan for each of our lives. The thing that amazes me is how a God, who can bring the foundations of the earth into being just by speaking it, chooses to use us feeble human beings to help Him accomplish His good and perfect will.
Case in point, the first time I ate Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole was in Hefley Dormitory on the campus of the University of MS. My roommate and I had recently met two sweet, Christian girls from Pontotoc, who were also living in Hefley. We all became fast friends.
Hefley had a tiny kitchen, which we were allowed to use to prepare our meals. One night, Julie and Mitzi made Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole, but without poppy seeds. To this day, I don't use poppy seeds in mine either! We had a lot of fun at Ole Miss, much of it involving food. While we lived in the dorm, there was the "Stolen-Chocolate-Chip-Cookie Caper" and the "Burned-Hole-in-the-Carpet-from-a-Hot-Pan-of-Popcorn Incident." Who knew we lived among those low enough to take someone else's cookie from the community oven, or that synthetic carpet melts? One fond memory I have is of our moms taking turns sending soup for us in one of those plastic ice cream buckets! I still never see ice cream in those huge tubs, that I don't think of my mom's and Ms. Theresa's veggie soups!
Like I said above, I believe God has a plan, and He lets us have a hand in bringing it into being. My "chance" meeting of these two girls provided me with two life-long friends, who have celebrated with me during the good times and comforted me during the difficult times. It was also through them that I was introduced to a fine, young man from Pontotoc, who was to become my dear, sweet husband! How's that for a plan? Larry and I both feel we were "meant for each other." Would God have caused our paths to cross another way? I think He would have. But, I'm so glad He chose the path that lead me to these great friends all those years ago! I was thinking this morning, that Brooke, Mitzi's daughter - and the oldest of all our kids, will be the age and year in college that we all were when we met. How can that be?!

Julie, Mitzi and I had one of our rare chances to go out to supper this past week. Although it had been months since we'd been able to really visit together, it didn't matter. We picked right back up from where we left-off. One of the things that helps me deal with the melancholy of my kids getting older and about to leave the nest, is the hope that we three can once again have our monthly girls' night out, like in the "old days!" Julie and Mitzi, I love you guys!!

My original meal plan didn't call for Bacon-wrapped Green Beans. They were a bonus, because we still had some of Nancy's green beans! We have been making these beans since we were first married. The first time we had them was when the Austins, Jacksons, and Morrows prepared them for a nice dinner party they held in our honor right before Larry and I married. They were a big hit with everyone! Larry is usually the one who makes these. His bundles are much neater than mine, so he's gotten the job! They are frequently requested by both sides of the family, especially during the holidays. This was the first time we had made them using fresh green beans. We usually use canned.
Bacon-wrapped Green Beans

whole fresh or canned green beans (You’ll need about 6 beans per bundle. Prepare at least two bundles per person.)

strips of uncooked bacon, cut in half (We sometimes use precooked if we're preparing them just for us. It cuts down on the grease. Don't cut the precooked bacon in half. The beans are better with the uncooked bacon, of course!)
8 oz. bottle Russian Salad Dressing (You can also use Catalina. If using Catalina, sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar over salad dressing and beans before baking. I’ve also had these with Italian dressing. They were good, too. We personally prefer the Russian dressing.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray baking dish with cooking spray.

If using fresh green beans, put green beans in a pan, cover with water, bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Drain. Cool. If using canned beans, open and drain.

Make a bundle of about 6 beans, and wrap with a piece of bacon. Place bundles in baking dish in a single layer. Continue making bundles until you have used all the green beans.
Pour salad dressing over green bean bundles. Cover dish with foil. At this point, you can put these in the fridge and let them marinate until the next day. Or, you can cook them immediately.
Bake, covered, for approximately 1 hour, or until tender. You might like to remove foil during the last 10 to 15 minutes to let beans brown.

Fresh Broccoli Salad
Many thanks to Donna S. for the delicious recipe. Donna is a great cook! I had an apple salad at her house once that was outstanding. I'll have to get her to share that recipe, too. Larry and I both really, really liked this broccoli salad! Because we're trying to save a few calories here and there, I cut the mayo and sugar in half, and used light mayo. It was still very, very good!! Thanks, Donna!! You are such a great friend!!

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