It has been just a little over a year since the Friends of the Dover Library introduced their cookbook of treasured recipes, “Recipes for Readers,” which has become my go-to for resource for planning meals.

It has been just a little over a year since the Friends of the Dover Library introduced their cookbook of treasured recipes, “Recipes for Readers.” This has quickly become my “go-to” resource when planning meals. If you still have some holiday shopping to take care of, I highly recommend that you stop by the Dover Public Library to purchase one of the few remaining copies of this wonderful collection.

Recently I impulsively invited friends in for a holiday luncheon and then I spent several weeks worrying about a menu that would allow me to prepare things in advance so that I could enjoy the day too. Finally I turned to my copy of the above-mentioned reference and a quick perusal reminded me that Elegant Chicken had been a family favorite in the ’70s that I had forgotten about.

This is one of Spicer’s favorites. Boneless chicken breasts are wrapped in slices of bacon and laid on a bed of chipped dried beef. A can of cream of celery (or chicken) soup is mixed with 8-ounces of sour cream to form a sauce and this is spread over the chicken and sprinkled with paprika. This can be prepared and refrigerated the night before it is needed and then it bakes low and slow in the oven at 275 degrees so that the flavors can deliciously blend together for three hours before company arrives. (You can purchase wonderful dried beef at the Pennsylvania Dutch meat counter at Spence’s Bazaar.)

This is best served over a bed of rice and for this occasion I chose another recipe from the same resource that is entitled French Rice. I am fortunate to have a double oven so I was able to bake this in one oven at 350 degrees while the chicken baked in the other one. If you have only one oven, just bake the chicken for three hours and set it aside, still covered, for the time that it takes to bake the rice.

In order to add color to the meal, I fixed Mary’s Red Jell-O Salad that Mary Hodges had contributed for the cookbook. This is almost too easy to be believed. I discovered that the Acme carried Ocean Spray Cranberry/Raspberry Sauce and I paired this with raspberry Jell-O. The beautiful ruby red color is perfect for a holiday meal. If you choose this menu for dinner, you can also add green peas and you’ll have a truly Christmas-colors inspired meal.

Elegant Chicken
4 ounces chipped dried beef
8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (medium-size)
8 slices of bacon
1 (10-ounce) can cream of celery or chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Lightly grease a shallow 2-quart baking dish and set aside. Spread dried beef evenly over bottom of baking dish. Wrap each chicken breast in a slice of bacon. Arrange chicken on top of the dried beef. Blend together soup and sour cream in a small bowl and carefully spread evenly over the chicken. Sprinkle evenly and generously with paprika. Cover tightly with foil. Bake, covered, for 3 hours.

French Rice
1 (4 1/2-ounce) can sliced or chopped mushrooms, undrained
1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, undrained
1 cup long-grain rice
1 (10-ounce) can condensed French onion soup
1/4 cup butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Drain mushrooms and water chestnuts, reserving the liquid. Chop water chestnuts. Add enough water to the reserved liquid to equal 1 1/3 cups of liquid. Place rice in a mixing bowl and stir in mushrooms, chopped water chestnuts, reserved liquid, condensed soup and melted butter. Stir to mix well. Spoon into lightly greased 10-x6-inch baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 60 minutes. Serves 6 to 8.

Mary’s Red Jell-O Salad
1 (16-ounce) can unsweetened applesauce
1 (16-ounce) can jellied cranberry sauce
1 (6-ounce) box cherry or raspberry Jell-O (Large size!)
2 cups boiling water

Chill applesauce and cranberry sauce for several hours before preparation. Place dry gelatin into a mixing bowl and add the boiling water, stirring until gelatin is completely dissolved. While gelatin is still hot, add chilled cranberry sauce and mash it with a potato masher until smooth and mixed into the mixture. Stir in chilled applesauce. Pour into shallow 2-quart baking dish. Chill until set.