At Mimi's Table

. . . lessons from an older and wiser girl

Patriotic Red, White and Blue Jello Bars

When my kids were growing up, we always made this fun dessert for 4th of July. I hadn’t made it for a while. But, now that I have a whole gaggle of new boys to spoil, it was time to retrieve my tried and true recipe.

There’s a sweet and crunchy graham cracker crust topped and layered with red, white and blue jello that’s mixed with canned fruit pie filling and a yummy lemony cream cheese layer in the middle. Patriotic Red, White, and Blue Jello Bars are an easy treat that’s quickly assembled. Cold and creamy, it’s the perfect end to any summer barbeque. I assemble the crust and jello layers in a 9″x13″ pan. This feeds a lot of folks – perfect for a family and friends get together.

I like to slice the jello into squares so everyone can see the layers. But, this year, my son-in-law scooped it up and served the dessert in old-fashioned soda glasses topped with whipped cream. Awesome! And the boys LOVED it! Don’t wait for another 4th of July holiday. Whip this up anytime you’re in the mood for a quick, cool, no-bake dessert.

Let’s make up a panful, shall we? 

Patriotic Red, White, and Blue Jello Bars
Prep time
Total time
Patriotic Red, White, and Blue Jello Bars is a scrumptious, crunchy sweet dessert suitable for any summer treat. No baking required. It's quickly assembled, feeds plenty, and is a sure hit for any summertime gathering.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12-16 servings
  • 1 sleeve graham crackers made into crumbs in a Cuisinart, or substitute 2 cups of ground graham crackers
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Blue Layer:
  • 1 3oz package of blueberry or blackberry jello
  • 1 can blueberry pie filling
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • White Layer:
  • 1 8oz brick of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup whipped cream or Cool Whip
  • 1 3oz package lemon jello
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Red Layer:
  • 1 3oz package cherry jello
  • 1 can cherry pie filling
  • 1 cup boiling water
  1. In a food processor, crumble one sleeve graham crackers. Add 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar. Whirl until combined. Add 6 Tablespoons melted butter. Whirl until combined. Pat graham cracker crust into the bottom of a 9"x13" baking dish. Chill in refrigerator while making the next layer.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, add the package of blueberry or blackberry jello. Pour in one cup of boiling water. Stir until gelatin is dissolved. Add one can blueberry or blackberry pie filling. Mix until combined. Remove graham cracker crust from refrigerator. Pour the blue mixture evenly over the top of the crust. Return to refrigerator until set - 15-20 minutes.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, cream softened cream cheese with a hand mixer until soft. Add package of lemon jello and one cup boiling water. Whisk or use hand mixer to completely incorporate. Add one cup whipped cream or Cool Whip. Mix until combined. Pour over the cold and set blueberry/blackberry layer. Return to the refrigerator until set - 15-20 minutes.
  4. In a medium sized bowl, add the package of cherry jello. Add one cup boiling water. Whisk until gelatin is dissolved. Add canned cherry pie filling and stir until combined. Remove the pan from the refrigerator and pour the cherry mixture evenly over the lemon layer. Cover with plastic wrap and return to refrigerator for 1-2 hours until all layers are set.
  5. At service, spread whipped cream or Cool Whip over the entire surface. Cut into squares or bars.
The jello dessert can be scooped up into a bowl or glass and topped with whipped cream or Cool Whip.


Chili 101: Mimi’s Favorite Chili

at mimi's table mimi's favorite chili 101 #1

It’s that time of year! Here in central Indiana, we’re having the coldest winter of any I remember here in quite a long time. In fact, it’s been warmer in Billings, Montana, my former home. Temps reached -16°F last night. No weather for man nor beast. But a perfect time to warm up with a steaming bowl of Mimi’s Favorite Chili.

(Uh, don’t be put off by the green stuff mixed in with the sour cream in the above picture. I served Mexican dinner on Christmas Day and my husband mixed the guacamole and sour cream together. It looks questionable, but was delicious!)

I’ve made this chili recipe for as long as I can remember, seriously forty years or more. Sometimes we eat as pictured. Sometimes I’d make up some macaroni and serve the chili over that. A friend of mine used to serve her chili over cooked rice – another option.

Funny. Richard and I were in Costco the day before I made the chili pot. A customer overheard us talking about making chili, and immediately invited himself over. Our conversation wandered to the topic of what to serve with chili. This fella said he insists that his chili is served with a peanut butter sandwich. “Well, of course!” I said. Our new friend and chili connoisseur told us he was having a difficult time winning over his wife to the idea.

In the mid-century olden days, the school cafeteria always served chili with peanut butter/honey sandwiches and carrot and celery sticks. We settled it must be an Indiana thing.

Any way you like it, a hot bowl of chili, mild or spicy, is a surefire way to warm up your bones!

Let’s make some!

at mimi's table mimi's favorite chili 101 #2

First, brown your meat in a heavy 6-qt dutch oven or other heavy pot. Oh, and don’t forget to add a Tablespoon or so of cooking oil to the pot, bring up to medium-high heat, then add the meat. Even though there’s fat in the meat, the oil helps the process along. You may use ground beef or ground turkey, as long as it’s pretty lean. I normally use 90% lean ground beef, but don’t be afraid to use turkey. It’s delicious and we really can’t tell the difference once the chili is finished.

While the meat is browning, dice up a nice large yellow sweet onion, set aside. Mince 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic, set aside. Measure the chili powder, cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, and paprika into a small bowl, set aside. Open up your cans of tomatoes and beans. The goal is to have everything at the ready so the dish comes together quickly.

Chili 101

AMT Here's a tip iconNow’s the time to have a discussion about heat – like hot peppery heat. Not everyone shares the same enthusiasm for peppery spicy food. I, myself, like the heat from peppers or Tobasco sauce or ground cayenne, but enjoy the flavors in moderation. I like the simple spike of heat, but not so hot that’s it’s uncomfortable to eat.

If you like the flavor of pepper but not the heat, add one diced green pepper, or throw in a stalk of diced celery, or both.

Need to add a little extra heat? Add 1-2  finely diced jalapenos or 1-2 finely diced serranos, which are hotter than jalapenos. Set them aside with the minced garlic.

What I do is add a finely diced jalapeno, a finely diced serrano, and add dry ground cayenne to the dry spices. A couple shakes of red pepper chili flakes goes in there, too. And a couple shakes of Tobasco sauce as the chili cooks.

You can always add more hot peppers to the mix if you like spicier chili or include the pepper membranes and seeds into the dice, which adds another level of heat. Remember, however, to add peppers to the browned meat when you dump in the diced onions. If you decide to ladle the chili into serving bowls over macaroni or rice, keep in mind that will lower the heat level, too.

If you’re serving children, look out. In my experience, they don’t tolerate peppery heat at all – enter macaroni or rice and lots of cheese.

at mimi's table mimi's favorite chili 101 #3

Now the meat is nicely browned. Add the onion and peppers (hot or mild). Stir over medium-high heat until the onions begin to soften. Add diced celery, if you’re using.

Add the garlic. Continue to cook until you smell the aroma of garlic, about one minute.

at mimi's table mimi's favorite chili 101 #4

Add the dry spices: chili powder, cumin, Mexican oregano, cayenne, crushed red chili peppers, and cinnamon. Stir all the spices together and heat until you can smell the spices, 1-2 minutes max. (Adding the spices this way intensifies their flavors.)

at mimi's table mimi's favorite chili 101 #5

Dump everything else into the pot: diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes, dark red kidney beans. Add 2-3 cups of liquid:  beef or chicken stock or just plain water if you don’t have stock in the pantry. Stir and bring to a simmer. Turn down the heat to continue the simmer. Cover with the lid not quite covering the pot so steam is able to escape.

at mimi's table mimi's favorite chili 101 #6 at mimi's table mimi's favorite chili 101 #7

After 45-60 minutes, your chili is ready! See how much liquid was evaporated?

Ladle generous portions into deep bowls and add your toppings: Monterey jack or cheddar cheese, sour cream, guacamole, additional finely diced hot peppers, finely diced sweet yellow onion.

On this particular night, I had some leftover tostada shells and we used them to break into our bowls instead of crackers.

at mimi's table mexican food iconChili Thoughts

  • I think chili is one of the first dishes beginning cooks learn to make. It’s easy. The ingredients are inexpensive. Everyone enjoys a hearty bowl.
  • Serve with peanut butter sandwiches or cornbread.
  • Don’t be afraid to mix up the ingredients. You can add corn. Use canned pinto beans, light red kidney beans, or black beans.
  • Try a can of beer in place of some of the stock/water. If so, you’ll want to add the beer to meat/spice mixture before you add tomatoes, beans, etc. Let it cook a bit after adding to burn off some of the alcohol.
  • Cinnamon is uncommonly used in chili unless you’re in Cincinnati. Just 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon is all you’ll need. Cinnamon evens out the flavors.
  • If you need to thicken your chili, add a Tablespoon of cornmeal stirred into 1/4 cup of water. Add to the chili after the cooking is finished and stir to incorporate.

at mimi's table signature 2 fallI would love to know how you make your chili special! What tips and tricks do you have up your sleeve?


Chili 101: Mimi's Favorite Chili
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
It's that time of year when a steaming bowl of Mimi's Favorite Chili warms us to the very core. Learn Chili 101 and how to make my easy and satisfying recipe along with a couple of hints.
Recipe type: Chili
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6-8 servings
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1-15oz can of dark red kidney beans drained, or pinto, light red, or black beans, drained
  • 2-14oz cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes.
  • 1-28oz can whole tomatoes
  • 2-3 cups of beef or chicken stock, or water, or a combination
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers, finely diced or 1-2 serrano peppers, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Options to replace jalapenos and/or serranos
  • 1 green or red pepper, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  1. Over medium-high heat, add 1 Tablespoon cooking oil into a heavy 6-quart dutch oven
  2. Add ground meat. Brown until there is no pink visible.
  3. While the meat is cooking, chop onion, mince garlic, dice peppers. Set aside.
  4. Measure dry spices into a small bowl. Set aside.
  5. When the meat is ready, add chopped onion and hot peppers. (Add green or red pepper and celery if using.) Stir and continue to cook until the vegetables are softened.
  6. Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant, one minute.
  7. Add dry spices, stir to distribute and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes max.
  8. Add all the tomatoes, beans and stock &/or water. Stir to distribute.
  9. Bring the chili to a simmer. Cover the pot, but not completely so steam escapes and thickens the chili.
  10. Turn down the heat. Simmer for 45-60 minutes.
  11. Check for seasoning. Add 1-2 shakes of Tobasco sauce, if using.
  12. Serve with peanut butter sandwiches or cornbread.
  13. This chili can also be served over cooked macaroni or cooked rice.
1. You can substitute one can of beer to replace an equal volume of stock/water. Add the beer to the meat mixture before adding tomatoes. Let the mixture cook for a bit to allow the alcohol to cook off.
2. To thicken chili, if needed, add 1 Tablespoon cornmeal to ¼ cup of water, mix. Add the slurry to the chili while stirring.

Serve with any variety of toppings: shredded Monterey Jack &/or cheddar cheese, sour cream, guacamole, diced sweet yellow onion, diced jalapeno or serrano peppers.


Joe Carson’s Ginger Cookies

at mimi's table Christmas cookies joe carson's ginger cookies

Here’s another good choice for a holiday treat for your cookie plate, to take to a cookie swap, or to give as gifts. Joe Carson’s Ginger Cookie recipe was first published in Midwest Living magazine in 1999. I’ve been making them every Christmas since.

My husband loves the chewy texture. The cookie dough is made with vegetable shortening instead of butter. I normally follow the recipe to the letter, but this year I decided to use 1/2 cup of shortening and 1/4 cup of butter.

I like this recipe, too, because it calls for a couple Tablespoons of molasses. Molasses gives the cookie a rich flavor. They hold well, so if you decided to bake them a couple of days in advance, it’s no problem.

The recipe is easy. This is a family favorite, so I whip up a double batch with my electric mixer. If I don’t bake all the dough, I cover it with plastic wrap and store the leftover in the refrigerator in a container with a tight-fitting lid. That way I can bake up another batch in no time at all.

Joe’s recipe instructs bakers to roll the dough into balls, roll them in sugar, dip them in water, and roll again in sugar before baking. The result is a nicely cracked sugary cookie top. It’s fabulous, but I didn’t like the way the water clumped up the sugar. So, I decided to form the balls, roll all of them in sugar and put them on a cutting board until all the balls got their first coating. Before I put them in the oven, I roll them again for a second sugary coating. They don’t come out as spectacular looking as Joe’s, but it’s quicker and less messy, and the cookies are as delicious.

You may want to try a couple of my other holiday cookie favorites. Cranberry Orange Cookies and Orange Sablé Cookies. Joe Carson’s cookies and these other two make their way onto my cookie plate every Christmas.

Let’s whip up a batch! at mimi's table 2017 christmas wreath

Joe Carson's Ginger Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This chewy ginger cookie recipe is from Joe Carson at the Silver Dollar City theme park in Branson, Missouri. It's the best ginger cookie I've ever eaten. Fantastic taste, texture and easy to make.
Recipe type: Cookies
Cuisine: American
Serves: 30 cookies
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¾ cup vegetable shortening, or ½ cup shortening and ¼ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  1. In a stand mixer, beat the shortening (or shortening & butter) for 30 seconds.
  2. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. 1-2 minutes
  3. Add molasses and egg. Beat on medium speed until combined.
  4. Add the baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt into the bowl. Mix on low speed just until the spices are incorporated.
  5. Add flour. Mix on slow speed until the dough is well combined.
  6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
  7. Use a one-Tablespoon cookie scoop and begin to form the dough into balls. As each one is made, set them on a cutting board until all the dough is gone.
  8. Put ½ cup of granulated sugar in a bowl, and roll the balls, one-by-one, in the sugar, and place them back on the cutting board.
  9. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line two half-sheet baking pans with parchment paper. Roll the balls a second time in sugar and place them on the baking pans.
  10. Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes until they're light brown on the bottoms. Cool the cookies on a wire rack.
Once cooled, you can store the baked cookies in a container with a tight-fitting lid. You can also make a double batch of cookie dough, bake one-half, and save the rest wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator.


Mom’s Stuffed Green Peppers – Uncover Buried Treasure

at mimi's table mom's stuffed green peppers

Uncover precious buried treasure. Dig down into a deep bowl filled with beef and rice stuffed green peppers smothered with a perfectly seasoned tomato-onion-basil gravy. Grab a couple slices of Italian bread slathered with butter to sop up all the gravy goodness. Heaven … really, Heaven in a bowl.

Beneath this lovely tomato gravy lay the most delicious stuffed peppers and porcupine meatballs. Dig deep. Ladle a pepper and a large spoonful of tomato gravy into your bowl.

Growing up, Mom’s Stuffed Green Peppers was a beloved family staple. At the end of summer, my dad would find gigantic green peppers at a Northwest Indiana farmers’ market that begged to be filled. He would bring them to my Greenfield, Indiana home, and there was only one application for the lovely peppers. These peppers were also served between Thanksgiving and Christmas in anticipation of family arrivals often at different times of the day or evening because they hold well.

Use whatever fresh peppers you wish. Green, red, orange, yellow or a combination of any. A variety lends itself to a festive presentation.

Or slice the peppers into thick slices, 2 inches or so, maybe using a colorful variety of fresh peppers. Stuff the resulting rounds with the beef/rice mixture. Saute the filled slices in a skillet and smother the finished delight with my savory tomato-onion-basil gravy. YUM!

Does it sound like I LOVE this recipe? Yes, I do. For me, Mom’s Stuffed Green Peppers is the quintessential comfort food. My brother especially loves them!

Shall we bring Mom’s bowl of deliciousness to your family? Absolutely!

Cut the peppers in half. Rinse and remove the stems, veins, and seeds. I usually put the peppers on a piece of paper towel, cut side down, to dry them out a bit before stuffing.

Tomato Gravy

Dice one large onion, roughly chop 1-2 roasted peppers (I use any jarred roasted red peppers.) and mince 2 cloves of garlic. Set aside.

Heat 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil in a heavy bottomed dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and quickly brown until the onions are translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the chopped jarred peppers and minced garlic. Heat until you can smell the garlic, 1-2 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons dried basil and one bay leaf. (I love the flavor basil gives to anything tomato. If you’d rather, you can use dried oregano, marjoram, or parsley.)

Add a 15oz. can of petite diced tomatoes and one can of condensed cream of tomato soup. Add one cup of water or broth and stir until combined. Bring to a gentle simmer and continue to cook for 10-15 minutes. Set the tomato gravy aside while you prepare the meat mixture and stuff the peppers.

Meat Stuffing Mixture

You can use lean ground beef or ground turkey. For every pound of ground meat, add one cup of cooked rice. (This is an excellent way to use up leftover rice from Chinese take-out.) I used two pounds of ground beef and two cups of cooked rice for this recipe.

Put the rice and ground meat in a large bowl.  Add two teaspoons kosher salt, two teaspoons seasoning salt (I use Lawry’s.), and two teaspoons ground black pepper.  Lightly beat 2 eggs in a small bowl. Pour the eggs over the meat, rice, and seasonings in the bowl. Mix well with your hands (the best utensil) or use a wooden spoon or sturdy rubber spatula until everything is evenly distributed throughout.

Take one pepper half and gently mound a handful of the meat mixture into the cavity making sure the stuffing fills the entire pepper. Place into the tomato gravy. Continue with the rest of the peppers.

You’re going to have some leftover meat mixture. I roll it up forming meatballs, “porcupines,” into the size of a tennis ball, maybe smaller and drop them into the gravy around the stuffed pepper ones. You know, there’s always someone you’re serving who doesn’t like green peppers. I’ll withhold comment; however, that someone should not be denied.

Basically, you’re going to steam the peppers in the gravy until the meat is cooked through. Over medium heat, bring the pot to a gentle simmer. Cover the dutch oven with a lid, lower the temperature and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, and let everything rest for 10 minutes.

Spoon the peppers and porcupines to a large serving bowl. Pour the tomato gravy over them, and serve. Cut some big slices of Italian or French crusty bread for sopping up the tomato gravy. Fabulous!

at mimi's table fall logo 2017

Mom's Stuffed Green Peppers - Uncover Buried Treasure
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Dig down into a deep bowl filled with beef and rice stuffed green peppers smothered with a perfectly seasoned tomato-onion-basil sauce. Grab a couple slices of Italian or French crusty bread slathered with butter to sop up all the gravy goodness. Heaven ... really, Heaven in a bowl.
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4-6 servings
  • 2 green peppers, cut in half, stemmed, membranes and seeds removed
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons seasoned salt, Lawry's
  • 1½ teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1-2 jarred roasted peppers, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 15 oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 can condensed cream of tomato soup
  • 1 cup water
  1. !Tomato Gravy
  2. In a heavy bottom dutch oven, heat 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil. Add onion and saute for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add chopped peppers and garlic. Heat until you smell the garlic, 1-2 minutes. Add basil and bay leaf. Stir.
  3. Add diced tomatoes, tomato soup, water. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. !Meat Mixture
  5. In a large mixing bowl, add rice, ground meat, salt, seasoned salt, and black pepper. Pour in beaten eggs. Using your hands, a wooden spoon, or a sturdy spatula, combine all ingredients until thoroughly combined and evenly distributed.
  6. !Stuff the Peppers
  7. Fill each pepper half with a handful of the meat mixture. The entire half should be filled and slightly mounded in the middle. Place stuffed pepper in tomato gravy. Continue with the rest of the peppers.
  8. If you have meat mixture leftover, divide equally and roll into meatballs, "porcupines." Place each meatball among the stuffed peppers.
  9. Bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat. Cover with a lid, and cook for 30-45 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes.
  10. !To Serve
  11. Remove bay leaf. Spoon the stuffed peppers and porcupines into a large serving bowl. Pour the tomato gravy over everything. Scoop up a stuffed pepper or porcupine, spoon over tomato gravy from the bowl.
Mom's Stuffed Green Peppers are fabulous served with a loaf or two of crusty Italian or French bread.


Jessica’s Outstanding Roast Turkey

at mimi's table thanksgiving turkey with jessica

I have always prepared the Thanksgiving meal, even if it was cooked at my daughter’s house. Last year, I roasted the turkey at my home and carted it over to Jessica’s house. She prepared the side dishes.

This year, Jessica decided to stuff and roast the bird herself! She and I discussed techniques, but it was all her doing. Could not have been prouder of my girl! She used the same recipes we’ve created for 20 years or more. (Stuffing recipe is 50+ years old.) Hers was a much better turkey than I’ve roasted for a long time. Moist, beautifully browned and juicy.

For your dedication and bravery! For your outstanding skills! For a WONDERFUL BIRD! You are beautiful and bold!

I, your mother, present you with the 2017 Turkey Cup!

at mimi's table turkey cup jessica

Congratulations, my darling. You deserve it!

What were Jessica’s tricks of the trade, you may ask?

She didn’t brine her turkey. (Egads) She bought a lovely 21-pound Butterball, which is self-basting. She used a Martha Stewart concoction of white wine and butter to baste her turkey during the first two hours of roasting.  (3 sticks of butter melted in 1 bottle of Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc held warm on the stove burner as the basting continues.) Cheesecloth is drenched in the wine/butter mixture and the cloth is gently placed over the breast and drumsticks during the first two hours of roasting. Then the cheesecloth is removed. And in addition to her roasting – she tented the turkey breast and tops of the legs in between the first two hours to keep the skin from browning too quickly. Genius!

Jessica also put a piece of aluminum foil in the roasting pan underneath the turkey so the bird didn’t flop around during the steady rotation and basting in the pan. GENIUS!

And it was much easier to collect the drippings for making gravy. We ran warm turkey stock over the pan drippings to release the tasty brown bits and added it to the gravy pot.  Phenomenal. GENIUS!

Awesome Thanksgiving meal. I’m looking forward to next year!  Love you!

At Mimi's Tablelessons from an older and wiser girl