I parked my car in direct sunlight. I double-checked that the windows were up all the way. I placed the raw slice-and-bake chocolate chip cookies on the baking sheet. I placed the baking sheet on the car dashboard. Then I went back to work.

A few years ago, on one of summer’s hottest days, I baked cookies in my car. A few hours later, they turned out a little pale, yet edible and surprisingly good.

Dashboard cooking is just one of several alternative cooking methods. While we wouldn’t want to eat an egg fried on the sidewalk, there are other unconventional ways to prepare conventional food.

The car dashboard isn’t the only automobile option:

• Wrap fish in heavy-duty foil, place it behind the engine and drive around for about 40 minutes. Be careful removing the finished product because it will be hot.

I have to smile as I type that caution, as if you might someday actually be removing hot food from your engine.

• Poach salmon in the dishwasher by wrapping it tightly in foil and running the dishwasher on its hottest cycle. Forego the detergent.

• Place a cheese sandwich between two paper towels. Place a clean hot iron on both sides until the cheese melts and the bread is toasted. Your iron can also be used as a panini press. I know I have an iron someplace but would have to hunt it down.

• Bet you didn’t know your hot tub could double as a sous vide, which is basically a hot water bath. Vacuum seal meat in plastic, toss it into the water and turn on the jets once in a while. The consistent hot tub temperature assures even cooking.

• One idea suggests using your washing machine as a salad spinner for rinsing and spinning greens. Just think of the number of servings you could clean at one time with this option.

• While not a totally out-there idea, there’s omelets to be cooked in a panini press. Fix hash browns in the waffle maker as well as canned cinnamon rolls. The indentations in the rolls will hold that yummy frosting.

• Kim Pennell shared a favorite clothes dryer use that, when mentioned, folks have either heard of or used themselves. When you need your yeast products to rise in a hurry, run your dryer long enough to heat it up, turn it off, place your rolls or bread in the dryer, close the door and let the warm environment quickly do its job.

If you aren’t looking for out of the ordinary ways to make dinner, today’s recipes use a plain old everyday oven for baking, and both are extra easy if you have leftover chicken or use rotisserie chicken.

Plan ahead for spinach thawing time, when making the stuffed shells. Once the pasta is cooked, this dish goes together in no time.

The make-ahead casserole is great for family or company and perfectly named. For extra flavor, cook the rice in chicken broth or add a chicken bouillon to the water.

These recipes are from “The Recipe Hall of Fame Cookbook II.”

Have a wonderful week, and happy eating.


Italian stuffed shells

12 ounces jumbo pasta shells, cooked according to package directions

8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

12 ounces herb-seasoned spaghetti sauce, divided

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

8 ounces cooked and chopped chicken breasts

Spray 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place drained shells in dish. Mix together half of the cheese, half of the sauce, the spinach and the chicken in a bowl. Stuff the mixture into the shells and cover with remainder of sauce; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.


First-place chicken casserole

2-3 cups cooked chicken

4 hard-cooked eggs, chopped

2 cups cooked rice

1 1/2 cups chopped celery

1 small onion, chopped

1 cup mayonnaise

2 cans cream of mushroom soup

1 (3-ounce) package slivered almonds

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup bread crumbs

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Mix all ingredients except crumbs and butter. Place mixture in buttered 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Brown crumbs lightly in butter; sprinkle over casserole. Refrigerate overnight. Remove from refrigerator one hour before baking. Bake 40 to 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.

Cheryle Finley is a food columnist for The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.

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