Fitch likes his recipes to be quick and easy.

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When needed, Savannah resident Melanie Fitch is truly a friend.

“I’m the last-minute contact when someone is shorthanded,” she said.

Such last-minute “emergencies” easily challenge daily meal plans. “I like my recipes to be quick and easy because time is important and I want to spend time with my family and friends,” she said. It’s no surprise, then, that many of her favorites are must-haves that perfectly match her lifestyle.

Melanie Fitch's escaped bars.

Breakaway bars are a healthy, homemade snack option

Have snacks, with breakout bars as a healthy, homemade option. This recipe has been on Fitch’s records for years, since her 4-H days when she worked on a project called Fast Break for Breakfast.

“I like to say it’s like Krispy rice bars, except you use granola cereal… I just take whatever granola cereal I want so I can have a variety,” she said. Peanut butter and raisins increase nutritional value while melted marshmallows and a little bit of butter guarantee a sweet gratification.

To speed up preparation, Fitch turns to his microwave rather than the stove. “This bar is cool if you want to add other things like M&M, dried cranberries or chocolate chips,” she noted.

Melanie Fitch Mexican Chicken Casserole.

Melanie’s go-to Mexican chicken casserole dish

Fitch found the Mexican Chicken Casserole to be so convenient for quick meals that she nicknamed it Melanie’s Mexican Chicken Casserole. Friend Dawnita shared the original recipe with Fitch, who then incorporated a few tweaks. “I added a few things to it that I like like vegetables. Also, I don’t like hot things. I’m not a hot spicy person, ”she said.

So, she grabs the soft salsa versus the hot salsa and goes easy on the chili powder. “There were green peppers in it, but I used tomatoes and Rotel peppers to give it more flavor. A major time saver is his choice of deli chicken. “I use roast chicken because it’s already flavored and it’s easy to remove the bone.”

There is no point in making a quick main course if the side dish and dessert require more time and effort. That’s where Grandma’s Texan caviar and Oreo cookie dessert come in.

Grandma’s Texas Caviar is a family recipe from Fitch’s best friend

Caviar is a family recipe from Sarah, Fitch’s best friend. Fitch describes it as easy to put together, and she’s not kidding. “I just opened the cans, drained them and tossed them in the bowl,” she said. In addition to these squirts, there are onions and green and red peppers as well as a jalapeño and cherry tomatoes to make a colorful presentation.

The dressing requested here is a tangy Italian, straight off the grocery store shelf, although Fitch likes to take a few minutes to mix up a simple vinegar and oil option. “It’s a lighter plaster than Italian,” she said.

Melanie Fitch's Oreo Cookie Dessert.

Oreo Cookie Dessert is Fitch’s Favorite Dessert

As well as being a perfect choice for the home, Oreo Cookie Dessert “… is my go-to dessert if I need it for a party,” Fitch said. Girlfriend Alicia was behind this, which became a favorite “niece and nephew project” when the young Fitch.

Some tips. One is to be sure the cream cheese is at room temperature “… or it will be lumpy”. The other is to keep the grinding of the cookies at the lumps and not crumbs stage. “It’s something I learned working with children,” she joked.

Working with children is a priority for Fitch as a counselor (along with her parents Arden and Pat Fitch) for the Savannah Hard Workers. “I always tell 4-Hers one thing you’re going to learn is to talk in front of people,” she said, basing her post on her own school years spent at the same club. Other unmissable activities on her schedule coincide with membership in Ashland Young Professionals, Olivesburg Grange, Esbenshade Concessions and, of course, her work as an office assistant for the Ashland County Cancer Association.

“And I sit at home as a side job,” she said.

Melanie Fitch's Escaped Bars, Mexican Chicken Casserole, Oreo Cookie Dessert, and Grandma's Texas Caviar Recipes.

BREAKING THE BARS

From the kitchen of Melanie Fitch

2 cups of miniature marshmallows

½ cup of peanut butter

¼ cup of margarine or butter

2 cups of granola cereal

¾ cup of raisins

Melt marshmallows, peanut butter and margarine / butter in a saucepan over low heat until smooth, stirring often. Remove from the heat, add the cereals and raisins. Mix well, press firmly into greased 8 inch square pan. Cool, cut into bars.

MELANIE’S CHICKEN MEXICAN CASSEROLE

From the kitchen of Melanie Fitch

1 cup cooked brown rice

2 cups cooked, cubed or grated chicken

1 ¾ cup of salsa

1 can (4 ounces) Rotel Original Diced Tomatoes and Green Peppers

½ cup corn kernels, frozen, roasted or canned and drained

½ cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro, chopped

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon of chili powder

½ teaspoon of garlic salt

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup grated cheese (eg, Monterey Jack, mozzarella and cheddar), divided

Sour cream, optional

Diced avocado, chopped tomato and / or chopped fresh cilantro for garnish, optional

Combine the rice, chicken, salsa, Rotel, corn, black beans, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, garlic salt, salt, pepper and ½ cup of grated cheese in a big bowl. Spread in an 8 x 8-inch or 2 ½ quart baking dish that has been coated with nonstick spray. Sprinkle with ½ cup remaining cheese and cook, uncovered, at 375 degrees until bubbles and cheese melt, about 15 minutes.

Serve immediately with sour cream and desired garnish (s). Makes 6-8 servings.

GRANDMOTHER’S CAVIAR TEXAS

From the kitchen of Melanie Fitch

½ cup onion, finely chopped

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1 green pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 medium jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 to 2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 pint of cherry or roma tomatoes, chopped

1 can (15 ounces) black-eyed peas, drained

1 can (15 ounces) black beans or other beans of your choice, rinsed and drained

1 can (15 ounces) whole kernel corn, drained

1 bottle (8 ounces) tangy Italian dressing

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine onions, peppers, garlic, tomatoes, black-eyed peas, beans and corn in a large bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Add more dressing if needed and garnish with cilantro. Makes 6-8 servings.

NOTE: If desired, replace the Italian dressing with a homemade dressing made with ¾ cup apple cider vinegar, ¼ cup olive oil and 1 cup granulated sugar, whisked together.

OREO COOKIE DESSERT

From the kitchen of Melanie Fitch

1 pkg. (1 pkg.) Chocolate sandwich cookies with vanilla cream filling

8 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature

4 tablespoons of butter, room temperature

1 cup of powdered sugar

3 cups of milk

1 teaspoon of vanilla

2 pkg. (4 servings) instant vanilla pudding mix

8 ounces frozen whipped topping, thawed

Crush the cookies into pieces, not into crumbs, and set aside.

Combine cream cheese, butter and sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl. Add milk, vanilla and pudding mix, beat until smooth and without lumps. Stir in the whipped topping.

Place half of the cookie pieces on the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish. Cover with all of the pudding mixture, then sprinkle the remaining cookie crumbs on top. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

– Would you like to nominate someone for our “Cook’s Corner”? Please send their name and phone number to [email protected] or call 419-289-0972 and let Cami know!


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