Because eating together is a tradition everyone has in common, we recently asked readers to share their best never-fail recipes. Here are a few favorite dishes they'll add to the table for parties, potlucks and family dinners this holiday season.
* Cathy Elkins of Cleveland, Tenn., said her favorite go-to recipe is a broccoli casserole.
"This dish was tweaked by my late sister-in-law, who mastered the perfect blend of ingredients through trial and error," Elkins said. "I simply had to ask her for the written version, and now I have copies of it stashed everywhere. She had beautiful penmanship, so her handwritten version always makes the preparation all the more pleasurable with memories of her."
The beauty of this recipe, she said, is that it's not only tasty, it can be prepared the day before and stored in the refrigerator.
* Linda Leake of LaFayette, Ga., said she grew up learning to cook in two kitchens -- her mother's and grandmother's. To this day, she still cooks one of their signature dishes: chocolate pound cake with chocolate icing.
"I remember helping my mother and grandmother with the ingredients, then the mixing, beating and the rest. The smells were wonderful," Leake said, noting that the family recipes "are famous at family gatherings and church dinners."
* Alyce Ownby's favorite recipe, baked asparagus, was given to her by a cousin.
"Easy as it is, it never fails to get good reviews at my dinner table," Ownby said. "Leftovers aren't an issue. There won't be any."
* Robbi Moorhouse said her "old family recipe" of meatballs is a perfect dish to serve year-round. She said it gets rave reviews at every annual family gathering.
"The family story goes that this recipe came from the Maynor family, my paternal grandma's bunch, [when they] moved to Kentucky to seek employment in the coal mines," Moorhouse said. "It has not really been written down before, but I have never been to a family reunion that at least one crock pot of this didn't show up."
* Charlynne Fry of Signal Mountain shared a family recipe for potato salad that dates to the late 1800s.
"My sister and I think our way of making it is the best. When we are at picnics, we are always comparing 'ours' to 'theirs,' " she said. "Now our own daughters are making it and know better than to allow even one change -- something to be said for great traditions."
* Tennessee Valley Authority project manager Constance Bryant offered a recipe that she recently prepared for a church baking contest, her mother's ice box pie.
"When I was a little girl and it was time for me and my sister to learn to cook, the first two things we learned to make [were] ice box pie and Watergate salad. I can remember the excitement of using the hand mixer for the first time -- my mother's hand gently holding my hand so everything in the bowl would not splatter over the table. It was so much fun getting to choose who got to lick the beaters. It is the easiest recipe for a child to make because it only had four ingredients and there is no hot stove involved."
For the record, Bryant said her mother's pie won the baking contest.
"I was so excited," she said. "It was a wonderful memory of my mother's love of cooking and how she shared and passed it on to her daughters. My mother is no longer with me, but I would like to think she would enjoy the fact that I treasured a simple recipe and now I am passing it on 34 years later."
Contact Karen Nazor Hill at email@example.com or 423-757-6396. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karennazorhill.
2 bunches broccoli
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 eggs well beaten (may substitute Egg Beaters)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups Cheese-It cracker crumbs
Cook broccoli until tender. Drain well and chop. Combine all other ingredients except cracker crumbs. Mix with drained broccoli and pour into a buttered casserole dish. Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and top with cracker crumbs. Return to oven for additional 15-20 minutes.
-- Cathy Elkins
2 cans asparagus spears
1-2 fresh tomatoes
Heat oven to 350 F. Drain asparagus and arrange in a 9-inch by 9-inch baking dish. Slice tomatoes and spread in a single layer over the asparagus. Dot with butter. Bake for about 20 minutes or until hot. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top and return to oven for 5-8 minutes.
-- Alyce Ownby
Ice Box Pie
1 (8-ounce) container Cool Whip
1 can Eagle Brand milk
1 (8- or 9-inch) graham cracker crust
1 (6-ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate
Pour all wet ingredients into a bowl. Mix well with a hand mixer. Pour into graham cracker crust. Chill for least 2 hours.
-- Constance Bryant
Chocolate Pound Cake
2 sticks butter or margarine
1/2 cup shortening
3 cups sugar
3 cups plain flour
11/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
11/4 cups milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
Heat oven to 300 F. Cream butter and shortening; gradually add sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Sift flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk. Add vanilla before adding last flour mixture. Bake in greased and floured pound cake pan one hour and 25 minutes. Top with Chocolate Icing when cool.
-- Linda Leake
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
1 stick butter or margarine
Put all ingredients in large pan and bring to boil. Boil fast for 2 minutes, stirring constantly (start timing when mixture begins to boil). Remove from heat, and add one tablespoon vanilla. Place in cold water until cool. Beat until creamy.
-- Linda Leake
Grandmother Rosa Belle's Potato Salad
6 Russet potatoes
6 hard-boiled eggs
1/3 cup sweet onion, chopped
1/3 cup green pepper, chopped
11/4 cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish or chopped sweet pickle
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon celery seed or 2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
Paprika for garnish
Cook, peel and cube potatoes and eggs. Place in bowl, then mix in the remaining ingredients. Put aside one boiled egg to cut in circle shapes for garnishing top of salad. Add paprika as additional garnish. Serves six.
-- Charlynne Fry
Maynor Goulash or "Meatballs"
1 big can V-8 or tomato juice, at least a quart (if using tomato juice, add salt)
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork (optional; if not used, increase ground beef)
1 onion, chopped
3/4 cup uncooked rice
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 or 2 cans sauerkraut, drained (or the refrigerated kind, which is what I like best)
Pour V-8 juice into a crock pot, and let it start heating up. Mix together ground beef, ground pork, chopped onion, rice, egg, salt and pepper. Using your hands, roll mixture into meatballs. Drop meatballs into the crock pot, making sure they all get in the juice. Cook 4-6 hours on high or longer on low. About 1 hour before serving, add the kraut (kraut may be added at the beginning, but waiting will leave the kraut with more texture).
Serve with rolls and maybe some Southern-style green beans, deviled eggs and a big glass of sweet tea.
-- Robbi Moorhouse