I have a collection of crosses in my den. For Christmas, a student gave me a beautiful wooden one with the word “blessed” inscribed on it. As I admired it yesterday, I thought about how truly blessed I am.

I am blessed:

• Having a wonderful family. My only child and his family living right down the street. A precious granddaughter who can ride her bike for a quick visit just to say, “Hi.” My mama living just around the corner from me.

• Having an extended group of friends — some newer ones and some I have known since elementary school.

• Having a job I love. Being at Benton Academy is truly a blessing. The faculty and students are also like family.

• Having six newspaper and magazine publications to write for about whatever I choose and share recipes with my readers.

• Having good health. After a brief stay in the hospital this fall, I realized that you shouldn’t take your good health for granted.

Take a few minutes today and think about your blessings. You’ll be glad you did.

Hope you will enjoy this week’s recipes. Thanks for reading.

BAKED ZITI

1 pound ziti pasta, cooked and drained

1 pound Italian sausage, cooked and drained

1 (15-ounce) ricotta cheese

1 egg

2 tablespoons parsley

2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

1 (26-ounce) jar pasta sauce

Mix ricotta, egg, parsley, 2½ cups Mozzarella cheese and Parmesan in a large bowl. Add sausage and pasta to ricotta mixture, plus ¾ of the pasta sauce. Pour into a greased 2-quart baking dish. Top with the rest of the pasta sauce and remaining Mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes or until bubbly.

BLACK-EYED PEA CHILI

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground sausage

2 tablespoons dried minced onion

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) diced Ro-Tel tomatoes

1 (16-ounce) package frozen black-eyed peas

2¼ cups beef broth

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

½ teaspoon ground red pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

Brown ground beef and sausage in olive oil until no longer pink; drain fat. Combine meat and all other ingredients in a slow cooker, and cook of low for six to eight hours. Serve with slice of buttered cornbread for a delicious meal.

SLOW COOKER CREAM CHEESE CHILI

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 (12-ounce) can corn, drained

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (10-ounce) can diced Ro-Tel tomatoes

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup cooked, chopped bacon

1 (1-ounce) package dry ranch dressing mix

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Place chicken in bottom of slow cooker. Add corn, black beans, tomatoes, broth, bacon and seasonings. Stir and place cream cheese on top. Cover with lid and cook on low for six to eight hours. Shred chicken breasts and stir in melted cream cheese, and add cheddar cheese into the chili.

Contact Lee Ann Flemming at lafkitchen@hughes.net.

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