Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Riley Family Cookbook and Crusty Chicken Fingers

WHEW! This has been a busy week! I'm the first to admit to being a terrible procrastinator BUT also being pretty good in a lurch, so this week was my own fault! I "volunteered" to make a family cookbook for the Riley side of the family. It was penance for being "lost" for many years. OK,  I know you are just dying to hear the story....
My Dad was an only child, but his Dad was one of 13 children. All the cousins (first cousins to my Dad, something once removed to me?) live in Tennessee and Kentucky. Our little family had lost contact way off down in Alabama especially after my grandparents and parents all died. One day I was going through a box of my Grandmother's "stuff" and found a list of several cousins whose names I recognized as family who visited my grandparents when I was little (here I go again, little, not young). So, on a whim, I called one. Got no answer, so called the next on the list. When someone answered you can imagine what they were thinking as I said, "I believe we're related. I'm the granddaughter of Leo Riley." Thankfully, I have really nice cousins and she did NOT hang up on me! Instead she said they had been looking for me! I was the only "branch" (although a tiny one) of the family tree unaccounted for!

She also invited me to the family reunion held every other year in Glasgow, KY. Having been raised an only child, it blew me away the next summer when I walked into a room of over 100 people who are all cousins! And that was only the tip of the iceberg! There were more on the family list that were not there!! Somehow they knew that I had worked for Southern Living as a cookbook editor and brought up the idea of a family cookbook. The cousin who answered her phone and welcomed me so warmly back into the fold looked my way expectantly. What choice did I have? Bill nudged me and said, "You might as well volunteer before they draft you!" He was right and on the spot I inherited a project that had been once or twice begun but never completed.

It's been in my hands for 4 years and now is a few weeks away from the publisher's deadline in order to get it back for this year's family reunion! I spent a week sitting at the computer typing the handwritten recipes of older cousins. The editor in me wanted to "clean up" the recipes and shape them into a standard recipe format. Then it hit me that I was losing the "voices" of the cooks! I'm sure I don't need to tell you that our family is a bunch of talkers. And the recipes are as well! So, the cookbook will not have a huge number of recipes, but it will be a lot of pages of hints, tips, side notes and family history.
Cousin Ellen has done a phenomenal job of collecting family photographs, preserving, recording and displaying them each year so that we have a visual history of our family back to the early 1800's. Now, we will have one more piece to add - The Riley Family Cookbook! How exciting is that?

All THIS to say, by the time for supper rolled around, I was exhausted and in no mind to cook. One night I absolutely refused and announced that we were going OUT to eat Mexican! LOL! That was perhaps the first time I've done that  - ever! The next night, I found a really easy recipe that I wanted to try. I think you'll like it. It's easy, a no brainer and tastes really good!

If you'd like to make a family cookbook, I will be happy to give you pointers. But, I will NOT type the recipes for you!

Crusty Chicken Fingers
 1 clove garlic, crushed
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 - 3 tablespoons sour cream
1 stack Ritz crackers, finely crushed
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons dried parsley
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 8 chicken tenders

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lighly grease a baking dish.
Combine garlic, butter and sour cream in a shallow dish (pie plate) . Combine crushed crackers, Parmesan cheese and parsley in another shallow dish (pie plate). If using chicken breasts, pound between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to 1/4-inch thickness. Dip chicken in butter mixture then roll in cracker mixture. Arrange on greased baking pan. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until golden brown.

Note: I think you could use crushed tortilla chips and chili with Monteray Jack cheese for a different taste. Or use Panko instead of Ritz. Lots of possibilities with this recipe... This does not need salt added since the crackers and the Parmesan cheese are both salty!


  1. The cookbook sounds like a real treasure! Great recipe, too! I am heading for the! I'm only 20 minutes or so away from the places you mentioned! Thanks!...hugs...Debbie

    1. We should plan to get together this summer while we are up for the reunion! e-mail and tell me where you are!