Katie and I have said many times that if we could throw dinner parties every night of the week, we would. Gathering together to serve a meal to close friends includes all of our favorite things: food, good wine & cocktails, flowers, and string lights. Turns out, my cousin is basically living our dream. Julia began and has successfully grown and sustained a supper club in Magnolia, Arkansas that is now in its fifth year. I see photos of elaborate tablescapes and carefully plated food on Instagram each month. Every new photo more beautiful than the one before.
“It started out as a way to see each other and hang out before everyone's week got crazy, but it turned into so much more.” Julia says. A conversation over drinks between four friends led to a monthly supper club with a now five year legacy.
“We would take turns each week providing the meat, vegetables/sides and dessert and most of the time we would all be in the kitchen cooking together. This was my favorite part — by cooking together we learned different ways of doing things that our mothers and grandmothers had taught us. It could be the simplest thing, like spraying a measuring cup with Pam before measuring honey, to sure-fire ways of making the perfect roux. I don't think any of us actually thought we would make it this long, but everyone will agree it’s turned into a bright spot in our month.”
Julia says there are two things she loves most about Supper Club; she and her friends have an excuse to take needed time away from the daily grind, and the club has made her a more creative cook. Julia says in five years she doesn't think they’ve repeated a meal once. (This is so baffling to me, mad props to Julia & the Supper Club!)
One of the first things she prepared for the club is this Mexican Lasagna, a recipe from a close family friend that she’s added her own flare to over the years. Served at her family farm outside under the twinkly lights, she knew it was an instant hit. We both agree one of the best things about this recipe is its versatility — if you double the chicken mixture, you can make tortilla soup by adding just four easy ingredients. There is nothing better than getting two meals out of one prep session. (Recipe for the soup below!)
Like Katie and I both, Julia claims food as her love language, “I think that is just part of being a southern woman. It's how we show affection and that we care. New baby? Bring them a meal. Someone passes away? Bring them a meal. Moving into a new house? Bring them a meal. There are very few events in life that a southern lady won't show up on your doorstep with a basket full of food — and usually enough to feed your entire extended family. I don't know how to cook for just 1 or 2... my worst fear is not having enough food so therefore, my meals usually serve anywhere between 8-15 depending on the occasion.”
Julia and I share the same grandmother (Cora) that part of this blog is named after, so it’s no surprise we are both wildly influenced by her and the other incredible home cooks in our family.
“I think one of my favorite things to do is just to sit in someone else's kitchen and watch them cook. I love to see how people prepare their meals and what substitutes they use when they realize they forgot to pick up an item at the grocery store. I think that is the marking of a truly good cook — someone who can use what they have and still make it great.”
*To download a printable PDF version of this recipe click here.
- Pre-heat oven to 350° and lightly grease 13x9 baking dish.
- Boil chicken until fully cooked, shred using a fork. In a soup pot, combine chicken, bell pepper, garlic, jalapeño, corn, black beans, tomato sauce (15 & 8 oz.), Rotel, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Bring to boil over med-high heat, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.
- While chicken mixture is simmering, combine sour cream and cream cheese — set aside in refrigerator until ready to assemble lasagna.
- For assembly, spoon 1/3 of chicken mixture into baking dish, top with lasagna noodles, spread ½ of cream cheese mixture over noodles, spoon 1/3 of chicken mixture over cream cheese mixture, top with ½ of pepperjack and cheddar cheeses. Repeat layers ending with pepperjack and cheddar cheeses on top.
- Bake 30-45 minutes or until bubbly. Rest 10 minutes before serving.
NOTE: The recipe calls for oven-ready lasagna, but I had regular on hand so that is what I used. Julia says either is fine!
* BONUS TORTILLA SOUP RECIPE
Double the chicken mixture and add:
- 1 onion diced and sautéed
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 can diced tomatoes (I like Hunt’s Fire Roasted)
- 3 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Simmer 1-2 hours. Serve over tortilla chips in bowl and top with grated cheese. (Can also be frozen for an easy meal at a later date.)