Chat With Casserole Queen Allison DeMarcus (And A Giveaway)

Country Music's Greatest Eats

Country Music’s Greatest Eats & CMT host Allison DeMarcus

It’s a classic Southern fairy tale: Beauty queen meets country music star, and they fall in love and live happily ever after. Except for that time said country star invited the entire cast of Nashville to their Tennessee abode with less than 24 hour’s notice—don’t worry, more to come on that.

While Allison DeMarcus wears many hats as wife to Jay (bassist, guitarist, and vocalist for Rascal Flatts), mother of two, host of CMT’s Reel Eats, and philanthropist, she still finds time to whip up a casserole or two.

A few of Allison’s one-dish wonders appear in our latest cookbook, a collaboration with CMT that’s a little bit country, a little bit family, and a whole lot of good food. In honor of Country Music’s Greatest Eats (released last week), we sat down with the Jackson, Tennessee, native to talk food, family, and, of course, casseroles.

On country music’s new family cookbook
“It didn’t seem like [Country Music’s Greatest Eats] was supposed to start out as a family cookbook, but those are the recipes that the artists shared because those are their favorites. Miranda Lambert shared her mom’s favorite recipe for meatloaf that she makes for her every year on her birthday. Wynonna [Judd] shared a recipe from her Great-aunt Toddie that she now makes for her daughter. There are a lot of great stories to tell that all stem from family.”

On casseroles
“When Tanner [Latham] called me to do my interviews for the book, he said, ‘Allison, you do realize that every recipe you sent is a casserole?’ I said, ‘You do realize that I’m from the South? That is what we do—we throw it all in a Pyrex.”

On dinnertime at the DeMarcus home
“Jay does the cooking. I’m usually wiping something off the floor.”

On entertaining
“I love to set my table, to get out trays. I love setting it all up. That’s just as fun for me as it is to eat it all. We do love to entertain, and we entertain often, so I always try to have one thing that is personal if I have someone cater it.”

On surprise guests
“Jay drops some bombs on me, so I have to enlist help when he, all of the sudden, decides that he is going to invite the entire cast of Nashville to our house the next day.”

Nashville lesson learned—on keeping calm
“Keep someone’s number on standby, so you can enlist help and don’t actually end up hurting your husband when he invites people over to your house.”

On juggling it all
“I don’t sleep a lot. I just have to stay focused on what I have right there in front of me. I really try to make sure that my focus, when I’m not on set working, revolves around my kids. They deserve and warrant all of my attention, and if I’m not giving it to them, they will let me know.”

On advice from her mom
“She always encourages me to take time for myself. I have a very selfless mother, so it’s hilarious to me that she emphasizes this. She has always told me to keep doing what I want to do, so that I will always have a professional happiness, in addition to my personal happiness.”

Enter for a chance to win five copies of Country Music’s Greatest Eats! Tell us about your favorite family recipe in the comments section below. See official rules. Contest begins today and ends Friday, May 16.

COMMENTS

  1. Kelly Morrow

    My grandmother’s chocolate pound cake with chocolate icing. It’s heavenly!

    May 16, 2014 at 8:30 am
  2. merelymadisondesigns

    My grandmother’s banana pudding!

    May 15, 2014 at 7:35 pm
  3. Carolsue

    That would probably be something called Sawdust Pie with coconut and pecans, or maybe our family potato salad!

    May 15, 2014 at 6:06 pm
  4. Susan Ruhne

    My grandmothers eclair recipe, which she taught me to make & it’s still a great dessert that makes a huge impression…. without much actual work!

    May 14, 2014 at 6:11 pm
  5. Patti j

    Sour cream salad. We have that every Thanksgiving and Christmas. It isn’t the holidays without it. It’s even good in the summer as a great side dish or dessert.

    May 14, 2014 at 4:56 pm
  6. Tracey Hinson

    My grandmother’s Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. Raw Ground Beef, uncooked Rice, spices, and diced tomatoes stuffed inside steamed cabbage leaves and rolled, she made rows and then layers between sauerkraut, cabbage leaves, and tomato sauce until she filled a pan. She slow cooked them for hours in a roaster pan in the oven. My aunt taught me to make them this past year. So delicious.

    May 14, 2014 at 2:40 pm
  7. Carolyn G.

    Anything my Grandmother would cook or my Mother cooks. My Grandmother cooked without recipes – Tea Cakes from scratch – they were fantastic. My Mother started cooking at the age of nine and she hasn’t stopped. She is known as the “pie lady” at her Church. She also makes the best black berry cobbler (without seeds!). Their home made biscuits are awesome. I have never had anyone’s cornbread dressing that I love more than theirs.

    May 14, 2014 at 1:23 pm
  8. Debbi Wilson

    My very favorite is a recipe my Mom came up with (it includes chicken, green beans, mushroom soup and a few “secret” ingredients and we call it “Nannie’s Casserole”! YUM!

    May 14, 2014 at 12:10 pm
  9. Rachel

    My favorite family recipe is my Grandmom’s macaroni. It’s a classic depression-era recipe developed by my resourceful, hardworking grandmother who raised eight kids on precious little. The recipe itself is bare bones – elbow macaroni, condensed tomato soup and sharp cheddar cheese. But it’s made with love and on special occasions and so it holds gourmet status in our family.

    As a little girl I was fascinated by my Grandmom and her ability to cook the most amazing range of dishes. She never used recipes and always cooked from scratch. And each thing she made was completely unique. So I was honored when at around six years old she started passing her recipes down to me and teaching me how to cook.

    The first dish I got the chance to work on with her was macaroni. I proudly poured the dry noodles into a steaming pot of water, stirring carefully as they cooked. Once the pasta was done we went to work on the sauce. It was then that Grandmom realized she forgot an ingredient and sent me to fetch it from the refrigerator. “Please go and get the ‘mouse cheese,’” she said. My eyes drew wide and I was confused. What was mouse cheese? Was it made from mice? Was that why Grandmom’s macaroni tasted so different from other types of mac and cheese I had tried? I was horrified. And I started to cry. Grandmom quickly got to the bottom of my distress and cried her own tears of laughter once she realized my mistake. “No, silly, mouse cheese isn’t made from mice, it’s just what we called it because it was the least expensive type of cheese you could buy; because it was the cheese you would use to bait a mouse trap.” I still wasn’t sure about this “mouse cheese,” why on earth would you call it that if it wasn’t made out of mice. But we pressed on and I learned how to make her macaroni.

    Grandmom passed on many years ago, but her recipes live on. Each holiday or special occasion when I make her macaroni I remember being in her warm little kitchen and my first cooking lesson. And then I pick up the mouse cheese and wonder…maybe it really is made out of mice?

    May 14, 2014 at 11:18 am
  10. Nancy Vance

    Our family favorite is my mother’s pie crust with any pie filling. WE LOVE PIES! She uses boiling water to whip the crisco and what a yummy melt in your mouth flaky crust. We’ve never known anyone else who uses this method. I’d love to share it with you.

    May 14, 2014 at 9:40 am
  11. Janyne Wilson

    Most of the family recipes that I continue to make are from my Grandmother Odrie. She was the oldest of 10 kids and the only girl. She had to take over cooking for the family at age 6 due to her mother’s poor health. Odrie grew up during the Depression and learned to make delicious filling meals with very limited ingredients. She became a wonderful, gifted cook and teacher. She entered her baking and canning in the county and state fairs every year and consistently took home the first place ribbons. After her death at age 68 we found 2 boxes that contained over 500 first place ribbons and award letters for the baking and canning entries in various competitions dating back to her pre-teen years!
    My personal favorites were her Lemon Meringue and Apple pies and fruit and berry cobblers.
    Another favorite family recipe is “Bishop’s Bread”. It is a delightfully moist and fragrantly spiced Coffee Cake created specially for Bishop Joseph D’ Alton by my Great Great Grandma Lu’Ella during the 30 years she served as the Bishop’s housekeeper.

    Incredible ladies who passed on their skills and love for generations still to come!

    The Cookbooks would be a welcome addition to my kitchen and family!

    May 14, 2014 at 5:16 am
  12. Mary Ann S.

    When my kids were little we were really poor. So I made a lot of food that would feed 4 hungry kids and my husband and I. One of my kids favorites, that I still fix them occasionally, was what we simply called goulash. Hamburger meat, boxed mac and cheese, onions, tomatoes, tomato sauce and garlic powder. It was surprisingly good and became a comfort food for us even after we could afford to eat better. That brings back a lot of memories.

    May 14, 2014 at 2:21 am
  13. patti k

    Crock pot beef stroganoff served with egg noodles is a favorite in our family. It basically cooks itself, which makes it so easy and it’s special enough to serve to guests! I would love to add this cookbook to my collection… Thanks for the chance to win!

    May 13, 2014 at 11:12 pm
  14. ZULA PRESSEY

    WE LOVED THE LETTUCE AND ONIONS SCALDED WITH HOT BACON GREASE

    May 13, 2014 at 10:31 pm
  15. Martha Ann Davis

    I believe that our family favorite is my Mother’s ” macaroni pie” as we call it! I think I have finally learned the secret of the exact ingredients & the layering of macaroni & different cheeses to make my mom’s delicious creation! I served it this past Mother’s Day, & she complimented me on it!!

    May 13, 2014 at 10:10 pm
  16. gmcl

    My mother-in-law’s Chicken Enchilada Pie is still a family favorite after 45+ years. It’s had a few additions and ‘tweaks’ over the years, but is still the same basic recipe she shared all those years ago.

    May 13, 2014 at 9:46 pm
  17. Amy Connelly

    My Grandma Keen used to make the BEST baked beans! She gave me a list of the ingredients she used but she never measured anything while she cooked. She’s gone now and I still keep trying to duplicate her recipe, no success yet but I keep trying!

    May 13, 2014 at 9:24 pm
  18. Barbara

    Our favorite recipe is my Mother’s cornbread dressing recipe. Several of my friends’ families are making it now, too!

    May 13, 2014 at 9:15 pm
  19. Bailey Schniederjan

    My favorite family recipe has to be my mom’s rum cake. It is Heaven on earth!! She makes it for my birthday every year :)

    May 13, 2014 at 8:32 pm
  20. Mary Zelli

    My Mom’s spaghetti sauce, which everyone in the family loves. Sometimes she uses tomatoes that she’s canned herself, sometimes canned tomatoes. Always there are homemade meatballs, and if we’re lucky, pork chops and pepperoni. Generally before dinner, my nieces and sister will have a “cup” of sauce in a mug as they love the flavor. Great sauce to freeze, reheat or just eat.

    May 13, 2014 at 8:28 pm
  21. Israel Melloy

    As 5th generation Irish the family favorite hands down is corned beef and cabbage with a side of great grandmas soda bread.

    May 13, 2014 at 8:12 pm
  22. Teresa Kirby

    My kids love plain oid tuna casserole.Egg noodles, Albacore tuna, cream of celery soup, milk, cheddar cheese and curry powder. Easy!

    May 13, 2014 at 8:02 pm
  23. Liz H.

    Moravian Sugar Cake was passed down through at least 4 generations on my dad’s side of the family. The season of Advent and Easter aren’t quite the same without this moist, buttery, sugar cake. I was gifted the recipe as an engagement present from my Great Aunt Margy shortly before her memory began to fade. I made my first cakes that December and will continue until I can pass it along to my children.

    May 13, 2014 at 7:59 pm
  24. Jill Flament

    Our family favorite has to be chicken and noodles. It never fails to please and is easy to double or adjust for more guests!

    May 13, 2014 at 7:54 pm
  25. Janice Bannister Feaster

    The Feaster family Christmas isn’t complete without Nancy Tredway’s Swedish Spritz, delicate wreaths adorned with green and red candied cherries. Great-grandparents Elbert and Doris Feaster started the tradition with their couples’ holiday afternoon of cookie baking and candy making. We’ve continued the tradition with their grandchildren, only the joke among them is that whoever the new girlfriend or boyfriend is has to “cut the cherries,” a sticky and time-consuming task! These cookies are a nice complement to the cornflake holly cookies our daughter loves and everyone’s favorite gingerbread boys and girls.

    May 13, 2014 at 7:36 pm
  26. Lee Mathis

    That’s easy, Sauerbraten, as it was the meal my Mom always cooked for us during the holidays. I used to hate it when I was young, but as I grew older, I really started to like it and now, I do it myself, maybe a little tweaked up from my mom’s recipe, but…

    May 13, 2014 at 7:09 pm
  27. Kirsten Parriott

    Two of my kids’ favorite dinners are based on my mom’s recipes – chili and beef stew. Very simple, but so satisfying!

    May 13, 2014 at 7:05 pm
  28. sally toerner

    My mother made the best cornbread dressing and she would cook a pork roast on top of it.

    May 13, 2014 at 7:05 pm
  29. Ruby harris

    Hands down it is MaMaw Kathryn’s Apricot Nectar Pound Cake! Delicious and most requested dessert in my family.

    May 13, 2014 at 7:03 pm
  30. Donna Armstrong

    You probably have never heard of it but my favorite is scalded lettuce and onions.

    May 13, 2014 at 1:31 pm
  31. rusthawk

    My family favorite is a hearty gumbo, generally with chicken and andouille sausage, very seasoned and cooked all day.

    May 13, 2014 at 1:18 pm
  32. Maureen

    A favorite family recipe spans many ages. My nephews and nieces who are young like it, my siblings do and then my parents and aunts and uncles. It is a recipe that I make and it is one that I bring out each holiday or family brunch time–spinach leek bacon quiche. It is easy but so tasty. Lately even without the spinach (as my father is on a blood thinner and can not have the spinach in his diet) it is tasty .

    May 13, 2014 at 10:21 am
  33. Nichole S

    my favorite family recipe is bruschetta chicken pizza…my mom wasn’t too much of a cooker so I’ve taught myself and am teaching my girls planning on passing down my own creations to them and hopefully starting new traditions

    May 13, 2014 at 7:22 am
  34. Jessica E.

    That is tough! My mama and my aunts can cook! I do love my mother’s meatloaf meatballs. She got the recipe from a church member. My all time favorite dressing recipe was my Uncle Steve’s Aunt Doris Ann. Sadly, she passed away years ago and her daughter doesn’t have the recipe. I would always hunt her dressin down! :)

    May 12, 2014 at 10:36 pm
  35. Carla

    Our all time favorite recipe is “Grandma Wrights’s” pound cake. It is the most passed along. My daughters (fifth generation) are learning to make it now.

    May 12, 2014 at 8:29 pm
  36. BethA

    Well, this is hard to narrow down. I guess I would have to say my grandmother’s cornbread dressing. Or maybe my parents’ chicken spaghetti. Ooh, now I’m hungry!

    May 12, 2014 at 6:34 pm

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