My niece said she had a gift for me. I was intrigued; it was long past Christmas, and it wasn’t my birthday. She handed me a large package. Tears came to my eyes when I unwrapped it to reveal a simple wooden box. What Paula had given me was priceless: my mother’s recipe box with its recipes, many handwritten by Mom and her dearest friends.

When we cleared out my parents’ Lafayette home, the box had gone to my brother. Later it had been passed on to my niece who decided I should have it.

So many memories came flooding back as I looked through the faded and stained recipe cards and newspaper clippings. Drying dishes as Mom washed. The aroma of dough for yeast rolls rising in the bowl her mother had used for the same purpose. Standing in the kitchen after school stirring a pot on the stove top to make the no-bake cookies I liked so much. Mom making one of her famous — or infamous, depending on the results — substitutions to recipes.

One recipe, Gourmet Chicken With Rice, was probably the first dish I made that wasn’t a dessert. It was popular in Lafayette in the 1960s and 1970s. My mother thought it was the winner of a local recipe contest, but since it calls for canned soup, I suspect it was from Campbell’s.

By the time I was in college that dish had became my go-to choice for impressing company. It was easy and relatively inexpensive, major factors in its favor.

Treat your mom this Mother’s Day to a dish you’ve made yourself. Perhaps you’d like to try my “gourmet” chicken casserole.

Advocate-tested recipe

Gourmet Chicken With Rice

Serves 4 to 6. Recipe is from collection of the late Tillie Baker; original source is unknown.

1 cup uncooked rice

1 (103/4-oz.) can cream of mushroom soup

1 (103/4-oz.) can onion soup

1 (103/4-oz.) can of water

1 frying-size chicken, cut into pieces

Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Place uncooked rice in bottom of 9x12-inch pan; pour soups and water over rice. Mix slightly. Seasson chicken pieces and place on top of rice mixture.

2. Bake at 325 degrees about 1 hour 15 minutes, depending on size of chicken pieces. When chicken has browned on one side, turn and allow to brown on the other side.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s Food editor. Her email address is