10 October 2018

Wordless Wednesday: Wild Asters

Wild asters blooming along the Farmington River.

07 October 2018

An Excess of Eggplant


Look at that handsome Under-Gardener with his arms full of aubergines. Does he look a bit stunned by the number of fruits cradled in his arms? Does he wonder what suspicious aubergine-enriched meals await him?

As you can see, we are suffering from an excess of eggplant (that's "aubergine" if you're English). When I planted three wee, spindly seedlings in May I hardly expected them to amount to much. At best, one might thrive while the others dwindled and died. More likely, none would survive to fruit. And then, this.

These plants aren't anything special -- just your classic Italian eggplant -- and I did absolutely nothing for them aside from a bit of fertilizer early on. But the amount of fruit coming off them since late August has been, well, bonkers.

So what do we do with all that eggplant? While I've taken an occasional basket to work, mostly we've just eaten them.

Betty Crocker's "Baba Ghanoush" is definitely my go-to recipe. It's easy, delicious, keeps well, and is well-suited to my snacky lifestyle. I've tried other baba ghanoush recipes, but Betty Crocker's is the one I keep coming back to. The addition of roasted chickpeas just gives it that extra bit of something.

I've also made Martha Rose Shulman’s "Lasagna with Tomato Sauce & Roasted Eggplant" from the New York Times with fabulous results. It reheats well, so don't be concerned about the amount of leftovers it makes.


In a pinch, I roast cubed eggplant with cherry tomatoes, onion, and garlic and then toss the vegetables with cooked multigrain pasta, feta, basil, and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

Most recently, I made Betty Crocker's "Stuffed Eggplant." This was an delicious, easy Sunday dinner that even The Husband enjoyed. I did make some alterations to the recipe, cooking the onion, pepper, and garlic together in the olive oil, then adding the beef so I didn't dirty two skillets. I also used a blend of shredded cheddars instead of pecorino Romano, because cheddar is all I had.


And there are still more eggplant.

05 October 2018

Around Connecticut: The Sweet Beet


I've been following The Sweet Beet, a vegan health food market in Granby, on Instagram for almost a year now and their postings invariably fill me with a strong desire to get in my car and head north. Unfortunately, Granby is about 45 minutes from here and that always seemed like a long way to go to get a smoothie or chickpea salad sandwich. Until Friday, that is.

This was my Friday off -- the perfect time to tootle around the northern part of the state, admiring the fine beginnings of fall, collecting my farm share, and drinking vegan yumminess. I headed north from West Hartford after therapy, reducing my trip to a mere half hour. Pulling into Sweet Beet's shared parking lot, I found myself full of a mixture of excitement and trepidation. I had looked forward to visiting for so long ... surely I had overhyped the place in my head?


Happily, no. The Sweet Beet is charming and staffed with very nice, helpful people who want you to have an exemplary shopping experience. I obtained the "Candy Corn" smoothie (boo-nana, pineapple, mango, turmeric, carrot, hemp, cinnamon, and coconut ... best smoothie I've had in 2018) of my recent fantasies, as well as a number of interesting krauts and pickles, several store-made ready meals for work, and a few mini cupcakes ("Sweeties") to share with The Husband.

04 October 2018

Easy Salmon & Summer Vegetable Bake

I love my farm share, but there comes a point every week where I become overwhelmed by the contents of my kitchen and feel ALL.THE.VEGETABLES.MUST.GO. This salmon dish is one of my favorite easy ways to use those vegetables up as it makes for both a filling and colorful supper. Prepping and assembling the dish only takes a few minutes and then I can just ignore it as it bakes.

I like to serve this over rice, drizzled with the delicious pan juices, but sometimes the tomatoes aren't so juicy and then I serve it with mashed potatoes. Basically, we like carbs.


Easy Salmon & Summer Vegetable Bake

Yield: 3

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boned salmon fillet
  • 8 oz small zucchini, sliced into ¼-inch thick coins
  • 2 oz coarsely chopped shallot
  • 6 oz small grape tomatoes
  • 3 oz red, yellow, and orange bell pepper strips
  • Olive oil
  • Penzeys "Florida" salt free seasoned pepper (or what have you)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Lightly oil a 13x9-inch baking dish.
  3. Place salmon in dish and surround with zucchini, shallots, tomatoes, and peppers.
  4. Drizzle salmon and vegetables with olive oil. Season as needed.
  5. Bake 30 minutes or until salmon reaches 145°F and flakes easily with a fork.

03 October 2018

Wordless Wednesday: Sage

Love the soft, velvety texture of sage leaves.

19 September 2018

Wordless Wednesday: Corn

Always—I never knew it any other way—
The wind and the corn talk things over together.
And the rain and the corn and the sun and the corn
Talk things over together. ("Laughing Corn," Carl Sandburg)

12 September 2018

Wordless Wednesday: Butterfly Weed

The butterfly weed has begun blooming again. I've never had a second bloom from it before.

09 September 2018

Sunday in the Garden

I planted a wee pot of pineapple sage by the hummingbird feeder in late May as I'd heard its flowers were attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. Well, for the longest time the plant did nothing. Threw out the occasional red blossom, yes, but otherwise just sat there, looking gangly and unloved. I guess it was gathering energy, because the pineapple sage experienced a huge burst of growth in late July and now, in September, has completely taken over a third of the raised bed. The spiky red flowers are quite plentiful and the hummingbirds have been skipping right over the feeder to get to the flowers.


In Connecticut, pineapple sage is best treated as an annual but I am going to heavily mulch the crown when the foliage dies back and hope the plant will come back on its own. Otherwise, its back to Agway next spring for a new one!


That's a 48-inch black steel shepherd hook the hummingbird feeder is hanging off and the vegetable bed is about 18 inches deep, making the pineapple sage around 2½ feet tall!

06 September 2018

Roasted Vegetables With Pasta

I've become less and less of a follower of recipes. I used to browse cookbooks all the time, looking for new recipes to try. I would visit multiple shops to track down just one weird ingredient. Now I look in my fridge and make whatever comes to mind. Tossing in a bit of this and a bit of that until I'm happy. Which is great for easy time-saving meals, but terrible for food blogging.

Anyway, this is one of those meals that I toss together quite often but never talk about because it's not "interesting" or "pretty" enough. You can use whatever vegetables you have on hand -- although you'll need to be adjust cooking times if you use "firmer" vegetables like winter squash -- and whatever seasoning blend pleases you most.



Roasted Summer Vegetables With Pasta

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 14 oz zucchini, cut into ¼ coins (3 small)
  • 8 oz yellow onion, halved and cut into wedges (1 large)
  • 15 oz plum tomatoes, chopped (3 large)
  • 3 oz bell pepper strips (4 mini)
  • 3 oz small grape tomatoes (a generous handful)
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Penzeys Tuscan Sunset salt-free seasoning blend
  • Onion powder
  • Roasted garlic powder
  • 8 oz cooked pasta
  • Crumbled feta

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Brush baking sheet with olive oil.
  3. Place vegetables on baking sheet.
  4. Drizzle with oil and season as desired.
  5. Roast for 30 or until desired tenderness, stirring everything half way through.
  6. Toss with cooked pasta and sprinkle with crumbled feta. Eat.

05 September 2018

30 August 2018

Mom's Coleslaw

My most recent CSA farm share included a very large "Gunma" cabbage. This variety of cabbage is, I am told, highly sought after because it is a tender and sweet cabbage with a large flat shape that makes it perfect for stuffing. Well, while I love to eat stuffed cabbage, I have never made stuffed cabbage before and am unlikely to start soon.

So far, I've thrown an eighth of the cabbage in a minestrone soup, roasted a quarter of it with onions, and used another quarter to make my Mom's coleslaw. This is a very basic slaw, but it was served at every childhood Easter and family picnic and I retain a certain nostalgia for it.


The recipe is just an estimation. It is totally up to you how much milk or mayonnaise or seasoning you use. For me, I like a slightly dry, garlicky slaw so I used a half cup of mayonnaise and two tablespoons milk. As for garlic, I sprinkled the roasted garlic powder on until it looked like too much and knew that was exactly the right amount.


Mom's Coleslaw

Yield: 8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups finely shredded green cabbage (about ½ a medium head)
  • 1 carrot, grated coarsely
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder, & dried parsley as desired
  • Mayonnaise, as needed
  • Milk, as needed

Instructions

  1. Combine cabbage, carrot, and seasonings in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise and milk until you like the thickness.
  3. Pour over cabbage and stir to combine.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours (overnight is best).
  5. Adjust seasonings as needed before serving.

29 August 2018

23 August 2018

Tomato, Basil, & Mozzarella Flatbread

Between the garden and our CSA share, we are inundated with tomatoes. The cucumber have mostly given up in this heat and the few that have ripened recently were incredibly bitter, so cucumber and tomato salad is no longer a regular at our table. Instead, I've been slicing the tomatoes, dressing them with a drizzle of white wine vinegar and garlic-infused olive oil, and finishing them with a little sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. My father occasionally chops up vine-warm tomatoes, sprinkles them with sugar, and pours a little cream over them. He says this is good both as breakfast and dessert, but I am not brave enough to try it.

Anyway, I've found sandwiches and flatbreads are a great way to use up our tomato excess. The sandwiches are simple -- take a slice of hearty bread (farmhouse white is most traditional), spread it with mayonnaise, add thick slices of tomato, sprinkle with salt and pepper, add a few basil leaves, top with another slice of bread, smoosh the sandwich together a little bit to make sure everything is well glued together, and eat.


The flatbreads are slightly more complicated, if only because you need to use the oven. To save time, I use a prepared pizza crust, but you could make your own.
  • Slice 8 oz ball fresh mozzarella.
  • Slice a large tomato or tomatoes.
  • Chop a handful of fresh basil.
  • Chop four or five fat garlic cloves.
  • Brush pizza crust with a little garlic-infused olive oil and sprinkle with a salt-free Italian herb blend. Bake in a preheated 450°F oven for 3 minutes or until it crisps and the edges have browned a little.
  • Top with sliced tomatoes, garlic, basil, and cheese. Sprinkle with some freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle with a little more oil and bake 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted.

Makes a beautiful, crunchy pizza bursting with summer flavors.

22 August 2018

15 August 2018

Wordless Wednesday: Fancy Queen Anne's Lace

Never seen so much red in Queen Anne's Lace. Wonder what variety it is.

09 August 2018

Summery Bean & Chopped Vegetable Salad

This summer, my garden seems very reluctant to give me any tomatoes. So far, I've harvested a double handful when I'd usually be up to my eyeballs in delicious cherry and currant tomatoes by now. Garden tomatoes have very much become an supplementary rather than key ingredient in many salads and packed lunches.

This is a kind of "clear out the kitchen salad" which makes good use of stuff you probably already have hanging around. The corn is usually leftover roast corn, but thawed frozen or drained can will work just as well. If you don't have Penzeys Florida seasoning blend, use salt-free lemon-black pepper, garlic, and onion powder to taste.


Bean & Vegetable Salad

Yield: 8

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup lime-infused olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • ½ Tbsp Penzeys Florida seasoning blend
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 cup diced seeded cucumber
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • ½ cup red bell pepper, diced

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, seasoning blend, garlic, and cilantro. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Pour dressing over salad and toss until evenly coated.
  3. For best results cover and refrigerate overnight. Allow to come to room temperature before serving. Adjust seasoning as needed.

08 August 2018

01 August 2018

Wordless Wednesday: Black-eyed Susans

Black-eyed Susan, the best friend of many a lazy gardener.

28 July 2018

CSA Share Goodness

CSA Saturday! Yes, I usually pick up my farm share on Friday afternoons at the farmers market, but with the Italian Festival on I knew that parking would be madness and moved my pickup to the farm. Glad I did, because Gresczyk Farms' store is full of even more deliciousness. Picked up a pint of Hastings Farm honey yoghurt (the best yogurt) and a quart of garlic kosher dill chip pickles. Just been standing in front of the fridge, eating the pickles straight from the tub.

What did I get in my partial share this week?

  • Half dozen eggs
  • Half dozen sweet corn
  • One pound pickling cucumbers
  • Half pint blueberries
  • One bunch golden beets
  • One bunch white onions


I'm not going to do anything fancy with this week's share -- berries in yoghurt with granola, onions and cucumbers in salad, beets roasted and pickled, corn grilled with butter, eggs scrambled with toast.

25 July 2018

Wordless Wednesday: Tomato Season

The cherry tomatoes are beginning to ripen! Hooray, for delicious red orbs.

22 July 2018

Sunday (Not) in the Garden

It rained most of today so I didn't get out in the garden as planned. Yesterday, I pulled the snap peas as they had just about reached their end and I needed a spot to relocate the utterly unhappy chard. Things have not going well at all for the chard, trapped as they have been in the sprawl of Brussels sprouts. This is my first year growing sprouts and I was not sure what to expect so I did not allocate enough space for them and they've taken over, nearly smothering the chard. They are at least growing the way they're supposed to, I think, and mini cabbages are slowly forming along the stalks.


Anyway, the chard have been dug up, replanted, fertilized, and watered. Hopefully all will go well with them from now on and I will soon be inundated with chard ... but not too soon as it's begun to appear in my weekly CSA share and there's a definite limit to just how much chard I can cope with before I make some regrettable smoothies. The limit is two. Two bunches in one week. More than that and I get a little chard crazy.

The cucumbers are in fine fiddle and are, I think, trying to put me to shame. Or actively going to war against me. "Oh, you human, you poopooed us. Dismissed us as weak and doomed to fail and yet here we are burying you in the fruits of our vines." At the moment, my crisper drawer is 70% cucumber and I have resorted to making pitchers of posh cucumber-lemon spa water.

Speaking of things I can't keep a handle on, the basil have bolted and are covered in beautiful white flowers. I feel I should be a bit cross with myself for not reining them in when I could, but they look so lovely in bloom and the bees love it. Who am I to thwart the happiness of bees?


19 July 2018

Not-Too-Creamy Coleslaw

Late last week, Dad texted me to say he'd finally made up his mind about what he'd like for Father's Day. Yes, I know Father's Day was in June and you're all scratching your heads about why I'm talking about Father's Day picnics now. Well, Dad's birthday is the week before FD so we move one or the other so he still gets two separate, special days. The same happens with Mom's birthday and Mother's Day. Anyway, he wanted to come up for a picnic of burgers and salads. Easy enough, I thought, but which salads would he like? Oh, any kind. Whatever I liked. Cook's choice.

So. I made potato salad, bean salad, and coleslaw. Unlike potato and bean salad, while I've eaten a lot of slaw in my life, I don't have a lot of experience making it. When I do, I usually fiddle with Mom's recipe until I have something that seems about right ...


Not-too-creamy coleslaw

Yield: 8

Ingredients

  • 14-oz bag coleslaw mix
  • ½ cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • ½ Tbsp white sugar
  • ½ tsp celery seed
  • ½ tsp dried dill
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp sea salt

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine coleslaw mix, bell pepper, and scallion.
  2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients.
  3. Pour mayonnaise mixture over coleslaw mix and stir until combine.
  4. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Adjust seasonings as desired before serving.

Everyone (Dad most importantly) seemed to like this coleslaw. It was very colorful with good flavor -- tangy and herby, with just the right amount of creaminess and crunch. While we initially ate it as a side dish, it later made a very good burger topping.

15 July 2018

Sunday in the Garden

This week the flower garden is looking particularly good. Flowers are blooming all through the garden, and the colors are charming. Below is a picture of one of my favorite, Geranium "Rozanne," which I have planted in large swaths along the front of the house. Rozanne blooms unflaggingly June through September, always spreading but never sprawling, and just about the time the flowers stop in the fall, the leaves tint a lovely bronzy red. Also, pollinators love it.


Speaking of plants pollinators love, the butterfly weed is also doing well this summer. My mother gave me an envelope of dried butterfly weed seed pods a few years ago and I scattered the seeds in the narrow strip of soil between the garage and the front path lat that fall, not really expecting much, but figuring it couldn't do any harm. Every spring since, a plant has sprung up ... only to succumb to a terrible aphid infestation. Except this year. This year, everything is good. I am suspicious of my luck and have my spray bottle of insecticidal soap on hand, just in case.


Many of the drumstick allium I planted in 2014 have somehow migrated to the opposite end of the garden (I blame ambitious, excavating chipmunks), but are doing so well in their new home I am not inclined to move them back. Also, I am lazy.

I'm not overly keen on ornamental alliums, but drumstick alliums with their egg-shaped green and burgundy umbels are simply fetching. Mine are just on the edge of blooming, but will still be handsome even when overblown and blowsy from the the August sun.







11 July 2018

Wordless Wednesday: Cucumbers!

Wee prickly baby cucumbers growing from the female blooms. If all goes well,
I'll have So. Many. Cucumbers.

08 July 2018

Sunday in the Garden

I hadn't planned on growing cucumbers this year as I have never had any luck with them. It is simply less painful to purchase cucumbers at the farmers market than to fret over the plants as they, inevitably, succumb to powdery mildew or hungry critters. But then I took a vegetable gardening workshop which came with a voucher for a free vegetable seedling cell pack and I thought "What the heck! I'll get some cucumbers! If they die, they die and become compost to feed next year's garden." And that is how three bush pickling cucumber seedlings came to be in my vegetable bed.


Last weekend, while weeding the vegetable beds, I took a good look at the cucumber plants and was pleased to see they were covered in blossoms and tiny cucumbers. The cucumbers have, like most of the garden, positively thrived under my policy of benign neglect. I reckoned that, if everything went well, I'd have cucumbers in another week or so.

Well, today I went out to harvest more peas and discovered not one or two, but five harvest ready cucumbers! The first I saw was just hanging off the edge of the raised bed, playing it cool. I tucked the vine back up into the bed (to avoid death by lawnmower) and then went through the rest of the bed, carefully parting the leaves, until I was sure I'd found all the cucumbers that were ready for harvest.


While I've saved four cucumbers for sandwiches and salads, I immediately rinsed and ate one with a generous sprinkle of brick red Hawaiian-style sea salt. It was everything a cucumber should be. Hooray.

05 July 2018

Snap Pea, Green Bean, & Radish Salad

Today, I breakfasted on peas. Stood in the vegetable garden, splitting the monstrous snap pea pods open with my thumb, and then gobbled up all the green peas like so much candy. The trouble with snap peas is that there are always a few that manage to hide from me and grow monstrously large. Large pea pods are bad, I feel, because the pods have gone hard and are not pleasant to eat even when cooked.

In addition to the monstrous peas, I picked a bowlful of regular-sized snap peas and another of bush green beans. This week's CSA share included an overly generous bunch of radishes I didn't quite know what to do with, so I decided to make a salad of the three.



Snap Pea, Green Bean, & Radish Salad

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • ½ lb green beans, trimmed
  • ½ lb sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 6 large radishes, halved & thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp garlic-infused white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Penzeys Sunny Paris (or similar salt-free blend)
  • Sea salt & coarsely ground black pepper, as desired

Instructions

  1. In a large saucepan, bring two cups of water to a boil. Add beans, cover pan, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes.
  2. Add sugar snap peas, cover, and continue to simmer until beans and peas are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes more.
  3. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Drain vegetables and plunge them into the ice water bath. Remove and pat dry.
  4. In a large serving bowl, whisk together vinegar and seasoning blend. Add beans, peas, and radishes to the serving bowl and toss to coat. Season with salt and peppers, as desired. Serve immediately.

We ate this with grilled steaks and I thought it was quite tasty, but The Husband found the beans too firm and was just generally displeased with the entire combination of vegetables and flavors. As I have been known to eat leftover green beans straight from the fridge, you should probably take my opinion with a grain of salt.

Also, be aware this salad will not keep. I made enough salad for four, expecting to take the leftovers for lunch, but the salad was decidedly the worse for wear for having been refrigerated.

04 July 2018

Wordless Wednesday: Brussels Sprouts

Growing Brussels Sprouts for the first time. Currently, look like they're trying out for a Georgia O'Keeffe painting.

01 July 2018

Sunday in the Garden

This Sunday dawned hot with higher temperatures to come so I was out gardening at six, well supervised by Little Dude. He may be old and increasingly frail, but he still likes to observe the garden doings from his favorite outdoor chair cushion. If he weren't there, keeping and eye on me, who knows what mischief I might get up to! I mean, the last time he wasn't there to supervise the operation a whole swath of anise hyssop disappeared and that was not acceptable.


After a week or so of summery weather, the raised vegetable beds are looking dramatically unkempt. Everything is tall and shaggy with growth. Especially the weeds. Always, the weeds. Admittedly, I am bad at keeping up with the weeds, mainly because I can easily think of many more interesting/fun things to do than weed ... and then I go and do them. (The thing is, though, once I do start weeding, I actually enjoy it. It is so satisfying. It's just the getting started part which is a problem).


I harvested a serving bowl's worth of snap peas and another of bush beans, plus a large bundle of chard. The basil should probably have been cut back, because it's getting ready to bolt, but the sun was already warming the back of my neck by the time I came to that section of the vegetable beds and I felt it was better to retreat to the coolness of the kitchen.


28 June 2018

Cucumber & Tomato Salad With Cheese & Olives

I often serve a simple chopped cucumber and tomato salad as my go-to weeknight side dish, but that can, admittedly, get a little samey-samey from week to week. Happily, the addition of a little fresh soft cheese and olives is a great way to dress it up and make it taste more interesting.

The recipe listed below is just an example. All of the amounts are quite approximate and should be adjusted to suit your own taste/appetite. I seed the tomatoes if I'm using a full-sized one, because otherwise the salad can be bit, well, seedy. However, I don't bother to peel or seed the cucumber because I prefer the added texture. As always, feel free to do your own thing.

Yes, those are fish sticks in the background. No, I have no shame. They were delicious.


Cucumber & Tomato Salad With Cheese & Olives

Yield: 2

Ingredients

  • 4 oz chopped tomatoes
  • 5 oz chopped cucumber
  • 3 oz crumbled feta cheese or fresh goat cheese or perlini mozzarella
  • 1½ oz chopped kalamata olives
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons garlic-infused olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh basil, parsley, or Mediterranean oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Toss all ingredients together in a serving bowl. Allow to rest on the kitchen side (so the flavors can marry) while you grill your chicken, bake your fish fingers, or whathaveyou.

25 June 2018

Cookbook Club: Quick & Easy

Since I launched the library’s cookbook club, I’ve required patrons to make dishes from library cookbooks, but I’ve received a little push back about that at every meeting. I know there are a few patrons that are just dying to bring their favorite recipe -- source be damned -- but this is, officially, a library book club, and we need to utilize library materials or it’s just a potluck that happens to be held at the library and I don’t really know how to justify its continued existence as a library program.

As the most common excuse for bringing a non-library recipe is that it is too difficult to find a good recipe in our cookbook collection, I’ve widened the criteria to include magazines and ebooks. My coworkers rightly pointed out to me that it can be quite difficult to print from an ebook or emagazine, but I reckon it will work itself out. Some patrons will stick with print materials, others will move to digital. Some who move to digital will figure out printing for themselves. Others will need help and get it from me. And, doubtless, some have been saying it’s too hard will still bring their own non-library recipe!

Anyway, June was “Quick and Easy Cooking.” This theme seemed to go over well with everyone and all recipes were library recipes -- two patrons even tried out printing recipes from the library’s emagazine collection, agreeing that was a “pretty okay” experience overall. We had six dishes in total and they were consumed with great gusto. Indeed, this is the first meeting we’ve had where an entire dish was consumed -- usually there are leftovers. Speaking of leftovers, several patrons took disposable coffee cups from the coffee cart and turned them into impromptu takeout containers so they could bring an assortment of deliciousness home with them! (For food safety/CYA reasons I can’t provide takeout containers or encourage patrons to take home leftovers that aren’t their own, but I’m not going to stop them, either. Everyone attending is an adult and can weigh the risks for themselves).


The food:
“Turkey Tea Sandwiches” from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten. Very pretty little finger sandwiches made of date-nut bread spread with scallion cream cheese and layered with smoked turkey and fresh basil. The patron made these the day before, as the recipe said she could do, and they kept very well. It was agreed the fresh basil leaves were a brilliant touch and really made these sandwiches something memorable. There was a lot of talk about when was the last time anyone had actually eaten date-nut bread and how good it was and we should all go out and buy some on the way home. There were no sandwiches left by the end of the evening.


“Sheet-Pan Mushroom Frittata” from the May 2018 digital issue of Rachael Ray Every Day. An easy, 30 minute oven frittata loaded with mushrooms. If you don’t like mushrooms, this is not the dish for you. Patron who brought this said she’d wished the recipe had been available for our brinner meeting, because it would have been perfect for that. She also didn’t know where to get watercress, so substituted an equivalent amount of baby arugula as the Internet told her they had a similar peppery flavor. All the mushrooms lovers enjoyed it, saying it was brilliant with arugula, and leftovers definitely went home with them.


“Ree Drummond’s Mediterranean Orzo Salad” from the June 2018 digital issue of Food Network Magazine. A light and refreshing pasta salad that is easy to make, but still has a ton of flavor going on. The patron who brought this added three tablespoons of fresh basil in with the parsley and replaced the red onion with sweet white as he felt red onions were “too sharp.” This is the perfect summer salad and may patrons expressed in interest in bringing it to their next picnic. One patron recommended turning it into a meal by adding grilled shrimp or chicken.


“Hearty Alfredo Potatoes” from Taste of Home Fresh & Easy. An eight ingredient recipe that makes use of frozen vegetables, jarred sauce, and cooked meat to speed things along. Patron admitted she changed things up by substituting diced ham and peas for the cubed cooked turkey and chopped broccoli as she just didn’t feel like turkey or broccoli. Group consensus was that you couldn’t ever go wrong with potatoes and cheese.


“Fiesta Taco Pie” from Gooseberry Patch Almost Homemade Cookbook. A crescent roll crust is filled with a taco meat filling, covered with sour cream and cheese, and then baked until yum. When garnished with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and sliced olives it looked quite welcoming. Everyone at the meeting was familiar with some variation of the dish and recognized it as pure comfort food. Patron who brought it said it took about 30 minutes to make and, if you skip the garnish, it’s only seven ingredients. (But why would you skip the topping? The topping really makes this dish).


“Crunchy Sesame Chicken Salad” from Betty Crocker’s Fast From-Scratch Meals. A simple salad composed of shredded rotisserie chicken, bagged coleslaw mix, sugar snap peas, shredded carrots, ginger-sesame dressing, scallions, and chow mein noodles. This was my dish and I was quite pleased with how it turned out considering how basic and “no cook” the recipe was. Seriously, the hardest part was trimming and halving the sugar snap peas (halving was not called for in the recipe, but the photo of the salad in the cookbook clearly showed halved peas) and not eating all the wasabi almonds. As with the “Fiesta Taco Pie,” this recipe was a variation on a dish many patrons recognized from potlucks and picnics. Paper cups were filled with leftovers and very little remained for me to take home!