Stuff and Nonsense: Cookbook Club: Quick & Easy


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!

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