By Donna Cornelius
“Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably,” C.S. Lewis said.
The famous writer would have felt right at home at the Homewood Public Library, where food is the focus of several classes, special events – and a new club.
Judith Wright, the teen librarian, and Charity Huter, an adult services technician at the library, have been sharing recipes with each other for several years. Now, they’ve invited other food lovers to do the same through the library’s Let’s Dish Recipe Club.
The club meets at 6:30 on the first Thursday of every month in the library’s boardroom. Those who attend bring a dish and its recipe.
“We’ll make copies of the recipes for everyone to take home,” Wright said.
Huter said the two friends’ original idea was a cookbook club. Members of these types of clubs usually choose a cookbook and then bring a dish made from a recipe in the book. But because they were afraid the library wouldn’t have enough cop- ies of any one book for all the club members, they decided on a recipe club with a different theme each month.
“Our first meeting was in October, so we did a tailgate theme,” Huter said. “In November, we did a feast of side dishes.”
The group’s Dec. 1 meeting has a holiday- appropriate theme: Christmas cookies. The January meeting will focus on healthy favorites to start off the New Year. In February, members will be asked to bring sweet treats.
Wright said those who attend don’t need to be expert cooks.
“We have men and women of all ages and all experience levels,” she said.
The meetings have no formal programs but always include lively discussions, exchanges of information, a display of cookbooks from the library that might inspire members for the next month’s theme and, of course, eating.
“Even if we have repeats of dishes, it’s fun to see how people do things differently,” Wright said. “No one has the same recipe for sweet potato casserole or dressing. It can be based on where you’re from or how you were raised.”
One member’s contribution to the October meeting was Mexican street corn.
“That’s something I wouldn’t have thought of for a tailgate,” Wright said.
The recipe club isn’t the library’s only activity for foodies. Bartender Clair McLafferty leads a series of cocktail classes; the last class drew more than 70 people, Wright said.
Cozy Cocktails are on the program for the next class, set for Jan. 13 at 6:30 p.m. McLafferty will talk about hot cocktails for cold winter nights, and those who attend can bring their own mugs and enter them into a “most outlandish mug” contest.
Tickets go on sale Dec. 13 at homewoodpubliclibrary.org. Although there’s no charge for the recipe club, tickets to the cocktail classes are $10. Each ticket includes two adult beverages and light refreshments.
While the recipe club and cocktail classes are for adults, the library also encourages young chefs.
“Charity and I came up with a cookie dough class for teens,” Wright said. “They could person- alize the dough and then take it home and bake it.”
The library also has hosted a smoothie challenge for teens and fun competitions called Food Wars.
“For one event, they all got ramen noodles, which we cooked for them, and then added their own ingredients,” Wright said. “We do cupcake wars, too.”
Wright didn’t cook as a child or teenager, although her grandmother is a “really great cook,” she said.
“Now, I love to feed people,” she said.
Huter also used to be a novice in the kitchen. “I didn’t know anything about cooking,” she said. “I got married and had my first child, and the only thing I could cook was spaghetti with sauce from a jar.”
Her culinary education took off when she was in her 20s and became the major cook at Pelham High School.
“There were some older ladies from different cultures, and they taught me how to make things from scratch, how to add flavors,” Huter said. “It was hard to come home and cook for three people after cooking for 1,600.”
Wright said she loves recipes from Taste of Home magazine.
“They’re made with ingredients you have and ingredients you know – and there are lots of photos,” she said.
Huter said her favorites are church cookbooks.
“I also devour anything by Martha Stewart,” she said.
For more information about the Let’s Dish Recipe Club, visit homewoodpubliclibrary.org. com. You can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. al.us to be put on the club’s list.
Delicious Stuff from Let’s Dish
Judith Wright and Charity Huter shared some of their favorite recipes, which should make tasty additions to any holiday menu.
Blue Devil Cheese and Bacon Dip – Charity Huter
1 tub of whipped cream cheese 3⁄4 cup crumbled blue cheese 3⁄4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (Huter uses Hellman’s)
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish 2 tablespoons minced onion (Huter uses dried onion)
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning dash of hot sauce
6 slices bacon, cooked until crisp
Combine all ingredients except bacon in a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Add half of the bacon, and pulse until blended. Add remaining crumbled bacon and stir. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight. Serve with apples or wheat crackers.
Spinach Artichoke Dip – Judith Wright
1 package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 can chopped artichoke hearts
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 to 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
A few dashes of tabasco hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Saute butter and onion in a saucepan until the onions are soft. Add spinach (pat it first with a paper towel to remove all excess water). Saute for two minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.
Quick Rosemary Rice Taste of Home
2 cups chicken broth
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small carrot, shredded
1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Roasted Purple Potatoes with Garlic and Parm
1 1⁄2 pounds of baby purple potatoes, cut in half
2 teaspoons olive oil
6 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all ingredients except parsley. Place on a sheet pan and bake until the potatoes are crispy outside and soft inside, about 45 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.
Cranberry, White Chocolate Chip Nutella Cookies
2 sticks butter, softened
1⁄2 cup nutella
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1⁄2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 (12-ounce) bag white chocolate chips, divided
1 (5-ounce) bag dried cranberries, divided
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and Nutella and mix until creamy. Add light brown sugar, sugar and baking soda; continue to beat until combined. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla and continue to mix until thoroughly combined.
Add flour in batches, beating each batch until combined. (Stir in the last batch of flour if necessary.) Stir in half of the white chocolate chips and half of the dried cranberries.
Drop batter by rounded spoonsful 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until edges are just browned.
Cool on cookie sheets for 2 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.
As the cookies cool, decorate them with the remaining white chocolate chips and dried cranberries. Cool cookies completely.
Makes 6 dozen cookies.