Finding myself through food

The warm summer weather brings barbeques, cook outs, family reunions and the potluck-style party. I have been invited to an increasing number of these events this year and I have noticed that I am constantly bringing the

same dish-pulled pork sandwiches. I usually pick pulled pork because I can put it in my crock pot and forget about it. Since I have been through cooking classes, I feel that I should hold myself to a higher standard and make new things. After browsing the Internet and a variety of cookbooks, I have found some easy ways to spice up the classic “dish-to-pass” items we know, love and are maybe sick of.

The first dish I would like to spice up is the deviled egg. Deviled eggs are something that we have all grown up with. Some people like them and some people like me hate them. Even though I am not a fan of deviled eggs, I do think that some very interesting and clever things can be done with them. Eggs can be filled with just about anything. For the banquet my class held at Northern, we did a deviled egg bar. We had three different kinds of deviled eggs. The banquet guests tried the varieties and loved them.

One of the eggs that was a big hit was the one filled with bacon. The recipe was also very simple. It was a classic deviled egg filling mixed with crumbled bacon and chives. Another fun thing we did was dye the eggs using beet juice.This gave the white portion of the eggs a bright pink color. This is another simple way to make deviled eggs more interesting. All that needs to be done is boil and peel the eggs. Then submerge them in a beet juice and water mixture for 4 hours or even overnight. Other juices that can be used to dye deviled eggs are blueberry juice, red cabbage, curry or turmeric.

I often ask the host or hostess what to bring and they often answer salad. Being asked to bring a salad has never really enthused me, but now that I know some tricks to make an interesting salad, I don’t mind. People will like, and even go back for seconds, when I bring a salad. I like to start my salads with mixed greens mainly because they have different greens that appeal to most people.

I also pick a fresh fruit to go in my salad. I usually pick apples, or pears, but with the summer months come fresh berries that can be added to any salad. My next ingredient for my salad is a nut whether it be slivered almonds, walnuts, or pecans. Nuts add a nice crunch and interesting texture to the salad.

During the winter months, when fresh berries are impossible to find, I use dried berries. I like to top a sweet salad like this with tangy or salty cheese crumbles like feta or bleu cheese. When bringing a salad as a dish to pass I normally will leave the cheese on the side, since not everyone likes feta or bleu cheese. Since I started making salads this way, I rarely bring home leftovers, which is my ultimate goal when attending a pot luck.

While looking up recipes that I could bring to my next pot luck, I came across a plethora of salsa recipes. Salsas that are made from fruits, grilled vegetable salsa and bean salsas. One that caught my eye was the fruit salsa. This would be good to bring as a dessert.

One of the salsas I found had strawberries, navel oranges, pineapple and kiwi. The ingredients were tossed with a little bit of lemon juice and sugar then served with cinnamon tortilla chips. The cinnamon tortilla chips were tortilla shells cut up brushed with butter and then sprinkled with ground

cinnamon and sugar. Another simple salsa recipe that can be made in a pinch is a black bean salsa. All you need is canned black beans, Mexican style corn, diced tomatoes (fresh or canned), chopped green onions and chopped cilantro.

The salsa is made by combining all ingredients in a mixing bowl and refrigerating. I recommend making this salsa the night before you need it, so that the flavors can blend together. Another thing to do with salsas is just use what you have. Mixing fresh produce with canned beans, corn and cilantro will always be a winning salsa for party guests.

I hope that these ideas have inspired you and will make it a little easier to make a dish to pass that you can be proud of.

As promised, I have a gutter garden update. After a few weeks of having my plants in the gutters they died except the ones from Meister’s. This could be chalked up to many reasons. I forgot to water them a few times and they might have just been duds.

Since then I have planted the leftover seeds from my first planting and the new plants look promising. They have been planted for a week and a half and I am starting to get little sprouts coming up.

I am getting very excited and can’t wait to start cooking with them.