July 29, 2013

On Saturday, my high school classmates and I will gather for our 20-year class reunion. It doesn't seem possible that 20 years have passed since graduation, however, it does feel like a long time ago that I was 18 and getting ready to head to the University of Iowa. Back then my biggest concern was finding coordinating bedspreads for my roommate and me.

Over the years I have kept up with my classmates through email and Facebook. I find it flattering when a friend asks me for information on a friend or classmate of ours, hoping I will know how someone is doing.

This year's reunion has been the easiest to plan so far. Many of my classmates are on Facebook and were able to RSVP through the event page I created.

The Carroll High School Class of 1993 has faithfully met every five years since graduation. At our 10-year reunion, my classmate Nate Olson of Benton, Ark., had the idea to gather at Swan Lake for a family picnic.

Swan Lake has special meaning for Nate as he grew up there. His father, Dave Olson, was Carroll County Conservation director and provided education to the Carroll area. We had a family picnic at our 10- and 15-year reunions and will be meeting there again this time.

The family picnics at Swan Lake are a perfect opportunity for us to enjoy our children, meet our classmates' children, socialize, and enjoy being outside. At the picnics, we bring our own meat to grill and a side dish or dessert to share. There is always plenty of food to go around as the grown-ups watch the kids play, reminisce and catch up on old times.


Tortilla roll-cups are perfect for a picnic. They are colorful and easy to grab. Any combination of cheese, meat and veggies can be used.

4 (9-in) flour tortillas

8 oz cream cheese, softened

baby spinach or lettuce

8 oz mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

½ to 1 lb deli-sliced turkey, ham or roast beef

1 red or green bell pepper, finely chopped or finely chopped cucumber

Spread 2 ounces of cream cheese evenly over the entire surface of each tortilla. Lay baby spinach or lettuce across the surface of cream cheese. Evenly divide and layer the mozzarella, meat and pepper over the spinach or lettuce. Roll each wrap very tightly into a large cigar shape. Cut the rolls into 1-inch slices and place on a serving platter. Discard (or eat) the ends.

Yields about 3 dozen roll-ups

Creamy Scallion Dip

Several years ago, I hosted a bridal shower for my good friend Licia Pettit. I wasn't as prepared as my oven stopped working the day before and I had to call a repairman to come the morning of the shower. I was scrambling until the shower guests arrived. Luckily my mom was there to answer the door as I finished getting ready.

The shower menu included a host of foods including a fresh fruit bouquet and a chocolate fountain. Creamy scallion dip and sun-dried tomato dip were also two of the things I prepared for Licia's shower.

4 cups sour cream

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 lime, juiced

salt and freshly ground pepper

6 chopped green onions

In a large mixing bowl, mix ingredients together. Top with scallions and chill. Serve with tortilla chips.

Chips and Veggies with Sun-Dried Tomato Dip

This dip works well with any type of heavy potato chip or raw vegetable.

¾ lb feta cheese, crumbled

½ cup sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic or ½ teaspoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves

¾ cup milk

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 sack gourmet potato chips

1 lb baby cut carrots

1 green bell pepper, cut into strips

4 stalks celery, cut into sticks

Combine cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, herbs, milk, and black pepper in food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl. Serve with chips and veggies.

Fruited Cheese Salad

One of my first teaching jobs was as a long-term substitute for Brenda Caligiuri during her maternity leave with her first son. A few years later I was engaged to be married and my co-workers held a recipe shower for me and this was one of the recipes given to me by Brenda.

2 cups cottage cheese (drain excess liquid)

2 (3 oz) pkgs jell-O - 1 island pineapple and 1 orange flavor

1 (11 oz) can mandarin orange sections, drained

16 oz whipped topping

1 (13 ½ oz) can pineapple tidbits, drained

Blend together cottage cheese and thawed whipped topping. Stir in dry gelatin. Fold in pineapple and mandarin oranges. Chill overnight.

Cookie Bars

My colleague Paige Strawn baked these bars and brought them to school to share. I asked her how she made them and she gave me her super simple recipe.

1 tube chocolate chip cookie dough

1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese

½ cup sugar

1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the tube of cookie dough in half. Press 1/2 of the tube into an 8x8 sprayed baking pan. Press the cookie dough so that the entire bottom of the pan is covered. Mix cream cheese, sugar and egg together in a bowl until completely mixed. Pour over the crust. Crumble the remaining 1/2 of the cookie dough over the top of the mixture. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Cool and then refrigerate until ready to serve.

Chewy Butterscotch Brownies

One year at Christmas I was searching for an easy recipe for my school's annual cookie exchange with staff and I ran across this recipe. I kept it as it seemed easy enough since bars take less time to prepare than pans of cookies.

2½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened

1¾ cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 2/3 cups (11 oz pkg) butterscotch-flavored morsels, divided

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in 1 cup morsels and nuts. Spread into ungreased 9x13 baking pan. Sprinkle with remaining morsels. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack.

Makes about 4 dozen brownies