Shelf Life: Comfort food at its finest

Published 2:15 pm Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fall is my favorite time of year. Crisp sweater weather, leaves changing colors, hiking, football games, Halloween, and … comfort food. Now is the time when we bake pies, make soups and chilis, and enjoy the bounty of the autumn harvest.

We love to celebrate with food at the library and even have a special program just for that purpose – Cookbook Club! It meets on the third Thursday of every month at noon and works pretty simply: make a dish that fits the theme and bring it to the library to share at a potluck lunch. We have a great group right now but would love to have a few more members join us!

Here’s what we have coming up for the rest of 2017:

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Tomorrow is our first Chili Cookoff! This is a really special Cookbook Club event so you don’t want to miss it. Bring a pot of chili or something to go with it, such as cornbread. We will get to taste everyone’s chili and vote on our favorites. Prizes will be awarded for the best traditional, best vegetarian, and most unique chilis!

October’s meeting is our Harvest Feast. Make a dish from something that is currently in season (apples, pumpkins, etc.). In November, the theme is “Comfort Foods & Guilty Pleasures.” What’s your favorite food? Share it with us! December’s program is a bit different due to the holidays. We are meeting on a special day (Friday, Dec. 8) for a Cookie Swap. Everyone should bring two dozen homemade holiday cookies to exchange and the library will provide pizza for lunch.

If you can’t make it to Cookbook Club but still want to enjoy some comfort cuisine this fall, check out the huge selection of cookbooks available at the library. My favorites are Skinnytaste and Pioneer Woman. Skinnytaste is for those looking for healthier options. The author, Gina Homolka, provides detailed nutritional information for every recipe in “The Skinnytaste Cookbook.” Her recipes are not only low-calories, but also easy and delicious! Also check out “Skinnytaste Fast and Slow” if you like to use your slow cooker for meals. Many of the dishes are vegetarian, gluten-free, and freezer-friendly and options include Korean-style beef tacos, pizza-stuffed chicken roll-ups, and peach-strawberry crumble. Yum!

Ree Drummond is better known as the Pioneer Woman, although she also writes children’s books as well. Her recipes are definitely what I’d describe as comfort food. We have all four of her cookbooks here at the library, whether you’re looking for scrumptious home cooking classics (“Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl”), a mouthwatering recipe for Thanksgiving (“A Year of Holidays”), simple dinners the whole family will love (“Dinnertime”), or directions on how to make the best grilled cheese ever (“Food from My Frontier”). She is also releasing a fifth cookbook next month called “Come and Get It!: Simple, Scrumptious Recipes for Crazy Busy Lives.”

I hope to see you at the Chili Cookoff tomorrow. I decided not to compete against any classic family chili recipes and instead will be making Mexican cornbread and sampling everyone else’s culinary creations!

Jen Pace Dickenson is the Youth Services Librarian for Polk County Public Libraries. For information about the library’s resources, programs, and other services, visit or call 828-894-8721.