By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — A line of people moved from table to table inside the Laurel-London Optimist Club on Tuesday night, accepting samples of healthy foods that can be incorporated into the holiday season.
From table decor ranging from Christmas trees with a University of Kentucky theme to microwave candies from Tupperware, the offerings extended from American traditional treats to native favorites from other countries.
From muffins to turkey dinner pie, the 201 persons attending Tuesday night’s event taste tested meat, soups, and desserts ranging from cocktail meatballs, calico bean soup, pan rolls, and chocolate chip cookies.
The 16th annual Holiday Cooking School, sponsored by the eight counties comprising the Cumberland Valley area of the University of Kentucky’s County Extension Service, offered demonstrations of food preparation as well as recipes for the holiday season.
Nearly one-third of the participants were from Laurel County, according to Judi Cissell O’Bryan, Family and Consumer Sciences agent for the London office. That number, she said, was down from last year’s attendance, although the number of participants has steadily increased over the past 15 years since the cooking school began.
This year’s event, like in the past, offered the tasting samples and demonstrations as well as a cookbook containing recipes for all featured samples during Tuesday’s event. As participants went through the lines for samples, several tables offered recipes and informational brochures.
The Harlan County Homemakers Clubs worked together to comprise a handbook containing recipes and craft ideas to enhance the holiday spirit.
Sarah Brandl, with the state’s Nutrition and Education Program, gave a demonstration on “Master Mixes,” which can be frozen and reserved for use at a later time. Brandl told those in attendance that choosing freezer bags for such projects was better than the storage bags because the freezer bags were made of thicker plastic that protects against freezer burn. She also told participants of a change in food tastes in America.
“Salsa is the number one condiment in the U.S.,” she said. “Ketchup is number two. Who would have ever thought that?”
Brandl said making master mixes is both economical and convenient because the Mexican Mix she prepared on Tuesday night can be divided into three portions.
“Here you have fixed enough for three meals,” she said.
For those interested in learning new recipes and who did not attend the Holiday Cooking School, the cookbook is still available.
Judi Cissell O-Bryan said extra copies are available at the County Extension Office for $20 each. Each year the recipes used in the Holiday Cooking School are compiled into a hardback cookbook, with the recipes varying from year to year.
The Laurel County Extension Office is located on County Extension Road, off Dixie Street, or behind Big Lots off South Main Street. Office hours are 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and they can be reached by phone at (606) 864-4167.
4 lbs. lean ground beef
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup dry bread crumbs
½ cup finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 cups milk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all ingredients. Blend well. Shape mixture into 1 ½ inch balls. Place meatballs on ungreased baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until browned.
Remove immediately and drain on paper towels. When cooled, put about 20 meatballs each into four 1 quart freezer containers, leaving ½ inch space at top. Seal and label with date and contents. Freeze. Use within 3 months.
White Sauce mix
makes 1 quart, good for meats and vegetables
2 cups instant nonfat dry milk or 1 ½ cups regular nonfat dry milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup butter or margarine
Combine dry milk, flour and salt. Mix well. With a pastry blender, cut in butter or margarine until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Put in a large airtight container. Label with date and contents. Store in refrigerator. Use within 2 months.