Monday, May 10, 2010


Since I didn’t really get a chance to talk about the program I attended in class, I thought I would write about it on the blog. One program that looked interesting was a budget gourmet type of program. I like food, and I spend too much money on it, so I thought that would be perfect. I called the number listed to register and it took two transfers to get to the person who could sign me up, and she kind of acted like it was a pain. When I told her why I was calling she sighed and said she would have to stand up and go get the sign-up sheet, and then she paused, as if I would change my mind based on the misfortune she would have to endure if I continued my request. I said nothing and she put me on hold, then came back and took down my name. I thought that they could have made it a more simple process if they wanted people to register for the program, and that her attitude was a bit off-putting. I was still going though.

I arrived early for the program and asked at the circulation desk where it was being held, and they didn’t know. That too, seemed inappropriate to me. Circulation was right in front at this library and there was a large sign advertising the program right next to the desk. Surely they are often asked about the programs and it would not be difficult to keep abreast of where things were happening in the rather small building. Luckily as I walked further into the library I saw chairs set up and handouts on a table, so I didn’t have to ask anyone else.

As people began to show up, I noticed most of the people attending were retirement age. I was expecting from the title of the program more of a mom-type crowd, but the library was not my local one and I didn’t really know the demographics of the area. Based on the handouts the presenter seemed to be expecting more of a family age crowd as well. There were some interesting strategies in the handouts about how to make leftovers stretch and how to coordinate your family’s activities to all have mealtimes together more often.

While we were looking over our handouts, the presenter began setting up her table. She had a little hotplate and had several ingredients out for the dish she was going to show us how to make, Skillet Lasagna. We were actually set up kind of in the middle of the library, rather than in a conference room, so there was quite a bit of traffic going around us. Sitting next to me was a retirement age man, we will call him Floyd, who knew everyone in the library and kept yelling out names and saying hello while people were walking by.

The presenter started by telling us what the program was about, and then remembered to introduce herself, and talked about the recipe she was going to create. She did this while working on the recipe. It was kind of like a cooking show but less organized. Also, she kept talking about budget cooking for families despite there only being a couple of people there who were of the age to still have families at home, me being one of them and I don’t have children. Finally Floyd mentioned to her that he lived by himself and he knew “Ethel” and “Sophia” did as well, so all of this would make too much food for them. She responded that he could freeze parts of it, and then went on with the program.

She didn’t do a poor job, but I did feel like she could have tried to adapt a little more to her audience. To make up for that, Floyd just started yelling out his own tips from years of single living, like that a toaster oven used less energy and who needs a full oven when you live by yourself? You can often buy spices for a dollar at CVS, and turkey bacon is just as good as regular bacon. If he gets his walk in every day why he can just eat whatever he would like anyway. Though I thought that perhaps the presenter should have tried a little harder to wrest control of the program back from Floyd, I found him more interesting than her, so I didn’t mind too much.

When the food was done she invited everyone up for samples. Since the recipe had meat in it I didn’t partake. Floyd assured me it would be easy to pick out, and even offered to do it for me, but I declined. I did however, make the recipe at home with Boca crumbles, and it turned out really good.

To be honest, I didn’t learn much about budget cooking in the class. Her main advice was based on meat and buying generic brands, and I try to buy fresh or local foods and I don’t eat meat. But I did learn some things that will be useful in running programs in the future. Knowing your demographic and making sure your presenter knows it, making sure your staff are up to date on what is going on, streamlining a registration process and maybe learning to take aside the Floyd’s and ask them to please next time let the presenter speak (though that would have taken a lot of fun out of the presentation for me) all seem like they would make for a smoother presentation. Even with all of the flaws though, I don’t think it was a bad presentation or a waste of time. Here’s the recipe we learned:

Skillet Lasagna Serves 4

½ pound lean ground beef, pork or turkey (I used Boca)
½ cup chopped onion
1 can tomato sauce (15 ounce)
1 ½ cup water
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon basil
3 cups noodles, uncooked
1 pound fresh or frozen (thawed) chopped spinach
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
½ cup low-fat shredded mozzarella (I used more mozz, like a LOT more. Yum)
Note: Spaghetti sauce may be substituted for tomato sauce and spices

1. Brown meat in a large skillet. Drain and rinse to remove some of the fat.
2. Add to skillet onion, tomato sauce, water, and spices.
3. Cover and bring to a boil.
4. Add noodles, cover and simmer for five minutes.
5. Stir in spinach and simmer another five minutes. Stir again.
6. Spoon cottage cheese on top and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella.
7. Cover and simmer 10 more minutes. If mixture gets too dry, add a little more water.

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