The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 11, 2009


CSA cookbook presents favorite recipes from the community’s best cooks

Head up to the Carlisle Public School campus on the first early-release Tuesday of the school year – or the last one – and you might notice that the teachers have an extra spring in their step. Why? It’s not because they have a full afternoon of meetings and professional development to look forward to; it’s what comes before that. In a tradition dating back more than 20 years, the June and September early release Tuesdays have been reserved for the Carlisle School Association Teachers’ Appreciation Luncheon, at which dozens of parents show their gratitude for the faculty and staff by preparing an elaborate multi-course, midday feast.

Cooks and tasters alike gather for a tasting of the CSA Cookbook recipes. (Front, from left) Georgia and Nate Blunt, Grace Versaggi, (middle) Peter Blunt, Grace King, Grace Blunt, Abby Versaggi, (back) three of the co-chairs Stephanie Blunt, Leah Osterman and Amy Versaggi. (Photo by Ellen Huber)

Inevitably, when so much cooking and baking happen at one time, recipes start getting passed around. And so, an idea arose: why not create a CSA cookbook based on the dishes prepared for the semi-annual faculty luncheon and use it as a fundraiser?

This was the challenge posed to fall luncheon co-chairs Stephanie Blunt and Amy Versaggi more than a year ago. The two volunteers liked the idea, but saw the benefits of making it a community effort rather than just a reflection of the CSA membership. They decided to include teachers, town employees, local groups, along with the volunteers who cook for the luncheon when they canvassed for recipe submissions.

It took a long time, but their efforts paid off earlier this fall with the debut of “Favorites for All Seasons.” Featuring 150 recipes covering everything from appetizers and desserts to main dishes and salads, the book was published by Morris Press, a specialty publisher in Nebraska whom cookbook committee member Sandy Eisenbies had worked with previously. Since its release this fall, the book has quickly become a popular resource for new holiday potluck recipes and edible gifts ideas.

“Sometimes people don’t like to give out their favorite recipes,” Blunt commented. “But because this was for a good cause, they didn’t mind.” Now, Blunt is enjoying making for her own family some of the dishes they have enjoyed for years at friends’ homes and community events. “I’ve always loved Danielle Fries’s buffalo chicken dip. Now I can make it myself,” Blunt said. “Same with Laura France’s baked ziti, which has been popular at preschool events for years.”

While many of the dishes are known from private parties, there are others that community members will recognize from larger-scale events, such as the recipe the firefighters use for their annual Old Home Day chicken barbeque. “It uses something like 750 pounds of chicken,” Versaggi said. “We don’t necessarily think anyone is really going to make that at home; it’s just fun to include some of these dishes.” Another Old Home Day standby in the book is the Boy Scouts’ method for making tacos in a bag.

Familiar names play a part in the book’s appeal as well. For example, the two Carlisle School nurses collaborated on a healthful chicken noodle soup recipe and several teachers contributed recipes that are favorites with their own families. In addition, some Carlisle cooks have reputations such that those who know them will assume any of their recipes are worth making. “I’ll try any recipe that comes from Bonnie Sellew. She’s an amazing cook,” said Blunt, before acknowledging that since Sellew is her sister-in-law, she probably could have had the recipes even without the cookbook. Another cookbook committee member, Leah Osterman, is known as something of an expert on gluten-free cooking, so people with that sensitivity are likely to trust her recipes.

The book costs $20 and can be purchased at the upcoming CSA skating party on December 16 at Middlesex School, or any time at Ferns Country Store. You can also get a copy by e-mailing before December 20. ∆

Crockpot Chicken Noodle Soup

3 large carrots, cut into half-inch slices

4 celery stalks, chopped

1 large onion, diced

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 Tbsp parsley

kosher salt or Maldon sea salt to taste

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups water

9-oz. package refrigerated linguine

Combine all ingredients, except linguine, in slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

One half-hour before serving, remove chicken. Shred chicken into bite-sized pieces and return to pot.

Add linguine. Cook 30 for minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

8 oz. bottle of blue cheese dressing

1/3 to 1/2 cup of Franks Red Hot Sauce (to taste)

2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place chicken breasts in baking pan. Lightly oil and salt and pepper the chicken.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes (longer if breasts are thick).

Shred or chop chicken and then mix with the rest of the ingredients until well combined.

Bake in a shallow ovenproof dish at 350 until bubbly. Recipe doubles well.

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito