Here are recipes for being a good neighbor



"The Good Neighbor Cookbook" made me feel both good and guilty.

The brand-new paperback (Andrews McMeel, $16.99) has the clever theme, and clever subtitle, of "125 Easy and Delicious Recipes to Surprise and Satisfy the New Moms, New Neighbors, Recuperating Friends, Community-Meeting Members, Book Club Cohorts, and Block Party Pals in Your Life!"

Easy to see the goodness in that. I've personally been blessed with such gifts, such as when my son was born.

My guilt comes from the fact that I don't cook for others that way as much as I would like, and there have been occasions when I could have and should have reached out to a neighbor and did not. I like that this book might inspire me and other people to do so more often.

The authors seem to have chops. New York City's Sara Quessenberry, who writes for doitdelicious.com, used to develop and style recipes for Real Simple magazine. Bend, Ore.'s Suzanne Schlosberg is a former Shape magazine editor and prolific magazine writer who has written or co-written several books.

The recipes are divided into occasions: "Bringing Home Baby," "Get Well Soon," "Welcome to the Neighborhood," "Condolences," and so forth. You could make recipes from one occasion for another of course, but the writers have reasons for organizing them the way they do. For instance, "Novel Ideas for Book Clubs" is heavy on finger foods. "For many of us," they write, "finishing the book is often challenge enough; pulling together something more elaborate than chips and dip seems an impossibility."

Many of these recipes sound delicious and easy. My wife leafed through and tried to think of work meetings to which she could take a dish or two.

Sprinkled in are other ideas -- such as how to organize a "meal train" for a family with a new baby. One recipe in the "Welcome to the Neighborhood" chapter is for a Spaghetti Kit: Toasted Garlic Marinara, Pasta and Fresh Bread.

And this week, the authors launched a blog -- thegoodneighborcookbook.com -- where they're sharing recipes, plus tips and people in features titled, "Meet This Grateful Neighbor" and "Meet This Good Neighbor Cook."

In recent years, websites have popped up to help organize community response to a friend in need, and I suppose they can be helpful.

But, as this book and blog can remind us, caring doesn't have to be high tech or elaborate in an way. Something as simple as a plate of cookies can say a lot. You just have to make and deliver them.


Cold Sesame Noodle Salad

PG tested

This easy salad, which I plan on serving when it's my turn to feed the kids in my daughters' confirmation class, is better the day after you make it; marinating it overnight allows the flavor of the spicy, ginger-sesame dressing to intensify.

I used whole-wheat spaghetti but think it also would be terrific with Japanese soba (buckwheat) noodles, available at Asian markets. Also, my family ate it warm -- it smelled so good we couldn't wait -- even though it's meant to be served cold. That makes it an easy dish to prepare ahead.

-- Gretchen McKay

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 6 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce (I used regular)
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 Kirby (pickle) cucumbers, quartered lengthwise and sliced
  • 4 scallions, sliced (white and green parts)
  • 2 medium carrots, grated (1 cup)
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, chopped

Cook the pasta according to the package directions; drain and run under cold water to cool.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the oil, soy sauce, ginger, chili-garlic sauce and salt. In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers, scallions, carrots, cilantro and peanuts. Add the pasta and dressing and toss to combine.

Serves 8.

-- "The Good Neighbor Cookbook" by Sara Quessenberry and Suzanne Schlosberg (Andrews McMeel, Jan. 2011, $16.99)


Crunchy Milk Chocolate Oatmeal Bars

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It's not dinner (or lunch) without something sweet for dessert. These easy crunchy, chocolately bars, which I made for the seniors on my mother's Meals on Wheels route, store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

-- Gretchen McKay

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 12 ounces mild chocolate, chips or chopped
  • 1/2 cup roasted salted almonds, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang along the long sides.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir in the butter until well combined. Press into the prepared pan and bake until bubbly and the edges begin to set, 12 to 15 minutes.

Sprinkle the chocolate evenly over the oatmeal crust and, using a spatula, smooth it out evenly. Sprinkle the nuts over the chocolate. Let cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack, then refrigerate until the chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes.

Grabbing both sides of the parchment, lift the bars out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Cut into squares.

Makes 32 bars.

-- "The Good Neighbor Cookbook" by Sara Quessenberry and Suzanne Schlosberg (Andrews McMeel, Jan. 2011, $16.99)


Hearty Minestrone Soup withi Potato Gnocchi

PG tested

The gnocchi, whether fresh or dried at the supermarket, make minestrone soup "even more satisfying," write Sara Quessenberry and Suzanne Schlosberg about this recipe, filed under "Bringing Home Baby." They note that this is a good recipe to double and freeze 1 batch (it'll keep for up to 2 months that way, or up to 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge). They suggest delivering it with a loaf of bread and the "Caesar-Like Salad" from that same chapter. I delivered half of my double batch to a couple who'd just had their second child, and ate the rest. The gnocchi in the soup were great. The couple, in their thank-you note, said they thought it was tasty, too.

-- Bob Batz Jr.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 ribs celery, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 15.5-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 head savoy or green cabbage, halved and thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 pound store-bought gnocchi
  • 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Grated parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, carrots and salt and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 10 minutes (decrease the heat, as necessary, to prevent scorching). Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes more. Stir in the beans, cabbage and broth and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat and simmer until the cabbage is tender, about 10 minutes.

Add gnocchi and simmer until they are cooked through and tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in parsley, Serve with parmesan.

Serves 6 to 8.

-- "The Good Neighbor Cookbook" by Sara Quessenberry and Suzanne Schlosberg (Andrews McMeel, Jan. 2011, $16.99)


Bob Batz Jr.: bbatz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1930.




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