Foodie Tuesday: Sweets from the Sweet

photoI knew we’d hit the neighbor jackpot yet again. We have a history chock-full of fine neighbors between us, my husband and I, of that sort who are not only great to chat with at the mailbox but offer help and led tools when they see projects underway, share their mystical gardening secrets, and advise on who’s the best resource for automotive care, where there’s still an independent pharmacy in town, or what the local ordinances are on right-of-way maintenance.

But we all know that the best neighbors of all have not only generosity in their hearts but also food in their hands when they show up at the door. Rhonda was known to trade her fresh-picked raspberries for our over-abundant plums. David–actually the manager at our then apartments–went door to door delivering home-grown green beans, tomatoes and zucchini that he and his wife grew in the ‘bonus’ plot on the complex’s property. Peter rang the doorbell at our place in Tyee bearing bending boards of fantastic barbecued meats and salmon and vegetables.

Add to this that we had not only other great neighbors but also heroic postal carriers, pest treatment and HVAC specialists, and remodeling contractors who have become admired friends, and you know that our standard for being spoiled is very high.

So when we moved to our current home, perhaps it was only par for the course that our new next door neighbors would arrive with welcoming smiles–and food. But what food! We didn’t have to lift a finger for anything other than unpacking and furniture-dragging for at least three days after arriving in this house because we were handed an enormous platter laden with an assortment of deliciously varied homemade salads, another piled with home-baked breads and rolls and biscuits, a plate of tender, moist cream cake, and a gallon pitcher of sweet tea. If it hadn’t been love at first sight, it would surely have to have been at first bite.


I'm a lucky chick, having such sweet neighbors!

The flow of gustatory glories has continued unabated (and ably washed down with Mr. Neighbor’s lovely wine-selecting and punch-making skills as well as his fine Scotch collection) from that day forward. You will have no trouble believing and understanding when I say that we are devastated that these neighbors have retired and have the temerity to plan to move back to home territory in another state. Who will phone us in Canada when our sprinkler system fails during a hot spell, to tell us that they’ve already hired the company that installed it to do repairs before we come home? Who will deliver our entire stash of newspapers they collected over our out-of-town trip, updating us on the rest of the neighborhood or sharing delightful stories of their own adventures? And who will show up at random, numerous and very welcome times bearing, say, cake or cookies or pie, or a handmade bread cornucopia with a massive vegetable-and-floral display in it at Thanksgiving, a gorgeously crafted Bûche de Noël at Christmas, a sprightly spring assortment of cookies and cupcakes and jellies at Eastertime?photo

The answer, as you well know, is that it is our turn to become those neighbors, to show up unannounced with that very special something-extra whenever we can, to lend tools and perhaps the hand to use them, and to spread the joy of hospitality whenever and wherever we can. The torch–or the torchon de cuisine–has been passed. I hope I’m up to the task!photoI’ll probably start with something supremely simple like the nut-and-seed crackers that have no real recipe and change every time I make them. They make a handy vehicle for dips, salsas and salads when I want a quick bite of lunch or a not too terribly naughty snack. This time they were thus:

Nut and Seed Crackers (and Tuna Salad)

8 cups of finely chopped mixed nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamias, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds) tossed together with about a cup of grated extra sharp cheddar cheese plus coarsely ground salt and black pepper and good chile powder to taste, all mixed with just enough water to clump together into ‘dough’ and rolled or patted onto a non-stick cookie sheet (I use a silicone lining sheet in the pan so I can be extra lazy on the cleanup), and then baked at 325-350 degrees F (depending on your oven) until golden brown. I let these ones cool in one big slab and then just broke them into uneven pieces about the size for carrying, say, some bacon and cheddar cheese dip or guacamole or seasoned labne or some tuna salad. Tuna Salad, around here, is nothing more than a good quality tinned tuna (one of the brands that cooks its filet directly in the can and adds nothing other than a little salt; I like High Seas and Tuna Guys and can order it online from both, but there are other excellent sustainable-fisheries purveyors as well) seasoned with ground pepper, dried or fresh dill, smoked paprika, yellow ‘ballpark’ style mustard and sometimes chopped capers, and bound with good mayonnaise until slightly creamier than just glued together (spreads better that way).

This combination may not exactly constitute sweets for neighborly delivery, but then we know that the sweetness derives just as much from not needing to fix any food oneself, if only for a brief moment. Or for days on end, if you happen to get one of our neighbor’s fabled deliveries!

22 thoughts on “Foodie Tuesday: Sweets from the Sweet

  1. I love these nut and seed crackers, I have forgotton to make them lately, i am sure you are a wonderful neighbour too, with your clever cooking, I love your tuesdays! c

    • Thankfully, Tuesday’s not the only day I’m allowed to be food-obsessed around here, but I’m glad you like the posts on the days when the blog is food-centric too. 🙂 Now that I’m finally getting around to updating my correspondence I’m also reminded that I’m overdue myself to make another batch of the aforementioned crackers!

    • I mean to try to keep plenty around for when smiling visitors come to *our* door, too, so there should be some on hand if, say, *you* were to appear with that gorgeous smile of yours!

  2. I’ve never made crackers and this looks like a great, healthy recipe to follow. And you’re right, these can be used in any number of ways, with part of the fun being in discovering new uses.
    I’m sure, Kathryn, that your neighbors will miss you both every bit as much as you will them. Besides, all this means is that the 4 of you are going to need to be a little creative and figure out ways to get together, be that through reciprocal visits or joint holidays. You’ll figure it out. 🙂

    • Well, we’ve already ‘put in our order’ to try to persuade them to stay with us when they come back here, so we can hope. Meanwhile, the really great thing about the crackers is not just that they’re pretty health-friendly but that they’re so darned easy to make that even a baking-phobe like me can handle it! Plus, they’re a *relatively* hard (dense) cracker, which means they don’t instantly disintegrate under the weight or moisture of most toppings.

  3. Texas Hospitality at its finest! It’s been so long since I had good neighbors like that…
    You’re right – it’s up to you to pass the torch.
    Can you pass the crackers, while you’re at it? 😉

    • Thank you so much! I’m so enjoying my introduction to your blog, and hope I can find more time as we go along, because it’s Versatile indeed and jam-packed with great ideas and wit and beauty and interest.

    • I think it was a pecan rugelach or something similar–kind of like pecan pie filling in the middle of a butter dough wrap, if you know what I mean–and it was as fabulous to scarf down as it looks in the picture, and then some. Or should I not have told you all of that???

    • They’ll be missed in ever so many ways, not *least* of all gastronomically! 🙂 I’m happy to report that our brand new neighbors on the opposite side are a delight, and I’ve just met the second member of the household across the street, who is also very nice indeed, so they’ll help me recover from withdrawal better when our foodie neighbors move. 🙂

  4. What a wonderful ‘conclusion’ that when something is ‘lost’ it may well be time for us to make it ‘found’ for someone else! Bye the way, Kathryn, your Foodie Tuesday posts are always delicious in every way!

    • The best thing, for me, about the Tues posts is that they require me to fix and eat things that aren’t always so predictable and dull. 🙂 So I’m glad others enjoy them, too, but I like doing them for admittedly selfish reasons as well. 😉

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