Having dinner with your sweetheart tonight? I hope so, as the best way I know to enhance food's flavor is to share it with people you love.
I was given a hot tip about a group of sweethearts who meet each and every month for a potluck dinner. That feat in itself is pretty miraculous: You know how hard it is to coordinate calendars. What makes this group extraordinary is its members have been meeting monthly for 36 years.
That's right - 36 years.
Living by the adage 'Where there's a will, there's a way,' this determined group is made up of Bonnie and Art McGee, now living in Tualatin, Ellen and Dick Mann, now of Portland, Sherry and Joe Campbell now of Milwaukie, Alan and Jeanne Fox, Earlene and Vic Keeler, Pat and Bill Kraske, and Tom and Ruthann Moore, all of Lake Oswego.
The original group, founded in 1973, consisted of twelve couples who met at a Lake Oswego Welcome Wagon coffee. They were encouraged by Welcome Wagon to form a dinner group as a means of making friends in their new community. Over the years some couples naturally have moved away, and vacancies were always filled by newcomers to help them settle into their new community.
From my observation of the group's dinner at Vic and Earlene Keeler's home on Feb. 2, the concept worked beautifully.
'We all had youngsters when we began meeting and looked forward to this as our adult evening out,' said Jeanne Fox.
They have enjoyed swapping child-raising experiences over the years, as well as helping each other move into new life stages.
'We've had baby showers and several weddings of our children,' added Ellen Mann. Some of the couples now have grandchildren, too.
The couples shared stories of memorable dinners, and camping and beach trips.
Their potlucks have always been just that: Potluck. Sometimes they are gourmet fare, sometimes straight from the grocery shelf. The group laughingly recalled the special Smithfield ham Jeanne held on her lap on an airplane that turn out to be not as special as expected. They chose to eat Kentuckey Fried Chicken instead of the ham.
It's no wonder to me that their group has been so successful. You can tell they truly care for each other and enjoy their time together. And any newcomer would think they had moved to Heaven on Earth after an evening with this group, and be eager to spend another evening in their company.
The members of the potluck group are, to put it figuratively and literally, real sweethearts.
At some point in the evening, the Manns proudly stated that they were the newlyweds in the group, having been married only 36½ years. Taking the prize for longest married were Pat and Bill Kaske at 60 years, followed by Art and Bonnie McGee at 54. The Keelers are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. The Foxes have been married for 48 years and the Campbells for 40 years.
That's a whole lotta love in one group.
The menu for the potluck group included appetizers of a variety of cheeses, hummus, Cilantro Pecan dip, Prosciutto Pinwheels, a Tropical Fruit Platter, Broccoli Quiche, tossed green salad, Chicken Divan and for dessert, Chocolate Vanilla Swirl Cheesecake.
Jeanne Fox shared her recipe for Prosciutto Pinwheels, a warm and delicious hors d'oeuvre for a cold blustery night.
I leave you with the wish that your Valentine's dinner fills you with all the good food and good feelings of a night with the potluck group.
Bon Apetit! Eat something new!
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
flour for dusting
4 tablespoons sweet hot mustard
4 ounces Prosciutto, thinly sliced
1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chilling time 20 minutes
Dust work surface with flour and roll pastry sheet into a rectangle approximately 11 x 14 inches. Using a pastry brush, brush excess flour from surface of pastry. Spread mustard evenly over pastry, arrange Prosciutto in a flat layer over mustard and sprinkle cheese evenly over all. Starting at long end, roll up pastry jelly-roll style until you reach the middle of the sheet. Roll the other half in the same manner until the two sides meet in the center. Place on a baking sheet and set a flat spatula or wooden spoon on each side to keep from unrolling. Place in freezer until well chilled, at least 20 minutes. Can be made ahead up to this point and kept frozen, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 months.
When ready to bake, slice partially thawed roll into ½ inch slices and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until puffed and golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Jeanne Fox's recipe, adapted from 'Simply Classic,' by The Junior League of Seattle