• 30

    The Pumpkin on the Plate

    by Gennifer R.

    Squash is one of those wonderful, hearty foods that last throughout the colder seasons, and comes in many intriguing shapes and sizes. It serves as a point of literary intrigue, a cultural cornerstone, and a hot topic for cookbooks. Check out what the Free Library has in our cookbook collections—all in celebration of squash!


    The Classic Zucchini Cook Book by Nancy C. Ralston
    Cook it, bake it, whisk it, and taste over 225 recipes all about squash!






    A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash: Seasonal Recipes by Lou Seibert Pappas
    Complete with crisp and delightful pictures, this cookbook infuses squash into every kind of dish. Find recipes for your sweet side or a cold night by the fireplace.





    Too Many Tomatoes, Squash, Beans, and Other Good Things: A Cookbook for When Your Garden Explodes by Lois M. Landau
    A hearty guide to the nightshade life, when the garden overflows. Keep the food waste out of the kitchen with sweet, savory, and soupy recipes that last all season long.







    Wild Drinks and Cocktails: Handcrafted Squashes, Shrubs, Switchels, Tonics, and Infusions to Mix at Home by Emily Han
    Throw out the mug! Throughout the world, gourds have served as utensils for warm and cold beverages, soups, and elixirs alike. This recipe book is rich with sweet and earthy drinks to fill your cup. Use it as a field guide, complete with necessary tools, information about animal habitats and plant usage, and helpful descriptions of spices and sweeteners.


    Inspiralize Everything: An Apples-to-Zucchini Encyclopedia of Spiralizing by Ali Maffucci
    Have you ever had zucchini noodles? If not, get ready to spiral into a world of noodles, without the flour! Great for people with dietary restrictions or intrigue in alternative culinary lifestyles.






    Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America by Maricel E. Presilla
    Flip to chapter 7 to learn about the many uses of squash, corn, quinoa, and beans throughout Latin America. Find recipes for the beginner chef or the experienced cook!






    All of these cookbooks and more are available in our catalog and at your neighborhood library! What are some of your favorite fall recipes? Let us know in the comments!

    gardening culinary literacy Recipes Cook This Now DIY Crafts & Hobbies

  • 25

    Cook Up a Sweet Recipe with the Free Library This Fall!

    by Kate C.

    Somehow, November is just days away and we can't help but start to think about Thanksgiving. Here at the Free Library, we’re thankful for YOU! It’s true! No matter how you use the library or how you support it, you make a difference in our community, and we are so appreciative.

    In the spirit of fall, we’re sharing this delicious recipe for Sweet Risotto, created by chef and food educator Dolores Peralta for programming at Fumo Family Library, one of many neighborhood libraries where the Culinary Literacy Center offers cooking classes. This colorful and tasty treat is kid-friendly and sweet – perfect for sharing with friends and family this holiday season!


    • 7 cups of reduced-fat (2%) milk
    • ½ to 1 cup of sugar, depending on preference
    • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
    • 1 cup of arborio rice
    • The zest and juice of 1 orange
    • ½ cup of half-and-half creamer
    • ½ cup of orange marmalade
    • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
    • ¼ teaspoon of salt
    • 1 cup of dried cranberries


    1. Heat milk and sugar in a medium-sized pot, until just simmering.
    2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
    3. Add the rice to the butter and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly translucent.
    4. Add the orange zest and juice, stirring constantly until the juice is absorbed.
    5. Add 1 cup of milk at a time to the rice, stirring constantly and allowing the liquid to absorb completely before adding more milk. Repeat this process until the mixture is thick and creamy. (You may not need all the milk.)
    6. Remove the mixture from heat.
    7. Stir in the half-and-half creamer, orange marmalade, vanilla, and salt.
    8. Top with dried cranberries and enjoy!

    *Serves 4

    Holidays culinary literacy Cook This Now neighborhood libraries

  • 4

    Nourishing Literacy 2019/2020 Registration Now Open to School Classrooms!

    by Shayna M.

    Nourishing Literacy is the Culinary Literacy Center’s set of programs that connect youth, teachers, and caregivers to the library through educational cooking opportunities. We offer school year and summer programming for youth, intergenerational programs, career development, and teacher trainings.

    We are so happy to announce the opening of the 2019/2020 registration for hands-on cooking classes at the Free Library! Preschool through high school groups are invited to participate in programs that link food education to academic learning standards and library skills. These programs take place in the Culinary Literacy Center’s kitchen classroom, in the Parkway Central Library. We will additionally offer limited cooking classes at selected neighborhood libraries for school classrooms beginning in the winter.

    A cooking class and an accompanying in-school classroom visit are offered for free to Philadelphia public and charter school classrooms. We currently have three lessons to choose from, modified for each grade level. Teachers are encouraged to select the lesson that is a fit for their class’ needs and schedule. We will do our best to meet teacher requests as much as possible. Modifications with a focus on life skills and accessibility are offered to school groups with special needs.

    Better Together focuses on community, roles, and systems. Students practice constructive communication as they contribute toward the completion of a shared goal. Understanding the parts that the students play in the greater whole of their communities, as well as the parts that different foods play in overall wellness are concepts that are explored throughout the cooking activity. Students have the opportunity to learn about the USDA recommended food groups that make up a balanced plate. Better Together is offered in November, 2019 through January, 2020.

    Flavor Finders encourages students to keep an open mind about food, place, and people through curiosity, discovery, and non-judgement. Philadelphia neighborhoods are featured as students identify different ingredients and gather information about where these foods can be sourced. Maps, storytelling, and the senses are used as tools for learning more about each other and our environment. Students practice low sodium cooking techniques through the use of spice, flavor, and texture. Flavor Finders is offered in February through April, 2020.

    Powerful Plants celebrates the variety and value of plants that can also be food. Students gain information about the life cycle of a plant, conditions for growth, and the parts of the plant. Sequencing, problem solving, and information organization are included in the learning process. The cooking activity features a range of colorful produce rich in textures, tastes, vitamins, and minerals. Powerful Plants is offered in April through June, 2020.

    To begin the registration process, please complete our online intake form for classroom teachers. Please contact Nourishing Literacy Lead, Shayna Marmar at or 215-686-5323, for any additional information needed. Updates about Nourishing Literacy’s set of programs will be uploaded to our webpage throughout the school year, with key information added in late fall/early winter.

    While Nourishing Literacy is free to Philadelphia public and charter schools, a fee of $200 per class is charged to private schools, schools outside of Philadelphia county, homeschool groups (minimum 15 students), as well as Philadelphia public school classrooms interested in visiting for a second time within the school year.

    children's programs Teens Pre-K school culinary literacy STEM STEAM Teachers students

  • 10

    Summer Thyme Camp In Review

    by Shayna M.

    The Culinary Literacy Center has been cooking up summer fun for youth over the last five years through the Summer Thyme Cooks program. This past summer, the Nourishing Literacy team piloted week-long camp sessions for youth. Summer Thyme Camp was a success!

    We ran three weeks of programming—one week for students between the ages of ten through twelve, one week for students between the ages of thirteen through fifteen, and one week for the children of our Free Library of Philadelphia staff colleagues, between the ages of six through elevenwith an awesome thirteen-year-old assistant who joined us during staff week!

    Each week, students visited the library from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Summer Thyme Campers spent the first two-thirds of their day in the kitchen classroom with the Nourishing Literacy teachers, practicing kitchen skills, cooking together while making new friends, and preparing celebratory, summer-inspired recipes using fruits and vegetables. Students ate what they cooked for their lunch and it worked out well!

    For the remainder of their day, students visited a rotating library department, spending time with our Parkway Central Library colleagues, and learning more about what the library has to offer. Thank you to our friends in Rare Books, Enrichment & Civic Engagement, One Book, Field Teen Center, Art, and Music for welcoming and hosting our youth! An extra thank you to Naquawna Letman, Culinary Literacy Center team member, for providing the Summer Thyme Camp crew with the opportunity to engage in the new program that she has developed, Exploring Music and Food Through the Senses.

    Offering full-week Summer Thyme Camp sessions was meaningful to the Nourishing Literacy team and to the Culinary Literacy Center as a whole. During the school year, the Nourishing Literacy team works with a different school class each day a program is offered, allowing us to welcome as many students to our kitchen classroom as possible. Seeing the same youth every day for a week, observing the students come together as a group, and having the opportunity to work with them on skill-building over a period of five days was special and unique for our team.

    Thank you so much to the Nourishing Literacy team for all of your work and care. You are so appreciated! A huge thank you to all of the students and caregivers who participated in this year’s program! We appreciated so much your time, effort, and enthusiasm. Working with you was awesome!

    During the 2019/2020 school year, Nourishing Literacy is providing pre-K through high school classes with hands-on cooking programs beginning in November. Details about our schedule and how to register will be available in early October.

    Until then, happy cooking, and wishing all students, teachers, and caregivers a wonderful beginning of the new school year!

    children's programs culinary literacy

  • 4

    Language Learning at the Free Library During Adult Education Month!

    by Lindsay S.

    Looking for a chance to learn or practice a world language like Spanish, Italian, or Mandarin Chinese? Interested in meeting new people, learning to cook a new recipe, and having a great time? Join us in the Culinary Literacy Center for one of our three hands-on Edible Alphabet world language cooking classes in September during Adult Education Month!

    On Thursday, September 12, we will learn to make dumplings and practice basic Mandarin Chinese vocabulary and phrases.






    On Thursday, September 19, we will practice speaking Italian while learning to make fresh pasta from scratch.






    On Monday, September 23, we will cook a Latin American summer pasta dish while practicing our Spanish language skills.






    Tickets for all three events are available on Eventbrite. SNAP eligible participants are provided a free ticket, with advance communication. Please call the Culinary Literacy Center at 215-686-5323 to receive one of these reserved tickets. If the events are sold out, add yourself to our waitlist and be the first to know when new classes are scheduled. Proceeds from the class benefit our free Edible Alphabet English classes offered at the Culinary Literacy Center and Neighborhood Libraries across the city.

    Interested in learning a new language but can’t make it to the Culinary Literacy Center classes in September? Check out other Free Library programs for language study, stop by the Languages and Learning Center at Parkway Central Library to check out our language learning collections, or use your library card to access language learning databases like Mango Languages for free.

    ¡Esperamos verlos a todos pronto en la biblioteca!

    Speriamo di vedervi presto in biblioteca!


    (We hope to see you all at the library soon!)

    online learning culinary literacy digital learning adult learners Languages and Learning Center

  • 26

    Music Department and Culinary Literacy Center Collaborate on Programming

    by Community-Centered Libraries

    Naquawna Letman is a Library Assistant at Parkway Central Library and a participant in Cohort 3 of the Skills for Community-Centered Libraries trainings.

    Exploring Music and Food through the Senses is a program that introduces participants to various cultures and traditions, creates bridges between neighborhood libraries and their customers, and inspires participants to explore new food and music.

    Participants learn a recipe, listen to music on a record player from The Free Library of Philadelphia’s vinyl collection, make up their own beat or song using craft materials, and learn about the history and traditions of selected countries all while engaging their senses.

    This program began as a new approach to increasing school age children and young adults’ engagement with Parkway Central Library’s Music Department. Due to targeted marketing towards adults, our sheet music, books, and instruments are often overlooked by adolescents. The collaboration between the Music Department and the Culinary Literacy Center enables us to promote musical instruments and concepts in connection with learning about food, community, and culture.

    The Skills for Community-Centered Libraries training impacted the success of this project. Specifically, learning how to identify my professional strengths and expanding my awareness of team dynamics helped me utilize the skills of team members whose strengths were my weaknesses. My colleagues helped with program formatting, policy and procedures, and tips on teaching different age groups.

    Equally important, practicing strategic facilitation skills such as asking open-ended questions to encourage deeper discussions helped me realize missing pieces of the project I hadn’t anticipated, find new resources, and finalize the program guide. Identifying current community assets and resources at neighborhood libraries, using community assets when developing programs, and sharing programming and community successes with different audiences are main features of the program we developed.

    Exploring Music and Food through the Senses is family-oriented and can be customized to the demographics of each neighborhood, ensuring community needs are served. Learning new approaches to program development helped me incorporate flexibility for the presenters and participants. Without the skills learned in the trainings, I may not have contemplated organizing such an adaptable program.   

    Please join us for the following Exploring Music and Food through the Senses events:

    This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [Grant #RE-95-17-0089-17].

    Free Library Staff music culinary literacy community neighborhood libraries IMLS

  • 16

    National Honey Bee Day at the Free Library!

    by Suzanna U.

    by Suzanna U. and Amy T.

    The third Saturday in August marks National Honey Bee Day, and the Free Library knows a thing or two about honey bees! Did you know we have quite a few of our own bees buzzing around town?

    You better BEE-lieve it! Let us set the stage…

    The Parkway Central Library is abuzz with activity. A record player in the Music Department belts out sweet vocals for an elderly patron to enjoy, while the Children’s Department is in full swing with busy toddlers engaging in early literacy at every turn. Venture upstairs and you’ll see globes in the Map Collection spinning alongside the many beloved titles in our subject departments; further up, visitors to the Our Five Senses exhibit take in the heady scratch and sniff portion of the show.

    But on the very top of the building, you’ll find our smallest yet mightiest patrons: nearly 300,000, as a matter of fact. Our rooftop apiary, installed in 2018 by the Philadelphia Bee Company, includes four beehives and is home to approximately 240,000 honey bees. Nectar from flowers as close as our rooftop herb garden’s rosemary and sage planters to the blossoming ecosystem in parks and gardens within flying distance will come together to produce as much as 60 pounds of honey this year!

    The Culinary Literacy Center uses honey in a number of programs, including a recent field trip welcoming students from the Overbrook School for the Blind as part of our Cookability program geared towards people of all ages with visual impairments. Students had a chance to meet beekeeper Don Shump and examine essential tools, such as a bee smoker, as well as fragrant bee products such as wax blocks. Throughout the day’s activities, students asked questions about honey production and bee life, learned about the different flavors of honey that are produced based on the nectar source, and made a honey-based dressing for a seasonal salad with Cookability instructor Devin D’Andrea. Books relating to honey were also read out loud, and by the end of the program empty bowls and smiling faces told us all what an impact such a simple ingredient as honey can have on a shared meal. Across town, the Richmond Library has an equally special connection with bees…

    The story of the Richmond bees is a honeyed history, one that reflects human beings’ long fascination with bees as social animals. For over 10 years, the Richmond Library housed a feral hive of honey bees within the mortar of the building. Neighborhood families aware of the colony took a cautious approach to our tiny citizens, though some expressed reservation and fear. After all, a single bee sting can sometimes cause a serious allergic reaction in some people. Efforts to avoid this possibility resulted in consultations with Don Shump. Through Don, we learned about the inner workings of a complex society of individuals functioning as one. We also learned the importance bees have played in the human economy since the beginnings of civilization. The more the Richmond Library staff learned about our library honey bees, the more entranced we became. What better time than now, we thought, to showcase a fellowship of altruism, organization, and societal harmony? What better time to encourage learning about the planet as a fragile ecosystem, dependent on species of pollinators to feed us, sustain our habitats, and protect biodiversity?

    When the feral hive moved from above the front door of the library to inside the library, into a glass case they now call home, our patrons and neighbors have fallen in love with the bees. Library program attendance and foot traffic has reached an all-time high. Penn State University and the Academy of Natural Sciences have teamed up with the Richmond Library and are using our bees in the longest and largest honey bee behavior study in the United States! The Richmond Library is proud to house a small population of the planet’s remarkable terrestrial life and provide patrons with experiential learning.

    And now you know the buzz at the Free Library! If you’d like to study up on the importance of bees in our world, we’ve also got helpful online resources for you to browse, complete with bee-centric titles in our catalog, websites, and even some trivia from library staff! (Did you know that the modern beehive, called a Langstroth hive, was invented in Philadelphia?! Woop!)

    Happy Honey Bee Day!

    Holidays culinary literacy community neighborhood libraries

  • 17

    La Cocina: Pursuit of the American Dream Through Cooking

    by Liz A.

    It's not news that Philly is a great city for eating. Philadelphia is home to exceptionally exiting and delicious food, much of it celebrating the diversity of the people who call this city their home. There's a growing number of women chefs of color and immigrants who are leading the charge, many of whom have shown off their skills in the Free Library's Culinary Literacy Center. Later this month, the Culinary Literacy Center is continuing the conversation about women in food in a special evening of conversation and community with the folks behind La Cocina. La Cocina is an incubator kitchen founded in San Francisco. It provides affordable commercial kitchen space, industry-specific technical assistance, and access to market opportunities to women of color and immigrant communities.

    Join us on Thursday, June 27 for an evening of food, drink, and conversation in celebration of their new cookbook, We Are La Cocina: Recipes in Pursuit of the American Dream. Chef Valerie Erwin will moderate a panel discussion with participants of La Cocina, an incubator for low-income entrepreneurs to build food businesses that reflect the diversity of the immigrant experience. Since 2005, La Cocina has brought together women from communities of color and immigrant communities to showcase food projects that reflect their lived experiences. Representatives from La Cocina will share their stories and invite the audience to think about ways to mobilize and empower Philadelphians to engage in similar work. Cookbooks will be available for purchase.

    At the Free Library, aspiring food entrepreneurs can connect with the Business Resource and Innovation Center (BRIC), housed in our newly renovated Parkway Central Library. The BRIC has extensive resources for people dreaming, planning, starting, or maintaining a small business in Philadelphia. Staff from the BRIC will be on hand at this event to share more about their programs, materials, and resources.

    culinary literacy diversity

  • 3

    Eid al-Fitr | Falafel (Chickpea Patties) Recipe

    by Suzanna U.

    If you’ve ever lived in a city like Philadelphia, you’re familiar with falafel. The vendors on practically every corner have mastered the art of turning chickpeas into a delicious savory meal. In June, celebrate this dish found across the Middle East (and on the street corners of Philly) with us! Falafel can be enjoyed as an everyday savory staple, and to celebrate auspicious events such as Eid al-Fitr on June 3 and International Falafel Day on June 12.

    Falafel has a fascinating history – likely invented in Egypt about 1,000 years ago, but some theories place its origin in India in the 6th century, or in British Egypt in the late 19th century. Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and Yemen all claim falafel as one of their national dishes, making it quite universal and unquestionably delicious.

    Follow this recipe from Cooking the Middle Eastern Way by Alison Behnke and Vartkes Ehramjian to make your own falafel at home, and judge it for yourself!

    Falafel (Chickpea Patties) Recipe


    • 1/2 cup dried chickpeas
    • 2 tsp. baking soda
    • 2 small onions, chopped
    • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
    • 2 tsp. ground cumin
    • 2 tsp. ground coriander
    • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
    • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
    • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
    • 2 tbsp. tahini
    • 1 tsp. lemon juice
    • olive or vegetable oil for frying
    • 3 large pita pieces, cut in half
    • 2 small tomatoes, chopped


    1. Place chickpeas in a large bowl or baking dish with 1 tsp. of the baking soda and cover with water. Refrigerate and leave to soal for 24 hours.
    2. Drain chickpeas in a colander. Rub them lightly between your hands to remove skins. Rinse well.
    3. Combine chickpeas, half the chopped onions, 2 cloves of garlic, and all of the cumin, coriander, parsley, salt, pepper, and cayenne (if using) in a food processor or blender. Process until the mixture becomes a thick, smooth paste.
    4. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add remaining tsp. of baking soda. Cover and let sit, unrefrigerated, for 30 minutes.
    5. To make tahini sauce, combine yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, and 1 clove garlic. Stir with a whisk until well blended. Cover and chill.
    6. Use your hands to form chickpea mixture into patties about 2 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick.
    7. Pour about 2 inches of oil into a saucepan or deep frying pan. Heat over medium heat, until oil bubbles slightly when you dip a corner of a falafel patty into it. Carefully use a slotted spoon to place as many patties in the pan as fit comfortably. Fry 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Remove from oil and place on paper towels to drain.
    8. To serve, fill the pocket of each pita half with 2 or 3 patties, some chopped onion and tomato, and a bit of tahini sauce.


    Preparation time: 30 minutes (plus overnight soaking and 30 minutes sitting time)
    Cooking time: 30 to 45 minutes
    Serves 4 to 6

    Holidays culinary literacy Recipes

  • 10

    A Mother's Day Recipe for Kids (of All Ages)!

    by Suzanna U.

    With Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday, we wanted to share a classic no-bake, no-heat recipe that can be made by children in honor of this auspicious holiday. Who remembers bringing crispy toast, over-sweetened cereal, and lovingly prepared fruit cups on a tray to their mother on a sleepy Sunday morning? If you want to join in the fun and offer a chance for the kids to take charge in the kitchen, check out this no-cook Raisin Bar Recipe.

    The recipe is adapted from a dog-eared copy of Cooking With Young Children, put out by the Delaware Valley Association For the Education of Young Children (now known as First Up) in the 1970s. The Free Library’s Youth Services and Programs has long collaborated with First Up on best practices for early childhood education in the Philadelphia area. And here at the Free Library’s Culinary Literacy Center, our public classes often include opportunities for families to get together in the kitchen – both in our industrial-style kitchen classroom and in home kitchens citywide using recipes we develop here at the library. Taking a cue from Cooking With Young Children, we encourage everyone to use this Teacher’s Success Recipe:

    Abundance of Courage
    Plenty of Patience
    Ample Planning
    Dash of Humor
    Sufficient directions, well understood

    Mix thoroughly with an appreciation of children.
    Time: Longer than you think.
    Temperature: Cool and calm.


    Raisin Bars


    • 1 ½ cups graham crackers, crushed into crumbs
    • 1 cup raisins
    • 1 cup small marshmallows
    • 1 cup heavy cream


    Wash hands. Place graham crackers in freezer bag and use hands to crush into crumbs.

    In bowl, mix graham crumbs, raisins and marshmallows use large spoon. Pour in cream and stir until crumbs are moist. Spoon mixture into square pan and refrigerate. When cold, slice into small square bars using a butter knife (ask for a grownup to help as needed). Keeps in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

    Variations: Try chopped dates, coconut flakes, chocolate chips, or roasted pumpkin seeds to the mixture before chilling for added flavor and texture.

    Substitutions: You can substitute coconut milk for heavy cream if you wish.

    Looking for additional ways to engage children in the kitchen? Check out our cookbooks, for both adults and childrens, for more ideas! For culinary literacy classes, visit And THANK YOU to all the mothers around the world who nourish their children year-round and inspire our next generation of eaters to use food and cooking as a vehicle for learning!

    Holidays culinary literacy Recipes


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